Anonymous, Desaparecidos – “Freedom’s not free / Neither is apathy.” Punk rock for anyone feeling the Bern.
Better Man, Leon Bridges – I’m hoping to catch this guy live in Indy early in 2016. Beautiful soul music.
Blueberry Island, Julie Ruin – The keyboard really holds this song together, mesmerizing without being overwhelming. The fuller sound of the chorus is striking, as well.
Can’t Keep Checking My Phone, Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Such an easy, seductive groove. I find myself bobbing my head every time.
Diamonds, Tunde Olaniran feat. iRawniQ and Passalacqua – My favorite hip-hop song of the year and one of my faves of 2015, period. Love the chorus: “No ice on my hands / No diamonds on my grill / Don’t drive a Mercedes / I’m a keep it real / Nothing in my pocket but a $5 bill / Guess I’ll go to Taco Bell / And get a combo meal.”
Dreams, Beck – I wasn’t thrilled with 2014’s Morning Phase. Wait years for new Beck, and the reward is limp and sleepy? Dreams is Beck getting his groove back.
Gwan, The Suffers – Kim Franklin’s voice powers this track. Those beautiful funk horns really fill it out.
Handsome, The Vaccines – Snotty, up-tempo pop punk.
Hate Street Dialogue, The Avener feat. Rodriguez – A delicious groove mixed with more high-minded lyrics.
Holy Ghost, A$AP Rocky feat. Joe Fox – What happens when the church appears to be just as corrupt and morally bankrupt as the rest of society? If you’re A$AP Rocky, you cut one hell of a hip-hop track laying out your concerns.
I Don’t Think She Cares, White Reaper – Garage punkers White Reaper and roots rockers Houndmouth = Kentucky had a pretty good year in music in 2015.
I Feel Love (Every Million Miles), The Dead Weather – Of all of Jack White’s projects, The Dead Weather always seemed like the most undercooked. Never bad, mind you, just not all that great compared to his other work. Dodge and Burn may be the album that changes my opinion.
In My Mouth, Jeff the Brotherhood – A song in the tradition of AC/DC’s Big Balls.
Institutionalized, Kendrick Lamar feat. Bilal, Anna Wise and Snoop Dogg – I love I, and that may be Kendrick’s best song of the year. I certainly wouldn’t argue against it. But I’ll take this hip-hop diatribe on fiscal and racial inequity every day of the week, and twice on Tuesday.
Kocaine Karolina, Elle King – King is interesting. Ex’s and Oh’s is a helluva pop song, and it’s not the only nugget worth listening to from King’s first full-length, Love Stuff.
Lawman, Girl Band – Girl Band brings the noise, walls of fuzz and discordant tones.
Out of the Woods, Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams’ top-to-bottom cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 album is worth the listen. This was my favorite.
Paper Girl, July Talk – Love these Canadians, and I’m hoping they’ll swing through Indy again soon. Their live show is where it’s at.
Pedestrian at Best, Courtney Barnett – What if Bob Dylan sounded like a half-assed stoner chick from down under? I’m not sure Barnett belongs in that rarefied air just yet, but I wouldn’t surprise if she ends up there.
Rage, Le1f – The closest I can get to a comparison is Dizzy Rascal. While Le1f has the unrestrained energy about him, he’s a little further off the beaten path than Diz.
Smarter Than I Was, Buddy Guy – Dude still has it.
Stalker, Kasey Chambers – I’ve liked Chambers since the first time I heard Last Hard Bible. Stalker has the same sort of desperation and humor in it.
Strange Hellos, Torres – Strange Hellos has a PJ Harvey quality to it, loud screechy guitars and a powerful feminine voice.
Tease, Pale Honey – I’ve managed to run across quite a few young women really rocking out in 2015. Tease is one of the best.
T.I.W.Y.G., Savages – Yes! Yes! Yes! Can’t wait for the new album.
Trustful Hands, The Do – Smooth, subtle and easy. Shake, Shook, Shaken is one of my favorite albums of the year.
Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars – I usually connect with one or two pop songs a year. I don’t know about “uptown,” but Ronson and Mars totally find the funk.
Victory or Die, Motorhead – Lemmy and Co. continue to do what they do, which is make kick-ass metal music.
Wicked Game (Spotify Sessions), Wolf Alice – I’ve always loved Chris Isaac’s sexy, whispering original. Wolf Alice and singer Ellie Roswell strip away that seductive sheen and add some brutal despair to take Wicked Game to a new place.
On the bubble: All My Heart, The Mynabirds; And I Love Her, Kurt Cobain; City Boy Blues, Action Bronson; Drum Machine, Big Grams feat. Skrillex; Foreign Object, Mountain Goats; Go Head, Awreeoh; Milkman, Bully; Rap Zealot, K-OS; Vices, Slayer
Honorable mentions: 15 Years, Houndmouth; Anyways, The Prettiots; Ashes to Ashes, Warpaint; Awake, Snoop Dogg; Baby Britain, Seth Avett & Jessica Lee Mayfield; Bleeder, Ceremony; Blud, SOAK; Bunker Buster, Viet Cong; Chalk Snake, No Joy; CHERRY BOMB, Tyler, the Creator; Don’t Wanna Fight, Alabama Shakes; Falling, Here We Go Magic; Feel Right, Mark Ronson feat. Mystikal; figure 8, FKA twigs; How Could You Babe, Tobias Jesso Jr.; I’m Callin’, Tennis; I’m Gonna Teach You, Daniel Romano; Impossible, Angel Haze; Johnny Delusional, FFS; Man Plans God Laughs, Public Enemy; Melt Me, Hanni El-Khatib; My Own Fantasy, Royal Headache; Only You (Live), Anderson East; Pageant Material, Kacey Musgraves; Rain or Shine, Young Fathers, Romance Dawn, Radkey; Run, Rainbow Kitten Surprise; Shake It Off, Ryan Adams; Solid Gold, Turbowolf; Son of God, Will Butler; Vital Signs, Gang of Youths; the valley, Miguel; What We Don’t See, A Place to Bury Strangers; Which Side Are You On, Talib Kweli feat. Tef Poe and Kendra Ross; Woodland Rock, Ty Seagall; Young Girls in Space, The Unwed Teenage Mothers