The thing with collaborative end of year lists is that they favour the albums that more people have heard. While that’s no bad thing – it presents a site-wide view of the records that we’ve been constantly blasting over 2015 – it means those gems from smaller, up-and-coming bandscan slip under the radar.
That said, we’re nothing if not obsessive here at Already Heard, so in addition to our official list, which you can find over here, we decided to bring you 10 of the best records, as selected by our writers, from bands that you might not have heard of yet, but very much deserve your time and attention.
Blacklisters – Adult
Blacklisters are one of Leeds best kept secrets. Loud, chaotic, and with riffs that will bowl you over like a tsunami, the band’s third release ‘Adult’ was one of our favourite heavy albums of this year. We’ve been fans for a while, largely down to their give-everything attitude to live shows and dedication to discordant noise. The anger, grit and edge in their sound can be compared to bands like Jesus lizard or Melvins, and their sense of humour matches with song names like ‘The Sadness of Axl Rose’.
There are very few tracks you can’t find an excuse to headbang along to and ‘Adult’ is no exception to this, with the leading track ‘Shirts’ delivering a buzzsaw straight into the track, that comes in again just as strongly on the closer ‘Downbeat’. With jagged riffs and vocals swing from spoken word to incoherent rant, they might be the most punk band you hear all year. (HR)
The Echo and The Always – …and After That The Dark
Formed in 2012, Cardiff based quintet The Echo and The Always are an amalgamation of instruments and styles that have finally brought everything together on their highly accomplished debut album ‘…and After That The Dark…’.
Their richly textured sound features multiple layers of instrumentation from the guitars, bass, synths and trumpet, encompassing a number of styles from traditional folk melodies to hard rocking indie and pop. The result, in the words of the band, is “shoe-gazey indie-pop symphonies” with hook filled choruses and insistent melodies. Laura Hancock’s vocal is impeccable, as are the arrangements; which manage to maintain a signature sound, despite the heady mix, whilst avoiding formulaic song structures. Highlights include the hooky ‘Go Easy’, the wild mariachi finale of ‘Closed’, the powerful ‘Capable Of’ and stand out track ‘Antiquity’ with its driving bass line, scorching guitars and killer chorus. Whatever “It” is, TEATA have got it to spare. Watch this band. (EL)
Family Bike – Everything You Own Is Anagrammed
In 2014, Family Bike vocalist Karl Kuehn delivered an incredibly dense slice of alt-pop with Museum Mouth’s complex and demanding ‘Alex, I Am Nothing’. While Family Bike’s sound isn’t a world away from the day job – think muffled vocals and a lo-fi aesthetic – the beauty of ‘Everything You Own Is Anagrammed’ lies in both its immediacy and likeability.
Songs such as Heat Rash, Places and Kith and Kin fizz and pop with wild abandon, yet maintain a charming irreverence thanks to some occasionally biting, often amusing, lyrics. Appealing to fans of everything from The Thermals to Pavement (and, of course, Museum Mouth), the market’s certainly there for Family Bike to make their name… (RM)
Haybaby – Sleepy Kids
Brooklyn three-piece Haybaby have built a reputation based on emotionally intense live performances; cutting their teeth as one of the hardest working bands in N.Y.C. Despite having a handful of singles/EPs under their belt, ‘Sleepy Kids’ is their first full length outing and it reflects their fabled live act with breathtaking results.
What you get are nine loose but engaging cuts with a cool indie vibe, structuring quirky melodies around waves of noise and bubbly bass lines. Often described as slop rock, they take the loud-quiet-loud indie/grunge blueprint to their own place; Leslie Hong’s vocals ranging from a whisper to a scream, while the guitars vary between lazy picking and wall of sound. Sandwiched in the mix are great tunes like the histrionic ‘Old Friends’, the awkward ‘Pizza Party’, ‘Elevator Song’ with its rolling melody and the monumental ‘Edelweiss’. There’s a definite rawness, making ‘Sleepy Kids’ a compelling listen and Haybaby one to watch. (EL)
High Dive – New Teeth
First, a complaint (or sorts); it’s such a shame ‘New Teeth’ doesn’t contain more new songs, considering a handful of tracks featured on previous EPs. But – and it’s a huge caveat – it’s hard to complain about the quality, as every single song is an absolute 100% gem.
The ever-expanding group – recent acquisitions include Ginger Alford from Good Luck – deal in queer-positive, socially conscious pop-punk/power-pop, and there’s so many hooks and melodies running through ‘New Teeth’ that it’ll soon get even the most reticent onside.
But, for all its breezy accessibility, it’s the lyrics on ‘New Teeth’ that really excel. With flashes of The Weakerthans and an optimistic outlook, it’s the sort of album that makes you know that, no matter how bad things are, there’s always something better around the corner. (RM)
The Island of Misfit Toys – I Made You Something
Signed to The World Is A Beautiful Place’s Broken World Media label, and featuring even more full-time members than the emo megastars, it’s easy to draw comparisons between Chicago’s The Island of Misfit Toys and their more established luminaries.
Yet if you’re anticipating a rehash of TWIABP’s sound, then TIOFMT’s excellent ‘I Made You Something’ will surprise and delight you. You see, ‘I Made You Something’ has the flow and feel of a blockbuster musical drama scripted by Sondheim and scored by Sufjan. And it’s utterly and entirely beautiful.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find another album from 2015 that is as rich in imagery – indeed, religious symbolism features heavily – and is packed with as much heart and charm as ‘I Made You Something’.
And, just when you think you have a handle on The Island of Misfit Toy’s mind-bending sound, they throw you ‘Healthier Olympics’; three minutes of rat-a-tat-tat slam poetry which comes completely out of left field, before exploding into the best vocal interplay you will hear all year. (RM)
Sports. – Demon Daze
Picking up where they left off with a promising duo of EP releases in 2014, Boston emo-rockers Sports. capped off a busy 18 months with an absorbing debut album.
’Demon Daze’ is well and truly a mixed bag of influences and for the vast majority of the record, these marry seamlessly with driving punk breakdowns, melodic injections and indie hijinks infiltrating the more traditional emo foundations.
Greater instrumental ambition than many of the current emo front-runners, the inquisitive and dreamy guitar work levels the scales with a gilt-edged and raw vocal, a combination that emerges – in the best possible way – a little like post-rock on caffeine.
Now under the tutelage of small hometown label Too Far Gone Records, and with more new music in the pipeline, 2016 should set ambitious new highs for the trio. (JL)
Vasa – Colours
Vasa are a four piece from Glasgow with a big love of riffs, complex and intricate guitar parts, and joyous explosions of sound. Their debut album ‘Colours’ snuck in and surprised everyone late in the year. With instrumental landscapes that rise out of nothing, and shimmer like mirages, hearing it for the first time was like a light switching on.
Sonically, it sits somewhere between Adebisi Shank and Mogwai, both in terms of grand scale and ability to raise those hairs on the back of your neck. As well as delivering a debut to be proud of, they’ve been covering hundreds of miles of the UK and Europe, with some stand out sets including ArcTanGent and an album launch party in London where the floor shook, literally.
With plans already underway for tours next year as well as festival slots confirmed, these guys won’t be unheard of for long. We can’t wait. (HR)
Worriers – Imaginary Life
Like the aforementioned High Dive, Worriers are another band dealing with big social and political issues yet wrapping their message up in some of the most perfect power-pop/pop-punk. ‘Imaginary Life’ is an absolute joy from start to finish, with Lauren Denitzio’s (formerly of The Measure (sa)) passionate and expressive vocals and punchy lyrics elevating it an insanely high level from which it rarely dips.
Songs such as ‘Yes All Cops’, ‘They / Them / Theirs’ and ‘Advance Notice’ come brimming with defiance and personality, pushing the social and political agenda to the fore. That they’re some of the punchiest songs you could hear all year is testament to Denitzio’s ability to discuss complex issues in charged 2-minute punk rock songs. (RM)
You Vandal – Abandon All Hope
With the release of ’Abandon All Hope’, Gainesville quartet You Vandal have produced as complete and impressive an indie-punk release as any of their more credited peers in a genre currently red-hot.
Eric Cannon’s echoing and distant lead vocal provides an absorbing centrepiece around which a panorama of influences shine through and from the offset, ’Abandon All Hope’ proves to be both classy and varied; at points during the early part of the record you could be forgiven for identifying You Vandal as America’s answer to The Xcerts, while at other times, such as during the rowdy but melancholy ‘O.K’, an unmistakeable aura of The Alkaline Trio comes to the fore.
The punk scene is beginning to take note, with a string of festival sets at the like of Pouzza and hometown The Fest as well as supports for Less Than Jake and Slingshot Dakota proving what must surely be the better-late-than-never emergence of You Vandal in 2016. (JL)
Words by Rob Mair (RM), Heather Robertson (HR), James Lloyd (JL), and Edward Layland (EL).