I wanted to put together another top five list for this year, but there has been way too much great stuff released in 2015. Instead, I put together a playlist of my favorite tracks. Hope you enjoy it!
- push pull – Purity Ring (Another Eternity): While their debut record Shrines was all about creeping around dark corners, there is a contrasting euphoria throughout Another Eternity which I really enjoy. I love Roddick’s shifting synth counterrhythms behind James’ innocent vocals on this one.
- Universal Everything – Leftfield (Alternative Light Source): It’s been 16 years since we last heard from Leftfield. 20 years after it came out, Leftism’s “Afro-left” is still one of my top dance tracks. Universal Everything has all those old elements that made Leftfield great, with a refreshed, driving vibe that shows they still have things to bring to the table.
- Arcs of Command – Caspian (Dust And Disquiet): Caspian has been kicking ass for 11 years in post rock circles, one year longer than Beware of Safety. We shared a label for a period of time, toured together, watched the scene explode (and implode), saw countless bands and venues come and go. It is hard to keep it together for that long, as a band and as individual musicians, let alone innovate on every release. This is definitely where Caspian has succeeded. There has always been catharsis in their work, but they hold absolutely nothing back on this record (even abandoning their purely instrumental heritage). It is both some of the most aggressive and naked music they’ve ever put together, and moments like Arcs of Command are glorious. Shameless plug: Caspian will be joining Beware of Safety for our 10 year anniversary show Thursday, January 14 in Los Angeles at the historic Troubadour. It will be an amazing show – definitely consider coming.
- Men Today – Health (Death Magic): For some reason, I missed the Health train when it left the station a number of years ago. That said, Death Magic is definitely one of my favorite records from this year. It lays into you from start to finish, and is arresting the entire time. Leaps and bounds better than their first two albums, thanks in part to the excellent production work by The Haxan Cloak (also a contributor on Bjork’s new record).
- Sticky Drama – Oneohtrix Point Never (Garden of Delete): I started listening to Oneohtrix Point Never last year, and it took me awhile to get past the “what the fuck” point. Garden of Delete has lots of those (example: the music video for Sticky Drama, and its prologue). Once the shock wears off, you can really start to see Lopatin’s brilliance, the dance between the chaos and orchestral-inspired beauty.
- Sinner – Arca (Mutant): See Oneohtrix Point Never RE: “what the fuck”. Arca’s doing some absolutely amazing stuff – genre defining. I started digging into him after hearing Kanye West’s “Yeezus”, and, after some persistence, fell in love with his music. He’s worked extensively with FKA twigs, another one of my favorite new artists.
- Often – The Weeknd (Beauty Behind the Madness): Come on, I went to five weddings this year and was accosted by “Can’t Feel My Face” at every one. I had to check it out. To my surprise, there was some really dark stuff in this record. Nothing like some nihilist party anthems to get you up for a night out.
- In Time – FKA twigs (M3LL155X): I discovered FKA twigs earlier this year, and quickly gorged myself on everything she’s done. Her new EP M3LL155X (Mellissa) has almost zero fat. It is a quick, surefire hit of eroticized electro nu R&B. In Time has been on loop in my head for a good portion of late-2015, and it encapsulates almost everything I love about music in 2015. Be sure to check out her long-form music video for the album (NSFW).
- The End Where We Start – The Black Queen (Fever Daydream): The new project from Dillinger Escape Plan frontman and Telefon Tel Aviv is making waves ahead of its 2016 release. Like a lot of stuff on the list, the lead single from the record has a lot of the interesting industrial R&B flavorings that I’m enjoying.
- Stonemilker – Bjork (Vulnicura): A track (and album) to listen to if you, perchance, feel like getting your heart ripped out. Two of my favorite producers (Arca and The Haxan Cloak) take Bjork to new levels on this record.
- Almost Leaving – 18+ (Trust): Sort of a weird mutant child of FKA twigs and The Weeknd, hyper-sexualized and stumbling through the door of the bar drunk out of its mind at 2 am. The kind of music you’d be leery to wake up with the next morning.
- Falling – JOY. (ODE): Kids these days. I don’t know what is going on with all the 18 year olds. First Disclosure, then Lorde… JOY. definitely put herself on the same playing field with her four track EP ODE. Keep an eye out for this one.
- Magnets – Disclosure ft. Lorde (Caracal): It’s tough to follow up an album as remarkable as Settle. The brothers do a decent job avoiding the sophomore slump with Caracal. Lorde brings her best lolita vibe for this slinky number.
- hat5c 0001 rec-4 – Aphex Twin (Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments PT 2): Aphex Twin has burst back on the scene after the epic kickstarter to release his long delayed Caustic Window EP. While Syro had its moments, I think Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments is a more interesting record. It has a very similar vibe to some of his work on Drukqs, but is a bit more playful in nature. While some of the playing is “inhuman”, it’s not insane, meaning you have a chance to pick up on the subtile compositional choices he’s making.
- Deepest Lake on the Planet – Dengue Fever (The Deepest Lake): A recommendation from a friend (now collaborator on my latest release “Abandon in Place”), this one is a bit outside of what I typically listen to. That said, there are some standout tracks on the record (this one especially).
- Church of Red – Worriedaboutsatan (Even Temper): I originally found these guys through The Silent Ballet (a site that launched hundreds of instrumental and post rock projects, including Beware of Safety). Their debut album, Arrivals was fantastic, and on Even Temper, the duo shows they haven’t lost anything during their six year hiatus.
- La Guardia – Alessandro Cortini (Risveglio): There are two Alessandro Cortini tracks on this list, and each of them has its own distinctive style. I love the dirty feel of Risveglio, and La Guardia’s menacing build is the perfect snapshot of this release
- W – Olafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm (Loon): Like Cortini, there are two tracks on here by Nils Frahm, here a collaboration with Olafur Arnalds. The record is a haunting mix of acoustic and electric instrumentation, which Frahm excels at (ala his track Says).
- Exploitation – Inner8 (Inner8): I learned about Inner8’s debut record through a Create Digital Music interview. His release is extremely well produced. The thing I love most about this track is how it morphs throughout the frequency domain within a cloud of foggy reverb. You never really know what’s going to pop out.
- Scappa – Alessandro Cortini (Forse 3): Great minimalistic synth work from Cortini on the Buchla Music Easel. Scappa slowly builds to a heavenly climax over 9:57.
- Ode – Nils Frahm (Solo): Some of the best things in life are free, including this record released on the first ever Piano Day this year. This track is so naked and open, complete with breath marks from the performer. As a new student of the instrument, I am loving what Frahm is bringing to the classical and experimental music world.
- Rene – Teen Men (Teen Men): I absolutely adore this record. If I had to pick a top five for this year, Teen Men would definitely be on the list. I’ve been a long time fan and friend of the Spinto Band crew, so maybe this one isn’t a shocker. But even your friends, who consistently put out great music, can bowl you over with their untapped talent. Rene is just a gorgeous track, and I love the mid song breakdown. Please, go buy this record.