Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Thirteen New Albums I Heard in 2015


*** A Top Five List ***
*** And Then Another Eight In Alphabetical Order After That ***

Not that some albums didn't leave me scroggled, and I'll list those out for you shortly, but I think that the feeling I am left with nonetheless from the year in music is one of disappointment. Deafheaven and Deerhunter, whose albums I each spent most of the year anticipating, both failed to build on 2013 masterpieces, and Locrian also turned out a record not as good as their last.

Well, every year ain't 1969, or 1986, or 2000.

Let me be clear: nothing I bought new this year sucked, and I'm still a fan of every band on this list. But on the other hand, I think the only five-star albums I know from 2015 are the first two I'll mention.

1. Sannhet - Revisionist

- Tremendous beautiful luminous gorgeous heavy music, occupying much of the same territory that Sunbather did a couple years ago. If anything, it is even more audacious.

2. Enslaved - In Times

- Enslaved are an entity unto themselves. You could say "Progressive Black metal" or you could simply say "Enslaved Music." Their progression since Isa has been uncanny, with each album since being better than the last. In Times keeps that forward motion going. I'm a fan of Opeth, too, but Mikael Akerfeldt wishes his band was this consistently innovative. Enslaved are the shit. Enough said.

3. High On Fire - Luminiferous

- Definitely better than De Vermis Mysteriis, and probably the trio's best since Blessed Black Wings. Only the failed foray into slower territory with "The Falconist" keeps it from being flawless. Lemmy's tragic recent passing makes me think that Matt Pike is the greatest and heaviest rock 'n' roll lifer we have left; may he have many more triumphs like Luminiferous.

4. Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit And Think and Sometimes I Just Sit

- Not a particularly obscure pick, and probably a little afield for me, but like some of the critical darlings dear to me, it's quirky, and it rocks.

5. Protomartyr - The Agent Intellect

- A very worthy successor in a year short on them to Under Colour of Official Right, recorded live, and I am extremely psyched to know that I will be seeing them in February.

Lesser, somewhat flawed lights--

Bosse-De-Nage - All Fours

- Rolling Stone recently did a little featurette on the metalgaze scene (or blackgaze as they called it) and in it, they said this was the best metal album of the year. So I jumped on it, but in keeping with the year, I was sort of disappointed. Moments of power were not in short supply, but moments of grandeur kind of were.

CVLT Nation Sleep's Holy Mountain Cover Project

- I still don't know Sleep's first album as well as I might, and I know nothing of the bands who recorded these covers beyond their appearances here, but my immediate reaction was that this was a cover of Sleep's weakest album by weaker bands. I've definitely not given up on it, though, and if my opinion of this thing in two years is radically different, well, I wouldn't be surprised. Frown's cover of "Nain's Baptism" will be a good place to jump back on when I do.

The Heavy Eyes - He Dreams of Lions

- A couple years ago, I discovered a song by this Memphis stoner band called "The Iron Giants," which I absolutely loved. Somehow I got onto their bandcamp mailing list, and sometime during the summer, I received an offer to buy their discography for some ridiculous price. So I jumped on it, and it included this, their offering for 2015. Maybe nothing as good as the song I knew, but nonetheless, this is good heavy melodic stuff.

Locrian - Infinite Dissolution

- Lost in all the Sunbather mania in 2013 was Locrian's Return to Annihilation, an album that mixed electronic noise with ambient and shiny shiny black metal. Their new one is a little less focused, and probably another follow-up from 2015 that doesn't reach its predecessor's highs, but Locrian remain a band for me to follow.

Deerhunter - Fading Frontier

- I think of Jeff Beck and Brian Eno, who had car accidents that changed their careers. Bradford Cox wasn't driving, but he got hit by a car and Jesus Christ, he's like made of twigs, it's a wonder he wasn't killed. But instead, he was simply laid up in the hospital for a long while. But instead of inventing ambient, or conceiving mad designs involving the talkbox, he just decided that his band should regress. Monomania, a masterwork in my opinion, was a radical departure for Deerhunter, and Fading Frontier retreats from all of it.

This may not have been a big deal if the "ambient punk" songs they returned to were as good as they were on Crytpograms or Microcastle, but for the most part they are quite simply not. However, let me give some props to "All the Same," which does reach some of those heights.

Parquet Courts - Monastic Living (EP) In a year when artists like Deerhunter and Deafheaven failed to move forward from career highs, Monastic Living is one example of a band who did move forward in 2015. After fucking with krautrock and covering Lee Hazelwood in 2014, 2015 saw Parquet Courts moving into angular postrock and skronk. I have perhaps never seen such a hilariously negative review of a buzzband on Pitchfork, please read it, the savagery for a band merely trying to broaden themselves is unreal, but know this: Monastic Living is out there, it's experimental, and it ain't perfect. But we like out good bands to try new things, so if anything I am more of a fan of Parquet Courts after Monastic Living than I was before.

Deafheaven - New Bermuda - Yeah, Pitchfork. You can look this one up, but they gave New Bermuda a 9.0. It's not a bad record. I like intensity, and you can't say New Bermuda is not intense, but the majesty of Sunbather is missing. The beauty, the shit that shakes your soul, it's there only in sporadic doses, perhaps the most on "Brought To the Water.". This is more metal and less gaze, when I would have probably preferred the opposite.

Carach Angren - This Is No Fairy Tale - I started seeing Carach Angren a lot on tumblr, and figured I should download a couple albums to check 'em out. Perhaps if I were deeper into black metal (or even power metal) the orchestral touches would strike a heavier chord with me. It seems so European to me, and of course I'm a child of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Metallica. It's good stuff, clearly, and they have ideas, but I'm never going to love this band, or bands like them.

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