Festive 15 for ’15

Award winning music journalist, Dr Jonathan O’Shea, kindly agreed to share his top 15 tracks of 2015 with Kureen – let us know your thoughts in the comment section below the article. 

Chemical Brothers

The Festive Fifteen, my favourite tracks of the year, has become an accidental annual tradition (I think this is the seventh one) and was initially inspired by John Peel’s Festive 50. Like pointless paper crowns, turkey incineration and being derisive about sprouts, this is one seasonal routine which is set to continue ad infinitum.

Between Christmas and the New Year, I like to pore over the music that’s been pumped into the ether over the past twelve months and somehow make sense of it all by pointlessly ranking it. Then I present it to the world in classic chart countdown style: 15 to 1 (not to be confused with William G Stewart’s bad-ass 90s game show).

So here’s the Festive Fifteen ’15;

15. What Went Down – Foals

Pulsing, persistent beat and increasingly frenzied lyrics from the inappropriately-named indie rockers.

14. Leaving the City – Joanna Newsom

The planet’s most unique and oblique pop-harpist takes a leap into new, questing territory, with a less sparse, more densely developed sound than usual.

13. Mr Noah – Panda Bear

Some pretty weird-ass stuff here, about a dog being bitten on his leg…? Sounds like it was recorded on a demonically distorted hurdy-gurdy in 2048 and sent back in time through a subterranean vortex.

12. Go – Chemical Brothers ft. Q-Tip

Begins amid frantic bongos and slashing light-sabres (honestly); Q-Tip’s muscular rap provides the backbone for a Daft Punk-style synth-a-thon.

11. Go Out Blur

The kind of swaggering anthem Damon & co relentlessly pumped out in their prime.

10. Singularity – New Order

One of the darker tracks from Music Complete focuses on dissatisfaction with everyday inertia and mourns the loss of ex-bandmate Ian Curtis.

9. Tutti Frutti – New Order ft. Elly Jackson

Could easily be filed under ‘90s nostalgia, but a beguiling duet with La Roux’s Elly Jackson elevates this playful track to something more airily uplifting.

8. Detroit – Gaz Coombes

Probably the finest moment of the ex-Supergrass frontman’s solo career. A tale of longing for home while in a distant land: effortlessly melodic, with a soul-stirring arrangement.

7. City – Spring King

Breathless stomper; designed to thrash about in the dark to. Repeat: “Who am I? What does it matter?”

6. Strange Combinations Teleman

Gently insistent and mildly hypnotic stuff. Perhaps the strangest combination here is the electro beat and mild-mannered vocal style, but it works wonderfully.

5. Borders – M.I.A

Controversial subject matter – the refugee crisis and a ‘f*ck the system’ message – delivered in typically laconic style. Sure, it’s a little lyrically banal, but at least she seems to stand for something.

4. Bodies – Farao

Totally irresistible combination of plaintive Scandinavian vocalist and inexorable rhythms.

3. Swords (Matahdatah Scroll 01 “Broader Than A Border”) – M.I.A.

Opens with the rhythmic clashing of swords and a pulsing beat which underpins a culture-clash classic. Check out the genuinely awesome M.I.A-directed double video for this new track and 2013’s ‘Warriors’.

2. Dreams – Beck

Reminiscent of his upbeat ‘Guero’-era danceable demi-anthems, this track – devoted to the restorative power of dreams – is thickly layered with catchy aural confections…it’s surely the funksome highpoint of Beck’s meandering later career.

1. Don’t Breathe Out – Roots Manuva.

soul-stirring sample of portly baritone Barry White’s ‘Honey Please, Can’t Ya See’ forms the unlikely bedrock of this gloriously gospel-tinged track. The Walrus of Love’s slightly sickly love letter morphs into something altogether more mystical and compelling under the spell of Stockwell’s philosophical wordsmith.

Fin.

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Written by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa's latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.

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