It’s list season. Christmas shopping lists come first, but there’s also snowman-related gif lists, lists for the best ways to cook brussel sprouts. And then there’s the all important end of year, tracks and albums of the year lists.
But for a band to go from small concern to Oh My God Massive, it usually takes more than an album. Triumphant festival slots, ridiculous videos, regrettable tweets - these all come into the equation. At DIY we’re obsessed with bands. We follow their every move and laugh at their shit jokes. The best acts go way beyond releasing a record before going back into hibernation. They play surprise gigs, they form best mates with their tour buddies. Sometimes, they steal copies of The Sun from a service station before throwing them in the bin.
The DIY List is our look back at the year’s defining artists. Albums and standout tracks obviously have an impact, but we’ll also be explaining why an act’s made the cut by picking out their other eye-catching moments. Last year, St. Vincent topped The DIY List 2014 by transforming into a musical superhero. Across this week (14th-18th December), we’ll be running through the year’s finest. Follow everything here.
How The DIY List was decided
The DIY List is a combination of DIY writers’ favourite albums and tracks, and the stunning pinch-yourself moments that took place throughout the year. We’ve sat down and tried to take stock of the past twelve months, whether it’s a bizarre news story or an unforgettable headline slot.
Nothing ‘earns’ more ‘points’. This isn’t a deep analytical discussion or a frog-leaping competition. It’s a collection of the best and most bonkers acts, all ranked in a list (because lists are fun, let’s face it).
Catch up with the top 100 below:
20. Swim Deep
Bonkers, batshit and totally brilliant.
No other band can out-Swim Deep this Birmingham lot. When they could have settled into an airy pop filter, they changed the game completely, probably at the expense of any financial reward. But fuck it. ‘Mothers’, their rollercoaster-in-space apocalypse of a second record, is the most out-there major label release of the year, and it deserves full reward for going stratospheric.
Austin Williams told DIY the band were “shaving our heads and going to war” with ‘Mothers’. And even though beyond anything, this is an album free to roam into any dimension, it’s also defiant. It’s the sound of a band pursuing everything, no matter what the cost. Few bands take that kind of risk in 2015. Jamie Milton
19. Tame Impala
Moving towards pop but maintaining that manic glint.
Sweaty psych-nerds of the Australian outback go full-on pop bangers - it’s a transformation for the ages. Tame Impala’s embrace of their chart-bothering tendencies opened them up to a whole new world, and on ‘Currents’, they found the immediacy to punch through that glass ceiling, finally looking fit to top festival bills.
That’s not to say they straightened up entirely though - Kevin Parker may have made the jump to certified dreamboat, but there’s still an element of madness to everything Tame Impala touch. Take their ‘Let It Happen’ and ‘The Less I Know The Better’ videos for example - tripped-out airport mazes and, er, ‘sexual relations’ with gorillas abound, proving that with every step towards pop success, Parker and co. are still keeping that manic glint in their eye.
A massive year. An even massiver hat.
Photo: Mike Massaro
It’s been a hell of a year for Gengahr. They kicked it off supporting Alt-J and Wolf Alice on some bloody massive mega-dates, all still off the back of those initial first singles. By the time debut album ‘A Dream Outside’ emerged in the summer, they’d finally sculpted themselves into something magnificent. No album, though, could rival the true diamond of Gengahr’s 2015. Amidst a globetrotting summer, spent scouring fields and playing endless festival sets that spawned a fanbase consistently fit to burst, they happened upon something truly beautiful at Latitude. Something that would become a talking point, and a career highlight, for months and years to come. Truly, undoubtedly, 2015 was the year of Hugh’s Hat. Tom Connick
Peace have had a huge year. Not only did the DIY readers crown frontman Harry Koisser as the Sauciest Warbler of them all, he’s also won the coveted trophy of Ultimate Indie Dreamboat. Besides that, the band have achieved the impossible, enlisting the original #indiepete himself, Peter Crouch, for their ‘Gen Strange’ video. This year we’ve watched Peace’s coat collection grow more swishy and impressive by the month, with little regard for seasonal changes in temperature. We’ve even seen them ordering a label intern to fetch them white emulsion paint - for final coat-decorating touches - before their massive Reading Festival set this year. Next year, Peace’s major challenge will be getting another celebrity video cameo to top 2015. Danny Dyer, perhaps? El Hunt
16. FKA Twigs
More than an everyday musician.
With FKA twigs’ 2014 debut ‘LP1’, the buck was never going to stop at a solid album format.
She’s since proven herself as a leading figure in 2015. From responding to racist online hate (“ultimately I’m 10 times stronger than somebody hiding behind a weird name on Twitter”) to creating a berserk visual residency for Manchester International Festival, everything twigs has done this year has helped establish her as more than just an everyday musician.
It’s a journey that hit its peak with ‘M3LLI55X’, an EP released as a series of head-turning videos, each one peering further into a world of brilliant lunacy. Throughout, twigs challenges everyday notions of sexuality, gender and movement. And instead of being just a daring act of bravado, ‘M3LLI55X’ also happened to pack her strongest songs yet. Twigs is on a constant, upwards spiral and she’s fast becoming peerless. Jamie Milton
All bangers, no ego.
He might have started the year as king of the blogs, but 2015 saw Shamir break free of the ‘net, becoming a fully fledged pop star in the process. ‘Ratchet’ was one of the year’s best records, unashamedly relishing every ounce of Shamir’s newfound disco obsession (apparently he’d never heard it before studio sessions for the record, which is bonkers).
Breaking through’s one thing, but staying grounded is quite another. He might be touring with mega-stars like Years & Years and Marina and her Diamonds, but he’s never been more approachable, leaping the barriers at his own shows to dish out hugs and spending god-knows how many hours on Twitter talking to fans. All bangers, no ego - that’s what’s makes Shamir such a special talent. Tom Connick
Diamond in the rough.
Photo: Emma Swann
Uncompromising, honest and completely no-bullshit, Bully have spent the past twelve months proving that they’re more than worthy of the hype. With the release of their debut album ‘Feels Like’, Alicia Bognanno et al offered up a fuzz-drenched storm - a chaotic chunk of catharsis - that comes pierced with her earth-shattering screamed vocals and it’s completely satisfying.
Those who were lucky enough to see them on their first visit to the UK earlier this year - or when they joined FIDLAR on the road last month - can pay testament to their brilliance live, where the intensity and imperfections shine. Less rough-around-the-edges, more diamond in the rough, Bully are a band at the very beginning of what could be a remarkable career. Sarah Jamieson
13. Kendrick Lamar
Unstoppable in the best way.
Photo: Emma Swann
With tour de force ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City,’ Kendrick Lamar took us on a dizzying journey through his very own slice of Compton; hotboxing cars on Rosecrans avenue, and dreaming of ‘Money Trees’ far away from the West Coast. It was hard to see him equalling such a dizzyingly cohesive narrative, but successor ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ steps up.
Tootling and scatting its way through intricate, colliding jazz licks, ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is still interested in ripping apart the inner mechanisms of institutionalized, fucked-up America. It does so by putting on a wide-angle lens, and wrapping up biting commentary in playful, brassy packaging instead of personal tales. On the the swaggering, thudding ‘King Kunta,’ Kendrick’s simultaneously giving nods to 18th century black slave Kunta Kinte, and turning him into royalty. On ‘The Blacker The Berry’ meanwhile he dissects his own relationship with race. A fiercely intelligent album, with instrumentals so far reaching it’s actually a technical challenge for Kendrick to perform them live, there’s still no stopping the good kid from the mad city. El Hunt
So much more than a party band.
Photo: Phil Smithies
The trials and tribulations of FIDLAR are no secret; that much is made clear on their newest album ‘Too’, which sees frontman Zac Carper divulge his recent troubles in a rather open manner. While, on a personal level, the band have seemingly overcome some of their toughest battles this year, they’ve also produced some of their finest musical work yet.
Unbothered by naysayers and unconcerned with expectations, the quartet went into the studio to create whatever they fancied. The results are unhinged, riotous and – all at the same time – completely confessional. It’s “a big, dumb-smart, happy-sad, universally-specific beast of a record,” we claimed, in our 5-star review of the full-length, proving that FIDLAR may not be the cheap beer-fuelled band people first billed them as; they’re so much more. Sarah Jamieson
11. Charli XCX
Taking her defiance and attitude all the way to the top.
Photo: Mike Massaro
Finally slamming her second album ‘Sucker’ down on the counter with a defiant, bubble-gum popping flourish, the first half of 2015 looked like marking the moment that Charli XCX screwed up the ‘ft’ tagline for good. Then, in typical “fuck you” fashion, she continued to sashay through the year in platform sandals and outlandish trousers, featuring once again on whatever she took a shine to.
There was the prism-skewed pop jam ‘Drop That Kitty’ with Ty Dolla Sign, and the small matter of an opening slot for Katy Perry, too. Charli teamed up with SOPHIE for ‘Vroom Vroom’, and put together a documentary all about feminism for the BBC. She designed a clothing range, and ‘did a Carrie Bradshaw’ by appearing on a side of bus advert. That’s without mentioning the time she clobbered into a fancy awards do wearing a white silk tuxedo, or found the best female empowerment pop song of the year in ‘Body Of My Own’. Charli XCX has been a busy woman, and with attention turning back towards her solo endeavors once again, things only look set to get more haywire. El Hunt
Playlist - #11-20: