My top tracks of 2015

Yet again I try to pick 12 songs from the thousands that I discovered in 2015. It was a particularly fruitful year due partly to finally getting a decent turntable, which allowed me to start listening to some of the three boxes-worth of vinyl that I found in the loft when we bought the new house. Actually having moved in three years ago I only last year managed to extract the tantalising boxes from an exceptionally dusty and inaccessible spot this year while insulating. Well, there’s got to be some reward. In case you’re wondering, they were mostly from the 80’s with a smattering of interesting stuff like The Smiths, Roxy Music and Talking Heads. None made it onto this year’s playlist.

As it turns out, I only own one of these songs on vinyl, the excellent Have You In My Wilderness by Julia Holter. I saw her perform in the Glee Club in November, and an exceptional gig it was too.

Now, usual rules for this annual compilation require that the songs are new to you, there are 12 of them, and that’s about it. Maybe there used to be some rule about it fitting onto a CD, I can’t remember. Traditionally we would burn a CDR and distribute four or five for listening pleasure (or at least listening interest), but that seems to have fallen by the wayside of late. I won’t be able to fit my 12 top picks onto a CD because they run to 1 hour 45 minutes. Furthermore, I couldn’t find all my choices on Spotify, however Youtube came to the rescue, with availability of the complete playlist. Well here we go…

Multi-Love Unknown Mortal Orchestra [Multi-Love]

A great album from one of my favorite current bands. I saw them at Warwick Arts Centre this year supporting Django Django and got the impression they didn’t want to be there. Well I guess it was a big tour.

Abrasive Ratatat [Magnifique]

The spirit of Queen lives on as Ratatat do a bang up job of updating Brian May’s guitar sound.

Spirit Ghost [Meliora]

A lot of fun from Papa Emeritus II and the Nameless Ghouls. I’m told they were great live in Manachester, and not remotely amused by an over-enthusiastic fan running onto stage. I don’t know, maybe he mistook them for JayZ…

A Spectral Eyrie Erraunt [The Portent]

Now this slab of black metal is quite scary. I found it to be an immersive experience due to the off-kilter time signatures and mid-phrase key changes that all serve to unsettle the listener. Well, they unsettle this listener anyway.

The Music Balduin [All in a Dream]

A very retro psychedelic collection of earworms. I’ve picked this one because it pops into my head at the most unexpected times, but any song on this album would have fit the bill.

Sea Calls Me Home Julia Holter [Have You In My Wilderness]

Nothing Important Richard Dawson [Nothing Important]

I was a little surprised to find this was added to my iTunes collection in 2015 and not 2014, but the computer never lies, so here it is. Probably the most important record released in the last few years.

Love Without Sound White Noise [An Electric Storm]

I really tripped out to this pioneering album released in 1969 on the brave and patient Island records (it took a year to record). At the time nobody noticed it, but thankfully it has since been acknowledged as one of the most influential early electronic albums, with some great work on the synthesizers and tape loops by Delia Derbyshire.

Salvation Destruction Unit [Negative Feedback Resistor]

I was initially taken by their earlier angry psych rock album, Deep Trip, but this latest album which I picked up via Wire magazine, rounds off the edges, turns up the reverb and draws you deep into its sound. As an Electronic Engineering graduate, I also like the album title, Negative Feedback Resistor, which to some might imply an electronic album. Far from it.

Nopeuskunigas Circle [Sunrise]

Circle are a Finish experimental band that have been around forever. Well, since 1991 anyway. Hopefully they’ll continue for 25 years. I like the relentless pace of this song, and the sense of impending doom. Listening to this, I feel like the earth is crumbling away, and the only escape is to drive faster.

-オープニング- 人生のメリーゴーランド 久石譲 [Howl’s Moving Castle Soundtrack]

Vashti’s a huge fan of the marvelous Howl’s Moving Castle from Studio Ghibli, though she doesn’t like the bit where Howl turns into an eagle (to be fair, nor does Sophie in the film). The introduction to this track on my Japanese import soundtrack could lead anywhere, but instead of entering black metal territory, which would be a bit dubious for a kid’s film, a simple evocative melody is picked out on on piano at key moments in the story. This rather intense pipe organ version is not the one in the above video, but otherwise they are quite similar. Beautiful.

Se telefonando Mina [Se telefonando]

I did a presentation about Mina Mazzini to my Italian class after falling in love with this tune, written by the great Enrico Morricone. Richard Dawson played it on a podcast (along with some rather interesting Siberian throat singing) and I fell for the voice, the melody and the multiple key changes.

Here’s a Youtube Playlist of the whole lot:

And here’s a Spotify playlist of all the tracks I could find on there, plus some bonus tracks which didn’t make it onto the final 12.

Pearls of Juggling Review

Pearls of JugglingPearls of Juggling by Anthony Trahair
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pearls of Juggling is the distillation of 20 years of practicing, teaching and performing the art of juggling. Without teaching a single trick, this book will improve your juggling. How is that? Well, by inspiring you to get out and try something new, to push yourself, to make you think about your physicality as you juggle, and to engage better with your audience. Jugglers of almost all abilities can dip in a pick a section to take into their practice session. To pick a few at random, Developing a training plan, Keep a juggler’s log book, Juggling with emotions, Getting a laugh and Adrenaline. With most books focusing on technique, it is refreshing to find one that steps back and looks at the whole juggler, bringing the fun and play back into juggling while at the same time learning how to improve posture, movement, develop character as a performer.

This is also a beautiful book to own and occupy pride of place on the juggler’s coffee table. It is richly illustrated with cartoons, indian-style characters, and abstract images from a number of talented artists.

I highly recommend this to all jugglers and those interested in juggling. It’s an entertaining read which will inspire you to improve your juggling.

View all my reviews

My Top Tracks of 2014


Every year a group of friends including myself put together a 12 track compilation of our discoveries from that year. They aren’t necessarily new releases, but are new to us.

Here is my selection for this year.

Stevie Wonder – Sir Duke

I’m a sucker for a cheap album, and I was easily hooked with the Stevie Wonder classic Songs In The Key Of Life for four quid. It’s a wonderful listen which stands the test of time.

Ólöf Arnalds – Patience

I finally got the chance to see one of my favourite Icelandic artists, Ólöf Arnalds performing at the Moseley Folk Festival this year. Unfortunately the sound wasn’t great and I’m going to have to see her performing on her own terms to get the full effect of these superb songs.

Emiliana Torrini – Tookah

Each new Emiliana Torrini album forces me to adjust my brain slightly, but they never fail to work their magic eventually.

Teleman – Steam Girl Song

I got into Teleman after I just missed them playing at the Hare and Hounds. Doh! I suspect their next tour might be to larger venues.

Art Tatum – Tiger Rag

I’m learning Jazz Piano now, and have been working my way through the greats. Art Tatum totally blew me away with his sheer virtuosity. Check out the run at 0:35 in this video. The fingers on his huge hands hardly seem to move, but the piano emits a barrage of notes, while Tatum is totally calm and relaxed.

Aorta – What’s In My Mind’s Eye

My personal Prog Rock discovery of 2014. The album’s got everything you expect from Prog – church organs, guitar freak outs and a fleshy band name.

Sharon Van Etten – Your Love is Killing Me

I listened to this while sitting next to a river on the side of a Norwegian mountain. I’m not sure which was more raw, the landscape or the lyrics.

Vashti Bunyan – Mother

It’s been a long wait – nine years – since the last Vashti Bunyan album. I guess I should be pleased it wasn’t as long as the previous gap – 35 years.

St. Vincent – Birth In Reverse

Annie Clark continues to stay ahead of most other artists in virtuosity, inventiveness and imagination. I’m glad to see her fourth eponymously titled album, has had a lot of recognition in various Best Of 2014 lists.

Scott Walker – Brando

I would be surprised if any of my fellow album of the year compilers have failed to include something from the incredible Scott Walker collaboration with Sun O))). Not an easy album to listen to (none have been since Climate of Hunter, but it’s powerful, potent stuff. Vice give it perhaps the most positive review I’ve ever heard: “The greatest experience of your life.”

Agnes Obel – Riverside

I’m afraid Pallbearer got kicked off this revised second version of my list by the a third Scandinavian artist. I realised I couldn’t bear to leave out at least one song from Philharmonic album. Apologies to those who received the deprecated CD compilation containing the doom epic. I hope you enjoyed it.