Through-out 2015 I have been scribbling down notes of what songs I have really enjoyed. Considering I find on average at least 50-100 new tracks a month, I have had to be pretty selective when narrowing these down to decide what my favourite music of the year is. Last year I did a Top 200 which I thought was mental but this year I couldn’t contain it to that so I had to go even crazier and opt for a Top 300. Who knows what next year will hold capacity wise. For the past five or so weeks I have been collating all of my listening habits from various blogs I love, from my Spotify records, from what I’ve bought and from what I had programmed at Spark FM as Head of Music there. I’ve thought about it a lot and deliberated with myself and here I am; Scott Hastie’s Top 50 records of 2015.
50. Taylor Swift x Kendrick Lamar – Bad Blood
I open up my Top 50 with a memory of last year when Queen TayTay did the double taking Track of the Year with Shake It Off and taking Album of the Year with the incredible 1989. The album stayed on my i-Pod for most of this year and it was certainly a shock when Bad Blood was chosen as her single after Style as let’s be honest it’s not the strongest single. So what came was a huge shock to the system. Taylor Swift, the most important person in music collaborated with Kendrick Lamar just off the back of his new album, meaning he was the man also in the limelight. The duo came together with a reinvented, more demented version of Bad Blood for one of pop culture’s best moments this year. I am in awe of T.Swizzle’s #SquadGoals.
49. Sigala – Easy Love
Few commercial house hits sounded quite as good as Sigala’s first crack of the whip in Easy Love. The new London DJ made Tropical House’s biggest hit thus far with the piano house led vocal rework of the Jackson 5’s ABC. Easy Love was one of the best songs this year because the opening ‘woos’ put a smile on everybody’s face as soon as it came on. He’s in for a mammoth 2016.
48. Apres – Chicago
After Frankie Knuckles’ passing last year, I was introduced to the wonder of Chicago House. More entrancing than your average Swedish House Mafia or David Guetta tune, Chicago House has deeper layers of sound around it and Knuckles’ classic Your Love is one of the finest examples of that. In February this year, almost a year on from his passing, a young French DJ called Apres released his record called Chicago, the perfect ode to Frankie and Chicago House. Carried on a vocal sample which is a call to arms for everything good about Chicago House, the record explodes with the best drop in any song this year.
47. Speedy Ortiz – Raising The Skate
Critically over the past two years Speedy Ortiz have been labeled the most exciting band in the world. They’ve not stopped since 2013’s debut album Major Arcada, releasing an EP last year called Real Hair, and now this year their follow-up album Foil Deer. Everything thus far has received mass acclaim but it’s this year’s Raising The Skate which has taken them next level. The riffage is ferocious and Sadie’s vocals are laced every so cleverly over the melody of the riff. “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss” is also one of the year’s best lyrics altogether.
46. Jamie Lawson – Wasn’t Expecting That
Undeniably the most heartwrenching piece of music we heard all year, Ed Sheeran’s first signee to his label and friend, Jamie Lawson gave us Wasn’t Expecting That. On first listen you’ll admire how catchy it is and how tender Jamie’s voice is but it’s the story that prevails here and places this so high on my list. Normally songwriters struggle to write about an instance in life, or a situation but Jamie’s managed to cram a whole lifetime of love and tears into one song. It’s stunning and should be remembered for years to come.
45. The 1975 – Love Me
After winding down the successful debut album success, the UKs biggest guitar band The 1975 went for a completely new redesign. There was something electrifying about seeing the online reaction to the band changing their trademark colours from black and white to pink and white and what follows I think none of us expected. Drawing from Rock Of Ages seemingly, The 1975 have become an all-out glam rock outfit with Love Me a barnstormer. It features the best guitar solo of the year and felt like a gravely important moment for guitar music in 2015.
44. Macklemore – Downtown
Taking time off making the funnest music in the charts, Macklemore has been spending time in Seattle with his family and new child whilst also getting ready for the next movement. In late Autumn we got that movement with Downtown, an enormous fun track that rivaled last year’s Uptown Funk. Featuring seminal 80s rappers Kool Moe Lee, Grandmaster Caz and Melle Mel, Mack went to Downtown creating a modern day rap version of MJ’s Beat It with his video. With cheesy but clever lines about Tiramisu, this was a huge party popper.
43. Years & Years – King
Years & Years’ breakout moment in January with King felt super important as it was the first song of the year from a new artist which hit the big-time. What I’m saying is, with King, Years & Years became the first great new artist of 2015 and that as a moment was awesome to witness.
42. Rihanna – Four Five Seconds
Rihanna has been the talk of the music town for the past 365 days this year after her R8/Anti album just hasn’t come into existence yet. After a strong start to the year with releases like American Oxygen, Bitch Better Have My Money and most of all FourFiveSeconds, There has been no good news on the RiRi front. Her February collaboration with Kanye West and Sir Paul McCartney was an odd hit, but for me was easy to fall in love with. It’s been a dull year for Rihanna and Kanye but the seeds are in place from these records for an incredible 2016.
41. Hayley Kiyoko – Girls Like Girls
Girls Like Girls is a special record not just because of its fresh take on female homosexuality but because it’s done using vibey synth pop which is very in at the moment for age demographic this record should be hitting. Hayley Kiyoko is an internet darling, already famous through her acting so for her to release a track of this quality as part of her debut EP is a stunning testament of what’s to come. Personally for me, I dug it due to the perfect balance of uplifting synth and tension filled bass, it’s just very nice to listen to.
40. Janelle Monae – Yoga
Yoga is maybe the strongest pop song of the year. If it was a release from Beyonce or Rihanna it would have outshadowed every other release this year but maybe it’s right that it be a little secret for fans of the amazing Janelle Monae. Her attempt at releasing a pop song was perfect and hints to great stuff to come from her new project Wondaland.
39. Alessia Cara – Here
Officially the most viral track of the year according to Spotify, Alessia Cara’s ode to being anti-social is a great slice of new R&B and a first look at a genuinely exciting new star. Her EP which followed proved that she wasn’t going to be a one hit wonder, but it was Here which has stolen all the spot lights.
38. Justin Bieber – Sorry
In the grand tale of Justin Bieber’s Redemption Story, Sorry seems like the parade finish, the proof in the pudding that JB is back and scoring number ones for fun. It’s taken the world by storm as has Justin and from his solo material it’s the highest scoring song of his on this list. Well done JB.
37. Fono – Real Joy
Early in the year before his departure from Radio 1, Zane Lowe called Fono his Next Hype. Normally a Next Hype track would then move onto a few plays on other shows but even Zane was blown away by the record. He wound up playing the song for a few weeks, even kicking off the whole show with it. The truth is, each layer of Real Joy surprises. Every time something new drops into the mix it’s a brand new wow moment and for a debut single, this is beyond special. Let’s hope Fono brings us something even half as good next year.
36. Wolf Alice – Bros
One of my favourite tracks to play on Radio all year was Wolf Alice’s Bros. It never really grew old and as such I’m sure the station I programmed played it for nearly two months. Every time I heard the echoey main riff it put a smile on my face. This felt like Wolf Alice’s maturity moment, growing into a comfortable routine of how they make music. The track Bros was released last year, but 2015’s re edit and re mixing really gave the track more heart.
35. Drake – Know Yourself
Know Yourself is an important record this year for becoming the fan’s favourite Drake record. Whilst never released a single, crowds waited all set to hear Know Yourself from Drake, knowing that they would create chaos on the drop into ‘Running Through The 6 With My Woes’. This was also a phrase which would be viral all year, and again plummeted Drake to the top of pop culture. Effortlessly, he became the King.
34. Jhene Aiko – Eternal Sunshine
Eternal Sunshine was never the most popular song of the year, but there were none that matched it for beauty. Aiko’s voice is already a tremendous thing to behold but in Eternal Sunshine she sings about death and living with no regrets. This is partnered with a video echoing a car crash she was in a few years ago. You may well have missed it, but please sit yourself down and spend a few minutes with it.
33. JME – Man Don’t Care
There’s no denying that Skepta’s Shutdown was commercially the most important Grime track of the year, and that’s still to come on this list, but JME’s Man Don’t Care is a worthy underground challenger to it’s throne. JME has had a great year with his album Integrity and Giggs adding to the track is also fantastic. A chorus that has been hugely successful on the live scene and a beat which is instantly recognizable, Man Don’t Care is essential UK music this year.
32. Martin Solveig – Intoxicated
Solveig returned finally with a song to match his fame with Tennis anthem Hello. Yes, Intoxicated with a straight up bangerang, becoming for us at Spark FM the ‘unofficial official freshers track’ of the year. Everybody I know who has heard this song loves it and will dance and sing back the chorus. This was 2015’s happy go lucky club banger.
31. Chance The Rapper – Sunday Candy
Artistry in music was most present this year in Chance The Rapper who really pushed the boundaries of what he could do with his collaborate project with Donnie Trumpet, Surf, and more features than I think we’ve ever seen before. Add to that more and more fans, including Saturday Night Live, who made Chance the first independent, unsigned act to appear on their show. However the best song Chance was on all year was Sunday Candy, a gorgeous gospel rap song which like the best of his work, is so optimistic and happy sounding. The video is also worth your while being a one shot stage play. This signs Chance The Rapper off with an impressive five tracks in my Top 300. If an album of his own follows next year, I’ll be very excited for it.
30. Stormzy – Know Me From
Before I start I better say #Merky. Right now that’s done I will say that Stormzy’s best moment this year was the awesome Know Me From, a record which all fans of his and UK rap savour anytime they hear it. It’s a great example of a scene returning in 2015 and all year it has never dropped off, people still love it. The lines are savage but clever, Stormzy’s confidence etching high and rightly so. Know Me From showed his already huge influence on the scene. Worldwide domination is next.
29. Lethal Bizzle – Fester Skank
Lethal Bizzle had perhaps his best year of his career yet and he’s bound to be loving life as shown in Fester Skank, 2015’s most fun song. Bizzle has always been about creating his own pop culture around things like Dench and even more recently last year’s Rari Workout but the Fester dance has taken over the UK and people love everything this guy does now.
28. Kanye West – Only One
Only One was a really special record for me. Appearing on line on the turn of the year it was the first piece of music I heard in 2015 and I was so proud of it. Ultimately this year has been about me learning my craft as a music programmer and to kick off the year hearing a new Kanye track got me so excited about everything to come. The song itself is a dream Kanye had about his mother speaking to him from heaven telling him not to let his mistakes control him. It showed Kanye was happy with his family and where his life was heading into this year and as an artist I love a lot it gave me a lot confidence heading into this year too. I’ll always feel happy listening to Only One.
27. Major Lazer – Lean On
Major Lazer’s Lean On was the official song of the Summer and the most streamed song of the year. The reason is that Diplo knows how to craft a hit, this being commercially his biggest of the year. Major Lazer have a really good knowledge of how to make music enjoyed around the globe due to its happy factor. Lean On is a tune people loved because it oozes partying and having a good time. People loved it during Summer for being out in the Sun or for it helping to pass time at work so people could get out in the Sun. I had a pretty sick dance routine to it too.
26. Post Malone – White Iverson
There were few tracks I listened to more than Post Malone’s debut single White Iverson which instantly won me over with its chilled out vibes. More tracks have already sounded fantastic and with a distinctive style and sound, Post Malone goes into 2016 as one of the most important new acts to follow.
25. The Weeknd – Can’t Feel My Face
What a year The Weeknd has had, with his album Beauty Behind The Madness taking Abel Tesfaye up to the next level of superstardom. No longer was he an R&B cult as I Can’t Feel My Face projected him as the next Michael Jackson and took him to the top of the charts worldwide. Obviously The Weeknd is a very different artist to MJ, but after hearing music like this it’s not impossible to see him reach those heights in the future. And it doesn’t look like The Weeknd is winding down anytime soon.
24. Bring Me The Horizon – Throne
Enter the biggest rock band on the planet, Bring Me The Horizon. From the very beginning of Throne’s heavy scuzzy synth line, it was apparent that Oli Sykes and co were heading for the bigtime. There was a time when Linkin Park would bang out hit after hit which felt vital. They didn’t stop making that music but as a band people stopped caring. There’s a massive hole in the market for this type of music now, and BMTH have filled that. Next stop is festival headline slots, and after seeing them perform at Leeds festival this year I have no doubts that will absolutely happen.
23. Carly Rae Jepsen – I Really Like You
In the pop world, everybody’s favourite artist this year was of course Carly Rae Jepsen. Her album E.Mo.Tion was pop perfection and with songs like Your Type and Run Away With Me, she proved she wasn’t a one hit wonder. What was a great moment this year though, her greatest, was the fanfare and joy surrounding the release of I Really Like You. The video featured Tom Hanks (and a cameo by Bieber) and was a great return for Jeppo.
22. Years & Years – Shine
Although most people will remember Years & Years by King, it was Shine which I feel is the better song and will go down as their best song from their first album campaign. Building on mellow vibes, the track is shy and quiet leading into a slow build. When the chorus hits though, Shine becomes an immaculately written number. Olly’s vocals sound unstoppable on it, and for me the song reached heights that King and not many other songs could this year.
21. Tame Impala – Cause I’m A Man
For me, Tame Impala’s best single in their career came this year with Cause I’m A Man. The track does not have a beginning rather we fall into a groove instantly. Knowing how Impala roll I was expecting a 5 minute groove of this but then the chorus hits and sonically we’re exposed to one of the year’s biggest wow moments in music. The track feels so vast, like we’re listening inside of a canyon. It’s stunning and for me was one of the most inspiring pieces of music in 2015.
20. Foals – What Went Down
I was expecting some pretty sweet sounding Math Rock from Foals on their comeback single, but What Went Down had none of that for us. Instead it was an immediate ferocious dog bite of distortion and anger pumped into music. Rarely has a comeback single felt like it had so much to say but this one did, and on first listen as the chorus hit I was transported to picturing it tearing up crowds when played live. Luckily I got the chance to see Foals tear it up live at Leeds festival and grow to the arena band they always toyed about with being in their music. They’ve taken a step up and with What Went Down, made the heaviest and most impressive track of their career.
19. Little Mix – Black Magic
For part of the year Little Mix’s Black Magic was my favourite tune of 2015 and there’s many reasons why. First of all, by this point Little Mix are bang on with crafting perfect pop hits that are accessible. Black Magic offers all four ladies moments to shine and shows what they can do together. It’s catchy, fun and has gorgeous disco guitar to guide it along. The girls have made plenty of songs which are on the same level as Black Magic but what makes it so special is that it was the record to break Little Mix in America and for that it will be remembered in their catalogue forever.
18. Jason DeRulo – Want To Want Me
Just ahead of Black Magic, and maybe my favourite colossal chart beast of the year is Jason DeRulo’s subliminal Want To Want Me, a masterclass in great pop music. The song has remained current and refreshing through-out the year and happily sits as one of the main tracks to define mainstream music in 2015. Plus, he now whispers his name, talk about making risky changes to your career and it paying off!
17. Nick Jonas – Jealous
2015 marked the career change for one Nick Jonas, from Disney Jonas Bro to Justin Timberlake V2. Buff and leatherclad he brought his falsetto synthpop record Jealous to mainstream radio in the US on the turn of the year before bringing it over to the UK in May. It seemed for me that people did sit on Jealous for a while but they were all just daft, it was always going to be a massive hit. In Levels and Chains, Nick has also proved he’s got a glorious career ahead of him, but I’ll always remember being excited about Jealous before anybody else had a clue.
16. EXO – Call Me Baby
I can’t begin to understand how the politics in Asian music work but anyway, South Korean-Chinese mega boy band group thingy EXO gave me one of the best tunes of the year with Call Me Baby. Mostly not in English the tune has so much swagger and confidence about it and most of all, feels like a reinvention of the classic boy band sound. I’m talking about Backstreet Boys and N*Sync, not your new One Direction or Vamps type sound. Considering there’s a fair amount of them, twelve of them, time is split perfectly and it all sounds cohesive. I’d never usually say something so outrageous but this could so be marketable to the West if done right, please make Exo a worldwide thing.
15. Spector – All The Sad Young Men
For all of their short and snappy guitar riffs and indie vocal hooks, I loved Spector of old. One member down and a fairly long time off the scene for a new band was unusual and didn’t suggest good things were coming but Spector took their time making new music and you can really hear it with All The Sad Young Men, their first proper record back. Fred’s writing was of the highest quality which challenged the norm of how we think and live and I relate to that, and I really relate to this song. For me it’s the most emotional synth led music since The Killers did ballads.
14. Wolf Alice – Giant Peach
If you’re at a Wolf Alice gig, you will no doubt hear the crowd chant ‘Peach, Peach, Peach’ towards the end of a show. The reason being is that Wolf Alice this year unloaded onto us their secret weapon, Giant Peach. The greatest track the band have written thus far in their young career, the track plays about before blasting off into one of the best guitar records in recent years. Ellie sounds ethereal on it and towards the end the breakdown we get is unforgettable. It’s hard to believe a band got it so right so early into their career but that’s Wolf Alice for you. The best new act of 2015.
13. Grimes – Flesh Without Blood
Whilst Grimes always hinted that she could make music that was both cool and accessible it always leaned to the former. Tunes like Oblivion and Genesis were great but it felt like Grimes could do a lot more and immediately with Flesh Without Blood she did with its unique drive and equal measure of danger and sweetness. Grimes is an artist unparalleled in being able to give a song so much character. Her album Art Angels was also one of the year’s highlights.
12. Tobias Jesso Jr – How Could You Babe
Tobias Jesso Jr may not have topped the charts this year but there’s nobody who has proven themselves as much as he has on his ability to write music. Working with Adele aside, Tobias also released his own incredible album which featured one of the best songs of the year, the timeless sounding How Could You Babe. When I listen to it I hear Rocket Man by Elton John as both are captivating but somber. Tobias’ voice itself is like Elton or contemporaries of his like Billy Joel. I hope we’ve just scratched the surface with him too as if we get more music like this in the future we might be onto something vital.
11. Bear’s Den – Above The Clouds Of Pompeii
Ivor Novello winning Above The Clouds of Pompeii definitely did the trick on me, combining it’s warm stove fire style folk music and uplifting brass with a story in the lyrics which could bring anybody with a heartbeat to tears. Music is supposed to be writing about how you feel and writing about things that happen in life and Bear’s Den do that, writing the perfect song about losing a family member. It’s tranquil but also grand and it deserves every piece of recognition it gets from everywhere and everyone.
10. Kendrick Lamar – Wesley’s Theory
The opening track to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly kicks off my Top 10 and it’s a bit of an odd choice I will admit. It’s not a single and it’s certainly not a song that many other people have chosen amongst the best records of the year but for me it was eye opening. Jazz music has never sounded so current and in working with George Clinton and Thundercat, Kendrick opened his album with an amalgamation of the greatest black music sounds all meshed into the most current piece of music released this year. Kendrick’s lyrics are deep like most of his album but he also has pop sensibilities on what feels like a chorus alongside using the worm synth sound, one of my favourites in hip hop. It actually kind of comes as a disappointment to find out that the whole thing is based on Wesley Snipe’s tax evasion but hey ho, K.Dot can make anything sound important.
9. G-Eazy – Tumblr Girls
Oakland’s G-Eazy has quietly had a phenomenal year working on his new album When It’s Dark Out and appearing on global hit You Don’t Own Me from Grace. In many ways 2015 will be his breakout year but it was the echoes of his 2014 debut These Things Happen that interested me most. In January Gerald released Tumblr Girls as a proper single after it was so popular amongst his fans that it made the extended version of his album. I’m not sure if I can hit the nail on the head of why I love this record so much but for me in an age where people love rap and love great vibey music with synths and deep lying bass, this blends both perfectly. This is a song which makes you picture Sunny beaches and lyrically G-Eazy is honest about his lack of empathy.
8. Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian At Best
Critically, people absolutely adored Pedestrian At Best, the lead single from Courtney Barnett’s debut album titled Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit. That about sums up Barnett, she’s all about her lyrics, so when we got a storming guitar riff in Pedestrian At Best which allowed Courtney to shout-rap (think Beastie Boys) over it, it was a treat on the ears. Due to its wit, even listening now in December there’s so much to re-find and re-love in the tune which was released in February.
7. Jamie XX – I Know (There’s Gonna Be Good Times)
A secretive super-producer gets in the studio to record his debut album away from the indie band he is famed for. He already has his lead single, Loud Places, in place but for the follow up he decides to do something unthinkably mental. Being in love with lots of different music he sees potential in Reggae so drafts in Popcaan who has been igniting the flame in that scene for the past few years. He sees potential in Trap and Autotune rap so drafts in Young Thug, who was one of the biggest underground stars off the back of Rich Gang last year. Everything I’m writing here shouldn’t make sense but what we got was one of the records of the year. Jamie XX, you are the most intelligent music maker on the planet, this is Good Times.
6. Erik Hassle – No Words
Still modest with his success, Swedish popstar Erik Hassle gave us the year’s best straight up pop song in No Words. It’s not had any fanfare but luckily I fell upon it in Spring and haven’t dropped it since. Bearing the gorgeous message of not being able to find the right words to describe how much he loves his boo, Hassle mixes the funkiest of guitars with lush strings to create a powerfully addictive piece of pop. As a popstar he also has his look on point with the frizzy ginger hair and creatively out there shirts. I guess what I’m getting at is that Erik Hassle is just a really likeable artist and in No Words he gave us one criminally undervalued record.
5. Skepta – Shutdown
Everytime I’ve been to a party or club this year it’s been on an 8/10 tops and then one of two things happens. They either finish at most an 8, or they play Skepta and finish a 10 and be Shutdown. Grime continues to grow and Shutdown has been its pinnacle in 2015, meeting and then surpassing what That’s Not Me did last year for the scene and for Skepta’s fame. He’s broken the American rap scene now, thanks to this. In the UK if there was one song you got on this year, it was this.
4. Kendrick Lamar – The Blacker The Berry
The Blacker The Berry was for me the first best song of the year. Through-out most of the year in fact I carried Kendrick’s violent take on police brutality and racism in America as the most important record of the year, far ahead of his own song Alright. I still personally feel that this is his greatest song yet and is saying something as important as Alright is. Kendrick explores the idea that the hatred for what has happened on the streets in America isn’t the full story. He still loses friends in his home Compton to gang wars and random acts of violence. In essence, the problems lie deeper than police brutality.
3. Fetty Wap – Trap Queen
Hip hop’s funnest track of the year belonged to new breakout star Fetty Wap with his trappy ballad about his love that he loves to throw bands on. Trap Queen should have been a hit in the rap world but actually wound up becoming a monster hit worldwide. From here Fetty hasn’t looked back giving us My Way and 679 as well as a great debut album. With almost 350 million YouTube hits, Fetty did something that not many of the rap heavyweights could and that deserves to be recognized.
2. Drake – Hotline Bling
With a grand total of EIGHT records placing in my Top 300, with Hotling Bling ranked number 2, Drake wins artist of the year. What makes Hotline Bling a great story is that it wasn’t even supposed to be a single. Initially it was just posted on Soundcloud like most of Drake’s great demos are. It was a throw-away essentially. However in a year where another throw-away and diss track got Grammy nominated for Drizzy, I suppose it’s no surprise to hear that Hotling Bling has done so well. Aside from being a tremendous song with no burn factor and which is so easily accessible, the track has had the most impact on pop culture out of any track this year. Everybody loves its Vine memes. Everybody loves Drake dancing and everybody loves Drake. I could speak forever on how great a year he has had but remember, he’s not even released his album yet. Everything we’ve had this year is build up for that so good lord are we in for an amazing 2016 from him.
Drake has been an important sound of 2015, but for me there are two artists who have summed up what it has been like to live with music this year. They are Diplo and Justin Bieber. And everything started with my Number 1 track of the year, Where Are U Now!
1. Jack U x Justin Bieber – Where Are U Now
Around Autumn time whilst juggling any of the Top 4 around in my head for which song I loved most, I decided that my winner would be Jack U and Justin Bieber’s Where Are U Now. For me I kept on returning to it for numerous reasons. On a personal level I had many great days and nights singing this in the shower or in the club or at work and then losing my crap to the drop. I guess it was the song I connected with most this year. On a cultural level, it was the beginning of Bieberfever returning and also it marked Diplo and Skirllex, two men who really know what music people love, getting a huge hit which they deserved so much. The more I think about it, the more I realize that nothing comes close to feeling like it should be matching this, it’s a really worthy winner and I honestly think concluding this list, with Where Are U Now at the top, we’ve had an absolutely incredible year.
This has taken me along time to compile and debate but I am proud of it and I’m proud of what a great year we’ve had. Let me know what you think and if I’ve missed any you loved. Thank you very much for reading,