Week two of the amodelofcontrol.com review of 2015, and it’s onto the Best Tracks.
2014: seeming – The Burial
2013: Seabound – Nothing But Love
2012: Death Grips – Hacker
2011: Frank Turner – One Foot Before The Other
2010: In Strict Confidence – Silver Bullets
2009: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero
2008: Mind.in.a.box – What Used To Be (Short Storm)
2007: Prometheus Burning – Battery Drain
2006: No tracks of the year list
2005: Grendel – Soilbleed / Rotersand – Exterminate Annihilate Destroy
2004: No tracks of the year list
In some respects this is the hardest of the round-ups I do, every single year. In some (actually, quite a few this time) cases, I’m there wondering how on earth I pick just one song. In others, the album is so complete that I can’t pick one, and I’d be doing an injustice to the rest (this happened with at least five albums this year). Happily, though, there were few disappointments this year. There are of course many songs more that I couldn’t fit in here, and sorry to those of you not included. But I had to stop somewhere, and I’ve only got so much time.
So here’s to everyone in this scene, and outside of it, that write, make and release music for us to enjoy. This isn’t my main focus (I have a proper job for that), but music takes up an awful lot of the rest of my time, and these end of year lists in particular are a celebration of that fact and the great music I hear.
In what I think is a unique happening here – it’s certainly not been possible on previous year roundups – I think this year every song is covered in one playlist or format or another (which makes a change!). Let’s get on with it, then – the top 30 tracks of 2015 as amodelofcontrol.com sees it.
One of the new, Goth-influenced bands out there, The Soft Moon have already made some stylistic shifts in their short career. This new material – and especially this, the brilliant lead track – took a leap into industrial textures, with ominous drones, processed beats, squealing synths and a distinct feel that the whole thing is shrouded in smoke, obscuring the detail leaving you guessing as to any emotions involved.
Them Are Us Too
The Problem With Redheads
Labelmates of Youth Code, but about as far as they could get from them stylistically – this young band are clearly big fans of eighties 4AD and the Cocteau Twins, with woozy, drowsy songs and indistinct vocals being the main event. But there is a sensual beauty to their music, and this song in particular, where some of the vocals are actually audible, and there is very much the feeling of unrequited love, and a feeling of deep sadness and mystery.
The first Track of the Month of 2015, and nearly a year on, this track still has an emotional hit. Tumbling guitars, a Cure-esque bassline, and that gently distant vocal – as well as the clever chorus vocal effects – not to mention various curious electronics all over the mix, add up to a wonderful, sultry song that shimmers and stays out of focus like a snowstorm obscuring the weak winter sun.
Callous and Hoof
Melk En Honing
Tristan Shone was joined on production duties by none other than Phil Anselmo for his latest album, and it kinda shows. In some respects, the modus operandi is still as was – brutal, punishingly-heavy industrial-meets-sludge-metal, with beats that hit like hammers – but in other areas, there are subtle signs of change, like an increased emphasis on the vocals, and maybe even more of a song structure. Then again, though, don’t expect this to be Shone’s pop album – things still move at a glacial, heavier-than-heavy pace, and this is very much not music with that wide an appeal, outside of noise heads and metallers.
Not a band short of great songs in their short career so far, but the opener to their debut album was a cut above. Yeah, so there are definite nods to 80s indie staples, the odd post-punk styling creeps in here and there, but frankly, with songcraft this fucking good (and Jo Bevan’s vocal intensity in particular), and a cracking chorus, I’m sure they could experiment with whatever style they liked and still come up winnng.
The announcement of a new FNM album took us all by surprise, really, and in retrospect, they played it rather safe all told. There was all of the elements we’d expect, from the rock moments to the bizarro lounge stuff, all infused with their rather caustic sense of humour. But the whole endeavour was worth it alone for this – indeed they could have just released this and left it at that, this track is that good. A scorching, supercharged rhythm is led by Patton as he sneers at supposed leaders of the world, indeed, Patton’s vocals sweep from a snarl to a roar and back again as he *owns* this domain.
Effectively a side-project from his “main” act Fuck Buttons by Benjamin Power, I’ve been wondering this year whether this actually eclipsed FB after all. By far the standout track on this album, though, was this thundering, galloping brute – all massive, tribal-esque drums and squalling vocal samples, evoking some unknown world that might not even be on the same planet. Like the parent act, this is not one to listen to quietly.
No Hope In Sight
The Plague Within
The opener to the band’s best album in years, it usefully works as a bridge between different eras of the band. There is the sludgy, doomy metal of old, yes, but there is also a brilliant vocal turn from Nick Holmes as he goes from doom metal growls to a soaring, melodic chorus, and hammers home that Paradise Lost are often so much more than their caricature as a dour northern metal band. As a result, and paradoxically for a band often so downbeat, this is an utter joy.
Brave New Apocalypse
There has long been a buzz about Bradley Bill’s band CHANT, and at Infest we found out exactly why – they are astoundingly good live. But on record, the new album gave a good idea of what to expect. (Very) drum-heavy industrial rock, with a great line in memorable choruses, a few nods to influences (Ministry and KMFDM loom large), and unusually nowadays, a solid political line to many songs. Not least this song, the highlight from the album in my opinion, taking the viewpoint of a vigilante killer in the internet age, someone who has something to say but whose only way of doing so is killing someone and becoming “famous” by doing so.
The grooviest rock machine out there returned this year with their best single in an age. A distinct sci-fi theme to it, crazy, near-conspiracy theorist lyrics and a monstrous hook of a chorus that could snag passing ships. Add to that the best band intro bridge ever, and a video that is an utter hoot, playing on the whole themes of the song with a wonderful retro science-fiction look.
Sell Your Face
After being crowned “Album of the Year” by this website last year, and many, many other accolades besides – 2015 has been a year where 3 TEETH have begun to build on their success in the industrial scene, the latest fruits of which have been snagging a support slot with none other than Tool in the new year (in the United States). There has been a lot of curiosity as to where the band would take their sound following the first album, and this was the first taste of it – and the answer was to go harder, heavier and stronger. Sell Your Face is a guitar-led, industrial metal attack that like Slavegod (which followed right at the end of the year) shows an influence from Godflesh in it’s slower, crushing tempo. The political comment is obvious enough in this internet age, and the bludgeoning chorus here only helps to hammer the point home.
The Heart Is A Monster
While the glorious comeback album from Failure was very much an album – nineteen songs, “Segue” tracks galore as per Fantastic Planet – there were some wonderful highlights. Once again, picking just one was hard, but I guess I have to plump for the first single, the one that signalled that all was going to be just fine with the new album. Hot Traveler rises out of a morass of synths to become a muscular, bass-led groove, with all three members of the band in perfect step – particularly in the swirling climax. It’s still spacey-rock, just with that bit more rocket fuel than before.
A Life Worth Leaving
The highlight of a very good album from this Seattle-based Goth band was this track – where they took a trip into goth-disco-funk with impressive results. I can’t imagine many bands in this scene could pull this off, really, but part of it is down to Alicia Amiri’s forceful vocals that pull the sound out of the shadows, and also the complex programming that ensures an awful lot of depth in the sound. Yeah, so it’s dark and gloomy in scope, but this is Goth worth enjoying.
Song For Josh
Positive Songs For Negative People
I actually quite liked Frank Turner’s new album – in my opinion it is far better than the drudgery of Tape Deck Heart – but the whole album is put in the shade by the extraordinary closing track. A requiem for a lost friend (Josh Burdette of the 9:30 Club in DC), it was recorded live onstage at said venue and the avalanche of emotion that tumbles out from the song is clearly heard as Turner struggles with the closing verse. Just Turner and a guitar, wracked with grief, and it is so obviously heartfelt that you’d need a heart of stone not to be moved by it.
The Day Is My Enemy
The Day Is My Enemy
The album might have been a disappointment – treading water at best, in my opinion – but the title track was a belter. A thundering, military-esque drum rhythm underpins things, with Cole Porter-by-way-of-Ella Fitzgerald providing the lyrical hook, sung by ex-Tricky collaborator Martina Topley-Bird, and all of the “violence” and “fury” threatened by Liam Howlett for the album appears to have been concentrated in these four minutes.
Kisses Taste Like Death
Yeah, so in all-but-name a Stabbing Westward reunion, but even so this album was better than it had any right to be. There was much to like on this album – and there were a few contenders to end up here – but I reckon this is the pick of the bunch. Perfectly balancing the industrial-rock heaviness (those power chords that rip through the verses!) with one of Christopher Hall’s best-ever choruses, with his voice soaring through it, not to mention a great metaphor for a bad-for-him-relationship, too. And if nothing else, this is a reminder that great industrial rock did not just exist in the nineties.
By far the best track on one of the best new industrial albums of 2015, this is a thundering juggernaut of a track that owes a lot – as does the rest of the band’s sound – to early-nineties Skinny Puppy, where arrangements were astonishingly, confusingly dense. But instead of being under-the-influence-confusing, this feels razor-sharp, an arrangement intended to confound and bludgeon through it’s sheer power.
Anagnorisis: a greek word that effectively means “critical moment of recognition or discovery”, seems apt for this band. For a while now teetering on the cusp of wider recognition than the industrial scene that they come from, more songs like this and they’ll be busting through that glass ceiling. Enlisting the assistance of Rhys Fulber, he’s upped the game of their production and actually sharpened the edges of their EBM-meets-punk attack, meaning every single element hits so much harder than before, even when they slow things down a bit as here. It just makes the sonic attack that more…measured. Looking forward to that second album in 2016.
Autonomous Combat System
All that reminiscing to Demanufacture (twentieth anniversary shows in the UK this coming week!) has clearly rubbed off on the band – as this track sounds for all the world that it was recorded at the same time. Points of note: the sweeping, quasi-orchestral intro, the bass-heavy kick drums (crank it up on headphones, it sounds phenomenal), and of course Dino’s mechanical riffing. It even has another great melodic chorus, too. Fear Factory, after a good few years where they weren’t that great, have definitely returned to being a band worth hearing again, and that isn’t, at last, just because of their illustrious earlier material – this is their best song since material from Obsolete.
Forest of Lights
A lovely EP that dropped much earlier in the year (just as the performers of such returned from the UK back to their native Australia), and has been on regular rotation at amodelofcontrol.com ever since. An intriguing mix of alt.rock and electronics with a distinct gothic edge, this is a project that manages the unusual trick of not really sounding like anyone else (and thus making it a bugger to try and describe). The pick of the songs, though, is this track – one where vocalist Katrina spits her vocals with some venom, above a twinkling, swirling backing that twists like a tornado around her and the backing vocals that appear like a shadow at points. Highly recommended, as is the companion remix EP that arrived just recently.
(We Need) Machines Without Romance
While the album was great (and more about that next week), the best individual track released by Metroland this year – presumably as it didn’t fit in with the overall theme of the album – was relegated to a B-side, and that’s a crying shame. Hard-edged beats and metallic (literally, the sound of metall auf metall) samples burst into a wonderfully melodic core and the result was a song I played an awful lot this year in these parts.
Identity Control Test
One of the standouts from this year’s Cold Waves in Chicago, their latest track (apparently from a forthcoming album in the new year) is a scorcher, and easily merits a mention in this round-up. Complete with a video as chaotic and overwhelming as the track itself, this is a hailstorm of power electronics, multiple vocal streams and utter fury. With ATR a shadow of their former selves nowadays, a new electronic attack front was sorely needed, and it is increasingly clear that Human Traffic are stepping up to take their place.
The pummelling opener proper from HEALTH’s first album in some years, that despite a vicious first twenty seconds or so (and a few other moments besides) is actually a quite brilliant industrial-pop song. Drilling, glitchy electronics cross with pounding drums and awesome melodic hooks, and even a nod to NIN’s ‘Closer’ in the verse rhythms, and it all comes together in three minutes of brilliance. HEALTH have hinted at this ability to balance their influences before, but never as well as this.
A Worthy Compensation
…and this year’s futurepop club-worthy monster comes from Beborn Beton, one of the picks of the (long-awaited) new album that kinda deserves to be overplayed in clubs as much as the likes of Another World was. Oh yes – a pounding beat, a euphoric chorus, a sweeping breakdown and a killer hook. It may not be so fashionable any more, but there are still some masters of this art, and Beborn Beton are one of them – this song has been on repeat on my stereo (and as an earworm in my head) for months.
Mistakes Were Made
Of the many highlights of HFF’s first full-length album, the best of all was the reflective closing track, where they took their already obvious Cabaret Voltaire influences and made a track that could happily slot in on The Original Sound of Sheffield: 83-87. Well, apart from Susan Subtract’s harsher, more direct vocals, I guess, but otherwise this is a wonderful, groovy track that like the Cabs, takes elements of electro-funk to give a broader dimension to it’s otherwise industrial/EBM sound. HFF are a fascinating band, defiantly retro but with a modern take on a sound that keeps on coming back for more.
Razor Invader (Cyanotic Remix)
Cold Waves IV Compilation
While the first Cocksure album eventually grew on me massively (my take on the release in last year’s album round-up was a little unfair, in retrospect), the follow-up for me was more immediate and the songs I’ve heard so far live have made it even stronger. The original of this track was the lead single, which was good enough – but then Sean Payne and Cyanotic dropped this kick-ass remix, that improves over the original by making it a monstrous dancefloor cyborg anthem – complete with stomping beats, processed-to-fuck riffage and Chris Connelly’s vocals, untouched, at the heart of it all.
The Compound Eye Sessions EP
One of the more surprising returns in 2015 was of Marc Heal and indeed Raymond Watts, both of whom haven’t really been involved in music too much in recent years (in Marc’s case, an aborted attempt at a Cubanate reunion notwithstanding). It’s actually been a busy year for both again, really – Watts has seen rumble back into life with a couple of well-received EPs (including this one), while Heal has released this, a a fascinating book and I was astounded to get the scoop in an interview that a full Cubanate reunion is on the cards at last. The pick of the songs, though, was this belting industrial monster – Heal back on snarling, furious form, complete with a stomping musical backing that makes it clear he is still up for this. The EP is also worth having for two other things – one, the astounding Rhys Fulber remix of the same track, aimed squarely at the dancefloor, and two, reminding everyone what KMFDM miss by not having Watts involved.
See, for full-on industrial violence this year, you needed to head over to Texas for producer Rabit, whose lead track from his latest album Communion sounds like the robots took over, then stomped on your face – forever – just to make sure their supremacy was unchallenged. To begin with, there are icy synths, isolated voices and ominous beats. Then the chains are released and, well, this sure as hell ain’t anything to do with Grime, as he has been lumped in with before. This is industrial noise, plain and simple, rather closer to the relentless fury of Terrorfakt than Wiley. Never mind the gattling gun beats that close it out – Fuuuuuuck.
The Queen of Swans
The Light In You
Seven years is a lifetime in music, as Jonathan Donaghue noted in various lengthy asides in-between songs at their Rough Trade East instore back in October. It was kinda heartbreaking to hear him detailing his insecurities over his band – did anyone still care about his band, would their fans remember them? I hardly needed reminding of their brilliance, but the appearance of this song as the “comeback” single sealed the deal. This is latter day (i.e. post-Deserter’s Songs) Mercury Rev at their best. A nagging melody, a sweeping orchestral backing, and Donaghue’s hesitant vocals that burst out into a confident, soaring chorus that feels like the sun bursting out from behind the clouds after a storm. It’s been too long, guys, welcome back.
Every Open Eye
There aren’t many albums where I have so many choices to pick one song, but there are so many great songs that one had to be included. No sign of second album worries here, that’s for sure. Like the first album, glorious, sunny electro-pop songs are balanced by brutal cut-downs of past relationship and personal failures, and the pick of the bunch for me is the searing Playing Dead. A thundering, stuttering beat underpins the song (together with an astonishing, bass-depth-charge of a breakdown. Live it’s unbelievably powerful, too), while Lauren Mayberry delivers a vocal where she – or at least she plays a character that does – fights her corner against an ex who has another version of the “truth”, complete with another blazing chorus. CHRVCHES – the best pop band of our time.
Next week: 2015 – Best Albums.