As I’ve put together this year’s list, I’ve noticed themes coming out, as happens most years. Sometimes, it’s geography—this year has a disproportionate representation from Melbourne, Australia. Sometimes, it’s musical styles or genres. This year, I’ve got a lot more electronic-driven music than in past lists. Other times, it’s driven by long-time returning artists; there’s a couple of those this year, too.
For 2015, I’ve got four honorable mentions. Three of them are, I guess I would call them, emotionally driven songs. And one jangly, guitar-pop song with a nice big hook.
Together or Alone - Eternal Summers
Eternal Summers are on a mission to put out an album every year, and on each album, the sound is a bit different, but still sort of unmistakably their own. That jangly repeating guitar riff sitting on top of the increasingly propulsive percussion and bass line makes this a fun one to drive along to.
24 Frames - Jason Isbell
There’s been a great resurgence in country music that is closer to old-style 70s country rather than the pop country of the past decade. This to me fits that story. Jason Isbell puts together a song that, I think, lyrically and sonically is pretty indie rock. But it’s got some country-fied guitar and his southern twang pushing it out of where “indie rock” fans feel 100% comfortable and crossing over into a place where country music fans probably feel almost at home.
Dear Wormwood - The Oh Hellos
This is a quiet folk song that has a really beautiful, haunting chorus. The song meanders a bit, picking up a little bit with each verse, adding strings and other instruments to flesh out the song. By the final verse, there’s just a wonderful explosion of voices and sound carrying the song out for the last minute.
It Never Was the Same (Òran Mór Session) - The Twilight Sad
This song was originally on The Twilight Sad’s 2014 album, but this stripped down version was released on an EP in 2015, and I think is so much more powerful in this form. James Graham is a mesmerizing live performer, getting lost in the depths of the songs he’s performing. I’ve embedded a great video of The Twilight Sad performing this live below. It’s the sort of performance you can’t take your eyes off of.