A master of commercial jingles, Hughes knows how to stuff his impeccably crafted AM pop songs with humor and heart, pain and delight.
More than 400 of the best songs of 2015, selected by NPR Music’s dedicated listeners and crossing more than a dozen genres. And you can listen to every single one.
The 15th anniversary of Sisqó’s monster single “Thong Song” could have wafted past like the scent of coconut body oil…
Each of Smith’s records contains an abundance of small, perfectly formed gems. There are too many to pick from, but just about any would shine anew under this type of respectful reinterpretation.
Sosa’s songs are saturated with the beauty and power of West African music dedicated to Yoruba deities. And yet an unmistakable reverence for jazz pervades every note.
The Edmonton band mines the built-in tension between its many sources of effervescence and the darker shading in its words and backgrounds.
A 28-year-old Nashville singer-songwriter with a reticent demeanor and a fondness for offhand revelations, Combs sings subtly, without a lot of fuss.
New ideas permeate the band’s 13th album, on which every song finds a way to surprise. Mastermind Kevin Barnes mixes a love of rock, funk and disco with unexpected ways to expand the brain.
Visceral yet dreamy, the band’s third album plumbs ever deeper into droning psychedelia. Moon Duo’s influences are easy to spot, but the music feels like part of a continuum rather than a pastiche.
Recording around a single microphone, the North Dakota singer sounds as if he’s performing in your living room. For these wonderfully honest stories, the fit is perfect.
Detroit DJ, producer and singer-songwriter Mayer Hawthorne links up with Seattle boom-bap specialist Jake One to form the group Tuxedo, on a mission to push the funk back to the forefront.
The British shoegaze band’s first album in 17 years sounds dreamy, subtle and winning. It mostly eschews the rocking of Swervedriver’s early years, but it compensates with disarming beauty.
Using samples from vintage news broadcasts and in-flight NASA chatter, a British duo tells the story of the Space Age’s first 15 years.
Even when built around familiar pop-song structures, Deacon’s music is juxtapositional and wonderful — a pursuit of the ecstatic that obliterates genre distinctions.
Recording a reunion album after 35 years, the defiant and inventive British band meets the modern era head-on, tempering its dystopias with the rhythms required to move bodies and open minds.
After more than 25 years, the band’s weapons are still consummate skill, the clarion charisma of singer Raul Malo, and the wisdom to know that fun is what wins in the end.
González’s songs are slight little creations, with minimal words encapsulating big ideas and breezy pop melodies disguising weighty notions about life’s endlessly refracting illusions.
There’s a new-found tightness in the band’s attack that’s as refreshing as it is menacing. Destructive and dreamy, Transfixiation is the sound of APTBS turning its demolitionist tactics on itself.
The D.C. guitar band’s music can be jarring and jagged, as its members channel Krautrock and psychedelic blues. But it’s also dreamy, with lilt and grit.
With 19 songs in just 22 minutes, Quarterbacks offers pop melodies at punk speed and a reminder that love and hurt needn’t always be rendered at epic scale.