1. Alright - Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar’s, “Alright,” deals with police brutality towards blacks. Lamar mourns the deaths of young black men, but he also takes a positive tone about the future of race relations in America, rapping, “if God got us then we gon’ be alright.” “We gon’ be alright” has become more than simply song lyrics; it has become a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter protesters in D.C., Cleveland, and Chicago, decrying police brutality. With “Alright,” Lamar proves that it is possible to make a song that is both catchy and politically conscious.
2. Can’t Deny My Love - Brandon Flowers
What makes “Can’t Deny My Love” one of the best songs of the year is its massive 1980s chorus. Huge drums and sharp synths swell behind Flower’s earnest pleas. The lead singer of The Killers delivers a song here that is better than anything that they have put out since Hot Fuss (2004), and he gets bonus points for basing the music video off Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Young Goodman Brown.”
3. Angels - Chance the Rapper
Chance the Rapper still hasn’t dropped his first album, but he has become one of the biggest names in rap with mixtapes like Acid Rap and 10 Day. Chance has become an ambassador from Chicago to the rest of the world. “Angels,” an exuberant track that carries Chance’s typical boisterous flow and boyish yelps, sees Chance talk about his love for the city while also decrying the violence that has constantly plagued it.
4. Pretty Pimpin - Kurt Vile
Vile successfully blends folk rock, psychedelic rock, and Americana on the trippy “Pretty Pimpin.” This song is by far Vile’s most upbeat song to date and the combination of the bouncing guitar riff and Vile’s lackadaisical vocals make for an odd, yet catchy song.
5. The Love Within - Bloc Party
Bloc Party has returned from a four year hiatus with “The Love Within,” an immense departure from the band’s signature post-punk sound. The wobbling synth that permeates the song takes time to get used to, but this song turns into an absolute jam when the jubilant chorus breaks in half way through the song.
6. Should Have Known Better - Sufjan Stevens
It is difficult to pick one song from Carrie & Lowell because the album feels like such a cohesive project. However, “Should Have Known Better” stands out against the other tracks for its beautiful melody and positive ending.
7. Never Ending Circles - Chvrches
Chvrches is an electronic pop band from Glasgow who returned this year with their sophomore album, Every Open Eye. “Never Ending Circles” finds lead singer Lauren Mayberry opening up about an abusive relationship and attempting to find closure after breaking it off. The song has a resolve that shows itself in the harsh synths that back Mayberry’s vocals and the soaring notes that she hits on the chorus.
8. Norf Norf - Vince Staples
Vince Staples is a Long Beach rapper, as well as one of the most exciting new artists of 2015. In “Norf Norf,” Staples describes his life growing up in a culture of gang violence. Staples pulls no punches, going into detail about his childhood with a fiery flow and an old school boom-bap beat.
9. Change Is Everything - Son Lux
Son Lux’s Ryan Lott, a classically trained musician, writes electronic music with all of the complexities of classical music. Lott’s eerie vocals and the hard-hitting drums make this song stand out in an overcrowded indie-electronic field.
10. True Affection - Father John Misty
In “True Affection,” Father John Misty, the drummer for Fleet Foxes, bemoans the fact that human interaction has been replaced by communication through “strange devices.” The glitchy instrumental on this song sees Father John Misty depart from his usual style, and his whiskey smooth voice croons the sparse lyrics beautifully.