It was a bloody battle up to this point, but we've curated our Top 20 Tracks Of 2015. Without further ado:
20. Miracle – Squad (feat. Manu Crooks & Anfa Rose)
"Goddamn, goddamn." It's a pretty apt summary of the year that was for Sydney rapper Miracle. Parting ways with Sony to undertake his own independent project (#lahters), Miracle unleashed his 'Sounds of the Youth' mixtape for free online. Featuring collabs with local heavyweights B Wise and Remi, the release is a treasure chest of both bangers and slow-burning hip hop. Calling on the musical chops of fellow Sydney cats Manu Crooks & Anfa Rose, "Squad" acts as a bold linchpin to Miracle's musings, and an ode to the decadence of your finest years.
19. Kacy Hill – Foreign Fields
The enigmatic Kacy Hill was quietly birthed into the music world in late 2014 with her indie-electronic debut "Experience", announcing her official promotion from Kanye West's back-up dancer to his latest protégé and GOOD Music roster member. Come September, the former American Apparel model returned with the bewitching "Foreign Fields". Produced by buzz-kid Jack Garratt, the sparse, piano-led alt-pop masterclass is yet another confirmation that Yeezy can spot and curate talent like nobody else. Keep an eye on this raw, intriguing talent.
18. Miguel – Coffee
After karate kicking his way around the world and into our hearts, the RnB maestro and notable love-making advocate Miguel returned with his highly anticipated follow up to 2012's 'Kaleidescope Dream'. 'Wildheart' was an all-round masterpiece, seeing the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist pick up the electric guitar to craft "Coffee", the love-drenched morning-after anthem of 2015. Here, Miguel's wordplay is arguably at its best, as he manages to masterfully imbue sexual overtones like "Old souls we found a new religion / Now I'm swimming in that sin, that's baptism" amidst a wealth of sharp melodies and slick rhythms.
17. Jeremih – Planez
Everything works on a circular continuum, and both music and hip hop are no different. Where the last few years have (thankfully) seen hip hop sprout and diverge outwards into amalgams of past, present and future genres, a field of artists experimenting can quickly become a field of artists only producing carbon copy monotony. So when Jeremih returned with "Planez", a classic RnB track in more ways than one, it felt refreshing in ways almost forgotten. A simple, earthy synth and drum clap duo provide the arena for Jeremih's vintage RnB vocals, before the usually poignant, introspective J.Cole jumps in to provide a hilariously vulgar rap denoting penis size and all of the above. "Planez" is four minutes of pure, unadulterated RnB, and it feels damn good.
16. Mura Masa – Firefly
At the ripe old age of 19 (no, really), English producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/genius Mura Masa is proving a melodic force to be reckoned with. His knack for shimmering beats and expertise with synths takes centre stage on the 'Someday Somewhere' EP, and second single "Firefly" pedals sharp, warped pulses with the bright ethereal vocals of fellow Brit Nao. Incorporating exotic Asian soundscapes into his cuts (think flute, thumb piano, chimes), Nao ties it all together in a clean knot chorus, marrying the layers without over-doing it. It's straight-up fire.
15. Kendrick Lamar – King Kunta
Kendrick Lamar is quite possibly the most influential, intelligent and poignant force in the hip hop world today. Alluding to Kunta Kinte, the 18th-century African man-turned-slave at the centre of the iconic novel 'Roots: The Sage of an American Family' by Alex Haley, Lamar's thumping, aggressive soul anthem "King Kunta" addresses rampant racial oppression in the US and his issues with the state of the modern rap scene. "I got a bone to pick / I dont want you monkey mouth motherfuckers sittin’ in my throne again," the god-like emcee kicks in, reassuring his position at the top of the rap game and reminding everyone how he got there on hard work and talent alone. "This shit is elementary, I’ll probably go to jail / If I shoot at your identity and bounce to the left," he continues, reminding us that the war on prejudice is far from over, and the road to equality is still a long and winding one indeed.
14. Vince Staples – Norf Norf
As well as being one of the funniest rappers, Vince Staples also solidified his place as one of the most socially conscious rappers in the game in 2015. Not afraid to call out the shortfalls of the genre he calls home, Staples took the daunting truths of his upbringing in Long Beach, California without glorifying the culture of gang bangin' and drug slingin' he once was deeply involved in, to craft his impressive sophomore album 'Summertime '06'. Album standout "Norf Norf" and the accompanying film clip reflected Staples' pride in his origins whilst once again bringing to light the reality of his past by repeating "I ain't never ran from nothin' but the police" on the hook. "Norf Norf" is an absolute heater of a track – one that we won't be forgetting anytime soon.
13. Travi$ Scott – Antidote
Hype unfortunately did Travis Scott somewhat of a disfavour. In the months leading up to the release of La Flame's debut album 'Rodeo', celebrities and fans alike were collectively salivating at teaser after teaser to, in an unfortunate twist of events, be let down – regardless of the countless tweets and grams which might suggest otherwise. It had all the makings of a classic debut hip hop album, but for some elusive reason, the inherently dark, jaded LP felt contrived and bland in most parts. However, there was a shining light in "Antidote" – a pure turn-up gem, rising from the murky field of potential and missed opportunity. "Antidote" is perfectly bleak, as Scott flexes his best examples of production, singing and rapping across four eclectic, intoxicating minutes. Here's to what could have been...
12. GoldLink – Spectrum
It's easy to lose sleep trying to work out how the hell GoldLink has managed to tear up tracks back-to-back-and-back-again. From collaborations with Chet Faker and Zhu, to electronically-charged urban releases like "Dance On Me", and finally his 'And After That, We Didn't Talk' debut LP (which legendary producer Rick Rubin helped steer into existence), the D.C. emcee made 2015 his stage, prolific in his outputs and consistent in his performance. Just shy of 1.5 million SoundCloud plays, "Spectrum" is another jewel in the emcee's crown, crafted with spitfire delivery, finely curated samples, and perfectly measured beats.
11. Tame Impala – Let It Happen
As the lead single from their gargantuan third LP 'Currents', Tame Impala's masterful psych-rock jam "Let It Happen" was a signal of sonic divergence for one of the most respected outfits in modern rock. With the full album version acting as a sprawling opener just short of eight minutes, Kevin Parker and co. waste no time in expressing their fresh intent, kicking off a steamy, kaleidoscopic anthem that isn't just heard – it's experienced. Awash with layers of misty looped vocals and glitchy hooks, "Let It Happen" is the audial equivalent of a thrilling hallucinogenic experience, and that's no mean feat.
10. Gallant – Weight In Gold
LA's Gallant has had quite the year, evolving from an artist to watch to now finding himself at the forefront of the future RnB movement. The moment Zane Lowe announced that he'd be premiering "Weight In Gold" in a world first exclusive on his Apple Music radio show, we should've known something big was to follow. Dozens of remixes later from the likes of Brasstracks, Ta-ku and Ekali (just to name a few), and we all still find ourselves belting out that gloriously anthemic chorus, struggling to match Gallant's falsetto and tearing up in the powerful clutch of one of the staple tracks of 2015.
9. Gang Of Youths – Magnolia
It's highly unlikely that you'll ever hear a more assured, confident debut album by an Australian rock band than Gang Of Youth's masterful 'The Positions'. From a concept album surrounding the pitfalls of love and mortality, frontman David Le'aupepe emerged as one of the finest songwriters of the year, mysticising banality, stoically reflecting on unabashed love and de-stigmatising mental health issues. "Magnolia" details Dave's close call with suicide, but you'd never guess it – there's an infectious joy bursting from every clanging piano, angelic string part and impassioned melody. Gang of Youths are the future of Australian music, and "Magnolia" is their pièce de résistance.
8. The Internet – Girl
The Internet emulate the no-fucks-given attitude of the Odd Future label by sounding nothing like their other button-pushing, eyebrow-raising peers. The LA collective's third album 'Ego Death' – which is, just casually, nominated for Best Urban Contemporary Album at the 2016 Grammys – saw the LA collective play more alternative RnB cards. Standout track "Girl" pits a deep bass line against lithe keys and Syd the Kid's soulful vocals, clocking in at just under seven minutes of sultry grooves. The Kaytranada-assisted cut spotlights The Internet's knack for enticing arrangements that hit simple, and hit hard.
7. Doe Paoro – The Wind
When you have Bon Iver's Justin Vernon planted in the producer's chair, you're almost guaranteed to end up with nothing less than brilliance. Nonetheless, the real star of the show here is Doe Paoro, a singer-songwriter currently based in LA who channeled her experience of being stranded in New York during Hurricane Sandy into one of the most expansive pieces of music in existence. "The Wind" jumps on its hind legs ands roams free, dwelling far beyond the ambient tones and cyclical piano line that underlay the soaring vocals of both Paoro and co-writer and feature vocalist Adam Rhodes.
6. Chance The Rapper – Angels (feat. Saba)
It was a mind-blowing, carefully-choreographed appearance from Chance The Rapper on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in October that introduced us mere mortals to "Angels". Brimming with a soulful gospel energy, both the song and the performance were a confirmation that at just 22 years of age, Chi-town's Chancellor Bennett is a one-of-a-kind rapper and an artist running in exactly the right lane. "Angels" is a turn-up track for the ages, littered with bouncy beats, classic vocal hooks and some seriously charismatic flow. It's only up from here for one of the most exciting figures in the hip hop world.
5. The Weeknd – Can’t Feel My Face
It finally happened: The Weeknd's pop credibility and cross-over potential was eventually taken note of, resulting in superstardom, countless award nominations and the prize of one of the years biggest mainstream hits. However, what makes this particularly odd is the fact that "Can't Feel My Face" is a culmination of a collection of dark, drug focused mixtapes, and thematically, it rarely strays from those humble, ominous beginnings. It's a song about drugs and sex – two avenues covered extensively by Abęl Makkonen Tesfaye – but in 2015, it became an unorthodox ode to Michael Jackson and the golden days of pop music. Personal lyricism, polished production, and a catchy-as-hell hook – all the makings of a global anthem.
4. Jamie XX – I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) (feat. Young Thug, Popcaan)
In the last few months, Jamie xx has graduated from production bigwig to overlord. Stepping out of the shadows of three-piece minimal electronic outfit the xx, the UK beatmaster was finally able to stretch his wings out to full breadth (THANK GOD) with his debut solo album 'In Colour'. The release hit no. 1 on Billboard's Dance/Electronic charts, with "I Know There's Gonna Be Good Times" showcasing his genre-transcendent tastes. Fusing barbershop harmonies with a guest verse from Young Thug and vocals from dancehall legend Popcaan, it's clear Jamie xx hasn't left his experimental approaches behind. Best part is, he's just getting started.
3. Tame Impala – The Less I Know The Better
Is Kevin Parker the most potent force in modern indie rock? If the success of 'Currents' – the multi-talented Aussie maestro's third effort with his band of merry men in Tame Impala – is anything to go off, all signs point to 'hell yeah'. Paired with a (pretty NSFW) '70s-inspired hallucinatory video including a gorilla mascot, basketball and backflips, "The Less I Know The Better" is the standout jam from what is a consistently outstanding album. Putting Parker's signature honey-drenched falsetto to full use, the blissful psychedelic jam floats along on a crunchy beat, potent bass lines and glistening synth hooks. The man can do no wrong.
2. Drake – Hotline Bling
There aren't many artists who have the internet eating out of the palm of their hands quite like Drake. It was in July this year during the second episode of OVO Sound's Beats 1 Radio show that the 6 God dropped three new tracks – "Right Hand", "Charged Up" and "Hotline Bling". Although each of the tracks blew up in their own right, it was "Hotline Bling" and the ensuing film clip that took the internet by storm, generating countless laughs, memes and appropriations on Vine. "Hotline Bling" quickly became this year's pinnacle of pop culture, and the undisputed sing-a-long track of choice at parties around the world.
1. Kendrick Lamar – Alright
"Da Da Da Da" – that simple vocal loop courtesy of Pharrell Williams is already iconic, initiating the beginning of a track so flawless and consummate in both production and lyricism, but ultimately truly recognised for its overall cultural significance and impact. No one can deny 'To Pimp A Butterfly's' importance as a racially-charged anthem, but few would have ever predicted "We Gon Be Alright" to literally become something like a war cry for countless black rights demonstrations and parades. In some way, it did seem inevitable that the king of conscious rap would eventually become a figurehead for a new generation ready to tackle inequality head on. In the film clip for "Alright", Kendrick Lamar literally serves as Compton (and America's) saviour or Messiah. Lamar is ironically shot down, to only smile and wink at the camera as the clip comes to a close. Regardless of Kendrick's future movements, his legacy is already solidified, and his eye-opening, deeply revealing body of work will outlive even the man himself.