Above is a YouTube video playlist counting down each song. I've included official videos when possible, with official audio-only "videos" as a backup. Unofficial audio streams are never used. As a result several tracks in the countdown are unfortunately not available in the playlist. The playlist will grow each day as new tracks are revealed. Pro tip: Click on "PLAYLIST" to jump to a specific video.
It seems every man, woman, and child is required to produce a "best of" list each year; Too Much Rock dutifully follows suit. Starting December 25th, I begin my countdown with the "Adventure Picks" – three tracks from the previous year that I didn't discover in time but surely would have made the list last year if I had. Then we start the countdown from 35 to number one. Why 35? Adventure Picks? To honor the time I spent in the early '90s as Music Director at (the now-defunct) WQAX in Bloomington, IN where I reported the top 35 songs and three adventure picks each week to the College Music Journal.
If you really want to dig deep, you'll want to see my top albums of 2015 list.
With more than a nod to classic Costello-style power pop, this song is one big hook from start to finish.
2015 saw the end of Spoonboy, but we'll always have this great guitar-driven, narrative heavy, horn-enriched pop/rock gem.
Is this punk rock? Is this indie pop? We may never know, but it is undeniably catchy, fun, and heartfelt.
Top 35 Songs of 2015:
The newly reformed Veruca Salt is all about huge riffs, but the real punch of this track is the lyrics of self-empowerment. Welcome back!
Jeffrey Lewis lays his life bare in this anti-folk song that chronicles the life of a small band supporting a larger band' tour.
No one flies the power-pop flag higher than Kurt Baker. "Play It Cool" is more bubblegum than sneer, but that chorus is something you wont be able to forget.
With "Sprinter" Torres managed to build a track that is dark, dense, and forbodding, yet still bouncy. How the hell does Mackenzie Scott do it?
If you're looking for an earworm you needn't look further than the winding guitar of "Raising the Skate." A hook made all the more powerful by the song's fat and fuzzy bottom end. Ace.
The former Hefner frontman has created an infectious and fresh singalong from 19th century socialist literature. There's powerful in this track's folky simplicity.
This guitar-based indie pop number sounds like a jumper-wearing, bespectacled version of Thin Lizzy, and that is simply ideal.
"The Everlasting Muse" is richly layered indie pop that carries you from smokey, sexy, and intimate to a riotous greek sirtaki complete with horns, strings, and the kitchen sink.
Marissa Paternoster's worble, guitar, and giant hooks turn what should be a simple pop song into an effortless anthem.
From the first line "Jellyfish" announces its presence. One hook is followed but a second then a third, and two and a half minutes later you're moving the needle back to hear the song one more time.
Three guitars chiming through a joyous pop song that could have been born in any garage during any decade. Timeless and simple fun.
Standard Fare's Emma Kupa returns with a new band but the same ear for perfect indie pop. We get to dance to her driving guitar in "Strength in My Legs."
"Lost My Head There" lives in a world where pop is always sharp, gorgeous, and delivered with a devilish grin. Like Graham Parker covering a Todd Rundgren song.
"Living" is snow falling into the sea on a moonlit night. It floats gently, it crests giant waves, it chills, and transfixes me. I can only assume what everyone feels about Adele is what I feel about Adna.
John Darnielle reveals more about life in a single song about an obscure wrestler than most singer/songwriters manage in an album. When I hear "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero" I'm there, and I'm rooting for both Chavo and John.
Always somewhere between hair metal and punk rock, Michael Monroe may have finally found his future by remembering his past. "Old King's Road" is a sleezy rocker that fits like a pair of old leather pants.
There's a formula to power-pop and Kurt Baker aces that test in "Monday Night" – a paean to everyone's least favorite day of the week.
In a perfect world, everyone would saddle alongside their best friend and let their voice ring out. In the lo-fi hymn "Before The World Was Big," Girlpool shows us just how easy and powerful that can be.
"Cough It Out" is warm, a little coy, and impossibly catchy. This is pop. Embrace it, don't overthink it.
In "Things That Are Bad For Me" Colleen Green removes the druggy haze from her life and her music leaving us with a crystalline new wave jam I can totally get behind.
Sometimes it just takes a big hook or a huge chorus to win me over. The explosion (sorry) in "The Bomb" destroys everything and for fifteen seconds the world is just that guitar and those tight vocal harmonies.
Screaming Females are the most powerful band in the world, and "Burning Car" is a goddamned rocket. I don't listen to this song, I feel it.
"West Coast" is punk. It's rock & roll. It's curiously well composed. It's well recorded. But above all, it's fun. Crank it and dance around like the first time you heard Billy Idol.
Some like progress, but why mess with perfection. "Nobody's Empire" is a return to the glory days of Belle and Sebastian when its songs were somehow twee, revelatory, and epic.
Not since "You're so Vain" has vitriol been so intimate, eloquent and mysterious. Wrap it up in a catchy-as-hell pop song, and "Good Luck" is easily one of the best songs of the year.
The "best" songs on my list don't need to exhibit a mastery of music theory and ground breaking studio wizardry, instead they can just be insanely fun and make me happy. "IKEA Hotdog" has made the world a better place. Thank you BA Johnston.
We're happy to have Sleater-Kinney back and thrilled that they haven't missed a beat on "Bury Our Friends." It's the untamable guitar line that make this stomper so wonderful.
"Beautiful Blue Sky" is nearly eight minutes of enveloping post-punk that is full of riveting tension, and it's done beautifully. Ought have created their own world.
If this sounds like bouncy, silly, anti-folk to you, it's probably because it is. But it also has lots of hidden insight, and man does it make me smile and sing along.
"Click Click" is a sunny Lo-fi garage rock song sung by a girl crazy boy. Turns out it's perfect. Catchy acoustic guitar under surging electric guitars topped by vocals that squeel and pop in most intimate ways. How this came from high school kids I have no idea.
You can expect greatness when Peter Momtchiloff (Talulah Gosh et al) calls on the skills of Pam Berry (Black Tambourine). The resulting "The Wrong Girls" is a joyous indie pop song with absolutely brilliant bittersweet lyrics that dig deep.
So many disparate influnces converge in "Fan the Flames" that it's nearly impossible to list them. The first guitar riff is catchier than anything deserves to be, and then later they add a second just as powerful. Prepare to bounce off the walls to this mysterious Philly band.
This is why you form a band. This is why punk rock exists. This is why I exist. Simple, direct, honest, and as biting and witty as any song ever written. Bravo!
Of course my favorite song of the year is going to resonate with me, and boy do I feel this song from Welshman Stephan Black. "Got to Hang Onto You" is a timeless pop song, with tight backing vocals, spot-on musical touchstones, and brilliant lyrics. Man crush!
Tracks #7 through #1 can be heard in their entirety on Too Much Rock Podcast #342.
Are your favourite songs on my list? If not, let me know and maybe they'll make my 2016 adventure picks.