We asked the contributors of IMPACT to name their favourite songs of the year, which we believe will be valuable additions to any “Best of 2015” playlists you’re planning to compile. Including Kendrick Lamar and Bring Me The Horizon, read on for just a few of our most played tracks from these formidable 2015 releases. Also, for a round-up of our favourite LP’s of the year, make sure to pick up the next printed issue of IMPACT in January.
Father John Misty // ‘I Love You, Honeybear’
Regularly praised as one the best albums of 2015 in many reviews of the year, Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear marked the man behind the moniker – Josh Tillman – becoming a master songwriter. In form, in arrangement, and certainly lyrically, Tillman’s celebration and dissection of love was an ambitious project to say the least. Tight-rope walking expertly between sincerity and cynicism, I Love You, Honeybear succeeds where so many “love” albums fail – Father John examines the ideal of true love, critiques the institutions of marriage, whilst concurrently conceding that he himself will yearn for, celebrate, and see out those exact things. In a word, it’s honest; uncompromisingly so. Opening the album, the title track ‘I Love You, Honeybear’, sounds as if a ballad, and, lyrically, sets the tone immediately – to the backdrop of apocalyptic destruction, at least the protagonist and his “Honeybear” still have each other. “Fuck the world”, he declares, the relevance of impending doom is dwarfed by their passion for each other – indeed, “My love, you’re the one I want to watch the ship go down with”. This track speaks to that reckless, impassioned, all-consuming love, the one that belittles all other considerations, and Father John Misty, comically but perceptively, sets this against the end of days. Even then, he sings, “Everything is fine / Don’t give into despair / ‘Cause I love you, honeybear.”
Kendrick Lamar // ‘You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said)’
Laying out your philosophy in a tune is so very 70’s. Back then you couldn’t stop the likes of Marvin Gaye crooning about saving the puppies whatever; but do that now and you’d get laughed at the room. Ask Bieber. But on To Pimp A Butterfly Kendrick Lamar did just that for seventy minutes, and it was (rarely) corny, or preachy – it was just Lamar, speaking to himself, laying out some home truths. “Jealousy? Complex. Emotional? Complex. Self-pint? Complex. Under Oath? Complex. The loudest one in the room nigga, that’s a complex, let me put it in proper context.” Over a gently crunched funk groove, Lamar tries to make into the role model everyone seems afraid to be.
Image from Eli Watson via Flikr
Björk // ‘Family’
The most emotionally affecting song of the year, Björk’s ‘Family’ – written 6 months after ending a 13-year relationship – discusses the effect of the break-up on their child. Her unique vocal delivery makes it as captivating as it is heartbreaking. It’s a masterclass in tension, an emotional rollercoaster that starts off intensely eerie and claustrophobic before becoming washy and expansive. The intermittent, destructive electronics demand attention, while the incredible string arrangement (written by Björk herself) surpasses the most exciting classical composers. Truly amazing.
Alabama Shakes // ‘Gimme All Your Love’
It’s almost impossible to pick the best track off of Alabama Shakes’ second album, Sound & Color. The record, a successful follow-up to 2012’s Boys & Girls, presents a new sound for the band, experimenting with dissonance and genre-hopping (sometimes within the same song), whilst never losing its roots in blues and soul. ‘Gimme All Your Love’ catches you off guard throughout. The band doesn’t really do crescendo, much preferring to hit the listener with a huge contrast in dynamics between verse and chorus. Only the middle 8 offers brief respite, before bringing it all home with an emphatic end. This is the kind of song you would love to see live. At points, the words force themselves up through frontwoman Brittany Howard’s vocal chords and out of her mouth as if she is going through some sort of strange exorcism of emotions. It’s amazing to listen to and even better to watch. This woman can contort and control her voice from a breathy whisper to a throaty wail in the same line; it’s part of what makes her and the record so listenable again and again.
The Milk // ‘Don’t Give Up The Night’
The Milk are a band of Londoners, but they sound like they come from nowhere but the heart of Tennessee. On a record of funk, soul ballads, the Milk capture on record in ‘Don’t Give Up The Night’ the sound of them letting loose. In their sizzling live shows the track bursts with drum solos and stretches out a few minutes longer but on wax the ban do an impressive job of capturing their freewheeling energy in one of the year’s most thrilling tracks. Starting both feet off the ground with a pensive drum tap, fleeting twanging guitars, fleeting bridges of piano, a false finish… you don’t know where to look, beside a future where The Milk get the attention a phenomena track like this proves they deserve.
Chase and Status feat. Frisco // ‘Funny’
Any self-respecting Chase and Status fan knows that they blend with grime artists better than vodka and coke, but 2015 saw them release their London Bars mixtape featuring one special track with BBK’s Frisco. The first of the 4 tracks saw Frisco jump on an insane, bass-heavy beat which is never a bad thing in this genre. Aside from the track being filthy good, Chase and Status’ whole concept behind the London Bars project was to highlight some hot, upcoming grime artists to a much wider audience they couldn’t typically reach on their own. Chase and Status’ return this year was unbelievably strong, and ‘Funny’ was the forefront of this grime attack – it even includes a sample from Spongebob Squarepants – Plankton can’t run out of bars.
Bring Me The Horizon // ‘Throne’
Sean McGowan’s ‘Patron Saint of Pissing it up the Wall’ obviously has the best song title of 2015, but in terms of song writing as a whole, Bring Me The Horizon have taken the cake with ‘Throne’. The world hasn’t heard a track this anthemic in a long, long time. From the second it kicks in the track hits full throttle, even in the softly spoken verses the song maintains quiet intensity. What is most impressive about the song is its accessibility. It stands as a credible metal song, but the arena-sized chorus appeals to all.
Everything Everything // ‘No Reptiles’
2015 saw Everything Everything produce their finest album yet, transcending the ranks of a relatively obscure alt-pop band to create – through the form of catchy pop songs – a nuanced and insightful exploration of the existential quandaries that have underpinned so much of the distressing news we’ve seen over the past two years. Set against catchy guitar hooks, soaring electronic structures and mesmerising vocal performances from frontman Jonathan Higgs, the lyrics throughout Get To Heaven touch on extremist radicalisation, our desensitisation to tragedy, the individual’s frustrating powerlessness to affect change, and grasping to hide from the sorrows of modern life in the distant past. It’s not the usual inspiration for a pop album. ‘No Reptiles’ is the epitome of their musical and conceptual talent and vision on this LP. Inspired by the conspiracy theory that the world is secretly run by reptilian humanoids, Higgs observes that our reality is just as, if not more, frightening – that we are run by a grey, trembling, conservative elite, disinterested and ineffectual in addressing the public’s interests. There are “No reptiles” sings Higgs, “Just soft boiled eggs in shirts and ties / Waiting for the flashing green man / Quivering and wobbling just like all the eggs you know”. The track shifts into a final, moving crescendo, and as waves of electronica against a steady industrial beat crash over the listener, the evocative vocals plead intensely for “Just one night to feel / Like I might be on the right path / … Wise enough to know myself.” ‘No Reptiles’ is just one part of an album laudable in its scope and execution, and, as a whole, its call for reflection on these pertinent issues is deeply poignant.
Featured image from Magnus Johansson via Flickr