Six gifts a grooving

A half a dozen of the year’s best releases

By Zach Rogers

Is it that time again? Has another year almost come and gone? Yes, it may be hard to believe, but 2015 is nearly over, and now it’s time to look back and reflect on the best of the best. On both a national and local level, 2015 was full of great music, and while year-end lists may seem overwhelming, it’s always fun to see what people were listening to throughout the year. This list isn’t meant to be some sort of deciding factor, but rather it’s a collection of personal favorites, the albums that kept me coming back for more. Of course, there are a few that had to be left off, but these were the ones that made the biggest impact on my year.


Tame Impala –
Currents

Tame Impala gambled with new sounds on Currents, and the results are surprisingly more infectious than before. Opener “Let It Happen” bops and clicks along as Kevin Parker, the musical mastermind behind the group, allows his voice to soothe the listener into the song’s slick groove. Besides the entire album being a treat on the ears, some standout tracks include the aforementioned “Let It Happen” as well as the synth-indulged “Eventually,” the dance-infused “The Less I Know the Better” and the tongue-in-cheek confessional “’Cause I’m a Man.” This could very well be Tame Impala’s The Soft Bulletin, the moment where a great band became a phenomenal one, thanks to new experiments and musical directions.


Beach House –
Thank Your Lucky Stars

From the opening moments of “Majorette” to the closing balladry of “Somewhere Tonight,” it’s clear that Thank Your Lucky Stars, the second album released by Beach House in 2015, has a more unifying flow than Depression Cherry, its predecessor. “Majorette” kicks things off, sounding like a cleaned up version of My Bloody Valentine. “All Your Yeahs” builds from a subtle start into a nice, electrifying groove, and “Elegy to the Void” is equally electric, occupying more and more sonic terrain as it glides through its six and a half minutes. “Somewhere Tonight” sounds like a high school prom held inside an igloo, and finds lead singer Victoria Legrand doing her best Roy Orbison impression to close out the album.


Earl Sweatshirt –
I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt

From the moment the organ rings out on “Huey,” something felt different, yet strangely familiar, on I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. It’s like Earl Sweatshirt wanted to do the complete opposite of what he did on 2013’s Doris. “Faucet” is by far the album’s best track, a low-key expression of how Sweatshirt feels about life, the world and having to answer his phone. He sounds comfortable and confident throughout, and goes through a wave of emotions, from high notes like “Mantra” and “AM // Radio” to brutal, honest anger on “Grief.” Sweatshirt produced all but one of the album’s 10 songs, proving his skill on all aspects of the craft.


Motel Beds –
Mind Glitter

Motel Beds returned in 2015 with Mind Glitter, their first studio release since 2012’s Dumb Gold. It continues the band’s efforts of churning out ridiculously catchy rock songs with an apparent ease. It opens with the beachy vibes of “Open Ocean,” followed by the ramshackle garage rock of “A.O.O.” The title track features a guitar riff that’s impossible to resist, and “Too Long” reaches near euphoric highs in the chorus. “Live City” completes the case for Motel Beds being the kings of good time rock and roll, but what makes Mind Glitter one of their best is how well it balances out the soaring highs with moments of quiet reflection. “Queens for the Summer” and “Set Ender” show the group slowing things down a bit, but it’s the acoustic heavy numbers like “Paper Trees” and “We’ve Killed More for Less” that demonstrate just how much versatility Motel Beds really possess.


Smug Brothers –
Woodpecker Paradise

At this point, I’m sure Smug Brothers are probably tired of hearing comparisons to Guided by Voices. They are pretty different though, more in line with the idea and spirit of GBV rather than sounding too much like them. Smug Brothers started the year off right with their fantastic Woodpecker Paradise. The group packs nine songs into a little over 20 minutes, and they sound tighter and more focused without sacrificing any of that perfectly loose Smug Brothers energy. “Antique Judy” leads things off, and it’s a beautiful introduction to the album. Other highlights include “Meet a Changing World” and “Register from the Molecular Track,” where the band blends guitar, bass, drums and vocals into the perfect mix of hometown Dayton rock.


Grenades!? –
Interrobang

The debut studio effort from Grenades!? showcases the quintet’s ability to weave in and out of one idea to the next, jumping from wild dance-punk frenzy one minute to spacey effects-laced indie rock the next. Their live shows have been getting Dayton in the mood for a while now, and 2015 saw the band capture that energy perfectly with Interrobang. “I’m Aware, Wolf” gets the party started, with their raw energy on full display. “Starship Bloopers” shows the band can mellow out without sounding dull, and “Working Title” sounds like a Broken Social Scene b-side, proving Grenades!? is on to something here. Every time I put this album on, I can’t help but move my feet and bop along, which is possibly the best reaction any band could ask for.

Reach DCP freelance writer Zach Rogers at ZachRogers@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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