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Best of the Rest 2015
It's not all about albums, so here's a list of other things that we thought were brilliant in 2015.
EP OF THE YEAR
Sacred Paws - Six Songs EP
What we said: "This debut release, the aptly titled Six Songs EP is like a proper debut album with all the padding taken out, just six pop songs which could all have been hit singles, if hit singles were still a thing for indie bands. Every song is played with a seemingly effortless party-time swagger, which makes for a neat hit of powerful pop"
RE-ISSUE OF THE YEAR
Frog - Frog EP
What we said: "The songs here are almost universally warm and uplifting, captured in the moment and without the cold claws of digital tampering getting in the way. It's the sound of a band at their breathtakingly confident beginnings."
SINGLE OF THE YEAR
Spectres / Lorelle Meets The Obsolete – Stealed Scene / The Sky Of All Places
This split single caused a bit of controversy back in April due to its associated "Record Store Day Is Dying" message. A cry of frustration from indie labels and artists who just want to get their records pressed up, but are facing growing battle with major labels who are keen as mustard to get out their pointless re-issues in time for that one big day in April (but let's face it, who wouldn't want an A-Ha picture disc in 2015). The RSD is Dying concept is essentially that "every day should be record store day", which is why this single was, and still is being released, one per day for the 366 days of the leap year. Copies are hard to come by but those of us who have managed to snap one up have found that beneath all the hoo-ha lies two excellent tracks by two of Sonic Cathedral / Howling Owl's most promising acts: Lorelle Meets The Obsolete and Spectres, covering each other's songs in classic split 7" tradition.
SONG OF THE YEAR
Kingsley Chapman and the Murder - Olympians
70s excess done on an austerity budget, Kingsley Chapman's debut solo release sees him team up with exiled members of By Toutatis to form a more powerful, soulful sound to anything he's done previously. This track has shades of stadium era Bowie and Springsteen but somehow still finds space for some trademark gritty realism. Kingsley Chapman and The Murder: a Northern Powerhouse, only one that's not all hollow and meaningless.
COMPILATION OF THE YEAR
Mogwai - Central Belters
(see also, Most Beautiful Physical Thing Of The Year) This six LP box spanning 20 years of Mogwai is so much more than a cash-in best of. Lovingly put together and comprising "hits", albums tracks and rarities it's the perfect document of a band who've been at the forefront of post-rock for a generation, and yet, have evolved considerably since those early years. What surprised me about this box set was how later tracks like "Rano Pano" more than hold their own against full on classics like "Mogwai Fear Satan" and the epic "My Father My King". A fitting celebration of those first 20 years, and a rare retrospective that doesn't seem like a full stop.
GIG OF THE YEAR
Field Music play Music For Drifters @ Tyneside Cinema
Sat in a cinema watching a 1929 silent documentary film about North Sea herring fishing. It's not the classic criteria for a "gig of the year", but when said film is being live soundtracked by the classic line-up of Field Music, you couldn't really give the "gig of the year" gong to anyone else. The band only performed this show a handful of times, so it felt quite privileged to be there, sat in the audience at the cosy and atmospheric Tyneside Cinema with an audience that seemed to include literally everyone in the North East music scene. The soundtrack was a delight and afterwards the band (Peter Brewis, David Brewis, Andrew Lowther and Andrew Moore) treated the crowd to a selection of classic and rarely performed Field Music material which went down a storm.
FESTIVAL OF THE YEAR
Twisterella, Middlesbrough / 6Music Festival, Tyneside
For me, the two best festival experiences I had this year were not in the summer, and not outdoors (and it should be noted that I did go to Glasto and a few other outdoor events, so I haven't fully given up on the traditional festival model). The 6Music Festival took me a bit by surprise by being an absolute joy from start to finish, especially at The Sage, Gateshead which had been spectacularly transformed into a glittering winter wonderland and featured memorable performances from The Charlatans, British Sea Power, Wire and Young Fathers. Twisteralla, on the other hand, was like 6music Festival's low-key DIY cousin. The venues (generally pubs and clubs) were universally tiny, the atmosphere was set to "high spirits" and most of the bands seemed to be either surfing the crest of a wave or on the brink of doing something amazing. Notable performances which left me feeling particularly cheery included Kingsley Chapman & The Murder, PINS, SLUG and Mouses.
Check out our Best Albums Of 2015 here.