When I started to put together my favorite releases from Richmond bands this year, I quickly realized this was going to be a daunting task. There were so many great things to come out of RVA this year and it just floors me how much talent is in our own neighborhood.
While this is no means a “Best of” list, here are the albums that filled Richmond’s ears in 2015.
If any of the artists on this list have had a great year, it’s Natalie Prass. The indie pop darling has been getting love from the likes of Pitchfork, TIME, The Guardian, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, Stereogum, and more for her debut self-titled album. And Richmond’s own Spacebomb Records is certainly getting the accolades it deserves. You should also pick up Prass’ “Side by Side” EP, which came out in late 2015 and features covers of Simon & Garfunkel, Anita Baker and GRIMES.
Anousheh – Make Noise
Anousheh takes all her work that she’s done with EDM DJ group Deep Dish and as a solo folk artist and focuses her sound into indie pop. And it’s a seamless transition. “Make Noise” is a dark, mood-filled beautiful album that I can’t stop listening to. Songs like “Hold You” and “LTD” are on constant repeat.
Big Mama Shakes – As She Does
This album came completely out of left field. I had not heard of these guys until I got the chance to see them at the XL102 Local Exposure contest earlier this year. These guys used their Southern-filled Americana sound and worked over the crowd like no other band (hence why they won the competition). They since made their way into Richmond’s hearts (and my own), earning spots at Big Field Day and the RVA Playlist 5th Anniversary Party. “As She Does” is a fine collection of upbeat funk songs that will get you moving.
Horsehead – Casual Dracula
I’m more upset that the guys didn’t keep with the original title of this record, “The Vampire Strikes Back.” However, I can overlook that because “Casual Dracula” is a fun country rock album that clearly shows off Horsehead’s skills as a band. The energy on this record rivals most of their other releases.
No BS! Brass Band – Brass Knuckles
Richmond loves it some No BS! And No BS! loves it right back. This band has been putting the city in the national spotlight and with every release, they keep getting better. Just try not to shake it during “3am Bounce.”
Heartracer – Summer Gold
Travel back in time to 80s synth pop with this record. Formerly known as Cosby, Heartracer delivered one solid pop album this year and it’s refreshing to see artists like this. Songs like “Overboard” and the band’s namesake song “Heartracer” would not get out of my head. Get out your aviators and put this on blast.
The Trillions – Superposition
When the Trillions announced the release of their second full-length album “Superposition,” everyone in Richmond music circles (myself included) went bananas. The rock-filled album released in January was able to stay in rotation the entire year.
Matthew E. White – Fresh Blood
In addition to Natalie Prass’ stardom, Spacebomb also had a good year with White’s new record “Fresh Blood,” the follow-up to 2012’s insanely successful “Big Inner” and his first full-length album for Domino Records. It’s full of big sounds and bigger feelings wrapped in beautiful music.
The Southern Belles – Close to Sunrise
It is very hard to not be in a good mood when listening to the jam rock of the Southern Belles and “Close to Sunrise” clearly brings all the good feelings to the surface. Listen to this when you’re having a bad day and all will be right with the world.
Hoax Hunters – Clickbait
Hoax Hunters wins for the best album title this year. And the subsequent marketing of the record was hilarious as well (Which Hoax Hunters song are you? Find out here!). This band always finds a way to make loud, chaotic songs approachable and enjoyable for everyone. You won’t believe what Hoax Hunters is going to do next!
Positive No – Glossa
Few bands work as hard as noisy dream pop group Positive No. The effort I’ve seen from the group into getting this album out to people is astounding. That effort paid off with the lead single “Pedal Through” being featured on NPR thanks to its hilarious rendition of “Indie Rock Parking Lot.” “Glossa” is a great album from start to finish.
Against Grace – Lately
In the past few years, Against Grace has moved from a pop punk sound to a more synth-heavy presence. It’s been a good move for them as they’ve fine-tuned their sound. The group released single after single over the past years, but it’s nice to finally have a collection of these songs wrapped up in one well-crafted album.
Butcher Brown – Grown Folk
From the 70s funk style of the music to the vintage looking cover art, Butcher Brown’s “Grown Folk” is soothing soul music that’s just fun to listen to.
Flashlight Tag – Americana Electronica
Flashlight Tag, the two-man band comprised of Brian Phelps (Classic Monkey Shine, That Monster) and Justin Laughter (Silly Bus, junction), released an exploration and celebration of America with this record. It’s mixture of folk, rock, and pop that reimagines the American classics. Be warned, you’ll be suckered into a history lesson when you listen to this.
Sam Reed – This is Love
I couldn’t have been more excited to hear that the amazingly talented Sam Reed, who’s been part of such great groups as Photosynthesizers and Beast Wellington would be coming out with a brand new solo album. “This Is Love” shows off what a voice Reed has and its power to command attention.
The former Herro Sugar guys returned with a new name and a new self-titled record this year. The music contains elements of math rock and pop punk and it’s a fine example of how much power you can fit into one record.
League of Space Pirates – Precognitive Universe of Emergent Desire
If you’re unfamiliar with the League of Space Pirates, you’re missing out on a band of merry thieves in the far future battling against the tyranny of the villainous corporation Übercorp and bringing rock and roll justice to the entire universe. “Precognitive Universe of Emergent Desire” puts 25th Century style space rock into your ears as the fight for intergalactic freedom lives on.
Goldrush – Summer Sun
Known for its crazy antics on stage involving science, tequila, and Carl Sagan, the ever-talented indie pop band, Goldrush released its “Summer Sun” EP with an actual working sundial and five songs of friendship and love. Many of the songs were directly influenced by a violent attack on songwriter Prabir Mehta in 2014 as well as the strengthening of community following the assault. It’s a sentimental record that doesn’t lose any of the fun Goldrush is known for.
Lightfields – Melodies
I’m a bad Lightfields fan because this EP completely slipped past my radar until later this year. The EP may only be three songs but they are the three catchiest damn songs I’ve ever heard.
Jonathan Vassar and the Badlands – Reckless Thoughts
Richmond’s minstrel of folk music is back with a new record with his new group the Badlands, made up of Grant Hunnicutt (formerly of Mermaid Skeletons and River City Band), Nate Mathews of the Richmanian Ramblers and the Moonbees, and Curtis Wayne Patton. The music of “Reckless Thoughts” is full of imagery and somber, haunting folk melodies.