The Best Music of 2015 (So Far)

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The most exciting new music our contributors have heard this year.

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Impose Automaton | June 17, 2015

the best music of 2015

How is it only June? We’re only six months into the year, but the body of music that’s passed through the webpages of Impose has been wide-ranging and widely inspiring: life-affirming political punk, heart-wrenching indie pop, mind-expanding electronic future folk. There have been intricate indie-rock records looking for humor in monotony, masterful punk records made in the confines of Olympia, feminist interrogations of the everyday. “Know your history, know your context,” Downtown Boys told us in May, and its something we’ve tried to keep in mind more intentionally while processing the sounds and messages around us.

As we reflected on the year so far, we decided to prioritize the music itself rather than arbitrary formats, and ultimately put fewer limits on what could qualify for this particular list: albums, EPs, cassettes, Bandcamp releases, 7-inches, and one-off singles were all fair game. In the most basic form, this is simply a no-filler top 50 list of the most exciting music our contributors have heard so far in 2015.

Abdu Ali – “I Exist”

Abdu Ali is all about life – life-giving sweatsoaked live performance, aggressive self-assertion crashing in on waves of noise and Bmore club, the feral euphoria of his monthly Kahlon parties at The Crown which draw in crowds from across Baltimore’s disparate music communities. On “I Exist”, Abdu spits uncompromising cosmic affirmations over twinkling synth melodies by producer Schwarz. Abdu identifies as “openly black, and queer by birthright” but identity is expansive – he is also the sun, the pyramids, the clouds. This song + video make for one of our favorite musical moments of the year so far.

WATCH: Adbu Ali, “I Exist”

AdvaetaDeath And The Internet

Advaeta’s first full-length, Death and the Internet, was released this spring on Fire Talk, a concentrated work in fuzz, shaping the most pleasing note progressions and poignant vocalism out of only the haziest sonic horizons. “This record is years of our lives,” Sara Fantry, one-third of the band, told us in February.  Just about every song is soaked in heavy distortion and masterful melodies, and that effort is clear.

READ: JP Basileo’s February interview with Advaeta

Ava Luna – Infinite House

Ever-shifting Brooklynites Ava Luna returned in April with a new full-length on Western Vinyl, a collection displaying their distinct brand of versatility. “Billz” opened with a nearly opaque wall of sound before sliding into their could-be trademarked spacey soul-tinged verses, while “Steve Polyester” acted like a beat poem with its bouncy drum-start and a monologue-style description of a mystical figure.

WATCH: Ava Luna, “Steve Polyester”

Billy WoodsToday I Wrote Nothing

The title Today, I Wrote Nothing in the context of a billy woods record feels suspect. The album itself avoids conventional introduction as Elucid is the first voice heard, while woods enters crestfallen and apathetic on “Lost Blocks” with the words, “today, I wrote nothing” as his overture. And it’s not that he wrote nothing, the end. But Today, I Wrote Nothing might not exist had woods not endured a spell of inactivity, a spell broken by a drunk with a copy of a Daniil Kharms’ eponymous collection…

READ: “Nothing To Something: Billy Woods on overcoming writer’s block” by Blake Gillespie

BjörkVulnicura

Björk is unlike any other art retrospective presented at the MoMA, and probably any other museum in the world,” wrote Quinn Moreland earlier this year, reviewing the artist’s much-hyped exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. “Like its namesake, it must be viewed as a sum of many parts, as a continuously evolving entity.” The latter ethos proved true when Björk released Vulnicura this year, one of her most intriguing albums yet.

READ: Quinn Moreland on the Björk MoMA show

Broken WaterWrought

Broken Water’s Wrought, released in March on Night People, works in bright dream punk and twangy, textured riffs; patches of droning distorted guitars that build and crash thoughtfully. “What is right? Is there a wrong? All I know is I do not know,” sings drummer Kanako Pooknyw on “High Lo,” while “Love and Poverty“, a meditative, mid-tempo song, works through a mind thread about capitalism, inequality, and misplaced blame: “There is no need for this scarcity / scapegoats for the police state over petty theft / yet we trust the dollar bill and uniforms with guns?”

READ
: David Glickman’s interview with Broken Water

CeremonyThe L-Shaped Man

A record three years in the making will carry with it the burdens of its creators. And when revolving around an event as profoundly devastating as a breakup, and created by such sound shifting masters as Ceremony, those burdens will be conveyed and released with power and humanity. The L-Shaped Man, the band’s fifth record, and unquestionably their most deeply personal endeavor yet, maps out a wholly individual experience in ways that are equally universal as empathetic.

READ: “The cathartic release of Ceremony’s The L-Shaped Man by JP Basileo

Circuit des YeuxIn Plain Speech

In Plain Speech, released May 19 via Thrill Jockey, is Circuit des Yeux’s most collaborative and realized work yet. The band name Circuit des Yeux refers to “the nerve in the eye that supplies power to the act of seeing,” Fohr has written, and on this record she is looking at the world around her in a big-picture way. “I think it is important to question authority, society, the way things are, and ask why they can’t be different,” Fohr says. “My generation (millennials) was raised on this short term, goal oriented mind set where everything is disposable and easily replaced. Nothing is sacred in 2015.”

READ: Liz Pelly’s interview with Circuit des Yeux

Cities AvivYour Discretion Is Trust

Cities Aviv‘s latest, Your Discretion is Trust, got picked up by Geoff Rickly (former Thursday frontman, United Nations / No Devotion) for release on Collect Records—a fitting home for Discretion‘s dystopic punk… The tracks are brief Dilla-esque sketches that owe little to linear time, jumping into and out of ideas without cushioning or sentiment. The titles are explicitly political (“Act Up”, “No GMO”, “Discrimination”, “Black Sequence”) but the content is abstract—affective analogues to hashtag semiotics.

READ: Nina Mashurova’s take on the Your Discretion is Trust.

Courtney BarnettSometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

Courtney Barnett is one of the most clever lyricists in rock right now, a truth that continues to play out on her 2015 album for Mom+Pop, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. The record is alternatingly hilarious and devastating and sometimes both at once, Barnett’s prickly poetry sometimes stretched out with her drawling infliction and then later sped-up in double-time.

Downtown Boys – Full Communism

When Downtown Boys play live, lead singer Victoria Ruiz prefaces every song with a micro teach-in, taking the opportunity to speak honestly about police brutality, the prison-industrial complex, racism, sexism, gentrification, etc. In punk tradition, these teach-ins are meant to educate and empower, to unify the crowd, make people think before they rage. That energy is preserved on their incredible full-length, Full Communism, through dueling saxes, ripping guitars and driving full-speed punk drums.

WATCH: Downtown Boys, “Wave Of History”

EartheaterMetalepsis

Eartheater’s Metalepsis is simultaneously acoustic and electric, human and cyborg and alien, intricate and tranquil. In this, the year of our Bjork, it feels relevant to compare it to Vespertine—an “electronic” album that might feel hospitable to people who still feel alienated by electronica’s perceived lack of humanness. Sounds are cocooned together to form an amniotic drone womb, pulsing faintly with, as Eartheater’s IRL avatar Alexandra Drewchin puts it, “watery warm mother heart beat rhythm.”

READ: “Eartheater’s future folklore” by Nina Mashurova

Eskimeaux – O.K.

“The sound of this album is the most informed by the influence of the people directly surrounding me,” Gabrielle Smith a/k/a Eskimeaux told Impose earlier this year. “That includes Oliver listening to the radio all the time and Jack showing me really cool J-pop bands and myself wanting certain parts to sound like Tegan and Sara or Taylor Swift. Then on the other hand, I am super influenced by Oliver’s recordings and wanting create a ‘Bellows moment’ or have the song suck into itself to emulate Told Slant.”

READ: “Is it O.K.? Gabrielle Smith’s sprawling, seven-year path as Eskimeaux” by Quinn Moreland (cover story)

Flesh WorldThe Wild Animals In My Life

Flesh World, a Bay Area post-punk band made of ex-members of Brilliant Colors and Limp Wrist, had one week to record Wild Animals In My Life. The band worked on the songs right up until the recording dates, with singer/guitarist Jess Scott even finishing some of the lyrics in the studio. “It made us take more risks,” Jess recalls, though the band was wary to not just throw in a bunch of ideas and see what people like. “The Sugar Ray complex.”

READ: Mac Pogue’s interview with Flesh World.

Fraternal Twin – Skin Gets Hot

The slightly wonky and haunting qualities of Fraternal Twin’s music are something that Tom Christine (also a member of QUARTERBACKS) calls “skelly pop”.  It’s a sound that permeates his first full-band record Skin Gets Hot, the follow-up to his sole Bandcamp release release, g h o s t  g r a d u a t i o n, a split with fellow New Brunswick-based project Long Beard. Skin Gets Hot was released this spring on Apollonian Sound. It took Tom four years to craft, proving that DIY does not mean lack of quality or intricacy.

READ: “Coming back together with Fraternal Twin” by Katie Bennett.

Fred Thomas – All Are Saved

On this eighth full-length solo record, All Are Saved, Fred Thomas is singing like his life is at stake, like he’s distilled every hard-learned story so that he can explain them as quickly as possible with all of his heart. “I wanted to spit out all of the anger, love, excitement, resistance, confusion and hurt I’d ever felt through a lyrical filter that seemed like I was addressing it from the other side of life,” he told use in March. “At a distance from my own experiences even while they were happening.”

READ: “Fred Thomas has more to say” by Liz Pelly.

G.L.O.S.S.Demo

G.L.O.S.S. stands for Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit. They are a five-piece hardcore punk band from Olympia, Washington. On January 16, they posted a demo on Bandcamp that exploded across certain corners of the punk world. Understandably so; their music is urgent and vital. In five short songs, they lay out personal histories, a rejection of masculinity, a rejection of societal expectation.

READ: Eric Phipps on the G.L.O.S.S. demo.

GirlpoolBefore the World Was Big 

“I was taught what to believe / now I’m only certain that no one is free,” sing Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad on the opening track of their debut full-length. The song, “Ideal World,” is a careful, slow-moving ode to finding yourself, idealism, freedom; sentiments that run through much of Girlpool’s music and the careful beauty that is Before The World Was Big.

HeemsEat Pray Thug

In March, Heems released the magnificently titled solo album Eat Pray Thug, out via Megaforce Records and his own Greedhead Music. It’s the first bit of music from Suri since his 2012 run of mixtapes, Nehru Jackets and Wild Water Kingdom. Recorded in Bandra, Mumbai at Purple Haze Studios, the record sounds like Heems’ most fully realized vision. There are moments of emotional rawness mixed with political clarity and earnestness.

READ: “Heems is not a joke” by Jeff Ihaza

Hop AlongPainted Shut

Frances Quinlan believes Painted Shut is her clearest vision yet. It was the first time Hop Along had written a record together as a full band, but Frances was still on her own for lyrics. Instead of herself, Quinlan writes about the lives of others: the struggles of music legends Buddy Bolden and Jackson C. Frank (“Buddy in the Parade”, “Horseshoe Crabs”), being the bystander of an incident of child abuse (“Powerful Man”). “The hard thing about writing a song is you don’t have much time with the characters,” she says, imagining her characters like those of a comic strip.

READ: “A Graceful Scream: Charting the path to Hop Along’s Painted Shut” by Cynthia Schemmer (cover story)

Jenny HvalApocalypse, Girl

Jenny Hval’s work explores the liberating properties of in between spaces —between feminine and masculine, grown-up and child, pop and noise. Unsatisfied with narrow definitions that serve targeted-demographic capitalism, Hval creates dreamlike dissociative music, transcending borders and acting as a medium for multiple voices to speak through her, both consciously and unconsciously. Apocalypse, Girl, the Norwegian artist’s first American release, just released on Sacred Bones, is as apt an entry point to her body of work as any.

READ: “Jenny Hval evades neat definitions” by Nina Mashurova

Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter

Released in June via Slumberland, Peanut Butter is another welcome experiment with the combination of atonal, British hardcore punk and hyper melodic pop music. In a statement about the new record, songwriter Owen Williams said: “Lyrically, it’s more obtuse and surreal but also attempts to mock trad masculine rock themes whenever things do get more lucid. But sometimes musically we embrace them by doing embarrassing guitar solos.” This self-awareness in a genre that is not always so cognizant of its patriarchal history is what makes Joanna Gruesome’s tendency toward screaming and sonic violence so captivating.

Katie Deyasdfasdf 

Be it intentional or not, like slamming your fingers down on the keyboard, asdfasdf as an album and a title channels an instinctive headspace: the short guitar strokes on the first half of the opener “don’t be scared” could fit underneath some bemoaned late 90’s R&B vocal while songs like “all on you” and “y o y o” descend into delayed ambient valleys of meticulously arranged and obscure synth pop.  Dey is elusive but has managed to capture the attention of Warren Hildebrand at Orchid Tapes though, who will drop the Bandcamp release on tape soon.

KrillA Distant Fist Unclenching

“It’s not a ‘Feel Good’ album,” Jonah Furman told us back in March. “But it’s about stopping the anxiety of worrying about life. Relaxing, in a way. After a really intense time, what comes next? It’s good for people to listen to our music when they’re feeling really down on themselves or whatever, but I don’t want to make music that’s suicidal.”
Indeed, A Distant Fist Unclenching is the band’s best, most intricate work to date: still inherently sad, its narrative is straightforward yet surreal, dark yet brimming with light humor.

READ: “The Cult of Krill” by Loren DiBlasi (cover story)

Lower Dens Escape From Evil

There’s a difference between the kind of art you make because you need to make it in order to survive, and the kind of art you make to give life to a particular vision. At this point in Jana Hunter‘s songwriting career, she’s happy to have reached the latter category … On Escape From Evil, Lower Dens has written an album with fun at the forefront. The production is crisp, songs are frequently instrument-driven, written explicitly for the purpose of being enjoyable to tour on, enjoyable to perform live over and over again.

READ: “Lower Dens celebrate life” by Nina Mashurova.

Malportado KidsTotal Cultura 

Total Cultura is a declaration of the Malportado Kids’ bid for total culture, an idea which guitarist/vocalist Joey DeFrancesco once explained in an interview with Shotgun Seamstress as such: “We often fall into this trap of dividing culture from everyday life, as if culture is something that stops at the gallery door or the stage. This is what capitalism wants culture to be—a neatly separated experience that you consume and then move on. Truly revolutionary art or music reaches beyond where it’s supposed to be confined and inspires you to take action at work, against the people you who are putting you down, and so on.”

OshunASASE YAA

“Asase Ya is a term for Mother Earth,” Niambi Sala, one half of New York duo OSHUN, told us back in April. “Asase Ya, the project is in honor of Mother Earth, and respecting, loving, and appreciating the land in which we inhabit. She’s not gonna take care of us if we don’t take care of her. [It’s also about] Black Women as earth, uplifting and re-instilling certain principles and ideas … Our goal with this project is so the Black woman or anybody can transcend. We’re stuck in mental slavery. Throughout the project we go into liberation, freeing yourself and realizing who you are.”

READ
: “At home with Oshun” by Andre Gee.

PileYou’re Better Than This

Recorded at Another Recording Company in Omaha, Nebraska, You’re Better Than This is Pile’s fourth in a line of diverse LPs since 2009’s Jerk Routine. But the new record stands out in the Pile discography due to its urgency, both sonically and lyrically …Pile has the uncanny ability to balance extreme emotional content with a tinge of self-deprecating humor. It’s effective because it’s honest, and it comes from a place of understanding the role of a performer in an imperfect world.

READ: “Pile is a phenomenon” by Joe Galarraga.

PillPill EP

Dull Tools is the Brooklyn label run by Andrew Savage of Parquet Courts and Chris Pickering of Future Punx; in recent years, the label has pressed music by bands like Beth Israel, Eaters, and Yuppies, and their 2015 roster is equally promising. Case in point: the excellent 5-song debut EP from Brooklyn’s Pill, a group that channels an experimental approach to noise rock, made particularly interesting by the sharp sing-shout vocals of Veronica Torres and Ben Jaffe’s cycling saxophone riffing.

PinkwashCancer Money 7-inch

Pinkwash is Joey Doubek and Ashley Arnwine. Last year, the Philly duo released its debut cassette, Your Cure Your Soil, an emotionally intense five-song collection of jagged post-hardcore with visceral start-stop drum beats and blown-out riffs, all pulsing through sounds of anger and anguish. Where the band’s first tape was full of abstract forms of rage against the medical industrial complex and the capitalistic business of cancer, “Cancer Money” takes a more direct, all-caps rip into said target. “CANCER MONEY MAKING YOU GRAVE,” Doubek shrieks over guitars that sound like sirens. “DANCE SONNY MAKING YOU PAY YOUR.” The 7-inch was released in March on Sister Polygon.

Princess Nokia – “Young Girls”

It shouldn’t be rare to see a video like “Young Girls”, but it is. “When I wrote this song, it was kind of like writing a place where they could raise their children and be happy and live amongst each other,” said Princess Nokia a/k/a Destiny Frasqueri in an interview about the track. “And there would be no men and there would be no technology, there would just be us and the children. It would be very harmonious and holistic.” Directed by Milah Libin, it’s a celebration of womanhood, motherhood, diversity, nature, and heritage — and one of our favorite music videos of the year so far.

READ: “A Walk Through Zion with Princess Nokia” by Nina Mashurova (cover story).

Quarterbacks – Quarterbacks

For the past couple of years, Dean Engle released tapes on Double Double Whammy full of short-and-sweet lo-fi home recordings. On his debut full-length for Team Love, he and his band took those scrappy indie-pop tracks to Kyle Gilbride of Swearin to record a full-speed twee-rock record. With weirdo-pop sensibilities and heart-beat drums beneath plucked and twangy melody, Engle’s gentle, sing-song voice declares lines like, “I’m not in love with anyone, what’s wrong with me?” It’s only been out for 6 months, but feels like a classic.

Screaming FemalesRose Mountain 

For their past couple of releases, Jersey trio Screaming Females have worked with producer Steve Albini (2012’s Ugly, 2014’s Live at the Hideout) but this time around they went into the studio with former Minus the Bear keyboardist Matt Bayles. Bayles has mostly worked extensively with post-hardcore and metal-leaning bands —where Albini’s approach to producing is pretty hands-off, Bayles takes a more active role, and the results are huge.

READ: “What Would Screaming Females Do?” by Kerri O’Malley (cover story).

ShamirRatchet

“Vegas is a very cultureless place,” Shamir Bailey told us last year in an interview surrounding his 2014 Godmode EP, Northtown. “We have to struggle to do stuff for ourselves.” This year, Bailey channeled more feelings about his hometown into his debut LP, Ratchet, and took the world by storm. Released in May on XL, it’s one of the years best and most varied pop albums — and certainly the most full of personality. The record is about “growing up in Vegas, though not the Vegas you think you know,” he’s explained.

LOOK: Shamir’s “Shot By the Band” photo essay

Sheer MagII 7-inch

“When you see something that makes you sick do you button up or do you bleed?” asks Christina Halladay on one of the year’s most memorable musical calls-to-action, the opening line of “Button Up.” “Well I don’t claim to know what’s right but I can see there’s a growing need,” Halladay continues. Fuzzy chords coast in start-and-stop strumming patterns reminiscent of rock opera days of old, while a tastefully sunny guitar, clean and reverbed, flutters around in down strokes. It’s the final cut from their four-song EP II, which in four songs accomplishes more than most full-length records. It’s one of the year’s best rock records.

Sleater-KinneyNo Cities To Love

It’s easy to shrug off reunion albums, but No Cities to Love doesn’t feel like one. The record sounds like a band picking up where they left off,  another breath of strength from the necessary cultural force that is Sleater-Kinney. It’s simultaneously refreshingly familiar and urgently new. “No one here is taking notice / no outline will ever hold us,” they sing on “A New Wave,” and the same can be said for the band themselves.

SluteverAlmost Famous

Almost Famous is an important release for us,” Nicole Snyder and Rachel Gagliardi said of their new tape back in March. “Recording it was our farewell to Philadelphia, and for an unknown amount of time, our farewell to each other. It’s the outcome of feeling trapped and ambivalent. The songs deal with our anxiety in a very specific period of our lives, and our struggles with growing up.” With revitalized grunge hooks that could boil cough syrup, Slutever’s songs about “teen moms with broken hearts” and “pouring bleach on your head” don’t care to peel off the proverbial band-aid. They rip it from the root.

SneaksSneaks tape

SNEAKS is the self-titled cassette by the DC project bearing the same name, released earlier this spring on cassette by Sister Polygon. Sneaks is all about pithy punk poetry—incantations condensed into tracks that never make it to the two-minute mark, minimally underscored by bass lines and not much else. With a sometimes monotonous, sometimes self-amused vocal delivery and clean melodic bass lines, Sneaks sometimes feels like a one-person Household, sometimes like an early draft of a Le Tigre song.

Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer

“I think it’s just a different kind of anger,” Sadie Dupuis told us earlier this year, talking about the shift in mood from Major Arcana to Foil Deer. “It maybe needs better articulation than whatever moody stuff was going on before. Writing these songs, I didn’t feel like, ‘fuck you, gotta get this feeling down’ … I was excited to talk about some of the things in Foil Deer. I was pretty happy writing it. We were on a break from tour, which was really nice.” Released in April on Carpark, Foil Deer is the Massachusetts 4-piece’s most accomplished album to date.

READ: “A winding, West Philly chat with Speedy Ortiz” by Cynthia Schemmer.

Split Feet Shame Parade

“Most of the themes addressed on Shame Parade are topics I’ve also written about in essay form,” Jes Skolnik told us in January. “Queer desires, the amber-preservation of punk nostalgia and how we historicize our lives, street harassment, how communities respond to sexual assault, eating disorders, pink-collar frustration and feminized work in general.” The dark-hued melodic punk tape, out via Accidental Guest, finds Skolnik’s monotone sing-shout criss-crossing with lighter harmonies and dissonant riffs, joined by a power trio of drummer Keara Shipe, guitarist Taylor Kelley, and bassist Christine Wolf.

READ: Liz Pelly’s interview with Jes Skolnik of Split Feet

TenementPredatory Headlights

In certain pockets of the punk world, people will tell you without hesitation that Tenement’s Predatory Headlights is the best record of the year. The 80-minute double-album has been about four years in the making; songwriter Amos Pitsch has clearly spent a lot of time both in his head and digging through record crates of out-there jazz and post-punk records, pinning such varied influences to the Tenement’s punk backbone at the record’s every turn. It was largely written and recorded at their Appleton, Wisconsin punk house, The BFG, but sounds bigger.

READ: Liz Pelly on “Hive of Hives”

Tica DouglasJoey

Within the first few seconds of Joey, Tica Douglas cuts right to the album’s core: “If I were born a boy/ They were gonna call me ‘Joey,’” goes the record’s first couplet. Tica sings over quick, punctuative guitar strums that soon open up into something like a swing. “For Joey, I felt ready to exist in that in-betweenness, and write lyrics from the perspective that has always been mine,” Douglas told us in February. “Which is, I don’t know, whether you want to say liminal or containing multiplicities or whatever it is. Just a little bit confusing. I felt ready to write about that

READ: “Tica Douglas falls in between” by Sasha Geffen.

TomboySweetie

“Being a tomboy is about not letting other people define who we are,” Madeline Burrows of Tomboy told us in April. “Women are constantly told that we’re too fat, too skinny, too loud, not loud enough, too abrasive, not confident enough, too feminine, not feminine enough, too emotional, too cold, we’re not smart enough to possibly understand but when we speak our minds we’re know-it-alls…” Their smart, tough agenda is all over their debut 7-song record, Sweetie, released last month on Boston’s Ride the Snake Records.

STREAM: Tomboy, Sweetie

Try the PieDomestication

Try the Pie was formerly the intimate, sweet-sung solo endeavor of Crabapple drummer Bean Tupou, but for the band’s new full-length, Domestication, released this spring via Salinas Records, the band was filled out by Rich Gutierrez (of Sourpatch, Younger Lovers, Busted Outlook, Permanent Ruin) and Nick Lopez (of Ugly Winner). “I wanted to call it Domestication because it has a lot to do with private life,” Tupou told us in April. “The decisions that we make with ourselves, our instincts, and our subconscious desires create expectations of how we should act and how other people should act.”

READ: “Try the Pie work against the tides” by Victoria Ruiz.

Upset’76 EP

Upset is the songwriting project of Ali Koehler (formerly of Vivian Girls, Best Coast), joined by a supergroup of Rachel Galgiardi (Slutever) on bass, Patty Schemel (formerly of Hole) on drums, and Lauren Freeman on guitar. Following their 2013 debut full-length for Don Giovanni, the band followed up this spring with a new tape out on West Coast punk label, Lauren Records. The EP, ’76, is short, sweet, and timeless. Koehler sings cathartically, beckoning both shit-kicking and sunny group-yell-along types of excitement — a rare feat.

Various Artists – Godmode Records’ American Music

Godmode’s American Music contains some of the year’s most exciting electronic sounds, a 20-track compilation ranging from techno and dance cuts to experimental and noise; Shamir, Yvette, Malory, and Isn’t Ours are all included amongst others. The cover art for the compilation is almost as interesting as its tracklist—an all-caps, type-face, nostalgic monologue about a rowdy show, a hazy night, and the camaraderie of scene folk bonded by booze and brief glory.

STREAM: Godmode’s American Music compilation

VexxGive and Take EP

In April, Katorga Works put out Olympia punk outfit Vexx’s Give and Take 7-inch, adding to their roll of powerhouse releases for the year (following SHEER MAG’s II). The release is a less crusty and less agitated step forward for the four members, incorporating lively, creative guitar work and Maryjane Dunphe’s dominant voice into a pounding rhythm section that commands attention. Dunphe doesn’t so much shout or howl her lyrics as she does emphatically haunt them out.

STREAM: Vexx, Give and Take 7-inch

WaxahatcheeIvy Tripp

“What do I want? What do I think? Nobody hears,” sings Katie Crutchfield on “Poison,” one of the most cutting moments of her new album, Ivy Tripp. “Travel the world ivy tripping with no spotlight,” she continues. It’s a light-and-dark inward-looking rock song that meditates on feelings of confusion and disorientation, speaking directly to Crutchfield’s intentions for Ivy Tripp: “I think a running theme is steadying yourself on shaky ground and reminding yourself that you have control in situations that seem overwhelming,” she said early this year. “Or just being cognizant in moments of deep confusion or sadness, and learning to really feel emotions and to grow from that.”

WildhoneySleep Through It

After a couple of EPs, Wildhoney released their first LP this year, Sleep Through It, honing a sound that seems to draw from the full spectrum of shoegaze, from blasts of fuzz to watery delayed rhythms and luminously reverbed dreampop fills. Spacey and distant (but not too distant) vocals blanket each song in warm static resonance that possesses lullaby qualities, even through the most distortion-filled hooks.

READ: JP Basileo’s take on Sleep Through It.

YowlerThe Offer

Sometimes blank space can be more devastating than the most earnest, emotional shout; a quiet stare can punch harder than a kicking drum. Maryn Jones proves that in eight songs on The Offer, her debut cassette under the moniker Yowler, released in March via Double Double Whammy. Jones is best known as the singer, songwriter and guitarist of Columbus pop punk four-piece All Dogs, but on her own, she works masterfully in moods and metaphors. “Got to disappear in some great void of water, want to be arrested by the sound,” she sings to open the record, over a spare, echoing guitar riffs.

STREAM: Yowler, The Offer

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