15. Alvvays, “Plimsoll Punks”
It certainly never occurred to me on their 2015 hit “Archie, Marry Me” but this Canadian indie combo really could be the second coming of beloved ’90s band The Sundays (or perhaps a much gentler Belly.) I dare you to try and get the “Getting me down, getting me down, getting me down” chorus out of your head; same thing with that lead guitar arpeggio/riff, or how irresistibly Molly Rankin squeals the song’s title.
14. Erasure, “Still It’s Not Over”
Vince and Andy are still capable of at least one great song per album—from their uncommonly topical World Be Gone, it’s this gospel-infused lament. Both a celebration (“We made a miracle,” goes the bridge to the chorus) and an impassioned call for continued resistance against social injustice, it’s protest pop of the moment, firmly for the ages.
13. Carly Rae Jepsen, “Cut To The Feeling”
And to think she left this one off of 2015’s Emotion—from its “Lucky Star”-inspired intro to its infectious bounce and massive, bright-and-fizzy chorus, this holds its own with anything from that solid release. It exudes pure, unadulterated joy at a time when it’s most needed—as effective a balm as any protest pop.
12. Aimee Mann, “Patient Zero”
Mental Illness is still her best since Bachelor #2, but it just missed the cut for my album list—it’s a tad samey for my taste, even as it’s stuffed with neat little miniatures like this taut, tart single. Everything you’ve loved about this woman since her 1993 solo debut Whatever is present, from gorgeous, intricate harmonies to Mann’s sharp-as-a-tack wit.
11. Dan Croll, “Bad Boy”
Proof that one can still find great new music on the radio (in this case, WERS), this young Brit singer/songwriter comes off like Stuart Murdoch fronting Fountains of Wayne on this near-perfect piece of power-pop. The subject matter’s older than Fountain of Waynes’ own “Leave the Biker” from twenty-plus years ago, but it still scans all-too-well; Croll imbedding at least a half-dozen hooks throughout doesn’t hurt, either.