April Fool's day is one of the scariest days of the year. Not because of the terrible "jokes", but because almost every year it marks the moment when you find yourself coasting along, still feeling that the year is just getting started... Then along comes April, and your inner monologue yells 'WTF!!!!! Where did the past three months go?!' or swearier words to that affect.
However, Jan, Feb and March are always a bonanza for alternative music lovers. This is partly because the last few months of the year get clogged up with big releases and year-end victory laps, making it harder for cult concerns and newer acts to get shelf space or rustle up significant media attention. Then there's the small matter of getting enough buzz around the time festivals are booking, so plenty of acts wait for the year to return or drop their debut. We're not complaining, as this has made for an annual season of joy. We've once again had three months filled with great records, and sneaky peeks of big records still to come (Hi Blur! Hello Chromatics!).
If you need a reminder how good 2015's music gods have been to us, take a quick look at our recommended records section which features big names like Bjork, Sufjan Stevens, Sleater-Kinney, Idlewild, The Cribs, Godspeed and Belle & Sebastian, rubbing shoulders with should-probably-be-bigger-names like Errors, Badbadnotgood and Viet Cong.
In an attempt to take stock of the year so far, team DiS have compiled this just over 2 hour playlist featuring the above above plus some Charli XCX, Braids, Tame Impala, LA Priest, Grimes, Spectres and lots more.
Who picked that!? And what's that one? Here are a few words about the bulk of the tracks on here.
Chromatics - I Can Never Be Myself When You're Around
Sean Adams: has been stuck on repeat for weeks. It's a gorgeous spiralling feast of a song. There's a 'bay-baby' hook (a nod to Bieber, maybe?), the dissonant screech of MBV haunting the backdrop, the wash of Cocteau Twins vocals and those euphoric Phil Collins/m83 d-d-d-DRUM fills (drum Phils!?). The combined force of all these things make this a magnificently more-ish anthem. Given the fact Kill for Love lost out to Sharon Van Etten's incredible Tramp, it seems Chromatics may be about to unleash DiS' album of the year when Tommy eventually drops into the world. For now tho, the [premature to suggest it - sorry, not sorry] song of the year is here.
Kendrick Lamar - King Kunta
Jude Clarke: Positioned in the thick of an astonishing, dense, complex, revelatory album, Kendrick Lamar pulls this quite insanely jaunty cut out of the hat. Channelling the rebel/slave from Arthur Hayley's Roots, the track almost literally struts, managing to make an angry, politicised and thoughtful take on black empowerment sound like just about the funkiest damn thing on the planet. "I'm mad, but I ain't stressin'", he insists. Starting out sparse and rhythmic, King Kunta takes you on an almost hypnotic groove via Michael Jackson allusions, referencing Richard Pryor, Bill Clinton AND the young black male suicide rate in the US. "We want the funk", the backing singers plead towards its end. Honey, you GOT it.
Braids - Miniskirt.
Gavin Miller: Seriously can't stop listening to this, to the whirring synths, the manic break, and Raphaelle Standell-Preston's impassioned delivery about a very important subject: "It's like I'm wearing red and if I am, you feel you've the right to touch me - cos I asked for it, in my little miniskirt - think you can have it? my little miniskirt, is mine all mine"
Sufjan Stevens - Death with Dignity
Andrzej Lukowski: The final verse, where he says goodbye to his mother, forever, is as moving as anything anyone has ever written, just totally incredible, makes Casimir Pulaski Day read like a Fred Durst lyric.
Sufjan Stevens - Fourth of July
James Skinner: I don’t think there’s much more I can say about this song that I haven’t said already in my review of the album, but… Man. This song. The refrain (“We’re all gonna die”), so unnerving at first, before you realise exactly what’s going on here; the love; the uncertainty; the fear; the tenderness: the incredible beauty, and incredible sadness, of it all.
Diet Cig - Harvard
Derek Robertson: I know what you're thinking; a scuzzy, ramshackle guitar track sits awkwardly among some of the more cerebral fare on this list. But crank the volume and you're assaulted by a whip smart, riotous song that has "party tune" baked into its DNA. It's the sort of thing that makes me stop what I'm doing, pick up my guitar, and joyously thrash around the room. The lyrics may scan like a bitter arrow aimed straight at the heart of a hapless ex, but it's also a whole load of fun & catchy as hell - the mark of true, indie pop genius.
Eyre Llew - Lunar
Dom Gourlay: Nottingham is a hive of creativity at the moment. Sleaford Mods, Kagoule and April Towers have been making significant waves in recent months and there's plenty more where they came from. Take homegrown three-piece Eyre Llew for example. Despite only having been together since last September, they've conjured up one of the most epic pieces of music these ears have been accustomed to so far this year. Clocking in at just over six minutes, 'Lunar' fuses the melodic prowess of Her Name Is Calla with the intensity of I Like Trains and structural complexity of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
Godspeed - Piss Crowns are Trebled
Andrzej Lukowski: if Sufjan has the most beautiful lyrics, this the most beaufiful music, the bit where Sophie Trudeau's solo violin just cuts in over the tumult is a reminder of why all other post-rock bands are effectively superfluous
Spectres - Blood in the Cups
Tristan Bath; This track from Brisol's brilliantly noisy Spectres is dripping with the sort of cool that seemed to disappear when punk broke back in 1991. It barely shifts from a handful of repeated single guitar notes, trundling along at a demonically slow pace down some pitch black alley, and occasionally careening skyward with the band's signature brand of totally manic guitar noise. The vocals are buried, rambling and scary, leading the pack, while the bass seems to keep the whole crew in check. It grasps on to the leashes of its rabid band mates, stopping the sonic violence from going too far.
Belle & Sebastian - Enter Sylvia Plath
Andrzej Lukowski: There's a strong argument for B&S being the greatest electro-pop band in the world - the slight issue is they have only written about three electro-pop songs, of which this is quite possibly the best.
The Cribs - Burning For No One.
Jack Doherty: Everyone loves a chorus right? this year The Cribs have made an album full of them. Burning For No One, the first single from their 6th record For All My Sisters, chucks about 5 different choruses together in the hope of making a big arse pop song, and you know what. It bloody works. It's like a punk group hitting a new wave band with a piece of splintered wood, or something... Oh and did I mention the video contains loads of swimming pigs on a beach? Something I'm sure each and every one of us can get behind.
Björk - Stonemilker
Gemma Samways: Cavernous beats meet symphonic strings on this paen to a rapidly-expiring relationship. If you’re not sobbing by the time Björk pleads, “Show me some emotional respect,” you’re a stronger person than me. (Sadly this track isn't available on Spotify)
LoneLady - Hinterland
Gemma Samways: Skilfully summoning a strutting groove from scratchy funk guitar, sparse synth pulses and a hollow cello loop, in ‘Hinterland’ Julie Campbell might well have created an all-time indie-disco classic. Not bad for, what is essentially, a love letter to the decaying industrial wasteland on the outskirts of Manchester.
Grimes - REALiTi
Paul Faller: Grimes may have been semi-apologetic in releasing the demo version of this previously lost song upon the world, but she needn't have worried. 'REALiTi' channels post-breakup melancholy and existential strife through a dense filter of electro-pop, and the result is sublime.
Charli XCX - Body of My Own
Sean Adams: She finally delivered her long awaited record. On first listen, it didn't feel like anything was going to top 'Boom Clap' but then further plays revealed nearly every track has a different kind of magic spark. 'Body of My Own' was a real standout at her live show. Taken out of context, it could easily be most acts big Killers-esque hit, but this isn't even a single. She's soaring away from pop tropes with her punky spunk, but then writing hooks that are bigger and better than anything that isn't pop. Defying logic then, with aplomb.
Hidden Hospitals - Bone Scraper
Haydon Spenceley: This is big and lary, yet intensely melodic, and containing at its core the kind of majesty most bands can only dream of. The album’s out in the UK later on this year. It is a monumental piece of work
Father John Misty - The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt.
James Skinner: Josh Tillman does, eventually and against the odds, find redemption on the superlative, stunning I Love You, Honeybear. But before he gets there much wallowing must be done, and rarely has it sounded better - or as bitter, or as caustic - than it does on this song (and its sucker punch of a last line).
Matthew E. White - Take Care My Baby
James Skinner: “Ain’t nothin’ healing like the human touch,” croons Matthew E. White on the giddy, confident opening number of Fresh Blood, a kind of counterpoint to Father John Misty’s ‘The Night Josh Tillman…’. It eschews the meticulous, hilarious details found in that song in favour of a few broad strokes, but, more importantly, it evokes sexual desire in terms of affection, pleasure and restoration: of love, namely, while White’s Spacebomb crew craft gorgeous sonic shapes around him.
Natalie Prass - It Is You
James Skinner: “So many things will fill my life, but only one will do / It is you, it is you, it is you.” The finale of Natalie Prass’s superb self-titled debut (another triumph for Matthew E. White's Spacebomb Records) is a glorious technicolour waltz and a gutsy, audacious vocal performance that belies the sharp longing at its core.
Tobias Jesso Jr. - Just a Dream
James Skinner: The first quarter of 2015’s been a pretty good one for singer-songwriters, right? I haven’t spent as much time with Tobias Jesso Jr. as the rest of my picks, but this peach of a song is a standout for me: a simple, heartfelt declaration of love that concedes how difficult it is to explain much more than that and is all the more charming for it.
Surf City - Jesus Elvis Coca Cola
Dom Gourlay: New Zealand's Surf City might be named after a Jesus & Mary Chain song (minus the "Kill" prefix) and on their earlier records the similarities don't necessarily end there. However, on third long player 'Jekyll Island' they've adopted a more experimental and at times playful approach and 'Jesus Elvis Coca Cola', the stand out track on the record and album closer encapsulates this new found escapism in spades.
Ghostpoet - X Marks the Spot
Haydon Spenceley: This track embodied the dank darkness of late winter and early Spring for me. The twisting groove, smooth yet tantalizing, is taken over by a distorted bass part which gives the whole thing a sense of forlornness, a feeling of lost hope, before sliding back in to the original lopsided figure, and then back again. It is masterful. I have no idea why Ghostpoet isn’t a name on everybody’s lips this year.
Check back for our readers songs of the year playlist. Add your suggestions by commenting below.