Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Huntsman's Top 30 Records Of 2015


This year has been by far the best year of music I’ve experienced in a long time, in fact, best year ever. For me it was also a pinnacle year for vinyl purchases, which I struggle to get under control much like an alcoholic trying to limit himself to just 1 or 2 drinks a week instead of a 12 pack a night. Once I start I cannot seem to stop. In that spirit I decided to only use albums that I have purchased on vinyl in my favorite “records” of the year list. Not only did it limit the crop I had to whittle down, but it truly represents what I thought were worthwhile albums this year. There were a ton of albums not made available on vinyl, or that I did not buy due to money reasons at the time and this list is not to take away from those bands, as I know not everyone has the means to put their music out on vinyl. Ripple had an outstanding year this year, as did many of the other DIY small labels putting out some smashing outputs on wax. Altogether I managed to acquire over 110 vinyl records released in 2015 this year, which was a record, record year for me. Good thing I got a raise at work….. Check the finalists below which changed hands many times. It came down to the usual verdicts being time spent listening, lasting impacts and repeatability. All of these were spun at least once on my turntable and many times via mobile device:
30. Flight - Flight (Bad Omen Records)
29. Black Space Riders - Refugeeum (Self-Released)
28. Jack The Radio - Badlands (Pretty Money Publishing)
27. Omar - I Am Heavy Metal, Who Are You? (Accelerator Records)
25. Gingerpig - Ghost On The Highway (Suburban Records)
24. Carousel - 2113 (Tee Pee Records)
23. Clutch - Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker Music)
22. Lucero - All A Man Should Do (ATO Records)
21. Black Pussy - Magic Mustache (Made in China Records)
20. Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free (Southeastern Records)
19. The Heavy Eyes - He Dreams Of Lions (Kozmik Artifactz)
18. Kind - Rocket Science (Ripple Music)
17. Golden Void - Berkana (Thrill Jockey)

So the top 15 of 15’ ended as follows. Also note that my decision of listing only albums I had purchased on vinyl is not a shot at any band that was unable or decided not to release on vinyl. There were many albums deserving of mention, however my format this year was to keep it vinyl as I felt that the extra effort put into purchasing and supporting on vinyl was worth the mentions outright.
15. Hyne – MMXV
MMXV follow up their debut ‘Elements’ review here, also one of my favorite records of 2013 with a brand spanking new output of hard and heavy rock and roll. Something about Hyne I totally love and felt they have gone slightly under the radar amongst the regulars in the heavy underground. Well shit, I reviewed the new one as well, check it out here.





14. Witchwood - Litanies from the Woods
I was totally blown away upon discovering Witchwood late in the summer. For fans of Jethro Tull, Litanies from the Woods is a diverse undertaking highlighting the progressive side of the classic 60’s/70’s retro movement. Huge riffs, psychedelic grooves, and a sultry southern rock base rank Witchwood as one of ‘The Best’ records of the year and not just my favorites. I was fortunate enough to grab the Limited Purple ‘Italy Only’ 2LP Gatefold version of the records, which the bandcamp will link you up to via Jolly Roger Records.
Uriah Heep, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath,

13. Sun Preachers - Walking Towards the Tower
Sun Preachers released late in the year, and upon hearing of the release on Bandcamp I was immediately reminded of my love for the band on their previous outputs a few years back. The combination of psychedelic blues meets stoner/sludge groove is insatiable and lands the Sun Preachers at lucky #13. The gatefold vinyl package is loaded with immaculately dark and doomy artwork on a heavy weight white or black slab. I went with the white via Nasoni Records who have a fantastic catalog of bands.





12. The Atomix Bitchwax – Gravitron

No surprise, yet perhaps the biggest surprise this year was TAB’s resurgence with thir new album . From the get go I was hooked. One of my most played records of the year in which there are no bad songs. Just read my blurb posted on the Doom Charts best of the year feature.
Gravitron
Not only is The Atomic Bitchwax the coolest band name in the hard rock arena, but they’ve proven themselves worthy of icon status in the world of heavy progressive stoner rock for roughly 20 years running. Graviton successfully combines equal parts QOTSA to Foo Fighters with the balls of Fu Manchu and brains of Monster Magnet. This buzz creates a formula of massively addictive hooks holding true to their signature brand of speedy stoned out groove. Scorching desert metal riffs scar the amplifiers as the melodic fuzz noodles along to a tranquil fervor. Virtually every song on Gravitron is brimming with atomic groove and glazed with bluesy grungedelic luster pulling its weight amongst the rising field of doom, psych and stoner Titans of 2015.”

11. Valkyrie – Shadows
First off, take a moment to admire that killer artwork. Admittedly I only just discovered Valkyrie this year upon the pre-order teaser for Shadows on Bandcamp early in the spring. I listened to the 3 teaser tracks religiously, pre-ordered the sick looking merge vinyl on Relapse Records and waited impatiently for the full release. Perhaps the record that floored me the hardest with the initial listen, Shadows is an album that will be listened to for years to come. Sliding back a few slots from their #1 ranking I put them on the first couple months of its release Valkyrie are back. Full review here.


10. We Hunt Buffalo - Living Ghosts

We Hunt Buffalo released their pinnacle record this year and were also signed to stoner rock Fuzzorama Records, who released this beast on vinyl. The band is known for their dreamy, yet muscular flex of stoner/blues/desert rock. Fuzzorama is the perfect home and I could not be more impressed with Living Ghosts. Moments of sheer beauty lurk beneath melodic riffs, and superbly produced fuzz metal. It’s no wonder they make the top 10 on my list.
heavyweights


9. Dorthia Cottrell - Dorthia Cottrell
Talk about being floored on initial impression. I got on this one hard and early as I purchased the first round vinyl straight from the label within getting minutes into song 2. I just knew that this one was meant to be spinning on the turntable. Dorthia’s swooning vocals echo a doom-laden approach to a mostly acoustic set of heart-wrenching, dark folk rock tunes. This album probably paralyzed more hairs on my neck throughout the course of the year than any other record. Much preferred to her main band Windhand, which ranked at #1 on the doom charts and beloved by the majority of the heavy underground this year?

8. Ruby the Hatchet - Valley of the Snake

Make no mistake Ruby the Hatchet made an impression on the hard rock community this year with
Valley of the Snake. If the opening tune doesn’t put you into a head bobbing trance with its catchy groove, then you might as well stop reading this right now. Here is what I said on the Doom Charts best of the year list:
“Valley of the Snake cements Ruby the Hatchet as one of the years most provocative hard rock albums of the year. Combining the catchy groove of top tier stoner rock with an exuberantly tie-dyed arena doom, the overall impression carves a valley of medieval wonder. Opener “Heavy Blanket” wraps the listener with warm, yet pummeling groove carried by angelic vocals moaning with a serpentine echo. Jillian Taylor not only shines like a diamond physically, but her commanding vocal charms the nerves and awakens the aural senses with arousing effect. Valley of the Snake strikes the doom charts with venom force at #25 slithering the kingdom of riffs with a seductive presence.”

7. All Them Witches - Dying Surfer Meets His Maker

How the hell do you write anything about All Them Witches? I struggle for the words to describe this band. At one time I tried writing a review of their epidomous debut record back in 2013 and just couldn’t muster up the balls to figure it out. Dying Surfer Meets His Maker is a welcomed progression taking their signature psych influenced blues into a more folk/country inspired direction. Make no mistake, this is not a country record by any means, and still maintains that heavy, smokey and visceral spin on hard blues, but there is a progressive folk ring to the songs as they fade from windswept Americana roots back into doomy blues from song to song. This one gets better and better with every listen and demands your respect.

6. Great Peacock - Making Ghosts
Hands down my most played album of the year Great Peacock dominated the turntable at my house.
Partly because my wife and family loved it as well and mostly because the album is a magnificent take on folk/pop rock. The blue 2LP gatefold version which plays on 3 sides only couples well with the seemingly simple, yet intriguing album cover. Side 3 takes the cake and there were times I played that side over and over on hours end around the house. Take a listen and tell me you don’t have a soft spot for this stuff.


5. Datura4 - Demon Blues

Datura4 knock it out of the park with Demon Blues which is the epitome of modern classic rock with a dollop of blues and smothering of classy vintage hooks. Each and every song summons the nostalgia of early 70’s fuzz meets proto blues. Released on the perfect label Alive Natural Sounds, who, by the way, is one of the coolest discoveries this year in terms of record labels with a vinyl shop via Bomp Records, Datura4 take the cream of the crop award at the label. Home to bands such as Dirty Streets, Buffalo Killers, Mount Carmel and The Black Keys, and distributed at the Bomp Records store ANS has a signature “Starburst” vinyl which is a hand mixed color vinyl at very reasonable and extremely limited options. I made sure I grabbed the limited Starburst of Demon Blues which is long sold out. Check this band out if you’re into anything rock n roll.

5. Sergeant Thunderhoof - Ride of the Hoof

Okay, so I don’t have the vinyl of this in my hands and it isn’t even made yet, and I already have a #5 on the list, however the band just recently announced a Kickstarter to raise funds for their vinyl release which has been one of the most talked about releases needing a vinyl option all year. I had to include it. I pledged and thus, I threw this one in at #5 because I literally admire this record. Listened on repeat digitally for the better part of the second half of the year, Ride the Hoof deserves a mention in anybody’s top slots this year and I am excited for this campaign to be funded and put to life sometime in 2016.

4. Elder – Lore

What much can you say about this progressive stoner masterpiece. I was lucky to catch them live this year and they proved to be no joke. Epic riffs, and technical grandeur, Elder dominated the airwaves this year and deservingly so. Here is what I said in the March edition of the Doom Charts where Elder dominated the first half of the year:

Elder have crafted a masterpiece of heavy progressive metal constructed with subtle vocal wails, celestial solos, and intricately distorted fuzz. The Mastodonian guitar noodles are orchestrated to the tone of a rocket ship launching from the bowels of the deep blue sea. Imagine Baroness on ecstasy trying to riff their way into a Pink Floyd music video. The more I listen, the harder it is to argue that Lore may have already claimed Album of the Year for 2015. “

3. Wino & Conny Ochs - Freedom Conspiracy

I’ve been a sucker for this shit since first hearing the Wino and Conny album Heavy Kingdom a few years back. Nobody does the acoustic doom duo better than these two. Lyrically the album deals with struggle, hard times, and sorrow like a lot of dark folk type stuff, but what sets these guys apart is the incredible harmony paired with intricate riffs that Wino is known for. Also Conny Ochs contributions are just as important. Been a fan of his solo stuff for a while too, which is in the same vein as this project. This album will put you in tears in the most satisfactory way possible. I was lucky enough to be one of the first 50 orders of the vinyl package which included a free 7-inch single of Conny Ochs – Suiciety. This is the kind stuff you think about what songs you would want to be played at your funeral.

2. Freedom Hawk - Into Your Mind
You read my review here, and it goes without saying the Freedom Hawk – Into Your Mind was my
favorite hard rock album of the year. I’ve played this one for groups of civilians (friends) and not a complaint. Not a blemish to complain about. The album is catchy, the album is heavy, the artwork is stunning, and the complete package is mind blowing. Grabbed the vinyl released on Small Stone Records who are known for logical and loving packages. Freedom Hawk breaks away from the shackles of musical mediocrity and migrates deep into your mind, becoming the pinnacle record of 2015 stoner rawk scene.


This might come as a surprise to some of you, but not all of you. The Drive-By Truckers are perhaps one of my all-time favorite bands and one of those bands that I rave on and on about every single year as to desperately try and get the attention of others who may not realize how amazing they are. It’s Great to Be Alive is a box set featuring their entire performance Live at the Fillmore over a 3-night set in the fall of 2014. The box includes 5-LPs, 3-CDs, a 12 page insert booklet talking about the bands history and how the record came about, as well as artwork and all the bells and whistles of your standard box set. What sets this record apart is how well the band captures the history of the
band and the power of their live performance on record. I’ve seen them twice and blindsided both times. Their live shows are something to behold. Being mostly a southern rock band using their songwriting strengths and unique style of each songwriter also being the singer on their own tracks, the live shows are LOUD! Louder than most metal shows I go to but with the ability to sing along and understand the stories they tell so well. My only regrets are not being able to attend this historical show. The live recording puts it up there with the Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore in terms of live album prowess. Trust me; this is a monumental record and a box set not to be passed on.

Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed seeing some of my favorite vinyl records of the year. It was indeed an astonishing year for great music as it seems to be getting better each passing year. These were just my top 30 records I own of the year and to be honest every album I purchase is purchased out of the utmost respect for the music and in essence is a favorite by definition.

-The Huntsman

1 comment:

Leighton Smith said...

Finally had time to start going through this list. Good shit as always Bucky. That Elder album was fantastic. It took a lot of work to track down Wino & Conny Ochs - Heavy Kingdom but I'm glad I persisted.

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