Monday, December 28, 2015

VANEK'S TOP LIST OF 2015

This thing was on top of our year-end list.
2015 was a year that went by entirely quickly, but when I sat back to think about what new music stood out I came up with a decent list pretty quickly. In Missoula I think we were lucky to have a major renovation done to our largest real-deal, non-sports hall live music venue, the Wilma Theater, which had been in dire need of it. The Wilma was always a funky and sweet place, and while I tend to prefer my buildings well past their prime and dingy to new and shiny, you can only see Yo La Tengo so many times with sub par audio and not start to wonder. So, thanks to the Top Hat's Nick Checota, the place sounds and looks great and here's to a sweet roster in 2016.

Additionally, this August's Total Fest was the last one, you can read about why here. I think it was the correct way to wrap it up, and I encourage people to direct a good amount of their live-show attention to smaller and mid-sized venues like the ZACC, VFW, Palace and Stage 112, all of which are helping keep Missoula vibrant with affordable shows chock-a-block with great locals, and amazing touring national talent. Camp Daze will happen June 2-4, 2016 and I'll be there.

V/A Long Time Comin': Lost Sounds From the Treasure State
Unquestionably, this double LP is at the tip top of my listening heap for 2015. This thing took Dave Martens (Best Westerns, Magpies, etc. etc.) many years to assemble, and his hard work digging up the great, never-released, or long-forgotten gems included on here speaks to a garage rock past in Montana that had scenes from Sidney to Kalispell and all points in between. It fascinates me that Montana bands were getting national air time and attention via the more democratized and culturally important radio. There are as many stories behind this record as their are bands, and the copious liner notes help contextualize all the great stuff that was going on about fifty+ years ago. The first pressing is selling through quickly. A+ stuff.

Dan Deacon "Gliss Riffer"
Dan's ideas continue to push electronic music and pop music in general, and I continue to really dig what he does, as indescribable as it can be.

Broken Water "Wrought"
This great band just called it quits, after probably 8 years of doing it. I always found their sheets of sound mesmerizingly hopeful and great.

Ciudad Lineal  "El Nuevo Hombre"
Spaniards (or I think actually Catelonians) Ciudad Lineal from Barcelona make decidedly 80s Cold War synth jams. Kid of Cure-y, I guess, but a little more awkward and eastern euro vibed.

Hammerhead "New Directionz
Duh. Hammerhead regrouped fully and officially this year, with Jeff and Paul's return to the snowy and windswept prairie of the north. And they self-released a full-on return-to-everything-you-loved LP.

Shahs "The Bodyguard"
Missoulians Shahs released a great full length this year, and it's a progression from their mostly Tom Helgerson dreamy tropical synth to something a little more layered and complex. Sorry this sounds like Wine Spectator. Trust me, mon.

DI√ĄT "Positive Engery"
Australian two-piece living in Berlin, making decidedly un-modern sounding and cold post punk/new wave. I hate saying the words "post punk" as much as you hate reading them, but I think they're pretty close to correct here. Damnation is this great. Heavily, heavily rotated.

Benjamin Von Wildenhaus "II"
As the title says, this is Benjamin Von Wildenhaus's second LP, and his first was a revelation. This one continues to mine the same great vein of subtle and wild, uh, guitarscapes. Uggh, right? Who said that word would be okay?

Miss Lana Rebel and Kevin Michael Mayfield "The Midtown Island Sessions"
Most of these are in no particular order, but this record is my co-top record of 2015. We'd been waiting impatiently for the next phase of Lana and Kevin's output, following up on their excellent A Real Subtle Beauty, and this album rings true to all the greatness of their songwriting and performance abilities. Heavy rotation.

Flesh World "the Wild Animals In My Life"
More stellar, depressed but frenetic kind of post punk, this time from somebody from Limp Wrist. I really dug this.

Swamp Ritual "S/T" 
Heavy Missoulians whose riff mastery became pretty clear in 2015. Riffin' bong-rock at its finest, with only a bass and drums behind it.

Shopping "Why Choose"
British band whose sound is like a kind of modernized Gang of Four. Super LP.

Nots "We Are Nots"
Memphis band on Goner who played here. Niki saw them and gave me the CD, I loved it.

Sleaford Mods "Key Markets"
British (I guess) hip hop that's so smart and political that it's kind of creating its own world around it and their documentary Invisible Britain is apparently great news too. Here's hoping that Big Sky Doc Fest or the Roxy get it next year.

John Carpenter "Lost Themes"
Arguably, the thing I waited most anxiously for in 2015, and it didn't disappoint one bit.

Shannon and the Clams "Gone By the Dawn"
I always have a blast watching this band. They're incredibly good musicians, and songwriters and something about them just makes them transcend so much of the rest of what's out there.

Live:
Fireballs of Freedom at Total Fest.
Red Fang at the Palace.
Big Business at Total Fest.
Earthless at the Top Hat.
The Whip at Total Fest.
Dead at Total Fest.
Black Cobra at Total Fest.
Built To Spill at the Badlander.
Humpy at Total Fest.
Everyday Sinners at Total Fest.

I think I'll need to get out of the house more this year.