Pete Muscutt is up first with a look back over the year, he has kindly picked out his top ten singles that have featured on albums released during 2015, here we go....
10 - THE ORB 'GOD'S MIRRORBALL' (MOONBUILDING 2703 AD)
It's fair to say that, after their early 1990s pomp, and the late 90s resurgence where they found limited singles chart success, The Orb kind of lost their way. Experimenting with drum and bass grooves, guest vocalists and the like had led them away from the dreamy, ambient soundscapes that a generation had experienced laid on beds or gathered in clubs until dawn, whacked off their tits on hallucinogenics. 'Moon Building 2703 AD' was a welcome return to the blissed-out odyssey of their debut LP 'Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld', including this track, which rather ominously opens with sampled dialogue stating: "There is no God". Fuzzy, phasing synths warp around the speakers, before a light, descending melody comes into play along with minimal beats to spur things along. One to dance to...just very, very gently.
9 - JEFF LYNNE'S E.L.O. 'WHEN I WAS A BOY' (ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE)
Some fourteen years after the last official ELO album, Brummie boy Jeff Lynne shows no signs of ring-rust, either in his vocal delivery or his uncanny ability to craft a great, catchy tune. When this first came out, I felt it was a bit of a Beatles knock-off, sharing more than a passing similarity to later Fab Four material like 'Free As a Bird' or 'Real Love', further listens reveal a great track about childhood dreams and wishes, something we've all experienced and as a result, is something we can relate to. Is this a "proper" ELO release? Yes and no. It obviously features Jeff Lynne, the driving force behind the group, but in reality it's a solo album in all but name. Does this matter? Not when the songs are this good...
8 - NEW ORDER 'SINGULARITY' (MUSIC COMPLETE)
If you thought New Order might be taking it easy as they enter their 35th year, you'd be wrong. Assisted by producers Stuart Price and Chemical Brother Tom Rowlands, this track really shows off their 'danceable' quality, as well as being a traditional rock group, and proves that electronica has always been something they've had a firm grasp on. Quite why this was never released as a single is a mystery, but it's a true gem on a great comeback album. Peter Hook? Who's that?
7 - LITTLE MIX 'LOVE ME LIKE YOU' (GET WEIRD)
Some people ask me if I'm joking when I say I actually like Little Mix. Surely not, from someone who revels in the 'challenging' electronica of the likes of Aphex Twin? Well yes, it's true, I do. In the world we live in, with constant news reports of terror attacks, bombings, kidnappings and the like, we need all the light relief we can get, which for me comes in the form of great pop music. It might something to with this song being a blatant rip off of 'Be My Baby' by The Ronettes (expect a 'Blurred Lines' style copyright battle around this time next year...) It might be the fact Jade Thirlwell is a fox, who knows? I wouldn't say this is a guilty pleasure - for me those are 'Yes Sir I Can Boogie' by Baccara, 'Lucky Day' by ex-Girls Alouder Nicola Roberts and Britney Spears' 'Everytime'. So there you go, I bloody love this one - a slice of 100% pure harmless pop. And you can't do anything about it.
6 - GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR! 'PISS CROWNS ARE TREBLED' (ASUNDER, SWEET AND OTHER DISTRESS)
I've never understood the term 'post-rock', but apparently that's what Godspeed You Black Emperor play. Probably most famous for appearing on the soundtrack to seminal horror-flick '28 Days Later', GYBE! create long, atmospheric washes of sound and noise, merging screeches of guitar, violins and other improbable instruments. They're a bit like Arcade Fire having a really, really bad day. Sharing many musical traits with Scottish noise-rock merchants Mogwai, they're a useful band to get into if you like them. 'Piss Crowns Are Trebled' is a long, meandering, rock-heavy blast of what they do best. Criminally underrated, while they're never going to play on the results show of 'The X Factor', they're worth getting past the long track times for.
5 - DAVID GILMOUR '5AM' (RATTLE THAT LOCK)
After the ambient, almost free-form pieces on Gilmour's last solo outing, 2006's 'On An Island', it was great to see him return with another collection of more solid songs this time around. Despite this, the trademark guitar sound is still in evidence on tracks like this superb LP opener, which really conjures up the feel of a place coming to life at dawn. Plaintive, picked guitar and a sweeping yet minimal orchestral backing is all we need to evoke such images, no words are required. Perhaps more Pink Floyd than any of his last album, you could see this fitting on any of the 'post Waters-era' Floyd albums.
4 - UNDERWORLD 'NUXX - FROM A4712/LIVE AT ZAP CLUB, BRIGHTON 1994' (SECOND TOUGHEST IN THE INFANTS - SUPER DELUXE/REMASTERED)
OK, a rather cheeky inclusion of a track from the superb 2015 remaster of Underworld's genre-defining 1996 album 'Second Toughest in the Infants', but one that I think is warranted. The original LP famously never included the mega-hit 'Born Slippy (Nuxx)' which quickly became Underworld's most well-known track after soundtracking the closing scenes of Danny Boyle's film adaptation of 'Trainspotting'. Featuring a wealth of rare and unreleased material, the reissue restores this track here in an embryonic, 1994 live outing from a Brighton nightclub. Obviously a work in progress, the track is simply titled 'Nuxx' and sounds a little rough and ready, but the elements that went on to make the remix a global smash are there - the pulsating, dreamy synths, Karl Hyde's stream-of-consciousness, half-ramble, half-poetry like lyrics, the hammering techno breakdown in the latter half. The deluxe reissue dedicates an entire CD of seven early renditions of the track, but this is perhaps the mid-point between early sketched idea and finished product, and well worth a listen for devoted Underworld fans. The following video is NOT of the Brighton performance, there isn't one so I had to use one from their 1998/1999 world tour instead....
3 - MATT BERRY 'SNUFF BOX' (LIVE) (MATT BERRY AND THE MAYPOLES LIVE)
TV's Douglas Reynholm ('The I.T. Crowd'), Steven Toast ('Toast of London') and the voice of a thousand ads, Matt Berry also has a superb side-career as a musician. Releasing a practically impossible to locate album back in the 90s, he has gone on to forge a superb back catalogue of albums, from the comedic 'Opium', to the folk-prog (yes, it works) 'Witchazel', 'Kill the Wolf' and even an LP designed to help those with sleep problems ('Music for Insomniacs'). This track, taken from a live album featuring his backing group The Maypoles (including Mark Morriss, formerly of indie-darlings The Bluetones) shows that Berry and co. are more than capable of taking a theme-tune to one of his shows (in this case, the wonderfully surreal 'Snuff Box', which he made with American comic and 'Mighty Boosh' co-star Rich Fulcher) and stretching it into a seven-minute funk/jazz workout, complete with trumpet solo. Less out-and-out 'comedy' when than when he's on screen, Berry is a complete musician, at home on guitar, bass, keyboards, synthesisers and vocals. It's evidence of the sheer quality of his music that he doesn't have to take the 'comedy songs' route (such as Monty Python, for instance) and can shine in his own light.
2 - JESSICA CURRY 'FINDING THE PATTERN' (EVERYBODY'S GONE TO THE RAPTURE ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK)
For those non-gamers out there, E.G.T.T.R. (to save my fingers every time I type the title) is a game released exclusively on the Playstation 4 in August this year. Set in the fictional, picturesque village of Yaughton in the mid-1980s, you take on the role of a presence floating around the place, investigating what happened to the population, that has since disappeared. By interacting with shafts of light that guide you, you build up a complete picture of the last moments of the residents, what happened to them, and also gain an insight into their lives, loves and personal issues. As well as a belting story, the game also featured a mean soundtrack by Jessica Curry, consisting of entirely choral voices and orchestral backing. If you don't normally listen to this sort of thing, let yourself go and immerse yourself in this from start to end. Equal parts relaxing, enthralling, uplifting and melancholy, its an amazing audio experience - even more so when heard along with the game which also comes highly recommended.
1 - MUSE 'DEFECTOR' (DRONES)
Releasing a fully-fledged conceptual album about the nature of psychological warfare, brainwashing, human drones and killing machines suited Muse right down to the ground, allowing their battering ram riffs, thunderous drum and bass assaults and Matt Bellamy's conspiracy-theory laden lyrics to really shine. None more so than on 'Defector', opening with a sample of a speech from John F. Kennedy, before launching into a heavy, lurching guitar riff and the exclamation that: "You can't brainwash me/You got a problem!" A real highpoint on what, for me, has been Muse's most cohesive and 'whole' album since probably 'Origin of Symmetry' - they got everything right here, and it makes for a sublime listening experience.
So that's it from Pete for 2015, we hope you enjoyed his eclectic mix of tracks from throughout the year, we look forward to his input in 2016 and his 'Best of' around the same time next year.