Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top 10 albums of 2015 (aka yet another list)

It's been more than 2 whole years and, although I never thought I'd come back, somehow I convinced myself to dust the place off and write something about the year that's just ending. This list is by no means someone's who listened to tons of music during the last 12 months. It in no way aspires to be complete and "objective" and/or to showcase what went on in music in 2015; my obsessions would never make it possible for me. Actually, I'm feeling OK with my obsessions. I love the fact that I still can get lost in an album and listen to nothing but it for a whole month at times. The over-abundance of available information (and, in our case, music) makes it all the more harder for everyone to really get attached to something, to own it. It's been some years since I've stopped trying to just "keep up" and I've just let myself go with what speaks to me. After all, we are never going to know everything, and I feel just fine with this thought.
And, just before I start getting too existential, too abstract, or just plainly meaningless, here we go with the 10(+5) albums that ruled my mp3 player this year; at times for several weeks in a row (in an ascending order this time and with no countdown, because I can):

1. Goatsnake - Black Age Blues

A return after 11 whole years! After Trampled Under Hoof EP in 2004, Goatsnake entered a state of hiatus of unspecified time. Thankfully, they returned this year and it simply surpassed any expectations I could have had from this 2000s doom monster. Awe-inspiring doom riffs, labyrinthine lead vocals, groovy female backing vocals, blues harmonicas; we got everything Goatsnake and then some. In my mind, there was never another number 1 for 2015, maybe apart from a brief time, when I listened to number 2 that is.

2. Chelsea Wolfe - Abyss

Not really much to say about this phenomenon of a musician. To be honest, I mainly had sporadic contact with her stuff for unspecified reasons, but Abyss was the album that had me hooked from the first minute. Dark, doom, gothic and considerably metal without being afraid of it, Chelsea Wolfe delivers a strange trip of a record, reminiscing friendly memories, but also taking the listener to new and undiscovered depths.

3. Terrible Feelings - Tremors

Many consider their 2012's debut Shadows as their yet unsurpassed masterpiece so far, but Tremors is what established Terrible Feelings in my mind as maybe the greatest hope of european melodic punk. Beautiful, direct and catchy melodies, exemplary orchestrations; all in all, an unflawed sample of the genre. I still listen to it regularly, this is made to just never get boring.

4. Imperial State Electric - Honk Machine

Our good old friend Nicke, the guy with Midas' touch. I don't know how much he tried this time, but it all looks to flow so natural from within him. Reptile Brain Music, although a great record, to me sounded inferior to Pop War, so Nicke had to make it right. Honk Machine is absolutely brilliant. I don't know how much of a point is there to say this about an Imperial State Electric record (as each one of them is close to perfect technically), but here the band often deviates from the straight rock n' roll or power pop or whatever sound, as we have more touches of blues, soul, and pure pop music. All with the company of incredible melodies nevertheless.

5. Iskra - Ruins

I was never into this blackened a sound. During the last years, I have come to love almost everything crust, but I admit that this was basically new to me. I had just heard of Iskra but never listened to their records, and Ruins was finally the one for me. Somehow, I immediately loved this particular mix. At first, it sounded too blackmetal for my taste, but something kept me going on. Under the black veil, this is basically incredible and unstoppable crust punk. Just give it a try, I'm no expert but this record just kills.

6. Björk - Vulnicura

Do you really need me to describe or praise a Björk record? Here, I literally have no words. Just dive in.

7. Slayer - Repentless

Following Jeff Hannemann's death (R.I.P.), people kept on questioning Slayer's future and whether the remaining members could pull it off. I don't care how much of an asshole Kerry King is or isn't, but here we have a demolishing set of tunes. I would dare to say that this is as punk as Slayer have been since Undisputed Attitude. Don't get me wrong, this definitely carries the trademarked Slayer thrash metal sound, but, unlike their previous albums, here we have more straight melodies and mainly short songs; exactly what makes it for me. Not everyone will agree of course, but this is how I like my Slayer!

8. Eagles of Death Metal - Zipper Down

Just before the tragedy in Paris, Eagles of Death Metal released their fourth album after a considerable time of absence. Of course, Jesse Hughes was unable to stay in one place, as in 2011 he released Boots Electric's groovy debut album Honkey Kong (actually, three tunes from there are reprised in Zipper Down), but I guess eveything needs a little Homme to get it right. Zipper Down raises Eagles of Death Metal high once more in my conscience, as the two albums that followed Peace Love Death Metal, although not bad, had a slight descending course, in my opinion. Here, all the fun and groove and sweat and sexiness have returned. It's only rock n'roll, kids.

9. Nervosas - s/t

This came to my attention just some weeks back, but it has had a remarkable impact in my everyday music soundtrack. One could say that here we have one more melodic post-punk band from the homonymous scene, nice to listen to but not that great, etc. Well no, because they have this something. It's not just the initial excitement that wears off after the first days. Here the guitar doesn't stop painting with warm melodies against the dark tunes, and the female vocals are substantial and give a special edge to the whole sound. Straight and to-the-point compositions (as very few songs get farther that the 2-minute mark), a dark melancholy glooming all over the place, yet it all sounds so liberating.

10. Refused - Freedom

Another big and highly-anticipated return (after 17 whole years!), and noone could stop wondering whether these '90s punk pionners would still be pioneers in the '10s; after all, expecting anything less from Refused would be just too easy for them. So have they done it? In a word, yes. I'll be honest, I was baffled at first at several points. With the opening Tool-ish "Elektra", with the childern choir singing "murder" and "kill" in "Francafrique" and with so many others. At first, it all sounded so unconnected and random. But this is Refused; you can never get away with one listen. After a while, it all makes sense. Feel it.


Danko Jones - Fire Music: I always had a good time with their high-energy rock n' roll as my company, but their latest album stayed in my playlist considerably longer than any of their previous ones. Honest and to the point, this is drive or booze music at its best.
Motörhead - Bad Magic: Writing this in the wake of Lemmy's death (he didn't want to live forever anyway), I'm still amazed at how they still did it until the very last second, showing us all how it's done and how it must keep on being done. The last Motörhead classic came in 2015.

Therapy? - Disquiet: "Wow do they still exist after Troublegum and still release albums?" Of course they still do you ignorant hippie, Therapy? have always been a cornerstone of alternative/punk, not one record of theirs is mediocre, and they're still kicking your ass after 25 years.

Black Breath - Slaves Beyond Death: Anticipating impatiently Sentenced to Life's successor, I would say I was a bit disappointed at Black Breath's musical direction, as the hardcore elements are basically reduced to null, and this is a heavy/death metal record. But, it being a grower, it also needs its time. Yes, Black Breath have done it again and are establishing themselves by pissmarking their territory.
Grave Pleasures - Dreamcrash: The admitted success of Beastmilk's Climax was a two-edged knife. On the one hand, it set the stage for the Grave Pleasures (risen from Beastmilk's ashes) debut, but on the other hand, although a set of addictive and well-presented tunes, I think Dreamcrash missed living up to the hype by an inch.

1 comment: