2015 has been the year where my head has been most completely submerged in new music since I was a teenager discovering Britpop. Speaking of that era one of my highlight of 2015 has to be Gaz Coombes January solo album Matador a phenomenal piece of work, which ended up as a real contender for the Mercury Music Prize. In a similar vein it was a joyous surprise to hear a new album from Blur, a record that had reportedly been abandoned but rescued by returning guitarist Graham Coxon. The Magic Whip was certainly a return to form after the misfire of Think Tank and album song ‘Ghost Ship’ has to be one of my favourite songs of the year. Staying with a retro vibe, but going back to an act who must have been a major influence on both Blur and Supergrass, I got the opportunity this year to review The Specials 6-disc reissues, an opportunity to delve into the history of one of Britain’s greatest bands. Sadly it seems less and less likely we’ll ever hear new Specials material now as 2015 took trumpet player Rico Rodriguez from us, and very recently Specials drummer John Bradbury. We lost some other greats in 2015 too, it’s worth taking a moment to remember BB King and Lemmy who have contributed so much to the history of popular music.
It was great to see local bands Octopuses and Clowwns release excellent début records on local label’s Lick Music and Bleeding Hearts Recordings respectively; both long-awaited and both triumphs. Demob Happy really amazed me with the scope and depth of their début Dream Soda, I didn’t quite see it coming, but I should have after they’d blown everyone away with their headline set for our night during The Great Escape. However my favourite début from a year of strong first releases has to be Gengahr’s A Dream Outside, for me they buck the popular narrative of ‘the death of the guitar band’ by breaking new ground without a synthesiser in sight. Lots of bands are starting to wave the grunge flag like Demob Happy, although no one else is doing it as well, but Gengahr’s melodic odd pop is unique and full of promise – their single ‘She’s A Witch’ should have been a huge hit this year. On the live front I’d like to pick out The Magic Gang‘s jubilant set during The Great Escape and Songhoy Blues high-energy performance at Concorde 2 but best of all was Joanna Newsom at Brighton Dome in November. I’d never been sure which side of the fence to sit on with Joanna Newsom but I’m glad I took a chance to catch her this year, it led me to grabbing her latest album Divers, which is yet another fantastic 2015 album – 2016 is going to have it’s work cut out producing as many greats records!