1 Sam Gellaitry – To Earth and Back
“Ba, Ba, BA!”, while hungover in Bosnia.
2. Jeremih – Oui
“Hey! there’s no oui without you and I, oh yeah, ah yeah ah ?? ??”, while trying to get a ticket to Hungary in a Serbian bus station.
3. The Internet – Under control
“I know I’m destined for greatness, fuck a critic’s advice They hatin’ ’cause I’m a player (hatin’ ’cause I’m a player)”, while boarding a plane to Bucharest.
4. Nosaj Thing – Don’t Mind Me ft. Whoarei
“I’ve been waitin’”, after being stood up in Romania by the previous nights hook-up.
5. Thundercat – ‘Them Changes’
“Somebody tell me how I’m supposed to feel When I’m sitting here knowing this ain’t real”, while taxing in Oman airport before taking off to France.
6. Oddisee – That’s Love
“And pick up pieces, and you off the ground, that’s love”, flying from Cambodia to Thailand while still very, very high.
7. Sángo – SPZRKT & Sango – JMK
“Never let me down since I made that decision” waking up to a gorgeous person that is now my ex-girlfriend in Lebanon
8. Mura Masa – Lovesick Fuck
“Come over here” sitting on a rooftop in Athens thinking I should’ve stayed in Albania longer.
9. Alba – Operator
“Operator”, thinking that Lithuania was the bee’s knees.
10. Lemonade – Dancer On The Shore (feat. Dee Dee)
“Tell me your secret”, while sitting in a café in Slovenia writing this- despite it being very cold.
Songs for becoming an adult
1) Kendrick Lamar – Alright
The centrepiece of the stunningly poignant To Pimp a Butterfly LP (with its defiantly mantra-like “We Gon’ Be Alright” chorus) has become a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter activists – indeed, several commentators have referred to it as “the new Black American anthem”. The mantra is both comforting and commanding, both personal and collective. Amid several flow switches, Kendrick demonstrates both his technical virtuosity as a rapper as well as his potency as a lyricist, while Sounwave and Pharrell’s production is accented by Terrace Martin’s Coltrane-like alto sax (an element that recalls the score from Spike Lee’s opus, Do The Right Thing). Musically, politically, socially, and personally, this is both the best and the most important track of 2015.
2) Future – Codeine Crazy
Technically a Fall 2014 release, many/most rap fans only began to fully appreciate it after its stunning music video was released in February. Future dominated 2015 with 2 hit mixtapes, the rap album of the summer, and a best-selling collaboration ‘mixtape’ with Drake; however, this aching ballad (the highlight of last year’s Monster) is arguably the finest of his entire 2014/15 output. Regarded in some corners as a master of style over substance – a vocalist whose syrupy drawl could make the alphabet sound compelling – Future here showcases his incredible technical ability and his talent as a writer. A variety of rapid-fire flows fall over themselves as he crams an impressive volume of syllables into his lines; even at his most unstable, Future is fully in control. This is Future at his rawest and most personal, turning his post-Ciara pain into the realest music of his career. The frankness with which he drops revealing statements like “I’m an addict, I can’t even hide it” help make his purple-tinted vision of addiction seem enticingly beautiful in its perversion.
Young Thug – Raw (Might Just)
As with Future, the volume of high-quality music Young Thug released this year makes it seem unfair to narrow it to just one track, but Slime Season 2 standout Raw (Might Just) is a beautiful ballad that hints at Young Thug’s trap weirdo-pop-star potential. Treasure Fingers’ beat is built around a yearning vocal sample that seems to swallow itself up, and Thugga’s mixture of braggadocio, graphic sexuality, and honest romanticism recalls Pluto-era Future (and a certain type of Lil’ Wayne). As ever, Thug’s primary virtue is the unpredictability of his delivery; Raw is no different, with the staccatos of his raps alternating with warped, multi-layered croons and yelps to produce a surprisingly emotional sort-of-love song.
4) Post Malone – White Iverson
Post Malone scored one of the most unexpected Billboard hits of the year with this ode to everyone’s favourite practice-skipping shooting guard. From cars to clubs to campfires, this omnipresent anthem understandably soundtracked many summers. Producer FKi allows Post’s highly-musical, emotion-filled raps to take centre stage, as he delivers an extended metaphor comparing himself to the 76ers misunderstood phenom that is basically impossible not to sing along with.
5) Vince Staples – Norf Norf
Long Beach’s Vince Staples was one of the breakout acts of the year, with the autobiographical Summertime ’06 building off the goodwill generated by last fall’s Hell Can Wait EP. “Norf Norf” is one of many standout cuts on a fantastic LP, captivating from the opening line as he shouts out his new sponsor (“Bitch you thirsty, please grab a Sprite”). The menacing, thumping beat provides a perfect backdrop for Vince to introduce listeners to his cold world with a distinctive stoicism. In a year when fellow Odd Future alumni Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt both dropped highly-anticipated albums, Vince proved himself to be perhaps the most talented of the entire lot.
6) Kelela – Rewind
Kelela has earned rave reviews for her collaborations with some of the most forward-thinking names in club music, and there is perhaps no finer demonstration of her song-writing potential and her ear for interesting production than the Janet Jackson-esque ‘Rewind’. The trans-atlantic Night Slugs/Fade to Mind team adorn their typically chilly, club-ready beats with rapid-fire 808 claps that recall Miami bass. One of the hottest properties in underground R&B, Kelela’s singing is often sensuously breathy, but here she showcases some of her vocal acrobatics and a more earnest tone on the yearning chorus.
7) The Internet – Girl (feat. KAYTRANADA)
The centrepiece of The Internet’s fine Ego Death LP is one of 2015’s best love songs with Syd tha Kyd’s carefully delivered come-ons floating over a magnificent Kaytranada beat. The hallmarks of Kaytra’s sound – off-kilter drums, a kick that’s both punchy and pillowy, woozy synths – are combined with an entrancing horn loop, creating a gorgeous soundscape for Syd to play in; the former Odd Future DJ takes full advantage, using her seductive vocals to wonderful effect.
8) Jazz Cartier – Rose Quartz/Like Crazy
Jazz Cartier’s come-up has been quick and steady, with 2016 shaping up to be a huge year for the Toronto MC. While Jazz (among other Toronto rappers) has been criticized in some places for cutting too close to Travis Scott’s aesthetic, it’s hard to imagine many other rappers taking on this Toro Y Moi-flipping beat. Halfway through, dialogue from the 2011 romantic drama Like Crazy drops in and the beat switches up, as Jazz trades his liquid-like flow for one with a more emotional punch. This is the most immediately accessible cut from Cartier’s sprawling Marauding in Paradise, with a warmth and softness that seems better suited for the afterparty than for the club.
9) Tame Impala – Eventually
Australian psychedelic act Tame Impala have carved a niche for themselves as one of the only ‘rock’ groups that manage to balance critical success with festival main stage appeal. Currents (as most album reviews pointed out) is clearly a breakup album, with overt references to the end of a romantic relationship. Nowhere else is this more plain than on “Eventually”, with its patronizing refrain, “I know that I’ll be happier, and I know you will too…eventually.” The angelic quality of Kevin Parker’s infamously John Lennon-like voice makes his words sting all the more.
10) Jamie xx – Loud Places (feat. Romy)
Jamie xx’s highly-anticipated debut In Colour was probably the best full-length electronic album of the year. While his celebrated collaboration with Young Thug and Popcaan may have been many people’s song of the summer, the album’s real emotional highpoint was this lovely cut that saw Jamie reunited with one of his xx bandmates. Amid a backdrop that features uplifting keys and a typically stark and spiky guitar (before a splendidly lush soul sample on the chorus), Romy perfectly captures the romance of club going: “I go to loud places/to search for someone/to be quiet with”.