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GutterBubbles Top 100 Songs of 2015 (part 3)

Today’s installment of the Top 100 Songs of 2015 is easily the day with the most variety. You’ll find bubblegum pop next to doom metal, southern blues next to the new king of the west coast. At first glance this grouping of songs has very little in common, but their difference’s are exactly what makes them among the best of the year!

 

More Top 100 Songs of 2015: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

GHXST – “No Luck” – Nowhere

There’s something about cool, unadorned female vocals nestled into a storm of raging percussion and crushing guitar chords. That something is captured pretty perfectly by the annoyingly named (seriously, when discussing this band, do you have to say “no, not Ghost but GHXST you know, caps with an X.” or is it perhaps pronounced “ghICKst”?) New York doom noise trio on the fantastically nasty “No Luck”. Totally devoid of pretense, the ferocity of the musicianship in accord with the murky production combine to mimic the more intense and engaged type of club gig; that show you leave surprised, ears pleasantly ringing, wishing you could somehow acquire a bottle that would give you access to that lightning on demand. -Nick Abaddon

 

Grimes – “Flesh Without Blood” – Art Angels

Claire Boucher practically lives on the cutting edge of electronica, which makes the decidedly pop Art Angels an especially bold endeavor. This cut is a compelling case for her new voyage, graceful, never intrusive, and imbued with subtle power. She achieves a state of bliss with her exceptional vocal control (see: the high notes in the chorus), a steady drum machine, and a warm synth line. Long live pop’s strange new princess. -Elle Coxon

 

HEALTH – “New Coke” – Death Magic

Never shying away from incorporating new ideas and methods, HEALTH publicly talked about being influenced by the production style of Lady Gaga for Death Magic. What that approach did, as exemplified by “New Coke,” is cleaned up the music a little and allowed it to breath making possible a broader dynamic range and more interesting experiments with atmosphere and melody. What we hear with this song, especially, and on the album in general, is a band that has reinvented its sound while not compromising on all the noise and experimental electronic elements that made it worth listening to in the first place. Yes, it’s more pop than anything else these guys have done but it also seems more impactful in spite of that. -Tom Murphy

 

Indian Jewelry – “Nightsweat” – Doing Easy

More than many of this band’s songs, this one sounds like the embodiment of a Harmony Korine story. Distended chordal structures and rhythms aren’t unusual for Indian Jewelry but on this song those elements are pushed further to truly disorienting effects. Menacing but playful, like the Cheshire Cat of songs, “Nightsweat” is a high point on a typically excellent record from this Houston group. -TM

 

Jamie xx – “Loud Places (feat. Romy)” – In Colour

This is the kind of electronica that people who don’t listen to electronica can love, and also the kind of electronica that experts on the genre can get behind. The production is spacey and distant, the melody gorgeous in its sparseness. Romy’s exceptional vocals float above the melody, evocative and always just out of reach. Such a combination might make you long for The xx, but separation pangs never sounded so good. -EC

 

Jimbo Mathus – “Blue Healer” – Blue Healer

Throughout his career, Jimbo Mathus has been a master at taking different styles of music and blending them together to create something wholly new and different. Mathus’ most well-known group the Squirrel Nut Zippers rode that ideology for years, something that Mathus utilizes for his solo albums as well. Take a song like “Blue Healer” which has clearly got its roots in blues but also employs a darker, almost gothic Americana sound. It’s what Muddy Waters would sound like covering a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins track, the final result being an unforgettable mixture of harrowing southern sounds that is sure to haunt you for ages. -Ryan Brun

 

Joanna Newsom – “Leaving the City” – Divers

Few people can pull off tender and thoughtful yet alien, haunted and otherworldly like Joanna Newsom. “Leaving the City” has Newsom channeling a little bit of Kate Bush in her use of simple elements to create a mood and atmosphere like the folkier bits of Newsom’s earlier music. It conveys a paradoxical breezy warmth that puts one in a thoughtful, wistful yet expansive mood as suggested by the title. -TM

 

John Grant – “Black Blizzard” – Grey Tickles, Black Pressure

John Grant somehow manages to combine his affinity for synth pop and dark humor perfectly with “Black Blizzard” for a combined effect of heightened emotional resonance. Like a joke that makes a deeper point but loses none of the humor. Like a vintage Gary Numan song with Grant’s inimitably powerful and inventive vocal turns both melodic and robotic for one of the most unusual and enjoyable songs on an already outstanding record. -TM

 

Jordannah Elizabeth – “Run Away” – Borders

What might on the surface seem like a very spare folk or singer-songwriter song with “Run Away,” Jordannah Elizabeth’s voicing, phrases and moods turn this into a song that evokes a warm otherworldliness. In that sense it combines Elizabeth’s interest in psychedelic music with a bluesy sensibility that can really be best compared with artists like Jeff Buckley and Joan Armatrading who defy any easy categorization of style or narrow songwriting intent. Elizabeth’s vocals, earthy and strong, nevertheless suggest an unrequited yearning for connection and fulfillment. -TM

 

Justin Bieber – “What Do You Mean?” – Purpose

By far the best stop on Bieber’s overblown apology tour, “What Do You Mean?” forced professed un-Beliebers to do a double take. The secret formula? Opting for wounded lyrics and a flute-ish topline. The recipe makes for a sophisticated and adult track capable of converting – or at least catching the ear of – even the most ardent Bieber haters. -EC

 

Kendrick Lamar – “These Walls” – To Pimp a Butterfly

Absolute masterpiece, BLM activists chanting “Alright,” the next Tupac, you’ve heard it all about To Pimp A Butterfly by now. Arguably the most dissected and adored album of 2015, K-Dot’s latest magnum opus is stellar from start to finish. That being said, the seamless blend of funk-influenced production and intricate lyricism on “These Walls” demands singular recognition. -EC

 

Killing Joke – “I am the Virus” – Pylon

In just a few short years, Killing Joke will have been an entity for 40 years. Over that time, the group has endured numerous stylistic and lineup changes, but unlike other bands they’ve always managed to endure and release quality material. Their latest release Pylon is the third album they’ve released since reuniting the original lineup of the band and it seems like they just get stronger with each passing record. “I Am the Virus” features all of the trappings of the classic Killing Joke sound, with Jaz Coleman’s seemingly ageless voice alternating effortlessly between a velvety post-punk croon to guttural fits of madness all in the same breath. Up and comers take note, cause this is how it should be done. -RB

 

Lana Del Rey – “Music to Watch Boys To” – Honeymoon

There’s not another singer working today who could sing, “I know what only the girls know / Lies can buy eternity,” to the same haunting effect as Lana Del Rey, who has built an empire out of being the soft grunge alternative to everyone. Her twisted ode to the men who never stay exercises a calculated restraint, assisted by mournful strings that swell behind each dreamy chorus. Don’t be fooled – just because the song is draped in velvet doesn’t mean there are no snakes hidden underneath. -EC

 

Lera Lynn – “The Only Thing Worth Fighting For” – Songs from True Detective: Season 2

It was very hard to pick from among the many near-perfect songs the incredibly talented Ms. Lynn penned with T-Bone Burnett and Roseanne Cash for True Detective this year. However, there was a reason HBO chose to use “The Only Thing” in their first promos. It has a sullen power that grips and squeezes, exhaling its boozy, desperate breath into your face even as you can’t pull away. Lynn’s spare guitar work and her gorgeous, wounded voice dance together like exhausted lovers alone in the room at the end of a long night. Even when the chorus builds energy, her voice investing some urgency in the lines “Weren’t we like a pair of thieves / With tumbled locks and broken codes”, by the time she gets to the lyric that gives the song its name she croons it with such sad vulnerability that it’s clear even she isn’t sure anything is worth it anymore. As much as her work without Burnett and Cash has been often quite remarkable, I’d give a lot to hear many albums of this kind of raw beauty. -NA

 

Lower Dens – “To Die In L.A.” – Escape from Evil

Jana Hunter’s development as a songwriter and musical artist has been rapid and fascinating over the last several years. With “To Die In L.A.” her melodies and atmosphere recall the mysterious and vividly dreamlike quality of Marianne Faithfull’s 1979 album Broken English. Except rather than a dark disco informing the music, Hunter has masterfully infused her now impressive command of guitar and electronic music into a fascinatingly unselfconscious whole. -TM

 

Marilyn Manson – “Third Day of a Seven Day Binge” – The Pale Emperor

The track’s trudging stomp, punctuated on each downbeat by a sort of exhausted vocal panting is an immediate and perfect thesis for this catchy dirge occupying the third spot on Manson’s impressive latest long-play effort. “Third Day” couldn’t sound more like its subject matter (see title); it is a song sung by a man holding his red-eyed head in his hands, knowing that whatever sort of a bender he’s on, it’s not about fun but self-destruction. Whatever may have gone down after the following four days, he knows he may not be around to deal with the aftermath. The way the tune carries the fatalism that the text implies makes this one of the few essential tracks from Manson since the turn of the century. -NA

 

Marina and the Diamonds – “Savages” – Froot

“Were we born to abuse, shoot a gun and run / Or has something deep inside of us come undone?” asks Marina Diamandis on Froot’s darkest and most delectable track. The scariest aspect, however, is how Marina is anything but scared. Sounding resigned to humanity’s destructive nature, Marina delivers every razor-sharp verse with an unsettling certainty. This is the future of synthpop, and it’s looking a lot better than the future of our species. -EC

 

Mark Ronson – “Feel Right (feat. Mystikal)” – Uptown Special

In what could be the upset of the year, we’ve included a Mark Ronson song on the list, just not the one everyone would expect. That’s not to say that “Uptown Funk” isn’t the jam, because well, it is. But “Feel Right” Ronson’s collaboration with Mystikal was just too great not to include. The track sees Ronson go full throwback, complete with a horn section and a funky ass bassline that sounds like it came all the way from Hitsville U.S.A. Mystikal follows Ronson’s lead channeling his best James Brown impression, granted with a little more speed than the sex machine himself. The result is an infectious song, that’s as funky as it is timeless. -RB

 

Mini Mansions – “Cheap Leather” – Vertigo B-Side

Lost in the shine of A-side “Vertigo”, “Cheap Leather” is one of those can’t-miss tracks that everyone managed to miss. The underrated track is the infectious synth-powered retro anthem you crave, armed with a B-52, a healthy dose of falsetto, and the best bass-driven bridge of the year. If it’s joy-of-sex decadence sends you rummaging through your closet for your LBD, well, don’t say we didn’t warn you. -EC

 

Minsk – “Conjunction” – The Crash and Draw

Not unlike Wrekmeister Harmonies, of which Minsk’s Sanford Parker is a frequent collaborator, Minsk with this song evolves a transcendent beauty swirling with a growing tension that slowly releases and resolves without, in fact, having to bring in the crushing power that makes so many of its other songs so thrilling. In that sense, Minsk has crafted here a thing of beauty that shimmers and fades out like an early spring rainbow not unlike what Slowdive accomplished with “Albatross” and “Sing.” -TM

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