The Needle Drop

Austen's Faves of 2015

theneedledrop11 Comments

Is it year-end list time already?! Every year it seems the lists inch forward ever so slightly (because fuck December, right). But actually I'm jumping the gun just for the sake of scheduling and am gonna be quickly running through my ten favorite albums of the year now. Ten might not seem like much, but what do you expect from the cynical bastard who writes It Came from Bandcamp? At any rate, here's what I dug most this year and I hope you dig them at least a little bit too:


The Top 10

1. Sun Kil Moon - Universal Themes [Caldo Verde]

1. Sun Kil Moon - Universal Themes [Caldo Verde]

On Universal Themes, Mark Kozelek continues to seek fulfillment in the mundane details of everyday life through winding, tangential songwriting. As always, the sentimentality of the music may come off to some as corny, but after dozens of listens this remains one of the most powerful experiences I've had with a singer-songwriter album. A pity that it has been widely unsung just because Mark wouldn't let himself be bent over by the bratty press...


2. James Ferraro - Skid Row [Break World]

2. James Ferraro - Skid Row [Break World]

Even though I saw it coming from a mile away, I'm still salty about Anthony's Skid Row review that went up yesterday. Yeah, James always impresses as a conceptual artist, but you don't exactly have to be a gallery-goer to "get" what he's doing here in terms of composition. James does a masterful job of evoking the musical landscape of '80s & '90s LA, while also disrupting any nostalgia that may arise from that and conveying the smoggy, grimy, and chaotic state of modern LA via the off-kilter arrangements. The results are pretty catchy in their own right, too. I also find the deeper, more confident singing (almost spoken word) on this album to be a powerful change of pace coming off the vulnerable, pitchy crooning on NYC, Hell 3:00 AM, and the hazy production this time around is in clear juxtaposition to that album's icy instrumentals and soundscapes as well. So, James has once again produced an incredible album that evokes a strong sense of place and finds the beauty in our often times ugly reality.


3. Prurient - Frozen Niagara Falls [Profound Lore]

3. Prurient - Frozen Niagara Falls [Profound Lore]

Frozen Niagara Falls is the sound of Dominick Fernow grappling with romance and religion against the backdrop of a frostbitten urban hellscape. Spanning the extreme music spectrum from death industrial to harsh noise, this double-album can be described as easy listening only when compared to the sadomasochistic standard set by past works in Fernow and his power noise affiliates' discographies. I think it can also be described as a masterpiece.


4. Takahiro Kawaguchi/Utah Kawasaki - Amorphous Spores [Erstwhile]

4. Takahiro Kawaguchi/Utah Kawasaki - Amorphous Spores [Erstwhile]

If you make it through the subdued intro of Amorphous Spores, you will be rewarded with some of the most mind-bending EAI to be crafted in years. The marriage of Kawaguchi's homemade instruments and Kawasaki's electronics has resulted in something playful and seriously far out, at least to my ears.


5. Ikue Mori - In Light of Shadows [Tzadik]

5. Ikue Mori - In Light of Shadows [Tzadik]

In Light of Shadows is a beautiful and meditative work of laptop electronics from distinguished free improviser Ikue Mori. A great chill-out album, it is without a doubt my most enjoyed Tzadik release of the year and is gradually becoming my favorite in Ikue's discography.


6. Björk - Vulnicura [One Little Indian]

6. Björk - Vulnicura [One Little Indian]

Making the Björk birthday playlist a week ago sort of got me back in the mood for this album. Vulnicura is certainly her most harrowing and heartbreaking project to date and under the right conditions it actually does strike me as her most potent work. I don't picture myself listening to it as frequently as the rest of her catalog, but my heart will probably skip a beat here and there whenever I do.


7. Oneohtrix Point Never - Garden of Delete [Warp]

7. Oneohtrix Point Never - Garden of Delete [Warp]

I found Replica and R Plus Seven to be moving albums in their own right, but never did I expect to call the abstract electronic stylings of Oneohtrix Point Never "visceral," let alone "angsty." Garden of Delete really has teeth, though! Much respect to Daniel for making such a forceful statement this time around. [Important Note: My copy of GoD has the correct track order... Anthony.]


8. Elysia Crampton - American Drift [Blueberry]

8. Elysia Crampton - American Drift [Blueberry]

While to some extent I appreciate the transevangelical concept behind the music of American Drift, I have to admit my general disinterest in identity politics. So, I respect Elysia Crampton primarily for her compositional chops — the progressive crunk and digital cumbia soundscapes on this album drew me in immediately.


9. Stara Rzeka - Zamknęły się oczy ziemi [Instant Classic]

9. Stara Rzeka - Zamknęły się oczy ziemi [Instant Classic]

Zamknęły się oczy ziemi is the second and last album by genre-defying singer-songwriter Kuba Ziołek under the name Stara Rzeka. An 80-minute concoction of avant-folk, krautrock, drone, and just a pinch of black metal, it's one hell of a closing chapter. This truly is the year of the double and triple album.


10. Peste Noire - La Chaise-Dyable [La mesnie Herlequin]

10. Peste Noire - La Chaise-Dyable [La mesnie Herlequin]

My favorite metal release of the year has to be this latest offering from Peste Noire. I do prefer the band when they are at their most overblown, namely on their 2011 magnum opus L’Ordure à l’état Pur, but a lot of bite and eccentricity remains on this more stripped-back, repetitious effort. The last two tracks I find to be particularly compelling.


Honorable Mentions

Thighpaulsandra - The Golden Communion [Editions Mego]

Thighpaulsandra - The Golden Communion [Editions Mego]

Food Court - Self-Titled [Kye, 2014]

Food Court - Self-Titled [Kye, 2014]

Lil Ugly Mane - Third Side of Tape [Self-Released]

Lil Ugly Mane - Third Side of Tape [Self-Released]

Death Grips - The Powers That B [Third Worlds]

Death Grips - The Powers That B [Third Worlds]


Mea Culpa

Liturgy - The Ark Work [Thrill Jockey]

Liturgy - The Ark Work [Thrill Jockey]

I neglected to put Hunter Hunt-Hendrix and co.'s glitch-metal masterpiece on my list because for some reason I thought of it as a 2014 album. I was listening to it nonstop at the start of the year and got pretty burnt out on it, so that may be why. But in hindsight, The Ark Work deserved to place somewhere in my top 10, if not top 5. It's now been a year since this list came out, so rather than change the order, I'll just put the album in its own "I fucked up" category. That seems about right.


And there you have it: 2015 in a nutshell, as far as I care. Thanks for reading! <3