No Sleep Records
I will admit, I’ve never been particularly gripped by any of Votolato’s old material. It was a surprise to see someone as folky as Votolato sign to alt-rock label No Sleep, and it piqued my interest. Votolato has certainly shaken up his music for Hospital Handshakes, bringing in a full band to back and flesh out his syrupy guitar and vocals. It’s the best material he’s made to date, something of an upbeat mix of alt-rock and folk. With “Boxcutter” and “So Unexpected” he plays catchy, sing-along melodies; mixing in slower tracks like “Sawdust And Shavings” across the album. While it isn’t anything revolutionary, there’s a cathartic, soothing passion seeping from the album. It’s a mighty easy listen, but it’s calming nonetheless. Hospital Handshakes opened up Votolato’s fanbase and procured a boost in recognition – something he definitely has earned with this one.
Pretend are an experimental art-rock group, newly signed to Topshelf Records. Their newest release, Tapestry’d Life, is an endlessly complicated ten-song two-disc adventure. The album is incredibly challenging – somewhat sounding like a long jam session at first glance. The length is daunting: nearly every song is over 7 minutes long – two sprawling over 10 minutes each. Surprisingly, there is very little filler – every song has its own theme and direction. “Blessings” is an incredibly beautiful trek through spiraling strings and raspy vocals; “Doors” is a trippy messed-up chord progression that spirals through time signatures and lengthy guitars. It can get heavy, though, its density isn’t easily penetrated. However daunting, multiple listens are practically required to be able to absorb all the intricacies of the album. Regardless – not a single moment is to be missed. Its runtime gives it so much meat that after a complete listen, you’ll be heavily satisfied.
By far one of the most idiosyncratic musicians in the underground pop scene, Katie Dey’s first commercial release asdfasdf sings an incomprehensible swan song of someone finding their niche and developing the hell out of it. Art-pop connoisseurs take note of Dey’s chopped vocals (almost to the point where they stop being vocals altogether) and twangy guitar-synthesizer hybrids. A welcome refreshment from the overused and oversampled pop music scene, and arguably the most unique release of the year. It’s like a sour candy turning sweet in the mouth, like perfectly squeezing ketchup out of a cold bottle. What does that mean? Whatever you want it to, honestly – just like the album’s lyrics, which propose to be more an interpretive experience than anything set in stone by the producer. asdfasdf is but a small taste of an exceptionally creative production style, and I’m very excited to see Dey’s future endeavors.
Of Brighter Days
Having only recently found Author through Inthecloud’s “12 Lathes Of Christmas”, it came as a huge surprise how good they were, and how little recognition they had. Author hone a indie sound all their own, which is something very hard to say about indie bands nowadays. Taking light influence from punk and post-rock, Author seamlessly incorporate memorable hooks alongside beautiful ambient interludes. “Wander” is an eclectic romp, “Fiction” lays a heavy base and flies it through the sky. Falsetto and electric guitars line Of Brighter Days, leading various electronics alongside floating lyrics… as Author says, “I am just a cloud.” Fittingly put for an album that spends so much time in the sky.
Light Dies, Colours Fade
Dog Knights Productions
Shirokuma utterly won me over with their 2014 masterpiece Sun Won’t Set – and their newest work, Light Dies, Colours Fade is a short but incredibly cohesive 5-song EP maintaining their masterful melodic hardcore sound. It’s a wondrous execution of their sound, composed and arranged brilliantly with absolutely no fluff whatsoever. In fact: the opener and the closer of the albums end up sharing the same melodic theme: while they diverge wildly in style and expression, it ties the record together in a way which makes it feel like more of a miniature album than a standard EP. It’s maddening how short it is; but however the length, Shirokuma’s next full-length is going to absolutely blow your mind away.
Le Voyageur Imprudent
Dog Knights Productions
Shizune are a multilingual screamo band from Lonigo, Italy; they incorporate countless elements of punk, metal, indie, and four languages of lyrics. I first heard them sitting in a hotel room in Buffalo, and grabbed the most limited 12″ variant right before it sold out – I’m very happy I did, because Le Voyageur Imprudent is an incredible breath of fresh air. Japanese, French, English and Italian lyrics create a melting pot of styles and tones, each language producing a different experience in the short album. Even if you’re not a huge fan of hardcore or screamo, at least listen to the hard melodies of “Notes of decay” or the rolling, pensive “Instructions for inertia”. They’re a unique piece of the screamo scene, and hopefully will continue to stay one for years to come.
Ghost of a Dead Hummingbird
Butterfly Puke Records
Ghost Of A Dead Hummingbird’s debut LP Sin forma establishes them as a band to watch in the upcoming years. Screamo, as a genre, tends to suffer from sounding homogeneous; thankfully, Ghost of a Dead Hummingbird takes those stereotypes and replaces them with swirls of post-hardcore, post-rock, trumpets, ambiance, and excellent musicianship. They’re terribly unique, vibrant, and dynamic. While Sin forma might be a relatively short listen, it certainly doesn’t feel abrupt – it explores slow-paced burners just as much as uptempo jams, and clean interludes alongside layers of guitar noise. It’s certainly screamo, that’s for sure; but it’s different, and that’s why I like it. It has a different pace, different tone, different stylistic choices than most screamo nowadays. That’s why it’s here.
Take One Car
Everyone You Know Is Here Right Now
Broken World Media
These guys right here. These guys are serious. Just look at that girl on the cover, you wouldn’t mess with her. Take One Car’s sophomore release is refined and harsh, something of a mix of post-rock-hardcore with indie and alternative influences. Everyone You Know Is Here Right Now is the sort of album to put on a long, dreary train ride with nothing to do but look out the window… it’s moody, it’s dark, brooding, but energetic as hell. “In The Wind” is one of the best songs this year, hands down, the album as a whole is chock full of progressions and satisfying chord progressions. Self-proclaimed “talk rock”, the vocal style is abnormal and unusual – somewhat shouty, but not screaming. If you’ve never been a fan of non-melodic vocals, give this band a listen… the vocals are some of the most emotive and intentful I’ve heard. I can’t say I dislike a single word that’s come out of the singer’s mouth.
Run For Cover Records
With stars in their eyes and meteorites in their amps, Cloakroom dropped their debut album Further Out early 2015 succeeding a 7″ a few months earlier. It didn’t disappoint at all, with floating vocals alongside shimmering guitars leading a slow-burn shoegaze droner. It’s one hell of a slow record, but it burns bright. Warm and fuzzy, I’ve used it to heat up on cold days, sitting on a hard street waiting for the sun to rise. Further Out is modern shoegaze for the starchild, for the astronaut among the populus. Whether listening to grungy opener “Paperweight”, hypnotic highlight “Asymmetrical”, or anything from the journey in between – you’ll be sure to find yourself among the heavens.
Something So Personal
Broken World Media
What an ending to an era. Makeshift Shelters were a pop punk band with little output but a ton of heart. Their debut (and final) album, Something So Personal, tackles many issues from personal to political in as energetic of a way as one can. Lead singer and guitarist Ella Boissonnault tells stories of lost promises, fake anarchists, crappy mixtapes, and lame exes. She’s as snarky as she is smart, writing hooks that will stick in your brain for days – while also making you want to read those paragraphs of lyrics to fulfil a desire to know every lyric to said brainworm. However, as the band disbanded shortly after the release of the album, it leaves it hanging with a bit of an odd air around it. Breaking up after a debut is always a tough spot, it tears fans away and can lead to a lot less publicity than what really is deserved (I’m sure they will create their own little following in the years to come). All I can hope is that the members end up somewhere grand, maybe a new band? Hint hint.
Being As An Ocean
Being As An Ocean
Being As An Ocean are no strangers to the hardcore scene. Having made a name for themselves with their breakout first two albums Dear G-d… and How We Both Wondrously Perish, they raised a large, excited fanbase and gathered hype for their third, self-titled release. I can say with certainty that they are not the band they were during their first album – Being As An Ocean incorporates electronics and vocal manipulations that their first never touched on, and their second only hinted at. It’s evolution of a band’s sound at its most polarizing. I can imagine plenty of fans of their more “traditional”-sounding hardcore tones were a little disappointed with this LP, but I think it’s a welcome breath of fresh air. As per usual, BAAO tell a lengthy and esoteric story with their album – it’s up for interpretation, and isn’t necessarily something that any one person could easily pin meaning to. Religious themes are scattered throughout the album, even the song titles: “St. Peter”, “Judas, Our Brother”, “Sins Of The Father”… but the album isn’t “religious” like you might think. BAAO’s self titled is quite a journey; it can be a little overwhelming at times, but it’s worth it.
Pye Corner Audio
More Than Human
The Head Technician is back at it again… this time with an outstanding LP of 7 tracks, with plenty of throbbing bass and messed up synths included. Prowler is every bit a Pye Corner Audio album, albeit in shortened form. Being only 7 tracks long has its downsides – compared to his previous LP, Sleep Games, that’s a 7 song deficit (there’s 14 tracks on that LP); 9 if you count the 2 extra songs on the CD! It’s understandable, though, as this isn’t on Ghost Box, and it’s pushed in his more “techno” direction than the ambient leftfield which Sleep Games is known for. Nevertheless, Pye Corner Audio still serves up excellently made music – with a shorter album, it’s easier to give certain songs more of a highlight position than something with over a dozen. “She Hunts At Night”, one of the singles released, is a trudging, dark chunk of electronica – nearly 8 minutes long, and worth every second. The title track “Prowler” is an excellent pick as well, thumping around classic drum machine samples and a killer bassline. TIP.
Everybody Is Going To Heaven
Run For Cover Records
Following off the steps of their cult classic debut Youth, Ohio band Citizen decided to take huge strides with their sophomore LP, Everybody Is Going To Heaven. Taking inspiration from the likes of grunge and hardcore, they took their classic alt-punk sound and made it something darker, more mature, and a hell of a lot heavier. Straight out the gates with the opener “Cement” it’s obvious this isn’t classic Citizen, it’s one evolved – one comfortable with exploring outside their normal bounds. “Dive Into My Sun” gives a more relaxed, echoing sound chaining into “Numb Yourself” – a throwback to old sounds off of Youth. Interlude songs “Heaviside” and “Yellow Love” give the album much more depth than its predecessor, and side closers “Weave Me (Into Yr Sin)” and “Ring Of Chain” highlight some of the band’s best work to date. Citizen has taken a darker, more reserved approach to their music; and it shows.
Loma Prieta were always a pioneer of the modern hardcore scene – the influence of albums like their debut Last City and the excellent I.V. is undeniable. With their newest method act, Self Portrait, Loma Prieta dive into a much more melodic and jittery sound; with much of their namesake staticness and screaminess remaining, but moved around and extended quite a bit. The vocals lay further back in the mix than on previous records, and seem to just add to the layers of noise Loma create – excellent noise at that. Self Portrait is an expected step taken from their previous albums, there’s not much unexpected here – a lot of the good parts in this album come from how far Loma evolve between every release. “Love” opens up sounding fairly similar to material off of I.V., and evolves into a slowly grinding machine of drums and distorted vocals. “More Perfect” is a surprisingly major-key song for Loma; it’s still as brutal as ever, but it’s long and it’s quite a journey. “Rings” and “Satellite” close the album, with guitars front and center, as the vocals slowly fade away. The album closes with one of Loma’s most abrasive endings ever, and it’s beautiful in how destructive it sounds. That’s Self Portrait in general, really; destructive and organized, like a supercell thunderstorm. And boy, what a thunderstorm it is.
I, No Longer
Bad Timing Records
Pentimento is a Buffalo-based punk band whose sophomore album, I, No Longer was released with (thankfully) little drama and quite a bit of success. They’ve got picked up by scene favorite Bad Timing Records, an underground publishing favorite who’s released music from Real Friends, Kevin Devine, and Knuckle Puck. Pentimento is a new signing, specifically for this album. They’ve done a lot on this album, too. While their first self-titled album had a much rougher sound, this album is polished like a smooth stone in water – and is as pretty as a gemstone. Glittering guitars and strong vocals dominate the record, clearly inspired from contemporary pop-punk and alternative while still nurturing their punk roots. It’s short and sweet – “Tiger Eye” is a blast of emotion, “My Solution Is In The Lake” is a cathartic blast. While Pentimento seems to have shed some of the older, more punk-like vocals of their first album, I think the vocals on I, No Longer are better than anything they’ve released before. They’re so sweet and smooth, as is everything on this album.
August Burns Red
Found In Far Away Places
August Burns Red’s long legacy of influential metalcore stretches over 13 years and six prior records, and their most recent Found In Far Away Places extends this heritage even further. I honestly have no idea how they do it – from the rough, grimy Messengers to the desperate Leveler, ABR always find a way to make their sound refreshing and unique. Found In Far Away Places is no exception – a mixed bag of wild, rolling blasts and noises – ever so distinctive from their previous works. It’s a masterpiece of metal, and a defining moment in ABR’s discography. From the wild, scattered “Identity” to the ultimate crushing closer “Vanguard”, the album never lifts a finger from where it should be – brutal, powerful, and oddly emotional. I don’t really know how to express the emotions found on this album, they’re just so mangled and distorted; but that’s part of it, I think. There’s not much better than ABR when it comes to metalcore, and their latest (and seventh) album proves it.
▶ Listen here: Youtube
Run For Cover Records
I have never been disappointed with anything this band has ever released. All of their music, since their first album from way back in 2002, is just absolutely gold. Pale Horses, their stunning 6th album, is yet another step in the flourishing life of mewithoutYou. It’s an evolution from their sound on their fifth album Ten Stories, and a comfortable mix of and bits and pieces of their earlier sound from albums such as Brother, Sister. It’s a fairly “safe” album, admittedly; but it’s in no way underwhelming or bad – songs like “Red Cow” and “Rainbow Signs” could easily be in a playlist of “best mwY songs”, and the album as a whole stands up to prior effors very well. It’s a bit of a stepping-stone sound, the scope isn’t as big as their fifth or as stunning as their first three; but it is something, and it is good.
Someone give Alex G a medal, seriously. Year after year he’s produced some of the most impressive bedroom rock and indie productions in recent history – 2012’s Trick, 2013’s Rules; and 2014’s stellar DSU: which brought Alex onto many people’s radars. Evidently he ended up on major label Domino’s radar as well – as they’ve picked him up for his most recent work, Beach Music. Released barely a year after his previous work, Beach Music is a heavily fleshed out and polished version of everything Giannascolli represents. The pickup with Domino has turned Alex into a fully-fledged indie star. There isn’t a track on this record that isn’t full of soul, every bit of it is moody, bluer, and tinted with a slight jazzy tone. “Salt” is a standout track, as well as ones like “Mud” and “Brite Boy” – they showcase Alex G’s knack for writing catchy, pretty little melodies. A sprawling 13 songs long, Beach Music covers a plethora of genres and is sure to please any listener who has even the slightest interest in alternative indie. You rock, Alex G. I have no idea how you so it so well and so often, but you do.
Run For Cover Records
If you’re put off by this bedroom pop band’s name at first, don’t be. It was coined as a joke by frontman Mat Cothran and has stuck ever since – even into their most mature work to date. New Alhambra, a respectful homage to the wrestling center of the same name, is an album every bit as painful as it is beautiful (including many samples of professional wrestling). With 9 short and heartfealt songs across just a 20 minute runtime, it’s short and sweet. “N.M.S.S.” may be one of my favorite singles of the year, “New Heaven New Earth” closely behind. It’s humbling to know how much this album sounds like home – it’s an incredibly nostalgic peice of art, it’s incredibly warm and friendly and it’s like something you’d put on when you’re meeting a friend you haven’t seen in a while. “No more sad songs” is true indeed – although the album sounds very melancholy, there’s woven themes of recovery and acceptance throughout. “Heartbreak can’t change me,” sings Cothran on “Wastes Of Time”; “it’s a sad world we were raised in… let it fade into something new.” The acoustic closer is as comforting as a warm hug, as genuine as your best friend’s smile. “If you try, I will try. If we fuck up, it’s alright.”
Of course I had to have at least one straight pop-punk album on my list. I didn’t really expect all too much from Knuckle Puck’s debut LP, their EPs were good but nothing to write home about. However – Copacetic takes the most enjoyable moments off of their EPs and fleshes them out into a proper LP. Fast-paced highs, surprisingly serene lows, and the most cohesive song order and progression in any Knuckle Puck release yet. “Wall to Wall (Depreciation)” is a great opener to the album – leading into hard and fast paced songs like “Disdain” and “Swing”. “In Your Crosshairs” is a proper build up to the climax of “Pretense”, a wild rocket of a song that sings emotion as loud as it can go. The whole album is tied together with an overarching melodic “theme”, closing what the first half with “Ponder” and the second half with the 7:50 long “Untitled”. Copacetic is best consumed as a whole, and this is the first time I can say this about any of Knuckle Puck’s releases – which speaks volumes about the evolution of the band.
It’d be a crime if I didn’t include Nils Frahm’s free-for-download and surprise release Solo on my list. Nils has always been one of my favorite contemporary pianists, with a knack for incredibly somber and gorgeous progressive melodies, easy for the ear and complex for the brain. Solo is no different, a brilliantly vibrant palette of piano works that are nearly entirely – as the name puts it – solo work. It was put out alongside Nils’ announcement of the very first “Piano Day”, a day of the year that was created to celebrate the instrument and share the joy of playing piano. Alongside the day came this record, a very unassuming free download that became so much more as I listened to it in so many different environments – from playing the LP on rainy days to falling asleep to it at 3 in the morning. Solo is hauntingly beautiful, and there is no doubt Nils will impress us again for next years’ Piano Day. Contribute to the cause by downloading this for free or donating a little – any support, whether free or not, is good support.
▶ Listen here: Piano Day website
Jeff Rosenstock is the king of witty, offkey indie rock. With the recent departure of acclaimed indie-punk band Bomb The Music Industry!, frontman Rosenstock has taken it upon himself to continue his tradition of writing personal, eclectic music. We Cool? is an energetic, excitable album that is ridden with feelings of guilt, uselessness, and generally wanting to be more than you are. “Nausea” is an awkwardly personal song about mundane everyday activities – but sung in a way that’s incredibly relatable. A great number of the rest of the album follows suit: “I’m Serious, I’m Sorry” immediately speaks of an outsider’s view upon someone else’s tragedy, and is an exercise in empathy and the wish to comfort others when you’re not physically able to. Rosenstock’s previous escapades with BTMI! were always fairly tongue-in-cheek, never completely serious – this feels like the first cohesive work of his that wants to take itself seriously. There’s bits and pieces of immaturity all over, though, in classic Rosenstock style. It’s a comforting, beautiful record from one of the best faces in the scene.
The Decline Of Stupid F**king Western Civilization
Jordaan Mason And The Horse Museum are no more, but frontperson Jordaan Mason lives on their musical dream through use of friends, collaborators, and all sorts of their own talent. Their newest effort The Decline Of Stupid F**king Western Civilization (a real mouthful!) was written by Jordaan as a solo project and performed and arranged by numerous collaborators. Its content and lyrics are as wordy and as crass as the title – but just as personable and folky. Lyrically, the album deals with themes of gender and sexuality – strange, sweet things; self-destruction and self-discovery. Jordaan is an eccentric singer, their voice crackling and breaking in such a way that it brings the album that much closer to home. When the album finds a crack in your shell, it pulls it apart, and exposes every little thing you were afraid to confront. It’s intimate, it’s gross, it’s clumsy, like a virginity lost one sticky summer evening; but in the same way, it’s beautiful. It’s a story about a person discovering themself, and discovering others.
The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us
Beach Slang are the ambassadors of new-age punk. Everything about their sound is made from evolved classic punk archetypes, taking the definitive sound of well-known bands of the 90s and applying modern spins on it. The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us is their debut LP, released after 2 critically-acllaimed 7″s and to much scene hype. The album is largely composed of similar-sounding guitars and vocals throughout, but that doesn’t harm it one bit; every song is catchy and memorable as the last, and even the fair runtime barely hurts it. There’s not very much experimentation here but Beach Slang have a great sound and they do it well. If you’re at all a fan of classic punk bands and have ached to hear that sound modernized, Beach Slang should be your first stop.
Birds In Row
French hardcore band Birds In Row rocked the scene with their debut LP You, Me, and the Violence in mid-2012 – and have finally produced follow-up music. Personal War, a mini-LP of 7 absolutely goddamn incredible songs, finally picks up where Violence left off. The mini-LP is a somewhat short but incredibly meaty journey: blistering songs like “Weary” and “Snakes” sweep alongside anthems like “Torches” and “Marathon”. They’re unlike any other hardcore band in the scene, pouring out emotion into raw and complex songs while maintaining a varied, musically entrancing environment. Personal War is the epitome of everything they stand for, all of it rolled up into a succinct 7-song bundle, ready to pounce upon listeners. Birds In Row are in their prime, and I am waiting with bated breath for their next masterpiece.
Rival Console’s newest LP Howl is a modern-day electronic masterpiece. London-based producer Ryan Lee West’s double-LP reveals a tender and deep side of leftfield techno; mixing house, minimalism, jungle, and ambient together. Howl is akin to its namesake, full of moments that linger in the air and make your spine shiver – like a snowstorm deep in tundra. Cathartic rhythms and vibrant synthesis encapsulate everything. On songs like “Morning Vox”, you’re treated to minimalist beats and floating synths; others, like “Pre” and “Howl”, spiral into loud, cacophonous drills and melodies that are discordant in their sound but cohesive in their arrangement. Everything on this album sounds very slightly detuned – existing naturally, as opposed to many other electronic works which are often overly precise. Even the cover reflects that: as lines of paint (in fact, a very limited LP cover release was exactly that). Howl is moving, it’s organic, it’s human – and absolutely brilliant.
Did I ever think Deafheaven could follow up to the huge, monstrous, cult classic Sunbather was? No. Did they? …Yes. New Bermuda is Deafheaven’s response to the massive success they saw with their aforementioned sophomore record, and it’s a beaut. People complained about Sunbather being “fake” black metal, being too “poppy” or “shoegaze” for the scene – and how did Deafheaven respond? With darker guitars, faster drums, and essentially their most metal release yet. They’re still as loud and as shoegaze-inspired as ever, but the album is much filthier than Sunbather. It’s a 5-song, 40-something minute long dredge through absolutely no filler. It’s wild, brutal, yet lovely; having a lot of Deafheaven’s namesake major-key elements and gorgeous outros. It’s a follow-up I didn’t personally think was possible, I thought there was too much hype around Sunbather for the follow-up to even come close. I’m really happy I was wrong. I may even like this album more than I do Sunbather… I didn’t think that would be possible, but time will tell, and it’s breathtaking regardless.
CHON are an instrumental/progressive rock band from San Diego, California, and their debut album Grow is a love letter to melody, rhythm, and bubbly jumping guitars. It’s an album perfectly reflective of the cover – vibrant, lush tones smothered in a rainbow of bright, stupendous colour. Grow is energetic, excitable, and one of the best debuts in recent memory. CHON (an acronym for Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen) are on their way to massive success, and Grow is quite the introduction.
▶ No album stream yet.
Oh, how I adore when bands take their sound somewhere I thought it would never be. Classic dorm rockers Title Fight took years honing their college-stage punk sound over two albums and countless EPs, carving a niche of their very own within the scene. However, if you come into Hyperview expecting more of the same, you’ll be thrown for a loop. Hyperview is the sound of a band growing up, taking influence from 90s shoegaze and psychadelia, then mixing it with their eponymous punk roots. Tracks like “Rose Of Sharon” and “Dizzy” spiral chorused guitars over much more refined vocals than previous releases, crafting a more controlled, introspective sound than anything before it. Furthermore, there’s a fair share of punk-turned-experimental chord progressions in songs like “Chlorine” and “Your Pain Is Mine Now” – uprooting any preconceptions anyone may have had about the band and turning them upside-down. Hyperview is a sign of its times, a signal for bands to reach past their comfort zones – you will be awarded well. It’s arguably their most coherent and inspired release, and will be a foundation catalyst for many acts to come.
Jade Tree Records
I have to admit, I know little to nothing about Spraynard pre-reformation. I’ve yet to touch any of their older material, mostly because a lot of it came off as immature or a little too silly. Mable, however, is a different story. After a well-received reuniting of the band, Mable was released as Spraynard got picked up by legendary punk lable Jade Tree Records. (You know, the ones who released Promise Ring albums back in the day?) Mable is certainly a bit silly, but it’s more accurately defined from its overwhelming sense of maturity. The breakup and reformation of the band probably enabled it, I’d imagine – give any group more than a few years and they’re sure to evolve their sound. Spraynard’s sound is honed, focused, catchy; it’s every bit as engrossing now as the first time I laid ears on the album. “Bench” and “Home” are standout examples of this, with heartwrenching melodies and well-sung vocals; while opener “Applebee’s Bar” channels a little silliness into an exceptionally catchy melody. I’m probably going to go back and explore their old discography soon – as well as get super excited for where Spraynard’s going next.
Tragedy Will Find Us
Pure Noise Records
Anyone involved within the hardcore or metalcore scenes within the last 5 years knows this band by name now. Since their inception, Counterparts grew and grew – from an innocuous start with Prophets to their utterly groundbreaking fourth LP Tragedy Will Find Us five years later. There’s no doubt this isn’t their most important release yet, as they signed to enormous punk label Pure Noise upon the announcement of the LP. Tragedy is an album of discovery, of loss, of grief – it’s goddamn heartbreaking at times. Lead vocalist Brendan Murphy puts out his absolute best performance ever on this album, screaming his lungs out and providing a centrepiece for the album to unfold upon. Everything about this album screams emotion, including the vocalist himself. It’s a representation of rock bottom, of your life losing momentum and falling apart… and the crawl to slowly stand back up. Tragedy is melancholic yet comforting; there’s a sense of solace in hearing someone else sing so intensely about their experiences and knowing that you’re not alone. Even without the lyrics – the musicianship and progressions are incredibly driving, and present what is sure to be known as a future classic within the genre.
Dust and Disquiet
Triple Crown Records
I first saw Caspian live playing as a lead-up to TWIABP; at a record release show in New Haven… and I was blown away by their performance. Their live performance was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, absolutely breathtaking. Appropriately, Caspian’s studio recordings are just as boundless – echoing bass and guitars across echoing drum lines. Dust and Disquiet forms a concrete monument of everything the band’s ever produced, and then some. It’s as atmospheric as the ocean in a great windstorm, rain particles being picked up and thrown every which way – yet directed with some greater force. “Darkfield” follows a rhythmic drum machine, “Sad Heart Of Mine” weeps over some of the most emotional piano-synth work in any modern album to date, “Arcs Of Command” annihilates consciousness and is representative of almost everything Caspian play for. While Dust And Disquiet is a primarily instrumental post-rock album, there are breaks of respite – “Run Dry” provides the only lyrics on the album, and “Aeternum Vale” presents an acoustic lead-up to the over 11 minute closer song. As a classic post-rock artist, Caspian proves that there’s still much more to be explored within the genre. Furthermore, Dust and Disquiet has presented one of the most beautiful (nearly) wordless experiences you’ll encounter inside (or outside) the scene. Utterly spectacular.
I can’t say I found very many records on the edge of experimental and avant-garde electronica this year that grasped me even anywhere close to as much as this one did. Sure, Cortini’s 2015 release of Forse 3 was pretty standout, but I didn’t want to include two of the same artist’s albums on one list. In that case – Risveglio it is. And oh boy, is this something else. It’s almost entirely devoid of percussion, but it’s not ambient in the slightest. Pure synthwork drives Cortini’s music, his touch is one that isn’t rivaled in the electronic world… no wonder he’s been picked up by acts like Nine Inch Nails. Risveglio is an album ripe with textures, layer upon layer of sweet, succulent synth goodness. It’s atmospheric and snowy, with gusts of wind blowing the air around chaotically. There are moments of silence – sometimes literally like the :30 nothingness on “Dormiveglia” – there’s lots of reprieve where you can find it. Nevertheless, it’s an engaging creation, managing to push the boundaries of electronica in every which way. Cortini’s crafted a modern masterpiece, he has. Ultimately, due to the obscure nature of the music’s tone it won’t get as much attention as it deserves – but I won’t stop singing its praises. Best avant-garde album in years.
Secret Audio Club
Why don’t these guys have a bigger following?! It’s maddening! Hidden Hospital are an alternative-indie rock band signed to extraordinary underground label Secret Audio Club, and have produced a debut LP unparalleled in its craft. I don’t know if I’ve come across a debut this strong in years. Surface Tension is simultaneously heavy and jingly – electric guitars are used in endless ways to cover danceable rhythms and to back powerful, beautiful vocals. Opener “Pulp” sets the tone for the band as a whole, pretty and vibrant; songs like “Bone Scrapper” and “Animals” highlight the album with deep guitar tones and high vocals. “From Toxin” is an album standout, with an unusual 7/4 riff that’s honestly the best execution of the time signature I’ve ever heard. Don’t miss out on these guys. They’re going to be big someday.
Horses Galloping On Sailboats
Kaddisfly’s first release in 8 years was released with very little fanfare summer 2015. No stream, no preorders; just an available link to purchase with the promise of a vinyl press sometime in the future. Well, 8 or so months later and the vinyl still hasn’t arrived – but the album, oh god the album. By far the single most underrated band I’ve heard of, Kaddisfly are eclectic and energetic and deserve so much more attention. Horses Galloping On Sailboats is no doubt their pinnacle of work, their magnum opus. Sprawling across 12 incredible songs, with a closer over 12 minutes in length; juxtaposing funk, alternative, modern punk and all sorts of electronics. “The Architect” is a proper introduction to the album, with an echoing build up leading into an energetic, powerful chorus. “The Companion” lays it back a bit, relaxes you; then “The Middleman” proceeds to blow you away. “The Watchmaker” and “The Painter” fall as back-to-back epics of guitar work and falsetto voices, fleshing out an incredibly strong middle of the album. “The Apparition” is the aptly named closer to Horses, and is ephemeral and heavenly; guitars and bells and a massive post-rock influence play itself out into what might be the band’s last work – but if so, will always be their greatest. You are the end.
▶ Listen to a preview here: Intheclouds Records
Run For Cover Records
When Turnover released their build-up EP before this album, Blue Dream, it was obvious something was changing. Ever since their debut Magnolia toned down their punky tendencies into a more indie-punk mix, Turnover have been exploring new ways to be themselves. With their latest effort, Peripheral Vision, Turnover have discovered a sound that brought them out of the rut they seemed to be in. They play a light, ruffling approach to indie and alternative, incorporating elements of their past here and there and layering endless delays and reverb over it. It’s an album for the summer – it’s carefree, it’s self-loathing, but it doesn’t care one bit. “Humming” is possibly my song of the year, an incredibly catchy melody paired with ethereal backing guitars and a mesmerizing beat. I’m so happy for the band, they deserve all the attention they’re getting – selling through three pressings of the album in only a few months is no mere feat. Peripheral Vision presents a band finally finding its sound. Turnover have crafted an album of hot summer days and breezy drives with the windows down, and I love it.
Sorority Noise are a very emotional band. Their first album, Forgettable, was largely about teenage relationship problems and issues of self-worth, and quickly became a cult classic – selling out uncountable pressings. After signing to legendary label Topshelf Records, Sorority Noise released their second LP, titled Joy, Departed, and boy is it a wild ride. The band has matured in such a way a teenager would into adulthood, with all the tumultuous emotions and experiences manifesting into their newest, most serious album. From the very start the album opens on a somber note – “Blissth” is a melancholy and beautiful short song singing with much more poignancy than anything on their first album. “Fluorescent Black” longs for something never had; “Your Soft Blood” is a punk and hardcore-inspired track that wails softly in the night. It’s an album that begs for self-discovery, wishing you were someone else. It talks about depression, addiction, anxiety; it also talks about the somber process towards recovery. There are moments of optimism, like “Art School Wannabe”, but overall the album holds a very melancholic tone. Joy, Departed is comforting and saddening to the deepest of personal levels; in this sense, Sorority Noise has become ten times more the band that they used to be.
Triple Crown Records
I don’t think Foxing expected the type of attention they garnered with their debut album The Albatross. An initially humble release with a small first pressing led to Triple Crown Records picking the band up and sequentially selling through countless pressings. I think it’s on its eigth pressing now? In the midst of all of that, there’s been a huge demand for a follow-up; the huge fanbase gathered was begging for more. So Foxing retreated to a cabin somewhere in the north to write their sophomore album… and what resulted is honestly the single prettiest record released this year. Dealer is a record heavily separated from their first album in style: sound-wise, there’s still the pretty ambiance and ringing, memorable vocals; but the pace of the album is much slower. Dealer wraps itself around themes that could be likened to the album’s artwork – somber, melancholic, dark, but beautiful. Songs like “Indica” and “Redwoods” are heavily analogue, leaning towards a relatively minimalist composition focusing heavily on lyrical themes and pretty symphonic instrumentals. Others like “Winding Cloth” and “Coda” are purely instrumental; while “Night Channels” and “Three On A Match” are incredibly soft, led by fluttering pianos and a vocalist whose range is without match. The album as a whole is quite a bit different from their earlier efforts, but is something that lives up to the hype The Albatross created in a way most bands would refuse to do – changing pace and style in a major way.
The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die
The world’s longest band name is back at it again. After their stupendous (and polarizing) 2015 EP Between Bodies, the band pledged to bench spoken-word artist Chris Zizzamia for a lineup fashioned and focused moreso towards a cacophonous indie rock approach. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a band as colorful as this one; they’re funny, lively, and have such a huge presence in their music. The recordings themselves fill your entire head with sound, with pretty guitars, trumpets, strings, and countless layers of vocals. Harmlessness is their most recent work – a double LP boasting 13 songs and an extremely eclectic mix of sounds and styles. The album opens up on “You Can’t Live There Forever”, with guitarist D. Shalholtzer-Dvorak singing softly over acoustic guitars. Gradually strings start fading in, Shanholtzer-Dvorak’s voice fades into many, and the album kicks and rears an incredibly astounding opener. Leading through instrumental “blank #11” into “January 10th, 2014”, the band tells an interpretive story and leads with an excitable, jumpy guitar line. Dual songs “Rage Against The Dying Of The Light” and “Ra Patera Dance” play back to back, with folk influence and a huge girth of winding instrumentals and assuring vocals. The band plays to its strengths, focusing primarily on its progressions – which are influenced by post-rock and punk, bringing those to light in an indie standpoint. These guys used to be heralded as the “leaders of the emo-revival movement”, and now they’ve brought that to the big crowds. I’ve never been more impressed with a band’s devotion to being simultaneously silly and laid-back yet serious; every member of The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die is an essential one. Whether you cry to “Willie (For Howard)” or revel in the journey that is “Mount Hum”, Harmlessness ropes you in with its innocence and keeps you listening with gorgeous instrumentals. It’s like your favorite blanket, something you can feel in every sense of your body, something that comforts you to your core.
The Saddest Landscape
When a band’s first release was over 12 years ago, there’s always going to be some doubts over whether they can keep the same energy that they started off with in their most recent releases. This is especially worrying with bands like The Saddest Landscape, who broke up in 2005 and reformed again in 2009 – one could easily question if they’ve kept the same quality they’ve always had. I can say with certainty that they haven’t only maintained quality, they’ve exceeded themselves yet again. Their last work, the 7 song LP After The Lights, was released in 2012 on Topshelf Records – and was a statement that the band is only getting better. Darkness Forgives is their most recent work and their biggest cohesive release yet, with 10 songs and the longest runtime of any Saddest Landscape LP ever. It’s monumental, experimental, and brutal as all hell. Burning with passion and energy, The Saddest Landscape use all of this to their advantage and make songs like “Archival” and “Till Our Ears Bleed”; wild, blistering songs that leave you gasping for air. The album is mastered better than any previous TSL release as well, the vocals are much higher in the mix and the drums are exceptionally clean. The guitar work and melody writing (believe it or not!) is also stunning, with every song dragging you more and more into the world that is The Saddest Landscape. If you’re still pensive, listen to “You Never Asked” – it’s emotional, it’s loud, it’s on fire. Long live Topshelf Records, long life The Saddest Landscape.