FEATURE: The Best 7″s of 2015
by Chad Jewett
The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die
Death To New Years
Released only a few months before the The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die’s magisterial sophomore full-length, Harmlessness, Death To New Years at once presaged that album’s grand spaciousness and offered a slightly more compact, linear approach, hushed and ruminative where so much of Harmlessness is effusive and dramatic. “From The Crow’s Nest on Fire Street” might occasionally swell and soar like “I Can Be Afraid of Anything”, but it’s more traditional structure fits its smaller vessel: Death To New Years plays like circa-2015 World Is, as written for the limited space of a 7” as opposed to the wider expanse of a full LP. The results are agreeably intimate, finding the band doing evocative, moving things with a quieter approach.
Taking the arch, withering post-hardcore of the band’s brilliant 2014 LP If Anything and adding a bit more space and texture, Greys’ brief, biting three-song Repulsion found the band adding increasing nuance and studio imagination to what was already some of the absolute best punk music of the last few years. “The Voyeur” might very much echo the In Utero-meets-Hot Snakes venom of Greys’ previous work, but the song also added clarity and sharpness to that punchy garage-core charge. The record’s real highlight is the jurassic stomp of “I’d Hate To Be An Actor”, an artfully melting three minutes of art-punk sludge that maintains the Toronto quartet’s uncanny ability to remain tuneful even at their most aggressively caustic.
Kids Get Grids
Initially available as a limited Record Store Day release, Kids Get Grids found Braid extending the conversational melodies and crisp, sepia-toned emo strums of their excellent 2014 comeback, No Coast. The 7”s flipside features a great cover of Broken Hearts Are Blue’s “Because I Am”, but the record is truly defined by its title track, a minor key slow-burner that lends a slightly darker hue to the general brightness of No Coast. Split between singers Bob Nanna (who handles the song’s hushed, moody verses) and Chris Broach (who pitches in for a call-and-response chorus), “Kids Get Grids” finds the band maintaining what made their most recent full-length great – especially that compelling back-and-forth between Broach and Nanna – while directing that approach towards something new.
After a ten year absence following their 2005 LP Ominosity, Chapel Hill post-hardcore greats Milemarker (now relocated to Germany) suddenly reappeared with an excellent two-song 7” that retroactively underlined just how sorely missed the band’s tense, glitchy art-punk actually was. Part Danse Macabre-era Faint techno-paranoia, part Devo robo-garage strut, EP highlight “Conditional Love” is at once playful in its vampy, electro-clash punk and deadly in earnest in the tension built from the song’s sharp angles and uncanny, computerized vocals. Milemarker’s Bandcamp page promises a forthcoming full-length, and after hearing just how confident and pitch-perfect this 7” is, that theoretical LP is already one of the most anticipated releases of 2016.
Palpably more overcast and minor-key than 2013’s excellent Audible, Disappear found Football, etc. pivoting subtly away from the brighter, more warmly tuneful aesthetic that marked their past work. It was a daring choice, and one that required more attention be paid to the sense of mood and texture that defines highlights “Sweep” and “Open” (both glacially-paced and artfully formless) rather than the sparkling, Get Up Kids-esque forward-motion of past triumphs like “Fair” or “Red Zone”. But as a concise, coherent whole, Disappear succeeds precisely because it feels like a measured but very real change of course for the Houston trio, a compact artistic statement that gratifyingly maintains both its challenges and its rewards.
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