Friday, December 25, 2015

2015 In Albums: A Short Introduction

A few notes about this year's review of the year in new albums:

*I basically wanted to list the full range of albums I've enjoyed this year. This currently runs to some 215 albums, an entirely arbitrary number. I've tried to briefly/describe summarise the lower numbers, which I'll publish tonight, and have written in slightly more depth about the Top 100 which I'll try and publish tomorrow.

*The purpose of this exercise, for me anyway, is not so much to decide the 'best' albums of the year. I always think that more time and distance are required in order to assess what has really been important and influential. The main aim is to encourage wide, open-minded listening and to encourage a positive view of contemporary music, which I see as being very much alive and healthy. Whilst it's fun trying to assemble some kind of order, it is mostly arbitrary to be honest.

*It's a very personal list. Even with so many albums, I've inevitably missed some things out. Someone will probably be aggrieved at the lack of Jamie xx, Everything Everything, Jason Isbell, Dr Dre or whatever. There's only so much time in the day.

*Every year, I seem to hear more music. Part of this is certainly ease of access, for better or for worse (I no longer *have* to spend money on everything directly and much is sent to me for reviewing).

*Some interesting trends I observe in my tastes - greater preferences for female artists and for collaborative projects.

*Some honourable mentions of some records I feel a bit too closely involved with to include: I did PR for five albums during 2015 - Liam Noble's outstanding and imaginative solo piano work A Room Somewhere, the magnificent collection of modern vocal standards that is Westerly by The Printmakers, the Duets album by Richard Fairhurst & John Taylor, imbued with additional poignance as a result of John's death, Julian Arguelles' thrilling and joyful collection of big band arrangements of South African jazz on Let It Be Told, and the imaginative and intelligent New Era by Dee Byrne's Entropi. All of these are more than worthy of investigation.

Also - A Grave With No Name's Feathers Wet, Under The Moon feels like one of the year's most overlooked records. My friend Alex Shields has been making great music under this name for several years now - but for this one he veered outside his comfort zone and recorded in Nashville with Mark Nevers. It helps that he wrote his best set of songs here - and was able to record them mostly free from sonic trickery. It's such a strong work. I've recently been working with Alex on some new music which I hope will see the light of day soon.

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