WPTS 2k15 First Look
Let’s be honest: as far as music goes, 2014 wasn’t the most mind-blowing of years. Sure, that’s a generalization: there were some exciting surprises (Syro, RTJ2), career defining moments (Benji, pom pom), and more than a few times we were left scratching our heads (To Be Kind, Black Metal). Overall, however, 2k14 felt as a whole oddly underwhelming in comparison to those that came before it, with more confusing and divisive musical statements than powerful ones and a dirth of truly new feeling ideas being expressed overall. After the dust has settled a bit more we may be able to look back on the year that past with more clarity – in the meantime, however, we can think of it as largely being a transitional period for the mammoth one that’s about to come. Many of our favorite artists here at WPTS have already announced albums for 2015, setting our expectations high from the start. From the looks of it, it will be a year filled with experienced musicians adventuring out and many artists refining their sound. Check out our guide below to make sure you don’t miss any of the best albums of the year, and check back next week for our feature on rising artists to pay attention to. (Albums are listed in order of release date)
1. Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper (January 13, Domino)
One of the first albums of 2015 also happens to be one of the most eagerly anticipated. The last few years have seen the guys from Animal Collective take a moody look inward: Panda and Avey’s solo efforts, Tomboy and Enter the Slasher House respectively, were murky and obscure albums that expelled inner demons, and the group’s full length Centipede Hz. chopped up its melodies under layers of dissonant noise and distortion. The few singles we’ve heard from the band’s resident pop wunderkind Noah Lennox upcoming release, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, seem to signal a return to the sun-drenched electro-pop that made Merriweather Post Pavillion and Person Pitch classics. The ping-ponged harmonies of “Boys Latin” are a welcome return to form from one of the decade’s masters of psychedelia.
2. Belle and Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance (January 19, Matador)
The last sixteen years have seen Stuart Murdoch and pals transform from a quiet chamber-folk outlet to a band of full-blown indie-pop superstars. Their literate sound now spans from fuzzy surf-punk to the occasional rock n’ roll flare-up and plenty of orchestral dreaminess. Yet through all the ground they’ve covered, they’ve yet to do an honest-to-god dance-pop record. That looks like it’s about to change with Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, a record that looks like mix the band’s typically ornate pop even more in touch with their 80’s influences with new wave and electronic elements. It’s a shift in direction for a band that hasn’t been afraid of exploring new genres yet.
3. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love (January 20, Matador)
The three members of riot grrl band Sleater-Kinney have stayed busy since their hiatus in 2007. Carrie Brownstein has achieved TV success with IFC’s Portlandia, while guitarist Corin Tucker and drummer Janet Weiss have continued playing in other music projects. Carrie and Weiss’s reunion in the line-up of the short-lived band Wild Flag hinted at even better things to come. No Cities to Love confirmed Sleater-Kinney’s return, and their new singles sound as jagged and caustic as they did when they left off, with their shouted harmonies and angular guitar lines left in tact.
4. The Dodos – Individ (January 27, Polyvinyl)
Since The Dodos took off with 2006’s Visiter, they’ve maintained a consistent pattern of producing records of intimate atmospherics in between forceful folk-rock releases. If the two singles released are any indication, it sounds like Individ will be one of the to the latter. Fresh off the delicate and emotional Carrier, Individ seems to turn that record’s emotional intensity into brooding, sustained energy. The duo have been one of the best-kept secrets in indie rock, with a track record consistent enough to suggest that their next release won’t disappoint.
5. Death Grips – The Powers That B Disc 2: Jenny Death (February 10, Third World)
Following Death Grips career as of late has been like tracking a couple’s tumultuous relationship. First that they were together. Then broken up. Then back together again. Then rumored to be broken up but maybe still up to something? It’s generated enough intrigue to raise the experimental hip-hop trio to cult status already. Jenny Death, the sequel to last year’s N**gas on the Moon, is reportedly the last recorded official outing for the group. It will likely be the same brand of cyberpunk noise-rap they’ve carved a niche for, but that doesn’t mean it won’t have its share of surprises: considering that last year’s release featured unannounced guest vocals from Björk, it’s not hard to imagine Death Grips having a few more surprises in store for their (supposed) final act. Last night saw the release of an instrumental collection titled Fashion Week instrumentals, which falls on the same week as the officially announced Jenny Death release date. Coincidence? Fate? Trolling? We’ll see what Death Grips are willing to let us know.
6. BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul (February 16, Lex Records)
Here’s a collaboration that at first sight seems too good to be true. Young Toronto jazz outfit BADBADNOTGOOD first made their mark doing virtuosic jazz renditions of hip-hop bangers by the likes of Gucci Mane and MF DOOM, This soon led to collaborations with rappers they admired themselves, eventually allowing the trio to progress into composing original jazz pieces with a rhythmic sensibility derived from hip-hop and R&B . Now they’ve reached the big leagues, producing instrumentals for the likes of Wu-Tang luminary Ghostface Killah. Sour Soul sees them adopting a much darker and minimal sound than before, but it’s stunningly appropriate for Ghostface’s focused and commanding flow. With two new solo albums of his own coming out this year, 2015 could very easily be the year Ghostface and BBNG both reach new heights.
7. Dan Deacon – Gliss Riffer (February 24, Matador)
In an era where sonic maximalism is becoming the new norm for electronic music, Dan Deacon sounds like he’s toning his sound down from previous records. “Feel The Lightning”, from next month’s Gliss Riffer, sees him bridge his love for electropop synth-fuckery with sleek, sexy arrangements that are more streamlined and accessible than anything he’s attempted before. Though this release could easily be a divisive moment in the art-pop provocateur’s catalog, his willingness to embrace a style beyond his typically experimental surroundings is indicative of an artist willing to take a risk into the realm of pure pop.
8. of Montreal – Aureate Gloom (March 3, Polvinyl)
You know how it goes: another year, another dose of pop madness from Kevin Barnes. After numerous twists and turns into damaged psych-chaos and out again, of Montreal seem to be getting back into the funk grooves that defined 2000’s highmarks Skeletal Lamping and Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? The lyrical focus of their recent works have been Barnes’ persistent familial turmoil, inner desperation, and philosophical confusion, all set to a backdrop of unpredictable surrealist psych-pop joy. May Kevin’s stream of existential breakdowns continue providing catchy tunes for years to come.
Mainstays from the 2000’s New Weird America movement, Vetiver managed to outlive the scene due to their willingness to branch out into more conventional pop territory. 2011’s The Errant Charm saw the eclectic folk project of Andy Cabic delve into dreamier and more elaborate realm of production quite different from previous lo-fi efforts. Based on the tantalizing preview above, the upcoming Complete Strangers sounds like it will be moving into embracing electronic production even more extensively, while not abandoning the organic tinge of psychedelia that give Vetivers their charm.
10. Chance the Rapper – Surf (???)
Here’s what we know about Chance’s next release: not much. Since 2013’s breakthrough mixtape Acid Rap, Chance’s heartfelt voice has been largely elusive, popping up on one-off Soundcloud drops and collaborations with the likes of Skrillex and James Blake. His recently announced official debut Surf will not be credited to Chance the Rapper, but appears to be a soulful jazz-rap collaboration with his live back-up band under the name of Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment. Collaborations with Migos, Frank Ocean, Rick Rubin, and J. Cole have all been mentioned in interviews, though the tracklist remains unrevealed. While purported to be out by the end of last year, the release has yet to surface, provoking much speculation and curiosity for what is surely going to be a decisive moment in the young artist’s rising career.
Other notable artists with anticipated releases:
Björk (feat. Arca)
The World Is a Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid to Die