MIKE BUGEJA'S 2015 END-OF-YEAR ROUND-UP
It's been a busy year for Maltese music, busier than 2014 if we have to go by the number of releases as a whole. There were certainly several standout offerings, and with at least 49 albums and 22 EPs released, not to mention a multitude of radio singles and/or music videos that was way too much for me to keep precise track of, everything points to a growing general interest and, dare I say it, belief in the local music scene. I still yearn to see this translate into more concrete state interest/support (hopefully Create 2020 will bring us closer to achieving this) and bigger attendances at live events (and not just the big mainstream ones, folks). Better still, I would love to hear that more people are actually buying local music rather than just streaming it online, which would certainly be of more effective support to the bands and artists.
Before going on to list my most favourite picks of 2015, let me just say that I would've liked to attend Brikkuni's Teatru Manoel concerts, more so after hearing so many wonderful comments from my friends who were present. On the other hand, I was in London - part of a 20+ group of people - in connection with the third edition of the Malta Takes London event on those same two nights. The event fielded its biggest line-up to date, and what an amazing couple of nights they were too, so I am definitely not complaining!
On top of that I did witness some remarkable performances in Malta too, the majority by local acts (and please allow me to here slip in some shameless self-promotion and mention ROCKNA's 5th Anniversary concert last July, which was awesome) as well as some foreign bands and artists, among them Caravana Sun (once again), The Twilight Sad, Esben & The Witch, Neil Halstead and the truly incredible Josh T. Pearson.
A special mention goes to three young artists, namely Hannah Brown - young, insanely talented and surely a name we will be hearing more of in 2016; Robert Farrugia - by far among the most prolific and creative souls on this island of ours and Timothy Garrett, whose work to date (as Curmudgeon and one-half of Krishna) has only revealed what I believe to be but a tiny fraction of what is still to come.
2015 also saw the birth of Electronic Music Malta which, in the space of only a few months, has already staged a number of successful and productive events (and an amazing compilation album too), with more already scheduled for 2016. 2015 also saw the launch of Trackage Scheme's website, another among many important steps forward that this organization has taken to promote the local scene. Being a staunch supporter of Malta's music scene, output and development myself for many years (decades even) now, seeing the emergence of such organizations is highly motivating.
I feel it's worth mentioning here that, despite not receiving as much exposure on the local airwaves as the radio-friendly bands and artists, Malta's electronic and metal scenes are in fact the genres that have probably achieved the most in terms of international market infiltration and appreciation, and usually without any outside funding too. I mention this not to burst anyone's bubble; only to bring this simple and oft-overlooked point to light so that perhaps while implementing new strategies, every effort is made not to leave anyone out.
Having said that, unfortunately I'm going to have leave many out myself in putting together a list of my favourite local picks for 2015. It is always a tough choice doing so but, having put several of my media colleagues through it, do it I must. To alleviate some of the difficulty, I've decided to go with those songs, EPs and albums I played the most for my own listening pleasure, so in no particular order, here they are!
MY TOP 5 LOCAL PICKS
Jane Doe - Bury
The follow-up to their debut EP truly captures that intense moment of a band coming into its own. A hauntingly beautiful and delicate pop song which I could listen to all day.
The Velts - Foreigner
Young, gifted and certainly making a big impression with their brash indie sound. A tune that has it all - energy, dynamic and a left-of-centre melodic hook that is a killer all the way.
Massacre House Party - The Highway
The band's only new track last year openly consolidated their knack to churn out blatantly melodic tunes - another winner and a portent of good things for 2016!
Fuzzhoneys - Doors
In my music round-up of 2014, on the strength of their debut outing Soul, I had pinpointed Fuzzhoneys as a band to look out for in 2015 and I couldn't have been more right. The good news is there's more to come in 2016!
NoSnow/NoAlps - Kaleidoscopes
Not much to add to the piece I wrote about this song last November, so let me reiterate that it is possibly their most accomplished by way of portraying the many colours that one finds in their eclectic musical palette.
I could've easily added another dozen or so songs to this list (Carrie Haber's Satellite, Jon Lukas Woodenman's Secrets, Claire Tonna's Every Step is a Kiss, Hannah Brown's Kicking down the wall, Dolls For Idols' Berlin, WaterWings' Forever Clear, Life Long War's Sun and Sempliċiment tat-Triq's Ħadd Mhu Llegali would certainly be among them), and that's without even going into all the albums and EPs, of which there are a good number to explore if you haven't already; from Funk Initiative's Cartographers, The Ranch's Cuckoo Island, The New Victorians' Seeker Seeker and Kafena's Lukanda Propaganda to Marmalja's Demm Ġdid, Weeping Silence's Opus IV Oblivion, Winter Moods' The Journey, Different Strings' The Sounds of Silence Pt II and Ascendor's Drive my Demons Away (and quite a few more in between) as well as ex-patriate offerings such as Payloader's Built For Robots And Most Believers, Dana McKeon's Halcyon, Walrus & The Carpenter's Old Soul's Eyes and three (yes, three!) albums from Andre' Camilleri. I may (or may not, depending on available time) revisit some of my favourite EPs and albums from 2015 and share a few words about them on this website every now and then, but I'm also interested to hear from you about your favourite picks for 2015 too, so don't be shy, send me an email.
Last but not least, being Day 1 of the New Year, it's only natural to include what I'm looking forward to in 2016. The Fuzzhoneys EP CD tal-Ġenn is first on that list , Brikkuni's album a close second without a doubt, all the metal festivals that never fail to deliver the goods, Rock The South and most certainly new releases from The Busker, Stalko, The Rifffs, The Velts, Sonitus Eco, Martyrium, Albert Bell's Sacro Sanctus, Forsaken, Red Electrick and Ira Losco, and those are just the ones that I know of, as I'm sure there's plenty more music for release this year. I look forward to hearing it all, as I'm sure many of you are too. That's about it for now, don't forget to visit us regularly, tune in to ROCKNA and drop a line if you feel like it. Your input is always appreciated. Happy New Year!