In a change from the usual “Album Top Ten” I simply wanted to share my favourite music-related things that happened in 2015.
Album of 2015: Muse – Drones
Drones is the 7th album from Muse and it simply did not disappoint. Their earlier effort, The 2nd Law made my #1 spot in 2012 and this is even better. Produced by Mutt Lange, famous for AC/DCs Back in Black and Def Leppard’s Hysteria, the album returns somewhat to the guitar, bass, drums formula the three-piece started with. However not without a little bit of electronica and synth in there for good measure and to great effect.
Before the album came an-almost-too-good-to-be-true performance at the “if Carlsberg did venues” venue, Glasgow Barrowland which was followed up by a mind-blowing headline slot at Download Festival in the summer.
Drones also has the dubious accolade of having frankly the worst album cover of the year. It is ridiculously crass, blunt and cheap-looking. Oh well, they can’t have everything!
Gig of 2015: Madonna – Rebel Heart Tour, SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Leaving the best to last is not the norm; and before this show the aforementioned Muse playing the Barrowland was a shoe-in for my best live show of the year. But on the 20th of December I got to see Madonna in the intimate (for her) 13,000 capacity SSE Hydro in Glasgow.
By the time the gig came around I’d convinced myself she was going to be shit. I’d heard so many differing opinions from people who’d seen her in stadiums supporting lesser albums and most opinions were negative. I’d almost put the upcoming gig down to a “seeing a legend tick-box exercise”.
Growing up I loved Madonna, her songs from the mid-80s right through to the ‘Music’ and ‘Frozen’-era pinpoint parts of my life which I think back on fondly when I hear them. To finally see her live was something awesome. The show was part-gig, part-Cirque de Soleil, total spectacle worthy of the entrance fee. Half of the setlist was from new album Rebel Heart, which also just happens to be about the best thing she’s done in ten years.
For someone nearly 60 she is physically fitter than most people reading this; not stopping for over two hours jumping between dance routines, running around the stage and of course, singing. And this perhaps seems stupid to say, she really can sing. Performing much of her older songs on her own with either an acoustic guitar or with only another guitarist she could have easily been exposed and unable to carry it off. But that simply wasn’t the case – she was superb.
Band of 2015: Faith No More
They’re back. After a comeback of sorts in 2009 with FNM 2.0 the band finally put out some new music this year in Sol Invicitus. The album is superb, and in a traditional Top Ten-type article would feature very highly indeed. It, their performance at Download Festival, and a return to form for Faith No More deserves the accolade of my band of the year.
I’ve always truly loved this band and when they split after Album of the Year it always felt like such a poor ending to a phenomenal career. Their reincarnation and tour gave back the nostalgia, 2015 moved their legacy forward once again with more shows and an album which sounds as relevant, as schizophrenic, and as on-point as everything else they’ve done.
Song of 2015: Divides – Landslide
‘Superhero’ by Faith No More should’ve been in this spot, however it’s about two minutes too long and very repetitive for those last two minutes. Besides, those who know me will recognise my love for a little-known Glasgow band.
2015 saw Divides achieve many things, such as a few tours, playing T in the Park, winning the Best Metal Category at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards, and an exclusive show at my 40th Birthday Party (Diva, moi?). However their greatest achievement this year is the release of their debut EP Anywhere & Nowhere.
Whilst many others seem to love ‘Falsehood’ – another track from that EP – it is the honesty in the lyrics and the big “kick in” from the band around the 2-minute mark of Landslide which sets this song above the rest for me. A cracking song which gets frequent “spins” on my stereo and continually gets me excited for whatever new material we’ll hear from them in 2016.
With big names including Muse, Judas Priest, and Blur playing there the past twelve months in addition to top-rated shows from growing talent, a recent BBC documentary which I was involved in, and Glasgow, musicians, and the wider world growing in love with Barrowland once again, the venue is a high point for any live night out.
If you’ve never been to the Barrowland then you really must get there and discover what all the fuss is about. If you have then you’ll understand exactly why this is my venue of 2015.
New Talent of 2015: Izzy Bizu
Izzy was thrust upon me late this year when I was invited to shoot her show with Foxes at Glasgow’s ABC. We’d featured her single ‘Give Me Love’ and getting a chance to see her live was one that I revelled in.
Her mix of R&B, soul and rock brings a fresh and bright sound to her songs, leaving you humming her tunes long after they’ve stopped. I’ve not even mentioned her voice yet; its awesome. Recently nominated for The Brits Critics Choice Award of 2016, I’d expect to see big things for Izzy next year.