Best of 2015: Eve of the Year of the Monkey

You might think we’ve missed the boat by only starting our ‘best of’ list for 2015 now. But many artists will tell you it’s prudent to leave a period of reflection before assessing the quality of a piece of work and we agree. Alternatively, we’re very disorganized and only just got round to it. OR, in China the lunar year’s only just begun so suck on it – the world doesn’t revolve around the West don’t ya know. Not anymore.  That said, you’ll find this list is dominated  by Western artists. It’s just the music we’ve been listening to. Sorry. We’d love it if someone could come along and tell us about some rad new Chinese music. Perhaps make it a regular column. DO IT. OK here we go. We’re not going to rank the music by the way. We don’t believe in saying one artist is better than another. So we’re going to do this chronologically and pick out artists that caught our attention. If an artist isn’t included that’s not because we think they’re poo. It’s just because we didn’t notice them for whatever reason. OR we may have noticed them and then forgot. To err is human.

In January we couldn’t help but be impressed by the production skills of Mark Ronson on Uptown Special despite growing up as music snobs and being all conflicted because it’s so damn mainstream. Perhaps the inclusion of the Tame Impala dude sealed the deal. Then Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper stole our attention with its delightfully off-kilter psychedelic brand of tuneful meanderings. And of course Bjork proved as formidable as ever with Vulnicura. February saw us bowled over by I love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty, the quality of his song-writing and arrangement seeing him continue along on the same high plain as his previous release Fear Fun.

March was of course all about Kendrick Lamar‘s To Pimp A Butterfly, justifiably many critics’ album of the year (if ranking artists is your bag). Courtney Barnett‘s Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit contained within it the irresistible grunge-pop single Pedestrian at Best, but, for us, the arrival of Sufjan Stevens‘ Carrie & Lowell right at the end of the month, meant that Lamar faced some serious competition within the sphere of musical critique, though obviously a completely different type of work. April Fools’ Day arrived with an impressive EP release from Hangzhou-based Brit William Gray, the intriguingly titled Tish his debut outing as part of the Medic Independent Records roster set up by folk touring de force John Carroll. Marking a bit of a break from his previous work, this quirky, upbeat 5-song album ended up being a mainstay over the course of the year in thesoundoffightingdogs‘ abode (yes it’s a kennel), perhaps because of its manageable length (INNUENDO ALERT) as we have the concentration span of, well, fighting dogs. Rounding off April, it was a relief to see the Blur lads come back strong with The Magic Whip, an album we also keep coming back to.

May arrived and so did the incredible and aptly titled The Epic by Kamasi Washington. If you like John Coltrane, you’ll probably dig this. That’s how it worked for us anyway. The Hot Chip album reeled us in with some good tunes but, strangely enough, after sitting through the whole of The Epic without getting bored, Hot Chip‘s Why Make Sense? felt a bit on the long side. Unknown Mortal Orchestra‘s Multi-Love on the other hand did its job well, with its novel subject matter and bubbly instrumentation pitched just right and never outstaying its welcome. June seemed to be lacking in terms of releases we really enjoyed with perhaps Hudson Mohawke‘s Lantern providing a standout moment and Vince Staples arriving late for an honourable mention.

Moving into July, Wilco really were ridiculously generous by just giving away Star Wars, which we thought was a real return to form, representing the arty, stripping away and deconstructing type of band we fell in love with on previous albums such as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Then of course there was Tame Impala‘s Currents. Perhaps leaving some of their staunchest more guitar inclined fans behind, we thought this album was a mammoth progression, serving up delicious unabashed pop whilst maintaining an innovative streak at the same time, the electronic tones very much in tune with the moment.

August was all about Mac DeMarco for us and although Another One arguably didn’t reach the heights of previous releases, it still showcased the obvious talents of a hardworking songwriter rather comically portrayed as a slacker when he is anything but. OK. I might draw some ire for this next addition, particularly given more credible artists which have been omitted. But Miley Cyrus. Yep. I know. I didn’t expect to be writing her name here either. But hear me out. When someone gets pally with The Flaming Lips it’s hard not to take notice and although there were frankly some cringe-inducing moments on Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, I’m sorry but there were some nice moments too (I think, maybe I was high) and she deserves praise for trying to break out of the manufactured pop straitjacket she’s been confined in from such an early age. Worth keeping an eye on at least? No? OK. No pressure. Just an opinion. Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.

September. Low‘s Ones and Sixes. Just brilliant. Check it out. It was also great to hear a new release from Mercury Rev, an enduring and extremely interesting band if ever there was one. Julia Holter Have You In My Wilderness knocked us off our feet because it’s one of those records that shows you just what exciting things can be done with the medium sonically if one lets their imagination run riot, whilst Kurt Vile‘s B’lieve I’m Goin’ Down we thought was the sound of an increasingly confident artist who is really hitting his sweet spot now. We await his next record impatiently. Seamus Fogarty‘s Ducks and Drakes was covered on this here site and more than merits another mention. Just wonderful. October was a high point for us musically because not only did we get to revel in Deerhunter‘s Fading Frontier, but Neon Indian released VEGA INTL. Night School and Joanna Newsom blew our tiny little canine minds with Divers.

It’s lucky the previous month treated us well because in November there was a musical drought. There was no decent music released in November. End of. OK, OK I’m sure there was. We just didn’t really hear anything we felt worth mentioning. We can’t listen to ALL the music in the world, as much as we’d like to. December was the same. With hindsight a fitting respectful musical silence clearing the way before Bowie signed out so incredibly in January. Please correct us if we’re wrong about November and December. Which we probably are. We’re only fighting dogs after all. That’s it. Sorry if it was all too obvious but sometimes the standout music just is obvious – that’s why there’s so much agreement. It’s not necessarily a conspiracy.

This year we want to hear from you. If you’re a band/artist send your music our way. We’re Westerners based in China but the world’s a small place in Internet land. Everything is local to us and everything is potentially international at the same time.

If you want us to cover something you love then tell us and we’ll give it a sniff… WOOF!

Mail us: thesoundoffightingdogs[AT]

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