So.....I got a bit caught up in the ol' writer's block, and sat on this for the past seven damn months. But you know what, everyone loves lists! (It's just science.) Here are some thoughts on some of the best rock that 2015 had to offer - as ever it's overly white and male, but this time has the distinction of hewing overly OLD as well! Without further ado, check out my favorite releases of 2015...AND GET OFF MY LAWN!!!
1. The Sun Lions – Whatever’s On Your Mind
There is something so incredibly thrilling about a band whose music comes out of nowhere and smacks you upside the head. This Boston-area trio’s debut full-length splits the difference between fuzzy Dino Jr-esque riffs (lovingly recorded by godhead producer Justin Pizzoferrato) and catch-in-your-throat melodies…a rush of blood to the head that echoes the greats of the Boston alt-rock scene of the late 80s while sounding remarkably vital. If you find a catchier, more anthemic song released this year than ace album-centerpiece, “Right Now”, I’ll buy ya a Coke!
2. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
This is how you reunite! Recorded in secret and ready to go before even a whisper of their reunion went public, Corin, Carrie and Janet came back with a bruiser of a record. Opener “Price Tag” bridges the sound that two-thirds of the band explored with the short-lived Wild Flag project a couple years back with the frantic, apoplectic punk of their first iteration. It’s a beautifully realized record, alternatively reflective and punishing, and we are all better for them having pulled it off.
3. Faith No More – Sol Invictus
Speaking of reunions that stuck the landing, the creative rebirth of Faith No More was one of the bright spots of 2015. It was improbable at best that a band as fanatically beloved would be able to equal the records of their 1989-1997 heyday, but “Sol Invictus” goes a step further and is arguably BETTER than some of those classics. A band of 50-somethings should not be capable of the raw-throated fury of a track like “Superhero” or “Separation Anxiety”, but Patton and co. deliver in spades.
4. Frank Turner – Positive Songs for Negative People
After 2013’s middling “Tape Deck Heart” (whose title, frankly, was the best thing about it by far), Turner finds his way back to making rousing, anthemic joints that tickle the head and the heart. The quiet feint of “The Angel Islington” leads directly into “Get Better”, the most scorching thing Turner has written since his Million Dead days. By focusing on the good that we are capable of (and raging against the type of malaise and negative self-talk that derails living up to our potential), “Positive Songs” lives up to its title and is song-for-song Turner’s finest album.
5. Swervedriver – I Wasn’t Born to Lose You
Let’s get this out of the way – there was no NEED for a new Swervedriver album. The lads had put a fine cap on their career with 1997’s “99th Dream” and leader Adam Franklin’s most recent records have been consistently decent. But, like several others on this list, the Swervies defied expectation and sound more like the band that created 1993’s high-water mark, “Mezcal Head” than many of the bands who have formed in their wake. The guitars crunch and sigh like breathing organisms battling to keep Franklin’s voice at bay, and the rhythm section is just devastating. All in all, a stunner.
6. Built to Spill – Untethered Moon
Sometimes you have to shake the tree a little. Shedding a rhythm section and gaining the production prowess of Quasi’s Sam Coomes, Doug Martsch has made the liveliest BTS album in 15 years. The shambolic speed-up of first single, “Living Zoo”….the doomy plod of “Some Other Song”…the spiraling noodling of “So”…it all feels so incredibly vital in a way that the past few albums haven’t! Even Martsch’s voice, which on 2009’s “There Is No Enemy” sounded weak and hollow, has a new heft to it. Great, great stuff…
7. Bully – Feels Like
Lots of bands fetishize the early 90s alt rock scene, but few do it as thrillingly or with as much conviction as Bully do on their debut. The brainchild of Alicia Bognanno, a demon behind the boards as well as in front of the mike, these 10 tracks bristle with energy and sound a bit like Courtney Love fronting Speedy Ortiz (which is kinda genius, innit?) In and out in under 28 minutes, “Feels Like” is a very solid introduction to a promising talent.
8. Rhett Miller and Black Prairie – The Traveler
The Old 97s put out a solid rawk record in 2014, but I honestly haven’t connected with a Rhett Miller solo effort since his first, 2002’s stellar power-popish “The Instigator”. Co-written and recorded with Black Prairie (basically the Decemberists minus Colin Meloy), “The Traveler” is a great set of tunes that utilize the acoustic strengths of his nimble backing ensemble to create his most effective record in years.
9. Public Image Ltd – What the World Needs Now…
In which our favorite old crank shakes off the doldrums of 2012’s boring reunion LP “This is PIL”, and wobbles (see what I did there?) back into greatness. This is the album John Lydon fans have been waiting for – groovy, thoughtful, and full of his patented vitriol. Ably abetted again by longtime comrades Lu Edmonds and Bruce Smith, the real treasure here is Scott Firth’s bass playing. His deep, supple lines carry many of these songs and give them the hips that act as perfect complement to Lydon’s spitting delivery.
10. Hop Along – Painted Shut
This one is all about Frances Quinlan’s burnt-out howl. Her voice goes from a coo into paint-peeling shriek in less time than it takes your jaw to hit the floor. She is a force of fucking nature. Produced by the always-awesome John Agnello, “Painted Shut” fulfills the promise of their debut, and “Waitress” should have made them enormous.