2015 was a fantastic year for music. So many great albums from mainstream acts like Tame Impala, Failure, Local H and Steve Earle. On the indie side of things, bands like Brother O’ Brother, made their scorching debuts along with solid releases from The Super Weaks, Penguin, The Capones, and Wavves to name a few. All of these releases come together in what I believe to be one of the best years for music of the entire decade. With established artists testing the waters on new music, and indie record labels on the rise, it seems as the single format is once again in full swing. Some of my favorite selections were released on vinyl EPs this year, and most being debuts, it’s almost as if the music industry is looking back to the days when the charts were flooded with actual singles instead of album cuts being selected to promote an album. With the year winding down and coming to a close, I have compiled a Top Ten list of my favorite EP-Only releases of the year. It wasn’t easy to narrow it down to just ten but here is what I go as of now.
10. The Lees Of Memory – Soft Places + Within A Dream II [SideOneDummy Records]
After putting out the best album of 2014 Sisyphus Says, this shoegaze power-pop supergoup made of members of Superdrag and Slack, were not done. While working on their second LP due out in 2016, The Lees Of Memory decided to put out a limited numbered single for Record Store Day. Both songs feature all the noisy, thick layered, wall of guitars that dominated their debut album, but also hinted at new direction the band may or may not take on their follow LP. For experimental types, this EP sounds just as amazing at half speed as it does in normal…. read my full review HERE
9. Shark? – Becky and Debbie [Old Flame Records]
Sounding like a strange, yet addicting combination of early Nirvana and the sarcastic pop sensibility of The Pixies, Shark? released on of this years most criminally underrated releases of the entire year. Becky and Debbie features the same tongue-in-cheek humor their previous 2013 LP Savior but now with a seemingly darker, brooding overtone. The EP closes with a killer rendition of Matchstick Men that is by far, my favorite cover of the song.
8. Beck – Dreams [Capitol Records]
He picked up a Grammy for Album Of The Year for 2014’s Morning Phase but as any fan of Beck already knows, sticking with a sound and vibe for his next release, would be boring and disrespectful to his career. Dropping the tortured acoustic folk singer vibe of his previous LP, on this go around Beck delivers a Prince-esque dance track that might be his most upbeat song in nearly a decade. Beck is back, but did he ever really leave?
7. The Nimbus – Fever [Flippin Records]
Fever is cold, gothic, mysterious and seductive in the same ways as the early days of Nine Inch Nails and the best best era of Depeche Mode. The Nimbus sound as if they are from an underbelly of crashed spacecraft on an alien planet, and not so much like what generally comes out of Austin Texas. Both tracks on this release prove that electronic based industrial music can be interesting again. Read my full review HERE
Legitimate rock n roll is aggressive and rough around the edges at the same time sexy and tempting. I can’t think of any other release that capitalizes on these elements better that Slant Six. The Holy Motors are the soundtrack to bar fight. It’s raw, gritty, snotty, and dangerous just like it’s supposed to be. Read my full review HERE
5. Kenny Tudrick – Church Hill Downs [Jett Plastic Recordings]
In the mainstream world, Wilco and Ryan Adams are thought to have the ‘alternative-country’ sub-genre on lock down. And while those acts are both well respected artists and both among my favorites, there is also Kenny Tudrick. He is no stranger to the music industry and has helped sell stadiums out but the B-side to this single just may be the best thing he has done and stands as one of my favorite songs of the year. Read my full review HERE
4. Rachel Haden – Devil’s Inside Me [Greenway Records]
When I heard Rachel Haden was going to release a solo single on vinyl, I honestly thought it was going sound similar to her work with The Rentals, but what we got was a dark, moody folk rock song that is probably the most atmospheric recording she has ever been a part of. From a technical perspective, this one is probably one of best sounding vinyl releases of the entire year. The mastering sounds as if you are in Rachel’s pocket as she performs these two songs. Read my full review HERE
3. Scantron – Palamino Blackwing [Lazy Boy Recording Co.]
Classic R&B influenced rock n’ roll at it’s finest. It ironic how a release that is such a throw-back to days of post-Elvis, pre-Beatles pop music, can sound so fresh and exciting! Scantron delivers wholesome, reverb soaked soul in these four simple songs that I have played just about every single day at some point all year. The last time I checked, the song Sad Parade has been played 236 times on my Ipod. Read my full review HERE
2. Fantastic Negrito – Lost In A Crowd [Fat Elvis Records]
After walking away from a multi-million dollar record deal in the 90s, and surviving a near fatal car accident, most musicians would be throwing the proverbial towel in on a career in music, but after an epiphany singing a lullaby trying to get his infant son to sleep, Xavier Dphrepaulezz got a new lease on life and music. Reinventing himself as a person and an artist, he has put out one of the finest and most unique EPs of the year. Soulful blues, honest folk, and groovy rock n roll combines into the 2nd chance of an artist that I know will be around for quite a while. Read my full review HERE
1. The Lees Of Memory – Ain’t No Changing Baby’s Mind [Velocity Of Sound]
Not satisfied with just one EP on vinyl in 2015, The Lees Of Memory released Ain’t No Changing Baby’s Mind + Let’s Turn Our Love Up Loud. Two songs that sound just as tonally different from each other as they do from their earlier Record Store Day release. No longer can The Lee’s mastermind John Davis be considered an artist influenced by the works of Big Star and The Beatles, with this release he is now an equal. Read my full review HERE