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

The Sunburst EP by Valley continues to resonate, as do splits from Goya & Wounded Giant and King Buffalo & Lé Betre. plus Derelics‘ IntroducingTime Rift‘s demo, the Carpet 7″, Watchtower‘s EP, Eternal Black‘s debut demo, Dorre‘s half-hour single One Collapsed at the Altar, and Mount Desert‘s two-songer all deserve serious consideration, as well I’m sure as many others.


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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Wight, Helicopter Mama 7″: Fly On, Baby

Posted in Reviews on August 14th, 2015 by JJ Koczan


They’re in and out in under 10 minutes, but Wight‘s new 7″, Helicopter Mama b/w I Wanna Know What You Feel (which we’ll shorted to just Helicopter Mama from here on out), could easily serve as a landmark for the German band going forward. Pressed in an edition of 333 copies with 111 in black, 111 in green and 111 others in various color vinyl and released by Fat and Holy Records to coincide with an Aug. 2015 European tour (info here) and help fund the making of their next full-length, it’s also the first studio work they’ve done since their second album, Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here) came out in 2012.

True, they’ve had a couple live digital offerings since, but Helicopter Mama marks a return to the studio, and it’s also their first outing as a foursome, having recorded Through the Woods into Deep Water and their 2011 debut, Wight Weedy Wight (review here), as the trio of guitarist/vocalist/recording engineer René Hofmann, bassist Peter-Philipp Schierhorn and Thomas Kurek prior to adding percussionist Steffen Kirchpfening in 2014. That is a big change in itself, but even the jump from a three- to a four-piece doesn’t really capture the scale of the progression Wight have evidently undertaken in the last three years. Where Through the Woods into Deep Water brimmed with heavy psychedelic vitality, exploding its way through earthy but still spacious jams and rolling riffs, Helicopter Mama is even more of a turn than that album was as compared to Wight Weedy Wight, leaving behind most of the psychedelic flourish and instead digging into a classic soul and funk influence across both “Helicopter Mama” and “I Wanna Know What You Feel.”

Calling it a surprise would be underselling it, but Wight warned their listeners ahead of the new songs making their way out that they were up to something different going forward, and while it’s entirely possible that by the time they get around to their third long-player, they’ll be on a completely different trip, it’s worth noting that they do a heavy funk style extremely well. “Helicopter Mama” — which I didn’t at first until I read the lyrics, but you’ve probably heard the phrase “helicopter parent” before, so extrapolate from that — is wah-soaked ’70s-style funk, what they used to call “hard funk,” and it shows a decided Funkadelic/Sly Stone influence, but Hofmann delivers a soulful vocal that not only makes it believable, but winds up carrying the track as a whole.

It starts with a gong hit and a snare roll, but “Helicopter Mama” itself is all swank and swing, and it keeps its loose feel for the duration, through verses and choruses and into a heavier vibing second half, Kirchpfening making his presence felt while the track nestles into a late chorus that brings to mind some of Cherry Choke‘s soulful psychedelics without losing either its rhythmic pulse or forward movement. Last line of the song is “Some things never change,” but clearly some things do. This fusion continues to be the core of what Wight bring to the table on “I Wanna Know What You Feel,” but they tilt the balance more to the rock side, and wind up absolutely nailing a modernized take on a Rare EarthHumble Pie-style funk/rock blend, complete with a backing chorus, consistent psychedelic underpinnings to the classic blues rock swing and a push into a gospel-style vocal arrangement that not only ties together with “Helicopter Mama”‘s funkified spirit, but further expands the context of Wight‘s aesthetic shift as well.

So Wight are both embarking on this stylistic turn and showing an immediate range within it on Helicopter Mama, which makes the 7″ even more impressive. It would be one thing if they came into the tracks sort of hemming about and timid, but between how Hofmann belts out “Helicopter Mama” from the gut and the swaggering groove of “I Wanna Know What You Feel,” the only thing one might call “safe” about the release is the fact that the band clearly waited until they knew what they were doing before they put it out. They’ve given themselves multiple avenues through which to continue to grow, and I’d very much doubt these two songs are the limits of what they’re looking to accomplish within this range — or, for that matter, outside of it, since if Wight came back with a record that tied these sounds with some of the last record’s jammy propensity, it would be hard to say it didn’t make sense as a next move.

Neither would I mind if they pushed their funkish propensity into all-out weirdness and wound up layering in effected solos and backwards loops à la some 1970-style soul weirdness. Only their next record will tell where they wind up, and even that will only tell as far as itself, but it says something about the success of the sampling Wight give on Helicopter Mama that it’s so easy to be excited about what they might do to follow it up. Until they get there, they’ve given those familiar with their past work a look at where they’re headed and offered anyone who hadn’t climbed on board yet a welcoming reason and means by which to do so. Again, it’s a quick offering, but it accomplishes much in its short runtime and I’ve very quickly come to consider it among the best short releases I’ve heard in 2015.

Wight, Helicopter Mama (2015)

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