It’s December again, and the world is just as fucked as ever. Possibly slightly more, possibly slightly less. I guess it’s easy to lose track of these things without an ordered list to tell you what to think. Having been precariously perched on the 2015 bar stool for quite some time now, we’ll soon be staring down the menacing barrel of 2016. So how best to celebrate yet another successful orbit around the Sun?
We thought about publishing an objectively correct ranking of the year’s best records. But sadly we couldn’t get hold of any doof doof scientists to determine what the metrics should be. Instead, we’ve fallen back on our Top 8 Whatevers. You know the score – our trusted team of R$N scribes pitch in with lists of music they’ve enjoyed, petty grievances they want to air, obscure interests they want to highlight. Basically whatever’s on their mind. Let’s do this. Here's James' Top 8 of 2015.
MURLO'S HOUSE OF VANS DAZED MIX
This isn’t just one of the best things of 2015, it’s one of the best things of all time. Ever. I’m not going to try to explain why, just listen to it and you’ll wonder how you managed up to this point without it.
n.b. It’s also the perfect length for my train journey out of London, to the point where the other day the mix ended exactly as I pressed the button to open the doors and get off. If that’s not a sign of some sort I don’t know what is.
JAMES BLAKE LIVE
Amidst all the girls seemingly in fancy dress as Hannah Wants and the slightly dodgy looking Manc blokes who clearly wish they were born 20 years earlier, there was quite a lot going for Parklife this year; particularly the lineup. And as is so often the case when he’s on the bill, James Blake was the highlight. I managed to hold it together this time (his cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You’ left me a blubbering mess previously), but he confirmed yet again that he’s my favourite live performer and one of my favourite people in music.
A real game changer. This might not be a revelation to others, I don’t know how slow on the uptake I was with this one. A quick google search reveals references to this culinary delight from as early as 2006, but for me the year of the McGangbang will always be 2015. And what, I hear you cry, is this charmingly named item of which you speak so highly? Just follow these simple steps and your trip to McDonalds will be transformed forever:
- Buy a Double Cheeseburger and a Mayo Chicken (total cost £2.49)
- Unwrap both, and split the Double Cheeseburger between the two beef patties
- Insert the whole Mayo Chicken into the double cheeseburger
- Apply pressure to the top and bottom buns so that it can physically fit in your mouth
- Enjoy the greatest food discovery since someone had the idea that peanut butter and chocolate might go together (as in the classic Family Guy scene)
2014 was unofficially the year of grime – the ‘second coming’ as some called it. But all the headlines were about London. Commercially it was German Whip, That’s Not Me and Rari Workout that did best, BBK were the unofficial face of the whole scene (see the Red Bull Culture Clash) and Stormzy and Novelist were the hot new property. Obviously in 2015 London is still the de facto home of the scene (and the same names are the ones being talked about most) but the rising interest in grime that seemingly developed last year has allowed for MCs across the nation to benefit and see themselves garnering attention to match that of their London compatriots. Manchester’s Bugzy Malone was one of the most hyped artists of the year, and with a little help from a clash with Chip got his EP into the top 10. Izzie Gibbs, from Northampton, had a huge year and saw his name thrown around in all the ‘ones to watch’ lists. Sheffield’s Coco dropped one of the biggest grime tracks of the year in ‘Big Bou Yah’. Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield, Manchester, Bristol (and more) are all producing contenders for the next generation of grime. Basically, whereas 2014 reminded the world just how relevant grime is, 2015 reminded everyone that it’s not just a London thing.
SCROOBIUS PIP'S DISTRACTION PIECES PODCAST
Scroobius Pip is an interesting bloke. He’s a poet, a rapper and a spoken word artist who loves UFC, comic books and Milwall FC. But even more interesting are the huge variety of people he has on his podcast, people who he chats to for an hour (or more) about anything and everything. It actually started in late 2014, but since then he’s had musicians, comedians, filmmakers, writers, environmentalists, his mum and a particularly moving episode with a Congolese refugee. Trust me, these are well worth a listen.
PEACE LOVE & MUSIC
I’ve not come over all 60’s flower-power (as nice as that might be); this is the slightly cornily named album from one of the most underrated producers in the UK - Swindle. I’m not saying this is THE best album of the year, but it’s definitely up there with my favourites and it has been inexplicably ignored by all the end of year lists I’ve seen so far. It’s sort of a concept album, a tour of the world stopping off in various cities and countries (LA, Denver, London, Cape Town, Phillipines, China, Japan) but without being nearly as pretentious and wanky as that makes it sound. Despite being release on Butterz and having guest appearances from JME and Flowdan it’s not a grime album by any stretch - there's all sorts of funk, jazz, dubstep, reggae, world etc. (and other collabs from Mungo’s Hifi, Ash Riser, TC and Guerilla Speakerz among others). Should have been bigger than it was.
You can identify all the periods in my life when I had important exams to revise for by the corresponding mobile/flash games I spent far too much time playing instead. It’s like a word association game of procrastination. GCSEs - Bloons, AS Level - Tetris, A Level - 8 Ball Pool, Uni finals - 1010!. But where the others fell by the wayside (except Tetris, that's still the ultimate), 1010! remains the most used app on my phone. What’s that? You want to know my high-score? It’s 35,745. Which funnily enough is exactly the time in minutes I’ve spent playing the game since I downloaded it.
No night has yet (or perhaps will ever) live up to the standard set by DMZ 8 back in March 2013. The day/night after my 19th birthday is one that will stay with me forever. Knowing this to be the case I didn’t allow myself to get carried away and expect the same levels from the label’s tenth birthday celebrations in July. Firstly, where 8 had been in a tunnel under a railway with undeniably the heaviest hitting soundsytem going (the RC1), 10 was RC1-less and in the much less appropriate main room of Electric Brixton. Nonetheless, few things give me as much joy as seeing Skream stop pretending he’s into all that techno bollocks and absolutely shell it playing the music he pioneered. In one night I got to see Mala, Coki, Loefah, Skream, Kode 9, Benny Ill, Zed Bias, Hatcha, N-Type, Chef, Youngsta, Distance, Truth, Kahn, Commodo and Gantz. And it doesn’t get much better than that (even if it was £30 a ticket).