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Best of 2015

Top Album Discoveries

of 2015

 

We’ve come to that time of year when everyone and their Dad puts together a list of their favourite albums, songs, and shows. Since I dive into the archives just as much as I follow the trends, I’ve taken a different approach to my Top Ten. My favourite discoveries from the year not only includes albums from several different decades, but also a few EPs and greatest hits compilations. Hey, it’s my blog, I make the rules.
 

Ghost Meliora Cover1. GhostMeliora

Despite what I just said, this album actually did come out in 2015, and is undoubtedly one of the best. The third album from this Swedish metal band enshrouded in mystery (the general public still doesn’t know who they actually are) measures up to both of their previous efforts. The “new” Papa Emeritus shows off an increasingly impressive vocal range, and songwriting that somehow still evades the satanic-band pigeonhole.

Check Out: From the Pinnacle to the Pit, Cirice
 

John Carpenter Lost Themes Cover2. John CarpenterLost Themes

Another release from 2015, this album is a must-listen for any fans of horror (yeah, it’s that John Carpenter). While he has scored films in the past, this is his first stand-alone album. Synth-heavy, he has not let go of his penchant for that good ol’ *bizoooouu* sound, and that is absolutely a good thing. To put it simply, this is a soundtrack just waiting for an accompanying 80s slasher.

Check Out: Vortex, Domain
 

Alvvays Album Cover3. AlvvaysAlvvays

This album grew on me steadily, while the band ended up at every event I worked on in 2015 (seriously). Short listed for the Polaris Music Prize this year, it was my choice for the top honours (but ended up going to Buffy Sainte Marie). Comprised of dreamy shoegaze, and slow, haunting melodies these songs don’t initially seem like earworm material—that is until you find yourself singing “marry me, oh Archie” for days on end.

Check Out: Archie, Marry Me, Next of Kin
 

Standstills From the Devils Porch Cover4. The StandstillsFrom the Devil’s Porch

This is a band I’ve been following since I serendipidously walked into their NXNE set at Cherry Cola’s a few years ago. Having thoroughly enjoyed their 2012 album Pushing Electric, I purchased this EP on a whim as 2015 came to a close, and have been eagerly aquainting myself with it. Doling out grungy, pulsating, power rock, this two-piece knows who they are and what they do best. Expect to see them around more and more in the near future.

Check Out: Orleans
 

Lights Little Machines Cover5. LightsLittle Machines

Released in late 2014 to a surprising amount of critical acclaim, it took me way too long to pick up this album, considering that I’ve been a (somewhat closeted) Lights fan for years. Now a wife and mother, the songwriting has matured to the expected degree, all while retaining her signature pairing of sugar-sweet vocals with with themes of depression, love, and loneliness.

Check Out: Muscle Memory, Running With the Boys
 

Independents Do It Again Cover6. The IndependentsDo It Again

Since their appearance at Rue Morgue’s Festival of Fear in 2014, the Independents have become both friends, and a favourite band of mine. Having picked up the newer end of their catalogue at the Con, I had to wait until they returned to Toronto in February of this year in order to get the rest since they’re a little too, uh, independent, to be found in local record shops. Just like their seminal albums Back from the Grave, and Eternal Bond, Do It Again is a criminally underrated, short and snappy horror-punk/ska album. Highly recommended if you’re a fan of the Ramones, Elvis, or the Misfits.

Check Out: Black Dream, Free
 

Nim Vind Stillness Illness Cover7. Nim VindStillness Illness

File this one under “how have I not heard about them until now?” I fell face-first into this Canadian band’s entire horror-infused catalogue this past year, with a particular penchant for 2009’s The Stillness Illness. Difficult to describe, their sound is somewhere between the darkness of the Misfits, the vintage hard-rockabilly sound of Volbeat and the romance of H.I.M.

Check Out: Suicide Pact, Killing Saturday Night
 

Ramones Pleasant Dreams Cover8. RamonesRoad to Ruin & Pleasant Dreams

Confession time: I was big into 1970s punk in my high school years. As in many genres, music snobs tend to pit certain bands against each other, and I chose the Sex Pistols over their contemporaries in the Ramones, and the Clash. And though I had a Ramones anthology and knew all their popular tunes, I kinda wrote them off as a three-chord, hockey-arena-anthem punk band. That is, until this year when a few of my friends—appalled at my oversight—showed me the error of my ways. The result is a continuously growing love affair with their extended catalogue, in particular the hopeless romanticisim and 50s pop sounds on Road to Ruin and Pleasant Dreams.

Check Out: Needles and Pins, Don’t Go
 

Jay Smith Album Cover9. Jay SmithJay Smith

As a Matt Mays fan, I already knew about the unfortunate passing of his guitarist Jay Smith while on tour in 2013. But it wasn’t until a recent trip to Halifax that I actually heard—and was struck by— his solo work. A poignant, and catchy album with lots of swoon-worthy steel guitar, it boasts a certain Maritime-ness, and kinship to Mays’ sound. Pop this one in on your next long-distance drive.

Check Out: Hurts Like Hell, Partner in Crime
 

Platinum Blonde Seven Year Itch Cover10. Platinum BlondeSeven Year Itch (1982-1989)

Guitly pleasure alert! I went from not being able to name any Platinum Blonde songs, to realizing that I knew all their hits, thanks to a little trip down the Youtube rabbit hole. Turns out that a lot of the stuff I’d heard growing up (and in my office where we unabashedly rock out to retro radio tunes) was not actually by Duran Duran, or the Cure, or any other popular international acts. Though some of that confusion can be attributed to Robert Smith providing vocals on the Crystal Castles’ remix of Not in Love. Do some listening, I guarantee you’ll be surprised too.

Check Out: It Doesn’t Really Matter, Crying Over You
 

Dearly Beloved 7 Inch CoverBonus: Dearly BelovedWho Wants to Know/Resolution 7″

At a mere two songs, I didn’t think it was quite fair to let this release occupy an entire spot on my top ten list. But though it is a small offering, it’s not easily ignored. A sort of place holder for fans while the band bounces between endless tours and writing cycles, the 7 inch contains Who Wants to Know, and Resolution. Toying with a new venture into classic rock, both songs are drenched in the desert vibe that has come with their last couple of albums, and hints at future sounds.

Check Out: Who Wants to Know

 

Polaris 2013

Polaris Prize Banner 2013

Short List Predictions


 

It’s that again! When “music people” such as myself wrack their brains to try and predict the Polaris Music Prize Short List. This year was difficult, as there weren’t as many standout albums for me on the Long List as in previous years. But here are a few that caught my ear:

A Tribe Called RedNation II Nation
 
Alaclair EnsembleLes maigres blancs d’Amérique du Noir
 
The Besnard LakesUntil In Excess, Imperceptible UFO
 
Hannah GeorgasHannah Georgas
 
Jim GuthrieTakes Time
 
Kid Koala12 bit Blues
 
Danny Michel with the Garifuna CollectiveBlack Birds Are Dancing Over Me
 
AC NewmanShut Down The Streets
 
SuunsImages du futur
 
Tegan and SaraHeartthrob

 
Find out on July 16th how horribly off I am!

Top Albums of 2012

Top Albums

0f 2012

 
 
Like most music geeks, I take great pleasure in agonizing over which albums made my year worth living. And while a lot of my discoveries in 2012 were albums released in 2011 (thanks to the JUNOs and Polaris), I did manage to put together a list of the best music made in what could have been our last year on earth.
 
 

fun. Some Nights1. fun. Some Nights

Without a doubt, the soundtrack to my year- from excitement to heartbreak. Every song has a distinct, grandiose arrangement; full of heart. Not to mention lyrics just aching to be tattooed; describing so perfectly how you’re feeling, how you felt at a particular moment.

Check out: Why Am I The One, One Foot, Some Nights
 
 

DB Hawk vs Pigeon2. Dearly Beloved Hawk vs. Pigeon

Shocking, I know,  my dear friends have ended up on a “best of” list. But I assure you, this inclusion is based solely on my continued awe that I’m acquainted with such ridiculously creative and talented humans. Written and recorded in the High Desert, this, their fourth album, focuses on the intensity found in the spaces between sounds.

Check out: To Better Days, Trash, Living Proof
 
 

Cookie Duster- When Flying Was Easy3. Cookie Duster When Flying Was Easy

Daydreamy, space pop from Brendan Canning’s once defunct late-1990s group. Now post Broken Social Scene, Canning’s reunited and re-furbished the band with some seasoned Canadian friends. Sometimes dark and rock-infused, sometimes sweet and sugary; the album delivers substance while satisfying your bubblegum cravings.

Check out: Two Feet Stand Up, Standing Alongside Gone, Cut Me Focus
 
 

Blaqk Audio Bright Black Heaven4. Blaqk Audio Bright Black Heaven

Perhaps being given permission by the success of 2007’s CexCells, AFI’s Davey Havok and Jade Puget’s second side project release, Bright Black Heaven, is ultra brooding, angsty, and flamboyant. Caught somewhere between industrial, goth, and electronic, the lyrics play out like the melodrama you’d expect to see on a teenage Robert Smith’s Facebook page.

Check out:  Ill-Lit Ships, With Your Arms Around You, Bliss
 
 

hunting-season-front-cover5. Hands & Teeth Hunting Season

If I were to do such things, this album would be on my list to fill a certain hipster, super-indie, “recorded it in my basement” quota. Fact is; it’s a solid album with a breadth of sounds, thanks in part to the bands’ multiple vocal leads.

Check out: Missing, It’s Coming Back
 
 


YAMANTAKA-SONIC-TITAN-YT-ST-ytst_BandCamp_Cover-260x2606. Yamantaka//Sonic Titan YT//ST

This epic experimental piece from the two piece Toronto-Montreal performance art group was short-listed for the Polaris Music Prize. Combining traditional Asian and aboriginal music with opera, synthesizers and rock, this album is more than songs, it’s a soundscape.

Check out: Queens, Hoshi Neko
 
 

Jack White Blunderbuss7. Jack White Blunderbuss

Is Jack White capable of doing anything poorly? That remains to be seen; his first solo album exuding a sense of artistic freedom and just not giving a fuck. Whether you like him or not, you can’t deny that he’ll always be the coolest guy in the room.

Check out: Sixteen Saltines, Take Me With You When You Go
 
 

Ariane Moffatt MA8. Ariane Moffatt MA

Probably not an album that most people were talking about this year (at least in English Canada), but definitely worth a listen. Moffatt infuses 80s synth pop with an Emily Haines sultriness, giving convincing (and almost equally weighted) performances in both French and English.

Check out: Mon Corps, In Your Body, Rules of Legal Love
 
 

Amanda Palmer Theatre is Evil9. Amanda Palmer Theatre is Evil

This Kickstarter-funded album which caused a stir earlier this year has proven its worth (amongst the expected controversy). Staying true to her characteristic brutal honesty, raw vocals, and cabaret style (with the help of the Grand Theft Orchestra), this one will please the fans who’ve been around since the Dresden Dolls days.

Check out: Do It With a Rockstar, Grown Man Cry
 
 

Muse The 2nd Law10. Muse 2nd Law

Muse is known for dabbling with different sounds on each new release, so it’s no surprise that their sixth album comes with a foray into dubstep. While that might sound like an abomination, it’s done sparingly and it works. A few songs even throw back to the Absolution era, so all is not lost. Trust me. Seriously.

Check out: Panic Station, Madness, Follow Me
 

Polaris 2012

Get to Know Your Short List

Yamantaka//Sonic Titan

YT//ST

Perhaps the most unique and exciting entry on this year’s Short List is Yamantaka//Sonic Titan‘s YT//ST. A Toronto/Montreal art collective founded in 2007 by artists Alaska B and Ruby Kato Attwood; their sound is a mixture of various Asian and First Nations aesthetics.
 
Though only 7 tracks long, YT//ST is expansive. Airy, reverberant and spread out, the result is a dreamy, fantastical soundscape. Conventional rock instrumentation is melded with electronics, and haunting, multilingual choral voices to create epic symphonies.
 
You might call Yamantaka//Sonic Titan this year’s Austra. Like Austra (who, to my dismay did not win in 2011), these girls deserve the prize based on pure artistic courage and innovation alone. Afterall, Polaris is one of the few awards that celebrates those who think outside the box.
 
The winner will be chosen at the Polaris Gala on September 24th in Toronto. Catch the live webcast on Muchmusic.com

Polaris 2012

Get to Know Your Short List

Grimes

Visions

Claire Boucher, better known as Vancouver’s Grimes, has finally hit the Polaris Short List with her third effort, Visions. All of which is pretty impressive, considering she’s only just 24.
 
A visual artist, music video director, and singer-songwriter, Grimes is a bit hard to pin down. As is her sound; often described as “experimental”, it falls somewhere between industrial and synthpop. Visions is the soundtrack to a dark rave, infused with vocals like the twinkling of the tiniest star.
 
While some find Grimes’ industrial-strength glitter a tad aurally tiresome, Polaris is known for championing the eclectic. Check out inaugural winner Final Fantasy, or 2008’s Carbiou.
 
The winner will be chosen at the Polaris Gala on September 24th in Toronto. Catch the live webcast on Muchmusic.com