I have a bad habit of liking albums a lot when I first hear them and then hating them two weeks later. I’m an excitable dude. I once thought I liked Lamb Of God for about 13 days before I came to my senses. It’s made some of my past top albums of the year posts have some cringe-worthy entries. So this year, I decided to only include albums that I’ve listened to and liked for at least a month.
1) Sufjan Stevens “Carrie & Lowell” – On first glance, this would seem like one of those impulsive picks that I’d be embarrassed about later. I’ve hated the last few beep-bop-boop-boop “Kid A on hipster ecstasy” albums he’s made but this one really struck a chord with me. It’s a very quiet, mostly acoustic album about the death of his estranged mother. My best friend died this year and this album helped me through. This will probably be an album I listen to when I’m 80.
2) Violent Reaction “Marching On” – And now for something completely different. This is the best traditional hardcore album of the last fifteen years. It’s like Minor Threat meets Gorilla Biscuits meets Negative Approach meets Guy Ritchie punching you in the dick. It’s on fire with energy and somehow manages to sound fresh and new. If I was able to touch my toes I’d totally pick up change to this album.
3) Royal Headache “High” – Ever wondered what Rod Stewart would sound like fronting a garage band? Me neither, but now I know and it’s fucking glorious. The singer is bald as shit (note the hat in the video), so he doesn’t have Rod’s huge coif but he’s got the pipes. This album is so good that I think even my mom would like it. That’s not an insult (although my mom does like Manheim Steamroller). It’s a testament to how catchy and perfectly written this album is. A flawless and an instant classic.
4) Näive Sense “Art Failures” – It’s pretty awesome that a new local Minneapolis band has an album that I sincerely think should break nationally in the punk scene. They’re a trans-fronted hardcore/punk band and the singer puked on the floor when I saw them play at a coffee-shop. Not sure why I think that’s the coolest, but it is. They kind of sound like Refused mixed with Youth of Today mixed with sporadic shoegaze guitar while the singer screams like someone getting eaten by a bear. It’s pure energy, anger and passion and I can’t recommend it enough. Go check out their album on Bandcamp.
5) Skints “FM” – 2015 was the year I got back into ska. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about 90’s style ska-verse/punk-chorus/ska-verse type stuff. There are a lot of new ska bands that are either playing more traditional Jamaican style ska or even pushing it forward and creating new, original sounds. Skints are one of these. They’re a mashup of ska, reggae, dancehall, with punk influences. They even do a reggae cover of Black Flag’s “My War”. Want some ska without embarrassing hats, band geeks and songs about food? This is your band.
6) The Bluebeaters “Everybody Knows” – The second ska band of the list. These guys are from Italy and only play cover songs, but they make them their own. They pull from artists all across the board, like Neil Young, Britney Spears (see video below), The Undertones, Delroy Wilson, The Smiths and a killer cut of Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart”. These guys blast the notion that ska bands can’t play right out of the water. And like the Skints, NO SONGS ABOUT FOOD. Good job, ska!
7) Coneheads “14 Year Old High School PC-Fascist Hype Lords Rip Off Devo for the Sake of Extorting $$$ from Helpless Impressionable Midwestern Internet Peoplepunks L.P.” – They are Devo on meth with no money.
8) Built To Spill “Untethered Moon” – People with dad bods can still rock. Everyone seems to have forgotten about Built To Spill. Yeah, they’ve kind of meandered and put out some boring albums, but half the band quit a couple years ago and it revitalized them. This is hands down their best album since the powerhouse days of the 90s. Catchy and to the point. These guys always get compared to Modest Mouse but unlike them there are no awful disco rock songs on this album. Seriously, Modest Mouse…who are you, KISS?
9) The Duppies “Broken Ogran” – Straight up Jamaican ska/Two Tone worship from Florida. Lots of songs about dancing and fighting. For fans of The Slackers. All this ska is making me feel like I’m in high school again, which sucks because I never got laid. This is the happiest soundtrack to virginity ever!
10) Night Birds “Mutiny At Muscle Beach” – These guys sound like a more surf Dead Kennedys. Do I need to say more?
11) High On Fire “Luminiferous” – I am listening to significantly less metal than last year. I like to sleep with music on my headphones at night and honestly all that stuff was making me have dreams about corpses eating my toes at night. NOT COOL. This is one of the few metal albums I really got into this year. Apparently, a lot of the songs are about conspiracy theories and the Illuminati but I can’t understand most of what he’s saying anyway so I just imagine it’s about beating up people who run puppy mills.
12) Radioactivity “Silent Kill” – Every band these guys are in (Radioactivity, Marked Men, High Tension Wires, Potential Johns, etc) all kind of sound the same. But it’s a wonderful kind of all sounds the same. Sometimes you just want a sausage pizza with no surprises and you get a wad of Tofurkey instead. These guys are tasty pizza in the form of glossy garage rock with Screeching Weasel level pop hooks.
13) Bully “Feels Like” – Not to sound old, but Millenials almost always get the 90s wrong. They seem to focus so much on irony and reverb that they forget that people actually cared about energy back then. Bully is one of the handful of bands (along with Cloud Nothings and Japandroids) that gets 90s worship right. I actually feel like this could have been big in 1995. Granted, Ace Of Base was big in 1995 so maybe that’s not such a badge of honor.
14) The Rocket Beats “Human Tornado” – I started to really get into psychobilly in December but because of my time rule, a lot of it couldn’t make the list. These guys did and they’re amazing. They’re from Russia and sound like The Cramps if they were fronted by Yakov Smirnoff. “In Russia, stand-up bass plays YOU!”
15) Beaten To Death “Unplugged” – Full disclosure: This is definitely not “unplugged”. This is super loud grindcore from Norway. It is, however, strangely melodic. Like Ted Bundy whistling a tune to you while he strangles you.
PEARS “Go To Prison” – Technically a reissue from 2014 so it couldn’t make the list. Ryan from Off With Their Heads described them as “Angry Lagwagon”.
Arre! Arre! “A.T.T.A.C.K.” – Riot grrl/surfpunk from Sweden.
Razika “Ut Til De Andre” – All-girl indie/ska band from Norway.
Expanders “Hustling Culture” – Reggae from LA.
Leftover Crack “Constructs Of the State” – Punk ska from NY.