Albums of 2015

I’m not really a fan of list blogs, and never agree with any of the end of year lists for anything. I was reluctant to post my own ‘albums of the year’ because, well, frankly, who gives a crap?

Because I haven’t heard every album released, or even all of the big’ albums of the year because I’ve been busy discovering new and emerging acts independently, my list doesn’t feature our favourite band or album, and I make no apologies for this. During 2015, I penned some 622 music reviews, which probably accounted for a third to a quarter of the material I was sent. I attended some 40 live shows (and invariably saw all of the support acts), including two all-day cosmopolitan festivals: at each of these I packed in some 13 bands on each day. I covered most of them, however briefly. I can’t remember a fraction of the artists I’ve heard or seen, but I’d like to think my commitment to supporting live music and new artists is self-apparent.

Anyone who says there’s no good new music is wrong. The chances are that they’re locked in a previous era (usually the years between the age of 16 and 30) and are looking in the wrong place. Take it from me: there’s never been more exciting new music than now. Sometimes you have to wade through endless dreck to discover it, but that’s a key part of my ‘job’.

The albums listed here aren’t necessarily the ‘best’ albums of the year, or the ones fans or critics have unanimously frothed over, but they’re the ones which have had the greatest impact and stuck with me over the course of the year. They’re presented in in more or less chronological order or release. Enjoy.

Special thanks got to Lauren Barley (Rarely Unable), Ed Bendorff (Dense Promotions), Simon Glacken (I Like Press) and Andy at Riot Season for providing me with disproportionate quantities of great music over the last 12 months. Here’s looking to another marvellous year for music in 2016.

 

Disappears – Irreal

Disappears truly cast off the last vestiges of their garage rock beginnings with Irreal, dismantling the very structures of rock ‘n’ roll with this sparse art-rock offering. Challenging, but rewarding.

The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave

Almost universally acclaimed, and deservedly so, The Twilight Sad’s fourth album isn’t my favourite by any stretch. But it deservedly provided the band with their commercial and critical breakthrough and scored them a US tour with The Cure. Perhaps more importantly, it’s an album that’s aching with pained emotion and draws together all of the elements of their previous work to powerful effect.

Henry Blacker – Summer Tombs

Released on vinyl for record store day, hey Colossus offshoot power trio Henry Blacker really excelled with Summer Tombs, a grimy, sweaty, grunged-out psychedelic take on the classic rock template. The CD release which followed is doubly cool by virtue of the fact it features debut album Hungry Dogs Will Eat Dirty Puddings as its bonus tracks, and thus features the gnarly masterpiece that is ‘Pullin’ Like a Dray’ and means I can also shoehorn this album into my list for the year.

A Place To Bury Strangers – Transfixiation

New York purveyors of feedback-strewn demolition indie rock certainly didn’t sell out with their eardrum-shredding, tinnitus-inducing fourth album.

Slow Readers Club – Cavalcade

Dark, brooding post-punk / new-wave / electro-infused indie par excellence:Cavalcade is bursting with songs of a rare quality.

New Politicians – Remission

The best Interpol album not recorded by Interpol. Chilling, atmospheric, brilliant.

Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls

Every element of Prurient’s previous output distilled into a double album of pain and beauty. Perseverance essential.

Sleaford Mods – Key Markets

This is no bandwagon-hopping throw-in: Sleaford Mods are without question one of, if not THE most significant acts going. Key Markets encapsulates everything that makes the Mods ace, and despite their rising popularity, they’ve done nothing to pander to critical or commercial demands on their latest offering, while expanding their scope with tracks like ‘Tarantula Deadly Cargo’.

Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss

Immensely powerful stuff.

 

Primitive Race – Primitive Race

Industrial / goth / 80s crossover mega-collaboration featuring Josh Bradford (Revolting Cocks, Stayte, Simple Shelter), Mark Brooks (Warlock Pinchers, Foreskin 500, Night Club), Mark Gemini Thwaite (Peter Murphy, The Mission UK, Tricky), Dave Ogilvie (Skinny Puppy, Jakalope), and Chris Kniker. Off the back of an EP with PIG (aka Raymond Watts), the debut album proved to be diverse and really rather good.

Blacklisters – Adult

Leeds’ premier purveyors of nasty noise returned with a killer second album. Still making a nod to The Jesus Lizard and Shellac, with gritty riffs in abundance, but with denser production than its predecessor. I’m not messing around here…

Post War Glamour Girls – Feeling Strange

Following swiftly on from their storming debut, Leeds’ Post War Glamour Girls delivered an equally storming second album. At times bleak, at times angry, it proved to be adventurous, daring and accomplished.

Swans – The Gate

No need to explain or justify this one. Swan have been going from strength to strength, and while the Filth reissue was also a contender, this collection of live recordings and demos for the next album is all about looking forward. It also captures the immense power of the band’s current incarnation live with remarkable accuracy, although it’s fair to say nothing can fully convey the force of their unassailable volume. You don’t know loud until you’ve experienced Swans. There really is no other band who have ever, or will ever, touch Swans. Yes, I’m a total fanboy.

Killing Joke – Pylon

Killing Joke were always the band of the apocalypse, the angry but articulate voice of dissent to political corruption and cultural greed. Pylon is perfectly timed and absolutely on the money, with some cracking – not to mention fittingly heavy – tunes to boot. With punishing riffs galore, the original lineup are on fine form here.

Kowloon Walled City – Grievances

Post-metal par excellence. By turns delicate and punishing, Kowloon Walled City’s Grievances is the sound of pain, conveyed in a way that resonates to the very core of the soul.

Sunn O))) – Kannon

Krushing.

 

You want more? Auralaggravation.com is a good place to start….

Nutjobs, Pissheads and Pains in the Ass

I don’t know what it is about me that seems to draw the crazies. I certainly don’t go looking for them, but they spring out of the woodwork and in an instant decide that I’m the kind of person who wants to converse with random strangers. In actual fact, little could be further from the truth. I’m a fast walker and I habitually avoid eye contact with people in the street. Wearing tinted glasses makes this easier, I find. More often than not, I have earphones in, too, just to create more of a barrier between myself and the world. But where the crazies – and drunks – are concerned, this exterior seems to send the opposite message. Or perhaps they’re just oblivious.

So I was walking back home after watching The Yawns play at The Basement. It was a little after eleven. I was more or less sober, having only consumed three and a bit pints (it would have been four, but while trying to photograph the band, I’d managed to spill the majority of my last pint, much to my extreme annoyance), but feeling buoyant because it had been a good show, and I’d had the chance to catch a few words with Joe Coates (the man behind Please Please You, and the majority of decent gigs in York), and Mark Wynn, cool music scene people I don’t see nearly often enough. I had just parted company with my mate Big Sam, the Balaclava Boy, and had not yet plugged myself into my MP3 player to create my hermetic space. I was, however, wearing a black Thinsulate hat pulled low to the bridge of my nose and felt pretty sealed off.

I’d clocked a guy leaving Sainsbury’s with a carrier bag as I crossed the road, and had seen him remove a bottle of wine from the bag, crack the cap off and take a long slug from the bottle. I thought nothing of it, and wasn’t concerned by the fact I’d probably have to overtake him. Up ahead a way, he stopped to roll a cigarette, and it was at this point I came to pass him.

“’Scuse me, mate.”

I should’ve walked on by and feigned deafness. But I’ve tried that before, and been harangued all the way down the street for ignoring such people. I figured he was going to ask me for a light. It happens a lot. I simply explain I don’t have a lighter because I quit smoking and that’s that. So I stopped and looked at the guy.

“Do you like heavy metal?”

Shit.

“I hope you don’t think I’m, like, stereotyping or making assumptions, but I thought you looked a bit alternative and like you’d be into different stuff like heavy metal. I hope you’re not offended or anything.”

“Not at all. It’s not my first choice of music,” I professed, “but I like some metal.”

“Yeah? Like Sepultura an’ that?”

“Not so much,” I replied.

“No? What then?”

My ears weren’t only ringing from the gig – I’d left the house in a hurry and irritatingly forgotten my earplugs – but from the clutch of upcoming Southern Lord releases Lauren at Rarely Unable had recently put my way and that I’d spent the afternoon getting my lugs round. These were still fresh – and loud – in my mind and represent, to me, the only kind of metal worth listening to. The really heavy, abrasive stuff. The nasty, gnarly stuff, the full-throated sonic annihilation of grindcore and crust is far more my bag than the overblown fretwankery of the ‘big’ metal acts. I attempted to explain this to him, although as succinctly and as accessibly as possible.

“So, like Slayer an’ that?”

“Not really,” I said. This really wasn’t going anywhere and I rather hoped my less than leading response would leave the conversation as extinguished as his poorly-rolled ciggy.

“No-one listens to metal,” he moaned. “I mean, I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but I’m a shit-hot guitarist. You probably think I’m just a drunk wanker, and I am drunk, but I can play all the songs. Metallica, Iron Maiden. I’m 40 years old and I’ve been playing guitar for 20 years but I just can’t find a band to play in. Do you know where I could go to find other people who are into metal who’d want to be in a band with me? Do you play?”

“Nah. I play guitar a bit and can move a bar chord around in time but it’s pretty basic. I gave up on playing music and now I write about it instead.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m a music writer.”

“Like a journalist?”

“Yes. I review stuff. CDs and live music. And I can tell you that a lot of people do listen to metal. It’s a huge market.”

“Yeah but I can’t find anyone. There’s nothing I’ve ever found that I can’t play. I can do all the solos, even. But no-one’s interested. It’s all DJ this and fucking MC that and… you know what I mean? You’re not a DJ are you?”

“Hell no. I’m a writer.” The guy was beginning to get on my wick and I was pleased to arrive at my turn-off from the main road. “I’m off down here,” I said.

“Me too.”

Shit.

“I know you’re probably thinking I’m some drunk twat, and I am drunk, but don’t worry, I live round here, I’m not trying to stalk you or follow you home or anything. I am a bit drunk, but I’m a decent bloke, y’know, and I know I’m a good guitar player. I mean that. I don’t like going up to people and saying ‘I’m a shit-hit guitar player, though.”

“Maybe you should. If you’re serious, you need to get out there.” I believed he wasn’t going to stalk me or follow me home, and I doubted he was about to turn and knife me, kick me head in or smash the now half-empty wine bottle over my head, but figured it was still wiser to humour him – because he was clearly a drunk twat – than risk it by tying to shake him in an obvious fashion.

“Is that what you’d do?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re a DJ?” There was a broad hint of incredulity in his voice.

“No, a writer.” There was a broad hint of weariness in mine.

“So how does that work?”

“I get sent music and I review it. I go to see bands play and I review them.”

“Where? Who do you write for?”

“Various websites.”

“Websites, eh? And you’re a journalist? But you don’t know where I can go to meet people who’d give me a chance? How do I find people that are into metal? I’m a fucking awesome guitar player – and I’m not just saying that, and it’s not just because I’m drunk – although I am drunk – I can play everything and I love metal. Satriani, you name it.”

“Maybe you could go and see some bands playing. Talk to them. they’ll know other musicians, people in bands who are looking for a guitarist.”

“And they’ll be into metal? I mean, I’ve got a band in theory – like me, and a bassist and a keyboard player but we don’t need a fucking keyboard player.”

“No, that’s a bit 80s hair rock, I’d have thought.”

“Yeh, exactly.”

And so it went on in this way until we reached a junction where our routes diverged, much to my relief.

“It’s been good to meet you,” he said. “Thanks for listening. A lot of people wouldn’t have done.”

“That’s the kind of guy I am.”

“You’re a good guy. What did you say your name was?”

“Thanks. I’m Chris.”

“Right, yeah. I’m Steve. And you’re really a DJ?”

 

drunk-guy

Some drunk bloke I found on the Internet

 

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