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.
HERE’S THE FIRST BATCH OF RECORDS. OUR LIST IS UNORDERED (MUSIC ISN’T A COMPETITION, GUYS) – WE LOVE THEM ALL IN DIFFERENT WAYS. READ PART TWO HERE.
Punk comes in many forms – from shiny power pop to in your face aggression, but to disregard FIDLAR’s brand of fuck it, fully-baked brilliance as anything else would be as disingenuous as it would be plain wrong. On their second album they’ve channelled the kind of personal trauma most of us would struggle to come back from into hundred mile high anthems. From the jittering, skipping ‘40oz On Repeat’ to demo-made-great ‘West Coast’ – when Fidlar hit their top… erm… gear, they’re without peer.
Putting their legacy on red, Refused’s comeback album could have gone either way. It takes exactly 29 seconds for ‘Elektra’, the opening charge, to put any and all fears to rest. From here on out, it’s pure excitement. Refused are not only as vicious and poised as ever, they’ve grown into their role as statesmen. Their attacks are precise and the control is absolute. This isn’t just another Refused album. Whether you wanted it or not, ‘Freedom’ rages. Legacy be damned.
Big scary monsters
Keep calm and listen to Beach Slang. Every line of ‘The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us’ inspires and stays like a motivational poster delivered with the comforting optimism of someone who knows it’s going to get better – just infinitely less irritating. Wrapped around gruff pop-punk, you’ll want to hang this album on your wall.
Intricate yet brutal, Deafheaven’s third album sees the band further expand on their pool of influences, yet that controlling grip has never felt tighter. Moving From the abrasive to the sedative on a sixpence, ‘New Bermuda’ is unpredictably glorious. The success of 2013’s ‘Sunbather’ hasn’t altered the band’s cinematic vision and the result is a fearless world of grit and glamour. From the mid-song fade of ‘Brought To The Water’ through the wailing guitar solo of ‘Baby Blue’ to the handful of scattered home recordings, Deafheaven’s roar is decorated with bells, whistles and train delays giving their fantastical escape grounded realism.
Side One Dummy
You know those albums that are just so catchy on a first listen you never quite shake it from your head? ‘New Love’ has the most upfront honesty wrapped in bubblegum sweet songs, offering two different albums in one. Weiss’ music is a joy, her lyrics a journey. An album that hooks you in from the start and never quite lets go.
Ceremony jump so giddily from album to album, we’ve long since lost the ability to tie them down to labels. ‘The L-Shaped Man’ is another shock to the system for those that still inhabit ‘Violence Violence’. They may have swapped clenched fists for swaying hips but their ability to get you right in the heart remains ever present. From the melancholic ‘Exit Fears’ to the reflective frustration of ‘The Party’, ‘The L- Shaped Man’ is relentless in its heartbreak.
With their impressive debut ‘The Albatross’ fresh in hearts and minds, Foxing side-step the expected with ‘Dealer’. Still packing a heartfelt punch, the band lean left, rather than right. Luscious and refrained, they master the art of texture. Their intimate lyrics now come into focus and stay there, while at their backs the musical waves lap. More a world than a journey, this crafted landscape is one of vibrancy.
Ditching the mosh-pits and stagedives for dark rooms and ambient lighting, Title Fight caught everyone off guard when they dropped ‘Hyperview’. Its lush shoegaze-inspired layers and intense pacing meant that despite taking a turn sonically, they stayed comfortably on course as one of the best bands in their scene. That they play the songs live with the same vigour really helps legitimise them within the band’s canon, too.
Flooded with elation, ‘Hairball’ is absolutely bloody massive. Kaleidoscopic guitars chime with a high-octane energy, while echoing vocal cries practically beg for a gigantic squad sing along. Bold, bright, and oh so beautiful, Nai Harvest have hit the jackpot.
On ‘Foil Deer,’ Speedy Ortiz’ second full-length, Sadie Dupuis’ proclamations are bolder and more ferocious than ever, backed the whole way through by the band’s tightest, most explorative instrumental offerings yet. Easily the most self-assured the Massachusetts quartet have sounded, this is, start to finish, one of the most uniquely charismatic offerings of the year. Speedy Ortiz are pissed off and supremely talented – a potent combination.
They might have toned things down a bit for their third album, but The Story So Far’s self-titled effort is no less brilliant than anything that came before it. Their most introspective offering yet, Parker Cannon’s audacious way with words is even more apparent than usual when his lyrics and melodies are given more room to breathe by slightly stripped back instrumental arrangements. Grounded rather than grandiose, this is the most mature TSSF have ever sounded.
Metz aren’t about showing off. They’re not keen on plastering their faces over every surface, or getting involved in the ‘personality’ driven world of popular music. Instead, they’re far more interested in the aesthetic of their music. When you’re turning out albums as good as ‘II’, that’s absolutely fine. Aggressive, strong minded and with more energy than a nuclear power plant, every move is channelled deliberately. ‘Acetate’ punches through concrete, ‘IOU’ crackles to life with a deliberacy few could match. When Metz finally burn it all to the ground, we could do worse than rebuild everything in their image. Or, in the best possible way, lack of it.
If Fall Out Boy’s initial comeback album was a surprise, then this, the band’s sixth studio effort, will have your jaw drop and your eyes pop. ‘American Beauty/American Psycho’ is the sound of Fall Out Boy taking the shiny pop sentimental of ‘Save Rock And Roll’ to the limit. There are idiosyncrasies galore and a guitar line in ‘Uma Thurman’ that will have you reaching for your embarrassing Hawaiian floral shirt.
After last year’s excellent self-titled EP, Los Angeles native indie-punk duo Girlpool wasted little time putting out follow-up record ‘Before The World Was Big’ back in June. Keeping to the theme of punchy, minimalist, guitar-bass-vocals songs (imagine being such a good band that you don’t even need drums), Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad refined their sound and put out 25 minutes of anxious, nostalgic brilliance.
There’s always been something really cool about Connecticut’s Sorority Noise – a truly unique quirkiness that allowed them to stand out in a fairly crowded pop-punk-that’s-a-bit-sad landscape. It wasn’t until they came out with this year’s ‘Joy, Departed’, though that they showed just how special they are. Ridiculously catchy, deeply emotive and with some serious Weezer vibes in places – what more could you want?
The (quite rightly) soon-to-be FKA Viet Cong’s debut album captures every aspect of the Canadian four-piece and distills it down to seven bristling tracks. Leaping from the juddering, built-up industry of ‘Pointless Experience’ to the stark expanse of ‘March Of Progress’, the album threatens to throw people off but the band’s ability to promise and engage keeps the rattling art-house lashed together. ‘Continental Shift’ is a pop smash disguised as something much darker while ‘Death’, the eleven-minute epic that draws the curtain down, ebbs, flows and flowers with a singular voice.
Almost two decades in, and with the departure of a key member between recording and release, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to hear that Death Cab For Cutie’s eighth album sounds broken. That assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. ‘Kintsugi’ is a record of deft unity. That cohesion isn’t the only surprise lurking across the band’s outstretched vision: every listen returns new spoils and leaves many doors open for whatever comes next.
When bands go away, they’re supposed to return purely to cash in. To play a few dates, rehash the old material to the fans who were there first time around, then bugger off back to count the piles of money. Not Sleater Kinney though. With ‘No Cities To Love’ they came back with their best album to date. Not only that, but one that hit way beyond their previous boundaries – a record that resonated to a new generation, that belonged in the here and now and, crucially, was really bloody brilliant. Watch and learn.