A belated review of 2015 music.
Many years ago I joined a tradition set up by my friend Chris of making a compilation album of that years favourite songs. It is great to reflect on the music of that year and share the tracks that inspired us. As much as we have similar tastes there is always difference and this usually ends up with many purchases of albums. So in playlist order here is my eclectic 17 choices that made it onto my album of the year.
- Public Service Broadcasting – Go (from ‘The Race For Space’). An album which details the space race between the US and USSR through the commentary’s and newsreels of the time along with some great accessible progressive tunes. A perfect album sold at the great Cosmonaut exhibitions at the Science Museum.
- Steven Wilson – Hand Cannot Erase (from ‘Hand Cannot Erase’). Amazing heart wrenching/uplifting concept album based on a true story of a woman found dead in her flat, years after her last contact with anyone. Stunning LP which incorporates huge prog pieces and accessible classics. Saw Mr Wilson live 3 times in 2015, two of which were at the Albert Hall. At the first a perfect rendition of the whole of the album (complete with videos, performance art and guest singers) and the second a retrospective of his solo career. Stunning memorable evenings.
- Freya Rae & Louis Bingham – Curlicue (from ‘Curlicue’). A gig late on the year at the amazing Mining Institute, a decent crowd sat amongst many stern portraits overseeing a lovely gig by Sams flute teacher. This track captivated me instantly with its twists and turns. Freya and Louis have brought together a great instrumental album, bringing a modern mash up of traditional British and European folk music
- Between The Buried and Me – Life in Velvet (from ‘Coma Ecliptic’). BTBAM copyrighted madness that leaps from melody to thrash. Music press reported that they were a little more calmed down…. well a little bit. Their songs are still mighty long except for this track which as it builds from ballad to epic metal, shows they have lost none of their brilliance.
- Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud (from Under the Red Cloud). My favourite start to a track this year, twinkling piano into folk rock territory and then spiraling into progressive metal. Epic, powerful, European and a little bit growly.
- King Crimson – One More Red Nightmare (from Elements 2015 Tour Book). Was in my top 5 bands to see and I saw them twice in 2015. Playing in some great arenas; the Manchester Lowry and Edinburgh Usher Hall; KC put on a show that was breathtaking and wonderous. What with 3 excellent drummers, excellent vocals, sax, bass and Fripps guitar work there was some stunning moments including Court of the Crimson King, Red, 21st Century Schizoid Man, Starless and this.
- Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo – So Sincere (from 35th Anniversary Tour). Still in my top 5 to see. 35th anniversary album and still rocking with passion and a voice. Always loved the sneeriness throughout this track and it has not wained. Great to see Mr Giraldo getting equal billing.
- Vintage Trouble – Run Like A River (from ‘1 Hopeful Road’). A little lost in support of ACDC at Hampden Park, but in a more confined space at the Sage were outstanding. Great mix of soul, blues, Americana and rock with amazing stage presence. This track was just mad, including pit dive, an audience walk over armrests to a 3rd Floor singalong
- Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Chasing Horses (from Motorcade Amnesiacs). A beautiful little track from a good album. Delicate acoustic guitar work, bass and distant drum with simplistic calming lyrics. About halfway the harmonising and keyboards kick in and it lifts the track to amazing
- Spocks Beard – Bennett Built a Time Machine (from The Oblivion Particle). Quirky song of this collection, Mandolin riffs carry the early part of this track with some great storytelling of wanting to change your past. The mood changes when Ryo’s prog keyboards kick in and the journey begins as the portal opens.
- Anekdoten – If it All Comes Down To You (from ‘Until All The Ghosts Are Gone’). Will I ever find a more laid back band then Anekdoten? I love their chilled peaceful attitude to songs. Abound with beautiful guitar work, mellotron like keyboards, lots of flute solos and even the singer sounds like he’s lying down.
- Leveret – Northern Lass/The Kings Barrow (from ‘New Anything’). A sad year ahead as Bellowhead cease to be. Two stunning gigs in 2015 (including NYE) but offshoot bands help. Here Bellowheads violinist (and John Parr sound-alike) Sam Sweeney & band playing up some trad folk.
- Richard Thompson – Beatnik Walking (from ‘Still’). Mr. Thompson continues to drift from folk, to Americana to Rock n Roll. This years album and tour see’s him in good form. This jolly track is a walking travelogue of Amsterdam complete.
- Gavin Harrison – Sound of Muzak/So Called Friend (from ‘Cheating the Polygraph’). One of the 3 King Crimson drummers covers tracks from his previous band Porcupine tree in Jazz big band form. The whole excellent album montage is like being stuck in a West Side Story fight scene.
- Lanterns of the Lake – Through a Cellar Door (from ‘Beings’). A local band playing stunning atmospheric tracks with clever use of distortion. Clever knack of building up tracks to huge heights and gently bringing you back down.
- The Decemberists – Make You Better (from ‘What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World’). Huge debate as to whether the new album is more commercial, less folky, more indie. The opening track even is an explanation of sorts. Who cares… great album, fantastic live and a gem of a song.
- The Lau – Ghosts (from ‘The Bell That Never Rings’). Sitting on 3rd level of Sage 2, I looked down on 3 musicians playing some relaxing, beautiful modern folk and then they played this 2011 EP track. And I couldn’t get it out of my head. Sad, beautiful and full of meaning of belonging and the need to be somewhere
The links above are to the youtube videos, mostly live, some acoustic, others promos and one or two album tracks. Please I would ask, if you like the music, to support the artists and buy their music in the physical form. There is nothing better than a piece of vinyl (or a CD if required, or download if hell freezes over). Even better see them live.
There were other noteworthy albums which didn’t make it on here because I either forgot or tracks were too long. Amongst these I would recommend Coheed and Cambria ‘The Color Before The Storm’, Ben Folds ‘So There’, Riverside ‘Love, Fear and the Time Machine’ and Iron Maidens ‘Book of Souls’. All of them are great. It was a tremendous year for seeing live music, especially seeing bands of multiple occasions. I have mentioned some of the highlights above but a special mention goes to seeing ACDC at Hampden Park, probably the last time I will see them. Incredibly great for their age although the breaks between songs have got a little longer.
Unfortunately I am also at the age, where many of my musical icons are passing on. I was saddened earlier in the year with the passing of Chris Squire the fab bassist from one of my favourite Progressive rock bands Yes. I was also shocked by the death of Lemmy from Motorhead although it was kind of inevitable. We expect these icons of music to live forever, but as we will find in January, even the greatest are human.
Lets hope 2016 brings happier times, great tunes, fab albums and some memorable concerts.
The Art project for this one is two fold.
Part 1 the cubes. The three smaller cubes (3cm) have 17 faces covered with small elements of the album covers of each of the above tracks. There is one blank face. The bigger cube (4.2cm) has my six favourite concerts on it (Steven Wilson, King Crimson, Decemberists, Vintage Trouble, Bellowhead and ACDC.
Part 2: the album cover. As part of the process of creating an album of the year, I create a cover in tribute to a one this year. I decided to take the sublime cover of Lantern Of The Lakes Beings with its bright coloured, slightly faded landscape overpowered by a dark geometric shape and create a homage. I looked through the many photos I have taken in 2015 with the inevitably many of the bridges of Berwick. I take a photo every time I pass on a train. I choose a suitable version and drew a silver cube on it. Simple yet effective.