2015: my year in review of music

I’ve listened to more new music this year than in any other.

Last December, I started doing Sunday Afternoons At Underhill with my flatmate. It’s a weekly Sunday podcast. We’re usually hungover, we always make mistakes and the production values are minimal. What started off as a way to play stuff that wouldn’t fit into sets has evolved a bit. In March, I launched with Luke Murphy-Wearmouth, Wax & Stamp, a curated music subscription service.

The result of both of these things is that week in, week out, I’ve generally had an ear to the ground of what’s being released. What’s really welcoming and a little surprising is that as I’m seeing end of year lists go out, there’s still so much I didn’t hear.

We all have our own musical earmarks. Labels we look out for, artist interviews we scour for references, DJs whose sets we lionise. We won’t ever hear it all and so these types of end of year can only ever be a own reflection of what’s out there. A reflection of how you’re seeing the world.

My end of year top 30 is littered with club music. Yet as with last year the amount of actual clubbing I’ve done has been minimal. The first quarter of the year was dominated by Floating Points & Four Tet’s final Plastic People set. A set I’ve listened to dozens and dozens of time, but a gig I wasn’t at.

In fact the longest time I spent surrounded by people dancing was at my own five hour set at UCL this summer. That set, which could likely be the biggest crowd I’ll ever play to, was one of the best nights of my life. For professional DJs, I’m sure that it would be easy to ignore such an event of one’s life in an end of year review. But for me, it was such a huge part that I still remember almost every twist and turn of that set like I played it last night. As a result, four of my top thirty I played that night (Bad Girls, Shuvit!, She’s All Right, and I’ve Never Found A Girl).

There should be some honourable mentions to great older tunes that I’d never heard before. Via DJ Harvey, Floating Points & Four Tet, I’ve discovered hundreds of stunning disco, jazz and world gems. The likes of Mary Clark, Nana Love, Scherrie Payne, Timeless Legend, Milton Wright, Delia Gonazlez, Tenorio Jr., Gloria Ann Taylor, etc etc.

Rhythm Section International have absolutely smashed the shit out of it this year. Henry Wu, FYI Chris, Chaos in the CBD have all had three of the best releases of the year and all three feature here. Label of the year for sure.

RnB and hiphop edged stuff has more of a prominence than previously. Kelela, Drake, Donnie Trumpet, Oddisee, D’Angelo all have very strong places. D’Angelo’s album was released last year (after my end of year list came out), but fortunately Really Love’s release as a single earned it a solid fifth in my list. We’ve not had that level of neosoul for years now.

The second iteration of Hell You Talmbout is awesomely powerful. Hear Janalle Monae and co scream the names of black Americans who have been killed by the police. A gutwrenching tribute and a stirring fuck you to a dreadful modern injustice.

House records still make up the bulk of the listening here. From the bubbling beauty of Bicep’s Just through to the instant party belter of Alex Patchwork’s Untitled Keys. Sampling Alicia Keys never sounded this good.

A friend called me this year an eternal poptimist. Great hooks, catchiness that transcends the irritating and loathsome, crossover hits. I’m after all of those. Justin Bieber has produced the first songs this year that were pretty good. Carly Rae was back proving she was more than a one hit wonder and I Really Like You’s innocence and fantastic video earned it a deserved top-ten spot. Four Tet remixing Eric Prydz. Tove Stryke. And of course my number one spot, given to Loud Places, prove that great pop music is still alive and kicking.

I’ve listened to more albums this year than I have in the past five years. Floating Points’ essential debut is without a doubt LP of the year but Ptaki, Ruf Dug, and Seven Davis Jr produced fantastic long players too. As did (again a welcome suprise), Miley Cyrus and Wayne Coyne.

2015 has been a solid year if – dare I say it – a little easy. Pop records were good, but nothing screamed out. House music was good, but it was harking back to older times. RnB and soul became even more self-referential. Most of the great songs and albums are pastiches of understatement and cool.

Dan Lissvik’s awesome Shuvit could be a cosmic track from 2015, 2005 with heavy influences from 1985. The recent release of Craig David and Big Narstie’s When The Bassline Drops was excellent, but sounds identical to what he was producing at 16.

When I look back to 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, there’s always been something that emerged and defined something. That hasn’t happened this year.

There’s a lot of continuation. It’s all been done very well, but it’s still continuation. My favourite DJ sets have pieced together more old music than they have broken something new.

Choosing my label of the year was the easiest part to this selection process. While no RSI artists made my top ten, the overall output of Bradley Zero’s label has been substantial this year . And if there’s one strong highlight of the year, that is probably it.

End of year lists are sort of a hopeful prophecy of songs that in two or three years time you will still look back on fondly. Loud Places reminds me now of a festival I never went to, but I am left wondering if that will continue in the years to come.

Listen to the top 30 year (minus the Unknown Artist number 2 slot)

/* SONGS OF THE YEAR */

30/ Kelela – Rewind
29/ Messalina – Papa Was A Rolling Stone (Lucci Capri Edit)
28/ Seven Davis Jr – Sunday Morning
27/ Eddie Floyd – I’ve Never Found A Girl (Leo Zero Edit)
26/ Tove Stryke – Ego
25/ Henry Wu – Good Morning Peckham
24/ Joe – Thinking About
23/ Drake – Hotline Bling / Erykah Badu – Hotline Bling
22/ Janelle Monae and Wondaland Records – Hell You Talmbout
21/ Donna Summer – Bad Girls (Luxxury Edit)

20/ Bicep – Just
19/ Galcher Lustwerk – Parlay
18/ Justin Bieber – Sorry
17/ Eric Prydz – Opus (Four Tet Remix)
16/ FYI Chris – Back in the Millennium
15/ Floating Points – Peroation Six
14/ Thundercat – Them Changes
13/ Craig David X Big Narstie – When The Bassline Drops
12/ Chaos in the CBD – Midnight in Peckham
11/ Beyoncé – Me Myself & I (Maarius Late Mix)

10/ Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Sunday Candy
9/  Dan Lissvik – Shuvit
8/  Carly Rae Jepsen – I Really Like You
7/  Paxton Fettel – She’s Alright (Jimpster Remix)
6/  Pat Thomas & Ebo taylor – Ene Nyame Nam A Mensuro (Henrik Schwarz Remix)
5/  D’Angelo and the Vanguard – Really Love
4/  Oddisee – That’s Love
3/  Alex Patchwork – Untitled Keys
2/  Unknown Artist – Uganda
1/  Jamie XX – Loud Places

/* LPs */

5/ Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Pets
4/ Ruf Dug
3/ Ptaki
2/ Seven Davis JR
1/ Floating Points

/* Labels */

Rhythm Section International

/* Mixes */

Harvey Boiler Room
Plastic People close

/* Reissues */

Gloria An Taylor – Love Is A Hurting Thing

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