It was a year of confusion, shock, awe and fighting for what's right.
We're in a place where Donald Trump could become president, Bill Cosby is a serial rapist and everyone suddenly loves Justin Bieber.
It's a strange world we're in and the music this year reflects that.
Since 2005, I've made mixes of my favorite music each year to share with family, friends and just plain music lovers. Music is something to be shared, a universal language that brings us together. And we've never needed to be closer than we need now.
This year's mix is a comprehensive look at the year of music through my eyes - songs that really hit me. This was a year full of great albums, more than great songs. Some incredible full length pieces of work from people this year.
Let me know what you think and feel free to pass this on to friends and family. This year I am not offering the mix as a downloadable album as I have done in the past. It's available on Spotify (RIP Rdio).
PLEASE contact meif you have any trouble with the links. Thanks!
And while you're at it, check out my own music in the "sounds" section!
Enjoy and Happy New Year!
BEST songs of 2015
1. "Sharpness" - Jamie woon this song is timeless. A tune that sounds like it was recorded in a tin can, it has a feeling and a sound unlike anything else that was released this year. it's so difficult to produce a joint like this and right now, no one sounds like UMO. the sentiment in this song is something almost everyone can relate to and it's one of those songs that, as a musician, you hear and think "Damn. Why didn't i Write this song?!" it's almost maddening.
2. "Really Love" - D'angelo and the vanguard this is one of those songs that leaked early, i Downloaded it on a whim and developed a strong personal affection for it before it became a huge hit and all of a sudden i was like "Wait, others know this song? oh, it's the number one song right now. huh." I think A$ap sucks as an MC but this song is so so so infectious. kendrick's verse on this is one of the best i've heard in a long while. "my pep talk turned into a pep rally" I'm pretty sure this song is in response to jay-z's "99 problems" -- as in, i got 99 problems but a bitch is always gonna be one because i love to fuck.
love this song.
3. "Jekyll" - Hiatus kaiyote one of my favorite new bands of 2013. They're One of those bands you just happen upon. I was scrolling through rdio's new releases section one tuesday and just listened to these dudes randomly and fell in love. straight outta canada (aren't they all these days? dang) these guys put together some trippy acid funk rock. the lead singer does this signature double-microphone action in which one is just his regular voice and the other mic is sent through a octave mixer that converts his voice into that new hip-hop deep voice sound. funky ass song.
4. "Old hat" - van hunt Alice is so nasty. an underrated adele, she blows the roof off with her vocals. she's this tiny tiny blonde brit who has sass for days and packs a big punch. saw her at yoshi's this year and she met and surpassed my expectations. i love this woman. check out the youtube video of her covering gnarles barkely's "crazy" in a church.
5. "alright - kendrick lamar jim james put together one of the best album openers i've heard in years. this is the kinda song that really gets me, a song with a simple concept that builds and becomes a completely different beast by the end. the piano line here is quite memorable and when the bass line comes in at 3:05, i'm moved more than most musical moments moved me this year. i'm officially a jim james fan.
6. "future people" - alabama shakes James Blake has evolved like i never could've imagined. he blends hip-hop, Rnb, elctronica, and soul all in one. quite unexpected for a 25 year old computer nerd white dude from the uk. i know everyone is gonna put "retrograde" on their list, i love that song too but this is my favorite james blake song ever. There's also a version with Chance the rapper. He takes such simple, looping concepts and embellishes all over the place. This song gets me transfixed every time i hear it. "everything feels like touchdown on a rainy day"
7. "hello" - adele it was a toss-up between this and "started from the bottom" but i think this has to take the cake because it sounds unlike anything else drake has done and plus, it's been stuck in my head since the first time i heard it. i remember loving this song and then finding out it was drake and was all "WHAT?!?!" super catchy, it makes you feel like you're in miami vice or some 80s danceclub.
8. "everyday" - diane coffee one of my favorite new artists and wins the award for most surprising voice. you hear king krule and you're like "WHoa" and then you see what he looks like and you're fucking speechless. this red-headed 19 year old brit is making his own brand of music. some songs are hip-hoppy, some are rockabilly, some are throwback alternative rock but they all hit. this whole album is great and it was a toss-up between this one and "A Lizard State" but i had quite the bond with this one. King Krule is the only artist featured twice on this mix.
9."hotline bling" - drake everyone knows this song. i typically am not a fan of daft punk but this one is hard to resist. pharell single-handedly killed this album.
10. "precious" - J.D. Mcpherson Flume caught me by surprise. I was invited to his show without knowing his music and decided to do a little research before the show and really liked his stuff. Then i saw him live and fell in love. this is usually not my bag, but it was one of the best shows i've been to in awhile. he mixes house/dance with soul music and dirty beats. his sound is a perfect blend of organic meets electronic.
11. "sorry" - justin bieber this one came to me late in the year. this is a head-bobbing, neck-cracking tribute to grimey old-school hip-hop. dripping in yeezus, it's produced but yeezus himself and features a dope jay-z sample segue into the third verse. simple and dark-riding.
12. "King kunta - kendrick lamar i was introduced to this song/band by my good friend and the super-talented producer anas canon. this song reminds me about why i love music so much. (although they were a disappointing live act.) the musicality and vocals are so playful and charming with flickering, fluttering rhodes fills. the breaks and transitions are flawless. There's also a version featuring q-tip from tribe called quest.
13."smooth sailin'" - leon bridges the third james on the list! i'm not biased, i swear. but this fucking song. i mean, it's hard to write about this one. I lose myself every time this song comes on; the falsetto, the electric piano, the build, the claps, the tinkling keyboard, the horns. This is like james blake and bon iver had a baby and made this. As it builds, you hear little string/harp sparkles that emulate icicles forming and glistening in the morning sun. i adore this song greatly and James is one of my new favorite artists.
14. "firefly" - mura masa a regular of my annual mixes makes yet another appearance. although this album as a whole was a bit disappointing, this song is fun and dirty. Get ready to have your speakers blown. jamie goes back to his first love of synths and big breaks, making another soul wonder for the year.
15. "The world is crowded" - unknown mortal orchestra although this was another disappointing album from a personal favorite, this one stood out for me. a real fun track that reminds me of high school.
16. "feel right" - mark ronson feat. mystikal i have a man-crush on luke temple. he's one of the best singer-songwriters of our generation without a doubt. he can make the simplest song into something of grandeur and his lyrics always seem to hit home. he's the leader of here we go magic, another favorite and "best of" regular. sometimes all you need to make a wonderful song is a gorgeous bass-line.
17."know yourself" - drake blaus is my two good friends nathan and zach blaustone; two handsome/talented brothers from northern california. nathan is an incredible drummer/percussionist and zach is a guitar player with a beautiful voice. instead of a bro-jam-band these dudes decided to make their world a canvas of sounds and beats. they call their sound "Booty haus" which to me, combines house music with bass drops and the breaks of hip-hop with a tiny bit of sass for your ass. They are committed to making you shake your groove thang, and trust me it's hard not to move to their music. this song reminds me disclosure's "When a fire starts to burn" but i think this is the better of the two. It's so playful and fun, just like the amazing boys would made it. this song just won them a spot in this year's white wonderland; so you should probably go see them asap before they blow the fuck up.
i love this man. you probably recognize this song since it was in a million commercials this year. a beautiful, thumping track that is fun to sing along with. i love his fiona apple reference.
19."What do you mean?" - justin bieber this song trips me the fuck out on so many levels. first, i can't remember liking a john mayer song since the john mayer trio album in 2005. second, katy perry sounds the best she's ever sounded on this track; like a true soul singer. third, these are two musical powerhouses who are dating and singing a love song about each other and to each other. it's like a new-age johnny cash and june carter. it has a nice little message too; it doesn't matter what someone has done in the past or what others say or what you think you have planned, you just "love who you love." and i can't help but admit, this is a truly beautiful song.
20. "tokyo" - lianne la havas jt killin' it again. with an intro reminiscent of a james bond movie, it travels all kinds of places in it's 8 minute span. long and progressive, sexy and stylish; it's a reflection of women and love as a drug addiction.
21."can''t feel my face" - the weeknd this was my introduction to king krule. the combo of king krule and mount kimbie are this year's SBTRKT and sampha. They match perfectly. this is a smooth, crisp, hip-hoppy track that progresses into madness. that opening line is so memorable: "now did you see me? i killed a man." this song was on repeat for months.
22. "can't keep checking my phone" - unknown mortal orchestra another british youngster (19 years old) bringing a old-school vibe back to the masses. i love how they included his mess-up and chair squeak in the beginning, it really sets the tone for this bob dylan-esque joint. another tin-can recording that seems to be a purposeful reimagining of robert johnson. The way he sings "Sooooon" and "toooooo" in the chorus really make this song. the blues is back.
23. "springful" - adult jazz The new, underrated van morrison. this curly stache irishman has the voice of an angel and soul for days. i saw him twice this year and he's hilarious and put everything into his performances. He also covered frank ocean!
24. "freezer burn" - Allen stone
Damn you, Kanye. you always seem to make my list. Kanye went on overload for this album. this album and "808 and heartbreak" are my least favorite albums of his thus far but This song is crazy fun and has this sense of loss of control. the use of breaths in this is so fitting. a perfect song for the "wolf of wall street" trailer.
let's take it down for a second. yet another trip-tastic offering from Bon iver's side project, volcano choir. this song reminds me of waking up. These guys make music that's so explorative and atmospheric, it's hard to turn away. i like the overlapping vocals and sing-along sensibilities here.
tendrils is my good friend matt cline. This is a simple recording; just matt and his guitar through a simple computer mic. but thats a big part of the appeal of this song. it's groovy, sad and hopeful all at once. i love this song and it gets stuck in my head. the lyrics and imagery presented in this song are so vibrant and thoughtful, they stick with you for days after.
That's it! Here's to a good year of music in 2014!