music / Columns

411’s Top 200 Tracks Of 2015 (#100-76)

January 27, 2016 | Posted by David Hayter

The top 100 beckons and I’m in no mood to waste time, so let’s get everyone caught up and then dive straight into the countdown.

Part One (200-176), Part Two (175-151), Part Three (150-126) and Part Four (125-101).

Ready? Let’s go!

100. “Bitch Better Have My Money” by Rihanna

2015 was the year that saw Rihanna tease us with the prospect of new music only to delay and delay and delay some more. Normally this kind of wavering would be cause for concern (see media’s great crisis of confidence re-Kanye’s Swish), but mercifully Rihanna dropped “Bitch Better To Have My Money” and silenced all descent. This one sparse banger hinted that Rihanna might be about to unlock her great potential and become the pop boss with an ear to the streets and an eye on the charts.

99. “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar

No that’s not a typo, that’s 99 and not no.9. Suffice to say, a lot of different Kendrick Lamar songs garnered votes (he’s the only artist that we all individually voted for) and “Alright” (the track that topped basically every other publication’s countdown) is bringing up the rear on our Top 100. Regardless of ranking, “Alright” remains an incendiary anthem, the perfect chant for a dark year in American race relations where the cry that “we gon’ be alright” felt tragically essential.

98. “Golden Boy” by Elf Kid

Talk about a tough act to follow! Nevertheless, the infectiously charismatic Elf Kid and his stellar Amerie sample prove impossible to deny. Grime went global in 2015 and if the London is to maintain its momentum it will need artists like Elf Kid who can handle the frenetic pace while serving up chart friendly hits with genuine warmth. In any other year “Golden Boy” would the be scene’s signature break out cut, but we’ve got an even bigger introductory hit to come.

97. “Dimed Out” by Titus Andronicus

It’s easy to forget that when Titus Andronicus are not drowning in depression they can produce some of finest rampaging bar room guitar music in existence. “Dimed Out” is all clatter, clash and glorious chaos. The track seesaws maniacally as the frenzied arrangement stays in lock step with Patrick Stickles wild flailing vocals. The chorus is utterly rabid, providing one of the year’s best scream alongs.

98. “Family Is Family” by Kacey Musgraves

“They drink too much liquor and own too much whicker” remains one of my absolute favorite lines from 2015. Kacey Musgraves explored the merits and machinations of small town life on her sophomore LP and this sweet little single catches the dichotomy between charm and frustration perfectly.

97. “R.I.C.O” by Meek Mill

Oh yes, it’s the verse that started the biggest beef of 2015 (well and 2016 if Meek gets his way) and, to be fair, it is one hell of a lyrical assault. Drake at his swaggering dismissive best atop a sublime beat that creeps and clinks with an understated menace. In many ways it’s a shame their relationship decayed, because Drake’s restraint and Meek’s vengeance (“for my teachers who said I won’t make it here/I spend a day what you make a year”) are a perfect pairing.

96. “Way Too Much” by Wavves

The surf rock revival might have been a fad, but Wavves are definitely here too stay. Who can hope to deny them when they are writing pop music this slick and this sharp. Who knew dropping out and depression could sound so addictive? Each act of submission sounds like a sugary triumph in Wavves’ eternally relaxed hands.

95. “Here” by Alessia Cara

Why did it take someone so long to write this song? “Here” is an ode to (well more of an outright rejection of) being stuck in the corner of a party with people you have no interest in getting to know and with music you’d never listen to in a million years on the stereo. You’re drifting away in your own world and you just want to be left alone without being hit on, distracted or pressured into anything.

94. “Girl Crush” by Little Big Town

Amazingly, Little Big Town managed to anger both country conservatives and hipster elites with this peach of a ballad. Some foolishly thought the track espoused lesbianism (as if that’s a bad thing) while others complained that it was too cute and not daring enough – another girl obsessed with an unworthy ex, but the truth is simple: “Girl Crush” is a perfectly pitch lament for a lover you just can’t kick. Anyone caught in that depressive cycle of longing will be able to appreciate the centrepiece lyrics “I want to taste her lips, yeah, cause they taste like you/I wanna drown myself in a bottle of her perfume”.

93. “White Iverson” by Post Malone

I’m not exactly sold on Post Malone’s long term potential, but no one can question the quality of his break through hit. Ignore the specifics of the lyrics and “White Iverson” is essentially a long lingering seduction. It could be a love song and in many ways it is. This is the ultimate childhood fantasy, reality is immaterial, “White Iverson” is the vision in all of our heads whenever we get set to lace up and hoop. It’s the child hood dream of every sports fan, no wonder it sounds like a slow jam.

92. “My Terracotta Heart” by Blur

Well this comeback certainly lived up to the hype – well assuming you were one of the more rational Blur fans expecting a return of the men who wrote 13 rather than the lads who penned Parklife. “My Terracotta Heart” is the kind of lilting and hauntingly humdrum ballad that defined later period Albarn. The imagery itself is staggering on this reflection on fragility and confusion. Blur are not so much disillusioned as lost in their own thoughts and sorrowful paranoia. Beautiful stuff lads (I already regret giving “Terracotta Heart” such a low vote).

91. “Surface Envy” by Sleater-Kinney

2015 might not have been a banner year for guitar music, but by god there were some great riffs and none was finer than the tubular descent that introduced “Surface Envy”. Sleater-Kinney might have been more shrewd and assured than ragged and wild in 2015, but this bruising hit manages to slip between both extremes mixing precision pop with dejected cries.

90. “Wavybone” by A$AP Rocky

Rarely does a chorus that declares “getting money is what I do” convey so much soul. This is one of A$AP’s most sumptuous and grown up releases to date as he blends his murk with UGK’s southern gospel-flecked swagger. Rocky, Pimp C, Juicy J and Bun B all bring their A-game and there is a genuine delight to seeing how each rapper reacts to the abrupt tempo shift of each verse. The only problem? “Wavybone” makes me want to hear A$AP and Outkast join forces pronto.

89. “Venus Fly” by Grimes

Alana “Baby” Haim described “Venus Fly” as “the song I want everyone to hear, whenever I walk into room” when discussing her track on the year on Ezra Koenig’s Time Crisis radio show. She might have been kidding around, but that’s the perfect description of “Venus Fly”. It is a rib rattling anthem, a statement of unshakable intent: “I just want dance”. Grimes and Janelle Monelle delivered one of the year’s finest bass drops, but that’s besides the point, this is all about getting into your zone and being wholly self-confident.

88. “Same Old Love” by Selena Gomez

Selana G’s coming out party album didn’t quite deliver as advertised, but then how could it hope to live up to lead singles “Same Old Love” and “Good For You”. The latter was all steamy sexiness and the former offered proper grown up pop courtesy of Charli XCX. Mixing rejection with a bratty frustration, Selena finds herself in a cocksure middle ground between “Someone That I Used To Know” and “Boom Clap”. She’s been battered by love, but she’s emerged hardened and resilient as she channels a gloriously wonky beat.

87. “Chateau Lobby #4” by Father John Misty

Watching a cynical soul fall head over heels in love seemed to float the boats of each and everyone of our voters and, while “Chateau Lobby #4” didn’t get my vote, it is a fantastic track. Featuring on 411’s lyrics of the year list, Father John Misty manages to take a swipe at our work first culture (“So bourgeois to keep waiting/dating for twenty feels pretty civilian”) as he rejects stasis and relishes the chance to get married and fuck his wife’s brains out. Misty has served up a battle cry for monogamy that blends disparaging intellect and cherished sentimentality into a weapon of mass destruction.

86. “I Can Change” by Brandon Flowers

“I Can Change” might just be the male companion piece to “Girl Crush”, Brandon Flowers will do anything to bring his would-be-lover out of a depressive slump. He can bend, he can break, he can change for you. This is a deeply romantic rallying cry wrapped in low slung guitar strums and airy electronics. The star of the show is the Bronski Beat sample, Brandon Flowers might be indulging an 80s kitsch obsession, but he’s doing it without irony. This is essential, urgent pop music, not a lesson in retrospection.

85. “All Your Favorite Bands” by Dawes

You didn’t think we’d dispensed with all the Americana before the top 100 did you? “All Your Favorite Bands” is a proper tear jerker, despite overflowing with optimism. There’s only one way to explain it: it’s the chords man, they inject a depth of sorrow that is mirrored in the clanging keys. The arrangement reframes the lyrics, it’s more of a faithless cry, a false hope to cling to, because it’s going to be tough, but as adulthood beckons Dawes pats you on the shoulder and croaks “I hope the world sees the same person that you’ve always been to me/and may all your favorite bands stay together”.

84. “Boys In The Street” by Greg Holden

I heard bout “Boys In The Street” before actually heard the single and my friends description had me fearing the worst: a maudlin and over worthy piece of songwriting that was more admirable than enjoyable, but boy was I wrong. Greg Holden captures a difficult tone perfectly. The arrangement is full of eerie and reflective space that balances out the raw acoustics and Greg’s vocal recalls Frank Turner’s unifying and, at times, triumphant folk-rawk-rallying cry. The lyrics are of course the star of the show; frank, unshowy and simply descriptive. No one needs to have this weight of pain, ache and (eventually) joy explained to them. This is transcendent stuff, no adjectives are needed and the final resolution/confession is sublime.

83. “U Mad” by Vic Mensa

Well if the last track was a touch emotional, now it’s time to head bang away those blues with a bruising put-down and boast-athon. “U Mad” is one of the great “fuck y’all” anthems. The beat bangs hard and Vic Mensa ramps the energy levels up so high that he could get away with saying practically anything. Oh and then there’s the little matter of the Yeezy verse: Kanye is in a ridiculous mood and kicks starts his assault with this gem: “Everybody brawling it was all cool, until I hit the bartender with a bar stool”. So, if you wanted to say fuck the world in 2015, “U Mad” was your jam.

82. “Ultimate” by Denzel Curry

This is my first time hearing “Ultimate” and my second ever Denzel Curry listen and I was totally blindsided. For some reason the name Denzel Curry screamed druggy, chop and screwed, slow paced rap – maybe I was envisioning Denzel Washington smoothness and Steph Curry’s ease. “Ultimate”, instead, feels like a giant “HOLD ME BACK” moment, as if his boys are struggling to contain Denzel as he goes hard on this diatribe/flow. “I don’t need a gun to get respect” – he ain’t kidding, I’m shaking just listening to his rhymes.

81. “Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding

I liked Ellie Goulding’s latest album a hell of a lot more than I was expecting to and, while Daniel Wilcox’s choice of “Love Me Like You Do” isn’t my favorite cut from the LP, it is an example of how easily Ellie can mould contemporary and classic electronics into her mainstream pop sound. Boosted by its appearance on the 50 Shades Of Grey soundtrack, this is one of those tracks whose chorus is so addictive and well judged that I’m left impetuous to hear it again and again – get out of the way verse, bog off bridge, I need that hook!

80. “Flex (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh)” by Rich Homie Quan

Do I even need to explain this selection? Rich Homie Quan is a walking good time and his wilfully eccentric delivery makes even the most tired boast (“How much you made? A hundred thousand dollars in just two days”) sound utterly essential. Young Thug might alienate some hip hop heads, but Flex’s laid back, good time vibes unite one and all. Come on, the chorus literally goes “ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh” – what’s not to love?

79. “What Do You Mean?” by Justin Bieber

Wrongly misinterpreted as a quasi-rapey seduction, “What Do You Mean?” is a surprisingly soulful account of what is probably the single most frustrating aspect of every relationship: not being able to understand what’s really going on in your lover’s head. All those frustrating inconsistencies and mood changes, what does it all mean? Are we in love or falling apart? Why are we sniping at each other? Are we hot or cold? The beat is gorgeous, the vocals are skilfully restrained and the lyrics are pretty much perfect. This was the moment when the Bieb’s burgeoning critical acclaim was cemented.

78. “Shock Me” by Baroness

Worried 411’s track list was a touch light, well we’re about to get heavy (albeit briefly). Baroness have been releasing brilliant records since 2007 – the biggest endorsement of their quality is that the fact that their own fans bitterly argue about which of the color albums is best and which represents the moment when Baroness became crap (the passion is well warranted, but really they should lighten up, they are all pretty great, fans simply cling to the vision of the band they love).

“Shock Me” is a fabulous little pummelling that slips between the celestial void and a good old fashioned rock and roll sweatbox as the guitar work dazzles. Baroness are one of those brilliant acts who feel grandiose and bold without ever resorting to flashy gimmicks. The composition is powerful and dynamic, but never bends over backwards to impress.

77. “FirstNightINTheWoods” by Bones

Well, to paraphrase Eminem, this was a head trip to listen to. Bones opens the track’s only verse by telling us that he’s so high he’s floating – and the paranoid, but oddly soothing, void that envelops vocals certainly creates that feeling. Strangely though, this is no straightforward stoner jam; the delicately composed, but nonetheless haunting arrangement sets the stage for a bottom-to-the-top mission statement. Bones is on his grind, going onto bigger and better things with a relentless work ethic. This is a hard track to reconcile and that slipperiness makes in one of the year’s most intriguing listens.

76. “The Hills” by The Weeknd

You want hits? We’ve got hits. “The Hills” confirmed that “I Can’t Feel My Face” was no fluke. The Weeknd had recovered from his post-mixtape slump and was about to set himself apart as one of pop’s leading lights. Abel is back in his decadent pomp; sleeping around while dictating to the girls who are actually dependable and true, but its hard to castigate the singer when the hooks are this inescapable and are delivered with such intensity (is that self-recrimination I hear in his voice?).

One last thing, this might just be the truest record The Weeknd has ever released. He doesn’t run from his darker carnal desires on “The Hills”, in fact, he owns up to something long terms fans already knew: “When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me.”