By Daniel Ford (From Blown Speakerz)
One of the better bits that Jimmy Kimmel ever did was incredibly simple: he sent a reporter to the Coachella music festival in California and asked them about a bunch of made up bands with brilliantly hipster names (like The Obesity Epidemic, The Chelsea Clintons, and my personal favorite Get The F**k Out of My Pool). The responses are fantastic, as you’d expect, with festival attendees heaping generic praises like “great energy” on these entirely fictitious bands.
The reality, however, is that in keeping up with indie music in the Internet Age, we often feel a lot like the people in this sketch. 2015 brought with it a never-ending onslaught of flannel-clad guitar wielders, skinny-jean wearing hip-hop prodigies, and beautiful women with soaring voices, dancing shyly in front of a bored-looking guy on the drums. The amount of good music being released on a daily basis is overwhelming, a cartoon jenga tower of CD’s threatening to collapse on top of you at any given moment (CD’s are shiny discs containing music packaged in little plastic boxes, for all you young whippersnappers out there). How is one to stay up to date on all the “cool” music when, during the time it takes you to listen to one critically-acclaimed album, four more artists have surprise-released their supposed magnum opus?
Fear not, my dear Fayettechill neophytes, for I have taken on the arduous task of listening to excellent music and have curated a playlist that will prevent you from losing crucial social credibility when asked about what you’ve been listening to recently. Starting out with a nearly 1,500 song playlist with more than 95 hours of music, I’ve cleaved away the fat to provide you with the leanest 30-song cut. (Or if you prefer a less meat-centric metaphor, I’ve done whatever it is you do with quinoa, kale, or black-bean burgers that’s similar to butchering meat?)
Here are a few of my very favorite songs, all released in 2015 thus far, all of which you’ll find included in the Spotify playlist at the bottom of this post.
BEST SONG THAT DOUBLES AS A SUPER RELATABLE SHORT STORY
“An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)” by Courtney Barnett
My favorite 2015 album came from the land down under, and more specifically, the brilliant mind of Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett. Barnett specializes in highly literate indie rock songs that manage to contain more instantly recognizable human moments than the vast majority of short stories or novels. Take the song above, which is narrated from the point of view of an insomniac. She starts, staring at the cracks on her wall, imagining that they are the lines on her palms, and trying to determine the future of her love life.
The album includes similar, story relaying gems throughout. One describes a woman at a pool, passing out because she was trying to hold her breath long enough to impress an attractive stranger, peaking at the highly relatable chorus “I want to go out, but I want stay home.” Another describes a woman thrown for a loop as she finds out the house she is touring is available only because the woman who last owned it had died. These wonderfully observed character sketches are tied together by catchy melodies and Barnett’s uniquely arresting voice. Something truly phenomenal would have to come out in the next four months to surpass this one atop my personal leaderboard.
BEST SONG LIKELY FUELED BY LITTLE-BROTHER SYNDROME
“Witness” by Will Butler
Will Butler, a longtime member of Win Butler’s popular band, Arcade Fire, stepped out from behind the Grammy-award winning shadow of his brother to release his debut solo album this year. The result? This sax-laden jam in particular certainly proves that he’s got the chops to go toe-to-toe with big brother. Built on a foundation of piano and bass, Butler sprinkles in a gospel choir and some sultry sax to go along with his own urgent vocals. Though Win could probably still take Will in a fight (it is actually a proven scientific fact that big brothers always beat their little brothers in physical battles, regardless of size), Will proved with this song and entire album that Win better watch his musical back.
BEST SONG THAT MANAGES TO SOUND ROMANTIC DESPITE TALKING ABOUT MURDER, BUTTER, AND BORING PEOPLE
“Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)" by Father John Misty
Former Fleet Foxes member, Josh Tillman, working under the moniker, Father John Misty, wins the award for funniest album of 2015. He pairs baroque and sometimes schmaltzy instrumentation with his trademark cutting and sarcastic lyrics to create an array of fantastically gut-busting songs. Always catchy, with one of the better voices in music, Father John is able to hide how scathing some of his observations regarding modern romance can be behind the immediate accessibility of his songs. This song also happens to hold my favorite stanza of the year:
“First time you let me stay the night despite your own rules,
You woke up early just to cheat your way through film school,
You left a note in your perfect script: “Stay as long as you want,”
And I haven’t left your bed since.”
BEST SONG BY MY CLOSE FRIENDS (ONE OF WHOM IS A FAYETTECHILL EMPLOYEE)
“Holding On” by Goose
I included this so that these guys would keep letting me sleep on their couch when I visit Fayetteville. Just kidding-- even if I hated the dudes responsible for this atmospheric jam I would still go to bat for it. The song builds perfectly, transitioning from a quiet acoustic number to a soaring climax of something like 150 acoustic guitars playing at the same time (all numbers approximate). If you’re a Fayettechill fan then you’ve likely heard of this Fayetteville group, but if you haven’t and you’re a fan of well-crafted acoustic pop then go ahead and jump on the bandwagon. Just don’t ask them what kind of music they play, because they are impressively bad at describing it.
BEST SONG THAT IS SO CATCHY THAT IT’S ACTUALLY KIND OF DANGEROUS
“The Art of Getting By (Song For Heaven’s Gate)” by The Go! Team
Annoyingly misplaced exclamation mark aside, The Go! Team has released the most instantly catchy song of 2015 (non-“Sunday Candy” division) so far. The song is essentially three different choruses on repeat over crashing drums, a churning organ, and some well-placed ooh’s and ahh’s. It’s best played at questionably loud volumes and should include a Parental Advisory Warning solely because of how long it will remain stuck in your head.
BEST SONG THAT INCLUDES A VOCAL PERFORMANCE FOR THE AGES
“Gimme All Your Love” by Alabama Shakes
I’m guilty of severely underestimating Alabama Shakes. I saw them live a few years ago, and was blown away. I loved their debut album, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that they were a one-album wonder built on the superstar voice of lead-singer Brittany Howard. I was so, so wrong. Their second album, Sound and Color, is as good of a second album as you’ll find. It builds perfectly on their debut, introducing more sonic adventurism and better variety, all while never forgetting the voice that got them to where they are. The top Youtube comment on the video above says it better than I ever could: “The triplets hit, and you just feel like you got face pounded by a metric f**kton of soul crammed in can of whoopass named Brittany Howard. That's a HOT motherf**ckin damn from me.”
I’ve tried to compile a wide variety of songs in this 30-song playlist, with artists as popular as Drake up against fellow Canadian, and basically unknown singer-songwriter/clarinetist, Andy Schauf. With albums from Beach House, Destroyer, Frank Ocean, Kanye West, Wheat Bread, Mazeltov Cocktail, Furious George, and others slated to come out later this year I’m sure the playlist will quickly need updating. Also, some of those bands I just listed aren’t real and if you can figure out which ones you’ll get a free Fayettechill shirt (with the purchase of 100 Fayettechill shirts and 5 YETI coolers). Happy listening.
Photo by Ben Matthews