Best Records of 2015 So Far
Posted: by Henderson
Adventures – Supersonic Home
It’s been a minute since Run For Cover has released anything even remotely underwhelming. Code Orange Kids side project Adventures continued the streak earlier this year with the dazzling Supersonic Home. The LP absorbs the spirit of ‘90’s alternative and weaves it into undeniable, emotionally driven pop-rock concoctions – not unlike Tigers Jaw’s excellent 2014 record, Charmer. Tracks like “Absolution, Warmth Requited” and title-track closer “Supersonic Home” find Kimi Hanauer and Reba Meyers piggy-backing on vocals and subsequently creating some of the best ‘yell along in your car’ material of the year.
FFO: Tigers Jaw, Superheaven, Pity Sex
Essentials: “Dream-Blue-Haze”, “Your Sweetness”, “Absolution, Warmth Requited”
alone. – Somewhere In The Sierras
Technically this album has not been released (June 30th), but thanks to Mike Franzino for sending it to me early I can say it is probably something everyone should be on the lookout for. The amount of layering and production placed in this is pure talent and it is my belief that this guy is one of the best composers of this day and age.
Annabel – Having It All
I came across Having It All while scrolling through the Tiny Engines Bandcamp one afternoon and was hooked before the first verse had even finished. The songs are energetic and poppy, but still manage to carry the emo angst I thrive on. The album as a whole feels very well-planned and inter-connected without growing stale.
Standout Track: Another Day, Another Vitamin
Bliss Nova – Do You Feel EP
Although “chillwave” has largely dissolved since its peak in 2011, the fibers that made up its unique appeal live on in modern indie-pop. Toledo’s Bliss Nova is the latest and greatest group to repurpose these elements. The duo’s new 6-song EP is packed with bright, amiable tracks worthy of the chillwave tag and poised for the dance floor. Each track included on this brief introduction to Bliss Nova shimmers with euphoric felicity. Do You Feel is a lovely collection of songs; we look forward to more from them in the future.
FFO: Washed Out, Neon Indian, Brothertiger
Bohica – Keep Me Awake
You’ve probably never heard Bohica’s 2 song EP and are wondering how something so short and foreign (ew gross) could make this list. Fair question. UK’s Bohica deviate between driving rhythms and droning vocals and the combination works perfectly. All 5 minutes of this EP keep you on your toes, with rhythm changes and vocal variations that keep the listener entranced. Very excited for the future of this band.
Citizen – Everybody is Going To Heaven
In the sea of “departure” records 2015 has offered, no project is as compelling a statement as Citizen’s brooding Everybody is Going to Heaven. EIGTH – a focused effort that balances grunge ardor and bright moments of melodic contemplation – is an intentional reinvention and divergence; however, fans of their last LP, Youth, will find a lot to love here. Tracks like “Numb Yourself” and “Ring of Chain” – while fresh, inventive and thoroughly enjoyable – recall the textures of the band’s debut. EIGTH is not a progression or a side-step for Citizen, but rather a complete expansion. The young Toledo quintet have evolved into a focused and passionate force in rock music; here, they’ve stumbled upon brilliance.
FFO: Hum, Failure, Nothing
Essentials: “Stain,” “Heaviside,” “Ring of Chain,” “Numb Yourself”
Colleen Green – I Want To Grow Up
Colleen Green is the slacker queen. It rhymes so it must be true. I Want To Grow Up is an album about growing up, relationships, chillen out, and stressing. All viewed through a hazy lo-fi lens. I have been addicted to this rhythmic album since its release and the lyrics have become engrained in my head. Tracks like ‘TV’ are bizarre but relatable, what more could you want.
Dikembe – Ledge EP
After Mediumship I knew Dikembe was headed in the best direction possible. This four song EP carries on the alt-punk path cut by the band’s previous release, but ups the ante significantly. The steady moody tones give off a vibe similar to a youthful Brand New while managing to keep the energy up, holding listeners in an intimate, emo mindset. I’m anxiously awaiting the next full-length.
Standout Track: Teeth in the Sink
Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
I Don’t Like Shit is the surprise sophomore album from West Coast rapper and (former) Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt. With this release, Earl shifts his tone and reels in on production; however, just like Doris and the Earl tape before it, he continues to showcase the fact we’ve always known to be true: Earl is one of the most skilled rappers on the planet. IDLS is produced entirely by Earl himself, resulting in blaring, drowsy, lo-fi beats which flawlessly accentuate the most focused, ravenous bars of his career thus far. His verses span the themes he’s addressed in the past – his grandmother, his vices, his “term on that island” – but this time, he tackles them with newfound frankness. Doris and Earl were projects Earl wanted to make, I Don’t Like Shit is the project Earl needed to make.
FFO: Vince Staples, Ratking, Mick Jenkins
Essentials: “Huey,” “Grief,” “DNA”
Elder – Lore
Doom music is a style of music that can SO easily become boring. Riffs and song structures eating into themselves for 9 minutes while you sit there reliving each song segment going “I could be 9 minutes into Terminator 2 right now”. Not Elder. Elder are a Progressive-Doom 3-piece and make some fucking dynamic and totally ripping music. New album, Lore, completely evolves Doom from muddy, riff worship to crisp, sharp, crazy melodies with ideas getting fleshed and filled out beautifully, making each 10 minute song a big nice journey filled with excitement, mystery, moments of tenderness boiled with cool sounding, headbanging mindmelters. It’s kind of like watching Krull then muting it, and putting on Papa Roach………hahaha nah seriously its boss. Get it listened to.
Eskimeaux – O.K.
Eskimeaux is the songwriting vehicle of Frankie Cosmos collaborator Gabrielle Smith; Smith is part of the fantastic New York art collective called The Epoch, and responsible for the magical O.K. – an album released this year on Double Double Whammy. The Brooklyn songwriter’s new set of songs is a calculated blend of rock instrumentation, enigmatically familiar pop melodies, and electronic flourishes. The heart of O.K. lies with Smith’s wise and collected observational lyricism; her findings are rooted in the personal, but affect at such a universal level that they border on corny (“nothing in this world is holier than friendship,” “I could be your loner, if you would be my stoner”). However, Gabrielle’s earnestness allows for us to discover part of ourselves within these candid moments. O.K. is bedroom pop for the soul.
FFO: Frankie Cosmos, Mitski, The Postal Service
Essentials: “Broken Necks,” “Alone at the Party,” “I Admit I’m Scared”
Faith No More – Sol Invictus
Yup. Its 2015 and Faith No More rule harder than your dad in his homemade jorts. Who woulda thought one of the 90’s best bands could come back with not only a great album, but an insanely impressive live show? Not me. I had totally resigned myself to never seeing them live in my life. That dream burned at the stake along side kissing Winona Ryder and beating Kurt Cobain at Mortal Kombat 3. But here, we are. New album, Sol Invictus, isn’t trying to recapture their vibrant madness of the 90’s, rather build upon it. Showing a lot of maturity mixed with inventiveness pays off big time, even if a couple of songs aren’t up to much. Live is where they killed it though. I was incredibly lucky to snatch a ticket for their recent Glasgow gig and holy fuck. HOLY FUCK. Decked out in white garments to mark Rebirth, they absolutely blew the O2 Academy apart. Even greater testament to the new album is that the newer songs were the BEST sounding. Surely that’s enough incentive….
Girlpool – Before the World Was Big
Ohh baby, now we’re talking. Girlpool are the best! They remind me of sitting on my doorstep jamming Crash Test Dummies figures into the dirt and drinking Tab Clear. Cleo and Harmony’s guitar-bass duo are kind of like the indie music version of Pixar. Songs sound really nice and pretty and accessible, but peel back the bandage and underneath is totally for adults. Adults realizing how out of place they are with the world and themselves. Heavy shit right? Thanks TOY STORY. Songs are short but manage to pack more melody and genuine heart and character than most other bands with actual drums! Their sound kicked my head in the first time I heard it and I totally fell in love. This sounds awful, but it reminds me of Ghost World, even though I know Enid would hate it. What am I even talking about? Just go listen to them:
The Early November – Imbue
More often than not, it’s clear when a band is on the brink of creating a spectacular album. Where the collection of songs upon release, instantly defines the band and becomes synonymous with their existence. In the case of The Early November, it’s not that their discography lacks that, it’s that their three albums are so vastly different from each other, yet still unequivocally adored by fans, that there is no unanimous decision on what work the band has been defined by. This is a testament to the standard The Early November has held themselves to over their fourteen year history. However, the fourth album from southern New Jersey natives, Imbue, is the type of career defining album only a band with that much experience, in equal amounts of strife and success, could produce.
Four Year Strong – S/T
After their last disappointing album, Four Year Strong were left for dead. Their entire genre, so called “easy-core”, had completely fallen out of public favor, and had largely been replaced by all out hardcore or emotional indie rock. However FYS’s last EP showed promise and this album showed even more consistency, reinvigorating many of the band’s lost fans. Easy-core is nowhere near as popular as it once was, but at least one of the genre’s past stars, is showing some staying power.
Hop Along – Painted Shut
Well obviously this was going on the list. 2015 is looking to be a great year for the Philly outfit considering Painted Shut is getting rave reviews across the board. The music swells and soars, complimented perfectly by the vocals that range from soft and serene to raspy and forceful. It’s this ability to create a diverse, yet cohesive landscape of sounds that caught my attention in the first place. Plus I’ll be damned if this isn’t the catchiest album I hear all year.
Standout Track: Horseshoe Crabs
Jeff Rosenstock – We Cool?
I’ve already written about Jeff Rosenstock’s phenomenal solo LP We Cool? once this year, but don’t expect me to stop. Ditching the Bomb the Music Industry! moniker for his newest album was a bold move that suggested a stylistic shift, which is exactly what came of it. While BTMI! albums were very diverse, We Cool? adds horns, pianos, and plenty of other instruments to create a much more full-bodied record than ever before and overall Rosenstock’s most impressive record to date.
Standout Tracks: You In Weird Cities, Nausea
JEFF the Brotherhood – Wasted On The Dream
JEFF the Brotherhood are “weird” in the best possible sense of the word. They are weird in the same way Austin Texas is “weird”. They just don’t care to act how others think they should. Actual brothers, JEFF were dropped from their major label very publically and reacted with a statement that essentially said “Finally, thanks for paying to record our album.” They then released their best work to date, Wasted On The Dream on their own label Infinity Cat, and they’ve been living it up with awesome performances and wacky music videos ever since. This album harks back to the days of real rock n roll guitar solos but with a fresh creative perspective. I have been going back to jam to this album all year.
Joey Bada$$ – B4.DA.$$.
Pro Era captain Joey Bada$$’s first album came after about as much anticipation as a project can garner; luckily, it was well worth the wait. Loaded with menacing virtuoso rap, dizzying word-play, and carefully selected features, B4.DA.$$ is a spot-on balance of ‘90’s New York hip-hop and Joey’s Jamaican roots. One of the project’s best tracks, a Capital Steez semi-tribute called “On & On,” does not close out Joey Bada$$’s fantastic debut LP, but it does contain some choice parting words from the budding emcee: “Don’t mourn me when I’m gone, celebrate my travels.” Joey is aware of the inevitability of death, and he’s not wasting any more time.
FFO: Mick Jenkins, Jay Z, J. Cole
Essentials: “Like Me,” “Belly of the Beast,” “On & On”
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
To Pimp a Butterfly is the transcendent, funk-indebted third studio album from hip-hop superstar Kendrick Lamar. Between the boisterous funk concoction of “King Kunta,” the shimmery soul-psychedelia of “These Walls,” the 90’s boom-bap vehemence of “Blacker the Berry” and the decision to juxtapose it with the Rapsody-featuring “Complexion,” Lamar never misses the mark. TPAB, though, is much more about its message than it’s music. With this LP, Kendrick depicts himself as a central representation of a black person in modern America, personifying the internal and external forces that act upon him. By lending voices to racism, sexism, cowardice, self-hatred and self-love, Kendrick paints a full picture of the black experience.
FFO: Thundercat, Tupac, Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment
Essentials: “These Walls,” “Hood Politics,” “King Kunta”
Mamaleek – Via Dolorosa
This is an album that gets placed into a genre (black metal) that is constantly expanding. The experimental attitude of this record leaves it with as much freedom to search deep into some of the most depressing and tortured parts of the psyche and unleash it all. The visceral screams come from a place of pain without any distorted guitars. The jazz and almost warming melodies really throw everything in a deep dichotomy of pure bliss.
Marriages – Salome
I absolutely love the amorphous voice of Emma Ruth Rundle. She transcends into never before found paths when she glides her way through rich textures of ambiance and dissonant beauty. I always feel like I am floating when I listen to this and it puts me in a good place.
Mineral Girls – Cozy Body
North Carolina’s Mineral Girls are truly something special. Reminiscent of Elvis Depressedly meets Into It Over It, the band’s debut full length Cozy Body takes the indie pop vibes of the lo-fi scene and combines it with the twinkly guitars of the “emo revival” and creates something special. That doesn’t mean they don’t get extremely creative, especially on songs like “Cozy Body” and out-there indie pop song laden with horns and lyrics about being unhappy in your skin. While this record may have flown under your radar, it’s certainly worth your time, and much more.
Standout Tracks: Cozy Body, nvr ur gf
Oso Oso – Real Stories of True People Who Looked Kind of Like Monsters
Oso Oso formed after the demise of Long Island’s beloved indie/emo project State Lines. Oso Oso not only picked up where State Lines left off, but far exceeded anything they had ever done. This album flawlessly captures the feeling of being sad in the suburbs. Beers, blunts, bad girlfriends, we’ve all been there before, and this album recreates those feelings. Make sure to listen. Nearly every track hits home.
Pet Symmetry – Pets Hounds
Pet Symmetry is the pun-rock super-group made up of members of Dowsing and Kittyhawk and fronted by Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It.Pets Hounds, the debut LP from the trio, is a surprisingly versatile and impressive outing from a band who seem to be doing this just for fun. Their sugary harmonies take many forms throughout this project; Weiss’ vocals recall the Beach Boys (“Spacial Ex-Perception”), the ‘golden-era’ of The Barenaked Ladies (“Gone, Gone, Gone”), and Motion City Soundtrack (every song) while addressing topics such as laziness, relationships and even police brutality. Pets Hounds is not a record that demands you to take it seriously, but you should anyway because it is seriously good.
FFO: Motion City Soundtrack, Hostage Calm, Into It. Over It.
Essentials: “Class Action Force”, “Go Outside”, “My Exhausted Month”
Rozwell Kid – Good Graphics EP
Rozwell Kid provided us with some more of their wacky rock n roll in 2015, and I don’t think anyone is unhappy with that. When it comes to RK, the guitars are always on point, the songs are always silly, and listening is always fun. There is a song about eating too much hummus. It’s good to know there are still musicians who are completely themselves, there is no faking this.
Runaway Brother – Mother
Combining emo and indie rock vibes, the long awaited debut LP from Runaway Brother lived up to my sky high expectations. These guys create such atmosphere and emotion with their lyrics and melodies. They’ve taken influences like early Say Anything and expanded on them with good effect. Each track is a little different variation of the Runaway Brother vibe they’ve built throughout past EPs, and this album makes me very excited for their bright future.
Scout Boys – what if, like, when we di… EP
This EP really stood out for me. Sure emotional Long Island punk isn’t exactly a groundbreaking new genre, but aside from maybe Oso Oso, I don’t think anyone has done it better than Scout Boys this year. Creative songwriting, relatable lyrics, cool rhythms, it’s all here. I’ve heard that these guys are working on a new record and after this EP I know Scout Boys have made their way onto my future “Most Anticipated” lists.
Secret Space & The Flats – Split
2015 has been a pretty quiet year for splits, but Secret Space & and The Flats fill that void with their spectacular, Mat Kerekes produced joint release. Both coming from the Toledo scene, Secret Space and The Flays are two very different bands who find common ground in melodic rock with loads of talent and heart. Lead singer Dean straps Secret Space’s poignant rock songs with soulful, proficient vocals that set the band apart from contemporaries. The Flat’s side includes 2 songs from last year’s incredible Liberation and the House in Blue LP. Both tracks demonstrate Chris Kerekes’ remarkable ability to project his emotion onto sharp, catchy indie rock songs.
FFO: Basement Citizen, Coldplay
Slutever – Almost Famous EP
This female punk duo explodes with raw energy. The sounds are creative and the lyrics are catchy and intriguing. You can hear how few fucks they give about your opinion on what their music sounds like. For fans of Wavves, FIDLAR, Best Coast, Girlpool, Colleen Green and the other great slacker/surf punk bands. Really digging this EP.
The Soft Moon – Deeper
Ahhhhh yessss. Its back baby! IT’S BACK! Post-punk/Dark Wave/Industrial is back and I could not be fucking happier. What better way to celebrate it than firing on The Soft Moon’s newest album “Deeper” and driving your jet black car off a bridge into a summoned demi-god’s open mouth? Admittedly, California’s The Soft Moon’s previous albums haven’t totally hooked me. Nothing was being held back, but sole member Luis Vasquez hadn’t found his true essence. “Deeper” has nailed it. Machine gun bass drums, wet electronic snares, watery bass guitar, neo-goth synths and totally great but totally bad lyrics. It’s a genuine post-goth masterpiece and my year will now be nothing but night driving and lighting black candles. Hail Satin.
Sorority Noise – Joy, Departed
Although they’ve been consistent in putting out multiple releases each year since their inception, Joy, Departed might just be the collection of songs to really put Sorority Noise on the map. Just by the end of track 1, it’s evident that Joy, Departed will be a monumental album for the band, exemplifying the heavily emotional spirit and driving lead guitar parts that fuel the rest of the record.
Best Tracks: ‘Using’, ‘Your Soft Blood’, and ‘Art School Wannabe’
Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer
After their stunning indie rock debut, Major Arcana, expectations were high. Lineup changes created a few worries, but those were quickly put to rest upon the first listen of Foil Deer. This album contains incredible lyrical and vocal work from songwriter Sadie Dupuis, especially on tracks like ‘Raising The Skate’ and ‘The Graduates’. Slimming down there guitar fuzz and emphasizing the lyrics was a wise maneuver. This album continual impresses me.
The Tallest Man On Earth – Dark Bird Is Home
What puts the mind at ease better than soothing folk songs creeping their way into the happiest place in your held? The Tallest Man On Earth’s album Dark Bird Is Home does just that. This album released positive feelings in my brain that I did not folk was capable of, and in doing so completely changed my perspective on the whole genre.
Title Fight – Hyperview
Let’s get things straight: I LOVE Floral Green, but I absolutely did not want a clone album as the follow up to it. With Hyperview, Title Fight explores the melodic realm of their songwriting in a less-intense style reminiscent of their ’90s era influences. Most songs are enjoyably dancey, though they slow things down to a somber pace a few times, leaving listeners with a well-balanced album. But please, for the love of all things sacred, stop calling it shoegaze…
Standout Track: Rose of Sharon
Torres – Sprinter
Georgia-born musician Mackenzie Scott, A.K.A. Torres, is one of the most captivating songwriters in modern indie-rock; her latest LP, Sprinter, is further evidence of this. Combining lush soundscapes and spellbinding lyricism, Scott crafts a dynamic project which highlights her invigorating approaches to religion, sex, and relationships. From the raucous sing-along opener of “Strange Hellos” to the delicate, haunting poetry of closer “The Exchange,” Sprinter finds Torres conquering on every front.
FFO: Sharon Van Etten, PJ Harvey, St. Vincent
Essentials: “Strange Hellos,” “Sprinter,” “New Skin,” “The Exchange”
Turnover – Peripheral Vision
A lot of people were surprised by the change in tone from Magnolia, but I would have been more surprised if Turnover hadn’t switched it up, especially as the album’s style was heavily foreshadowed through the EP Blue Dream. The highly emotional undertones are still here and, to be honest, the band seems more at home with the atmospheric vibe they developed.
Standout Track: Cutting My Fingers Off
Turnstile – Nonstop Feeling
It has become difficult for me to get excited about hardcore recently. Hardcore brings huge amounts of emotion but too often it sounds predictable. This is not the case with Nonstop Feeling. This album combines hardcore and hip hop influences to create a hardcore record that makes you want to mosh and dance and sing along all at the same time. Unpredictable, heavy and well assembled, I think this is the best hardcore album in YEARS.