Editor's Note: This story appeared in the December 2015 ORANGE Issue IV.
As 2015 draws to a close, every music publication is hurriedly compiling its annual best-of albums list. But while critics sing praises of Kendrick Lamar’s genre-bending, hip-hop manifesto and Adele’s old-soul stylings and powerhouse vocals, it’s important to remember the artists making masterpieces in our own backyards. This year was rife with local albums that pushed the envelope, so it’s essential to celebrate these achievements that preserve Austin’s musical reputation.
By Bryan Rolli
Click-Clack, “Untitled” Mixtape
Eric Mikulak is a busy man. Under his stage moniker Click-Clack, the 25-year-old MC has released a dizzying flurry of mixtapes and singles over the past two years, the latest being an untitled, 20-song mixtape featuring his most adventurous work yet. Mikulak is a master of dynamics, handling the sing-songy banger “Talking Heads” and the cloudy “Long Days” fluidly. He doesn’t shy away from his pop tendencies either, singing confidently and snarkily over tracks assembled by an all-star cast of producers you’ve probably never heard of — at least not yet. In the end, he’s still at his best when he’s flowing overtop jazzy, dreamy cuts like the yin-and-yang “Nahmeens” and “Yahmeens.” On Untitled, Mikulak’s execution finally caught up with his ambition.
Broken Gold, “Turning Blue” EP
Broken Gold’s roots are in Austin, but their music screams SoCal sunsets. Riverboat Gamblers guitarist Ian MacDougall crams his newest solo EP with shimmering guitar melodies, thunderous drums and indelible vocal hooks that straddle the line between melancholy and euphoric. The songs rock with abandon, evoking the spirit of a more on-key Dinosaur Jr. and a less nasally Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Broken Gold may describe themselves as “brambles thick, melodic post-punk,” but the chorus of “Turning Blue” is the perfect combination of arena rock and pure pop confection.
Insvrgence, “Every Living Creature Dies Alone”
Insvrgence is pissed off, and they’re letting everybody know. “Try as we might, we always fail,” singer James Wendt bellows on the aptly titled “Manifesto,” and from there, the politically-charged hardcore band unleashes a 13-track tidal wave of fury that is both tuneful and aggressive, drawing on melodic hardcore stalwarts the Ghost Inside and deathcore behemoths the Acacia Strain. Anybody who’s unsure about the band’s racial politics need look no further than the “Social Darwinism” video, which pieces together chilling clips of police brutality as Wendt sings, “The dream is dead/a bullet right through the head/the institution kills to preserve their privilege.” Questions closed.
Milezo, “Heads on Holiday”
There’s an alternate universe where the Beatles never broke up, Bob Dylan never made Victoria’s Secret commercials and everybody liked the Beach Boys’ “Smiley Smile” at the time of its release. That’s the universe Milezo thrives in. The brainchild of Miles Kelley, the quartet combines raggedy folk rock, dreamy psych-pop and wistful shoegaze to create an album that trods along effortlessly while still being inexplicably engaging. “Heads on Holiday” is not an explosive album — instead, the songs ignite slowly and simmer down gradually. But boy, is it fun to watch (and hear) them burn.
Capyac, “Movement Swallows Us”
I’m still not sure what the best environment to listen to Capyac’s new album is: a dark nightclub pressed up against hundreds of bodies moving to the music, or alone in your room with a pair of high-end headphones clapped over your ears. “Movement Swallows Us” is a brilliantly dense album with new layers and textures that reveal themselves during every listen. Rich synthesizers and pulsing beats set the backdrop for chilly keyboard leads, and soulful, multi-tracked vocals catapult to the forefront of every song. “Movement Swallows Us” is instantly digestible, but you’re better off chewing on this one for a while.