10. Nausea - Jeff Rosenstock
My first introduction to the manic ska-pop-punk of Jeff Rosenstock, “Nausea” finds him waxing introspective over a deceptively catchy chorus. “I got so tired of discussing my future, I started avoiding the people I love.” As the founder of the world’s first pay-what-you-want record label, Quote Unquote Records, it’s easy to see why Jeff would feel a little shaken every time he’s forced to discuss his financial prospects. As a fellow creative person, it’s even easier to empathize with him.
9. 40 Oz. On Repeat - FIDLAR
Zac Carper has had a rough couple years. After his pregnant girlfriend passed away from a heroin overdose, he checked into rehab and emerged with FIDLAR’s cathartic second album, Too. This track is the best way to start the album. A little rough around the edges with a sense of humor to boot, “I’ll never sell out man, I’ll never… wait… how much?” 40 Oz. On Repeat introduced me to FIDLAR, and it’s a relationship I’ve quite enjoyed.
8. Mene - Brand New
After 2009’s Daisy, Brand New went into creative hibernation. Save for a few shows, it was s sparse six years without the band. But earlier this year, they opened a show with “Mene,” then released it online the next morning. And really, there’s no better re-introduction to the band. Showcasing either Jesse Lacey or Vin Accardi’s lyrics, “Mene” is a two-minute punch to the gut. It also serves to remind that the band has grown since Daisy. Despite the tempo, “Mene” finds the band with a decidedly mature sound and outlook on life.
7. Uma Thurman - Fall Out Boy
When American Beauty/American Psycho leaked several days prior to release, this was the track that the internet was enamored with. It’s easy to see why: in 2015, Fall Out Boy has turned into a successful pop band that samples “The Munsters Theme,” rather than singing about saving spine for mattresses. The transformation is a welcome one. “Uma Thurman” brims with just as much energy and talent as the band possessed a decade ago.
6. King Kunta - Kendrick Lamar
Missing out on the hype train for 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, I purchased Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly on release day this year, hoping to jump into the online conversation surrounding the album. Right from the first listen, this track stood out to me as not the best track on the album, but the most fun. It was a hard sell to my friends. Until this was released as an official single, it felt like only a small part of the world knew how catchy and weird this track is. But the rest of the world caught up, and its newfound popularity is only a good thing.
5. Cough It Out - The Front Bottoms
It’s been a year of discovering great bands, and while track 2, “Summer Shandy,” from this year’s album, Back On Top, was my official introduction to The Front Bottoms, “Cough It Out” is the song that keeps me around. Beginning with just acoustic guitar and vocalist Brian Sella, the song morphs into several movements, including a funky breakdown during the bridge of the song. The lyrics find Sells lamenting a relationship, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound positive when he matter-of-factly states “I am delusional with love.”
4. AhHa - Nate Ruess
Though Nate Ruess’s solo album didn’t turn out to be the rousing success many people were hoping for, there are still some gems on there, and effective opener “AhHa” is one of them. It seems to be a polarizing song, with many people criticizing the titular vocal hook featured throughout the song. I love it, but the bridge is where the song truly shines. Nate darkly messages towards his mother, “Mama don’t cry. I was once your little baby boy, so full of love and light…I couldn’t stand to smile. I thought of taking my own life. But mama, don’t cry.” It’s a tall order to not cry myself with the emotion that Ruess brings to the proceedings.
3. Control Everything - The Money Pit
Though Gatsby’s American Dream made a brief return in 2010, they quickly vanished again. While most of the members continued on in music in some form, none of their various projects have ever quite hit the spot. Until 2015. Enter The Money Pit. Conceptualized by songwriter Bobby Darling, then fleshed out by vocalist Nic Newsham, the self-titled album is a welcome return from the boys. A blistering good time of an song, “Control Everything” was the first track released, and quite secretly as well. There was no teasing, no lead-up to the song, it was just released one day. Featuring possibly the catchiest chorus they’ve penned, the lyrics find Newsham crooning about the flip side of the 99%. “Getting tired of iconoclasts. Getting sick of upper bracket tax. Maybe I could start a charity. Maybe I could write off everything.”
2. Feel Right - Mark Ronson feat. Mystikal
From its debut on SNL to blasting it while setting up the Christmas tree, no song has accompanied me through the year like “Feel Right.” With Mark Ronson providing the funky backdrop to Mystikal’s spastic delivery of not-quite-nonsense-lyrics, Feel Right is the ultimate party song of the year. Try not to crack a smile when Mystikal shouts “I eat flames up. Shit fire out. Don’t make me light my butt!” It’s a fun song. Nothing more, nothing less.
1. Astoria - Marianas Trench
The titular opening track to their bombastic new album, “Astoria” finds Marianas Trench in perfect form. Nearly all of their albums open and close with tracks upwards of 7 minutes, featuring many different parts and often modulating between several keys. “Astoria” is no different. It’s also an 80’s homage machine, paying tribute to Dire Straits and the Eurythmics during its running time. One highlight finds a harmony that reads, “Everything happens/ it happens/ in threes.” Here, there are three lyrical phrases in three-part harmony, modulating in three keys, and performed in 3/4. In addition to crafting carefully calculated phrases, no one has quite an ear for melody like Josh Ramsay. Co-writer of “Call Me Maybe,” he’ll often introduce a melodic phrase that could anchor a three-minute song, but drop it after thirty seconds, leaving the listener craving more. Though it took four years to finally see the light of day, “Astoria” is worth every second of the wait.