Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Top 30 Singles of 2015 Countdown: Part 2

Click here for Part 1 if you missed it.

"All of the Stars" - Jackie Evancho
Some may remember Jackie Evancho's brother Jacob, who she performed a duet with on an occasion or two. Well, this year Jacob debuted as Juliet, and Jackie showed her support for her sister (and transgender individuals in general) through a heart-warming cover of Ed Sheeran's "All of the Stars." The song and video are bound to give the warm-fuzzy effect. It seems like everything this girl does makes me even more proud to be a fan.

"Black Sun" - Death Cab for Cutie
I generally have not paid too much attention to Death Cab for Cutie. While I can say that I think many of their songs are 'nice,' "Black Sun" is the only one that has truly stood out to me so far. The repetitive guitar part is so soothing and the lyrics are quite exceptional: "How could something so fair be so cruel / When this black sun revolved around you." However, I must admit I'm a bit impartial to this one as I found it at a time where I could really relate to it. I suppose I could enjoy their other songs more if I found them at the perfect moment, but I really think "Black Sun" is special somehow.

"Jenny" - Nothing More
One of the few songs I've discovered through the radio this year. Nothing More wasn't able to capture my attention with their other singles, but "Jenny" stood out even beyond the tough lyrical topics. Musically, this heavier track may be one of the best things to happen to mainstream rock radio in a while with its damn near perfect chorus and middle eight. While the entire song stands out, the chorus is an especially good combination of catchy and moving: "Maybe you should just fall / And leave the world and lose it all..."

"Endless Forms Most Beautiful" - Nightwish
Nightwish's first album with Floor Jansen was a creative success. It's heavier and more cinematic than their past few albums, and the high-energy title single "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" provides an intriguing glimpse. While the fun guitar line is prominent throughout the song and Floor Jansen does a lovely job handling both the soft and louder moments, what really stands out is the middle eight. The band and the orchestra are basically battling, and as they combine with a soaring choir they reach an unforgettable climax.

"Queen of Peace" - Florence + the Machine
Florence + the Machine knocked me flat with the album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. It was big, kinda blue, and definitely beautiful - "Queen of Peace" is one of my favorites from that batch of songs. Only Florence + the Machine would be able to combine alternative with a prominent orchestra this well. It has been stuck in my head many a time in 2015 and I cannot complain. I love it.

"Doing the Right Thing" - Daughter
Daughter makes some of the best indie music that ever was, and they released "Doing the Right Thing" to promote their upcoming album Not to Disappear. Much like anything else they've written, "Doing the Right Thing" is incredibly soothing and incredibly sad-sounding. The guitar parts are gorgeous and subtle, and only Elena Tonra's voice could properly complement them. It's about dementia, so I'm sure many who have seen loved ones go through this will relate.

"It’s a Fire" - Amy Lee
This piano ballad is my favorite of Amy Lee's covers. Both instrumentally and vocally, it's much more accessible to my tastes compared to the Portishead original. I can see why Amy would have liked this song so much with those gorgeous, empowering lyrics, and I think her version is going to move her fans the same way the original moved her: "'Cause this life is a farce / I can't breathe through this mask, like a fool / So breathe on, sister, breathe on." But let's be honest - this woman's' voice could even make the "Happy Birthday" song sound beautiful.

"Good for You" - Selena Gomez ft. A$AP Rocky
I've liked quite a few of Selena Gomez's singles over the year, but "Good for You" might be my favorite. I could have lived without A$AP Rocky being featured on the middle eight, but I ultimately can't complain too much. Gomez doesn't try too hard vocally, she just lets herself flow over the sexy, subdued instrumental... I ultimately just feel sassy whenever I hear this. I haven't listened to her new album yet, but this song has my expectations set much higher than they would have been otherwise.

"What Kind of Man" - Florence + the Machine
Oh, sweet Jesus, THIS SONG. THIS ANTHEM. Florence + the Machine slayed me with "What Kind of Man." Florence Welch's attitude is fierce - she's pissed, and I was pissed with her... It an experience, okay? She put a ton of soul into this track and I felt it in my soul. "What Kind of Man" is a bit more rock-oriented than the norm for Florence + the Machine and I totally appreciate that. The overall sound just works.

"REALiTi" - Grimes
The story of "REALiTi" is a prime example that Grimes loves her fans. The electronic mastermind released this song and video in the first half of the year, telling fans that she'd never officially release it because she didn't like it much... Well, everybody loved it (although it took me a little while to really appreciate it) and we all cried hard enough that she 'fixed' this demo version and put a shiny new one (which is produced fabulously) on her album Art Angels. (She's such a sweetheart!) I still love this demo though. It's relaxing, retro, and dreamy (even more so compared to the new Art Angels version).

"Blue Pool" - Vanessa Carlton
Just before the release of Liberman, Carlton teased fans with the Blue Pool EP from which this single was extracted (although it's also on Liberman). I have enjoyed a pretty decent chunk of this woman's discography throughout the years, but "Blue Pool" is probably my favorite now. It's so pretty. The instrumentation is light but leaves a substantial impression (much like Carlton's voice), and the piano outro is just golden. I command everyone to listen to it right now - this girl deserves way more fans than she has.

"Flesh without Blood" - Grimes
Art Angels lead single "Flesh without Blood" wasn't what most fans were expecting. Grimes' electronic music is usually really dark and bizarre, but "Flesh without Blood" is an optimistic, guitar-driven anthem. Even as someone who loves the darkness of most of her music, I adore "Flesh without Blood." It had the power to make me feel better during times I felt like shit with its carefree atmosphere and liberating lyrics, like "I don't see the light I saw in you before / And oh, I don't...I don't care anymore," "If you don't need me, just let me go," etc. Plus, her production skills have improved loads! But I will love Grimes forever, no matter the production style.

"Black Lake" - Björk
Björk has always been able to convey emotion better than almost everybody. (It's the most noticeable thing Amy Lee seems to have learned from her.) It's almost difficult to listen to "Black Lake" because it's one of the most emotionally-drenched tracks she's ever made - it's the most honest cry of brokenness I've ever heard, but it's so beautiful. The prominent string line makes it reminiscent of some sort of excellent film score. Some of the intense/loud notes that the orchestra just holds without changing magnifies empty moments, and the lyrics are pure poetry: "I am a glowing shiny rocket / Returning home / As I enter the atmosphere / I burn off layer by layer." This woman deserves a golden monument.

"Digital World" - Amaranthe
Amaranthe has a lot of good songs, but "Digital World" may be the best of them all. The blend of synths and heavy guitars is at its best, and all the vocalists fit in so perfectly. But that chorus: "You don't ever have to cry 'cause the future is sold / You can never die and you never grow old / And everything surrounding you is digital." I don't care what anyone says about the ear-catching nature of Top 40 hits - those artists would kill to come up with a vocal line like this.

"Perfect Life" - Steven Wilson
An unexpected pick, but I knew right when I first heard it that it would belong on the #1 spot on this countdown, and my love for it hasn't wavered one bit. I didn't even know who Steven Wilson was until I read a positive review of Hand. Cannot. Erase. on The Metal Pigeon. "Perfect Life" is the only one I like, and it's one of the most beautiful pieces of art I've ever found. Although repetitive in nature, it's a song that builds, and each new element tugs at my heart harder and harder. The first half of the song is narrated, and Wilson sings "we have got the perfect life" over and over again in the second half. I'm rarely this moved by a piece... The whole atmosphere mimics real life so well.

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