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Friday, December 18, 2015

B1A4 - It's Christmas Time

I'm going to take a break from the countdowns today to focus on what is undoubtedly the best new Christmas song this year (and of quite a few years). Korea's been producing a slew of new k-pop Christmas tracks this year, but this song by B1A4 has really not gotten the love or attention it deserves. Part of that is probably because the song isn't paired with a music video, like most k-pop releases are. That's a shame, because a lot of B1A4's charm is in their colorful, creative visuals. That said, this song is so good that it doesn't even need a music video. It's firmly in the "All I Want For Christmas Is You" vein of holiday music, all upbeat sleigh bells and explosive chorus. And let's talk about that chorus, because it's one of the year's absolute best. And I love that, judging from the sole English line alone, this isn't another schmaltzy romantic message, but a more innocent plea for friendship. We could all use more songs about that.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Top 50 Singles of 2015: 35-31

35. Exid - Ah Yeah

The girls followed up their breakthrough with this resounding success. There are so many little hooks within, but at the end of the day it all comes back to that gargantuan chorus.

34. AOA - Heart Attack

The first time I heard this, I couldn't get over how noisy and frantic it sounded, but then everything came together and I realized what a brilliant propulsive pop workout it truly is.

33. B1A4 - Happy Days

They placed two times in the top 10 of last year's countdown, and surprisingly their 2015 entry is an anthemic, poppy, Japanese release.

32. BTS - Run 

Released literally a day before my cut-off date of eligibility to this countdown, it's hard to tell what staying power this will have, but based on their track record, I'm betting I'll be playing this brilliant single a lot next year.

31. Romeo - Target 

An even better Sweetune single from new group Romeo, this is the kind of synth-drenched, layered blast of pop that I live for.

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Top Albums and Mini-Albums of 2015: Number 7


7. Brandon Flowers - The Desired Effect

By streamlining all of his classic rock and pop influences into a handful of potent, perfectly composed songs, Flowers created the album of his career. It feels incredibly nostalgic, yet just what the music world needs this year. Despite releasing four singles, the album didn't get nearly as much recognition as it deserves.


7. Seventeen - 17 Carat

Simply put, it's Korea's best debut group of the year. I'm not sure if anything can beat the one-two punch of 17 Carat's opening pair of tracks. Even the lesser songs are bolstered by a palpable sense of youthful energy. They're hungry, and eager to prove themselves, and that hunger is felt in every beat.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Top 50 Singles of 2015: 40-36

40. Park Kyung + Park Boram - Ordinary Love

What could have been yet another midtempo collaboration was bolstered by Kyung's charismatic delivery throughout and a hook that became one of the year's most enduring earworms.

39. Romeo - Lovesick

The birth of my favorite type of k-pop boyband: one who works with production team extraordinaire Sweetune, and reaps the benefits of their best 2015 material.

38. Robin - Yö Kuuluu Meille

One of the most enduring artists on my countdown, Robin hits us again with an energetic track that one-ups Aerosmith and Run DMC's 'Walk This Way.'

37. 1PUNCH - Take Me Back 

Unfortunately their only track before disbandment, this still managed to be a dynamically produced throwback to 90's new jack swing.

36. Arashi - Under The Blue Sky, Next To You 

Japan's biggest boy (man?) band hit us with a track that's all about the soaring chorus. One of the year's best.

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Top Albums and Mini-Albums of 2015: Number 8


8. Ola Salo - Wilderness

The Ark's frontman finally went solo in 2015 with an album that hearkened back to some of his past band's strongest elements, while continuing to uncover more of the complicated psychology that characterizes Salo's persona. It's all wrapped up in some of the catchiest, classic rock music of the year. I had my doubts going in, but the album won me over in an instant.


8. HongKi - FM302

Another solo project, this time from the lead singer of Korean rock band FTIsland. Breaking expectations, Hongki went for a more dance and electronic influence for this album, which paid off big time. That said, nothing is quite as powerful or awesome as the theatrical, bombastic rock ballad that was chosen as the lead single.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Top 50 Singles of 2015: 45-41

45. Shinee - Married To The Music

A funky, Michael Jackson inspired summer track that feels indebted in one way or another to the best of every decade's music trends.

44. Infinite F - My Heart Is Beating

Infinite's lightest and poppiest subunit debuted with this cotton-candy confection that's almost too sweet, but it's anchored by a wallop of a hook.

43. Bigbang - Sober

Bigbang released more singles this year than any other k-pop artist, and this rock-influenced track stood out with its anthemic hook and crunchy guitars.

42. Lovelyz - Ah-Choo 

The high energy "cute concept" was strong with girl groups this year in Korea, and Lovelyz was a chief example. This is their most addictive single yet.

41. Janet Jackson - No Sleeep 

The legend returned not with a bang, but a quiet storm of a single that hearkens back to the moodiest music of her past.

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Top Albums & Mini-Albums of 2015: Number 9


9. f(x) - 4 Walls

To me, f(x) has always been an albums artist, and although they've never had a single on my top 50 countdown, their full lengths always rank up there. 4 Walls continues the trend, and is probably their most consistent album yet. Rather than the hodgepodge of sounds the group usually experiments with, this is a streamlined exercise in late 80's and early 90's dance music.


9. M+D - Cottage Industry

The second Super Junior related mini album to make the countdown, Cottage Industry is a strong passion project that pays homage to Japanese rock. If you've heard the title track, don't judge the whole album by its poppy sound. Beyond that single are some moody, melodic tracks that really sneak up on you with repeated listens.

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Top 50 Singles of 2015: 50-46

50. Darin - Ta Mig Tillbaka

A gentle, nostalgic ode to childhood that ushered in Darin's new mature sound. Not the flashiest track on the countdown, but one with a lot of staying power.

49. Brown Eyed Girls - Brave New World

At first you'll mistake it for some bizarro reinterpretation of Michael Jackson's Don't Stop Til You Get Enough, but then it just gets trippier and you're not quite sure what it is you're hearing.

48. Brandon Flowers - Lonely Town

The most majestic track on Brandon's brilliant second album, it's best paired with the hypnotic, moody 80's video. That hook is everything.

47. Emil Berg - Du Swipa Höger 

A left-field Euro-dance anthem, with one of the most irresistible beats of the year. It's the kind of debut that sets the bar impossibly high.

46. Magnus Carlsson - Möt Mig I Gamla Stan 

The only Melodifestivalen track this year that I bother still listening to, and the only schlager song in the competition. Magnus always delivers the goods.

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Top Albums & Mini Albums of 2015: Number 10


10. Darin - Fjärilar I Magen

In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Darin went full folk-pop on us this year. In doing so, he also released one of his best full-length albums yet. Despite only having one track that could even be considered "dance," the strength of his vocals and songwriting creates a cohesive work with a definite mood and tone.


10. Donghae and Eunhyuk - The Beat Goes On

Of all of Super Junior's sub-units, Donghae and Eunhyuk's releases have consistently been to my taste. It helps that they're the dancers of the group, and two of the more charismatic performers. This pop-fueled mini album was such a wonderful treat in an otherwise lackluster March. Other than one drippy ballad, it's pure upbeat fun through and through.

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