We love year-end “Best of” lists. But we love underdogs even more. Here are ten albums you might have missed that didn’t rub shoulders with Kendrick, Adele, or Drake. But they impressed the hell out of us.
Miniboone: Bad Sports [Ernest Jenning Record Co.]
Best new-wave power-pop album of the year. Five fun-loving NYC guys create clever, quirky and exuberant rock with awesome vocal harmonies. They remind us of Pretty & Nice and The Teeth. Onstage, they charm and amaze. Offstage, they farm maple glaze. Stream the whole thing on Spotify.
Daniel Bachman: River [Three Lobed Recordings]
The young and prolific American Primitive guitarist (and frequent Ryley Walker collaborator) pays tribute to his native Virginia and the environs surrounding the Rappahanock river with seven dazzlingly evocative and stylistically ambitious acoustic steel string instrumentals “that can easily stand proud next to John Fahey’s America or Jack Rose’s Kensington Blues.” [Aquarium Drunkard]
CZARFACE: Every Hero Needs A Villain [Brick Records]
“Every Hero…” boasts bruising rhymes (via Wu-Tang’s Inspectah Deck and Boston’s Esoteric), gritty boom-bap (via Esoteric’s partner 7L), top-shelf guests (Method Man, MF Doom, GZA), and a hilarious sample of pro wrestlers The Road Warriors, on “Deviatin’ Septums” (“Deviatin’ septums / rippin’ out doozles / walkin’ out the winner / being the best”).
Soupcans: Soft Party [Telephone Explosion]
This Canadian trio describes their own sound as “weed punk,” “perverse” and “avant garbagé,” which is pretty hard to beat. Soft Party, their second full-length, is a delightfully unhinged melange of frenetic hardcore (“Crimes I“), menacing sludge (“Young N Ez”), and angular no wave (“Psychosomatic Rash”). Now Magazine actually did name it one of the “Top 10 Toronto Albums Of 2015,” alongside Drake, The Weeknd et al.
Dan Kelly: Leisure Panic [ABC Music]
We’re suckers for TV travel shows. Leisure Panic scratches the same itch, tracing storylines across the globe. Australian Dan Kelly has a penchant for breezy Malkmus-y slacker rock and wordplay, especially on this song, which rhymes “Angkor Wat” with “we’ll never stop the rot.”
Malportado Kids: Total Cultura [Dead Labour]
A side-project of Downtown Boys founders Victoria Ruiz and Joey La Neve DeFrancesco, this Providence, R.I. duo are similarly politically-minded, bilingual and raucous, but whereas DB have oft been compared to post-punkers like X-Ray Spex, MK play cumbia-inspired experimental dance-punk that’s equal parts protest and party. You can stream the entire EP via Noisey.
toyGuitar: In This Mess [Fat Wreck Chords]
I wish they were called royGuitar, because they’d fit perfectly between R’n’Rrrr party-starters Rockpile, Reigning Sound, and The Ramones. This is the debut album from a San Francisco quartet led by Jack Dalrymple (Swingin’ Utters). Watch the awesome video for “Human Hyenas” here.
Novella: Land [Sinderlyn]
Recorded with engineer Jonas Verwijnen (Moon Duo) and Horrors guitarist Joshua Third, the debut album from the London’s Novella variously conjures the hypnotic motorik chug of Stereolab (“Follow,” “Phrases”), the hazy melodies and harmonies of Lush (the single “Land Gone,” “Something Must Change”), and the sunlit psych of Broadcast (“Skies Open”).
Deux Boules Vanille: Tutti Frutti [Atypeek Music]
Two French drum buddies play tribal freak-out instrumentals with demented analog synths, like a new-gen Silver Apples. Do not play this music near a strobe light. It will create a black hole that will send your record collection to Albuquerque. Watch ‘em drum here! (TURN OFF THAT STROBE, DUDES!)
Tropical Trash: Ufo Rot [Load Records]
Another noise-rock/hardcore burner, this time from a Lousville, KY band that’s definitely more Crain than Slint. The bulk of their debut Ufo Rot is pure punk catharsis — unvarnished rippers that average two minutes in length and make you want to slam into people in a basement. The highlight though is the eight-minute “Pink Sweat” which churns with menace and dread (it reminds this listener of Scratch Acid’s “Cannibal”) before it boils over into a total freakout.
Want more? Here’s last year’s list.