Phoenix FM presenters choose their favourite albums and tracks of the year …
Album: Aaron Goldberg – The Now
Best known for the blisteringly rapid OAM’s Blues, which featured in the Media Player library for Windows Vista a few years ago, Aaron Goldberg is a master technician at the piano. I am lucky enough to have played together with Aaron in his apartment in Greenwich Village, New York. This album demonstrates his sensitive touch and lyricism at the piano.
Track: Maria Schneider – Walking by Flashlight
I may have talked about it in the favourite tracks of summer, but Maria Schneider’s Walking By Flashlight deserves another mention. Gorgeous melodically and with her customary rich orchestration, this is a life affirming piece of music.
Album: Chvrches – Every Open Eye
This is the second album from the three-piece band whose songs are often evocative of early synth-pop yet with a contemporary sound all of their own. Lauren Mayberry’s voice is the main appeal for me though – slightly sassy and very sweet.
Track: Felix Jaehn feat Jasmine Thompson – Ain’t Nobody (Loves Me Better)
A mark of the popularity of Rufus and Chaka Khan’s 1983 classic is the number of times it’s been sampled or covered by others, including Jasmine Thompson’s acoustic version in 2013. That itself was subjected to the remixing skills of Felix Jaehn, resulting in one of a fair few polished reworkings of dance anthems in 2015.
Album: Jess Glynne – I Cry When I Laugh
After a long wait, I’m glad Jess Glynne finally released this album. Jess brings a different kind of soulful sound to her listeners, mixed with her unique tone and style of song writing. This makes the album more interesting, especially with the addition of a few of my favourite tracks including Hold My Hand, Don’t Be So Hard and Not Letting Go.
Track: Rudimental feat Ed Sheeran – Lay It All On Me
I heard this song a few days before it was released on the radio, while driving one night. The chorus was really catchy with an edgy sound, so as usual I sang along and I haven’t stopped ever since. Ed and Rudimental are both favourites of mine, so this collaboration most definitely makes this my favourite single for 2015.
Album: Alabama Shakes – Sound and Color
Just because of the amazing voice that Brittany Howard possesses and the fact that the members of the band look most unlike rock artists.
Track: Mark Ronson feat Mystikal – Feel Right
Echoes of James Brown at his best and one of those tracks that takes you out of wherever you happen to be and puts you on the dancefloor.
Album: Kevin Gordon – Long Gone Time
I participated in the crowdfunding campaign for this album a couple of years ago, and it was finally released in the summer. Four years after his previous masterpiece, Gloryland, Kevin Gordon has come up with the goods yet again. Beautifully played, swampy, growly grooves back up the stories to music he’s written. It flows along and forces you to listen to the lyrics. Not all joy and happiness but real life stories of ordinary people. I’ve been fortunate enough to see him perform and it’s just a joy to behold. I cannot recommend this album enough
Track: The Cadillac Three – White Lightning
Originally released on their debut album, Tennessee Mojo in 2013, it was re-recorded for the single release this year. It’s become one of those “cigarette lighter moments” at their live shows and tells the story of how Jaren Johnston (the lead singer and guitarist) met his wife.
Album: Reverend and the Makers – Mirrors
This will change tomorrow morning – I’ve been dreading this because there has been so many good albums this year. 2015 has been the best year for music for a decade, period. Now this can be argued of course, but when you look at what has come out this year, it’s no wonder when I pull my pockets inside out there isn’t much left. Given how much money I spend, I may as well be a HMV shareholder. Anyway, I’ll go with Reverend and The Makers with their album “Mirrors”. Why? Well I like an album which is fluent, something that doesn’t stop, like as if its telling a story. I was amazed from the first time I listened to it. The songs are short, the choruses are big. Best album out of the five they have produced, and if anything, it was a little surprising coming from them. If asked I could have easily done a top 20, but alas, this is my choice at the time of writing. Ask me tomorrow and I’ll recommend another 2015 classic.
Track: Florence and the Machine – Queen Of Peace
Again, this is likely change if you ask me tomorrow. When I think of a singular song that gives me tingles down my spine every time I hear it, well this is it. I know lots of people were saddened when Dave Grohl broke his leg and couldn’t perform at Glastonbury, but who better to step up to the mark then Florence Welch herself. She was fantastic. Everything about this song is perfect, from the long introduction, to the brass instrumental, strong lyrics, and a big chorus that I cant help but sing/scream in my car. Need I go on? Each Florence song is an event in itself.
Album: Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls
Well, it was only going to be one album for me this year. The boys are back .. and better than ever. Building from the opening tracks of If Eternity Should Fail and Speed of Light to the crescendo of Empire of the Clouds, this is Iron Maiden at their most epic.
Track: Tokyo Taboo – Bubbilicious
One of the top performances of our Creative Sessions I think, this song has been stuck in my head since I first heard it. Great riff, quirky vocal, crazy group.
Album: Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Sufjan’s first album in five years is a heartbreaking journey of the loss of a loved one. Beautifully stripped back and full of emotion, it’s a raw, personal journey that was definitely the musical highlight of 2015.
Track: Braids – Sore Eyes
From their third album Deep In The Iris, a song I’ve listened to countlessly this year. With an infectious melody and thought provoking lyrics Braids just get better and better.
Album: The Prodigy – The Day Is My Enemy
This album marks a true return to form for Essex dance act The Prodigy. Though not quite on par with The Fat Of The Land, The Day Is My Enemy has a confidence and ferocity not seen for many years. Full of genre influences such as dubstep and electronica, there is also plenty to find for fans of their earlier breakbeat sound too and is sure to generate many future classic tracks. The Prodigy have always been a live band, and in a way the albums just present more for the formidable arsenal. This album also represents a first, where both Keith Flint and Maxim have had input in the writing and recording process with mastermind Liam Howlett. Highlights for me include the title track The Day Is My Enemy, opening with a menacingly suspenseful marching bass and altered siren, and the extremely good Ibiza with vocals from the very talented Sleaford Mods.
Track: David Bowie – Blackstar
One of the greatest recording artists of all time is back with a new album, the title track of which is a real marmite offering – which I happen to love! Ten minutes long, this track must be absorbed by watching the bizarre accompanying short film – to call it a music video is an understatement. In this track Bowie has crammed drum and bass, acid house, blues, rock and Gregorian chant inspired vocals into a haunted jazztronica masterpiece. The video itself is based around a young women (with a tail) on an alien land who finds an astronaut’s skeleton (Major Tom perhaps) and takes his jewel-encrusted skull to be worshipped in a fantastical village while the skeleton floats off towards a giant ‘black hole sun’. There’s not even time to mention the scarecrows, gyrating models and Bowie with head wrapped in bandages and ‘Coraline’ button eyes preaching with his Blackstar book. Phew! This track has to be seen (and heard) to be believed and in my opinion is something new and very special indeed. Bowie on top form.
Album: Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too
Young Fathers second record is lo-fi, filled with drum machines , rock grooves and the vocals that sound like a preacher-man testifying. Good tunes, a strong album
Track: Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney – FourFiveSeconds
Early January saw the return of Rihanna with a surprising folksy acoustic jam session of a track with three of the biggest names in the industry. The song was a collaboration between beatmaster Kanye and the Beatles legend, and while McCartney unsurprisingly is on guitar duty the other two layer raw vocal tracks to give a simplistic tone. As Music Site Noisey put it, “it sounds like sunshine”.
Album: Jeff Lynne’s ELO – Alone In The Universe
I know it’s a recent release but I’ve always liked ELO and as Jeff Lynne was the voice of the band, to me it’s the nearest thing to the original group. Great songwriter and it’s good to have him back.
Track: James Bay – Hold Back The River
Great song – simple as that.
Album: Sigma – Life
Sigma’s debut album, Life, is most definitely my album of the year. With unblemished, immaculate vocals, sourced from artists such as Rita Ora, Jacob Banks and Labrinth, the duo have formulated a euphoric and hedonistic platform that foreshadows further success in 2016.
Track: Diplo & Sleepy Tom – Be Right There
The newly created adaption of the 90’s club classic ‘Don’t Walk Away’ by Jade. Climbed up to the highest point of the Top 40 in rapid speed earlier this year, demonstrating an undeniable feel-good and dance flavour as well as infectious melodies.
Album: Florence and the Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Two of the most brilliant singles I’ve heard this year have come from a single album – therefore my album of the year is … not Coldplay … not Adele … not a various artists effort BUT Florence and the Machine!
Track: Years and Years – Shine
For me this was the year of indecision – nothing stood out for me. So would it be Charlie Puth and Megan Traynor with Marvin Gaye or Adele or Coldplay … well actually if you discount Sigala, which I loved for 10 minutes or perhaps Major Lazer … on my airplay alone my single of the year is Shine.
Album: Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon
Second album from polyrhythmic-futurefunk (their words) Melbourne quartet shows a tremendous growth in their unique sound!
Track: Stick in the Wheel – Bedlam
This haunting version of Bedlam from the Essex natives was nominated for a BBC folk award. Great stuff!
Album: Frisk Frugt – Den Europæiske Spejlbue
The Frisk Frugt album caught me completely unaware. It’s charming, unique and eccentric. Sort of traditional Danish classical music re-imagined with homemade instruments. I don’t think I’ve heard anything like it before but couldn’t stop playing it.
Track: The Cesarians – Control
The Cesarians were a band I loved anyway, but it’s the inclusion of this almost uncharacteristic song on their album Pure White Speed that really did it for me. A masterful piece of pop composition. Every part is more exciting than the bit which precedes it. Absolutely glorious, heartbreaking and triumphant.
Album: Brandon Flowers – The Designed Effect
I tend to go for very well-produced music which is not too jarring and this album certainly falls into that category. Good to see it made number one in the album charts.
Track: Years and Years – Shine
I kept hearing this in the gym and it took forever to try and work out who it was. Very catchy and beautifully produced.
Album: Craig Finn – Faith in the Future
The Hold Steady frontman released his second solo offering earlier this year and it’s seldom been off of my turntable. With more than a hint of Springsteen and storytelling that evokes images of Dylan, Faith in the Future is an immense piece of work.
Track: Ryan Adams – Bad Blood
Taken from his take of the Taylor Swift album 1989, Ryan Adams’ version of Bad Blood highlights just how good pop music can be when stripped down and given heartbreaking alt country treatment. Lovely.
Album: Anima – Sacred Alliance
If you need to be soothed by music and find some peace in the chaos of life, this album contains many evocative tracks that can transport you to anywhere in the world in your mind. I’ve been a fan of Anima for many years and they never cease to produce amazing collections of music. It’s quite difficult to find music that’s soothing and peaceful without being too dull. There are so many meditation tracks available including apps, but I find most of them too fast and just not easy listening.
Track: Arvo Pärt, Wiltener Sängerknaben, Wilten Boys’ Choir and Johannes Stecher – Magnificat
This track, from their album Babel, is a beautifully spiritual piece and performed by the Wilten Boys Choir from Innsbruck. This year was Pärt’s 80th birthday so if you haven’t discovered him before and you like the sound of a magnificent choir this is a great one to start with.
Album: Opolopo – Superconductor
I discovered this artist late one night when looking for another track of the same name. The whole album is a giddy mix of funky tunes, again pretty retro in style. No misses on this album, all fine tracks. The video to the single Get On Up is worth taking a look at.
Track: Mark Ronson featt Keyone Starr – I Can’t Lose
Very retro funk as only Mr Ronson can do – catchy and a good follow up to the massive Uptown Funk. Makes me think back to the days of Quincy Jones’ Back on the Block album.
Album: David Gilmour – Rattle That Lock
Predictable for me as a Floydite, but despite the title track which was forced this album has just grown and grown on me. His best work, says the author himself. Play loud on headphones late at night.
Track: Jack Savoretti – Back Where I Belong
Think I played this constantly during this summer. Swirling and upbeat – just loved it.
Album: Rod Stewart – Another Country
Because I’m a big Rod Stewart fan.
Track: Rod Stewart – Please
Because I’m a big Rod Stewart fan!
Album: Now That’s What I Call Music! 92
It’s cheesy and a bit predictable but I think it has, as it does have some of the best and current tunes of 2015 and that is why I think it is album of the year. With Justin Bieber, One Direction, Olly Murs, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith all top artists that have released some very good songs this year and so many others on the album that I can’t all name because I would go on forever.
Track: James Bay – Let It Go
This was very tough choice to pick the record that I love throughout the whole year but I have managed to finally make a decision. I just think it is a very chilled out and personal song which I can connect with rather than just enjoying the sound. Also he’s been gone from strength to strength this year and I’m sure we’ll defiantly see more from him.
Album: Disclosure – Caracal
The Lawrence brothers’ second album is more chilled out than their debut “Settle”, but they still shun the thumping beats and over-repetitiveness of a lot of dance music in favour of a more thoughtful, song-orientated approach that doesn’t get caught up in itself while still giving plenty of floor-fillers that certainly got the crowd going at their recent three night residency at Alexandra Palace.
Track: Youth Club – Pressure
Another fine single from the Southend band who mix together indie and dance influences seamlessly to create a sound where you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next – but you can’t wait to find out what does!
Album: Jeff Lynne’s ELO – Alone In The Universe
I have always liked ELO, which is strange because my favourite music has always been 70s and 80s soul music. But they give me a nice alternative.
Track: Olly Murs – Kiss Me
I heard Olly sing it live at the O2 this year. It came over really strong – it’s a song with soulful vibes and very catchy lyrics.
Album: Muse – Drones
This may come as a surprise as it’s not normally the genre or kind of artist I’d usually pick – and it’s completely different to my presenter pick single – but I’m choosing Drones as my album of the year. I’ve really got into their music this year, and a friend has helped me to really listen and appreciate the different components and sounds that Muse create through playing their instruments and how it all works together. When you really pay attention to this you hear the lyrics, Muse’s passion for music and meaning of the song in a whole new perspective. I’ve listened to Drones a few times over the year and it has excited me into buying a ticket to see the band live in April on their album-supporting tour!
Track: Jake Miller – Rumors
This year I discovered a new artist in US rapper/pop singer Jake Miller. Originating from uploading his own songs to YouTube, he has supported Snoop Dogg and also collaborated with Travie McCoy. He has a growing fanbase all over the world, who call themselves the Millertary, and I class myself as part of this! I love all his songs, but the lead single from his second EP is my presenter pick single. The track, with the same name as the EP Rumors, is a popular and catchy song which showcases his rapping and singing talents. When I went to see him live at The O2 Islington in October everyone in the crowd was dancing and singing along.
Album: Leon Bridges – Coming Home
You could be forgiven for listening to this debut album and thinking you have stumbled across an unknown classic from Marvin Gaye or Sam Cooke. It has an amazing mid 60s soul feel. This young singer-guitarist from Fort Worth, Texas clearly has an interesting future as he manages to take a nostalgic sound and turn it into something new.
Track: The Shires – All Over Again
Duo Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle are the first British country act to be signed to a major Nashville label. This catchy song is about focussing on a relationship that life has disrupted and recapturing the original feelings. They are an interesting band nominated for seven awards this year by the British Country Music Association. And they sang live in the Phoenix FM studio too!
Album: Blur – The Magic Whip
A major surprise to hear that Blur were a real band again – and a bigger suprise to hear the quality of the music, thanks to the magic of Graham Coxon and Stephen Street who rescued the songs from being a Damon Albarn dog’s egg of an LP. As good as anything the band created in their 90s heyday.
Track: Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian At Best
Brilliant old-school “stream of consciousness” indie offering which was a staple of every US college rock station I tuned into while driving around the country in February. Great video too highlighting the futility of fleeting clown popularity.
Album: Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 1: The Time Machine
I was really looking forward to this album from The French Electronic pioneer. This album seemed clearly designed to introduce Jarre to a new generation, which is no bad thing. There are 16 songs on Electronica 1 and 15 collaborators (“Automatic”, a co-production with Yazoo’s Vince Clarke, is in two parts). The album includes 1970s legends Tangerine Dream, along with odd soloists like Laurie Anderson and Pete Townsend from The Who, to newer artists like Air to rising music stars like, Armin van Buurin, M83 and Little Boots. So for me the album shows many shades of electronic music and almost celebrates the multitude of artist out there play that genre.
Track: Promenade Cinema – A Chemical Haunting
A début single from a duo from Yorkshire, who in my mind have a vastly mature sound with some subtle youthful pop sensibilities. This track swirls around in its sonic drama and to me creates the feeling of a classic B-movie, horror/ spy thrillers film noire. Melodic and haunting; I’m so looking forward to hearing more in 2016 as this is a impressive debut.
Album: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday
Big fan of the Gallaghers who have made a lot of great records over the years.
Track: Foo Fighters – Saint Cecilia
A good upbeat tune which gets you in the mood!
Album: Carly Rae Jepsen – E•MO•TION
Her own composition, I Really Like You, was released as the album’s lead single, staying in the UK charts for 20 weeks peaking at number 3 and holding the position for two consecutive weeks.
Track: Kid Rock – First Kiss
A great easy going and enjoyable rocking track with lyrics that remind us oldies of all those good times we enjoyed in years long gone, whilst hopefully encouraging youngsters to live every moment to the full so that they too will have great memories to look back on.
Album: Tremonti – Cauterize
Creed and Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti’s second solo album is a raw, powerful, motivating and uncompromising effort. It shows you don’t need screams in hard rock/metal albums to be heavy and loud.
Track: Iron Maiden – Empire Of The Clouds
Telling the story of the airship R101 and its demise in October 1930, this epic track is the longest track Maiden has done to date. Fiery, imaginative and quite moving – it takes you on a musical journey. The line “dreams live on” really speaks to me.
Album: James Bay – Chaos And The Calm
It’s fair to say James is one of 2015’s British solo breakout artists. It’s also fair to say he looks like Andy Carroll who has run into Harry Styles … his album lyrically, melodically and production wise felt so fresh to me, especially with the current state of the charts this year all being dominated with power sounds, DIY drills and house songs.
Track: OMI – Cheerleader (2015 version)
I was fortunate enough to be sent this track to play before it came out. Got such a great vibe to it. I also saw him sing this at Wembley Stadium – seeing 70,000 people dancing and knowing all the words to this one was a highlight for me for sure.
Album: William D Drake – Revere Reach
Track: Prefuse 73 – Applauded Assumptions
Album: Elvis Presley with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – If I Can Dream
I’m a big Elvis fan and I can’t resist any chance I get to buy the same songs done in a slightly different way!
Track: Hozier – Take Me To Church (2015 version)
Reminds me of those glorious summer nights at Shenfield Cricket Club.
Album: Public Service Broadcasting – The Race For Space
If we choose the album we’ve played most for the year, this will be the one for me. Based on the early space missions the album brought on a whole new meaning for me after seeing PSB live at this year’s Latitude Festival.
Track: Boy and Bear – Walk The Wire
The first single release from the Australian band’s 3rd album, Limit of Love. A track which has been stuck in my head for the last couple of months.
Album: Years and Years – Communion
My album of the year goes to a band that was top of my “ones to watch” list last year! Communion is fantastic and is one of my most played DJ albums of the year too. Also a big shout out to Elvis Presley for making the 2015 Album charts. Rock n Roll Baby!
Track: Jess Glynne – Hold My Hand
What a fantastic run this lady has had since she featured on Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be”. She has also featured on many other artist hits this year!
Album: Jamie xx – In Colour
In Colour was Jamie xx’s full-length solo debut. He gathers up elements of everything he’s done in the past six years, from moody ballads and floor-filling bangers to expansive vocal collaborations.
He also possesses a talent for layering, blending samples of voice, saturated bass, and deep beats, so smoothly that they form a larger, singular sound. This sound is entirely his own, and makes In Colour, one of the most emotional and transcendent pieces of dance albums in years.
The continuous flow of this album is pure musical perfection from the first beat to its last. In Colour is a crafted masterpiece, a pure artist’s vision, in which you immerse yourself in the musical world of Jamie xx.
Track: Jody Wisternoff feat Sian Evans – The Bridge (Shur-i-kan remix)
This wasn’t easy. There are two mixes on this Anjunadeep release, one is the original from Bristol based DJ/Producer Jody Wisternoff and a remix from Shur-i-kan.
The remix was a former “Track of the Week” on my show and repeated for many further weeks later.
Shur-i-kan uses the original arrangement of the string ensemble followed by an off beat bass rhythm to create a dramatic transformation of The Bridge. This was by far my Track of the Year, by the biggest distance conceivable.
Album: Stereophonics – Keep The Village Alive
This is the band’s 9th studio album, with all the tracks written and co-produced by lead singer Kelly Jones. I love every song, which is unusual nowadays! And you get even more to enjoy on the Deluxe double CD!
Track: Markus Feehily – Love Is A Drug
I really enjoyed the debut single from the ex-Westlife singer with his incredible vocals over beautiful strings (and the video is amazing!) I’m looking forward to hearing more from Markus in 2016.