We’ve reached the end of 2015. It hasn’t been as thrilling a year for new music as 2014 had been, but there has been plenty to entertain. We’re still waiting on the proposed deluxe edition of Prince & The Revolution’s classic ‘Purple Rain’ (we could be waiting a long time) and those promised UB40 deluxe editions. Another year has passed without the arrival of Real Gone favourite Mick Terry’s second album. Lots of people in the UK have been (over)-excited by Steven Wilson’s ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase.’, but most of what’s impressed us the most at Real Gone – as is so often the case – is often just a little more underground.
Here are our year’s top picks…
THE CONNECTION – Labor of Love
Garage rock and power pop enthusiasts have, indeed, enthused about The Connection since their formation. Little Steven Van Zandt is a fan. They’ve perfected the art of the the marriage between punchy chorus and feelgood melodic slant. This second full length follows a couple of EP’s and and and xmas disc and towers above everything they’ve released to date. It’s our album of 2015 and possibly even one of the best since Real Gone’s launch in 2009… [Full review here]
THE SELECTER – Subculture
The Selecter will always be best known for their early hits ‘On My Radio’, ‘Three Minute Hero’ and debut album ‘Too Much Pressure’, but in the twenty first century, the British ska band have really shown they’ve got so much more to give. 2015’s ‘Subculture’ might just be their best album. The songs are loaded with social commentary and the production brings out some deep bass grooves. A highly recommended listen for anyone with any interest in ska and reggae sounds. [Full review here]
SIRS&MADAMS – Sirs&Madams
Mixing rock, pop and a touch of soul, Sirs&Madams represent a bit of a departure for the King Pizza label, with a full sounding, lush production with a killer vocal. Like a tougher version of Sister Sparrow, we hope this Brooklyn band are really going places in 2016. [Full review here]
KURT BAKER – Play It Cool
Kurt Baker might show his influences rather obviously, but this collection of short and spiky tunes harking back to the days of The Cars’ ‘Candy-O’ and Joe Jackson’s ‘I’m The Man’ is totally infectious. Although ‘Play It Cool’ doesn’t break any new ground, it’s a feelgood LP that’ll still sound great in another couple of decades. [Full review here]
CITIES – Manning, Alaska EP
Sometimes something arrives with very little fanfare and takes you by surprise. This EP from the UK’s Cities did just that. Their blend of post-rock, ambient and prog shows a mature approach to atmospheric instrumental music and although only an EP, ‘Manning, Alaska’ is utterly satisfying. [Full review here]
BILLY SHERWOOD – Citizen
In 2015, Billy Sherwood found himself as the bass player with Yes following founder member Chris Squire’s passing. ‘Citizen’ is a thoroughly enjoyable solo outing featuring various Yes members past and present, Alan Parsons and a rare appearance from XTC’s Colin Moulding. As always, Sherwood’s slick mix of AOR and prog does not disappoint. [Full review here]
NATHAN EDWARDS – Far Away From Here
The second proper album from US singer songwriter Nathan Edwards is a heartfelt affair, his gentle and heartfelt approach of possible interest to fans of James Taylor and the quietest works of Tom Petty. There’s nothing pretentious here, no naval-gazing, just fine songcraft. Upon release, it was briefly in the running for our album of 2015. [Full review here]
LEWIS & LEIGH – Hidden Truths EP
Country-tinged music isn’t always high on the Real Gone agenda, but accolades from Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross and the legendary ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris aren’t misplaced. This duo have great retro pop-country sounds and even better harmonies. Their cover of Elton John’s ‘Country Comfort’ is just superb. [Full review here]
THE GRAND – Incapacitated, Ill Fated & In Love
Another one which took us entirely by surprise. Often channelling sounds somewhere between Arcade Fire and New Order, The Grand bring great basslines, dark lyrics and tunes of a moody and spiky nature. Be prepared to have to work at it until all the pieces fit, but once they do, the album is a joy. A fairly miserable joy, if there’s such a thing… [Full review here]
LIMB – Terminal
Limb made some huge noises on their 2014 debut. This follow-up really delivered on early promise and resulted in a record about five times better. Huge riffs, gravelly vocals and (often) short and punchy songs all combined to make this one of our favourite metal discs of 2015. [Full review here]
Looking at the many releases that didn’t grace Real Gone’s pages, a few stood out for obvious reasons. David Gilmour’s ‘Rattle That Lock’ was stately and solid, the kind of album befitting a man of his age; a disc that when in the right mood could rank as his best non-Floyd offering. The legendary Cold Chisel, on the other hand, shouldn’t have bothered. At Real Gone, we’ve been huge fans of Chisel, Jimmy Barnes and Ian Moss for decades, but ‘The Perfect Crime’ was, indeed, purely criminal. Most of the songs were plain dull – even the pair from Moss, who could usually be relied upon to impress – while a couple of examples of Aussie humour were wildly misjudged. In short, ‘The Perfect Crime’ is a terrible record. …And then there was ‘Repentless’ by metal titans Slayer. An album without founder member Jeff Hanneman (RIP) and drummer Dave Lombardo already started life with everything against it…but the result was stunning – easily the best Slayer album in a quarter of a century. There’s life in the old buggers still.
Looking forward to 2016, we’ve already heard some pre-release stuff and can tell you that the debut EP by 1968 is a face-melter. There’s a new Marillion album on the way too, so it might be a good year all round. We shall see… In the meantime, thanks for sticking with us. Happy new year!