Yesterday, we listed the first ten on our Favorite Albums of the First Quarter 2015. Today, here are the remaining ten albums. As always, they’re in alphabetical order. Celebrate the awesomeness of these fine artists.
Lady Lamb‘s unabashed approach to songwriting and unrestrained creativity made After truly stand out in a first quarter full of incredible records. Part of what draws so many dedicated fans to the music of Lady Lamb is the imagery in her lyrics, singing about existence on “Spat Out Spit” or about conspiracies on “Heretic“. Like her 2013 record Ripely Pine, After is a diverse record, with rocking songs like “Vena Cava”, “Batter” and “Dear Arkansas Daughter” as well as slower tracks like “Sunday Shoes” and “Ten”. Lady Lamb has grown into one of the best singer-songwriters out there today, and After is proof of that.
Marika Hackman‘s debut album We Slept At Last is some of the most lush and haunting electro-folk released not this year but in recent memory. Hackman, only 22, shows remarkable restraint and poise for such a young artist crafting beautiful tracks like “Down” and “Before I Sleep”. She manages to add urgency and weight to her vocals while never forcing delivery. Adding to the beauty of this album is the excellent production thanks to seasoned producer Charlie Andrew, who worked with breakout rock stars Alt J. The standout track is “Animal Fear”, where Hackman appropriately lets loose and electronic elements add texture and character (is that the sound of bullet ricochet?).
Natalie Prass‘s self-titled, debut album is a smooth, streamlined evolution from the demo EPs and Bandcamp page that had been circulating for years. Now Prass has arrived, triumphantly waving a lush, honest country-soul album above her head. Her songs, once sparse and full of electric guitars and drum machines, appear here in the rich clothing of Spacebomb Records‘ house band. They have lost none of their directness, sensuality, or heart. This is an album to put on repeat until her next one comes out. Even Danny Brown got into the act of applauding the brilliance of this album. Favorites: “Violently” and “Bird of Prey”.
Pond, for better or worse, might always be considered a side project to Tame Impala when in reality they are very much their own band with their own creative direction. Pond’s brand of psychedelic rock is more spacey, more bombastic, and more tongue-in-cheek than the Australian-based peer and touring mates. Their latest album, the perfectly titled Man It Feels Like Space Again, is loaded with fantastic psych-rock gems like “Waiting Around For Grace” and “Sitting Up on Our Crane” making it a true stand out for the 1st quarter of music.
When lead track “Primrose Green” dropped, the folk/rock world did a double-take. An American biting deep into the British folk/jazz revival of the late 70’s/early 80s? Yes, please! Ryley Walker, whose name’s spelling even evokes images of Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter, sings like Jim Morrison, writes like Fairport Convention, and weaves a wonderful tapestry of folky (“Primrose Green”), syncopated (“Love Can Be Cruel”), and sometimes bluesy (“On the Banks of the Old Kishwaukee”) music. Listen for and enjoy: Walker’s acoustic guitar bravely retaining the sonic lead in front of an electric backing band.
Sarah Bethe Nelson
There’s something to be said about a songwriter who can craft music that is intimate and engaging, as if you were standing next to her experiencing every moment she’s lived – whether it is heartbreak, disappointment, or redemption. San Francisco resident Sarah Bethe Nelson does exactly that on her remarkable and triumphant debut album, Fast-Moving Clouds. It’s an album that leaves a lasting imprint, whether it’s on the powerful “Paying” (which is one of the best songs of the early year) or the jangly rock tune “Uneasy”, and one we will likely remember in the many months and years ahead.
Rose Mountain just feels different from any other Screaming Females record. It’s an evolution to a more accessible sound. Tracks like “Wishing Well” show how versatile this band truly is. Old fans will still dig Rose Mountain, particularly on “Ripe”, Marissa Paternoster shows off why she’s one of the best guitarists out there today.
We’ve waited a very long time for this record, and it sure as hell did not disappoint. Sleater-Kinney returned with a vengeance with one of the best albums of the year so far, No Cities To Love. All three members of the band truly shine: Corin’s voice is as strong as ever, Carrie Brownstein has matured quite a bit as a guitarist, and Janet Weiss continues to be one of the best drummers on the planet. No Cities To Love also features the song “A New Wave”, which probably has the best music video of the year, featuring a Bob’s Burgers crossover.
Sufjan Stevens artistry has no limits. He has done subtle folk-rock with Seven Swans, pop orchestration with Illinois, and electronic art folk with The Age of Adz. Stevens returns to his minimalist folk roots with his most personal and most exposed work to date, Carrie & Lowell. This could also be his best album, which is not light praise considering all the aforementioned works are near masterpieces. This album finds Stevens struggling with the grief of the lost relationship and ultimately the death of his estranged mother in the beautiful songs “Should Have Known Better” and “Fourth of July”. He also tackles personal depression and spirituality in the glorious track “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross”. This album is an instant classic.
Has there been a debut album as mind-blowingly awesome as Viet Cong‘s self-titled album? With its pounding bass lines and cathartic guitar riffs, Viet Cong is an album to behold. But beneath the cataclysmic sound are heart-twisting stories; the loss of a close friend and the coping that results, of breakups and new friendships, and roads that lead to renewal or even resurrection. For the Calgary band, their debut album is not just a project, it is a lifetime achievement.
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