My ten musical highlights of 2015, in alphabetical order, compiled for (sic) Magazine:
Antemasque – ‘Antemasque‘
In January, I learned that Cedric and Omar, formerly of At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta, had patched up their differences and were back making music together, this time as Antemasque (with Flea, Travis Barker and Omar’s brother Marfred Rodriguez-Lopez also involved). Although the album was released late last year, I didn’t hear the collection of short, frantic, power-pop bursts until 2015, making it one of this year’s undoubted highlights.
The Charlatans – ‘Modern Nature‘
25 years since their chart-topping debut Some Friendly, 2015 saw The Charlatans release their best album in over a decade. Despite the tragic circumstances around its creation (drummer Jon Brookes lost his battle with cancer), Modern Nature is an inspiring, joyous collection of organ-led soulful songs, sprinkled with fitting amounts of both melody and melancholy. The summer’s triumphant homecoming-of-sorts Castlefield show capped a great year for the band.
Dutch Uncles – ‘O Shudder‘
2015 began with the news that Dutch Uncles guitarist Sped had left the band. By the end of the year, I had seen the band four times (they continue to get better live), in support of album O Shudder, their best work yet. Fewer guitars, more piano and synth, but the grooves on Decided Knowledge, Upsilon and In n Out, complement their 80s New Wave-meets-Math Rock sound perfectly.
Girls Names – ‘Zero Triptych E.P.‘
How to improve on the one-track, twelve-minute post-punk epic that is the Belfast four-piece’s Zero Triptych EP? The answer is to hear it played live at close quarters in a tiny venue, with the band adding even more weight, energy and volume to the cacophony which is the song’s third ‘movement’. Plus bonus points for signing my vinyl copy shortly afterwards.
Orphan Boy – ‘Coastal Tones‘
A chance encounter with a mate who was off to see Orphan Boy alerted me that a) the band were back together after 4 years away and b) they had a brilliant new album. Coastal Tones is more focused than the band’s early punk sound, adding keyboards, 30-something reflection and themes of their North Yorkshire home, resulting in a wonderful record. Well worth the wait.
Peace – ‘Happy People‘
Peace’s love of a big riff and a catchy chorus meant that the first time I saw them, as a late-night festival headline act, they felt a band I had known all my life. Their Mondays-esque rhythms and instant melodies are just as infectious on Happy People, their second record, with a title perfectly suited to the pop songs within it.
Pretty Lightning – ‘A Magic Lane of Light and Rain‘
A (sic) Magazine review pointed me in the direction of German act Pretty Lightning and A Magic Lane…. Although they are yet to appear at the International Festival of Psychedelia (Pretty Lightning have barely performed anywhere in the UK thus far), the duo’s hypnotic Eastern-influenced krautrock sound would be as apt as it is brilliant. Mesmerisingly awesome.
SOAK – ‘Before We Forgot How to Dream‘
The Mercury-nominated album ...How to Dream is a reminder that the singer/songwriter-folk genre can be as compelling as any, when the songs are so finely and honestly crafted. For songs as emotive as ‘Blud’ and ‘B A NoBody’ to come from an 18 year-old (Belfast-born Bridie Monds-Watson) – who is equally convincing live – is quite remarkable.
Vennart – ‘The Demon Joke‘ – *My Album of 2015*
Since the end of former band Oceansize, Mike Vennart has been fitting his new electronic act British Theatre around his schedule as Biffy Clyro tour guitarist. So recording, releasing and then touring his own album in 2015 (under his own name, but with help from a few ex-Oceansize pals) was something of a shock. Less of a surprise was the brilliance of both the record and the live show, packed with time signature changes, hooks, melodies and alt-rock power. More please.
Yet to release their debut album, but the explosive live performance I caught this year hinted at what an early Nirvana may have been like; chaotic yet controlled, caustic yet charismatic, and with a batch of songs to stand the test of time. All signs point to a big year ahead for the Londoners.