best of 2015

witchsong top fives of 2015, other shit edition

We are just (mostly) girls moving through the world, and our interests are varied because we are, like, actual humans with actual lives doing actual things in many different cities. We got girlfriends, we got promotions, we didn’t get promotions, we cried, we spent embarrassing amounts of money on makeup, we got fake nails, we broke fake nails, we drank a lot of alcohol, we took selfies on the top of a fake Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas, we graduated, we won. And none of that fits on top five lists if we limit it to music or books or whatever. So here, to honor ourselves, are assorted top lists from the whole of 2015. And by assorted lists, I mean two lists from me and three from Tess.

Kenzie’s Top Five Makeup Releases of 2015 Based Only On Their Name

  1. Anastasia Beverly Hills, Sad Girl
  2. Kat Von D, Gold-Blooded
  3. Colourpop, DGAF
  4. Marc Jacobs, Goddess
  5. Bare Minerals, Caviar & Cake

Tess’s “top five things I was surprised to discover that I enjoy in 2015”

  1. Moving the bulk of my reading to ebooks in earnest and with intention, and trying not to be all precious about adding to my already staggering stacks of paperbacks, primed as they are, without any further growth, to topple toward the carpet and bury me alive. It was Apocalypse Baby by Virginie Despentes that did the trick, I think, that I liked it so much in a couple late spring afternoons even without having any pages to flip or bend or leave sweaty fingerprints upon.

  2. peeing with the door open while my girlfriend watches an australian children’s television show about teenage mermaids in the adjoining bedroom.

  3. not compulsively telling the internet every single thing I think or feel just to receive in exchange the false comfort of having written. (“written.”)

  4. men’s jeans. a logical alternative to consider when you’re sixty-five percent legs, largely hipless, naturally obstinate. I don’t need to tell you I look very good in them but I will.

  5. the fact that Louis Tomlinson, my December holiday birthday Mega Capricorn idiot baby, funny, prickly rat king of my gay-ass heart, boy bander, short person who pretends to be 5’9”, genuine trash human with a face of glass and dreams used his twenty-fourth year on this planet to get a chick pregnant and, literally, in real life, is about to be somebody’s father.

top five things that tess spent money on in 2015

  1. cutting off two thirds of my hair.
  2. get weird by little mix
  3. a wildly overpriced puzzle that I tracked down somewhere and purchased from an eccentric collector in Kentucky with a musical voice and, I feel certain, a handlebar mustache, because someone I love wanted it.
  4. the perfectly unremarkable pair of G by Guess black combat boots I got at the TJ Maxx across the parking lot one day because I had arrived early to work in sex knotted hair and dirty Vans, boots which announce my every step with fantastically loud, sharp cracks that my heart likes.
  5. A signed copy of Get In Trouble by Kelly Link that sleeps with me in my bed most nights.

“Five” Best Endings of 2015, as per Kenzie

  1. Grad School.
  2. The final, triumphant, choir-backed “we can live forever” of “History.”
  3. Definitely not One Direction, so.

top five things tess was grateful for in 2015

  1. Monster Zero Ultra, an energy drink much more garish in both taste and aesthetic than my old sugarfree Red Bulls, and thus infinitely more compelling.
  2. Selena Gomez
  3. the United States Women’s National Soccer Team
  4. Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF 15
  5. Ugh, like. Love. All right?

 

witchsong top fives of 2015, albums edition

Sophia’s Top 5 4 Albums To Cry To of 2015

1) Carrie and Lowell, Sufjan Stevens

My mom loves this album; she heard an NPR interview with Sufjan Stevens while driving my brother to his karate classes and she listened to it, sent me an e-mail about it—“Sophia!! Have you listened to the new Sufjan Stevens album?” and that was enough to make me cry. I miss my mom, you know, but mostly I miss being sixteen and living at home, a quiet kind of mourning for a relationship that is still good but won’t be the same. There is a song on this album that goes “the only thing that keeps me from driving this car / half-light jack knife into the canyon at night / signs and wonders” and Sufjan’s voice is barely a murmur and the guitar twinkles gently in the background. The sob hitches in the back of your throat and it’s only natural.

2) Downers, Jamaican Queens

On this album there is a song called “Emo + Poor” and that is the main thing I have to say about it, really. This album sounds exactly like sinking into the horrifying black sludge of your brain feels, the kind where you aren’t really even trying to claw your way out anymore. I just wanna eat pills and sleep and you don’t understand me. I listen to this album when I would rather pull my own teeth out than touch anyone or listen to anyone, maybe, ever again. I’m still emotional and poor. From “Joe”: “In my defense, my dad’s a Republican / my awful grin says ‘yeah, come on in.’” This album is so awful and I am so awful and I am sitting in the car with this in my headphones on repeat for six hours. Singing along very softly, “you were a charming kid but now you’re grown” which is just the way it goes.

3) Beat the Champ, The Mountain Goats

Maybe you are a person who cries regularly about professional wrestling and I hope that you are, I do. I am not but I do regularly cry about this, a concept album about professional wrestling (I know nothing about professional wrestling.) I don’t know how to talk about this album except to say that it is mostly about sometimes winning and often losing, about having a hero and then maybe not, about small human figures like shadow puppets made so huge against the light in all our eyes. I have seen this album live twice and both times I have stood very still with my spine very straight, paralyzed by the force of my own strange devotion, fist stuffed in my mouth sobbing during all the piano solos.

4) Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording), Hamilton Cast

Listen. I mean, listen. Everyone and their mother has heard of Hamilton now and the hype is very real but this is an album about the delicate suspension of myth and truth, about storytelling, and it is important not in spite of but partially because of what everyone says. There is a song on here about George Washington retiring and I cry and cry. I think a lot about wanting to be a story and this is an album about people who are also stories, the way we make those stories back into people when we reconstruct them in our minds. This album is crying about George Washington at 2 AM sitting on your bathroom floor and the tile cold underneath your palms, fingernails curling up—crying not really about George Washington at all.

Top Five Albums We Didn’t Really Talk About But Kenzie Wishes We Had

  1. Shamir, Ratchet
  2. Flo Morrissey, Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful
  3. The Dead Weather, Dodge and Burn
  4. CHVRCHES, Every Open Eye
  5. Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material

5 ALBUMS ALY WOULD HAVE LIKED TO LISTEN TO IN 2015 HAD SHE NOT BEEN BLINDED BY HER FAVORITE POP ARTISTS

  1. Big Grams, the self-titled EP by a group that consists of Big Boi (of Outkast) and Phantogram (of every indie kid’s dreams). It’s apparently not gotten great reviews, but I am intrigued enough by the premise that I would have listened to it had I not been looping Get Weird incessantly.

  2. Black Lines, by Mayday Parade. Nothing’s as good as their first album – the one before the vocalist with the scratchy voice left – but the following few had enough tracks that I really, really loved to keep me interested. If Revival hadn’t dropped on the very same day I might have noticed it.

  3. Tetsuo & Youth, by Lupe Fiasco. I am always trying to get back into Lupe Fiasco – there are three or four songs of his that I will never get over, and The Cool was really formative for me somehow, but I have never managed to like… keep up with him, if that makes sense. Like, I kind of didn’t know he was still making music. But I would have listened to this if I’d known about it. It probably doesn’t help that Reflection showed up about a week later and stole my heart.

  4. Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit, by Courtney Barnett. She might win a Grammy! She might be the only one nominated who deserves a Grammy! I don’t know! I haven’t listened! I blame Froot for this one.

  5. Magnifique, by Ratatat. I didn’t even know that this had come OUT and honestly I am furious. I love Ratatat, like, a lot, and I wish I had known they had more music because I could have been listening to it all! damn! year! I don’t even have an excuse!

Honorable mentions: Motion City Soundtrack, Blitzen Trapper, The Neighbourhood. I was told (erroneously, apparently) by Wikipedia that we would get new Atomic Kitten this year, as well as Becky G, Crystal Castles, and – somehow – Fleetwood Mac. None of these things have occurred, although there are eleven days left in the year. I am hoping to expand my listening scope this coming year – most of these artists are those whose work I’ve previously enjoyed, and I still didn’t manage to hear any of their new music. And that’s not even getting into the artists I don’t know about! All I’m saying is that I tend to get into musical ruts, and this year was pretty good evidence of that. One of my resolutions for 2016 is to broaden my horizons. Hopefully next end-of-year will see me with a longer list of things I did listen to, rather than a still-meager list of could-haves.

witchsong top fives of 2015, reads edition

Five Books of 2015 That Have Not Yet Relaxed Their Grip on Aly’s Heart, in no particular order:

1. The Fifth Gospel, Ian Caldwell. I am perhaps too much of a sucker for books about faith, the study of faith as an exercise in scholarship, investigating faith and people struggling with their faith, but even taking that into consideration this is in my top 5 books not only of the year but probably of ever.
A priest can forgive a stranger so quickly that a boy can’t imagine how hard he will find it, someday, to forgive his own enemies. Or his own loved ones. He has no inkling that good men can sometimes find it impossible to forgive themselves. The darkest mistakes can be forgiven, but they can never be undone. I hope my son will always remain a stranger to those sins.

2. The Library at Mount Char, Scott Hawkins. I am not sure what to say about this book except that I almost didn’t read it because it is described as “Joe Hill meets Neil Gaiman”, which was enough to put me off it forever, but instead – for some reason – I read it. It is beautiful and weird and crushing in a strange breathless way. It is very dark and very, very bright.
The only real escape from hell is to conquer it.
 
3. All the Rage, Courtney Summers. I would follow Courtney Summers into the longest darkest night. This book came out on my twenty-fourth birthday and I didn’t read it then but when I did, months later, it was still almost too much to bear. How long does it take before you stop relating? Trick question.
You know all the ways you can kill a girl?
God, there are so many.

 
4. Welcome to Night Vale, Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor. If you haven’t listened to the podcast you should, despite the… rabidness of some of its fanbase. Night Vale is a comfort to me, something soothing beyond words, something that feels like a gentle personal gift to me in the darkest parts of my life. Listen to “A Story About You”, listen to “Through the Narrow Place”. Read this book, which takes place in Night Vale but which does not require prior knowledge of its strangeness.
Josie produced a glass of water, through practiced manipulation of cupboards and valves and municipal plumbing. Neither she nor Jackie was impressed with the human miracle represented by how easily the glass of water was produced.
 
5. Vivian Apple at the End of the World, Katie Coyle. I named the horoscopes after it. It remains painfully, beautifully important, and the sequel is just as good.
The way we live our lives is not sustainable. I don’t just mean recycling and turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth. I mean the way we treat each other. The way we pick and choose whose lives are important—who we actually treat as human. There is nobody on this earth whose life is not of value.

Honorable mentions:
The gender-swapped retelling of Twilight, Life and Death (Stephenie Meyer), which would have made the list if it had been gay but is still pretty easy to make gay when you read it.
I thought about falling to my knees on purpose. This was the kind of beauty you worshiped. The kind you built temples for and offered sacrifices to. I wished I had something in my empty hands to give her, but what would a goddess want from a mere mortal like me?

George, Alex Gino, a middle-reader book about a young trans girl that made me cry buckets of tears and then smile through them.
She looked in the mirror and gasped. Melissa gasped back at her. For a long time, she stood there, just blinking. George smiled, and Melissa smiled too.

Tess‘s Top Five Reading Experiences of 2015

  1. Women in Clothes, in the bathtub for periods of fifteen minutes to an hour over and over for so many nights and mornings all year long. With red wine in a coffee mug, or canned beer, or Diet Coke from a fountain, in a plastic bucket, pulled to my mouth by a long striped straw. With pruned toes and pink cheeks. Making notes in extra fine Sharpie pen, usually blue. I have never minded how the ink bleeds through.
  2. Hesitation Wounds by Amy Koppelman. I peeled off layers on an orange couch in an overheated library basement and did not move once to stand. I have not recovered.
  3. Inferno : A Poet’s Novel by Eileen Myles on a Peter Pan bus to New York to visit with adorable friends and a number of rats.
  4. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt, tear-soaked and chainsmoking on benches and ledges across the Mount Holyoke campus.
  5. Dryland by Sara Jaffe on a week day in late September while sitting on a swing my mother bought for herself when she realized nobody was going to buy it for her, moving my body back and forth slowly with the flex of a toe, in time with the book’s gentle, tangy pulses of adolescent lust.

Top Five Books Kenzie Spent Her Own Actual Money On in 2015

  1. Courtney Summers’ All the Rage is stunning and important and so painfully resonant you could just cry. I read it three times, and I have plans to read it again. For all the girls that know the ways the world tries to kill you, for all the girls the world won’t listen to. I was on the holds list for this at the library before it was released, and I bought my own copy before I was finished with it.

  2. Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ would have changed my life if I’d read it in high school; reading it now, it’s still one of the best books I read this year. The way Willowdean and her body are spoken about on the page, the relationship she has with her own body, simply the acknowledgement that fat, happy girls exist in the world. It took me more years than it should have to see that reflected in the things I read or watched. But I’m glad I have this book to recommend to people now, at the very least.

  3. Jessica Hopper’s The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic is such a beautiful book that it probably would have made this list even if it wasn’t a wonderful read. Wisp-thin pages and gold-gilded edges, a soft-touch cover and well-chosen typeface. It really is stunning. But more than that, it was the only book that actually inspired me to break out post-it notes and a pencil and underline passages, make notes in the margins, flag pages for future reference. Hopper is an important force in music writing, and her Twitter conversations on women in the music industry are both depressing and enlightening; she’s also just a damn good writer. A good book to own.

  4. eBook copies of Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, for reasons obvious and self-explanatory, despite (clearly) not having been published in 2015.

  5. Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad is not her best work, and not published this year either, but even the things she writes that run middle of the pack for her are leagues better than a great deal of the things people tell me to read. I love Margaret Atwood. She has a whole shelf on my bookshelf. This book, purchased while walking solo around Powell’s in Portland on my first-ever trip across the country, is slim and precise in so many ways I am not, but it is angry in ways I understand. I didn’t read it until the day I arrived home again, but I sat on the couch and read it in one sitting and instagrammed the best pages.

Ashley‘s Top 5 Non-witchsong Articles About One Direction in 2015

1) Racked’s “The Absolute Necessity of One Direction”

“Me loving like One Direction is as much about embracing their positivity and romantic sincerity as it is about mourning the failure of the wider world to even faintly reflect either. One Direction created one of the most compelling fantasy worlds for girls in music history, they fortified it by being gentle and gave it life by surrendering so much of their own lives to the group.”

2) Rolling Stone’s 16 Reasons One Direction Are on Top of the Stadium Rock Game”

“Harry and Louis are the Stevie and Lindsey of the mermaid-tattoo-era stadium-rock eye-contact game. Louis’ eyes are dark, intense, controlling, with a surly ‘damn your love, damn your life’ edge. Harry’s eyes say ‘I hear the darkness you’re expressing and it’s important to me but my heart tells me to twirl right now,’ so he twirls and touches his hair. The brooding look vs. the beatific twirl. When one of them gets happy, the other gets wistful. When one of them gets bitchy, the other gets sugary. I could watch them sing together for hours.”

3) Matter’s “Soft Power: How popstar Zayn Malik is rebuilding the modern Muslim man in an age of Islamophobia”

4) Complex’s “Catching Feelings: on Zayn Malik, One Direction, and the Value of Fandom”

“The true, enduring value of One Direction dawned on me once I realized the emotional refuge and antidote to toxic masculinity they provide for the young girls (and guys) that populate their fanbase. In a music industry that simultaneously treats teen girls as the most lucrative consumers but the least respected audience, One Direction speaks directly to them and says something that their demographic doesn’t get to hear as much as it should: You are important.”

5) The Muses’ (Jezebel) “Behind the BoyBand: Q&A with Caroline Watson, One Direction’s Stylist”

Bonus (6!) because I don’t play by the rules: Buzzfeed’s “How One Direction Helped Me Find My Girls”

“These girls are creating a world for themselves where they feel safe and supported and encouraged to express themselves, and it’s incredible. Why are so many people so eager to mock women for “acting like girls” by expressing passion in fandom, when we as a society allow men to fanboy over sports and superheroes well into adulthood?”

top five first listening experiences of 2015

Zayn Malik, “I Won’t Mind”

It seems impossible, now, that only a week elapsed between the shattering of One Direction’s utopian era and the “release” of this song, and it is a testament to the wretchedness of the world that its unveiling was intended as a blow in a fight. All night I sat alone at the kitchen table of my old apartment with cold hands tucked between my knees, shoulders pulled in, shivering, listening, trying to parse what everything meant for my heart and for the world. Jabs at Naughty Boy’s production value aside, the low quality of the leak lends the song an underwater atmosphere, and listening to it that night felt as much like sinking slowly in a swimming pool – eyes open, breath caught tight in your chest, body drifting deeper and deeper away from the bright fractured sunlight at the surface – as it did the relief of surfacing, the first drawn breath. I can’t wait to see what 2016 holds for Zayn Malik.

 

Hayley Kiyoko, “Girls Like Girls”

It’s not that I didn’t grow up with access to a set of queer narratives. It’s not that I didn’t manage to find them or make them or imagine them. It’s just that none of them ever looked like this: opalescent softness, television-perfect, pretty. I made do with what I could salvage from scraps and I dreamt of girls looking at girls with that golden summer haze over their skin but nobody ever gave it to me, because that wasn’t the way things could be. That wasn’t what was allowed. When I heard this for the first time it was August and I was alone in my new apartment and the warm pink sunset light split me right open. Hayley Kiyoko has a voice like breath on glass and even though it’s not quite what I need anymore it means so much to me that it exists. It exists. We exist. Lots of us are doing fine.

Metric, “Office Towers Escalate”

I take the train to work every day and I stand at the back, slouched against the glass doors that open to the space between cars – I lean all the way into the corner, as far as I can go. The first time I heard “Office Towers Escalate” I was hurtling backwards through West Oakland at a quarter after seven in the morning, swaying on my tired feet, thinking I knew what was coming next because I had listened to the album the night before, but what I didn’t know was I hadn’t made it all the way through and this song swept over me the way caffeine sweeps into your blood, with a startling thump. On its own it is maybe unremarkable – it sounds something like a club remix of Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” seeping spookily through a locked door – but it kept going, and the train kept going, and as I kept going along with them, I felt a sort of prowling hungry vengeance that made me want to square my shoulders and stare people in the eye and take quick clipped steps over the tiled floors with my boot heels snapping beneath me. I felt awake. I used to say I’d never get an office job, but it seems the promise of financial solvency has triumphed over my intrinsic shiftlessness, and while it’s still a trial for me to get on the train every morning this song crawled into my head like a secret energy and propelled me, day after day.

One Direction, “A.M.”

Everyone has their own opinion on the ethics of leaks, and that’s fine and good; I don’t think it’s my place to make any kind of moral assertion for or against their consumption. I will tell you, though, that I did listen to the first leak of Made in the A.M. – the one recorded surreptitiously from inside the theater, filtered through the hubbub of the audience – and, having listened, I cannot imagine a more perfect way to have heard it for the first time.

“A.M.” starts like an old Taylor Swift song and takes a sharp right into the chorus with we’re just swimming round in our glasses / and talking out of our asses: a dumb line objectively, a lyric for an adolescent boy whose desire to exude swagger doesn’t match his capacity to carry it off, but that made it all the more beautiful to hear a theater full of (mostly) girls react to it. The first time they heard it: uproar. The second: uproar, even louder, shrieks of delight and horror and mocking glee that the boys would do this more than once. But the third time, everyone sang along. There is a real sadness to this whole album, a note of finality that tinges everything with sorrow, but in the midst of that sorrow there is still a whole community of people learning the words, howling them with conviction. It wasn’t until the album actually dropped that I heard the line which rounds out the chorus: we’re just swimming round in our glasses / and talking out of our asses / like we’re all gonna make it.

 

Enya, “Echoes In Rain”

Shortly before 11:30pm on the day before my golden birthday, I boarded a plane. When I turned 24, I was thirty thousand feet above the earth, staring at the stars and listening to this song with a lump in my throat made of raw diamond. Really it’s a miracle I got five songs into Dark Sky Island before I had to press back tears – the alleluias were what did it, the sincerity and serene joy of them, the way they seemed made for me at ten years old swinging my arms loosely at my side and feeling the wind lift my hair and believing all of creation shared in my happiness. There has been no point in my life when, asked whether or not I believe in God, I would answer with a definitive yes – but I can’t say that what made me cry wasn’t the surety that the universe loved me, at least sometimes. For years my body has moved through space and time and felt the wideness of the world and sent euphoria floating out like motes of light and received more euphoria back. So much has happened but the plane soared above the sleeping earth and tiny towns glowed like incandescent cobwebs underneath and everything that Enya sings about seemed true, all those opaque fragments about everything flows – change is the only constant and doesn’t that sort of mean everything stays the same, a sea of neverending movement? It was my golden birthday and that means this year is my golden year and I got to watch dawn crack into the horizon, a ring of lavender light. Here comes another new day.

top five times I cried in public in 2015

  1. On Halloween I was heartsick in head to toe black and I cried until my chest heaved, then heaved until I vomited between two cars and onto one patent leather shoe because a single moment’s damp eye contact had made astonishingly clear that this pain was not mine alone and that, more than anything else, was unbearable. A little girl dressed as a princess could see me but I only thought, well, and so she should. To smile would have made it only scarier, I was certain, too funhouse mirror horrible to bear, even if I could make my face follow that command. Later I lay on the floor with Stevie Nicks spinning around me and I held my ribcage together with my hands until the salt swam me to sleep.

  2. Every single time I listened to “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman while walking around the grocery store trying to remember what kind of food I like to eat. This happened to me more times than average, but not more than is reasonable or right for a bleeding, feeling human.

  3. I saw the movie Spotlight with my mother and when Mark Ruffalo yelled at Michael Keaton because lots of priests were sexually abusing lots of children in Boston and everywhere and in Boston and they were in Boston and Mark Ruffalo felt angry and ineffectual and he wanted to do something if printing a story in the newspaper is doing something and, well, I cried, not for more than a minute but hard and true so that for the remainder of the film and in the car afterward my body ached, and I felt really weird about it then and I feel weird about it now. I cross myself when I’m nervous but I don’t believe in god.

  4. One night I stopped at Target for tampons and moral support and while pacing in a makeup aisle a Maybelline advertisement featuring indisputable It Girl of the year Gigi Hadid caught my eye and I remembered out of nowhere a clip I had seen from a red carpet interview in which Gigi teared up while speaking about the struggles of her mother, sister, and brother with Lyme disease, and – gazing greedily into her perfect golden face, which had suffered the obligatory sullying from streaks of lip gloss and eyeshadow left behind by the dirty fingers of people testing makeup that’s not even for testing, like, christ, but sang a star spangled banner for me just the same –I teared up too.

  5. In June I walked alone to a chapel where I sat in a pew and waited for Judy Blume. Judy Blume touched my hand and smiled for a picture in which I smiled too. Judy Blume laughed because I told her I was nine years old when I read Summer Sisters and, having written Summer Sisters, Judy Blume knows it’s not for nine year olds. But you understood what you were ready for, she said. So it’s okay. You understood about friendship. About love. Judy Blume wrote, “To Tess Love, Judy Blume” on a book that I was allowed to take home with me. Outside, I sent a series of texts to a woman I had kissed for the very first time not twenty four hours prior, who I had thought about kissing for most of two years, thought rarely of anything else. I told her about Judy. I didn’t wish to be anywhere else in the world than where I was at that moment, except that I wished she was with me. For kissing, to touch my hand that had touched Judy’s hand, to be alive beside me underneath the navy blue sky that is only exactly that spectacular a couple times a summer, and only if you take the time to look. I wished that she was there to hear my fevered story in person but I knew that in the coming days she would be, and I would hear hers, that we would vibrate all our somethings into each other so that we were, neither of us, left again to feel the weight of nothingness. I knew all of this certainly, which is heavy emotional lifting for June. I had tripped headlong into love and high-fived Judy Blume on the way down, and I cried on the sidewalk licking a frozen lemonade in a paper cone because I knew in the soft middle of all my bones that I was incredibly lucky. The next day the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality.

witchsong top fives of 2015, songs edition

Top Five Songs Kenzie Cried To, For Various Reasons, in 2015

1. Sia, “Alive
I’m still breathing, I’m still breathing
I’m still breathing, I’m still breathing
I’m alive
I’m alive
I’m alive
I’m alive
2. Patsy Cline, “Crazy
I’m crazy for trying and crazy for crying
3. Taylor Swift, “Long Live
When they gave us our trophies
And we held them up for our town
And the cynics were outraged
Screaming, “This is absurd!”
‘Cause for a moment a band of thieves in ripped up jeans got to rule the world
Long live the walls we crashed through
All the kingdom lights shined just for me and you
I was screaming
Long live all the magic we made
And bring on all the pretenders
I’m not afraid
4. One Direction, “Through The Dark
When the night is coming down on you,
We will find a way through the dark
5. One Direction, “History”

 

Top 5 4 Songs from 2015 To Send To Space, as Proposed By Sophia

1) “Run Away With Me”, Carly Rae Jepsen
I want to send Carly Rae Jepsen to space. I want Carly Rae Jepsen to perform in zero gravity. Don’t you want that? This song has bagpipes. I mean, what more could you want? It has bagpipes, it is ecstatic. It is a rush of blood to the head, it is the gold standard for pop songs everywhere, it is made of joy. We can turn the world to gold. Someday I will run NASA and I want you to all close your eyes and imagine with me the future in which Carly Rae Jepsen’s sugarcane-robot voice rockets into the stars. This is the best communication of our capacity for desire. This is need shrieking and giddy, a laugh and nothing coy about it, this is the possibility of a new year stretching shining soap-bubble perfect in front of us. What reason is there to be, really, except for this song? BABY TAKE ME TO THE FEELING.

2) “Favourite Color”, Carly Rae Jepsen
From space our planet is so small and blue and sometimes I think about that and I want to cry. The universe is so big and we are a tiny rock. Do you think aliens know what the color blue is? Probably not, all things considered. What is blue except really the color of the Earth from space? We are small lives on a small planet and we are only ever made huge against backdrops of each other. This song, then: I’m bright baby blue, fallin into you / fallin for each other. The falling is mutual and so is the immensity—not just a person but a color, a feeling. The thing about Carly Rae Jepsen is these lyrics sound so silly written out and you hear them and they aren’t at all. I want her to write a song about every color there is so we can understand them all better: a gift from our baby-faced Canadian prophetess, baby blue.

3) “Last Christmas”, Carly Rae Jepsen
Is this the most important Christmas song that has ever existed? Maybe. I mean, probably. Give me one that’s more important and I’ll take it back but I don’t think you can. Carly Rae Jepsen’s voice like layers and layers of gauze with a hitch running all the way through it. Crystalline and then waver and waver and waver. I want you to watch the Late Show Performance of this song, where she wears a white sequined blazer and glittering black pants and her hair is very short and her eyes are very bright. There are few things a ridiculous as Christmas, you know, but one of them is Christmas parties—everyone dressed in too many sequins, everyone dreading going back outside in the cold. Her voice is so delicate and biting and she lets her teeth catch on all the most important words in this important song. Once bitten, twice shy. Send this song to space so that we can imagine all those stars twinkling like lights.

4) “I Really Like You”, Carly Rae Jepsen
You might think that it is redundant to send both this song and “Run Away With Me” to space but I promise you it isn’t. The spectrum of human want is complicated and so is every inflection of Carly Rae’s voice. Nothing in the world except maybe galaxies is as important as the hiccup in her voice, everything you say is a sweet re-he-ve-layyy-shun. This song propels itself forward and then sometimes startles, just for a second. She says I feel like I could fly and I do too, all those synths like a rush. This song carried me all the way through 2015 the way “Call Me Maybe” carried us all through 2012 and I am going to put it on a flash drive and launch it to Mars so that it can live forever.

Tess‘s Top Five Most Played Songs (based on no exact metric whatsoever) in 2015

  1. “Bathroom Sink” – Miranda Lambert


2. “Little Green” – Joni Mitchell


3. “I Have The Moon” – Lush


4. “Secret Love Song Pt. 2” – Little Mix


5. lol obviously it is “Ring of Keys” who am I fucking kidding?


 

Kenzie’s Top Five Songs Not From Any Of My Top Ten Albums

1. Rihanna, “Bitch Better Have My Money
2. Missy Elliott, “WTF (Where They From)”
3. Haley Kiyoko, “Girls Like Girls
4. Justin Bieber, “Sorry
5. Fifth Harmony, “Reflection

 

letter(s) from the editor(s): aly’s top ten albums of 2015

10. The Firewatcher’s Daughter, Brandi Carlile.

You lose so many things you love as you grow

9. Reflection, Fifth Harmony.

Where you from? Must be heaven / You’d be rich if lookin’ good was your profession / Think I’m in love ’cause you so sexy / Boy I ain’t talkin’ bout you I’m talkin’ to my own reflection

8. Another Eternity, Purity Ring.

I wanna know what’s your quietest feeling?

7. RevivalSelena Gomez.

I mean, I could, but why would I want to?

6. Beat the Champthe Mountain Goats.

I personally will stab you in the eye with a foreign object

5. Froot, Marina & the Diamonds.

Sometimes you have to learn to forget about it

4. E•MO•TION, Carly Rae Jepsen.

‘Cause I want what I want do you think that I want too much?

3. Purpose, Justin Bieber.

Is it too late now to say sorry?

2. Made in the A.M., One Direction.

You know I’m always comin’ back to this place / You know I’m always gonna look for your face

  1. Get Weird, Little Mix.

We’re gonna get (get) weird (weird) all night I said let’s get weird all night

Honorable mentions: Sounds Good Feels Good by 5SOS, American Beauty/American Psycho by Fall Out Boy, Pageant Material by Kacey Musgraves, III by JoJo.

I apologize for linking to myself so much but I, uh, apparently talk a lot, and also didn’t really listen to anything that I didn’t scream about this year. Sorry that I have so little chill.

Also – I am writing a Purpose review, I am! It is taking a long time because its thesis is “Justin Bieber is lonely and uncertain” and so I have to take frequent crying breaks. So I am sorry for that as well although I would then have to link to myself more, so I guess maybe that equals out.

Happy solstice! Happy whatever holiday! Happy try not to kill your relatives, and remember that no matter what they think of your hair/gender/sexuality/music taste, we love you here. Thank you for sticking with us this far – it means more than you know. See you in 2016!

letter(s) from the editor(s): caroline’s top ten albums of 2015

I think 2015 has been my favorite year in music in my adult life so far and I started with a top 10 that grew into a top 50 that I’ve now scaled back down to a top 10 with much stress and pained squirming and whining sounds. I also am choosing to only rank my top 3 officially and the leave the rest in no particular order because I can’t handle the responsibility and I’m not even sure how to compare the things on this list to one another. Also, I know this seems silly to say but this list is comprised only of the things I heard this year so I can’t speak to releases that I didn’t spend any time with and I’m sure some of them would have made this list if I had. OMG here we go!

Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late: Drake is the only fuckboy I have time or love for and I swear to god Lorde produced this record. Listen to “10 Bands,” “No Tellin’,” “Company”

Wavves – V: Nathan Williams makes me trust dudes again because he spans self-doubt and self-hate and romantic shit and creepy brain ooze while somehow making a middle part work and possessing not an ounce ego. Forever filling my quota of bratty dude noise. Listen to “Pony,” “Way Too Much, “My Head Hurts”

Best Coast – California Nights: My cosmic big sis blaming her problems on the moon, writing her own chapter in the greater female narrative and pissing off rock dudes every damn day. Listen to “Fine Without You,” “Jealousy,” “Run Through My Head”

Oddisee – The Good Fight: Wordy and anxious but full of chance and the plea to try. Listen to “That’s Love,” “Contradiction’s Maze,” “A List of Withouts”

Little Mix – Get Weird: I can’t be succinct about Little Mix. Listen to the whole thing and go see them on tour and thank whoever every day that we have them.

Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ: A study on fandom and heroes written by the nicest dude in the world, considered a hero by many. Listen to “The Legend of Chavo Guerrero,” “Heel Turn 2,” “Werewolf Gimmick”

Colleen Green – I Want to Grow Up: An exploration of the purgatory of young adulthood and how your narrative isn’t wrong just because it is different. Listen to “Deeper Than Love,” “Whatever I Want,” “Grind My Teeth”

  1. Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp: The soundtrack to the rise and fall of the most headfucking non-relationship of my life; the first time I’ve listened to sad music and liked it. Literate, poetic, a revival of southern charm and very reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor – shadowy, funny and very mean. Listen to “Breathless,” “Summer of Love,” “Poison,” “Grey Hair,” “Half Moon”
  1. Mac McCaughan – Non-Believers: The most romantic dude alive – his lyrics on relationships and life with another person make me miserable because I haven’t found that but also un-jades me with each listen. Mac has a soft heart and knows how to tell stories in the short space of a pop song. He is an overflow of technical skill and warmth – best all around and the true (humble) pinnacle of pop punk. Listen to “Box Batteries,” “Real Darkness,” “Lost Again,” “Wet Leaves,” “Only Do”
  1. Grimes – Art Angels: The pop student and pop scholar – the most comprehensive understanding of what pop music is and can be, Grimes is the surgeon extraordinaire who stitched together this Frankenstein mosaic with glitter thread and sweated over every documented sound on this record. This is the opposite of découpé and the fatalistic approach to creation, the opposite of white dude William S. Burroughs and his druggy brilliance – this is talent and a true representation of kaleidoscopic psychedelia. I said this about M.I.A.’s Matangi in 2013 and want to echo that now – this is the best top 40 pop record that isn’t actually top 40 pop. Grimes is not human – she is an alien sprite in a cowboy hat, a savant and the most well-read contributor to popular music and popular media we have. Listen to “Flesh without Blood,” “Kill V. Maim,” “Easily,” “REALiTi,” “Venus Fly”

letter(s) from the editor(s): kenzie’s top ten albums of 2015

I love end-of-year lists. I love countdowns. The whole concept, the ranking, the weighing of one thing’s merits against another’s, that all appeals to me. I know some people don’t care for it, but me, I’m all for it. Which is why from now until the end of the year, you’ll see a whole lot of lists on witchsong. Some music, some not. We’re starting with top ten album lists from the editors, and since I get to decide the order, I’m obviously going first. So, enjoy. Here are my top 10 albums of 2015.

10. Troye Sivan, Blue Neighbourhood.

Lane-Del-Rey-Honeymoon-Artwork 9. Lana Del Rey, Honeymoon.The whole album has the same sadness and pop and glitter of “This is What Makes Us Girls” and “Video Games” (although no song on Honeymoon comes close to being as excellent as “This is What Makes Us Girls”) but it’s also more self-aware in a way that I find vastly appealing. She is singing about jazz and California and pink flamingoes and Billie Holiday; she is really Performing Lana Del Rey. But she knows not everyone loves Lana Del Rey, and the tension that comes out of that self-awareness is a vital element of Honeymoon. “I don’t matter to anyone, but Hollywood legends will never grow old,” she sings on “Terrence Loves You.” The line that follows “we both know it’s not fashionable to love me” is “but you don’t go ‘cause truly there’s nobody for you but me.” She knows. “Look at you, looking at me.” She sees.

8. Shamir, Ratchet.

one-direction-album7. One Direction, Made in the A.M. “Maturity is not about attaining fixity, but about learning to handle flux, becoming a person who can grow and learn and leave and become a self, over and over, in new ways. You follow your heart even though it’ll break sometimes. Ending is not erasing, and ending does not eliminate the possibility of future beginning –– you will find me in places we’ve never been, for reasons we don’t understand. One Direction will leave us, is leaving us, has left us, but left with the promise that any time I’ve gone / you can listen to my voice and sing along, and in that sense, the words of “History” have become true: this is not the end, this is not the end, we can live forever.

1035x1035-MI00039034986. Carly Rae Jepsen, E•MO•TION. “Pop music is all about desire, but nobody wants like Carly Rae wants. (…) From insistent lead single “I Really Like You” to sweeping opener “Run Away with Me”, Jepsen’s still crushing, but her songs push hard away from the cliché of the passive, lovelorn singer. She sings authoritatively; the chorus on “Run Away with Me” is practically an order, as if everything in the world depends on whether she and the object of her affections leave the party together or not. And on “Emotion”, Jepsen all but hexes the guy who’s rejected her, though she phrases it like a love song. “Be tormented by me, babe,” she sings. “In your head, and I won’t stop/ Until you forget me, forget me not.” The words ring vicious in her sweet and pseudo-innocent delivery — she’s under your skin whether you like it or not.” Sasha Geffen, Consequence of Sound.

5. Alabama Shakes, Sound and Color.

sleaterkinney-nocities-14254. Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love.I don’t know how to say that this album zips and quavers with real animal strength I sometimes forget can be a part of music and it makes me feel strong, sleek, like I’d only key somebody’s car if they really deserved it and I’d look good the whole time. Most days I feel as if I might do anything. Most days I cannot make all my parts move in synchronicity. Sleater-Kinney, still, now, and maybe I should outgrow this, though these songs seems to say I won’t (“wandered through the void of me” in the title track) helps me carve a clear self from my whole mess, clean, and that self is cool like concrete for an hour, for a day.

3. Little Mix, Get Weird!

selena-gomez-revival-album-2015-billboard-650x6502. Selena Gomez, Revival. “The current of this album is strong and swift and steady, and it sucks me under, throbs under my skin. This is so calculated, and I mean that in a good way – this is a hypnotist in peak form. This is the sinuous dance of a cobra as it moves toward prey. It’s quiet and even but it feels like when you speak very calmly because you’re afraid you will cry or laugh or scream. It is total control, a mastery of self and emotion, and it is then directing that control outward. Selena isn’t a belter, she’s not screaming at the top of her lungs; even when she’s showing emotion she’s doing it in a way that feels the exact opposite of casual. It’s not an accident when she lets a card show here and there. And there are flashes of that, quick bright bursts of energy up out of the steady rhythmic flow.”

Florence + the Machine - How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful - Island Records, 20151. Florence + the Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.But—and here is the vital thing, the thing that makes it an album about absolution and the cleansing power of fire, of fury, rather than the wrath of a woman scorned—through that all there is hope. There are the first tentative steps to piecing yourself back together on the other side of leveling everything you knew because there was something broken and rotten at the foundation. Look at “Third Eye” (you don’t have to be a ghost, here amongst the living; you are flesh and blood / you deserve to be loved). Look at “St. Jude” (and I’m learning, so I’m leaving). Look at “Delilah” (I’m gonna be free and I’m gonna be fine). This is Florence as phoenix, rising from the ashes, newborn and vulnerable but renewed and washed clean by the flames.