Thursday, March 10, 2016

Best of 2015

another year. more music. this year had some of the best and worst moments of my life. so maybe more often than in the past I relied very heavily on music to try to help. These are my favorite releases of the year. In no order as per the usual. I hope you like the list!
p.s. as always, if you like any of these albums, please purchase them in one form or another
p.p.s. sorry for the mostly monochromatic album covers this year. haha.
Deafheaven – New Bermuda
This album could, potentially, be my album of the year. My only issue with that is that I just heard Deafheaven for the first time this past year. But the first album I heard was "Sunbather". There was one day where i just thought, "you know what? I am going to check out a bunch of these albums that i have seen in passing, but haven't given them time." Along with stuff like The Hotelier, Joyce Manor, and ALOT of others, the plain pink cover of "Sunbather" had been sort of burned into my mind. ALOT of the albums I went through had the usual listen to the first 5 songs. Acceptance. Understanding. the "ahh, i see what they are doing." Sunbather was different. Mostly because musically, it wasn't some emo-y thing. or punky thing. To me, I said "whoa, someone likes Envy alot." But after more listens, then it became "its like Envy with blast beats" More and more listens lead to the final "This feels like if Envy started listening to black metal and got Matt from Majority Rule to sing" So okay, enough of my mini "Sunbather" review. Because, this album is not that album. I think musically, its similar. But the production on "New Bermuda" makes it less spacey and ambient sounding. less of that post rocky feel that exists on their previous effort. Also, the vocals are VERY upfront in comparison. Which apparently, was something alot of people didn't like about "Sunbather" but I must be in the minority. Because I quite liked the quieter vocals in the mix. Added more to that ethereal, spacey, post rock-y vibe i mentioned previously. The "black metal" nature of the vocals are much more obvious now. Overall, Deafheaven plays a form of Metal that while influenced heavily by Post Rock AND Black Metal evenly, isn't really either genre specifically. This album consists of five 8+ minute epics containing everything from blast beats, breakdown, and parts that sounds like outtakes from The Cure's "Disintegration". If any of this sounds of interest to you, look into it. This album destroys.
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Mouse On The Keys – The Flowers Of Romance
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Torche – Restarter
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Raein – Perpetuum
You know, there are going to be ALOT of albums on this years list that wont surprise you. But while last year could potentially viewed as the year of the Emo comeback, this year has to go to all the skramz/screamo bands that came out with new releases. As some of you may know, Skramz was made up to describe a specific style of Screamo. Not what the genre is. But what it was in the 90's. Passionate, heavy, often times chaotic. And obviously screamy. Suis La Lune, Sed Non Satiata, even Envy all put out new music this year. Raein is also part of that group. Though not as long running as Envy, (at 20+ years who is?) Raein has been around for quite a long time. They’ve put out numerous splits and EP’s over the years, along with a few full lengths. And they’ve generally been playing similar music from their inception.  This is their first release since 2011 (a split with Loma Prieta came out in 2013). Honestly this album kind of came out of nowhere. Had no clue it was coming and then BOOM it was here. I was disappointed in myself because i try to stay in the know. This album offers up more of their fast paced, intense rock-y screamo. The vocals are just as intense as ever. The guitars go from chaotic to beautiful and immersive. My only complaint is that this album is over far too soon for my taste. But it was not the bands only offering for 2015.
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John Carpenter – Lost Themes
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Foxing – Dealer
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Envy – Atheist’s Cornea
Okay so onto the second of the big "Skramz" release of the year. Though Envy sort of exists outside of that genre. The last album they put out that I think you could argue is closest to that would be 2003's "A Dead Sinking Story". After that album, they took on more post rock type elements. A band that can simultaneously be considered skramz. But others might just simply call hardcore or post hardcore. Either way, the music this band churns out is consistently strong. With numerous variants to the sonic qualities they explore. An example would be that a song on this album ends with a music movement that i could easily see played at a wedding. Another song on this album is honestly one of my favorite songs the band has ever written. And as heavy and intense as it is, it has ZERO of the intense vocal style the band is known for. Cant say enough good things about Envy's brand of hardcore and of this album specifically. On a personal note, how fucked is it that Envy opened for Deafheaven on some dates of their fall tour? Just personal opinion. I love both bands. But there is a certain level of respect I feel Envy deserves. 20+ years playing this kind of music and consistently putting out good and important music.
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Le Matos – Chronicles Of The Wasteland / Turbo Kid OST

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Caspian – Dust And Disquiet
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Maserati – Rehumanizer
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Loma Prieta – Self Portrait
This album was HIGHLY anticipated for myself and I know a lot of other people. This album is my other album of the year contender. I don’t think going into 2015 I ever could have guessed that outcome. Initially, Loma Prieta played music that I would say was highly influenced by Orchid. Their early stuff had that brutal, chaotic, fast paced, noisey style. Power violence? Emo violence? Screamo? Idk man. I know that their songs were and are usually on the shorter side of things. Fast and brutal. My issue with their releases up to this point was the production. I honestly couldn’t really determine what was going on. haha. This can be said of a lot of bands that play that style or similar styles. Ampere is another band that comes to mind. But any way, this album has it! I can hear what is going on. I can determine everything. The vocals are not as intense as their past albums. Or maybe that’s just the the production making them more clear and less distorted? One thing that is odd is some of these songs, they have hooks!? That was fully unexpected. But this album gives it all. A lot of people were disappointed with the album. Mostly because these changes. To each their own. I think this album is fucking great. And I honestly welcome the minor changes to the writing and to the production. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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Victor Villarreal – Sleep Talk
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Zombi – Shape Shift
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Chon – Grow
I have made it clear that I have sort of phased myself out of the math rock world in the past few years. Kind of used to be everything to me. Even looking far back in this blog, you can see that A LOT of what I talked about was in that vein. But I just don’t know much of anything anymore. Which brings us to Chon. Idk how I first heard of them. Welllll, that’s sort of a lie. Their Audiotree live performance captivated me and A LOT of my friends. The majority of us had never heard of the band before that. And that’s just unreal. Realistically Chon falls somewhere between Math Rock, Virtuoso-ish Metal (think Vai, Satriani, style/technique hounds) and even chord structures and movements that seem Jazz influenced. The elements that are on “Grow” are nothing new for the band. Just more progression in the vein of their previous EP’s. There is some experimentation with vocals. I don’t love it. I don’t hate it. I just prefer them as a instrumental entity. It’s really where they shine. Basically, if you like off the hook melodic metal with dual guitar you will like this band. Fans of musicianship, etc.. this is the type of band you like to see. The only thing that could make this band better was if their live performances were more energetic. The bassist seems to be the only one to openly show he’s digging the music. And with music this fun, you really want to see members of the band looking like they are enjoying themselves. But shit, that’s potentially asking a lot. I have never and will never play music of this caliber so I have no clue what it takes perform it.
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Suis La Lune – Distance/Closure
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Battles – La Di Da Di
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Monobody – Self Titled
The first place I heard about Monobody was through Math Rock groups that I follow online. Truly, and I know I've mentioned this before, I’ve distanced myself from that “world” if you will. I didn’t pay them much mind. Until I saw the label that was putting out their debut. Naked Alley Records was (RIP :-[ ) a label that was started by then ex- guitarist of Loose Lips Sink Ships. Which was obviously a band I was familiar with prior to peacing on the math rock scene. He has since gained a lot of popularity/attention with playing in Their/They’re/Their. Anyway, this isn't about him. haha. Finding that his label was releasing their album, I then perked out. And what I found was very different then what I thought I might find. I, personally, don’t find this to be math rock. This album has far more in common with Return to Forever or other Fusion bands of that same era for me to to really liken it to that genre. I get that the guitar (and maybe bass?) sometimes has tapping. But like, Stanley Jordan the JAZZ guitarist tapped all the fucking time, and that didn’t make him a Math Rock guitarist. Ya get my drift? That said, there is some influence there. Though not enough that I would change my opinion that this is a fusion album. Revivalist in a way. And its really good. Anyone interested in fusion should check it out. And while I am not sure that every person interested in math rock should listen, I think its worth a shot. There is some cross over there that makes this album pretty unique.
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Steve Moore – Cub OST
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Pretend – Tapestry’d Life
If there was a darkhorse album of this year, this is it. I have a hard time as to why I had no prior knowledge of this band. But I have a feelings its along the lines of why I didn’t know about Chon. Just musical circles I had sort of phased myself out of. But lucky for me, Topshelf put this one out. And as lame as it may seem, in the past I’ve been a bit of a Topshelf whore as it were? haha. Whatevs man. They put out good music. So when the stream of this album went up, I checked it out. At first listen, I wasn’t fully sure about this. The first track started and honestly reminded me of Death Cab For Cutie. The vocals mostly. But almost as quickly it got turned on its head. The band plays music that’s influenced by bands of the Kinsella fam. Twinklely fans take notice. Really pretty guitar work. Honestly though, I think the drumming is one of my favorite things about this record. Technical, yet bombastic. Very interesting all together. The vocals are always very mellow and usually in the higher register. Even at the heaviest points of this record, they don’t deviate. The songs do tend to be longer and usually change quite a bit within that time. I just really enjoy this record start to end and I’m extremely glad I checked it out.
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Disasterpeace – It Follows OST
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Baroness – Purple
Without talking this up too much, this album was essentially a Christmas present to myself. I wont lie anymore. I did not love Yellow and Green. And I put it on my best of list from the year of its release. But truth be told, I maybe listened to that album 3 times. And I was over it. I was over the band. And that’s sad. but I was so turned off by where it appeared that Baroness was heading with Y&G. I didn’t listen to anything they put out post. And things were fine. Well, time passed. I knew this album was coming out. And I didn’t care. I was done. But then randomly, I said, fuck it. I will check it out. I assumed it would be a death nail. But I was wrong. I was dead fucking wrong. And I couldn’t be happier I was wrong. Right from the opening track, I was sold. First listen was Christmas Eve Day. And by the time I reached my house from my job (a 10 to 12 minute drive) I was so happy. Not just because so many of the songs on this record are just tops. But just like, a old friend came back around. I can really only compare it to how a lot of people felt when they saw the new Star Wars movie. Almost like, an old friend who you haven't seen in a while shows back up into your life. They apologize for what happened between you and show you they’ve changed. Praise aside, I don’t love every song on this album. There are obviously musical directions I prefer over others. But the fact that I could listen to this album start to finish? Huge deal. I genuinely enjoy this album and feel like the band I fell in love with years ago is back. To be told, I already had this best of post written prior to even hearing this record. And I thought “well, I can include them in the honorable mention category.” But the more and more I listened, I had to admit that this deserves higher placement.
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Team Sleep – Woodstock Sessions Vol. 4
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Bedhead – Live 1998
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Lite – Approaches IV
lite approaches-4
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Del Paxton/Gulfer Split
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Moving Mountains/Prawn – Split
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Giraffes? Giraffes! – Spazz Master
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Duck. Little Brother, Duck!/Malegoat Split
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Braid – Kids Get Grids
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Raein/Ampere Split
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Recreational Drugs – EP
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Caravels/Octaves Split
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Dikembe – Ledge
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Sed Non Satiata/Carrion Spring Split
sed non satiata
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Local/Friend’s Bands
Mouse House – MHEP
Mouse House
This album was HIGHLY anticipated locally. Honestly, not since the release of Cicada’s album years ago could I really think of a album that had such a similar anticipation (though ex-Cicada dudes Ohne-ká and the Burning River's sophmore record is getting to that point). Mouse House was a interesting entity. Essentially, their claim to fame was being ex-Oak and Bone/Black Throat Wind.  Not that I am some scene know it all, but as far as I knew, the other guys in the band didn’t have any  connections to anything known, popular, or honestly important. Except that their original drummer was in The Sweet Hereafter. But that was more of a personal connection for me tbh. And anyway, it wasn’t till his departure that their sound got to where it did. Mouse House played post rock music, but all the instruments were acoustic. That was kind of their thing. Their claim to fame. The thing people would talk about. “So I saw this band. They all played acoustic guitars. But holy shit were they LOUD!” That kind of became the thing. Maybe I am just some sonic plebian, but I personally never understood that concept other than on the level of having a gimmick. But gimmick arguments aside, the songs were always good. And they were LOUD and played well live. As seems to be the custom nowadays, this album was not released while the band was together and playing regularly. It came out shortly before they played their last show. Recorded in haste and released quickly. Overall, I think its a lot better then a lot of other albums I've heard recorded under similar circumstances.  And like I said, these guys write good songs. I listened to the album numerous times out on tour this summer, and it was always good. If you like big sounding post rock, you should definitely give these guys a listen. RIP.
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Shipley Hollow – Normal Soup
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Speirs – Speirs EP
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Hidden Hospitals – Surface Tension
I think for a lot of us, there was hope that Hidden Hospitals would end up being like Damiera version 2.0. I know a lot of people who listened to their first and second EP’s hoped for that. And it became clear that wasn’t going to happen. And truly, its for the best. Damiera was, and will always be, their self titled EP and M(us)ic (though The Disillusionist is the shit). And the majority of ex-Damiera members in this band didn’t write that material. Back to this album. If you like the their EP’s, you will enjoy this album. There aren't huge deviations to the band’s already established sound. Except, I think this album has a more polished sound then their previous EP’s. And it flows together nicely. There is a bit of like, 80’s sounding keyboard on the album? Like, I wasn’t and I am still not sure how I feel about that. But bands gotta experiment and try new stuff. Another example of that would be that there are some dynamic shifts on this album, that at first listen were a bit jarring. Like going from pretty, poppy and light to extremely heavy. Like, I laughed the first time I heard it because it caught me off guard so much. But all of that said, I think the album is good. The songs are well written and well executed live. I would even go as far to say that seeing them live is JUST like listening to the album. There’s obviously something positive to be said about a band that goes to the lengths these guys do to be able to play live and have it sound EXACTLY like the recording. But I cant lie that I miss the real energy and passion that I used to see when I would watch Dave play in League and the first 2 versions of Damiera. I think its hard to keep that when you all have earpieces, are playing to sequencers and have all sorts of samples running simultaneously. That also limits the venues and crowds you can play to as a band. Gone are the gyms and community centers of the past. Hidden Hospitals have taken the concept of “DIY” to a very different level. Different than any other “DIY” band I know tbh. Obviously you could discuss the moral, ethical and ideological implications behind this or that. But save that for another day. Sometimes you have to put aside your personal opinions regarding a band’s actions and choices and say “the music on this album is good.” And I can say that about this release. Just don’t go touring and following these guys like they are Phish or something. You will be sorely disappointed. :-P
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Birthday Boy - Slamming Doors

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Honorable Mentions

Kinoko Teikoku – Neko To Allergy
I wanted to love this album. I did. I listened to it numerous times hoping, basically praying, I would enjoy it. I am sad to say, I just cant give this one a pass. And its not saying it’s a bad album at all. Quite the contrary. But here is the deal, since the release of (and maybe even marked on the release) their “Long Goodbye” EP, the majority of the songs that Kinoko Teikoku have put out have veered toward more straight forward pop sensibilities. Their last full length prior to this album, “Fake World Wonderland”, was honestly a disappointment. And much like Baroness, I gave them a pass in the year of its release. And it made its way on to that year’s best of list. And I think a lot of that was just out of respect. Even though the band had changed significantly, there were still very positive elements to the music.  And that’s not to say that there aren't positive elements to this release either. But its just not the same band. All the same members. But this isn't that band. And I genuinely think this may be a point of no return for me. Sure I will probably listen to their next release. But honestly, I am not a fan of pop rock. I have a hard time even calling this stuff alternative. I think that anyone who fell in love with “Uzu ni Naruwould listen to this and feel the same. Listen, I am all for independent bands getting signed to major labels. But when you sacrifice what your band is doing sonically to be able to get signed? well, that’s a negative thing IMO. But then again, I’ve always been more of a fan of important sounding shoegaze influenced alt rock over indie pop rock.   
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Toe – Hear You
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Refused – Freedom
To be clear, I know that I, and quite a lot of others, wanted this album to be fucking stellar. I mean “The Shape Of Punk To Come” was their previous release. And I think for a lot of people, it marked a really interesting point in the band’s career. Not going to say the pinnacle, because I know a lot of people who disliked the experimentation on that record. That same dividing line was pretty much why so many liked the album. Often regarded as a classic in certain circles. Coming from that, and having nearly 20 years between the releases (3 years shy)  there was excitement to have new material. And the first track that was released, the opening track of the album, “Elektra” honestly sounded like a leftover song from “TSOPTC”. The bottom line is, arguments of experimentation with sound and style aside, this album is not the successor to “TSOPTC” that we had all hoped. I found it to be a bit disjointed track to track. One thing that made its predecessor so great was while experimental, it sounded cohesive track to track. Interviews with the band in regard to the album yielded the issue. The album was written over several sessions YEARS apart. Some songs having been written closer to the band’s break up, others years later.Though I have no personal knowledge of what was written when, I think you can determine fairly easy for yourself if you’ve heard their previous efforts. Ultimately, I walked away from this album with me liking MAYBE half of it. Which is, obviously, why I couldn’t put it in my faves. (Interestingly enough, that’s pretty much the same reason Toe is listed here as well)
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The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Harmlessness
the world
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Nai Harvest – Hairball
nai harvest
Ever since the release of “Whatever” I have been following Nai Harvest. Actually, at that time I had to pay the import fees etc to get my own copy from Dog Knights Productions. And it was worth it. My introduction to this band came from emo discussion. And they were mentioned as having a very Kinsella-y sound. Not necessarily musically, but vocally. Well, I like Tim and Mike’s vocals (not so familiar with any of the rest of the clan) so I checked out the band. I liked a lot. And I followed along. Eventually they got signed and I was stoked. It was to Topshelf. And as most know, they are sort of the front runners of the emo resurgence thing that was/is happening in the US. So this was big. A few years ago I traveled to see them in Buffalo. They opened and I basically left shortly after them. I met them and they were rad dudes. But I wont lie that the newer material they played that evening didn’t strike me in the same way. But I stayed hopeful. While different, I enjoyed the “Hold Open My Head” EP. So why not? “Hairball” is a decent album. But its basically just a genre switch from their last full length. High energy, fast paced lo-fi emo has now become fuzz laden high production alt rock. The songs aren't bad. But its just, different. Still, worth checking out.
Download The Album Here