Top 30 Songs of Summer 2015 (15-1)

Without much preamble, here are my absolute favourite songs from an amazing summer of music:

15. Glass Animals – Black Mambo

Such sticky. Much sexy time. So rhythm.


14. Echosmith – Bright

“Bright” is rife with gorgeous melodies. I don’t want to be too reductive, but this is basically Taylor Swift doing Indie-pop. And it’s great.


Bonus: Zhu – Faded

Hats off to my boy Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat for this one. Don’t know why I slept on this tune. Memories of the limo ride to the beach from here to infinity.


13. Sylvan Esso – H.S.K.T.

At once gitchy, dirty, and throw-your-hands-in-the-air-like-you’re-an-heir-danceable. My favourite Esso song to date. Pure banger.


12. El Vy – Return To The Moon

I continue to play the shit out of this. If you ever wanted to hear The National’s Matt Berninger sing on top of warmer and more welcoming music (than The National usually do), this is for you.


11. Alabama Shakes – Future People

Future People. Gorgeous music right now. Those guitars. That melody. And as it always seems to come down to with Shakes’ songs, Brittany Howard’s soul-rattling, life-affirming voice.


10. Courtney Barnett – Depreston/Pedestrian At Best

The wittiest, most playful lyricist in music? Maybe. I wouldn’t care that much if she didn’t have the songs to match, but she does. These two tunes are quite different from one another, but Barnett shines in both. I adore the wistful “Depreston” and the way she lingers the line “I think you’re a joke, but I don’t find you very fu-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uhnny” in “Pedestrian At Best”.


It was exceedingly difficult to rank the following songs as each and every one are monsters.


9. Daya – Hide Away

Pop doesn’t get purer than this. Unbelievably catchy and a star turning vocal from this 16-year-old newcomer. Everywhere you look you’ll find a hook.


8. Houndmouth – Sedona

A grower. An unabashed summer anthem. For the pensive, for the yearning, for the nostalgic, for the happy. This is a beautiful song.


7. Alvvays – Ones Who Love You

I adore this track. When I saw Alvvays at Osheaga, I was really stoked to see their most known tracks, “Archie, Marry Me” and “Adult Diversion”, but “Ones Who Love You” was the one that stole my heart. It moves so effortlessly, like a refreshing gust of wind on a sun-stunned summer day.


From this point on, 6 could be ranked 1 and 1 could be ranked 6; their slotting probably just depends on how I’m feeling right now. These songs have all meant a TONNE to me this summer.


6. Glass Animals – Pools/Pools (Roosevelt Remix)

The first song I’d heard by Glass Animals was “Gooey”, some months ago. I really dug it. I listened to it but didn’t go completely apeshit for it. I started throwing primate fecal matter when I heard “Pools” though. It’s a pristine gem. Every sound in the track is so carefully assembled, fits so perfectly with what comes before and after it. Just don’t mistake the coruscating production for polish. There is an organic warmth here that not many songs can match. I wish the drum flourish at the end of the song lasted 15 minutes instead of 15 seconds. The lyrics are also a blast to sing along to. “Shake my little soul for you now toy… I’m a man of many tricks and tools and joy” is a line I sung with pleasure time and time again over the summer. Oh, and Glass Animals are incredible live and are going to be huge. Oh, and the Roosevelt remix is fucking amazing.


5. Chvrches – Leave A Trace

I firmly believe that Chvrches’ debut, The Bones Of What You Believe, will go down as one of the best pop records of this decade. It would be insane to expect them to match that effort, yet here we are. “Leave A Trace”, the lead single from their second album, is an absolute stunner. I think we’re at the point where we can say that Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, and Martin Doherty are preternaturally gifted at song making. And I’m pretty sure that’s an understatement. On their way to conquering the world, I have little doubt.


4. Twenty One Pilots – Stressed Out/Ride/Holding On To You

I knew this band for “House of Gold”. I think it’s a good song, but stylistically, it’s in the same vein as a lot of other songs in the Indie-pop arena. Man, I had no idea what these cats had up their sleeves. The masters/coiners of schizo-pop, Twenty One Pilots don’t sound like anyone else. I fell deeply in love with a bunch of their songs over the summer. These were the three I fell hardest for. I’ve listened to these tracks a tonne, yet with each listen, their appeal does not cede, it increases. This is some of the most thrilling pop music being made anywhere. I am not surprised one bit that this band has become huge. They check off way too many boxes. Similar to the reach-for-the-stars-and-neighbouring-galaxies-and-let’s-make-sure-to-get-the-kitchen-sink-in-there-too effort of Fueled By Ramen label mates Paramore (on their last, eponymous record), Twenty One Pilots clearly want to make the most appealing and melodic music possible. And they couldn’t give a fuck what genre it belongs to or how it’s classified. While that’s being talked about, they’re too busy making hits and selling out shows. Too busy holding onto you. It’s not rocket science.


3. Miguel – Leaves/Leaves (Adam Foster’s Sweet California Remix)

Miguel’s “Coffee”, from his third album, Wildheart, is one of the songs of the year. That is a fact. But “Leaves” is the album’s other ace up his sleeve (when he wears sleeves, which is rare, I grant you). The melody, lyrics, and Miguel’s typically stunning vocal combine to form a strange sadness. It’s part regret, part love, part infatuation, part uncertainty, part longing. It’s an evergreen in a forest of maple trees. “The leaves don’t change here, so I never saw it coming” is possibly the lyric that struck me hardest over the summer. There’s a simple beauty in those words. The leaves don’t change here, and neither does my feeling for this song’s melody, those words, that voice. The first clip is a(n incredible) live version of the track while the second is Adam Foster’s fantastic Sweet California remix.


2. Christine and The Queens – Paradis Perdu/Saint Claude

I shed a tear the first time I heard “Paradis Perdu”. Because emotion transcends language. Because of the Kanye sample that was so completely unexpected. Because of that melody. And that vocal. Because I knew I’d be seeing Christine and The Queens at Osheaga. I live for moments like that. Where art batters routine. Feelings compel. Where music is the only thing in the world. These are the moments that make life feel like paradise. They must be remembered.

“Saint Claude” is just as great a song. The vocals in the chorus are brilliant.


1. Wolf Alice – Bros

“Bros” is precious. The video yes, but the song, first and foremost. The guitars, the vocal harmonies, and most of all, the bridge. The way Ellie Roswell sings “Oh, jump the 43, are you wild like me? Raised by wolves and other beasts, I tell you all the time, I’m not mad. You tell me all the time, I got plans.”

A better ode to friendship I don’t think I can recall. Friendship with people, with wolves, with clouds, with music, with water, with road trips, with tall blades of grass and sun fades in the past.

Another summer gone. Another pack of memories to store. Music, as always, there to soundtrack it all.

Top 30 Songs of Summer 2014 (15-1)

Without any preamble, here are my favourite songs of this past summer:

15. Tokyo Police Club – Tunnel Vision

Who who, who who, who/Who who, who who, who/Who who, who who. Rinsed and on repeat. “Tunnel Vision” is Tokyo Police Club throwing down a Thor-like hammer on the Canadian alt-rock scene.


14. Cage The Elephant – Take It Or Leave It

I went on a bit of Cage dive this summer, with “Take It Or Leave It” being one of the tracks I played often. I love the changing dynamics/rhythm, a t(r)ick that Cage have come to master. It’s become apparent to me that Cage The Elephant have (deservedly) become quite popular, but, in spite of this success, I think they’re underrated. They’re energetic, from left field — sometimes so out in left field that they’re playing basketball on the diamond. I dig their takes on melody, I dig (lead singer) Matt Shultz, I dig their collective effervescence. It’s clear the band really likes making and performing music. It’s clear that I like Cage The Elephant.


13. Perfume Genius – Queen

Don’t you know your Queen? I didn’t. But I think I do know. She’s regal and resplendent in coruscating purple gems. The sound of Her voice is power embodied, emboldened is the sparkle in Her eye. Her grip on a sceptre is unrelenting, convincing the kingdom with the scent of Her Royal Highness. I pledge allegiance to Her. This is my Queen. This is the new Perfume Genius.


12. Sarah Bareilles – I Choose You

Nothing less than a super sweet, super earwormy pop song from Sarah Bareilles. It’s not the first time she’s pulled it off , and it won’t be the last, I’m sure, either. The woman knows her way around songcraft like very few others.


11. FKA Twigs – Two Weeks

A sultry, engulfing experience, “Two Weeks” gets better with each listen. It’s a slow slithering snake with an electric heart and an icy, steely venom. It seems like an elixir, a pulsating energy that appears to rejuvenate. In reality, it’s a poison that constricts the veins until blood ceases to flow. Death never sounded so good.


10. Justin Timberlake – Not Such A Bad Thing

The most straightforward pop song on probably either of JT’s 20/20 albums, and what a great thing to be. Whereas almost all of his recent output leans experimental, in terms of structure and sound, “Not Such A Bad Thing” seeks to be only one thing: catchy. And my, how it is. From an album released in September 2013, “NSABT” has been a slow builder of a hit, but one that reached ubiquity in spite (because?) of this. And you know what? Despite a kajillion plays on every format imaginable, it still sounds great. Not many would have said this when both 20/20 albums had been released, but I do believe there’s a chance “Not Such A Bad Thing” will be the most remembered track from either LP.


9. Ed Sheeran – I See Fire (Kygo Remix)

“I See Fire” is Ed Sheeran’s soundtrack contribution to The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. This is Kygo’s remix of that song. The rest is magic. I see fire, I feel warmth, I hear a breath. Of a life that lingers in the surroundings. But unlike the dragon that resides somewhere in the dark and dreaded shadows, this life seeks to guide, aid, and proclaim, that even though a battle is at hand, victory is in the other.


8. Jessie Ware – Tough Love (Cyril Hahn remix)

There are already a handful of remixes that have stunned me into excitement, but the Cyril Hahn remix of “Tough Love” might be the leader of the pack. Sourcing an impossibly sexy and slow-tempo’d original, Hahn takes this remix somewhere else entirely. He makes the song scoot in its boots, turns the pensive vibe of the original into a celebration of hard work. He makes tough love seem like a joy. What an accomplishment.


7. Broods – Bridges

It took me a while to see “Bridges”‘ appeal. There’s a lot of people renting space in synth-pop sounds at the moment. It takes a really special effort to differentiate and stand out from the crowd. Broods has done that here. The chorus is just sensational. The vocal is pretty yet punishing. The track is a wave of beats and broods of beauty.


6. The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers

I don’t know why I was a little late to this party, as “Brill Bruisers” is one the most immediate songs The New Pornographers have ever released. Once it broke for me, it broke hard. Bo ba, bo ba ba, bo for all of the ears. All of the Newmans. All of the Nekos. All of the time.


5. G.R.L. – Ugly Heart

“Ugly Heart” made my best of list in April. I’d listened to it a number of times, and obviously liked it enough to scribe my affection for it. But I really listened to it this summer. A lot. More than a lot. And what I heard was hands down one of the best pop songs I’ve heard in recent memory. The verses, the chorus, the vocals, the lyrics. All of it is perfect. Dr. Luke and the GRLs eschewed the EDM-led pop that’s dominating the mainstream for a guitar-led stomper. The move couldn’t have been smarter. Some may categorize this as disposable pop, but they’d be wrong. I think “Ugly Heart” is good enough to find a space on various rotations for years and years to come.


4. The Tea Party – Water’s On Fire

The Tea Party are one of Canada’s finest bands of all time. Jeff Martin’s voice, his guitars, Jeff Burrows’ drumming, Stuart Chatwood’s jack-of-all-trades-ness, their way with melody — I’d missed all of it. I’m so glad they’re back. That they came back with such a wonderful lead single made me even happier.


3. La Roux – Sexotheque

Before the summer, La Roux’s rocket landed back on earth with three incredible pop songs, “Let Me Down Gently”, “Uptight Downtown”, and “Tropical Chancer”. All of them are amazing pop songs, all mega-hits (in this realm or another). Some logicians might say that with three lead songs so strong, the rest of the album may pale in comparison. That would be wrong. “Sexotheque” is another brilliantly catchy ditty. La Roux’s latest album, Tropical Chancer, is one of the best albums of the year, and “Sexotheque” is a big reason why.

I’m also strangely taken by the fan-made video that I’ve linked below. In a way, it doesn’t relate to the song at all — it’s clearly a music video for another, probably Caribbean or Latin track. But something about the whole thing works. Sun and tunes have a way of making life’s incongruities irrelevant. Oh summer songs.


2. Paper Kites – Leopold Street

Yes, “Leopold Street” is a song from 2012, and I just did a list of my favourite songs of the summer that are not from 2014. So why didn’t I include this song there? I’m not completely sure, other than to say I first heard this two-year-old track a couple months ago and fell so deeply in love with it that it’s now inextricably linked to this past summer.

The music is lovely, an acoustic guitar led pop song with melodies above, on, and below ground level, a song stacked with sounds that make ears perk up and feet tap along. Juxtaposed with such sunny, sweet sounds are lyrics that speak of pain. A pain about family, about love, about loss.

The companionship of one side with the other, light and dark, the hope of summer’s beginning and sadness at its unavoidable end is what made “Leopold Street” one of my favourite songs of the summer.


1. alt-J – Left Hand Free

Ain’t shady baby, I’m hot, like the pa-rodigal son. Pick a petal, eeny meeny miny mo, and flower, you’re the chosen one…

The most straightforward song on alt-J’s phenomenal sophomore album, it’s also the most sing-a-long worthy. And my, how I exercised that right this summer.

I think alt-J could be the best band on the planet (Future Islands are right there). Their way with instrumentation, vocals, lyrics, melody, and breadth of sound is unmatched by any other band around. Only two albums in, they have several songs that could be classified as monumental, in how they touch the spirit, caress the ears, sing to, about, and from the heart.

“Left Hand Free” is not like that. In fact, it’s unlike any alt-J song to date. It’s got one thing on its mind: fun.

Isn’t fun what summer’s all about? Girls just wanna have it. So do guys. Until daddy takes the T-Bird away.

“Left Hand Free” is the epitome of fun, a soliloquy from the sun.

Thank you summer. Thank you music.