Friday, 1 January 2016

Records Of The Year 2015








2015 was a year when I think I finally reached that stage in life where I totally lost touch with mainstream and chart music. I couldn't tell you who was 'Top Of The Pops' (that's still a thing right?) if my life depended upon it. With Zane Lowe finally leaving Radio 1 and its dedicated Punk Show already axed, I no longer had any reason to listen to a station which I was already way outside of the age demographic of anyway. So this year I tended to discover far more music either online or via radio stations such as BBC 6 Music or Team Rock. The following list almost certainly reflects this, with new discoveries such as The Wonder Years and Wolf Alice slotting in aside firm favourites such as returning heroes Frank Turner and Ryan Adams. Admittedly, his list may not be drawn up from the most diverse range of music ever - you'll find no hip-hop or R&B rubbish here, and certainly no achingly fashionable, here today gone tomorrow, trendy scenester shite, but I like what I like, both old and new, and with that in mind, here then, is my annual list of favourite musical moments from the past year...

THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2015:

 

1) FRANK TURNER - POSITIVE SONGS FOR NEGATIVE PEOPLE  
For the second time in three years the folk punk troubadour has delivered my favourite album of the year. Following on from the raw, confessional, cathartic "break-up" record, which was 2013's 'Tape Deck Heart', Frank's latest collection of songs does exactly what it says on the tin....or the sleeve....you get the idea. Upbeat, positive, anthemic. 'Positive Songs For Negative People' is bookended by uncharacteristically lo-fi, austere acoustic ballads which would seem to be a direct link to his previous album, but in between it's literally crammed to bursting point with huge fist-pumping, sing along psalms belted out with defiance, alacrity and yes....positivity. And when I saw Frank live at one of the year's best gigs in Nottingham back in October, it suddenly became clear that these new songs were custom built for celebratory, smiley-faced singalongs, from a gripped congregation who already knew and adored every single word penned by an artist who has well and truly turned his frown upside down.    

2) THE WONDER YEARS - NO CLOSER TO HEAVEN
Unfairly and in my opinion totally erroneously labelled a pop punk band, The Wonder Years were my big discovery of 2015 (yes, I realise now that they've been around for ages, but I was slow getting onboard this blistering bandwagon). Both lyrically and sonically they're a million miles away from the puerile skateboard, brews and babes banter of that particular genre's big hitters. Their songs are far more mature, poetic, absolutely dripping with raw emotion, angst and tragedy. 'No Closer To Heaven' being completely packed with amazing songs of bitterness and bliss, such as 'Cardinals', 'I Don't Like Who I Was Then', 'Thanks For The Ride', and the very best song of the year, the epic 'Cigarettes & Saints'. With more hooks than a Cenobite's jewellery box, The Wonder Years may not be pop punk, but this album is definitely 'All Killer, No Filler'.

3) WOLF ALICE - MY LOVE IS COOL

Another of the year's best new bands, Wolf Alice's debut long player is a wonderfully wide ranging offering of varied styles and sonic tangents. Hardly any two given songs on this album sound like they're recorded by the same outfit as they wildly swerve between musical genres from folk to indie to metal like a deranged drunk driver hurtling the wrong way down a dual carriageway. 'My Love Is Cool' kicks off with a sparse folky ballad which sounds more like Laura Marling, before paving the way for songs which become Runaways style bubblegum pop rock or tracks which unexpectedly erupt with huge raging, intense, eardrum-shredding thrash riffs which would send Metallica running for cover. Definitely a band I have to see live in 2016!

4) RYAN ADAMS - 1989
Taylor Swift's mega-selling 1989 is arguably the best pure pop album of the last decade. Ryan Adams decision to self-release his own cover version of it in its entirety as the fifteenth album of his career no less, was a mixture of bravery, arrogance and as it turned out, complete musical genius. Inspired by the collapse of his marriage to actress Mandy Moore, Adams sheds the shiny, shimmering sing-along stylings of Swift's original incarnations, replaced here by country folk rock economy - mournful, intimate, emotionally raw, largely acoustic and low key renditions which are frequently heartbreaking in their arid beauty. That Taylor Swift gave this remarkable experiment her full blessing should come as no surprise really, as it just underlines how great her own original songs really were, even when stripped down to their brittle bare bones. 

5) BRING ME THE HORIZON - THAT'S THE SPIRIT
To be perfectly honest, Bring Me The Horizon are a band I've never really took much notice of. Just A.N.Other young metal band, who frankly I couldn't pick out of a musical I.D. parade of Bullet For My Valentine, Enter Shikari and erm, all the other ones who look and sound the same. But then I saw them on TV live from this year's Reading Festival, gifted with the much coveted sunset-backdropped, special guest, main stage slot, and frankly was blown away by just how fucking huge they sounded. Sounding immense in a live arena is one thing, but to sound equally gigantic on record is another matter entirely. 'That's The Spirit' is possibly the biggest sounding, most dynamically produced metal record since Metallica's seminal 'Black Album'. What's more it's actually full of songs - gone are the ear-splitting screamo wailing of their early records, replaced by gargantuan thrusting anthems like the wonderfully profane 'Happy Song', 'Drown' and 'Throne', which sounds like Linkin Park overdosing on steroids, all wrapped up in a production which is less a wall of sound, and more of a Great Fucking Wall of China of sound!

6) NOEL GALLAGHER'S HIGH FLYING BIRDS - CHASING YESTERDAY
Let's face it, Oasis didn't produce much of worth after their first two classic albums, and Noel Gallagher's first solo record hardly set the world on fire. So I was as surprised as anybody that his sophomore solo album (well solo in the sense that it's primarily just him with a supporting cast of session musicians) was without question the best thing anybody related to Oasis had released since they idiotically tossed away classic tracks like 'The Masterplan' and 'Acquiesce' as B sides. Still obviously paying homage to the past and the usual suspects (The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who and so on), 'Chasing Yesterday' is actually far more varied and free-flowing in style, a mixture of classic, swaggering rock 'n roll, mixed with interludes that at times drift off into jazz or even faint prog leanings. Hell, 'Lock All The Doors', with its distorted vocals and raging guitar riffs, is more rocky than many heavy metal bands! 

7) ANTI-FLAG - AMERICAN SPRING
Politicised punk rock road warriors Anti-Flag have been around for years, but with this their latest long player, not only is it their finest collection of material for well over a decade, since 2003's 'The Terror State' in fact, but it's delivered with a welcomed slick punchy production, and a real anthemic pop sensibility. Equal parts evolution and revolution, all the usual rage, rancour and raw energy is still evident, but so is a maturity of musicality and an insistence on infectious melodies typified by the addictive ear worm 'Brandenburg Gate' which has to be one of 2015's finest fist-pumping singalong odes to Communist oppression. 


8) GHOST - MELIORA
Black Sabbath meets ABBA on Swedish eccentrics Ghost's third full length album. Melodic and metallic in equal measure, this is operatic, doom-laden heavy metal which you can happily sing along to! It's strangely old school classic rock in tone, rather than the sort of Satanic death metal extremity you might expect from a gang of Scandinavian metal mentalists who dress up as ghouls and ghosts. And yet this veers off into all manner of musical territories, a brilliantly bonkers rock-pop-doom hybrid which flirts with trad metal, prog and even glam rock. It's dramatic, dizzying, dazzling occult oddness, utterly unlike anything else I've heard this year. I bet they're amazing live too.

9) SLAVES - ARE YOU SATISFIED?
Hailing from the unlikely source of raging punk rock rebellion, Royal Tunbridge Wells, comes the long awaited debut album from one of the most promising young duos in British rock music. A seething, splendidly chaotic, caustic and belligerent collection of minimalist bluesy, ballsy garage rock rants. 'Are You Satisfied?' is an album that mixes rhythmic aggression, state of the nation social commentary, soundbites and sloganeering, youthful, yobbish threat, cartoon violence and laddish humour, which proves the pair aren't exactly taking themselves too seriously. It may not be big or clever, but Slaves certainly make a glorious racket!

10) MATT SKIBA & THE SEKRETS - KUTS
In a year when Matt Skiba put Alkaline Trio on hold to take over lead vocal duties for Blink 182 (which in my opinion is akin to leaving a Michelin starred restaurant to go and serve in McDonald's), he still found time to release this typically sublime collection of new pop punk nuggets under his Sekrets side project banner. To be honest this is largely indistinguishable from a new Alkaline Trio recording anyway, and displays his usual consistent standard of songwriting excellence, so will certainly suffice for now until he gets the Blink thing out of his system (and presumably gets a long deserved significant pay day) and hopefully gets back to the day job as soon as possible. 


11) GREAT CYNICS – I FEEL WEIRD
12) CHVRCHES – EVERY OPEN EYE
13) THE FLATLINERS – DIVISION OF SPOILS
14) GOD DAMN – VULTURES
15) NORTHCOTE – HOPE IS MADE OF STEEL

16) SWERVEDRIVER – I WASN’T BORN TO LOSE
17) TITUS ANDRONICUS – THE MOST LAMENTABLE TRAGEDY
18) NO DEVOTION – PERMANENCE
19) FIDLAR – TOO
20) JESSE MALIN – NEW YORK BEFORE THE WAR
21) WHAT’S EATING GILBERT – THAT NEW SOUND YOU’RE LOOKING FOR
22) KURT VILE – B’LIEVE I’M GOIN DOWN
23) MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK – PANIC STATIONS
24) NATHANIEL RATELIFF – NATHANIEL RATELIFF & THE NIGHT SWEATS

25) SLEAFORD MODS – KEY MARKETS
26) EL VY – RETURN TO THE MOON
27) CLUTCH – PSYCHIC WARFARE
28) REFUSED – FREEDOM
29) FAITH NO MORE – SOL INVICTUS
30) MUMFORD & SONS – WILDER MIND
31) CITY AND COLOUR – IF I SHOULD GO BEFORE YOU
32) EVERCLEAR – BLACK IS THE NEW BLACK
33) THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS – BORN IN THE ECHOES
34) PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING – THE RACE FOR SPACE
35) TAME IMPALA – CURRENTS
36) BODEANS – I CAN’T STOP
37) FAILURE – THE HEART IS A MONSTER
38) THERAPY? – DISQUIET
39) LIGHT YEARS – I’LL SEE YOU WHEN I SEE YOU
40) MOTORHEAD – BAD MAGIC

41) MERCURY REV – THE LIGHT IN YOU
42) POISON IDEA – CONFUSE AND CONQUER
43) HOT CHIP – WHY MAKE SENSE
44) JAMIE XX – IN COLOUR
45) KNUCKLE PUCK – COPACETIC
46) GALLOWS – DESOLATION SOUNDS
47) BLACK STAR RIDERS – KILLER INSTINCT
48) DINOSAUR PILE-UP – ELEVEN ELEVEN
49) FALL OUT BOY – AMERICAN BEAUTY / AMERICAN PSYCHO
50) BRANDON FLOWERSTHE DESIRED EFFECT

THE BEST TRACKS OF 2015:


1) THE WONDER YEARS – CIGARETTES & SAINTS
A song which should be made from Lego as it just builds and builds with raw emotion, angst and regret, towards a crashing, crushing crescendo, delivered by one of the finest rock vocals of recent years. The high point of a virtually flawless album, from a group who are surely due that elusive step up from cult outfit to household name status. Any band that can pen a lyric as striking as: "You were the Northern Lights in a Southern town, a caustic fleeting thing." frankly should be destined for world domination.





2) NATHANIEL RATELIFF & THE NIGHT SWEATS – S.O.B.
3) FIDLAR – WEST COAST
4) BRING ME THE HORIZON – HAPPY SONG
5) PVRIS – ST. PATRICK
6) PVRIS – MY HOUSE 
7) FRANK TURNER – THE NEXT STORM
8) WOLF ALICE – FLUFFY
9) NORTHCOTE – BITTER END
10) WOLF ALICE – YOU’RE A GERM
11) TAYLOR SWIFT – STYLE 

12) NO DEVOTION – PERMANENT SUNLIGHT
13) TAME IMPALA – ‘CAUSE I’M A MAN
14) ANTI-FLAG – BRANDENBURG GATE
15) FRANK TURNER – MITTENS
16) COURTNEY BARNETT – PEDESTRIAN AT BEST
17) THE WONDER YEARS – CARDINALS
18) BRING ME THE HORIZON – DROWN
19) WOLF ALICE – BROS
20) PVRIS – FIRE 

21) COHEED AND CAMBRIA – YOU GOT SPIRIT KID
22) BRING ME THE HORIZON – THRONE
23) RYAN ADAMS – BAD BLOOD
24) TAYLOR SWIFT – BAD BLOOD
25) THE WONDER YEARS – I DON’T LIKE WHO I WAS THEN
26) GREAT CYNICS – I WENT SWIMMING
27) HOT CHIP – NEED YOU NOW
28) EL VY – RETURN TO THE MOON
29) MATT SKIBA & THE SEKRETS – SHE WOLF
30) GREAT CYNICS – COMPLICATED
31) NECK DEEP – CAN’T KICK UP THE ROOTS
32) CHVRCHES – LEAVE A TRACE

33) STATE CHAMPS – SECRETS
34) THE WONDER YEARS – THANKS FOR THE RIDE
35) MUMFORD & SONS – TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK
36) FRANK TURNER – GET BETTER
37) MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK – I CAN FEEL YOU
38) GHOST – CIRICE
39) CHVRCHES – NEVER ENDING CIRCLES
40) MATT SKIBA & THE SEKRETS – KRAZY
41) OF MICE AND MEN – BROKEN GENERATION
42) FRANK TURNER – JOSEPHINE
43) RYAN ADAMS – ALL YOU HAD TO DO WAS STAY
44) EVERYTHING EVERYTHING – REGRETS
45) BLOC PARTY – THE LOVE WITHIN
46) SLAVES – FEED THE MANTARAY

47) FLORENCE & THE MACHINE – SHIP TO WRECK
48) KURT VILE – PRETTY PIMPIN’
49) YAK – HUNGRY HEART
50) BRIAN FALLON – A WONDERFUL LIFE
51) REFUSED – DAWKINS CHRIST
52) NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS – LOCK ALL THE DOORS
53) FAITH NO MORE – SUPERHERO 

54) LONELADY – SILVERING
55) FAILURE – A.M. AMNESIA
56) DEFEATER – SPARED IN HELL
57) MUMFORD & SONS – ONLY LOVE
58) BECK – DREAMS
59) FIDLAR – DRONE
60) WOLF ALICE – YOUR LOVES WHORE
61) DRENGE – WE CAN DO WHAT WE WANT
62) CRYSTAL CASTLES – FRAIL
63) NORTHCOTE – SMALL TOWN DREAMS
64) THE FLATLINERS – AHEAD BY A CENTURY 

65) AGAINST THE CURRENT – TALK
66) CITY AND COLOUR – LOVER COME BACK
67) HANDS LIKE HOUSES – I AM
68) BRAND NEW – MENE
69) LONELY THE BRAVE – RIVER RIVER
70) WHAT’S EATING GILBERT – YOU’RE THE MOST….
71) NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS – BALLAD OF THE MIGHTY I 

72) ANTI-FLAG – FABLED WORLD
73) BRANDON FLOWERS – I CAN CHANGE
74) HOOKWORMS – RADIO TOKYO
75) OF MONSTERS AND MEN – CRYSTALS
76) MERCURY REV – ARE YOU READY?
77) THE STORY SO FAR – HOW ARE YOU?
78) DAUGHTER – DOING THE RIGHT THING
79) KNUCKLE PUCK – TRUE CONTRITE
80) CLUTCH – SUCKER FOR THE WITCH
81) FRANK CARTER & THE RATTLESNAKES – JUGGERNAUT
82) THE MACCABEES – KAMAKURA
83) SELENA GOMEZ – GOOD FOR YOU 

84) BLACK PEAKS – GLASS BUILT CASTLES
85) FOUR YEAR STRONG – EATING MY WORDS
86) GUY GARVEY – ANGELA’S EYES
87) PRETTY VICIOUS – CAVE SONG
88) KEITH RICHARDS – TROUBLE
89) JESSE MALIN – BOOTS OF IMMIGRATION
90) HALESTORM – AMEN
91) KURT VILE – DUST BUNNIES


92) LIGHT YEARS – LIVING IN HELL
93) THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS – GO
94) FOALS – WHAT WENT DOWN
95) GOD DAMN – SILVER SPOONED
96) GALLOWS – BONFIRE SEASON
97) SUNDARA KARMA – LOVEBLOOD 
98) LEFTFIELD – HEAD AND SHOULDERS
99) WILCO – RANDOM NAME GENERATOR
100) HOOTON TENNIS CLUB – P.O.W.E.R.F.U.L. P.I.E.R.R.E. 


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