This is a musicblog. Every weekday we post a couple of mp3s and write about them. Songs are only kept online for a short time. This is a page from our archives and thus the mp3s linked to may not longer be available. Visit our front page for new songs and words.

December 29, 2015


a photo of lego set up to look like the fellowship of the ring crossing a snowy mountain peak

Dog Day - "Get High"

Plaintive guitar sets us on the journey, a sunny day in the flatlands, when the drums come in we're already in the foothills. By the time things reach the rocking part our climb has reached precipitous heights. Doubt sets in, and the wind is laughing. We're in a mess, we're in a situation that seems impossible to get through. No one down on the ground can guess how hard it is to be all the way up here, battling the elements, where the weather can change in the blink of an eye. The keyboards begin to sound like wind to me, I get so involved in this little story every time. And here Seth drops one of his supreme bits of knowledge, the one thing you need to know to get through this: "There is no way to know what lies ahead / but if you remain frozen still / you will become the hill." Keep climbing, keep climbing, keep climbing.


(image source)

Posted by Jeff at 10:54 AM | Comments (2)

December 28, 2015


Timbaland ft Mila K - "Get No Betta". With this one you need to make it past the intro - 32 tiresome seconds but then finally the beat drops and "merry Christmas everybody", it's Timbaland at the close of 2015, a master who seems once again to have found the right tools. "Get No Betta" is a dance of glimmering synths and cascading backup vocals, Mila's supple verses, her voice phased just soft of solid. Certain songs seem capable of slipping through walls, between dimensions, folding from one state of being to another. You couldn't put "Get No Betta" in your pocket because it would slip out. You couldn't ever count on it to stay where it is. You can't trust a bird on a branch, steam in a kettle, light through clear glass. Don't fall too deep in love with this; or do. [grab the King Stays King mixtape for free / "Shakin'", Timbo's (long-preserved) song with Aaliyah, is great too.]

Posted by Sean at 5:06 PM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2015

Best Of

The Weakerthans - "(Manifest)"

It's the end of the year. Let's talk about signs!

I grew up in a family that's as superstitious as it is skeptical, which means that a lot of my internal life is characterized by this weird tug-of-war between wanting to see everything that happens to you as incredibly significant and feeling pretty sure that all the world is just pure, churning chaos. It's a fun combination!

Around this time of the year, when things feel like they're being forced to gather to a point, I always find myself doing an inventory of my own cynicism - trying to see if the slow creep toward true adulthood has managed to shift me further towards or away from a belief in verifiable fact above all, if there's any more of a logic to the omens I choose to read as omens vs. the ones I decide to throw away, the rules I choose to follow. But things always stay pretty much the same, as determinedly lopsided as they always were: I feel a weird shiver when I see a broken mirror but step toward black cats on purpose; I'll walk underneath a ladder without even noticing because I'm too busy thinking about the ghosts swirling around me.

But that's all pretty site-specific. Aside from muttering "white rabbit" to myself every first of the month, the witchiest regular practice I've ever been able to feel comfortable believing in is tarot cards. Astrology's too loose and removed for my mean thresher of a mind, and to that end I cannot bring myself to fuck with actual psychics; religion itself is way off the table, as are the shakier cults. But a few years ago a friend invited me over to her place for a tarot reading, and I was like hey, you know what? It seemed to me like a more self-centered, simmered-down version of what art often gives - a gathered line of images, symbols and concepts that mean what they mean on their own, but leave room for you to project upon and mess around in too. Fixed points to bounce your thoughts off, like bumpers in a pinball machine. The fact that there's no claim to determination or infallibility makes the whole enterprise a little easier to sink into without cynicism - plus, let's be honest, I already write poetry on purpose, in public, so there's not really much left for me to be precious about, flakiness-wise.

At first I just used my friends' cards and poked around on a lot of angelfire-looking websites for their meanings, but one of the many "fuck-this"-based turns I did in 2015 was in getting fed up with that and buying my own deck. When I started, I thought I'd be doing those elaborate, table-sized card spreads you see cool goth ladies doing in the movies, but soon I realized that one of the simplest and most effective kinds of readings you can do is just three cards long. Ask a question and draw one for the past, one for the present, one for the future, and there you have it - new light against an old arrangement. Simple.

With the obvious exception of Sean's (and now Jeff's too), I've always kind of rolled my eyes at other people's year-end lists - the same way I have, in the past, rolled my eyes at horoscopes and crushes and poems and songs and anything else that tries to dwell in the low-lit liminal space between objective fact and swooning personal particular. But I think buying tarot cards means I can't really do that anymore, can I? Lately, I'm thinking that maybe the point of going over all the things that mattered most to you in the past 12 months is just to throw some different light on the big tangled mess of your care and attention, giving yourself a new way to move through all the stuff you've already moved through, a new orientation from which to point yourself at the endless unknown up ahead. Signs and symbols, structure. A foundation for your understanding to climb across and over, like vines on a trellis.

I've tried for the past week to sit down and make a more straightforward list, but my thoughts kept drifting three-card-ward - past/present/future. A lot of the music that I ended up leaning on the most this year was not new to the world, even if it was to me. All these past-albums shared a sensibility no matter what they sounded like or when they were from: they were strong enough to sweep you up, but full enough of open spaces that you could still hear yourself thinking in their midst. Those were the ones I listened to most on my record player, which is in my bedroom. The present-tense songs I liked most were all blazing pop - beats that kicked like fireworks and guitar riffs that rang through you like electrical current, songs that said go. These I listened to on my ipod; they pushed me forward through the city.

All the other stuff about this year that stuck with me the most - books, art, conversations, whatever - was in some way about what it means to create an understanding of yourself that's strong enough to be both fixed and changing, about being honest enough to admit that you're always and never the same way you were. Allowing yourself an open future, maybe, full of shifting selves and changing light. New arrangements. Variations on a theme.

So. 2015, in very very miniature. My favourite new albums were by Vince Staples, Grimes, Hop Along, Dej Loaf, Girlpool, Courtney Barnett, Drake, Magical Cloudz, Young Thug, Miguel, Justin Bieber, Sheer Mag, Carly Rae Jepsen and Kendrick Lamar. The pre-2015 things I listened to most were by Bill Callahan, Times New Viking, Nap Eyes, Joni Mitchell and Sylvan Esso. The best shows I saw were Girlpool, St. Vincent, Sheer Mag in a basement bunker, Dorothea Paas in someone's apartment, Nap Eyes in a church, and Yo La Tengo, very quietly, in a theatre in a haunted neighbourhood next to Lake Ontario. The best festivals I went to were Sappyfest and Halifax Pop Explosion, the best book I read was The Argonauts, and the best thing I swam in was the ocean. And the best thing I started doing was writing for this website. It's given me new ways to look at everything, and without it - without Sean and Jeff and Mitz and you, reading this - I would have been lost, adrift, worse-off, a lot. I owe you.

Posted by Emma at 3:19 PM | Comments (3)

December 22, 2015


two paths diverging in the woods

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - "I See a Darkness" (2012 version)

To all the weary walkers, the ditch sleepers, the merry gamboleers, the mummers, the net-menders, the late starters, the rutted and stuck; to the tramp steamers, the bindle-stiffs, rascals, rapscallions, and rogues; to the tree-planters, bicycle couriers, booksellers, cinema ushers cleaning popcorn bags; to the rats, pigeons, ants, and mice; to the seine fishers, oyster shuckers, berry pickers, and mushroom hunters: A reminder. This is the time of year when the days get longer again, when fortunes change, when the shadows begin to shrink. If the short days can grow long (and if a sad song can be made into a sunny sing-along), then there just might be hope for all of us, bedraggled and burdened at the end of another year.


(photo by Spike)

Posted by Jeff at 11:49 AM | Comments (4)

December 21, 2015


Here We Go Magic - "Tokyo London US Korea". An eager carousel, painted wood and neon light. Sit astride a rearing horse or else perhaps a patch of Japanese coastline, a wet slab of white English cliffs. A panorama is a carousel, in a way; every landscape is a ride. Spin the globe, fly across it, swim, drive, walk - you are carried all along by a bigger locomotion, the planet's rotation, an astrophysical motorik. A trail's a groove, a groove's an orbit; going in circles you always end up back where you started, at the beginning of the road. [buy]

Posted by Sean at 4:44 PM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2015


a photograph of an open safety pin

Here are 30 incredible punk songs from 2015. I don't make any claims about these being "the best," and they don't appear in any order other than alphabetical, but I love them all. Think of this more as a scrapbook than a list. So many great records came out and there were so many wild shows this year, so my hope is that this can be a small time capsule, a way to remember all the amazing songs that we lived through in the troubled year of 2015.

About "punk": I'm not a stickler for any style or definition. I see the international do-it-yourself punk scene as a free space for people to make whatever they want. On the list there's power-pop, street punk, hardcore, raw noize, pop-punk, even some twee. I hope you like these songs. Some are harsh listening, while others are tuneful, soulful; happy, sad. If you don't like one song skip ahead, and you might love the next.

Support the bands if you can! Go see them play if you get a chance. When you're there buy a shirt, or a seven inch. Bring a friend. Support the scene, for real.


All Dogs - "That Kind of Girl" [buy]
This record is hard melodic nouveau-nineties gold that perfectly balances catchy riffs with heavier bursts of fuzzy catharsis.

Barcelona - "Pasión" [buy]
The seven songs on Barcelona's debut EP epitomize the dense, meticulously-constructed HC sound that has emerged from the Catalonian capital over the past decade. Their singer spits hellfire all over these tracks. Her enraged, emotionally-raw delivery is the beating heart of this band.

Destruction Unit - "If Death Ever Slept" [buy]
Fuzzed out and roaring. This is what dragons listen to while flying over the wastes, looking for a village to burn to the ground.

DIÄT - "Nausea" [buy]
A post-apocalyptic shanty from a thermonuclear war that never happened. Eighties-vintage anxiety recreated with icy guitars and distant voices.

Downtown Boys - "Monstro" [buy]
Two fed up marching band sax players on the run got picked up by a political punk band while hitchhiking a few years ago; they joined forces and never looked back.

Frau - "No Time" [buy]
Frau's music lies on the borderlands between the cool affect of minimal punk and the psychological darklands of hardcore. On stage, the tension between these two poles exerts an enormous pressure. Each Frau song is a perfect black diamond, sharp and hard.

G.L.O.S.S. - "Outcast Stomp" [buy]
"The freaks are coming!" A twenty-first-century call-to-arms for freaky-ass folks of all stripes.

Heathers - "Downtown Cop" [buy]
"Downtown Cop" is narrated by an officer on the wrong side of history, sneering at the marching masses and protecting the status quo. Heathers know you have to understand your enemy before you can destroy them.

Ivy - "Head Business" [buy]
Information overload is a big headache, Ivy says. Let's know as much with our hearts as we do with our heads, alright? This NY band pulled out all the stops for their final seven inch.

Joanna Gruesome - "Last Year" [buy]
A lovers' argument in miniature: what starts with yells ends in sweet two-part harmony. This is sweater-wearing music for mix tapes and cool fall days and a certain kind of longing.

La Misma - "Kanizadi" [buy]
Hypnotic bass, siren-y guitar, and vocals in Portuguese. Starts slow and melancholic, then blooms into fist-throwing HC near the halfway point. This song keeps surprising from the first to the last.

Lightning Bolt - "The Metal East" [buy]
Twenty years in, Providence's Brian-trust are still exploring the outer reaches of their practice space and finding endless new dimensions.

Metz - "Spit You Out" [buy]
METZ are masters of repeating a part, upping the tension, until it feels like you're going to rip your eyes out if the song doesn't hit the rock-out part soon. In a good way.

Mommy - "Medicine Blues" [buy]
This Toxic State band's first seven inch is a haunting exploration of their personal experiences with the mental health complex. Pounding drums, vocals sung through sewer grates, rusty guitars. Goblin music.

Needles//Pins - "Bored" [buy]
As we wait for their sure-to-be-excellent third LP, N//P was kind enough to drop two hits on a split seven inch. They just keep outdoing themselves over and over again. You've got my heart Needles//Pins.

Obnox - "Grease" [buy]
Perfect soundtrack to a movie about going out and getting things done one bright Saturday. Crossing off the items on the to-do list: haircut, bank, post office, grocery store, then by nightfall hitting up the BBQ and getting blazed. Grease is no less than the stuff of life.

Orden Mundial - "El Gobierno / Desesperenza" [buy]
Electric shock, electric shock, electric shock. Orden Mundial still sound like they record in a closet on Majorca and they still make the most vital HC in el mundo.

Partner - "The 'Ellen' Page" [buy]
"Hot Knives" might rock harder, but the second song released by Sackville's finest is a hearfelt tribute to Halifax-raised megastar Ellen Page coming out of the closet, and gives me the most feelings. Spike says it may be the best Atlantic Canadian queer anthem since "Outport Lesbian." Most anticipated LP of 2016, for sure.

Pavilion - "In Your Hands" [buy]
The sound of rain turning to ice against your bedroom window. Haunting vocals, hard drums, moody times.

Poor Form - "Ain't Clean" [buy]
Poor Form play blackened pop punk with so much grit and heart and Vancouver dirt pressed into it. Legs's raspy voice was one of the biggest revelations of 2015 for me and every song on her band's seven inch is an instant classic.

Prag - "Winter Mute" [buy]
That point in the blizzard, when the snow is coming down so thick that the world disappears and all you see is white. Yeti tunes.

Rixe - "Larmes De Crocodile" [buy]
I missed Rixe when they played Loud House, which is good because now nothing will stop me from imagining that they are a band of mild-mannered silverback gorillas escaped from the Paris zoo, dressed in Fred Perrys and suspenders.

Royal Headache - "Another World" [buy]
Isn't this what we're all dreaming of? New Royal Headache music seemed unlikely at the dawning of the year, but here we are, with another scrappy small miracle.

Sheer Mag - "Fan the Flames" [buy]
Sheer Mag are an electric shock. Their scrappy songs overflow with soulful vocals, a wicked back beat, and spry guitars that unleash sweet solos at the drop of a hat. This band manages that impossible thing, sounding familiar without being like anyone else.

Shopping - "Straight Lines" [buy]
The first time I heard Gang of Four I couldn't believe that a rhythm section so bumping could be so anti-capitalist. I'm feeling that way again listening to Shopping from London. They bring all the punks to the floor with their funking bass and tight critique. (Thanks for the tip Erin!)

Tenement - "Feral Cat Tribe" [buy]
Wind blowing through a screen door on one of the first warm days. / Sitting on the porch and knowing you'll be seeing your friends soon. / Petting a cat that's not your own. (SST-style double album. Take that, Huskers!)

TV Freaks - "Thirteen" [buy]
Smooth destruction. Hardcore with no rough edges, perfect for old guys like me on the Metro ride to work. Their OXW 2015 set at the Dominion Tavern, where I wasted so many of my young nights, was perfect.

Ursula - "Relief" [buy]
That sleepy Sunday morning feeling, when you wake up at someone else's house, and then slip out to the diner for a cheap breakfast and sit remembering everything that happened the night before.

Vacation - "I Wish I Could Be Someone Else" [buy]
Vacation from Ohio destroy with their tuneful, amped up, snotty songs. "I Wish I Could Be Someone Else" is a back-to-school anthem for kids who dropped out long ago.

Vexx - "Sleeping in the Attic Again" [buy]
A song about living in a fucked up spot and needing to find a new place. This makes me think of all the broken houses in X songs, but Vexx have staked out their own real estate.

Thanks for reading and listening!

Love, Jeff

Posted by Jeff at 2:00 AM | Comments (4)

December 16, 2015

Asian grocery store.

(photo source)

Luna - "Chinatown" [Buy]

I was at this asian grocery store where I usually shop. I often see people who want to try out "exotic" recipes. I don't know it was because they saw Anthony Bourdain Layover or another show like Mind of a Chef on netflix. Don't get me wrong here. I like seeing people trying out new things in any format and I, myself, try out new things like oatmeal. I tasted like a baby puke but I appreciate it. I appreciate anther culture.

Once, I knocked over cans of coconut milk, and I was putting them back in the shelf. Some nice elderly lady asked me, "Which miso should I get? I'm trying to make miso soup." I understood the situation in 1 second that I looked like I worked there. I stood up and led her to the next aisle where several brands of miso are. "please follow me. it's in the next aisle."

"so there are several kinds of miso as you can see. Dark to medium to light miso. Each one is different. Is this your first time making miso soup?"

"Yes, my daughter made me once and I loved it!" she replied with big smile like Aphex Twin album cover.

"I would recommend this light miso to start with." I replied with smize of Tyra Banks.

"You also need something like bonito flake or kombu to make a stock with it." I continued.

"there is a bonito powder right here. This is a good start. If you wanna go all the way, next time, perhaps you can try making stock from scratch but I often use these powder bonito stocks and they are good" I continued with smiley face emoji in my mind.

"oh.oh...oh. thank you!" She said it like the end of the speech to finish the conversation. But I didn't get it. I was just excited that this lady was trying miso soup for the first time.

"You also want to get some seaweed. These dried seaweed are good. You can put a lot of things like shiitake, daikon, These dried goods are good...." as I turned around she was gone.

I stood there with dried good in my arms alone in this aisle like Will Smith in the movie, "I am Legend" in the apocalyptic world.

Happy holidays.

Posted by Mitz at 3:15 PM | Comments (2)

December 14, 2015


Big Nuz - "Tsege Tsege". It doesn't matter if all you have done is circles; you can still learn triangles. You can learn hexagons, squares. You can even learn spheres. Once, I thought I was planting a lily. In fact I was planting a fuchsia. I took a plane to Durban and when I came out through the skyway I was on a raft, on the sea. I was in the heart of a volcano. It wasn't a volcano, it was a mountain, Turrell's mountain. I don't mean that I was confused; I mean that I can accomplish the thing I didn't think I was accomplishing. You can accomplish the thing you didn't think you were accomplishing. You can do one thing and in fact be doing the other. If all you have been doing is circles then perhaps you have not been doing circles. Perhaps you've been doing rings. [video]

Posted by Sean at 11:49 PM | Comments (1)

December 12, 2015

Wanting In Common

Hop Along - "The Knock"
Hop Along - "Texas Funeral"

I found Hop Along on Sean's perfect magic year-end list, and I can't do much better than his description of Frances Quinlan's voice in "Powerful Man" - omnipotent, omniscient - but still. I have a crush, and if you don't write about those they dissolve you from the inside.

Some songs take as much time as you have to unfurl themselves in front of you; others take as long as they need and you just have to stand there and watch. But somehow these ones do both, anything, more, less, whatever you need. They fold themselves up tiny and tight until they fit into the palm of your hand, and then before you blink they're a tiger, an avalanche, a city, the whole sky. Hearing Quinlan's voice - how effortlessly it turns sandpaper-rough into trilling-sweet, sometimes on the same syllable - weave its way through these songs is like watching light scatter when it hits a prism. Plus that guitar, come on; the kind of crashing vulnerability that takes me apart every single time I find it, without fail. Bright fury in a bottle, playful and pleading, confident without ever being too comfortable.

You can use these songs to push back against something, if you need to, or to pull you forward through a feeling if that's what you're looking for. You can use the lyrics as an incantation, an affirmation, a password, none of this is gonna happen to me, none of this is gonna happen, or to understand the sweet, sad story Quinlan's telling. Whatever way you want, it works. It takes skill to make music this open - that means what it means, but lets you mean whatever you like alongside it. A rare, clear-eyed confidence to be this kind of generous.

[buy Painted Shut]

Posted by Emma at 11:37 PM | Comments (0)

December 9, 2015

Dorks and Nerds

Silver Dapple- "I hate my birthday" [Buy]

I was 15 years old and in the record store in Osaka. After discovering North American indie rock, I was just obsessed and insane about bands like Pavement and Sebadoh etc. I made a mix tape for myself everyday and took a long bike ride or walked my dog listening to my Walkman. I listened to music all day long, on my way to school, during lunch, after I got home, went to my room which shared with my older brother with only a curtain dividing us, I listened to music and made mix tapes like it was my job I labelled it and some tapes even had almost sames songs but in different order so that it sounded more refreshing just like iTunes shuffle surprises me nowadays. "sick flow!!" I told myself. I fell asleep listening to music on headphone and woke up when Nirvana secret track came on after 20mins of silence at the end of "Nevermind." That was everyday almost. Only thing was I didn't have any friends who were into similar music in my northern edge of Osaka small town.

Then, came to Canada for high school and I was excited mainly about meeting people who were into music. But no offense to small town in Canada, "Pavement? who? You need to listen to Our Lady Peace and Tea Party." Yes, I know I most likely sounded like a "music snob" and probably I sound like it now as well but I have to be honest and some people who are passionate about music, have experienced this feeling of finding someone with similar music taste especially in teenage years. Obviously, I made a lot of great friends who are not into same music as me. But sometimes, wished I could share my passion with someone.

I started university and first day, I went straight to campus radio station. I used to buy CMJ magazine with mixed cd which comes with and knew about North American college radio culture. I joined the radio station and got a radio show which was on cable FM station(later became FM station), I'm sure only 1 or 2 people listened to it since you needed to have a cable TV at home and connect it to stereo to dial in. Who does that? So I was basically introduced songs to myself, played songs to myself and made jokes to myself and signed off by saying "have a great week!" to myself. I didn't care. It was just pure fun. Same feeling as I was making mix tapes to myself, playing guitar along Sonic Youth songs after tuning my guitar randomly and I just called it alternate tuning in my bedroom and my brother told me to tune the guitar because it sounded stupid but I told him that he didn't understand my art.

At campus radio station, finally meet special friends who share same passion as you, you always longed during your teenage ears(years). Nerdy and dorky as me. That feeling.
Most I lost touch. But I often think about them. I wish them the best.

I guess I should stop now since I sound like Kevin Arnold from Wonder Years.

So to sum this up, Donald Trump wouldn't understand this feeling I'm talking about cause he is dumb.

The End

Posted by Mitz at 5:04 PM | Comments (1)

December 8, 2015


A cat in a Christmas tree

Darlene Love - "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"
RUN DMC - "Christmas In Hollis"
The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl - "Fairytale of New York"

The stereo broke at work. The place is all decked out with lit-up Christmas trees, wreaths, plastic boughs of holly, but there is no aural equivalent to all this visual mirth. This is a problem for me, because it's December and I actually like Christmas songs. Scratch that, I love them. I know the cool thing is to sneer at the fakery of it all, the pure show business of these cherished chestnuts. I often imagine the session musicians crowded together in air-conditioned rooms at the height of summer, banging out these arrangements. I used to hate Christmas songs too, but a few years ago something switched in my brain, like when you stare at an optical illusion long enough that you see it both ways.

It's amazing - a genre of music that you only listen to for one month of the year until you're sick of it and then it's gone until next year. Imagine if every month had its own catalogue of songs. It's a weird gamble for any song-writer, polishing something up, knowing that the song will only be played for one month out of the year, but hoping that it will be played for one month out of the year - forever.

So here are a few of my favourites, none of them deep cuts. Darlene Love's longing voice sets "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" on fire. This song is a pocket opera. Almost thirty years later, RUN DMC's "Christmas in Hollis" might still be the only hip hop track to feature the words "yule log," and the sampled horns from Clarence Carter's "Back Door Santa" give it a real strut. Finally, "Fairytale of New York" captures the true sadness at the heart of Christmas. Listening to the spiteful sparring of Shane McGowan and Kirsty MacColl has made me well up on the crowded Christmas Eve bus through the borderlands of Western Quebec and Eastern Ontario more than once.

Posted by Jeff at 10:32 PM | Comments (1)

December 7, 2015


These are my 100 favourite songs of 2015: songs I love more than fruitbowls, commas and national parks.

I follow just one arbitrary rule: that no primary artist may appear twice.

I made similar lists in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The best way to browse this list is to click the little arrow beside each song and then to listen as you read. The things you like you can then download by right- or ctrl-clicking with your mouse.

You can also download the complete 100 songs, in three parts:

Said the Gramophone is one of the oldest musicblogs. We try to do just two things, well: finding good songs, and writing about them. We don't mess about with tour-dates, videos or advertising. We post new songs and old songs, write impressions, stories, essays, clumsy dreams of what we hear.

Said the Gramophone has four authors: Emma Healey, Sean Michaels, Jeff Miller and Mitz Takahashi; this list is all Sean's dumb doing - don't blame the others for my bad taste.

If this is your first time at Said the Gramophone, I hope you'll bookmark us or subscribe via RSS. You can also follow me on Twitter or read my weekly column in The Globe & Mail.

Among these 100 artists, 38 are mostly American, 29 are Canadian, 18 are British, 3 are Australian, 3 are French, 2 are Nigerian, 2 are Swedish, and there is 1 Congolese, 1 Irish, 1 Kiwi, 1 South African and 1 Saharan act. This is the way it worked out; it certainly isn't perfect.

48 of the frontpeople/bandleaders are female-identified - the highest number, by far, since I started counting in 2011. 48 are male-identified, (at least) 1 is transgender, and there are 3 mixed-gender duos.

My favourite songs of the year do not necessarily speak to my favourite albums of the year. Songs and LPs are entirely different creatures. My favourite albums of 2015 were Fadimoutou Wallet Inamoud's Isswat, José Gonzalez's Vestiges & Claws, Ian William Craig's A Turn Of Breath, Drake's If You're Reading This It's Too Late, Arlt's Deableries, Julia Holter's Have You In My Wilderness and Carly Rae Jepsen's EMOTION.

Some songs that you heard in 2015 may have been omitted from this tally because I heard them before this year, and included them in my Best of 2014.

Said the Gramophone's Best Songs of 2015 - original image from Dungeons and Digressions

  1. Mbongwana Star - "Malukayi" [buy]
    In 2015, no piece of music so transfixed me as Mbongwana Star's "Malukayi". It summons an entire landscape. It moves like weather. Mbongwana Star is a group formed by two Congolese men in their 50s: Coco Ngambali and Theo Nsituvuidi, former members of Staff Benda Bilili, who play music from their wheelchairs. They recruited younger players from Kinshasa as well as the trip-hop producer Liam Farrell, who got his start with hip French new wave bands like Taxi-Girl. The result is extraordinary, incendiary: like Portishead, the xx or FKA Twigs, it seems like a whole new sound, a whole new dream of sound. It is the score of a city, with all its flashing lights, and the score of a countryside, with bonfires, bullfrogs, acres of black sky. It is a masterpiece of production: leaping voices, distant spirits, taut bass, ringing cymbals, the circling riff of Konono No 1's amplified likembé. (Thank you Michael Barclay.)
  2. Skrillex and Diplo ft Justin Bieber - "Where Are Ü Now" [buy]
    I suppose part of the marvel of this song is the surprise. That this collaboration between Diplo, Skrillex and Justin Bieber feels neither manic nor demented, that it doesn't pander. That it moves with such purpose. Some may be turned off by its palette of sounds - EDM, mainstream dubstep - but pop music shifts and slips; if you wish to track its treasures, you need to shift as well. You need to let your bias slip. Skrillex's drum sounds, his build and bass drop - on "Where Are Ü Now" these are stunning, sharply beautiful. This is music for moving to but it's also a kind of refracted blues. Bieber seems mournful, he seems almost lost, and that lostness gets chopped and subdivided, syncopated. When he calls out to his absent lover that calling gets manipulated, twisted into a kind of woodwind or birdcall. It's Justin's voice inside that "flute" hook. You can try to sing along.
  3. Majical Cloudz - "Downtown" [buy]
    A love-song that seems painted like a line across the horizon. A straight line, steady and even, almost indiscernible. Montreal's Majical Cloudz make their songs from synths and loops and then the sturdy baritone of Devon Welsh's voice. It is sturdy even when it is smitten, even when it's dotty. "Nothing you say / will ever be wrong," he marvels. "I'm running with you / as fast as I can / singing to myself 'I Want To Hold Your Hand.'" Welsh knows that he is love-sick. There is a reckless swoop to the way he sings. But devotions like these mend wild pleasure with quiet, almost heartbreaking sincerity. Despite the nods to Petula Clark, the lyrics about how "cool" and "fun" this feels, or Welsh's silly declaration that he's "going crazy / crazy for you", all this kookiness is mediated by quiet, radiant conviction. Perhaps it'll pass. Perhaps, one night, that clear horizon will disappear into a black sky. Welsh knows it could; he's a fool undeterred. "There's one thing I'll do / if it ever goes wrong," he promises. "I'll write you into all of my songs."
  4. Erykah Badu - "Hotline Bling (But U Cain't Use My Phone Mix)" [buy on iTunes]
    Drake did it first but Erykah Badu did it better, exchanging cool dejection for something more sad and more sly. Its central conceit is still the stuff of country songs: the memory a former lover's late-night calls, the way "that hotling bling / [could] only mean one thing". But Badu seems to have more remove from the situation; she's less forbearing with her recollection of her ex and his habits. She's funnier. And yet besides her evident wit, Badu imbues "Hotline Bling" with something else as well. There's a certain melancholy: old, cold melancholy, a wound scarred-over. (OK, Drake's video is still tops.)
  5. Grimes - "REALiTi (demo)" [buy Art Angels]
    Lush and beguiling, catchy as anything in Claire Boucher's catalogue before or since. Although Boucher kept working on "REALiTi", releasing another version on Art Angels, I'm much fonder of the demo - organic, darkly tropical, with "I'll Remember"'s synth strings and "Oblivion"'s sense of guarded momentum.
  6. Fetty Wap - "Trap Queen" [buy]
    Fetty Wap's not getting rich on lyrical originality. "Trap Queen" has all the subgenre's familiar themes - money, drugs, gangs, girls. But the New Jersey MC has a gift for delivering rhymes: each of "Trap Queen"'s lines rises and falls in a tidy arc; each one feels like a hook. Mix this with airy synths, chords poised at the edge of dancing, and you have a trap song meant for repeat and repeat and repeat, for wafting out the lowered window of a million passing cars.
  7. Sheer Mag - "What You Want" [buy]
    Emma wrote: This song sounds like it feels to wear your jean jacket and tough-guy sunglasses for the first time since the endless drag of winter; it sounds like you felt the first time some beautiful party genius taught you to call it a JJ instead of a jean jacket, to say "blaze a jang" instead of "smoke a joint." It sounds like my heart sounded the first time I ever played a plugged-in electric guitar, like a keyhole in the side of a tallcan, like your best friend biting the grass stains off your knees.
  8. Fadimoutou Wallet Inamoud - "Wana Le Nouveau" [buy]
    Music of the Sahara desert's after-dark, as an unwed woman sings over a group of men's low chant. There is a certain courting to these songs, I understand; this is not primordial music, nor prayer, it is as modern as ringtones, sung by young people kicking up dust. Inamoud is married now, she no longer sings, but maybe some of these men are still chanting their sigadah, thinking of her voice, remembering how it sounded in the air.
  9. Carly Rae Jepsen - "Run Away With Me" [buy]
    Finally EMOTION is released this week and I can tell you to buy it. Only if you like pop music, pop for sugar rushes in the blood, the simple satisfaction of a widely shared thrill. Only if you can admire a pop song that uses saxophone for all its velocity, saxophone or maybe synth-saxophone, it doesn't matter. "Run Away With Me" is tender and colossal, sweet and heavy, a sledgehammer swinging through a wall and the sun-kissed hills on the other side.
  10. Shura - "Touch" [buy]
    Soft and gorgeous R&B, full of longing, like a pearl, nearly perfect.
  11. Michael Feuerstack - "Clackity Clack" [buy]
    A song that unfolds like a tired-out fist, drums precisely stumbling. (While I'm mixing metaphors: the fiddle's a magician sawing your assistant in two.)
  12. Dilly Dally - "Desire" [buy]
    Hot and heavy as a fever: the shriek of guitars, Katie Monks' rippling lust, grunge incandescing in the dark.
  13. Kendrick Lamar - "The Blacker The Berry" [buy]
    A hip-hop polemic, monumental & funky & scalding. A song against white supremacy and all the ways it is upheld.
  14. Young Galaxy - "Body" [buy]
    Sumptuous dancefloor music - blurring glitter in the black of night. Sounds flicker and skitter as Catherine McCandless sings about absence, presence, the physical fact of an unreliable body. Just a tower of sounds, full of reach and wobble. (Full disclosure: Young Galaxy commissioned me to write a short story to accompany their terrific record.)
  15. CHVRCHES - "Empty Threat" [buy]
    CHVRCHES' songs like long columns of jewels, staggered gems, dotted lines on a night-black road, gleaming headlights on invisible hills, cats' eyes, cats'-eyes, one harvest moon and another harvest moon and did you know eclipses occur in sequence, regular sequence, once every xx months.
  16. Kiiara - "Gold" [soundcloud]
    Want and desire already cut up by disappointment, frustration. Snaps and droplets, space and reverb, the bone-on-bone blossom of a knee-on-knee collision. Emma called it like pure electrical current; hums through you head-to-toe, too dangerous to grasp bare-handed.
  17. José Gonzalez - "Open Book" [buy]
    José Gonzalez's outstanding latest album is as dry-eyed as the better part of his work; it's as serious, dusk-lit and meditative. Gonzalez is a singer-songwriter from Sweden but here he is deeply indebted to West African guitar music, Touareg song circles, riffs and handclaps born in the desert. (I, uh, also wrote about this song as the sci-fi story of a summer planet.)
  18. Justin Bieber - "What Do You Mean?" [buy]
    A song that lives or dies on its chorus - the play of the production, the pleasure of its darting. This playfulness makes up for the lyrics, where Bieber's like a hacky, misogynist stand-up comic. There's also something fascinatingly 'off', mildly clumsy, about the song's undergirding sound: that ticking clock, vaguely threatening, all of us trudging slowly toward death.
  19. Julia Holter - "Feel You" [buy]
    With stately strings and harpsichord, perfectly composed drums, Holter sounds as if she's standing at the crossroads between Haim's San Fernando pop and Judee Sill's Laurel Canyon folksong.
  20. Basia Bulat - "Infamous" [pre-order]
    A fizzing rocket, a fiery roman candle, a singer celebrating as her heart breaks in two.
  21. Dick Diver - "Waste the Alphabet" [buy]
    The clue is in the name: despite what you may assume, "Dick Diver" is a reference to the protagonist in F Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night. They are an Australian quartet playing brilliant, clever jangle-pop - only mildly raunchier than musical cousins like Belle & Sebastian and The Clean. But a song like "Waste the Alphabet" is much more than the sum of its influences: it's poised and catchy, thrilling, spinning on the head of a pin. And boasting one of the guitar solos of the year.
  22. Brandon Flowers - "Between Me And You" [buy]
    The Desired Effect, by Killers frontman Brandon Flowers, will be deeply disarming to anyone who loves 70s touchstones like Springsteen or Fleetwood Mac. Not because Flowers has the same gift for language - even a gem like "Between Me And You" has some lyrical clunkers. But the production is great and, more important still, the songs themselves are splendidly formed. Arcing verses, flowering choruses, small details that reward multiple listens; "Between Me And You" deserves a thousand jukeboxes, a million slow-dances, maybe even a couple tattoos.
  23. Kurt Vile - "Pretty Pimpin'" [buy]
    Despite the good-times chorus, Vile's lazy drawl, "Pretty Pimpin" is an unrestful song. Apprehensive, chafing, Kafka's Metamorphosis re-interpreted by Tom Petty. It seems like music for a road-trip but properly, probably, it's custom-built for a (nervous) breakdown.
  24. Rozi Plain - "Actually" [buy]
    What humble genius is this, mellow and pipey? This winter I will just curl up around Rozi Plain's voice, her magnificent bassline. (Previously.)
  25. David Bowie - "Blackstar" [buy]
    Ten minutes of sound that probably represent David Bowie's most future-facing music in 20 years. Luscious saxophone curls around Bowie's doubled and uncanny voice, mingling with thin synths, off-tempo guitars, flute, stabs of dub and acid house, complicated stop-start drum patterns that make it seem as if there's a Replicant at the kit. And yet "Blackstar "is seamless: I can't quite decide if it makes me feel bewildered or calmly, confidently serene.
  26. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - "The World Is Crowded" [buy]
    Blue-eyed soul recorded inside a digital watch.
  27. Julien Baker - "Something" [buy]
    What a break-up song. The sound of a heart just emptying out.
  28. This Is The Kit - "Silver John" [buy]
    A rosy apocalypse - folksong of pretty guitar, winding organ, Kate Stables' briared voice.
  29. The Acorn - "In Silence" [buy]
    A song of funky, uncanny folk - shaded voice, prowling bass, - and then suddenly the balance is upset, the avalanche triggered, all the air in the room rearranged by an exhilaration of drums.
  30. Tirzah - "Make It Up" [facebook]
    Tirzah sings in hopscotch sing-song over a skipping, spiritless vocal sample; she's asking her absent lover to come home but it's not clear that Tirzah really cares, that she even truly minds. The song's not about that loving entreaty, in the end: it's about the confusion of the thing, Tirzah's dazed presence and this dry, mesmeric mantra. Produced by Micachu's Mica Levi.
  31. Jamie xx - "Gosh" [buy]
    At first it's a bit like a Jamaican 45 crossed with a washing machine, but soon the clatter gives way to a warm, lazy keyboard melody - noodly and sunset-toned, drawn from a different landscape than the rest of Jamie's work. A balmy breeze; an unexpected guest; dumb contentment, floating in on a cloud.
  32. Yo La Tengo - "Before We Stopped To Think" [buy]
    "Before We Stopped To Think" was originally recorded by a band called Great Plains. Their version is winsome and jangly, with a thin line of synthesizer. Yo La Tengo, on the other hand, make the song drowsy and sincere, the kind of drowsy/sincere that happens at the very end of a night, in the early morning, when the stars are at their loudest, your voice is worn out. (Thanks, Charles Steinberg.)
  33. Christine and the Queens - "Saint Claude" [buy]
    French pop with the interesting (time-honoured) tactic of making the chorus en anglais - a break from what's come before, a change of affective key, a switch from frilled and elegant to something a little clumsier, vulnerable. The words themselves aren't great, or those soppy strings, but "Saint Claude"'s full musical landscape, that sunlight dancing on ice - it's enough to make this track compulsive, a little treasure.
  34. All Dogs - "That Kind of Girl" [buy]
    Jeff wrote, nouveau-nineties gold that perfectly balances catchy riffs with heavier bursts of fuzzy catharsis. I wrote something dumb about songs as physical things. Fact is, this is raw and open, proud, loud voices and surging guitars. (Thanks, Hamza.)
  35. Demi Lovato - "Confident" [buy]
    Lovato's swagger, the mountains of horns, percussion like a marching band, a crowd at an arena. And also: fingersnaps, glitches, "Beautiful People"'s gallop of pounding tom and overdriven bass.
  36. Janet Jackson - "No Sleep" [buy]
    "No Sleep" opens and closes with what is literally a quiet storm. Janet's first new song in seven years is absolutely sweltering. It'll steam up your windows, it'll tangle in your sheets. For thirty years, R&B like this has been keeping lovers up: from Janet to D'Angelo to Jessie Ware and now back to the youngest Jackson, showing off the power of murmurs, a certain BPM, rain and thunderclap.
  37. Receivers - "Ships & Lanterns" [buy]
    Pieces placed together, a still-life on the table. Hear a heart's bass guitar, a singer's rayed voice, a cannonade of bass and tom. Hear electric charge, raining harmonies, something like a melodica. Some songs you can sing; others you need to duck underneath.
  38. Lady Leshurr - "Queen's Speech 4" [buy]
    "Queen's Speech" is a series, not a song. Four volumes of freestyles - 1 2 3 4 - with more yet to come. "Volume 4" is the best of them: playful, confident, like a game that's already won. "I'm on the roads / caravan," she raps. "Lemme do this fast - Ramadan." Leshurr is an MC from Birmingham but her sense of rhyme and one-punch punchlines remind me of Lil Wayne (whom she quotes). If only Lil Tunechi were releasing work this giddy and alive.
  39. Ian William Craig - "Either Or" [buy]
    Distorted voices, tape whirr - this startling record like a clouded, indecipherable chorale.
  40. Langhorne Slim & the Law - "Wolves" [buy]
    There's a particular alchemy to making music in the tradition of the singer-songwriter. How do you make a song neither straight-ahead nor feral; balanced in the middle, bravely safe? "Wolves" is that, beautifully. Ragged but not too ragged. Soft but not too soft. A song about freedom, gauging and calibrating the compass-needle, in the footsteps of Arlo Guthrie, Billy Bragg and Bright Eyes. (Thanks, Charles Steinberg.)
  41. Tame Impala - "The Moment" [buy]
    Like a cruise missile, a sharklike super-weapon, something travelling on soundwaves to your inner ear. Somehow "The Moment" sounds louder, purer, realer than almost everything in the world. (I think it's the brilliant, ultramarine drums.)
  42. Drake - "Know Yourself" [buy]
    If "Hotline Bling"'s being represented by Erykah, Drake will stand with this. A song that feels like a dimly lit dream. "Running through the 6 with my woes"; prowling through the city with your crew; a track that asks for real things to stand & stay, for fake things to fall; that prowls and prowls and prowls and runs and runs, under tracking lights.
  43. Low - "What Part Of Me" [buy]
    Spend twenty years honing your craft, studying your books, practicing your scales, running your course, writing your rhymes, hitting your ball, repeating your tenses, learning your tools, tracing your circles, swimming your laps, dancing your steps, loving your loved ones, sitting on your cushion, carrying your weight, and then listen to all that you will have.
  44. Naytronix - "Mister Divine" [buy]
    Tune-Yards compatriot Nate Brenner abandons the quirky funk of his 2012 debut in favour of sleepy, summery dream-pop. These four minutes unfurl with almost perfect ease: gorgeous and lazy, oddly nostalgic, evoking The Sea and Cake, The Zombies, Yo La Tengo at their most intimate. I keep imagining "Mister Divine" as the soundtrack to an imaginary Peanuts special, Charlie Brown on a melancholy pilgrimage down the Camino de Santiago.
  45. Destroyer - "Times Square, Poison Season I" [buy]
    A kind of overture, introducing Poison Season's themes and leitmotifs, offering its most important lyric for the very first time. "Times Square!" Dan Bejar enounces, chewing the scenery, relishing the diphthong, turning the phrase's two syllables into three. But my favourite part of "Poison Season I" is the stuff that happens on this track and not quite anywhere else: the sighing synth; the bare, eerie piano motif; the thick, expressive strings, carrying more weight (and more grace) than they're later permitted to. Bejar begins with the word "Jesus" and ends with the words "Times Square!" but the poetry that happens in between feels drawn and quartered, measured line by the line. Each lyric is a balance of nonsense and intent, like notes to confuse a future descendant.
  46. Young Fathers - "Nest" [buy]
    Feel-good rock from a crew that is usually much more dour (and much more hip-hop). Here they proffer reassurances instead of threats, apologizing to everyone they've wronged. A little soppy but still I'll take it - they sound like a jollier TV on the Radio, with piano, cheers, the promise that a "pendulum has swung."
  47. Wolf Alice - "Bros" [buy]
    A track that seems drawn from the same universe as Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Maps" or Twin Sister's "I Want A House" - but stickier, more tangled, its longing hampered by tons of baggage. A song of friendship, barrelling friendship, kindred spirits in a three-legged race.
  48. Wilco - "You Satellite" [buy]
    Greatly benefiting from Nels Cline's comet-trail of electric guitar, "You Satellite" is like an object plunging through the atmosphere, ripped apart by winds. And Jeff Tweedy seems like nothing more than a distant narrator, a pensive stargazer; above his head, something bursts into flame.
  49. Olivare - "When I Look Around" [soundcloud]
    Olivare is the mysterious collaboration between an unsigned Montreal beatmaker, an outsider folk-singer, and one of Canada's most acclaimed bedroom producers. "When I Look Around", their first release, is just superb - a song of peace and Jesus, change and refinement, like Hold music for the space between limbo and what comes after.
  50. Alabama Shakes - "Dunes" [buy]
    This wonderfully peculiar song has Brittany Howard's pleading vocals and the whole band's thundering guitars, but beyond the drought and lightning storm there's above all a sense of mischief. "I don't know whose fuck to give," Howard sings, and you can hear the way she's balanced precariously between giving and not giving one F. Led Zep's seventies riffs are filtered up through the stuff of Wilco or Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Dunes' psychedelia seems founded on nothing more freaky than the fact of being a plain human being with a wacked-out human heart.
  51. The Weather Station - "Tapes" [buy]
    "Tapes" tells the story of listening to another person's songs; of hearing another person's voice, on a cassette, after their death. Tamara Lindeman sat and heard - the sound of footsteps, the sound of a "high, strange voice, the sound of a singer drawing a song into being." She sings: "Trying to sing what you meant, late at night - it was too important." Imagining the departed singer and their little recorder: the melody murmured into midnight air, before forgetting. But this line might also stand for what the Weather Station is attempting: trying to sing the same important thing, the same scant song, years later. Trying to hear and know and repeat what the other person felt; to be an echo, down the procession of the hours.
  52. Lil Mama - "Sausage" [video]
    Exultantly absurd, a banger and mash of reconstituted Vine clips, reappropriated raps and throwback hip-hop rhythm. Among its allusions: Slick Rick, Wu-Tang Clan, Kelis, Fetty Wap, Dionne Warwick, Mary J. Blige. If Kanye West had dropped this number, everyone'd be marvelling at his daring. Most of pop music rests on giddy juvenilia, and Sausage is assured, virtuosic, the magpie act of a brilliant collagist. Put it in your bun.
  53. Sophie - "VYZEE" [buy]
    Not unlike a squeaky handjob.
  54. Jessie Jones - "Lady La De Da" [buy]
    With its strings and sitar, Jones' voice like Grace Slick's, "Lady La De Da" obviously owes a lot to the past: to the days of white rabbits and red doors (painted black), crystal ships and pale blue eyes. The today-ness of it is subtler, hidden in the angle of the arrangements, the flavour of the production. Jones has recorded five minutes of acid soul, gorgeous and electrifying, that lives at once in 1967 and 2015. It's like going back to a familiar place and finding it completely changed.
  55. D.R.A.M. - "Cha Cha (original version)" [buy]
    Let us consider the possibility that "to cha-cha" is to peform a particularly tricky move on Nintendo's Super Mario 3. I present this song as evidence. Should the premise be borne out, we may soon discover that "swag" is a Minecraft building material and the "International Players Anthem" is a theme-song for UGK's Counter Strike clan. Admittedly, D.R.A.M. explicitly submits that the act of cha cha has something to do with nice folks in a Latin bar. In fact, "to cha cha" may mean to, uh, actually cha cha. Neither Mario nor Luigi appear in the video for the song. I'd posit that the plumbers are all implied. They are subtext. They are passing back and forth under the surface of this track, in bright green pipes.
  56. Kehlani ft Coucheron - "Alive" [buy]
    Kehlani's voice, her bandmate's guitar, her chorus-catchy, radio-friendly R&B - a secret gone kaleidoscopic, copied to a hundred thousand hard drives.
  57. Georgia - "Move Systems (Georgia vs Stella Mozgawa Drum Version)" [buy]
    Georgia's a London-based songwriter whose taste for battered, collagist pop recalls early MIA. She also plays drums. Here, she improves her debut album's best track by enlisting the help of another drummer, Warpaint's Mozgawa. Working together, "Move Systems" becomes an absolute avalanche of a song - rock'n'roll that spills down the slope, skidding on rhythms and the oil-black overdrive of its bassline. Georgia sounds furious, impish, all-powerful; she sounds like Cyndi Lauper remixing Nine Inch Nails.
  58. Natalie Prass - "My Baby Don't Understand Me" [buy]
    Easy to be seduced by Prass based solely on the arrangements - splendid orchestral soul, with great bass and guitars, horns and woodwinds. But on songs like this the songwriting's there, too - marvel at the chorus when it arrives.
  59. TUNS - "Throw It All Away" [website]
    A sensational cut from three superstars of 90s Halifax pop: the Inbreds' Mike O'Neill, Sloan's Chris Murphy, Super Friendz' Matt Murphy. Like a Beatles record revved up to today's hungry speeds.
  60. Alessia Cara - "Here" [buy]
    Sometimes a familiar sample is like a key into a lock - you're wide open, alert, undone by a memory. Cara's "Here" rests on the vivid presence of her voice, but for students of older songs it also benefits as well from a looped four seconds of strings. This is a track about a feeling most of us have known - alone in the corner of a party, not quite happy, introspective, suddenly grown - but it also becomes about whatever Portishead's "Glory Box" was about, whatever Tricky's "Hell Is Round The Corner" was about, whatever Isaac Hayes' "Ike's Rap II" was about. Songs exist in relationships with other songs; this song can be "here" and there, too.
  61. Arlt - "Les oiseaux cassent" [buy]
    One of the greatest bands in the world with another scratched jewel, another ruined canvas. A song of "breaking birds", wrong and perfect, like a pleasant miniature and a malignant ringing in your ears.
  62. The Dream - "Black Magic" [website]
    I fell really hard for "Black Magic", moved to pieces by its original video (which has since been removed from the internet). Through this lens, "Black Magic" was an anthem for social justice. Without it, "Black Magic"'s politics aren't exactly radical. But it's still a lovely humanist love-song, a return to form for Terius Nash after several years as a mediocre shit-head.
  63. The Wainwright Sisters - "Lullaby" [buy]
    Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche improve upon their father's 1973 original, slowing it down, emphasizing the contrast between comely chords and bone-tired exasperation. Whereas Loudon was an insomniac who had exhausted himself, Lucy and Martha sound like aunts and mothers at the ends of their ropes, singing gently through gritted teeth. "Shut up and go to bed / Shut up and shut your eyes / ... Shut up and count some sheep / do me a favour, don't bitch in your sleep." Bleakly hilarious, beautifully performed.
  64. Weaves - "Tick" [buy]
    I keep submitting to this track, lying down on the highway of song and getting run over. Its veering guitars are like black and yellow convertibles, fabulous hornets, leaving tire-treads across my day. Singer Jasmyn Burke (formerly of RatTail) exults in the noisy summer of it all - she shrieks like Corin Tucker or Jack White, throws her wailing radio into one of Toronto's ravines.
  65. Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld - "The Rest Of Us" [buy]
    A restless duet, Stetson's saxophone and Neufeld's violin out on the same search, lighthouse beacons sweeping the sea, flashlights in forest, and maybe, very slightly, the Doctor Who theme as well.
  66. Enya - "Echoes in the Rain" [buy]
    Enya returns to the site of "Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)", and who can blame her? So long as there are suckers for polished couplets, nifty hooks, synthy synths, synthy staccato strings, millionaires singing "hallelujah". (Previously.)
  67. Wizkid ft Drake and Skepta - "Ojuelegba (Remix)" [facebook]
    Fool winter into summer.
  68. Partner - "Hot Knives" [bandcamp]
    Emma wrote: Finding this song feels like one of those moments in a movie where the character wakes up and thinks, oh god, maybe it was all just a dream. And later, they dig in their pocket for their keys but instead they find something else. There's that look we all know, crossing over their face. And then they uncurl their fist, zoom in, and we see it: some token carried over from the other world, the better one. The gold coin, the note. Proof, shining. Incredibly, impossibly real. // This song is that, except it's about doing knife tokes.
  69. Michelle McAdorey - "Two Tickets" [buy]
    A voice high and wavering, a nod across the water to Isla St Clair and Sandy Denny. Taken from McAdorey's first album in 12 years, "Two Tickets" has a sound more country than folk - except for that voice, all the reflections in it.
  70. Hop Along - "Powerful Man" [buy]
    Frances Quinlan is omnipotent, omniscient, scaling buildings in a single yowl. And yet this noisy jam is a song of impotence, fear, retreat. The tension there - between agency and regret, a melody's question and its resolve. / (Thanks, Vinny Francois.)
  71. Yemi Alade ft Selebobo - "Na Gode" [buy]
    All this cheerful gratitude. Nigerian pop-star Yemi Alade makes it sound easy - "na gode," she sings, thank you in Hausa - as if getting over hardship is as simple as lifting your voice.
  72. Joanna Newsom - "The Things I Say" [buy]
    All of us have cherished artists whose roads diverge with ours. Newsom, once my favourite living songwriter, parted ways with me several years ago. That's OK; I am sad, not resentful. Many people love her recent wonders, those complicated story-songs, intricate and awe-inspiring, deep with references, pretty as Fabergé eggs. But I liked her more when she was stranger, when her music seemed less domesticated; when the songs were shorter, wronger, impulsive and direct. I need "Peach, Plum, Pear" more than "Sapokanikan". Accordingly, most of Divers isn't for me. Except for this. The lonesome chords, the backwards trick of the ending, the crooked images and perfect rhymes. "Our lives come easy and our lives come hard / we carry them like a pack of cards." I will take "The Things I Say"; I'll put it in my pocket.
  73. Ariel Sharratt & Mathias Kom - "Fuck the Government, I Love You" [buy]
    A stupid, genius love-song; a New Year's tale of anti-folk, courtship, wine, rap and revolution. Burning Hell's Sharratt and Kom abandon conventional meter to find romance in awkward places, and it's outstanding.
  74. Carnage ft ILoveMakonnen - "I Like Tuh" [buy]
    As you may have noted above, I have a deep affection for songs that are dumb and also sincere. Something about the decision to use lousy tools for earnest ends; it's not unlike the Jackass series, someone's idea that "the best way to make a piece of genuine entertainment is to punch myself in the face." There's an absurdity to that, a sweetness. Here, tenderhearted ILoveMakonnen repeats the same few lines over and over, stupid lines, stupid repetition, but there's a charmingly childlike aspect to his singsong explorations, as if he might discover something new by singing it a little different. For a beat, Carnage takes a slobbering club wobble and appends an unexpected piano coda - like the comedown from an acid trip, universal revelation in a shiny squib of guano.
  75. Katie Moore - "Baby Can I Hold You" [buy]
    This Tracy Chapman cover, by one of Canada's loveliest singers, is full of sorrow and aglow with hope. The performer has had years to consider her apology. "Words don't come easily," she concedes."Like, 'I love you.' / I love you." But hope is a double-edged thing. Perhaps, after three easy minutes, the listener will regret the comfort they drew from that gleaming rhodes and welcoming guitar, from Moore's voice, from the rising tide of violin. Perhaps, after three easy minutes, they will find themselves sitting in uneasy silence. Yes, hope is a double-edged thing. It is a reason to keep going, a barricade against despair. But it's never a promise. There's no guarantee of a happy ending.
  76. Deforesters - "A Song for the Reptoids of Denver International Airport to Sing" [buy]
    Giddy, raucous pop-hardcore from Toronto, painted as brightly as the murals around the corner from DEN airport's baggage claim. For fans of Titus Andronicus, Constantines, and all the heavier things. Set it as your alarm clock. (Thanks, Sam Sutherland.)
  77. Domenique Dumont - "La Bataille de Neige" [buy]
    Strange soundtrack for a snowball fight, but so it is: a new song like an old song, half-coconut clip-clops and a dying dub 45, paradise on pause.
  78. Bully - "I Remember" [buy]
    An exultant fuck-off, a scoaring self-inventory, a terrified goodbye, an anguished asking, or none of the above, while guitars cry havoc and the black sky doesn't give a shit.
  79. Jamie Woon - "Movement" [buy]
    Woon's the true inheritor of Justin Timberlake's ambitions circa FutureSex/LoveSounds; "Movement" is soulful, funky and softly experimental, Timbaland filtered through dubstep's sounds, with a fourth-minute twist.
  80. Adele - "When We Were Young" [buy]
    The chorus to Adele's "Hello" was one of the very best things released this year; too bad the rest of "Hello" is such an agonizing snooze. You don't want it in your home collection: better you go on hearing it out in the world, scraps of mighty refrain and none of the verses. Or listen to a marching band do it. But the best full song on 25 is this, "When We Were Young", written with Canadian indie troubadour Tobias Jesso Jr (for more of him, see last year). Adele's still shooting those arrowheads of longing, those short perfect darts, but even in its humbler moments the song gives off some glints. The bassline, the heart-tugging chords, it feels like something torn from a Muppet Movie songbook. In a good way.
  81. DeJ Loaf ft Big Sean - "Back Up" [buy]
    Bare as a hand in the air, empty, stop-sign. DeJ Loaf's rhymes fit like LEGO into IRock's rolled-back drum machine; looks back to DJ Clent with a steady gaze, no hesitation.
  82. Ought - "Passionate Turn" [buy]
    "Passionate Turn" is a song about a relationship that died in the distance between home and the road. But I can't work out if it seems sad or happy, triumphant or trounced. Part of the song's ambivalence is in the way Tim Beeler Darcy sings. Chameleonic, swinging from proud to forlorn, angry to wry, it's as if Darcy's face and feelings aren't quite in sync. The other part is Ought's music: these rangy guitars, warm but discordant, with a fortitude passed down from punk rock. Perhaps the passionate turn, the moment of clarity, is neither a victory nor a defeat; just the shape of things as they are.
  83. ANOHNI - "4 Degrees" [buy]
    ANOHNI is Antony Hegarty, whose incredible, fluttering voice is at the forefront of the group Antony and the Johnsons. As ANOHNI she works with the electronic/dance producers Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never, building a soundscape of terrifying scale: smashing drums, boiling synths, tidal waves of brass. The title is an allusion to the temperature rise that experts say would doom us, and Hegarty's refrain - "It's only four degrees" - is both the activist's rallying cry and the polluter's excuse. She never lets herself off the hook. "I want to burn the sky, I want to burn the breeze," she sings. "I want to see the animals die in the trees." Angry, mournful, awake to the fact that so long as we are not saving the world, we are damning it.
  84. Quivers - "Ridin' on the Hearses" [buy]
    "Ridin' on the Hearses" commemorates a partnership with happy, defeated noisiness; with the Go-Betweens' soft-shoed swagger. A chorus that splits open beautifully, "You and I will go ridin' on the hearses / til we break down." And horns at the bridge, waiting for the guitars."What is love but a series of curses? / In the end it's always worth i-i-it." The slipperiness of the end of that line, the perilous slide. Jumping a fence, you sometimes get cut.
  85. OMI - "Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn radio edit)" [buy]
    This trifle was quite possibly the song of summer 2015. Like a kite, it seemed to get caught on every gust of air. Completely inoffensive but occasionally there's a need for that: a coconut water, a Werther's original, perfectly & temporarily satiating, something that won't leave a mark.
  86. Petite Noir - "Chess" [buy]
    An R&B of subtle tactics, pieces of rock'n'roll, genders slipping, voices darting, furtive and big-hearted.
  87. Danny L Harle - "Awake for Hours" [buy]
    PC Music's Harle with a song that sounds like a crashing jukebox, a remix of a remix, joyful & cartoony & smokin', banana-peel, virtuoso. (Previously.)
  88. The Adam Brown - "Can't Sleep" [buy]
    Years in the making, the Adam Brown's album Sometimes I Try follows a full cycle of alternative rock trends. Back when the band got started, the kids were thronging to exultant, catchy guitar hooks - from Nada Surf, Sloan and Fountains of Wayne CDs to commercial classics by Weezer and Foo Fighters. Yet electric guitars lost ground in the late 2000s: chugging power pop gave way to digital drum machines and acoustic ho hey. Happily for this song, everything is nineties again in 2015: plaid's back, and The X-Files, and the Adam Brown's glorious, cascading guitars.
  89. Svantana - "Workin' In A Cocktail Bar" [soundcloud]
    A silly, brilliant remix of the Human League's 1981 single, "Don't You Want Me", with most of the words taken out. As idiotically perfect as a cocktail umbrella, a diamond-cut piece of fruit.
  90. The Weeknd - "Often" [buy]
    Sometimes the Weeknd's particular flavour of misogyny is too much for me. Here it's OK: there's enough desire in it, power uncertainly held. Sex and drugs, a hook-up like eyelids over eyes. Emma an essential read.
  91. Sufjan Stevens - "All Of Me Wants All Of You" [buy]
    Not unlike the Weeknd, in its way; something dark and ambivalent in "All Of Me Wants All Of You"; sex and text-messages, a thick cloud you're dwelling in. My favourite on Carrie and Lowell for the confusion at its heart, the not-quite-right; powerful, ugly, pretty.
  92. Beirut - "Gibraltar" [buy]
    Zach Condon sings a line of maybes, ambivalences, nothing Beirut or Gibraltar about it. A chunky piano riff, shaker and drumskins, the snake-snap of percussion.
  93. Ty Dollar Sign ft Charli XCX and Tinashe - "Drop That Kitty" [buy]
    Sometimes you find that part of your soul is yearning for a track about moving body-parts around. As precise as jawbreakers from a jawbreaker machine.
  94. Deradoorian - "A Beautiful Woman" [buy]
    Prismatic guitar-riffs and Angel Deradoorian's refracting voice, Alice (of Wonderland) after her first handful of cake. (Thank you again, Michael Barclay.)
  95. Marie-Pierre Arthur - "Rien à faire" [buy]
    Québec's Marie-Pierre Arthur in an homage to Fleetwood Mac, heart full of verve. (Thanks, Kevin Laforest.)
  96. Tori Kelly - "Nobody Love" [buy]
    Hopeful and rainbow-coloured, a love-song in sidewalk chalk.
  97. Coldplay - "Birds" [buy]
    Coldplay don't have anything to teach us. But they're still learning, now and then: new sounds, faster gallops, a motorik backing for those wistful couplets, Edge-like guitars, that supervised cresting.
  98. Mac Demarco - "TheWay You'd Love Her" [buy]
    A song like a very wobbly garden. Or like a melting bouquet, an ice-cream cone, a warped record by lonely Teenage Fanclub. DeMarco's abandoned the Montreal sound for a Brighton beach breeze: he's sailing or sallying, moony-eyed, askin' for a girl or a guitar solo to take a risk on him. This is, I would say, a ditty. Slap it on a flexi disc and send it in the mail.
  99. Cosmo Sheldrake ft Anndreyah Vargas - "Rich" [buy]
    Ramshackle hip-hop, whimsical and light, redeemed by every time its cat purrs.
  100. Jib Kidder - "Appetites" [buy]
    Stuart took the bucket and and went out into the yard. Across the pungent mud and over the pricking fence, into the shadow of the barn. There were tiny starry twinkles at the corner of his sight. The sheep smelled like sheep. They baaaed like those toys at the shop on high street, a sour sound like cherries. Stuart put down the bucket. He thought to himself, I am high. He rubbed his face and fetched one of the sheep, grabbed it by the collar, but then he had to let it go so he could rub his face again and plug in the razor. Sun was roaring into the barn through the gap in the rafters. Straw was flying like ticker-tape. The baaaas like cherries. The sheep looked this way and that. It smiled like a happy grandma. It was skinny and weird, hot and animal. Stuart felt like a field of cotton, a field of soft fluffy cotton like you see on TV.
And that's 2015's century of songs, or the way they seem today. There are so many that didn't make it, that I wish I were pointing you to. Thank you to everyone who sent some favourites in. There will be so many I've missed (there are so many I'm already remembering). Maybe make your own suggestions in the comments.

At Said the Gramophone we spent the year writing about as many wonderful songs as we could, and old songs too, treasures kept in chests. If you're new to the site, please come again (or subscribe). We update almost every weekday, penning tales about the tunes that make us think YES

Thanks for reading, sorry for the broken links, please support these artists with your money. (Invest in things that are important.) Be kind to each other, burn things down, do better.

Posted by Sean at 9:00 AM | Comments (24)

December 2, 2015

Attention K-Mart Shoppers

It's so interesting things we didn't care or didn't like, it becomes fascinating over time. Maybe it's just nostalgia.(even though I didn't grow up here we had a similar music in department store in Japan as well)

When I was a kid, I used to be annoyed by my dad's smell after work, mix of cigarette and his smelly feet that is similar to rotten squid. My dad used to wake my brothers and I by putting his feet by our face. Its aroma was so strong. It woke us up.

I used to be frustrated by my cat, knocking over a glass of water on the side table while I'm telling him, "don't do it!" He knocked it over anyways while looking into my eyes. My cat waking me up sitting on top of me with his asshole right in front of my face. I accidentally petted his ass thinking it's his head.

Maybe I'm just romanticizing the past. As I write this in my cheap Craigslist find memory foam while listening to K-Mart tapes, it's bringing back a lot of memories. Who knows? If I go back in time to actually face my dad's feet, I would probably get annoyed but I will hug him and tell him I love him and lately, after long day of work, my feet also started to smell like him, rotten squid.

I'm sure most of people heard about this but here is an incredible collection of K-Mart store music. Enjoy this little time machine. Here.

Posted by Mitz at 3:25 PM | Comments (1)


photo of legs walking on sidewalk

"The Ghost" - Hank Wood and the Hammerheads

I woke up with this song in my head and it followed me through my rushed morning routine of coffee, English muffin (peanut butter and honey), brushing teeth, saying goodbye to the beloved. Out on the street it kept running through my mind. It starts with the demonic cry of the Farfisa, and then hits the ground running with the first ratatat of cowbell and doesn't let up. All these months after the record dropped I still have no idea what this blast of wild noise is about. Is it about being a ghost or being haunted? Life is too fast to slow down and figure everything out, Hank Wood and the Hammerheads move at that speed, the rapid movement of the underslept morning ritual. Speed-walk to the train, down to the platform, run to the open doors of the Metro and the whole time you're haunted by something. The ghost, the ghost, the ghost, the ghost, always one step behind and almost catching up.

(buy LP / download)

(photo by Spike)

Posted by Jeff at 1:20 AM | Comments (0)