Review Of The Year 2015

2015 was an outstanding year for music. Looking back I am amazed by the depth and breadth of quality releases. In no particular order, some of my favourites were Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit, Half Moon Run’s The Sun Leads Me On, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats self-title debut, Ezra Furman’s Perpetual Motion People, Everything Everything’s Get To Heaven, Wolf Alice’s My Love Is Cool. Sun Kil Moon’s Universal Themes, Sam Lee’s The Fade In Time, Nadine Shah’s Fast Food… the list is endless. What is striking is how many interesting characters there are making great music at the moment. I think we are in a golden era, thanks to these perosnalities who are combining a heightened individuality with a respect for music and its history. Unlimited access to the internet, and its bottomless pit of musical treasure has made this possible, and will only continue to do so. Not only that but as it becomes increasingly tough to make a living out of music, generally only those with a true musical beating heart and required grit will win out, like the above.
 
It was also a joy to see some of the old guard return for some more glory. Killing Joke remain as uncompromising as ever, while New Order, Wire, and Squeeze were just some who came back to form. They remain as relevant now as they did then.
 
Special mention must go to Benjamin Clementine, another example of a very interesting character making very interesting music. Not everyone got it and it has been disappointing to see him spurned in some quarters, but by golly did he turn in a sublime performance at St. Georges Church, just off the back of his Mercury Music Prize win, and with a slew of the great and good in attendance to see what all the fuss was about.
 
Finally, hats off to Adele, who turned it all upside down by breaking long standing records and singlehandedly (and hopefully finally) demolishing the myth that music sales are on their last legs. Just like books will never go out of print, there will always be physical product to buy and cherish. She also ably demonstrated that by keeping things a little secret and mysterious (there seemed to be no pre-release leaks), you further increase interest. There are many lessons to be perhaps learned by this phenomenon, one who has made her home here in Brighton. 
Jeff Hemmings

My year started in a quite remarkable way, seeing in consecutive weeks two unbelievably special gigs at the Green Door Store – This Is The Kit and Rozi Plain sharing the bill for one of the most wonderful and sought after shows of the year, and then the American bluesy Psych Rock masters Dead Meadow brought a dark, unhitched and rather deranged set which totally beguiled. As part of the Brighton Festival we were treated to a strong and diverse selection of bands from all walks of life, my highlight being a superb set from the immensely talented GoGo Penguin, before Brighton was turned into its usual madness for The Great Escape Festival. In the 3 day May event I managed to sleep very little, get blisters all over my feet and see an astonishing 36 acts ranging from breakthrough artists such as Boxed In, C Duncan and Ady Suleiman (who we have consequently done interviews with), to the incredible yet more unknown Cristobal And The Sea (which I had the joy of reviewing their brilliant debut album) and American Ho99o9 who shocked and intimidated the crowd in an unforgettable performance. I could not do a round-up of the year without mentioning a special gig at the Concorde 2 with the 75 year old Godfather of Neo-Soul Roy Ayers, where fellow soul legend Omar Lye-Fook joined him onstage, and my favourite act of the year Andy Shauf. After a sublime show at The Great Escape, Andy Shauf and his band came back to Brighton to stun an appreciative crowd at the Prince Albert with one of the best performances I have ever seen.
 
2015 wasn’t only about live music, there has been an incredible wealth of unbelievable albums released too. Unknown Mortal Orchestra came back with the highly anticipated third album which I would say is their best yet – songs like the title track, ‘Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’ and ‘Necessary Evil’ has made Multi Love timeless. Another difficult third album arrived from Kevin Parker’s Tame Impala, Currents, where the pressure to deliver could not have been greater from one of my favourite bands. Remarkably he decided this was a good time to take a rather drastic change in style, producing more of an electronic masterpiece with 80s Ballad and Disco vibes than his staple Psychedelic Rock – yet still it is my favourite album of the year. Another notable release that is definitely worth a mention is the tenth album by The Chemical Brothers, Born In The Echoes, where you would think this was only damage limitation after such a poor last album 5 years ago. In fact, they well and truly cemented themselves as the Kings of Electronica by releasing an album that was as innovative and complete as their early releases – as well as taking their live show to extraordinary new heights.
 
The best thing about 2015 has to be the amount of amazing bands coming out of our city. The Magic Gang, Penelope Isles, Birdskulls, The Fiction Aisle, Theo Verney, Prince Vaseline, Gang, Abattoir Blues have all amazed me – there are just far too many to mention, especially as you can now go out on any given night and see a brilliant local act perform in our renovated music scene. 
Iain Lauder
 

 

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!

Adam Kidd 


For me the year started with a bang with Dinosaur Jr’s front-man J Mascis at The Haunt early in January. Actually for me it was quite a quite year for gigs, I would usually have gone to about four times the number I did but the quality of the gigs I went to was superb. The highlights being Jesus and Mary Chain & The Maccabees doing their thing and Deerhoof who have been on my list of ‘bands to see’ for years. Along with local talent The Qemists (where’s the album tour?), the triumphant return of Los Albertos (the wildest I’ve ever seen The Haunt) and finishing with The Wytches and Black Honey. All bands to keep an eye on in 2016.
 
What I lacked of gigs I made up for in festivals as ever starting with The Great Escape where Rory Indiana caught my attention along with ‘the French Frank Zappa’ Forever Pavot, Vodun took the prize for most spectacular performance of the year in full on face-paint. Then a day at Brightonsfinest little gig for The Alternative Great Escape which was a blast from start to end. Then managed to catch the Moulettes at St Ann’s Well Gardens after missing them at The Great Escape festival. Always an amusing festival, it’s free and if you have never been then check it out at least once. There were the new festivals Wild Life and Together The People which were great and hope they both grow even bigger over the next few years. I was not expecting to like Ghostpoet, Disclosure or Public Service Broadcasting that much but all impressed me on the big stage. Treat of the year was to see The Levellers and Billy Bragg in the park.
 
Only a few albums stood out for me this year. Octopuses – Yes Please was the pleasant surprise, the band has really nailed it. The first realise from Demob Happy with Dream Soda and the final version of Fragile Creatures début …And Other Wild Things, though technically a 2016 release…

Jonski Mason


 
2015 has been a year of musical variety for me with plenty of firsts: seeing Michael Clark Dance Company at Glastonbury, hearing the Sundbyberg Motet Choir of Sweden in St Michael and All Angels Church, feeling the floorboards vibrate in the Komedia with Alma Gitana’s flamenco dance and music. Concerts and performances like these offered me the opportunity to experience music differently and have opened my eyes and ears.
 
There have been some great gigs in Brighton over the course of the year, too – indie veterans, The Decemberists put on a beast of a show at the Dome back in February, Anna Calvi blew me away in the same venue as part of the Brighton Festival and Sun Kil Moon mesmerised in St Georges Church.
 
There have been some strong album releases as well – Sufjan Stevens, Villagers, John Grant standing out as corkers from the selection that I got the chance to review. To cap it all off – I saw all three artists live. Lucky me.
Adam Atkins

 
2015 was my first full year living in Brighton and what an I opening year I had in such a thriving, musical city. On the local front, a significant highlight was the discovery of a band as exquisite and genuine as Gang. Brighton’s local boys arrived via Canterbury and really took a lump out of me and my brain with their doom-psych rock and their charming personalities. Another highlight was grasshopper, a team of musicians that are enviably young and as equally talented as those who are years older than them. Performing a lovely blend of psychedelic post-punk, this bunch do a fantastic job of bringing your ego down, depressing the wannabe rockstar inside of all of us.
 
Away from Brighton, Forgotten Fields has hands down taken the award for my festival of the year. Perfect weather matched with splendid music and local ales to settle the stomach. Catching artists as established as Super Furry Animals who have sifted around my mind for years alongside great newcomers like Plastic Mermaids and Realms was lovely. Seeing these all within the same intimate experience was a real pleasure. Back in Hull, the location which I grew up in, it always seemed a bit desolate, at least musically speaking when I was there. It was a treat to witness such a thriving musical hub in the present day though. The Humber Street Sesh is a festival that worships the bands locally orientated around Hull and Yorkshire. It is a festival that is completely dedicated to the city and to see a turnout of around 10,000 people in one single day was astonishing. Beer flowed and the music matched perfectly. It was an exceptionally humbling experience to say that it is my hometown and it is now a staple point of my calendar from here onwards.
 
Album-wise, what stole my heart this year was Bill Ryder-Jones’ latest effort, ‘West Kirby County Primary’. After spending a few years on the Mersey shores of Liverpool, it goes without saying that I have become a dedicated fan of The Coral and the like, so anything that has happened around that band has always been worthy of a listen. The delica cy and intimacy of this record is what struck me initially. With songs such as ‘Two to Birkenhead’ and ‘Catherine and Huskisson’, it proved that Bill has a talent to write songs that are destined to fill larger venues. It packs in anthemic sounding choruses tied within swooning ballads such as ‘Tell Me You Don’t Love Me Watching’. It became a soundtrack of the latter months of 2015 and a perfect record to bring the curtain down on the year. Asides from this, other highlights included the aggressive, experimentalism of Girl Band’s debut, ‘Holding Hands With Jamie’ and Tame Impala’s psych-dance whirlwind of a third effort, ‘Currents’.

Tom Churchill


 
2015 was an exceptional year in music for me. For the first half, I was holed up, studying for my final exams, meaning I didn’t discover much new stuff. Two albums were so good though that they broke through the wall of revision: Alabama Shakes’ Sound And Colour on 21 April, and A$AP Rocky’s Long. Live. A$AP on May 26. The first must have appeared on a thousand best-of-year compilations, but I stand by it as a blinding record. The second deserves a mention because it surprised me so much. I’d always hated A$AP’s abrasive and aggressive style, so this more thoughtful, easy-on-the-ears release won instant approval from me. Once I had the time to listen to more releases, none got me more excited than Saint Germain’s album in October. The first he had released in 15 years, and all the better because it came out of nowhere. A real ear-seducer, light and deep, with influences from a hundred styles but one clear direction.
 
A lot of great shows were played in Brighton’s venues this year. I got to experience Coalition as a live venue rather than a club on Halloween, and it’s much better. The Hot 8 Brass Band owned that space and played a truly unforgettable gig. Second prize probably goes to Resonators’ gig at Komedia in September. Their support was Euphony, who I’ve seen a few times and who play one of my favourite live sets. Together they were an irresistibly fun combination. I also saw Kid Creole and the Coconuts at Concorde 2 in August. The live show was great, especially the huge brass section – but what struck me most was Kid’s charisma and effortless cool. Maybe my favourite moment of live music though was far more intimate: I walked into Junkyard Dogs, a little venue on Edwards Street, to find a guitarist and pianist playing Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. It was the most beautiful and powerful performance I’ve seen all year. The musicians were two unknowns named Jack Turner and Ross Skilbeck, and they weren’t even charging for tickets.
 
I had the pleasure of interviewing a lot of bands and artists, some for a video series in which we filmed live performances. It was like a month of private gigs, just for us. I chilled with FreeDub Press, a political dub band made up of local teachers. Their music is fierce, but they’re all lovely people. I briefly met Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox after their show, but it was nothing compared to meeting Matt Cooper, a guitarist from Eastbourne who’s as talented as he is modest. He explained how he played the didgeridoo and the guitar at the same time, but it didn’t make any sense.
Ben Noble

 
There have been some stellar releases this year, and many to have left the deepest impression are the debuts I find myself returning to again and again. Natalie Prass eponymous effort was a master class in song writing. With such rich instrumentation, I’m still making discoveries in it with each new listen. Kagoule’s Urth demonstrated knowledge of what had come before that was well beyond its member’s young age, while still creating a record incredibly difficult to pin down. But nothing brought the noise in 2015 quiet like Girl Band’s Holding Hands with Jamie. A wild eyed, mouth foaming beast that was as equal parts visceral and energetic as it was profoundly upsetting and at times even darkly funny. It remains my favourite debut of the year, if not my favourite album. Elsewhere Grimes’ Art Angels finally put to rest any debate as to whether pop music could be a vehicle for genuine artistic expression. It’s as shiny and sparkly as any major label effort, except the world it inhabits is unmistakably Grimes’.
 
I’ve probably seen about as much live music in the last 6 months as I have in the preceding three years and despite the irreparable damage it’s probably done to my hearing, overall its been worth it the for the countless amazing shows I’ve caught in Brighton this year.
 
Sometimes life’s greatest pleasures are its simplest. Which is why Birdskulls album launch at Bleach remains one of my most fondly remembered gigs of the year. All you really need is some loud fuzzy guitars, huge hooks and a sweaty crowd prone to prolific stage diving to make a truly great show. Looking back, other memorable moments include: David Thomas of Pere Ubu performing a kind of mating dance with one of his socks, days after coming out of intensive care. Alex Calder ending his set with a ludicrous ten-minute rendition of ‘Pipeline’ by the Ventures, and being absolutely blown away by Chelsea Wolfe at the inaugural Mutations Festival. 2015 was my first year writing for BrightonsFinest and the most exciting thing is that this feels like only the beginning. Bring on 2016!
Louis Ormesher

 
2015 was a fantastic year! The biggest highlight for me was discovering the music of Sufjan Stevens and the album Carrie & Lowell as well as his live performance at the Brighton Dome which was stunningly beautiful, brilliantly produced and as near a perfect night as you could imagine.
 
Another amazing jaw dropping highlight was Demob Happy topping Brightonsfinest Alternative Great Escape Night at Latest 7 Music Bar supported by Tigercub, Spit Shake Sisters and Speek Galactic which broke all attendance records and almost took the roof off.
 
While Years & Years and East India Youth ‘Turn Away’ live performances at Glastonbury were simply brilliant together with Hiatus Kaiyote at Love Supreme Festival which has established them as one of my favourite acts and I hope Brightonsfinest.com will be able to include a feature interview with them later in the year when they next play Brighton in April.
 
Other artists who have also given me great pleasure in 2015 have been Kate Stables (This Is the Kit), Gengahr, Fragile Creatures and Ghostpoet and cannot conclude without mentioning Gaz Coombes superb new album and his inspiring performance at Glastonbury as well as C Duncan who has emerged to be a Mercury Prize Nominee with his first album ‘Architect’.
 
Best news Beatles catalogue available for streaming.
Frank Sansom