HOW MANY GREAT ALBUMS HAVE BEEN RELEASED OVER THE LAST TWELVE MONTHS? LOADS. THAT’S HOW MANY. OODLES OF THEM. IF YOU’RE INTO DAY-GLO POP PUNK OR UNDERGROUND COLLEGE ROCK, THERE HAVE BEEN SO MANY GEMS IT’S VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO REMEMBER THEM ALL. GOOD JOB WE’RE HERE TO DO IT FOR YOU, THEN.
2015 has gone rather well for BMTH. Their brave album, ‘That’s The Spirit’, saw them escape the confines of a genre threatening to consume them creatively and, alongside a sterling set at Reading & Leeds this summer, earned them the right to call themselves soon-to-be festival headliners.
With diary-esque tales of wonder and regret, ‘Painted Shut’ is a band at their most open. Vocals tear and waver at the edges with the weight of the words, while guitars spiral ever outwards, crafting a whole world to get lost in. It’s enthralling.
Big Scary Monsters
How many bands who have been going for over a decade can claim they produced their best album in 2015? Philadelphia’s mewithoutYou managed exactly that with ‘Pale Horses’. Repeat listens reveal more and more to love – little nuances that went unnoticed, subtle self-referential nods that you just can’t pick up on without keeping an ear out for them. One of the most cerebral and rewarding records of the year.
‘Ivy Tripp’ continues on the steady expansion of Waxahatchee’s sound. Where debut, ‘American Weekend’ was pretty much just her and an acoustic guitar, ‘Ivy Tripp’ – just two albums on – is a textured, thoughtfully produced, full-band experience that sees Katie Crutchfield taking her talents to new heights. The introspective charm of what came before has been replaced with brilliantly executed explorative ambition that’s impossible to fault.
‘Whenever, If Ever’ was a great album – one of the most crucial releases of that whole ‘emo revival’ thing that went on over the last few years. Then ‘Harmlessness’ came along and made it look silly in comparison. Rich and intricate, this LP marked TWIABP as one of the most improved bands of 2015. Given that they were already pretty bloody great, that’s not bad going.
In amongst all the drama and dick jokes, blink-182 would thread the sort of simplistic line that, at the right moment, would make a perfect sort of sense. They would stick with you, offering comfort and confidence from the shadows. There’s a similar shock of clarity to Only Rivals’ debut album. From the opening lament of ‘Dive In’, ‘Life Is Perfect’ spins tales that suggest the opposite. Gritted teeth and entwined hands, the band conjure an against-the-odds optimism. It’s a hard-fought outlook sound tracked by a harder still instrumental crunch but in moments of calm or crisis, the struggle makes sense.
Tellison, underdogs and outsiders, haven’t exactly had an easy run of it. Perpetually on the edge of a ‘big break’, the stars never quite aligned for them. ‘Hope Fading Nightly’, the band’s third full length, shoulders the disappointment and defeat and turns it into a victory march. From the winking apology of ‘Letter To The Team’ through the disenchanted dreamer anthem of ‘Tact Is Dead’, Tellison find comfort in sound. There’s the realisation that they may never sell out Wembley Stadium but as long as they don’t give up, that’s enough. Success is self-determined and ‘Hope Fading Nightly’ basks in that realisation.
Despite being younger than most, Radkey’s debut already felt like a long time coming. ‘Dark Black Makeup’ is their battle cry in their fight against dull rock music. It’s one to get behind, capturing their mix of maturing on the road, and the anarchy of live shows.
The hyper-personal confessions that inhabit Senses Fail’s eighth album make it a frank and compelling listen. Detailing the vicious struggle for self-acceptance, the themes are universal. It’s opened dialogues, provided comfort and offered hope. It’s also fucking ace.
Search And Destroy
After what was a stunning call to arms on While She Sleeps’ debut ‘This Is The Six’, the future started to look bleak pretty quickly when vocalist Lawrence Taylor was forced to undergo throat surgery. Fortunately ‘Brainwashed’ brought with it an opening cry from Taylor on ‘New World Torture’ that put all worries to rest and also marked the start of what was quite a year for the Sheffield lads.
Young Guns were the darlings of Brit-rock after the release of uber-anthem ‘Bones’. A couple more like that on album three and they’d be sorted both sides of the Atlantic. Where’s the fun in that though? Instead of another straight down the line record, Young Guns sacked off convention and came back with the electro pomp of ‘Ones and Zeros’. Beyond the initial shock, the record dances with unrestrained desire. The band have never sounded so cocksure. It’s that swagger that gives these twinkling club anthems their grit and highlights their gamble as a resounding success.
Has there been a more criminally overlooked band in pop punk over the last few years than Spraynard? (No. No there hasn’t.) ‘Mable’ sees the Pennsylvanian trio taking some steps towards maturity – albeit with the awkward, self-doubting charm the band have made their calling card – and serves as their most complete release to date. With more down-to-earth pop punk becoming The Thing recently with The Wonder Years and The Story So Far’s dominance of the genre, there’s no reason for Spraynard to stay under the radar for long. Especially if they keep being this good.
Run For Cover
Elvis Depressedly. What a band name that is. There’s far more to them than just that, though, as ‘New Alhambra’ proves without doubt. Cramming more emotion into their minimalist, lo-fi approach than most songwriters could with a full orchestra and accompanying stage show, Elvis Depressedly have positioned themselves as one of the brightest lights of Run For Cover’s impossibly well-lit roster.
Four albums in, you know that with Enter Shikari you should expect the unexpected. ‘The Mindsweep’ is full of boggling twists and natty little surprises. This constant deviation and doubling back only enhances the album’s desire to question the world that surrounds it. Punchy and political, Enter Shikari are only getting bolder as their imaginations soar but they’re still a band that anyone can get a hold of.
Joanna Gruesome’s second album is a hyper-charged bundle of melodic hooks, urgent cries and jagged charm. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it run time sees the band crash through ten tracks without a moment’s pause. Thrashing this way and that, ‘Peanut Butter’ is a tricky record to pin down. Brief glimpses of beautiful refrain lure you into a false sense of security before a hardcore snarl throws you off. Despite reckless first impression, there’s a considered construct at the core of ‘Peanut Butter’.
Big Scary Monsters
Full of self-depreciative humour and irresistible catchiness (as well as some truly brilliant song titles), Pet Symmetry is the sound of members of Into It. Over It., Dowsing and Mountains For Clouds stepping away from their mostly-emo ‘main’ projects and having a great time. It’s a lot more than just a bit of fun, though and the result is ten tracks of power-pop excellence that begs for sing-a-longs the whole way through.
Despite the news that Funeral For A Friend are calling it a day, there’s no clues of a breakdown on ‘Chapter and Verse’. Yup, seven albums in and the band sound as relevant, hard-hitting and vital as ever. Politically charged and cherry-picking the very best that FFAF have ever offered, the band are going out on the highest of highs.
You can normally grasp what makes a band special. Their sound, their vision or that one moment in a song where everything comes together and makes sense. You can’t do that with Bully. Everything about them feels special. From the clattering introduction of ‘I Remember’ until the final, pounding moments of ‘Bully’, the band’s debut album is consistently flawless. ‘Feels Like’ is grubby, frayed around the edges and there’s a sense that something’s going to give at any moment, but it never does. It’s beautifully effortless and utterly compelling. Repeated listens have led to one conclusion. Bully are simply magic.