The 20 Best Tracks of 2015 (so far)

It’s that most wonderful time of year again where just enough time has elapsed to the point that it’s vaguely acceptable to present an early ‘best of’ countdown. Let’s not waste any further space and get right to the official HeadStuff Top 20 of 2015 so far~!~!~!~!~!

20 | Tom Holkenborg

‘Brothers In Arms’

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The best action spectacle of the year so far (silver and bronze medals to Furious 7 and John Wick, respectively), Mad Max: Fury Road came loaded with a fittingly epic soundtrack courtesy of Junkie XL. Frankly, I didn’t think the dude had it in him but when those strings enter the fray after about three minutes of ‘Brothers In Arms’, it’s all you can do not to wish you too were a Road Warrior. Glorious. – Dave Hanratty

19 | Girl Band

‘Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage’

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Yep, Girl Band’s blistering Blawan cover is technically not a 2015 song but it did receive a fresh lick of very twisted paint indeed courtesy of Bob Gallagher for the Dublin quartet’s US-only The Early Years EP, so it qualifies. And it’s fucking tremendous, so shush. [DH]

18 | Brand New

‘Mene’

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Will Brand New ever write something as dead-on perfect as The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me again? Perhaps not, but ‘Mene’ would have been right at home as a snarky coda to that record. New album soon plz. [DH]

17 | Jape

‘Seance Of Light’

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There are deeper cuts to be found on Richie Egan’s excellent fifth outing, but ‘Seance Of Light’ makes for an immediate and irresistible sugar high. One to wear out your repeat button. [DH]

Read Louise Bruton’s five-star review of This Chemical Sea here.

16 | Wolf Alice

‘Bros’

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The kind of dreamlike summer pop with an edge that you expect to pop up on all the festival ads only they go for that shit Foals one instead. [DH]

15 | Kanye West

‘All Day’

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Yeezy’s post-Yeezus output has been rather mixed. He has made some enjoyable guest appearances on Tyler, The Creator and A$AP Rocky’s latest records, although neither found him moving out of 2nd gear. ‘FourFiveSeconds’, ‘Only One’ and ‘All Day’, meanwhile, have proven divisive even amongst his own fan base (which should, really, be the entire music-listening population. If you’re one of these people who doesn’t like the art that he produces, you should probably just stop consuming any sort of culture generally. You’re probably the sort of person who keeps buying Kings of Leon and Foo Fighters albums, thinks that it isn’t gimmicky shite and we’d all be better off if you’d just stop). ‘All Day’ is the pick of the bunch and it’s certainly not Kanye at the peak of his powers by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s still better than most. The beat is excellent (worked on by no less than nine people) and the lyrics, while feeling a little lazy, still feature his trademark charisma and wit:

“You a Rico Suave nigga

Ride ’round listen to Sade, nigga

If you ain’t with us, you in our way, nigga”

How long will we here at HeadStuff defend the genius of the biggest rock star in the world right now?

“All day, nigga” Joshua Hughes

14 | Alessia Cara

‘Here’

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Strutting about the place over a sample of ‘Ike’s Rap II’ like ‘Glory Box’ never even happened, Ontario’s Alessia Cara graduates from dime-a-dozen YouTube songstress to Def Jam’s Next Big Thing in ultra-smooth style. [DH]

13 | Villagers

‘Hot Scary Summer’

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By the time the Yes vote passed on May 23, Conor O’Brien had already won. If ’Courage’, the sensitive confessional that trailed the brilliant Darling Arithmetic, made for an elegant opening shot, ‘Hot Scary Summer’, awash with naked empathy and simple yet hugely effective imagery, proved a most graceful victory. [DH]

Read Andrea Cleary‘s thoughts on Darling Arithmetic here.

12 | Mylets

‘Trembling Hands’

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A whirling dervish of spiky energy and exceptional application, Henry Kohen crafted one of the year’s most ferocious punches in the form of Arizona. Lead single ‘Trembling Hands’ garnered widespread comparisons to Trent Reznor and while the record as a whole mostly skews away from Nine Inch Nails territory, its first four minutes could realistically stand alongside much of Reznor’s output. No mean feat. [DH]

We caught up with Mylets as he toured Europe a few months back. Read his words here.

11 | Young Fathers

‘Shame’

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Having defied the odds to take home the 2014 Mercury Prize, the Scottish hip-hop trio went from strength to strength with smart follow-up White Men Are Black Men Too. ‘Shame’, deployed early, is the pick of a busy bunch. Hell, it even sounded great coming out of the TV screen at Glastonbury[DH]

10 | The Weeknd

‘Can’t Feel My Face’

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‘Can’t Feel My Face’ is arguably at the same level as ‘The Hills’ as Abel Tesfaye channels Michael Jackson if he sang about being drugged out of mind as opposed to, well, you get what I mean. The Weeknd has been on a serious roll since his previous album Kiss Land received somewhat mixed reviews. 2014’s ‘Drunk in Love’ remix, ‘Or Nah’ remix, ‘King of the Fall’ and ‘Earned It’ all found Big Abel in rare form as he shifts towards a more pop/upbeat style from the utter depravity and despair that haunts most of Trilogy. We’ve seen the Michael Jackson influence throughout his catalogue including a glorious cover of ‘Dirty Diana’ but this is perhaps the most overt example in Tesfaye’s original work. ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ melds all of the best parts of the Toronto-native’s sound and themes and infuses them with a generous helping of fun, musically if perhaps not lyrically. [JH]

9 | East India Youth

‘Manner of Words’

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‘Manner of Words’ is easily the highlight of East India Youth’s recent Culture of Volume LP. Gloriously atmospheric and building to a stunning crescendo, it harnesses all of the best bits of William Doyle’s occasionally pretentious and ponderous sound. It clocks in at 10:18 yet not a second is wasted. It’s the sort of song that you can listen to with headphones on and get lost in, basking in its mesmerising tones. [JH]

Read Joshua Hughes’ verdict on Culture of Volume here.

8 | Lupe Fiasco

‘Mural’

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’Mural’ features one of the most impressive displays of lyricism to be found anywhere in recent memory let alone in the first half of this year. At eight minutes long and packed with dazzling imagery the song title is in and of itself a clever play on words. It’s a song so dense that to unpack it would be akin to analysing a Foucault essay:

“It’s still hooker heels on my sugar hills and sweet spots

Crying shames, make margarita rims from cheap tops

Deep plots in floor to ceiling windows for my peep pots

A little scene with the sickle swings to make the wheat drop

And a hundred words for them hummingbirds that like to eavesdrop

And fan out like peacocks with a parakeet that beat box

So the sun rise when the beat drops

And the sun dies when the beat stops…”

Luckily, however, this level of analysis isn’t necessary. Fiasco is lyrically on-point as always and the sweeping, angelic beat provides the perfect backdrop. [JH]

Read Josh’s take on Lupe Fiasco’s Tetsuo + Youth here.

7 | Grimes

‘Realiti’

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A demo apparently deemed not worthy enough for Claire Boucher’s forthcoming follow-up to 2012’s Visions, ‘Realiti’ is arguably a more infectious ear-worm than sleek calling card ‘Oblivion’. Hypnotic and alluring in equal measure, it positively glides along, its creator sounding effortlessly huge and deceptively delicate all at once. That album should be something special indeed, then. [DH]

6 | HEALTH

‘Stonefist’

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While the promo for the spellbinding ‘New Coke’ gradually revealed more of HEALTH than we ever really needed to see, ‘Stonefist’ piles on the sensory assault from the opening seconds. An absolute sledgehammer of a dark pop song that the Pet Shop Boys would rightly drool over. [DH]

5 | Chromatics

‘I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around’

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It boggles the mind that Johnny Jewel’s latest gem (sorry) didn’t immediately register as the ‘Get Lucky’ of 2015. For one, it’s about 200 times more enjoyable than that played out piece of karaoke trash. For another, it’s a perfect distillation of Jewel’s retro-fied sheen, a truly glorious piece of power pop that should jolt even the deadest of limbs into action. [DH]

4 | SOAK

‘B a noBody’

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In truth, you could pick any track from Bridie Monds-Watson’s first album Before We Forgot How To Dream if you wanted to hold her songwriting aloft. ‘Sea Creatures’, for instance, remains a devastating statement about compassion many years after she originally penned it, but it’s in ‘B a noBody’ that the Derry native takes ownership to the highest level, using melancholy as a weapon for positive change and creating a stirring emotional anthem in brilliant fashion. [DH]

Andrea Cleary was quite taken with SOAK’s debut. Read her review here.

3 | Marilyn Manson

‘Killing Strangers’

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He’s back! Having succumbed to the vices he continues to pour satirical scorn over, Marilyn Manson’s flair for crafting razor sharp pitch black pop would greatly suffer for the guts of a decade. Sure, there was the odd moment of triumph but the self-styled ‘God of Fuck’ seemed a spent force. If 2012’s Born Villain hinted at a return to form, this year’s The Pale Emperor cemented it. Arguably Manson’s finest hour, it opens with ‘Killing Strangers’ and immediately establishes tone, attitude, skill and the first of many, many hooks. That guitar kick-in at 4.36? All hail.

2 | Kendrick Lamar

‘King Kunta’

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Perhaps the best song from what will, bar something very special indeed, be the best album of the year. Wonderfully funky, with a beat that calls back heavily to James Brown’s ‘The Payback’ and references to all sorts of other black culture (the title is an allusion to the character “Kunta Kinte”, often cited as the archetypal “rebellious slave”, he breaks into a bit of Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’ while the video itself borrows heavily from 2Pac’s ‘To Live and Die in LA’ and Dr. Dre’s ‘Still D.R.E.’, amongst other things) peppered throughout it is also bitingly clever-  Lamar’s indictment of rappers who use ghost writers (“Most of y’all sharing bars like you got the bottom bunk in a two man cell”)  being one of the best examples of this. The production is incredible, the material is great and the delivery is even better. [JH]

Like many, Josh found To Pimp a Butterfly to be one of the most compelling listens of the year so far. Read his in-depth review here.

1 | The Weeknd

‘The Hills’

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The Weeknd is one of the hottest artists in the world right now, as can be attested to by the fact that Apple had him all over their promotional material for the new Apple Music service and had him perform at the end of the launch event at the Worldwide Developer’s Conference last month. ‘The Hills’, allegedly about an affair with Ariana Grande while her then-boyfriend was “on the road…doin’ promo” features a haunting, muffled beat and a stoned-sounding Weeknd reminding the other half of the affair that she is equally guilty before noting that he’s usually “fucked up” and that’s the only time he’s interested. Delightful stuff as always from an unbelievably talented musician. For the uninitiated, check out his previous releases Trilogy and Kiss Land. [JH]

PLAYLIST~!