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:
10. Jamie xx
Laid back attitude meets mile-a-minute take-off.
Photo: Emma Swann
Who knows what it’d take to make Jamie xx go bananas and do somersaults instead of ‘playing it cool’. Maybe he really is the most subdued in the game. But his easy-does-it tolerance has been tested in 2015.
Solo debut ‘In Colour’ encompassed all sides of this fascinatingly adept producer. One second he’d be reshuffling his xx dayjob with ‘Loud Places’, the next he’d be incorporating footwork into ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’. Some factions of the electronic community dismissed ‘In Colour’ as an empty space dressed up in fancy shades, but for thousands it was their gateway to a new world. Jamie xx has this ability to sit at the centre of countless genres and thread them together. He doesn’t go on about it, but that’s his ultimate strength. Jamie Milton
9. Bring Me The Horizon
They’re done bringing metal to the masses - now they’re a band for everyone.
Granted, when Bring Me The Horizon took to the stage at Reading Festival 2015, they weren't headlining, but they may as well have been. With the rain pouring down and the sky stained red, there was an ominous feel in the air – as though something major was about to happen - and the Sheffield quintet seized the opportunity. They won one of their greatest victories yet and completely stole the show.
The fact that their fifth album 'That's The Spirit' narrowly missed out on the Albums Chart top spot feels almost irrelevant now; the wheels were already in motion and nothing was going to stop them. Once a band who dwelled entirely in a corner of metalcore, they're now a legitimate mainstream concern. Blending together genres and hurdling musical boundaries, they're undoubtedly one of the biggest UK rock bands and it's hard not to admire the effort they've gone through to get here. Sarah Jamieson
8. Years & Years
Stratospheric pop prodigies with a cheeky smile at every turn.
Pity any band racing into a year as the official ’Sound Of’, the ambassadors of all things shiny and new. Years & Years had a couple of hits to their name when 2015 arrived. They looked odds on to go one further and become Actually Massive. But they didn’t settle on just that.
‘Communion’ topped charts worldwide, festival tents were beyond packed out wherever they turned up. But they’ve also become a proper band, fully aware of their place in the world. Catch them today and they’re the same humble, jokey bunch as twelve months back, but frontman Olly Alexander has become a voice of his own, delivering golden tweets about Cher in the process.
Who knows if they’ll pen another banger as big as ‘King’, but Years & Years’ stratospheric rise this year can’t be understated. Jamie Milton
Read: The December DIY catch-up with Years & Years, reflecting on their bonkers year.
7. Courtney Barnett
From specialist concern to something very special indeed.
Photo: Mike Massaro
It’s fair to say that before ‘Pedestrian At Best’ emerged in a clatter of drawled choruses, Courtney Barnett was a odd-balling outlier. Singing about asthma inhalers over lazy, sedated guitar lines, and just beginning to harness worthy attention for witticisms like ‘Avant Gardener’s line “the paramedic thinks I'm clever cos i play guitar, I think she's clever cos she stops people dying,” the ball was rolling along, steadily, and surely.
With her debut, ‘Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit’, that particular ball got a rocket-propelled boot up the jacksy. Throwing taxidermy kangeroos, dangerous mid-drive sneezes, skim-read books on palmistry, and the most dry, sarcastic delivery of the year - “aren’t the pressed metal ceilings great?” - into the weird old observational world of her first full-length, it was the moment that Courtney Barnett went from outlier, to the centre of all attention. It takes a rare talent to say something meaningful about the things that most people scuff past every day without a second look. C-Barnz has hyper-attention to the small detail in droves. El Hunt
Another huge leap ahead of the pack.
Photo: Mike Massaro
Rewind twelve months: Chvrches were finally back at home after a staggering eighteen months on the road in support of their debut album. Most bands would be gearing up for a well-deserved holiday, weeks and weeks of catching up with Netflix. Not Chvrches though; almost as soon as they got off the road, they found themselves back in their studio and the rest, as they say, is history.
After six months of work, the results were showcased back in September with 'Every Open Eye', the band's second full-length. An album that sees their intrinsic formula stripped back and defined, it shows the trio pushing themselves to the limits and further still. More confident, more huge-sounding, more brilliant, it's a record that's already seen them headline London's Alexandra Palace and schedule in an arena show in their native Glasgow. So, you know, don't be surprised when they're headlining festivals and selling out arenas all over the country. Sarah Jamieson
5. Run The Jewels
Non-stop momentum and an eye for doing the right thing.
Photo: Grady Brannan
It’s been over a year since Run the Jewels decided to raise $40,000 for charity by remixing their second album ‘RTJ2’ with nothing but cat sounds. Roughly the same amount of time has passed since Killer Mike spoke out passionately in St Louis, on the night of the Ferguson verdict, asking “who the fuck do we turn to for justice?”. Still, though, Run the Jewels remain the most prominent voices in rap, and they’re every bit as important as they were when we stuck collective heads together at DIY this time last year.
Across the board, Run the Jewels feature in those magic, palpable live moments you never forget. Touring flat-out for the entire year, few cities survived unscathed. The two of them turned their Reading and Leeds tent into a hulking, sweaty whirlpool, and at Field Day, part of Killer Mike and El-P’s satire, seas of people chanted that “fucking stupid chorus” from ‘Love Again (Akinyele Back)’ back in unison. It was a similar story at Primavera, where Killer Mike’s shoulder injury - and the small matter of a shoulder brace - couldn’t halt the “motherfucking party bus” Run the Jewels had planned for Barcelona. With work starting on ‘RT3’ as soon as Run the Jewels wind up their tour, 2016 is looking like another mammoth year. El Hunt
A generational superhero in waiting.
Few acts can place themselves at the teetering top of the agenda with a single demo; Grimes on the other hand, did just that with ‘REALiTi’. Sock-and-sandal-clad tours of Game of Thrones sets steadily turned into studio snaps. Something was in the works. In interviews, Claire Boucher started speaking about gender-bending, vampire-filled versions of The Godfather II, and posting drawings from Russian ballet costumiers. Then, with little fanfare nor fuss - just a straight-up announcement - she put out her fourth album ‘Art Angels’.
Up until this year, Grimes was all about trying to jet off and escape to an alternate universe with every claustrophobic, blooping turn. Though ‘Art Angels’ remains, at times, as sonically unfamiliar as a satsuma playing K-pop on a tin whistle, there’s a garish, boundless energy, and it bursts with confidence out of every luminous gap in the ether. A career-defining triumph of a record, which flings a middle finger towards every preconception, and seizes ahold of full creative autonomy, ‘Art Angels’ might just be the record that turns Grimes into one of those generational superheroes of the music world. El Hunt
On course to be one of the UK’s most treasured bands.
What makes a band special? Some (boring) people will try and tell you it’s all about the music (man). That everything else is fluff and nonsense, to be ignored in favour of The One True Path Being Authentic. Bobbins.
Drenge prove there’s much more to it than that. On record, they tick every musical box you could imagine. 2015’s ‘Undertow’ is a remarkable album - a 5/5. Live, they’re even better; able to put most capital-R-rock-bands to shame with their pummeling riffs. But it’s everything else about them that moves them onto a plane above most of their peers.
Now a sort-of-three-piece, the Derbyshire Nirvana (yes, we’re only saying that so we can link to that clip) have personality. Genuinely funny, supremely sharp - it’s not a case of one stand out incident making them look like something they’re not. There’s substance behind it too, like when they literally binned off The Sun for a ridiculous front page lead. And - better than all of that - they’re not done yet. The progress from their debut to its follow up proves that Drenge are still evolving. If, when they’re done, they’re anything less than the UK's most celebrated band, we’ll eat our One Direction lunchbox. Stephen Ackroyd
Making history with every step.
Photo: Mike Massaro
Other bands take baby steps - Foals leap forward, every single time. ‘What Went Down’ is no exception. Thought ‘Holy Fire’ was muscular? Think again. From dagger-sharp math-rock to festival main-stage juggernauts in the space of four albums, there’s no stopping Foals relentless charge forwards. They drink a load of wine (lads), they press record, and they capture the heaviest hangover you’ve ever had on tape, twisting it into arena-ready anthemia in the process
But their on-record majesty is only part of the tale. Give this lot a stage, and it’s like presenting a Gremlin with a three-course meal at two minutes past midnight. Chaos reigns, no surface is safe. An in-store at Rough Trade East this summer saw Yannis clambering over tills on the shop’s counter - two days later they were tearing apart tents at Reading and Leeds like a sleeping bag thief in the night. They might have ended their year with a run of scaled-down shows, but it didn’t tame them. If anything it upped the danger-factor, the feeling that anything could happen. At a recent show at Margate’s Dreamland, Yannis leapt atop the bar at the back of the room, necking a shot of Jager mid-song like he was at some godawful indie club-night. In reality, he was at the best night out 2015 had to offer, conducting every second. They’ve got arenas and festival headline slots in in their crosshairs now. Wembley better strengthen its walls. Tom Connick
1. Wolf Alice
A gazillion glitter tubes. Dozens of sold out shows. One game-changing album. Five-hundred and twenty-eight copies away from the Number 1 spot. When Wolf Alice started 2015, they no doubt had big ambitions, but surely they weren’t expecting this.
One surreal leap to the next, these four lunatics haven’t just released the album of the year with ‘My Love Is Cool’. They’ve dressed up as hobbits and played flutes. They’ve hung out with the Dad from My Parents Are Aliens. They’ve awkwardly sat in the background of a conversation about their own album while at the Mercury Prize. And they’ve become the official ambassadors of gold glitter.
There’s a much longer version of this story, but Wolf Alice trashed a studio when they did their July 2015 DIY cover shoot. Glitter everywhere, you’d find it in the office showers, on the otherwise grim-looking pavements outside. DIY nearly got into a lot of trouble, actually. But nothing’s changed between the Wolf Alice who’d paint their torsos red and ones who now turn up to photo shoots with loo roll wrapped around their legs as a substitute for white trousers. They’re loons without limit, and they also happen to be the best band in the country. Long may it remain the case, because the world’s been crying out for a band like Wolf Alice for years. They truly arrived in 2015. Jamie Milton
Read: The DIY cover feature with Wolf Alice, on why they're a once in a generation band.
Playlist - #1-10:
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