Music never fails to work magic on me, but this was a really cool year for music. It was about simultaneously looking back at music I’ve loved for 20-plus years, and looking forward to the bright future of music. Looking back, I saw bands I loved in the 90s still kicking ass: Extreme, Weezer, Soundgarden. Looking forward, most significantly, was Dear Rouge, who not only gave us my favourite album of 2015, in Black to Gold, but put on an amazing live show and were super kind to me and the blog.
So here are the songs that made me happiest this year. Like last year, these don’t have to be songs that were released in the last year, just ones that made a mark on me this year.
1. “White is Red,” Death From Above 1979
This song achieved a rare feat: it instantly became one of my favourite songs of all time, like I said in a post back in August. It’s one of those songs where I don’t really care what the lyrics are about, it’s all about how the melody and arrangement and tones and chords and timbre of the vocals make me feel. This song makes me feel like the world is a better place for having it in it.
2. “Best Look Lately,” Dear Rouge
Instantly, the rising synthy intro sweeps me up into euphoria, then the cool guitar riff and Danielle McTaggart’s uniquely sweet and powerful voice. Then that chorus. Seriously, no chorus made me happier this year and the crowd singalong of it was the highlight of their show at The Mod Club in November.
3. “Don’t Wanna Fight,” Alabama Shakes
Well, there’s not much I can say about Brittany Howard’s voice that hasn’t already been said. It’s just everything: pain, ecstasy, joy, sorrow. This song is actually a good encapsulation of my year with music – it feels like the past and the future all rolled up into one.
4. “Tongues,” Dear Rouge
Yup, two Dear Rouge songs in the top four. They were that good. This song was a pleasant surprise for me when it popped up on the radio as their latest single. Technically it’s the last song on their debut album, but it wasn’t on my copy (maybe it was an early edition?), so I thought it was new. It was the closer of their Mod Club show and it proved to be another memorable moment, with its punchy power chords and another amazing singalong chorus.
5. “Shut Up and Dance,” Walk the Moon
I liked this song the first time I heard it. It feels like 1985 to me. It feels like you could have released it in 1985 and it would’ve been just as big a hit. And the summer of 1985 was probably my favourite time as a kid. But this song got a boost when my seven-year-old son, Ethan, fell in love with it. I just love that my boys get such a charge out of music and that they have their own favourite songs. Makes me feel like I’ve done something right.
6. Figure it Out,” Royal Blood
Like DFA 1979, Royal Blood is another ferocious two-piece. They sound so loud and energetic, both on record and live (I got to see them open for Foo Fighters in July and they blew the roof off the joint). This lead single from their debut immediately knocked my brains out in the best way possible.
7. “Leather Jacket,” Arkells
There are few things finer and more joyous in music these days than an Arkells chorus. “11:11” could just as easily have been on here, too. Plus, based on their tweets, they seem like super-fun dudes and rabid Blue Jays fans, so I’m going to go ahead and award them bonus points for that.
8. “Sean,” Foo Fighters
I love the Foos, but it feels kind of strange to say I liked the five-song EP they gifted us with late in the year, Saint Cecilia EP, more than the full-length album (actually it was only eight songs itself) from late 2014, Sonic Highways. It was tough to pick just one song from the EP, but “Sean” feels like a fun throwback to the Foos of old. But honorable mention goes to “Savior Breath.”
9. “Nightlight,” Silversun Pickups
I just got their latest album and I wish I had more time this year to listen to it, but any first SSPU single from a new album is reason to celebrate. It has everything you want from one of their songs: the fun chorus, the quiet-loud dynamic, cool guitars, Brian Aubert’s inimitable vocals and that subtly cool synth.
10. “I’m Shy,” The Juliana Hatfield Three
I love how this song starts off sounding like a shy person, just a slow, warbly keyboard riff with a slow, warbly bass line, like, “Okay, I’m here but I don’t want to draw too much attention to myself.” But by the time the chorus comes around, it’s like she’s rejoicing in shyness, joyously shouting to the world, “I’m shy!” And it’s all something I can kind of relate to.
11. “The Shade,” Metric
Not sure what’s wrong with me, but I still haven’t bought Metric’s new album, Pagans in Vegas. But the lead single was super-fun, classic Metric… aside from the new Super Mario style bleeps and blips in chorus. Wasn’t sure what to make of those at first, made me feel like I was a cartoon plumber jumping and grabbing a coin or something, but they grew on me.
12. “Go Away,” Weezer
As much as I love Weezer, I was a little late to buying their October 2014 album, so this song hit me more in 2015. It had the fun, singalong chorus and old-school harmonies that reminded me of the Weezer of old.