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A Very GUTR Year

Give Up The Roast is a column that collides delicious caffeine with wild thrashing a la a bi-monthly coffee and punk album pairingthe perfect combination  for perking you up during that midday slump. Here, columnist Shannon Shreibak investigates all of the notes, from fruit rinds and spices to perfect fifths smothered in grinding distortion. So come on all you coffee shop novelists, DIY freaks, and connoisseurs of fine tastekeep your mind here in the GUTR and catch a buzz with us.

Ah, one year closes, and Pandora’s Box of roundup lists and album countdowns begins! Resisting the urge to reflect upon a year of new musical discoveries, lauded albums and infallible songs is futile, so I’m just gonna ride this wave. I’m breaking down 2015 into the best coffee and music that the year had to offer for a very special edition of Give Up The Roast (the last installment of 2015 to boot!).


Not unlike every year that has preceded it, 2015 has pleasantly surprised me with the glut of eye-opening, genre-defying releases into the audiosphere. In the interest of clarity, my picks remained within GUTR’s wheelhouse genres consisting of all the ‘cores and generally the heavier side of things. Here’s what kept my ears ringing and heart singing throughout 2015:


1.) “Abyss” by Chelsea Wolfe
I’ve been hooked on Chelsea Wolfe’s moonlit doom folk since stumbling upon her masterful 2013 release “Pain Is Beauty.” Taking Wolfe’s haunting soprano and neofolk soundscapes into far more industrial territory, “Abyss” serves as the gothy Californian’s war cry. With help from Russian Circles’ Mike Sullivan, Wolfe crafts a cavernous wall of sound that’ll be booming through the new year.  


2.) “The Agent Intellect” by Protomartyr
The follow-up to the Detroit quartet’s infallible 2014 LP, “The Agent Intellect” dives deeper into Protomartyr’s post-punk parables with trickster wordplay, skin-diving melodies and ear worm grooves. With “The Agent Intellect,” the glam ‘n glum band build a world out of the sonic shrapnel accumulated over the course of three albums—a world where we’re all happy to be alone.


3.) “No Life For Me” by Wavves & Cloud Nothings
The whiney wake ‘n bake laments of Nathan Williams (Wavves) and the gravelly yawps of Dylan Baldi (Cloud Nothings) barely seems like a plausible—let alone pleasurable—sonic match. But dreams come true as often as our nightmares in this world, and collaborative LP “No Life For Me” thrashes across a skuzzy, hash punk middle ground. From experimentations with scraggly feedback and fuzzed-out melodies, “No Life For Me” showcases the strongholds of the West Coast-meets-Rust Belt partnership with key cuts like “How’s It Gonna Go,” “Come Down” and “Nervous.”


4.) “When People Grow, People Go” by Blacklisted
The six years in the making follow-up to “No One Deserves To Be Here More Than Me,” Blacklisted does not disappoint with their melody shirking approach to hardcore. The record is straight-up fists-and-fury hardcore that packs a refreshing punch amidst the band’s moody art school counterparts. While “When People Grow…” risks meathead posturing, experimentation bubbles beneath the surface, proving that a band—no matter how old—can grow lean and mean with age.


5.) “II” by Metz
When Metz frontman Alex Edkins assured fans of their sophomore album: “We are not going to clean up our sound, we are not going to hire a big producer, we are not going to try to write a radio song,” a collective sigh of relief was released from devotees of the Toronto noisemakers. Crafting ten essential cuts of sonic hubris (“Acetate” and “Spit You Out” among the highlights), the duo released yet another volume of anti-melodic songs singing the praises of disorder and damnation.

Honorable Mentions: “New Bermuda” by Deafheaven, “Songs of Lament” by Yautja, “Further Out” by Cloakroom, “What Went Down” by Foals, “Ty Rex” by Ty Segall (technically a reissue, but what the hey; my list, my rules.), “Negative Feedback Resistor” by Destruction Unit, “Time To Go Home” by Chastity Belt, “No Cities to Love” by Sleater-Kinney.


1.) T.I.W.Y.G.” by Savages
A long-awaited war cry from the British quartet, which is cutting its teeth into bleaker sounds and swaths of noise for their for their forthcoming album.

2.) “The Separation” by Ceremony
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that the Rohnert Park punks have made a foray into some extreme new wave sounds, but this song ameliorated my grief and left me (dare I say it?) dancing a wee bit.

3.) “Symmy” by Meat Wave
With a name like Meat Wave, there is no disappointing listeners hungry for off-kilter beach-inspired punk. “Symmy” is a jangly nugget of lo-fi rock from the Chicago-based trio.

4.) “We Are The Water” by Coliseum
Never strangers to a punchy hook, the Southern bloodhounds have returned with “Anxiety’s Kiss,” an album chockfull of grating melodies and punchy backline. “We Are The Water” is the album’s opening track, one suitable enough for the dingy DIY stage as it is for the dance floor.

5.) “Basic Skills” by Self Defense Family
Overall, Self Defense Family’s simmering 2015 release “Heaven Is Earth” left me yearning for more gristle and grit from Patrick Kindlon’s collective. “Basic Skills” is an album highlight that harkens back to the band’s days as the rough-and-tumble outfit End Of A Year.

Honorable Mentions: “Torches” by Birds in a Row, “Love” by Loma Prieta, “Burnt Palms” by Blacklisted, “Shock Me” by Baroness, “Servilia” by War on Women, “The Black Plot” by High On Fire, “Iron Moon” by Chelsea Wolfe, “Plans” by Worriers, “Crush on the Derbyshire” by Chrome Over Brass, “Continental Shelf” by Viet Cong.


It wouldn’t be a year of GUTR without some quality brews, eh? Here’s what I’ll be sipping well into the new year:


1.) Blue Bottle Coffee’s Bella Donovan
There’s a reason that this blend sparkles as the crowning jewel of Blue Bottle’s coffee program. Affectionately referred to as the “wool sweater” of their blends for its comforting aura and taste, Blue Bottle packs all of the sentimentality of coffee’s ritual into Bella Donovan. Combining bright and citrusy African notes with the earth tones of Indonesia, the blend is complex without overwhelming the palate.

2.) Stumptown Coffee’s Holler Mountain
The Holler Mountain blend has been my longtime standalone coffee, but lately I’ve been drinking it as an espresso, unlocking a whole new landscape of flavors. The citrus bursts brighter, the caramelly texture smoother and the nutty overtones swath broader with each sip. A pairing of Latin American smoothness and east African zest, Holler Mountain is one of the most versatile blends on shelves.

3.) Colectivo Coffee’s Black & Tan
A dark roast with not a glimmer of brightness, this is a tried-and-true wintertime brew bursting with complexity. Taking a cue from the classic pub drink, Colectivo’s take on the Black & Tan boasts the same balance of dark and light, but with a region-specific twist.  A bottom-heavy dark roast intermingles with a light roast’s sparks of brightness. Toss those beans in Colectivo’s endlessly charming label design, and you’re sippin’ on the full package.

4.) La Colombe’s Haiti – Mare Blanche
Hissing with notes of black pepper, vanilla and buttery sassafras, I was sold on this roast from the cupping notes onward. Not only does throwing back a cup (or three…) of Mare Blanche do your palate good, but the brew also benefits the global community—La Colombe is on a mission to stimulate the coffee industry in Haiti one bag of beans at a time.

5.) Madcap Coffee’s Finca Chelin
As Madcap’s first Mexican coffee, Finca Chelin had some lofty expectations to exceed. As per usual with the Grand Rapids-based roastery, Madcap managed to top themselves yet again with this syrupy, cinnamon spiked roast. Finca Chelin is jammy, yet leaves no trace of muddied fruit notes and offers a clean sip without any tinny aftertaste.


As 2015 comes to a close, we’re scheming and dreaming over at GUTR headquarters, and change is afoot. Hold onto your Harios—GUTR will continue to pair pinnacle albums with the best coffee the world has to offer, but the column’s breadth is widening. No longer restricted to hardcore and metal, GUTR will begin to explore definitive albums of genres across the board, and widening the scope of coffee pairings: Think A Tribe Called Quest going toe-to-toe with the most vibrant cortado of the Southern Hemisphere; the transformative tunes of PJ Harvey enjoyed with a silky smooth (and locally sourced!) hazlenut latté; some sweet ‘n mellow Julien Baker sipped with some Southern caffeinated comfort.

It’s only gonna get louder from here: from the songs to the sips, people.

Column by Shannon Shreibak. Go forth and be loud with her on Twitter @ShannonShreibak.

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