My Favourite Music Of 2015

2015 has been a properly great year for new music. Like, seriously amazing. I still hear people complaining about how ‘music’s just not as great as it used to be’ – or some variant of that, and I have to wonder about their method of discovery. Sure, Radio 1’s daytime playlist is probably pretty dreadful. Delve into Bandcamp, or keep an ear to the ground on Twitter and Facebook, and way more amazing music is out there than you can properly keep up with.

Anyway, without further ado, here are my favourites from this year – this isn’t everything I liked this year, but I had to stop somewhere, otherwise it’s just a list of everything I bought… 🙂

Janet Feder – T H I S C L O S E

In a year of truly great music, a handful of albums stood out as ‘things I’ll be listening to til I die’ – top of that list is Janet’s new album – I love absolutely everything about the way she makes music. It’s fragile, beautiful, strange and beguiling. Sonically perfect, deeply human, always searching and reaching. There’s nothing about this I don’t adore. Get it.

Our Oceans – Our Oceans

This one was a surprise – I checked it out because my friend Robin plays bass on it. He’s a genius, so it had to be worth a listen… Imagine a really amazing modern metal band suddenly getting obsessesed with early Tears For Fears and deciding to fuse the two. Epic, emotive, sweeping, glorious.

Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Motorcaid Amnesiacs

Another record that will be with me forever – You know how much I already adored SBP before this came out, right? I was SO nervous listening to it for the first time… what if it didn’t live up….? It’s amazing. Proper genius. And the elevation of Jana Carpenter’s role has made everything even more compelling and carved out room for Tim to sing with… wait, actual swagger?? Yup. Implausibly brilliant.

Beauty Pill – Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are

In my running list of ‘humans I’d most like to meet’, Chad Clark is in the top 3. Possibly top 1. He’s been making consistently great music for two decades, and this is, to my ears, the culmination of his work so far. Eclectic, dense without being fussy, another record that reaches beyond itself and goes to new places as a result. Audacious and beautiful, and occasionally intentionally not beautiful to great effect. Remarkable. (soundcloud link)

Only Sky – David Torn

In some parallel universe where the music industry is less ridiculous, David Torn records are released 4 times a year, and they’re all incredible. In this rubbish world of ours, they’re rather rare. Fortunately, they’re always, without fail, worth the wait. Only Sky is a solo record, just David, guitar, ouds, toys and genius. It’s alternately dark and light, beautiful and scary, harsh and gentle. Everything about his music makes sense to me, even though lots of the actual music doesn’t make sense. It not making sense makes perfect sense. It is as it should be.

Tom Robinson – Only The Now

Another fabulous human being making the best music of his life. Tom’s music has been the soundtrack to large chunks of my life. He’s a wonderful man, and the crazy-brave depth and breadth of this record is testimony to just what great things can happen when music legends are cut loose from the expectations of their back catalog. A dizzying, angry, brilliant, funny, expertly crafted collection. Coherently diffuse. Political dynamite. Love it.

Down I Go – You’re Lucky God, That I Cannot Reach You

The first of quite a few great metal records this year – Down I Go are dangerously eclectic. On paper, it makes little sense – screaming Dillinger-esque metal, plus brass section, choir, Tim from Sweet Billy Pilgrim… remarkably, it’s not a mess. At all. It makes perfect sense. Like discovering that a Dillinger record and a Hope And Social record miraculously fit on top of each other perfectly, in a Dark Side Of The Moon/Wizard Of Oz kind of way… Magical.

Cattle Decapitation – The Athropocene Extinction

More supremely heavy wonderfulness – Cattle Decapitation are a vegan death metal band. Dystopian tales of humanity’s screwed up relationship with eating meat. The typical death metal growl is alternated with a screaming 70s rock voice, reminiscent of Dan MacCaffery from Nazereth, or Noddy Holder at his must screamacious. I love it. 🙂

Andy Edwards – Black Corridor

As well as collaborating with me on all kinds of musical adventures, Andy’s been busy making records of his own – this one, entirely written, played and produced by Andy is a single 20-something minute track, through composed, like a proper 70s prog epic. Way better than it has any right to be, given that description 🙂 . My favourite of Andy’s records so far.

Entheos – Primal EP

More death metal – Entheos is Evan Brewer’s new band, and I’ll buy anything that Evan plays on. It did not disappoint. Supreme heaviness.

Eska – Eska

…A Mercury Award nominated record on my list? Yup – Eska wears her love of Joni Mitchell pretty close to the surface, but this is a really ecclectic record too – effortlessly creative, with pretty much zero commercial scheming. Just a great, great jazz/soul/folk/singer-songwriter record.

Fiddes Smith – Seascapes

Solo banjo, without a hint of country or bluegrass in sight. A gorgeous atmospheric record, recorded so beautifully. Get it.

Bug Prentice – The Way It Crumbles

It’s got Ruth Goller on bass, which means I’ll buy it whatever, cos she’s amazing. 90s DC hardcore influenced UK guitar band. Fugazi/Shellac meets Mark Ribot via Listener or something like that. Listen to it, it’s wonderful.

LoneLady – Hinterland

A record out of time – like a bedsit album from 1983. Early The The/EBTG/The Cure/etc. Kind of wonderful.

Polar Bear – Same As You

Another year, another Polar Bear record that I love. Also one of my favourite gigs of the year.

Nik West – Say Something

New EP from Nik – heavier than her debut album. Definitely worth a listen.

Mister Barrington – Can’t Turn Back

Another great gig from this year – Mister Barrington are such a huge inspiration to really fuck with rhythm. Zac and Owen are one of the world’s greatest rhythm sections. Futuristic soul/funk/electronica. Love it.

Soulfly – Archangel

Angry Max, with his son on drums. Love it.

Andy Sheppard – Surrounded By The Sea

Adding Eivind Aarset on guitar to his trio with Seb Rochford on drums was an inspired move. Gentle and beautiful.

Let Spin – Let Go

More of Ruth Goller being brilliant. Angular, spikey brit-jazz that deeply rewards repeated listening.

DJ Krush – Butterfly Effect

Along with J Dilla, Krush defined a lot of the rhythmic direction of my two new albums this year. He’s amazing.

Bar̼s РBar̼s

French death metal. Heavier than a heavy thing

Gustaf Fjelstrom – Intention

I’ve been a fan of Gustaf’s for many, many years, and have played this album a lot this year. Great stuff.

So there you go – a tonne of great music for you to wade through. Enjoy. What was your favourite of the year?

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