The Ten Best Albums Of 2015…So Far
Whether driving back and forth across the city, flying across the country, or hunkered down at aÂ desk working, there is always music playing. And I am always looking for something new and exciting. Yes, I know we all love queueing upÂ Metal Machine Music or Henry Flynt’s Back Porch Hillbilly Blues Volume II in those times of need. But there’s also something refreshing about new sounds. Sounds previously unheard. Perhaps an recently discovered artist, or an old favorite’s newest release. Either way, there’s nothing like the first time you hear a new album. The local hipster at your neighborhood french-pressedÂ cold-brewed whatever-the-fuck coffee shop will tell you that peak enjoyment comes the second or third time you hear an album – you know enough to anticipate the best songsÂ but haven’tÂ yet memorizedÂ all those precise moments or words – but I say the first time is the best. It’s all alien. Figuratively, it could have come from an alien world.
Six months into the year 2015 hasn’t been all that great in terms of standout albums. I’ve listened to the new Swervedriver one a lot but I wouldn’t say I love it. Same goes for Benoit Pioulard. There have been exceptions, though, some truly great albums from artists both new to me and old. That said, here are my ten top records of the year 2015 so far, January to June edition.
10. White Hills – Walks For Motorists – There are too many short songs (4 minutes or less) on here for it to really take us into outer space, but when Dave W. and Co. give themselves the time to stretch out and meander (for example, “Lead The Way”) they prove they can still be one of the best psychedelic rock bands on the planet. They might never again ascend to the brilliance of Glitter Glamour Atrocity or Heads On Fire, but they can still melt your face.
09. Cloakroom – Further Out – A debut album from a three-piece rock band from Indiana. I think Ian told me about this one because Matt Talbot from Hum was involved somehow, and I’ve been obsessed with that band since high school. That’s probably as good a reference point would be for Cloakroom. They share a lot in common with Hum, from the guitar sounds (electric guitars are never quite clean) to the vocalist’s wry attitude and slightly disaffected delivery. [Listen To “Paperweight“]
08. Yen Pox – Between The Horizon And The Abyss – It’s been, what, 13 years since the last official studio album from Yen Pox? And, man, does this one not disappoint. If you dug Blood Magic, New Dark Age, or that collaboration with Troum, you’ll love this album. It makes me wish Michael and Steven would have recorded a Mystery Sea CDr (is that series still going, by the way?) back in the day. When they’re on, there are few artists creating dark ambient music who do it better than Yen Pox.
07. Jenny Hval – Apocalypse Girl – Sacred Bones has been killing it for the past few years, and the record label has already released a few stellar albums to start 2015. First there’s Jenny Hval, whose third (or fourth, depending on if you count Meshes Of Voices) studio album Apocalypse Girl thrust her onto my musical radar. This is one of the more visceral records I’ve heard of late, moving between heroics and vulnerability sometimes between two words. [Listen To “That Battle Is Over“]
06. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress – The last time I saw Godspeed perform they were working on a new piece that was simply called “Behemoth” at the time. That epic piece was fashioned into four parts for this album, and its near-40 minutes of build-up are just as impressive – the climax just as cathartic – as that monstrous jam I remember hearing a few years ago. This is one you have to hear from start to finish. Trust me, it’s worth it. [Listen To “Asunder Sweet“]
05. Boduf Songs – Stench Of Exist – Between this, the new Sannhet and a couple other records, The Flenser is one again proving that in 2015 they are one of the most relevant labels in the country. This one’s full-on heartbreaking, druggy, abstract and dark in equal measure. Mat Sweet’s vulnerable voice floating above minimal electronics makes for perfect late night come-down music. Dig it. [Listen To “My Continuing Battle With Material Reality“]
04. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – A Year With 13 Moons – This has been my go-to album when I’m writing since its release. To me, it’s as good as anything Jefre’s recorded since Love Is A Stream five years ago. Haunting, beautiful, blissed-out, gauzy…new wave? I mean, once the percussive elements kick in what else can you really call it? Usually I like to use the catchall “experimental” to describe music like this, but that might be to sell Jefre short. Whatever you call this, I love it an I keep returning to it.
03. Folkazoid – III – For this one I’m going to use the “official” product description because it describes the album far better than I could: “For III, the band wanted to expand their sound while building an atmosphere with mainly monochords and reiteration. After recording and mixing the album on their own at their studio at BYM Records, they partnered with German electronic maestro Atom TM to flesh out the albumâ€™s synth parts. Most of the sounds he provided were atonal electronic sounds, aiming for concrete frequencies and sampled organic glitches. (The Korg synthesizer Atom TM plays on this record was used by Kraftwerk on tour in the ’80s). III is a four-part minimal sound voyage in which you can hear FÃ¶llakzoidâ€™s musical language developing into something more upbeat, obscure, and sharp, yet even simpler in terms of elements.”
02. Vatnett Viskar – Settler – Although not technically released yet (6/16 is the street date) I’ve heard it and its phenomenal. The perfect follow-up to Sky Swallower, with the blackness of the metal toned down to a more palatable level (for most listeners, I could give a shit whether they play black metal or just metal). Songs like “Colony” and “Impact” are absolutely punishing, but there are passages during “Coldwar” and “Settler” where fans might think they’re listening to a completely different band. I imagine it will improve with each successive listen. [Listen To “Settler“]
01. John Carpenter – Lost Themes – It’s hard to believe that a composer who has been working since the ’70s just put out his debut album this year, but I guess that’s just how it goes. Of course the man responsible for some of the greatest 20th century movie music (Halloween, Assault On Precinct 13, so many others) could put together a collection of stunning compositions that are unrelated to specific films but still manage to capture the unease and disturbing qualities of some of those films. If you haven’t heard Lost Themes yet and you’re a fan of either Carpenter’s movies or his soundtracks of those eras, you need this in your life.
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