The Needle Drop

Austen's Faves of 2015

TND11 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 and co. continue 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 a little 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 feel the many jams he turns out on this project. The arrangements might be off-kilter, but I find the whole thing to be just as intricate and catchy as it is thought-provoking. Pop album of the year — suck it, Anthony!


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 of hers.


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.]


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 drawing 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. Gotta agree with Anthony on this being 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, repetitive 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]

I also wanna give a shout-out to The Golden Communion, ex-Coil member Thighpaulsandra's two-hour return to full-length solo recording after nearly a decade. It's the sort of grand and strange statement that's come to be expected of him, but with a fresh coat of gold paint.


Food Court - Self-Titled [Kye]

Food Court - Self-Titled [Kye]

This record came out at the very end of last year, but I didn't get around to hearing it until recently. Food Court  is what happens when a group of Australian free improvisers decide to take on a 14th century French choral composition (twice). Yeah, it's pretty wonderful.


Lil Ugly Mane - Oblivion Access [Ormolycka]

Lil Ugly Mane - Oblivion Access [Ormolycka]

EDIT: I originally had LUM's tremendous Third Side of Tape compilation in this spot but his last project Oblivion Access has finally dropped and it's pretty much everything I could've hope for - the Richmond rapper's gritty flow and abstract lyricism backed by strange instrumentals that're often tinged with electroacoustic wankery. Rest in pus.


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