Archives for category: Music

Opinion
By James Pavel 

20. Surrender – Gold Star

A hippie caravan journeying through the wilderness with one cassette tape split between Neil Young and David Bowie.

19. How you been – Holy Holy 

The video features some of the best Dad dancing 2021 could offer and how could you not cut a rug to this positive greeting? How you been? carries heavy cargo in 2021, after another year of lock downs, divisiveness and at times, a complete loss of faith in everything. Unlike this season’s mandatory needles, this track is an injection of new-found hope and salvation.

18. Way back – The Lighthouse and the Whaler 

A culty chant followed by determined drums gets this tune off to a glowing start. It continues to shine as this Moby Dick sounding band breaks out the flashlights searching for the correct path back home.

17. Carry me away – John Mayer 

Nobody seems to take themselves less seriously than John Mayer, yet paradoxically, his music remains quite serious. He remains one of the most fascinating womanizers of our times and yet somehow remains a reclusive mystery. Mayer’s ability to poke fun at himself, (the 2021 album is titled ‘Sob Rock’ ) is an endearing quality, and it certainly helps when he delivers a silky smooth easy-rock, grandma pleasing track like this one.

16. Stay – The Kid Laori & Justin Bieber 

The song travels at a thousand miles an hour, which is basically the way we have been programmed to live in the current world. Crush caffeine, scroll relentlessly and drink our nights into oblivion. The song leaves even the Peloton-obsessed out of breath. 

15. Higher power – Coldplay 

Even the world’s biggest band can slowly fall into irrelevance. A Coldplay song just doesn’t feel as important as it used to be, just as a new U2 song just didn’t carry the same weight after the ‘How to Dismantle..’ album. It pains diehard Coldplay fans to admit that the biggest Coldplay songs are not from the first four albums, but are instead EDM emblazoned anthems from the past five years. “Higher Power” carries on the EDM obsession, but teases the old guard with hints of past glamour that used to give us joyful rushes of blood to the head.

14. KD and lunch meat – Boy Golden 

A song about scrounging up just enough money to get stoned and drunk will always resonate, but it feels a little extra close to home during the pandemic era. Anybody that was broke pre-Covid was definitely broke during and after (?) Covid and many of us got by on alphagetti, tuna sandwiches and in Boy Golden’s case, cardboard pasta and processed meats. The greatest test of a relationship is getting by with no money. If you can make it work with only a few hundred bucks between the two of you, you might have just found your forever partner. 

13. Look alive – Black Pistol Fire 

Leather jackets and cruising Harleys through firestorms. The world is on fire, this time literally, but if you can’t breathe at least do your best to demonstrate signs of life. The track has that eerie griminess that the Black Keys have made a professional living out of, but with a broader vocal range. 

12. Woopie – Still Woozy 

This is what elevator music in 2021 should sound like. Bouncy, positive and promises of taking us somewhere higher. 

11. My own worst enemy – Robert Delong 

A classic theme in rock music – nobody knows how to fuck me over better than the person in the mirror. It’s so depressing that it almost becomes comical.  Delong at times sounds delirious as though he is about to burst out laughing at his own personal self-sabotage. 

10. Happier than Ever – Billie Eilish 

Billie transports Nirvana 90’s pain and suffering to mix with modern-day angst. And yet although it begins as soft and tender, the song reveals a declaration of happiness and freedom. Gaslighting, over-sharing and one-sided stories on social media are embarrassing and not feathers in one’s cap. Get over yourself because I certainly am-  the ethos of being happier than ever. You don’t believe her because the truth is too much to bear – an ominous maybe hovers that perhaps the person you thought you scorched and scorned forever, has risen like a phoenix with stronger and prettier wings than ever imagined. 

9. Superstar- Beach House 

Is anyone more consistent than this brilliant band? The signature layers that they slowly add throughout their songs feels like your mother piling blankets on top of you before sleep.

8. In need of repair – Band of Horses 

Self-improvement is at the top of this group’s priority list. There has never existed an era where we have been more hyper-critical of ourselves. Whereas before we may have been susceptible to beauty expectations via billboards and grocery store magazines, we are now given hourly reminders of how beautiful one can and should actually look via social media’s relentlessness. 

7. Crutch on You – Band of Horses 

Who isn’t a sucker for world play? A crush would just be too easy for these wild horses. They should move on, but being independent can be overrated. ‘Crutch on You’ is vulnerable and honest and will help anyone with a metaphorical bad leg know they aren’t the only one limping around. 

6. Sleepwalker – The Killers 

The global lock down did wonders for the Killers – ‘Pressure Machine’ is their greatest storytelling album to date. Mr. Flowers works best when there is a narrative to share, and that is exactly what occurs on this borderline brilliant album. ‘Sleepwalker’ is one of many beautifully written songs containing some of their best lyrics concocted. “it doesn’t come from without, it comes from within” is the stuff rib cage tattoos are inspired by. 

5. Long Lost – Lord Huron 

It sounds like the theme song to Game of Thrones if it all ended in hand holding and dancing in the sunsets instead of blood and fire. There’s a magical sensation concocted by the warmth of “Long Lost,” like retrieving a runaway animal or repairing a relationship long thought dead.

4. Brightside – Lumineers 

The campfire bandits try for something a little grittier and it serves as a fresh breath of hipster air. “Brightside” is the sound of approaching a house in the middle of the night with a quiet light awaiting in the darkness, a fitting sensation for a band labeled Lumineers. That light is of course, love – it’s the purest, least complicated song of the year.

3. Like I used to – Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olsen

It’s a dramatic soap opera with Stevie Nicks’ shadow watching in the background. It’s a perfect duet of two thundering voices and revealing diary entries. The world dramatically changed in the past two years, but heartbreak remains its usual and wretched self. Dancing by myself (like I used to,) Sleeping all day (like i used to) ..ahh the agony.

2. I don’t live here anymore- The War on Drugs feat. Lucius

Approved hipster Dad rock that should skip the classic rock radio line and be inducted into the library immediately.  We live in an “everything now” culture and we are currently hearing a band that could easily follow Tom Petty or the Eagles on your favourite station tomorrow instead of 20 years from now. “I don’t live here anymore” has snippets of Phil Collins with the smoky whispers that come from fighting the good fight.

1. 17 going under – Sam Fender 

The late teenage years seem to always be pivotal, but in the moment, they feel slightly mundane and even meaningless. Turning 17 puts one on the verge of being handed the keys to an ambiguous vehicle that drives down an unmarked highway heading towards the mysterious future. Fender has the wisdom of a bloke twice his age, reminiscing on a part of his life like a grandfather reciting war stories to attentive grandchildren. Fender’s track is important and powerful for a number of reasons, but perhaps primarily because it wasn’t built around the collective Covid-19 experience.  It is what music is always supposed to be about – a timeless story that sounds even better belted out in the neighbourhood pub – an idea we used to take for granted, but now we have to do it with a mask on and only when governments declare it safe to do so.  

Screenshot_20191216_215659_com.whatsapp (1)

20. Tame Impala – Patience 

They might be the most underrated overrated band going at the moment. They headline festivals despite not having a proper smash hit, but do crank out listenable music at an efficient and consistent pace. They were hipster music before everything rock n’ roll became hipster, therefore some of their elusiveness seems to lack in 2019. Like all of their music, ‘Patience’ has that snake-dancing mesmerizing sound, where you can just drift off into the ocean and starfish for two hours.

19. Tegan & Sara – I’ll be Back Someday

Telling them apart may prove difficult, but their music serves as an ever-changing wardrobe. Whether it be a torturous relationship or just an introduction to music that your parents listened to, the Canadian twins keep it fresh.

18. Matthew Madigan – Best for Me

Madigan parks the acoustic guitar beside his three-legged dog and gives the piano an honest go. The keys play nice with his harsh whispers and delivers an earnest love letter to his Dear Ma. Move over Tupac and Kanye, there’s a new song for Mom and it’s 7 hours away in Dublin.

17. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Black Star Dancing 

It’s a surreal sensation when one finally discovers the genius of Arcade Fire. It took Noel over a decade, but boy, they clearly made an impression. ‘Black Star Dancing’ could of easily sat along side any track on the ‘Reflektor’ album, but here it is in 2019, in Noel’s latest collection.

16. Gothic Topic – Drunk on a Rhythm

People are drinking less and less as we enter the 20s’ 2.0. Non-alcoholic booze, weed shops and apparently people getting drunk on the sound of music. Gothic Topic is stumbling out of the sound booth, but with no dreaded hangover to follow.

15. The Japanese House – Maybe You’re the Reason 

The future is a mash-up remix featuring every genre known. It’s 90s’ sound effects, its 80s’ reverbs, it’s the coolest rapper alive (Posty) dressing like Elvis, it’s The Japanese House releasing a beautiful song that has every trait of a 90s’ song right here in the last year of a bat-shit crazy decade.

14. Catfish & The Bottlemen – LongShot 

You can practically smell the Tom Collins cocktails on these British lads, a Kooks-sounding bunch with a bit more swagger. The song is loaded with the intensity of someone who knows their chances are slim,  reminiscent of an up-and coming Alex Turner. If the Arctic Monkeys are the template, then only glory should follow for the Catfish.

13. Post Malone – Circles 

Maybe he isn’t just another exhausting, pseudo-gangster with face tattoos. Maybe he isn’t just trying to reap the benefits of the shock value that comes with somebody that looks the way he does. Post had the competition running in, wait for it, circles in 2019, when suddenly he didn’t disappear, he instead came back with more brilliant sing/rap content, making him the closest thing that exists to Drake. He’s self destructive, but clearly sensitive and even more apparent, tremendously alert of his talents.

12. Ed Sheeran feat. Chris Stapleton & Bruno Mars – Blow

Sheeran making a collaboration album and not forcing his own creative nature on others was one of the more brilliant moves of 2019. Stapleton has his signature country roar in the middle and Bruno has his signature, cocaine-laced sexual machismo smothering the final segment. Sheeran’s casual demeanor and approach would allow a weaker man to be run over by trends, but it has helped him remain poignantly relevant in the final chapter of the decade.

11. The Killers – Land of the Free 

For all the criticism that we read daily on social media of President Trump, there was rarely an artist or group that took a public stand against his actions. Besides ‘Fuck Donald Trump’ a shallow and simplistic shot at the Orange One, The Killers dug through their closet, put back on their Springsteen costumes and finally gave Trump, and American policy as a whole, a shot to the chin.

10. Foxygen – Work 

One of those songs that sounds like it could spill over into a million pieces, the barely-controlled chaos somehow works. It’s fun, quirky and even a bit foxy.

9. Bear Hands – Backseat Driver 

This is what MGMT was supposed to sound like in 2019. They are off trippin’ on God knows what, so Bear Hands took the indie-synth wheel and gave directions from the leather seats in the back.

8. Taylor Swift – Lover 

Her ‘Nothing compares to you’ moment, Swifty again shifted gears to keep the competition guessing, and predictably, hit another home run. The album as a whole didn’t have the mega-grip on the world that 1989 had, but it kept her firmly in position as the world’s biggest pop star.

7. Kanye West – Selah

It was the most anticipated album of the year, event-like, the way we had come to expect Kanye albums to be received. The music scene has changed drastically during his tenure, but from his Trump worshiping, Kardashian impregnating antics, we weren’t allowed to forget about him. He made Jesus walk, and now he’s declared him King, an uncommon boast for a musician to make, but he has taken it a step further by devoting his entire album to God and making sure there wasn’t one curse on the album. Jesus is King, so with that out of the way, lets hope we can re-crown Kanye again in 2020 as the leader of rap.

6. Vampire Weekend – This Life 

Maybe the most important band that nobody cares about (or at least not as much as they should.) They are incapable of releasing average music and seem keen on only recording albums that show tremendous growth. “This Life” sounds like it should be in a Steve Martin comedy, yes a modern-day ‘Father of the Bride’ if you will, with cheesy shots of people smiling in tuxedos, fat kids eating too much cake and old people dancing.

5. Keuning – Boat Accident 

Sent into exile by Brandon Flowers, or perhaps alternatively, Dave Keuning had enough of the flamboyant front man and managed to put out the surprise album of the year. It wasn’t awful, it wasn’t good, it turned out to be …excellent. It is easy to forget that the Killers are a sum of numerous influences, and a number of them played a significant role in Keuning’s life. The Cars, Rick Springfield and the 80s’ as a collective, made Keuning’s album a reality in 2019.

4. Sam Smith feat. Normani – Dancing with a Stranger 

He’s today’s George Michael, with equal vulnerability, less overt sexuality and way more assertiveness. His voice is second to nobody’s, and anytime he drops a new album, it is as big of deal as anybody not named Drake or Taylor Swift.

3. The Black Keys – Lo/Hi

Just when we thought we couldn’t handle another Black Keys radio single, let alone tour, they mercifully left us alone for a couple years. And in 2019, we pined for them like a drunk lover on the phone begging for a second chance. They welcomed us back, and gave us a big smooch in the form of ‘Lo/Hi’ a Black Keys sounding song if there ever was one. The highs, the lows, the static crunch of the axes and the way they seem to place us all at a dive bar in the south with their two piece duo banging away.

2. Harry Styles – Falling 

While most song writers try to be as opaque as possible about their subjects, bashful Harry is as precise as one could be. Most artists wouldn’t be capable of dominating the song vocally the way Harry does, but his chops are on centre stage throughout his entire 2019 album.

1. Bombay Bicycle Club – Eat, Sleep, Wake / Nothing But You

It has the charm of a quirky cereal commercial that you just can’t get out of your noggin. Of course, the eating and sleeping revolves around one particular individual and not a bowl of Cheerios. Bombay’s shoe-gazing, love-struck syntax follows the lead of the heat-beating bass guitar keeping both tires fully pumped on this gin-fueled bicycle.

blog2018

Opinion
James Pavel

 

20. Psycho – Post Malone

He makes the rise of Slim Shady seem like last page news. Where Slim was at least marketable because he looked like hundreds of other white kids looking for validation, Post Malone is an unremarkable, Amish-looking fella that could be mistaken for Weird Al if this was 20 years ago (which based on this year’s music, it felt like it was.) What Post has is undeniable flow – he walks the fine line with mumble rap and coherent rap so if he can keep the number of skittles in his grill to a minimum, he may have a long rap career ahead of him.

 

19. Sicko Mode – Travis Scott

If your head aint’ bobbin, get off your iPhone and pay attention. Travis Scott takes full advantage of Drizzy’s campfire heat and makes sure he puts out a banger while he has hip hop’s full attention with the King of the 6 on the track.

 

18. 99 – Barns Courtney

Sounding like Kings of Leon’s long-lost son, Barns Courtney puts out a non-cheesy throwback track to the caveman ages of 1999. It is a bit concerning how 1999 is being perceived by pop music now, as if it were some lost-oasis of the past that can never be retrieved. To refresh everyone’s memory, it was an era of shockingly bad music (Backstreet Boys, rap/metal hybrids), and an era on the verge of wild discoveries. Downloading music wasn’t thought of as stealing yet, and we were doing it by the boat load. It was a period where our greatest global concern was computers not being able to recognize the three zeros in year 2000, and everything would shut down for God knows how long – Now that I think about it, 1999 doesn’t sound so bad anymore.

 

17. Saturday Sun – Vance Joy

Banjo/camp fire music took a backseat this year, so it was either a pick up your busking gear and move on to the next train station or show some grit. Vance Joy has proven there is much more to his mojo than a Riptide or two and put out a song yearning for the heat waves of the West Coast and all the special women to be found along the way.

 

16. You Worry Me – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

It’s an old timey, crunchy rocker fitted for a blues can pub down the road. It sounds 100 years old, or at least 10, or whatever the year is that we can agree on that rock n’ roll officially died in the realm of pop culture. Rock n Roll will never completely die, but it is having a hell of a time discovering relevance in an increasingly complicated world that doesn’t seem to have time for a set of drums and a guitar.

 

15. Say Something – Justin Timberlake feat. Chris Stapleton

Bringing sexy back and helping people fall back in love with only a mirror took a toll on JT as his fourth solo album was unfortunately a flop. But with any great artists, there is always a diamond in the rough – That shiny rock was ‘Say Something’ a country song we all know Justin has been dying to do for ages.

 

14. OTW – Khalid feat. 6lack & TY Dolla $ign

You’re welcome – Drake. Gangster dudes singing their hearts out has been made globally acceptable by Young Money’s finest and now wise men such as Khalid are reaping the benefits. Enough about Drake and more about Khalid and his Uber driver anthem that gave all women confident that their distracted men were indeed just around the corner. The song wreaks of 90s RnB, to the point where you’re almost waiting for K-Ci and JoJo to belt out the final chorus.

 

13. Underline the Black – Metric

Their last album was a disaster. The magic of Metric seemed to have vanished somewhere in the Ontario Lakes, but then came the first single reminiscent of the hungry and tenacious days. The group played a set at the Danforth Hall in Toronto and immediately it was clear that fresh ideas had forged, and the new material would put the band back in Canada’s top five groups of the moment – ‘Underline the Black’ is one of the many gothic, sexy and near-perfect tracks on the transcending album.

 

12. Yikes – Kanye West

The most polarizing, bipolar, political pollster hanging from a Donald Trump flagpole of an artist was at his wildest and albeit, most concerning in 2018. He spoke 70 per cent crazy and 30 per cent genius this year and ‘Yikes’ would be an appropriate response to that sort of divide –

“Russell Simmons wanna pray for me too
I’m a pray for him ’cause he got #MeToo’d
Thinkin’ what if that happened to me too
Then I’m on E! News”

-Most definitely the 30 per cent genius portion.

 

11. Saturdays (feat. HAIM) – Twin Shadow

The most spoiled day of the week receives yet another tribute. If Saturday isn’t your favourite jour then quit your day job immediately, especially with Twin Shadow singing its praises. The way Shadow and Haim’s voices unite with such familiarity, it’s a surprise the sisters haven’t pitched adopting him as a late comer to the brood.

 

10. When we Drive – Death Cab for Cutie

Nobody’s lyrics matter more to a song than Ben Gibbard’s. It’s his fault that since the beginning of time, he has made every word of his feel like 80-pound weights on our hearts. Where other bands take the subject of a road trip and make a mockery of the event, Gibbard can give perspective on how to sit in a car with one person for hours, even days, represents a special kind of affection. The ability to remain silent, to appreciate the quiet moments and the stressful moments, are all noted by Death Cab for Cutie.

 

9. Delicate – Taylor Swift

The minute you think she must be certified crazy, she puts out a track that makes one wonder if she is the most relatable female artist around. Based on the mind games we saw from Ariana Grande this year, maybe Swifty ain’t so bad after all. She’s sexy, but never over the top, she is honest, but never to the point of overbearing – maybe, like so many other times in life, we must see beyond the exes, the whispers and decide for ourselves if Taylor Swift should remain the poster on our bedroom walls.

 

8. Uproar – Lil Wayne

Weezy pickpockets G-Deps 2001 semi-hit ‘Special Delivery’ and spits purple syrup all over the beat. Weezy is having a barrel of fun, despite the shit show getting this album out was. Whether he has been in a half-decade fog or refuses to allow contractual frustrations play into his music, fans proved they had not forgotten about Lil Weez in the grand scheme of rap. Weezy is the ultimate 6th man, every year he is the comeback player of the year as nobody as improved as drastically as he has as a rapper year after year after year.

 

7. Four stars out of Five – The Arctic Monkeys

The Monkeys finally made their experimental, acid album. It sounds a bit MGMT but with less weed, and more red wine and cigarettes. Turner transforms into the most eccentric hotel manager the hospitality world has come across, and he will be damned if the world doesn’t know how proud  he is of their near 5-star review.

 

6. A Good Night – John Legend

Chrissy Teigen and John Legend seem like the happiest couple on the planet. I can’t remember ever looking at a couple this way, so I can’t begin to imagine how Legend feels when he looks at his wife. We get a mild idea from this marriage proposal dance-athon, easily one of the most genuinely cool songs of 2018. John Legend doesn’t appear to have a negative bone in his body and is a refreshing example of a GQ dude that is proud to rock a wedding band and not sweat the coulda, woulda, shouldas.

 

5. Love it if we Made it – The 1975

It sounds like we are being yelled at for two straight minutes by an incoherent pretty boy, until the chorus drops, helping us realize we are hearing daunting fantasies read aloud. Some of them fluid vision, some dark reality, all notable commentary from some English lads not afraid to point out some of the deeply concerning and strange events that transpired this year.

 

4. Summertime Magic – Childish Gambino

Glover is the black Justin Timberlake, in the sense that he seems capable of everything that falls under the realm of entertainment. He can make you laugh, make you think, and most definitely, make you dance. ‘Summertime Magic’ was this year’s ‘Can’t Stop Feeling,’ a song put out precisely to enjoy the infinitely-long evenings in those precious four months.

 

3. I like it – Cardi B feat. Bad Bunny & J Balvin

With all the 90s nostalgia taking over 2018, it made sense that the Latino Heat movement came back in full force. This time it’s not Ricky Martin’s Livin’ La Vida Loca, it’s Cardi B blazing through with Bad Bunny & J Balvin, parking the low-riders and hosing down the year with Patron tequila on one of the biggest bangers of the year.

 

2. All the Stars – Kendrick Lamar feat. Sza

Two stars that went from nobodies to two of the biggest household names in the world in the span of a half-decade, put out the score to 2018’s most ground-breaking film ‘Black Panther.’ ‘Black lives Matters’ was one of the most prevalent discussions in 2017, and of course there is discourse that remains, but with the success of this super hero black movie it hopefully helped show that not only do they matter, but black stories resonate with Americans. The #MeToo movement will undoubtedly be forever linked with 2018, the year that enough was enough, but maybe it can dove tail with the story line that black musicians, black actors and a black movie dominated pop culture this year.

 

1. God’s Plan – Drake

He is as omnipresent in music as the CN Tower is in the City of Toronto. Drake Mania has surpassed Hulk-a-mania levels and it has been three years since this blog predicted its halt, and no such stop has happened. He even stumbled publicly this year with the news of a bastard child to be paired with a heavy serving of beef with Pusha T and the unpredictable Kanye West. But what Pusha and most definitely Kanye lack, is the charm of the 6 King. Drake smiles. Drake cares. Drake thinks he’s cool, but not too cool. He made a rap video about helping people. This hasn’t happened since Tupac. Fans forgive Drake for anything that they aren’t trained to think of as ‘real hip-hop’ because he has transcended every definition of what a rapper is and how they are supposed to behave.

Drake sees nothing wrong with the many hats he wears because in 2018 the ancient adage ‘You can grow up to be anything you want to be’ is most possible in today’s world. A white Jewish dude with face tattoos named Post Malone is one of the most prevalent pop stars there is. A TV show celebrity host with no political experience is the President of the USA. A drama teacher with a famous Dad is the Prime Minister of Canada. A man has never had an easier time becoming a woman and vice versa. With these incredulous moments all transpiring, is it a big deal that Drake chooses to be a wholesome basketball ambassador and then a violence-threatening gangster in the rap studio? He does not.

But don’t you dare give him all the credit because according to him, this is all God’s Plan.

20171219_084737

Opinion
By James Pavel

  1. What Lovers Do – Maroon 5 feat. Sza

Pop/rock is currently defined by one band – Maroon 5. Radio advertises mega stars, Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, etc., along with one face standing among the crowd as the sole survivor of pop/rock – the dude with a tiger wrapped around his arm. The track is an overdose of morphine gone horribly right. Maroon 5 knows their role and they play it perfectly – keep it simple and keep it fun. Mission accomplished this year.

  1. Telefono – Phoenix

Thomas Mars grumbles aloud about the paranoia surrounding a long-distance relationship with Sophia Coppola. He ponders her latest casting decisions and perhaps he is merely old news. He pines in French and in English, the transition between languages perfectly reflecting his wishy-washy emotions. Phoenix remains one of the quintessential bands of the summer and will forever define July/August skies.

 

  1. The Man – The Killers

In case you didn’t realize the Killers were all about Brandon, you do now. Brandon is at his ego maniacal finest, swinging his dick around the casino table like an elephant swinging its trunk at an opponent. At first listen, it’s the worst song the Vegas group has ever released. Second hearing demonstrates a humorous side to the track. Finally, after three or four re-starts, the heavy bass and thundering drums become the center pieces, and the genius of ‘The Man’ ensues. It has David Bowie at his funkiest with Brandon’s unmistakable showmanship all tied into a fancy bow on a brand-new Cadillac.

 

  1. Bad Ones – Matthew Dear feat. Tegan & Sara

Tegan and her sister team up with what sounds like a Calvin Harris fill-in, for what was a sneaky treat for us in 2017. It showed the strength of the two sisters harmonizing together with a beat that couldn’t be better for their range and overall sound.

  1. Slide – Calvin Harris

The world’s house DJ was at it again in 2017, this time pairing with the mysterious Frank Ocean. If you didn’t enjoy the song, you were shipped off to the insane asylum or declared deaf. Hearing people yell ‘I might’ in the voice of an 8-year-old grew annoying after a while, but it was all in good taste.

  1. Unforgettable – French Montana feat. Swae Lee

    Heavy bass paired with soulful vocals is always going to be a smash. French Montana has a cool name, but he could use a few dope tracks to back up the title. He managed to do just that in 2017, pumping out one of rap music’s go-to joints.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTFtOOh47oo

14. Call me Pretty – Alexander F

An Apple iPod commercial waiting to happen. This song is practically bursting at the seams by the time the chorus explodes into a thousand multi-colored balloons blasting out into the sky. The 80s’ hyper-synth mashed with 50s’ doo-whop, made fans grab for their comb and quickly transform it into a pretend microphone.

  1. Passionfruit – Drake

We might officially be Drake’d out. He still runs the 6, he is still the Toronto Raptors head cheerleader, and he was still able to put out one of the hottest numbers we heard all year. But I swear we have had it up to our nostrils with Toronto’s finest. That is, until the next banger comes out. Here we go 2018.

  1. In Undertow – Alvvays

Ever wonder what hipsters dream about? Look no further, Alvvays captured it on camera. So shoe-gazey, so synth-warming, so ridiculously hipster. Oh, did I mention it was a fantastic song? That too.

  1. Congratulations – Post Malone feat. Quavo

Welcome to emo-rap. No genre is more self-indulgent than rap, and this song doesn’t help that reputation. Malone congratulates himself for working so hard, that he forgot how to book a flight to Mexico. A life-time of back-slaps would not suffice, and only a brilliantly-constructed rap banger would suffice for one of the new faces of hip-hop.

  1. You’re the best thing about me – U2 vs. Kygo

If Coldplay can mash with the dance scene, why not U2? Bono and company recruit one of dance music’s hottest acts and dare him to go toe-to-toe with planet Earth’s greatest band. It’s Bono at his cheekiest and most self-deprecating, a man who refuses to stop smiling regardless of how any haters try to tear down his walls. The ‘Songs of Innocence’ and now the ‘Songs of Experience’ albums, mark a new era of U2. The band recognizes that they aren’t supposed to matter anymore, but when did Bono ever listen to anybody?

  1. Gravity don’t pull me – Rostam

Rarely do we hear a love song so blatantly gay. But here we are, and it’s a beautiful thing. Vampire Weekend sidekick Rostam, delivered one of the boldest albums of the year, with ‘Gravity don’t pull me’ being one of many highlights. The closing dub-step portion magnifies the heart-break while elevating the overall track’s significance.

  1. Creature Comfort – Arcade Fire

If social media could provide one PA message for the entire world, they need to recruit Arcade Fire. ‘Some girls hate themselves, stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback,’ – Is that not everything wrong with the selfie/social media culture in one carefully-crafted verse? No band is as conscious of the times we live in, exemplified by yet another thematic album, ‘Everything NOW.’ Instant gratification is our motif, regardless of the suicidal consequences.

  1. Sign of the times – Harry Styles

    Styles does what we did not necessarily expect. It would have been an obvious step for him to go the route of a Justin Bieber of Nick Jonas. But Styles has decided to show off his true colors, which look and sound remarkably like a young David Bowie. ‘Sign of the Times,’ was a total throw-back, an almost miracle that it was given proper airplay. Only someone of Styles magnitude and promise could pull off releasing an instant-classic sounding hit made for the 70s and get away with it in the generation that has the attention span of a puppy.

     

    6. Wild Thoughts – DJ Khaled feat. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller

If there ever was a guitar slaying that deserved repeating, it is Santana’s ‘Maria, Maria.’ If you remember when Santana’s song was originally released, you my friend, are officially getting old. The good news is that Rihanna managed to somehow turn what was a classy dame of a song, into a sultry, half-drunk senorita begging for trouble. Basically it’s ‘Maria, Maria’ on Cialis.

  1. Slow Hands – Niall Horan

Easily the sexiest song of the year. Fast hands are overrated, and even criminal, in 2017. ‘Take it slow’ remains advice to be taken seriously. The song hovered over the summer like California smoke. We spent half the year enjoying the best offering from One Direction and the other half trying to determine if, after all this time, dirty laundry is an aphrodisiac.

 

  1. Too good at goodbyes – Sam Smith

He looks a little thinner, but he sounds even more powerful this year. How could you follow up such an insanely successful first album? Passing this exam is always a sign of the greats. George Michael left a massive role for an English bloke to fill, and Sam Smith already seems on his way to trumping any of Michael’s greatest feats. While most of us are pathetic at saying goodbye, Smith has mastered the art as a twisted defense mechanism. It likely helps that he can sing his way out of any pain or emotion, a tactic that hopefully continues for the decades to come.

  1. Prisoner – Ryan Adams

A refreshing metaphor for love encapsulates the most recent dish served up by Adams. If love is a crime, then Adams is a brutal and sadistic prisoner, worthy of the electric chair. It’s an exceptionally beautiful concept and perhaps the premier album of the year. Adams songwriting and harmonica abilities make him a less grumpy version of Neil Young.

  1. Something just like this – Coldplay feat. The Chainsmokers

Could the biggest band in the world somehow remain relevant in an EDM-obsessed planet? Of course they could. In the ultimate case of ‘if you can’t beat em, join em,’ Coldplay joined forces with the dark side and put out, incredibly, one of the biggest songs of their career. While the other tracks to contend for their best offering are funeral-ready slobber fests, this song is a bombastic, bouncy castle of fun.

  1. Humble – Kendrick Lamar

In the year of fake news, ‘Show me something natural like ass with some stretch marks,’ was the realest shit said all year. Kendrick is real news, and we’ve never needed a subscription this badly. Do you want to see a pack of teenagers go bonkers? Surprise them by blaring ‘Humble.’ It sounds like a beat by Dre for millennials, by the closest rapper we will ever see that could be considered the resurrection of Tupac. Substance and clear-sounding, Lamar is the greatest rapper today. While Drake may finally be suffering from over-saturation, Lamar has managed to strategically pick his spots and maintain integrity with the hip-hop hardcore, and yet appease the pop masses.

 

 

 

 

 

liam-gallagher

Opinion
By James Pavel

Going solo was always going to be easier for Noel. He was the songwriter and the soul of Oasis and his individual creations versus Liam’s in the post-breakup era have been comparable to a Manchester City versus Crystal Palace matchup. But despite Liam’s Beady Eye shortcomings, more is still expected. He is, after all, the primary voice of the greatest British insurgence outside of Beatle mania.

So here in 2017 arrives yet another kick at the can from Liam, but this time ensuring no confusion over who or what is behind the project.

‘Greedy Soul’ is immediately forgettable and comes across as a Beady Eye B-side. ‘When I’m Need’ demonstrates what quitting cigarettes and alcohol can do for the system. Liam reaches notes he hasn’t hit in decades and the determination pays off. It’s the song John Lennon would have made in his last days if he hadn’t been too busy rolling around naked in the hay with his little China girl.

‘Wall of Glass’ has that grimy, down in the allies of England feel to it. Do you secretly hope to hear Noel come raging in for the chorus? Absolutely. But Liam holds his own on this one, making it arguably the first proper single he has put out, post-Oasis.

The gem of the album is ‘Chinatown.’ It captures Liam in a state of reflection, a song that finally displays who he really is – a man who has seen and been through some shit. It features instrumentation potentially viewed as too soft for an Oasis bloke, but not in 2017. ‘Show me that you’ve seen some places,’ dares Liam, as if he couldn’t fathom another individual matching his singular experiences.

‘I’ve all I need’ is Liam at his most honest, and honesty serves him well in his now advanced age. It sounds as though he has reconciled any angst or sourness with his brother, yet is still profoundly aware that their relationship is beyond repair. ‘There’s no time for looking back,’ he exclaims, which is true for both parties as Noel prepares to release his latest material. Some situations are meant to remain unresolved and we are better off going our own way – This track may be Liam’s way of convincing himself.

Liam and Noel could both wait for the next wave of 90s nostalgia to grasp the youth and cash in on an Oasis reunion. But they are both too stubborn, too bull-headed, but also too ambitious. Liam knows and believes he is a rock n’ roll God and that music still needs him. It’s that faith in one’s self that seems to define the greats. While many bands are happy to play the hits, Liam finally punches out a solo project that refuses to be dismissed.

Opinion
By James Pavel

The Killers announced this week that not only will their bass guitarist Mark Stoermer not be touring with the band on their upcoming venture, but lead guitarist Dave Keuning will also sit this one out. The Killers release their 5th studio album this month, but only their second since 2009. After a bustling start to their career, the band’s material has slowed and unfortunately, so has their popularity. The two guitarists have done next to nothing compared to what lead singer Brandon Flowers has done during the band’s extended hiatuses. Rather than helping revive the group and planning a tour stronger than ever, the two guitarists seem to have zero interest in taking the band to the next level.

Even watching the two on stage, it seems that the life has been sucked of them. They have not been anywhere near as excited as they were prior to the Day & Age tour and now seem to almost dread appearing on stage with the other two members. Watching Dave perform at this year’s Lollapalooza was a clear indication that he no longer believes in the spirit of the Killers. The most energy he conveyed during the show was when Flowers announced they would perform a cover of Muse’s ‘Starlight.’ He is constantly dead-panning the audience and seems content with shoe-gazing during the entirety of live shows.

Stoermer has always looked like the weak link in the group and now his desire to not tour at all has made this suspicion valid. If you can’t tour and promote the new material, their shouldn’t be any room for this sort of negativity and failure to remain united.

Brandon and Ronnie have already announced their replacements and they have already proven to be more than up to the task.  Ted Sablay and Jake Banton will officially take over the roles of the two lost souls that once made up the Las Vegas quartet. Ted has already taken on the majority of the backup vocals from Dave and seems poised to take over the role completely. Jake has been Brandon’s right-hand man since his solo debut ‘Flamingo,’ and appears to be much more engaged and enthused with performing.

If Dave and Mark can’t help the group on their biggest tour in years, it should serve as a clear indication to Brandon and Ronnie that it’s time to make some serious adjustments to the starting lineup.

 

2016

Opinion
By James Pavel

20. One Dance – Drake feat. Wizkid & Kyla

Nobody matters more in rap music than Drake. Kanye has finally had his Britney Spears moment and it would be wise to not hold our breath anticipating past greatness upon his return. Drake has been the ultimate 6 man for what must be at least four years running, and has made the duties of a DJ remarkably simple in 2016. Drake followed by Drake followed by Drake featuring Drake. The song was only for one dance, but Drake got about nine out of you before the night was all set and done.

19. Waste a moment – Kings of Leon

Their biggest premier single off an album since ‘Sex on Fire.’ All the ‘ooohhs’ a KOL fan could hope for plus a stupidly fun guitar riff that a 12-year-old could play.  The Kings like to tell stories of cowboy renegades, almost living out southern fantasies they were never quite able to dream about while under strict Christian rule as youths. “Take your time to waste a moment,” was the second-greatest life mantra of 2016, falling only behind Donald Trump’s slightly altered “Grab life by the pussy.”

18. Kids – One Republic

They refuse to apologize for staying longer than their suggested five minutes. There is a spiritually, uplifting vibe that One Republic always manages to achieve, no matter the year. There are many things taken from us, but being a kid may be the greatest.

17. Ooh Love – Ria Mae (Neon Dreams remix)

Roller-skating in the summer licking ice cream is what ‘Ooh Love’ was made for. This song should not be listened to in the peak of winter as it may lead to false hope and empty promises.

16. TerraForm – Sam Roberts Band

Sam Roberts is what it sounds like to drive through the Canadian Rockies. He’s what it feels like when you first enter the city of Toronto. He’s what it looks like when the sun sets in Quebec. ‘Terraform’ is a Canadian escape, a new chapter for the band and the soundtrack for adventure for new listeners. The Tragically Hip has unfortunately signed off as Canada’s band, and Sam Roberts Band is running for office.

15. This is what you came for – Calvin Harris feat. Rihanna

Now, we talk about the accolades of Beyoncé and the never-flailing popularity of Taylor Swift. But in 20 years, what we may look back on when discussing female vocalists, is the ridiculous number of hits that Rihanna had during the stretch of the 2000s. A greatest hits performance by her is essentially a tour of what people were listening to on popular radio in the new millennium.

14. Secrets – The Weeknd

The Weeknd drops the single ‘Starboy’ and it was..meh. This is the same dude that dropped the hottest song of 2015, right? Turns out, the album is constructed around the idea of being a ‘Starboy,’ and not to worry because upon album purchase, you immediately become swim-fan obsessed with track six.  He takes a famous Romantics’ idea, ‘secrets in your sleep,’ and gets all iconic MJ on us.  If you can finally feel your face again, Abel Tesfaye is about to enter your dreams and hear all your secrets.

13. Love on the Weekend – John Mayer

It’s a simple song, but by a complex man. John Mayor is a self-healed egomaniac going back to the basics. He’s managed to nail every celebrity south of Seattle and now seems ready to get back to the organic details that make relationships special.

12. The kid who stays in the picture – Hot Hot Heat

They announced it is their last album and then manage to release the single that might just lift them from obscure Canadian band to just obscure band.  The song sounds familiar, likely because it is a clear demonstration that Las Vegas group The Killers have begun to rub off on predecessors. The irony is that this is the exact sort of track the Killers could use to find a home again on pop radio.

11. Never be like you – Flume feat. Kai

Points for being the most original-sounding track of the year. The base vibration takes the listener on a bumpy journey with this successful Australian/Canadian collaboration.

10. Black Beatles – Rae Sremmurd feat. Gucci Mane

If you didn’t freeze frame with your homies at some point in 2016, then you just weren’t paying attention. ‘Black Beatles’ became the mannequin challenge anthem, the latest trend in Internet mind-numbness. We’ve planked, we’ve dabbed and now we’ve remained in pause while appearing to be in the middle of an everyday task. The memories and function of this song will forever trump the sound and any sort of appeal the track ever had.

9. Pillow Talk – Zayne

Zayne needs no directions when it comes to the bedroom, at least per ‘Pillow Talk.’ There has been nothing released by One Direction that comes even remotely close to as modern as Zayne’s successful attempt at pop glory.

8. Can’t stop the feeling!- Justin Timberlake

The most universally-liked entertainer, maybe in history, makes detention halls, senior homes and prison yards brush off their dancing shoes. The track was almost as contagious as the Zika virus in 2016, but for JT, we welcomed its global dominance.

7. Daddy Issues – The Neighbourhood

What initially sounds like a love song is a letter to the ghost of Daddy. Daddy wasn’t there, but that’s okay because the Neighborhood is.  Dependence, promiscuity, and yes-pure craziness, can derive from daddy issues. If there were ever a song to unite strippers worldwide, this may be the one. We know the power of a mother’s touch, but the presence of Daddy can also become one of the defining sensations in a child’s life.

6. Too Good – Drake feat. Rihanna

The most hyped album of the year by Toronto’s hype man didn’t quite live up to the mmm hype. Rather than deny the “too soft” complex that haters have and will continue to spew, Drake made an album loaded with slow-dance material, none better than ‘Too Good.” Drake and Rihanna is hip-hop’s most functional non-couple. They are a pair that may or may not have slept together, but for a refreshing first, audience are more concerned about what their next single will sound like and not when their next photo op will be.

5. Ful Stop – Radiohead

Radiohead have the rare ability to make any noise, any glitch, or any bleep sound remarkable. They rejoice in the ugly and linger in the unnatural.  No one seems to care less about how they are perceived, maybe because their legacy as one of the greatest bands of the past 25 years has been so firmly established. They are our version of Bob Dylan, but without any backlash and with instruments from outer space.

4. Threat of Joy – The Strokes

Julian hasn’t sounded this blissfully romantic since 2014’s ‘Chances.’ It is not the lyrics of music alone that create that warm sensation in our souls. It’s the words, it’s the synth, it’s the timing, it’s the syntax and it’s the drums.  ‘Let’s get into trouble, be there on the double’ is so simple and easy, but when heard on ‘Threat of Joy’ it sounds like Mark Twain with the warmth of Turks and Caicos.

3. Wow – Beck

Beck cools it on the country folk and drops a pound of shrooms for his latest endeavor. His eyes are as big as pool balls and all he can muster out is a resounding ‘Wow.’ Nobody likes to get weird like Beck and nobody made psychedelic rock music feel important in anyway in 2016 except for this American chameleon.

2. In a world possessed by the human mind – The Tragically Hip

In a country called Canada we were possessed by a live concert that showed an emotionally vulnerable, eccentric, sobbing lead singer muster his way through the hits for one last time before the world’s last greatest mystery takes hold. The live Hip show on the CBC was unquestionably the concert event of the year.

1. Don’t let me down – The Chainsmokers feat. Daya

Electronic dance music found a friend in Emo and managed to give soul to a genre crucified for being made for distracted robots incapable of comprehending or caring for lyrical-based content.

Chainsmokers have now been inescapable for two full years. Along with Drake they have held dance floors ransom, with no bidder in sight.

‘Don’t let me down’ separates from the pack because as much as it is a dance song, it is a song with human vulnerability. Sure, Calvin Harris’ monotone voice has attempted to inject a soul into what is predicted as a fleeting musical fad, but it took the smoke pit to successfully perform the procedure. The sign of a genre with legs is when the rest of music begins to incorporate its signature sounds rather than vice versa. Rap music has unquestionably fallen for years and rock music seems to have almost completely fallen out of grace with anything resembling the masses.

The Chainsmokers create music for a generation of debit tapping, snapchattting, Insta-filtering megalomaniacs that need a soundtrack that speaks to them with mechanical vigor, yet with straight-forward text-friendly lingo.

‘Don’t let me down’ has a star-gazing wanderlust buildup before a cliff-diving drop into a chorus that begs not to be disappointed. We welcomed the track’s inescapable methods and for this alone, it was the defining track of 2016.

drake2

Opinion
By James Pavel

No rapper in hip hop embodies the quintessential modern-day word smith like Aubrey Drake Graham.

Drake is less gun play more word play.

He proves that in the modern era, one exerts more swag by wearing a well-tailored suit on the cover of GQ rather than throwing up esoteric gang signs on the cover of XXL or The Source Magazine. Drake’s upcoming album ‘Views from the 6’ is the most hyped album of the year by a titanic size. Drake’s stake with the Toronto Raptors features a role that rappers a mere 15 years ago openly fantasized about without a notion that it would one day be possible for an MC from Canada.

It is too early to deliver a verdict on ‘Views from the 6’ but the fact that it has become such a centerpiece of music conversation for such a lengthy period of time speaks to the influence that Drake controls. Yes, Kanye West’s new album has gained plenty of attention but partially because Kanye is such a desirable centre of ridicule. West admitted that 2014 was the year of Drake and not of Mr. West. The problem for ‘Ye’ is that he has yet to reclaim the throne from the Canadian MC. Jay-Z jumping on a track every time a Drake album drops places a clear stamp of approval on Drake’s Toronto forehead regardless of how differently Drizzy nay-sayers or even Kanye, may feel.

Along with Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan, Drake is the face of the Toronto Raptors. Yet as you obviously know, Drake does NOT play for the Raptors. Think about that. He has actually made a Raptor hat more famous than a Raptor can. Drake sits court side because he can afford it but mainly because he is the official ambassador of the Toronto Raptors. Sure, he slaps hands with Steph Curry and Lebron James when they are in town because who the hell wouldn’t?

Drake reigns supreme because he’s reppin’ a city that never has been repped outside of Canada. And folks, he’s not just rapping about it. He’s singing, he’s crooning and he’s dancing inside glowing fluorescent cubes without a care in the 6.

og-dre

Opinion
By James Pavel

5. Let me Blow Ya Mind – Eve feat. Gwen Stefani

It was widely recognized that Gwen Stefani was one of the most talented and desirable women in rock n’ roll, but she had yet to be used in any context outside of No Doubt. That all changed in 2001 when Stefani collaborated with Moby on ‘Southside,’ and then more impressively, with Eve for the Dr. Dre/Scott Storch produced ‘Let me Blow your Mind.’ It was the whitest of the white girls tag-teaming a Dre banger with a black woman who had bear paws tattooed on her ta tas. It proved to be a beautiful contrast. Dre teaming with Gwen was surprising, but it helped him broaden his talents and made an even wider group of club-goers bounce to his music without them immediately recognizing that one one of their favourite pop stars was singing to beats conceived by a hip-hop icon.

 

 4. Who Am I? (What’s My Name?) – Snoop Dogg

It is one of his most raucous and heavy sounding beats of the 90s. ‘What’s my Name?’ was a child of the ghetto wailing proudly for the cities of Long Beach and Compton to boogie to. The beat was pure gangster-funk, a term Dre’s cousin Warren G would come to further define and utilize throughout his successful 90s career. Nothing sounded better in your friends Acura Integra bolstered with amps or in 2016, in your signature Dr. Dre headphones.

3. Nuthin’ but a G thang – Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg

It was that siren spinning through the introduction, like a snake slithering its way over Dre’s Compton keyboards that helped transfix fans with this song from 1993 til’ infinity. It’s G-Funk for the California beaches because hey, gangsters need to lounge too. This track would signify the beginning of the true domination of Dre-produced tracks, an era that would launch the career of Snoop Dogg and then several years later, the real Slim Shady.

 

 2. In Da Club – 50 Cent

In an interview accessible through YouTube, 50 Cent’s nemesis Ja Rule describes his reaction to when he first heard the thunderous boom of ‘In Da Club.’ – Oh Shit. Ja Rule, Murda Inc. and the rest of the hip-hop world would be at the mercy of Fiddy after he dropped a track that featured Dre’s most pulsating and intimidating beat of his career. One could argue that this release was the pinnacle of rap music in terms of sheer popularity. There was no mass EDM scene, rock n’ roll was going through its most awkward phase of its existence and country music remained loyal to true cowboys and cowgirls. Dre’s production juxtaposed perfectly with Fiddy’s monstrous size and legendary survival tales. It would mark yet a fourth rapper that had their career grossly augmented by a superb beat via the Doctor of hip hop. This track had originally been bookmarked for Dre’s elusive and essentially mythical album ‘Detox,’ but he decided it would better serve the 50 Cent agenda. We can only hope that Dre receives annual Christmas Cards from the G-Unit household.

1. Still D.R.E. – Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg

Green, neon goosebumps. It’s the sensation every rap head aged 12-30 experienced when this G’d up piano with bandanas falling off its keys absorbed our living rooms and our mental soundtrack for the entirety of 1999. This track roared that Dre’s not just back, he might even be better than he was back in 1993. He made Snoop Dogg relevant again after his ill-advised stint with No Limit Records, and he reminded everyone what California Love sounded like, with one of rap music’s defining orchestras.

 

2015gold1

Opinion
By James Pavel

20. FUN – COLDPLAY

Coldplay was on a war path to attempt to make the most peaceful and benevolent album known to planet Earth after the dreary affair titled, Ghost Stories. Yet the heart pangs left over in the debris from divorce and tales from the dead still manage to infiltrate Coldplay’s dogged attempt at a smiley face emoticon album. ‘Fun’ doesn’t sound as fun as it should be, because it’s really about somebody reflecting on the best parts of a relationship past its due date. (Below is a cover track.)

19. TRUE AFFECTION – FATHER JOHN MISTY

Father John cruises from Earth to space and only in the dark corners of nowhere does he allow his most sensitive thoughts to escape. It sound as though it has enough instruments to commission three school bands all competing at once, but all somehow works thanks to the genius of one of the few musical priests we can trust.

 

  1. NO ROOM IN FRAME – DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE

Nobody takes inanimate objects and transforms them into marvelous, complex observations like DCFC. A picture in a frame should be as so, but to Ben Gibbard, his lack of presence in the photo indicates a direct snub. No one is as hyper sensitive as poor ol’ Benny, but then nobody is more self-aware either. The latest Death Cab offering was nowhere near the scope and value of the one prior (Codes and Keys), but it still contained enough genuinely sharp perspective to keep the Death Cab camp content.

 

  1. BALLAD OF THE MIGHTY I – NOEL GALLAGHER

A rock n’ roll living legend demonstrates he still has a few aces up his pissed-on rain jumper. If there was ever any quarrel over who the more talented Gallagher brother was, Noel, the grumpier one, put those debates to a bitter sleep with the release of his second solo album. It sounds alive and ready to entertain an aging but eager audience, and yet it still smells of that familiar Oasis cologne we dosed ourselves in the 90s with.

  1. SUGAR – MAROON 5

They’ve been downloaded more than Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z combined. They are a group that will never go away and now we are kind of happy they didn’t. Sure, ‘This Love’ and ‘She will be Loved’ were barrels of fun, but we didn’t expect it to continue. But the stupidly catchy ‘Moves like Jagger’ arrived followed by ‘Love Somebody.’ Oh and just in case we didn’t know who Adam Levine was yet, the reality program The Voice implanted him into every living room across North America. In 2015, we received a charming and delightful track about nothing we’ve never heard before, but now we can all finally agree that we are content that the band named after the colour between red and purple managed to stick around.

 

  1. IN MY EYES – BEST COAST

They are the Beach Boys for hipsters and new millennials. Their obsession with California dreamin’ is equal, but with a female singer comes a unique set of issues and reservations. Best Coast lead singer Bethany Cosentino can’t recall how she met John Doe in the first place, but he has successfully infiltrated her mind, her heart, and even the two pools of water stuck in her head.

 

  1. BEYOND LOVE – BEACH HOUSE

It is a wave of dreams brushing over velvet skies, a description that one could apply to everything Beach House in general. They have such a specific sound, yet continue to engineer new methods of making it sound all new again, a quality that can only be used to describe a great band.

  1. LEAN ON – MAJOR LAZER & DJ SNAKE

It lands in the top three songs of summer 2015. It was everywhere, like women’s jean shorts with white pockets seeping through the thighs and Lipton’s twisted iced teas. This banger has an absurdly catchy refrain pounding its way through every sound system north of the Antarctica. ‘Lean On’ made contorting one’s fingers into a gun the wildest hand gesture since we were throwing up the Westside symbol.

  1. HOTLINE BLING – DRAKE

Nobody has had more harmless fun poked at them than Drake. People genuinely hate Kim Kardashian. People genuinely hope Kanye West is attacked by sharks. But nobody genuinely hates the homie from the 6. He manages to combine tennis lessons, skiing, and grey turtlenecks into the strangest version of interpretive dance we’ve seen in music video format. He has managed to make owls and Toronto appear to be his inventions and now he has turned a generic line like “you used to call me on my cellphone,” sound like yet another signature Drizzy quip.

  1. SORRY – JUSTIN BIEBER

Trumpets, raspy voices and a new four-minute, half-ass apology define another Bieber banger. Just in case ‘Where are Ü now?’ or ‘What do you mean?’ didn’t sell you on the Bieber fever revamp, ‘Sorry’ was the one that finally lured you in. Even the biggest haters were declaring their sudden affection for Canada’s most lovable brat. Couples were breaking up on purpose so they could sing this track to one another in unison. The power of Biebs was undeniable at the halfway point of the decade.

  1. FLESH WITHOUT BLOOD – GRIMES

This song is more hype than the sprinkler under the trampoline in the summertime. It’s a song by a woman who is believably weird as opposed to the forced blue hair and contrived rebellion of Miley Cyrus, Hillary Duffy etc. As they say in Austin, Texas, stay weird Grimes.

 

  1. LET IT HAPPEN – TAME IMPALA

No song sounded as desperately urgent as ‘Let it Happen,’ a title that begs the listener to surrender to the cheetah-like pace of life. “All this running around, I can’t fight it much longer,” they sing during a brief hiatus from the technological chaos we’ve been submerged in since the turn of the decade. The robotic, computer blizzard that blisters in and out of this MDMA-laced bouncy castle is the perfect sound to symbolize the never-ending text messages, the infinite Facebook and Instagram feeds and the obsessive reality jungle we all swing vine to vine from.

  1. ANIMALS – DR. DRE FEAT. ANDERSON PAAK

Dr. Dre skipped the detox and headed straight for Hollywood. Dre hasn’t experienced failure in decades and that certainly wasn’t going to stop in 2015. He helped release one of the most successful movies of the year, a film depicting his rise to greatness, and then attached a very 2015-sounding soundtrack to it. The album was meh, but ‘Animals’ packed the exact same power, venom and tenacity that made NWA the world’s most dangerous group. (Below is an instrumental only.)

  1. KING KUNTA – KENDRICK LAMAR

Kendrick Lamar rides shotgun with the doctor as they pop the top on Dre’s Chevy Impala and manage to bounce all the way back to 1993. This instrumental could be off of Dre’s The Chronic or Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, but instead it arrives with the second most influential rapper in the game, the self-proclaimed King Kunta. Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly album was criminally overrated, but this Kunta track has legs on a daddy-long leg scale.

  1. STILL WANT YOU – BRANDON FLOWERS

Climate change and debt, he still wants her. The world is burning, but the Killers front man can only think about being madly in love. His second solo album would be telling, as it was certainly time for B-Flow to roar in a new direction. We heard every tale Las Vegas could offer, could Brandon finally revise his storytelling? The answer was a scintillating yes. He brought Mo-Town flavour to the reflection bakery and managed to carve a thoughtful and purposeful cake without sounding preachy or whiny. Brandon’s smiling the entire video, as if he knows we are all going to be OK, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

 

  1. BACK TO BACK – DRAKE

Back to back like he Jordan 96’, 97. Drizzy wants to be like Mike, but in reality he is the Steph Curry of the game right now. He’s making shots so easily and so consistently that the competition is currently suffering from a combination of slack jaw and night tremors. This is the most important diss track since 50 Cent destroyed Ja Rule’s career with ‘Back Down.’ It’s grimy, intimidating and laced with a couple of deadly one-liners, none more exceptional than “Is that your world tour or your girl’s tour?” Drizzy sings, he dances and he used to play a handicap kid in high school, but he proves you best not piss him off.

  1. BELIEVE – MUMFORD & SONS

Mumford and Sons borrow Coldplay’s template for ‘Fix you’ and achieve similarly explosive results. A slow, reflective build-up, followed by a memorable shotgun blast of electricity. It was Mumford’s best way of letting fans know that the banjo has been retired to the closet for now, and they better bring their ear buds and stomping boots in 2015.

  1. COFFEE – MIGUEL

It’s not Starbucks or Tim Horton’s. Nah, what Miguel is brewing can’t be found in stores, but only in private bedrooms near you. Coffee is what deters half the nation from driving off a bridge every morning or destroying the photo copier with a sledgehammer, but for Miguel a fresh pot symbolizes a successful night prior. ‘Coffee’ is a return to tremendous vocals and sensual RnB, a musical beverage desperately lacking from today’s musical vending machine.

  1. I CAN’T FEEL MY FACE – THE WEEKND

Billy Jean drama with Bruno Mars funk made the coolest song ever made about banging out booger sugar the second greatest track of 2015. From Tom Cruise lip-syncing on The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon, to every dance floor going mental when the DJ dropped it, this weekend madness was inescapable. With the exception of Taylor Swift, 2014 was void of any true pop classics. But in 2015, we have at least one single that will remain a dance floor anthem until we all go numb.

  1. WHERE ARE Ü NOW? – JACK Ü feat. JUSTIN BIEBER

The Bieber comeback plan was executed to perfection. Such a rotten apple in 2014, he was almost certainly on the path to wash-up village, population Lindsey Lohan. Bieber was mocked, ridiculed and despised. The boy who was supposed to be the next Justin Timberlake had fallen, and no one was certain if anyone cared enough to help him back up. And so began operation comeback. It began with the Justin Bieber roast on Comedy Central. The comedians/guests occasionally peppered Biebs, but left the heavy artillery for each other. When Biebs finally took the podium and thanked everyone, he gave us a juvenile smirk as if to say, “Why so serious?”

He gave a semi-sincere apology and we all sort of forgave him. But all was truly washed away with the tide when he finally did what he was supposed to do – release tremendous pop music. ‘Where are Ü now?’ is the defining song of 2015 because it sounds from the version of the future that we were all supposed to live in. Yet we don’t have spaceships, teleports, or vacations planned in other galaxies. What we do have is music videos where paintings, tattoos and graffiti collide. We have music where boy band hysteria blends with underground dub step and pretty boys collaborate with tattooed skids. What we do have is a world where a megalomaniac from Ontario, Canada is the king of pop culture in 2015.