As if we haven't told you enough about 2015—artist roundups, label roundups, our favorite records—we've got a couple more lists for you. Find out the best new music on Bandcamp last year, amazing punk/hardcore releases you may have missed, reissues and compilations that made 2015 great, and perhaps most importantly... the best flannel shirts of 2015. Read on for more.
The Best Bandcamp Discoveries of 2015
Since its establishment in 2007, Bandcamp has significantly changed the way independent musicians get the fruits of their labor out to the world. Certainly, many artists signed to labels also have a Bandcamp presence, but the real value of the site may be that it's more or less proven the notion that some of the music being made by random creative people is as good if not better than what is being delivered by the music industry establishment.
Unsurprisingly, since virtually anyone can "release" an album nowadays, there are some highly suspect works freely available, but there are also, in 2015 and most every year, some absolute gems that are simply too good to let sink into obscurity. Here are a few of my favorite finds of the past year.
Alexei Shishkin - The Dog Tape
Full of hazy melodies and dreamlike imagery, this pleasantly lazy album, for my money, may be a better representation of the "slacker rock" sound than what that description is typically applied to. While the record often has a druggy sound to it, Shishkin manages to occasionally include crisp, post-punk songwriting techniques and do a substantial amount of soul-searching and introspection over the course of the record. Ideal music to drift away with on a laid-back, sunshiney afternoon.
(orb) - Inside Voices
Playing a bit like a psychedelic prog album in which all the guitars have been replaced with synthesizers, (orb)'s effort is a welcome change from today's typical synthpop project. One instantly recognizes the chemistry between the two players responsible for this wild, frequently noisy, but consistently imaginative record, and its overwhelming vibe vaguely recalls Japandroids's style of "victory music." Though I might be inclined to describe Inside Voices as a beautful mess, it has more genuine personality than any number of contemporary electronic albums.
Void Boys - Glamorpus
An eclectic release which combines garage punk enthusiasm with shoegaze instrumentation and often destructive rhythms. The icing on the cake is the intriguingly strange lyrics of Shannon Bodrogi, who goes from questioning her creative process of "wasting time on these silly little rhymes" one minute to discussing quantum physics the next. Unsurprisingly, the mood changes significantly throughout, but it stands as a treat for those who like their music rowdy and raw.
Bruno Sanfilippo - Inside Life
Arguably more musically-satisfying than the experimentally-minded Contract Reworked, this collection of delicate piano-based modern classical seeks to reflect the beauty that lies all around us. In terms of its sound, Inside Life isn't so far removed from soundscapes of Sigur Ros or the post-rock genre, though it largely lacks obvious instances of cathartic release. Nevertheless, Sanfilippo manages to create plenty of goosebump-inducing moments on this pensive, gorgeously-realized and wholly relaxing record.
Stömb - The Grey
Instrumental progressive metal strikes me as a type of music that could be done rather well, or come off pretty badly depending on its execution. French four-piece Stömb has taken the right approach on their aptly-titled and prevailingly intense 2015 debut. Much like the best post-rock groups, Stömb appears to be trying to tell stories with their slow-burning compositions, and the sense of slow evolution, experimental interludes, and use of sound samples ensure a listener is drawn in.
Tyranny is Tyranny - The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
An album that strikes me as being as important as it is musically solid. Tackling issues that one might hope would be discussed more often as we enter a Presidential election year, this collection of aggressively political tracks does nothing if not provoke thought. Singer Russel Emerson Hall's word choice may be intimidating - I had to break out the dictionary on more than one occasion - but when combined with the hard-hitting, grandiose compositions, one is left in no doubt as to the conviction behind the messages.
LATTE+ - No More than Three Chords
Having been around since 1997, this Italian trio has been churning out simple but effective Ramones-inspired pop-punk ever since. Overflowing with infectious melodies, amusing lyrics, and tons of energy. OK, so maybe the group isn't bringing anything new to this well-established genre. That doesn't make Three Chords any less of a blast to listen to.
061180 - I'm Considering Being a Cloud
Self-described by its creator as playing like the soundtrack to a depraved horror film, this experimental release unleashes moments of ambient serenity alongside absolute harsh noise, but flows exceptionally well together. When originally writing about this record, I described the album's ability to lure a listener in with its mysterious sounds, then assault him in a dark alley with a rusty shank. That says about all one needs to know.
77™ - P.I.G. / Alles - Post
Around the mid-point of last year, I happened upon the bandcamp page of Poland's mecanica label who specializes in slightly unsettling coldwave electronic that seems to have been lifted straight out of the early '80s underground. These of dehumanization and alienation run rampant on P.I.G., while the more energetic Post has vocals being barked out in Polish over catchy keyboard melodies and rhythms. Hard to choose a favorite among this pair of albums since they both have many worthwhile elements, but I might give the edge to 77™ for their pulsating cover of the grimy vintage electro jam "Let's Rock."
Benjamin Finger - Amorosa Sensitiva
A concoction of all sorts of sonic ingredients, from modern classical and experimental electronic to post rock and even free jazz, Norwegian musician Benjamin Finger's Amorosa Sensitiva is something entirely different from the majority of contemporary ambient recordings. Fascinating as it is to listen to Finger competently tread through this wide array of material though, the most amazing thing is that the record has a remarkable sense of flow to it, even when it lets loose with its more shrill and grating passages.