I have heard and read a lot of people say that music reviews are pointless and that all music is subjective. Yes, music is subjective; music I despise could be someone else’s ear candy. But, what is nice about people that do reviews is, if you can find someone that shares similar musical interests with you, they can do all the dirty work for you; this year alone I have listened to full albums and tracks from hundreds of artists and bands and held onto the ones that I thought created high quality, inspiring music. Some of my discoveries also come from other music reviewers that I share similar tastes with (the vocalist from Pissed Jeans has a great record review site, http://www.yellowgreenred.com and obviously everyone here at B.G.M.).
So with that said, 2015 was a really great year for music. That’s why when I hear people say “there is no good new music,” I know they really need to start reading reviews. It was extremely difficult to narrow this list down, and I could easily add another 32 albums to it, but in my eyes these were the best of the best. I hope you enjoy it and find something you like.
- Dendritic Arbor – Romantic Love (Grimoire Records)
Leave it to Pittsburgh to birth something this depraved. Romantic Love is the bastard child of the best parts of grind, black and death metal (without the circle-jerking solos which are seriously the e-cigarettes of metal). Dendritic Arbor taps into the most primal and reptilian remnants of the human psyche; the ones that urge you to bite a big, fleshy chunk out of the person next to you because you’re hangry.
Why did this album get my number one spot of 2015? Romantic Love is a reminder of what metal is supposed to feel like: sinister, intimidating and full of hate. And this album in particular is a juggernaut of hate. It contains elements of minimalist grind gods Discordance Axis and the mathematical precision of bands like Gorguts and Krallice. Dendritic Arbor is an apex predator of the metal genre and I cannot wait to watch them pick their teeth with the bones of the 89,478 basic metal albums that will come out next year.
- No Joy – More Faithful (Mexican Summer)
Just as expected, No Joy is once again on my end of the year, “Best of “ list. More Faithful effortlessly blends shoegaze and noise rock into a dizzying concoction of highly infectious melodies and harmonies that will haunt your brain for centuries, kind of like how LSD supposedly “crystalizes in your spine”. Each track on this album could be a stand-alone single, yet they all fit together comfortably. No Joy is a perfect band, and I cannot wait to hear what they come up with next. Here is my full review of More Faithful and an interview with their bassist Michael Farsky.
- Tamaryn – Cranekiss (Mexican Summer)
From start to finish, this album is an enchanting and ethereal full brain massage that makes you want to drop a bathbomb of Molly into your tub and not leave it for the next 8 years. Total Cocteau Twins worship done tastefully while maintaining the cardinal sounds and craft of Tamaryn. The vocal melodies alone are beyond intoxicating and will forever dwell in your subconscious; the title track “Cranekiss” and “Hands All Over Me” play themselves in my brain about 4 times a day without fail.
- Krallice – Ygg Huur (Self-Released)
Since I am an ignorant hipster and really enjoy hipster metal (according to online metal forums and Youtube comment sections), Krallice has been one of my favorite metal bands of the last decade. In fact, I would highly recommend their entire brain-scrambling discography; how often can you say that about a band? Ygg Huur seems to be their most aggressive release to date and possibly their best yet. As usual, the songs are played at soaring speeds and are mathematically maddening, opening portals to bizarre dimensions in time and space…all the while making “true” black metal fans clutch their pearls and angrily condition their hair.
- Hot Nerds – Strategically Placed Bananas (Three One G)
Do you ever watch The Lawnmower Man and wonder what it felt like when Jeff Fahey’s character got assimilated into the mainframe of Pierce Brosnan’s super computer? Listening to Strategically Placed Bananas may help answer that question. This album is a mentally abusive, overwhelming dweeb storm of furious percussion, snotty vocals and pulsating keyboards that are guaranteed to make you barf up your bologna sandwich during gym class. I hope these guys make it to the east coast because I can’t imagine what this is like live.
- Viet Cong – Viet Cong (Jagjaguwar)
Oh, the dreaded Viet Cong; the band name that sent Social Justice Warriors everywhere into a frenzied online crusade to save the modern world. Apparently, violently e-threatening this band via blog forums and comment sections was a successful strategy; the band has raised the white flag and will be re-naming themselves something that meets SJW-specific standards for what rock n roll should and shouldn’t be. *Phew*, now we can all eat vegan cinnamon buns and drink Kombucha in peace again.
Anyway, the album fucking rules. Viet Cong have created a sound all their own, and the results are excellent; it’s an off-kilter, noisey, jangly, catchy, no-wavish, sonic buffet that ranges from slightly disturbing to warmly soothing to dancey and just plain old rocking. The 11-minute track and album closer “Death” is one of my favorite songs of 2015, but I whole-heartedly recommend the entire album. I am looking forward to the future of this band and cannot wait to hear what they release next and under what new band name; maybe The Viet Conga Line? Who doesn’t love a fucking conga line?
- False – Untitled (Gilead Media)
This is some of the most savage black/death metal I have heard in a long time (and they have a keyboard!). It’s a confrontational and perilous journey through 6 songs that are about 10-15 minutes each and never seem to lose momentum. I’m surprised by the lack of coverage False received this year for this album. Without mentioning a certain band that rhymes with Methheaven, Untitled has a similar appeal, except the metal played here is raw, primal, and from the heart; this is the band that should be getting that kind of attention.
- Spectres – Dying (Sonic Cathedral)
So yeah, about last year (2014), I was all about that shoegaze revival and couldn’t get enough of it. Fast forward to 2015, and you find yourself in a locust swarm of delay pedals, blurry album covers and drug rugs; suddenly, it just isn’t cute anymore. Right now modern shoegaze has become the equivalent of adult baby talk (obviously there are some exceptions). So if you are going to try to take shoegaze out of hospice, you better plan on breathing some new life into it, and Dying may just be the CPR it needs. This album is a sludgy, squealing, creepy, distorted, washed out, haunted house that is always on the verge of popping out of a closet and scaring the shit out of you, and it often pops out of a closet and scares the shit out of you. It has the freewheeling, ear-piercing, aural assault of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy mixed with the dreary and ominous atmosphere evoked by Evol, Bad Moon Rising era Sonic Youth. This is a promising new band to keep an eye on.
- Palm – Trading Basics (Inflated Records/Exploding In Sound)
Probably one of the most fun and interesting rock records to come out this year, Palm sound like a playful hybrid of This Heat, Yukon, Eureka Farm, Make Believe, Lynx, Volta Do Mar maybe even some American Don-era Don Caballero. Pair that with vocal melodies that are often off-putting, adding an edge of lunacy to the melee of battling guitars. Trading Basics is what being on mushrooms in Algebra II class is like. I am sure this album is equally awesome live, so keep an eye out for these whackos!
- Liturgy – The Ark Work (Thrill Jockey)
Pioneering a new sound and style is the ultimate achievement for any band. So is ushering in the apocalypse, and that is exactly what Liturgy has done here. Yeah, it’s definitely got all the elements of black metal, but they have been completely gutted, drained of blood and used in some sort of re-awakening ceremony for old ancient gods. Liturgy continues to push genre boundaries, and after seeing them play The Ark Work live, I will remain a believer. Check out my full review and interview with Hunter Hunt-Hendrix.
- MANSION – Early Life (Degenerate Ephemera)
It has been awhile since I’ve heard a band play this style of noise-rock, and on the first listen of Early Life, I was grinning ear to ear. MANSION taps into those dark, gritty and dissonant demons that early Swans, Sonic Youth, Dust Devils, etc. were known for summoning. This album drags you kicking and screaming through a minefield of sudden sound explosions and tempo shifts, where the air is riddled with vocal haranguings to rub some additional salt into the wounds. MANSION is a much-needed antidote from the wacky-zany-shenanigans epidemic that noise rock has slowly gotten sick with over the last few years.
- Lana Del Rey – Honeymoon (Interscope Records)
I know what you’re thinking. I know what you’re going to say, and yes…I am guilty of it. I called this album “boring”, I said she wasn’t taking enough drugs, or she needed to stop taking drugs. But yeah, I am licking the lint from between my own toes as you read this. Honeymoon is Lana’s Kid A; when I first heard Kid A, I didn’t know what to think; I feared change, and in retrospect, it was such a monumental moment in my pathetic musical history when a prolific 90’s mainstream art rock band totally morphed into their final form; and I think my little caterpillar Lana may be doing the same thing.
Honeymoon is like an Italian Giallo film; it’s a slow-burn that eventually unravels into a really deranged and interesting “love” story riddled with intense and detailed gore. “Terrance Loves You,” “Honeymoon,” “Music to Watch Boys To,” “God Knows I Tried,” and “Salvatore” are all such emotionally charged and vocally ingenious songs that you want to willingly crash your ship on the rocks below Lana’s cliff. She has definitely matured into her own final form and now has full helm over her aesthetic and craft; I cannot wait to hear what her next move is.
Lana Del Rey continues to stick to her guns and exploit her visions into full length albums, and as long as she maintains these visions, I will forever dream of living in her garage like this dude.
- Cherubs – 2 Ynfynyty (Brutal Panda Records)
These assholes are like the Expendables movies; sometimes you need the old school generations to come back and show you how to properly snap a neck with your bare hands and blow up a helicopter in flight with a single throwing knife. 2 Ynfynyty is a hulking beast of a record that struck without warning and without any compromise to the band’s trademark style and sound.
Cherubs may be one of the most ripped off bands in noise rock history, so I am glad to see them deservingly re-take their throne and remind the world that noise rock wasn’t always a bunch of fruity wet noodle riffs and loony-toon vocals. Here is my full review of 2 Ynfynyty and an interview with modern day earth angel, Kevin Whitley.
- Vorum – Current Mouth (Sepulchral Voice Records)
As I mentioned above, I like my metal crude and barbaric; it should sound like the drums are being played with goat femurs and the vocalist is gnawing meat off a human thigh between lines. Within the first 10 seconds of Current Mouth, you will be cudgeled over the head, dragged off into a dark cave and most likely eaten alive. This album is as about as ferocious as you can get with the genre and will definitely leave a mark, if not a contusion, after listening to it. I hope the gentlemen of Vorum have a warm and wonderful Christmas full of joy, hot cocoa with marshmallows, mirth, chestnuts, yummy gingerbread men and wonder.
- Zulus – II (Aagoo Records)
This is the type of album that will wear its shoes in your house, spill drinks all over your couch, get piss all over your toilet seat and feed your dog chocolate. It’s fun, noisy, upbeat and reckless, featuring members of Battleship, RICE, the Homosexuals and Aa. Here is my full review of II and an interview with the kind gentleman of Zulus.
- Weakwick – For Show (Fashion Fingers USA)
Two-piece destruction unit Weakwick have once again successfully demolished rock as we know it. For Show is an all-encompassing whirlwind of other-worldly guitar sounds, frantic vocals and rabid drumming, executed with ship-in-a-bottle precision. Once you are done Q-tipping all the blood out of your ears, it’s probably the catchiest noise rock you’ve heard in a long time. Read my full review here.
- Aevangelist – Omen Ex Simulcra (Debemur Morti Productions)
If you drilled a hole in the earth that went all the way into hell, then dangled a microphone down it, I am pretty sure this is what you’d hear. Aevanglelist has been one of my favorite metal bands of the last few years, and their latest album, Omen Ex Simulcra, is even more dastardly and infernal. Waves and washes of eerie noises that sound like Bosh’s paintings of hell look add additional carnage to the demonic pandemonium that is Aevangelist’s brand of crushing black metal. If you like your metal as evil as possible, check this album out.
- Deaf Wish – Pain (Sub Pop)
I am glad that someone at Sub Pop remembered that they used to be a rock label, and over the last couple of years they have been releasing some killer records; Deaf Wish’s Pain is one of them. Imagine the cold, rickety, angular manglings of Swell Maps, Husker Du and Mission of Burma falling face down into the whacked out guitar washes of the Dust Devils and unhinged guitar freak outs of early Sonic Youth. It’s discordant, it’s melodic, it’s brash, and it’s pretty in all the wrong places.
- Yellow Eyes – Sick with Bloom (Gilead Media)
Within the last 2 years, there has been a huge influx of black metal, and sorting through it all can be tedious; discovering which bands are worth a listen and which ones need to focus more on their music (and less on being a forest clown) is a time consuming process.
Sick with Bloom is a fast paced and melodic explosion of hyper-fast, witchy metal that is just as soothing as it is pernicious. As hordes of black metal bands take over the world, Yellow Eyes have definitely placed themselves high up on the food chain with this album, and I am looking forward to more.
- Bosse-de-Nage – All Fours (Profound Lore)
I am not sure what the fuck a Bosse-de-Nage is, but 2015 has been a great year for metal bands that have been pushing the rules and limits of the genre with new and exciting styles. Boss-de-Nage sounds like something 90’s labels Level Plane or Troubleman Unlimited could have both comfortably released. All Fours is a punishing, blackened, post-metal smorgasbord of melodic blast beats, 90’s math-rock and trampling metal. Even though the vocalist sounds totally grossed out the entire time, I really like his style, and I can’t imagine any other voice singing for this band.
- Whore Paint – Ultra Sound (Translation Lost Records)
I am not hyping this album just because they are locals and three of the greatest people you will ever meet; yeah, they may be the Power Station of Providence, but this album is just fucking awesome. They are members of Made In Mexico, House Red, Teenage Waistband, and Arcing, just to name a few.
Whore Paint layers the haunting, venomous, yet soothing, ghost-like vocals of Reba over a shape-shifting and rugged rhythm section that is just as thoughtful as it is brutal, finishing it all out with the unpredictability and dirty swagger of bands like Circus Lupus and Creeps on Candy. I do love their previous full-length, but Ultra Sound shows an evolution in the band’s approach and execution, and I see nothing but great things in their future.
- So Stressed – The Unlawful Trade of Greco Roman Art (Honor Press Records)
Talk about an audio clobbering! I have never seen what this band looks like but I imagine them looking like a bunch of muscle dudes that have turned their backyard into a wrestling ring, and after work they break folding chairs and tube lights over each other’s heads and body slam each other off the roof of their raised ranch. Aside from this erotic imagery, So Stressed is punk in the same way Born Against is considered punk, if that makes any sense. The confrontational attitude and drive is there, but the music is more complex than the traditional hallmarks of the genre.
The Unlawful Trade of Greco Roman also gets the award for best drum work of the year; fills that don’t even sound possible are shoved into every nook and cranny of each riff and it is done so without sounding like some Guitar Center employee jerking off to a Neil Peart DVD while punishing a 246 piece drum kit in the middle of the store. Nope. Kenneth Draper has found the perfect balance between the primal impulses of rock drumming and calculated sophistication. Alongside this musical embodiment of the Ultimate Warrior, vocalist Morgan Fox sounds like he is on the constant verge of blowing off the back of his skull from the most intense aneurysm known to man, making So Stressed more than just a clever name. Half drill sergeant, half dude about to go postal at his office job, he’s here to teach you some life lessons; even if those lessons are delivered in the form of a musical clothes line.
- Dead Neighbors – s/t (Fallbreak Records)
Remember in the 90’s where manscaping was just as foreign of a concept as making yourself attractive? Yeah, well, I do too, and just like the Bush Jr. administration, I would love to wipe my memory clear of it. With that said, Dead Neighbors rekindled my undying love for obscure, mathy, noodly, off-kilter 90’s art rock with this latest release. To me, this is a thoughtful, unappreciated, and challenging style of weird/art rock that kinda slipped through the cracks. Think ingenious bands like Erectus Monotone, Trumans Water, and Pitchblende. This self-titled album is the torchbearer for these bands, and if you can’t find the complexity in the fun these bands are having, then have a blast finding a studly dude to lick your hairy nut sac.
- Great Falls – The Fever Shed (Init Records)
Noise rock? Metal? Post Metal? Who fucking cares! This album is fun for the whole family! The songs are long, ferocious and imposing, dipping in and out of crushing sludge, 90’s math-rock riffage and pummeling “post” metal. (What else would you expect from an ex-member of Playing Enemy and Kiss It Goodbye?). I love when a band is unclassifiable, and Great Falls is one handsome anomaly. And yes, I may be sexually attracted to this album.
- Toupee – Leg Toucher (Moniker Records)
Leg Toucher is an album that could have come from either the future or from the 80’s and you would never know. All the best parts of Siouxsie and the Banshees/trashier Buahaus tracks meet the best parts of 90’s weird rock. Amidst the musical madness are some of my favorite vocals of the year; imagine Pazuzu on bath salts entering the body of Kat Bjelland. Now it’s a party. Feel free to read my full review here. https://beardedgentlemenmusic.com/2015/08/12/toupee-leg-toucher-review/
- Genevieve – Escapism (Grimoire Records)
Genevieve created one of the more obscure metal albums of the year. Sharing the primal aggression that fuels bands like Dendritic Arbor and Plebian Grandstand, Escapism is an audacious, genre experiment, and the results are devastating. The songs violently writhe and squirm through cesspools of ripping scuzz metal then find themselves wallowing in fuzzed out washes of feedback and sludge. The whole album is a fun listen, and I recommend this to anyone that wants to hear something new and entertaining in the metal department.
- Endon – MAMA (Indies Japan)
Endon have birthed quite an unsettling little genre mutt with this wacked-out hybrid of black metal and harsh noise; I am pretty sure that MAMA is what you hear when you take your helmet off in space. It’s reckless, it’s mind warping, it’s from light years into the future of an entirely different dimension and is exactly what you would expect from Japan. There really isn’t anything like MAMA and I need to see Endon perform this album live so I can find out what the fuck is going on.
- Ringo Deathstarr – Pure Mood (The Reverberation Appreciation Society)
I don’t think this band can make a bad album. Pure Mood isn’t a huge stretch for the band but sounds like an extension of their criminally overlooked EP God’s Dream. Ringo Deathstarr create meticulously crafted noise pop/shoegaze, and in the case of Pure Mood, there is a 90’s tinge to the music (seems to be the theme this year). The songs range from airy, dream-like states to heavier trance-inducing, fuzzed out rock. Each song could be a stand alone single, but all fit exquisitely together. So next time you are between bong hits, get your ass on a computer and order this record.
- Metz – II (Sub Pop)
One of my favorite bands of the last few years, Metz once again has released another grueling rock record which is as equally sweaty and disgusting as their previous self-titled release. II takes all the heaviest riffs from your favorite 90’s “grunge” bands and blows them the fuck out. The mix on this album is massive, and as the non-stop walloping plays on, you wonder at what point your speakers are going to prolapse.
- Natural Velvet – She Is Me (Friends Records)
In 2015, there was a desperate attempt by many bands to capture that 90’s “grunge,” “shoegaze,” “art rock,” *gulp* “alternative” sound, and most attempts wound up flying through their windshields faster than Paul Walker. But, Natural Velvet seems to have carefully pieced together a sound that avoids all the obvious tropes and clichés that anchor the competition into that DGC graveyard that most bands bury themselves in just to get a solid review in online musical cum-rags like Pitchfork and Stereogum.
She Is Me is a raucous and genuine, yet modernized throwback to the heavier parts of 90’s art/alt rock, and it burns bright with the flare of old 4AD bands. I think these Baltimore crazies will be formidable foes in the years to come. I recommend you check this album out, so when they get huge, you can say you have, “been listening to them for awhile now”.
- Dimesland – Psychogenic Atrophy (Crucial Blast)
Psychogenic Atrophy is a metal oddity; it is near impossible to categorize, and is one of those records that is as equally fun to study as it is to listen to. It’s like a mentally unstable, post-metal Voivod; the song structures come straight out of an advanced calculus course, the tempos are constantly shifting and the barrage of riffs is never ending. It makes me wonder if bands like this can even have fun playing live. If you haven’t heard these guys yet, definitely grab this record; it may also improve your poor math scores.
- Infinity Girl – Harm (Topshelf Records)
This last minute entry to my list is another blast from the past- imagine the discordant and silly-putty-guitar-strings riffage of the Swirlies and Swervedriver mixed with the washed out moogs and melodies of My Bloody Valentine and Medicine. The songs are booby-trapped with off-kilter breakdowns where the instruments seem to just melt over each other. It is a fun listen, and I think you should check it out.