2015 in music

This barely-curated Spotify playlist is apparently what I thought was good in 2015. Most of it is new. Below is an attempt to justify some of the choices.

Old Thing Back (feat. Ja Rule and Ralph Tresvant) – Matoma, The Notorious B.I.G.

2015 was an interesting year for feminism. This track is probably inappropriate, but it brings out a smile every time I hear it. It’s monologue more than a manifesto, which possibly doesn’t mean anything in re how offensively chauvinistic it is. That said, I’d rather listen to this wry braggadocio than the acoustic pandering of an “ally”.

Lady Grey – Katzenjammer

What a great band Katzenjammer are, eh? This one reminds me of one of my favourite songs ever, The Testimony Of Patience Kershaw by The Unthanks. Unlike the Unthanks epic choon, its tough to draw any biography out of this song of mostly/possibly unconnected questions. Even the singer doesn’t know. Is the song about that Lady Grey hanging in the National, about to get the chop? Maybe. Probably not. I haven’t done any research.

Wolf Hall – Debbie Wiseman

Speaking of Tudors (SEGUE!), is Wolf Hall the best TV of 2015, or has it been pipped by Jessica Jones? By accident, I saw Farinelli and the King at the Playhouse #humblebrag when the nation was at peak Rylance, and it was an excellent production, with excellent music. Wolf Hall was also an excellent production, with wonderfully subtle, tuneful and atmospheric music. I haven’t stopped listening to this soundtrack all year.

Bills – Lunchmoney Lewis

It’s at this point I realise the troublingly biographical quality of this playlist. What a happy song about being middle class.

Downtown (feat. Eric Nally, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee & Grandmaster Caz) – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

A track that feels like parts of it could have been written 30 years ago, and parts won’t make sense in a year. We’ll probably still have Uber in 2017, but who knows. Downtown is undeniably epic. Is it about branding? About cities? Suburbs? Is it about furthering Macklemore’s “ally” cred, professing a liking for big girls? Is it about love? Yes.

Ke Sakihitin Awasis (I Love You Baby) – Buffy Sainte-Marie

Sainte-Marie released a new album this year, Power In The Blood, and it is brilliant. As I’m writing this, it occurs that The Uranium War might be a better intro to this artist’s protest song creds. But this is my favourite song. We went to an Emily Carr exhibition at the Dulwich earlier in the year, and I think about that every time I listen to this. Something about love being the key that unlocks an appreciation of our common humanity. And that.

S.O.B. – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Drinking and regret are sensible companions on the road to oblivion, so it’s only right that someone finally wrote a song about it. But seriously, Nathaniel Rateliff looks a lot like Tom Hanks. Look harder, you’ll see it. That has no bearing on the music, but this is another great, rousing song about death. Not enough artists write music about what happens after the after the after the terrible thing happened, that age when the subject has long-since perfected an alcoholic stasis.

Sho Z-Pod Duba – DakhaBrakha

Self-explanatory, this one.

Sax – Fleur East

But X-Factor. But Simon Cowell. But popular music. None of that matters. This is a song about geeks, a song about saxophones, and a song about now.

Tutti Frutti – New Order

My favourite story in all of music is that these guys chose the name “Joy Division” not realising the Nazi connection, then chose, post-Curtis, the name “New Order”, not realising the Nazi connection. It’s not a true story, but it is a good one. This is the best track of 2015.

Jobseeker – Sleaford Mods

Remember that time in late-2015 when everyone1 went Sleaford Mods mad? I know this is an intensely fashionable choice, and I probably should #checkmyprivilege, but my inadequacies as a listener can’t influence the sharp, sharp poetry of this track. I feel elated and damned.

Depreston – Courtney Barnett

Biography! What could be more 2015 than the travails of millennial house-hunting. Forget what SyCo and Fleur East’re up to, this is now. There’s some mild observational fluff, but don’t let that put you off. This song might be about abandoning brands, and floorboards, and “lifestyle” and moving on. Which is to say, moving out. To the suburbs. You can’t afford to knock it down, to colonise it. You must let it colonise you.

Same Old Love – Selena Gomez

Trolling? I honestly don’t know. You can thank Switched on Pop for this one. Listen to ep. 25 of their podcast for a better explanation of why, which is why this is on the list. I’m so sick of that same old love of music. Switched on Pop’s look at this song, and pop in general, was a wake up call. Throw off the comfortable animal skins of complacency, stride out of the cave and go hunting for knowledge. I don’t mean to fall into that lie that experts always love something better, or deeper2, but I’ve never regretted knowing more. Maybe a little education feels like a loss of innocence, but from the other side, it’s hard to tell the difference between that and a loss of ignorance.

  1. And by everyone, I mean Radio 6 Music.
  2. cf. Track 1 of this playlist, wink.