2015: Staff lists (or something)
Marco Masoli (Head of the business unit)
2015 marks the the first time ever I’m not involved in drawing tons of year-end-lists of LPs or EPs and fight against myself to decide if Father John Misty’s album should make the top #10 or not. Probably LPs quality was not so remarkable this year around, or maybe it’s just me getting older and write down charts doesn’t give me so much fun anymore. By the way, I can’t help but saying that Sufjan Stevens provided what I’m sure it’s my album of the year: Carrie & Lowell is such an intense, gloomy and amazingly played records, that gives me goosebumps every time I spin it. All the other ones I liked are more or less at the same level and I won’t choose wether they should be on the podium or not, or jump from the 9th position to the 7th. I liked that Tame Impala-goes-dream-pop feeling the same as those heart-moving slow-paced dark tracks Majical Cloudz released. Also Kendrick and Drake on the hip-hop side did a great job with their new albums, while The Weeknd taught everybody what R&B is and Jamie XX set the terms for the dancefloor with some of the greatest hits of the year. Moving on what I care the most – folk-pop, of course – I loved the soft comeback of The Innocence Mission and the consistency of the latest effort of Father John Misty, while dream-pop stardom was ruled by Beach House‘s double LPs performance and the freshness of Oh Wonder‘s debut. For what concerns new music you already got an idea of what I liked the most thanks to our Top 50 Songs of 2015 chart, but it still could be interesting to just pick a couple of artists as “ones to watch for 2016”. Well, my money’s on CHINAH and Gallant: write down their names.
Marco Zanella (The newbie)
Pop music has been the trend and catchiness the common denominator at every level during 2015. The new music scenario has evolved in parallel with the mainstream, which means hard times for guitar lovers and a lot of space for the easy-listening current. Adele broke millions of records, proving to be able to reconcile the no more snobbish bloggers and the soft-hearted girls, so outrageously outrageous with their copy of ’50 shades of grey’ under their arm, so sensitive in their bedroom with Hello at full volume. She has dominated the charts, as well as a huge wave of new songstresses have clogged the chart of Hypem, with Shura and TALA that have proved to be a cut above the rest. On the male side, The Weeknd received the almost unanimous approval. The black revival was felt also on the blog side, where talents as Gallant and Rationale have earned a rightful place in the list of possible new stars for the next year.
What will happen in 2016? A collab between Blake and West? The new Frank Ocean LP? Who knows. Meanwhile, I had the opportunity to listen to Suicide Songs, the new LP from Money. It will not sell millions but is already confortably sat in my list of the best LP of the 2016.
If I tried to judge my personality on the basis of my year-end music lists, I could easily consider myself as bipolar. While my choices, speaking about singles and EPs, often fall on pop-related artists, when the music format turns into the long-play, I usually get dragged into a dark, depressive spiral from which I can no longer get out. Looking back to my picks of the past 4 years, acts such as The Antlers, Daughter, The National, Bon Iver, Sun Kil Moon, Wild Nothing can be found at the top of the charts. Not exactly your typical party music.
When Sufjan Stevens‘ Carrie and Lowell was released earlier this year, I was abducted from its crystal clear beauty. The roaring contrast between the brightness of the melodies and the deep pain carried by the lyrics has made me love Sufjan’s effort instantly. But something else has appeared in the second half of the year that shocked my plays. Are You Alone? by Majical Cloudz is an obscure journey into sadness and Devon Welsh’s personal catharsis. It’s definitely the record with which I feel more related, contrary to Sufjan’s pain, which is huge but distant (at least for me). In the midst of this apotheosis of sorrow, how not to mention Tobias Jesso Jr.‘s debut LP Goon. You might know that the Canadian songwriter is one of my personal favourite since last year and I couldn’t be more rewarded in knowing that he stood out even through his first record.
Speaking about pop music, it’s impossible for me not to mention the kaleidoscopic solo debut of Jamie xx. Listening to it while driving up to the hills and seeing the sun fading into them, it’s something that everyone should do once in a lifetime. On the same note, we had three great debuts such as those released by Oh Wonder, Empress Of and Shamir, plus other three confirmations: The Weeknd, Lucy Rose and Lianne La Havas.
On my personal rock agenda, I pinned several names. Another of Going Solo’s favorites, American soulman Leon Bridges, has released a magnificent, timeless record titled Coming Home. Courtney Barnett‘s proper debut Sometimes I sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit deserves nothing but praises, while Ought, Alex G. and Bully gave us new proofs of their talents.
Last but not least comes London O’Connor. Nobody sounds like this kid today.
Massimo Rancati (Very part-time Editor-in-chief)
10. Yumi Zouma – EP II
To me, 2015 has been mostly the year I married the wonderful Francesca. The other guys at Going Solo chose a Yumi Zouma’s gig for my bachelor party. This record will forever remind me of my marriage, my bachelor party and that time we ordered borghetti in London.
9. Carly Rae Jepsen – E·MO·TION
My 2015’s guilty pleasure. I enjoyed this album since it came out, but I didn’t say that to pretty much anyone ’cause I wanted to save the “coming out” for the time of year-end lists. I thought I was original. I wasn’t. Still, #teamCarly.
8. House Of 909 – The Children We Were
The remastered reissue of a 1997 record should’t be allowed there, unless it’s incredibly nostalgic, incredibly beautiful, incredibly chill. I make the rules, sorry.
7. Any Other – Silently. quietly. going away.
If you ask every single Italian interested in indie music, you’ll probably get that the best Italian LP of 2015 was made by iosonouncane or Calcutta. Not true. I mean, first one is great (the other… not so much), but the guy has a lyric that says “Juve merda” on his discography and can’t possibly ever be the best of anything. The Italian AOTY was penned by Adele Nigro, Any Other or Waxahatchee if Waxahatchee was Alanis Morissette. SXSW staff: put her on a plane.
6. Chvrches – Every Open Eye
2015 was also the year of Ligabue mega-show at Campovolo, the most crowded concert of the year here in Italy. During 2015, Campovolo has also been rumoured as the possible location for an Italian edition of Lollapalooza. Too much to dream for. Can we just have Lauren Mayberry & Co. at Campovolo? They’re stadium big now.
5. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-love
I never liked anything made by UMO. I love this.
4. Grimes – Art Angels
Fact #1: you can pick Flesh Without Blood or Realiti or Kill v. Maim as best song of 2015 and be irrefutable. Fact #2: Art Angels is not groundbreaking as Visions was (and probably not-as-good). But it’s exactly the album we had to expect from Claire Boucher, a kaleidoscopic record, one that marks a step forward on her journey to become our generation Madonna – by making her own rules in the pop music industry. There are still some exaggeratedly weird angles to trim, but this is something to applaud.
3. Viet Cong – Viet Cong
A near-perfect record. They’re also my biggest catch on HumanHuman so far: very proud.
2. Cindy Lee – Act Of Tenderness
While other two former member of Women were touring the world with Viet Cong, Patrick Flegel – who was also part of the disbanded Calgary outfit – released a record that would have been on everyone’s year-end chart – very much like Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell and Kendrick’s Pimp My Butterfly – if only it hadn’t been overlooked by pretty much every music writer in the world: make amend.
1. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit
For the second year in a row, my AOTY is autographed by a female indie storyteller who shares my same expressive language – full of sarcasm and non-sense punchlines – and strong opinions on things. The Melbourne-based artist’s debut album is also an endlessly playable record (and, indeed, the one I spinned the most during 2015). Add it to your collection.