2015… An Odd Year In Review.

Karl Kuehn (Museum Mouth / Family Bike)

“I somehow managed to escape the treacherous food service job I’d had for the last six years and found myself working in a record store for the second half of 2015—which had to be some weird fate shit cuz SO MANY great releases dropped later in the year. Here are my top 10 albums…”

1. PWR BTTM – “Ugly Cherries” // I knew I was gonna love this record from the moment I saw that Father/Daughter had signed a band called PWR BTTM. I was at a red light checking twitter (plz don’t tweet and drive) and after streaming the title track like 5 times in a row on my shitty phone speaker I was SOLD. I know I’m gonna end up talking a lot about lyrics on this list—the lyrics here are some of the most relatable I’ve found maybe ever. God bless Liv and Ben. Thank you Liv and Ben.

2. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Emotion” // By now we’ve all heard the “Carly’s team had the biggest song of 2012 but wanted the biggest album of 2015 blah blah blah” story and damn if they didn’t exceed any and all expectations I MEAN EVERY SONG MAKES ME WANNA SCREAM. A LOT. I listened to “Gimmie Love” like 40 times in a row laying on my kitchen floor a week after this album came out and when I finally got up I was a different person.

3. Speedy Ortiz – “Foil Deer” // Musically this record is one of the wildest most impressive things I think I’ve ever heard. If I had a dollar for every time I had no idea what the guitar was doing in any one of these songs I’d have enough $$$ to buy this album over and over again WHICH I WOULD DO because it’s THAT GOOD. And don’t even get me started on the lyrics. I could write a novel about how obsessed I am with the imagery here. Sadie Dupuis’ ability to tell a complete story in 2-4 minutes is so… It’s just so. And the album art. I love it. I just love it.

4. Grimes – “Art Angels” // I don’t know if Claire Boucher spent the last three years scouring 99¢ bins for random CDs from the late 90’s to the early 2000’s to play while driving in her mom’s old Buick LeSabre but I definitely did, and as someone who tried to convince their friends that LEN was the coolest band of summer 2014 I am so thankful for Art Angels. I think pop music is best when it’s straightforward BUT kinda fucked up, and this record excels at that both musically and lyrically. Pretty sure I cried the first time I made it to “Butterfly” but I’m also pretty sure I had been up for 48 hours prior to that, and staring at a screen for 46 of those hours.

5. Mitski – “Bury Me At Makeout Creek” // Okay, let me start by saying YES I know this is technically a 2014 release but it was so late in the year that I didn’t get into it until 2015, and aren’t the Grammys on a weird delayed calendar or something? Whatever. This record rocks! Kory (who plays bass in MM) said recently that this album sounds like the music in his head and I FEEL THAT. The production on this record is perfect. Parts of this record feels like warm air blowing in through an open window. Parts of this record sounds like cold fishing weights in the palm of your hand. All of it is human AF. I’m painting a shitty picture now. I’m so sorry. I’m an art school dropout. Forgive me.

6. Shamir – “Ratchet” // Let’s face it. We all get tagged in things on Facebook we don’t wanna look at. Actually, does anyone REALLY wanna look at anything on Facebook anymore? Regardless, I got tagged in a comment on a Shamir live video from SXSW 2015 and maybe I was feeling a bit nostalgic for not getting crazy sunburnt and dehydrated in Texas with my friends for a week this year but I ACTUALLY CLICKED ON IT and I’m so glad I did. Ratchet is the perfect album to get work done to, to dance to, to cry to, to slink around your house like weird cat while doing laundry and playing Neko Atsume to, trust me. I have a rule about never doing karaoke but if I ever broke it I’d have a pretty tough time choosing between “The Anthem” by Good Charlotte or “On The Regular” by Shamir.

7. Protomartyr – “The Agent Intellect” // Hands down one of the best parts about working in a record store is getting promo materials in the mail. Two weeks after I got hired I had the privilege of opening a massive box of Disturbed stickers and posters; the only moment of promo bliss that can even begin to compare was getting to open an envelope from Hardly Art with a copy of The Agent Intellect inside. See how I just used a semicolon? (I think correctly?) I swear to god just listening to this record has made me smarter. If I’m being totally honest this record makes me feel like a handsome gay man with an ivy league education who gets paid six figures to use his brain and read books. Maybe one day.

8. Beach House – “Thank Your Lucky Stars” // Okay. I’m not gonna say *I KNEW* Beach House was gonna release two full lengths a little over a month apart in 2015 but Depression Cherry felt incomplete to me. I get that the band has stressed time and time again that the two albums aren’t companion pieces, and that these two records don’t make a double album but in my opinion TYLS functions as the perfect contrast to DP. DP is Beach House at their most Beach House. They’re conveying a feeling, and they’re conveying that feeling with a color, and they’re literally conveying that feeling with an album cover made of crushed velvet and if that’s not an artist being an artist, I don’t know what is. Props to them tho cuz as someone who has been screaming at their bandmates about synesthesia for years I am all about using a monochromatic palette for an album of red songs, but I happen to like the more loose—more honest “rock band” Beach House that shows up on TYLS. I also think pairing a black and white photo with little rhinestones against woodgrain and green glitter is more my taste, and I’ve always been obsessed with those reflective numbers/letters you can get at Lowe’s for your mailbox.

9. Deerhunter – “Fading Frontier” // Ahh yes, the new Deerhunter album that all the Indie Rock Males hate. 🙂 This album is short (by Deerhunter standards) and pretty and I like that. I like the idea of this band getting older and wiser and making a record that sounds like a coastal vacation from the dark gross basement that was Monomania. Don’t get me wrong! I love that album as well! I just think this record, much like Monomania, sounds like the cover art, and this one just happens to be a bit more pleasant, a bit easier. This record sounds intentional. It sounds like the type of album you finish, then you go lay outside in the sun by a pool or something and just think “yeah, I made this” and you feel good. You feel nice.

10. Courtney Barnett – “Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit” // I will never not be able to associate this record with summer 2015. The summer I spent putting records in boxes for Will Miller at Tiny Engines, and eating all the Airheads I was supposed to be putting in those boxes, and taking the ferry to and from that job. I will never not be able to associate “Depreston” with being sticky with sweat while driving in my car with no air conditioning on days it was raining too hard to put the windows down. Lyrically the songs on this record unfold in a really unique way: you don’t really know what they’re about until you’re two-thirds of the way through the track and you’ve read or clearly made out every single line. I feel like calling something a “””modern classic””” can be gross or condescending, but I think this album might be one, and I think that’s a cool thing.

Jeremy Snyder (Numbo / Wunderbeast)

“Everyone should listen to more music all the time.”

Jeremy’s Top 10 Records:

1. Disappears – “Irreal”

2. Consumer Electronics – “Dollhouse Songs”

3. The Necks – “Vertigo”

4. Viet Cong – “S/T”

5. Novelist – “1 Sec EP”

6. Jim O’Rourke – “Simple Songs”

7. Rabit – “Communion”

8. Destruction Unit – “Negative Feedback Resistor”

9. Bjork – “Vulnicura”

10. Chelsea Wolfe – “Abyss”

Honorable mentions:

Oren Ambarchi & Jim O’Rourke – “Behold”

Skepta – “Shutdown” (single)

Wrekmeister Harmonies – “Night of Your Ascension”

Prurient – “Frozen Niagara Falls”

Shane Coble (Rapper Shane / Permanent Vacation / Know Good Ent.)

“First let me say, I know ima forget some shit but off the top this is what I’m rollin with! In no particular order…” 

Freddie Gibbs – “Shadow Of A Doubt”… Cus Gangsta Gibbs is my shit!
Earl Sweatshirt – “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside”… One the best youngins out.
Vince staples – “Summertime 06”… Another youngin killing the game.
Algiers – “Algiers” … Do yourself a favor and listen if you don’t know!
Jesus Junior – “Prostitution Street” … Grant Cunt FOREVER.
Young Fathers – “White Men Are Black Men Too” … I fucks with these dudes!
Elevator Jay – “Sum’na Say”… Escalator Jay AKA Aligator Jay AKA Jay walk Jay AKA Mr Eddie Legs … The king of summertime anthems
Lower Dens – “Escape from Evil”… cus I like it
Hungry Girl – “Hungry Girl” … good ol’ rock n’ fucking roll from my hometown.
Bully – “Feels Like”
This new Wiki “Lil Me” album just dropped too but have not sat with it long enough .. however it’s really good so far!

Mike Moschetto (Aviator / Alcoa)

Joanna Newsom – “Divers”

Self Defense Family – “Heaven Is Earth”

Deafheaven – “New Bermuda”

Foreign Tongues – “Fragile, As Said Before”

A.M. Overcast – “Beauty Ave.”

Looming – “Nailbiter”

Julia Holter – “Have You In My Wilderness”

Holy Sons – “Fall of Man”

The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – “Harmlessness”

Vattnet Viskar – Settler”

Josh Robbins (Self Aware Records / Late Bloomer / Alright)

Coming up with a top ten list is really hard, pretty dumb, and I always tend to forget what I watched or listened to in that year. Usually when we start putting together lists, we forget albums that came out earlier in the year, which is pretty unfair to January or February albums/movies/shows, etc.

I thought it would be interesting to just keep track of everything that I watch and listen to in 2015. Keep in mind, this list does not include albums or films that I have already experienced. There were a lot of great albums in 2015, and I don’t feel like I listened to as much as I really wanted to. Also, I tend to listen to older albums that I’ve already heard, so there’s that.

I did spend a lot of my drive time in 2015, listening to podcasts, so that might explain a dip in music listening. If you made a similar list, you would be surprised and maybe shocked, on how much time you spend (waste?) on consuming media. Maybe this social experiment will get me to spend less time watching tv/film and focus a little more time with loved ones or creating on my own. Maybe I’ll actually use my gym membership in 2016, but I will probably just get the Sopranos on DVD.

Lastly, I feel like I need to mention a few bands that Self Aware Records released albums by in 2015. I didn’t feel like I can put them on the list, but go check out Mineral Girls, Alright, Family Friend, Plow United, The Headies, Junior Astronomers, Museum Mouth, Sea of Storms and Amanda X.

Josh's List

Alex shaw (kNOW Good Ent.)

“Fuck 2015 for real tho…”

Ben Frost // Just the best show of the year for so many reasons. Watching someone quiet a crowd with volume and texture was incredibly inspirational.

Autechre // A bucket list show, and one that didn’t disappoint. Two men in the dark, testing the limits of what people can endure sonically, breaking tropes and rhythms for 45 brutal minutes.

Ben Klock Essential Mix // Two hours of techno that will make you feel like you can walk through a wall.

Awesome Tapes From Africa // DJ’ng on cassette tape in a record shop in London. A dude who goes to Africa, sources funky danceable music and brings it for us to hear. Unique and refreshing, but not preachy or didactic, just grooves for the dance floor from an unexpected place.

Arca – “For both Mutant and Vulnicura” // Skittery dis-ease for the soundtrack to late night driving and a break up record of some power.

Floating Points – “Elaenia” // My favorite record of the year, and hopefully a refutation of the ludicrous idea that electronic music isn’t ‘real’ music, a viewpoint of such short sightedness it takes the breath away.

Rabit – “Communion”  // Is this Industro-Grime? Maybe, but whatever you want to call it, Rabit is doing a thing that nobody else is doing. Noisy, but beautiful and intelligent.

Björk // I’m ashamed to say that I’d put Björk in the things I don’t get category, based on really hating ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ when I was 15. Heard ‘Stonemilker’ because of Arca and have since spent more time with Björk and her back catalogue than just about any artist this year. Wish I hadn’t waited so long.

Kendrick Lamar – “To Pimp A Butterfly” // Funky, angry and vital, the record 2015 needed. The record people will still be listening to in 20 years time as we try and work out what happened this year. The best album of the year, not to be confused with my favorite, only because the mirror it holds up makes us all look so damned dirty.

Father – “Look at Wrist” // This year has taught me a lot about friendship. There’s a group of us bonded by grief for our friend and for the death of a dream we slogged to create. Whenever this song comes on and we’re all around, we dance like goons, laugh and are together. Although it’s ostensibly a very silly song and drives people bananas it’s a lesson in what music can be for people, an escape and unifying factor all in one. I will always smile when I hear it and remember the moments before everything went squirrely at the end there.

John Russell (Alright / Earth Mover)

John’s Top 10 Records of 2015…

Bully – “Feels Like”

Lightning Bolt – “Fantasy Empire”

Swervedriver – “Autodidact”

A Place To Bury Strangers – “Transfixiation”

Cloakroom – “Further Out”

Kendrick Lamar – “To Pimp A Butterfly”

Run Forever – “Run Forever”

Drake – “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late”

Discourse – “Sanity Decays”

Lana Del Rey – “Honeymoon”

Ally HoffmanN (MTHR)

Erykah Badu’s self-released mixtape “But You Caint Use My Phone,” especially the track “Hello”, which remedies that Todd Rundgren/Isley Brothers song with Andrè 3000. I will add that I appreciated her continued theme of phone usage when she fired beautifully at Iggy Azalea during the Soul Train Awards.

La Luz – “Weirdo Shrine”… It’s ghostly and dreamy and sad with small lil bits of pop. Really, it’s like the all the Beach Boys died peacefully in their sleep and are singing about it.

Oh, I’m really really glad that earlier this year Warp Records released a repressing of Broadcast albums.

G.L.O.S.S. demo… Either you are hooked by the intro/first song or you are a cop.

Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly”… Same as above.

Lower Dens – “Escape From Evil”.

These three singles make me really really happy…

  1. David Bowie’s “Blackstar,” the video kind of reemerged the way I felt after seeing The Man Who Fell to Earth.
  2. New Order’s “Tutti Frutti” came out last weekend, does that count? It should. I guess Hot Chip already remixed this, but it’s perfect as the original audio, featuring La Roux.
  3. BBoys’ “Other Head”… You like David Byrne, you love garage punk, so please listen to this. It’s on their Bandcamp.

The year in news and events is pretty enraging. I’m fan of a couple things that happened this year, like how a black woman, Viola Davis, won the Emmy for best actress in a drama. Also, those planet-title-removers found poisonous ice on Pluto. That’s like breaking up with someone and then they get even hotter.

Naaman Mims (Minor Press Screenprinting)

“No real order! Just Albums I’ve played the most and dug this year!”

Spraynard – “Mable”

Night Birds – “Mutiny at Muscle Beach”

Red City Radio – “Red City Radio”

H20- “Use Your Voice”

Elway – “Better Whenever”

Ceremony – “The L-Shaped Man”

Frank Turner – “Positive Songs For Negative People”

Jason Isbell – “Something More Than Free

Pullman Strike – “Silver Lining”

American Aquarium – “Wolves”

Cam Moretti (Foreign Tongues)

“It’s a hard decision for me to choose my “favorite” anything; food, movies, clothes, etc, so clearly music and albums fall heavily under this category. I based all of my choices trying to sort of pick my favorite 5 that aren’t within similar genres. Here they are..”

1. Marching Church – “This World Is Not Enough” // I feel in love with this album from the first second I heard the sloppy saxophone riff in ‘King of Song’. I think it’s an interesting take on Elia’s musical progression, and honestly I enjoy it more than what he did on the last Iceage record. The record has this loose daunting honesty to it. I can not compare it to anything else and that is why this one is at the top of the list.

2. Ought – “Sun Coming Down” // I’ve honestly only been listening to this record for a few months, but I can truthfully say it is a daily rotation. ‘Beautiful Blue Sky’ caught my attention the moment the guitar started. And vocals that remind me of a combination of David Byrne and the late Ian Curtis. I fell in love. Lyrically this band, to me, is perfect.

3. Low – “Ones and Sixes” // ‘The Invisible Way’, Low’s 2013 release, was sonically exactly what I look for in a dreamy slow yet dark record. ‘Ones and Sixes’, being Low’s 11th release and from a career that spans 22 years, was the furthest thing from a disappointment.

4. Sun Kil Moon – ‘Universal Themes” // Mark Kozelek IMO is one of the most lyrically intriguing singer-songwriters that is still making music to this day. ‘Universal Themes’ also IMO seems like a cynical follow-up to the beautifully written prior release ‘Benji’. None the less, there’s raw talent shining through the entire record. Every time I hear it I feel as if I pick up on something I may have missed before.

5. This Is The Kit – “Bashed Out” // I caught wind of this release via Aaron Dessner, the guitarist of The National, who produced the album. Kate Stables voice is just beautiful here. This album gives me IMO the true feeling of an “indie rock” record. Instantly reminded me of older Wilco where some songs have a folky, plucky feel then a loud synthesizer comes in and changes the entire vibe.

Phil Pucci (Serfs / Ernie / mELT / laNDLESS)

“I originally wrote a very long-winded intro for this. This year I avoided listening to guitar music whenever I could, because it was giving me a lot of anxiety related to a couple of my own guitar-heavy EPs and LPs I recorded with various projects this year (all of which are scheduled to come out very soon). Here are some albums I really liked this year that provided a safe haven for me…”

1. Lordmaster DJ SK the Subterranean Suspect – “Cold Rock Sex Bug”
(beat tape/instrumental hip hop)

2. 2 8 1 4 – “新しい日の誕生”
(ambient/hotel lobby music)

3. Empress Of – “Me”

4. The Internet – “Ego Death”
(alternative r&b)

5. Erykah Badu – “But U Caint Use My Phone”

6. Clarence Clarity – “No Now”
(alternative r&b)

7. Carly Rae Jepsen – “E•MO•TION”

8. Jeremih – “Late Nights: The Album”

9. Jamie xx – “In Colour”
(UK bass)

10. Bilal – “In Another Life”

Brett Green (The Mineral Girls / Blanket Fort)

Brett’s Top Records of 2015…

Traams – “Modern Dancing”

Mt. Eerie – “Sauna”

Hop Along – “Painted Shut”

Dogs On Acid – “Dogs On Acid”

Car Seat Headrest – “Teens Of Style”

Girl Band – “Holding Hands With Jamie”

Nap Eyes – “Whine Of The Mystic”

Spraynard – “Mable”

The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – “Harmlessness”

Tamaryn – “Cranekiss”

Caiti Mason (Shell)

METZ – “III.” // Chicken soup for the angsty kid’s soul.

Sufjan Stevens – “Carrie & Lowell” // This album has made me cry and gives me the “tingles,” which are two things I’ve always wanted to accomplish with music.

Spirit Club – “Spirit Club” // Sound like if The Beach Boys went swimming in a Waaves sound in the 80s.

Justin Bieber – “Purpose” // I may be biased because I love his bleach blonde 90s soccer mom hair and Calvin Klein panties but this album is addicting.  Belieb me.

Viet Cong – “Viet Cong” // Chicken soup for the angsty adults’s sexy soul.

Travi$ Scott – “Rodeo” // Pussy rattling bass.

Mount Eerie – “Sauna” // 90% warm and cozy, and 10% uneasy feelings but mostly makes me want to slow dance in a blanket.

Pile – “You’re Better Than This” // From being chill to yelling in no time.

Chelsea Wolfe – “Abyss” // Songs you paint your nails black and polish your animal skulls collection to.  The bass is so deep and sludgy it makes me so happy.

Hop Along – “Painted Shut” // This album got me through one of the many rough patches this year.

Justin Lamont Brown (Ernie)

Justin’s Top Records of 2015…

The Mineral Girls – “Go Cozy”

Haybaby – “Sleepy Kids”

Protomaytr – “The Agent Intellect”

Tame Impala – “Currents”

Hop Along – “Painted Shut”

See Through Dresses – “End of Days”

Krill – “A Distant Fist Unclenching”

Title Fight – “Hyperview”

Sitcom – “Drum Set”

“And the best song of the year is ‘Lacewing’ by Muskrat”


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