- Majorette – Beach House (from Thank Your Lucky Stars)
- In Time – FKA Twigs (from M3LL155X)
- Them Changes – Thundercat ft Flying Lotus & Kamasi Washington (from The Byond / Where The Giants Roam)
- Downtown – Majical Cloudz (from Are You Alone?)
- Why Don’t You Believe In Me – Natalie Prass (from Natalie Prass)
- All The Same – Deerhunter (from Fading Frontier)
- Bury Our Friends – Sleater Kinney (from No Cities To Love)
- The Moment – Tame Impala (from Currents)
- True Affection – Father John Misty (from I Love You, Honeybear)
- No Way Out (Redux) – Warpaint (from No Way Out / I’ll Start Believing)
- The Only Thing – Sufjan Stevens (from Carrie & Lowell)
- I’m Kin – Colleen (from Captain Of None)
So, 19 rounds later and I finally get around to posting my third update. I’m a bad person.
I found the task for this gathering one of the hardest of any we’ve done thus far – making a 50 minute playlist of our favourite songs of the year. For me, 2015 has been an incredible year for music and there was a lot of ground I wanted to cover.
I wanted to go for songs that had truly hooked me over the year, rather than reflecting the albums that had grabbed me as entire pieces of work. As a result, many of the albums at the upper end of the top 50 albums of 2015 list I geekily compiled on Facebook a week or so ago weren’t represented – not least Kendrick Lamar, Ezra Furman, Tobias Jesso Jr, Blur and Lower Dens.
I started with ‘Majorette’ from the second Beach House album of 2015 (out a few months after the stronger Depression Cherry); comfortingly familiar ground for Beach House, albeit with a slightly punchier wave of fuzz behind the dreamy melody. Beach House are one of those wonderful bands for me who always sound familiar, without being boring.
‘In Time’ caused debate within the room, with three quarters of the players seemingly of the opinion that her take on contemporary pop warranted the reams of attention she’s received in the press in recent years. This track, a standout from FKA Twigs’ excellent EP from this year wobbles and rumbles to a satisfying degree; never quite hitting a sugary high but doing more than enough to keep the listener interested.
Continuing a wobbly theme with the next track, ‘Them Changes’ contains my personal favourite bass work of the year; although you’d probably expect little else when Thundercat sets himself to pop mode. Given the work that he and Kamasi Washington did on the superb ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’, it was commented on that it would have made an excellent Kendrick Lamar single; which would probably have given this piece the attention it deserved.
Taking the mood down a notch on the next track, the downbeat adult pop of Majical Cloudz makes me think what Perfume Genius would sound like if he was slightly less tortured and had a slightly less abrasive voice (for the record I love Perfume Genius, but these are comments from those I’ve tried to inflict him on). ‘Downtown’, like much of the album has an immediate feel to it, with a very immediate chorus and earworm electronics. Lovely stuff.
‘Why Don’t You Believe In Me’ wasn’t originally on my playlist, but Nick stole my final track (Peroration Six by Floating Points, which admittedly would have knocked me slightly over the 50 minute window); meaning I had to think of something on the spot. Like the self-titled album, Prass’ songs are aided by outstanding production work from Matthew E White and with repeated listens really stick with you. Both Kat and I found her album irritating to start with (her voice seeming a bit weak and the songs not necessarily being strong enough on first glance) but a few months later and frankly it’s rarely left our CD player. The clincher for me was hearing her live, where stripped of the Spacebomb wrecking crew she was forced to reinvent the songs; the overwhelming majority of which sounded better than on record. This is a really good song, but I think she’s got a great album in her.
Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox is a shitlark, making it somewhat difficult to like his music. That said, like it I do. Consistently reinventing themselves, their latest album is probably their most accessible to date and ‘All The Same’ is my personal favourite from it; telling a dark tale of a Father and Husband who undergoes a gender reassignment, only to lose everything he had. Happy Christmas everyone!
Sleater Kinney’s return after the best part of ten years off was one of my highlights of this year, coming back with an album that combines huge riffs with the trademark jagged-ness and biting lyrical content. Like the next song on the playlist, there were at least six contenders from this album I could have picked (one of which Nick opted for), all of which would have demonstrated it’s’ excellence. Let’s hope it isn’t another ten years before they release something else, as the world needs more Sleater Kinney records. Well, I do anyway.
Tame Impala’s ubiquitous Elephant became something of a burden for ‘band’ dictator Kevin Parker in the writing process of their third album, ‘Currents’. He wanted to radically shift their sound, previously stuck in 1966/67 on their first two albums and find a new direction. This new direction was found through his purchase of several synths; meaning they now sound like a band from the mid-sixties who jumped in a DeLorean with Marty McFly and found themselves in his eighties homeland. Despite not really representing the radical shift in direction some would have you believe, ‘Currents’ is an undeniably superb pop album, with at least six contenders on it that could have made this playlist. I opted for ‘The Moment’, which has a very satisfying drive to it, along with a killer pop chorus. It reminds me a lot of something that I can’t quite put my finger on. Great story.
Father John Misty’s ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ album has caused me several moments of doubt over the year. The big problem for me is that it’s superb from start to finish, but you can’t help but think aspects of the musical direction at least are a big joke to him; setting out as he publically said to ape the sound of the Laurel Canyon scene of the mid-70s. Lyrically however, the album spews satire out in all directions, with making emotional connection with others in a digital age being the centre of his attention on the chosen track for this playlist; ‘True Affection’. Sonically speaking, the track isn’t really reflective of the rest of the album, but remains a personal favourite for me.
Warpaint’s self titles album of 2014 was one of my favourite favourite records of that year, representing a significant step on from the already excellent ‘The Fool’. ‘No Way Out (Redux)’ was a single that came out this year of off-cuts from the aforementioned LP. It certainly follows the same groove-led ambience of the 2014 album and would have made a super addition in my opinion, but the band themselves felt they couldn’t fit it on. I opted for the shorter version of the song that was released (partially because it’s more immediate, partially due to time constraints), but the slower and longer version of the song that’s also readily available online is also worth a listen.
Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Carrie & Lowell’ was comfortably my favourite album of the year – maintaining the dense lyrical content of his previous offerings, but stripping back the layers to reveal a much more personal album. Sonically the album reflects this stripped back approach, with a return to his folkier roots; having spent the last few years experimenting with a more maximalist approach. I’ll be honest and say I could have picked almost anything off the album, but in the end opted for ‘The Only Thing’; a song wrapped up in biblical references, dealing (as the whole album does) with the highly dysfunctional upbringing he had. As an aside, a Sufjan Stevens show from earlier in the year was also my gig of 2015 too.
Colleen’s ‘I’m Kin’ was the longest song on the playlist but it worked so well as a closing track after Sufjan (and it has also been stuck in my head for weeks), so I was happy to make an exception to my five minute rule. The French multi-instrumentalist’s latest album follows the same sonic direction as previous offerings, but like Beach House who opened this playlist; there’s always something new enough about her work to keep things interesting.
So that was an iteration of a best of 2015. I did produce a longer playlist to accompany my top 50 albums, which perhaps better reflects my listening of the year; but I’m happy enough sign off for 2015 with those 12 tracks.
New year’s resolution – post more.