Top 10 Musical Highlights of 2015

My ten musical highlights of 2015, in alphabetical order, compiled for (sic) Magazine:

Antemasque – 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.

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The Charlatans – Modern Nature‘ 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.

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UWS Interview – Martyn Walsh of Inspiral Carpets

For the final UWS of 2015, I spoke with Martyn Walsh, bass player with Inspiral Carpets. We discussed his band’s latest album and tour, Walsh’s thoughts on Louis van Gaal, and of course the Inspirals hit-cum-terrace anthem, ‘This is How it Feels’.

DSC_1471 Inspiral Carpets - Martyn Walsh

Girls Names – Shipping Forecast – 15th October 2015

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Having missed Girls Names play in Kruezberg in Berlin by about half an hour last Summer, it was good to see the band at last. Since then, they have released a limited (now sold out) 12″ single Zero Triptych –  which (sic) Magazine gave a great review to.wpid-20151015_220940.jpg

Girls Names recently released third album Arms Around a Vision, which sounded great tonight. Must also mention the keyboard contraption holding down specific keys, freeing up Cathal Cully to get back to the guitar and add to the controlled cacophony with some more feedback.

Standout track: the 12 minutes of Zero Triptych, the third part of which built into an immense, glorious racket. And there were a few final copies of the vinyl on sale too, which the band kindly signed after the show, having ‘found them somewhere’.

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OFF Festival 2015 – Kotowice, Pl

This year was my fourth OFF Festival, which was being held for the 10th time. As ever, the festival was welcoming, the music equally diverse and brilliant, and the atmosphere around Katowice town and the site both relaxed and excitable.

Below is a Soundcloud playlist of all the festival acts (at least all I could find) I made before we left, some photos of the acts I saw, and some notes on their performances.

2016 will mark ten years of OFF Festival, and considering the incredibly array of acts that have played it since 2006, I can only imagine who they will unveil for the anniversary event.  I am counting down the days already…

Review – Rose Windows ‘Rose Windows’

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Self-titling an album is not uncommon for an artist’s début; a band announcing themselves to the world, or maybe unsure if they’ll make another record, or possibly unable to decide on a name. A self-titled second album, however, is unusual. From the outside it seems a bold statement – as if Rose Windowsare saying, ‘We know our sound, this is what this band is about.’ So does the record represent a band who has reached its creative peak?

Rose Windows’ début LP, 2013’s The Sun Dogs, was a psychedelic journey from its Seattle birthplace through guitar scales of the Indian Subcontinent, to calming flute interludes of a medieval United Kingdom. Such an array of sounds was combined surprisingly well, resulting in a unique and enchanting record. And all this whilst the real star of Rose Windows, singer Rabia Shaheen Qazi, only really came to the fore during their live shows, the sheer power of her voice somewhat held back on tape.

Rose Windows starts in much the same way, the album’s opening track (of nine, again like its predecessor) is a slow, atmospheric track of vocal harmonies, guitarist Chris Cheveyo taking lead to introduce the album and proclaiming, ‘There ain’t no note that don’t matter’. Continue reading