5. “With That” – Young Thug (2), MPA Duke

“I’m so fresh like dish detergent” 

Young Thug is 6’3″ and can windmill dunk on a regulation hoop. Some consider him one of the best rappers alive despite his preference for singing and his inability to articulate. He was rumored to have ordered the hit on his labelmate’s bodyguard, a rumor he doesn’t necessarily refute in his blood-filled music. Most interestingly, he wears a lot of women’s clothing. Get those gender roles out of here.

4. “You Ain’t Gotta Lie” – Kendrick Lamar (2)

“You ain’t gotta try so hard”

A Pulitzer Prize-winning author analyzed “The Blacker the Berry” upon release. The commander-in-chief named “How Much A Dollar Cost?” his favorite song of the year. The Grammy Awards nominated for recognition in separate categories “These Walls” and “Alright,” the latter of which becoming the soundtrack to a civil rights movement. But if I had to choose one song from Kendrick Lamar’s astonishing 2015 to include on this list, it’s his Stevie Wonder-like ode to realness found towards the back end of the album. Why exactly? It’s in the title, man.

3. “The Magic Morning”/”Lookalike”/”I Have Lost My Mind”/”Mr. E Man”/”Fired Up”/”Dimed Out” – Titus Andronicus

“That’s what you gotta be”

Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar starts out slowly. Roman politicians air their grievances about Caesar, and Brutus defends his good friend’s honor against a barage of criticism. And then Brutus kills Caesar, which sparks the most frenzied and studied story in Western historical fiction. Titus Andronicus tried a similar thing on their fourth album The Most Lamentable Tragedy, writing their own Act III of Julius Caesar within the second movement on their ambitious project.

It begins with drone jarring into thrash, quickly diving into an auto-psychoanalysis (“I have lost my mind”) with ten minutes left of lead singer Patrick Stickles’s informed psychosis. There are bells, strings, tributes to Daniel Johnston and Fucked Up, and gigantic choruses with sing-along refrains that recall V8 engines and building-high bonfires. It’s gorgeous theatre.

The trouble with Brutus stabbing Caesar is not the drama of the moment, but in the question of what comes next. Shakespeare answers beautifully, and Titus Andronicus, being not-Shakespeare, do not. But for fifteen minutes sandwiched amongst five acts of a not quite classic album, the guitar people from Glen Rock, New Jersey perfected their own brand of anxious Americana, achieving the illustrious title of Great American Rock ‘n Roll Band.

2. “Awoo” – 김예림 (Lim Kim)

Lim Kim, one half of K-Pop duo Togeworl, recorded a song with a topic straight out of a shojo manga over an instrumental made with food service wrap and radio interference. Basic stuff for Korea, right? Except “Awoo” doesn’t sparkle, but rather smolders in the warmth of Kim’s smoky register. The lush production is beautifully paired with the singer’s sultry charm, highlighted in each pre-chorus as she gracefully paces the listener’s attention with ageless maturity. Or, as my friend Tim wrote me, “I like that sound, ‘awoo.’” That too.

1. “Sunday Candy” – Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment

“You’re singing too, but your grandma ain’t my grandma!”

Chicago had another violent year in 2015, and the response from its musicians has varied. Some artists from the city sell glorified murder ballads in response to Chiraq’s state of emergency, while some artists use it as material for a superficial artistic statement. And then you have The Social Experiment, an independent collective headlined by blooming hip-hop superstar Chance The Rapper, identifying with their bleeding city not as a case for pity, but as a testament to the power of hope.

Chano has always acknowledged his city’s violence as a nothing more than a challenge to Chicago’s greater beauty, and this mindset floods to Donnie Trumpet and the rest of the band through their brass-heavy, gospel-like sound. It helps to have vocalists like Jamila Woods, Eryn Allen Kane, and Jabari Ray Ford to belt the heavenly chorus like your church choir’s favorite gospel refrain (check out their SNL performance for an especially spectacular arrangement). It doesn’t hurt to hand the songwriting reigns to a new father with an already established affinity for all things family and unconditional love. His affinity happens to be the righteous one, too: unconditional love has long been the only template for peace, even amongst the suffering.






  1. […] Normally, Chance’s gospel instincts lift his music, most notably on 2015’s song of the year “Sunday Candy,” but there’s too much choir music on “Coloring Book” […]

  2. […] a press release that looks like they’re getting out ahead of the naysayers). But Titus is The Great American Rock ‘n Roll Band, and until they release something that insults their title, I will twice purchase all of their new […]

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