I have done this list for the past couple years, starting in 2013. It is a direct response to the massive swarm of year-end, best of lists, two of which I contributed to- one for albums, one for songs, that are in nearly every corner of the Internet. This is NOT a best of list. No, sir. This is a list of the 30 best Hey Oh! songs of the year.
To which you may be asking, but what exactly is a Hey Oh! song?
What’s a Hey Oh! song you ask? Simple. Very simple. It’s a song that when it came on incited an unsolicited, deep from the belly & soul Ron Burgandy quality Hey Oh! Hey oh! That’s a damn good song. You might not have said it out loud, but you definitely thought it. You turned the volume up, you danced, you pressed repeat and yelled to no one in particular- DJ ONE MORE TIME. – me, 2013
Music should prompt a reaction in line with a deep from the belly Hey Oh! It’s kind of the best reaction to music there is, unless we are talking about Adele. In that case, crying or goosebumps usually wins and definitely makes sense.
The list is broken down into categories:
- Let’s See What You’ve Got a Second Time Around
Second albums seem like the hardest ones to make, especially if the first one was your break out album. These are songs from sophomore releases from bands who got my attention with their last album, which may not have technically been their first album, but was the first album of theirs I got into.
- And Who Might You Be?
Everyone loves discovering new bands. Giddy Up America is no exception. These songs are by bands and/or artists I had never heard before, but was happy when I did.
- Enough People Talk, I Listen
People at work, people on the Internet, people on the radio, people on the Twitter- at one point or another they were talking about one of these songs. They talked either enough about these songs or talked about them in such glowing ways that I was inclined to check them out.
- Discovered During Sports Radio Commercial Breaks
There’s lots of commercials on sports radio and when there are, I scan the dial for something to listen to until the commercial break is over. I found these songs while scanning.
So cool, let’s get started.
Old Standbys Showing That They Still Got It
“Big Decisions” My Morning Jacket
Old friends, Giddy Up America all stars, one of the best live bands out there- My Morning Jacket came back into our lives with their great album, The Waterfall, anchored by the lead single, “Big Decisions.” My Morning Jacket is exciting because when they are coming out with something new, you’re never quite sure what to expect. I mean, you have idea, but you are far from certain. Will it be along the lines of their last album, Circuital or the album before that, Evil Urges? Or will it be something else entirely? You can’t know until you hear it and “Big Decisions” was a great start and perfect introduction to a near perfect album.
Only Beck could follow up Morning Phase, his Grammy-winning, acoustic-driven slice of wonderment with the neo-dance hall pop bounty of “Dreams.” And it’s all he released too- not even an album or another single to accompany it. Oh Beck, you mysterious bastard you.
“Late Night in Austin” The Mallet Brothers Band
I had pretty high expectations for the new Mallet Brothers Band album, Lights Along the River. A band in their position, on the come up and out putting in work, are a band whose fourth album can usually be the make-or-break album; the one that either propels them forward or halts them in their tracks. Lights Along the River sets them up nicely for whatever comes next for this trusty ol’ American country rock band from Maine and the probably the strongest song on the album, beating “Les Pauls” by half of a percentage point is the album’s opener, “Late Night in Austin.” If I were to make a new Shit Kickin’ Rock playlist, this song would be right smack in the middle of it.
“Feel Right” Mark Ronson ft. Mystikal
Mark Ronson’s new album, Uptown Special, was kind of a let down, but only because it was kind of inconsistent. I don’t think you can come blasting out of the gate with something like “Uptown Funk” and not have it be part of an amazingly retro and wild collection of funk jams- which Uptown Special isn’t. However, while “Uptown Funk” did get all the attention, my ears definitely perked up when I heard the other Bruno Mars collaboration on the album, “Feel Right.” From the moment I heard it when Mars and Ronson performed on Saturday Night Live, I was hooked. I do love me some rawkus funk and this song is most definitely that. Wedding receptions can have “Uptown Funk.” “Feel Right” is for the after parties.
“Outta My Mind” The Arcs
The Arcs are new friends; Dan Auerbach is an old friend, hence their inclusion in this group. I am dangerously close to blindly following Auerbach in whatever direction he may be headed. His track record already warrants such blind loyalty- whether it’s with the Black Keys, his solo album or his production work. Dude just gets me.
“This Will Be Our Year” Spencer Albee
Albee, a favorite son of Portland, Maine, just keeps putting out quality albums. His latest was Mistakes Were Made and it continues along in the Albee way of writing massively catchy and melodic songs. “Why Am I Fool?,” released prior to the album as a single, but then included on Mistakes Were Made, made last year’s list, and it wouldn’t be fair to the other songs to do repeats. So we’ll go with “This Will Be Our Year.” It’s a good song, dude. Mainly because Albee only writes good songs.
“Style” Ryan Adams
Solely from an anticipation standpoint, I’m not sure I was looking forward to any album more this year than I was Adams’ version of Taylor Swift’s cult classic 1989. Dude just kept releasing these little teasers on Instagram, making the mystery surrounding the project only more enticing. “Style” was my favorite song on Swift’s 1989 and it was my favorite on Adams’.
“At Home” Armies ft. Spose/”Kanye Go” Spose ft. Dave Gutter
Perennial Giddy Up America all-star Dave Gutter has made himself at home here at Giddy Up America, whether it’s with Rustic Overtones or Paranoid Social Club. Now he’s running around with a new project, Armies, as well as showing up on a dope tune from the new Spose album. These songs feel like cousins to me, so they share a spot. They’re close cousins; not the kind of cousins you only see every couple of years at funerals.
Let’s See What You’ve Got a Second Time Around
“Don’t Wanna Fight” Alabama Shakes
It’s crazy. Alabama Shakes feel like they’ve been around much longer than they really have and because of that, their 2015 album Sound & Color doesn’t feel like it’s only their second album. But feels are for Top Chef back stories and Adele concerts and in real life, Sound & Color is the second album from one of the best rock bands in all the land. As time went on, I grew partial to the album’s title track, but the first single, “Don’t Wanna Fight” had me hooked from the get go.
Houndmouth are officially Giddy Up America’s Band of 2015. Congrats lady and three gentlemen. The album they released this year, Little Neon Limelight, is one of my favorite albums of the year and definitely one of the albums I’ve listened to the most. I even saw them this fall in Asbury Park and the show was SO MUCH FUN! So yes, congrats to Houndmouth for taking home the prestigious Giddy Up America’s Band of 2015 award, joining 2013’s winner J Roddy Walston and the Business and 2014’s winner St. Paul and the Broken Bones.
“Steady” The London Souls
Another one of those pesky two man bands, the London Souls (actually NYC dudes) play some legitimate foot-stomping rock. I still think the two man band has a shelf life, but might as well make the most of that time, which is what the London Souls do.
“i” Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar had the consensus number one album of the year and some of the other songs on the album, mainly “Alright,” and on some lists, “King Kunta,” were in the running for a lot of songs of the year nods. I have no problem with either and yeah, if this were a best of list, they’d be here. But I heard “i” first and that song was great…that song is great, hence why it’s on the list. It’s actually kind of the textbook definition of a Hey Oh! song because dude, when the music kicks in you can’t help yourself, a hearty Hey Oh comes from deep within your belly bomb.
“Cold Blooded” Gary Clark Jr.
I really enjoyed all of Clark’s new album, but “Cold Blooded” was the song that jumped off the page, so much so I used a saying “jumped off the page” that has no business in a post about songs and music. Gary Clark Jr’s “Cold Blooded” is so good it’s inciting mixed metaphors across the country.
And Who Might You Be?
“S.O.B.” Nathanial Rateliff & the Night Sweats
I think I can say with a fairly strong amount of certainty that there wasn’t a song on the radio this year that sounded like this wonderful dust-up of a song. It’s shit-kickin rock at it’s finest. The album is actually more dirt boot soul, which is a fun twist.
“Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em and Forget ‘Em” Andersen East
I did a deep dive into the enchanting waters of neo-soul bands and singers for UPROXX and the end result was me discovering Andersen East, who sounds like a cross between Otis Redding and Muscle Shoals. His album Delilah is really good, but if you’re curious about this dude, check out his live session from Muscle Shoals first.
“Them Changes” Thundercat, Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington
I had heard of Thundercat, knew he was some kind of crazy bassist; an associate of the Roots. But this is the first time I had heard anything of his and I love the funk and the vibe of it. It’s more of a Oh, Hey song than a Hey Oh song, but nonetheless, one of my favorite tracks of the year.
“Ex’s & Oh’s” Elle King
For a few months I had heard this song on satellite radio, but recently it’s started to pop up on regular ol’ radio and it seems like the rest of the country is getting hip to King, who is a woman singing with swagger and attitude. I love the music and groove of this song, how it has a stomp to it. King’s voice is road house and I love it.
“Better Man” Leon Bridges
Another dude who popped up in the soul piece I did for UPROXX, actually, it’s because of him, I wrote the piece. He definitely came out swinging, seemingly coming out of nowhere and dropping one vintage soul song after another before finally releasing his album, Coming Home, one of my favorite albums of the year. Bridges sounds like a time traveler- less of imitation and more of an inspiration.
“Trunk of My Computer” STS x RJD2
See: shades of Outkast.
“A Fine Way to Die” GRIZ, Orlando Napier
See: unclassified, but if pressed, DJ-fueled, space funk would suffice.
“Made My Mind Up” Mikal Cronin
Hey, here’s to melodic pop rock. It’s becoming a myth, an urban legend. It still exists, though. You just have to look for it a little harder.
“Let the Good Times Roll” J.D. McPherson
Here is a list of things this song makes me want to do: drive a pickup in circles in a dirt parking lot, get in a car chase, run from the cops, drink beer out of cans, play wiffle ball, do a cannonball into a pool, go down a slip-n-slide.
“Ray Gun” BadBadNotGood ft. Ghostface Killah, DOOM
For the longest time I was so confused, seeing this album come up under recommendations on Spotify because I recognized Ghostface’s mug, but was thrown by the name. Then I finally listened to it and the end result was one of the more entertaining, enjoyable hip hop albums to come out this year. And crazy, not what you’d expect from three former jazz heads from Toronto, teaming up with a member of Wu Tang Clan and in the case of “Ray Gun,” also DOOM. I guess that’s where things are now, everyone plays everything. It’s cool.
“Billions of Eyes” Lady Lamb
I knew her as Lady Lamb the Beekeeper back when I was living in Maine and she was playing in those parts. It seems like she’s dropped the occupation. Smart. Being a bee keeper doesn’t seem like a solid gig. Certainly not as solid as wicked smaht pop singer. I like how natural her voice sounds- it’s in between perfect and raw.
Enough People Talking, I’m Listening
“Baby Blue” Action Bronson ft. Chance the Rapper
Fact: Action Bronson is not in Run the Jewels, which is something I thought for at least two weeks at one point. But whatever, that kind of misguided thinking led me to check out “Baby Blue,” the first single off of his album Mr. Wonderful.
“Lean On” Major Lazer ft. DJ Snake, MO
Of these five songs in this section, this is the one that has the most staying power, meaning it’ll be the one I could go and listen to in a year or so. It was also the Giddy Up America Song of the Summer.
“Where Are U Now” Jack U ft. Justin Bieber
“What Do You Mean?” Justin Bieber
What do I mean? I mean that this is the first time I’ve ever liked a Bieber song. I still don’t know how I feel about it, but I like this song. I don’t see how you couldn’t. I’ve gotten a little tired of it, but I’ll still listen to at least half of it when it comes on.
“Magnets” Disclosure ft. Lorde
Where Lorde’s career ends up going is a much more interesting question than what Taylor Swift’s will be like.
Discovered During Sports Radio Commercial Breaks
“Can’t Feel My Face” The Weeknd
It’s like a brush fire. It just keeps going and going, getting stronger with each day.
“Hey Mama” David Guetta ft. Nicki Minaj
I got excited and named this the song of the summer. That distinction lasted about a day and a half. But can’t hate on those initial feelings, though.