31. How to Dress Well – Set It Right (Total Loss)The loss of Tom Krell’s best friend exactly one year prior was the inspiration for this heart wrenching song. The song’s bridge is a commemoration of lost loved ones that eventually bursts into Krell desperately promising to “set it right”.
30. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – That’s What’s Up (Here)
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros have taken a popular slang term used to show concurrence and turned it into yet another irresistibly whimsical love song.
29. Sleigh Bells – End of the Line (Reign of Terror)
Certainly one of Sleigh Bells’ softer songs but what it lacks in sheer volume it makes up for in emotional weight. Allison Krauss contemplates death and the alienation of feeling all alone in the universe: “No one loves you/up above you/no one hears you/no one sees you”.
28. Alabama Shakes – Hold On (Boys & Girls)
Brittany Howard has an absolute colossus of a voice. And while it’s their most recognizable aspect, Alabama Shakes are no one trick pony. The backing band crafts incredibly catchy pop music while still retaining that soulful vibe. “Hold On” is the highlight as the band more than keeps up with Howard and I’d argue the bluesy guitar riff in the chorus is actually the strongest part of the song; that really says something considering the magnitude of Howard’s voice.
27. Best Coast – The Only Place (The Only Place)
An album about being homesick, “The Only Place” is the perfect opener. Bethany Cosentino lyrics fondly recall her home in California and beg the question “why would you live anywhere else?” After listening to this song, I’m not really sure I can answer that question.
26. Andrew Bird – Danse Caribe (Break It Yourself)
Despite being one of the most prolific songwriters working, Andrew Bird still manages to keep things fresh with each new release. On “Danse Caribe”, the song shifts and evolves from a sparse and simplistic verse to a beautifully harmonized chorus and finally into a bridge that is part Tennessee hodown and part Carribean dance groove. Check out this live performance for KEXP in Seattle.
25. Dirty Projectors – About To Die (Swing Lo Magellan)
Dirty Projectors compose incredibly complex and abstract songs that in the past were centered on David Longstreth’s guitar work. On the new album, there is a focus on the songs as a whole rather than one individual instrument. “About to Die” is centered around a brilliant beat and aside from the drums, the instrumentation is rather subdued which allows the vocal harmonies to shine.
24. Fang Island – Victorinian (Major)
On their new album, Fang Island have evolved from a group of incredible musicians into a group of accomplished songwriters. This is never more evident than on album closer “Victorinian”. The song is built around a layered piano that shifts and changes throughout the song as they move through the verses and choruses (yes, Fang Island has embraced song structure). This eventually builds to the obligatory Fang Island harmonized guitar solo, which is as epic as anything on their self titled debut. I, for one, am embracing this evolution.
23. Bowerbirds – Tuck the Darkness In (The Clearing)
“Tuck the Darkness In” is the perfect song to open Bowerbirds’ new album. It begins as a sparse guitar arrangement that eventually builds and then crescendos in the bridge as Phil Moore and girlfriend/bandmate Beth Tacular harmonize “Oh my dear friend/everything falls to death/we tuck the darkness in”; a hauntingly beautiful sentiment about accepting our eventual fate.
22. Passion Pit – Constant Conversations (Gossamer)
“Constant Conversations” is up there with the best songs Michael Angelakos has every created. The vocal sample, “that you’ll never leave” is completely desperate and devastating and a perfect fit for this song. Angelakos is drinking an incredible amount to cope with both his mental health issues and the constant judgment surrounding his art. He becomes “a mess with a name and a price” and becomes increasingly reliant on his wife to pull him out.
21. Chromatics – Kill for Love (Kill for Love)
“Kill For Love” begins with a chaotic series of synthesized warbles that eventually rights itself into a simplistic, tension building verse and with the declaration that “I killed for love”, the song explodes to life with a monumental instrumental chorus.