The Year in Music…

Jason Isbell can’t do wrong. Well, except for recording Super 8 and putting it on 2013’s Southeastern. (p/c: http://www.savannahmusicfestival.org)

Every year it seems I have less time to check out new music.

I went through my old laptop the other day and couldn’t help but to be amazed by the amount of music I had on there. Back when I was an undergrad at Robert Morris, there were very few days where I didn’t download something new. My end-of-the-year album lists then were almost 50 projects deep; although just about all of them were of the hip-hop or R&B genres.

Now? I don’t have as much time to dive into new music with a full-time job and mostly just listen to stuff through Spotify. My tastes have expanded a bit too, even if it doesn’t seem like it based on the below lists.

I changed it up this year and broke down my 10 favorite songs of 2015 rather than albums, finding that I listened to individual tracks and self-created playlists moreso than full-length projects. I also have an album list on here, but it’s only five LPs deep (plus a large “honorable mention” section) with little commentary.

Expect the R&B genre and all deviations of it to be represented heavily through this.

Top 10 Favorite Songs of 2015

10.) March Madness – Future

Two critically-acclaimed mixtapes and two number one albums – it can’t be said enough about how great of a year Future had. There are numerous choices for his best song in 2015 (this bracket in particular breaks it down well), but the most common pick I’ve seen is March Madness from 56 Nights. I’m in agreement with that opinion (at least when it comes to solo tracks), partially because I wasn’t a big fan of Future prior to hearing it for the first time. If you haven’t already, check out this performance of March Madness by the Southern University band.

9.) Have My Money – The Diplomats

There are three things I want from music in 2016: the second installment of Maxwell’s blacksummers’night trilogy, a full-length project by dvsn (more on him/them later), and Diplomatic Immunity 3. The latter might come as a surprise, but Have My Money shows that a new Dipset album has loads of potential as Cam’ron, Jim Jones, and Juelz Santana trade verses over a superb Vinny Idol beat with the same charisma that they had 12 years ago. I’ve always been biased towards the trio, but between this song and Cam’s Dipshits from 2014, a new album could be incredibly enjoyable with the right people in charge.

8.) Special Affair – The Internet

Confidence is a wonderful thing. Syd of The Internet is full of confidence throughout the band’s third album, Ego Death, but her poise shines the brightest on Special Affair. I admittedly never dove into the band’s music when Odd Future was at its popularity peak, but judging from interviews it always seemed like Syd was incredibly shy – which is exactly why this song is so great. A stimulating bassline immediately sets the tone for the once-reserved frontwoman of The Internet as she croons to her conquest for the night. While the lyrics aren’t overly impressive, the way Syd sells her message with this newfound aura is truly a treat.

7.) Sorry – Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber cries for forgiveness throughout his fourth (original) LP, Purpose, but his newfound willingness to apologize is most prevalent on the aptly-named Sorry, which serves as the album’s best song. Skillrex, who also produced another album highlight in Where Are Ü Now, gives Bieber a whirlwind of a beat as the former’s EDM background goes well with the progression of the latter’s vocals. If you would have told me that in 2015 I’d enjoy a Bieber album, I’d ask what do you mean – but here we are.

6.) Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd

Prior to recording his second full-length studio album, The Weeknd told his record label that he wanted to become the biggest pop star in the world. As someone who loved his trilogy (House of Balloons, Thursday, Echoes of Silence) sound and disliked most of Kiss Land, that statement initially scared me, but those fears were put to rest with Can’t Feel My Face. Supplied with a modern-day disco-funk beat by Max Martin (the same one who helped N’SYNC, Backstreet Boys, and Britney Spears blow up), Abel Tesfaye intertwines infatuation and intoxication, tiptoeing between the two states of mind in a pristine matter. It’s the magnum opus of my favorite 2015 album and has me excited about how he can expand upon this sound in future years.

5.) You Are Luhh – Frank Ocean

It’s been (unfortunately) a quiet year for Frank Ocean. Besides a Tumblr post that seemed to depict a new album slated for a July release, Frank’s moment in the 2015 spotlight came in January when he released You Are Luhh. A cover of (and tribute to) Aaliyah’s You Are Love (with that being a remake of At Your Best by The Isley Brothers), You Are Luhh is a vocal exercise that has Frank at his most vulnerable, with his golden pipes only joined by a lonely piano. The minimal production forces Ocean’s vocals to take center stage and be the determinant of the song’s quality, and he excels with possibly his finest performance to date.

4.) When We Were Young – Adele

While Hello had garnered the most attention following its release, I’ve always preferred Adele’s second “single” (single being in quotations because it has not been technically released as such) from 25, When We Were Young. Her vocal prowess is at full display here – especially on the Live at Church Studios version – and it complements the song’s theme exceptionally. Even if it’s meant to be viewed in a light where the character is reliving all sorts of nostalgia in the distant future, When We Were Young is beautifully relatable no matter what the listener’s age.

3.) Jumpman – Drake & Future

Quick story: We hosted a basketball tournament at Allegheny College in the middle of November, and were in between games when our men’s team came out of the locker room for warm-ups. Playing over the speakers was a Billy Joel song picked by one of my work-studies, which didn’t seem to please the players. (Looking back at it, in-game music probably wasn’t the best job for him.) I asked them what they wanted and Jumpman was a near consensus answer. This is an immaculate hype song that probably resides in every pre-game playlist, and will probably remain in those playlists for years to come like Fort Minor’s Remember the Name from 2005.

2.) Flagship – Jason Isbell

Flagship will almost certainly be played at the next wedding reception you attend – or at least, it should. Isbell, the incredible storyteller that he is, reiterates his selfless approach to the relationship he’s in because he sees what monotony can do to a couple. While the subject matter might be tried and true, Isbell’s take on love always seems to be a refreshing one, based on drawing from past experiences and his wordplay.

1.) The Line – dvsn

Comfortability is something that we all strive to find in life, whether that is regarding employment, place of living, or the people one surrounds him or herself with. For dvsn and his partner in The Line, finding that place of well-being means stepping outside of their respective comfort zones.  It’s a beautifully crafted song that details the uncertainties of letting guards down, which in turn produces an intoxicating fall into love once that line is actually crossed. While the message is clear, dvsn does a brilliant job of delivering said message by mixing a sincere falsetto and slightly unintelligible croon that showcases his own doubts. Those doubts subside throughout the song’s duration however, showing that sometimes it just takes a step outside one’s comfort zone in order to capture the feeling we desire.

Favorite Albums of 2015

1.) Beauty Behind the Madness – The Weekend
2.) 
Wildheart – Miguel

Modern day Prince album. coffee, the valley, and waves in particular are incredible tracks and just missed slotting into my top 10.

3.) Something More Than Free – Jason Isbell

Not quite as good as the superb Southeastern, but still worth your time.

4.) T R A P S O U L – Bryson Tiller

Consistent listen from front-to-back. Tiller toes the R&B and hip-hop line nicely. Really like the samples used on this too, especially on Exchange.

5.) DS2 – Future

Honorable Mention Albums

25 – Adele
Sound & Color – Alabama Shakes

The title track made the iPad Pro commercial (you know what one) my favorite. Don’t Wanna Fight almost made my top 10.

Depression Cherry – Beach House
Big Grams EP – Big Grams
Purpose – Justin Bieber

Starts off great, then falls off at Big Sean’s verse on No Pressure. Doesn’t really pick back up again until the title track, but the deluxe songs are really solid.

Kill The Lights – Luke Bryan
All Love Lost – Joe Budden

Much better than No Love Lost, but ultimately doesn’t have the replay value that the Mood Muzik series did.

Every Open Eye – CHVRCHES
If I Should Go Before You – City and Colour
Caracal – Disclosure
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late – Drake

I favor his Take Care and Nothing Was the Same sound, but there’s a lot of good stuff on here. Love that he sampled Ginuwine’s So Anxious on two different songs.

What a Time to be Alive – Drake & Future
Compton – Dr. Dre
Fetty Wap – Fetty Wap

On here strictly for Monty’s “they like, ‘Monty, can you be my baby daddy?’ I’m like yeah” line on 679. (Well, not just strictly that – there’s a lot of enjoyable tunes on here.)

56 Nights – Future
Beast Mode – Future
Between the Pines – Sam Hunt

Really enjoy Hunt’s covers of Kenny Chesney’s Come Over and William Michael Morgan’s I Met a Girl, but I’m naturally a sucker for acoustic stuff.

Ego Death – The Internet
Late Nights: The Album – Jeremih

Jeremih is making The-Dream music better than Terius Nash at this point. oui just missed my top 10.

To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar

This album is excellent and worth a lot of the praise it’s getting, but it’s a damn chore to get through. Definitely prefer Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City over it.

GO:OD AM – Mac Miller
Darkest Before the Dawn: The Prelude – Pusha T
Music For My Friends – Skyzoo
SremmLife – Rae Sremmurd

Incredibly fun.

Traveler – Chris Stapleton
The Album About Nothing – Wale

A solid listen despite it not quite being what I wanted to complete the Seinfeld “trilogy”.

Happy New Year, everyone.

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