Tag Archives: best of 2015

The RDR Music Director’s Top 15 EPs of 2015

As the year reaches its close, there’s still a small handful of albums I need to get caught up on before finalizing my highly anticipated (by me) Top 50 albums of the year. 2015 has presented a decent amount of fantastic album releases, spanning from seven minutes in length to nearly three hours. I’ll be focusing here on the shorter releases that have held my attention since the clock struck midnight December 31, 2014. This list is purely mine, and only reflects the miniscule sliver of music I’ve been able to sample this year. Here’s to a great year, and I’ll be sure to publish my list of 50 great full-length albums as soon as it is complete, along with a list of many, many, many honorable mentions. Stay tuned, rainy dawgs.

15. NAH – Light as Fuck 


Philadelphia-based producer/drummer/vocalist NAH has been making a name for himself in the experimental underground for quite some time now, but the release of his latest demo/EP Light as Fuck shows him coming into his own in really meaningful, aggressive ways. Contrary to its name, this 24-minute two-sided EP achieves levels of heaviness for which punk acts frequently aspire. If you’re at all interested in punk and noise with a hip-hop twist, this should be on your radar. 

Stream Light as Fuck here, then purchase it for whatever price feels adequate to you.

14. Benoît Pioulard – Noyaux 


Benoît Pioulard is a Seattle-based musician that has a heaping spoonful of releases to his name. He recently captured my attention with the release of Noyaux, a beautiful, textured drone album that’s perfect listening for a cold, windy post-finals winter morning. If you’re ever feeling like there isn’t much beauty in this pitiful excuse for a world (or if that NAH EP has you feeling particularly nihilistic) then give this some time to grow on you and expose you to nature’s beauty. 

Stream half of it over here, then buy it!

13. Thundercat – The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam


Bassist extraordinaire Stephen Bruner has had my attention fully captured ever since his highly acclaimed 2011 debut album as Thundercat, Golden Age of Apocalypse. It sounded like a more organic, jazzy Flying Lotus LP, which makes sense considering the two collaborate frequently, including a gig as part of Kendrick Lamar’s noise-making studio band for his majestic To Pimp a Butterfly. To keep the people satisfied, Mr. ‘Cat is back with an astounding, funky, melodic EP that features some of his most textured, organic, fully-formed songs to date. If you aren’t captivated by the sticky melody of “Lone Wolf and Cub,” then you aren’t listening properly. As the story goes with most EPs, this thing is criminally short. However, it is filled with lively instrumentation, pretty vocals, and takes the form of a completed studio project, for better or worse.

This thing is on Spotify, otherwise you can directly purchase it from the usual avenues. 

12. Mick Jenkins – Wave[s]


Chicago-based rapper Mick Jenkins took my iPod by storm last year with the release of his phenomenal breakout mixtape, The Water[s], a deeply conceptual and thought-provoking tape that didn’t sound like anything else I was listening to. This year, he followed that up with Wave[s], an admittedly more accessible and less exciting release. This nine-track affair deals more in themes of romantic love, and produces a few genuine pop rap tracks that I imagine escalated Jenkins’ level of fame to some degree. Regardless, this thing is still immaculately produced, and it shows Jenkins as a master hook-writer and gatekeeper of his own original sound. I would definitely recommend The Water[s] before recommending Wave[s], but the two go together in such obvious and meaningful ways that I still feel like this is a worthy follow-up. Just listen to this dude’s flow and his beats and try not to get hooked. 

This EP is on iTunes as well as Spotify

11. Lupe Fiasco – Pharaoh Height


Famed controversial conscious rapper Lupe Fiasco made a remarkable comeback this year with his surprisingly decent fifth studio album, Tetsuo & Youth, which dropped back in January. Toward the end of the summer season, though, he dropped his true 2015 masterpiece, Pharaoh Height, a brief mixtape that combines Fiasco’s love for video games with his love for dropping multi-faceted, complex yet digestible bars. I’m not the biggest Lupe fan, so I was surprised at how taken I was with Pharaoh Height, because it is a purely wonderful and worthwhile hip-hop release. It’s a fun, loose release that is simultaneously conceptual and “deep.” If you deleted Mr. Fiasco from your iTunes library after he ruined your life with Lasers, you might want to check this out. It definitely restored my faith in the rapper, and I’m highly anticipating his next release, which is rumored to be a sequel to his beloved sophomore LP, The Cool

Download Pharaoh Height for free right over here.

10. Aesop Rock & Homeboy Sandman – Lice


Admittedly, it took me longer to appreciate Aesop Rock than it might take a majority of his fans. His style is abrasive, intense, and difficult to take in, but that’s what I’ve grown to love about the dude. He’s been in the game for two decades now and shows no sign of stopping with this new free collaborative EP with prolific alt-rapper Homeboy Sandman. I’m not as familiar with Sandman, but he piqued my interest with some of his lyrics on this excellent, unabashedly fun and funny EP. The production is great, the bars are great, and this has me stoked for whatever’s next for both MCs. It’s been over three years since the latest Aesop Rock solo LP, though he has put out music with Rob Sonic (as Hail Mary Mallon) and Kimya Dawson (as The Uncluded). Let’s hope he’s as energetic on his next solo release as he sounds here!

What are you waiting for? Download Lice for free right over here

9. Shigeto – Intermission


I despise the term “IDM,” but I can’t think of a more picture-perfect example of dance music that evokes intelligence, rationality, and tranquility than Intermission, the gorgeous new EP from Detroit-based producer Shigeto. This instrumental work is a peaceful, nuanced record that begs you to pay attention to each instrument, sound, and experiment featured here. Every time I listen I’m taken aback. Intermission stands on its own as a beautiful piece of electronic music that ushers in live instrumentation (or so it appears). If you liked what The Knife was doing on their last album, or if you’ve been captivated by that new Floating Points album, you’ll definitely enjoy what Shigeto has laid out on this EP.

Stream Intermission here, via Ghostly International.

8. Iglooghost – Chinese Nü Yr


British producer Iglooghost came through in a big (and surprising) way this year. This dude is only 18, but he’s honed his musical identity with a fantastic debut EP. Chinese Nü Yr dropped a couple months ago on Flying Lotus’ own Brainfeeder imprint, which is quite the co-sign for a newcomer. The co-sign justifies itself upon listening to this four-track EP, which is as colorful and over-the-top as the cover suggests. This thing is audacious, fun, and filled to the brim with sound and energy. 

These slappers are slappin’ away on Spotify.

7. Modern Baseball – MoBo Presents: The Perfect Cast EP featuring Modern Baseball


One of my favorite new additions to the punk/indie/emo scene is Philly-based merry pranksters Modern Baseball, a quartet that comes through with the saddest jams to ever put a smile on my face. Following up last year’s excellent You’re Gonna Miss it All LP, the group is back with a new EP dives even further into depression and addiction, especially from the personal life of vocalist/guitarist Brendan Lukens. This EP is personal, poppy, and perfectly succinct. It serves as a great follow-up, and has me waiting for the group’s upcoming Holy Ghost LP with bated breath. Be on the lookout for that in 2016, but for now, have this wonderful new EP for free/name your own price, courtesy of Lame-O Records.

–> Download <– 

6. G.L.O.S.S. – Demo


It pains me to admit this, but I had never heard of Olympia, WA punk group G.L.O.S.S. (it stands for Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit) until the group was unwillingly caught up in a controversy with notorious shoegaze/dream pop band Whirr. A member/spokesman for the band tweeted disgustingly transphobic bullshit about G.L.O.S.S., whose lead vocalist is a trans woman, effectively resulting in Whirr being dropped from its label and, subsequently, a sizable amount of its fans. Not only did this give me a solid excuse to remove the toxic band from my news feed forever (aside from their boring music) but it also introduced me to Demo, a creative, excellent debut EP. Demo gives a voice to the voiceless and is as hardcore as it is hardcore empowering. If you listen to one hardcore punk record this year, make it this one. It’s unique, loud, unafraid, and hard as all hell. Simply put, this thing kicks ass. 

Demo is available in a pay-what-you-want format over here, so give it a much-deserved listen. 

5. Your Old Droog – Kinison 


New York-based rapper Your Old Droog used to just be “the guy that sounds a lot like Nas.” This year, he showed his true talents, both as a rapper and as a conceptual artist. Kinison is without a doubt the year’s most creative hip-hop EP. Kinison challenges the long-held notion that capital-R rock music trumps all hip-hop music across all time, and that the two genres are completely separate and can never intersect. While there are plenty of arguments to support the latter (let’s just pretend nu-metal never happened, okay?) Droog spits effortless bars over off-the-wall samples about his favorite ‘90s rock music. I won’t spoil too much because this EP is so underrated and fantastic that it speaks for itself upon listening, but let’s just say Droog uses Captain Beefheart himself as the gruff, gravelly hook for one of the tracks here. Enough said. 

This EP is dope, and it’s also free. Check it out.



Okay, so PRODUCT is more of a compilation of sorts than it is a bona fide EP, but it still features some of the decade’s most out-there pop and electronic music. SOPHIE is the famed face of label/art collective PC Music, and one of the minds behind that infectious QT single that dropped last year. He’s also an artist worth celebrating in his own right, which is more apparent than ever with each of the eight songs on PRODUCT. Even though half the songs on here have been available for well over a year, this project still stands on its own as an EP. Not only is it catchy, but it’s experimental as all hell. Each track is poppy, technicolor, and borderline noisy with its candy-coated excellence. Again, most of these songs have been around for a while, but hearing it all re-contextualized in this format further cements my love for SOPHIE and everything he’s doing. 

Buy it on iTunes! Stream it! I don’t care! Just listen to PRODUCT somehow.

3. Open Mike Eagle – A Special Episode Of


This right here is the art-rap EP of the year, no question about it. It is also serves as a sequel of sorts to Open Mike Eagle’s frustratingly underrated 2014 LP Dark Comedy, on which he hones his sound, lyrics, and comedic chops with considerable aplomb. The fun times continue on A Special Episode Of, a collection of songs that questions everything from politics to humor to existence itself. It’s an EP that’ll have you laughing to keep from crying to keep from thinking about your impossibly small place in this impossibly large universe. It’s equally experimental and accessible, making it a perfect candidate for 2015′s most accomplished rap EP. There’s nothing about this thing that isn’t dope to the highest level of dopeness. 

Give this a listen, then a thousand more listens right over here

2. Swain – Heavy Dancing


This EP is as catchy and straightforward as post-hardcore music gets, yet it leaves me with one burning question: WHY IS THIS THING NOT LONGER??? Heavy Dancing runs at only seven minutes, making it the year’s most criminally short EP, yet it makes perfect use of every goddamn second. These Dutch noisemakers use to rock on under the name This Routine is Hell, but the group has undergone a genre switch and, obviously, a name switch. Now playing as Swain, these guys came through with an aggressive, fast-paced handful of songs that I haven’t stopped playing since it dropped in early March. I’m practically salivating at the thought of a full-length album, and once you get your ears on this, you will be, too. 

Oh, and guess what? Name your own price.

1. FKA twigs – M3LL155X


I never thought I’d use the word “aggressive” to describe the music of British alt-R&B superstar FKA twigs, but M3LL155X (pronounced “Melissa”), her third EP, is her most aggressive and bizarre release yet. Twigs sings with an infectious level of passion about sex and sex-positivity on this thing, and the production, which was mostly handled by BOOTS, is to die for. This EP is weird, poppy, and super dense and glitchy. No one is making music quite like this, and a year out from her phenomenal debut full-length, FKA twigs shows no sign of stopping. M3LL155X demands and deserves a lot of attention in a short amount of time, and FKA twigs reclaims her status as the UK’s most exciting experimental singer/songwriter since the amazing Kate Bush. That’s big talk, but M3LL155X is definitive proof that FKA twigs can walk the proverbial walk. This EP is consistently amazing, and anyone not on the hype train yet better get on board before she rockets at light-speed to some far-off galaxy, leaving the haters so far behind they won’t know what hit them.

This EP isn’t free, but you still need to hear it, so go listen to it with whatever service is most convenient for you. 

Well, those are my 15 favorite EPs of the year. 2015 has been overloaded with awesome stuff, so while you’re waiting to check in and see what my 50 favorite albums are, check out all these releases! 

Jakob Ross is Rainy Dawg Radio’s 2015-2016 Music Director. 

Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!

10 Albums You May Have Missed in 2015 (part 2)

(continued from part 1)

6. Viet CongViet Cong (released January 20th)

These days, one rarely encounters a “post punk” band in the purest sense, although you can barely throw a stone without hitting an indie band influenced by the genre (and hey, I ain’t complaining). The original post-punk movement peaked somewhere around the late 70s-to-early 80s and was reflected in pioneering bands like Joy Division, Echo & The Bunnymen, and Bauhaus. Later, it evolved into bands like The Cure, Fugazi, and Sonic Youth, all of them immensely influential for the later emergence of indie rock. While post-punk enjoyed a brief revival in the 2000s through bands like Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs (AKA the music that got me into music), the indie scene as a whole seems to have trended away from harsher sounds over the last decade, although the distant post-punk influences are still present.

All of this is to say that when I first heard Viet Cong’s noisey, impenetrable self-titled record, I didn’t really know what to make of it. Here’s a band that doesn’t care a whit about catchy hooks or song flow; instead, they layer distant, Joy-Division-esque vocal harmonies over driving drum beats and then ride the dark wave. “Continental Shelf” is probably their most melodic offering, and as a result probably the most memorable individual song, but this album is really more meant to be experienced as a whole. (Warning: video slightly NSFW)

Viet Cong draws directly from post-punk in its original form, but never feels like a full-on tribute either, since they layer in more sonic complexity than bands like Bauhaus ever did.

After giving it a few listens, Viet Cong has become one of my favorite albums of the year, if nothing else because it’s so unlike anything I’ve heard in recent memory. The experience is certainly worth 37 minutes of your time.

Recommended Tracks: “Continental Shelf” ; “Bunker Buster” ; “Death”

7. BullyFeels Like (released June 23rd)

One thing that bothers me about modern indie rock music is it’s obsession with ironic detachment. Trust me, I love a good metaphor as much as the next guy, but sometimes it gets tiring to listen to songs that could mean literally anything. In this age of unprecedented music availability, I would argue that the bravest musicians aren’t those most willing to experiment, but instead the ones who aren’t afraid to say exactly what they mean (even if they themselves are unsure what that is). I don’t blame artists for preferring irony to sincerity; if someone criticizes the former, it’s easy to write the critic off as “not getting it,” but a criticism of the latter is in many ways a criticism of the artist as a person.

So it’s refreshing to see a band like Bully come down the pike. The Nashville quartet, led by guitarist/vocalist Alicia Bognanno, does an excellent job exploring unfiltered feelings without being overly gratuitous or overly guarded. Bully tackles topics ranging from an inability to let go of the past (“Milkman”) to losing track of one’s own identity (“Trying”), all backed by catchy, crunchy garage rock and delivered with a raw, punkish edge by Bognanno.

How can you not love a band with lyrics like “Invisible handcuffs locked on me / Been prayin’ for my period all week?” It’s so nonchalant, you almost forget that Bognanno is singing about something too socially taboo for most songwriters, especially female, to touch. Well, fuck that, man.

Feels Like is only the band’s first full album, so keep a close eye on them going forward. Being sincere is risky, but Bully does it anyway, and I love them for it.

Recommended Tracks: “Trying” ; “Milkman” ; “Too Tough” ; “Brainfreeze”

8. Title FightHyperview (released February 3rd)

I’ve been a big fan of Title Fight ever since a close friend offhandedly suggested 2012’s Floral Green to me; nowadays I would consider them one of my top 10 favorite bands. So you can probably imagine the level of hyped I was upon learning they’d be releasing a new album in 2015 called Hyperview. There are plenty of other post-hardcore acts out there, many of them excellent in their own right, but part of Title Fight’s appeal is their musical and lyrical complexity. The band’s sound has changed a lot over the years, moving from raw pop punk to a more nuanced, clean sound, but two things that have always remained constant are the pleasantly dischordant chord progressions and Jamie Rhoden’s gruff yelp.

Then I listened to lead single “Rose of Sharon”, and it became immediately clear that Title Fight had decided to make some major changes on the new record. The same basic chord structures are there, but the rough edge is mostly gone, instead replaced with dreamy shoegaze melodies and a smoother vocal style.

That’s not to say there’s no punk left in them; “Mrahc” showcases the best of both worlds, combining Rhoden’s newly melodic voice with the uptempo crunch that Title Fight fans have come to know and love. After the initial shock of the changes wears off, it becomes clear that Hyperview is an incredibly well-made and evolutionary record. These guys knew exactly what they were doing, and they’re going to make the music they want to hear whether you like it or not. Really, that’s the most punk thing they could have done.

This record is a must-listen for fans of post-hardcore in all its variations. If you’re not so much into the gruff stuff, give it a shot also, because it’ll surprise you.

Recommended Tracks: “Rose of Sharon” ; “Mrahc” ; “Murder Your Memory” ; “Trace Me Onto You” ; “Your Pain Is Mine Now”

9. The Mountain Goats Beat The Champ (released April 7th)

What else can even be said about the Mountain Goats at this point? Founder/singer John Darnielle is a true musical legend, and perhaps the best lyrical storyteller of our time. His lovable, nasally voice has made us laugh, cry, gasp, and stare blankly off into space many times over the course of the Mountain Goats’ 24 year, 15 album career, and Beat The Champ is yet another solid addition to the band’s lore.

This particular album seemed to fly a bit under the radar; I wasn’t even aware that the Mountain Goats were working on anything new until I happened to catch “Heel Turn 2” on a recent episode of “Welcome To Night Vale.” The song stands up on its own with beautiful instrumentation and evocative lyrics, but takes on even more meaning knowing that the whole album is about the private lives of professional wrestlers.

A “heel turn” is wrestler-speak for the moment when someone becomes the villain of a storyline. “Throw my better self overboard, / Shoot at him when he comes up for air” sings Darnielle, stepping into the shoes of a man who’s willing to do what it takes to survive, even if it means hurting others in the process and loathing oneself as a result. It’s a powerful thing, knowing you’re going to let everyone down, but Darnielle is a master of evoking powerful, complex emotions. He continues to do it deftly here.

Don’t sleep on this album, especially if you’re thinking “Wrestling? I won’t understand any of that.” It’s not about wrestlers. It’s about human nature. You’ll feel feelings, even if you don’t know exactly why. It’s what the Mountain Goats do best.

Recommended Tracks: “Heel Turn 2” ; “The Legend of Chavo Guerrero” ; “Foreign Object” ; “The Ballad of Bull Ramos”

10. Jeff RosenstockWe Cool? (released March 3rd)

Jeff Rosenstock is downright prolific. As the former frontman of underrated ska-punk outfit The Arrogant Sons of Bitches, as well as the genre-defying Bomb The Music Industry!, the guy is a bonafide DIY legend by this point. Not only has the Long Island native toured tirelessly throughout his career – always all-ages shows, mind you – he’s also started and maintained the only donation-based record label in the world, called Quote Unquote Records. Seriously, all of the label’s music can be downloaded for free on Quote Unquote’s website.

Rosenstock exemplifies the concept of “punk” as school of thought more than a style of music. All of his bands have shared classically punk sensibilities – raucous vocals, frantic drums, political themes – but the music’s energy tends to be focused inward rather than outward, an expression of self-betterment rather than self-destruction. He’s also never been afraid to experiment, at times throwing in Anamanaguchi-esque synth melodies or an entire brass/woodwind section. The result is always refreshing, thought-provoking, and above all else, fun.

His latest effort, We Cool?, is as introverted as anything he’s ever done.
For example, “I’m Serious, I’m Sorry” is a literal apology letter to an old friend, describing an awful tragedy to which Rosenstock responded poorly to at the time. Sonically, the entire album tends more towards early-Weezer garage rock than punk, which is a seamless transition for Rosenstock and helps to lighten up some of the more serious moments. Still, some songs, if you listen carefully to the lyrics, will leave you with a thousand-yard stare by the end.

Of course, there are plenty of fun moments to go around as well, even if they’re rooted in unfortunate circumstance. “Nausea,” the album’s official single, is an uptempo romp with a hilarious music video, despite the subject matter: isolation as an escape from anxiety. Rosenstock’s music always seems to have this kind of bittersweet tone, as if he’s asking you “Hah, life sure is fucked up, ain’t it?” and you’re answering “Sure is, buddy!” If you’ve ever kicked yourself for a stupid decision, felt like a child in an adult’s body, or wondered why there are so many assholes in the world, We Cool? is here to tell you that you’re not alone.

Recommended Tracks: “Nausea” ; “I’m Serious, I’m Sorry” ; “You, In Weird Cities” ; “Beers Again Alone”

Dion Hubble is a second-year Ph.D. student in Molecular Engineering. He’s been doing this weird radio thing since 2011, starting with KANM Student Radio at Texas A&M University. You can catch his show, Bears Downloading, every Monday night from 8-10pm.

Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!

10 Albums You May Have Missed in 2015 (part 1)

This year bore music-lovers the richest crop of artistry in recent memory. Modest Mouse reasserted their status atop the indie-rock food chain with the long-awaited Strangers to Ourselves, an album as catchy as it is sobering. Kendrick Lamar dropped To Pimp A Butterfly with almost prophetic timing and inadvertently became the lyrical voice of a movement. Several underground stars broke free of their respective genres (Tame Impala’s Currents; Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit; Alabama ShakesSound and Color) to become unexpected darlings. Hell, within the last month alone, mega-stars Adele and Foo Fighters have sent us 25 and the Saint Cecelia EP, proving that sometimes famous people are famous for a reason. Regardless, if you’ve been paying any kind of attention this year, you know how many musicians, new and old, have released immensely popular albums.

This article is about none of them.

For every great record that fights, sneaks, or is thrust into the popular consciousness, there are at least ten great records that go relatively unnoticed. Here are a few that defined my own 2015, in no particular order.

1. Toro y Moi What For? (Released April 7th)

Chaz Bundick is, without a doubt, one of my favorite artists. Not only does he put out a new record roughly once per year under stage name Toro y Moi (in addition to last year’s Michael under the name Les Sins), he somehow manages to incorporate new sounds and influences on every single one of them. In the early 2010s, Toro y Moi’s dreamy blend of synth and R&B made him easy to slot into the budding “chillwave” genre; now, that description simply no longer suffices, nor has it been adequate for several years now. On What For?, Bundick manages to add psychedelic rock to his sonic signature, yet still retains the essential easiness at the heart of his music. Lead single “Empty Nesters” boasts a solid groove that breaks into full-out funk at some points, yet always retreats to a sweet mess of bouncy bass guitar and synth.

Yet, amongst an album full of solid tracks, my personal standout pick is “The Flight”. Anchored by a simple, solid drum beat and swirl of guitar licks, Bundick wistfully sings “’Don’t bother to wake me up,’ / You said, ‘Nothing’s worse than leaving a dream,”” a lyric which betrays the resigned sadness lurking just under the surface of an otherwise upbeat album. And the piano; oh god, the piano (1:44 in the above video). That riff alone was stuck in my head for weeks (it’s also slyly reincorporated later on in the outro to “Lilly”).

When I first heard this release, I immediately thought “This is going to be the perfect summer album.” Though What For? will forever remind me of the dull roar that was summer 2015, I recently relistened to the entire thing and found myself thinking “This is the perfect winter album.” I guess maybe it’s just plain good.

Recommended Tracks: “Empty Nesters” ; “The Flight” ; “Lilly” ; “Buffalo” ; “Half Dome”

2. La LuzWeirdo Shrine (released August 7th)

Speaking of sadness lurking just under the surface, read just about any review of La Luz’s latest surf-rock masterpiece Weirdo Shrine (produced by Ty Seagall!) and you’ll find numerous mentions of the album’s dark edge. Indeed, the Seattle quartet’s first full-length release does sport some sinister undercurrents beneath its sun-and-fun veneer. The band was in an almost-fatal car accident while touring in 2013, so that could have something to do with it, although they’ve always been fond of B-horror-movie imagery. The album title itself is a reference to graphic novel Black Hole, in which ‘70s Seattle teenagers contract an STD that turns them into Futurama-worthy mutants. Super duper!

But the constant focus on La Luz’s darker side can make you forget that they make REALLY fun music. Just watch the music video for “Black Hole, Weirdo Shrine”, in which an MS Paint cowgirl goes on some sort of peyote-fueled adventure involving trains, lizards, and an evil twin, all backed by JAMMIN electric organ and tight guitar riffs.

I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m down with it. Lead single “You Disappear” is an even higher-tempo piece of music with an amazing guitar solo, although the video is slightly less trippy. Just slightly.

Bottom line, Weirdo Shrine is one of the downright coolest releases of the year, and you should start paying attention to La Luz before they blow up. Because they’re going to. And in five years when your friends ask you “When did surf rock become cool again?” you can show them this album and watch their heads explode.

Recommended Tracks: “You Disappear” ; “Black Hole, Weirdo Shrine” ; “I Wanna Be Alone (With You)” ; “I’ll Be True”

3. Neon IndianVEGA INTL. Night School (released October 16th)

Have you ever wanted to feel like a character in Blade Runner? Because listening to VEGA INTL. Night School will make you feel like a character in Blade Runner. I dare you to listen to “Slumlord” and tell me you don’t want to put on a leather jacket and wander the futuristic city streets of 2015. I hear by then we’ll have hover cars! And 3-D movies!

Much like the aforementioned Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi, Neon Indian (Alan Palomo) gained his popularity during the emergence of chillwave circa 2011. But if Bundick is the Van Gogh of chillwave, Palomo is the Andy Warhol, his music bright and playful where Bundick’s is melodic and deliberate – you may remember the ultra-catchy single “Polish Girl” that was practically inescapable around 2012. We hadn’t seen much of him since, but it turns out that the wait was well worth it, as Palomo has retooled his sound into something much less chill in the best possible way. 

The whole album feels like a slick ‘80s fever dream, displaying strong retrowave and vaporwave influences throughout, but luckily never veers off into creepy or gimmicky territory. Palomo masterfully walks the thin line between pop smash and genre experiment; for every distorted synthesizer and choppy sample, there’s a strong beat and catchy hook behind the studded leather steering wheel. Lead single “Annie” exemplifies this balancing act; where else have you heard a celesta incorporated into the chorus of an electropop song?

In a recent interview, Palomo described his fascination with filmmaking, saying that intends each song to set a mood, much like a movie scene. Seriously, if Neon Indian doesn’t end up on the soundtrack of the new Blade Runner movie, I’m going to be pissed.

Recommended Tracks: “Slumlord” ; “The Glitzy Hive” ; “Annie” ; “Dear Skorpio Magazine”

4. Hop AlongPainted Shut (released May 4th)

Some people in this world have a certain kind of voice. The type of voice that can convey pain, regret, and loss with seemingly no effort, even if the words being said have no obvious negative connotation. Frances Quinlan, the lead singer of Philadelphia folk rock band Hop Along, has one of these voices. And on the band’s latest album, boy does she prove it.

Painted Shut feels like a collection of short stories, read by a skilled storyteller. There’s no obvious connection between the individual songs, but a common tone takes shape over the course of the album, thanks to the band’s noisey-but-cohesive indie stylings and aggressively earnest vocals. Quinlan’s voice deftly shifts from melodic, vulnerable croon to harsh growl at the drop of a hat, giving every song a satisfying cathartic edge that can make you feel anger, nostalgia, and contentedness all at once. My personal favorite song is “Waitress”, on which Quinlan softly sings “Your friend looked over from the bar/ She must’ve known, who I was / The worst possible version of what I’d done.

What happened, Frances? What could you have done to warrant such intense shame? Throughout the album, it’s moments such as these – where it’s not so much what’s said, but how it’s said – that set Hop Along apart from their peers and make Painted Shut one of the most subtly memorable albums of 2015. If you need a reminder that life is worth living despite all of its ugly, horrifying moments, then this album is for you.

Recommended Tracks: “Waitress” ; “Horseshoe Crabs” ; “Powerful Man” ; “Texas Funeral”

5. WavvesV (released October 2nd)

Wavves’ Nathan Williams is kind of a slacker maestro, making fun, fuzzy surf punk that feels irreverent, but intelligently so. Who hasn’t felt the urge to indulge in a little self-destruction from time to time? The band’s stoned-and-boned gravitas does take on a slightly more somber tone with the knowledge that Williams has admitted to alcohol addiction on at least one occasion. Many of the band’s past works have felt like a substance-fueled romp through endless summer, but their aptly-title fifth album V is more like waking up the next day with a hangover and an empty bottle.

Luckily, the change in tone doesn’t detract from the band’s essence or quality; in fact, Wavves has never sounded slicker. On opening track “Heavy Metal Detox,” the band funnels their trademark psychedelic thrash into a tight, well-paced anthem. Lyrics like “I don’t really wanna act afraid / Not about you, about anything” betray a bit of hesitance in Williams’ otherwise irreverent attitude – who’s he trying to convince, you or himself? A later, jammier track called “Wait” would be easy to mistake for an simple expression of brattiness (“Cause I don’t wanna wait / I don’t wanna wait here”) until you hit the second half of the chorus (“Cause I don’t wanna wait / My whole life / Watch you drowning”).

Hey, sometimes it’s easier to get your own shit together when there’s someone else to be strong for. Shockingly deep stuff from the band that wrote “Teenage Super Party.”

In being forced to confront their own demons, Wavves may be maturing a bit, but that doesn’t make their music any less fun. In fact, its depth catapults V well beyond what it could have been as more of the same old “life sux, get high” stuff. Though don’t worry, there’s plenty of that as well.

Recommended Tracks: “Heavy Metal Detox” ; “Wait” ; “Redlead” ; “Tarantula”

Dion Hubble is a second-year Ph.D. student in
Molecular Engineering. He’s been doing this weird radio thing since 2011,
starting with KANM Student Radio at Texas A&M University. You can catch
his show, Bears Downloading, every Monday night from 8-10pm. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of his “10 Albums You May Have Missed in 2015″. 

Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!