Well, it’s nearly the middle of February already – so it seems as good a time as any to wrap up this round up of the previous years best songs. They don’t call me The Timely Content Kid for nothing. Also some might call having 25 songs on a top 20 list something of a cop out. To which I have no real argument.
It was a great year for music though and I think this list demonstrates just how good. Especially since it was a year in which I didn’t find much time to delve into all that much hip hop – Busdriver and Milo narrowly missed the cut for the list but that was about it for my rap listening in 2015, bar a couple of L’Orange produced albums – and almost completely ignored what was by all accounts an excellent year for black metal. It was a year of Too Much Music and this, for better or worse, is how I spent it. And given how much fun I’ve had putting this list together I’m leaning towards, “for better.”
Part 8 of a 20 part rundown of my favourite tracks of 2015
Bell Witch had me at having a band name that sounds like a boss from Dark Souls. Then they had me again at that record cover – such a beautifully painted scene of collapse it made me think again of Dark Souls. This says more about me and my Dark Souls problem than it does about Bell Witch.
But they had me a third time when I heard the fantastically miserably titled Suffocation, A Drowning: II – Somniloquy (The Distance Of Forever). And that time it had nothing to do with my obsession with From Software’s franchise
There isn’t much light in Bell Witch’s crawling paced doom. Four Phantoms is a claustrophobically bleak record for the most part – its 4 tracks aren’t short on monumental heft and power, but there’s little to contrast it with. Suffocation, A Drowning II – Somniloquy (The Distance of Forever) is the proverbial crack that the light gets in through. At 22 minutes it plays out like a folk ballad in slow motion – the duo drafted in a vocalist, Erik Moggridge, who has the lilt of a folk singer at times. The drums crash like falling trees and the Dylan Desmond’s 6-string bass howls like the wind while the tale of the titular drowning is told.
As you can imagine of a 22 minute lament for this watery demise it demands some commitment from the listener. Through the bastardised choral passages, the gutteral screaming, the melodies that switch from eerie to earthy, melancholy to malevolent, it’s a long and draining trip. Funeral doom is a sub-genre rife with bombastic melodrama but Bell Witch manage to capture the essence of that term perfectly – the doom is more than catered for in the ceaseless crunching guitar chords left to drift and reverberate whilst the tone is never less than masterfully elegiac. When they scream it sounds less like the act of men wanting to make horrible noises and more like an act of grief.
The idea of a concept record about 4 hideous and grotesque deaths being replayed for all eternity, an earthly vision of hell, sounds like something cooked up as a joke by pissed up metalheads trying to outdo one another on the none-more-miserable stakes. Which, to be honest, would be fine by me – but what set Bell Witch apart is that they treated such a grim concept with respect and created an album about death so harrowing that it’s almost, at it’s best, life affirming.
Taking us up to a nice round 100 tracks (and around 10 hours worth of music) for the year I present to you the 4th and final installment of Wanton Playlistery for 2015. It was compiled during a period in which I was giving myself a headache trying to decide what should and shouldn’t make my Record of the Year list, a time in which I’m forced to listen to so much music I forget what I actually like, if I like anything, and start to wonder what the point of this whole music thing is anyway, and why is there so much of it, and who could possibly listen to enough of it to pass any kind of judgement on what is and isn’t worthy, and does it actually mean anything I mean after all it’s just a series of vibrations in the air being interpreted by strange mechanisms inside our heads and how can anyone possibly praise or criticise the air and our ability or inability to parse what it means or is intended to mean and when did run out of coffee and oh god please make it stop..
Somewhere in all of that I decided these 25 tracks were worthy of more attention. Is it any wonder I ended up selecting an electronica backing to a Leonard Nimoy reading of a Ray Bradbury story alongside some all out gone instrumental Swedish psych rock, a cut from a concept hip-hop record about a pair of janitors at a Ballard-esque housing complex and the terrifying final part of Wrekmester Harmonies’ Night of Your Ascension which probably makes no sense in isolation? It’s a strange time which called for a strange soundtrack. It’s been a great year in music, albeit one with few towering achievements. It’s instead been crammed full of minor masterpieces and strange and wonderful detours into rich little musical hinterlands. Did any of it mean anything? Well, there’s at least 100 tracks that meant something to me on WD now ready for anyone with the inclination to listen to. Maybe some of them will mean something to somebody else too.
And so another year passes. As per tradition a large chunk of the internet spent the final month of 2015 seeking to make sense out of the ceaseless avalanche of music that descended upon us throughout the year by ranking the crap out of it. How else can we be sure that any of it meant anything it we don’t put our chosen records into a pile and demand that strangers look at it and agree that that our choices are indeed righteous? Where would humanity be without our ability to decree one thing to be better than another thing until we have a sufficient number of things to make a list? Why we’d surely be lost, flailing in the dark, forced to confront the futility of our endeavours.
Well fear not: today I can add my own list to the internet and stave off any such epiphany for a little while longer. My top 20 appeared alongside those of 60 other writers in Echoes & Dusts Record of the Year interactive jamboree. Which is a treasure trove of obscure gems one could easily get lost in until the next listing season is upon us.