It’s everyone’s favorite time of year again! All around the world right now, scrawny white guys hunched over MacBooks are writing the EXACT same “Best Albums of 2015” list. It’s the one that starts with Kamasi Washington (because, like, I totally “get” Jazz, ya know?) and ends with that shitty Tame Impala record (It’s the one with album art ripped directly from your 4th grade Trapper Keeper). What a shame. So much great, diverse music was released this year. We got a Run the Jewels record remixed with cat noises AND every Smash Mouth song ever recorded mixed down to one single track. Does it get any better? Probably not, but here’s a list of five fantastic records that you missed out on while you were dry-humping your bored girlfriend to the rhythm of the new Sufjan Stevens single.
The Icarus Line, All Things Under Heaven
Over the course of 15 years and just as many lineup changes, The Icarus Line have solidified their position as rock music’s ultimate headline-grabbing provocateurs. They started off by vandalizing The Stroke’s tour bus, graduated to desecrating rock memorabilia, and most recently, nearly started a riot when a group of angry Cult fans disapproved of an extended cover of The Stooges' “L.A. Blues.” It’s easy to forget that The Icarus Line isn’t just a sideshow—they’re damn good songwriters too. All Things Under Heaven is easily the band’s best album to date. It’s the sort of music that’s dark and antagonistic enough to make Nick Cave and Iggy Pop blush, but never feels forced or artificial. Most importantly, it’s an album that could only come from a band far beyond the point of giving a fuck about anyone or anything.
Lust for Youth, Better Looking Brother
Only two albums in and I’m already giving you a single instead of full-length. That’s right, a SINGLE. Lust for Youth cut their teeth touring Europe and putting out records that sounded like a Depeche Mode concert inside of a garbage disposal. In 2014, they cleaned up their lower than lo-fi sound and dipped their toes into the world of full-on, 80’s inspired synth-pop with mixed results. Fast forward to 2015, and it looks like they’ve finally gotten things right. Better Looking Brother recalls Tears for Fears and New Order at their absolute best, and is guaranteed to make even the most jaded hipster shake his pasty ass.
Jamaican Queens, Downers
Trying to explain how great Jamaican Queens are to other people is always a chore because inevitably I’ll have to use “hip hop,” “indie-pop,” and “Phil Spector” in the same sentence. Just stick with me here. Downers is a patchwork collage that recalls little bits and pieces of nearly 60 years of pop music. Girl group harmonies sit side by side with electronic beats and Johnny Marr-inspired guitar strumming. It’s damn near impossible to put out an album that can legitimately be called unique and refreshing at this point. Between Downers and the band’s 2013 debut, Wormfood, Jamaican Queens has done it twice already.
Wild Moth, Inhibitor
A lot of music rags like to call bands that sound like Wild Moth “post-hardcore,” which at this point is a hollow, catch-all for anything that sounds remotely like Drive Like Jehu. Fuck that. Wild Moth deserves better. Balancing heavy guitar riffs and somber pop-melodies is a juggling act that most bands can’t handle, but Wild Moth pulls it off effortlessly. Inhibitor is an album that sounds like it was recorded by a bunch of My Bloody Valentine fans who don’t care if their friends call them poseurs for busting out Weezer’s Pinkerton from time to time. It’s that kind of sincerity which really makes Inhibitor stand out.
Hollow Hand, Ancestral Lands
Alright, so I’m cheating a little bit with this one. Before the year is up Ancestral Lands will be coming out on Ongakubaka Records—a label I’ve been co-running with a friend of mine for a year or so. I wouldn’t be interested in putting out a record if I didn’t think it was good, and holy shit, this one is great. Hollow Hand sways effortlessly between CSNY-inspired melodies and early 70s medieval folk and prog-rock. It’s rare to hear an album this complex and, for lack of a better term, brimming with small, beautiful moments. Give it a listen and thank me later when they’re your new favorite band.