It was a year of anticipation, frustration and, ultimately, triumphs, but somehow 2015 seems unfinished. Amidst a litany of pressing issues in a passionately polarized country on the verge of a presidential election, it’s difficult to reflect for long when there’s so much ahead. This year’s music embodied that fleeting, frantic feeling, even if mainstream artists didn’t react directly to the issues in question. We continued to see the reinvention of ‘90s-era alternative, R&B, jam, emo, and pop while genre boundaries continued to fade. It was a down year for the indie rock and metal establishments, yet the rejuvenated punk mindset found new mantles and hip-hop regained its relevance. In the Seacoast, we witnessed one of the best, most productive music years in recent memory, as the availability of quality recording technology continued to blur the lines between local, regional, and national artists. Here are the albums that made lasting marks in 2015.
“Cape Snow” by Cape Snow (Burst and Bloom Records)
The transcontinental collaboration between vocalist Bree Scanlon and Dylan Metrano, Guy Capecelatro III, and Marc McElroy birthed a delectable debut. The album finds Scanlon’s disarming vocals afloat in the atmosphere of ’90s dream-pop and reverb-soaked vintage rhythm and blues, but it’s more than just nostalgia that makes it one of the best of the year.
“Bite Because You Like It” by Heavy Pockets (Bloated Kat Records)
The breakout melodic punk band leads a resurgent scene with updated revolutionary ideas on equality, mental illness, and love. Shayla Riggs’ smartly emotive and captivating songwriting propels their debut LP into the Seacoast’s best releases with a power that can’t be matched by the loudest shouts or screams.
“Parlour Tricks” by Alcoa (Bridge Nine Records)
“Parlour Tricks” bridges the sizable gaps between alt-country, ’90s-era alternative rock and punk, while gaining surprising, but deserved, accolades from each community. All told, Derek Archambault’s alt-country-alter-ego and company have created a gem, locally and nationally.
“Geomancy I” by KYOTY (Deafening Assembly)
Hailing KYOTY simply as the loudest band in the Seacoast is to overlook the instrumental album of the year. The post-metal trio assaults the mind as well as the eardrums with an atmospheric amalgamation of kinetic riffs, jarring industrial sounds, and booming drums.
It’s a harsh, rewarding soundscape in which sonic force speak volumes without uttering a single word.
“Dawn Chorus” by Martin England and the Reconstructed (Ghost Mill Recordings)
“Dawn Chorus” is the exultant culmination of dozens of albums and years of work from Martin England. And it shows. The songwriting, earnest and complex, weaves together murder ballads and odes to fantastic folk tales. The record’s gigantic sound and England’s weathered baritone are experiences suitable for stadiums and top ten lists alike.
“High Speed Crimes” by Notches (Young Modern Records)
On their debut full length, songwriters Ezra Cohen and Zac Mayeaux test categorical limits as they rip through elements of 1990s pop punk, emo, post-punk, and even power pop. “High Speed Crimes” is invitingly familiar and yet it’s an impressively fresh amalgam. Notches have already stretched far beyond their years and their influences to craft one of the year’s best.
“No Worse For Wear” by Soggy Po’ Boys (Self-released)
Between the Soggy Po’ Boys gritty, multifaceted New Orleans sound and Stu Dias’ gravelly bellows, it’s no wonder why “No Worse For Wear” is one of the year’s best. The award-winning octet’s recipe for success combines Dias’ anthems with their take on waltzes, ballads, dirges, tangos and funk that have enraptured dance floors and rocking chairs from Portsmouth to the Bayou.
“Mother Superior and the Sliding Royales” by Mother Superior and the Sliding Royales (Self-released)
The debut album from Mother Superior and the Sliding Royales is an authentic blend of vintage R&B and funk with modern pop flourishes that provide the backdrop for Taylor O’Donnell’s fierce, world-class vocals and show-stealing swagger. The eight-piece band is one of the most accomplished groups in the Seacoast and it shows on every funky barn-burner and bluesy tribute to the Southern Soul and Motown sounds of the 1960s.
“In Lieu of Flowers”by Eric Ott (75 or Less Records)
The ambitious production quality, sly songwriting and sheer magnitude of the diverse instrumentation make “In Lieu of Flowers” an immediate top ten consideration. Ott tackles the idea of death in a series of twists and turns, with successful stylistic flourishes ranging from Ott’s own Americana sound to indie rock and even stadium rock and country.
“Horn Hill” by Tiger Saw (Burst and Bloom Records)
Recorded during a Monhegan Island winter, Tiger Saw’s slow-core sound is a haunting combination of solitary bass lines, reverb-rich guitar lines, vintage atmosphere, and sparse percussive notes. Dylan Metrano’s simple yet clever refrains and trademark harmonies are center stage on this beautifully stark record.