The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Singles, EPs, Splits and Demos of 2015

Posted in Features on December 29th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

top 20 short releases of 2015

Please note: This list is not culled in any way from the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2015 to that, please do.

What’s a short release? Anything that’s not a full-length. I’ve done this list in the past and given a small list — The Top 20 EPs, Splits, Demos and Singles, or whatever — but “Short Releases” seemed more concise, and believe it or not, that’s something I shoot for.

Essentially, what we’re taking a look at here is everything else a band might put out in a given year. No question that albums are where the greatest impact is made over the longer term, but from landmark 7″s to EPs that provide crucial experiments or serve notice of bands solidifying their sound or marking pivotal first impressions, the shorter offerings have tremendous value, and it’s worth considering them on their own merit, rather than in comparison to LPs directly.

I know for a fact that there are releases I’ve missed here. Particularly among the Bandcamp-only demos, there’s just so much out there that for any one person to keep up with all of it is even more impossible than it’s ever been before. Before you berate me immediately with, “Hey you forgot X Band!” and start throwing tomatoes at your computer or mobile device screen, please keep in mind The Obelisk is run by a single individual and there are only so many hours in the day. As always, I do the best I can.

Here we go:

foehammer foehammer

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2015

1. Foehammer, Foehammer EP
2. Mos Generator & Stubb, The Theory of Light and Matter Split
3. Sun Voyager, Lazy Daze EP
4. All Them Witches, A Sweet Release
5. Geezer & Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 1 Split
6. Fatso Jetson & Farflung, Split
7. Eggnogg & Borracho, Sludgy Erna Bastard Split 7″
8. Shroud Eater, Face the Master EP
9. Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Fortunate Some EP
10. Stars that Move, Demo Songs
11. Wight, Helicopter Mama 7″
12. Thera Roya, Unraveling EP
13. Shatner, EP
14. Cities of Mars, Cyclopean Ritual EP
15. Pyramidal & Domo, Jams from the Sun Split
16. Sandrider & Kinski, Split
17. Mount Hush, Low and Behold! EP
18. Godhunter & Amigo the Devil, The Outer Dark Split
19. Groan, Highrospliffics EP
20. Rozamov & Deathkings, Split

Honorable Mention

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Notes

It’s something of a break in routine for me to put any kind of debut in a top spot (other, of course, than on the list of debuts), but Foehammer simply would not be denied. The Virginia trio’s three-song EP release on Grimoire Records (LP on Australopithecus Records), it was a self-titled that seemed to be telling you the name of the band twice as if in a warning against forgetting it. And that warning was one to heed. Foehammer‘s first outing brought the Doom Capitol region to new heights of extremity, and while at over half-an-hour long it could’ve just as easily have been called a full-length, part of the overarching threat is what the band will bring to bear when they actually get around to their first LP.

A good number of splits included here, with Mos Generator and Stubb‘s The Theory of Light and Matter (HeviSike Records), Geezer and Borracho‘s The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 1 (launching a series for Ripple Music), Fatso Jetson and Farflung‘s joint release (on Heavy Psych Sounds) and Eggnogg and Borracho‘s Sludgy Erna Bastard (on Palaver Records) all cracking the top 10. No coincidence that Washington D.C. heavy riffers Borracho show up twice in that mix. As Pyramidal and Domo‘s blissful Jams from the Sun, Sandrider and Kinski‘s one-two, Godhunter and Amigo the Devil‘s Battleground Records collaboration and Rozamov and Deathkings‘ joint single feature between #11-20, a total of eight out of the full included 20 releases here are splits. Last year it was only five.

Whether that means the form is growing in an attempt to capture fickle social-media-age attention spans while cutting individual vinyl pressing costs, I couldn’t say — likely a combination of the two and more besides — but it’s noteworthy that a split is more than just a toss-off, between-albums castaway at this point, something for songs to later be included on rare-tracks comps. One could easily say the same of EPs as a whole. To that end, Sun Voyager‘s Lazy Daze was a brutal tease for the NY psychgaze outfit’s first album, hopefully out in 2016. And while All Them WitchesA Sweet Release was over 50 minutes long — longer, actually, than their Dying Surfer Meets His Maker LP, which was also issued this year — they considered it an EP/live collection, and that indeed proved how it worked best, immersive though its stretch remained.

Shroud Eater and Bedroom Rehab Corporation both turned in impressive outings that showed marked progression from their last time out, while Shatner‘s first batch of tracks tipped off a songwriting process well-honed and Stars that Move, Cities of Mars, Thera Roya and Mount Hush — I’d put Mount Desert in this category as well — had compelling outings that, like Foehammer at the top, showed much potential at work in formative sounds. Not to be forgotten, Wight‘s Helicopter Mama 7″ gave listeners a heads up on the funkified stylistic turn their upcoming full-length, Love is Not Only What You Know, will take even further, and UK stoner miscreants Groan proved once and for all that, along with logic and reason, a constantly changing lineup can’t hold back their good times.

Like I said — like I always say — if I left something out, let me know about it in the comments. Really let me have it. Call me a jerk. It’s cool. I can take it.

Please note: I can, in no way, take it.

Still, if I left something/someone out, I hope you’ll let me know. And please don’t forget that if you haven’t yet, you can still contribute your list of 2015 favorites to the year-end poll until Dec. 31. EPs, LPs, whatever, however many, it doesn’t matter. All entries are welcome there.

Thanks for reading.

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Sun Voyager, Lazy Daze: In the Here and Now

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on April 14th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

sun voyager lazy daze

In the time since releasing their 2013 demo/EP, Mecca (review here), Orange County, New York, heavy psych rockers Sun Voyager have been more or less engaged in the business of growing their band. They’ve played local shows, done some time on the road, found a label to help push their stuff in the form of King Pizza Records, appeared on a compilation or two, and done a split release, with Greasy Hearts. Along the way, they’ve also released singles in drips and drabs, one song at a time every so often, capturing different moods and vibes still within the warm sphere of what they did so well on Mecca, but showing progress anyhow in fuzzy cuts like “Gypsy Hill” and “God is Dead.” Their new cassette, called Lazy Daze after its closing track and released by King Pizza in limited numbers (250 copies, white tape, pro case and j-card), brings together these singles and turns them into Sun Voyager‘s most established release to-date. It’s five songs from the earthy heavygaze rockers and only about 20 minutes between the two sides, but big on vibe and a right-on showing of increased complexity in their craft.

Definitely an EP for its runtime, Lazy Daze nonetheless houses an album-style flow, and while its title and some of Sun Voyager‘s shoegaze aesthetic hint toward an element of ’90s apathy — of “fuckit” made flesh — the weight of their tones and swing counteract with movement that’s exciting even in the overarching languid atmosphere of the tracks themselves. “God is Dead” is a landmark for the band. A familiar refrain, perhaps, but the four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Carlos Francisco, guitarist Steve Friedman, bassist Stefan Mersch and drummer Kyle Beach make it their own, turning “My god is dead but your god’s dead too” into a killer hook for the upbeat first half of the song and an echoing space-out over the fluid, slower jamming of the second. The song lurches to a drawling finish like a universe stretching itself into oblivion, and “Black Angel” picks up quickly with a garage-style rush that Francisco tops with reverb-soaked melody and a molten vibe that is quickly becoming a trademark of their approach. Unlike the opener, “Black Angel” holds its space-rocking motor for its entirety, so it seems only fair that “Gypsy Hill” would slow things down, and it does, but more than that, it opens wide a horizon soundscape, sunny and rural as were the best moments of Mecca — its central progression reminds a bit of “Space Queen” from that release; not a complaint — but more coherent in the songwriting and assured in its course. They weave into and out of jammy grooves, but its the nodding chorus that makes “Gypsy Hill” the highlight that it is as it rounds out side one.

sun-voyager-lazy-daze-tape-and-j-card

Launching side two, “Be Here Now” would seem to signal a change in vibe, but it’s really just a progression from where “Gypsy Hill” was headed, that song a transitional centerpiece between the two sides of the EP. A sleepy flow and peaceful atmosphere can make it easy to look past how heavy “Be Here Now” actually is when it picks up, but Sun Voyager shift so easily between louder and quieter parts that by the time the four minutes are up, you’re just absolutely lost in it. All the better leading into “Lazy Daze” itself, which earns the title-track spot with its more accomplished melody and memorable roll. Backing “ooh” vocals behind Francisco add flourish to the verse and choruses, and what works best about Lazy Daze overall is once more underlined, and that’s that even when Sun Voyager are using straightforward structures — all of these songs are shorter and have fewer actual jams than the tracks on Mecca — they’re able to maintain hypnotic listener engagement even as they weave through different songwriting ideas. I won’t at all say I hope they never kick out a full-on jam again, if only because I don’t think they’re at a point where any element of their approach should be written off entirely, but the balance they strike on Lazy Daze of approach-tightness and sonic-looseness makes the 20 minutes of the EP’s span seem much, much wider, and really makes me look forward to hearing what kinds of shifts Sun Voyager might be able to pull off over the course of a debut full-length. I think they could give it a shot at this point, and I hope they find room to branch out a bit in terms of arrangements, maybe put an organ in there somewhere for one or two songs, some acoustics or additional percussion. Because if Lazy Daze proves anything, it’s that Sun Voyager have their sound as it is down pat and are ready to move forward from here.

Sun Voyager, Lazy Daze (2015)

Sun Voyager on Thee Facebooks

Sun Voyager on Bandcamp

King Pizza Records

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Sun Voyager to Release Lazy Daze EP Next Week

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 23rd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

sun voyager

It is my sincere hope that, come April 18, I get to see Sun Voyager live. It would be a while in the making. Last time the New York groove-rolling four-piece made a trip north, I was already booked for the evening. Their current-planned excursion follows the arrival of a new tape on King Pizza Records compiling some recently-issued tracks onto an EP called Lazy Daze, with five-cuts of their heavygaze vibing that will be out digitally next week with a cassette release to follow shortly thereafter.

I’m not sure if the below is or isn’t the cover of Lazy Daze, but the band sent the following encouraging words down the PR wire, and new news is good news:

sun voyager lazy daze

SUN VOYAGER “LAZY DAZE” EP RELEASE DETAILS

Wanted to reach out and share some super exciting news with you regarding a little release we’re putting out next week on King Pizza Records.

You may have heard Cosmic Tides, Mecca, or our latest split with our friends Greasy Hearts. Those all had three songs. This one’s got five, baby.

“Lazy Daze” is the title of our next release. It’s a tape. You may have heard God Is Dead, Be Here Now, Gypsy Hill, and Black Angel. Well those tracks will finally have a home. You can hear them now on soundcloud. The whole thing will be on bandcamp early next week. Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, & more coming soon.

We’re throwing release parties in Brooklyn, Newburgh, and Boston where you can buy our tape and share in the fun. Here are some details on those parties:

4/3 – Brooklyn, NY – Don Pedro w/ Psychiatric Metaphors, St James & The Apostles, The Off White
4/9 – Brooklyn, NY – Don Pedro w/ Mountain God, Kosmodemonic, Maggot Brain
4/11 – Newburgh, NY – The Wherehouse w/ St James & The Apostles
4/18 – Boston, MA – The Womb w/ Black Beach, Midriffs, & CREATUROS

Come party with us. We’re grateful to have you all as fans and can’t wait to share this with you.

http://sun-voyager.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/sunvoyagerband
http://www.twitter.com/sunvoyager_rock
http://sunvoyagerband.tumblr.com
https://soundcloud.com/sunvoyager

Sun Voyager, “Black Angel”

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