Sure, there are still a few months left in 2015. But with our playlists growing ever longer, we couldn’t resist a song roundup—just to help us keep all the musical gems straight when the year-end lists come a’knocking.
Below are our top 12 favorite tracks of the year, so far. Did we miss your favorite? Let us know what we should be listening to before ringing in 2016.
12. Courtney Barnett: “Pedestrian at Best”
A poetic ode to romantic confusion and suburban ennui rapped in a searing guitar line that even the most grizzled punk would approve of. “Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you!” she howls. Sorry Ms. Barnett, you’ve already taken your place as our favorite flannel clad guitar goddess.
11. El Vy: “Return to the Moon”
The National’s Matt Berninger and Menomena/Ramona Falls’ Brent Knopf’s new project El Vy sounds exactly like what we thought it would—which is to say the meeting of two guitar rock greats. “Return to Moon” is the kind of warm, big-hearted single that invites the listener right into the musicians’ living rooms (or if the lyric video is any indication—recording studio.) Frankly, we never want to leave.
10. Sufjan Stevens: “Death with Dignity”
2015 also marked the return of Sufjan Stevens. Rather than repeat the neon dance party of The Age of Adz, Carrie & Lowell is a hushed, acoustic affair, leaning heavily on his haunted imagery. The album is a moving meditation on death, and continuing to live through the pain.
9. Hillsong United: “Touch the Sky”
Simple, sweet, joyful. All worship music should be this soul stirring.
8. Beck: “Dreams”
With “Dreams” Beck wrote a summer anthem so cool, even Taylor Swift couldn’t resist covering it at a recent concert. The single plays not unlike an MGMT track left out in the sun, its disco, funk and rock roots blending together into an aural rainbow smear.
7. Foals: “Mountain At My Gates”
Who says guitars are dead? With “Mountain At My Gates,” Foals’ daring arena art rock comes into sharp focus in all its fist-pumping, big-screen-longing glory.
6. Metric: “Too Bad, So Sad”
Metric have never been bashful about their political bent, but it’s always been hard to tell—the Canadian four-piece has always been good at parceling out messages with infectious dance beats. Here, though, they outdo themselves, combining glamour and glitz to create a single that doubles as a battle cry. When frontwoman Emily Hanes shouts “Still alive/where’s that paradise,” it isn’t a question, but rather the demand of a generation.
5. Alison Wonderland: “Run”
Australian DJ Alison Wonderland may have a stage name that sounds plucked from a Disney cartoon, but the icy synths of her single are straight-up dance floor fodder. All longing and unexpected beat drops, “Run” is the kind of song that makes you wish the night would never end. If Wonderland has anything to say about it—it might not.
4. Gungor: “Us For Them”
Worship music turned on its head; “Us For Them” is a powerful rock song with a beatic core. In it, Gungor manages to deliver a mountain top experience for anyone who has ever felt stranded at the bottom of the hill
3. Purity Ring: “bodyache”
Equal parts hip-hop and electro pop, Purity Ring single “bodyache” is just another entry into the Canadian duo’s delicate galaxy of tunes, it’s a shining tribute to love’s exquisite anguish.
2. Alessia Cara: “Here”
With an expressive voice, dark electronic grooves and a natural penchant for storytelling—Canada’s Alessia Cara might just be the next big thing in R&B. Based on “Here,” we wouldn’t be mad about that at all. All hail the (future) queen.
1. Destroyer: “Times Square”
A song so nice Destroyer recorded it three different times (thus creating chapters in his new release, Poison Season). The single version of “Times Square” features Springsteen-style horns, David Bowie musical swagger, and frontman Dan Bejar’s flat-footed vocal poetry in equal parts. (“You can follow a rose wherever it grows,” he sings, inserting a pregnant pause, “Or you can fall in love with Times Square.”)
A loose, low-key piece of pop as our song of the year? Absolutely. In a chaotic time of change and upheaval, it’s just nice to know that romantics like Bejar still exist.
Laura Studarus is a staff writer at RELEVANT. She likes catsup and pie. Now there's nothing left to discuss on the second date. Follow her on Twitter @Laura_Studarus.