It’s January 5th and we here at the WRGW Music Department are just a little bit sick of the cyclical year-end lists penned by **in-touch** music writers and tastemakers who continually peddle the same albums over and over again, with more regard for controversy (Mark Kozelek shout out) than actual substance. Let’s face it – music journalism kinda sucks. The top blogs and sites are essentially celebrity gossip forums, with occasional big words and nice pictures thrown in. The promotions companies are no better, as the wealthier bands get press and talented, hardworking ones are left in the dust. Still, rant aside, 2014 was a damn fine year in music. The mega releases of 2013 slowed down enough to allow break out artists, like Ex Hex, Ty Segall, Angel Olsen (the list goes on) to break into new territory and release exceptional, career-defining albums. The future is ripe, and there has never been a better time to be a music fan with a pair of headphones and an internet connection.
Instead of laying out the “best” albums of last year, our three assistant music directors, our music promotions director and I share below the top three artists/bands that we’re genuinely excited about in 2015. This is by no means an objective or comprehensive list; those things do not exist in music journalism. Read, listen, and watch before they get drowned out by the next Kanye single, or another War on Drugs album. Regular blog content and programming will continue starting the week of January 19th – until then, indulge our egos and maybe find your next favorite band.
Lotanna Obodozie, Music Promotions, cooler than you
Back in the spring of 2013, someone leaked an album of 16 unfinished demos and un-mastered tracks by elusive UK producer, Jai Paul. While this was not an album release proper, this pseudo-LP became the talk of seemingly every music blog and became one of my all time favorite bodies of music, leaving me desperate for more material. Luckily for us, XL Recordings producer Rodaidh McDonald has confirmed that Paul is working on new material. Whether this will be released in 2015 is a question that only Jai Paul knows the answer to. In the meantime, I’ll be here, shuffling through his music and falling in love with it again and again and again. Listen here.
In keeping with the whole “elusive producer” thing, ZHU deserves a spot on this list for gathering a whole lot of Blog Hype while keeping his releases to a minimum. He has only one EP out (which is 26 minutes of straight bangers), a handful of remixes/covers, and so few live performances that I could probably count them on my hand, but I am so excited to see what he does in 2015. More tour dates? A full-length album? More covers and remixes? ZHU already has our hearts in the palm of his hand, so anything he does in 2015 will be greeted with open arms and ears. Listen here.
THE ENTIRETY OF PC MUSIC
I feel like I can’t talk about what I’m most excited for in 2015 without talking about what I was most excited about in 2014. PC Music changed the game last year with their constant releases of hyperactive, saccharine, and just plain bonkers pop music, sounding like they were straight out of the future. At a time where it seems that everyone is borrowing ideas from each other, PC Music is borrowing from no one, looking inwards, and creating their own genre of underground electropop. If 2014 was any indication of what they’re capable of, 2015 is sure to be wilder and sweeter than ever.
Quinn Myers, Music Director, sophist
If 2014 taught me anything, it’s that Philly has the best music scene on the east coast if you’re partial to gritty, guitar based rock n’ roll. Bands like Radiator Hospital, Cayetana, Cold Foamers, Mannequin Pussy, and the formidable Alex G, along with a continually growing cast of loud talent call the city home. Among these amped up, often in-your-face bands is Sheer Mag, a scuzzy, too-cool-for-Facebook power pop ensemble that has enough sweet energy and jamming sensibility to catch the attention of even your most jaded and pretentious punk friends. Their short 7” debut that came out a few months ago is a small sample of their passion for things old and willingness to try all things new – and it leaves me in a euphoric nostalgia for something I can’t quite place. Sheer Mag is opening for Parquet Courts and Priests on February 7th at Black Cat – get there early and flail around with me. Listen here.
Ava Luna put out one of the best records of 2014 last March with Electric Balloon – the façade of art punk they had previously teased their loyal fans with quickly became a jankier, Talking Heads-ish exercise in contorting the boundaries of pop experimentation. The effort paid off, as they toured with Krill and cemented themselves as a leading creative force in the New York DIY scene. Art punk, art pop, noise, whatever their promotions company wants to call them, it doesn’t matter – Ava Luna are infusing a seemingly unending pool of energy and creativity into making records that draw on a diverse array of talent and courage. Their music has a feeling of unyielding importance attached to it, seen in the dramatic juxtaposition between erratic songs like “Sears Roebuck M&MS” with the gorgeous harmonies of the band’s three vocalists on “PRPL”. Ava Luna’s next album is reportedly already recorded; keep an eye out for it early in the year along with a DC date. Listen here.
Viet Cong rose out of the ashes of Women, who are probably the only experimental tour-de-force rock band you’ve heard of from Calgary, Canada. After two popular albums that ranged from noisy post punk to Lou Reed inspired pop rock, Women officially called it quits after an exhaustive tour schedule and the untimely death of guitarist Chris Reimer in 2012. It took a few years, but remaining members Matt Flegel and Scott Munro, along with a few new additions finally began recording again, resulting in their 2013 release “Cassette” and an upcoming self-titled 2015 album. Both releases are full on dives into territories known and unknown, with “Cassette” operating as an expository for older, perhaps safer tracks, while the self-titled has emerged as an assaulting, epic venture into the more experimental vision initially put forth in Women. “Continental Shelf”, the first single from the upcoming album is as good an entry point as anywhere into their sound, but it’s on tracks like “March of Progress” and the searing, 11 minute album closer, appropriately titled “Death”, where the band reaches their creative high points, refusing to hold back for the sake of accessibility or vocal hooks that might have marked earlier releases. Stay tuned this year for their rise to the top.
Oh and OF COURSE: Pile from Boston is putting out their next LP on March 3rd and you should really be excited about it. Check em: https://pile.bandcamp.com/
Max Blackman, Hip Hop Director, really really ridiculously good looking
With the unexpected release of “Days Before Rodeo”, Travi$ Scott re-established why he’s on the forefront of the rap/hip-hop industry. The inventive beats and high energy he employs in his music continues to grow his audience and has resulted in feverish anticipation for his new album “Rodeo”. Posed to come out in 2015, the prequel is definitely worth a listen, and shows why the G.O.O.D. Music artist is a driving force in the industry, even as his mentors (Kanye West, Pusha T) continue to dominate the game. Listen here.
Goldlink has re-defined the DMV hip-hop scene with his new sound. The artist, originally from Northern Virginia, has catapulted to popularity on the back of his critically acclaimed mixtape/album “God Complex”. Although preferring to remain anonymous, Goldlink has gotten many co-signs, including from the founder of Def Jam and Atlantic Records, Rick Rubin. Having gone on tour with electronic artist Sbtrkt, Goldlink looks to build on his success and unique sound into 2015. Listen here.
After an eventful 2014, it doesn’t look like Father will stop churning out hits anytime soon. The rapper, who exploded on the scene with “Look At Wrist” looks to continue his success into 2015. With his next project “Who’s Gonna Get F****d First” slated to come out next year, the upstart from Atlanta hopes to continue building on his success with his new single “Spoil You Rotten” which you can find below.
Connor McInerney, Assistant Music Director, worried about his aesthetic probably
2014 was the “Year of Indie Frontmen Being Really Fucking Depressing.” We were handed Karen O’s Crush Songs, which sounded like the original soundtrack to a movie adaptation of The Bell Jar directed by Wes Anderson, as well as the stroller-dad, anti-iPhone crusade that is Everyday Robots by Damon Albarn. While both of these albums were decent in their own respect, Will Butler’s Policy, slated for a spring release, promises to wake up from this melancholic slumber; his performance at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn has a garage rock sound similar to Jack White if he wasn’t angsty from sitting next to Dan Auerbach in couple’s therapy. If Butler can embody the cool strangeness of his work with Arcade Fire in an exciting, accessible roots-rock format, Policy promises to be one of 2015’s best albums. Listen here.
Jamie xx, one of the frontmen and chief production architect of English soft-rockers The xx, has enjoyed a modest amount of success on his own over the last few years. His 2011 remix album We’re New Here demonstrated his penchant for creating intelligent deep-house with a nuanced sound, utilizing the original tracks of Gil Scot-Heron’s 2010 album I’m New Here, but repurposed and re-grooved in a soulfully eccentric way. As a remix artist, his library of reworks range from Radiohead to Adele while collaborating with artists Four Tet and Childish Gambino. Touring with The xx calmed down in 2014 and he began to explore his individual production full-time, now poised to release an trip hop album four years in the making. Listen here.
Barnett’s 2013 release The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas introduced
those of us who chose not to live on an island filled with descendants of criminals and things that can kill you everyone outside of Australia to her rambling songwriting. I personally caused a scene when I melted into a puddle at Webster Hall during her CMJ set; her homespun Australian charm is infectious to say the least. Barnett is scheduled to release an as of yet untitled LP during the upcoming year, an album she says is more thematically diverse than her previous releases but still packaged in the same, lovable “ultra-poppy” format.
Elliot Greiner, Assistant Music Director, Bono’s nurse, cat lover
Black Joe Lewis
Black Joe Lewis plays with the same honky tonk attitude his home city of Austin, Texas so passionately celebrates. With a guitar layered under stickers of pin-up girls and pornography, Lewis leads his band, The Honeybears, tirelessly; keeping in great pace with the Texan blues rock predecessors before him. Tracks like “Vampire” and “Dar es Salaam” offer an insatiable clue as to what this budding artist has up his sleeve.