Well it’s a tough one I will say that. As my good friend Enda has already written, I have found it very hard to find a top ten selection of albums this year. This is due to the fact I have bought less albums and streamed more music.
When we had the conversation about writing our top tens I remembered an album by the cover and the tune and that was it. Thanks to Apple Music it took me 10 minutes to track down what I was thinking of (see number 14)!
Now I could be very very predicable and say that my favourite album and several tracks all come from Janet Jackson’s Unbreakable and although not a shock to me, it is fair.
This is one of her strongest albums in years and although I was excited by the news of the new album, nothing prepared me for the strength of the music, the new depth of her voice and the warmth generated from the reintroduction of Janet with Jam & Lewis. In fact since it’s release months ago, I have rarely played anything else since!
This is not fair though as I am sure (checks playlists and last fm), I was playing other music before we all started to have #conversationsinacafe!
So here in a slight twist with tradition are my top 15 songs for 2015…
- The Great Forever – Janet Jackson – Unbreakable
- Black Eagle – Janet Jackson – Unbreakable
- WTF (Where They From) – Missy Elliott – WTF (single)
- More Than Most (Starcadian Remix) – Bright Light Bright Light – Life is Hard (The Remixes)
- Calling Out – Penguin Prison – Lost in New York
- Resonate – Avec Sans – Hold On
- The Original High – Adam Lambert – The Original High
- Firefly – Mura Masa – Someday Somewhere
- King Kunta – Kendrik Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
- Perfect Couples – Belle and Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
- Drive – Dornik – Drive
- 1000 X’s & 0’s – Prince – HITNRUN Phase 1
- When It Rains, It Pours (feat. Niko the Kid) – Databoy – When It Rains, It Pours (Single)
- Green & Gold – Lianne La Havas – Blood
- Get Things Done – Little Boots – Working Girl
1. The Great Forever – Janet Jackson – Unbreakable
Surprisingly I did not pick any of the radio played tracks nor any of the “released” material for my favourite as this track stands out above them all. Yes Janet sounds a bit like Michael and yes the topic is very much Leave Me Alone but there is an honesty and a rawness to this that just resonates.
There is no traditional pattern in the melody, the track flip flops from one section to the next and Janet even stops to bless someone who interrupted her singing to sneeze.
Janet also skilfully managed to weave in some of her new found Muslim beliefs and language into the very fabric of this song and no one noticed.
I love it as this is a real journey and it can lift you up, raise your spirits, make you think and make you dance. It’s multi layer and multi faceted. This is why it is my favourite song of the year.
2. Black Eagle – Janet Jackson – Unbreakable
“Once you know, you can’t not know…”
Singing of injustice, prejudice and pain is nothing new for Miss Jackson but this is very grown up and heart felt.
The song is a raw arrangement of very few notes and relies heavily on Janet’s new found belief in her voice and it works.
This gives me shivers every time I hear it and I love it. Black Eagle very nearly made the top spot but it was just pipped to the post by The Great Forever. If you have not heard Unbreakable yet, put on some headphones, turn up the volume, close your eyes and be invited in by the warm velvety goodness of the Black Eagle.
3. WTF (Where They From) – Missy Elliott – WTF (single)
After a barnstorming performance at the Super Bowl which over shadowed the main act (Katy Perry) and then writing some insanely quirky lyrics for her best from Janet on BURNITUP!, Missy is back!
Stronger, sexier and sassier than ever before.
Just as Janet is giving the Beyonce’s and at the Aria’s of the world a run for their money, Missy is back to slay the likes of Lill’ Kim etc. (I think I have been watching the Legends Panel too much!).
I’ll even forgive her the ubiquitous Pharrell Williams bit part!
4. More Than Most (Starcadian Remix) – Bright Light Bright Light – Life is Hard (The Remixes)
I Love Bright Light Bright Light and this year I was lucky to see him in a small venue in Shoreditch, London.
BLBL released a remix album of Life is Easy called Life is Hard (how very 80’s) and this for me was one of the stand out remixes.
I liked this track before and thankfully this remix enhanced the song whilst lifting it to a new level.
5. Calling Out – Penguin Prison – Lost in New York
I am surprised Penguin Prison has featured so heavily on my playlist this year but I really like Lost in New York and PP has really pulled out the stops.
His voice sounds great and the music is punchy and poppy without sounding or blending in with the usual worthless pop talent that the radios insist on playing.
6. Resonate – Avec Sans – Hold On
I first saw Avec Sans supporting Bright Light Bright Light and I was hooked. A quirky electronic duo (aren’t they all from the UK?), they have some great material and Resonate is a particular favourite of mine.
This is edgy and dark but it shows off their vocal and electronic talents brilliantly.
7. The Original High – Adam Lambert – The Original High
Now here is a surprise and the first to make it due to Beats One Radio. I don’t listen to pop music any more and I don’t listen to the radio but when Apple launched Apple Music I gave it a go and this was played.
I was aware of Adam Lambert but not familiar with his music and have to say both the single and the album have had the odd listen. A pleasant surprise and a welcome addition to my music collection.
8. Firefly – Mura Masa – Someday Somewhere
This came my way via Shuffler.fm which I occasionally use when I have “nothing to listen to” (pre Unbreakable days obviously!).
I love the unashamed use of the xylophone and the finger snaps that drive this track. It’s light, fun and whimsical. It’s also damn catchy too 🙂
9. King Kunta – Kendrik Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
I surprised many by saying how much I liked this album and King Kunta was a stand out for me. It’s unabashed, it’s loud and it shows what Kendrick is good at.
Yes it has attitude and yes some may find it offensive but I love it and believe it or not I can pretty much sing along to this!
10. Perfect Couples – Belle and Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
This is the stand out track from this years new album and it was great to hear Belle & Sebastian play this live during their Somerset House set in the summer.
It’s playful but typically whimsical and informative. The lyrics are clever and the melody bounces along. The content is playful and reminds me of 70’s house parties… Who else could sing so cheerfully of couple seperating?
11. Drive – Dornik – Drive
Dornik has a great soulful voice and his musical style is modern yet there are great nods to the past. Drive is a perfect example of his talents and I can see why it was picked as the title track for his debut album
Yes there are comparisons of Michael Jackson but who cares! You’ll be singing this for sure.
12. 1000 X’s & 0’s – Prince – HITNRUN Phase 1
After years of waiting – a decent track from Prince!
In fact the last two tracks on HITNRUN (June being the other one), are pure Prince brilliance. It’s such a shame he’s focussed on his crusade against the music industry and the Internet. When can we start talking about Prince because of the music instead of the Controversy (no pun intended).
This is a little gem of loveliness. It’s got the great hooks and melodies Prince is known for and yet it comes across as a fresh and modern. I love it!
(Absolutely no chance of a YouTube, Spotify or Apple Music link for this one!)
13. When It Rains, It Pours (feat. Niko the Kid) – Databoy – When It Rains, It Pours (Single)
Another track that I first heard on Shuffler and another ear worm.
I defy anyone to get this chorus out of their head – it’s catchy, it’s bright and it’s fun. Yes it’s euro pop trashy but who cares. The world needs more reasons to smile!
14. Green & Gold – Lianne La Havas – Blood
This is the album I could not remember in the bar when talking to Enda about this list! I know the song but the album and artist escaped me and that I fear is the problem with the music industry these days.
Yes Lianna is a contemporary of Prince but I hope she does not go the same way as Jangle Monae and sell out her vision for the sake of the music industry.
I love the acoustic guitar melody of this track and the lyrics are biographical and whimsical. It’s such a lovely showcase for Lianna’s voice. Brilliant.
15. Get Things Done – Little Boots – Working Girl
I will be honest. I had written off Little Boots after her debut. She change her focus, moved to her own independent label, collaborated with Jean Michael Jarre and the results are an album full of life and vibrancy.
It’s not trying to hard, it’s not pandering to tastes and moods – it simply works.
I love the chorus of this song and I love the energy that Victoria has put into it. If only other artists were given such freedom to create such good work.
Those that didn’t quite make it…
I’d like to include John Grant, New Order and Disclosures new offerings but I have added them to my playlist but still have not listened to them.
Benjamin Clementine made it into the top 10 for the briefest of moments before being removed. I love London but it’s just not as strong as I had hoped and to be honest a few bits of his new album scare me!
I was going to include Hotline Bling from Drake as that has been on my radar but it did not quite make it…
This selection ended up being far more varied than I expected! I hope you enjoyed having a read/listen through my musical version of 2015.
Have a listen to my playlist on Apple Music or Spotify: