Let's start with some good news: there's a new Bowie album on the way. Let's improve on that with more good news: as it's not out until next week, I don't have to worry about it - as far as this review is concerned - for a whole 12 months.
For that I must thank the Jones family, once of Brixton, South London, who saw to it that the boy David was born on January 8, 1947, thus affording the latterday Dame the hook of his 66th birthday for the brilliant subterfuge of releasing Where Are We Now? without warning. Without anywhere near the same secrecy, his next - NEXT! - album, Blackstar, which will appear next Friday on the occasion of his 69th year mostly on this planet. And of what I've heard so far, I'm fairly confident that it will be a shoe-in for WWDBD?'s 2016 hall of fame. But that is, clearly, for another year.
And, so, 2015 - a year in which music, unwittingly, became a focal point for all the wrong reasons. It would, perhaps, be somewhat disproportionate to place the events of November 13 as the fulcrum of the last 12 months in music. After all, this has been a year, like many and in my case, most, in which gigs have been part of my normal routine.
In Paris, my adopted home for the past five years, it's part of everyone's social routine, which is what makes the attack on the Eagles Of Death Metal gig as well as the environs of Le Bataclan an act that continues to cast a pall over 2015's joie de vivre. Because as corny as it might sound to invoke "rock and roll forever" defiance, it had never been more correct.
But let's not overdwell. To do so only panders to the medieval deviants who made such defiance necessary to begin with. Instead, let's celebrate a year in which new music has come thick and fast. So thick and so fast that to do justice to a list of the year' best releases really should be more exhaustive than the 15 you see below. And while this list is more a representation of the new albums I've probably listened to more than any other, it inevitably lacks those which deserve an honorable mention - such as Keith Richards' Crosseyed Heart and Gary Clark Jr's long-awaited The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim.
But, a line must be drawn somewhere, and so, in Miss World order, here are What Would David Bowie Do?'s 2015 platters-that-matter.
I hope some, at least, have made your musical year as much as they have done mine.
12. Paul Weller - Saturns Pattern: It would be far too easy to compare Paul Weller and Bruce Springsteen through their shared blue collar backgrounds, but there is a stronger [solid] bond between them in terms of work ethic. Both seem incapable of slowing down. Weller, in particular, appears as restlessly creative as ever, finding yet another new direction to go down, with many more previously untapped influences from his youth to work into an album every bit as consistent as any in his impressive near-40 year recording career.
7. Alabama Shakes - Sound And Colour: You all know that thing about second albums and difficulty, right? Well nobody informed the cavernously-voiced Brittany Howard and her bandmates, who followed up their truly remarkable debut Boys & Girls with an overwhelmingly good package of understated R&B. Live, they are a force of nature, and the combined material from their first and sophomore releases fuelled one of the gigs of, not only the year, but the decade when I saw them at July's Lucca Summer Festival in Tuscany, on a double-bill with Paolo Nutini.
6. Guy Garvey - Courting The Squall: Ask anyone - people who know him, people who've met him, and then everyone else - and no one has a bad thing to say about Guy Garvey. Not that we should have to find fault all the time, of course. But in any written or recorded interaction with the younger-than-he-looks Elbow frontman, two words crop up consistently: "loveable" and "bear". This does paint him as a hybrid of Phil Collins and Yogi, but if you reluctantly put Garvey's patent likeability to one side for a second, and consider the work he has put in with Elbow over, incredibly, the last 20 years, even the most cold-hearted cynic would have to concede, that theirs is a brand of intelligent pop that transcends festivals, bedsits and middle class dinner parties with delight and lack of offence in equal measure. On Courting The Squall, Garvey gathered up song ideas that had been gathering dust, brought in a few of his Salford muso mates and, with the application of a jazz sensibility, went experimental. And did so with wonderous effect.
5. Richard Hawley - Hollow Meadows: After the extravagant splurge of mesmerising psych-rock that was 2012's Standing On The Sky's Edge, Sheffield's bequiffed bard returned with something of a throwback to his earlier, loving recreation of '50s ballroom balladry. The result is a truly luscious collection of guitar-driven twang with a conscience, immediately accessible, but which draws you inexorably into Hawley's romantic take on the modern world, its ills and thrills included, and it does so more with honey than the vinegar of its predecessor.
4. Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell: Going right back to when I first started buying the NME as a callow youth, I have both embraced what the music press has encouraged me to like and rejected it out of hand. Because that's how it should work. Music may be less of a subjective art as, say, comedy, but it can abruptly split opinion. Yes, I own early Coldplay albums, and I've even paid money to see Adele in concert, but nothing the former produces now interest me, and as for the latter, even my love of the gloomy won't stretch to joining the billions now in posession of 25. All of this is to say that Sufjan Stevens' Carrie & Lowell is an album the music press implored us to buy and, instead of repulsing it, on the stubborn grounds that I make my own taste, I took a punt. And I couldn't have been enamoured mor by the beauty Stevens created from apparent pain, charm from sadness, respect from raw honesty. An absolutely brilliant piece of work.