Top 10 Musical Discoveries of 2015
10 Artists That Had a Breakout Year in 2015
The joy of the new, not only would that be a good band name but it describes the feelings of many music fans. Like numerous others, very few things give me as much immense pleasure than discovering previously undiscovered musical gems. It could be new music from new artists, or it could simply be that it is new to me.
2015 was a rich year for musical discovery. In connection with this here is a list of my top artists that I personally first heard of in 2015. Some of them may have made music prior to that year, but 2015 was when they first appeared on my personal radar.
#10: The Grindmother
The only thing I really need to say is that The Grindmother is a 67 grandma who sings (or screams) grindcore. How cool is that?
The Grindmother's son just happens to be in a Canadian grindcore band called Corrupt Leaders (which I guess would also qualify as a 2015 discovery). He convinced his mom to guest vocal on some songs which appeared on their 4 track EP appropriately entitled The Grindmother. She has since recorded her first single "Any Cost" which is available (along with The Grindmother EP) for download over at Bandcamp.
The song is a pointed and direct verbal attack aimed at former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I must admit I am not generally into grindcore because it is just a bit too abrasive for my taste. That being said, I am drawn to socially conscious music. I can also appreciate that reflecting on some of the mess up conditions in the world today is enough to make a person scream. In moderation the screams can be an emotional outlet for dealing with frustration. Especially when the screams are coming from granny!
The Grindmother "Any Cost" (Video)
#9: Milk & Bone
Milk & Bone is an indie pop duo hailing from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. In 2015 they released their debut album, Little Mourning. The songs on the album are gorgeously textured both musically and vocally. The sparse arrangements give plenty of room for the vocals and lyrics to breathe.The songs accomplish the rare feat of being subtle and powerful at the same time. The songs gradually creep into your inner being, and even the more somber tunes provide you with a reassuring solace.
Milk & Bone Performs Pressure Live at Paste Studios (Video)
#8: Sample Answer
Doing research I can't find out too much biographically about Sample Answer. I know that he is Irish but now resides in London, England. I also know that he released 2 extremely solid EPs in 2015, Good Boy and Textile Baby. The tunes are a really cool hybrid of differing styles. The music is fresh and vital and he is definitely an artist to watch out for. I suspect that in 2016 he will finally have a Wikipedia page and it will be a whole lot easier to find info on him. At least you can have the joy of saying that you knew him before that happened.
Sample Answer "Textile Baby" (Video)
#7: Downtown Boys
Even though they had a few prior releases, their first full length to have wide release Full Communism was released in 2015. The band describes themselves as a "bilingual political dance sax punk party". That is an apt description of this multi-racial and multi-gendered band. They have a heavy ska punk feel and they promote some of the more old school political and philosophical punk ideals. They are anti-establishment and protest all sorts of inequalities and social ills. This is not some watered down version of pop punk. This is a band that is unapologetic in their politics. This is a band that is idealistic enough to feel that music can still be a vehicle for social change. Even if you choose to disagree with their leftists leanings it is hard not to admire the sincerity of their musical attack. They are old school punk revivalists in all of the best possible ways.
Downtown Boys "Wave Of History" (Video)
Christine and the Queens
#6: Christine and the Queens
Christine and the Queens is the recording name for French indie pop artist Héloïse Letissie. I happened to stumble upon her when she was the musical guest on the November 12th, 2015 episode of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. That was her North American TV debut. Musically I found the performance equally compelling and weird. I mean weird in the best possible use of the word.
She has released a number of EPs in her native France since 2011. Her debut full length was the 2014 release Chaleur Humaine. In 2015 the album was reissued in North America as a self titled album. Many of the songs were re-recorded into at least partially English versions such as "Titled" and "Night 52" (which were previously named as "Christine" and "Nuit 17 à 52"). It also features an additional tune "Johnathan" which is a collaboration with American indie pop artist Perfume Genius.
She describes her music as "freak pop". Despite the quirks the songs are catchy and infectious. Her debut album was one of the more compelling listens of 2015.
Christine and the Queens (with Perfume Genius) "Jonathan" (Video)
#5: Son Little
One of my main music excavation tools is Daytrotter. Son Little is one of the many discoveries that I owe to the site. I first stumbled across his music by listening to a session that he recorded for Daytrotter. When I first heard his music it totally blew me away. It was one of those rare goose bumps inducing moments.
Afterwards I was intrigued enough to seek out more of his music. I found out that his real name is Aaron Livingston. He is a son of a preacher, which would explain the gospel influence of some of his tunes. He also collaborated with the Roots and Mavis Staples and he toured with Mumford & Sons for a portion of the Gentlemen of the Road tour. On YouTube I also came across his radical reworking of Drake's "Hotline Bling" which is worth checking out.
His first EP Things I Forgot was released in 2014. His debut self titled full length was released in 2015. Just like with the session, I was drawn to the haunting and soulful beauty of these recordings. His tunes are truly precious jewels that I was ecstatic to have dug up.
Son Little "Lay Down" (Video)
#4: Leon Bridges
Leon Bridges just happens to be the first of two artists on my list that I first heard because they were a musical guest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. He performed on June 22nd, 2015 and his debut album was released on the next day. I was immediately drawn to his old school soul sound, so I checked out his debut album Coming Home. It has an obvious 60s, Stax era soul sound. Just like past greats such as Sam Cooke (which is the most obvious comparison to his sound) he has deep gospel roots. Just like the previously mentioned Son Little (who will be opening up for Bridges on some of his tour dates), he is an important purveyor of timeless music that will hopefully help introduce a younger audience to classic soul music. His album was one of my feel good picks for 2015.
Leon Bridges "Coming Home" (Video)
Tobias Jesso Jr.
#3: Tobias Jesso Jr
Tobias Jesso Jr. is the 2nd artist I was introduced to as a result of performing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. The Canadian singer songwriter performed on the February 26th, 2015 episode and his debut album Goon was released during the next month on March 13th. He was able to land that high profile gig prior to the album release because a couple of his singles and some of his demos were already garnering some attention online. That attention included Adele who tweeted out her love for his song "How Could You Babe" and then sought him out to collaborate with him. They ended up co-writing the hit song "When We Were Young" which appeared on her smash album 25.
Concerning the music on Goon, it is an album of heartfelt 70s style piano ballads. The music is achingly beautiful and it is the perfect soundtrack for those experiencing disappointment and heartache.
Tobias Jesso Jr. "How Could You Babe" (Video)
Ibeyi are a soulful duo made up of twin siblings of French-Cuban origin. Ibeyi is the word for twins in the Yoruba language. The duo also have music has part of their bloodlines. Their mom was a professional singer and their father is renowned Cuban percussionist Anga Diaz,
The bilingual sisters sing in both the English and Yoruba language. They released their first EP and single in 2014, but their self titled LP was released in 2015. Their tunes are an eclectic and experimental mixture of world beats and R&B. The music is played on a mix of both traditional instruments and modern electronic ones. The down tempo grooves coupled with the gorgeous vocal harmonies can't help but get to me. Their music is an irresistible force.
Ibeyi - "Stranger / Lover"
Girlpool are a drum less folk punk duo consisting solely of guitar and bass. Their 1st EP was released in 2014, but their debut full length album Before the World Was Big dropped in 2015.
I was a teen in the early 90s and those were my formative years in terms of the development of my music taste. That was part of the reason why I connected with this duo. There is a bit of a 90s alt-rock vibe. They also remind me of the late 70s/early 80s post punk cult band The Raincoats. They are more accessible than The Raincoats, but they do have their considerable endearing quirks. Just like with The Raincoats I could see them becoming one of Kurt Cobain's favorite bands if he was still alive today. They are certainly one of my faves. There is an unusual combination of edginess, sincerity and childlike innocence that I just can't resist.
Girlpool - "Chinatown" (Video)
Favorite Musical Discovery of 2015 Poll
Of the 10 artists mention, who is your favorite?
Listen and Discover For Yourself
In order to discover more of the music created by my top 10 I created a Spotify playlist featuring two tracks from each artist. The only artist not included on this playlist is The Grindmother. Sadly here music is not currently available on Spotify (even though she tweeted me saying that she is recording a new album and it will be available through all of the channels). Because her music wasn't available I replaced it with the Steve n' Seagulls, a Finnish bluegrass band who covers heavy metal songs. It is good quirky fun.
If you want to check out it out feel free to click here.