Guest Lists: Ben Vendetta’s 10 best albums of 2015

Acclaimed American author Ben Vendetta shares ten of his favourite records of 2015. Ben was recently in Dublin for a hugely successful launch of his latest novel Heartworm, the follow-up to his debut Wivenhoe Park.  Set against the backdrop of the burgeoning Britpop scene, it follows the exploits of main character Drew as he picks his way through a broken romance and attempts to find his way in the world to a soundtrack of some of the best music of the mid-nineties. Ben is also the co-founder of independent record label Elephant Stone Records.


1. I Declare Nothing  – Tess Parks and Anton Newcombe 

Young Canadian singer Tess Parks turned plenty of heads on her fantastic 2013 debut Blood Hot, but this collaboration with Brian Jonestown Massacre leader Anton Newcombe is even better. Parks has a dusky voice that is part Patti Smith, part Hope Sandoval and it jives perfectly with Newcombe’s stripped down fuzz rock arrangements that bring to mind BJM at their most dangerous. File under Nancy and Lee for the 21st Century.


2.  Psych Fuck  – Singapore Sling

I can relate to Henrik Bjornsson, the creative force behind Iceland’s stellar Singapore Sling. The guy just wants to make music, while constantly battling things that keep him down, like crap day jobs and a hometown that makes him sad. Pscyh Fuck has a similar downbeat vibe to last year’s exceptional Tower of Foronicity with more songs of self-loathing and frustration buried in walls of fuzz.


3. Pish – Brian Jonestown Massacre 

In addition to his collaboration with Tess Parks, Anton Newcombe has been quite prolific with BJM this year, releasing a fantastic French pop themed imaginary soundtrack Musique de Film Imagine along with this 34-minute ‘mini-album’, which contains some of the best rock ‘n’ roll songs the group has ever recorded. There must be something in the water in Berlin. Maybe I should write my next book there?


4.  I Wasn’t Born To Lose You – Swervedriver

The recent Swervedriver comeback shows have been fantastic, but live prowess in reunion gigs doesn’t always translate to re-capturing former glories in the studio (see Echo and The Bunnymen Mark 2). Thankfully, Swervedriver go against the grain on I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, which nicely holds its own with their storied back catalogue. Adam Franklin’s masterful melodies are dead on as always and the band’s fuzzy wall of sound hasn’t lost a beat.


5. Static Daydream – Static Daydream

Static Daydream are the third exceptional group to rise from the ashes of seminal Virginia shoegazers Skywave, following Oliver Ackermann’s A Place to Bury Strangers and John Fedowitz and Paul Baker’s Ceremony. Static Daydream are the brainchild of Baker and his fiancé Jamie Casey and the duo are on fire on their full-length debut, an exceptional slice of inspired noise pop, which should appeal immensely to fans of JAMC, Ride, and ‘80s post-punk.


6. Shadow of the Sun – Moon Duo 

The third album by cosmic couple Ripley Johnson (also of Wooden Shjips) and Sanae Yamada is another stunner. Shadow is a little more immediate and less trippy than past efforts, but rest assured, the Spacemen 3 and Suicide inspired soundscapes that defined those records is still prevalent here.


7. Farewell to the Summer (Maybe Mars) – Dear Eloise

This Chinese husband and wife duo consisting of Yang Haisong (guitars) and Sun Xia (bass, vocals) may be named after a Hollies song, but they owe much more to the likes of the Velvet Underground and early Jesus and Mary Chain. I couldn’t find anything from Farewell on YouTube, so here’s a little teaser from a recent non-LP single that will also appear on a new album due out early next year.


8. Boys  – Crocodiles

Five albums in and San Diego’s Crocodiles show no signs of letting up, forging ahead with their infectious noise pop sound that bridges the likes of Jesus and Mary Chain, Spacemen 3, and just a hint of glam. (They often cover New York Dolls’ “Jet Boy” live.)


9. Pure Mood – Ringo Deathstarr

On Ringo Deathstarr’s fourth full-length (not counting the Sparkler singles compilation) the heavier JAMC and MBV influences that dominated earlier recordings are a little less prevalent. Pure Mood finds the group venturing into poppier terrain on a number of tracks, especially when bassist Alex Gehring takes over lead vocals, as on the breathtaking Lush-like “Guilt”.


10. They Only Believe in the Moon  – Sciflyer 

Northern California’s Sciflyer delivered in spades on multiple releases earlier this decade before calling it quits in 2008. They Only Believe in the Moon is a case of what could have been – a lost album culled from sessions that were completed in 2007. From the heavy Swervedriver meets Dinosaur, Jr. crunch of “Creator” to the early Verve-like space rock of “Slowfire” this collection is a keeper.