So here we are, another year of releases has comfortably past us and we’ve settled nicely into 2015. While the previous year delivered us such delights as ‘Manipulator’, ‘Ultimate Painting’, ‘and The Golden Dregs’, ‘Atlas’ and countless more, we have high expectations for what is to come this year. The following fourteen records we feel won’t just be unanimous favourites of ours, but will have left a prominent mark in terms of innovative, original output when it comes to December again. They range from majorly anticipated releases on revered labels, to home-grown LPs, self-released through word of mouth. It’s vital that as much focus is given equally between releases, as music shouldn’t be defined by the way we receive it, but simply by the output that we are hearing. What’s exciting about the turn of the year is not knowing what’s around the corner, it’s impossible to predict in its entirety what may be upon us, but that’s what makes art absorbing and allows it to consistently develop.
THE BLACK TAMBOURINES
Release: May 2015
Label: Easy Action
From the instant catchiness of their first EP, ‘Chica‘ in 2011, to the cohesive balance of their self-titled record, The Black Tambourines have forged an unavoidable template of Garage-Pop that has naturally developed into an enticing and rewarding sound.
Their penchant for inescapable melodies and harmonies has consistently stood out, displaying their ability with a pop hook or two within fuzzy refrains and wild live sets. With ‘Freedom‘, each of those elements have been brought further into the fore, yet most importantly so has the underrated creativity of the band.
‘I Wanna Stay Away‘ is a focused ball of energy, while ‘Hurricane‘ elicits such strength in its chorus yet is delivered with such casualness that it completely defines the record as a whole, displaying the freedom in what they can achieve. The record will be an inspired display of pop-writing, yet delving further within shall reward in droves.
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Release: 5th May 2015
Whilst being more than a prominent and influential member of the current wave of San Franciscan Garage that has burst through in recent years, 29-year-old Mikal Cronin has delivered us two solo records of heart-swelling Power Pop that is as introspectively fragile as it is empowering and upbeat. On ‘Mikal Cronin‘ and ‘MKII‘, touches of abstract melodies consistently alluded to Cronin’s predilection for Psych, while the rough and ready approach from his time in the Ty Segall Band is a powerful driving force.
Suitably titled ‘MKIII‘, Cronin returns with a 70s FM Pop direction, injected within a Modern US Indie-Rock core. He retains his exasperated croon and a taste for thought-provoking lyricism within a pop-timeframe. ‘Made My Mind Up‘ is Cronin perhaps at his most rapturous and poignant in equal measure. Following the brilliance of ‘MKII‘ will be a hard task, but Cronin will achieve this simply by doing what he does so well. ‘MKIII‘ suggests a grander sound from the Californian.
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Title: ‘Lost Dawn‘
Label: Easy Action
Lost Dawn have carved themselves into a unique bracket. Setting out on the road with swaggering blues-rock, the duo developed a tight yet still raw and sharp rhythm structure from years of fostering influences they wore on their sleeves. Now burning with driven glam-rock that touches on most sub-genres in the process, Lost’s Dawn’s pop sculptures are as boastful as they are fret by devilish paranoia.
While Blues, Psych, Garage, even 70s Pop mould their sound, from ‘Robert’s Song‘, through ‘Count On Me‘ and even the erratic nature of ‘Manchild‘ their’s a brooding hook under each. Their ability to wear their influences without sounding artificial is testament to a group that have now organically drawn their own template.
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Title: ‘Carrie & Lowell’
Release: 30th March
Label: Asthmatic Kitty
For an artist who has consistently startled and left his listener craving for more, Sufjan Stevens has become on the most fascinating composers of emotionally tendered, ever adapting music of the 21st Century. His composure in creating heart-rendering structures laden with blissful melodies has become so natural within his music, whatever direction he is to take, that simple factor will remain and touch.
With ‘Carrie & Lowell‘, a return to his folk roots is expected. The release of ‘No Shade in The Shadow of The Cross‘, takes the gentle beauty of chords heard on ‘Michigan‘ and Sufjan’s high, almost whispering vocal and instantly immerses you into Stevens’ mind.
You can never predict Sufjan Stevens’ next move, that is what’s exciting. All that can be expected is that Stevens’ delivers a deeply personal and encompassing record that, like previous, sounds completely novel in his catalogue.
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UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA
Release: 26th May
Through two intensely intricate and deeply focused records, Ruban Nielsen has forged an adapting formula of Soul-infused pop fuzz. Perhaps unnoticeably cryptic to the social listener, sonically and lyrically, Nielsen’s immersive creativity continues to mystify and absorb in equal measure.
‘Multi-Love‘, when considered, is without doubt the next logical step that we never saw coming. Developing a passion for synth and hi-fi production, UMOs soulful inclinations may come to the fore even further whilst retaining Nielsen’s astonishing qualities with a pop hook.
Confounding on every level, UMO create influential pop that hides much deeper treats than their counterparts. On the outside, ‘Multi-Love’ will deliver empowering, almost joyful sonics, but inside of it, their will be even greater delights.
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Release: 28th April
The fuzz-pop drenched and pastel coloured explosions that resonates from Sheffield’s Nai Harvest’s new single, ‘Sick On My Heart’, is a tell-tail sign that the band are making headway to becoming a ‘big thing’ for this year. The steady rise of the duos’ slickly recorded slacker pop has been ongoing since the release of the shoegaze/punk LP, Whatever, which put the band firmly on everybody’s radar.
Coming out April 28th via Topshelf Records, the bands sophomore album, Hairball, seems set to catapult the duo into waters much bigger and deeper than what they were first swimming in. If anything is to be gained from the unequivocally positive response to the news of the new release it’s this; Nai Harvest are a band that deserve to have your undivided attention throughout the rest of this year, as what they have planned may be bigger than what you first expect.
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Title: ‘Hot. Reckless. Totally Insane‘
Release: 18th May
Best Friends explain they are “armed with a encyclopaedic knowledge of WWF, a full set of achievements on Mario Kart and several crates of beer” when it comes the release of their new album, as yet untitled, out May 18th via Fatcat Records. Their new single, ‘Fake Spit’, taken from the album, shows that the band have decided to depart aesthetically from their scrappy and dilapidated surf rock Art Is Hard days, but have still kept the fun and anarchy deeply imbedded in the music.
Their stark change from lo-fi to hi-fi production adds excitement value to hear what this new, mature version, of Best Friends will come up with. Guarantees can still be made though, that whatever happens, whatever the band come up with, whatever the music brings, it’ll always be laced with that free-spirited, riotous, party filled clamor that have made Best Friends so magnetic and unique amongst the surf garage horde.
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Title: ‘Stand Still and Rot’
Release: 19th May
Scotland’s brightest hope for music amid the indie scene rest firmly upon Pinact’s shoulders. The Glasgow duo have built upon their incendiary and granular DIY approach to the craft of pop songwriting by blending scuzzy vocals and unwholesomely fuzzed guitars into a sonic barrage of hooks and cadences that indubitably put them above the rest. Stand Still And Rot is the bands debut album and is set to showcase them at their most ferocious and unhinged, with lead single, ‘Anxiety’, taken from the LP, confirming at how impressive at riff writing and melody creation the band genuinely is.
Set to be released May 19th, Stand Still And Rot will see Pinact make the transition from a humble and understated DIY outfit into a much bigger and more mature band, preparing them for the inevitable success and opportunities that will be thrown their way post album release.
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Title: ‘Peanut Butter‘
Release: 11th May
Label: Fortuna Pop!
“We tried to make it shorter, more economical and attempted to pack as many hooks and screams in as quickly possible in order to avoid short changing the consumer” explains Joanna Gruesome’s guitarist, Owen Williams, concerning the bands forthcoming LP ‘Peanut Butter’. The glaring signs that this new release from the hyper melodic and sonically violent noise rockers are found saliently obvious when you read their official album bio. Stating that, due to rising international pressure, the band is releasing their album across three labels, Fortuna Pop! (UK), Slumberland (US) and Turnstile (RoW), just to live up to the demand that’s been put upon them and their music.
Their latest cut and new single, ‘Last Year’, shows that the band really have tried to squeeze every bit of mileage from their well crafted songwriting into a package that completely and succinctly sums up their sugar-coated and anarchic approach to music. With MJ from Hookworms again sitting behind the mixing desk and producing the new record as he did their first, Joanna Gruesome are really putting themselves onto the fast track to once again shake up the DIY scene that birthed them.
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Release: 6th April
Drenge’s year and a half existence since the release of their critically acclaimed self-titled first album has been a progressive escalation of success after success. Swimming in the pool of a very small group of bands who have managed to create a cult following for themselves in modern times, Drenge have built underneath them a foundation of support and adoration stemming from successful performances ranging from Jools Holland to Glastonbury, all creating a huge spotlight for themselves in the alternative community.
Its hard not to be intrigued by what will come next from the Loveless boys. Within their self-imposed limitation as a two-piece they delivered an album that included the alt-punk of ‘Bloodsports‘, the visceral march of ‘Backwaters‘, the bluesy stomp of ‘Nothing‘ (the closest the band come to sounding anything like any of their rock duo peers) and the languid, old-before-their-time pop of the albums closer.
Remarks from the band hinted that the moody, eight minute ‘Lets Pretend‘ might be more of a signpost as to what we might be in for when it comes to the follow up Undertow. So far though, apart form a live incarnation of ‘Standing In The Cold’, this side of the bands output seems to have been kept in check. ‘Snakes’ and ‘Running Wild‘, whilst not matching the pace of the likes of ‘Gun Crazy‘ or ‘I Want to Break You In Half‘, are concise jams with enough riffs between them for most bands to fill an album.
April 4th is the release date for the bands sophomore album, Undertow, and an opportunity for them to flex their musical muscle and show they can follow up upon past achievements and dominations. ‘We Can Do What We Want’, the lead single taken from the album, gives us high hopes that they can consummate such a feat and hopefully, go on again to provide the soundtrack to this years festivals and summer experiences.
(JW & DB)
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Title: ‘Ivy Tripp’
Release: 4th April
Having given us a teaser in the shape of ‘Air‘, ‘Ivy Tripp’ may be a return to the vulnerability of Katie Crutchfield’s lo-fi debut, ‘American Weekend’, minus the ever present sense of naivety that ran through the album. Whilst ‘Cerulean Salt’ found sharper production and the guitars plugged in, the sugary alt-pop delivery didn’t quite fit. This is territory the likes of Best Coast and The Breeders seem more comfortable occupying. With ‘Air‘, however, Crutchfield has struck on a melodic intensity that is a ominous presage to the new album.
The guitar is a haunting weave of arpeggiated single notes whilst the chorus is a soaring, ethereal chant, bursting with synth and marching snare drum. The track shares the striking sparsity of ‘Cerulean Salt’’s standout track, ‘Brother Bryan‘, though fully embellished and pushed skywards. If this is any indication of the tone of ‘Ivy Tripp’ as a whole, then it should prove to be an intriguing listen with an added sense of drama that Crutchfield seems to be handling with aplomb.
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Towards the end of last year, this Gravesend four piece released two tracks for Brighton label Dead Fun that didn’t get anywhere near the attention they deserved. “A Song For Baron Willoughby” and “Wandwaver” didn’t stray to far from the skewed, frenetic machine-gun, garage punk that is Thee MVPs staple, its just that its the best its ever sounded. With the quality of the two tracks and the hints at the bands first full length, 2015 looks like it could be Thee MVPs year.
Its rare to find a band that can shape interesting, dynamic punk songs and still manage to bring the party. Its this level of craft behind the fun that sets them apart from those who simply want to hitch a ride on the Ty Segall nostalgia bandwagon.
If that was the case there would be credible concerns over how the Sturm und Drang that forms the body of the bands material to date would fair over the course of a full length. Instead, the likes of ‘U.S Airways‘ and “Sauna Song/January”, from their self-titled EP, showcased a level of instrumental manipulation and a willingness to lock into a groove, that keeps things interesting. Even the tried and tested quiet-loud formula of ‘A Torah for the Tourer’ manages to sound contemporary. If they keep it up they could deliver the best punk album of the year.
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Title: Strangers to Ourselves
Release: 17th March
Isaac Brock has always taken his time between albums but eight years is a long stretch even by his standards. Our first taste of the new album came in December of last year, in the form of ‘Lampshades On Fire‘ and confirmed that the bands signature sound had remained largely intact: scratchy, faux-funk guitars and Brock’s inimitable vocals, a blend of redneck, white-boy rap and possessed street proselytiser.
Inevitably critics will see this simply as a diluted incarnation of the band they once adored, sour that they can never again relive the moment they first heard ‘Float On‘ or ‘Marching Into The Sea’, which along with ‘Lampshades…‘ exemplify Brock’s Frank Black-esque ability to go from the insanely manic to the sublimely melodic in a heartbeat.
Since then two more cuts from the album have been released; the tender, subdued “Coyotes” which, despite its light and playful veneer, still manages references to “serial killers”, “sharks” and “giant ’ol monsters”, and “The Best Room”. The latter is the one that seems to have provoked most concern from both critics and fans when it comes to the new album. Perhaps because musically it doesn’t break any new ground and lyrically it comes across a bit to literal and heavy handed when it comes to satirising those ‘western concerns’. Even so, by now we should learn to trust Brock and co. to deliver the goods.
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On ‘Persistent Malaise’, the Brighton three-piece showed such adeptness and musical maturity that its hard to think that their follow up, recorded at London’s Sound Savers, will be anything other than another step forward. At a time when prolific, rapid fire releases seem to be the order of the day, Cold Pumas careful, considered approach is refreshing. The band seemed to come fully formed when they released their debut, apparently playing together for a year, honing their sound before playing to an audience. And it shows in their recorded output. Only a band that had jammed together tirelessly would know how far they could take a repeated guitar line before a subtle shift in tempo or the layering of melodic counterpoint was needed.
‘Fog Cutter’ and ‘Sherry Island’ are lessons in how well this can work in the right hands, the former’s resemblance to ‘Disorder’ garnering favourable comparisons to the motorik moodiness of Joy Division without any sense that this might be overstating the bands case. They really are that good. ‘Puce Movement‘ and ‘Vanishing Point‘ lean even further towards the post-punk while ‘Rayon Girls‘ lilting alt doo-wop lifts the the latter half of the album with a surprisingly tender pop gem. Having released an eleven track album of singles and b-sides of which the twitchy rave-up, ‘Jela’ is a particular highlight, the band show no shortage of ideas as to where to take their sound.
Words: Ross Jones, Dan Brown & Jon Whitfield
Feature Photo: Holly Kennelly
‘The Black Tambourines’ Photo: Morgan Lloyd-Matthews