Top 5 Albums Of 2015 With… The BLUNT Staff
As 2015 comes to a close and you’re slammed in the face with list after list after list, let it be known that this is the most important end-of-year wrap-up of them all, because we’re sure you’re all dying to know what didn’t leave our players this year. With albums said to be in the works for Deftones, Tonight Alive, Avenged Sevenfold, Pierce The Veil, Of Mice & Men, Gojira, Blink-182, Sum 41 and more, we’re already hotly anticipating who’ll make our top 5 list for 2016. Have a scroll through the BLUNT team’s picks below and see if any of your faves from this year made our list.
Top 5 Albums Of 2015 With… The BLUNT Staff
1. Refused – Freedom
You could have counted this scribe among the sceptics when these Swedes announced their initial return a few years back. The mere whiff of a nostalgia run seemingly flew entirely in the face of their much-vaunted “Refused are fucking dead” ethos. Freedom seems to revel in being anything but a conventional hardcore/punk record; although anyone who anticipated such was foolish. A genre-busting, expectation-shattering, dynamic LP which confounds initially, but increasingly rewards.
2. Faith No More – Sol Invictus
Even 18 years on, being subversive is hard-wired into the rockers’ DNA. It would have been churlish to expect another legitimate game-changer, even for a group boasting such a combustible chemistry, but it’s schizophrenic, and littered with shit-stirring humour. Readily identifiable as Faith No More yet not a mere retread of past glories, Sol Invictus instead underlines a knack of harnessing their past without being slaves to it. Welcome back, you fat bastards.
3. Clutch – Psychic Warfare
If Clutch ever made anything resembling a dud record you could consider BLUNT positively stunned. This is perhaps their most consistent offering in some time, though. An instantly engaging rock record, it bridges numerous tasty blues licks and Neil Fallon’s lovably demented stream-of-consciousness lyrics while Jean-Paul Gaster distinctively swings behind the kit. Simply, these songs burst with energy and purpose, not to mention hooks, courtesy of a group who should rightfully be one of the world’s biggest bands.
4. Psycroptic – Psycroptic
As mind-bending as early releases were, Tasmania tech-death maestros Psycroptic have since learnt a vital lesson. Namely, everyone loves riffs and blasts, but cramming in too many denied them their full value. The frenzied licks and manic tempo changes even led one pundit to dub them “seizure metal”. Instead, letting elements breathe and riding the groove train afforded the quartet a new lease on life, without neglecting what initially brought them to the dance. This LP is marginally less technically-minded, more measured in pace, but regularly memorable.
5. Soilwork – The Ride Majestic
Since rediscovering their mojo via 2010’s The Panic Broadcast, Soilwork haven’t unleashed a career second wind so much as a full-blown hurricane. Longtime bassist Ola Flink eschewing music in favour of a domesticated existence prior to The Ride Majestic seemed to galvanise the remaining personnel to create another melodic death metal master-class. A darker tone pervades throughout, but these eargasms also reinforce that few execute the bipolar vocal caper with such panache and conviction as “Speed” Strid.
1. Baroness – Purple
2015 was a good year for metal releases; High On Fire, Clutch and The Sword all put out some killer records, but none of them come close to touching the crown jewel that is Baroness’ Purple. This is their most prog-rock sounding release so far, especially on tracks “Chlorine And Wine” and “If I Have To Wake Up”, but still totes those crunchy sludge riffs that we all know and love (“Morningstar” and “Try To Disappear”). With every new album Baroness top their previous efforts, making it even harder to pick a favourite among their catalogue.
2. Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon
Real talk: This is the best Australian album of 2015. Choose Your Weapon is a masterfully crafted album that’s overflowing with ideas and influences – the band perfectly describe themselves as being a “future soul” act. Jazz, soul, funk and even retro video-game sounds, this album has everything. Each song is so densely packed that I’m still picking up on little details that I missed before. Listen to “Borderline With My Atoms” or “Shaolin Monk Motherfunk” or “Molasses” and I challenge you to not get lost in Nai Palm’s incredible voice.
3. Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us
Combining emotionally vulnerable lyrics with some raw instrumentals, Beach Slang are one of the absolute best punk bands currently putting out records. The Things We Do… dwells a lot on messing up – be it bad mistakes, failed relationships or just simple hard times – but views it with an unwavering optimism, that although you might not be doing great right now, things will get better. If you’re a fan of either Jawbreaker or The Replacements, you need to listen to this ASAP.
4. John Carpenter – Lost Themes
Cult director-composer John Carpenter has created nine themes for films that don’t exist, but they feel like they were ripped right of his heyday. On “Night” and “Abyss,” with their brooding, drawn-out chords and dark, minimalist sound, he crafts a feeling of dread, that something or someone is lurking in the dark. While there’s nothing here as iconic as the Halloween theme, it captures Carpenter’s strengths as a musician and his ability to create a strong sense of atmosphere.
5. TIE = Wavves – V / FIDLAR – Too
Yeah, I’m kind of cheating picking two albums here but they’re both so good and I’m honestly torn over which is better (although, in fairness, I think Too has more standout tracks, but V is a more consistent listen). Wavves continue to refine and improve their sound with every release, while Too sees FIDLAR growing up and dealing with the consequences of the morning after. Both are great punk albums, and required summer listening.
David James Young
1. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
It’s as honest and endearing as anything to come out of this country – or any other. It’s as resonant and striking as anything to come out of this country – or any other. This is an album that transcended nationality and genre to become something far bigger than anyone could have anticipated. A new classic.
2. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
At once exhilarating, exhausting, difficult, challenging, enthralling, empowering, terrifying and life-changing. From its jazzy beginnings to its alternate-reality ending, there was so much to take in as far as this moon-shooting, high-concept LP that it’s hard to pick a single highlight. A cohesive, unpredictable beast.
3. Making – HIGHLIFE
The loudest and most intense band in Australia finally made the loudest and most intense album of the year. It zigs and zags, pops and dives, explodes and simmers… it’s pure cacophony and it feels incredible. Robotic in its precision and other-worldly in its soundscape, HIGHLIFE is the sound of the underground rising up to swallow the Earth.
4. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle
She’s not even 20 years old yet, and this Tennessee native has conveyed more pain, wisdom, sorrow and heartbreak in her music than those twice her age. The fragility and tenderness that seeps through the spaces between each song is breathtaking; each story feeling more devastating than the next. The future is here.
5. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
A wildchild of the alt-country scene, Jason Isbell was lost at sea following his departure from the Drive-By Truckers some eight years ago. Now, he finds himself writing the best music of his career as a clean and sober husband and father. The road to redemption was a tough one, but it led to this beautiful, important album.
1. Ghost – Meliora
Sinister theatrics and ’70s jams, Meliora takes a step back from the spectacular nature of its predecessor towards a subtle, ominous presence that slowly emits a dark, yet intoxicating atmosphere. It’s calmer, tighter, direct and to the point but still delightfully grandiose. The complexity of this band and the mysticism they’ve created is fascinating, proving once and for all that they’re so much more than the sum of their masks. Beelzebub is back, and you may join him or be destroyed.
2. Lindemann – Skills In Pills
Rammstein’s frontman has never been the posterboy for musical restraint, but most of the world has been spared the full force of Lindemann’s lyrics due to the language barrier. Once he teamed up with Peter Tägtgren and started singing in English, all bets were off as Lindemann unashamedly sang about fat fetishes, golden showers and his love for abortions. Combine that with catchy industrial riffs and grooves that bounce between synthy anthems and heavy metal hitters, and Skills In Pills is an album that’s inexplicably alluring and utterly addictive.
3. Tame Impala – Currents
Kevin Parker may have switched his fuzzed-out psychedelic strings for funky, disco-ish synthpop, but the reverb-laden tones and dreamlike nature of Tame Impala still beats at the heart of Currents. The change in style may not be to everyone’s tastes, but this is still an undeniably well-written record that retains musical consistency and a sense of isolation, as it drifts through surreal landscapes grounded in personal conviction. Currents drops you into a strange little world where poignant themes often contrast beautiful music, and you become Parker’s emotional plaything.
4. Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor
Although shocking in the ’90s, Manson’s controversial persona didn’t quite grow with the times, and it’s been years since he’s been able to really get under anyone’s skin. So who would have thought that a bit of introspection supported by dark, blues-fuelled industrial alt-rock was the key to unnerving the masses once more. Instead of acting out, Manson looked inside and found that a personal touch was all that was needed to reawaken the menacing beast, allowing the brilliant storyteller to finally come back to the spotlight.
5. Refused – Freedom
The album that was never supposed to be came to be, and showed what happens when a band leaves 17 years between records while the members spend time playing music far removed from their original sound. Highly refined yet completely indifferent to musical “rules”, Freedom forges its own wild path without collapsing into a clusterfuck of mismatched ideas, bypassing any and all expectations of what a “comeback record” should be.
Wayne “Auntie Slatts” Slattery
1. Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Cattle’s seventh studio album is in my opinion their best recording to date… and I should know because I’ve listened to at least three of them. Travis Ryan’s vocal stylings are unique and his range is so broad he has become a sought-after cameo on many notable artists recordings and side projects. Couple that with the breakneck speeds of Josh, Derek and Dave’s musicianship delivered tighter than a fish’s arsehole and you’ve got my number one pick for 2015.
2. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
She’s Australia’s next Paul Kelly. She sings songs about the ordinary and delivers stories that are concise and simple and make it very easy to put yourself into a first person situation with whatever topic/track comes on next.
3. Cosmic Psychos – Cum The Raw Prawn
The forefathers of fuck all. Like the AC/DC of Aussie bogan punk rock, each album doesn’t try and change the world, it’s just like your favourite shitter at work: sit down, relax and let them stink up your earholes. “Fuckwit City” – personal favourite.
4. Ecca Vandal – Singles
It’s not an album, it’s not a CD, but in the last 12 months Ecca Vandal has released four ridiculously fucking good tracks that somehow combine the feelings of ’90s Aussie grunge like Magic Dirt and the sounds of Sia smoking crack.
5. High Tension – Bully
Riffs are straight ahead punk metal and Karina Utomo’s vocals are tough and in-your-face – if you’ve seen them live then listening to the CD you still get that uneasy feeling that Utomo may just reach through the speakers and rip your throat out. Bully is a personal favourite and, at the risk of being repetitive and exposing my inability to go outside a small range of reference music, I would describe them as Heavy Metal Magic Dirt.
1. Thy Art Is Murder – Holy War
Almost the perfect metal record. Depending on your point of view it’s either worryingly bleak, alarmingly inflammatory or realistically pragmatic. But with a huge unrelenting rhythm section backing one of the best voices in metal today, all wrapped up in a shit-storm of controversy, this was textbook stuff. Brutal, ruthless and, importantly, homegrown. A classic in the making.
2. Tame Impala – Currents
Played to death and it’s still catchy as hell. Another soon-to-be classic Aussie release on the total other end of the spectrum. Broadly relatable lyrical content and radio-friendly psychedelic production and yet even the most cynical arsehole can be found turning it up when triple j plays one of the tracks for the billionth time.
3. BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul
Three 20-something Canadian jazz nerds somehow found the perfect partnership with 45-year-old Wu Tang warrior Ghostface Killah in the hip hop record of the year. Perfectly subtle instrumental jams from BADBADNOTGOOD set the mood for one of Ghostface’s finest performances. Every MC out there should be banging down the door of the BadBadNotGood studio after this one.
4. Reso – Ricochet
Dark and aggressive drum and bass has been supplanted by cookie-cutter dubstep and festival EDM for years now. London’s Reso reached back to the sounds that defined drum and bass over the last 20 years and dragged them forward to 2015 for a dark, brutal trip through amen breaks and skull splitting bass.
5. God Mother – Maktbehov
29 minutes of pure Swedish aggression. The perfect album if you ever thought APMD and Some Girls could stand to get together in the studio, or if you like the brutality of The Dillinger Escape Plan but you’re sick of them being so progressive. The kind of album that would get a pit going in the aisle on the Monday morning bus and easily one of 2015’s best.
1. Laura Marling – Short Movie
Before making her fifth album, Laura Marling decided to get lost in America. The result is Short Movie, a sprawling epic that finds her beefing up her sound to match her fierce observations and defiant spirit. “False Hope”, “Gurdjieff’s Daughter” and the sweary title track are as loud as she’s ever been, but there’s still room for the delicate beauty of “How Can I”, “Easy” and “Worship Me”.
2. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
Whether writing about swimming, driving or house-hunting, Courtney Barnett finds clever poetry in the mundane. She’s not the first artist to do wordplay, but few manage it this well. And while her deadpan delivery catches your ears initially, the music offers plenty of variety, from the noisy “Pedestrian At Best” to the bluesy “Small Poppies” and the somber acoustics of “Depreston”.
3. The Districts – A Flourish And A Spoil
Full-blooded indie rock is just something that America does best, and The Districts are the latest young guns on the scene to put their heart and soul on the line. In fact, given their age the lyrical prowess on display is quite something. If you’re not caught up, howling and thumping your own chest by the time the guitar line on “Young Blood” kicks in at the album’s crescendo, then give up on music now.
4. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the reformed riot grrrls picked up where they left off with their blistering eighth album. From the buzzy opening riff of “Price Tag” through to the bruising finale “Fade”, there’s no hint of rustiness, with Corin’s wail still incendiary, Carrie’s riffs sharp and Janet’s drums like clockwork.
5. Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool
After two wonderful EPs, London’s Wolf Alice produced a debut that perfectly balanced their skills in both loud and quiet songs. For the former see “You’re A Germ” and “Giant Peach”, the latter “Bros” and “Soapy Water”, and for both see “Swallowtail”. Rarely does a debut sound so polished, and rarely does it so completely deliver on a young band’s promise.
1. Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us
Best rock record of the year; celebratory and wistful, fresh and nostalgic, all at once. A shot to the heart, as your fist pumps in the air. They’re basically the band that The Gaslight Anthem wish they had the guts and balls to be, but instead got caught up in trying to be Bruce Springsteen instead. A goddamn rock’n’roll revelation.
2. Bad//Dreems – Dogs At Bay
Terrifyingly excellent mix of melodic songcraft and indie pub rock. Not sure how they manage to capture the essence of both The Go-Betweens AND Tony Modra, but Adelaide’s finest totally just did. Dogs At Bay is immense.
3. Royal Headache – High
The world’s greatest garage soul punk band kick arse and take names on their brilliant second album, to the point you want to lay back and let Shogun’s wailing wash over you like a bath of sweet, sweet cathartic red wine. “Love Her If I Tried” is heart-wrenching in the best possible way.
4. Bully – Feels Like
Honest, raw and punchy grungey garage from Nashville, delivered in a way that gives a new spin to the melodic grunge femme punk of Hole/Nina Gordon/Louise Post. So sweet, so jarring, so invigorating.
5. High Tension – Bully
Dude. Just. Fucking hell. This record. It’s brutal and exhilarating. Kinda like tripping with a boner while carrying an operating blender that’s set to ‘fuck you’. The Melbourne band knocked it out of the park with this one.
1. Periphery – Juggernaut: Alpha + Juggernaut: Omega
After starting life as a bedroom studio project for Misha Mansoor, Periphery continue to develop their identity as a true band. We got hints of it on the Clear EP but the twin Juggernaut albums are where the lads fully focused their strengths as writers and as a musical unit. The sound quality is ridiculously high, especially considering the wide range of frequencies occupied by their downtuned 6, 7 and 8-string guitars. And yet it still leaves them somewhere to go – it feels like Periphery’s best album is still ahead of them.
2. Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor
And then Manson went ahead and put out the best rock record of the year; celebratory and wistful, fresh and nostalgic all at once. A shot to the heart, as your fist pumps in the air. In impressive return to form.
3. Faith No More – Sol Invictus
Faith No More could have played it safe on their comeback album but instead they made a quirky, twisted set of songs that took more than a few listens to get into. But once it gets its hooks into ya it becomes one of those albums where you get to the end and have to go back to the start, like, eight times.
4. Ghost – Meliora
Meliora is what would happen if Alice In Chains were into Satan. Think of it as Blue Öyster Cult without the oysters. Ghost have always been fun but their previous two albums have been a little spotty, blending greatness with ‘eh’ tracks. On Meliora they pull it all together with stomping riffs, chilling menace and, on “He Is”, the sweetest, most inspirational love song to the Horned One ever.
5. Teramaze – Her Halo
Dream Theater didn’t release a studio album in 2015 but that’s okay because we have Australian band Teramaze, led by guitar virtuoso Dean Wells. Wells isn’t shy about displaying the influence of Dream Theater’s John Petrucci on his playing, but there’s a little more darkness in Teramaze – more progressive metal than progressive rock.
1. Royal Headache – High
Undisputed kings of Sydney’s underground rock scene, Royal Headache artfully avoided the sophomore slump. Each of High’s songs pack stripped-back indie hooks and an optimistic passion borrowed from classic soul and pop. Yet from the gloriously fast “Little Star” to the laidback, languid “Carolina”, every cut sings with an unmistakable DIY punk spirit that sounds like it spilled out of an Inner West pub after a few schooners too many. A great record for a hot summer.
2. Deafheaven – New Bermuda
It’s darker, filthier, bleaker and, yes, even better than Sunbather. So many words have been spilled on these guys, but the five tortured and beautiful epics here prove that their music transcends all the bullshit. New Bermuda asks some pretty big questions lyrically, but before going deep with it there’s so much music to sink your teeth into. The guitar work is just fucking great, splitting the difference between extreme metal and ’90s alt-rock in a way that sounds totally fresh and utterly obvious.
3. Elder – Lore
Can stoner metal, progressive rock and post-punk play nice together? Elder’s latest album answers with a resounding “Fuck Yeah”, horns flipped while a killer guitar solo wails off in the distance through a cloud of dry ice. Sounding at once deeply familiar and forward-thinking, Lore is an album of patient, wandering journeys, filled with stunning musical scenery. This album is meant to be taken as a whole, but the wonderful “Legend” is as good a place to start as any.
4. We Lost The Sea – Departure Songs
Maybe the saddest, most poignant heavy record I heard all year. Departure Songs is like still water’s surface. Wordless, monochrome and inscrutable until you dive inside and find worlds live below the surface. Much of what is found at the bottom is pain and regret, the songs being informed by tragic losses of life both real to the band and heard in stories. But out of these experiences something lasting and beautiful has been created. Completely instrumental, totally unhurried and profoundly melancholy, this isn’t for the faint-hearted.
5. Failure – The Heart Is A Monster
Remember the ’90s, when alternative rock was catchy as hell as well as being well-written and mature? Failure are here to help you remember. Never appreciated enough in their time, most would know them as the guys who wrote a song Maynard sang on Thirteenth Step. But The Heart Is A Monster has songwriting heft behind it. The band’s space rock atmospheres, deep grungy riffs, quirky hooks and complex song arrangements remain intact, married to a set of songs that might be their strongest yet.
1. Born Lion – Final Words
When Sydney’s best punk’n’roll band finally pulled their fingers out and committed to full-length album, it was no surprise they landed an ARIA nomination for it. Catchy melodies, discordant chords punched when you least expect them and some monstrous riffage made Final Words the perfect album to stage dive off the living room couch to. “Good Dogs Play Dead” had more ‘tude than a dinosaur wearing shades cruising down the street on a pink skateboard.
2. Bad//Dreems – Dogs At Bay
These indie rockers all but lost the “indie” part of that tag when they hunkered down with a famous ‘80s rock producer for their debut album. Dogs At Bay is beautifully produced with rich guitar and drums tones, delivering equal thwacks of proto punk and pub rock sing-alongs. “Cuffed And Collared” was the best sneering slice of no-frills Aussie rock fury since The Peep Tempel hit us with “Carol”.
3. Cult Leader – Lightless Walk
This was the heaviest thing we heard all year and positively bleak as fuck (BAF for short, dawg). Utah’s finest put their crushingly miserable brand of metallic hardcore through the well-respected Kurt Ballou/God City recording machine and churned out a hefty slice of pure destruction that feels like you’ve been kinghit by a skyscraper. For some reason we keep going back for more.
4. Death Grips – The Powers That B
Hip hop doesn’t get enough true innovators and controversial Californians Death Grips push the envelope so hard that at first you might find The Powers That B to be almost unlistenable. Stick out it. Sure, it’s fucking weird but there’s a truckload of imagination on display here and they penned the best song titles of the year by far.
5. Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool
After delivering the best live show we saw in 2015, Wolf Alice also gave us an album that rose above the many other ‘90s call-back bands. It was real nice of them. They made guitars fun again, drenched everything they recorded in a wash of melody’n’fuzz, and served up one of the very few rock albums this year that was certifiably filler-free.
1. Slaves – Are You Satisfied?
2015 was a great year for debut albums – only a fool would deny that. But no one stole our hearts quite like this brattish UK duo. Laurie Vincent doles out the simple, brilliant riffs, while Isaac Holman shouts and pounds the drums (standing up, no less). It’s a fiercely British and belligerent take on modern punk and the world. Are you satisfied? Yes we fucking are.
2. Ecca Vandal – Singles
Alright, so we’re taking a leaf out of dear old Auntie Slatts’ book for this one. Ecca Vandal may not have released a full-length or even an EP this year, but she absolutely took our earholes (and much of the local music industry) by storm. She’s packing the stage presence of a young Gwen Stefani and the badarse edge of M.I.A., all the while sounding like nothing you’ve quite heard before. “White Flag” and “Battle Royal” were certifiably unstoppable.
3. Brawlers – Romantic Errors Of Our Youth
Remember what we said earlier about 2015 being a great year for debuts? Go ahead and add Leeds punk rockers Brawlers to that list. Practically every single cut on Romantic Errors Of Our Youth is a sub three-minute banger telling tales of being young, dumb and full of… fun. We’re not sure what’s in the water over there, but our fam in the Motherland know their way around some top-notch modern punk.
4. Title Fight – Hyperview
Ahhh Hyperview, the album that will forever mark the Pennsylvania group’s full-blown transition from melodic hardcore underdogs to Pitchfork darlings. Title Fight no doubt lost a few fans as they slowed things down, upped the reverb and channelled the melancholy of The Smiths, but this album was undeniably consistent and proved to be the most palatable set of tunes the band have ever put their name to.
5. Holy Holy – When The Storms Would Come
This final spot could have easily been filled by the likes of Royal Headache, FIDLAR, Wavves or Meat Wave, but it was hard to go past (yet another) stellar debut, this time from Aussie duo Holy Holy. They were a standout at Bigsound this year and sound oh-so much bigger than the confines of our little island continent. It’s dreamy, poignant indie rock in the vein of Band Of Horses and The Decemberists, and you can’t go past “A Heroine” and “You Cannot Call For Love Like A Dog”.