Best New Music Releases of 2015 (So Far)

Music of 2015 (so far):

I’ve been listening to a lot more new albums lately. I’m a bit tired of the driving focus placed on singles in our iTunes era, and everything I’ve loved this year has been part of a strong album that functions well as an album, not just a collection of songs. NPR’s First Listen has been an amazing resource in this regard (http://www.npr.org/series/98679384/first-listen). There is no better argument for limited sharing of digital audio -I’m going to be purchasing most of these albums as physical media in the next month or so.

In no particular order:

Matthew E. White, ‘Fresh Blood’: I saw the band open for The Mountain Goats in 2012, and my brother thought they were better than the main act -if I didn’t love John’s band so much, I might have, too. Amazing musicians, amazing arrangements, monster presence. The new album has all of that -and better songs. ‘Holy Moly’ kills.

Lightning Bolt, ‘Fantasy Empire’: Great music to play loud. Noise-rock, proto-metal high-clarity lo-fi… it’s hard to classify. It’s damn good, somewhat intoxicating, and exhausting. Not for the faint of heart. Listen to it all the way through.

Inventions, ‘Maze of Woods’: Explosions in the Sky guitarist Mark Smith teams up solo laptop guy Matthew Cooper and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The guitar arrangements and piano parts sound like they’ve been lifted out of ‘The Earth is not a Cold, Dead Place’. Great minimalistic post-rock with an extravagant electronic twist. Like ‘Fantasy Empire’, listen to it all in one go.

‘Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith’: The title is rather self-explanatory. heart wrenching, black songs covered with beautiful precision, full of dead-on harmonies and understated acoustic instrumentation. I’m not as familiar as I’d like to be with Elliott Smith’s music, but this album has put my feet upon the path. Don’t listen to this if you’re having a bad day.

Liturgy, “The Art Work’: Another very loud and aggressive album that refuses to fall to our rock-nerd Linnaean taxonomies. On first listen, it seems to be more squarely metal than something like ‘Fantasy Empire’, but that’s just where the train is coming from and Liturgy are going somewhere else entirely. Horns and spoken-word vocal delivery sit right next to driving tremolo-picking and black metal thunder and it all belongs together.

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