My musical highlight of 2015 has got to be seeing my two favourite bands in one weekend with my best friend: Years & Years and 5 Seconds of Summer. Both bands hold special significance for me, and seeing them both on their own headline tours was a dream come true. Years & Years was full of lights, glitter and cool London hipsters. 5SOS was full of sweat, skinny jeans and dyed hair. Oh and Michael Clifford got set on fire (I should add, he was fine). Very different music, the same impeccable quality. Best weekend of my year? Quite possibly.
In September, Father John Misty posted a music video in which he and a doppelganger make love. This man has made my 2015. His breath-taking sophomore LP I Love You Honeybear, released to critical acclaim in February, overflows with sharp-witted cynicism and slushy sentimentality. He’s also been busily “regaling the internet with re-appropriated music”: a sad, ghostly rendition of Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs in June and later, in October, lo-fi Taylor Swift covers to parody Ryan Adams’ 1989 homage, intoned in the deadpan style of the Velvet Underground, and removed from the internet after Lou Reed “visited him in a dream”, commanding: “Delete those tracks, don’t summon the dead, I am not your plaything.” Finally, and most memorably, he stood all of three feet away from me for a frankly evangelistic show at Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion. Joshua Tillman – for rekindling my faith in the future of rock ‘n’ roll, I thank you.
No one knew what Kanye West was going to do at Glastonbury. Hell, at times it seemed like even he didn’t have a clue what was going on. But that’s Kanye; he’s box office. The self-proclaimed “greatest living rock star” on the biggest stage in the world. At times it was thrilling (Stronger and All Of The Lights on a crane!), others baffling (a cover of Queen’s Bohemian Rapsody was just strange). But you probably watched it, and then you probably talked about it for days. It wasn’t 2015 best music moment, but it was definitely the most interesting.
The Exeter music scene this year has been overflowing with exhilaration, diversity and bursting with potential musical moments at every turn – but for personally my 2015 musical moment was Mike Skinner’s Exeter gig. What else can we expect from the master DJ/producer? From the utterly powerful energy that Skinner radiated, to the chaotic excitement of the swarming house heads that overtook the Phoenix, Skinner produced one of the best DJ sets that I have seen in my 20 years of life! Thank you Mike Skinner for gracing Exeter with your presence, hopefully we shall see you in 2016!
It’s wonderfully produced, effortlessly synthesising G-funk, hip-hop, jazz, soul, spoken-word; musically varied enough to hold the listener’s attention, but musically cohesive enough to hold the album together. But where Kendrick truly excels on To Pimp A Butterfly is with his words, asking the most pertinent and universal of questions. Within the same beautifully rendered, poetic breath, Kendrick reflects on his responsibility as an individual whilst interrogating the state of America as a society. While the album supplies no clear cut answers, it is in Kendrick’s seeking of a unity and meaning for America that he creates the space for that possibility. Not only the best musical product of the decade so far, but also the most important, urgent, vital.
There’ve been plenty of marvellous releases this year, but only one to which I’d assign the extremely rare rating of 10/10 – Steven Wilson’s Hand. Cannot. Erase. is the best rock album I’ve heard in a long, long time. The album is wonderfully written, featuring a brilliant array of influences from electronic, experimental, metal and pop music, whilst having stellar lyrics and a phenomenal concept. Rounded out by an incredible backing band of musicians including Guthrie Govan and Marco Minnemann, Wilson has managed to create the most interesting, artistic rock album I’ve heard since OK Computer. Get it in your ears.
Laura Marling is one of those people you could describe as a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Between her fourth album (2013’s Once I Was An Eagle) and her fifth album Short Movie, she disappeared off the music scene, trying to make it as a waitress in America, smoking rollies, reading obscure books, and joining a cult. Thankfully, all of this went into creating what was one of my favourite moments of music in 2015, which is an album full of self-doubt, love, loss, wisdom and all the other clichés. Short Movie signaled a change for Marling from her (somewhat restrictive) definition as a nu-folk artist, to heavier rocky tones, electric instruments and a drastic haircut. Whatever inspired the change in her over her break, I for one am just thankful that it brought her back to making new music, pushing more boundaries, and making my year.
The discovery of Father John Misty and all his exuberance has easily been my 2015 music highlight. The neurotic, sarcastic, witty character that flounced onto the Mountain Stage at Green Man this summer set my fangirling heart a flutter. I thank my sharp elbows that I was positioned perfectly to witness his risqué mic-stand dancing, unrestrained floor rolling and pulling an “LSD laced hair” from his throat. With the exulting atmosphere and reaction from the crowd one would almost be fooled into believing that Josh Tillman really was a priest of music.