The Top 100 Songs of 2015, Part One: 100 – 81

It’s about that time, folks. You know how this one goes. Good, clean fight to the finish. All genres, countries and ages accepted. Only one rule: No touching of the hair or face. Alright, let’s get it on!

To pre-game, why not take a listen to this supplementary list of 50 great songs that just missed out on the top 100?

As always, DISCLAIMER: This is not a list of the most popular songs, nor is it a list curated by anyone except myself. These are, in my view, the best songs of the year. Disagreement and discussion is welcomed, but ultimately if you have any real issues with any songs that are ranked too low, too high or not at all… make your own list!

DJY, December 2015

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100. Cosmic Psychos – Fuckwit City

The greatest moments in the 30-plus year canon of Cosmic Psychos have been helmed by the infamous snarl of Ross Knight, so it’s a rare treat to hear a lead vocal from the band’s pot-bellied riff-bearer, John “Mad Macca” McKeering. Macca’s no crooner – but, then again, neither’s Knighty. It’s not exactly a top priority when there’s a big, stomping riff and a middle-finger-waving chorus to smash through. The accompanying video, which sees the band smashing tinnies and chowing down on snags, gets the point across better than words ever could: them’s the Psychos. They’re not to be fucked with.

99. Kissing Booth – Battlefield

“Battlefield” has been a staple of Kissing Booth’s live shows more or less since their formation, and it’s easy to see why – if it’s not Tom Jenkins’ thunderous tom rolls that lead it in, it’s the earnest, raised-fist chorus and undying mantra of “you’ve got the strength in you to succeed” that will firmly seal the deal. Recorded at long last for their debut, Never Settle, “Battlefield” became a highlight once again – it’s a slow-waltz through love-and-war metaphors and swinging twin-guitar warmth, reeling in listeners before bowling them over. If love is a battlefield, consider Kissing Booth victorious.

98. You Beauty – Illywhacka

They’re not pioneers of writing about love from a hardened, cynical perspective – and Lord knows they won’t be the last. What spices up the title track to You Beauty’s second album is knowing it’s from the perspective of a scam artist – someone who makes a living saying things but never meaning them. “If I misuse the words/I’m not the first,” he justifies at one point; “I do believe it’s unconscious like the rest,” he affirms at another. Throw in some thwacking snare rolls and a Johnny Marr-worthy guitar tone and you’re ready to fall for anything he says.

97. Frank Turner – The Next Storm

Positive Songs for Negative People, Turner’s comeback LP from the middle of 2015, was thematically centred on Turner refusing to let pessimism and a slew of personal ordeals serve as the obstacles they once were. As bar-room piano leads him into a fist-wielding rock shuffle, Turner takes a matter as pedestrian as the weather and lets it blossom into the perfect metaphor for his sunnier outlook. It might seem naff – especially if Turner has ever felt too endearing – but it’s hard to deny a shout-along to a refrain as wonderfully succinct as “Rejoice! Rebuild! The storm has passed!”

96. Young Fathers – Rain or Shine

Young Fathers are in it to win it, because having the Mercury just wasn’t enough. The trio – alongside Sleaford Mods – were two major acts to properly turn British music on its head and expose a darker, more unpleasant side of their respective homelands last year. It’s telling that both immediately followed up their world-class 2014 breakthroughs in 2015; equaling – and occasionally bettering – their predecessors. This slab of sweet-and-sour alt-hop stays true to its name; throwing a Motown worthy ‘hey-hey-hey’ into the blender with some deadpan abstract poetry. Theirs is a revolution that is still… well, revolving.

95. Alabama Shakes – Don’t Wanna Fight

Perhaps the most piercing, indescribable squeal this side of Kings of Leon’s “Charmer” is what lead us into the first single from Alabama Shakes’ long-awaited second album. The groove was very much still in the heart for Brittany Howard and co., shuffling through a head-nodding lick and a driving four-on-the-floor beat before letting loose a truly righteous falsetto-disco chorus that takes on double duty as a harken-back to vintage soul. Much like their finest moments from Boys & Girls, “Don’t Wanna Fight” is some kind of genre Voltron. In the right context, it’s a fully-formed and unstoppable machine. Right on.

94. Horrorshow feat. Thelma Plum, Jimblah and Urthboy – Any Other Name

This protest song, dropped in the wake of horrendous abuse toward now-retired AFL player Adam Goodes, is an endlessly-quotable all-star tirade against the systemic, institutionalised racism that has become more and more prevalent in modern Australian society. Each artist brings their A-game across the track’s runtime, laying their heart out on their sleeves and making it exceptionally clear who is in the wrong. The track’s mic-drop moment comes with Solo’s damning, defiant final point: “Racist is as racist does/So if you’re doing something racist/Hate to break it, you’re a racist, cuz.” This is our wake-up call. Australia, this is you.

93. Hockey Dad – Can’t Have Them

2014 was the year of Zach Stephenson and Billy Fleming, the Windang wunderkinds that wrote the best Australian song of the year and sent audiences young and old into a hair-flipping frenzy. It would have been entirely understandable if they wanted to go for their afternoon nap this year, but it appears the red cordial is still running through their veins. This stand-alone single is a bright, bouncy hip-shaker that strengthens Stephenson’s knack for cooed, wordless refrains and Fleming’s primitive boom-thwack Ringo fills. It bodes considerably well for the band’s imminent debut LP next year. Game on, you little scamps.

92. Drake – Know Yourself

The mixtape lifestyle suited Drake this year. Dropping new material when he felt like it with no label pressure and no pushing for a greater ambition meant that the man born Aubrey Graham was allowed to have a lot more fun. Amid the dozen-plus new songs that arrived on the If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late mixtape, it was this centrepiece that sent fans into a tailspin. Its clanking trap beat, its obnoxious sub-bass and that hook – Drizzy can make this shit happen without even trying these days. You know how that shit go. Airhorns at the ready.

91. Beach Slang – Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas

In the same year that Weston, the pop-punk band James Alex was a part of in the 90s, reunited for a handful of shows; Alex also got a second wind with the momentum of his new band, Beach Slang, who became one of 2015’s most hyped rock bands. It’s easy to both see and hear why this was the case: the paint-splatter ride cymbal, its two-chord fury; not to mention the wordless refrains one has to unlock their jaw in order to properly sing out. We are all in the garage, but some of us are looking at the stars.

90. Endless Heights – Teach You How to Leave

Every year, Endless Heights inch further and further away from the forthright melodic hardcore with which they made their name. Every year, Endless Heights write sharper, smarter songs with a greater level of introspect, heart and poignancy. Simply put: Every year, Endless Heights get flat-out better. This, the title-track to their third EP, feels like an endgame of sorts – the kind of low-key, artfully-quiet song that they have worked towards on previous efforts. It’s able to do more in less than three minutes than what may of the band’s contemporaries can achieve with five-plus. A bright, beautiful slow-burn.

89. The Bennies – Party Machine

From one end to the other, The Bennies can become a million different things – post-punk hip-shakers, knees-up ska bouncers, heavy disco (pardon the pun) ravers. When it all rolls together, it becomes something full of wild-eyed energy; a measured defiance of restrictive guidelines and genre semantics. With a third album looming, “Party Machine” feels like the Bennies single that has the most to prove – that they are ready to take this shit higher than ever before. It passes accordingly with all the flying colours of a hallucinogenic rainbow. The machine rages on. The party is just getting started.

88. Pity Sex – What Might Soothe You?

There are those that haven’t quite known what to make of Pity Sex in the past – too much of an indie band for shoegaze nerds, too much of a shoegaze band for indie kids. On their first new material in two years, the band play up their limbo with a song accentuating both sides of the coin. Twee, unisex vocals are placed under the same spotlight as hazed-out, Daydream Nation-worthy guitar fuzz – at once joyously bright and uniformly morose. Putting genre semantics aside and appreciating a great song for what it is – it, indeed, might soothe you.

87. Miguel – leaves

Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan was given a songwriting credit to this end-of-summer lament after Miguel claimed he was accidentally inspired by the Pumpkins’ hit “1979.” The similarities certainly present themselves – particularly in the off-kilter guitar patterns – but “leaves” substitutes the mid-west teenage dreaming for west-coast heartbreak and Corgan’s adenoidal nostalgia for a smooth, love-lorn crooning. Along with being a standout moment of Miguel’s excellent Wildheart LP, it certainly stands as the best thing Corgan has been attached to in well over a decade – and it says a lot that he wasn’t directly involved at all.

86. Darren Hanlon – The Chattanooga Shoot-Shoot

He’s spent over a decade as one of the country’s smartest, most celebrated songwriters – even his peers can’t help but be amazed by the way he wondrously weaves his wayward words. The standout track from his fifth album takes the Gympie couchsurfer about as far from home as he’s ever been – travelling to Tennessee on a budget bus. To borrow a phrase from Upworthy, you won’t believe what happens next. The “Folsom Prison Blues” chord progression and timely snare hits are a nice touch, too. Of all of Hanlon’s tales, this one hits number one with a bullet.

85. Micachu and the Shapes – Oh Baby

“It’s not us to give up in a rush,” crows Mica Levi over a hypnotic boom-bap rhythm and underwater synths blubbering from afar. She’s got a point, y’know – it might have been three years since we heard from Levi, Raisa Khan and Marc Pell; but they re-enter the fray as if they were never really gone. Reverb-laden crooning and an experimental hip-hop flavour to the song’s lo-fi production add spice and texture, but theirs is a dynamic so constantly-shifting and fascinating that these two aspects could just as well be just scratching the surface. Just like that, it vanishes.

84. Best Coast – Heaven Sent

Not to get all Rick Astley on the situation, but Best Coast are no strangers to love. Their knack lies in their ability to make it sound as fresh and dewy-eyed as that of young romance. No-one else in the current indie-rock climate could drop something as sappy as “You are the one that I adore” atop a major chord and not only get away with it, but be commended for it. There’s a method and an art-form to all of this – and the only ones that know the secret recipe are Bethany and Bobb. Love rules, yeah yeah.

83. Bad//Dreems – Cuffed and Collared

What other band in Australia right now could simultaneously recall God’s “My Pal” and The Remembrandt’s sole hit “I’ll Be There for You” in a single bound? It could well have something to do with how “Cuffed and Collared” vividly mashes together the fury and bounding energy of the former with the unmistakable pop ear-worms of the latter. It might be a song that details a violent altercation, sure; but you’ll be damned if you aren’t grinning every time that the hook in question rolls around – and it’s on a near-frequent loop. With Dreems like these, who needs Friends?

82. Foals – What Went Down

What the ever-loving fuck is going on here? From its seasick organ drone to its detour into a thick three-note riff – not to mention its subsequent tear-down and empirical rebuild – “What Went Down” is one of the most head-spinning, ferocious compositions that Foals have ever committed to wax. What else does it have in store? Abstract imagery! A piercing, screamed refrain! Constant, unpredictable swerves that threaten to throw the entire goddamn thing off a cliff! To paraphrase a quote from Blades of Glory‘s Chazz Michael-Michaels: No-one knows what went down, but it’s provocative. It gets the people going.

81. The Hard Aches – Knots

One of the true signs of great, honest songwriting is when the writer in question turns the knife – or, in this case, the much-mightier pen – on themselves. The Hard Aches’ Ben David exposes his flaws on this key track from the band’s debut, Pheromones; bitterly portraying himself as a pathological, unrepentant liar in a constant state of exhaustion. Towards the song’s thrilling conclusion, however, he indicates that he’s on the road to bettering himself – and his is such a blunt, forthright delivery that you just know that he’ll get there. The untying process slowly but surely begins.

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Part Two will be posted next Monday!

To download the podcast version of Part One, click here.

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INTERVIEW: Hunx & His Punx (USA), January 2013

Yep, another Q&A. I think I was reading a lot of Rolling Stone at the time and was trying to mimic their conversational Q&A style. I’m not so sure it suits me, to be honest. I did love chatting with Mr. Hunx, however. His band are fantastic fun. This tour in particular was an obscene amount of it. This interview is pretty silly; I giggled a lot going back and looking at it.

– DJY, October 2014

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What a month to be a queer punk in Australia! Just weeks after a blistering tour from bear-friendly hardcore queens Limp Wrist, the Ramones-esque proto-punk of Hunx and His Punx have just touched down in the land of Oz for the first time ever. While here, the band will perform at both the Sydney Festival and at Sugar Mountain in Melbourne, amongst other headlining shows. We got on the phone with Seth Bogart – aka Hunx, the band’s fearlessly fabulous figurehead – to discuss new material, new homes and inappropriate zoo visits.

Hi, Seth! Where are you taking this call from?

I’m in my apartment in LA. I really love it here, it’s really nice! Everyone’s really hot, the weather’s really hot. It’s a really big city, too. I dunno, it’s just fun!

Well, enjoy LA while you can – it won’t be long before you’re here in Australia with us!

Oh my god, I can’t wait! It’s been so long. I’ve been wanting to come and see you guys for three years now. I’m so excited!

Tell us a little bit about the line-up of H+HP that you’ll be bringing with you for this tour.

Well, Shannon and Erin – who have kind of always been in the band – are coming. This guy Frankie, who is kind of a weirdo, is going to be playing guitar for us. The other two girls we had playing guitar for us got pregnant.

Wait – at the same time?

Yes! It was a real inconvenience!

What’s so weird about this new guy, anyway?

He’s just kind of perverted. He has, like, a massive foot fetish, too. He’ll be like taking pictures of our feet while we’re sleeping and stuff. He’s really hot – but I have a boyfriend and Frankie’s straight; so it’s kind of difficult.

You’ll be bringing some new material out on this tour, is that true?

We’ll be playing songs from all three albums, and we’re in the middle of writing a new record at the moment called Street Punx. Hopefully we’ll have some of that new material for you by the time we get there.

What is the new album sounding like?

It’s MEGA punk. The more I was playing fast, fun songs with the girls, the more we were enjoying them. So we just started writing like that. Plus, I was pissed off at a lot of people and needed to get some things out of my system, get some anger out. I just started writing mean songs. I’ve always loved The Germs, and I always wanted to make a California punk record – and now is my chance!

Have you guys had much of a chance to run through what you’re going to play in Australia?

Well, to be honest with you, we live in four different cities. So we don’t really play that often. When was the last time we toured? I think… [trails off] …oh, we played a couple of shows about four months ago and that’s been about it. Shannon and I just write songs at the moment in our bedrooms and just send them to one another. We haven’t even really rehearsed yet – so, I don’t know! I’m sure it’ll all work out by the time we get to Australia. I think we’re playing a skate park the day before we leave, so we’ll sort it out then.

The band have always been known for some provocative imagery and aesthetics – from the cover of the Gay Singles compilation to the band’s videos. Do you feel that you’ve drawn a lot of people in over the years because of the band’s aesthetics?

I would hope so! I just like the way things look. I just love being involved with things like the artwork, y’know? I mean, there’s one side of me that just wants to get up on stage and be punk and go crazy and stuff like that; and there’s also this other side of me that’s like a grandma – really into arts and crafts [laughs]. I want what people see on the outside to reflect the band and reflect the sound. I also don’t trust people in bands that don’t do art. I just find it weird if you’re in a band and you don’t know how to make it look the way it sounds. You really need to be involved with the entire creative process in order for it to totally work.

Hunx and His Punx seem to have always taken their sounds from everything from the Ramones to the Ronettes in their music. Have you ever felt a difficulty fitting into a “scene” – being too pop for punk and vice versa?

I don’t think we really fit in anywhere, really. We’re too “gay” for punk, and we’re too punk or too rock for most gay shit. It’s all the same, really. We’re just about being ourselves. It’s cool if you don’t fit in. I love it at our shows when there’s the big tough punk guys standing next to the weird teenagers and the gay guys. It’s so weird, and it’s so awesome. I’m so excited to see what our Australian audiences are going to be like.

Do you have any ideas of what to expect on your first trip to Australia?

I just want to see a kangaroo’s boner! After that I can sit back and relax.

INTERVIEW: Silversun Pickups (USA), September 2010

When I go back and look at things like this, I find myself increasingly grateful for what I was able to achieve a few years back for a no-name freelancer more or less working for peanuts and some extracurricular uni work. It comes to a head here, where I get to interview the lead singer of one of my all-time favourite bands. I couldn’t begin to tell you what this band means to me, and especially what they meant to me at this point. I think that around this point, I’m starting to find my voice as a features writer, as well. It’s not entirely there yet, but I can really see it in this article. I’ll never not love this band, essentially. This is a good one to revisit.

– DJY, October 2014

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Call it cabin fever, or ‘brain damage’ from touring as he puts it, but something tells us that Brian Aubert is not quite all there as he calls from his Los Angeles home, barely a week off coming off tour.

“I’m looking at my dog right now – what does it want?” questions the Silversun Pickups frontman. “Food? You wanna eat? Whatcha wanna do? She’s not talking to me – we need some kind of translation device, like the movie Up … although my dog would be all like ‘throw the ball, throw the ball..park! Park! Park! Park! She wouldn’t really be the kind to sit me down and go ‘so, Brian, what do you think of the new Band of Horses record?’”

Okay, so maybe Brian’s losing it just a little, but when you consider the band have been constantly touring for the past year or so on the back of their successful sophomore Swoon, it begins to make a little more sense. The band isn’t particularly sick of the album, either.

“We’re still in somewhat of a love affair with it,” says Aubert when asked to look upon the record in retrospect. “When we hear things like that it’s been out for over a year, it kinda blows our minds. When we’re playing it live, we kinda bounce off a few things, and then you end up bouncing off the things you bounced off a little while ago – it’s important for us to go back to the record and kinda see just how far we strayed.” Aubert also sees Swoon as a very personal album, making the experience all the richer.

“When I listen to Swoon, or even when I’m playing the songs live, I think back to where I was when I was writing it and what was going on. There was a lot going on. The thing is, I don’t feel that way anymore – I understand it, but I can’t quite get to that level of despair. It makes me happy to think that, because it was such a cathartic experience. Because of Swoon, I was able to get through a lot. I’m so happy that I just had something that I could just put things in, and that’s where they lay now.”

Interesting that Aubert – along with bassist Nikki Monniger, Chris Guanlao on drums and keyboardist Joe Lester – now revisits these experiences with countless sold-out audiences across the United States and Europe. Although the touring is considerably more extensive than ever before in the band’s career, Aubert maintains that much less has changed than what one may think. “I feel like this tour essentially picked up where [debut album, 2006’s] Carnavas left off,” he comments.

“That was a big shock for us – we were so excited that Lazy Eye was on the radio, but we just thought it would be ‘that one time’ in our career where we were on the radio. We figured we’d just keep making music, and whoever stuck around, stuck around,” continues Brian. But then we were amazed at how well this record has been doing, and everything just kicked off. The actual touring process, I’ll admit, it’s harder than ever. Although, I think our psyches are more readily prepared for it – personally, anyway; though I’m sure the rest of the band would agree.”

One would hope the group are prepared for their upcoming tour of Australia, opening for the chart-topping aviary Birds of Tokyo on their national tour, as well as stopping at the NSW central coast for the Coaster Festival. Any doubts that the band are ready are swept away the second Aubert is asked if the band are looking forward to the tour: “Oh, GOD, yeah,” he chirps.

“Birds of Tokyo asked us to play, and it’s so nice that they did. The reason we’re there is because they’re bringing us. But yeah, the last club shows that we did you would have had to drag us out of there kicking and screaming. The Annandale in Sydney, the Ding Dong in Melbourne… those were definitely some of our favourite shows of the last world tour. Who knows what’s gonna happen this time around?”