The Best Albums of 2015

Best-Albums-20152015 was another great year for new music, but not all those tracks made it onto the best albums. The album is not an easy thing to get right. Some hit it with their debut and then fail to reach those heights again, others get it right second time around, still more take several attempts or never get there. Rare is the artist who reaches a high level of consistency. Rarer still those that keep getting better. This year proves that there are few certainties in music with a list that includes first timers, second chancers, late bloomers and old faithfuls, and omits just as many1.

Some of these records appear on many other end of year lists, but they are not here to make the list seem relevant. Others are much less celebrated, but they are not included in an attempt to appear iconoclastic. Rather, these 20 albums are those that have moved and excited me the most, the ones I still can’t stop playing, the ones that I love the most. Any other measure is meaningless.

Baio - The Names20. Baio The Names
This could have been just a space filler from the nerdiest looking member of a nerdy looking band, but Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio has made good on his promise of an album of “Bowie and Ferry-influenced pop songs and dumbsmart arena techno”. Keeping it to a compact nine-songs-in-39-minutes, he has delivered a record with songs as charming, hooky and interesting as his day job band. Baio’s speak-singing voice suits the songs well thanks to his well judged and mannered phrasing. The tunes are instant, but continue to reveal further charms with every listen. It’s bizarre that this album has been so overlooked. What coverage it received has been good, but the likes of Pitchfork, The Guardian and NME failed to even review it. Clowns!

Recommended tracks: ‘Sister of Pearl’, ‘Brainwash Yyrr Face’, ‘I Was Born In A Marathon’, ‘Needs’.

Cristobal and the Sea - Sugar Now19. Cristobal and the Sea Sugar Now
London-based Anglo / Portugese / Spanish / Corsican fourpiece with debut album of upbeat, trippy psych pop and tropicalia funk. This record got left a few people perplexed or wnderwhelmed on its release back in October, but the sense of joie de vivre and the lightness of touch with which it blends its influences have kept me coming back to it over the last few months. Packed full of charm and its best songs are unlike anything else released this year. 

Recommended tracks: ‘Sunset of Our Troubles’, ‘Counting Smiles’, ‘Happy Living Things’, ‘Fish Eye’

Gun Outfit - Dream All Over18. Gun Outfit Dream All Over
The fourth album from the Olympia band led by guitarist / vocalist
Dylan Sharp and Carrie Keith feels like riding through a sunblasted plain. You can feel the heat and taste the dust as the country noir and desert dreampop unfolds over 41 minutes with twelve songs that bear the imprint of folk, Sonic Youth, psych and krautrock. The near-motorik beats and meadnering guitars of ‘Gotta Wanna’, the sitar-like sounds of ‘Matters to a Head’, the slow stoned sprawl of ‘Scorpios Vegas’ and the closing ‘Only Ever Over’ are just some of the highlights.

Recommended tracks: ‘Gotta Wanna’, ‘Matters to a Head’, ‘Scorpios Vegas’, ‘Only Ever Over’.

Protomartyr - The Agent Intellect17. Protomartyr The Agent Intellect
Detroit post-punk infuenced band’s third album bridges the gap between Girls Against Boys and Cop Shoot Cop. Unlike those band’s there’s no twin bass attack, but there are unhinged rhythms, and a cold, jagged, metallic edge to the guitars while Joe Casey’s vocal style is part declamatory, part detached observer.

Recommended tracks: ‘Cowards Starve’, ‘I Forgive You’, ‘The Devil in His Youth’

Wolf Alice - My Love Is Cool16. Wolf Alice My Love Is Cool
The north London band retain some of the grunge-influences of their earlier EPs on their debut album – particularly on ‘Your Loves Whore’, ‘Fluffy’, ‘You’re A Germ’ and the alt-rock muscularity of ‘Giant Peach’. But they also deliver the claustrophobic noir of ‘Silk’ and bring an assured pop sensibility to the likes of ‘Freazy’, ‘Bros’ and the breezily upbeat ode to stalkerish obsession ‘Lisbon’. It’s an excellent debut that defies attempts at pigeonholing.

Recommended tracks: ‘Bros’, ‘Lisbon’, ‘Silk’, ‘Your Loves Whore’

La Luz - Weirdo Shrine15. La Luz Weirdo Shrine
Surf rock meets pop noir on the Seattle band’s second album. Produced by sometime tour companion Ty Segall, who encouraged the band to take a more relaxed, less perfectionist attitude into the studio and talked singer / guitarist Shana Cleveland into embracing judicious use of a fuzz pedal. Coupled with lyrics in part inspired by Black Hole (Charles Burns’ allegorical graphic novel about a mutation-causing STI) this is one of 2015’s most beguiling albums.

Recommended tracks: ‘Sleep Till They Die’, ‘I Wanna Be Alone (With You)’, ‘Don’t Wanna Be Anywhere’, ‘I’ll Be True’

Low - Ones and Sixes14. Low Ones and Sixes
Over 20 years on from their slowcore origins, Low continue to develop their sound. Ones and Sixes assimilates all the elements of their past while continuing to move forward. There’s barely restrained anger and beauty in the music, frustration and love running through the lyrics. Drums are sometimes processed or replaced by machines, guitars and piano are distorted and an air of menace or at least foreboding underpins many of the songs (‘Gentle’, ‘No Comprende’, ‘Innocents’), even the prettiest of pop songs ‘What Part of Me’ has something dark stirring beneath the surface. But as with all Low records, beauty is never far away in the voices of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, whose shared vocals hit a high on the wonderful ‘Lies’.

Recommended tracks: ‘Lies’, ‘Innocents’, ‘No Comprende’, ‘Congregation’, ‘What Part of Me’

Sufjan Stevens-Carrie and Lowell13. Sufjan Stevens Carrie and Lowell
Inspired by the brief time spent with his schizophrenic, alcoholic mother and her husband when Stevens was still a child, this album can’t help but at first appear like a complete downer. Drum-free and relying (mainly) on acoustic instrumentation, lyrics touching on religion, loss, mental illness and death, this isn’t always an easy listen and it’s not something that you can just put on in the background. But what saves it from ultimate wrist-slitter status are the vocals (even the “we’re all going to die” refrain of ‘Fourth of July’ sounds more beautiful than bleak) and some sparse yet nuanced arrangements (especially on the relatively uplifting ‘The Only Thing’ and ‘Eugene’). If you make it through the first time, each successive listen is more rewarding as the album reveals its complex moods. You might want to follow it up with some Carly Rae Jepson, though.

Recommended tracks: ‘Fourth of July’, ‘The Only Thing’, ‘Should Have Known Better’

Hop Along - Painted Shut12. Hop Along Painted Shut
Like Courtney Barnett, Kurt Vile, The Drink’s Derbhla Minogue and Royal Headache’s Shogun, Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan’s is a voice apart in 2015. A band with a distinctive sound that owes something to the 90s alt rock and even emo, on this their second album much of the power comes from the balance of restraint and release employed by Quinlan and her band as these ten compelling vignettes, touching on blues and jazz musicians, waffle house doppelgangers, humiliation and uncannily radiant teenagers, depression and abuse.

Recommended tracks: ‘Horseshoe Crabs’, ‘Waitress’, ‘Powerful Man’, ‘The Knock’

Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit...11. Courtney Barnett Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit
A singular talent whose keen eye finds relatable detail in the mundane details of both extraordinary and everyday situations and combines it with a storytelling ability that is at once quintessentially Australian and oddly universal in its appeal. Add the sometimes laidback / sometimes enervated singing style and her stellar guitar playing to create one of the most compelling artists of the decade (at least). Since the bundling of her first two EPs as A Sea of Split Peas, the world has been awaiting this debut album proper and, while the production doesn’t always do the live versions of the songs justice (and ‘Depreston’ is near-murdered by the shuffle beat and country-twang), this is still a great album.

Recommended tracks: ‘Elevator Operator’, ‘Pedestrian at Best’, ‘Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party’, ‘Aqua Profunda!’, ‘Dead Fox’

Beach House - Depression Cherry10. Beach House Depression Cherry
The first of two albums released this year by the Baltimore duo. For me, this one just edges out Thank Your Lucky Stars. Warm keyboard washes and drones and Victoria Legrand’s enveloping vocals contrast with drum machine beats and Alex Scally’s distorted guitar tones to create woozy, otherworldly dreampop. An initially comforting and familiar listen that reveals its idiosyncrasies on repeated listens (the girl-group like spoken intro to ‘PPP’, the indecipherable vocal loop that intros and runs through ‘Spark’). Like its predecessor, Bloom (2012), this feels like a gentle pushing of the boundaries of the sound that they first fully realised on third album Teen Dream (2010).

Recommended tracks: ‘Levitation’, ‘Spark’, ‘Space Song’, ‘PPP’.

Kurt Vile-B'lieve I'm Goin' Down9. Kurt Vile b’lieve i’m goin’ down
Even more so than Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze (2013), B’lieve I’m Goin’ Down feels like the release that should bring Kurt Vile to a wider audience. Despite being recorded at six different studios with a variety of producers, engineers, mixers and musicians (including Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa) this album sounds seamless. Though Vile is (quite rightly) noted for his electric guitar playing, he’s no slouch on the acoustic (‘That’s Life, tho’, ‘Kidding Around’), banjo (‘I’m an Outlaw’) and piano (‘Lost My Head There’, ‘Bad Omens’). The lyrics are often self-referential and full of humour, with first single and opener ‘Pretty Pimpin’’ he’s written a classic slacker anthem and one of 2015’s best tunes. But just as importantly, he’s maintained that high level of songwriting across the record, an achievement that even extends to the triple-album version’s bonus tracks. Essential.

Recommended tracks: ‘Pretty Pimpin”, ‘Lost My Head There’, ‘Dust Bunnies’, ‘That’s Life tho”

Royal Headache - High8. Royal Headache High
Four years on from their brilliant debut, Sydney’s premier garage-punk-soul band return with the second album that almost didn’t happen. Clocking in at just under half an hour, there’s an urgency to these ten songs that is lacking from much of what else is out there. ‘Need You’ and ‘Love Her If I Tried’ are northern soul as played by a bunch of garage punks; ‘Garbage’ swaps out the soul for filthy, distorted, metallic guitar; ‘Carolina’ is breezy, elegiac pop while ‘Another World’ alternates between disgust and longing with its “You ate my face to take my place so you can shine in another world / Cause you can’t discern I need a friend who makes me wanna fly to another world” refrain. All of it is elevated by a melodic sensibility and Shogun’s full-throated vocals.

Recommended tracks: ‘Love Her If I Tried’, ‘Another World’, ‘Garbage’, ‘Carolina’

Torres - Sprinter7. Torres Sprinter
Two years on from her excellent debut, Mackenzie Scott returns with a follow up that finds an artist really coming into her own. All the elements – songwriting, lyrics, vocals, performance, arrangements – have moved on from the debut. If not entirely confessional (Scott is as likely to sing in character as she is in the first person) these are deeply personal songs, with lyrics that deal directly or tangentially with identity and finding one’s place in the world; relationships; fear of loss, betrayal. For the album, Scott enlisted original PJ Harvey drummer and bass player Robert Ellis and Ian Oliver (the former also in the producer’s chair) plus Portishead’s Adrian Utley. Their support is felt the most on the triumvirate of most rocking numbers (‘Strange Hellos’, ‘New Skin’ and the title track) as well as the assured and understated ‘Ferris Wheel’ and the re-recorded ‘The Harshest Light’ (previously available in demo form as an RSD 7”). But Sprinter’s most affecting number, the closing ‘The Exchange’, finds Scott solo with acoustic guitar (and some accompanying, ambient birdsong) touching on all the album’s themes through the prism of her adoptive mother’s own adoption.

Recommended tracks: ‘Sprinter’,’New Skin’, ‘Harshest Light’, ‘The Exchange’, ‘Ferris Wheel’, ‘Strange Hellos’

Dick Diver - Melbourne Florida6. Dick Diver Melbourne Florida
Melbourne, Asutralia purveyors of superior, literate guitar pop manages to leap forward while looking backwards. Previously, the band had been compared with the lo-fi jangle of early Go-Betweens and the more melodic of the vintage Flying Nun bands (esp. The Clean, though it’s an influence the band refute). On this their third album they have expanded the scope of their sound and while there’s still plenty of jangle, there’s also some harmonic psych pop chiming on the likes of ‘Waste The Alphabet’ and ‘Tearing The Posters Down’ which recalls first-album era-The Church while ‘Year in Pictures’ has people citing Icehouse’s ‘Great Southern Land’. Mainly-drummer Steph Hughes lead vocals may only appear on a couple of tracks but, as with ‘Gap Life’ on Calendar Days, ‘Leftovers’ leaves an indelible impression.

Recommended tracks: all of them, but try any of ‘Waste The Alphabet’, ‘Year In Pictures’, ‘Competition’, ‘Tearing The Posters Down’, ‘Leftovers’, ‘Private Number’

Tame Impala - Currents5. Tame Impala Currents
After two essential albums of guitar-heavy psychedelic rock, Kevin Parker shifts styles on the third Tame Impala album to embrace elements of 70s soul and 80s electronic pop. Despite the electronic production techniques that gave the earlier records much of their distinct flavour (and despite the fact that they have never really translated those solo studio creations into a compelling live experience) the lack of obvious rock guitar has polarized fans. Both of the band’s previous albums made my personal top five’s in their respective year of release and I’d consider them to both be near perfect. The same goes for Currents. I’ll admit, I don’t think I even registered exactly how different and relegated the guitars are from this album until I’d listened to it a few times. It’s such a dense, encapsulating listening experience, and even though they are expressed differently, the influence of psychedelia and late-period Beatles are as strong as ever. As is the quality of the song writing and construction. It comes across as an obvious (but no less brilliant) evolution.

Recommended tracks: ‘Let It Happen’, ‘Eventually’, ‘Disciples’, ‘Reality In Motion’:

Desperate Journalist - Desperate Journalist4. Desperate Journalist Desperate Journalist
The jangle and chime of Rob Hardy’s 12 string Rickenbaker and Jo Bevan’s impassioned vocals often recall the pairing of Morrissey and Marr at their peak, but there’s also the influence of early-R.E.M., 90s alternative bands and the gothier end of post-punk (the name’s a Cure reference and you can hear the imprint of Joy Division, Siouxsie and The Banshees and The Cult’s Billy Duffy in there too). This debut album’s eleven songs bring a power, beauty, brightness and focus to a quintessentially English-take on post-punk and early-80s indie. If this isn’t on your end of year list, you just haven’t heard it yet, baby.

Recommended tracks: ‘Control’, ‘Cristina’, ‘Eulogy’

Father John Misty - I Love You, Honey Bear3. Father John Misty I Love You, Honeybear
A marriage of concept, songwriting, performance and arrangement that few artists manage to achieve, yet alone sustain for an entire album. This is a leap forward from 2012’s excellent Fear Fun (and even further forward from the stripped down solo works as J. Tillman). From the lush orchestrated title track, to the mariachi horns and strings that adorn ‘Chateau Lobby #4’ to the 80s-influenced synth pop of ‘True Affection’, to the soulful backing vocals and mournful guitar that permeate ‘When You’re Smiling and Astride Me’, to the rising hysteria and stabbing keyboards of ‘The Ideal Husband’ to the near acapella ‘Bored in the USA’ and the acoustic-backed stream of consciousness platitudes / treatise on life and love that is ‘Holy Shit’. This is a diverse album that works as a whole. Some will label this Americana, but that would be inappropriate for an album whose strongest sonic influence appears to be late period Beatles.

Recommended tracks: all of them, but you could start with ‘Chateau Lobby #4’, ‘Bored in the USA’, ‘Ideal Husband’, ‘Holy Shit’

Joanna Newsom - Divers2. Joanna Newsom Divers

Five years on from her magnum opus triple album Have One On Me, Joanna Newsom returned, with what initially looked like a modest record for such a long time away, but soon revealed itself as a major triumph. The songs herein (many about love, place and time) are all of the highest quality, and Newsom’s playing is exceptional, not only on the harp but also a variety of instruments from Moog to Mellotron to Marxophone (and that’s just the Ms). While spending a lot of time mixing a record is usually a sign that the whole project is fucked, on Divers the extension of that period from two weeks to four months has paid off (read a great, non-nerdy article on the process here). As ever, her lyrics are esoteric, full of obscure historical references that often require one key phrase to be deciphered to reveal what the whole is about, but the songs also work on their own, knowing what they are about is not a pre-requisite for falling in love with them. And while her voice will probably always have its detractors, Newsom now has more range and subtly exhibits control without losing any of the character that is so important to the delivery of the songs.

Recommended tracks: all of them, but you could start with ‘A Pin-Light Bent’, ‘Leaving The City’, ‘Goose Eggs’, ‘Divers’.

The Drink - Capital1. The Drink Capital
After last year’s exceptional compilation Company, London-based three-piece The Drink released their debut album proper in November. Where Company was more angular, with much of the energy derived by how the guitar lines sat at odds with the rest of the instruments, Capital’s performances are more sinuous and fluid, the songs emboldened by the confidence and experience of the players, with elements of post-punk, afropop, goth, and prog rock feeding into their “odd, dark folk pop”.This is an album (not unlike Life Without Buildings’ Any Other City) that combines previously unrelated sweet spots from music’s past into something that sounds like it could only have been made in 2015. If there’s a song at the heart of the album it’s ‘You Won’t Come Back at All’, which builds to the extended instrumental outro on the last minute-and-a-half as Derbhla Minogue runs free with her guitar, weaving in and out of the rhythm laid down by Daniel Fordham (drums) and David Stewart (bass). It’s a lesson in the power of economy, like Neil Young playing a free range one-note guitar solo while Crazy Horse keep it locked in, or more recently, like Hospitality’s ‘I Miss Your Bones’. ‘The Coming Rain’ manages to skirt prog and disco funk and at the same time remain a sing-along indie pop song, while the closing ‘No Memory’ is propelled by a near constant minor tone of deep psych fuzz organ.

Recommended tracks: All of them – this album is ten near-perfect tracks, but if you aren’t hooked by the opening trio of ‘Like A River’, ‘You Won’t Come Back at All’ and ‘Potter’s Grave’, I don’t know what to tell ya.

[Back to the top]

Footnotes
1I listened to nearly 500 new albums in 2015. Most of them were rubbish, but there were many great albums that didn’t quite reach the heights of the twenty above.  Here’s an incomplete list of some of the best of the rest: Speedy Ortiz Foil Deer, !!! As If, Ryley Walker Primrose Green, Beach House Thank Your Lucky Stars, The Dodos Individ, Sleater-Kinney No Cities to Love, Novella LandJulia Holter Have You In My Wilderness, Shunkan The Pink NoiseCold Beat Into The AirBattles La Di Da DiTwerps Range AnxietyRadical Dads Universal Coolers, Colleen Captain of NoneMondo Drag Mondo DragAll Dogs Kicking EverydaySoccer Team Real Lessons in CynicismSports All of SomethingFidlar Too, TRAAMS Modern Dancing, U.S. Girls Half FreeEmpress Of Me, Robert Forster Songs to PlayShannon and the Clams Gone By the DawnMartin Courtney Many MoonsPWR BTTM Ugly CherriesLana Del Rey HoneymoonDestroyer Poison SeasonAu.Ra Jane’s LamentSarah Neufeld / Colin Stetson Never Were The Way She Was, Best Coast California NightsWhite Reaper White Reaper Do It AgainWilco Star WarsWhite Fang Chunks,Lower Dens Escape From EvilHoundstooth No News from HomeThe Mountain Goats Beat The Champ, My Morning Jacket The Waterfall, The Decemberists What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, Built to Spill Untethered Moon, Ducktails St Catherine.

In The Pharmacy #74 – March 2015

Warpaint ‘I’ll Start Believing’
Unlike the leisurely paced seven-plus minutes of new single ‘No Way Out’, this b-side starts with a communal scream and clocks in at under 180 seconds. It’s all sinuous guitar lines, fuzzed bass and Stella Mozgawa’s urgent drumming. These two tracks are the“first in a series of new songs being released this year” and hopefully a sign of a new period of prolificness for the band who have previously released (brilliant) records at a snail’s pace.
[Warpaint]

Tame Impala ‘Let It Happen’
Speaking of seven-plus minute tunes, this is the first new track from Kevin Parker since 2010’s Lonerism. An electronics-heavy psych number, with the strings kicking in around the four minute mark and it’s not until after the six minute mark where we hear something that is recognizably a guitar. Download it for free over on the Tame Impala site.
[Tame Impala]

The Mountain Goats ‘Heel Turn 2 (edit)’
Second track to be released from the loosely wrestling themed album Beat the Champ (April, Merge) only whets our appetite to hear the whole thing. The full length version of this song has a beautiful instrumental piano coda that’s as long as the narrative part.
[The Mountain Goats]

Bully ‘I Remember’
First featured here with ‘Milkman’ back in November (ITP #67) this tracks is taken from the Nashville based band’s forthcoming as yet untitled album.
[Bully]

Chromatics ‘I Can Never be Myself When You’re Around’
Johnny Jewel and co. return with more 80s indebted electronic pop. This is taken from delayed forthcoming album Dear Tommy, the follow up to 2012’s Kill For Love.
[Chromatics]

Colleen ‘Captain of None’
Colleen (aka French multi-instrumentalist Cecile Schott) utilises her voice and the 15th century baroque intrument viola da gamba to create something hypnotic, haunting and contemporary. This is the closing title track from her forthcoming album on Thrill Jockey (April 7).
[Colleen]

Radical Dads ‘Slammer’
From the Brooklyn band’s third album, 
Taken from the indie rock band’s Cassette Brain EP.
[Radical Dads]

My Morning Jacket ‘Big Decisions’
Taken from Waterfall (ATO, May 4) their first album since 2011’s Circuital. A big stadium filling number driven by Jim James’s vocals and Patrick Hallahan’s drumming, over slide guitar, horns and piano.
[My Morning Jacket]

Evans The Death ‘Expect Delays’
Title track from from the London based indiepop band’s second album (out now on Fortuna Pop! / Slumberland).
[Evans The Death]

Modest Mouse ‘Coyotes’
The other end of the MM spectrum to ‘Lampshades on Fire’ (ITP#73). A waltz-time number from the band’s rather bloody excellent Stranger to Ourselves album.
[Modest Mouse]

Chastity Belt ‘Joke’
Second digital single from Chastity Belt’s second album Time To Go Home (out March 24 on Hardly Art) the highlight is the outro where the band cut loose on the guitars for two and a half minutes.
[Chastity Belt]

Dick Diver ‘Leftovers’
Melbourne, Florida is one of the best albums of 2015 so far and likely to stay that way. It’s one fault? That there are only a couple of tracks that features Steph Hughes on lead vocals. With mournful horns and slide guitar, this one is a real beaut.
[Dick Diver]

Slutever ‘Maggot’
LA garage pop duo of Nicole Snyder and Rachel Gagliardi teamed up with buddies Girlpool for a split cassette last year (though they’ve been releasing stuff through Bandcamp since 2010). This is taken from their new Almost Famous cassette.
[Slutever]

Speedy Ortiz ‘The Graduates’
Lessons learned from the Stephen Malkmus school of songwriting on this second track to appear from the band’s forthcoming album Foil Deer (April 21, Carpark). One of their best songs so far, I reckon.
[Speedy Ortiz]

Sufjan Stevens ‘Death With Dignity’
Openning track from the forthcoming Carrie and Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty, March 31).
[Sufjan Stevens]

Westkust ‘Swirl’
Gothenburg shoegazers who in Hugo Randulv and Gustav Andersson share a couple of members with Makthaverskan (ITP #72). This is taken from their forthcoming album Last Forever (available via their Bandcamp page).
[Westkust]

BRAIDS ‘Taste’
Raphaelle Standell-Preston has featured here a couple of times, firstly with her other project Blue Hawaii and then with ‘In Kind’, the closing track from BRAIDS last album Flourish//Perish. This may not have the quirky edge of that latter track, but it’s a winning slice of 21st Century pop, that takes its influence from the late 20th Century (a bit of drum n’ bass, a bit of trip hop, a bit of Radiohead), but it’s Standell-Preston’s vocals that are the star here.
[BRAIDS]

Soko [featuring Aerial Pink] ‘Lovetrap’
French musician / actress Stephanie Sokolinski (aka Soko) is well known to Australian audiences for her 2007 hit ‘I’ll Kill Her’. Here she teams ups with buddy Ariel Pink for some super smooth 70s-influenced electronic pop. Taken from Soko’s forthcoming My Dreams Dictate My Reality album.
[Soko]

Jenny Hval ‘The Battle is Over’
Previously featured here with ‘Mephisto in the Water’ and her cover of Paul Simon’s ‘The Cool Cool River’, the Norwegian experimentalist returns with this intriguing track from her forthcoming Apocalypse, Girl album (Scared Bones, June).
[Jenny Hval]

Lower Dens ‘Your Heart Still Beating’
Motorik centrepiece of forthcoming third long player Escape From Evil, features some nice Fripp-like guitar in the middle (March 31, Ribbon Music).
[Lower Dens]

In The Pharmacy #73 – Late February 2015

Two weeks of the best new tracks. New music from the US, UK, Australia, Belgium, France and Canada. Tunes from Modest Mouse, Dick Diver, Best Coast, Death Cab For Cutie, Django Django, Sufjan Stevens, Calexico, Passion Pit, Surfer Blood, Fred Thomas, The Weather Station, Trust Fund, Broken Water, Cabane, Le Volume Courbe, Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld.

Modest Mouse ‘Lampshades on Fire’

So far, four tracks have surfaced from the forthcoming album Strangers to Ourselves (the band’s first new album since 2007’s We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank). This one is my current favourite, with its jittery post-punk-funk-scratch-meets-reggae rhythms and Isaac Brocks’ distinctive wired, but weirdly mellifluous yelped vocals.
[Modest Mouse]

Django Django ‘First Light’
It’s been just over three years since the Scottish electronic neo-psychedelicists released their debut album, but this is worth the wait, up their with that record’s highlights. Taken from Born Under Saturn (out May 4, Because Music).
[Django Django]

Dick Diver ‘Waste the Alphabet’
Second track to surface from the Melbourne band’s forthcoming third album Melbourne, Florida (March 6, Chapter Music / Trouble in Mind). Like ‘Tearing the Posters Down’ (ITP #72) it feels like the jangle has been turned up to 11, and while they have previously been singled out for wearing the influence of The Go-Betweens, this one has elements that sounds like the early work of those other antipodeans, The Church.
[Dick Diver]

Best Coast ‘California Nights’
I wasn’t a fan of the of Best Coast’s second album The Only Place, but they won me back over with the superior songs and fuzzy pop of the excellent Fade Away EP. This title track from their forthcoming third album finds them getting lost (in a good way) in a more dreampop meets shoegaze sound. It’s a better fit than the cheesy 80s FM n’ country stylings of the last album and seems a more logical progression from the lo-fi garage surf pop of their earliest records. The album is out May 5.
[Best Coast]

Death Cab For Cutie ‘No Room in Frame’
Second track from the band’s forthcoming Kintsugi, their last album to be recorded with guitarist Chris Walla before his amicable departure. Like ‘Black Sun’ (ITP #71) this suggests that the it will be a far better record than the somewhat underwhelming Codes and Keys (2011).
[Death Cab for Cutie]

The Weather Station ‘What It Is, Way It Could Be’
Last featured back in February 2013 (ITP #27) with ‘Mule in the Flowers’, The Weather Station is the work of Torontonian singer songwriter Tamara Linderman (Aussies might know her as Tamara Hope, star of early naughties Melbourne-set fantasy show Guinevere Jones). It’s gentle and beautiful folk music with a touch of Joni Mitchell in both vocal phrasing and styling.
[The Weather Station]

Trust Fund ‘Essay to Write’
This is about as 80s lo-fi indie as it gets in 2015. The stand out track from the band’s (rather good) debut album No One’s Coming For Us, following on from their also rather good split EP with Joanna Gruesome.
[Trust Fund]

Calexico featuring Ben Bridwell ‘Falling from the Sky’
The Calexico back catalogue is a rich and wonderful thing. Here they utilise Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell for the first taste of their forthcoming Edge of The Sun album (Anti-, April 14), the follow up to 2012’s wonderful Algiers.
[Calexico]

Broken Water ‘High-Lo’
Olympia, WA band with a unique blend of grunge, shoegaze and 80s indie rock aesthetics. This is taken from their forthcoming album Wrought (Night People Records, March 24)
[Broken Water]

Cabane ‘Sangokaku’
Big Sufjan Stevens influence on this track from Belgian musician Thomas Jean Henri with aid from Bonnie Prince Billy, Kate Stables, Caroline Gabard and Sean O‘Hagan.
[Cabane]

Passion Pit ‘Where The Sky Hangs’
Super-slick pop from Michael Angelakos and co.’s forthcoming Kindred, the follow up to 2012’s Gossamer.
[Passion Pit]

Surfer Blood ‘Grand Inquisitor’

Intriguing new tune from the Florida band’s new 1000 Palms (May 12, Joyful Noise) follow up to Pythons (2012).
[Surfer Blood]

Fred Thomas ‘Cops Don’t Care Pt II’
Another track from the Saturday Looks Good To Me frontman’s forthcoming solo album All Are Saved (Polyvinyl), this one features Radiator Hospital’s Sam Cook-Parrott.
[Fred Thomas]

Le Volume Courbe ‘The House’
It’s been ten years since French London-based ex-pat Charlotte Marionneau released her debut (and so far, only) album as Le Volume Courbe. Now she’s back, this time with a single which once again enlists the help of Kevin Shields (also Martin Duffy and John Parish).
[Le Volume Courbe]

Sufjan Stevens ‘No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross’
This track from his first proper album since Age of Adz (2010) finds Sufjan Stevens return to the style of the quieter moments of Illinois for the forthcoming Carrie and Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty, March 31).
[Sufjan Stevens]

Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld ‘The Sun Roars into View’
Arcade Fire violinist Sarah Neifeld teams up with fellow instrumentalist Colin Stetson for an album of minimal violin and horn music that, if this track is anything to go by, promises to appeal to fans of the more esoteric end of post-rock. Never were the way she was is due out on Constellation, April 28.
[Sarah Neufeld]