Over 25 billion tracks have been sold during iTunes’ lifetime. That works out at roughly 7 million tunes downloaded each and every day. Forgetting about Spotify streams, YouTube plays and Soundcloud mixes, this year alone we’ll have got through about 2.5 billion songs. To save you the 42 billion hours you’d need to listen to all that music we’ve shortlisted our favourite tracks of 2015 from Kelela to Kendrick Lamar, in no particular order. Enjoy.
Drake – “Hotline Bling”
The music video that spawned a thousand memes. Forget Anonymous, all it takes is a 5 minute clip of Champagne Papi dancing through a James Turrell–inspired technicolor and the internet goes into meltdown. It couldn’t not be on our list.
Grimes – “Realiti”
For something that was ‘never meant to be heard by anyone’, Realiti is undoubtedly our favourite from Boucher’s long-awaited third album, Art Angels. A visual memoir to her time spent touring through Asia, Realiti swallows elements of bass, trance and EDM, regurgitating them as a cohesive modern-day pop anthem.
Kelela – “Rewind”
With a voice as delicate as it is compelling, Kelela’s Rewind proved Hallucinogen the perfect follow up to her critically acclaimed Cut 4 Me. Warm, rich and deeply emotive the singer drafted in help from Kingdom and Nugget to completely reimagine old 90s R&B influences. Be sure to keep an eye out for her debut LP.
Jamie xx – “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” ft. Young Thug & Popcaan
Pairing steel drums, loose jungle beats and percussive breaks with the vocals of Atlanta rapper Young Thug and Kingston dancehall artist Popcaan, Jamie xx has unequivocally reaffirmed himself as the UK’s best electronic artist. And as for The xx? In Colour has ‘definitely informed’ their next album, so there’s even more to look forward to.
Lady Leshurr – “Queen’s Speech Ep.4”
Never before has oral hygeine been so important. With an absurdly brilliant chorus which turned the track into a viral sensation (clocking up over 13 million views), Lady Leshurr is one of the UK’s hottest MCs right now. And, with support from Tinie Tempah, Gyptian, Skepta and Azealia Banks amongst others, one listen to her seamless flow and razor sharp wit makes it easy to see why.
Björk – “Stonemilker”
Pioneering an immersive virtual reality experience which has since set a precedent for everyone from the Foals to U2, Bjork explores our universal need for emotional clarity in Stonemilker. A lush, stormy ballad, the Icelandic artist digs deep and dark to produce a track that is both epic and personal in equal measure.
Little Simz – “Wings”
After finally dropping her much anticipated debut A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons, Little Simz has had an incredible year. The quick witted North London rapper stole the show on Later… with Jools Holland, has played sell out shows across the country and followed Mercury nominated Wolf Alice to win DICE’s coveted Live Award. With the backing of Snoop Dogg, André 3000, Mos Def and Skepta amongst others the throne is most definitely hers for the taking.
Shamir -“Call It Off”
Armed with his trademark cowbell and a voice that teiters between tenor and falsetto, it’s no surprise that XL Records snapped up Sin City native, Shamir Bailey, within months of the release of his infectious Northtown EP. Since then his unique brand of irreverent hip-pop has defined him as one of the stand out artists of 2015.
Nao – “Apple Cherry”
Nao’s sensual, off-kilter funk marked her out as an early success with the release of her debut EP, So Good, in 2014. Since then she’s collaborated with everyone from emerging electronic prodigy Mura Masa to house icons Disclosure and released a killer follow up with her February 15 EP. Hers is a name you won’t get chance to forget.
FKA Twigs – “Figure 8”
Making it on this list for the second year running, Twigs followed her critically acclaimed LP1 (which saw her nominated for a Mercury and the BBC’s Sound of 2014) with M3LL155X, a 5 track EP named after her personal female energy. Invoking the ballroom culture of New York’s early vogue scene, Figure 8 is inspired by infinite, fluid hand movements that frame a dancer’s face as they move. Making music that’s charged with a unique, dark sexual energy, Twigs continues to reassert herself as one of the UK’s most accomplished artists in every sense of the word.
Abra – “Roses”
A one-woman polymath, Awful Records’ Abra is fiercely independent when it comes to her music. She makes her own beats, writes her own lyrics, and sings her own vocals, preferring murky 80’s sounding synths and drums to the typical beats and breaks prevalent in much of today’s rap. Broody and serene, she’s definitely worth keeping a close eye on.
Liss – “Try”
Hailing from the coastal town of Aarhus in Northern Denmark, Liss have a big year ahead of them in 2016. Despite having only released a handful of tracks, they’re already seeing support from Zane Lowe, Pharrell and Scott Vener amongst others, have got Rodaidh McDonald working with them on production (he also looked after The xx, King Krule, Sampha et al) and are scooping profiles in NME and Dummy amongst others. One listen to their atypical brand of Nordic soul-pop and you’ll understand why.
Neon Indian – “Slumlord”
One of the early pioneers of the late naughties chill-wave movement, Neon Indian and frontman Alan Palomo took a hiatus in 2013 after the singer’s laptop, containing several years worth of demos, was stolen. Thankfully this year they’ve made a welcome comeback, first with upbeat, balearic beauty, Annie, and shortly afterwards with Slumlord, a warped, synth-heavy reverie. Let’s hope they’re here to stay this time.
Four Tet – “Morning Side”
Given that traditional classical Indian ragas are often named after times of day, it’s fitting that Kieran Hebden borrowed the voice of Bollywood singer Lata Mangeshkar for the first 20 minute side of his two track album, Morning/Evening. A moving, cinematic masterpiece, Hebden seamlessly blends electronic blips and percussive hi-hats with thick, mute tones on this absolute beauty of a track.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone
Infectiously catchy, New Zealand’s Ruban Neilson combines elements of funk, disco and psychedelic rock on his latest album, Multi-Love, so called after a rather disastrous foray into polyamory. Released in early April, Can’t Keep Checking My Phone has been on repeat in bars and boutiques across the world ever since.
Skrillex and Diplo – “Where Are Ü Now” with Justin Bieber
Rife with ‘expensive sounding sounds’, it’s no wonder Where Are Ü Now made it on to the list. Can’t you hear them? All those pricey beats, beeps and clicks. It’s overwhelming. Like a truffle for your ears. All jokes aside, it’s actually, really good.
Kendrick Lamar – “King Kunta”
Hailing from Compton, California, hip-hop’s reigning king Kendrick Lamar has had a pretty good year. His third album, To Pimp A Butterfly (which saw him collaborate with Snoop Dogg, Bilal, Thundercat and George Clinton amongst others) sold over 325,000 copies in its first week, charted on the Billboard 200 and picked him up two Grammys. So yea, not a bad 2015.
Lxury – “Square 1”
Opening with an eerie loop that recalls a supernatural Hitchcokian horror, Square 1 sees Lxury team up with the otherworldly Deptford Goth to produce a track that oozes, leftfield, sun-kissed electronica. For his first vocal track, it’s damn good.
Tinashe – “Players”
Anticipation for Tinashe’s long-awaited follow up to her debut album Aquarius is reaching fever-pitch. Having worked with Young Thug on Party Favours, and Chris Brown on Player, her forthcoming sophomore record boasts collaborations from Dev Hynes, Max Martin and Boi-1da amongst others. Get ready for a sizable dose of impeccable dance tinged R&B.
Thundercat – “Them Changes”
Spending the first half of the millennium as the go-to bassist for everyone from Erykah Badu to Flying Lotus, Stephen Bruner’s solo project continues to go from strength to strength. Woozy, wonky tracks that effortlessly straddle funk and jazz, Bruner’s third album, The Beyond / Where The Giants Roam, explores darker themes than Apocalypse without losing any of its brilliance. Recorded in the wake of close friend and collaborator Austin Peralta’s death, this is introspective bass at its best.
BONUS: Adele – “Hello”
ICYMI, Adele smashed album sales, ticket sales and YouTube records with the release of her comeback single, Hello. She, like Anna Wintour, also uses a flip phone, so there’s that too.