2015 has come and gone yet another fantastic year of releases. A lot of the stuff I enjoyed this year seems to go for the disorienting, such as Oneohtrix Point Never’s logical extension of TCF’s saturated landscapes or Automatics Group’s synthesis of dance mix to fluffy little clouds, to reference The Orb’s pop hit. Whatever the approach I certainly was impressed by a number of long-time favorites who had made that final leap. Russell Haswell was certainly one of those long-time favorites with his “As Sure As Night Follows Day” sort of going above and beyond anything of his I had heard before. Ditto goes for No Joy, a band I’ve always enjoyed but who really impressed me with “More Faithful” taking their dreamy shoegaze sound to its logical conclusion. Unknown Mortal Orchestra and U.S Girls also fit these criteria, as bands I had always enjoyed but with their latest releases finally gave me a reason to love them.
A few of these I admit took me completely by surprise. Jerry Paper’s “Carousel” is perhaps the single most delightfully obnoxious thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life. I mean that as the sincerest form of praise. Certainly its tongue-in-cheek humor comes in handy as Jerry Paper utilizes the most synthetic kind of sound imaginable, almost tasteless in tone. Synthetic defines Neon Indian’s “VEGA INTL. Night School” proving that his nostalgia requires greater palettes of color, a few times hinting at the kind of sound Prince wishes he could make. This similar approach, reinterpreting the past, defines Beat Detectives weird collage of “Boogie Chillen/The Hills of Cypress”. Akin to a giant boombox from the 80s that skips from station to station without warning, Beat Detective creates an ode to the classic mixtape, jumping from idea to idea while somehow making it all work.
Timelessness and timeliness, these are the two factors that musicians have to take into account. Does a musician go for some kind of ‘here and now’ or opt out, tapping into a seemingly long-lost sort of sound? Jessica Pratt’s hypnotic “On Your Own Love Again” goes for the latter approach, as the songs appear to have been backdated from some early 70s singer-songwriter daydream. Absolutely ethereal, they shimmer on the edge, with their lo-fi sensibility wrapping them in a layer of warmth. Going for a similar approach is the lovelorn sound of Tobias Jesso Jr.’s “Goon”. Embodying the balance, both the timelessness and timeliness, is the sweeping epic sound of Father John Misty’s “I Love You Honeybear”. Much of Father John Misty’s sound is about finding the right mix, between smooth and confrontation, bitterness and sweetness, letting the conflict define the album. Jim O’Rourke’s “Simple Songs” takes a similar approach, with lyrics veering between misanthropic and caring, often in the same breath.
Care is a difficult thing to assess in music. Sure there are lyrics that can make it relatively straightforward. That’s a bit like cheating. Music can have that duality, as the extremes of Deafheaven’s “New Bermuda” shows. With that album Deafheaven sort of showed how to get lost in their oddly welcoming moments, only to jolt back to harsh grating reality. Viet Cong takes a similar approach, with their self-titled debut falling under industrial grating noise and strange, dance-like rhythms.
Of course this is merely a sampling of everything that came out in 2015. I always tend to miss something with the end of the year, and I oftentimes get introduced to one or two bands in December as the holidays accumulate. Hopefully this little list can help at least one person discover a band they might have otherwise missed. If I can do that then I’ve done my job.
- Drab Majesty – Careless
- Beat Detectives – Boogie Chillen/The Hills of Cypress
- Automatics Group – Summer Mix
- Father John Misty – I Love You Honeybear
- Viet Cong – Viet Cong
- Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon
- Jerry Paper – Carousel
- Jim O’Rourke – Simple Songs
- Oneohtrix Point Never – Garden of Delete
- Deafheaven – New Bermuda
- Deerhunter Fading Frontier
- Shit and Shine – Everybody’s A Fuckin’ Expert
- Neon Indian – VEGA INTL. Night School
- Russell Haswell – As Sure As Night Follows Day
- Tame Impala – Currents
- Beach House – Thank You Lucky Stars
- U.S. Girls – Half Free
- No Joy – More Faithful
- Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
- Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Agai