And so here is the final personal Top Twenty of the year. This time it is my turn!
Another twelve months neatly wrapped up and delivered for your listening pleasure and here’s to 2016…
20. Quiet Hollers – Mont Blanc
An apocalyptic, “end-is-nigh” rolling, country rock anthem. Pure poetry with the best coda to a song I heard all year, “shed a tear for the books I shoulda read“.
19. H. Hawkline – Spooky Dog
Melodic, haunting, weird. Perfect psych-pop with added twisted electronics.
18. Arborist – Twisted Arrow
Brilliant debut single of lilting folk-rock concealing a bleak heart and featuring the hushed vocals of none other than Kim Deal of the Pixies.
17. Courtney Barnett – Depreston
With her forensic eye for lyrical detail and the ability to capture emotional turmoil in the sparest of sentences, Depreston is the sombre standout from her brilliant debut album proper. A tale of house hunting in Melbourne suburbia that travels from the mundane to the tender to the revealing.
16. Grandparents – Kids In The Alley
Take the most infectiously catchy refrain, add jangly guitars, carefree percussion and bubblegum melodies. This is what you get. A hallucinatory classic.
15. Futurekids – White Girl In A Wu Tang T-Shirt
Irresistible foot-tapping indie rock, the like of which you just don’t hear very much anymore.
14. Woolen Men – Life In Hell
A clattering, staccato burst of tense, nervy post-punk that recalls the best of Wire and The Wipers. The aural equivalent of being jabbed in the throat by a stray elbow in the mosh pit.
13. Rats On Rafts – Last Day On Earth
A mini masterpiece of epic, circling, incessant grooves. Far, far, far out man.
12. Decemberists – Carolina Low
This was one of those stopped-in-your-tracks moments that music gives you sometimes. Watching the Decemberists live in Bristol at the start of the year and Colin Meloy transfixing the whole audience into rapt attention with just guitar and voice. Also spent much of the year repeating “You’ve got an ugly little mouth boy” in a poor imitation of an American accent.
11. Low – What Part Of Me
Classic Low – haunting, spectral, fuzzy and quietly, poignantly devastating.
10. Spray Paint – Signal Master
Like Chris T Popper, Spray Paint are my favourite discovery of 2015. Easily the sleaziest, seediest offering of the year – caustic, dead-eyed junkie punk, bleak, repetitive, and crushingly brilliant. “It’s time to put the dog down“.
9. Protomartyr – Why Does It Shake
The Agent Intellect was unexpectedly my favourite record of 2015 and any number of tracks could legitimately have gatecrashed my favourite songs of the year. In the end I had to limit myself to two. This one, Why Does It Shake is described by the band as a “back-handed ode to humanity’s resilient self regard in the face of inevitable oblivion. Then the trap door opens.” and is equally exasperated and eloquent. It sets the tone with the doom-laden “False happiness is on the rise, See the victims pile high” and concludes in a stunning climax of clatter and squall.
8. Quiet Hollers – Côte d’Azur
A hit man, a traffic jam. A sparkling ocean. Another extraordinary track of ominous, foreboding beauty from the Quiet Hollers.
7. Gun Outfit – Gotta Wanna
I’m a sucker for dusty, sun-parched rock and expansive widescreen Americana and Gotta Wanna combines the two in perfect unison. This is humming road-weary, dusty desert blues of the finest vintage.
6. Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts – Scowling Crackhead Ian
The latecomers entry to the list. Over the course of a few short weeks Jeffrey Lewis’s wryly told tale of growing up with the evil anti-hero of his school days, until they are the only two left in the neighbourhood has firmly embedded itself in to my psyche. It effortlessly helps you to recall your own equivalent of Ian, someone you actively tried to avoid and whose unpredictability could be shocking and whose meanness was legendary (mine was Robert Beckett). “Forever you’ve been Crackhead Ian, It was your kid nickname if we spoke it, You were an insane human being, Whether you ever did or didn’t really smoke it“. Says it all really.
5. Girl Band – Pears For Lunch
Girl Band’s Holding Hands With Jamie was a criminally underrated release this year. A band that manages to take the most discordant, contradictory noise and meld it into something magnetically compelling that grips like a vice. Pears For Lunch combines a manic energy with Dara Kiely’s lethargic, disinterested vocals as he intones, “Spend my time watching Top Gear with my trousers down, Covered in Sudocrem and talking to myself, Garlic Curry Cheese Chips“. Exactly!
4. Traams – Succulent Thunder Anthem
Just shy of three minutes of propulsive, throbbing bass, skimming guitars and urgent vocals. This is Traams at their rollicking, ferocious best.
3. Protomartyr – Pontiac 87
The finest riff of the year, and a brilliantly hypnotic reflection on a dispiriting Papal visit to Pontiac, Michigan in the late eighties.
2. Houndmouth – Sedona
The best sing-a-long chorus of the year bar none. Altogether now, “Hey little Hollywood, You’re gone but you’re not forgot, You got the cash but your credit’s no good, You flipped the script and you shot the plot, And I remember I remember when your neon used to burn so bright and pink, A Saturday night kinda pink“.
1 Kurt Vile – Pretty Pimpin’
Probably the most overwhelming choice for number one song of the year that we’ve had in seven years of voting. A fingerpicked earworm, a sprawl of twangy guitar and surreal, laconic lyrics combine to create the perfect ode to stoned self-reflection.
And some other random choices..
Favourite cover of the year: Kinky Friedman – My Shit’s Fucked Up (Warren Zevon cover)
Gigs of the year: Fat White Family (Oxford) and The Decemberists (Bristol)
Song I wished I’d heard earlier in the year: Robert Chaney – The Ballad Of Edward And Lisa
Best Songs Heard For The First Time, But Not From This Year: Justin Townes Earle – Yuma & Sleaford Mods – Chop Chop Chop