When the surf’s up, your life is too.
Since last year’s music post proved to be so popular, I’m back again with my favorite singles of the year. While I’m still a singles girl at heart, there are many artists here who put out incredible albums as a whole, so I encourage you to click on the numerous links and hear some of their other stuff.
We kick things off with two sisters (recommended by reader Raya in the comments of last year’s post) whose debut album dropped in February…
Best in (Not) Brothers: Ibeyi, “River” (Ibeyi). There are so many songs from this album I could have chosen (“Oya”, “Ghosts”, “Stranger/Lover”), but this is the song that captured Raya and its video is captivating.
Best in (Not) Budapest: George Ezra, “Did You Hear the Rain?” (Wanted on Love). While Ezra’s “Budapest” may have seemed to be everywhere, I prefer his blues-inflected “Did You Hear the Rain?” Also, I just love that this video looks like a low-budget re-enactment of a historian’s all-night dissertation crunch.
Best in (Not) Bacchus: Asaf Avidan, “The Labyrinth Song” (Gold Shadow). Yes, my wifi network is named Ariadne, but there are so many other reasons I love this haunting song. There are a number of great selections on this album including the title track and the Etta James–inflected “A Part of This”; or, if you prefer your Asaf with a pinch of Janis Joplin, try “Bang Bang” on for size.
Best in (Not) Beheading: My Midnight Heart, “Salome” (Single). Speaking of haunting songs recalling women of antiquity, here’s another one.
Best in (Not) Blues: Protomartyr, “Blues Festival” (Single). If you are in a funk now that punk is dead, you might like this single from Protomartyr.
Best in Brotherhood: JEFF the Brotherhood, “Black Cherry Pie” (Wasted on the Dream). If you are looking for some rock with just a hint of Jethro Tull.
Best in ‘Bama: Alabama Shakes, “Don’t Wanna Fight” (Sound & Color). Continuing with the rock theme, but with a healthy side of blues, this song was perfect for my road trip through Mississippi this past spring.
Best in Billboard: Jason Isbell, “24 Frames” (Something More Than Free). Speaking of Alabama, this native’s 2015 album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s rock, folk, and country record charts. Well deserved I’d say: Something More Than Free is second only to Lord Huron’s Strange Trails in contributing the most songs to my iTunes collection.
Best in Bohemia: Lord Huron, “The World Ender” (Strange Trails). Strange Trails is indie folk at its best, a bohemian road trip through American music. With some tracks sounding like The Grateful Dead, and others like Memphis rockabilly with just a hint of surf music thrown in, I love this album.
Best in Birds: Brown Bird, “Aloha Senor Mano” (Axis Mundi). Speaking of surf music, I seemed to hear it everywhere this year, including in this track from Brown Bird, whose “Patiently Awaiting” is also excellent.
Best in Beach Bum: Jim Campilongo & Honeyfingers, “Sweet Nothings” (Last Night, This Morning). If, after listening to Brown Bird’s Axis Mundi, you find yourself saying “That’s good, but where can I get even more surf guitar?” then Last Night, This Morning may be for you. This album is what might result from The Beach Boys meeting Norah Jones late at night in a gritty country bar.
Best in Boyfriends: Ratatat, “Cream on Chrome” (Magnifique). I knew I had met my match when, a propos of nothing, the Math Greek gifted me with the latest Ratatat single. Their “Supreme” also had a bit of a surf vibe, and the rest of the album is quite fun, but my heart will always beat a little bit stronger for this one.
Best in Bullets: Kaleida, “Think” (Think – EP). Among other things, John Wick brought this mysterious yet catchy tune into my life. It’s hard to match Annie Lennox, but this EP also has a intriguing cover of “Take Me to the River”.
Best in Bizarre: YACHT, “I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler” (I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler). Not quite as odd as last year’s “Complètement fou” but still.
Best in Bizarre (runner-up): Twinsmith, “Alligator Years” (Alligator Years). If you like Vampire Weekend, look no further than this bouncy single from Twinsmith. I also love their more broody and reflective “Dust”.
Best for Bumming Around: RAC, “Back of the Car” (Single). Planning a road trip? You absolutely need this number on your mixtape.
Best in the Bay Area: Sjowgren, “Seventeen” (Single). I have no idea how to pronounce this band’s name, but I love the slow build on this tune and look forward to seeing a full album from this local trio.
Best in Britain: Django Django, “Shake and Tremble” (Born Under Saturn). The Stone Roses vibe is strong with this one. (And, yes, that’s a good thing.) Though I also really dig their “4000 Years” and if it had a video that’s probably what you would see below.
Best in Bel Canto: Malika Ayane, “Senza Fare Sul Serio” (Naïf). Besides Stromae, I didn’t listen to many French artists this year, however, I did discover a new Italian singer. If you like the song below but are looking for something on the softer side, try “Adesso e qui (Nostalgico presente)”.
Best in Beats: Missy Elliott, “WTF (Where They From)” (Single). Like this sh*t don’t speak for itself. Bow down.
This year, I actually had a hard time whittling this selection down. Some also-rans were “Pedestrian at Best” by Courtney Barnett, “Talking with Strangers” by Miya Folick, “Ideal World” by Girlpool, “Kill v. Maim” by Grimes (Art Angels), “King Kunta” by Kendrick Lamar, and “Lonely” by ZZ Ward (really, though, check out Til the Casket Drops, her previous full-length album, for some gems). I’m sure in any other year, these songs might have been featured above.
Also, I’m still waiting to get the original cast recording of Hamilton: An American Musical from the library, but props for making Broadway interesting this year.
What songs have stuck in your head this year?