Thursday, December 10, 2015

Top 30 Records of 2015: 30-21

2015 was an interesting year for music.  Admittedly work, my renewed love of professional wrestling (and my totally awesome pro wrestling podcast), and my attempts to make K98X The Fringe a thing took up a lot of my time this year, thus writing reviews took a backseat.  Generally speaking the records that I did review were ones that I really liked.  In other words I really had to be impressed with a release to take the time to write about it.  Not that my time is oh so important or anything like that.  I'm old and lazy and had a decent amount of writers block this year so the reviews were sporadic and in some cases held off for months (I have recently spent a lot of time trying to get caught up on reviews of records that I have wanted to write about but never got around to putting fingers to keyboard, if you know what I mean).

Not too unlike the last few years, the things that really caught my ear in 2015 were singer-songwriters that got their start in punk, gravelly punk bands channeling arena rock anthems, big hooks, '90s inspired indie and punk, power pop, and alt country.  So yet another year of orgcore friendly selections.  One song more than anything else released this year spoke directly to my heart with a conviction and social conscious that perfectly captured the times in which we live.  Had it been released on an album or EP it probably would have been my record of the year but it was put out simply as a single.

This list fluctuated a lot over the course of the year, much of it comprised of records released in the last few months.  Many of my favorite artists put out records in 2015, nearly all of them appearing on this list in one form or another along with a slew of new or new-to-me bands.  I have broken down the list into three posts of 10 records, plus a post of honorable mentions, and the song of the year.  Each artist on this list, in my humble opinion, is worth checking out and most certainly deserves our support.

Honorable Mentions; 20-11; 10-1; Song of the Year

30.  Help Wanted by Civil War Rust
From my review --
Civil War Rust's sophomore album Help Wanted is an extremely fun and satisfying record.  Hailing from the East Bay, Civil War Rust have taken the classic punk history of their home, internalized it, modernized it, and added some Midwest flavor resulting in a sound that is equal parts pop punk, melodic skate punk, and gravelly throated, country influenced punk.  In other words imagine The Mr T Experience jamming with Pegboy, Dead To Me, and Nothington and you have Civil War Rust.  The result is nothing short of fantastic.

29.  Come Back, Come Back! by Kelly Kemp
From my review --
Driven by Kemp's classically beautiful voice, dark and often misanthropic lyrics, and simple acoustic guitar, Come Back, Come Back! conveys a desperation that is palpable and poignant.  While certainly a dark record, Kemp deftly keeps things from going over the edge into utter depression resulting in a batch of songs that speak straight to those harder times and emotions without giving in to complete anguish and despair.  And that is why Come Back, Come Back! works.

28.  Let's Play Two by American Television
From my review --
Hailing from Washington, DC, American Television play a ridiculously fun, '90s inspired, form of indie punk power pop. Their latest release, Let's Play Two, is a two song EP that is short, fun, catchy, and determined to stick in your head as long as humanly possible. The opening track “Optimist” is an infectious number that bemoans the disappointments of living with a happy, hopeful, and idealistic point of view. “Dead & Gone” is a defiant ode to those who bully and detract, proclaiming that their time of causing heartache and pain is over and there is a brighter tomorrow.

27.  Play It Cool by Kurt Baker
From my review --
Kurt Baker's second proper full-length album Play It Cool is power pop perfection. Baker has this style of music down pat and seems to have an endless supply of great songs up his sleeve. The 12 song record takes on all of the usual power pop suspects with songs about girls, partying, rocking, and girls driven by three chords and a big fat smile.

26.  Party Adjacent by Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room
From my review --
Dan Andriano's sophomore solo release Party Adjacent is a deeply personal yet poignantly relatable record. Andriano's signature smooth croon is in full effect, bringing a sweet hopefulness to the sometimes sad and depressing lyrics. At its core, Party Adjacent is a record that deals with what happens to a misfit as he reaches middle age. The journey is often a sad, dark, and lonely one and Andriano captures the stress, uncertainty, and joy of this life quest beautifully.

25.  Scars by Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves
From my review --
Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves play a melodic form of punk rock that mixes elements of post hardcore, alt country, and pop punk resulting in a sound that transcends the genre with great anthem filed rock ‘n’ roll.  The EP’s standout moment is a brilliant “The Cross and The Switchblade,” a mid-tempo heart wrencher that truly showcases the incredible songwriting talent of this band.  Scars and Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves in general is a must for fans of Red City Radio, The Tim Version, Iron Chic, The Gaslight Anthem, Latterman, and Nothington...

24.  Love is the Great Rebellion by Ben Lee
From my review --
With Love is the Great Rebellion (Lee) returns to form, playing catchy pop songs, written on an acoustic guitar, singing about love and the result is spectacular. These songs are honest and heartfelt and driven by Lee's passionate view of the world and the importance of love in the grand scheme of things. In fact, it is very possible that this is Lee's best work to date and it is easily his best work in the last five years. Love is the Great Rebellion works on so many different levels with songs that will worm their way into your head and lyrics and themes that are powerful and touching, shining a bright light of hope on through the dark clouds that have been hanging over the world in recent years. Love, kindness, compassion—these are the things that can heal the world and Ben Lee brings out that hope and majesty in song so perfectly.

23.  Well...Just Jabber by Jabber
From my review --
Jabber's latest EP Well...Just Jabber is a brilliant blast of pop punk goodness.  Hailing from Oakland, CA the foursome plays bubblegum, catchy and clever as hell pop punk reminiscent of The Donnas' early work.  The EP's standout moment is the Mean Girls inspired "Grool."

22.  High On Drama by Noise By Numbers
From my review --
The band continues with their signature Midwestern melodic pop punk indie college rock sound that is equally nostalgic, modern, and timeless.  Noise By Numbers is the kind of band that would sound perfect next to ‘80s college rock, ‘90s indie and punk, and modern bands like Beach Slang, Restorations, and The Copyrights.  High On Drama is six insanely catchy songs filled with great melodies, catchy hooks, and a Lemonheads cover that is to die for.  Boasting members of Dan Vapid & the Cheats, The Methadones, Textbook, The Bomb, and All Eyes West it would be physically impossible for this band not to rock and rock they do.

21.  Volume 2 by The Warning Shots
From my review --
The Warning Shots' sophomore EP Volume 2 is five songs of high energy, catchy as f, passionate, and fun as all hell rock 'n' roll. At first glance, the Boston five-piece sounds to be a 77 style punk band (not that there is anything wrong with that) but as this EP shows, they are so, so, so much more. The band's debut EP Six to Midnight was incredible, one of the best releases of 2013, and Volume 2 is just as good, if not better.

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