For our final push into the new year, we tasked ourselves to have a think about what it was that summed up 2015. Whether it was a memorable gig, a festival, an album, or a moment in time that has been committed to memory (and now to the digital ephemera), the broad spectrum of heartfelt musings and considerations of all that’s been imprinted on us and our writers throughout the year makes for a warming farewell to these past twelve months that have went by so swiftly.
There’s plenty to reflect on – that’s a given, but we’re all very much looking forward to 2016 and what it may bring. Album releases are beginning to excite us for January and February, and the live front is looking particularly healthy with some huge announcements having been made over the festive period. State has plenty of projects in the pipeline too and as we get ourselves organised post-hangover, we’ll be jumping headfirst into building on what’s been a fantastic year for all of us.
Happy New Year, everyone, from the whole State family.
Across music and movies, 2015 was the year when women absolutely commanded the field. Adele and Taylor Swift sold in the millions. Madonna and Janet Jackson continued to make note-worthy releases. Relative newbies like Demi Lovato and Carly Rae Jepsen released some of the best pop albums of the year and artists like Grimes and FKA Twigs continued to push the boat out on creativity.
In movies we had female-led blockbusters like The Force Awakens and Mockingjay Part 2 running the box office. The biggest talking points were the high-heel running scream-queens in Jurassic World and the age-appropriate love-interests in SPECTRE. Emily Blunt in Sicario and Charlize Theron in Fury Road kicked ass, while the conversations about the Best Actress race is far more interesting – and full of far better performances – than that of the male counterpart.
Everything about 2015 screamed girl power, and I couldn’t be happier to hear that rallying call.
2015 provided us with some great music: Tame Impala, Bjork, Grimes, Natalie Prass, Lianne La Havas, Sufjan Stevens and Courtney Barnett all released solid pieces of work. But the most exciting aspect of music in 2015 (for me anyway) was the quality and vastness of releases produced from right here in Ireland. In terms of creative output, the digital revolution has been kind to Irish bands, artists and music fans. Conor O’Brien laid his soul bare on Villagers’ Darling Arithmetic, Bitch Falcon did their utmost to melt our faces with TMJ, while SOAK went and got her self a Mercury Prize nomination for a belter of a debut album. Elsewhere, Fight Like Apes had a return to form with their self-titled release, Jape blew us away with This Chemical Sea and Le Galaxie provided the soundtrack for late Saturday nights…oh and Hozier pretty much conquered the world.
It’s been an incredible year for Irish music but the best part is, it’s only going to get better. As well as albums/new material to look forward to from All Tvvins, Overhead The Albatross and Meltybrains?, there’s an abundance of new and newish bands tinkering away at EP’s and albums. From the celtic tiger to the dreaded ‘R’ word, Ireland has been a place of fertile soil for artists and, over the last ten years, our music scene has grown from strength to strength. With all things considered and a ready and waiting supply of talent to rely on, 2016 looks to be in great shape already.
If anything, 2015 showed once once again that we are not exactly passing through a golden age of music, whether that be alternative (whatever that is these days) or otherwise. A quick perusal of the early end-of-year polls that are already in reveal that the supposedly best albums of 2015 have passed me by completely and my own personal favourites – new albums from Sun Kil Moon and Low – were not even THEIR own best work.
On the live front, it was quiet too. Mogwai played a rare non-festival show at Dublin’s Olympia (pictured; by Olga Kuzmenko). Even after twenty years, they still proved what a ferocious live act they can be. In fact, no one comes close for that intense, ear-bleeding maelstrom of sound they excel at. Beck brought the party vibes to Kilmainham but his show was not as memorable as his slot at Electric Picnic the previous year. Underworld couldn’t be bothered bringing their 20th anniversary shows celebrating the brilliant Dubnobasswithmyheadman to Ireland so it was off to the splendid AB venue in Brussels to catch them and it was worth the short flight. The album sounds as fresh and vital as it did in 1994 and they even trotted out ‘Born Slippy’ as a bonus. To say there was a lot of love in the room was an understatement. Love him or hate him, Mark Kozelek – aka Sun Kil Moon – treated us to another uneven and wildly unpredictable night at the National Concert Hall but, against the odds, it turned out to be one of the gigs of the year. It helps that he has written some of the most profoundly beautiful music so far this century, which he can call on when the mood takes him. So, truly noteworthy albums, new acts and gigs were few and far between in 2015. Here’s hoping 2016 will be different and this time next year we will be spoiled for choice when it comes to picking our favourite music-related moments of the year.
From where I’m standing, 2015 was the year of the female singer/songwriter. Joanna Newsom, Julia Holter, Gwenno, Bjork, Natalie Prass, Courtney Barnett and Grimes all made fascinating, individualistic records. All of the aforementioned are at different stages in their careers but every single one of them is following their own unique path rather than trying to make a record that ‘fits in’ with some commercially tactical release strategy. It didn’t necessarily feel like there was any prevailing style although, personally, I did find myself loving more indie guitar tunes than I have in a while – ‘What Went Down’ by Foals, The Maccabees’ ‘Marks To Prove It’, Blur’s return, FFS, Courtney Barnett again. On the domestic front, it was another really strong year with the glorious noise of Girl Band and The Jimmy Cake [‘Teen Mist’ is one of the best tunes of the year], pretty melodic pop from Anderson and Little x’s for Eyes [especially on ‘Love Gets Lost’] and dappled electronic glitchiness from Augustus and John. As always, there were records which didn’t get as much attention as they deserved. The LA Priest album, Inji, should have garnered more excitement, being one of the most offbeat, adventurous releases of the year. Also deserving of more love: the Fleetwood Mac-esque pop of Amason, Jaakko Eino Kalevi’s sultry atmospheric grooves, All We Are’s beautiful dazed funk, BC Camplight, Ghost Culture, Sarah Cracknell, Boxed In, Desperate Journalist and already 2016 is promising albums by Tindersticks, Bowie, Suede, Savages, Tortoise, Junior Boys and that’s only in the first few weeks. Bring it on…
Pop can do amazing things. A truly great pop song can have transformative powers. Who would have thought that as 2015 cranks to a close we’d all pretty much agree that Justin Bieber has managed to release a trio of flawless tunes. Yes, he still looks like he’d rather be bothering teen girls at the waltzers in Funderland with his hand jammed down the front of his greying tracksuit bottoms but perhaps we can overlook his general scroteyness for the sublime three minutes of ‘What Do You Mean?’ Sometimes in the world of pop that’s all that matters, its egalitarian nature means that all previous sins are forgiven if you can just come up with the goods and are not an as objectionable fuckwit as Chris Brown – (Aaron Carter, take note). Bieber the human however is dull. He’s about as interesting and insightful as drying dog shite. When it comes to forming an opinion, being controversial, fluid & funny the pop boys are still on the back foot. The Weeknd may be gearing up to support Rihanna, dating a blank-faced model, thrilling hipsters and hip kids alike with his dark tales of disturbing sexism and harsh city living but his artful Bret Easton Ellis style torment can leave some cold – he’s pretty low on jokes or a personality. Tove Lo has all the angst and brooding sexuality as Mr. The Weeknd but y’know manages to balance it out with being a sentient human. Must try harder boys. The only spark of old skool vitality has come from Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander. A thoroughly modern star whose intelligence, wit and style made the 2015 pop terrain a fun place to be and with ‘King’ being one of the year’s uber-bangers, he pretty much had 2015 sewn up like a Topman bumbag.
2015 was the year of the banger. A RELENTLESS ONSLAUGHT OF POP BRILLANCE. Such a time to be alive and twirling on the dancefloor, a time where the young one from True Grit delivered an incomparable pop diamond about wanking, where Charli XCX finally gave us Sucker, the demented lovechild of Shampoo & Bow Wow Wow, where Little Mix were crystalballin’ their way to world domination and Carly Rae Jepsen elevated her status from one hit wonder to utterly peerless pop goddess. Jeppo ruled supreme. The Emotion album ( or E.MO.TION for purists) destroyed everything in its wake with fifteen of the most perfectly crafted pop songs since they locked the Xenomania crew in a room with Girls Aloud. Emotion is 1989 made by someone who didn’t collect fancy paper in school, it’s all the fun and swooping gorgeousness with none of the cloying annoyingness, a stroke of genius that deserves more recognition and irritating broadsheet think pieces.
As everyone gets their besties in a headlock and throws glitter to the strains of monster emo-anthem Major Lazer’s ‘Lean On’ (just me eh?)let’s look to 2016. A year where Sky Ferreira’s Masochism will hopefully not be completely sullied by Primal Scream’s involvement, Kylie might just give us her Confessions and Rihanna will decide to get off her beautiful arse and gift us with an album. We in the pop world always live in hope.
2015 was an exciting year for music, particularly in Ireland and there were excellent breakthroughs by new artists like Father John Misty, Slaves and SOAK, while more established performers like John Grant, Roisin Murphy, and Bjork returned with a bang after taking some time out. On the gig front all the talk may have been about Ed Sheeran and U2, but we also had triumphant returns from the likes of Blur, Beck, and Fleetwood Mac. Summer festivals like Glastonbury and Electric Picnic exceeded expectations with some big name headliners, while the addition of new events like Metropolis to the Irish concert schedule proved a huge success. It was a good year for music for many different reasons, but as fondly as we look back on it now we must always remember the tragedy, and how music, as a universal art form, was shaken to its very core on one terrible November evening in Paris. As we look to 2016 we live and hope that both music, and the triumph of the human spirit, will continue to bring us together in times of adversity.