The Best (and Worst) of Ukuleles in 2015

Best of 2015 Playlist

It’s been another golden year for the ukulele. Time to wrap it up with some of my favourites to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Feel free to share yours in the comments. Particularly if it’s something I’ve missed.

And for a more lengthy look at the year’s ukulele music have a listen to my Ukulele 2015 Spotify playlist.

Ukulele Song of 2015: The Vespers – Out West

I’ve featured a few songs by, Nashville folkies, The Vespers in the past but they’ve been a bit cutesy for my taste. With their latest album Sisters and Brothers they’ve really hit their stride. There are half a dozen tracks on the album that rank amongst my favourites of this year including this ukulele song .(I feel the need to point out that the album version doesn’t include the questionable bass solo that’s in the live version.)

Runners Up
Sufjan Stevens – Death With Dignity
Brit Rodriguez – Chapel Insomnia
Cammy Enaharo – Not For You and I
Queen Porter Stomp – Just Come On
Keston Cobblers Club – Won’t Look Back

Ukulele Album of the Year: Keston Cobblers Club – Wildfire

And prize for Most Predictable Choice of 2015 goes to… me for picking this. I’m a huge fan of everything the Cobblers have put out and this year’s Wildfire is no exception.

Runners Up
James Clem – Sugar Moon – Old school tunes played with old school class.
Elof & Wamburg – Byen Sover – Second album from the Danish duo cementing Tobias Elof’s place alongside the best uke players in the world.
Seeso – Kuya – Long awaited debut of Narciso Lobo.
Kimo Hussey – Low “G” – Instrumental covers played with understated ease.
Owl & Mouse – Departures – Debut album of antipodean indie poppers.

Instrumental Performance of 2015: Andreas David and Corey Fujimoto – Rondo alla Turca

It’s totally cheating for Hawaii Music Supply to have Corey Fujimoto demonstrate their ukuleles. He makes everything sound incredible. But it does mean we’ve been spoilt for blazing ukulele tunes from him this year.

Runners Up
Mathias Chanon Varreau – Coquette
Herman Vandecauter – Santiago de Murcia
Jonathan Lewis – The Blarney Pilgrim
Wilfried Welti – Danserye, Entre Du Fol
Andy Eastwood – Danse des Mirlitons

Most Lust-Worthy Ukulele of 2015: Rebel Alchemist


Thailand isn’t a place you usually think of when it comes to high end ukulele making. But Rebel have changed that this year. The team grew out of makers trained by KoAloha to make their lower end ukes (KoAlana and Opio). And they certainly picked up KoAloha’s flair for making gorgeous instruments.

You can read an interview with Rebel here.

Runners Up
KoAloha Red Label Solid
Kanile’a Po’okela
Antica Ukuleleria
Flamethrower ukulele

Favourite Song Tabbed: Dave Brubeck – Take Five

This one wins just for making me feel like a cool 50s jazz guy when I played it. It took me years to get it to a point where I was happy with my version of it. I love the tune and I really wanted to do it justice.

Runners Up

Back to the Future Medley – Only Back to the Future could make me think Huey Lewis was the epitome of cool.
Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Paul’s Dance – Really shows what you do can when you concentrate on playing well rather than playing fancy.
Mark Ronson – Uptown Funk – Really shows what I do when I concentrate on playing fancy rather than playing well.

Favourite Song Chorded: Percy Sledge – When a Man Loves a Woman

With Percy Sledge, Ben E King and BB King dying in quick succession this year it started to feel like a whole era of music was passing away.

Runners Up

Adele – Hello
Eagles of Death Metal – I Want You So Hard
Hall & Oates – Rich Girl
Asylum Street Spankers – It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie

Best Ukulele Tab Book 2015: Irish Tunes for Campanella Ukulele

Conflict of interest warning: If you buy it through this site I get a kick back (and I am purely interested in money – you can tell by the way I ditched working as an accountant for the lucrative world of ukulele blogging).

I’ve been a fan of Jonathan Lewis’s campanella arrangements for a while. So I was delighted when he released a tab book so I could try to get my fingers around them. Here’s my stab at his arrangement of Blarney Pilgrim.

Runner Up
Sam Muir – The Little Book of Giuliani – You can buy this one safe in the knowledge I don’t get a penny. And I recommend you do if you’re up for some challenging classical guitar tunes rearranged for ukulele.

Best Newcomer 2015: Owl & Mouse

When I first stumbled across Owl & Mouse I had deep suspicions they were a fake band in a Belle and Sebastian movie. Turns out they’re a Brisbane band formed around sisters Hannah and Jen Botting (sisters to Bill Botting of Australia’s other indie ukulelists Allo Darlin). Their debut album Departures is packed with great melancholy indie pop in the vein of B&S and Camera Obscura.

Runners Up
Nakisha Esnard – Anyone for ukulele reggae opera?
The Prettiots – Too cool for school New Yorkers.

Ukulele Cover 2015: Zanuck Lindsey & Kimo Hussey – Blue Lei

How did Kimo Hussey get to be such a classy bastard? Every note he plays on this is perfect. And he knows not to play anything when nothing is needed.

Runner Up
Sir. O & Lir Shilton – Stand By Me – Another beautifully understated performance.

Cheerful Song of 2015: Jive Aces – La Dolce Vita

I like my music moody and depressing. And I don’t the ukulele is really suited to cheerful music. So I thought I should give cheerful music its own category to offset my bias. And the music of the Jive Aces is always fun enough to put a smile even on my grumpy, curmudgeonly maw.

Runners Up
Danna Richards – Smile
Katzenjammer – Shine Like Neon Rays

Noisey Ukulele Song 2015: James Hill – She’s Still Got It

Runners Up

21 Pilots – We Don’t Believe What’s On TV
Dingus Khan – Milk of Every Mammal
williwaw – chin down

Ukulele Video of 2015: Gus Raucous – 100 Years of Ukulele

Runner Up
RedBand Porch Songs – Long Black Veil

Best Non-Ukulele 2015: Alabama Shakes – Sound & Colour

Runners Up

Hippo Campus – Bashful Creatures
Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle
Young Thug – Barter 6
Tallest Man on Earth – Dark Bird is Home
Screaming Females – Rose Mountain

Worst Ukulele Video and Song of 2015: Victoria Jackson – There’s a Muslim Living in the White House

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