The 40 best songs of 2015

20. Deerhunter – ‘Snakeskin’

While it turned out to be a red herring for Deerhunter’s seventh album, which is more cuddly than bristly, ‘Snakeskin’ remains a potent fever-dream of a lead single. Caught between T Rex and Sly Stone, leader Bradford Cox makes with a glam-funk strut and luridly boasts, “I was born with a snake-like walk.” It’s just as slinky and sexy as intended, a contagious snapshot of rock ‘n’ roll delirium. – Doug Wallen

19. Mini Mansions – ‘Veritgo’

Pysch-pop noir that slinks between bright Harry Nilsson melodies, doomy synths, and Alex Turner’s menacing vocals. If the Beach Boys had written the soundtrack to Snatch it would probably sound something like this. – Sarah Smith

18. Grimes – ‘Flesh Without Blood’

Between Kreayshawn and Blood Diamonds collabs, rumoured-to-be-rejected Rihanna bangers, and the introspective ‘Realiti’, Grimes had everyone guessing what Art Angels would finally sound like. ‘Flesh Without Blood’ was the first official taste. With its speedy pop punk riff, ‘Flesh Without Blood’ sounds like the kind of song The Veronicas should be making. Cleaner and more familiar than earlier singles, ‘Flesh Without Blood’ is as much Breakaway-era Kelly Clarkson as it is DJ Sammy; a snappy, compulsive return from one of pop’s least predictable songwriters. – Jake Cleland

17. Alpine – ‘Foolish’

This supremely airy single is the perfect introduction to Alpine’s second album, with its twinkling art-pop turns and Blonde Redhead-meets-Cardigans vocals. ‘Foolish’ even adds a sort of tropical disco edge, begging for a big-time remix. – Doug Wallen

16. Kurt Vile – ‘Pretty Pimpin’

b’lieve i’m goin down… is one of Kurt Vile’s most low-key albums, but its opening track turns out to be one of his catchiest singles. Musically it sounds like ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ via Tom Petty and J Mascis, but the secret of ‘Pretty Pimpin’ is its portrait of the disorientation found as close as the bathroom mirror, unsure what day of the week it is while brushing a stranger’s teeth. – Doug Wallen

15. Drake – ‘Hotline Bling’

When Drake first appeared in the technicolour Apple mothership set that was the ‘Hotline Bling’ video, throwing his best dad-at-the-family-reunion shapes, he immediately became a phenomenon. With a beat that jacks Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road theme and a chorus which makes a ringing phone seem like a personal triumph, ‘Hotline Bling’ is a deft mix of classic Aubrey cheek and understated bravado. Who else could make something as urgent as a hotline seem so casual? – Jake Cleland

14. Jamie xx – ‘Gosh’

Hearing big-ups for the UK massive isn’t something you’d expect from professional wallflower Jamie xx, but here it is. ‘Gosh’ takes the excited toasting of a jungle MC and uses it as build-up and effective coda for a gorgeous slice of downtempo reminiscent of Burial, and it works. – Jody Macgregor

13. Alabama Shakes – ‘Future People’

After a well-loved debut full of solid, traditionalist soul-rock it’s surprising to hear how forward-looking Alabama Shakes sound now. One of the best examples of that is ‘Future People’, which is closer to art-rock than the swampy, bluesy sound we’re used to. – Jody Macgregor

12. Major Lazer & DJ Snake ft. MØ – ‘Lean On’

This is the most pop Major Lazer have been, but it’s no sell out – instead, ‘Lean On’ feels like the latest clever move from a man who’s spent the last five years gradually infiltrating the mainstream. As shiny and accessible as the songs are now, those outsider influences – the dancehall, the moombahton, the reggae – are still there in Major Lazer’s music, just a little more subtly than before. ‘Lean On’ is Diplo’s perfect pop trojan horse. – Katie Cunningham

11. Bully– ‘Trying’

Alicia Bognanno, frontwoman of Bully, produced, engineered, and mixed their album at Steve Albini’s studios. It shows in ‘Trying’, which could be a lost Kim Deal song from the Pixies’ Albini-produced Surfer Rosa, and I can think of no higher compliment. – Jody Macgregor

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