NN PRESENTS: Best Records of 2015

We at Never Nervous feel that music and art aren’t the subject of competition. There is plenty of success – no matter what your metric is – to go around, and as long as we have a vibrant scene full of folks all working hard to get their voice out there, then we all win. Or hell, even if you aren’t working hard, but are just filling in the gaps with the noise you want to make, we might like that too. We do this list every year then, not to offer some kind of superlative ranking of who did and didn’t “win,” because that shit is for the birds, but instead just to capture the stuff that really resonated with us the most. The good news is that there was a lot of fantastic material to pull from, so much so that it was difficult to pare the list down to just a scant five offerings, which you’ll note we didn’t always do. We make and break our own rules, because we don’t give a fuck. Read on and see our year end review, and know that this blog isn’t big enough to handle all of the hotness that Louisville has to offer; we don’t want to run out of internet here.

PHIL PICKS

LOUISVILLE


ShadowpactStone The Crows
While this year seemed to belong to Louisville’s hip hop scene, there were a few albums that really stood out, including the second effort from Shadowpact.  This hip hop trio got off to a fabulous start with last year’s record The Narrative, but with the release of their sophomore effort Stone The Crows their evolution and maturity comes into focus as this release is a bit more polished, the rhymes are tighter, and the production overall is tip top.  The album closer “Spacecars” is my personal favorite hot track.  [LISTEN]


Twin Limb Anything Is Possible And Nothing Makes Sense
I wasn’t sure if Twin Limb would be able to capture the essence of their live performances, which have always been ostensibly flawless from a technical standpoint considering their sort of unconventional approach.  Whether it be a smaller venue like Zanzabar, or a mega-festival setting like Forecastle of Gonzofest, this trio always sounds fucking amazing.  I’ve often watched bands play and sound really good, but after hearing their record I’m wondering what the hell happened?  I’m happy to report that the songs presented on AIPANMS maintain the live Twin Limb sound, which makes this EP one of the finest releases to come out of Louisville in 2015. [LISTEN]


White ReaperWhite Reaper Does It Again
These guys made the best catchy punk record of 2015, not just out of Louisville, but nationally as well.  Their fusion of classic Ramones and fuzzed out garage punk is undeniably fucking awesome, especially when you sprinkle in that tasty Zelda II-sounding synthesizer.  Mmmm.  Seriously, every song on this record is great, you won’t find any throw-aways. [LISTEN]


Touch A.C. & Dr. DundiffPage of Cups
Two of Louisville’s most prized possessions team up on this cassette EP, and as you’d expect the results are legendary.  I first heard about this release on the Actual Conversations podcast early this year, building anticipation to what was sure to be something special.  Dr. Dundiff’s beats are extraordinary (as usual), serving as the perfect canvass for Touch A.C.’s insightful, clever wordplay.  Opening track “Sweaters” is my favorite from Page of Cups, but I also absolutely love “Golden” which features a voice from Kogan Dumb.  Highly recommended. [LISTEN]


Tall SquaresSo Heavy For So Long
What we have here is a collection of straight forward, gritty indie rock songs in the vain of bands like Pavement or Dinosaur Jr. My favorite song is the title track, which opens up with an up-tempo, reverb soaked guitar riff coupled with some stop-and-go drumming. About midway through, the song slows down as the Adam Crowhorn’s raspy vocals arrive with a catchy sing-along hook that refuses to leave your brain.  This is absolutely a must-listen, in my own humble opinion. [LISTEN]

(INTER)NATIONAL


BullyFeels Like
This is absolutely my favorite record from 2015, and that’s saying a lot considering the heaping piles of quality albums I’ve bought over the last twelve months. While listening to Bully it’s easy to be reminded of bands like Hole or even The Breeders, considering Alicia Bognanno’s powerful voice.  She comfortably alternates from a beautiful whisper to raspy howl without ever loosing control, which really works throughout Feels Like as the songs are heavily vocally driven.  I appreciate the simplicity of every song, as nothing here is particularly over-thought complicated. Need a recommendation on a track to check out? “Picture” is such a fantastic fucking song. [LISTEN] 


Purity RingAnother Eternity
I fell in love with their debut full-length Shrines in 2012, so naturally its successor was one of the most anticipated records of 2015 for me personally.  Thankfully, Purity Ring delivers the goods on Another Eternity with their unique combination of hard trap beats, swerving synthesizers and Megan James’s other-worldly vocals.  I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of listening to the third track “Push Pull” which for me showcases Purity Ring at their finest. [LISTEN]


Pure Bathing CulturePray For Rain
The latest offering from Pure Bathing Culture takes the smooth, R&B-meets-indie pop grooves from their fabulous 2013 album Moon Tides and polishes them up a bit, and the finished product is undeniably awesome.  It’s a bit surprising to hear the band speed up the tempo on a few tracks, but for me the band is at their best when the grooving, sometimes Sade-esque rhythm section is relaxed, allowing me to appreciate the main draw to PBC: Sarah Versprille’s heavenly voice. [LISTEN]


Beach HouseDepression Cherry
For me, Beach House can seemingly do no wrong.  On this release, the band continues to showcase their quality brand of dream-pop, a pattern of noise that they make difficult to describe.  At times I am thinking of Cocteau Twins, an at others I’m reminded of Slowdive.  At any rate, singer Victoria Legrand’s breathy voice is absolutely intoxicating, as it serves as the driving force here.  In case you were wondering, “Space Song” is not only my favorite tracks on Depression Cherry, but one of my favorite songs from 2015. [LISTEN]


Tame Impala Currents
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t care much for Tame Impala before the release of Currents. Thankfully (for me) the band turned in their pseudo-psychedelic stylings for a danced up, synth-heavy groove machine that even Emperor Palpatine would enjoy dancing his wrinkled ass to.  [LISTEN]

SYD PICKS

LOUISVILLE


KaleidicoZoetic
It’s rare that any band blindsides me so completely, but Kaleidico did just that with the release of Zoetic. I admit my whole-hearted ignorance at their previous work, and regret this decision every second of every day, as should you. Zoetic is an absolutely luscious album, and prop Kaleidico up as one of the great secret treasures in our city. [LISTEN]


Tropical TrashUFO Rot
This album makes me want to flip tables. I put it on while I was in New York City at the Museum of Natural History. I was looking at paintings and shit and felt like I just needed to get rowdy, even if it was just headphone rowdy. So I did and no one knew any better, except that in my mind, I was the loosest of all cannons in the entire museum, the living embodiment of a deal with it gif, like if 007 just gave you his mixtape; I was pure fire and so is this album. [PODCAST]


Airplane Jumper A Self That Touches All Edges
Without a doubt this was one of the best records I’ve heard in a while. The brainchild of Sam Benati formerly of Mote, Airplane Jumper is a solo affair that for whatever reason just doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar, and that is a goddamn shame. This is AM Gold, the mildest, psychedelic indie I’ve heard in a while, of the sort that would make Kurt Vile or Tame Impala blush. And those are big words for me. This album singlehandedly inspired an iPod playlist entitled Lazy River, if that gives you any indication of what you’re in for. [LISTEN]


SeluahPhase III
With the release of Phase III, Seluah have confirmed there vision to creep the fuck out of me. A departure from Red Parole, Phase III has that kind of vibe to it that makes you feel like you are in the Black Lodge and that David Lynch and Angelo Badalmenti are spying on you in the distance and judging your life. Like this kitty. Or this Ian MacKaye. It’s definitely cinematic stuff, spacious and glorious to take in. [LISTEN]


Dr. Dundiff Frenemies w/Benefits
I could enumerate the good doctor’s many accomplishments this year, but if you’re here you probably know all that. What you might have missed is the release of his largely instrumental affair Frenemies w/Benefits. There is a lot of Stones Throw in the DNA here and that’s a-okay with me. These songs make you want to move, with the kinetic energy of Prefuse 73, the hooks of J Dilla, and the absolute smoothness of Madlib. Put this on, imagine it’s summertime, and just coast. [LISTEN]

Honorable Mentions (and there are a lot): Twin Limb – Anything Is Possible And Nothing Makes Sense; Skull Avalanche – s/t; Allen Poe – Still Eatin’/Clear and Present Banger; Shadowpact – Stone the Crows; Satellite Twin – The Mechanical Hearts EP; All Wool and Yard Wide – s/t; Sloe Pink – 27 Club

(INTER)NATIONAL


2814 – 新しい日の誕生
I doubt that anyone reading this figured that they’d have to learn Japanese to really dig into anything on this list, but here we are. I admit to know next to nothing about this, and I’m completely okay with it. This is super chill with a vaporwave vibe, but not quite the same as what I expect from that genre. Released on the amazing Dream Catalogue label, 2814 repurposes sounds that are often associated as sterile or corporate into a sleek neo-future package. Think Blade Runner, but a little more sensual and you’re halfway there. This is a cold bopper and the perfect way to go all the way mild. [LISTEN]


Kurt Vile b’lieve I’m goin deep (down)
It’s possible that Kurt Vile is magic. I realize that I’m not supposed to refer to Bob Dylan as anything less than a musical genius, but there is virtually nothing about his output that I appreciate, from his whack attitude to any of his songs. The thing is, I see a lot of Dylan in Vile’s music, albeit as filtered through a healthy amount of 90’s slacker rock nostalgia. He’s got that voice that kind of saunters to the brink of losing the tune, but that’s part of his everyman charm. The songs here range from breezy summertime jams, never too heavy and perfectly cool with that, and quiet, more introspective pieces.[LISTEN]


Viet CongViet Cong
In 2010, the band Women released their amazing and criminally underrated album Public Strain before quietly fading away into obscurity, or at least so I thought. The band had, in fact, disbanded, having suffered tragedy in the wake of one of their guitarists’ unfortunate passing. Some of that project reworked itself into Viet Cong, who earlier this year released this debut self-titled release. And it is fucking righteous. A post-punk screed that marries the anarchic musings of This Heat with the tunefulness of Joy Division all for one chaotic and imminently badass release. [LISTEN]


LowOnes and Sixes
I don’t care what anyone says, Low is top notch in my book and keep company with an increasingly dwindling number of contemporaries. Every album is excellent, from their earliest releases to their most current, Ones and Sixes. Low have shown a willingness to continuously evolve and grow their sound and that tension between what was, what is, and what is to come is ever present here; you can hear elements of their “slowcore” past filtered through their version of pop, all with an electric sense of tension throughout the entire album. It’s a thing of beauty, but then I never expected less. [LISTEN]


Tame Impala Currents
This is the only album on my list that’s not currently in my arsenal, but I’ve dug it every time I’ve heard it, and I will rectify this oversight soon. With Currents, the band break away from their fuzzed out psychedelia, trading in sweet guitar licks for 80’s synth tones and a more bass driven approach. I read that this was intended to be danceable, and while that is not part of my limited skill set, it is exactly that; this definitely makes you want to move your body in a way that it wouldn’t ordinarily do. Unless you eat something rotten (I’m looking at you Taco Bell). [LISTEN]

JAKE PICKS

LOUISVILLE


White ReaperWhite Reaper Does It Again
White Reaper did it again. They done did it once more. The encore to their first EP was definitely “IT” for me this year. It’s pure fun. [LISTEN]


Tropical Trash UFO Rot
As weird as this may sound, I work out to this album. It gets me uber-pumped every listen. Tropical Trash are great at making a song surprising musically, and they carry what I consider to be the “Louisville Sound” with great intensity songwriting. [LISTEN]


Allen Poe Clear and Present Banger
This mixtape was criminally underrated, I believe, by Allen Poe himself. It came free with his “Still Eatin” ep. While “Still Eatin” was a blast, “Clear and Present Banger” is a hip hop journey through the mind of a wordsmith. It also features the best cover art of all time. This was the best hip hop to come out locally in 2015, a year that featured a new hip hop album every other week. [LISTEN]


Quiet Hollers Quiet Hollers
This is my local album of the year. It hit me by surprise. This downtrodden, bummer-rock album found me at a time when I needed to hear these lyrics and it helped me get through some hard stuff. The music is beautiful and spacious, and the songwriting is absolutely spectacular. [LISTEN]


Big & Tall Big & Tall
Honestly this pick is a tie between all the hip hop that came out locally this year. “Page of Cups,” “Handsome Harlow,” “Scrape or Die,” “Rare Candies,” and “Stone the Crows” to name a few. In the end I had to pick one and “Big & Tall” happened to be the one that I listened to the most. I love T-Razor’s hooks. Shout out to Louisville hip hop for really bringing it in 2015. [LISTEN]

(INTER)NATIONAL


OddiseeThe Good Fight
From the moment I heard this album I knew it would be my album of the year and even though it came out early, it still holds that title for me. Everything from the production to the wordplay on this album is absolutely perfect. The beats are extremely unique and so is Oddisee’s rapping as he molds his lines into meta and witty life lessons, and even raps in Arabic for part of one verse. [LISTEN]


Bryson TillerT R A P S O U L
A total surprise here. I never heard of the guy until the day his album dropped. I’ve listened to it nearly every day since then. Anybody who rap/sings over a “Street Fighter” sample is cool with me.
 [LISTEN]

The WeekndBeauty Behind the Madness
Everybody who listens to this album gets horny. It’s inevitable. It’s an album about doing drugs and banging. A movie about my life would have The Weeknd as a ¼ of the soundtrack. He does no wrong with me.


Kid Cudi Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven
This is the biggest surprise of the year; Kid Cudi dropped the best rock album. It’s like a mix between Nirvana, Iggy Pop, and TV on the Radio. Plus it has new material from Beavis and Butthead! I’m the first to admit that I was over Cudi. I loved his first album and was severely disappointed by everything after it. I had given up. If you felt the same, don’t be scared to give this album a try. It’s nothing like what you would expect. It has some epically great guitar tones. [LISTEN]


Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge Twelve Reasons To Die II
If you’re not familiar with Adrian Younge, well you should be. You probably heard him sampled on Jay-Z’s “Picasso.” He makes these great Film Noir sounding jazz/hip hop songs. They always have interesting bass work that I appreciate. So teaming him up with Ghostface is like having a pizza with pizza as the toppings. This album tells part 2 of a story that and it’s worth listening to both albums for the full effect. [LISTEN]

Honorable Mention: The Mountain GoatsBeat the Champ … Musically, this album was ok to me, but conceptually it was the tits. Beat the Champ is all about wrestling and its lyrics harken back to the old territory days of the 70’s and 80’s. This sort of thing is my bag, baby.