A few overlooked acts in 2015: The half-way through edition

manarayby Jack Derricourt, Laura Stanley, & Michael Thomas 

Usually this post is reserved for the end of the year but our inbox has been flooded with so much great music lately that we decided to round up some of the stuff we’ve missed from the first half of this year. Please enjoy our (metaphorical) dusting off of some EPs and albums we almost didn’t get to.

Half Old – Boat Culture

About a minute into Boat Culture’s standout poppy track “Come Home,” their lead singer cries, “I’ll be coming home soon, everything is going to be fine.” A deft summary of the band’s debut EP itself, Half Old is a comforting and familiar blend of upbeat rock and trendy descriptive words like “lo-fi,” and probably “jangle pop,” that feels very good. Boat Culture don’t use those trendy descriptors though, instead, according to Facebook, are a “dreamy + steamy” band. Floating along the EP, the title track has almost zero-visibility thanks to heavy distortion, “Out Of Your Head” is a bouncy, guitar solo-filled track, and “Tanns” is a high energy rock song; a hearty combination of the familiar. – LS


Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

Counterfeit Jeans – Counterfeit Jeans

Heavy songs fall like steel grapes. Recorded at Jed’s place, these five songs display an aptitude for the obvious without much else to offer. The feedback and fuzz feed a need built up in the 80s, and laconic drums swoon around the structures with little to say. There’s a song called “Voilence” though, and that’s nice. –JD


Rating: Young Hoot (Decent)

Ingrained – Carly Dow

Rarely does a short Twitter bio so perfectly encapsulate what you can expect from a musical act, but “wildcrafted soul-folk” perfectly describes the incredible album from Manitoba’s Carly Dow. Ingrained is a fully stocked arsenal of folk weapons—indeed, one song never closely resembles the last. Opener “Olive Branch” is a tremendous way to kick off an album—a cappella with some stomping and clapping, followed immediately by the appropriately dusty “Soil to Dust,” which features the required pedal steel along with some solid drumming and banjo. “This Dress” ventures into classic-rock territory, and “Not a Songbird” is almost on par with the stark emotion of Basia Bulat’s “It Can’t Be You.” Fittingly, the album ends with the semi-lullaby “All Sleep In Tonight” which actually includes the line “I will sing you a lullaby.” We are down with Dow. –MT

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

End Times EP – Dead Land

Dead Land sound exactly like you think they would. Both of the experimental, all instrumental, tracks that make up End Times swirl and drag on like a cloud of dust in a barren landscape. A spooky and weighty listen, the chilling cries in “Ghosts Of The Civil Dead” feel like a desperate call for help while the cacophony in “End Times” really makes it seem like the end is near. – LS


Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

Parks at Night – Parks at Night

Via straight-laced, reverb-devoid production with vacuum experiment tendencies, these sounds live in the space between Strokes guitar and sing-song harmonies of a more classically punk/ new wave vibe. The Parks provide beautifully simple personal songs, combined with steady shuffle beats and stringed downstrokes; it’s a combination you’ve heard before, but thanks to the cut and dry production it sounds novel. Tasteful and fulfilling, especially the dual vocal layering. – JD


Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

People Doesn’t Care/1955 – Blackpaw Society

The mysterious Toronto entity Blackpaw Society is wasting no time after last year’s brilliant Lessons in Leisure Vol. 2 and here, he’s re-imagining what 50s and 60s songs would sound like recorded in the here and now. It’s no gimmick—this is a deft and masterful album that runs just shy of 30 minutes. At times, you’ll feel like you’re submerged into a dream, like the appropriately titled “Dream.mod,” which begins like a Glee episode on acid. “Mad Scientists” seems like it’ll pull you into a lullaby but abruptly changes course. “Trash” is a beautiful, blistering opener thanks to the wall of guitar and funky bass, while “Ghost Corps” is the perfect, poppy summer anthem. “Strange/Fiktionkicks” reminds me in all the best ways of English Words, and “1982” shows how easy it is to make a catchy song with a minimalistic backdrop. One of the best albums of the year, perhaps. –MT


Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) +*swoop*

Three Songs for Hunky Bunker – Don Lovely

Is it too easy to say Don Lovely are lovely? I even don’t care because it’s true. Three Songs for Hunky Bunker is an enthusiastic trio of power-pop made even better by the unique tone of lead singer Noel Macdonald’s voice. Both “Game of Chance” and “Think of Me” have a like-minded energy, the latter with slightly more urgency thanks to lyrics like, “If I ran, would you run my way?” The closer combats a “Dull Idea” with a drum, heavy symbol, and synth combo that’s anything but boring. – LS


Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

Manaray – Manaray

Don’t you love when an artist surprises you? I’m a sucker for garage/surf/bubblegum pop, which is what Manaray are giving the world with gusto. Lots of repetition, speak-singing, and fuzzed-out lead guitar work make Manaray a lot of fun to listen to. These guys are like a diesel fueled tambourine set alight on Venice Beach — a little dramatic, I know, but entirely merited. Everything is fuzzy and reverberating, which is great. Everything is sweetly coated and sinister in nature: it’s easy to say so when you have songs named “Angel” and “666” on the same album. –JD


Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) +*swoop*

MUSKET – Savant Flaneur

In just four songs, “chamber punk” duo Savant Flaneur make quite the first impression. Their organ/synth/cello combination makes for some inventive digressions through atmosphere, with “Joinery” setting the stage with some lo-fi backing beats and organ before the cello joins in and adds new layers. “Musket” is grim, creepy and frantic all at the same time, leading to the demented hymnal-aping “Train,” before ending with the alarmingly creepy VHS-horror atmosphere of “Cuddles.” Just like the weapon it’s named after, the EP can be surprising. – MT


Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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