If you’re sick of end of year lists, look away now. Right, if you’re still with us we have the 10 best tracks reviewed on these pages this year, plus one bonus track which I’ll explain later, but, if you want to know why you should bother with this Top Ten, to quote Nigel Tufnel, “Well, it’s one better, isn’t it?”
2015 was a cracking year for new music, with certain themes emerging, and some memorable one-offs. The summer was one of glorious electronic-pop, then the nights got longer and the music more reflective, but along the way there was some old school indie, classic pop tunes, intriguing lo-fi electronica and a welcome slice of rock.
This list is more about individual tracks rather than albums (although you can hear a discussion on those on our forthcoming End of Year Podcast), and you can discover much more of the new music we covered on Scots Whay Hae! by listening to our Best of 2015 Spotify list.
Enough yacking, here’s the countdown, in chronological order, and what we thought about them at the time.
The Duke Detroit – Iconic
More classy sounds from the indie disco in the shape of The Duke, Detroit and their latest single, ‘Iconic’, which is not out till March but is too good not to mention right now. Drum machines, snare, handclaps, bass-lines to die for, and a guitar break that could have come from Nile Rodgers himself; what’s not to like? They’ve been good before, but this is the best thing I have heard from The Duke, Detroit yet and they are quickly becoming one of those bands whose new music you can’t wait for. You won’t be able to listen to this and not have something move when you least expect it:
The Winter Tradition – All Back Home
A band who have appeared regularly on these pages are The Winter Tradition, and that’s because they seem incapable of writing a bad song. Their latest is ‘All Back Home’ and to my ears this is a real step forward musically, adding a richer production without taking anything away from the quality of the songwriting and playing. Released today (March 9th), with an album to follow, and a cracking video to boot, The Winter Tradition are a band firing on all cylinders and you can’t shake the feeling that their time is now:
Oskar – Wildlings
Now Dunfermline band OSKAR and their single ‘Wildlings’, which is an instant classic. Building from the opening drums, which are reminiscent of Joy Division, and with David Stevens’ warm and rich vocal stylings, ‘Wildlings’ proved to be one of the best things I have heard in some time, passing the rare ‘three in a row’ test that so few songs do these days, and I’ve been playing it at least once a day since. Round about the same time I had my first listen of the new Idlewild album Everything Ever Written, which is fine, but I found myself thinking that there is nothing on it to hold a candle to ‘Wildlings’. This is how you do it:
Linden – Rest & Be Thankful
The following song features one of Scotland’s great voices. As I’m sure you know, Joe McAlinden was the frontman of Superstar who, with 18 Carat, Palm Tree and Phat Dat, made three of the best albums of the late ’90s which should have made them bigger than they were. McAlinden is now the driving force behind Linden, and the new album Rest And Be Thankful shows that there are few things better in this world than his plaintive, elegiac vocals married to the melancholic pop songs of which he is a master. Here’s the title track, and it will make you smile just as it breaks your heart:
WHITE – Future Pleasures
June 2014’s roundup included the debut single from WHITE, ‘Living Fiction’ and it promised great things. Well one of those great things has arrived in the perfectly formed shape of their new single ‘Future Pleasures’. It is a piece of new-wave reminiscent of The Monochrome Set, Gang of Four or Scritti Politti with added funk. If the idea of Magazine with (that man again) Nile Rodgers on guitar and Billy Mackenzie on vocals appeals then this is for you, with Leo Condie once more proving he is a singer who is impossible to ignore. Sheer class and verging on the addictive, it’s easily one of the best songs of 2015 so far:
The Deadline Shakes – Frozen Out
And now for something a little different from The Deadline Shakes who have, with just a few releases to their name, quickly become one of my favourite bands of the day. They have already released one of the best singles of the year with April’s ‘Phonecalls In The Bath’ and they’ve only gone and done it again with ‘Frozen Out’. They make multi-layered music which ebbs and flows, sounding at once familiar and yet as fresh as…well, as a summer’s day, and this is a superb example of that. Some bands go through whole careers and don’t sound as effortless as this, with everything working together just as it should. Their debut album Zealots is out in November, but until then enjoy ‘Frozen Out’ which is a double A-side single with the equally strong ‘Sweeten The Deal’. Prepare to be dazzled:
John Mulhearn – Tak
Let us introduce you to John Mulhearn’s Tak from the EP Mountains And Molehills. Although it’s an unwieldy term, this is folktronica at its finest, and it’s a match to anything in this genre coming from Scandinavia or elsewhere. Although there is the influence of post rock and ambient music, Mulhearn is steeped in the traditions of Scottish folk music, and is determined to take it to new places without losing sight of its roots, or respect for the instruments. Understated yet powerful, John Mulhearn’s music creates a soundscape that is his alone:
Vukovi – Boy George
Some quality noise now from Vukovi, who you must see in the flesh if you get the chance. Why? Well, because they play great music with a verve and passion which is perfect in a live setting. Often it’s difficult to capture such excitement on record, but their new single ‘Boy George’, manages that with ease. A righteous and riotous slice of power pop which is deep down and dirty, just like the man who lends his name to the song. Guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face, this is ‘Boy George’:
A Mote Of Dust – Wolves In The Valley
The perfect song for marking the passing of summer came in the beautiful and fragile form of A Mote Of Dust’s ‘Wolves In The Valley’. The latest project from Craig b who has fine form being previously involved with Aerogramme and The Unwinding Hours, ‘Wolves In The Valley’ is a taster for their album, also called A Mote Of Dust, which is released in October. However, you can pre-order it now and here. If you’re like me you’ll do that precisely 1.34 minutes into your first listen to ‘Wolves In The Valley’ which has Craig b’s plaintive vocals over some gorgeous acoustic guitar, and which will break your heart. And don’t miss a frame of Brendan Smith’s video as it’s equally beguiling:
Blue Rose Code – Grateful
We have featured his work many times on these pages but Blue Rose Code refuses to be ignored, in the most charming manner possible. He simply makes moving and memorable music which is, like the best things in life, deceptively simple. If it was that easy, we’d all be doing it – but only a few can. This is the new single ‘Grateful’, which you can buy here, and if you are a fan of the sort of Americana as played by the likes of Gillian Welch, Conor Oberst or Micah P Hinson or, closer to home, the music of The Bathers, then look no further for your new favourite song. A beautiful piece of music that will stay with you – and a video to match. This is ‘Grateful’:
That’s your 10, but I promised you one better, and we are a website of our word. We’ve featured ex-Geneva singer Andrew Montgomery on these pages before as well, and we are of the informed opinion that he is one of the best singers around. In November he guested on Swedish electronic duo Canvas’s single ‘Another Time’, which more than makes that point. It was meant to appear in last month’s roundup, and slipped through the net so here it is as a wee Christmas pressie. Don’t say we’re not good to you…
And that’s your whack for 2015 – we hope there’s something of which you approve, and bring on 2016.