Something somebody said recently struck me as it made an awful lot of sense. Exactly when do you stop saying, ‘Happy New Year,’ to one another? Or at least when does it become acceptable at the least. I honestly don’t know, but for now, I’m still considering it an appropriate time to talk about my favourite songs of last year. Seeming I’ve made a habit of it, and I finally have time to sit down and write about them.
2015 was a challenging year as it more or less marked my transition from degree student to having to fend for myself. Sometimes it sucked, sometimes it didn’t. But something that I didn’t previously have was a companion, somebody that I hold very dear to me and somebody I look forward to what the future holds for the both of us. As such, she has had an impact on deciding this list, just as much as the rollercoaster of emotions I’ve gone through in the past year has. Like I’ve said before, I do these lists for biographical reasons, to show where I’ve been and what’s happened in years gone by. Music and memory are powerful things.
So my rules for the list are as follows: I don’t always pick songs from this year to put on the list, it involves literally anything I’ve listened to in the past year that I’ve enjoyed frequently enough (that said, there are a lot of 2015 entries on this list which makes a change), but I try to avoid putting more than one song by the same artist in. Some of my past lists had more than one or two. You can find them on Spotify if you want to.
I would like to make an honourable mentions list, but there were far too many to include on this year’s list, so I’ll skip that formality this time. Just so many good moments or songs to include the entire list. And if you would like to listen to this list uninterrupted, commentary-free, then head on over to the Spotify playlist instead.
Righty then, on with the show…
20. American Wrestlers – There’s No One Crying Over Me Either
Normally this list can start off a little strong, so it must be pleasant to see that there’s a nice lo-fi American soul ballad to start things off. Though I’ve already spoken of this song and the ties to creator Gary McClure and Working For A Nuclear Free City, this is my favourite track from a record that’s really seen the former Manchester man come into his own. You really can create a timeless-sounding music with just a drum machine, an 8-track and a guitar. Able to blend melancholia and nostalgia together in such an endlessly satisfying way, this was a highlight of this year for sure.
19. Puerto Rico Flowers – I Feel Good
I try as often as I can to avoid referring to songs as a work of art, but this haunting post-punk number really is something special. Chilling to the touch, with just darkness suppressed by icy synth, a terrifyingly potent drumbeat, the bellow of bass and all dictated with a baritone howl on par with goth’s greatest names, I Feel Good can leave you quaking, but for all the perfectly right reasons. A mesmerising spectacle to be involved with, it defies belief that someone can make something as seductive as fill your core with dread in the same space of time.
18. Fair To Midland – Whiskey And Ritalin
If there’s any justice in this world whatsoever, then Fair To Midland will go down in history as one of the most underrated bands to ever grace the Earth. Finally listening to Arrows & Anchors, the real opening gambit here gores you as hard as a rhino on speed and doesn’t rescind until you’re completely overwhelmed by sheer hard rock force. Beautifully woven together with a versatile melodic voice, in between molten streams of blistering guitar work, the duration of Whiskey and Ritalin is a triumph of finding grace in the beautiful art of destruction.
17. The Sun Explodes – Machines (Pt. 2)
Another track that roars upon its beginning, this UK progressive rock group are certainly one of the most incredible bands currently in their field. The second part of Machines makes an earth-rattling entrance before hushing down to a tender harmony, soon riled by up again by feisty and unrelenting guitars and just damn good musicianship. It’s easy to get carried away with how awe-inspiring the vocals are in this track, but honestly, there’s so much that shifts and changes in five and a half minutes, you’ll have to replay it constantly to absorb all of the sonic intricacies, passion and emotional energy this shining master stroke has to offer.
16. Black Futures – Love (ft. P.O.S.)
In the ten minutes scenario proposed by Black Futures in this song, you could blast the staggering seismic-sized beats, colossal synth and highly addictive flow from the Doomtree collective’s P.O.S. about three times, and be blown away every single time. The Prodigy influence from working on The Day Is My Enemy really has rubbed off on these guys as they hurdle ever closer to finishing their debut album. But for now, brace for impact, as this apocalyptic stomper is more than capable of filling the void for absolutely unshakeable hard dance music. A future classic in the making.
15. Fail Emotions – Reborn
My search for true trance metal came to an end this year, as a band finally was able to balance the euphoria associated with the soaring electronica of trance music, but with the fist-fighting tenacity of metal. That band’s name is Fail Emotions, and Reborn not only gets the balance spot on, it manages to make that journey progressive by mixing the assault up with generous lashings of drum and bass and dubstep for good measure. Where all the electro-fusions and crossovers appear to be disappearing, there are some with a flame burning so intensely bright, it writes songs as great as Reborn ten a dozen. It’s a good thing.
14. Celldweller – New Elysium
What a musical history I have with this gentleman. Returning with his third album End Of An Empire last year, which admittedly I’m guilty of not keeping up with, the first track I had the pleasure of being blown away by was this immaculately produced industrial-trance-metal fusion, which I’d argue is his best work in years. It’s such a tremendous sonic journey from beginning to end, and switches tempos and genres at exactly all the right moments that only pure bliss can emanate from it. Think of it as a natural evolution from his masterpiece The Last Firstborn, only more likely to crush the very ground you stand on. Would’ve been higher in this list, if I wasn’t late to this party.
13. Knife Party – Parliament Funk
My second most anticipated release of this year, as much as I have little enjoyment from EDM nowadays, is this intensely focused dancefloor bombshell from Knife Party. From the get-go, everything builds the scale, tension and magnitude behind this track. Crisp hammer blows of beats, sharpened urgent synths, horror film style ambience, all leading right up to that dialogue between flattened bass and chirpy dial-tones, providing the titular funk for an awe-inspiring moment of production and party-starting. As much as the world pines for Pendulum, Knife Party certainly still deliver a good time in whatever medium they choose to.
12. Continues – Love On The Run
Tunes like this with simple production, electronically enhanced instrumentation and atmosphere, and painfully honest vocals really do prove what an influence the 80’s had on modern music. While you could throw out the accusations that this tune resembles a reskinned Smalltown Boy, the hypnotising, luscious synth lines and chilling but settling ambience give it an identity of its own. That, and the vocals though in the monotone vein of the 80’s, seep with unmistakeable passion and longing, a far cry away from Jimmy Sommervile’s falsetto weeping. All together, it forms a warming and heartfelt pop song that could’ve been ripped straight from the decade itself.
11. The Maras – Ray’s Gun
When it comes to great hooks, this band of brothers has an entire grappling emporium full of them. Among from having one of the catchiest basslines I’ve ever heard, The Maras draw from 80’s indie, punk, goth and pop music to create the two minute moment of joy that is Ray’s Gun. There lays a darker undertone in the song’s mood, but this is really just a true testament on how keeping things simple can sometimes write the best, catchiest songs imaginable. While some of the songs on The Maras Go To The Mall are heavier in tone and execution, it’s this Pixies in a disco mood floorfiller that really cements The Maras as great songwriters and an exciting future prospect.
10. Mechanical Vampires – Gemini
Rarely have I heard a music project present a world of extraordinary talent in the course of a debut single. But that’s what Gemini does. In just over three and a half minutes, a soundscape bursting with frosty ambience, soaring synths, an epidemically infectious chorus and a well-engineered boundary smash between electro-industrial and pop music. It leaves such a lasting impression you could only hope for time to allow Mechanical Vampires to walk into the rightful spotlight they deserve, and boy is Gemini the absolute place to start. Outrageously listenable, and like a vampire, once its fangs are in, the compulsion to feast upon more only grows stronger.
9. Gaytheist – Manhattan
There speaks a lot for a band to make hardcore, take themselves very much less than seriously but still kick ass and take names as much as any other straight-faced hardcore band out there. While Manhattan pokes a lot of fun out of the trendsetters and social media buffs of the place in namesake, far more enjoyment is wrung out of the relentless riff barrage, played at a speed that’d kick you in the head and hard enough to make you unconscious for a week or two. It’s brutally short at just floating over the two minute mark, but packed more threat and excitement into those two minutes than some bands manage in an entire career.
8. New Order – This Time Of Night
I’ve talked a lot about the 80’s in this list already so but this is the real deal. A full bonafide 80’s track, from one of the greatest bands to compose in a pivotal era of music. This Time Of Night is certainly a lesser known New Order track, but one fully deserving of recognition from the emotions it conjures up. There’s one moment that’s simply breathtaking, but between the synths and aching lyrics, you will either be encapsulated in a pleasurable karaoke session, or swept away in a melancholic whirlwind. Very much a product of its time, but a product that can still bring a tear to the eye of any connoisseur of timeless songwriting.
7. Somastate – Juniper
Once upon a time, there was a big market for teenage angst in guitar-centred music. Ask Linkin Park. The trend seems to have all but died out now, but the fragments of that market are still being channelled into alternative rock. While not explicitly connected with the subject, the raw emotion and passion that Somasate put into Juniper excels far beyond just temper tantrums. What lies here is a very cleverly written anthem that plays havoc with the quiet-loud dynamic, brims with infinitely catchy melodies and has fantastic musicianship, without having to resort to screaming until the blood drains from your face. Alternative rock is a gold mine of exquisite tracks such as this, you just have to know where to dig.
6. Destrage -Destroy Create Transform Sublimate
By far one of the easily most exciting and important metal bands in the world right now, Destrage took me by complete surprise with their ballistic missile approach to songwriting and are worthy of having the best album I’ve heard all year. With immense skill, a gorgeous progression and pace switches, breakdowns hard enough to flatten oxen and a manic but staggering vocal performance, Destroy Create Transform Sublimate offers a journey unlike many others can experience in modern metal. From the beginning of that frenzied tapping on the guitar, right up to the drum and bass climax, this is as wild as thrill rides get, but among the best you’ll ever encounter.
5. Noisia & The Upbeats – Dead Limit
If you can ever count on one thing from me when composing these lists, is that there’ll be a cracking drum and bass track in here somewhere. And the most consistent offenders will either be Noisia or The Upbeats. Thankfully it’s both, and what a cracker of a track. I’ve been dying to get my hands on this all year. In the spirit of a high-octane action flick, the build-up is a race against time to stop that crazed megalomaniac pushing the button on global annihilation and that drop… oh goodness that drop… is the unfathomably addictive no-holds-barred fight to the death. Perfect clean and crisp drum production, bone-shattering bass and the synth impactful without being too imposing. Hands down my favourite drum and bass track of 2015, and the best drum and bass track of 2015.
4. Alexisonfire – Side Walk When She Walks
I have somebody very special to thank for introducing me to this song. My wonderful girlfriend. Crisis is an incredible album, but I’ve never completely grasped how monumental Alexisonfire are until I heard this song. Opened with a blazing combination of guitar work that all good post-hardcore mobs peddle, the moment is muted to a far more tender resignation, one that has more than occasion this year reduced me to tears. The lyrical content has struck a chord with me even more, as I have found love in the last year, and through out the struggles and tough times, we are both still here and there for one another when in need. On its own, it is a masterfully written poem, a beautifully passionate piece, but in my mind, it has the power to heal a hurting heart.
3. Autopsy Boys – No Ambition
I’m calling Autopsy Boys my band of the year, purely based on the months I’ve had their music on repeat and giving me the vital motivation to turn this blog into far more than a passion project. While I was drifting more towards Crushing On Cynthia Leech as my choice, it’s No Ambition’s fiery chorus, underlaid with brooding synth, a scathing tirade and an immovable desire to tear anyone apart that edges it out in my opinion. Despite the impressive ability to weave 80’s, horror and B-movie references into their lyrics with ease and at numerous speeds, No Ambition seems very much like a furious reaction to its namesake. No ambition, you say? Try this chainsaw massacre of a hardcore song on for size.
2. Woods Of Ypres – Lightning & Snow
I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a man sing so much about the harsh realities of life, while he had so much to live for. The whole irony of the fatal accident that claimed David Gold’s life five years ago this December. While I may delve further into this topic at a later point in time, it’s Woods Of Ypres’ fifth and final album that opens with this black-metal fuelled masterpiece, that ignites the true loss that metal experienced that day. It may seem difficult to believe, but wading through the gloom, dark skies of sorrow and jaw-breaking music, you’ll find an almost pop-like characteristic, lurking in the endless ocean of grey. Not only does this make Lightning and Snow have intoxicating replay value and melodies that burrow into the deepest recesses of your memory, but it makes the seemingly inaccessible, frightening exterior of blackened doom metal have a scarily recognisable, human vulnerability like us all.
1. 3TEETH – Unveiled
Quite honestly, I have no idea of how to even begin to describe perfection. But I shall give you a for instance. I saw this song live in 2015, and upon the opening of that industrially rendered drum beat and that down-pitched synth acting as bass, I could’ve screamed with how happy it made me. I don’t often scream full-blooded at anything. The atmosphere is ice cold and cloaked in shadow, and even if the vocals are all but a whisper, there is still a venomous mist exhaled from every word spoken. A bright and piercing synth echoes through the surrounding darkness, every note illuminating a little further into the darkest regions of dystopia. And while the guitar doesn’t play as prominent a role as in other 3TEETH anthems of destruction, the only two notes played ascending create such an intense pleasure, words simply escape me. At its close, a distant soft siren calls into the night, offering one last beacon of light before it fades away and draw these three minutes of unadulterated bliss to a close. If you have even the slightest interest in industrial, I implore you to listen to this song and submit to what can only be described as pure indulgence. There was never any doubt in my mind. Unveiled is my favourite song of 2015.
So I hope you enjoyed any of the music on this list, and I hope 2016 is going great for you thus far, and that it continues to do so for you all. Happy New Year!
(Yes it’s late, that’s the joke.)
Puerto Rico Flowers
Fair To Midland
The Sun Explodes
Woods Of Ypres
(RIP David Gold, June 19, 1980 – December 21, 2011)
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