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POST-TRASH'S BEST OF 2015 | The Year In Review

Welcome to the first annual Post-Trash "Year In Review" a look back at the year that was and all of our favorite music that was released during it. We've only been a website for about four months, but it's been a great start and luckily, we've been listening to music all year long. Let this be your guide (it's bookmark-able) to not only reconnect with your personal favorites but more importantly to discover something new. The constant barrage of year end and best-of lists can be a bit underwhelming as it begins to feel all too contrived and often disturbingly similar. The people need something new, something good, something that's not quite so mass produced. It's time to catch up on the releases that went under the radar, the hidden gems, and the essential records from the underground. "The Year in Review" is a comprehensive guide to our favorite releases of the year without a pre-determined length. If we loved a record, we're including it... simple as that. It's truly been a fantastic year (musically) and the strength of the underground continues to grow but it's impossible to listen to everything and there's a great chance a potential favorite slipped on by. Luckily, it's not too late. It's never too late. Your next favorite band could be out there, it's just a matter of listening to something new.

Discover something new. Support the music you love. Thank you for reading Post-Trash and please help spread the word if you're into the site. "The Year In Review" album selections were picked by the editors of the site and write-ups come from a selection of our wonderful contributors: Niccolo Dante Porcello, Kelly Johnson, Dan Manning, Dan Murphy, Bobby Cardos, Julia Leiby, Jeremy Probst, Jonathan Nasrallah, Ryan Allen, Jonathan Bannister, Steven Spoerl, Dave Spak and Dan Goldin. Stay tuned later in the week for the site-wide top albums of the year and a special "Guest List" feature. So without further ado, here is a trip back through our favorite music of 2015. 

cloakroom cover.jpg

CLOAKROOM
"Further Out"

Run For Cover Records

Self-Identified with the ridiculous but almost fitting genre “stoner emo”, Cloakroom stormed into 2015, releasing their debut full length Further Out just two weeks into the year. The album has been more or less constant rotation since then, always popping up just when I need to be enveloped in their luxuriously crushing riffs. Even though they weren’t the band to name a song “Mount Hum” tracks titles like "Moon Funeral," "Starchild Skull" and "Clean Moon"skime would have betrayed their space rock ambitions if hiring Hum’s Matt Talbot to produce hadn’t already done that. The all analogue reel–to–reel recording style fit perfectly for an album that’s equal parts muscle and finesse. (Jonathan Nasrallah)

DIRTY DISHES
"Guilty"

Exploding In Sound Records

When an album comes out at the beginning of the year it can sometimes be forgotten when it is time to make the year end list. However, Guilty refused to lay buried in the back of the mind.  While it might be easy to describe the album as 90’s influenced, songs like Dan Cortez with its Warpaint like vibe, the atmosphere of Lackluster, and the beauty of One More Time rewards listeners who are willing to put forth the effort. The more you listen, the more the album opens up and worms its way into your soul and refuses to let go. (Jonathan Bannister)

JACK NAME
"Weird Moons"

Castle Face Records

The first time I heard Jack Name's debut album "Light Show," I wasn't particularly sure if I liked it, but the desire to keep listening was firmly planted within me. On "Weird Moons," the band's follow up, the attraction was immediate. The album is both surreal and disorienting but strangely infectious. Synth pop blends with psych and lo-fi punk as Name stretches out with hazy grooves and seamless acid-fueled transitions despite giant shifts in style and consciousness. There's always something new to discover. (Dan Goldin)

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SLEATER-KINNEY
"No Cities To Love"

Sub Pop Records

The prospect of a Sleater-Kinney reunion was one of the more exciting things to look forward to in 2015, especially for us twenty-somethings, most of whom came upon the riot grrl pioneers after the group had already disbanded. That being said, a reunion coinciding with a new release is certainly grounds for anxiety, because—as we’ve seen with particular resurgence attempts (looking at you, Pixies)—sometimes it’s sometimes best to let sleeping dogs lie. This is not the case with No Cities to Love. Carrie Brownstein, Corin Tucker, and Janet Weiss managed to create a record that is simultaneously a work of matured sensibilities whilst holding down all the elements that made Sleater-Kinney great back in its heyday, be it blistering guitars or biting social and political commentary. This record stands up to any in the Sleater-Kinney catalogue, a feat which should not be overlooked, especially for a band that was out of the game for ten years. (Dan Murphy)

SWINGS
"Detergent Hymns"

Quiet Year Records

Swings’ first album of 2015 was a remarkable debut; a 9-song set of juxtapositions between loud and soft that pushed an understanding of dynamics as the ultimate tool in songwriting. Both Jamie Finucane’s voice and the instrumentation behind it push the envelope of what to expect from what initially sounds like “rock”, instead finding a blissfully genreless hybrid of R&B, math rock, and synth pop. Understanding their gospel as one of profoundly affecting songs bent on inspiring a response, “Hymns” is a deeply accurate description of this not-to-be-missed LP. (Niccolo Dante Porcello)

VIET CONG
"Viet Cong"

Jagjaguwar Records

The promise on Viet Cong’s Cassette EP placed their full-length debut at the top of my anticipated list. Littered with the distinct harmonies and peculiar songwriting that made them such an exciting new act in the first place, their full-length does not disappoint in the least. This is an album where no two songs sound alike. Every track unfolds like a rollercoaster in the dark, where you anxiously await each exhilarating turn. Highlight “Bunker Buster” is a great example of this. The vocals are chanted while sharp guitar riffs poke in and out at every angle. Once they lock into a groove in the song’s second half, you know you are going to be in good hands. On paper, it seems like such varied songwriting and unusual components would make for an uneven listen, but here they are seamlessly unified by their underlying atmosphere and stylistic energy. (Dave Spak)

FURTHER LISTENING:

California X - "Nights In The Dark" (Don Giovanni Records) || G.L.O.S.S. - "Demo" (Not Normal) || Menace Beach - "Ratworld" (Memphis Industries) || Really Big Pinecone - "Really Really Big Pinecone" (self released) || Ty Segall - "Mr. Face" (Famous Class Records) || Wildhoney - "Sleep Through It" (Deranged Records)

ASTRAL SWANS
"All My Favorite Singers Are Willie Nelson"

Madic Records

Astral Swans' Matthew Swann has been one of my favorite songwriters for many years, transitioning from his previous band Extra Happy Ghost!!! (yes, the exclamation points were part of the name) to the solo bedroom pop opus that is his full length debut under the new moniker. Swann sings with sincerity over low dimly lit and intrinsically somber pop songs, combining an experimental flare of Beach Boys-esque earworms that appear and fade without much warning, lending texture to Swann's gorgeous songwriting. (Dan Goldin)

KRILL
"A Distant Fist Unclenching"

Exploding in sound + double double whammy RECORDS

Boston’s Krill have, and continue to take up more space than a paragraph could ever capture, but their final effort was perhaps the most fulfilling in their 3 years putting out records. Distant Fist Unclenching was in many ways a perfect record to be released in March, something that will inevitably be forgotten; the emotion of the record is paired with the last vestiges of a brutal winter while sonically it landed with all of the might of spring, exploding out of one ontology and into a wholly more beautiful other. Songs like “Tiger”, and “Brain Problem” allow you to explore whatever you need to explore – they are profoundly complex and emotive, a current that flows through the entire album. Krill, Krill, Krill forever. (Niccolo Dante Porcello)

LEAPLING
"Vacant Page"

inflated + exploding in sound RECORDS

Leapling’s Vacant Page gives me a greater appreciation for the album as an art form. It works so well as a whole, it would be sacrilege to experience it any other way. A dreamy and hypnotic atmosphere threads the entire record, pulling you deeper and deeper as it progresses. It would do you no favors to draw comparisons or name genres. Varied instrumentation, jazz flourishes, and compelling arrangements are carried by the laidback vocals of Dan Arnes to establish an inimitable sound. Leapling has created a work that is truly greater than the sum of its parts, resulting in an utterly enthralling musical experience. (Dave Spak)

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RETOX
"Beneath California"

Epitaph RECORDS

Absolutely brutal, Retox's third release retains the band's unrelenting aggression and fury in spades. Led by Justin Pearson (The Locust, Head Wound City, Swing Kids), the band spew a bile soaked combination of noise rock, hardcore, punk, and industrial that aims for the head and doesn't stop swinging until it's all over. Jagged rhythms and pummeling riffs lay their spastic sound to waste as Pearson commands attention with his aggravated shouts and deranged vocals. These guys are no strangers to sounding pissed off and things aren't getting any sunnier "Beneath California". (Dan Goldin)

RYE PINES
"Dead Ocean"

bob RECORDS

Dead Ocean marks a change for Rye Pines as the songs are the first to be written together as a duo and the results find the band sounding bigger than ever with a wavering diversity that hones in on their songs' vivid imagery. Rye Pines have captured something special, an abundantly visual blast of infectious indie rock that takes many different forms and shapes, often quite rapidly, and in the end puts them among the best up-and-coming New England bands. (Dan Goldin)

SCREAMING FEMALES
"Rose Mountain"

don giovanni RECORDS

On 2012’s “Ugly”, much was made of the Screaming Females hooking up with Steve Albini. And while the recording legend was able to capture the band’s obvious raw talent, the songs they brought to the table seemed to sit uncomfortably - building a mountain of the mashed potatoes instead of scarfing down the meal. Soon after that album dropped, singer/guitar ripper Marissa Paternoster came down with mono and couldn’t shake it. The band didn't hit the road as hard as they are accustomed to promote “Ugly” and overall it left a bit of a black cloud over the band. So-so record. No tour. No fun. 

But on “Rose Mountain” the band kicked back with heavier riffs and more focused songs, all corralled in the studio by Mastodon’s go-to-guy Matt Bayles. It all results in a confidence on “Rose Mountain” that transcends Paternoster’s basement-punk-meets-Sabbath-worship guitar virtuosity, all while being backed by a fist-full of tightly wound pop songs and one of punk’s best rhythm sections. It’s at once a welcome return and a new direction for a hardworking band that you just can’t keep down. (Ryan Allen)

SUMAC
"The Deal"

profound lore RECORDS

Aaron Haris has kept busy since his days in the legendary post-metal behemoth ISIS (the band, c'mon people). While exploring different sounds with different bands, SUMAC, his latest dwells closest to his former band while offering a new brand of intensity and expansive skull-crushing atmospheric metal. The band sound hungry, excited, and best of all, unpredictable. It's a heavy record that's made all the heavier by its quiet moments, the unsuspecting lull and the serene near-meditative nature that unravels into spine tingling eruptions of primal bludgeoning. Carefully designed and brilliantly structured, Sumac bring you on a goosebump-inducing roller-coaster ride that you're going to want to take over and over again. (Dan Goldin)

TORCHE
"Restarter"

relapse RECORDS

Torche is like the musical equivalent of a Tootsie Pop - hard and crunchy on the outside, gooey in the middle. Fans of Saint Vitus, HUM, and Foo Fighters could all find something to latch onto with Torche; they’re heavy as they are catchy; clever as they are boneheaded. This year’s “Restarter” is like Torche on hyper-drive. They’ve taken everything that’s defined them over the years and pushed it to all extremes. Songs like “Annihilation Affair” and “Minions” show them at their most sludgy, while upbeat rockers like “Bishop in Arms” and the undeniable “Loose Arms” could be some of their catchiest yet. All in all, “Restarter” is another worthy addition to a canon of records that simultaneously pummel with aggression and melody like few of their peers. (Ryan Allen)

TY SEGALL BAND
"Live In San Francisco"

castle face RECORDS

For me personally, Ty Segall's greatest accomplishment to date is the Ty Segall Band's "Slaughterhouse" album, a blistering record that had Segall and his band ripping with Sabbath like devotion and blown out stoner anthems. The band's "Live in San Francisco" comes arrives a few years later but finds the band pulling primarily from that record, tearing through a set of the band's heavier tracks as Segall and Moothart shred through thick distortion and enveloping fuzz that blankets jangly garage punk rave-ups for a crushing set, perfectly captured on Castle Face's ever growing series. (Dan Goldin)

FURTHER LISTENING:

A Place To Bury Strangers - "Transfixiation" (Dead Oceans) || Anasazi - "Nasty Witch Rock" (Toxic State) || Culture Abuse - "Spray Paint The Dog" (6131 Records) || Ex-Cult - "Cigarette Machine" (Castle Face) || Ghostface Killah & BADBADNOTGOOD - Sour Soul (Lex Records) || Mourn - "Mourn" (Captured Tracks) || Passenger Peru - "Light Places" (Fleeting Youth) || Red Sea - "In The Salon" (re-release, Bayonet Records) || Shores - "Precedents" (self-released) || Sleeping Bag - "NBD: Nothing But Demos" || Spectres - "Dying" (Sonic Cathedral) || Sun Hotel - "Rational Expectations" (Community Records)

BROKEN WATER
"Wrought"

night people RECORDS

Long live Broken Water. Before disbanding this Fall, the Olympia trio released another stunning full length of their signature noise soaked "college rock" indebted indie bliss. While still borrowing a trick or two from the early chapters of the Sonic Youth playbook, Broken Water have reeled in the in blown out intensity (ever so slightly) allowing the songs an opportunity to dig further into their swirling wall of layered guitars while resonating with a deeper sense of emotion. The band remain noisy while embracing clarity. It's the best of both worlds and we're sad to see to them go. (Dan Goldin)

CHERUBS
"2 Ynfynyty"

brutal panda RECORDS

In some circles, Cherubs are legends. They have a cult-like following among fans of 90's underground noise rock and its a cult we're happy to be a part of. Their last album "Heroin Man," often considered a staple of the genre, was released back in 1994 and aside from a collection of b-sides that followed two years later, this is Cherubs first album in over twenty years and they sound as invigorated as ever, veterans in the pursuit of expansive noise rock, constantly shifting and reshaping the boundaries of their sound in new directions, from spaced-out psych punk to ferocious all of blasts of noise rock chaos at it's absolute finest. Highly recommended.. (Dan Goldin)

GERONIMO!
"Buzz Yr Girlfriend Vol. 4: Why Did You Leave Me?"

exploding in sound RECORDS

It’s no secret that Geronimo! were one of my favorite bands. I feel like I have written countless words singing their praises. Alas, the lads decided to call it quits and leave us with these three scorching post-punk gems. “They Put a Hook Inside of Me” will do just as its title suggests while “Low Fruit on the Vine” is a full-on assault. Sometimes it feels like rock bands forgot how to rock, but “Fires of Hell” serves as the uncompromising shredfest sorely lacking in this world. I foresee plenty of kids discovering this EP down the road and shouting to the heavens, “How could I have not known about these guys sooner!” The strength of these final recordings will forever have me asking Geronimo!, “Why did you leave me?” (Dave Spak)

HELVETIA
"A Dot Running For The Dust: The Lost Sessions"

joyful noise RECORDS

You'd be wise to not expect a lot.from an album with "lost sessions" in the title, but thankfully in this case, you'd be wrong. When Jason Albertini's computer crashed shortly after the release of "Nothing In Rambling," the songs were considered lost, but three years and one restored hard-drive later and "A Dot Running For The Dust" was quietly released on their Bandcamp. The album stands among the band's best, whether fully realized or not, the layered keys, tranquil guitars, and warm tape recordings float by in stunning soundscapes as dynamic rhythms bounce and groove throughout the mix. (Dan Goldin)

LIGHTNING BOLT
"Fantasy Empire"

thrill jockey RECORDS

The novelty of Lightning Bolt’s set up still (somehow) never disappoints. Within their limited range of sound they still conjure up some of the heaviest and driving music out there. They immediately kick things into high gear with “The Metal East,” and from there on out find a comfortable dynamic between the hooks on Wonderful Rainbow and the riff-heavy Hypermagic Mountain. (Kelly Johnson)

LOST BOY ?
"Canned"

papercup music

Lost Boy ? has been putting out great music for years, so Canned's overwhelming success in terms of artistic merit isn't completely unprecedented. Even with that in mind, it's still not hard to be at least somewhat taken aback by the record's sheer force. From the dangerously spiky opening ("Hollywood") to an even more deranged revenge song, Canned is never anything less than completely gripping. Purportedly written in the midst of a mental breakdown, Davey Jones & co. have crafted a record that doesn't just feel like a resounding statement of exhilarating defiance but something that's built to withstand the tests of time. (Steven Spoerl)

PILE
"You're Better Than This"

exploding in sound RECORDS

People speak about Pile with a fervor which no other band elicits. Their rise in popularity hasn’t come equipped with the archetypal move towards accessibility and perhaps that is the reason their fanbase is so unwavering. With each album, the band is intent on challenging the listener and it makes for a more rewarding experience. You’re Better Than This establishes an immediate sense of urgency with “The World Is Your Hotel”, a song that all but guarantees you will be air-drumming along to its pounding rhythm. Rick Maguire has a knack for storytelling and much like Dripping’s “Baby Boy”, “Mr. Fish” investigates a seedy yet infinitely interesting character in a way only Pile can. The following track, “Touched by Comfort”, takes the listener by surprise and sweeps them up in its lushness. It beautifully exhibits the versatility of Pile’s songwriting. By the time you reach “Appendicitis” and hear Maguire confess, “There were times that I wanted it so bad I made it hurt/ But now I wait as patiently as I can for my heart to ache again”, you realize the album perfectly encapsulates such a burning feeling. (Dave Spak)

WAND
"Golem"

in the red RECORDS

A little over six months separates Golem from Wand’s debut, Ganglion Reef, yet a remarkable progression can be heard. The record finds Wand making further moves towards originality, while taking the strongest components from the previous album and making them sound bigger and badder. If you like burly riffs, psychedelic scuzz, and otherworldly guitar tones; stop what you are doing and put this album on immediately. Wand make sure that boredom is the last thing possible when listening to their music. They employ enough weirdness to continually hold your attention, while injecting the necessary glam rock riffs to keep your feet moving and your head bobbing the whole time. (Dave Spak)

FURTHER LISTENING:

Action Bronson - "Mr. Wonderful" (Vice) || Chastity Belt - "Time To Go Home" (Hardly Art) || Courtney Barnett - "Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit" (Mom & Pop Music) || Dead Tenants - "Void" (self released) || Earl Sweatshirt - "I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside" (Columbia) || EULA - "Wool Sucking" (Famous Swords) || Girl Band - "The Early Years" (Rough Trade) || JEFF The Brotherhood - "Wasted on the Dream" (Infinity Cat) || Kendrick Lamar - "To Pimp A Butterfly" (Top Dawg Entertainment) || LVL UP - "Dark Sided Stuff" (Double Double Whammy) || Marching Church - "This World Is Not Enough" (Sacred Bones) || Moon Duo - "Shadow of the Sun" (Sacred Bones) || Pill - "Pill" (Dull Tools) || Pope - "Fiction" (Community Records) || Rozwell Kid - "Good Graphics" (Infinity Cat) || Spook The Herd - "Freaks b/w Fermented" (Seagreen Records) || Swervedriver - "I Wasn't Born to Lose You" (Cobraside) || Telepathic - "Powers of Ten" (self released) || Thomas Quinttus - "Thank God For The Time Machine" (Syndical) || Warehouse - "Tesseract" (re-release, Bayonet Records) || Zula/Annex - "Water Pressure" (Inflated Records)

AVA LUNA
"Infinite House"

western vinyl

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but it’s a good place to start with Ava Luna. The colorful and intricate artwork is representative of the complexity of the songwriting found within Infinite House. It’s all over the place in the best way. I’ve always appreciated albums that can pull off wild stylistic shifts as well as Ava Luna do on this album. Art rock, R&B, funk, jazz, and post-punk are all present in some way. When you add in the triple vocal threat of Carlos Hernandez, Felicia Douglass, and Rebecca Kauffman; you have a recipe that can’t be beat. Where else could you find a lounge/beat poetry experiment like "Steve Polyester” alongside a distorted soul tune like “Billz”?  It won’t be long before you are walking the streets screaming, “Who is gonna pay my bills?!” (Dave Spak)

BEAUTY PILL
"Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are"

butterscotch RECORDS

What do you get when you take a highly experimental but simultaneously pop-minded group (led by ex-Smart Went Crazy leader Chad Clark) and give them 11 years to make another record? Well, pretty much everything and the kitchen sink. Dub breaks spiral right into electronic squiggles. African rhythms butt right up against Motown horns. Japanese-inspired melodies ride alongside skittering live drums. Guitars are weirdly absent, unless when they aren’t. Oh, and there’s a Lungfish cover. The uninitiated might be reminded of Soul Coughing, the Dismemberment Plan (maybe?), and Fugazi at their most restrained. But still, that hardly describes what’s going on here. It’s an almost maze-like listen, with unexpected twists and turns along the way - most easily compared with a film soundtrack than any other indie rock album. It all comes off as a labor of love for Clark, and is a welcome and grandiose return to music making for one of DC’s most creative minds. (Ryan Allen)

BICHKRAFT
"Mascot"

wharf cat RECORDS

Ukrainian no wave quartet Bichkraft ride the line between noise rock pioneers like Big Black and Sonic Youth and all out audio destruction. It's bleak and futuristic, discordant guitars rail against drum machines, scrapping and convulsing over pounding rhythms. The whole experience is unrelenting and sonically violent, the pulse of the programmed beats and processed noise battling for attention, occasionally glitched out and always distorted. Despite the auditory attack, "Mascot" is at once hypnotic, dangerous, and unpredictable and I can only imagine what seeing them live is like. Here's hoping the US gets a chance to find out. (Dan Goldin)

BUILT TO SPILL
"Untethered Moon"

WARNEr bros. RECORDS

Built to Spill are one of my all time favorite bands, a distinction that can make a new album from a veteran band a nervous occasion. Great bands will be great bands though and Built to Spill have created one of the best records of their impeccable career. In a time when everyone is determined to push the boundaries of "rock music," Doug Martsch and co. return to the basics, creating a winding record of lilting harmonies and syrupy guitar solos that sound immediately classic as only BTS can, Need proof, just listen to "So". Sometimes a simple refresh is all that's needed. (Dan Goldin)

FLAGLAND + WASHER
"Split 7"

Exploding in sound + ecb&b RECORDS

Each spending their year focusing on full-lengths, both likely to be released in 2016 (Washer is confirmed, Flagland TBD), this split serves as the drops of water to get us to those albums. Lately more prone to 10-plus minute marathons, Flagland’s side shows their poppier sensibilities, and Kahlberg croons out what can only be described as a hangover anthem on “Lay Down With Me and Die.” Washer hones the trajectory established with the Bighead EP and their 2014 split with Big Ups, bending out songs that are structurally weirder than their catchiness and brevity implies, and the scream on "Joe" is one of the most satisfying things I’ve heard in 2015. (Bobby Cardos)

SPEEDY ORTIZ
"Foil Deer"

CARPARK RECORDS

The Real Hair EP presented the most accessible side of Speedy Ortiz yet. Going into Foil Deer, it seemed safe to assume they would be venturing further into pop territory; however, the album finds the band at their most volatile, making for a thoroughly engaging listen. “Raising the Skate” is the biting guitar rock we have come to know and love from the group. The first surprise comes with the synth in “The Graduates”. While such an addition often comes across as cheesy or gimmicky when used by other acts, Speedy Ortiz utilizes keys tastefully to add a nice subtle texture to one of the more emotional tracks. Unpredictability makes “Homonovus” standout as it lulls you into a false sense of security with a gentle verse before a wild outburst in the chorus protrudes from the speakers like a slap to the face. The following track, “Puffer”, may be their poppiest tune yet; but again, they employ a radio-ready backbeat in a much more effective manner than most bands could pull off. The record winds down with darker, more sinister material utilizing Sadie Dupuis’ acerbic wordplay to its fullest extent. Like all great records, Foil Deer is one you should absorb from front to back. (Dave Spak)

FURTHER LISTENING:

Advaeta - "Death and the Internet" (Fire Talk) || The Blind Shake - "Fly Right" (Slovenly) || Cop - "Render" (self released) || Creative Adult - "Ring Around the Room" (Run For Cover) || Crown Larks - "Blood Dancer" (Spacelung + Landbreathing) || June Gloom - "Sad Summer 2013" (self released) || Mew - "+-" (PIAS America) || Obnox - "Know America" (Ever/Never) || Pow! - "Fight Fire" (Castle Face) || Um Are - "Child Prodigy" (self released) || Vexx - "Give and Take" (Katorga Works) || Weed - "Running Back" (Lefse) || Wire - "Wire" (Pink Flag)

MAY

ELVIS DEPRESSEDLY
"New Alhambra"

run for cover RECORDS

First of all, Elvis Depressedly is a fantastic name for a band, enough so that I'd probably give them a chance even if their music sucked (which it definitely doesn't). At times they remind me of one of all-time favorite bands, The Shivers, who also make music you could probably categorize as sad sap music. Even if they don't keep their promise of no more sad songs, New Alhambra is one of the more earnest, heart-on-a-sleeve records of 2015 and overall pretty great. (Marcus Gauthiér)

ESKIMEAUX
"O.K."

double double whammy RECORDS

I didn't expect one of Brooklyn's rising stars to be dealing out earnest, emotional folk rock, but artistic collective "The Epoch" has never been interested in participating in the usual genre trends that dominate New York's hippest borough. The Epoch’s various iterations vary from locked bedroom confessional to full throated shout-it-from-the-rooftop anthems. Gabrielle Smith’s latest album under the Eskimeaux name pushes her artistic trajectory further and further into the wide-screen end of the spectrum. O.K. arrives triumphantly with tracks like “The Thunder Answered Back” and “Broken Necks” reaching for the emotional heights of Arcade Fire or Broken Social Scene. (Jonathan Nasrallah)

ROBERT POLLARD
"Faulty Superheroes"

guided by voices inc

It's refreshing to hear Robert Pollard put out a solo album of songs that are actually fully fleshed-out and polished a little as opposed to the tossed-off song sketches and half-finished ideas he's put on his recent solo output. Here you have all the hooks and clever wordiness you expect from Pollard. Faulty Superheroes is no Isolation Drills or Bee Thousand but it's at least one of the better albums Pollard has put out in years. (Marcus Gauthiér)

SHILPA RAY
"Last Year's Savage"

northern spy RECORDS

I first became aware of Shilpa Ray from her time fronting Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers, a garage rock and blues outfit that has since disbanded. I was a big fan of said band, especially the formidable Teenage and Torture album, but it in no way prepared me for her solo material. The first thing that stands out to the listener is the use of a harmonium, which pairs remarkably well with her idiosyncratic vocals. This is used to full effect on Last Year’s Savage. Songs like the shimmying “Johnny Thunders' Fantasy Space Camp”, which mocks the celebration of artists’ self-destructive behavior, showcase Ray’s penchant for cunning lyricism. She doesn’t shy away from a hook either. The shuffling rhythm and the chorus of “I got my free will and nobody’s gonna be my man/ so thank god if all I take is your money” cements “Pipe Dreams Ponzi Schemes” as one of the more clever and catchy songs of the year. Shilpa Ray may just be the wholly unique singer/songwriter for which the world has been waiting. (Dave Spak)

THEE OH SEES
"Mutilator Defeated At Last"

castle face RECORDS

I can’t say enough about the catalog Thee Oh Sees have cultivated over their prolific career. With each [seemingly obligatory annual] release, they refine their sound even more. Principal songwriter and core member John Dwyer (guitars, vocals) has perfected the art of the relentless garage rock jam. Some of his guitar tones appear as if they are beamed in from outer space, while others sound like they are being blasted from a cannon. “Lupine Ossuary”, the spiritual successor to fan favorite “Lupine Dominus”, is rock ‘n’ roll at its most uncompromising. The breakneck speed coupled with the overblown and unrestrained guitar riffs scream that everything is being pushed to the limits.  Each album by Thee Oh Sees seems to have a song where you feel like you are about to leap out of your skin from the pure intensity of it all and “Lupine Ossuary” is that track here. The second half of the record plays with their newfound foray into straight psychedelia and serves as a nice counterpoint to the commotion which precedes it. (Dave Spak)

FURTHER LISTENING:

Ceremony - "The L-Shaped Man" (Matador) || Clean Girls - "Despite You" (Accidental Guest) || Crosss - "Lo" (Telephone Explosion) || Falling Stacks - "No Wives" (Battle Worldwide) || Fraternal Twin - "Skin Gets Hot" (Apollonian Sound) || Invisible Things - "Time AS One Axis" (New Atlantis) || Joanna Gruesome - "Peanut Butter" (Slumberland Records) || King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - "Quarters!" (Castle Face) || Metz - "II" (Sub Pop) || NEEDS - "NEEDS" (File Under: Music) || Pinecones - "Sings For You Now" (re-release, Arrowhawk Records) || Toner - "LP" (Don't Live Like Me Records) || Tropical Trash - "UFO Rot" (Load) || Vomitface - "Another Bad Year" (Boxing Clever) || Yazan - "Howlin'" (Should Tap Records)

BIG NECK POLICE
"Sleight of Time"

JMC AGGREGATE RECORDS

Big Neck Police specialize in heavy art-damaged post-punk with equal parts emphasis on the "art" and "damaged" aspects. Watching them live always feels like you're witnessing something special... or strange, and usually a mix of the two. "Sleight of Time" is the band's first recorded effort to capture that magic, toeing the line between brilliance and the utterly deranged, Big Neck Police possess that rare quality that finds them increasingly compelling the stranger the structures get, a feat once found in bands like U.S. Maple, capturing a disorienting barrage of spastic rhythms and atonal chords that feed perfecly of one another. (Dan Goldin)

FAILURE
"The Heart Is A Monster"

FAILURE RECORDS

It’s been 19 years since Failure put out a record but they haven’t let time corrupt their sound or style. Picking up where Fantastic Planet left off, it’s got all the markers of a Failure record. Like running into an old friend and being able to pick up right where you left off, The Heart is a Monster is a welcomed return. (Jonathan Bannister)

GNARWHAL
"Shinerboy"

FLANNEL GURL + EXPLODING IN SOUND RECORDS

Shinerboy is like a good movie, full of unpredictable twists that keep you guessing until the very end. The record is one step further to capturing their mesmerizing live show, which never fails to leave the entire audience with their jaws dropped to the floor. It’s hard not to get distracted by the technicality on display in a song like “That’s Not of Course”, yet Gnarwhal pulls it all together in the end with a riff that all but forces you to headbang along. When you find out that all this controlled chaos is performed by just two guys, it has you wondering whether they each have four arms. Don’t try and figure it out, just let it take you where it will. (Dave Spak)

THE I.L.Y.'S
"I've Always Been Good At True Love"

third worlds records

The I.L.Y.'s are shrouded in mystery. There's far more unknown about them than what's known. As soon as you listen though, its abundantly clear that Zach Hill is pulling the behind the action. Released via Death Grips' website, The I.L.Y.'s sound more like a Zach Hill solo album than anything else and for that I'm thankful as "Face Tat" remains a personal favorite. Blending dense garage punk and fuzzed out noise rock, the duo of Hill and Andy Morin might have tossed out this record on a whim but it's a great listen and the songs get increasingly awesome with familiarity. After a long stretch of Death Grips' reign on Hill's schedule, it's great to hear him fronting a band once again. (Dan Goldin)

INSTITUTE
"Catharsis"

sacred bones RECORDS

Austin punks Institute’s debut LP is a unique brand of post-punk, one that maintains high amounts of energy and aggression while still being able to craft droning, angular and captivating songs. The songs range in tempo and dynamics, incorporating elements from krautrock, raw punk, psych, and garage rock. Singer Moses Brown’s slurred vocal delivery adds a unique flare to these tracks, making Institute’s sound one all their own, and one that they have only further developed and grown into on Catharsis. (Dan Manning)

SAUNA YOUTH
"Distractions"

UPSET THE RHYTHM RECORDS

London's Sauna Youth have been labeled as "irregular punk," a fitting description for the post-punk collective with a pedigree that's only topped by their immaculate shout along punk anthems. It's wiry, tense, and rigid but the duel vocals and relentless energy make this one of the finest albums to come across the pond this year. It's punk with spirit and mind-expanding jangle, a ramshackle garage soul executed with razor sharp riffs and knotty rhythms with far more at the core of the songs than meets the eye. "Distractions" has a classic feel to it, a punk album vital to it's time yet revered in the times to come. (Dan Goldin) 

FURTHER LISTENING:

Cigarette - "Chapel Sounds" (JMC Aggregate) || Creepoid - "Cemetery Highrise Slum" (Collect) || Czarface - "Every Hero Needs a Villain" (Brick Records) || The Fall - "Sub-Lingual Tablet" (Cherry Red Records) || Fountain - "Fountain 2" (self released) || J Fernandez - "Many Levels of Laughter" (Joyful Noise Recordings) || Jaill - "Brain Cream" (Burger) || June Gloom - "Dog Days" (self released) || Kinski - "7 (or 8)" (Kill Rock Stars) || Lady Bones - "Dying" (Midnight Werewolf) || Mail The Horse - "Planet Gates" (Sexual Decade) || Melvins - "The Bulls & The Bees + Electroretard" (reissue, Ipecac) || Mutoid Man - "Bleeder" (Sargent House) || No Joy - "More Faithful" (Mexican Summer Records) || No One & The Somebodies + Palberta - "Chips For Dinner" (Underdog Pop Records) || Palberta - "Hot on the Beach" (JMC Aggregate) || Palm - "Ostrich Vacation" (JMC Aggregate) || The Sediment Club - "B Bakery" (JMC Aggregate) || Spook The Herd + Hellrazor - "Split" (Seagreen Records) || Spray Paint - "Punters on a Barge" (Homeless) || Sun Organ - "Wooden Brain" (Ranch Records) || Uniform - "Perfect World" (12XU Records)

GUNK
"Gunk"

ranch RECORDS

Gunk creates their own world of randomness: blown-out guitars, random segues between songs and found sounds knit this collection of songs tightly together. One thing the randomness can’t mask is their love of pop music. Memorable melodies are effortlessly thrown around in songs like “Hippy,” “Energy,” “Seeing Is,” and “Forms of Torture.” A brilliant album that continually rewards with repeated listens. (Kelly Johnson)

LVL UP
"Three Songs"

double double whammy + run for cover RECORDS

After heavy touring for Hoodwink’d, LVL UP paired down for 2015’s 3 Songs. There is an immediacy and lo-fi quality to 3 Songs that allows LVL UP to do what they do best – make scrappy, grungy rock that can be listened to divorced from context. This is not to say these songs aren’t meaningful – they are – but there is accessibility to them, especially those penned by DDW-wizard Dave Benton, that allows for endless listening. On “Proven Water Rites”, a grooved synth is introduced well below the rest of the mix, a well-used addition that is new for LVL UP, and promises an exciting 2016. (Niccolo Dante Porcello)

PHILADELPHIA COLLINS
"Derp Swervin'"

exploding in sound RECORDS

This EP from Devin McKnight and Theo Hartlett could almost act as a Boston scene sampler. With the aide of their friends across several area bands, McKnight and Hartlett run through various styles across the five songs. While they may be busy with other projects, this isn’t some fly by night side project. The songs are fully formed, catchy, and fun so come for the name recognition, stay for the hooks. (Jonathan Bannister)

THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE
"You Are Arrived (But You've Been Cheated)"

ICE AGE + RANCH RECORDS

Philadelphia outfit the spirit of the beehive makes discordant and immensely heavy pop music, and 2015’s You Are Arrived (But You Have Been Cheated) is their best effort to date. Six songs that range from massive to slinky, the album redefines what outer limits of post-MBV shoegaze can find, combining elements of sound collage, post-punk, and ambiance. There is a heavy mellifluous current that runs below the surface of all six of these songs, a consistent drone that seems to lay the foundation upon which You Are Arrived is built, and allows for beautifully rendered chord progressions to move at their own pace, ultimately finding a home. Above all, these songs are what the kids refer to as “bangers”, equally wonderful in an ear drum-shattering car ride as sitting drunk at home. (Niccolo Dante Porcello)

VUNDABAR
"Gawk"

gawk RECORDS

Gawk has been in my car’s CD player for months. Every time I start my car, whatever track is playing makes a compelling argument for me to keep it in there. You see, every track on the album is a charmer full of jangly guitars, head-bobbing rhythms, and sing-along hooks. The overdriven swagger of songs like “Oulala” can go up against any song from [insert famous indie rock band]. The remarkable production brings out all of the best elements of the catchy songwriting, giving it that endless replay value I’m squawking about. At this rate it’ll probably stay in my car’s CD player until the next Vundabar record comes out. (Dave Spak)

FURTHER LISTENING:

Ghostface Killah & Adrian Young - "Twelve Reasons To Die II" (Linear Labs) || Helvetia - "Nothing But Ringo" (self released) || Ivy - "A Cat's Cause, No Dogs Problem" (Katorga Works) || The Lentils - "Brattleboro Is Flooding" (Gnar Tapes) || Naps - "You Will Live in a Cool Box" (Viridian Sounds) || Night Witch - "Night Witch" (Forknife Records) || The Sediment Club - "Psychosymplastic" (Wharf Cat Records) || Snooty Garbagemen - "Snooty Garbagemen" (12XU) || Socialite - "I See You/I Don't Care" (Jade Tree + Social Cancer Records) || Tame Impala - "Currents" (Modular Records) || Team Sleep - "Woodstock Sessions Vol. 4" (self released) || Ursula - "Hair Salon" (Mina's World Tapes)

THE BLIND SHAKE
"Live In San Fransisco"

CASTLE FACE RECORDS

If you've ever seen The Blind Shake live, chances are you're already a fan. It only takes one show for the Minneapolis trio to suck you into their whirlwind world of post-punk and tightly wound garage punk. The band are a well oiled machine, moving in unison like an oncoming tornado and Castle Face's "Live in San Francisco," recorded to tape at The Chapel in SF, manages to capture their live experience impeccably. Listen to this record and be sure to see them live any chance you get. (Dan Goldin)

BUENO
"Guilt"

BABE CITY RECORDS

The Staten Island quintet have been making experimental post-punk throughout New York for the past several years, mixing funky rhythms, scraping guitar riffs, and Luke Chiaruttini’s undeniably “cool” spoken word croon under a layer of fuzz and darkness. Bueno have earned a reputation for pushing boundaries as a live band and no two shows are the quite the same. Guilt, the band’s full length debut is a reflection of that, an album that finds the Staten Island boys making good on their potential and expanding their misfit charm as they incorporate elements of indie rock, punk, soul, krautrock, and old fashioned R&B into their sound. (Dan Goldin)

CHRISTIAN FITNESS
"Love Letters In The Age Of Steam"

SELF RELEASED

The second album from Future of the Left’s Andrew Falkous has all the hallmarks of a Falco record. It’s snarky, loud, and has attitude to spare. However, songs like Standard Issue Grief and The Psychic Reader show there’s also a heart buried deep beneath the distortion. Falco might still be exasperated with the lot of us, but the harder he hits, the harder we’ll keep listening. (Jonathan Bannister)

DEAF WISH
"Pain"

SUB POP RECORDS

Every song on Deaf Wish's Sub Pop debut "Pain" sounds different, and every song is great. The Australian quartet's full length pulls from the widest spectrum of punk, whether it's droning psych punk, slurred hardcore punk, or blistering "college" rock (we can dub the genre "college punk" for the sake of this). It's all fairly unhinged as all four members contribute vocals, furthering the dynamic and scope of their wonderful dissonance. However you want to define them is not important, they're "firing on all cylinders" and everything they do seems to work. It's hard to define a band when they jump around stylistically, but maybe thats okay. Fuck your definitions, Deaf Wish has no use for them. (Dan Goldin)

DOUBTING THOMAS CRUISE CONTROL
"Remember Me John Lydon Forever"

FLEETING YOUTH RECORDS

Doubting Thomas Cruise Control could be described with a simple ‘if Pavement and Built to Spill had a baby’ blurb [don’t picture Stephen Malkmus making sweet love to Doug Martsch unless you really want that image in your head]. Thankfully, the band shows they are also much more than that on the delightfully titled Remember Me John Lydon Forever. The key to the album is the cohesive atmosphere that helps put you in the emotional mind space of each song. It flows exactly like a good rock record should. The vocals of singer/guitarist Bobby Cardos teeter on the edge of the music, feeling like they may fall apart before jumping out at all the right moments; it serves the lyrics, which have a lot of weight behind them. I also appreciate a band that isn’t afraid to rip a solo in order to kick it up a notch. (Dave Spak)

FURNSSS
"New Moves"

80N7 RECORDS

CT fuzz-rockers Furnsss combine shimmery, jangly guitar lines, pounding fuzz, and infectious hooks on this short collection of songs. The tracks on New Moves are warm, melancholic, and catchy as all hell. They deal with growing up and being bummed out, all while expressing a very mature understanding of songwriting and the art of the riff. (Dan Manning)

LA LUZ
"Weirdo Shrine"

HARDLY ART RECORDS

La Luz hit me hard this year. For whatever reason (or lack of one) the band had escaped me before this year and when I first heard "It's Alive" I was immediately in love with their sound. Nearly two years late to the party, La Luz's debut floored me and their follow-up might be even better. The band's doo-wop inspired surf pop takes a darker turn on "Weirdo Shrine" but their mastery of reverb and four part harmonies is genuinely unmatched. Produced by Ty Segall in an old surf shop, the retro-leaning "surf noir" thrives from rawer production and haunting melodic beauty. The perfect summer record... though it's pretty damn great in the other seasons as well. (Dan Goldin)

MARK LANEGAN
"Houston (Publishing Demos 2002)"

IPECAC RECORDS

Mark Lanegan's voice never ceases to amaze me. His dusty croon stands alone among an avalanche of baritone voices, retaining a gravely sincerity that consistently melts my heart. After the dissolution of Screaming Trees, Lanegan set out to Houston to record a set of demos to be used for publishing and thirteen years later, the songs were released, an impressive collection of fully realized songs (some later released, but most previously unheard) that range from haunting western murder-ballads and mournful acoustic meditations and psychedelic blues crooning. It's Lanegan in prime form and essential listening for anyone that's ever been a fan. (Dan Goldin) 

MIKE KROL
"Turkey"

Merge RECORDS

Merge Records signing Mike Krol was one of the more unexpectedly pleasant surprises of 2015 and the songwriter made it a point to repay their beliefs in full. Turkey, Krol's third record, is a whirlwind tour de force that showcases the former WI resident's outsize persona and enviable gift for subtle, nuanced deadpan comedy. A surging masterpiece, Turkey barrels through it's sub-19 minute runtime with delirious abandon. A joy from start to finish, this collection of lo-fi basement pop gems comes with enough punk bite to leave an imprint that lasts well after the record's bid the listener adieu. (Steven Spoerl)

PALEHOUND
"Dry Food"

EXPLODING IN SOUND RECORDS

Palehound’s Ellen Kempner proves that virtuosity is not an exclusively technical characteristic. Between razor-sharp songwriting, catchy but understated hooks and melodies, gloomy and witty lyricism, and unexpected structural shifts and surprises throughout each song, she crafts an engaging and intimate experience with “Dry Food". Running at under 30 minutes, it seems over too soon, but the tracks are easily digestible and the album endlessly re-playable. (Jeremy Probst)

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PILE
"First Other Tape"

self released

The tape acts as an intimate look into the writing process of Rick Maguire, one of the more notable songwriters of recent memory. Much of the songs feature only vocals and a single guitar or an out-of-tune piano—a vast removal from the normally bombastic and intricate tracks Pile generally produces, though the lyrical content is reminiscent of what the cult-fanbase of the Massachusetts band has come to know and love. Maguire’s head is a dark place full of spiders, and whether he’s kept up by the barking of dogs or thinking on the dangers of sharing fruit (that’s not a typo), this songwriter always manages to tap into something grander than himself, and provide commentary that’s both weirdly delivered and staggeringly insightful. First Other Tape is lo-fi work of excellence, and perhaps in the coming years, it will get the recognition it deserves. In the meantime, we can just settle for breaking out our tape decks and going down the rabbit hole with Rick. (Dan Murphy)

FURTHER LISTENING:

Chelsea Wolfe - "Abyss" (Sargent House) || Dr. Dre - "Compton" (Aftermath Records) || Flowers of Evil - "Flowers of Evil" (Deranged) || Infinity Girl - "Harm" (Topshelf) || Potty Mouth - "Potty Mouth" (Planet Whatever Records) || Princess Reason - "Your Divorce" (Nebraskan Coast)

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BLACKLISTERS
"Adult"

smalltown america, handshake inc + exploding in sound RECORDS

Blacklisters could just be the greatest noise rock band of our current time. Sure, you can claim bias as Exploding In Sound released the tape, but there's a reason we released the tape, and it's because this band has utterly blown my mind since the first time I ever laid ears upon them. Upon first listen it's deranged, filthy, and wildly unpredictable, but dig deeper and it becomes apparent these guys "aren't messing around" with tonality and song structures. Blacklisters take a blood-splattered minimalistic approach and everything sounds as menacing and devious upon explosive outbursts and heavy thudding grooves.  It's not often you hear a band out-do the influences they are so heavily indebted to... and yet here we are. Blacklisters Forever. (Dan Goldin)

GIRL BAND
"Holding Hands With Jamie"

Rough trade RECORDS

With a buzzed-about EP propelling their status, Girl Band responded to the anticipation behind its debut album for Rough Trade by delving further into their fascination with noise and atmosphere. The result is a challenging, but refreshing listen that cements Girl Band as a promising force in the experimental rock world.  Along with lead tantrum-er Dara Kiely, the guitars scrape and howl against a constantly propulsive rhythm on Holding Hands with Jamie. (Kelly Johnson)

GUERILLA TOSS
"Flood Dosed"

DFA RECORDS

Guerilla Toss’s 2015 output was limited due to vinyl plant congestion, but the shortened result was their DFA-debut Flood Dosed, three improbably catchy songs that showcased GToss doing what they’d only hinted at in prior releases: the ability to release hook-driven dance punk that has no peer. The irresistibility of “Realistic Rabbit”’s pummeling shuffle sets the tone for 18 minutes of wanting to punch holes in the drywall, rarely relenting except to become, if anything, more exceptionally raucous. “Ritual in Light” and “Polly’s Crystal” only reinforce what we’ve known about GToss since “3, 6, 7 Equalizer”, which is that they’re some of the smartest, most hardworking, and exciting people in DIY. (Niccolo Dante Porcello)

OUGHT
"Sun Coming Down"

Constellation RECORDS

This year Ought put out a record that would make David Byrne or Lee Ronaldo truly proud. The band’s unique mix of art-rock and post-punk comes to full fruition on Sun Coming Down with jagged guitar lines interlocking perfectly with vocalist Tim Darcy’s unique poeticism. The centerpiece, “Beautiful Blue Sky” encapsulates every different aspect of the band’s now refined sound with biting, cathartic precision. (Dan Manning)

PSYCHIC BLOOD
"Alien"

wharf cat RECORDS

After years of scuzzed out self released EPs, Western Mass trio release their "official" debut on the mighty Wharf Cat Records, a relentless psych punk onslaught better known as "Alien". Dark and noisy, the songs are drenched in a thick fog of distortion but this isn't blown out for the sake of being blown out, Psychic Blood use the confusion and walls of sound to their advantage, pushing songs into the unknown while allowing melodies and vocals a space to breathe and develop. Dirges of guttural noise and fuzzy brushes of post-punk coincide with serene beauty and spaced out shoegaze that captures the band's best songwriting yet. They've been a good band for a few years, now they're proving they're a great band. (Dan Goldin)

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UNWOUND
"Empire"

numero group RECORDS

If there was ever a band that seemed unlikely for the full-on Numero Group reissue treatment, it’s Unwound. Until you actually go back and listen to them, that is. Unwound made scrappy, scraping, minimalistic punk that evolved into something more beautiful and refined before their demise. This year’s “Empire” set chronicles the final breaths of the band, and tracks the transition between the agitated “Challenge for a Civilized Society” and the creepier and more intricate “Leaves Turn Inside You” (along with rarities, unreleased material, et al). You can hear the band working through sometimes spastic (“Data”) and sometimes mechanical (“NO TECH!”) jams into something a bit more subdued (“Lifetime Achievement Award”) on the first half of the collection. Switch records, and it all starts spilling over on “Leaves Turn Inside You”, with sprawling epics that seem pretty distant from harsh early tracks like “Antifreeze” or “New Energy”. But this is one of those moments where mellowing with age works to a band’s advantage, and the “Empire” collection is like the perfect night cap needed before putting this amazing group to bed. (Ryan Allen)

WAND
"1000 Days"

DRAG CITY RECORDS

I can’t imagine Wand can keep up this rate of production, but I sure hope they do. Six months after fawning over Golem, I was treated by the release of the equally endearing 1000 Days. It’s more than just a regurgitation of the same old. 1000 Days still has the pulsing scuzz tracks fund on previous records, but there is more of a focus on their ability to craft entrancing psychedelic folk. They don’t shy away from Beatle-esque melodies on the title track and “Morning Rainbow”. It makes for a more rounded record and may be their strongest yet. Here’s to hoping we get an even better one in six months! (Dave Spak)

WOOLEN MEN
"Temporary Monument"

WOODSIST RECORDS

Portland's Woolen Men play "homegrown" punk, combining a lo-fi blend of post-punk, mild flourishes of Americana, and tangled garage punk reminiscent of The Wipers, The Fall, and The Minutemen. Built around clean toned guitars and impossibly tight rhythms, Woolen Men use "Temporary Monument" as a rallying call against the gentrification of their city. Warm tones and dynamic songwriting make the album a terrific listen for fans of thoughtful punk as the band nod to the past in pursuit to a better future. (Dan Goldin)

FURTHER LISTENING:

Clearance - "Rapid Rewards" (Tall Pat + Unsatisfied Records) || Destruction Unit - "Negative Feedback Resistor" (Sacred Bones) || Diät - "Positive Energy" (Iron Lung) || Heaven's Gate - "Woman At Night" (Dull Tools) || The Intelligence - "Vintage Future" (In The Red Records) || Jacuzzi Boys - "Happy Damage" (Mag Mag) || Longings - "Longings" (Framework Records) || Lou Barlow - "Brace The Wave" (Joyful Noise Recordings) || Meat Wave - "Delusion Moon" (SideOneDummy Records) || Primitive Parts - "Parts Primitive" (Trouble in Mind) || The Ukiah Drag - "Crypt Cruiser" (Wharf Cat) || Widowspeak - "All Yours" (Captured Tracks) || Windhand - "Grief's Infernal Flower " (Relapse Records)

ALEX G
"Beach Music"

Domino RECORDS

Though the album features many pitch shifts throughout, on "Brite Boy" and most notably on "Station" where Giannascoli’s sounds are warped and slowed to a slurred and blurry, almost drunken croon, Giannscoli keeps the lyrical content and contemplative mood of the album consistent. "Ready" sounds like it could be an early 2000s Elliott Smith B-side, with it’s jangly, poppy but downbeat guitar tone. Though Alex G’s lyrics are often cryptic, painting only faint sketches of scenes and characters, what details he does provide are evocative, telling a story and creating a feeling with only a few words. Though Giannascoli has transitioned to a major label and is increasingly in the indie limelight, his music remains steadfastly dark and rich, enveloping listeners in a solitary and reflective secret space. (Julia Leiby)

ANNA MCCLELLAN
"Fire Flames"

MAJESTIC LITTER RECORDS

If there's any hope for pop music, Anna McClellan will be an important fixture over the next few years. Her full length debut "Fire Flames" has floated under the radar, but even the "best kept secret" can't remain a secret forever. McClellan's record is primarily made up of piano and vocals, and that's all it needs to offer some of most radiant songwriting I heard this year. Her voice is incredible, soulful, warm, and perfectly balanced with her gentle piano accompaniment and when drums and strings are introduced it only swells to push her gorgeous voice. McClellan's songs are stunning, transporting listeners into her dazzling world, clutching at every melodic shift and heartbreaking beauty. (Dan Goldin)

CAR SEAT HEADREST
"Teens of Style"

MATADOR RECORDS

Will Toledo’s guitar pop bedroom project gets a lot of comparison to fellow lo-fi’ers Guided By Voices. It’s true that they share a similar aesthetic, blown-out guitars and instantly catchy melodies. But Teens of Style shines the brightest when it lets all of its whims coalesce into longer, unpredictable turns. It demonstrates a young songwriter full of ideas and promising albums to come. (Kelly Johnson)

DEERHUNTER
"Fading Frontiers"

4AD RECORDS

Every new Deerhunter album seems to be a grower for me. The most rewarding records always are. Fading Frontier sounds lighter and more optimistic than Monomania. Wonderfully atmospheric tracks like “Take Care” and “Carrion” will inevitably evoke Beach House comparisons, while the groovy psych rock slither of “Snakeskin” recalls Of Montreal, but as always, these songs retain the signature Deerhunter stamp. The more you visit the dreamy landscape Bradford Cox has painted with Fading Frontier, the more you get lost in its sonic bliss. (Dave Spak)

EX-BREATHERS
"Past Tense"

exploding in sound + hex RECORDS

Tallahassee trio Ex-Breathers’ second full-length album, “Past Tense”, is an aural onslaught fraught with anxiety, disillusionment, outrage, and frustration, conveyed with overwhelming intensity and passion. Each song positively rages, twisting into different forms and rhythmic patterns, as shouts of existential frustration and social commentary bombard the listener. It’s a rigorous and trying experience, but with such raw urgency and energy, it brings with it a catharsis you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. (Jeremy Probst)

FLORIST
"Holdly"

Double double whammy RECORDS

Florist’s music is light - the guitar is breezy and meandering, the drumming is slow and cool, the vocals are delicate. Despite this light tone, Sprague confronts heavy topics such as the anxieties and insecurity in love and mortality with calm and sweetness. On ‘Remembering Spring’, she sings, “hold me down and tell me you don’t love me that much/ I know you won’t,” and later wisely intones, “If this is the ending of the world/ I don’t think I’d be upset.” (Julia Leiby)

GUN OUTFIT
"Dream All Over"

paradise of bachelors RECORDS

Gun Outfit might be one of the few “punk” bands that would gladly wear their Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers influences on their sleeve. There’s a sprawling, somewhat southern-rock tinge to the band’s otherwise Sonic Youth-indebted tunes that give them a perspective that is uniquely Gun Outfit. Perhaps “Up on the Sun”-era Meat Puppets is an even better comparison. It’s psychedelic, it’s country-fried, and yet firmly planted in a DIY aesthetic that keeps the band in basements instead of a hippie commune. But still, “Dream All Over” is the type of outdoors-y rock that should be enjoyed with a mason jar of moonshine in one hand, and a PBR in the other. Oh, and pot. A lot of pot. (Ryan Allen)

HELVETIA
"Dromomania"

joyful noise RECORDings

The album was announced via a trippy and somewhat nonsensical free association piece of writing on the band’s site, citing Stevie Wonder, Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits, and Barry Manilow in the same train of thought. It speaks to the content of this psychedelic masterwork. Jason Albertini draws on a wide scope of reference, drawing immediate comparison to classic Britpop and psychedelia in the vein of The Kinks and Syd Barrett, while also bringing ‘90s alt-rock to the table, a la Yo La Tengo or Stephen Malkmus. But the mixing and melding of such various influence results in a record that feels both modern in its approach to songwriting as well as classic in its production style and various frames of reference. (Dan Murphy)

LUSHES
"Service Industry"

Felte RECORDS

You like weird? You like angular? You like groovy? Have I got the record for you! Service Industry is as much an experience as it is a record. The first thing that stands out is the duo’s ability to lock into an angular groove like no other on tracks such as “Low Hanging Fruit” and “Auction”. They also play with jarring elements and tension with much success as evident in the acid trip gone wrong vibe of “You Only Have”. The explosive crescendos and consistently challenging songwriting keep you captivated until the record is over and all you want to do is give it another spin. (Dave Spak)

OPERATOR
"Puzzlephonics I"

SELF RELEASED

Operator came onto the scene halfway through 2015, seemingly fully formed, and their debut EP is no different. Puzzlephonics I shows amazing sonic intelligence, in instrumentation and texture as well as the songwriting itself. Jared Hiller and Dara Hirsch trade off vocal duties, and their voices complement one another well, each subdued and airy but also dark. A krautrock base with a noise rock varnish, the songs propel you forward even at their quietest, sometimes to an explosion (e.g. the frenetic guitars of “Requirements”), other times to melodic synths (e.g. “Trauma”). “Whose side are you on at the end of the day?” asks Hirsch. Operator’s, if you know what’s good for you. (Bobby Cardos)

PROTOMARTYR
"The Agent Intellect"

HARDLY ART RECORDS

Protomartyr aren’t fixing what ain’t broke on The Age of Intellect. But their latest release demonstrates a slim amount of restraint and melancholy relative to the previous records. Casey still spits out condemnations with his trademark drawl, but there’s a pervasive sadness that colors the album and lends to a reflective tone al around. (Kelly Johnson)

SPENCER RADCLIFFE
"Looking In"

run for cover RECORDS

The results of Spencer Radcliffe's Run For Cover  debut are utterly stunning. “Mermaid,” the album’s opening track sets the tone for the record with a brilliant mix of pop charm and and experimental dissonance. Blending patches of abrasive noise, manipulated electronics and warped feedback with gentle anti-folk and gorgeous songwriting, Radcliffe proves he can create pop music that’s as challenging as it is rewarding. The entire album is phenomenal and only gets better with every repeat listen. (Dan Goldin)

WOOZY
"Blistered"

COmmunity + exploding in sound RECORDS

With adventurous, intricate arrangements Woozy have managed to release one of the most truly progressive “guitar band” records of the year. Pulling in elements of shoegaze, space rock and emo Woozy are operating with familiar tropes, yet on a plane totally their own. The loud – QUIET – loud junkies will certainly get their fix on the New Orleans trio’s debut LP, but it’s the bands tender, dare I say “twinkly” moments that truly display the band’s prudence. If indie rock is to remain a vital endeavor, this is what it needs to sound like. (Jonathan Nasrallah)

YAUTJA
"Songs Of Lament"

Forcefield RECORDS

This is my favorite metal release of 2015. I figure I should get that out there right away. In just 23 minutes, Yautja accomplish so much more than other acts have with their full-lengths. It seems like in 2015, metal was trending towards the softer side, but sometimes you need a band like Yautja to come along and give you a good swift kick to the face. This EP serves as a companion piece to last year’s Songs of Descent, but doesn’t lose any of the muscle which made that LP such a formidable release. Opener and metal song of the year “Breed Regret” combines just the right amount of death, grind, noise, and hardcore to make you feel like you just got into a fight where you are woefully outnumbered. The nine minute-plus doom/sludge closer, "Crumbling", climaxes just when you are ready to say uncle. (Dave Spak)

FURTHER LISTENING:

Aneurysm - "Veronica" (Tor Johnson Records) || Beverly Tender - "Lord Mayor Makes ,00 Speeches" (self released) || Cende - "EP" (Steakhouse Records) || Childbirth - "Women's Rights" (Suicide Squeeze) || Deafheaven - "New Bermuda" (Anti) || Destroy This Place - "Animal Rites" (Forge Again Records) || Fern Mayo - "Happy Forever" (Miscreant Records) || Fuzz - "II" (In The Red Records) || Gemma - "As Ever" (Inflated Records) || Kowloon Walled City - "Grievances" (Gilead Media) || Obnox - "Wiglet" (Ever/Never Records) || Painted Zeros - "Floriography" (Don Giovanni) || Shopping - "Why Choose" (FatCat Records) || Soccer Team - "Real Lessons in Cynicism" (Dischord) || Snakehole - "Snakehole" (Wharf Cat Records) || Space Mountain - "Gargantua" (Dust Etc) || Spray Paint - "Dopers" (Monofonus Press) || USA Nails - "No Pleasure" (Smalltown America) || Witch Coast - "Burnt Out By 3 PM" (Babe City) || Yvette - "Time Management" (Godmode) || Zulus - "Zulus II" (Aagoo) || Wildhoney - "Your Face Sideways" (Topshelf Records)

COLD SWEATS
"Social Coma"

Six 3 COLLECTIVE

An eclectic beast of punk that ranges from drunken noise rock blasts and surf punk fuzz to walls of corrosive hardcore and deranged crooning. Cold Sweats are a three headed beast with every member handling vocals on different tracks, bringing their own signature rasp and poetic bile to the mix. Having previously played together in other bands, the trio are impeccably tight for such a new band, and their chemistry is radiant throughout their debut as they tear apart all genres of punk only to reshape them into their own vision. Produced by Hunter Davidsohn (Porches., Frankie Cosmos) at Business District Recording Studios, the album burns through twelve tracks in just under a half an hour, each chaotic moment fueling the next over a bizarre twist of melodies, undeniably awesome guitar tones, and crushing rhythms. (Dan Goldin)

EUGENE QUELL
"I Will Work The Land"

exploding in sound + tipp city RECORDS

Built around the titular fictional character, Eugene Quell is a new beginning with Hayes’ stunning songcraft at it’s forefront. Packed with gloriously noisy sing-a-longs like "Song for Marla and Lucas” the EP buzzes with warm guitar tones and infectious melodies that set the perfect landscape for Hayes’ somber charm and captivating lyrics. Moments of pop bliss blend perfectly with harsh bursts of noise and feedback, swirling together in perfection as hooks pop and fade throughout the song. (Dan Goldin)

JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD
"Global Chakra Rhythms"

infinity cat RECORDS

Freedom is a beautiful thing, and JEFF The Brotherhood have embraced it in spades on "Global Chakra Rhythms" their second new release since their major label stint devolved earlier this year. Chalk this one up to a new direction or simply a stop-over in a new galaxy, but the duo have temporarily abandoned power-pop and fuzz punk for something far stranger and far more rewarding  for those that might want something a bit more abstract, adventurous and hypnotically psychedelic. Combining psych pop and unadulterated krautrock weirdness, this is one of those "drop in, tune out" albums, an auditory voyage into the recesses of your mind. Opting for wandering soundscapes and repetition in place of hooks and guitar shredding, this is not the JEFF we've come to know, and we're thoroughly okay with that. (Dan Goldin)

PALM
"Trading Basics"

INFLAtED + exploding in sound RECORDS

Trading Basics, the first full length from Philadelphia-via-Bard’s Palm, was the most insightful release of 2015, highlighting that what we’ve come to expect from DIY rock, does not always have to be as such. There is fluency and insatiable life in Palm’s music; the interplay between all four members functions as a lingua franca connection to the reason that any of us listen to music. They make music that is poppy, weird, harrowing, catchy, danceable, and poetic. To not see Trading Basics for the genre-shattering behemoth of a record it is, is to miss what was exciting about music this year – namely that it wasn’t the music of 2014, or 2013, or any year before, but that it was a increasingly diverse and unquantifiable amalgam of influences and responses to the jaw-droppingly weird time we inhabit. (Niccolo Dante Porcello)

STOVE
"Is Stupider"

EXPLODING IN SOUND RECORDS

While Ovlov may be dead (for the time being), Steve Hartlett has made it clear with his debut album that he is still going strong. Is Stupider is introspective, self-effacing, a bit cleaner and even a little more mature than anything he has done in the past. Yet, Stove still clings to his slacker-rock roots and never hesitates to assault your ears with a massive wall of noise while simultaneously exercising his own self-doubt and loathing. (Dan Manning)

SWINGS
"Sugarwater"

EXPLODING IN SOUND RECORDS + como tapes

The songs flow back and forth, expanding and contracting, led by Dan Howard’s dynamic drumming and Jamie Finucane’s floating melodies. Finucane doesn’t allow himself to sit on one particular auto-tune tinged hook for too long, giving the songs a constant forward motion. Subtle key lines spread throughout the album expand on the textures created by Finucane’s vocals and shimmering guitar parts, occasionally lending themselves towards melody, becoming central to the track for just a moment before falling back beneath the rest of the instrumentation. (Dan Manning)

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TOTAL ABUSE
"Excluded"

DERANGED RECORDS

Listening to Total Abuse is like a swift kick to the teeth. The Austin band create nasty and brutal hardcore punk as uncompromising as any. "Excluded" is thirty minutes of unflinching depravity, down-tuned and reckless, it's true catharsis through sound for those that just need to unwind... in the most chaotic of ways. Bludgeoning noise, thick sludge, and an unending abundance of filth informed riffs pummel and crawl, destroying all that stands before it. There are folks out there that say music isn't dangerous anymore, for those, we present you Total Abuse. (Dan Goldin)

FURTHER LISTENING:

The Adventures of the Silver Spaceman - "Bare Bones Part I: Oxygen is Flowing Although The Bag May Not Inflate" (Capitalist Records) || Bedroom Eyes - "Honeysuckle" (Midnight Werewolf Records) || Beliefs - "Leaper" (Hand Drawn Dracula) || Bethlehem Steel - "Docking" (Miscreant Records) || The Brainstems - "No Place Else" (Bad Diet Records) || Coaches - "Shush" (Disposable America) || Cool Dad - "Cool Dad" (Third Floor Tapes) || Craw - "1993 - 1997" (Northern Spy) || Cross Country - "Breakfast" (self released) || Deerhoof - "Fever 121614" (Polyvinyl) || Frankie Cosmos - "Fit Me In" (Bayonet Records) || Gunk + Marge - "Garge Munk" (Ranch Records) || Kindling - "Galaxies" (No Idea Records) || Parlor Walls - "Cut" (Famous Swords) || PC Worship - "Basement Hysteria" (Northern Spy) || Pusha T - "King Push - Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude" (Def Jam + G.O.O.D. Music) || Ringo Deathstarr - "Pure Mood" (Reverberation Appreciation Society) || Soupcans - "Soft Party" (Telephone Explosion) || Useless Eaters - "Live in San Francisco" (Castle Face Records) || Whatever Brains - "Whatever Brains (LP4)" (Sorry State Records) || Wimps - "Suitcase" (Kill Rock Stars) || Woolen Men - "Options EP" (self released)