Happy New Year! Our 2015 Year-End Mixtape Is Here
It’s been a long standing COPILOT tradition to end the year by sharing some of the music that’s inspired us the most. And without fail, we hear from you and we all go back to where we began with music, a bunch of fans trading opinions and new discoveries.
This year, we’ve changed things up just a little. Rather than sending out MP3s before the holidays, we are sending out Spotify playlists after the holidays. We really love how easy it is to discover and share music in Spotify, and we’re guessing many of you might be listening to it right now.
So fire it up and enjoy, and know that more music from every artist is just a click away. Liner notes follow the embedded playlist windows… please let us know your thoughts!
Side A: Ravi’s Mix
Sufjan Stevens “The Only Thing” – I honestly could have just put this whole album up as my year-end playlist, I loved it so much. In the interest of not turning you into a pile of tears, I’ve chosen one of the more uplifting tracks to share here. I’ve followed Sufjan Stevens for a long time, and this is his most personal, raw and eloquent set of songs. All the storytelling and emotional honesty tools he developed through other characters on the states records are now used tastefully and with restraint to muse on the passing of his estranged mother.
Hybird + COPILOT “Together” – No smoke and mirrors here, Hybird is ME writing a song. The song grew out of a really unique project, creating music for an iPad app created for the World Wildlife Fund. Please tell me how you like it. I hope to share more Hybird soon.
Grimes “California” – I haven’t been this completely intrigued by an artist in quite a while. Grimes is a producer, singer, fashion icon and iconoclast from Canada. She makes pop music that is unique, catchy, and not at all formulaic, and has made me actually interested in pop music again.
Bjork “Lionsong” – Bjork’s new album has been lauded as maybe her best since Vespertine. I completely agree. All of her talents are on display in this song. Her voice floats above bubbling drum program and below airy Bollywood-esque string lines.
Courtney Barnett “An Illustration Of Loneliness” – It took a while for Courtney Barnett to break through the high threshold of cynicism I had as I listened to her “beautiful loser” hipster lyrics the first few times. But her album is infectious, reminding me at times of Pavement, The Rolling Stones and Luna. She uses the oldest trick in the book, saying old and mundane things in new and specific ways.
Youth Lagoon “Highway Patrol Stun Gun” – I wish I could say I go way back with this artist, but this is really the only song I know from this artist. But it’s a terrific song that haunts me every time it pops up on Sirius XM.
Stephanie Meyers “Lights Out” – Stephanie Meyers is a current student in the Vermont College of Fine Arts Music Composition MFA program that I’m involved in as a faculty member. We haven’t worked together beyond masterclasses but she is a total phenom and her new album is wonderful. For fans of Regina Spektor.
Cindertalk “Your Own Wings” – Cindertalk, aka Jonny Rodgers, hails originally from New Haven, where I now live. I consistently love his songs and performances, which include virtuosic guitar work, engaging songwriting and a pitched wine glass array (yes, you read that correctly). I love the vocal sampling and arranging that he builds off here.
Majical Cloudz “Downtown” – Same as Youth Lagoon… I wish I could say I go way back with this artist, but this is really the only song I know from these guys. But it’s a terrific song that haunts me every time it pops up on Sirius XM.
T. Rex “Cosmic Dancer” – I knew this song as a Morrissey cover years before I ever bothered to dig in to T. Rex’s catalogue. Tony Visconti’s production on this song, and the tasteful string arrangement are both phenomenal. They don’t make ‘em like they used to.
Scott Walker “The Amorous Humphrey Plug” – My friend Keith D’arcy turned me on to this song. I’m a huge fan of Pulp, I always knew that Jarvis Cocker was hugely influenced by Scott Walker. He spoke at length on his attention to mundane detail, during a SXSW talk about lyric writing. This song seems to be the missing link.
Ride “Leave Them All Behind” – This was a big year for 90’s indie bands reforming, particularly in the shoe gaze arena. I was lucky enough to catch Ride on their reunion tour and there was nothing nostalgic about the experience… it was a great reminder of what I loved about this particular period of alt/indie.
Johnny Marr “The Headmaster Ritual” – Anyone who knows me knows I occasionally jump onstage and morph into Johnny Marr as a member of The Sons & Heirs. He’s been on fire with his new solo band, touring behind a pair of excellent new solo albums featuring his voice, a distinct shift for a perennial sideman. He just released a live album, and this performance of my very favorite Marr composition was recorded in his home city of Manchester.
Side B: Jason’s Mix
Christine and the Queens “Tilted” – I “discovered” Christine and the Queens (otherwise known as French musician Héloïse Letissier) at SXSW, but in reality I was late to the game. She released her U.S. debut in 2015, but she’s already a triple-platinum selling mega star in France. I caught her show by chance and her “freakpop” music, Michael Jackson-meets-Madonna-voguing dance moves, and laugh out loud humor totally won me over. When they performed on The Daily Show, host Trevor Noah introduced them saying “You guys are absolutely amazing. You’re weird, but amazing. Being weird is amazing!” This intimate synth pop gem, sung in a mix of French and English, is just a beautiful gem about embracing your “other”-ness.
Lucius “Madness” – The advantage of waiting until January 2016 to make your “Best of 2015” list is getting to include a track like this. Lucius made both Ravi’s and my lists last year, and their new single is stunningly beautiful. It starts with intimate a cappella vocals, and slowly introduces a gentle string quartet. But every time, the chorus hits with “Maybe!” is get goosebumps.
Chance the Rapper “Angels” – I am endlessly fascinated by Chance the Rapper. From a music business perspective, he’s redefined the levels of success one can achieve without a record deal. He’s the first unsigned artist to play Saturday Night Live and he performed a headlining set at the Pitchfork Festival. He also gave away every song on his new album, Surf, for free in a surprise iTunes release. But more important than his professional success is the man’s talent. He raps, sings, and dances with equal virtuosity. “Angels” is a tribute to his hometown of Chicago, and boasts such awesome lines like “I just had a growth spurt… It done took so long, my tippy toes hurt… You can keep the nose ring, I don’t have to soul search… I’m still at my old church, only ever sold merch… Grandma say I’m Kosher, momma say I’m culture.”
Stromae “Quand C’est” – Belgian superstar Stromae is as much a visual artist as a musical one. I’m eager to share his music on this Spotify playlist, but to really experience his work, check out his music videos. Each song is treated like performance art, which Stromae assuming a different character, both in his videos and live performances (which I was lucky enough to see in Austin). He recently released a video for “Quand C’est”, in which his silhouette dances and fights with mechanical spider legs while he sings about (and directly to) cancer. There’s really nothing else like him.
Sleater-Kinney “Surface Envy” – The Sweater-Kinney reunion was was of the best things to happen musically in 2015. They sounds as good on their new album, No Cities to Love, as they did when they were coming out of my college dorm room speakers. “Surface Envy” is a blistering rocker about the band’s anxieties and doubts about getting the back together in the first place. Turn the volume up for this one.
Laura Marling “David” – Laura Marling has the musical DNA of both Lou Reed and Joni Mitchell. Her vocals switch seamlessly from a low, half sung style to an melodic soprano. I was fortunate to catch her quiet, intimate show at the Central Presbyterian Church at SXSW, in which many of her songs were accompanied by her solo acoustic guitar fingerpicking. In a charming unplanned moment, she messed up the lyrics the this song and changed the line “He looks east and thinks of me” into “He looks wasted and thinks of me”. She cracked herself up and had to stop the playing.
Santigold “Can’t Get Enough Of Myself” – Santigold’s music is on regular rotation at our apartment, but it’s been nearly four year’s since her last album. Her new album, 99¢, is due to be released in 2016, but in November she shared this upbeat shuffle. It still has her signature off-kilter collage of simple synths and odd instrumentation, but this might be her “happiest” song so far.
Missy Elliot “WTF (Where They From)” – I forgot how much I missed Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot, until her surprise appearance at the Super Bowl halftime show. Her freaky futuristic weirdness is back, in this fantastic collaboration with Pharrell Williams. Check out the video too, complete with Elliott dressed in mirrors (and mirrored lipstick), breakdancing marionettes, and a “hoverboard” scooter.
Alabama Shakes “Over My Head” – Alabama shakes have been on my “Best Of” lists before, but this sparsely arranged track showcases a different side Brittany Howard’s voice than her signature Janis Joplin-like wail. Their 2015 release, Sound & Color, features some of the band’s strongest songwriting, and this album closer is one of their best. The vocal canon of the lyric “Lovin’ so deeply I’m in over my head” gets me every time.
Maximum Balloon (featuring TV on the Radio vocalist Tunde Adebimpe and Yeah Yeah Yeahs vocalist Karen O) “Let It Grow” – When TV on the Radio took a hiatus in 2010, guitarist and producer Dave Sitek sometimes released an album under the name Maximum Balloon. It looked like that was going to be a one-off experiment, but in 2015 he revived the project with a new song that features vocals Karen O and TV on the Radio bandmate Tunde Adebimpe. An new album has not yet been announced, but in the meantime I’m enjoying the warm, mellow vibes of this track.
Tobias Jesso Jr. “How Could You Babe” – Without question, the biggest release of 2015 was Adele’s record-breaking album “25”. Her single “When We Were Young” (which made TIME Magazine’s Top 10 Best Songs of 2015) was written with Tobias Jesso, Jr., and unassuming singer-songwriter who released his debut album in 2015 as well (not a bad year for him). His voice and sincerity remind me of Harry Nilsson and the 1970s Los Angeles music scene.
WALLA “101” – One of COPILOT’s more interesting projects in 2015 was an social-media campaign for Acura. We partnered with 8 emerging musical artists, each tasked with creating an original piece “inspired by” one of the gears on the Acura ILX’s eight-speed transmission. One of our collaborators was an great indie pop band out of LA called WALLA. They’re new single “101” already has over 15 million plays on Spotify. Well deserved!