Thursday, 31 December 2015

Songs of 2015

This last year, which I'm contractually obliged to refer to as "not 2014", has been an absolutely cracking one for new music. Although the UK charts have mostly been clogged up with middle-of-the-road, granny-friendly performers like Sam Smith and Adele, or identikit-sounding pop princesses like Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift, if you dug a little deeper into 2015 there was a lot of good stuff out there. And most of it came from Australia...
My favourite solo performer of the year, Courtney Barnett produced an instant classic album in Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. Hard to choose favourites but I'll go with  -
Pedestrian At Best ( see-sawing riffs and tumbling, incandescent wordplay )
Elevator Operator ( power pop... but in a good way )
Depreston ( suburban melancholy, beautiful Antipodean diction )
 Staying with Australians ( albeit ones from some acid-fried, parallel universe Oz ), Nick Allbrook's mighty Pond proved to be an awesome live band with their outasight, psychedelic psounds  -
Zond
Sitting Up On Our Crane
Elvis' Flaming Star
Pond's fellow astral plane traveller Kevin Parker aka Tame Impala was very busy this year  -  working with Mark Ronson and releasing his third album, Currents. Largely ditching the psychedelia of previous years, Parker hit the big time with this collection of synthpop and funk-inspired tunes  -
'Cause I'm A Man
The Less I Know The Better
Let It Happen
 Back in this rain-lashed corner of the world, my fave band of the year Everything Everything pulled an absolute work of genius out of the bag with the album Get To Heaven, a record that edged them towards the mainstream but still managed to be a claustrophobic howl at all the evils of the world... with some great tunes. I saw them live for the second time at the good ol' Gloucester Guildhall but didn't review the gig here for some unknown reason. They were on sparkling form and frontman Jonathan said they were having the best year of their careers  -  the album had just reached number one in the charts and they were all set to play Glastonbury a few days later. Key songs:
No Reptiles ( epic! )
Regret
Distant Past
 And, speaking of Glasto, one of the musical events of 2015 was Florence + The Machine's amazing Pyramid Stage headline set. A last minute promotion to headliner after Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl famously broke his leg and couldn't appear, this was an epic, sky-scraping performance, with Florence at the absolute peak of her powers. ( Somewhat ironic as she was also recovering from a leg injury. ) This set must have been a thing of wonder to witness live, especially after so many nay-sayers had dissed Flo before she'd even stepped on stage for not being a "typical" Glasto headliner. Well, bollocks to that! A fireball of energy, pirouetting around the stage, Florence sang her impressive lungs out and spread some suitably hippy-fied love around Worthy Farm, proving her step up to the big leagues was well deserved. Her fantastic new album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, had slightly dialled back the pomp of her first two records, upped the personal, and delivered such instant classics as:
Ship To Wreck
What Kind Of Man
The title track itself
Mother ( I wrote here about how this song reminds me of Hawkwind )

By complete contrast, for those in need of some harsher sounds, the extremely gobby and noisy two-piece from Kent known as Slaves released their first album, Are You Satisified? Thirteen short, sharp sonic shocks  -  thirteen aural assaults taking in urban anger, relationships and, er, traffic. Best songs:
The Hunter ( "You keep it / We don't want it!" )
Cheer Up London
Feed The Mantaray
Also rocking my world this year:
You're A Germ by Wolf Alice ( video of the year and a great, grungey sound )
No One's Bothered by Sleaford Mods ( Oi! meets the Fall meets grime? )
Marks To Prove It by the Maccabees ( excellent comeback single )
Love Me Like You Do by Ellie Goulding ( yep, she's still got it! )
I haven't listened to a lot of radio hits / mainstream pop this year. No real reason really... but not a lot of it has grabbed me in 2015. However, one song was inescapable this year, in the same way as Daft Punk's Get Lucky or Pharrell's Happy in previous years. As much as I'm not usually a fan of Bruno Mars, his collaboration with Mark Ronson was a slick, irresistible slice of Prince-funk... so I'm awarding
Earworm Of The Year to Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars :-)

So... come on, 2016  -  let's see what you've got...


2 comments:

Tomas said...

Great round up, Simon! I didn't realise you were aware of Tame Impala. After being hooked on 'Be Above It' from their sublime album 'Lonerism', I've been meaning to get into their new album for ages. Totally agree with your sentiments about Courtney Barnett - she's a very rare talent. I'm definitely going to keep my eye on her!

cerebus660 said...

I was sure we'd talked about Tame Impala before? Anyway, give the new album a listen - it's quite a departure from the previous "John Lennon sings early Pink Floyd" stuff they've done before. ( I do prefer Pond out of the two bands, though. Their music is just so unhinged... )

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