What was the biggest cool or interesting record of 2015?

Was 2015 a good year for music?   Of course.  Every year is a good year for music and every year adds more ideas and more melodies and more amazing records.  I bought a lot of albums last year.  I am old-fashioned that way.  I even went back to buying some records without having heard a note, just get that First Listen experience in full.  It’s quite rewarding, I think, jumping in the deep end.  The media does rather lead you by the hand these days, through the warm, shallow waters and then, when you’ve heard 4 songs (and they don’t usually pick the less impressive ones first), the “album experience” does lack the element of surprise.

But looking at my Year End Albums list, there were only a few records on major labels.  Maybe three.  And they weren’t THAT good.  My tastes are a little left of centre but not excessively so – I do like a tune.    The majors didn’t have ANYTHING I was passionate about last year.  I don’t expect to like most of their output, of course, but there’s usually some gems; diamonds among the dogshit.

And looking at the Year End sales charts, along with the actual Top 40 throughout December, there was almost nothing that I thought was any good at all.   The Weeknd, maybe.  It’s not my thing but I “get” it.

Catalogue release outsold new artists last year.  That’s a bit sad.  Not that people shouldn’t buy older records, of course.  They should.  These are however safe purchases.  You know what you are getting.  New artists ought to be more exciting.   Music ought to be exciting and inspiring.

It is inching ever closer to the time when the Top 10 album chart is full of dead people, as a friend of mine is wont to say

What was the biggest cool or interesting record of last year?   Which good (artistically interesting?) record sold more than a 100,000 copies in the UK.  I am not a Blur fan but I suspect that probably did.  Just.  Although it wasn’t in the Top 200 by Year end.   Kendrick just got past 100,000.  Foals got close.  Looking at MOJO’s Top 20, only Blur or mebbe Dylan have got close to 100,000 sales.  Even Q, which is obviously a lot more broad, only has Florence and Noel, as Top 20 albums of the year that have sold over 100,000.

Streaming, I know.  Different ways of listening to music.  I KNOW.  But it’s not like albums aren’t selling.  Ignoring A***e, which is an anomaly, there are plenty of records selling lots of copies.

The thing is, there were a LOT of great records last year.  They just didn’t sell much.  Even Julia Holter’s hugely well received (and totally beautiful and accessible) album hasn’t got to 20,000 sales yet.   Buy it; if you even remotely think that you’ll like it, you WILL.

Some of the many records I bought got just the one spin, some have come forward with me into 2016 as records I’ll be playing for years to come.  And some, most of them probably, have wonderful sounds, ideas or songs on them but fall short of being fully fantastic.   That’s OK.  These are now artists, whose next albums I’ll look forward to.  That’s exciting.  The future is so hot right now.  “Hotly anticipated” is, of course, one of the most common lies to grace a press releases ever, but “kinda anticipated” and “quite curious” don’t really deliver in terms of piquing excitement, I suppose.

However, there is much to look forward to in 2016.  Really though, there are LOTS of amazing records incoming.  Not all will live up to that hotly anticipated status.  So be it – but many will – and, of course, there will be new things, surprises and twists. I hope that some of them sell a lot.   I want the 2016 Year End charts to be more encouraging about the future of music, as opposed to solely the future of record sales.

David Bowie’s album is already tragically amazing classic.  There will be new records from Suede, PJ Harvey, Radiohead, Missy Elliot, Chromatics, Ty Segall, Lorde, Iggy’n’Josh, Savages, Animal Collective, Beck, Santigold, Sigur Ros, Springsteen, Spiritualized, The XX, Phoenix, Kanye, Lush, Bon Iver, NZCA Lines, M83, Shins, Strokes, The Horrors, Warpaint, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Shaun Ryder, MIA, Gorillaz and a host of huge acts that I don’t like all that much, along with debuts from Hinds, Holy Strays, Ratboy, Piano Wire, Aurora, Lapsley and Nevermen.

It looks like 2016 is somewhat hotly anticipated.  At least by me.  But please, people, buy some albums, especially from smaller labels.  If the majors have given up, there are still a lot of people trying to make and release interesting records.

Buy some records, take some chances.

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