We’re in the final stretch here; 2015 is quickly drawing to a close and we’re looking back on the year that was. But hey, we’ve still got a few more weeks to go, and with each of those weeks, another 5 Best Songs. Quick programming note: This list actually takes into consideration songs released over the last two weeks, because last week’s column was pre-empted by Thanksgiving. But we’re back now, ready to take this thing to the finish line. Here’s the soundtrack.
Two Inch Astronaut have been remarkably consistent throughout their run so far — put “Good Behavior” on any of their past releases and it would hardly sound out of place. Even amidst lineup changes, the latest of which is the addition of Grass Is Green’s Andy Chervenak on bass, they’ve managed to achieve a cohesiveness that allows you to stop listening for the big picture and start appreciating the little things. Like the cadence of Sam Rosenberg’s voice as it ducks in and around those serrated riffs, or the sample that delineates the track between mounting tension and thorny breakdown. The song’s about getting yourself into a shitty situation due to a series of unhealthy predispositions and realizing that “good behavior can’t help me now,” and the sound mirrors that turn into a self-destructive skid. –James
For some idea of how big a deal CL is in Asia, you only need to watch this video of her performing at the Mnet Asian Music Awards in Hong Kong earlier this week, getting Michael Jackson/’N SYNC-level screams while strutting through lasers and motorcycles and flag-waving dancers. (Stick around for the 2NE1 reunion.) She is, point blank, one of the biggest and most important pop stars in the world. And the fact that she’d go solo with a piece of kinetic trap music with this level of attitudinal style is… well, it’s not weird, exactly, since we more or less expect pop stars to be weird nowadays. But it’s awesome. The beat has the quasi-eastern swagger and megaton thump of a circa-’04 Polow Da Don track, and CL’s bilingual snarl is huge enough to swallow the sky. If this ends up being the song that takes CL global — if, indeed, that hasn’t already happened — America’s pop stars are not safe. –Tom
“Those drums. They’re apocalyptic.” That was my initial reaction to hearing ANOHNI’s (fka Antony Hegarty) first single in years, and it turns out that thought wasn’t misguided at all. When ANOHNI released it, she posted a note stating that the sentiment of “4 Degrees” stands in solidarity with those fighting for environmental justice during the Paris climate talks. Form follows content almost too perfectly on this song as ANOHNI turns a small utterance (“it’s only four degrees”) into a massive statement about the unconscionable destruction of our natural world. Of course, ANOHNI does this by employing tactics used in older, equally massive anthems that raise the stakes of daily existence to perplexing levels. When I listen to “4 Degrees,” I hear the menacing hounds of love chasing Kate Bush through a murky, fantastical forrest. I see Adolf building his bonfire all over again in the same way that he did in Peter Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontiers” (which Bush also happens to be featured on). But just like both of those songs, “4 Degrees” can only break your heart if you pause to examine its lyrical intricacies. “All those rhinos, all those big mammals, I want to see them lying crying in the field/ I wanna see them burning, it’s only four degrees.” Some might consider this a call-to-arms, but I don’t really hear much hope in it. In spite of its undeniable beauty, “4 Degrees” is an indictment. –Gabriela
Sometimes, just standing in the middle of Times Square is almost enough to induce a panic attack — the blinding artificial light of the giant video billboards searing their 20-foot-tall Coca-Cola cans into your retinas while the mass of humanity around you rushes from who-knows-where to who-cares. That’s exactly the kind of feeling that “Capitalized” taps into, only Big Ups turn it from anxiety to white-hot rage. On last year’s Eighteen Hours Of Static, Joe Galarraga put the whole world on blast, spitting acid at technology, consumerism, religion, and 21st century society in general, sparing no target (including himself). On “Capitalized,” as one might guess, he takes on capitalism: “Don’t sleep till it’s all been capitalized,” he howls. That’s hardly a new target for punk music, and Big Ups don’t frame it in a particularly novel way, but fuck, it works. The whole thing kicks off with this relentlessly driving bassline, mimicking the desperate pace of modern existence, and even the quieter moments don’t bring any relief, with Galarraga muttering about how the future is coming and your choices mean nothing and personhood is empty like some two-bit doomsday prophet. After about two minutes of the assault, it’s suddenly over, presumably because this kind of ferocity just isn’t sustainable. Sort of like late capitalism, am I right guys? –Peter
This one goes much deeper than the phone-centric conceit driving Erykah Badu’s new mixtape. Years ago, Badu and André 3000 went from peers in a Southern rap and R&B renaissance to lovers to parents of a young son. That’s all over now. The revolution is over, the boy has grown up, and the two musical geniuses have long since settled into the role of old friends the way estranged lovers sometimes do. But there’s still something exceptionally poignant about hearing them harmonize on the phrase, “Don’t change for me, babe.” Each of them has transformed plenty over the years, yet they wouldn’t or couldn’t make the concessions necessary to hold their romance together. Such strong-willed individuals have a way of clashing after a while, but while it lasts, it can be incredible. In the case of these two, that has always been true. So let’s be thankful they deigned to join forces once more and give us a little more magic. –Chris