Argument-starter/band Deafheaven are hard to pin down. They’re most commonly described as a mix between post-rock, black metal and shoegaze. I’d like to think that I know a little bit about all three of those genres (though according to some the fact I like Deafheaven means I know nothing about music at all) but truthfully, to me, a song like “Dream House” doesn’t sound like it would fall under any of those labels. It’s a cacophony of beautiful guitar solos, screamed vocals and empowering percussion breakdowns –it just sounds good. I know that kind of seems like a lazy thing to say when writing about music but when the discussion is so heavily muddled by genre nitpicking and superiority grabs it feels like a necessary statement.

Two of the overarching themes of Sunbather are substance abuse (one track features a sample of a real-life conversation between band guitarist and co-founder Kerry McCoy and his drug dealer) and the desire for a better life. “Dream House” lays out a dream scenario of falling in love (or perhaps more accurately getting back a love once lost) under the bright lights of Manhattan. It’s all just a fantasy aided by the consumption of heavy amounts of alcohol. The song ends with singer George Clarke revisiting a real-life, late night drunk text he had with a girl he was obsessed with a few years ago:

“I’m dying.”
“Is it blissful?”
“It’s like a dream.”
“I want to dream.”

Removed from the context of Deafheaven’s sound, it seems a little bit moody (it is a drunk text after all). But when paired with George Clarke’s intense vocals along with Kerry McCoy’s heavy-as-hell guitar and Daniel Tracy’s superspeed percussion it gains a level of importance and beauty if wouldn’t have otherwise. The song immediately jumps into a fast-paced wall of noise before skidding into a slow-paced guitar breakdown and eventually exploding into an inspiring, stadium-level climax. I’m sure a lot of us have had long nights where we get too drunk and fantasize about leaving town, finding love in the big city, buying an expensive New York apartment, etc. Deafheaven take these seemingly small-time, relatable feelings and place them on the shoulders of giants and in the breath of fire breathing titans. In that context, even a nonsensical drunk text to an ex-girlfriend could change the world.

– Nathan Kerce

Here a list of twenty songs I enjoyed this year:

20. “When a Fire Starts to Burn” – Disclosure Settle
19. “She Will” – Savages Silence Yourself
18. “Porno” – Arcade Fire Reflektor
17. “PrimeTime” – Janelle Monae (feat. Miguel) The Electric Lady
16. “Ecstasy” – Iceage You’re Nothing
15. “Side B (Dope Song)” – Danny Brown Old
14. “The Wire” – HAIM Days Are Gone
13. “Get Lucky (Radio Edit)” – Daft Punk (feat. Pharrell Williams) Get Lucky (Radio Edit) Single
12. “A Tooth for an Eye” – The Knife Shaking the Habitual
11. “Honest” – Future Honest
10 “Watered Down” – Swearin’ Surfin’ Strange
9. “Bo Peep (Do U Right)” – Shlohmo (feat. Jeremih)
8. “Tuscan Leather” – Drake Nothing Was the Same
7. “Mute” – Youth Lagoon Wondrous Bughouse
6. “Number on the Boards” – Pusha T My Name is my Name
5. “Hannah Hunt” – Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of the City
4. “Body Party” – Ciara Ciara
3. “Play by Play” – Autre Ne Veut Anxiety
2. “New Slaves” – Kanye West Yeezus
1. “Dreamhouse” – Deafheaven Sunbather