It's September, which means the end of the year is now vaguely visible in the distance, which means that for the .0001% of the world population who write about music for a living, it's time to start marinating all those end of the year lists.
But when we sit down and hammer out all our Best of the Booth Award nominations there are going to be songs that don't make the cut, songs that weren't necessarily on big albums, songs that weren't singles or hits or even particularly well known, that we loved more than any other songs, songs that are low key classics, but we won't nominate because it feels too self-indulgent. No one wants to be the ironic-mustached hipster behind the counter of the record store; "Actually, the best album this year was by this trio of Appalachian electro-folk-post-industrialists, but you probably haven't heard of them."
When December rolls around it's going to be hard to argue that any of these songs deserve a trophy, but it'd be a shame to let 2015 come to a close without showing some love to the songs that dominated our hearts and minds. So without further ado, here are our staff picks for the Low Key Best Songs of 2015.
Vince Staples "Jump Off the Roof"
Vince Staples' Summertime 06 album took over my mind like a particularly potent tab of LSD, not at all and then all at once. When the project dropped I skimmed it and then there was Miguel's album and Locksmith's album and onto the next. But, and I don't really know why, something or someone told me to listen again, and then I listened again, and again, and holy shit this album sounds like the Clipse and Schoolboy Q had a baby and raised it in Long Beach.
"Jump off the Roof" crept up on me in the same way. At first it sounded like a banger, dope gangster rap but just gangster rap. But then I listened again, and again, and again, and holy shit this song is actually about a life that's so hellish, so unimaginably painful, that it has to be a nightmare, and the hook is Staples perched on the roof, ready to jump, because killing himself is the only way left to figure out if he's even still alive.
I pray to God cause I need him
Cocaine withdrawals and I'm fiendin
Life way too hard, am I dreamin'?
Highway to hell and I'm speedin', one way to tell if I'm breathin'
On three let's jump off the roof...
Once the meaning of the hook hit me the verses filled with pills and sex and violence suddenly weren't hedonistic, they were nihilistic. His nights weren't sleepless because he was partying, they were sleepless because he was "mama's crack baby, seizures come when I sleep." The concept behind "Jump off the Roof" is crushingly powerful, but I've become so obsessed with this song exactly because initally I didn't care about the concept. At first I just loved that gospel choir sample, Vince's rhyme patterns, the hypnotic flow of the hook. But digging below the surface and finding so much depth has been like finding a $20 bill on the street and then finding a $100 folded inside it. "Jump off the Roof" wasn't a hit, it wasn't even a single, but I've literally played it more than any other song this year. Music finds you how it finds you, but if it's great it will find you. You know how that shit go.
- Nathan S. (@RefinedHype)
Anderson .Paak "Seude"
If you’ve listened to Compton, if you’ve checked out NPR, and if you follow Kendrick on Twitter, chances are you’ve heard this little music baby from Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge, knxwn together as Nxworries.
While Kendrick and the rest of the world is just now getting hip to "Seude," I’ve been riding with Nxowrries since March. I’m not trying to stunt (I already did that), I’m just trying to say that this jam, specifically this amazing live rendition, has gone toe to toe with my favorite cuts off Compton, To Pimp A Butterfly, Mr. Wonderful, Surf, you name it. Of all my obsessions this year, hopping from one song or album to another like sonic lillypads, I’ve always brought "Suede" with me. At the beginning of the year, I didn’t know Knxworries was a thing (I don't even know if they did) but now I’m anticipating their album more than any other upcoming project, including Swish.
They may not have released anything else from the album yet, but "Suede" is that convincing. It hits you immediately and it hits you hard. It’s undeniable and instantaneous. It's cooler than Andre 3000 in an igloo. It has more bounce than a Lil Bow Wow hook. That beat is softer than a butterfly but hits you like a Jets linebacker and Anderson’s raspy, velvety vocals are so pure. When I watch that In The Dungeon performance it’s immersive. It reaches out and grabs you. I feel like I’m right there vibing the fuck out like Mndsgn in the back; the way he is dancing is exactly how this song makes me feel every time I listen. Every time. Every...single...time. Normally, that special "honeymoon period" period wears off, but this song has yet to lose that fresh out the box feeling. "Suede" is so unique, so fresh, so “wow,” so, I don't know, it’s just really fucking good. That’s all that really matters.
Honorable mention to Kev Decor’s "Thin Line."
- Lucas G. (@LucasDJBooth)
Future "Thought It Was A Drought"
These days, it’s difficult to keep a “favorite song” for longer than a week. Taking into account the rapid-fire rate at which music is released and my constantly shifting moods, choosing only one record from the past eight months to demonstrate my musical passions is like choosing just one Wu-Tang member - sure one is great, but you're missing out on so much more.
In the end, I was hard pressed not to give this honor to the artist I listened to the most this year - Future. As much as I’d love to sneak in a multi-layered, introspective record you’ve likely never heard, Hendrix dominated my Most Played this year, and at the top of that list is “Thought It Was A Drought.” Is it too early for track one off the much-hyped DS2 to unseat Meek’s "Dreams & Nightmares" for greatest intro of all-time?
DS2 is an exercise in depravity and a celebration of vices, and “Thought It Was A Drought" is the spark that begins the plunge into darkness - literally, as the track emerges out of the haze to a symphony of Bic’s being flicked, Sprite's being popped open and Codeine being poured over crackling ice. The album intro whisks you into a dream state of unrepentent drug use and misogyny, and while a more thoughtful me might resist in sanctioning these types of activities, the less responsible, indulgent, high-end speaker-owning me with can’t help but nod along in blunted agreement.
With a hook that includes the choice lines “I just f*cked your bitch in some Gucci flip flops” and “I just took a piss and I seen codeine coming out,” “Thought It Was A Drought" is either a stunning indictment of the morals and listening preferences of today’s youth, or the greatest musical moment to come out of 2015 (so far). I choose the latter.
- Brendan Varan (@brendanvaran)
Joba "Sad Saturday"
Saturday has always been synonymous with celebration. For children it’s a day where school is a distant memory and fun is the only purpose, a day for cartoons and cereal. For adults it’s a day that signifies a break from work, a cold brew and a party, a day of rest and relaxation. If we thank God for Friday, we bow and kiss his feet for Saturday. Despite turning up and turning out, the day is like no other, a possibility of downpour on any planned pretty picnic.
Saturday’s can simply be sad. I think that’s what Joba was attempting to convey when titling his first officially single, “Sad Saturdays.” A song that expresses the aftermath of a dying love, the state of depression that surrounds the psyche during an unavoidable breakup on the best day of the week. The lyrics express the kind of feelings that will keep you in bed until the late afternoon in a tar pit of emotions. Joba poetically sings from the center of his soul as the production in the background reflects the intensity of his heartache. It’s melodic melancholy that is both beautiful and tragic. Isn’t that what love is, a cycle of beautiful tragedy?
Unrequited love is an unavoidable reality unless you marry your middle school sweetheart and it's one reason that I’ve grown so attached to the song. It feels real. When rappers and singers are boasting about pickpocketing girlfriends and having a fleet of hoes, it feels fantasized and fictional. Yes, I believe that women are attracted to the materials that rappers flaunt but it rarely comes off as realistic. They’re portraying an image, selling a lifestyle, one that I’ve bought far too often. Joba sings about longing for something real in the form of love and I’m searching for the same in the form of music. I haven't stopped playing the song since I discovered it while browsing Soundcloud. You can hear it in his tone, how he vocalizes the burden that is weighing him down like cinder blocks in an ocean of sorrows is magnetizing. In the movie Almost Famous, Lester Bangs famously said, “Great art is about conflict and pain and guilt and longing and love disguised as sex and sex disguised as love.”
“Sad Saturdays” is great art.
- Yoh, aka Melancholy Yoh (@Yoh31)