top 20 tracks of 2015 // part 1

In a year which saw us help launch a brand new record label in Belfast, a host of successful local gigs and the spirit of punk injected back into Northern Ireland via Serotonin's now infamous outdoor performance, it comes that time again to celebrate this years musical soundscape!

As always, it's been incredibly difficult to choose only twenty tracks from the array of wonderful releases. Here at Encore NI, our ethos has always been about encouraging new talent, and so we hope our list rightfully shines a light on not only the established artists of our music scene, but the unsung heroes as well!

The only rule we've enforced this year is that no band or artist could feature more than once; and while we would never claim this list to be anything more than opinion, we hope you find a new artist to love and follow into the new year!

& So without further ado, we begin with...

20. Fox Colony ~ 'Headphones'
For fans of ~ The Front Bottoms. Joshua Burnside, Billy Bragg

For newly formed trio 'Fox Colony' life has proven pretty smooth so far. The brainchild of poet-come-frontman Darren Hill, this hidden gem came courtesy of the songwriter's 'Hand of a Wolf' EP, a record evoking the cut-throat clever lyricism of The Front Bottom's Brian Sella, mixed with the intoxicating instrumentation of Joshua Burnside. A definite candidate for my favorite lyrics of the year, ("what about America? Thought that you were gonna move, I thought you hated it here? But you just get high in your boyfriend's bedroom") Fox Colony look set to be everyone's favorite folk-punks next door in 2016.

19. Young G ~ 'Say Something Flow'
For fans of ~ Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar

It's been a great year for twenty year old Gershom Kaoma. Having finally put the finishing touches on his debut mixtape 'Method to the Madness', the Belfast rapper staked his claim to the city's rap crown with a blistering performance at the launch of this year's 'Volume Control Records' album party. This remix showcases Kaoma's command of the microphone beautifully, as he allows his natural wit to flow like there's no tomorrow.

18. Charlie Loane ~ 'Inside Out'
For fans of ~ The Emotions, Otis Redding, Amy Winehouse
Facebook ~ n/a

Though we're more accustomed to witnessing Charlie Loane singing over screaming punk guitars in his native Serotonin, this change of pace from the lyricist offered a stripped back insight into just how good a singer he really is. Channeling the classic soul of Otis Redding or The Emotions, this chilled effort proved one of the year's most welcomed surprises.

17. Dillon Templeton ~ 'Happie.'
For fans of ~ Brand New, The 1975, The Cure

This rain-splashed track from the Little Arcadia guitarist has proved one of the most instantly heartbreaking of the year. Dripping in emotion, Templeton's simple prose leaves a lasting impression from the very first listen. A very special song.

16. Sister Ghost ~ 'Growing Pains'
For fans of ~ Hole, Bitch Falcon, Sonic Youth

Championed by RTE, Across The Line and many others, Sister Ghost has proved one of this year's biggest success stories. This pile-driving 90's tinged punk anthem evokes strong Sonic Youth vibes, complete with haunting breakdown...

15. Echo Raptors ~ 'Believe In Love'
For fans of ~ Cast, Oasis, The Verve

A step away from their usual pile-driving style, this beautiful ballad from Belfast's Echo Raptor's showed off the emotional side songs like 'Change My Way' only alluded to. Complete with piano and a wonderful performance from Vince Caddell on lead guitar, 'Believe In Love' is easily up there with the bands best work to date.

14. Stonemasons ~ 'How To Fix Everything' 
For fans of ~ Radiohead, ASIWYFA, Rise Against

Cocooned within a sea of distortion, Belfast's Stonemasons have written possibly the most uplifting song of the year. This closing track to their 'Lost Layers' EP starts pretty heavy, with driving bass and thunderous drumming; before building to a crescendo of the highest order. It's a sonic journey ~ you have to go there to get back, and then go again. With the dust onbly now beginning to settle on this year's memorable Russian tour, we're sure they'll have a few more stories to tell in 2016...

13. SALAD BOYZ ~ Dreams
For fans of ~ The Presidents of the United States Of America, FIDLAR, Weezer

Making it to the final of The Pavilion's famous Battle of the Bands after only months together should tell you all you need to know about Belfast's newest grunge-punks SALAD BOYZ ~ and yet it totally doesn't. Fronted by the ever charismatic Tommy Haghighi, these boyz' mix of sweet, tuneful melodies and heavy guitars mark them out as one of Belfast's most exciting and original new bands. This particular song, though not yet released, is their best to date. All hail the Sal-lord, SALAD BOYZ are here for the duration.

12. Pleasure Beach ~ 'Dreamer To The Dawn'
For fans of ~ Arcade Fire, CHVRCHES, M83

Born out of the ashes of Yes Cadets, Pleasure Beach's rise from the rehearsal room to this islands biggest stages has been swift and deserving. Encompassing all the best qualities of the 1980's with a contemporary twist, Pleasure Beach have the style and sound to make 2016 their own ~ with this, the title track from their debut EP, their signature tune.

11. Shadow Police ~ 'Sleep Tonight'
For fans of ~ New Order, Kavinsky

This gorgeous track from the Belfast synth-pop duo has paved the way for their great beginnings this year. Following successful slots at both Barn Fest and the VC Records album launch, Shadow Police's fan base i now shared between the capital and the North Coast ~ expect them to build on that in 2016.

Part two coming soon!  

Taylor Johnson

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