15 of ’15: The Best Odds and Ends of 2015
by Steven Spoerl
There has been no shortage of outstanding music to find release over the past 12 months over a wide variety of formats. This list (which, once again, is entirely subjective and not meant to be an overarching authoritative statement) pulls from a number of curiosities: splits, vinyl-only releases, demos, and compilations. A few of these slipped through the cracks or were pulled and replaced in the past few weeks, making this one of the stranger year-end lists this site’s likely to ever run. All of those changes will be reflected and noted as they come into play. With all that and mind and a ton of material yet to come it’s high time to jump into 15 of ’15: The Best Odds and Ends of 2015.
15. Patio – Patio Songs
One of the more memorable debut efforts of 2015 also proved to be one of the most promising.Patio– a trio made up of Lindsey-Paige McCloy, Loren DiBlasi, and Alice Suh- had spent years in development. After initially starting as a joke that escalated into reality, the band finally committed some of their material to a recording- the aptly named Patio Songs– and secured a lot of word-of-mouth buzz in the process. “luxury” and “air j” both memorably demonstrate the band’s knack for wiry post-punk that comes equipped with noir-ish overtones. Don’t be surprised to see the band expand on their early successes in big ways in 2016.
14. Mean Creek – The Best of…
While a lot of bands hung up their cables over the course of 2015, it may have been the loss of Mean Creek that stung the most, simply because they were quitting because of many of the industry’s most severe flaws. Instead of caving into the pressures and demands of outside parties that wanted to model Mean Creek at will as a commercial product instead of an artistic one. When the band decided they’d had enough and were ready to take a bow, they went out in heroic fashion, issuing this best-of collection shortly before their final show. As one last rousing call to arms, the band kicks the compilation of with “Forgotten Streets“, their swan song and a rousing call to arms that provided the band with one last definitive moment.
13. PWR BTTM + Jawbreaker Reunion – Republican National Convention
Despite already having one EP under their belt, this was PWR BTTM‘s introduction at large and a searing start to what would prove to be a monumental 2015 for the duo. Jawbreaker Reunion, on the other hand, was riding a wave of critical acclaim and some early success thanks to their extraordinary full-length debut, Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club, which carved out an impressive ranking for this site’s Best Albums of 2014 list. Both bands turn in impressive efforts for Republican National Convention, which include the anthemic “Hold Yer Tongue” on PWR BTTM’s side and the lively “Andrew In Drag” on Jawbreaker Reunion’s, making this split a worthy entry for each of their discographies.
12. No Ruido / No Noise
Edgar Gonzalez has been a vital voice in DIY punk, social ethics, and a legion of other topics but also found time to make a mark with the curation of No Ruido / No Noise– a name-your-price compilation with the proceeds going to the family of Tamir Rice- which will likely go down as the signature release for his recently formed label, Edgar’s Friends. Several of today’s most exciting, politically-minded acts provide a track, from Priests to Perfect Pussy, finding space to include songwriters like Frankie Rose, Fred Thomas, and Radiator Hospital as well. It’s a startling collection that actually has the potential to make a difference via positive impact and that alone puts No Ruido / No Noise in a class of its own.
11. Happy Diving – So Bunted b/w My Zone
After 2014’s towering Big World, no one would have been surprised if Happy Diving had taken time to promote the record and celebrate its success. Instead, they turned around and quickly unleashed the incendiary 7″ that paired “So Bunted” with “My Zone”, each operating as an ample demonstration of the band’s distinctive blend of grunge, sludge, shoegaze, and basement pop. As bruising as they’ve ever been, Happy Diving may hav even turned in a career best with So Bunted b/w My Zone and, at the very least, have certainly demolished any lingering doubts about their levels of promise or capacity for longevity. A formidable effort by any metric, it’s a record that says everything it needs to in under five minutes and leaves an impressive mark.
10. Faux Real II
The second installment of Father/Daughter Records‘ immensely entertaining Faux Real series introduces a new collection of covers from fictional bands. An arsenal of site favorites populate Faux Real II, from Krill to Quarterbacks to LVL UP to Allison Crutchfield. Every single track on Faux Real II would be a worthy choice for an album highlight and a few of them- like Sharpless‘ explosive take on the Home Movies classic rock opera piece “Franz Kafka”- manage to wind up being unforgettable. Somehow the series once again manages to swerve away from the seeming inevitability of coming across as a novelty and transcends its premise to function as a curious look at some of the most promising emerging acts of the current moment.
9. Bruising – Emo Friends b/w Honey
Only a scant few songs into their career, Bruising have already managed to make a considerable impact. After initially forming over a Perfect Pussy t-shirt in a club, the band put together a startling run in 2015 that turned more than a few heads. Excelling in the sort of pop-laden shoegaze that bands like Joanna Gruesome have built a career in crafting, Bruising comes at their hybrid-genre in a manner that feels like their own. For their debut standalone 7″ effort (following the brilliant “Think About Death” for Art Is Hard’s Family Portrait II), the band pairs the lilting “Emo Friends” with the incendiary tones of “Honey” to create something that feels as lasting as it does immediate. If Emo Friends b/w Honey‘s is the band’s first earnest step in their career, it’s a strong enough start to warrant some serious excitement over the band’s future.
8. Meat Wave – Brother
While some would argue that this should be filed in the EP column, it’s mainly comprised of material the band had either already released on their explosive self-titled (a personal pick for one of the best releases of the 2010’s) or material that would be released on their bruising Delusion Moon LP. Every bit as frantic as its predecessor, Brother wields the same manic approach to even sharper effect, taking Meat Wave‘s music to a place a little darker than their debut. Relentlessly aggressive and downright venomous at every turn, it’s a staggering display of force from a band that seems intent on drawing blood with every new song they release. Brother ends with a trio of songs that don’t appear on Meat Wave or Delusion Moon but, by and large, manage to carry that same level of potency, effectively rendering this an essential starter kit for the uninitiated.
7. Post-Trash: Vol. 1
Just over a month ago, the senate voted to stop federal payments to Planned Parenthood. In response, Post-Trash issued their first (incredibly massive) compilation and announced the proceeds would go to funding Planned Parenthood. It was a strong move in principle alone but the bands that they amassed for this compilation (and the songs they contributed) pushed it into sublime realms. Site favorite Eskimeaux turns in the beautiful “Act Like A Piece of Shit”, Melkbelly provide their fierce “Bathroom at the Beach”, Patio– the band that kicked that list off- offer up a song from their demo, and 50 other bands (Pile, Fern Mayo, Painted Zeros, Soft Fangs, Palehound, Eugene Quell, Sadie Dupuis, Washer, Stove, etc.) all get in on the action. Ultimately, Post-Trash: Vol. 1 is one of the year’s most intimidating compilations due to its length but it also rewards investment at a much higher rate than anything else released this year.
6. The Weasel, Marten Fisher – Soundcloud
Perhaps the most left-field inclusion on this list is simply a soundcloud page, though it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who’s followed my writing over the course of the year. Colin Bares has managed to impress on exceedingly high levels with his work in bands like The Cost of Living and Good Grief as well as his various solo projects (most notably The Coral Riffs). After a brief, sudden disappearance from songwriting, Bares re-emerged towards the end of 2014 and kept that momentum at high velocity throughout the course of the past 12 months, flying under the banner of The Weasel, Marten Fisher. Bares’ soundcloud became a veritable source of inspiration thanks to an eclectic blend of covers (including two devastating Cyndi Lauper takes) and a large collection of astonishing originals. Nearly all of those songs (and there are a handsome handful) are merely acoustic guitar/vocal demos but when there is a subversion from that template, like on a memorably dark Cat Power cover, the results are arresting. Keep both eyes on this page’s surprisingly frequent updates and expect to be blown away.
5. Diet Cig – Sleep Talk b/w Dinner Date
While Over Easy was the release that rightfully jump-started Diet Cig‘s career, their finest moment in 2015 didn’t come via that EP (though it deserves it’s many year-end placements), it was their subsequent 7″ that proved their strength. “Sleep Talk“, the band’s finest song out of the few they’ve released thus far, serves as the record’s powerful A-side. Encapsulating the youthful vibrancy and excessive energy that made Over Easy such an infectious listen, it shows that the band has untapped depths with it’s gorgeous, layered outro section. From those haunting final moments, the duo pushes their music into darker territory than usual with the bruising “Dinner Date” that marries Alex Luciano’s characteristically barbed lyrics with uncharacteristically moody instrumentals that add some venom into their suddenly unrestrained menace. Packaged as a whole, Sleep Talk b/w Dinner Date is an extremely promising look at the young band’s future, definitively proving that they’re much more than a one-trick pony.
4. Sleeping in the Aviary – Young Love Is Easy
For a band that broke up a few years ago, Sleeping in the Aviary had a monster 2015. Not only did most of the band play on Mike Krol‘s exhilarating Merge Records debut (Turkey), they also joined Krol for several tours and unleashed this manic compilation of some of their finest moments, none of which ever made it to a record’s final cut. From the outset, the band’s in fine form, dishing out their punk-spiked, doo-wop-leaning basement pop songs with unapologetic intensity, unveiling some of their most vicious songs in the process. Whether they’re more tapped into their ’50s influences (“No One As Lonely As Me”), their propensity to go straight for the jugular (opener “Harder Shoulder”), or endearingly irreverent humor (the rambling, acoustic “Dick Gere”), their success rate is astounding. Over the course of their career, the band released four incredible full-lengths and an untouchable split 7″ with The Hussy so it makes sense that they’d leave behind a wealth of material but even from a pragmatic standpoint, the overwhelming strength of Young Love Is Easy is staggering, making it one of the best releases of any format to find release in 2015.
3. Dusk – (Do the) Bored Recluse b/w Too Sweet
Every project that’s been connected back to Tenement has been more than worthwhile so it probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Dusk fit that bill to a tee. What’s slightly more surprising is the direction that the band’s taking, mixing flourishes of gospel with classic country influence and more than a few cues from the golden era of soul. Comparatively, the approach isn’t too dissimilar from The Band’s, it’s just been updated and provided with an additional punk-leaning bite. From the rollicking cow-punk of “(Do the) Bored Recluse” to the blue-eyed soul of “Too Sweet“, there isn’t a false move, the entire 7” just plays like a sustained series of grace notes. Both sides also feature some of the finest backing vocal arrangement in recent memory, ably showcasing the band’s impressive knack for both composition and multi-part harmonies. Equally engaging, both tracks are a clear indicator of the band’s innate charisma and sense of history. While the A-side once again taps into Amos Pitsch’s tendency to transform mundane circumstance into something worth celebrating, the B-side takes an unexpectedly romantic route. Each confirms Dusk as one of our best new acts.
2. Lost Boy ? – Canned
The last unorthodox inclusion in a list full of them is perhaps the most jarring due to the circumstances surrounding its multi-year, multi-format release. Lost Boy ?‘s Canned was absent from last year’s list, when it had only been released as a cassette (and, subsequently, wasn’t available to stream anywhere) and its placement here acts as a small compensation. In 2015, the band decided to roll it out as an LP, which also made it publicly available for streaming. Far and away, Lost Boy ?’s strongest work to date- in a fairly stacked discography, no less- Canned was a complete distillation of the band’s distinctive personality, spearheaded by Davey Jones. Purportedly written in the midst and aftermath of a breakdown, Jones and his band attack these songs like their lives depended on the outcome. From the snare shots on “Hollywood” to the syncopated vocal syncopation in “Bank” to the casual groove of “Hemorrhage” there’s never a moment that’s anything less than completely electrifying, solidifying Lost Boy ?’s status as one of New York’s finest bands. An arsenal of memorable riffs, tossed-off asides, and genuine emotion fuel Canned and, as a result, it’s a collection that still feels surprisingly fresh after more than a hundred listens. Canned wasn’t just one of the best releases of 2014, it was one of the best of 2015 as well.
1. Mercury Girls – Demos & Live Songs
No debut effort this year resonated quite like Mercury Girls’ immediately memorable Demos and Live Songs collection, which saw them fall effortlessly into the c86/Slumberland model of punk-informed powerpop. Close to everything on this release is near-flawless, issuing one pop gem after another at an alarming rate. From the dream-pop tones that permeate “Golden” to the band’s incredibly tight-knit live recordings, it’s abundantly clear that they’ve studied their multi-tiered genres’ ancestry in great detail. Everything on Demos & Live Songs works to an airy perfection, firmly establishing the band’s identity and suggesting that whenever their first full-length drops it’ll be met with waves of acclaim. While it’s easy to imagine the band being fairly successful from a commercial standpoint (especially in the terms of such a niche genre), it’s even more apparent that Mercury Girls are built for success- potentially to an intimidating degree- from a critical standpoint at well. Immediate, accessible, and extraordinarily tantalizing, they’ve harnessed something that comes across as surprisingly singular. That aspect of their music will go a long way in helping the band stand out in a field that feels increasingly overcrowded, likely ensuring their spot on several year-end lists to come.