The Top 100 Songs of 2015, Part Two: 80 — 61

Here we are for part two. Response was unreal last week, thanks for checking it out and sharing it around. Here we go again! Part one here.

80. The Sidekicks – Everything in Twos

“Everything in Twos” turned up less than a month into 2015; dropped its bags and set up shop. It wasn’t going anywhere – nor should it have. Ducking and weaving through shimmering guitars and bouncing drums, it’s the type of power-pop that packs lyrical density to complement the bright, bursting tone; straight from the John K. Samson and John Roderick school of songwriting. Once you’ve surrendered to its wide-eyed charm and heartfelt, harmony-laden chorus, there’s no going back. It clocks in at 2:47, but you’ll be under its spell within the first 30 seconds – or your money back, guarantee.

79. FIDLAR – 40oz. On Repeat

The cheap beer has run dry, there’s no cocaine left and FIDLAR are not as stoked on the whole ‘stoked and broke’ thing that they were a couple of summers back. They’re still making belligerent, snotty garage pop-punk at its core, but the opening number on August’s Too saw them get a little more up-close and personal with their feelings – anger, depression, confusion et al. A dash of wurtilizer and toy piano is just enough to note growth and maturation on their part. Not a complete reinvention – because, duh, FIDLAR – but it keeps you guessing. Listening, too.

78. Bad//Dreems – Bogan Pride

Sure, these Adelaide natives enjoy a torn flanny and a smashed tinnie as much as the next bloke. Even with this in mind, Bad//Dreems are acutely aware of their native land’s major issue with hyper-masculinity. As the guitar scratches urgently against a pounding punk beat, “Bogan Pride” tears down beer-swilling muscle junkies with bitter, unrepentant fury. The irony of more of these types attending Bad//Dreems shows as their profile continues to (deservedly) rise probably won’t be lost on the band. At least they’ll always have this. Bonus points: The only song in the list to feature an exasperated “FUCK’S SAKE!”

77. Brendan Maclean – Tectonic

With synth arpeggios that orbit the planet and gated snare that could knock out Phil Collins in a single hit, “Tectonic” is the furthest that Mr. Maclean has ever ventured from the piano. Much like when Tim Freedman whipped out a keytar in the second verse of “Thank You,” the crowd was confused. But then, they cheered! And oh, how they danced! “Tectonic” is a pulsing, twirling piece of interplanetary pop – a shot in the dark that resonates in high definition. You could say the song was how Brendan got his groove back if only he’d never lost it.

76. Philadelphia Grand Jury – Crashing and Burning, Pt. II

Five years ago, the Philly Jays premiered a new song on tour entitled “A New Package for You,” another archetypal rush of knockabout indie-pop with a wild side and a spring in its step. For the band’s comeback album, the song was resurrected – a new hook, a slightly-slower tempo, a new hair-metal guitar break into the bridge and a bit of sprucing up here and there; hence the “Pt. II” suffix. Its origin story alone is indicative of how the track encapsulates their past, present and the future – it’s “A New Package” in a new package. Get excited.

75. EL VY – Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, with Crescendo)

The National’s Matt Berninger hasn’t always written zingers (lest we forget “Sometimes, you get up/And bake a cake or something” or “Standing at the punch table/Swallowing punch”), but initial listens to his side project’s first single will have you scratching your noggin over whatever mumbo-jumbo he’s spouting off. ‘Triple Jesus’? ‘A saltwater fish from a colourblind witch’? Who knows? Moreover, who cares? The thing about “Return to the Moon” is that it makes perfect sense in clear spite of itself. It’s a pop oddity; a guitar swagger, an off-beat handclap.If Berninger’s enigmatic charisma can’t win you over, perhaps nothing can.

74. Best Coast – Feeing OK

Five years ago was the summer that Best Coast’s debut, Crazy for You, was the ultimate girl guide – an album full of lyrics to quote endlessly on Tumblr while others would reblog and add the phrase “figuratively me!” Not to discredit that album whatsoever, but the best parts of the band’s third, California Nights, are when they’re tackling some of the bigger issues than boy problems and weed. On the album’s opener, Bethany Cosentino laments being there for everyone except herself; learning slowly but surely how to start putting her well-being first once again. It’s figuratively a great start.

73. Sweater Season – Charley

For a band quite figuratively less than a year old to be delivering a song as confident in nature as “Charley” is the equivalent of your infant child skipping the ‘goo-goo’s and ‘ga-ga’s entirely and skipping ahead to reciting a Shakespearian sonnet. In one swiftly-paced and smartly-written piece of proto-grunge indie, the band establishes a dual guitar tone to kill for – all sunshine and radiation – while simultaneously tossing killer one-liners like “I forget what I regret” – later transmogrifying into “what I have left,” for full effect – on top, almost as an afterthought. Damn baby geniuses.

72. The Sidekicks – The Kid Who Broke His Wrist

Steve Ciolak has never shied away from deeply-personal writing – it’s where he embraces it the most that his songs shine. That being said, there’s something about the way he reminisces on childhood spent and a youth now lost to a man on the verge of his thirties that, for whatever reason, feels somehow – importantly – different. It resonates in a way one might not initially expect – perhaps to do with how he still sees so much of himself in the boy that he once was; still finding himself unable to make a proverbial fist. Heartbreaking – and bone-breaking.

71. Citizen – Heaviside

For a band that used to recall acts like Sunny Day Real Estate and Jimmy Eat World, it’s strange that Mogwai and post-Deja Brand New are immediate comparison points when discussing the quietest moment from Citizen’s fascinating second LP. Yes, it’s a departure – and a major one at that – but the faded, distant shimmer of the guitar and the immediate, raw-nerve vocals that feel as though we have cut to the core of what this band is – and, more importantly, what it can be. For a song about purgatory, Citizen sure know where they’re headed on “Heaviside.”

70. Rihanna feat. Kanye West and Paul McCartney – FourFiveSeconds

A Barbadian, a black skinhead and a Beatle walk into a bar… yes, the year’s most unlikely combo were also behind the year’s most unlikely pop smash. Not that these three haven’t seen a hit or two in their lifetime – least of all Macca – but it was the manner in which “FourFiveSeconds” presented itself that made for such an intriguing prospect: Quiet. Unassuming. Raw. Soulful. No braggadocios raps, no “na-na-na”s, no nostalgia. Just an unplugged, intimate moment with true music royalty. A true career highlight for each – and given their combined history, that says a remarkable deal.

69. The Smith Street Band – Wipe That Shit-Eating Grin Off Your Punchable Face

The night Tony Abbott was elected, The Smith Street Band played a sold-out Corner Hotel, telling their captive audience that this was not a man to be trusted or one that spoke for them. In the year of Abbott’s demise in the public eye, it began with this furious, damning five-minute suite detailing his evil, hateful ways in explicit detail. It’s the angriest song the band has ever recorded – and, as it stands now, their most important. “A change is gonna come,” Wil Wagner warned, echoing sentiments of the late Sam Cooke. Less than a year later, it did.

68. Seth Sentry – Violin

No-one likes to see the clown crying. When Seth Marton isn’t goofing off, flirting with waitresses or talking about hoverboards, he’s capable of eloquent and passionate introspect. An open letter to an absent, arrogant father, “Violin” is Seth’s most private and painfully-personal song. As Marton’s cathartic furor rains down, so too does his discontent and malaise over how things have panned out. The song’s lynchpin comes in the form of its first and last line – which are one and the same. It brings the song full circle, leading one to hope against hope the bastard hears every last word.

67. White Dog – No Good

From the warehouses, garages and four-track recorders of Sydney, White Dog emerge with fists swinging and teeth sharpened. “No Good” seethes. It radiates from the back of cracked, split-open radio speakers. It prowls the streets of the inner-west wielding a switchblade. It’s the loudest, rawest and most primal sound to erupt from the DIY punk scene this year – and most other years, too, if complete honesty is allowed. If you’re not getting the message already – or maybe you just weren’t paying attention – remember this: “No Good” is the antithesis of its own name. That’s punk as fuck.

66. Major Lazer feat. DJ Snake and MØ – Lean On

Diplo is King Midas – everything he touches becomes gold. DJ Snake is King Henry VIII – he’s a wild motherfucker that’ll chop people’s heads off for the thrill of it. MØ is the lady of the lake – she holds the sword with all the power. By some bizarre head-on collision, the three have been pitted against one another in a three-way dance – and everybody wins. “Lean On” was, for many, the highly sought-after ‘song of the summer.’ More importantly, it was an assertion of pure dominance for both the charts and the dancefloor. Just go with it.

65. The Story So Far – Nerve

The best pop-punk right now is made by kids raised on Through Being Cool that are through being cool. Beyond empty slogans and Tumblr drama lies music that can be artistic, cathartic and genuinely engaging. The Story So Far have evolved into such an act, having grown up before their audience’s eyes and winding up on the wrong side of their 20s with a bad attitude and some killer riffs. Subsequently, “Nerve” stands as one of the most righteously-angry songs of both TSSF’s canon and the calendar year. Any self-respecting rock fan needs to hear them out on this one.

64. Endless Heights – Haunt Me

When Joel Martorana gave up screaming and turned his attention to singing two years ago, it was a confusing and suspicious move to some genre stiffs. As his voice rings out on “Haunt Me,” however, one struggles to recall Endless Heights without it being there. It suits the hypnotic drone of the guitars and the brisk drumming to absolute perfection, and presents itself as further evidence that the change in direction for the band was undoubtedly the right decision to make. Succinctly, “Haunt Me” gets a lot of work done in a considerably-short time. The power of Heights compels you.

63. Justin Bieber – Sorry

It takes a lot for a man to own up to his mistakes – especially if that man was, up until quite recently, a boy despised on a global scale. With an A-team of producers spreading the good word on his behalf – in this particular instance, Sonny “Skrillex” Moore – Bieber’s path to redemption is a gruelling, arduous one for us to undertake. As long as songs like “Sorry” keep turning up, however, the path shall be paved with gold. Anyone not left dancing in the spirit of the song’s phenomenal video just isn’t Beliebing hard enough in themselves.

62. Josh Pyke – Be Your Boy

Sure, he’s a bit more Smooth FM than Triple J these days, but there’s a lot to be said for the fact Josh Pyke has never changed his stripes for anyone. He’s always been a hopeless romantic, a dreamer and an old soul – and all of this entwines beautifully on what is unquestionably his best song in years. Layered percussion and cooed backing vocals prove to be a warm bed for Pyke’s rekindled-youth flame to rest upon; and its sweetly-sincere chorus will do the rest of the job in worming its way into your heart. Ahh, Pykey. You’re alright.

61. Silversun Pickups – Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)

When photos of Silversun Pickups first surfaced, many thought that the voice they were hearing belonged to bassist Nikki Moninger. Naturally, they were in for a world of shock when they inevitably saw Brian Aubert step up to the mic, but “Circadian Rhythm” is a Sliding Doors moment of sorts that shows what life would be like if it was actually Moninger that took the lead. As luck would have it, it’s a total delight – a more subdued and intimate moment from a band that normally go to 11. This, indeed, is a dance well worth immersing yourself in.

***

Part three up next Monday! 

Don’t forget you can download the podcast version of Part Two here.

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INTERVIEW: Passenger (UK), February 2011

I can honestly say that of every artist to completely explode on a global scale of the past few years, no-one has deserved it more than Mike Rosenberg. All the dude has ever had is a guitar and some dreams. Now he’s playing arenas. How many people get to say that? Like, make what you will of the guy’s music. It’s not for everyone – or, maybe, some people don’t like it because it is for everyone. Whatever the case, you’ve got to hand it to the guy for his goddamn hustle. I’ll always love Mike, and interviews like this are one of the many reasons why.

– DJY, October 2014

***

Mike Rosenberg doesn’t do interviews. This isn’t to imply that he is stuck up or pretentious or anything of the sort. Rather, when Rosenberg – better known to most as Passenger – is scheduled to do these “interview” things, he throws that idea out the window and engages you in conversation. None of this I’m-an-artist pedestal – Mike, an expat Brit who now spends most of his time in our fair country, is just an ordinary guy who just happens to make extraordinary music.

“I’ve been pretty busy, man,” he says when it comes to his work as Passenger. “Lot of touring last year -did shows with Boy & Bear and then my own tour, which was cool. I did Woodford [Folk Festival] in the new year, did some shows with Josh Pyke, lots of busking, writing, recording…just smashing it, man. It’s been good fun, though!”

Perhaps it’s this level of activity and productivity that has kept Passenger’s profile growing at an exponential rate. Additionally, perhaps it’s his warm and friendly nature that has seen him buddy up with some of Australian music’s biggest names on his second studio album, Flight of the Crow. Every single song is a collaboration with another act – from Philadelphia Grand Jury to Dead Letter Chorus, from Katie Noonan to Kate Miller-Heidke, Matt Corby, Lior, touring buddies Josh Pyke and Boy and Bear… it just goes on like this. Sure, he’s probably been asked a thousand times over but how exactly does one go about making such fast friends?

“Well, I paid a lot of people a lot of money, and I threatened to kidnap as well,” says Rosenberg, his tongue lodged firmly within cheek. “Really, though, dude, it was just one of those things. I knew Lior and Josh through mutual friends, I met Boy & Bear and Matt at a gig. This is the honest truth – it was a really fucking organic process. I haven’t got a label, I’m not signed to anyone, it wasn’t some big PR stunt where we came in with hundreds and thousands of dollars. It was literally just an idea that came about and just went from strength to strength. I was just lucky enough that people with such talent got involved and were so open to being involved with a project like that.”

Much has also been made of the context in which Flight was recorded, too – Rosenberg funded the entire recording process with money made from his extensive busking, something he still does every other week wherever he can. “The reason I did that was for the music – there was no other reason,” he comments. “I think people responded to that. If it had been from any other place, I don’t think it would have been as successful. It all took awhile, a few months or so. The upside of doing something like that, though, is that you’ve got no-one to tell you what songs go on or what should be on the cover or any of that kind of stuff. All that hard work is really paying for creative freedom – and, to me, that’s the most important thing.”

What advice does Rosenberg have for any young buskers who wish to follow in his footsteps and try the same thing? His answer is simple: “Fucking go for it, man!” He continues: “It can make you feel pretty weird, but it’s such a good way of improving -playing-wise, as well as learning to perform in front of people. You’ve got to develop a thick skin, you really do – but it’s so good for you. In music, there’s so many fucking knock-backs and set-backs, you get excited about something and then it falls through. In a really funny way, busking kind of hardens you up. It helps you to deal with that side of things.”

Only a matter of months after finishing his own headlining tour, Mike is back on the road once more this month for the One For The Road tour, co-headlining with his friend Ohad Rein – better known as Old Man River. “He was a guy that I had recommended to me when I was making Flight of the Crow,” recalls Mike on how he and Rein first met. “I’d heard his name thrown around a lot, and I’d heard his music and really liked it, but we’d never had a chance to hang out. It turned out that he has the same booking agent as me, so we met up a bunch of times and it seemed like a really good idea. He wanted to go out with just an acoustic guitar, and I said that was my kind of thing and it just went from there. Too easy!”

INTERVIEW: Patience Hodgson (AUS), July 2012

This ended up being the final feature article that I did for FasterLouder. The ‘line in the sand’ was drawn not long after. I probably didn’t react the best to this, in all fairness. I’m kind of embarrassed about how bitter I was about the whole thing now. I have absolutely no ill will towards the site. I’m still a frequenter of its forum, and I think both Sarah and Tom are incredibly hard-working and switched-on people that I respect the absolute hell out of. They may never read this, but on the off-chance that they do: Keep doing what you do. I’m forever grateful for what FL was able to offer me as a starting point for my music writing. I got so much out of it; and it’s pretty crazy looking back at all the work I got to do with them.

This was a chat with the wonderful Patience Hodgson, normally of The Grates but lately of Southside Tea Room, The Minutes and BABBY! That kid is going to have the most fun in the world, I can tell you what. We chatted about the Bob Dylan tribute night she was a part of and I really enjoyed the challenge of interviewing someone about a completely different topic than what they’re normally interviewed for. She’s as bubbly and delightful as you’ve come to suspect over the years. So, here’s my last FL hurrah.

– DJY, October 2014

***

It was fifty years ago that a young Robert Allen Zimmerman released his debut album, a collection of mostly traditional songs with new arrangements, under his stage name of Bob Dylan. 33 albums and figuratively hundreds of songs later, the career of the iconic folk-rocker is set to be celebrated across a series of shows this July, culminating in an appearance at this year’s Splendour in the Grass festival.

Amongst the musicians involved are Jebediah frontman Kevin “Bob Evans” Mitchell, Josh Pyke, Seeker Lover Keeper’s Holly Throsby, Eskimo Joe’s Kav Temperley and the irrepressible frontlady of The Grates, Patience Hodgson. The Brisbane-based singer, podcaster and now small business owner is running a mile a minute after a round of coffees and a slew of interviews preceding our chat.

“We just opened a tea room in Brisbane!” she reports, the “we” being herself and her Grates partner John Patterson. “It’s gonna be a bar, too, when we get our liquor license. This is our second day of business!” Running the shop with Patterson, as well as her younger sister Raven, has been one of the many things that Patience has been occupying her time with. Along with fill-in radio work and preparing to record the fourth Grates album, Hodgson has found an entirely new audience due to her co-hosting of two podcasts alongside Brisbane comedian Mel Buttle, The Minutes (a comedy-oriented discussion podcast) and You’re Welcome (an advice-based podcast). It’s remarkable that FL has been able to pin down Patience for longer than 30 seconds.

“I’ve just had so much going on,” she says, almost breathlessly. “About five months ago, before we signed the lease, John and I wanted to make sure we had ten demos done for the next album. Then, the Dylan shows came along and I couldn’t say no. I’m glad I got some time to really focus on the songs as I’ve been so distracted with the podcasts and the shop. I got a LOT of lyrics to learn!” She adds that the opportunity to perform the selected works of Dylan adds to what was already a very interesting history and relationship with the man and his music. “I used to impersonate him for a brief period of my life, about six or seven years ago,” she recalls. “Not at shows or anything, but when I was living in a share-house I would always answer questions trying to do his voice. When I got the shows, my old housemate texted me and was all ‘I can’t believe you’re going to be singing Dylan!’”

She goes on to explain her origin story – discovering his music for the first time as a teenager at just the right time. “My dad’s best friend, who was a huge part of my family, gave me a Dylan best-of and some records to listen to when I was about fifteen or sixteen,” says Patience. “He died a few weeks after that. I know Bob Dylan because of him – I used to call him Uncle Merv – and when we would listen to Dylan after he died, we’d always think of him. I used to sit in my room and listen to Just Like a Woman, and I realise now that it was because I was in that in-between stage of being a girl and a woman. I could see those areas in which I was becoming more of a woman, becoming more independent – but I could also see that I could still be a girl that would break down and cry and need a parent.”

Of all the Dylan tracks that we speak about, Just Like a Woman is the one that appears to have resonated the most with Patience over the years. It takes her back to both a vulnerable and vital time of her development as a person. “I think there’s kind of a sexuality to that song, too – a lot of his songs, actually,” she says. “It’s especially apparent when you’re a teenage girl listening to these songs alone in your bedroom. I guess I was hypersensitive to it, that’s all – here I was, hadn’t even had sex yet, and there was this man singing to me about making love just like a woman.” Sadly, despite her passionate back-story, Patience will not be singing the song on the tour. “We put in a bunch of songs that we all wanted to sing,” she says of the process behind creating the setlist. “I was trying to be wise and see what songs would work for my voice. I’m so glad the pressure got taken off me, though. I just want the show to be awesome as a whole. I really wanted to sing Just Like a Woman, but they gave it to Josh – and I’m really glad, because I think he’ll do a far better version of it than I ever could. I would have loved to hear that song from a female perspective, but I think it’s smart to give it to Josh.”

Another interesting point worth mentioning in relation to Patience’s Dylan story is how she didn’t actually own any of Dylan’s numerous LPs until quite recently. So what was her first foray? Blonde on Blonde? Highway 61? What about The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan? Not even close. “Christmas in the Heart, two years ago!” she says, with both a laugh and a cringing realisation. “That was actually the first one I actually got. I remember hearing about it, and I couldn’t believe it. What a guy! It was just the funniest. How punk of him, doing whatever he wants. I was in the States when it came out, and people were just giving him so much flack. It was seen as so blasphemous that he released it. When he wrote Hurricane… that song’s about boxing! There were all these hippies that didn’t like that he wrote a song about boxers. Whatever! It’s fucking bad-arse!”

“How about that?” she adds with even more giggling. “I never even thought of that before. I’ve done all these interviews and no-one thought to ask me what my first Dylan record was. You got it out of me!” Despite what many would regard as a shameful introduction into his extensive discography, it’s difficult to dispute Hodgson’s passion for Dylan’s music. She offers a further insight into how she views the impact of his music when asked to pick her favourite era or persona of Dylan, of which there have been countless. After a brief pause, she answers with a peculiar sense of decisiveness.

“I think I’m most drawn to when he went electric,” she responds, going on to relay another anecdote to emphasise her point. “I was listening to Like a Rolling Stone the other day, and I had to play it to John [Patterson]. He’d never heard it before! He’s listened to Dylan now, but he’d never heard any Dylan from back then. I guess he’s not really interested in political music or whatever. It’s a bit of a generational thing, too. No-one introduced it to him growing up, so he doesn’t have that context when he’s listening to Bob Dylan. But I was playing him this song, and I was like ‘Listen! LISTEN!’ It’s just when his lead goes out and then comes back in. They recorded things really differently back then. I love that about him – he’s such a punk rocker. He never seemed to care what people thought of what he was doing with his music – and even if he secretly did, he was still so persistent. It’s almost like he had an entirely different idea of what people wanted – like, ‘this is what they want. They just don’t know it yet.’”

The 50 Years of Dylan shows will see Hodgson performing on her own, duetting with Holly Throsby and coming together with the other musicians for two final songs. Although she refuses to name the tracks – “They’re curveballs!” she teases – it’s promised that the shows will be a unique and entertaining tribute to the troubadour. She’s even keeping it in the family when it comes to the tribute night’s Sydney stop. “I’m flying my parents down for the Sydney Opera House,”she reveals with a glee not becoming of a grown woman spending time with her parents. “I’m loving this – the night of the Sydney show, I’m going to be sharing a room with my folks! I’m going to be sleeping on the pull-out. I’m really excited – I’m not sure if I’ll ever have another chance to play the Opera House, so I’ve got to take full advantage of it while I can!”