Top 50 Albums of 2016


“When in the course of musical events, it becomes necessary for one Dan to dissolve the subjective bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of amateur criticism, the separate and biased station to which the Laws of Listmaking, and of Listmaking’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of Dankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

-The Danclaration of IndepenDance (2016 Edition)

(I made a top 50)


50. Drowners – On Desire

Frenchkiss Records


On Desire carries itself much more than anything as a product of the alternative explosion circa ten years ago. I was in middle school then, and bands like The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, The Hives, Franz Ferdinand were all the rage. Fast forward to now, and we still have countless “ripoff” bands surging up the Top 40 Alternative charts, shamelessly throwing their own bland spin on what was pretty typical indie rock to begin with. Maybe the band is British, maybe they’re not; it all just sort of blends in doesn’t it? Drowners is no exception, just without the popularity factor, and with a little more post-punk revival in their sound. It’s catchy, but not overbearing, and tracks like “Human Remains” and “Don’t Be Like That” are testament to that. The inclusion of countless riffs and thumping basslines are perfect fodder for radio hits were the band in the ring for that sort of stuff. Instead, I get to pretend it’s the most underground thing ever!

RIYL: Bloc Party – Silent Alarmsilentalarmcover

49. Muuy Biien – Age of Uncertainty

Autumn Tone


A morose post-punk band out of Athens, GA, Muuy Biien take the Bauhaus root on Age of Uncertainty. If the unsettling album art mish-mash of faces welded together wasn’t a great enough personification of sound, the haunting guitar riffs and monotone vocals are a dead giveaway of apparent idols and influences past. Muuy Biien invoke shadowy imagery, and in turn reinforce the notion that bands can still create “dark entries” in this 21st century if you will.

RIYL: Bauhaus – The Sky’s Gone Out


48. TOY – Clear Shot

Heavenly Recordings


Brighton boys TOY are back with a knack for psychedelic jams in the vein of old krautrock bands of the seventies. Many songs graze the 6 minute mark and up and make for some wonderful compositions of sound, progressing through a sonic palette of anything from bare bones indie-rock, to shoegaze. The diverse sound is only magnified by their musicianship. TOY is the mind melting magic, with a little more fleshing out of its parts. Tracks take on a very sweet psychedelic sound, yet pile on riffs and walls of sound to make an even greater outpouring.

RIYL: Deerhunter – Microcastle


47. Basement – Promise Everything

Run For Cover Records


It isn’t the most groundbreaking work, even by their own standards, but whether we say that Basement plays it safe or not on Promise Everything, they are making energetic jams at the least. It is breakneck grunge at its highs, and angst-ridden emo at its most sullen. Perfect CD or cassette to have on deck in your automobile!

RIYL: Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American


46. Soft Kill – Choke

Profound Lore


Eight songs about depression and death, so describes Soft Kill on their new album Choke. It does sound like any millennial’s Twitter feed, be it running gag or cry for help, but above all, the Portland darkwave band have crafted some brilliant post-punk jams. Even calling on Mark Burgess (The Chameleons) for vocal duties on the track “On The Inside”, it calls to mind great bands of old able to encapsulate beauty in darkness and suffering.

RIYL: Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss


45. Savages – Adore Life (Review)

Matador Records


Welcome to the comedown machine. Savages are back in 2016 in an ever self-indulgent mystique, yet are found this time around with a new, refined maturity. The vortex of raw power and dark energy are halted in many regards to a slower paced, adroit execution of punk. On their debut, 2013’s Silence Yourself, waves of crashing intensity were carried by lead singer Jehnny Beth’s howling screams and abrasive gothic influence in climatic bursts. Now, Beth and the band find their muse in carefully guided appeals to discovering the purest of loves, her lyricism weighing deep reflections of empathy and self-doubt, and there arising out of the ashes a stronger being entirely. This course of action prominently favors an artful execution of punk rock, all the while maintaining the familiar post-punk flavor that garnered Savages praise in their early stages. Adore Life is brooding, sophisticated, and above all, an interesting step in a learned direction of artful influences.

RIYL: Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect


44. Kishi Bashi – Sonderlust

Joyful Noise Recordings


A little less violin and a little more synthesizer would be an apt way to describe Kishi Bashi’s third record, Sonderlust. Although fans know and love Mr. Ishibashi for his masterful talent for violin, mandolin, and all stringed things, he trades the sugary loops for a little more intellect in his songwriting. This works as an advantage, or a disadvantage, depending on how you look at it. On one hand, his words delve into a much more melancholy territory, fresh off of a divorce, yet his trademark falsetto still remains. Pop music is his artful craft, yet here we find a deeper meaning behind the message, versus the playful onslaught that reigned supreme on Lighght.

RIYL: Dr. Dog – Fate


43. Open Mike Eagle and Paul White – Hella Personal Film Festival

Mello Music Group


If there’s one thing I find peculiar about Open Mike Eagle’s wordplay, it’s the almost incessant tales of introversion and his obsession with being glued to his cellphone. It’s not like a discourse from him on how people are technology addicted, but how he is. He pointed it out in concert both times I’ve seen him perform, 808 machine in hand. It’s that self-awareness that carries onto Hella Personal Film Festival as well, and with collaborator and producer Paul White (of Danny Brown fame), this record’s crisp production adds to the flavor and charm behind it. Of course, I’m sure anyone working with Paul White seems like a match made in heaven.

RIYL: Milo – So The Flies Don’t Come


42. The Jezabels – Synthia

Dine Alone Records


In the midst of a cancelled tour upon official announcement of keyboardist Heather Shannon’s diagnosis with ovarian cancer, The Jezabels are down, but certainly not out. Even in sporting such a strong display of records in their repertoire, each with their own fine tuned pop sensibilities, Synthia exists with melodious power and booming epics. As per usual, Hayley Mary’s sensual vocals crank the passionate levels of each song to their apex, boldly marking the beginning of the record with the massive “Stand and Deliver”. As evident by the album cover, the news of Shannon is a big roadblock to stomach, but optimistically, Synthia is a courageous and incredibly well crafted display of synths and just about every facet of modern art-pop influence. This is an already mature band reaching enlightenment, and the step up in songwriting reflects the Aussie veteran’s knack for tugging our collective heartstrings.

RIYL: Warpaint – Warpaint


41. Okkervil River – Away

ATO Records


The first song being titled “R.I.P. Okkervil River”, you can see that Will Sheff may intentionally be putting to rest any personal inhibition to try and recreate that Black Sheep Boy sound, and instead work as a songwriter and storyteller in this present day and age. He did the artwork too, which is incredible!

“I wrote the songs during a confusing time of transition in my personal and professional life and recorded them quickly with a brand new group of musicians. I got together the best New York players I could think of, people whose playing and personalities I was fans of and who came more out of a jazz or avant garde background, and we cut the songs live in one or two takes – trying to keep things as natural and immediate as possible“

Perhaps the immediacy too arises by way of longer compositions seemingly taking over Away, showing Sheff’s storytelling more as a stream-of-consciousness delivery than anything.

RIYL: The Decemberists – Picaresque


40. Jeff Rosenstock – WORRY.

SideOneDummy Records


The Bomb The Music Industry! mastermind returns again with his second solo record in two years, with the sequel to We Cool?. It’s your usual sad, angry, and slightly comical Jeff Rosenstock, complete with singalong anthems like “Festival Song” and “HELLLLHOOOOLE”, and even carries the caressing background voices to boot, an angst-ridden army. Even better, WORRY. ends on a very clear allusion to Abbey Road, climaxing in a flurry of sub-two minute declarations to carry out the record.

RIYL: Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy


39. Negative Thought Process – Methylene Butterfly

Negative Thought Process


Methylene Butterfly‘s appearance is deceptive. The two-piece grind band starts off the record with a robotic voice detailing what actually drives the record thematically, that of dark thoughts of self-harm and even suicide. Yet the chemistry lesson combined with a peaceful creature such as a butterfly leads you to believe otherwise. That is, at least until you’re treated with a 20 minute onslaught of fuzz, sludge, and Daniel Page’s surging vocals. Methylene Butterfly is powerful stuff.

RIYL: Nails – Abandon All Life


38. Merchandise – A Corpse Wired For Sound



Merchandise is a consistently great band, and my fear is that they don’t get quite the recognition they deserve, especially after their last record (and 4AD debut), After The End. A bit of a departure from their usual post-punk compositions, the dreaminess in sound and lead singer Carson Cox’s best Morrissey impression are sure-fire additions. A Corpse Wired For Sound is reminiscent of their jangle tendencies as a band, but more importantly, it showcases their knack for extended compositions formulated with characteristics straight out of pop’s playbook.

RIYL: Iceage – Plowing Into The Field Of Love


37. Lobby Boxer – Big Bucks

Lobby Boxer


Emo pop-punk trio Lobby Boxer are back with Big Bucks, now with increased proggy guitar riffs and even more desperation in their adult angst. Look for killer shredding on “I Was Afraid of Tornadoes”, mixed tempo baggage on “Shine Like Fire”, but above all, enjoy the record as much as these gentlemen appear to enjoy life. I mean right? Live a little!

RIYL: The Wonder Years – Suburbia, I’ve Given You all and Now I’m Nothing


36. Touché Amoré – Stage Four

Epitaph Records


Hardcore records don’t always bring a whole lot to the table for me personally. I only own one strictly hardcore record myself, Defeater’s Travels. However, seeing Touché Amoré sign with Epitaph and get some mainstream press sparked my attention. Stage Four, as the name might suggest, is about cancer. Yep, combine something along the lines of Hospice, by The Antlers and throw in the screaming cries of Jeremy Bolm, and you have a pretty damn depressing record. That is by no means a deterrent though. As evidenced by mammoth roller coasters of emotion like “Skyscraper”, the journey is definitely worth hearing as Bolm exorcises his demons.

RIYL: Defeater – Travels


35. Big Ups – Before A Million Universes

Tough Love Records


There’s no shame in Before A Million Universes‘ influences, the most apparent being the in your face Slint references. Songs will halt to an eerie electric guitar picking followed by bombastic explosions of energy and angst. It’s like they’re one in the same, yet here Big Ups are apologetically blessing us with their own record 25 years later. It’s like an anniversary tribute in the form of new songs. I say that’s a good deal!

RIYL: Slint – Spiderland


34. John K. Samson – Winter Wheat

John K. Samson


I hope John K. Samson was the inspiration for mewithoutYou’s changeup folk-rock release It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright. Not only has Samson enraptured all and any feelings of angst and hope in former projects with The Weakerthans, but his diverse output as Propagandhi are also pretty telling of his musical ability. You can see where a voice like Aaron Weiss takes a hint or to from, but he’s also right up there with names like John Darnielle in terms of sheer heartbreaking poetry and lyricism. Winter Wheat alludes to the folky tunes being perfect for the colder months; take advantage of it, because that’s exactly right.

RIYL: Owen – Ghost Town


33. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo (TTT)

GOOD Music


The Life of Pablo was hands down the most aggravating release campaign of any exclusive title (Tidal?) put out this year. That being said, I wasn’t getting my shorts in a knot over not listening to it for a few months afterward. Kanye is a master of theatrics, but it ain’t 4-D Chess, or whatever diehards want to call it. Heck, even loyal fans may think twice about representing his opinions and antics as Facts given his recent stint of public statements. Kanye is the ultimate celebrity. I think his overarching goal is to surround himself with other personalities, that is, larger than life figures of power and success. The Life of Pablo channels into the pleasures of the wealthy in that regard. It is huge, bombastic, head-scratchingly odd, and overall fun to listen to. It isn’t inventing new ground or breaking bridges like previous releases have in the past (no, not Yeezus), but it’s a testament to Kanye West’s peaks of one genius that is crazy!

RIYL: Young Thug – Jeffery


32. The Drones – Feelin’ Kinda Free

TFS Records


If you’re familiar with The Drones, you know how experimental and unique they can be. The steady, piercing drumbeats and creeping vocals are undeniably catchy, but even better is the band’s ability to meld so many seemingly differing genres into one product, blended to perfection. “Taman Shud” sounds like an Australian bastard child of some parent track off of Rain Dogs or something, and better yet, as each wave of rushing noise can apex at Feelin Kinda Free’s highest of highs, slow, brooding ballads take the record down a notch in a heartbeat. Just another day at the office for The Drones, who once again add to an already marvelous discography.

RIYL: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Let Love In


31. DIIV – Is The Is Are (Review)

Captured Tracks


Is The Is Are is really long. Even so, the extended album run time allows for many patterns of familiarity, that of what makes DIIV good, but the numerous amount of songs also possesses rehashing of material in the same time span. For a savvy listener in the movement, they can take the seventeen songs with a grain of salt. It can work as background music, but on a deeper level, the substance of tracks like “Take Your Time” exemplify a band capable of more than just three minute reverb-drenched medleys. The jangle-pop guitars are a consistent factor, yet Zachary Cole Smith’s vocals carry a sweet innocence in the melody, despite how dark the subject material may appear.

RIYL: Blank Realm – Illegals In Heaven


30. Programm – A Torrid Marriage of Logic and Emotion

The Hand Recordings


Fueled by a strong female presence brooding with serene grace amidst dark synths and grooving bass, Programm return with a short but powerful full length in A Torrid Marriage of Logic and Emotion. Take it for what it’s worth; as wordy as the album title is, the music is equally complex, presenting layers of sound and shoegaze undertones, yet an overarching beauty on tracks like “Everything at Once” with Jackie Game’s lush vocals providing intense beauty in the music.

RIYL: Pinkshinyultrablast – Everything Else Matters


29. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression (Review)

Loma Vista


To listen to Post Pop Depression is to examine the players at work here, and revel at the meshing of worlds colliding, not that collaboration is difficult given the talent available. In this present time where true bred household name rock stars are a scarcity, the next best thing can be derived instead from those already solidified in our collective hearts. Josh Homme and Iggy Pop are generational talents that happen to be invading the newest uprising with fresh outlooks on life and their work. Tagging along are Homme’s fellow Queen of the Stone Age, Dean Fertita, as well as Arctic Monkeys drummer, Matt Helders. See, it ain’t your dad’s record collection, only those who create with heavily influential cues from his favorite artists growing up! Not only that, it rocks from start to finish, and shows that old wrinkly skin monster Iggy Pop still has it, though not as easy on the eyes.

RIYL: Lou Reed – New York


28. Rihanna – ANTI

Roc Nation


“Let me cover your shit in glitter, I could make it gold”, boasts Rihanna in ANTI’s opening duet with fellow singer SZA. Rihanna has indeed struck gold this year, or double platinum if we’re being literal. Anyone who doesn’t live under a rock has undoubtedly heard many if not all of the tracks on this record at some point this year, not that Rihanna is any stranger to banging singles. What’s better here is that every song has something to write home about. As always, she is seductive yet cunning in each ensuing tale of sex, drugs and rock and roll. “Work” is not just a duet with Drake, but it further solidifies what we all knew to be true of Rihanna, that she doesn’t need him or any other silly boy *LINK DRAKE KISS*to be top dog in the music world, as she stated with SZA from the get go. Every single has been a chart-topper, she’s been above the greatest if not the best exclusive-type releases all year, and even threw in a spin on Tame Impala for the indie cred. She’s shown to be a jack of all trades, and ANTI deserves proper credit where its due.

RIYL: D∆WN – Blackheart


27. Midnight Faces – Heavenly Bodies

Midnight Faces


You know how dream pop is mind-numbingly boring for some people, and they won’t listen to anything in the genre because of that bias that follows? Tell them to try out Heavenly Bodies by Midnight Faces for a change of pace. Literally, it’s much faster dream pop than is normally considered the norm. You know what else? They even thrown in traces of shoegaze and post-punk in the mix, with reverb-heavy guitar solos, and spacy vocals. Sounds cool, right? Dream pop is cool.

RIYL: No Devotion – Permanence


26. Bon Iver – 22, A Million



I really missed the Bon Iver hype trains that surround each one of his releases. Maybe For Emma, Forever Ago was a little more of a posthumous gushing of indie-folk genius, but for Justin Vernon’s 2011 self-titled masterpiece, more of the acoustic falsetto ballads remained, just with more orchestration. Fast forward to now, as cryptic as the build up to 22, A Million was, what with murals and song titles comparable to me slapping my hands on the keyboard (here, let me try it right now… 9asduf*ko), the product to hopeful ears all over the world was even more surprising. As Vernon keeps in line with his soft coos, the music this time is accompanied by heavy use of vocoder, making for some of his glitchiest compositions yet. Evolution in his sound is a welcome addition, and he pulled it off quite nicely, I must say.

RIYL: James Blake – James Blake


25. Show Me The Body – Body War

Loma Vista Recordings/Universal


Show Me The Body is a hardcore band out of Queens, NY, and also a part of the Letter Racer collective (RATKING). Taking a queue out of Death Grips’ brash drum and beat infused punk rock (“Chrome Exposed”), and combining heavier riffs and drums, these tracks are as energetic as a Rage Against The Machine track, albeit a little more authentic. Body War definitely wins “going for a run and need pump up music” AOTY.

RIYL: Girl Band – Holding Hands With Jamie


24. Joyce Manor – Cody

Epitaph Records


I had the pleasure of seeing Joyce Manor in concert twice this year, once in lower Manhattan, NYC, and the second time in Portland, OR. Both times, the energy was equally captivating, though the former was as an opener. Even so, the spirit of punk and lust for youth reigned true, and Cody is a postscript to the magic they created live. Old formulas of lightning quick songs are still effervescent, but Joyce Manor also takes the next step in crafting actual full-length big boy tracks, such as lead single “Fake I.D.” and even the 3.5 minute marathon that is “Last You Heard Of Me”.

RIYL: Bomb the Music Industry! – Vacation


23. The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it

Interscope Records


The apparent taboo that seems to exist by any list maker putting The 1975 on it is COMPLETELY FABRICATED by the mainstream media. With a whopping 17 tracks tossing this thing well over an hour, there makes for plenty of time to showcase heartthrob Matty Healy’s diverse vocal chords, churning out pop-rock anthems on i love it when you sleep…’s first side, followed by some delicate interludes and first dance-type numbers. Don’t act like you’re above “Urban Outfitters” music trends, as if The Killers or any Matador Records staple isn’t on your vinyl shelf!

RIYL: Justin Bieber – Purpose





FEWS on the exciting and concise MEANS hits a nerve for any post-punk appetite, and the band is making waves with this release. Invoking the spirit of Editors-ish post-punk grooves with dreamier vocals, MEANS is a short burst of guitar magic in ten separate entries. The London-based Swedes are here, and they’re just getting started.

RIYL: The Cure – Seventeen Seconds


21. Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp

Yellow K Records


Psycopomp is so sweet and sugary in its sound, it’s hard to swallow that Michelle Zauner oft describes issues of heartbreak and frustration, but also of the death of her mother. It packs quite a punch clocking in just under half an hour, but there’s plenty of dreamy indie-pop to go around.

RIYL: Grimes – Visions


20. David Bowie – ★ (Review/TTT)

ISO/Colombia Records/Sony Music Entertainment


I reviewed Blackstar and posted the day before it was announced that David Bowie had passed on to the next life. In it, I said to lay claims of revolution aside, but as 2016 has shown, there isn’t really room for hyperbole in describing the record in context to all of Bowie’s personas, let alone the stage performance that was his entire life. It’s absolutely brilliant! People will contend to thrown together low budget mini-documentaries, television specials, maybe even budget feature length films. You couldn’t relish this kind of plot in your wildest imagination, and yet his finale entailed clues towards his ensuing death this whole time, from singles being released over a year ago, to his cancer announcement, to ensuing death. Bravo David Bowie! You were a living legend, now alive in our minds, and in the narrative fairy tale that was your life for ages to come.

RIYL: David Bowie – Outside


19. Weezer – Weezer (White Album) (Review/TTT)

Atlantic Recording Corporation


For what it’s worth, White Album serves as Weezer’s first concept album since Pinkerton, and throughout the years, with all of the faults and failures, thank God such a feat was attempted after Weezer was ready for the challenge again. The direction that this record provides helps steer it in a concise timeline. An overarching beach concept in terms of relationships and the feelings evoked in the music channel Rivers Cuomo’s own personal Beach Boys epiphany, where the Weezer flair and power chords shine above all else, but he is also reaching for a former clarity. The way The White Album is crafted, you’d think of the record as Cuomo’s own personal SMiLE in that he is resurrecting old lyrics and feelings of angst which can only be pinned to early era outputs by the band. You know, the ones that cemented them as legends of their own time and place. “Thank God For Girls” actually cites Cuomo’s former entries of a 1990’s frame of mind, with old lyrics finally being put to use, citing a girl he can fantasize about even though she belongs to somebody else. The fact that she is alive is enough for him to gawk in bittersweet happiness.

RIYL: Weezer – Weezer (Blue Album)


18. All Human – Teenagers, You Don’t Have To Die

All Human


Taking cues from traditional pop and alternative rock melody, Adam Rupert Fisher (Fear Before/ORBS) releases another All Human record, pent with similar emotion as the last. Songs dive into a hodgepodge of different influences, and utilize piano and a female voice (Angela Jane Bachmann) careening throughout the wave of synths. Pick this one up too if you’re a fan of post-hardcore undertones, as Trophy Scars’ drummer Brian Ferrara joins the lineup to complete the sound.

RIYL: Circa Survive – Blue Sky Noise


17. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

Bad Seeds Ltd


Veteran musicians are making huge waves this year, with many releasing their best output in years. From David Bowie, to Leonard Cohen, to A Tribe Called Quest, it’s easy to pinpoint greatness when it rears its head, and for these artists specifically, death seemed to overshadow the overarching hollowness of personas now left from this world. For Nick Cave, that presence of loss channeled on the receiving end of his still existent physical presence; he is the victim of his own loss. With that, Skeleton Tree contains some of the most tender, yet ominous moments of Cave’s storied, diverse career as an artist. Take it more as combination of The Boatman’s Call with somberness and minimalism, and the lyrical content more akin to Cave’s Murder Ballads. Through it all, Cave’s gloomy voice wreaks of emotive sadness, as if he is one moment from a complete collapse of grieving on record.

RIYL: Tom Waits – Alice


16. Pinegrove – Cardinal

Run For Cover Records


Cardinal as a whole feels like you’re sitting in the very room Evan Stephen Hall is singing in, like he’s spilling his heart out right in front of you, flesh and blood. Run For Cover is pretty much the staple emo revival record label, and Pinegrove is stereotypically awesome as a part of that roster. Even better, their songs are incredibly relatable from a downtrodden season of life perspective. Songs like “Old Friends” and “Cadmium” begin but a lush whisper of Hall’s muted vocals, but as is evidenced on a number of the track’s whirring guitar solos and crescendos, his voice can build to full on screams and cracking falsetto in just a flash.

RIYL: Sorority Noise – Joy, Departed


15. Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow

Relapse Records


I probably like this more than it deserves. By shoegaze standards, Tired of Tomorrow is about as modern as it gets, with dreamy mental pictures in the fuzzy guitar, and multi-part harmonies. Beyond that, I can’t really describe what Nothing is doing here other than exhausting old adages about the genre itself. I guess it has a poppier sound than say Guilty of Everything from 2014, and that works to its advantage on my personal playlist. I played the hell out of this new one all year, and be it pretty standard as far as guitar rock goes, so be it.

RIYL: Whirr – Sway


14. Camp Cope – Camp Cope

Poison City


As far as Australians are concerned, heavy hitters seem to have breached two extremes in the last couple of years. For the indie kids, Courtney Barnett’s apathetic yet whimsical anthems on last year’s sometimes i sit and think, and sometimes i just sit… struck a collective funny bone with deadpan humor. Now as evidenced a few spots above, veteran Aussie Nick Cave tugged every heartstring around the world with his latest. Then there’s Camp Cope’s self-titled debut. Georgia Maq and the band energetically floor listeners with powerful instrumentations and enthralling rock and roll. On the surface, every track glistens somewhere between shameful regret, and semi-charmed insecurity. It’s right in the band name and album title; desperation is wreaking through the cracks of each song, and above all else, release of chains being loosened show their true face. Sometimes conveying that freedom takes the form of a meme.

RIYL: Hop Along – Get Disowned


13. Oathbreaker – Rheia

Deathwish Inc.


Rheia has the pleasure of reaping in all the praise it deserves as a glorious blast of blackgaze without the hipster following. “Second Son of R.” raises goosebumps right from the start, and the record isn’t quick to let up, with careful, spooky passages of slowed down arpeggiating guitar leading a new wave of brutal energy and head on into more powerful, vicious screams courtesy of one Caro Tanghe. If you fancy an intense, captivating live performance, seek out Oathbreaker on their next stop through town.

RIYL: Deafheaven – Sunbather


12. Little Simz – Stillness In Wonderland

Age 101


Little Simz has released full length LPs for three years running now, just getting in her latest Stillness In Wonderland before year end. “You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” Well according to Laurence Fishburne, Simbi is on a fast track to enlightenment, or rather, she enlightens us in the form of allusion and metaphor. Call her a modern day Lewis Carroll, or better yet, get her own visions of stillness, still as grimey and on beat as usual, and still proving everyone wrong, one bombtrack at a time.

RIYL: Kendrick Lamar – Section.80


11. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (TTT)

XL Recordings


Releasing a track list in alphabetical order isn’t quite the cryptic “figure it out” kind of puzzle Radiohead normally leads on with in their music, but that didn’t stop fans from finding something out of nothing on the band’s newest record, A Moon Shaped Pool. In fact, there’s plenty to write home about, given the legend of each musician’s individual merit. While they took a dive into classical elements of composition in both lead singles “Burn The Witch” and “Daydreaming”, it was the beautiful reformations of older tracks like fan favorite “True Love Waits” that got people’s attention. Thom Yorke still crafts beautiful songs of love and heartbreak, and as evidenced by Radiohead’s precursor outtake of a James Bond theme, it’s clear that the band is still on top of their game by their combined forces, their own British version of Captain Planet and his Planeteers!

RIYL: Bjork – Vespertine


10. Anderson .Paak – Malibu

Steel Wool/OBE/Art Club/EMPIRE


Hey look, it’s that guy that was on like every song on Dr. Dre’s album last year. That’s what I said when Anderson .Paak released Malibu at the very beginning of this year, but since then, it seems more suitable to say that he’s basically everywhere you look in music media now. Whether on NPR, MTV, or NBA on ESPN “about to go to commercial” bump music, .Paak is a certified superstar, and his stock only seems to be rising. With a blend of summery electronics (seriously, this should have been everyone’s Summer anthem record) and the staple alternative R&B voice that is dominating the charts today, Malibu is a tribute to the finer things in life, a celebration if you will. It is a fun listen, maybe out of season now, but the cliches of blunt sexual lyricism and cheesy rap-singing aren’t present here like many inadvertently do. Instead, a fresh take on soul and hip-hop collide, with Anderson .Paak taking control every step of the way, as a singer but also a drummer.

RIYL: Miguel – Wildheart


9. Frightened Rabbit – Painting of a Panic Attack

Atlantic Records


Given the cult status as sort of a “The National lite”, Frightened Rabbit surely have their own repertoire of indie-rock sadboy anthems. Thus, it only seems fitting that Aaron Dessner produced the newest output from the Scottish quintet, wrought with rocking numbers (“Get Out”) and slow burners (“Die Like A Rich Boy”) throughout. By all means, Scott Hutchinson’s music has always been rather depressing, and it’s been a long year for him. Dating back to around Painting of a Panic Attack’s release date, not soon after the start of their tour did he post a rant on his Twitter about how being in the band had taken an extreme toll on their personal sanity, and they were to immediately call it quits. In essence, Frightened Rabbit was no more. That’s putting it lightly, but needless to say, an apology was delivered to a confused fanbase, and here we are now. Sad, but it’s apparent his depression has caused an episode or too, and although the tour was cancelled for a time, the band remains intact. Frightened Rabbit is still going, the songs are still relatable sad, and Scott is still a Scottish madman capable of creating incredible indie-rock jams.

RIYL: The National – Trouble Will Find Me


8. Julianna Barwick – Will

Dead Oceans


Will is angelic, worthy of deserved acclaim amidst Julianna Barwick’s complex discography. Even as her falsetto rings in the record on “St. Apolonia”, most songs take a liking to the heavy use of loops, but also takes a unique approach to incorporating classical strings into the compositions as well, ala Julia Holter. The ominous beauty of “Nebula” immediately dragged me into my personal introduction to Barwick’s music. When it comes to contemporary ambient artists, many dominate the spotlight with lush textures and minimalistic styles, but Julianna Barwick was admittedly a gaping hole in my listening habits until now. Luckily, her back catalog spreads into the past now four releases deep, so there’s plenty of work to go around, and widespread acclaim to show for it. I’ll officially dub Will the “warm blanket and cup of coffee” album of the year, just because it’s so cozy and warm. Winter is here after all, so bundle up!

RIYL: Grouper – Ruins


7. SILENT – A Century of Abuse

Three One G Inc.


In a world of Nick Cave imitators, be a student of The Birthday Party I say! It’s always a welcome addition into the music world when bands can burst onto the scene with such blinding force, and California’s Silent have accomplished just that on their debut. A Century of Abuse is captivating track after track, it’s almost hard to find room to catch a breath. Gloomy guitars and punishing drums overlay a reverb-drenched vocal performance, taking nods from noise and punk influences to form one giant explosion in ten easy doses. It’s reminiscent of the way Savages burst onto the scene back in 2013 with Silence Yourself, and definitely deserved of the same attention and hype.

RIYL: Savages – Silence Yourself


6. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition (Review)

Warp Records


Danny Brown is trying so hard, but then again, lots of rappers pushing for “the next big thing” fall in the same boat. The difference is Danny Brown executes fusing genres together into his raps with ease. Sure, he wears the fact that he knows all of these obscure artists on his sleeve, but give him credit for actually making Atrocity Exhibition sound dark as hell, all the while combining his textbook self-loathing lyricism with drug fiend narratives. “Dance In The Water” and “Ain’t It Funny” are perhaps the most jumbled piles of sound, but Danny’s high pitch cracking in his voice provide the perfect touch to its ultimate goal. It’s a downward spiral of his life told through the lens of that part of his conscious hopefully seeking a way out of his darkest vices.

RIYL: El-P – Cancer 4 Cure


5. Body of Light – Let Me Go

Dais Records


I’ll be real. All you have to really do to get on a Danny top fifty list is sound like Depeche Mode. Body of Light saw my ad on Craigslist, traversed the inner machinations of my mind, and sought after perfectly recapturing the gothiness of Black Celebration mixed with the dark romance of Violator and voila, Let Me Go was born. Look at the cover art for Dave Gahan’s sake! There is a few ink blotches made up primarily of the color red, almost resembling a flower. If that isn’t any clue as to what this album sounds like, I’ll gladly explain. Choirs of “oohs” and “ahhs” pervade over spacey synths, all reinvigorated courtesy mysterious baritone croons. Arizona’s Body of Light have nailed the goth resurgence by way of niche pop songs, if there ever was a culture needing saving.

RIYL: Depeche Mode – Violator


4. Whitney – Light Upon The Lake

Secretly Canadian


You’d think I work for Secretly Canadian as some sort of paid spokesperson given my next two choices on this list. Maybe I just appreciate a breathe of fresh air! That’s exactly what Light Upon The Lake has provided, particularly to one’s Summer playlist (conveniently releasing in June). Formed as a phoenix out of the ashes with Smith Westerns breakup a few years back, Whitney serves better as a supergroup of sorts, fully fledging out serene guitar slide and picking techniques courtesy of Max Kakacek and company. Better yet, what makes them unique is the sweet falsetto and simple drumming of Julian Ehrlich (formerly Unknown Mortal Orchestra) guiding each song ever so serenely. Attribute their talents large in part to pop and indie acts anywhere from Hall & Oates’ pop sensibilities, to more recent staples of country-infused indie acts like Wilco. Whatever their musical doppelganger, give Whitney credit for being infinitely listenable, and certifiably charming.

RIYL: Fleetwood Mac – Tusk


3. Suuns – Hold/Still

Secretly Canadian


Hold/Still is an interesting listen. Songs tease the essence of a big buildup likely leading into an explosion of sound, yet the music never seems to get there, and that’s not the point in a loudness war generation used to gratification via explosion of sound. Rather, the blend of electronic noise and reverb-soaked guitars target a different kind of response, one of wavy uneasiness in the picking guitar of “Resistance”, or the brooding noisiness of “Translate”. Hold/Still is blatantly creepy. You could attribute that to many staples of post-punk classics, but that era of new artful developments in the genre’s pioneers don’t speak for the plethora of copycats in our present day. Suuns I can safely say are different. there is something new served here, most noticeably by the accompanying electronics, with slithering guitars and muddied bass. As our generation further disillusions itself in the romanticized musical world of yesteryear, there are still new creators, and bigger ambitions in mind. There is a ton of post-punk in my personal musical diet. Much of that invokes much of the past, and moreover becomes a product of its own influences. Hold/Still challenges the notion and leaves audiences to decide how they wish to label it. Just try.

RIYL: Women – Public Strain


2. The Hotelier – Goodness (Review)

Tiny Engines


“Emo Revival” as people tend to dub this kind of stuff is certainly revived in the sense that bands everywhere are trying to invoke the whole midwestern indie-rock thing. Sure, many of them can pull off the sound, but I can only think of a select few this decade that are great. On Goodness, Christian Holden’s lyricism blooms amidst this steady drumming of “Goodness, Pt. 2”, like a Lord of the Rings ultimatum that there is some good in this world that’s worth fighting for. This song like many carries a weight of hurt and destruction, now fully forming into the beauty that life brings, a chrysalis made and soon birthed as guitar and bass join Holden’s scarred voice, ready for life’s next challenge. Better yet, The Hotelier place straight up post-hardcore on the shelf entirely. Instead, we were greeted with leadup single “Goodness, Pt. 1”, which didn’t appear on record, but better serves as an acoustic guitar driven preface to a new beginning for the band. Songs are still tearjerkers, and Holden still stands out as a powerful vocalist, screaming his heart out on staples like “Soft Animal” and “Sun”. The Hotelier moreover showed a mature evolution in their sound; that’s what emo revival has on say pop-punk for example. They’re adults now, no need to shamelessly reinvent the wheel, as life doesn’t stop at eighteen.

RIYL: Brand New – Deja Entendu


1. The Black Queen – Fever Daydream

The Black Queen


Side projects, an indefinite vacation from the toils of everyday musicianship as profession, or the last pulse of a lineup of creative minds on respirator. Perhaps I’m being dramatic, but such is life for mathcore pioneers The Dillinger Escape Plan. Although they released their swansong record Dissociation to wide acclaim in preparation to call it quits, it was Greg Puciato’s work with fellow collaborators Steven Alexander and Joshua Eustis (Nine Inch Nails) that garnered attention late 2015 sliding into 2016, when their group released a match-made-in-heaven ode to synthesizer madness and 80’s nostalgia. Beyond the exterior of synth-pop melodies and jumpy 808 drum beats, Fever Daydream proves to be much more. Featuring Puciato fully dedicating himself to clean vocals aside from his hardcore past, songs like lead single “Ice To Never” show his diverse range of belting choruses, to the tender falsetto of “The End Where We Start”. Quite the stray from shocking audiences out of their element, but snapping back to this present reality, The Black Queen trade awe in the form of entertainment to that of beautiful soundscapes of warbly electronics and piercing bass and guitar. Fever Daydream is an homage of sorts, but above all, Puciato is his standard distinct voice, and The Black Queen set their own personal soundtrack, destined to bring the extra flavor to a budding resurgence in pop music.

RIYL: Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine


Other UJATS happenings from 2016…

B.G.M. Excerpts

YMHM Archives 2016

Follow me on Twitter… @trealdirtydan

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Top 50 Songs of 2016

This is a compilation of Usually Just A T-Shirt’s best 50 tracks of the last musical year…and a crippling realization that “2 Phones” in fact came out as a single in 2015, and thus cannot be considered for this prestigious compilation two years in a row. Thank you for reading and listening to the Spotify playlist that has been conveniently put together for your listening pleasure. The top 50 records of 2016 will soon follow.


50. The Weeknd – Starboy

Daft Punk-y

49. Chris Farren – Say U Want Me

48. Joyce Manor – Angel In The Snow

Regular punk-y

47. Trentemoller – Circuits


46. Mitski – Your Best American Girl


45. Desiigner – Panda

Broads in Atlanta, a new series by Donald Glover…new episodes Monday, only on FX

44. Tegan and Sara – U-Turn

Pop perfection…every T&S has at least one song that fits the bill

43. David Bowie – Sue (Or In A Season of Crime)

That breakdown is Joga-esque

42. Avion Roe – Jettison Tears


41. The Last Shadow Puppets – Aviation

Alex Turner is very overrated, except for when he’s not

40. Midnight Faces – Blue Haze

39. The Tallest Man on Earth – Time of the Blue

Singles from KM to curb my enthusiasm

38. Gloss Coats – Through Hardship to the Stars


37. Dan Lissvik – M


36. Anderson .Paak – Comedown

NBA bump music to bump to

35. Rae Sremmurd – Black Beatles


34. Oathbreaker – Second Son of R.

Scandinavian blackgaze

33. Touche Amore – Skyscraper

Hospice for hardcore kids

32. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Magneto

One more time with feeling

31. Drowners – Don’t Be Like That

Frenchkiss groov-y

30. Angel Olsen – Shut Up Kiss Me

Indie-rock one-two drum beat

29. Kevin Morby – Dorothy


28. Foster Body – Touching and Moving


27. Japanese Breakfast – The Woman That Loves You

26. Eliot Sumner – Information

Sting’s daughter-y

25. HONNE – Good Together

Remixable x100

24. The 1975 – She’s American

Urban Outfitters-y

23. Warpaint – Today Dear


22. Trevor Sensor – Texas Girls and Jesus Christ

21. The Black Queen – Maybe We Should / Non-Consent

Depeche Mode meets Nine Inch Nails

20. clipping – Shooter

Hamilton, but the other guy

19. FEWS – Drinking Games

Riffs that get stuck in your head

18. The Jezabels – Unnatural

Huge chorus-y

17. Kanye West – Feedback

Name one genius that ain’t crazy

16. Drugdealer – Easy to Forget

Ariel Pink-core

15. Body of Light – Comedown


14. Andrew Bird – Capsized

13. Danny Brown – When It Rain

Bleep n’ bloop samples

12. Rihanna – Work

Now with TWO music videos

11. Kishi Bashi – Flame on Flame (A Slow Dirge)

Carry On Phenomenon pt. 2, Electic Boogaloo

10. SILENT – Self

The male counterpoint to Savages, “Self” is equally as intense, and forever inviting to the raw emotion that pervades A Century of Abuse.

9. Frank Ocean – Self Control

An immediate highlight on Blonde, the multi-part Frank harmonies at the end of “Self Control” are a thing of beauty.

8. Whitney – Golden Days

My personal Summer playlist, Whitney churned out one feel good, sunny weather anthem after another on Light Upon The Lake.

7. Preoccupations – Stimulation


If there was anything redeeming about Preoccupations’ follow up to last year’s Viet Cong, it was the progressive darkness that made “Stimulation”, still a product of an endless list of post-punk influence.

6. Atlanter – Light


An indie-rock gem of guitars, reverb, and electronics, reminiscent of bands like Grizzly Bear, just with a European flavor.

5. The Hotelier – Soft Animal


More desperate screams of angst from one Christian Holden make for possibly The Hotelier’s best song yet. Certainly better than the naked people on their album cover.

4. Mild High Club – Skiptracing


Infinitely chill, “Skiptracing” is a lesson in slide guitar solos, but also for sitting back and relaxing with a cold one.

3. Radiohead – Daydreaming


Radiohead’s evolution into classical influences reigns true on “Daydreaming”, complete with enough conspiracy to keep superfans on the edge of their seats interpreting every little detail of the lyricism and music video.

2. Bon Iver – #29 Strafford APTS


Justin Vernon’s complete anthology of vocoder adventures churn out a winner, both for it’s beautiful songwriting, but also for being one of the easier songs to spell out from 22, A Million.

1. Lobby Boxer – Shine Like Fire


Proggy pop-punk sounds pretentious enough to work. For Lobby Boxer, that means sending off Big Bucks with a grand slam of a song in the anthemic “Shine Like Fire”.



Peace and Love,

Durbanboys Top 50 Albums of 2015

2015 came and went like a pop song in the words of The Bicycle Thief. We laughed, we cried, we listened to comeback albums. Me personally, I took an affinity to 50 records in particular that I would like to share with you, the reader. Take a little gander at a few or all of the excerpts. I even put the album art in before each write up, so that you could look at it and say “Yeah, I recognize that artwork” as you furiously scroll down the page. Just thought I’d keep your attention. After all, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so why not read the actual thousands of words I compiled? Just kidding, I’m just happy you clicked on this page in the first place! All rankings and opinions are my own. Check the Spotify playlist at the bottom.

Peace, Danny






50. Nite Fields – Depersonalisation (felte)

It’s all too suiting that Nite Fields concludes Depersonilisation with the blaringly cold “Winter’s Gone”. The Australian rockers’ eerie blend of post-punk riffs and sneaking synths sparkles with deceptive veteran prowess despite being the band’s debut record. With the allure of gloomy vocals and shoegaze guitars driving and adding depth to otherwise run-of-the-mill tracks, there’s still much to be said about the bands’ outputs amidst a flurry of genre-resurrections that have basically defined an ever-expanding musical palette in today’s society. Is it so out of the ordinary for a band to throw in a huge cluster of influences and sounds amidst the blooming revival movements? Whatever. Despite that, Nite Fields still throw in their own fresh flavors and spices into the mix. Where The Church made a name for themselves in the eighties with more pop influences grouped with icy punk/shoegaze tendencies, fellow countrymen Nite Fields have set a similar standard placed on their audience, and at a much earlier stage of their hopefully lengthy career.





49. Refused – Freedom (Epitaph)

Following up what is widely known as the greatest post-hardcore record of all time sounds pretty simple, right? *Wayne Campbell voice* NOT! It’s lofty enough dubbing said masterpiece “The Shape of Punk To Come”, but I’d argue announcing a comeback album almost two decades later takes even bigger stones than anything Refused has ever concocted in their brains prior. From their highly anticipated reunion tour a few years back, to booting longtime guitarist Jon Brännström out of the band, Refused still has proven amidst a renaissance and reformation of sorts that they maintain the extreme energy and booming guitars that brought them so much acclaim in the first place. Of course, a legendary album can never be repeated, nor should it. Freedom surely isn’t absent of shaky vocals (bonus points for eerily spot-on Dave Grohl impressions) and less than satisfactory experimentation on tracks like “Francafrique”, where use of electronics and recycled guitar leads fall stale. Still, the transformation of a band on the comeback is impressive, including wild enough hard rock prowess to garner an acceptable return to form, either that or avoiding a complete fall from grace depending on who you’re asking. All in all, Refused have made a Refused record. Maybe more than anything, it is a timely cash grab, and sure, some fans are bummed as hell, but then again, others are unbelievably hyped. Take it for what it is, “Refused are (not) fucking dead!”





48. Death Grips – Jenny Death (Harvest Records)

Someday when I’m an old man sitting around a warm fire with my grandchildren, I probably won’t have any life-changing adventures to speak of, no tales of forbidden love, grandeur travels, or waiting in line to score tickets to the midnight showing of Star Wars Episode VII. What I can say is that I was among the unfortunate victims in “Indieland” who had tickets to a Death Grips show, only for them to prematurely cancel and leave us longing for what could have been. Actually, to be honest, I was attending a stadium Nine Inch Nails show, and Death Grips happened to be third on the bill of bands scheduled to perform. Was I bummed? Yeah, absolutely. Zach Hill and Ride have quickly become huge influences and polarizing figures in the early 2010’s, releasing increasingly experimental and genre-bending flurries of industrial hip-hop fused with punk. Jenny Death is no stranger to pushing the limits. Combining the accessibility of The Money Store with Hill’s concise technical skill and innovative bullet-drumming, Jenny Death comes through again as a perfect marketing ploy amongst ravage, eager fans, but simultaneously boasts some of Death Grips’ best songs. Singles “On GP” and “Inanimate Sensation” prove the band hasn’t lost a step in spite of their “breakup” and subsequent reforming. Plus, a new string of new and fun phrases to yell like MC Ride with your friends is always a great party game or ice-breaker on a first date!

“Centuries of Damn”




47. Drake – If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late (Cash Money Records)

In the words of the great Bob Ross, “We don’t make mistakes. We have happy accidents.” Such philosophical epiphanies only spring into greater fruition in the happy-go-lucky world of Aubrey Graham, also known to the lesser of us as Drake. The man simply can do no wrong. Where his last two full lengths have seemingly won over the entire internet at large, If You’re Reading This… only seems to compound his influence on hip-hop culture, meme-heavy internet message boards, indie music blogs, you name it. The cat’s out of the bag, and it has tearing up your couch cushions and marking it’s territory for a long time. Drake possesses the “Midas Touch”, with his golden hands picking up right where he left off last year, dropping mammoth singles (“Energy”) leading up to this surprise mixtape. The anticipation is always lurking within the fan mindset; at no point during the year have people felt like this is the apex of his repertoire. Drake is still ascending higher and higher, with Views From the 6 still lurking, as if it could fall right out of the sky at any moment. Combine that with the already lofty hype surrounding the positive reception and all around ass-kicking in regards to “beef” with Meek Mill earlier this year, and Drake is basically coasting. If You’re Reading This… is a reflection of life at the top as king of the hill. The mixtape is still the usual Drake we know and love, infinitely quotable, bold and brash, with top notch production and beats, and all with a newer, more ethereal emotion to it. Drizzy is set to “W” for “Wumbo”, when the competition is begging that he’s set to “M” for “Mini”.





46. Frank Turner – Positive Songs For Negative People (Xtra Mile)

I was admittedly hesitant leading up to Frank Turner’s latest release, Positive Songs For Negative People. Coming off perhaps his biggest mainstream success just a few years prior, I swiftly jumped to the conclusion that Frank not necessarily had sold out, but had just graduated into the “adult who has found himself” stage of his life and career. The charm that had once sold Turner as a rebel on the run, living life on the road, and juggling lovers new and old, had sort of devolved into a fond season in life, now equated to reminiscing as a wiser, more mature version of his person as he gets ready to go to work as a Whole Foods cashier. Further deliberation has led me to believe that this new age Frank is A-OK in my book. What good is it to have those insurmountable expectations like he’s this effervescent Billy Bragg junior? Frank is his own man. Besides, he still rocks with guitar in hand, as well as his Sleeping Soul bandmates. He’s still charmingly British, and he still can write a hell of a good drink your heart out anthem (Demons) as well as a gut-wrenching tear jerker (Song For Josh). Frank may be turning into my dad, but I’m getting older too.





45. Torche – Restarter (Relapse Records)

Torche’s marketing campaign for Restarter revolved around a generic two-dimensional sidescroller minigame in which you could play as one of four band members jumping around shooting evil robots (all while rocking face to the new album playing in the background!). What better preface for anyone listening to Torche for the first time than with the power of cheap app store games? Restarter is coming back for another round of muddy guitar, and repeating heavy drums driving each track along. “Minions” beckons listeners to scream in their minds “coming down the mountain!” before a righteous guitar solo kicks the song up another notch. Perry Farrell impressions aside, Torche comes through once more with this new set of jams, not necessarily deviating far from anything they’ve done before. However, the consistency is welcomed in the world of stoner-rock, and goes without saying the the pop influences present on 2012’s Restarter are basically non-existent here. Throw your metal fingers up!

“Annihilation Affair”




44. Soilwork – The Ride Majestic (Nuclear Blast Records)

Speaking of consistency and longevity intertwined, Sweden’s Soilwork return with an equally pounding, riveting, fast-paced, and melodic follow-up to 2013’s The Living Infinite. The production is as crisp as ever, which brings out the best in the instrumentation, and tracks such as the title track drop right into the fray with a flawless transition between harsh and clean vocals. Call me or any other music reviewer a broken record, but the group’s affinity for bringing out the best of a melody trading off with the brutal death metal screams and long run time is testament to their pedestal within the metal community. This time, their reach is elongated to a wider audience, with perhaps their most accessible album to date. If Deafheaven is “black metal for dummies”, then knight Soilwork as the beginner’s guide to melodic death metal. They are veterans in the mix, but will ultimately make amends along the passages of time; people give them praise where it’s due here in 2015, but the aesthetic and legend of the band ultimately slides unnoticed to an extent. This is the likely outcome at least until they hang it up for good. It’s like the quietly great athletes in sports, thinking of a Tim Duncan or Bill Russell type player. They get business done, and put on for the team/audience whatever is needed of them to win. We call these the quiet killers, or the studies of the game. Don’t take Soilwork for granted. We will all miss them when they’re gone.

“The Ride Majestic”




43. Mew – +/- (PIAS America)

Although +/- is nowhere near my favorite Mew output, they still managed to put on a killer live show when I saw them on the North American leg of their tour earlier this year, with a great ensemble of tracks from albums old and new. The way I see it, if you can’t handle Mew at their worst (-), then you don’t deserve them at their best (+). Alright, that’s enough inspirational sorority girl cliches for one excerpt. By all means, +/- finds the Danish rock group in a perfectly comfortable stride. The progressive influence that tends to drive a typical Mew song is a little less pronounced this time,  but where they leave out technical prowess in each composition, they make up for in pronounced dream-pop epics. Frontman Jonas Bjerre’s vocals thrust center stage as a focal point of their sound, charging right out of the gate on opener “Satellites”, mellows out for a surprisingly tight duet with New Zealand pop princess Kimbra on “Night Believer”, and beams with powerful crescendo on the eleven minute ballad “Rows”. Mew remain atop the pyramid of prog-pop bands, with hopefully greater things in store. Whatever the future holds, it’s just nice to hear them back with new material again after six long years.

“Water Slides”




42. Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down… (Matador)

Just look at that cover art, the cheeky smirk, the lower case font, the shaky abbreviations, the oral sex allusion. This is the precise goofiness that complements the personality and lyricist that is Kurt Vile. Coming off of the lofty Wakin on a Pretty Daze proved to be no small accomplishment for Vile, but b’lieve i’m goin down presents an interesting development in his evolution. With familiar Lou Reed style vocal delivery, and deadpan, train-of-thought lyrics, Vile trades marathon songs drenched in reverb for a safer folk-rock tumble. Tracks are a bit more concise given this approach to his song writing, like his message possesses a less hazy, psychedelic delivery, but instead basks in the blunt, laid back world that is his life. He’s a father and a traveling man, bent on the new challenges that define fatherhood. Take it or leave it, KV has much to say about nothing, but that’s life though (almost hate to say).

“Pretty Pimpin”




41. Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us (Polyvinyl Records)

Indifference is a good word to describe my feelings on Beach Slang’s EPs from last year. There isn’t much positivity to speak of for bands who don’t bring home the bacon as far as a unique aesthetic to their sound. Plus, bands with the word “Beach” in their name just scream generic to me. In Beach Slang’s case, the ante slowly creeped to a higher standard with The Things We Do… Sure, the anthemic showcase of crunchy guitar combined with empowered vocals screams  of tribute to contemporaries like Meatwave and Cheap Girls, but frontman James Alex has publicly stated his love for The Replacements and a classic brand of punk rock. At the same time, the 41 year old  Alex resonates more with the millennials of this day and age, with lyrics playing ode to the youthful exuberance of being reckless and full of life. “The night is alive, it’s loud and I’m drunk”, he shouts on “Noisy Heaven”, a call to arms for many a good time, questing later on the record to “get high enough to feel alive”. Maybe his fleeting adolescence lurks in the shadows, but Alex and the band are trekking on, and hanging close with the punk kids of 2015 and onward.

“Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas”




40. Rae Sremmurd – SremmLife (Interscope)

The achievement of respect in modern hip-hop today has so much to do with who’s producing just as much as it does the emcee(s) behind the performance. This is exemplified perfectly by Tupelo Mississippi’s own Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy, aka, Rae Sremmurd. I’m not pointing any fingers here, nor am I ribbing on their abilities as rappers. Albums seemingly tailor-made for millennials to party hard to carry the same equal and opposite weight for others who are consequently thrown into a state of detachment from society. Are they out of touch with the young kids? Maybe so, but let’s celebrate the genius of SremmLife and give credit where it’s due. Veteran producer Mike WiLL Made-It gloriously showcases once again why he is a force to be reckoned with in the mix, and the brothers Sremm are charging full steam ahead from start to finish. The trap beats and Southern flavor yield noticeably positive response from fans all over the world, and give us larger than life guest appearances from fellow heavyweights Nicki Minaj, Jace, Big Sean, and Young Thug. Did I mention that Rae Sremmurd are just a combined 40 years old between the two of them? I wouldn’t expect these guys to fade from the spotlight anytime soon, so long as their youth and affinity for crafting bangers isn’t trumped by the dangers of such sudden fame and fortune.

“Throw Sum Mo”




39. Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool (Dirty Hit Records)

You don’t see many bands these days hitting the post-grunge aesthetic as if they’re a different breed of misfit outcasts straight out of the nineties. Wolf Alice boasts a new “flannel and baggy jeans” revival, along with a charisma that would make Black Francis grin (“You’re a Germ”). My Love Is Cool begins with two tender indie pop/rock songs “Turn To Dust” and “Bros” before quickly shooting into grainy guitar tones and dirty riffs that dominate the album. As a matter of fact, that remnant of slower, dreamier arrangements almost seems like a distant memory as the record progresses, with faint traces of stripped back melody sprouting up here and there, but largely overpowered by the crushing indie rock influences that the band wears on it’s sleeve. Wolf Alice are largely reinventing the wheel on My Love Is Cool, but the myriad of genres portrayed on record are better yet an homage to bands and trends in indie rock spanning the last 30 years, and for that, I proclaim this as refreshing as a Coke in the the heat of Summer. You get a comfortable sugar rush, and a figurative and literal buzz to attest to the newly discovered euphoria, but you gotta call now!

“Your Loves Whore”




38. Mount Eerie – Sauna (P.W. Elverum & Sun)

Phil Elverum is no stranger to the wonders of nature connecting to the human spirit in his music. With no time wasted, Sauna commences into the ten minute title track “Sauna”, filled with organ drone and faint crackling of a campfire, the perfect setting to find the sort of introspective contemplation that seems to beckon us in any Mount Eerie release. Elverum has always built that bond with the world around us. Heck, the clues are right on the album cover, clearly creating a formerly blank canvas in which he surrounds the consumer with warm feelings of tender observations of mental and emotional processes. Besides the sprawling “Sauna” and “Spring”, which build their structure on long droning tracks that hiss and build, Elverum takes a more standard lo-fi approach to the other tracks on Sauna, matching minute folk instrumentation and soft female guest vocals with his own faint voice and hazy, introspective warmth.





37. Czarface – Every Hero Needs A Villain (Brick Records)

To delve into great detail concerning Wu-Tang Clan’s 36 Chambers isn’t really necessary, seeing as the pop culture staple it is today speaks volumes already. Quickly though, what is the overarching triumph of Enter The Wu-Tang? For me, it has to be the ability of every single personality to somehow mesh together and churn out arguably the greatest hardcore rap record of all time. So when people talk about the solo outings that dispersed with fame and success guiding each member to separate and new heights, where does Inspectah Deck come into play on this metaphorical hierarchy? Truthfully, it’s more or less a second thought, brushed to the side. Even so, there exists Czarface. Deck collaborates with the group 7L & Esoteric to create a lush world of smooth rhymes and boastful delivery that garner immediate attention that a solo career never did. Like his masked contemporary, MF DOOM (who appears on record with a spot on “Ka-Bang!”), Inspectah Deck & company thrive on the superhero theme that christened listeners ears many times before on DOOM’s body of work. Every Hero Needs A Villain is a familiar call to arms, with multiple Wu-Tang alumni guest spots on what can only be interpreted as a figurative fight of good versus evil, with each new challenger coming in to thwart our hero, Inspectah Deck. He craves this opposition not only be great, but to push him to achieve greatness. Without the villain, what is the hero’s purpose? This album is fun and energetic; the Madvillain-esque short interludes, comic book dialogue, and frequent sampling give the listener plenty of material to digest. Whether good triumphs over evil, you become the judge of that.

“The Great”




36. EL VY – Return To The Moon (4AD)

Did it ever strike anyone else the blaring absurdity that possesses Matt Berninger’s lyricism in his main project, The National? I’d venture to call it off putting, if not for the simultaneous moving elements that seem to tug at our collective heart strings in their anthemic songs bursting with odes to cheeky fights with lovers, life, and the uncertainty of growing old. That being said, Berninger and his buddy/partner in side project crime, Brandon Knopf come onto the scene with even sillier compositions, taking quirky and outlandish indie pop to new stratospheres of random. Where the music doesn’t exceed creatively, it more than makes up for in bouncy guitar and midi piano driven tracks such as “Need A Friend”, where Berninger’s familiar Leonard Cohen-esque baritone breeds an odd yet satisfying take on a much lighter, dare I say, happier brand of music than we normally see him accustomed to. EL VY are plain and simple having a hell of a time. Side project heaven allows for playing around, even breaching an unspoken territory of joy. That isn’t something you see everyday from a member of The National, where blissful ignorance is traded for somber maturity. You can hear it in each new number springing forth into our ears. They’re as awkward in mannerism as they are debonair, their “dicks are in sunlight”, and by God, when EL VY walk into a room, they DO light it up!

“I’m The Man To Be”




35. Ought – Sun Coming Down (Constellation)

On the surface, it’s easy to pinpoint Ought as another British band who worships the quirky new-wave artists that dominated college radio waves in the eighties, only one thing. Ought aren’t British, they’re Canadian! Furthermore, their knack for guitars channels an intense Television impression, complete with nerdy, hyper-active licks reminiscent of The Feelies. Lead singer Tim Darcy provides the wounded vibrato of Iggy Pop, deadpan delivery of Andy Gill, and manic shouts of David Byrne, to wield his vocal ability into some sort of Captain Planet conglomerate of abilities transformed into one super power. Sun Coming Down has attitude, it has spunk, and it don’t need no music critics telling it what it can and can’t do within the confines of it’s local business execution. The band is hard at work, churning out the newest album just a year after their acclaimed debut, More Than Any Other Day, and the have officially solidified their place on my playlist as blue collar champions of indie social circles.

“Sun Coming Down”




34. A City Sorrow Built – Ai (Sailboat Records)

Indonesian emo/post-rock naturals A City Sorrow Built come firing on all cylinders with their magnificent record Ai. Yes indeed, this a tried and true “screamo” band. Don’t let your little sister or middle school friends tell you otherwise. The band soars with whirring reverb-laden guitar, accompanied by a combination vocal attack of midwest-emo tinged whining and harsh screams. The instrumentals follow suit as well, keeping tabs on mood and swings in tempo. The album maintains the textbook trade-off of sounds, which is no new formula, keeping in mind that the genre tends to follow that method of song structure. However, what Ai exceeds at is its ability to draw listeners into the vortex of emotion, hitting the apex of noise and passionate screams juxtaposed with a lush comedown of beautiful arpeggio guitar. With the exception of the slow burner “Duka/Cita”, Ai clocks in at a swift 34 minute run time, and for the pay-what-you-want entry fee on their bandcamp, A City Sorrow Built supply a steal of a deal, but support them for goodness sake!





33. Conduct – Fear and Desire (Public Tone)

I like Conduct. I like their blend of post-hardcore fused with post-punk and noise rock. I hope after reading this, you will in turn listen to Fear & Desire and make the decision yourself to accept Canada’s greatest 2015 prodigies since Viet Cong (the band, don’t worry) into your musical carnival. Beginning with the album art, it’s easy to see that the subject matter within tends to lead a darker tone. The sporadic sense of urgency in the warped guitar on tracks like “Fear and Desire” and “Failure” are coupled with lead vocalist Nicholas Liang’s schizophrenic delivery, making for a quick yet satisfying listen. Liang often dabs back and forth between a shouting outcry and mellower spoken word sections of tracks, even further culminating the myriad of influences that drive Conduct’s debut. Not only does the production and engineering scream Albini, but synched guitar and bass medleys point all fingers towards a bit of Fugazi worship as well. Be sure to remember Conduct moving forward. I like Conduct.

“Fear and Desire”




32. Foxing – Dealer (Triple Crown Records)

The best phrase I could use to describe Foxing as a band in just a few words would be this: ‘An emo symphony’. That sounds like a jumbled disaster of a pitch for future mainstream music media’s depiction of some sort of Green Day successor, but behold, Dealer strikes all of the right chords, and shuts your filthy mouths! Fresh off a U.S. tour with fellow aging hipsters mewithoutYou and Pianos Become the Teeth, Foxing depict the lore of pleasant hopefuls ready for their next chapter in life. Lyrically, Dealer is the adventure and uncertainty of making it in this crazy world personified. Much like Link in “The Legend of Zelda”, it’s dangerous to go alone, and Foxing’s secret weapon, the trumpet, guides listeners on a grand adventure of epic post-rock combined with lead singer Conor John Jostedt Murphy’s (wow, that’s a mouthful) caressing vocals. The blend of build-ups and warm textures are testament to Foxing’s growing sound, and a mature follow up to 2013’s The Albatross.

“Glass Coughs”




31. Milo – So the Flies Don’t Come (Ruby Yacht)

Yes indeed, everyone’s favorite Wisconsin-based rapper, Milo, returns in 2015 with the cooler-than-Miles-Davis So the Flies Don’t Come. Fresh off of 2014’s breakout A Toothpaste Suburb, Milo is back again, with better rhymes, a unique and chill stop-and-go flow, and jazzy beats courtesy of frequent collaborator Kenny Segal. What charm isn’t already established by his persona, Milo accounts for tenfold in his witty yet conscious lyrical content. On “Souvenir”, Milo quips, “Let me take out a full page Vice ad that supposes it might ask if underground hip-hop was just one tight fad…”. Combine this with playful shots at Jason Derulo on “Re: Animist”, contemplating the deepest facets of inner-conscious while staring at cereal boxes on “An Encyclopedia”, and closing with “Song About A Raygunn (An Ode to Driver)”, and you have arguably the most complete package in underground hip-hop present day. Milo hits hard with these new tracks, many of which are worth the price of admission as stand alone entities on the record.





30. Algiers – Algiers (Matador)

If there’s such thing as a reward for most original output in little ole’ 2015, Algier’s self-titled debut is gifted some slice of the imaginary cake. Laden with combinations of dark industrial synth and gospel era blues execution, the band have breached new territory in a society brimming with early adaptors. More importantly, the record stands as a grand narrative of generations upon generations of storied racial politics and struggle for immediacy in today’s society. The sense of desperation is clear, and illuminated from the moment the needle hits wax. Frontman James Fisher is no sucker for farce either. Algiers is as intense of a record as Fisher is stern. The fusion of gospel-influenced vocals belted amidst a flurry of haunting basslines and synth choir “oohs” and “aahs” are a focal point of delivery. Fisher has a message for America; his sheer force in demeanor yet soothing soul pretext beckons that of an older Leadbelly tune of blues origin. “You say your history’s over, all my blood is in vain”, he wallows on “Blood”, an outcry against the stagnant progression of civil rights and equality of minorities. If change is an inevitable resolution to a so-called crusade against the binds which hold a country back, then where are we now? Algiers arrive in a timely manner, thrust into a spotlight where voice and action is needed, where talent and passion go hand in hand with wisdom. “Fifteen minutes of freedom and still three-fifths a man”, it is an uphill battle that Fisher and company are diving into head first.

“Black Eunuch”




29. Destroyer – Poison Season (Merge Records)

Judging by Dan Bejar’s apparent love affair with Times Square, it’s not out of line to wonder if Poison Season’s first impression on the listener purposely evokes a feeling of pompous grandiosity. On previous records, Bejar is no stranger to sophistication in his lyrics, and the innovative art-pop sentiments of eighties David Bowie and saxophone solos might only prove this sentiment. “I write poetry for myself…” he claims on 2011’s Kaputt. Perhaps Destroyer is at a stage of gliding consistency in his music, to the point where his self-awareness as a top-tier musician and composer leads to bombastic experimentation. Poison Season tells me after each listen that Bejar knows he’s great, and can do whatever he wants as a result of his stature. The direction of the record beckons a similar response to each budding Tarantino or Wes Anderson film for example. Both staples of a balanced hipster cinephile, we expect great things out of great minds such as these, yet the envelope can be signed, sealed, and delivered any which way. You don’t always toss a strike on each frame, but the flair is memorable nonetheless. A career spanning three decades calls for outlandish feats of melding classical experimentation mixed with his textbook alternative roots, and I love Bejar for crafting new melodies and trying different things on Poison Season.

“Girl in a Sling”




28. Hop Along – Painted Shut (Saddle Creek)

Do you remember when Klasky-Csupo made the questionable “Rugrats” spinoff “All Grown Up!”, a show in which all of the babies are edging on the start of their teenage years, still live in the same neighborhood, are all still friends, and still wear some variation of the clothes they had when they were toddlers? Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan always evoked a sort of Tommy Pickles hoarseness in her voice to me, and that’s an awesome thing! Furthermore, to continue this Rugrats allusion I have going, Painted Shut thrusts Quinlan deeper into an unrighteously male-dominated brand of alternative-punk, whereas she boldly wails her heart out with the same fervor and bravery Pickles exudes in each adventure of his own. Hear me out though. I foresee a brighter future for Hop Along than any Nickelodeon cartoon. Frances Quinlan is a perfect voice for borrowed nostalgia of 1990’s misfits, and is making huge waves with a fresh batch of anything but cookie cutter songs. You’d best grab your bottle of milk, sit back, and enjoy greatness.

“Horseshoe Crabs”




27. Deafheaven – New Bermuda (ANTI-)

When Deafheaven released “From the Kettle Onto the Coil” in late 2014, fans caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a change of pace from the dreamy, shoegaze beauty invoked by Sunbather. The band is notoriously granted the label of genre benders, to the effect that Sunbather drew its fair share of crossover fans to a new sound in the collective repertoire of tastes, but it also drew much dismay to another branch of “purists” all in the same. The single and then subsequent 2015 release New Bermuda sought a new agenda, all while maintaining a familiar fury of melody amidst the fray. Deafheaven’s shiny performance has now twisted into a fiercer, more immediate punch in the face, beckoning a sister sound more attuned to Agalloch’s  more brutal numbers. George Clarke screams a fiercer brew of heaviness, teaming with metalcore chugs on “Brought to the Water”, atmospheric guitars on “Luna” and “Baby Blue”, as well as a consistent onslaught of machine gun drumming that doesn’t let up almost the entire running time of the record. I’ll hold back claims of revolution, but New Bermuda impresses with new elements of guitar solos and melody inconsistent with a black metal stereotype, but the continuing evolution of their sound keeps fans guessing what is next in eager anticipation.

“Baby Blue”




26. No Devotion – Permanence (Collect Records)

I used to think of Geoff Rickly as the Wayne Coyne of post-hardcore music during his storied tenure with former band Thursday. He isn’t necessarily a technically gifted singer with diverse range, but what he lacks in potentially plastic talents, he compensates for in encapsulating wails of purpose and emotion. When Thursday broke up after releasing and touring what is arguably considered their magnum opus, No Devolucion, it was uncertain where Rickly would choose to go next musically. With the influx of contemporary, nostalgia-fueled reunions in the genre’s recent days (Glassjaw, Refused, Underoath, Thrice, At The Drive-In), it’s uncertain the future of Thursday’s status on hiatus. For the time being, No Devotion stay true. Joining forces with the members of Lostprophets who aren’t scum of the earth, Rickly gives as driving and passionate vocal performances as ever, evoking a powerful echo of croons paired with the sleek synths and drum machines of his new backing band. No Devotion step up a new level of musicianship in comparison to former projects, which speaks of the immediate chemistry of a band in the early stages of their time together. Permanence is as keen on Joy Division grandeur and dark synth leads as it is peppy. Rickly is mysterious and moody, yet personifies a brighter outlook and catchiness bringing to mind a new-age Brandon Flowers. The juxtaposition of light and dark is a much needed boost in overall aspiration and diversity in No Devotion’s sound. Rickly is alive and well in 2015, trading band reunion and comfortability for the expanding of a new horizon.





25. Cannibal Ox – Blade Of The Ronin (I HipHop)

Consider the history behind a ronin, and draw context and themes based on understanding of where the idea is crafted from. A ronin in feudal Japan represented a samurai with no master, either by means of the passing of a master to another life, or falling out of favor completely. So arises a present scenario: Harlem emcees Vast Aire and Vordul Mega arise from ashes after years in hiding. Underground legends of yesteryear are back, rebels without a cause, ready to take names and bust rhymes like El-P is behind the wheel production-wise. Though, while El is absent on the reunion lap, Cannibal Ox exude the same fervor that has recently brought El-P and his partner in crime, Killer Mike, so much good fortune and acclaim over the past few years with their duo, Run The Jewels. Arguably, I’d take Blade of the Ronin over either RTJ output. The beats are big, the samples are heavy, and Vast Aire and Vordul Mega are as angry as ever, spreading a new gospel on “Psalm 82”, weathering the stormy “Water”, and paving their own path for rebirth, unleashing the Ox out of the Cage once again.

“Iron Rose”




24. Worriers – Imaginary Life (Don Giovanni Records)

What ever happened to the art of an honest pop-punk record, the ones that stood as a motivator to the downtrodden and distraught? No, I’m not talking about the brashly juvenile “U.S. government is a lie” kind of politics that possess “American Idiot” Green Day era teenagers around the globe. Imaginary Life abandon this sham revolution and serve a plea to the individuals who fight for truth to shine in the lives of the people, a call to arms to be the change they wish to see in the world. Maybe Worriers as a band name are a play on the very individuals they seek to remedy. “We are fighting between ‘rock’ and ‘why bother’”, Lauren Denitzio belts on “They/Them/Theirs”, clinging to any hint of a spark. Her rambunctious wordplay drives Imaginary Life through twelve songs, each as sincere as the last. With production by fellow riot grrrl Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!), the record serves as an exciting balance between clean, bubbly hooks, and inventive and earnest punk rock.





23. The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Harmlessness (Epitaph)

The World Is A Beautiful Place… have experienced many changes in the short span that separates Harmlessness from their debut Whenever, If Ever. With a number of shaky EPs featuring various experimentations, complete with avant-garde spoken word and overall weirdness, hindsight seems like a hard read on the band supposedly distraught smack dab in the middle of an identity crisis. However, my experience seeing the band live last year was as follows: about ten people on stage all equally full of passion and emotion, playing familiar tracks from Whenever, If Ever, and new lead singer David Bello taking control of the tracks, creating a wave of guitars, keyboards, and drums (two drumsets to be exact) driving the brand of emo-revival so fresh in the minds of a close knit fanbase. It has been a sneaky outpouring of material creeping through the cracks, yet at the bottom of everything, we stand again with a worthy follow up to the band’s debut back in 2013. Harmlessness is immediate in execution, and the crescendos of post-rock leanings shine with even more fervor on tracks like “January 10th, 2014”, narrating the story of the Juarez murders as spoken of similarly on At The Drive-In’s classic “Invalid Litter Dept.”. Prepare to be awestruck at the sheer power of the army that is The World Is A Beautiful Place, carefully contemplating your own existentialist train of thought with feelings of optimistic futures and hope. Peace to you, my friend.

“January 10th, 2014”




22. Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)

The Agent Intellect is bold subject material. Right off the bat, Joe Casey is enshrouded in the darkest wave of guitar and eerie melody driven in his self-loathing lyrics. This forthcoming of crippling anxiety and rambling lyrical delivery surely serves a greater purpose too of a wonderful encapsulation of how to perceive what his troubled mind sounds like. Casey is fairly ancient by indie rock standards, pushing forty years of age, and with a look that can only be described as the antithesis of your typical punk mentors of old. The Agent Intellect isn’t a revolutionary formula, and as evidenced by Protomartyr’s effort last year with Under Color of Official Right, the band are just fine with their blend of The Fall’s post-punk tendencies hinging on fast paced drums and moody tempos. This record is driven by the vices that tear so many down. It is ripe with anger on “The Devil In His Youth”, displaying Casey most distraught with himself and his ability, or lack thereof, to act as a caring human being despite his struggles (equating himself with the devil). Going forward, he channels feelings of disinterest, disappointment in his persona, loss of faith in a higher power, and grief over lost mentors and family. Joe Casey’s brash, deadpan countenance is a portal to visions of human sadness, but above all, it is a battle of greater will that is worth fighting, and he is shedding light on what many are already thinking about yet unable to convey.

“Dope Cloud”




21. My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall (Capital Records)

I reckon it’s safe to say that My Morning Jacket has album art of the year on lock. That is a gorgeous cover, pleasing to all of the senses. You know what else pleases me? The fact that the band put together a cohesive album with The Waterfall. Considering their track record of big selling records, live album mega events, solo projects, etc., one can only assume the band is on a comedown, much less a period of stagnant contentment. The Waterfall is the opposite of this, firing back with Jim James and company’s exuberant flair. The vocals are slick, possessing James’ textbook falsetto soaring as beautifully as ever. The guitars are marinated in gorgeous reverb, and the tinge of americana influence is present as always. Better yet, the songs flow (pun intended) into one another with purposeful cohesiveness, each with a growing and additional piece of imagery building the overarching meter of the record. This pace drives The Waterfall from crest through cataract, with ever-present mellower sound standing pertinent, and rolling steadfast to the finish. Depending on the person, this could play as a strength or a weakness of The Waterfall in My Morning Jacket’s lengthy discography. It’s not a challenging listen, but rather serves as a light journey through a calm wave of good vibes guiding the listener to an ever blissful conclusion on the wavy epic “Only Memories Remain”.

“Believe (Nobody Knows)”




20. Desaparecidos – Payola (Epitaph)

Oh Connor Oburst, if only you sought your true calling as a punk rock and roller as opposed to the shell of your true feelings bottled up deep inside you with Bright Eyes. Just kidding! I love Bright Eyes, and besides, what else would bride’s and groom’s across the world submit their first dances to if not for “First Day of My Life”? It’s a grand twist of fortunes when you see a folk artist turned punk rocker, since the narrative seems to dictate the opposite more often than not. Complaining aside, Desaparecidos return after 2002’s distant memory, Read Music/Speak Spanish, a personal account of the carnalities of many a first world nation: corruption, greed, power, and industrialisation. So what does Oburst fight for over a decade later that makes him raise his voice so? Payola is politically charged at it’s heart, but there appears to be a distance between the apparent laziness the band has been accused of (with singles for the record being released as far back as 2012) and credibility in action. Payola does excel in the stinging punk rock leanings, and catchiness factor stands at an all-time high. Basically, it’s just nice to see Connor Oburst back in the fray.

“City on the Hill”




19. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (TDE/Aftermath/Interscope)

“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for”. Yeah, I’m quoting Judge Taylor in Harper Lee’s American classic To Kill A Mockingbird. Yeah, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly album title is based on the former. Yeah, I personify the very person Judge Taylor may or may not be talking about. What does that mean? I want to believe Lamar’s racially charged wordplay and experimental jazz influences on record translate into a new revolution of understanding in every American life. The truth is, interpretation is destine to possess flaws in execution. Furthermore, I can take the Harper Lee life lessons to the next level, and claim we have to walk a mile in Kendrick Lamar’s or any other person’s shoes susceptible to the daily discrimination and prejudices that blacks or any minority faces. It just doesn’t work like that though. To Pimp A Butterfly is too grand in scale to define a single facet of my own life. People like me will never be able to walk a mile in such tattered shoes, and the biggest mistake I can make is thinking that I can relate. To Pimp A Butterfly seems timely in 2015. Kendrick has reached a new form of introspection in his poetry, and in his collaboration with funk maestro George Clinton and Jazz aficionado Kamasi Washington, and this is to great acclaim. Why pretend though that 2015 is a changing of the guard? If anything, Kendrick is fighting to resuscitate the flames that faintly burn in response to racial equality, and to the treatment of all peoples in love. It has always been a battle, and there are still dissenters everywhere. To Pimp A Butterfly is not a victory lap, it’s a call to arms, a decree to fight a good fight. 2Pac’s conversation with Lamar speaks volumes with that in mind on “Mortal Man”, “We ain’t even really rappin’, we just letting our dead homies tell stories for us”.





18. Bjork – Vulnicura (One Little Indian)

Bjork turned 50 last month, testament to her prowess and stature in the music world certainly, but she has also excited fans time and time again with new and wonderful works of art and self-expression. Vulnicura is no exception, first grazing the ears of curious listeners in early 2015, when the album leaked and was subsequently released earlier than the initial announcement. It’s plausible that this was the plan all along. Vulnicura is a “breakup album” in essence, carefully detailing and timestamping both the before and after sequences of events predating and postscripting Bjork’s breakup with partner Matthew Barney. Where a record like 1997’s Homogenic was a coming of age for Bjork in maturity and crafting some of the most experimentally gifted and lush songs of her career, she stands almost two decades later channeling the same immediacy and purpose on record. “Stonemilker” and “Lionsong” are a storybook wrought with confused feelings of loss, as Bjork examines why things unfolded how they did, carefully trying to pinpoint her lover’s mind machinations. It is a journey laden with beautiful strings as evidenced on former works. Consistency is pleasure, and why not keep the strings, when her live performances with a full orchestra are so immensely passionate? Her stream-of-consciousness search for clarity amidst chaos has raised the legend of Bjork to new grounds. Each work on Vulnicura serves as a diary of sorts, plotting each reactionary feeling to breach new territories of human emotion, something we know Bjork is the perfect curator for.





17. Unwed Teenage Mothers – Goodnight Girls (Bleed101 Records)

It may be surf rock in disguise, but Goodnight Girls boasts all the catchy guitars and power pop ditties that beckon a dip of your toes in the sand. John Fogerty was a California kid, but he’s always had an image as a Southern man, so why can’t these boys do the opposite? Unwed Teenage Mothers hail originally from Oxford, Mississippi, so while a striking resemblance in appearance screams California beach bums, the band are making waves in an entirely different way. Trudging forward with sing along anthems of rebellion and angst, Goodnight Girls is energetic and fast paced, thrusting forth hyperactive homages to good times and girls, all led by the pristine vocal performances of Colin Sneed. Each song leads with power chords and Sneed’s hoarse high-pitched crooning, and lightning bolt guitar solos such as that on “For Rihanna” are in abundance amidst the shining youthful exuberance of the band. Call it uncanny for a group of Southern kids leading a lifestyle of sunshine and babes, but these boys sure know how to party!

“Nothing Will Ever Get Any Better”




16. The Apartments – No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal (Microcultures)

Bro, I’m so into “aussie-jangle”, I don’t know about you. That’s what I would say to you were it early Summer time, having just stumbled upon the grandest treasure I dug up this year, No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal. Considering the beautiful blanket of snow enveloping the landscape on the Pascal Blua designed cover, it’s a wonder to immerse in this record as anything more than a cold of winter type environment. The Apartments launched one out of left field here with their first record in almost twenty years, combining a soft blend of piano, horns, and lush melody in their chamber pop ensemble. As versed as fellow countryman Nick Cave, and equally as debonair and shadowy circa The Boatman’s Call with plodding piano, Peter Milton Walsh and the band invoke overwhelming arches of melancholy, soaked in grand arrangements of orchestra that build a sleek structure of sounds. This wall most prominently calls to a Dan Bejar like vocal performance and vastness of the moment. No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal is bleak as much as it is optimistic.

“Twenty One”




15. Girl Band – Holding Hands With Jamie (Rough Trade)

There are an overwhelming number of Rough Trade bands that flat out rock face, but above all, between The Early Years EP and Holding Hands With Jamie (both 2015 releases), Girl Band is likely leading the pack as far as sheer noisiness is concerned. Not only that, but the Dublin quartet are hitting a fresh balance of post-punk and no wave influences in the midst of the onslaught of chugging bass and shredding guitars. Dara Kiely screams to his heart’s content perfectly juggling an act of slowly mumbling and working his way up to his peak screeches. As he yells “I don’t know what she wants!” on “Pears Before Lunch” repeatedly, one can’t help but evoke a certain sense of nostalgia for Black Francis tracks at his most energetic, blaring experimentation with Pixies, as well as on “Baloo”. Take that, and flip another 180 degrees; We’re spinning in circles now, as Kiely utilizes spoken work elements on “Texting an Alien”, hoping to draw the attention of Spiderland fanatics everywhere. Holding Hands With Jamie is all over the place, and between beckoning for a Nutella sponsorship on “Fucking Butter”, and the casual whispers that accompany, Girl Band have a bright future as reigning noise-rock champions of 2015.

“Pears for Lunch”




14. Mutoid Man – Bleeder (Sargent House)

Brooklyn’s Mutoid Man “bleed” (get it?) the all-in-the-family roots that boast many a hardcore/punk staple of the legendary turn-of-the-century bands that left their mark and continue to kick ass present day. The band features Stephen Brodsky on vocals and lead guitar, with Ben Koller (of Converge) on drums and Nick Cageao on bass. Blood brothers they arrive, and blood brothers they conquer on the psychedelic stoner package, Bleeder. Bordsky and Koller having played in each other’s respective bands one time or another immediately are fixed with chemistry ablaze, complete with moments of congruency between Bordsky and Cageao playing the same riff on different octaves with the booming drums keeping temperate meter along the way. Bleeder is fast-paced, too quick to be filler material yet possessing enough substance to keep things interesting. Brodsky sings relatively clean on the tracks, but it’s not until the true meat of the album hits like a brick that we become witness to his utterly brilliant screams, as if Jack Black stormed the stage with his textbook rasp and rockstar demeanor. Long live rock and roll in this family, you just got schooled!

“Sweet Ivy”




13. mewithoutYou – Pale Horses (Run For Cover Records)

The do it yourself aesthetic of Philadelphia’s mewithoutYou has always carried with the band since their inception around the turn of the century. For the most part, that has remained the same; they still tour in a bus that runs on vegetable oil, still are outcasts seemingly alienated from a consistent label deal, and still carry a hippy-like appearance. So it goes, you can’t call Aaron Weiss and company out as faux hipsters, since their track record proves otherwise. The unique blend of indie rock instrumentation, paired with Weiss’ half yelling, half spoken-word delivery pins the tail on the mark with Pale Horses. Lead single “Red Cow” made airwaves among followers of a hopeful return to the aggressive post-hardcore upbringing that dominated their debut [A–>B] Life, and were instead treated to the harder tracks that could hearken to the first record, but also the insightful indie rock that blended introspective, visual lyrics that Weiss is so known for. There is no comparison in any genre as far as Weiss’ ability to write such descriptive metaphorical wordplay, and his stature as a professor of education at Temple University only builds on his mysterious character as a Jekyll & Hyde type teacher and rock star. Pale Horses remains another grand entry in the stunning mewithoutYou discography, keeping in line the greatest aspects of the underground trail that they continue to pave.

“Red Cow & Dorothy”




12. Lupe Fiasco – Tetsuo & Youth (Atlantic Records)

Lupe Fiasco’s riding a strange wave of success, in the form of simultaneous criticism from a very vocal fanbase claiming career suicide with 2012’s Lasers. Yes, this is the album with the one song that borrows the Modest Mouse “Float On” riff, and although everyone and your sister knows the track from widespread radioplay among other factors, Lupe has turned a new leaf. Not that he has admitted to the faults of Lasers (nor will I speak on it one way or another), he has offered to take fans’ copies of the record who purchased it for them all to be burned with fire. More importantly, he’s risen as a phoenix, emanating flames lit with righteous wordplay and conscious themes of the changing seasons. In addition, Tetsuo & Youth is a protest of the U.S. prison system, mindless violence, as well as the state of affairs with his antsy fanbase. Lupe came back out of a hypothetical grave in 2015, winning over the hearts of admirers and haters alike. Pair this with a nasty freestyle on “Sway In The Morning”, taking names on Twitter amidst semi-pointless beefs, and altogether exerting the familiar poise and wisdom of old in his rapping and demeanor that we used to know and love, Lupe Fiasco has achieved new heights and is still hungry for more.

“Madonna (And Other Mothers In The Hood)”




11. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)

An enumerable amount of things could have taken place direction-wise following Sufjan Stevens’ last full length, The Age of Adz. Fresh off of the most experimental, bleepity-bloopity batch of tracks he’s ever done in an expansive catalog, Stevens had at his disposal project after project he was apart of, yet at the heart of it, Carrie & Lowell sprung forth upon an audience of dry eyes soon to be consumed with empathetic sadness. This is a sliver of Steven’s life that more-or-less defined his character and the person he has become, and the stories and experiences he went through under the household of his schizophrenic, emotionally distant mother. The myriad of struggles she faced hence paints a picture more exceedingly clear to the invested public. Sufjan Stevens was neglected in many ways, yet stricken with grief through expression present day of a now deceased family member (“Death With Dignity”). At the same time, Stevens took Carrie & Lowell’s dark roots, and turned it into art, a history that is confronted head on in deep, healthy reflection. Think of it more kindly as a Luke Skywalker situation; he makes a second return to the Dagobah system (Stevens addressing his mother again after some time from “Romulus”) in order to confront his greatest fear, that is, facing his father Darth Vader and the emotional baggage that tags along. In the same way, Carrie & Lowell serves as a exorcism of Stevens’ personal demons of feelings light and dark of his mother. It’s a heavy and lurking set of life experiences that he will cope with likely for the rest of his life, yet the beauty of his niece, and the wonderful traits of his mom are perfectly expressed amidst his soft voice and light guitar picking throughout the album.

“No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross”




10. Laura Stevenson – Cocksure (Don Giovanni Records)

From the very first strum of the guitar, Laura Stevenson paints the scene with the same exploding candor visible on the the cover of her album, Cocksure. A true master of art, her music has always struck a chord not only with the beautiful vibrato of her voice, but also her distinctly passionate lyrics. Stevenson has always approached writing songs based on her struggles with depression, and Cocksure is no stranger to her strongsuits as a songwriter. “Out With A Whimper” is big in nature, reigning down powerful chords striking in tune with the alternative power pop that takes a hold of a number of songs. Further down, Stevenson pushes away from stripped down balladry such as that on Wheel or Sit, Resist, yet her songs still have an affinity for appearing deceptively cheery. Factoring in partial influence from Bomb The Music Industry! frontman Jeff Rosenstock, who produced the album, the fuller sound of a band behind Stevenson’s wailing vocals and directing guitar lines are more immediate bursts of energy coming in small packages such as on “Jellyfish” and “Emily In Half”. Cocksure finally arrives at the end destination on “Tom Sawyer / You Know Where You Can Find Me”, at long last the emotional slow burner that she has laid bare so serenely and as optimistic as before. You can see the true artistry behind someone as talented as Laura Stevenson, able to churn out a fun guitar record, but also capable of possessing the deeper human qualities in her words amidst the playful exterior.

“Torch Song”




9. Blank Realm – Illegals In Heaven (Fire Records)

I’m so glad that bands like Blank Realm exist. Too often we pretend that musicians have to do something new and innovative to garner the attention of music media all across the globe. Even further, the farce sometimes oozes through the cracks that many bands are drilling into new territory, when in reality, these ideas have been established within the confines of musical histories. The Australian pride continues to dominate my top fifty as we progress (step it up, Tame Impala), and here we stand with Illegals In Heaven cracking the top ten. Truthfully, it’s pretty straightforward psychedelic tinged indie rock. The songs are fast, extremely catchy, and tradeoff boy then girl singing, almost as unselfish yet diversified as a Mark Hoppus and Tom Delonge tag team. Where Blank Realm don’t hook you in with driving bass lines and dirty guitar riffs, they surprise on tracks such as “Cruel Night”, evoking an ethereal mellowness driven by similar structures as Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” or slide guitar dominated Beach House songs. The shining moments certainly envelop a knack and nurturing of the record’s production; where previous efforts charmed based on lo-fi production, Blank Realm has sought out a studio environment this time around, and the attentiveness to developing the sound yields fruitful results. This is admittedly my intro to the band in 2015, yet ears took notice to the quirkiness of the punk rock lines paired with lullaby midi lines on keyboards. An interesting albeit standard listen within the indie stratosphere makes for some of the most exciting songs of the year, welding in a fix of shoegaze, post-punk, and dream pop as well.

“Palace of Love”




8. Beach House – Depression Cherry (Sub Pop Records)

Finding yourself in a lull trudging through the most bland aspects of dream pop is harrowing business. Beach House have made a career of the greater aspects of the genre, yet also tailor to new age hipster cravings for indie influences glistening on the side. Nothing on Depression Cherry truly serves as a main course dish ala Teen Dream, but the progression as songwriters plays the band’s strengths. Victoria Legrand soothes the weary soul, opening the album with an entrancing interjection “You should see there’s a place I want to take you”, followed by familiar spacey synths reminiscent of the happiest moments on Bloom. Deceptive as lead single “Sparks” turned out to be, which invoked a splitting image of My Bloody Valentine’s latest 2013 release, M B V, Beach House still manage to invoke feelings of warmth, just as the physical packaging of Depression Cherry yields the same stimulating of the senses of touch. You can feel the message of Legrand’s angelic voice both physically and emotionally. Paired with Alex Scally’s textbook reverb-laden guitar work, Depression Cherry is wrought with euphoric entrances, fuzzy melodies on “Space Song” and “Beyond Love”, impresses even the oldest of fans on “PPP”, and gently lowers you back among dispersing clouds to reality on the sweet “Days of Candy”.





7. Little Simz – A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons (Age 101)

“Women can be kings”. Having dropped eight mixtapes alone since 2013, perhaps Simbi Ajikawo, also known as “Little Simz” has obtained a big enough pedestal to get her message across. Hailing from the UK with a pristine accent and culture shock to boast, Simz dominates a negligent and vulnerable frame of mind among her haters in terms of social structure and corruption on A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons. The slow jam beats dig a tunnel for Simz to exemplify her machine gun delivery and existential hypotheticals running off line after line. “The Lights” among others tracks are tense even in connection with the smooth, jazzy beats, often hearkening to within Little Simz’s deepest subconscious, almost like a conversation brewing in her own mind. It’s very bare in this sense, yet simultaneously marks a plea for change and a victory call of her own person. You see the image of women in the industry looked down upon, be that because of the means of fame, societal pressures to act and look a certain way, etc. Little Simz has channeled these perceptions on A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons and is dictating her own walk among the red carpet, even having released the record on her own label. She is a true pioneer for respect, as a black woman, as a performer, and as a role model for those broken by society and cheated by naysayers. “What’s important to you ain’t important to me, yeah this story’s for you”, she quips on “Fallen” carefully prefaced by “This is Not an Outro”. Thinking of the mark she made in 2015, and earning praise from contemporaries such as Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and A$AP Rocky, I’d venture to say that she isn’t even scratching the surface of her talents, but instead is ushering in an intro to the mainstream frame of mind. At 21 years young, there are many new trials to be conquered.





6. Soko – My Dreams Dictate My Reality (Babycat Records)

Maybe Soko isn’t everyone’s bread and butter, and the transition from twee pop with folk tidbits to straight up The Cure worship post-punk revival falls out of left field, but My Dreams Dictate My Reality is a surefire surprise. Even more assuring is the French-born singer’s image in establishing her new sound with force. Soko has returned born again as a sort of Siouxsie Sioux reincarnated, with bleached blonde hair, and a darker yet sillier attitude. The music reflects this; cutesie charm is now replaced with fervor reminiscent of any punk rock persona who doesn’t have a care in the world of their image in society. Combine that with two Ariel Pink collaborations on “Monster Love” and “Lovetrap”, you see that the new and improved Soko provides what is sure to be a creative mind discovering a new outlook on the confines of being an artist. Working and creating art as a woman in a historically male-dominated genre paints pictures worth more than just a thousand words too. Soko is raising the bar for a singular entity or any mixture of gothic, post-punk, and new wave magic.





5. Turnover – Peripheral Vision (Run For Cover Records)

Peripheral Vision stormed into a pop-punk collective throwing fans for a knuckleball. Pulling a notorious “reverse Jimmy Eat World”, Turnover raised eyebrows with their cozy dream pop inspired blend of indie rock. The songs embrace guitar driven arpeggios complete with a standard 4/4 drumbeat keeping each song quietly intact. However, the strengths of the record are not surrounded by drums. In fact, they serve better as a metronome, only called upon every so often to embrace a bigger spotlight, much like Ringo Starr with The Beatles. Turnover are championed by the lyrics of crippling doubt and self-loathing cynicism. “Humming” invokes a sense of awe and longing over a troubled relationship, countered by an apparent lack of interest by the tainted lover. “Elated with your lack of interest, what a wonderful indifference”, outlines one of many captain hindsight epiphanies over the course of the eleven tracks. Turnover’s new direction sparks an elaborate diction paying tribute to emo influences of old. The youthful worries of tomorrow are driven home with a rejuvenation in the hazy delivery and nostalgic shoegaze, and much like Seahaven and Title Fight flipped their own progressive 180s (for better or for worse), Peripheral Vision provides instant gratification as well as high replayability. The comforting melancholy strikes a careful balance between coping with anxieties and getting better.   

“New Scream”




4. Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness (Domino Recording Co.)

Great expectations lay in store for Julia Holter upon release of the darling Have You In My Wilderness earlier this year. Much like Loud City Song garnered the attention of an artful audience in 2013, Holter returns to form, neatly layering her lush wave of strings amidst serene ambience. The feeling of floating on an empty sea of fog to nowhere is channeled by her transparent vocals, as the torche fiercely lit by Kate Bush is succeeded by a new generation of art-pop. Whatever your mind’s eye crafts in emotional response to the breezy atmosphere created by Holter’s booming originality, her sights are set so high, and dreams becoming reality are surefire experiences on eager eardrums. Have You In My Wilderness keeps it’s airy blend of chamber pop and jazz influences intact, but delivery is immediate with a more bubbly substance on the opener “Feel You”, as well as “Silhouette”. If Julia Holter has not yet made her case for most promising expectations, look into the near future for her creative essence on the ambitious projects of tomorrow. Having already collaborated with other indie musicians such as Ducktails’ Matt Mondanile (who she dated briefly), Holter’s ceiling is yet to be reached, with plans already set in place to score her first big time film, Scorsese’s executive produced boxing film Bleed for This, starring Miles Teller. If her work stretching to film proves to be as bold as her studio recordings, expect great things from Holter, channeling a myriad of wild and luxurious sounds.

“Feel You”




3. Sun Kil Moon – Universal Themes (Caldo Verde Records)

Are the misadventures of Mark Kozelek still relevant in 2015, over one year after the infamously dark yet poetic Benji dominated indie circles? Absolutely! The legend of a man whose career has been reborn in a sense thanks the very mediums that seek to tear him down present day is in full force with the ever lovable rambling Kozelek has turned to in now seemingly typical “sit on grandpa’s lap around the fire” story time fashion. Universal Themes at it’s heart is observational in the most mundane sense of the word. However, examining the record on a deeper level doesn’t require exuding so much as a face value investigation. “As I walk around the block that you live on, I see poetry in every inch of it”, Kozelek retorts on “With A Sort Of Grace I Walked To The Bathroom To Cry”. His latest stream-of-consciousness is still deeply heartfelt, and these songs are evidence to a greater facet of life than Benji ever personified. We grieve for those who are lost, and reflect on dark times, but with each mournful season of crud and gloom sprouts goodness and beauty in this world. Universal Themes is a celebration of the finer things, and experiences and people that we should be grateful for. Mark Kozelek is still the bitter old man yelling at you from his front lawn, or so that’s how the media seeks to portray him. Truthfully, he’s also a man that loves his family and girlfriend, respects his craft and other musicians who play around and with him (Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley on drums for example), and is infinitely proud and grateful for each life experience that shapes him. I don’t think he’s losing any sleep at night over any artificial controversy stewing over his likeness these days. Keep on grumping, Mark!

“Cry Me A River Williamsburg Sleeve Tattoo Blues”




2. Viet Cong – Viet Cong (jagjaguwar)

Channeling Rick McCallum, every song on Viet Cong is so dense, bursting with equal parts firepower and slithering dark aura, all coming together to form a most-cohesive package. It’s short and sweet listen, with no fat to be trimmed at just seven tracks total. The first three songs serve as a wave of mellower, standard rock tracks, given the catalyst label to lead into the abrasive second half of the record. “March of Progress” comes in on the latter of side one with complex drums pounding like a heartbeat, switching between time signature each pursuing measure. A bleak synth lurks in the background until a few minutes in when the listener has journeyed to a new arrival of Flegal’s ghostly, chanting vocals, bracing his audience for the sheer power of what is to come. Viet Cong is captivating on “Bunker Buster” and going forward. Each progressing track is brimming with a new confidence. Each manic guitar line, complete with the building tension of bursting drums and wailing vocals captivates in a waving crescendo of noise mixed with brooding melody. “Silhouettes” hearkens to a breakneck version of Joy Division, with synths leading the fury of riffs and Flegal’s “oohs” and “ahhs”, preparing for Viet Cong’s grand finale. “Death” arrives just 25 minutes into the record, what I like to think of as Viet Cong’s own trump card to Women’s “Eyesore”. Separated into two parts, it begins with noodling guitar and driving drums, transitioning into a claustrophobic chamber of each instrument building and building to the ultimate climax of crashing cymbals and perfect unleashing of all the tension that had built up over the course of the entire Viet Cong experience.

“Bunker Buster”




1. Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy (Merge Records)

Patrick Stickles has the world of 2015 on a string, always serving to best his own personal track. An ever-present force on social media, Stickles is as brash as ever with his bombastic triple-album The Most Lamentable Tragedy, spanning over five acts and twenty-nine tracks. Titus Andronicus are on a mission of world domination, even after blessing ill prepared ears with the civil war inspired punk rock classic The Monitor. Presently, we see Stickles in abundant public appearances pushing the agenda his sights are so grandly set on. Taking many a reference and influence of his battles and episodes with manic depression over his lifetime, he takes on an image of a great warrior plodding headfirst with reckless abandon against his demons. Stickles has gone full Jay-Z in his own spotlight; Titus Andronicus is a business, man! The larger than life expectations, public reception, takeover of their own Genius page, everything ties into a huge narrative of epic proportions. Titus Andronicus may appear to be throwing caution to the wind with The Most Lamentable Tragedy, but I truly believe that they hold the opinion that this mammoth of an album is a self-evident truth existing as a masterpiece of it’s time. In my opinion, it is! The ragged voice of Stickles is further down a chain smoking oblivion. Songs are shorter, yet flee out of the gate with bolting sense of urgency, and themes of manic episodes and outbursts are illustrated perfectly in combination with abrasive crashing drums and power chord heavy guitars. Where Stickles used the illusion of dying dreams and persons in connection with days of civil distress and violence in America circa mid nineteenth century, his outcry speaks a personal plea to saving himself here. He’s lost his mind, and he’s channeling every fiber of his body and his bandmates to possess a dangerous self-expression of the only hope left in his curdling soul. To ignore the outcry and basking glory of this rock opera would be truly tragic.

“The Magic Morning”

Thank you, goodnight!