December is here, which means it is time for the annual markontour Festive Fifteen. As usual, there’s almost nothing to do with Xmas in this compilation, and there has been so much great music this year that I have yet again failed to whittle my list down to fifteen tracks. But, caveats aside, herewith The Festive Fifteen of 2019 (and you can find the full YouTube playlist here):
1. Avez-vous deja – Gently Tender
First spotted at Glastonbury, again at Latitude & never off my playlist ever since. Ex-Palma Violets team up with The Big Moon’s keyboardist to make heavenly music.
2. Pressure to Party – Julia Jacklin
A cleverly crafted story of coping with being dumped, from a singer who cites Billy Bragg & Doris Day as influences and had Courtney Barnett produce her album. Wow.
3. Dublin City Sky – Fontaines DC
Is this the new Fairy Tale of New York? “As drunk as love is lethal I spun a lady round / And I kissed her ‘neath the waking of a Dublin City Sky / She threw her shoes into her bag and danced just like a dream / Her cheeks were rubied up just like no Sun I’d ever seen”.
4. Sunny Daze – Diggle
Hailing from my old home of Nottingham, I heard this on Huw Stephens’ show and it instantly became my song of the summer.
5. The Barrel – Aldous Harding
Harding’s album, Designer, is as extraordinary as her live performances are frustrating, and the video for The Barrel is bizarre. Nothing by halves with Ms Harding.
6. Black – Dave
I was gutted to miss him at Glastonbury. Powerful lyrics on what it means to be black in Britain: “Black is people namin’ your countries on what they trade most / Coast of Ivory, Gold Coast, and the Grain Coast / But most importantly to show how deep all this pain goes / West Africa, Benin, they call it slave coast”
7. Likolo – KoKoKo!
I’m pretty sure I only bought this because of the brilliant cover art, as I know nothing about the band other than that they are from the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, but it was a good punt as this is driving, life-affirming music.
8. You Need to Calm Down – Taylor Swift
Now she has clarified that she is very much against Donald Trump I am allowed to like Taylor Swift again, which is just as well as I instantly loved this catchy, full-colour pop song with a message. It’s now a C40 band number too.
9. Black Moon Rising – Black Pumas
A friend recommended we see this band in New York after a FridaysforFuture march & regrettably I stayed in the bar. They are AMAZING! Hoping this won’t end up ranking with the time in 1994 I sold my tickets to see some new indie band called Oasis at Rock City in order to have beer money for the weekend.
10. None of My Friends – Liz Lawrence
If you listen to 6 Music on the BBC then you’ll have heard this. “I talk to you twice a year / On your birthday and Christmases / And we connect over late stage capitalist memes / None of my friends are ok”
11. Vossi Bop – Stormzy
2019 was the year Stormzy headlined Glastonbury. Mixing grime and politics, ballet and bike tricks, Stormzy turned the Pyramid stage into a theatre of modern urban life as a vehicle to convey his powerful rap-poetry. It was simply extraordinary & he had to be on the Festive Fifteen as a result. Vossi Bop does also have the lines “I could never die, I’m Chuck Norris / Fuck the government and fuck Boris”
12. Nothing Great About Britain – Slowthai
Punk-influenced grime from Northampton, Slowthai’s debut album manages to be both visceral and fun, as epitomised by this, the title track.
13. Summer Girl – Haim
Stealing liberally from Lou Reed is just a sign of good taste. A proper ear-worm from this familial LA trio.
14. Time – Angelo D’Augustine
Another hazy summer song, I just want to close my eyes and slip-away every time I hear this beautiful ballad.
15. I’ve Been Dazed – Michael Kiwanuka
A friend recommended a track of Kiwanuka’s for a previous Festive Fifteen, but for some reason it didn’t connect with me. It only took one listen, however, for this track to be included on this year’s compilation.
16. Toast To All Our Differences – Rudimental ft. Shungudzo, Protoje, & Hak Baker
More social commentary on austerity Britain and cracking London video to go with it. I loved that they used the mural from my old bus-stop in Dalston on their first album.
17. It’s Easy Then – The Big Moon
Turn the volume up for the “You make it hard” chorus, which is somewhat ironic given that the lead-singer’s boyfriend proposed to her on stage shortly after singing this at their spiky Green Man show.
18. Special Announcement – The Felice Brothers
Ian Felice is saving up his money to be President, with a sure-fire voter winner: “I can promise you this / Charlie Parker on the ten dollar bill / I’ll gather up all the cash / Toss it to the birds / Burn down the Stock Exchange / The Federal Reserve (it’s going down)”. I haven’t seen his name on the ballot paper yet.
19. Boys Will Be Boys – Stella Donnelly
Singer-songwriter, Stella Donnelly, describes this as her “attempt at making sense of society’s tendency to blame the victims of sexual assault and rape and make excuses for the perpetrators.” It’s not an easy listen as a result, but it’s brilliant.
20. Hold Me Anyway – Wilco
Covering familiar themes of self-failure with a familiarly upbeat Wilco riff, this is nonetheless wonderful, because Wilco are wonderful.
21. People’s Faces – Kate Tempest
From the moment I first heard it I knew it was going to be the closing F15 track. “It’s coming to pass / My country’s coming apart / The whole thing’s becoming / Such a bumbling farce / Was that a pivotal historical moment / We just went stumbling past?../ There is so much peace to be found in people’s faces / It’s not enough / To imagine we’ll be happy, when we’ve got enough stuff / All this stuff is blocking us”.
Post the General Election this feels like a fitting way to end 2019, with apologies to my non-UK friends for the overly-British slant to this year’s Festive Fifteen. Happy Xmas!