The 63 Best Songs of 2015 So Far
10. Fetty Wap, “Trap Queen”
The rapper born Willie Maxwell’s all-time catchy twist on the Bonnie-and-Clyde model has taken the U.S. by storm because it humanizes, uh, pie-cooking and turns it into a couple activity. Rather than Fetty lying to his girl by omission or keeping the fun between him and his Paterson boys, they’re literal partners in crime, and he keeps reminding her she’s his baby, over a skeleton-width beat and a perpetual motion machine of a melody that never stops unspooling. He had us at hey-what’s-up-hello. — D.W.
9. Florence + the Machine, “Ship to Wreck”
Much like like Doc Brown’s use-at-your-own-risk amplifier, Florence Welch’s magnificent pipes blast you across the room in this soaring yet worrying rumination on self-destruction. “Did I drink too much? Am I losing touch?” asks the ruby-haired frontwoman. Her demons don’t stand a chance. — R.B.
8. Death Team, “F**king Bitches in the Hood”
Even amidst a decently brilliant era for bratty bubblegum — hell, Daphne and Celeste are back! — the overstuffed wickedness of “F**king Bitches” stands alone, a cultural mélange that would probably disintegrate if it ever paused for a second to truly consider itself. Luckily no such consideration is needed among the hammering piano, giddy handclaps, and ceaselessly nonsensical swag-raps here, a song that wills itself to perilous turbo-pop heights just by refusing to ever look down. — A.U.
7. Lindstrøm feat. Grace Hall, “Home Tonight”
Perhaps to decompress from Runddans, his overcooked collaborative album with Todd Rundgren, Lindstrøm found the time to compose nine transfixing minutes of hip-busting beats and swirling digitized arpeggios — with an endlessly spinning disco ball of more cowbell. Norway’s proud space-disco don also recruited Los Angeles vocalist Grace Hall for the voyage, whose rich, simple invocations to “come home” harken back to the first time Donna Summer laid it thick on top of some booming mechanics four decades ago. — H.B.
6. Tame Impala, “Let It Happen”
A career-culminating, nine-minute odyssey through endless artistic and personal possibilities, boundlessly progressive if ultimately circular. Or, what Don Draper hears when he closes his eyes and smiles. — A.U.
5. Major Lazer & DJ Snake feat. Mø, “Lean On”
It’s a pleasant surprise that DJ Snake turns down for “Lean On,” a low-slung tropical grind with just the right amount of bounce. As they did on the simmering “Get Free” with Amber Coffman, Major Lazer gives less to get more, dropping in rhythmic elements with restraint: a guitar groove ladders up into a reggaeton beat spiced with syncopation. Mø’s slightly husky “blow a kiss, fire a gun” is an appropriately take-no-prisoners accompaniment. — H.B.
4. Shamir, “Call It Off”
Ushered in by warped vocals going all “Jay-sun De-rule-o” with his own name, the 20-year-old Las Vegan shows wisdom beyond his years, slicing the thread of a relationship like one of the Fates with her scissors. Producer Nick Sylvester sifts through his grab bag of electronic gewgaws and comes up with Shamir’s now-trademark cowbell pounding, layers on layers of dramatically pitched belting, and a synthesizer in search of a through line. All that would buck even the most seasoned singer from his perch, but Shamir tames the monster and leaves stronger for it. — B.C.
3. Jamie xx, “Gosh”
The electronic producer born Jamie Smith launched his career supplying the smooth connective tissue to the xx’s perfectly streamlined and skeletal ballads, but his best solo material seems equally interested in the jerky, fractured movement of bodies that are just a little more awkward. “Gosh” snaps, crackles, and pops with the dizzy, heaving energy of the millions of rolled ankles, sore calves, and headaches sustained from nights going too hard on underground dance floors. It’s a celebration of just about everything rave culture has to offer: the agony, the ecstasy, and the Ecstasy. — C.J.
2. Kendrick Lamar, “The Blacker the Berry”
The most thoughtful man on the pop charts won’t be there for long; soon enough the followers who hoped in vain for another “Swimming Pools (Drank)” will find themselves a new idol to meet them halfway, as Lamar gets weirder and darker and further and further away from traditional song constrictions. It’s to his credit that with the world watching, he channeled his peak powers into questioning power, which he’d like to point out means anyone with a gun, not just the financially and systemically oppressed. His weapon is empathy and he insists everyone can afford it. But that doesn’t mean he won’t overwhelm you with his tears of rage. He once wished for an Eiffel Tower-sized dick, he’d now cut it off if that made him less of a target.
“Your plan is to terminate my culture,” he screams at those who “vandalize [his] perception” and make him doubt his every conviction as a symptom of hypocrisy. This is the anxious bloodletting of a man raised in Compton, who has come to realize he’s no safer anywhere else. — D.W.
1. Courtney Barnett, “Pedestrian at Best”
“Pedestrian at Best” learns all of the most important lessons from In Utero-era Nirvana — the self-flagellation, the four-chord crunch, the winking absurdism — but most importantly, ignores a crucial one: Forget quiet-loud-quiet, Courtney Barnett’s band crashes through the gate with their tour van from the first kick drum and guitar hit and gives no quarter for the next four minutes. The verses aren’t quieter so much as they are tenser, anxiously building and building with every perfectly panic-attacked run-on verse (“I’ve got no idea how I even got here / I’m resentful / I’m having an existential time crisis / What bliss / Daylight savings won’t fix this mess”) until they grant precious release with the anti-singalong chorus of forever: “PUT ME ON A PEDESTUHL AND’ULL ONLEE DISAPPOINT YEWWW!!!” In 2015, it’s easily the rock song of the year; in 1995, it might’ve gotten drafted into the constitution. — A.U.