Editor’s Picks: Top Tunes of 2015

Editor’s Picks: Top Tunes of 2015


At the start of 2015, after publishing our 2015 Most Anticipated Albums feature, I was excited about new music dropping in the New Year. After hearing a couple albums with some key songs that I loved, I decided to dump those songs into a custom playlist titled Top 2015 Songs. To prevent a bloated playlist, I decided over the year that I would only select songs that I found an organic and lasting connection with. There were songs I initially selected, but later removed when I found myself skipping it within the playlist.

By the end of the year my playlist only consisted of 8 total songs that I considered to be my Top Tunes of 2015. These are 8 songs that I continue to play tirelessly. When I look back at 2015, these are the 8 songs that I will play as my soundtrack for the year. I hope you guys enjoy the songs as much as I still do. I provided links to purchase the music and I hope you create the same playlist I did.

Believe it or not, 8,760 hours in a year is not enough time to listen, and really absorb all of the new music that dropped in 2015 – and there was a lot of it I was unable to get to. Below, in the order of their release date, are the 8 songs that I came away loving in 2015.

Editor’s Picks: Top Tunes of 2015


1.) New Kingston – “Can’t Stop A Man”

Album: Kingston City
Release Date: January 27th, 2015
Purchase Album HERE!

Out of Brooklyn, NY, New Kingston is the real deal and their album Kingston City was one of the better records of 2015. “Can’t Stop A Man” was my New Year anthem for getting shit done; be it in the gym, chores around the house, BBQ with friends or dishing out content via The Pier. It’s a lyrical upbeat dance track with a fun hook encouraging me to stay productive because, as the title says, you Can’t Stop A Man.

I initially favored their song “I Believe In Me” for a lot of the same encouraging reasons, but I ultimately found myself returning to “Can’t Stop A Man”. Kingston City was New Kingston’s third studio album, their first with Easy Star Records, and in my opinion, their best album to date. If you’re not familiar with the group, this is a great first impression album to introduce yourself to.

The 3 brothers from Brooklyn, NY were able to include some guest features that include Tribal Seeds, Kimie Miner, France’s Dub Inc., Sister Carol, The Wailing Souls, and the late, great father of dancehall, Sugar Minott. While this list could have easily included 4 New Kingston songs, I made the decision to only choose what I felt was their best track and that was “Can’t Stop A Man”.

Listen: New Kingston – “Can’t Stop A Man”


2.) Riotmaker – “The Busted Crown”

Album: Welcome to Calirock
Release Date: February 20th, 2015
Purchase Album HERE!

From 1997-2005, Sacramento, CA boasted a band by the name of Shakedown. The group played Reggae, Rock, Jazz, Hip Hop and sold out most local venues with fans fully singing the groups top songs in unison at any given show. After the group broke up in 2005, lead-vocalist & guitarist Jeffry Valerio eventually found his new band, Riotmaker, who this past February released their debut record, Welcome to CaliRock.

The bulk of this album was inspired and emotionally driven by Jeffry’s departure from Shakedown. I have to admit, I was a HUGE Shakedown fan and have always loved Jeffry’s vocal style. Like he did with Shakedown more than 10 years ago, Jeffry carries a unique and soulful vocal delivery that comes across as dark, but hopeful with an emotional struggle for whats been lost or taken. This was emphasized on his new song “The Busted Crown” and the more I connected with its emotion, the more I kept pressing play on the track. There was a period where I played this song just about everyday for 3-4 months. The song played to the depth of my own emotions of what I was going through and I related through the songs battle-cry. It’s the unforced emotion that comes through that I picked up on and ran with.

When I spoke with Jeffry, he told me that: “I actually started writing the music to ‘The Busted Crown’ years ago in 2003. Shakedown was performing with LB Shortbus in San Francisco, CA. I was back-stage in the dressing room drinking Jack Daniels and jammin’ with Eric Wilson (Sublime / LB Shortbus). I was rockin’ acoustic guitar and Eric was on acoustic bass. I never did anything with the song until 2010 when I finished it. It is about losing something you love. In this song, it is about me losing Shakedown which was the hardest thing I’ve been through.”

If you can, I’d even recommend buying Shakedown’s album Call It What You Want. It’s what I consider one of Reggae Rock’s best underground, lesser-known albums. It’s available for sale on CDbaby by clicking HERE! But first, give this song a listen as your first impression to see what you think of Riotmaker’s debut record.

Listen: Riotmaker – “The Busted Crown”


3.) The Skints – “This Town” (ft. Tippa Irie & Horseman)

Album: FM
Release Date: March 6th, 2015
Purchase Album HERE!

Time to sound like a biased fan-boy. East London’s The Skints, in my opinion, dished out the best album of the year that included one of the best collaboration tracks I’ve ever heard. The album was FM and the collaboration I’m speaking of is “This Town” that features Tippa Irie and Horseman. The song has 5 different vocalists and in no way does the song feel crowded or bloated. It’s a hometown anthem displaying hometown pride with lyrical swagger over a rocksteady riddim. I’m from Oceanside, CA and I have to admit I often swap out the lyrics of “London City”, during the hook, for my hometown of “O’side City” when singing the song out-loud.

Here’s what The Skints guitarist/vocalist, Joshua Waters Rudge had to say about the track: “‘This Town’ is a song we wrote in the studio at Prince Fatty’s about our hometown. It was an honour and a privilege to work with two of the greatest reggae artists to ever come from London, Tippa Irie and Horseman, on this one. Their energy and musicality is inspiring and I think the fun we had making the tune is definitely what drove the whole thing. Showing love to home and sound system summer’s day flavour was the way we wanted to set the album off.”

Like New Kingston mentioned above, this is The Skints third full length studio album and their first with Easy Star Records. There are many strong songs on this London radio tribute record, but “This Town” was the tone setter and head turner. Even their music video for the song is bad-ass! Give the song a listen by watching the video and take my word for it – their album is worth exploring, starting with this track.

Watch: The Skints – “This Town” (ft. Tippa Irie & Horseman)


4.) Ethan Tucker – “This Has All Been A Dream”

Album: Misunderstood
Release Date: May 5th, 2015
Purchase Album HERE!

I don’t know if Ethan Tucker knows this or not, but he’s an old soul with an emphasis on soul. His latest album, Misunderstood, is indicative of that. The marriage between his heart & poetic lyrics is what stands out on the album, much less this particular track. My only complaint for the song is that it’s not longer. It’s because the track is short and sweet that it encourages me to click replay as much as I have to keep reliving the songs sentiment. Sometimes songs just grab you with its soul and relatable tone. This Has All Be A Dream includes the magic of feeling as if you just dissolved from the cloud you sat on when the song suddenly ends; just as quick as the dream you wish you never woke from.

With some songs, you have to be in a certain mood to listen, but with this track, the mood of the song finds you and takes over.

Our own Kit Chalberg summed it up the best in his Album Review of Misunderstood when he described this particular song as: “Tucker at his best; a simply approached arrangement that focuses on his vocals and storytelling. This heart-breaker of a tune is lyrically the strongest on the album—and the dynamics created by the piano and cello come together to create a sound that almost mesmerizes the listener.”

Misunderstood stands as his first fully produced record. Tucker collaborated with producer Mario C. (Beastie Boys, Slightly Stoopid), mentor Michael Franti and Stoopid Records to bring Misunderstood to life.

Listen: Ethan Tucker – “This Has All Been A Dream”


5.) The Late Ones – “Hi Power”

Album: Revelate EP
Release Date: May 5th, 2015
Purchase Album HERE!

Back in February, The Pier, (including myself, David Norris & Blake Taylor), was invited out by EKM Records to Honolulu, HI to a private listening party of theirs to introduce us to some of the up and coming artists they work with (You can read about that trip HERE).

Among the groups that we first met that night were The Late Ones who made an immediate impression. As individuals, they were high energy, all positive and very embracing to everyone around them. They were the first to greet us as we entered the venue and continued to hang out with us the rest of the evening, before and after their set. They felt like familiar strangers. We had never met them before, but it was as if we knew them for years after interacting.

On stage, they performed a blend of Roots inspired Reggae with Hip-Hop and 3-Part harmonies, rich with soul and R&B. My first impression was they were very similar to The Green & New Kingston, only The Late Ones carry more of a hip-hop influence. A few months later and I was able to get my hands on their debut 6 track EP titled Revelate and I couldn’t believe how mature their sound was for a new and young group. “Hi Power” was the instant stand-out track and displayed the potential these guys have to grow as young artists.

The Late Ones recorded their debut EP at Sea Major Seven Studio in Honolulu, HI with engineer Noah Cronin and producers Lapana Ieriko and Klandon Fetaui.

Here’s what the group had to say with regards to the track: “‘Hi Power’ is a message for the youth to be wise and make good conscious decisions. Be smart, and open minded to the world that we are all a part of. Sonically, we wanted to capture our fun and chill vibe, as well as the laid back and easy-going lifestyle that we live in coming from Hawaii. Hi Power… living in higher thoughts.”

Listen: The Late Ones – “Hi Power”


6.) Slightly Stoopid – “Come Around”

Album: Meanwhile… Back At The Lab
Release Date: June 30th, 2015
Purchase Album HERE!

Most of my favorite Slightly Stoopid songs are ones where both singers, Kyle McDonald & Miles Doughty, trade vocals over a song. Guest appearances are cool and make for great, exciting collaborations, but the songs where both singers are cutting up the track tend to be the ones I press play on the most. On their 2015 release, Meanwhile… Back at the Lab that came in the form of track 10, a song called, “Come Around”.

In 2014, the band came straight off a flight from their South American Tour to NYC. That’s where Jerry Wonda, known for working with The Fugees and Wyclef Jean, engineered an impromptu late night/early morning session at Platinum Sound, yielding the collaborative “Come Around.”

The song feels like it could be the official genre’s concert anthem. I play this song ahead of most reggae-rock shows that come through town. It doesn’t matter if its Slightly Stoopid or not, the song is put on as my pre-show track getting in the mindset of going out to an event with the track being amplified from the nearest sound system. It’s all in the lyrics, and the tone of the bass heavy song that includes likable elements of Hip Hop and Reggae accented with some horns. I had an instant connection with the song from an album that was very rich with musical depth.

Listen: Slightly Stoopid – “Come Around”


7.) Iration – “Stay Awake”

Album: Hotting Up
Release Date: August 28th, 2015
Purchase Album HERE!

The worse part about “Stay Awake” is when I’m caught singing along to the chorus on full blast while driving with my windows rolled down. I dare you to listen to the song and not sing a long. This song may actually be my favorite one of the year. It is so goddamn likable, relatable, fun to play loud and even more fun to sing along to.

Apparently, the song was initially written by Iration’s newest member, Micah Brown. Here’s what guitarist/vocalist Micah Pueschel had to say, explaining the songs origin with Micah Brown: “He had the basic form, like the verses and chordage and stuff, and we all liked it, so then he finally brought it to Dave and they hashed it out together at his studio in LA. They made a basic demo track that’s similar to what you hear on the record. I ended up writing the second verse for the final version of the song, but what’s really cool about this track is that it’s not the kind of song that I would have written. It’s a totally different style, and I think it’s good to have that. That was kind of a Micah Brown original thing that ended up becoming an Iration collabo. It’s very unique in the way it sounds and that’s what I love about it. You can really hear Micah’s influence on that track.”

Micah Brown is an incredibly talented singer-songwriter and overall musician. He joined Iration shortly after Kai Rediske left the group back in 2013. Brown originally joined the group to provide back-up vocals and guitar while touring. He has since evolved his role within the group and now his influence is being heard with “Stay Awake” and I fucking love it!

Listen: Iration – “Stay Awake”


8.) Rootz Underground – “Rootz & Underground”

Album: Return of the Righteous Vol. 1
Release Date: November 6th, 2015
Purchase Album: Click HERE!

Rootz Underground was sitting on “Return of the Righteous Vol. 1 for more than a year before it was finally released. I remember mentioning this album in our 2014 Most Anticipated Albums feature, but the album was apparently shelved before being released this past November.

What makes this relevant is I first heard their song “Rootz & Culture” back in the summer of 2013 and while the production of the song has changed and evolved, my immediate connection with the track never wavered. The original version of the song can be heard in the Youtube clip below. Unfortunately, there’s not an option to post the newer version, so I guess you will just have to take my word that it was one of my favorite of 2015, and go buy it!

The song is bubbly and upbeat with lyrics that trigger pride and emotion for your upbringing and background. You don’t have to have a red-yellow-green Rasta upbringing to relate to this song. What I took away from the track is that you need to be true to yourself, display respect for your heritage, your name and those who held it before you. So as the song requests, GIVE ME MY ROOTZ & CULTURE!

Listen: Rootz Underground – “Rootz & Culture” [2014]


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Article by: Mike Patti