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Top 40 albums of 2015 

Four Coast music critics make their picks of new releases.

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Adria Young's Top 10
Babysitter, Babysitter (Psychic Handshake)
Drake, If You're Reading This It's Too Late (OVO/YMCMB)
Freak Heat Waves, Bonnie's State of Mind (Hockey Dad)
Future, Dirty Sprite 2 (Epic)
Hag Face, R.I.P. (Psychic Handshake)
Justin Bieber, Purpose (Def Jam)
Nap Eyes, Whine of the Mystic (You've Changed)
New Fries/Old & Weird, Juice (Pleasance Records)
Un Blonde, Water the Next Day (Egg Paper Factory)
Young Thug, Barter 6 (300/Atlantic)


Doug Taylor's Top 10
Buddy Guy, Born to Play Guitar (RCA)
Chilly Gonzales, Chambers (Gentle Threat)
Gary Clarke Jr., The Story of Sonny Boy Slim(Warner)
Gypsophilia, Night Swimming(Forward)
Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free (Southeastern)
J.D. McPherson, Let The Good Times Roll (Rounder)
Lianne La Havas, Blood (Warner)
New Order, Music Complete (Mute)
Old Man Luedecke, Domestic Eccentric (True North)
Whitehorse, Leave No Bridge Unburned (Six Shooter)


Ryan McNutt's Top 10
Beach Slang, The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us (Polyvinyl)
Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Style (Matador)
Carly Rae Jepsen, E-Mo-Tion (Interscope)
Chvrches, Every Open Eye (Glassnote)
Grimes, Art Angels (4AD)
Hop Along, Painted Shut (Saddle Creek)
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly (Interscope)
Sufjan Stevens, Carrie and Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)
Titus Andronicus, The Most Lamentable Tragedy (Merge)
Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp (Merge)


Tara Thorne's Top 10)
Adele, 25 (XL))
Chvrches, Every Open Eye (Glassnote)
Florence & The Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (Republic)
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly (Interscope)
Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)
SOAK, Before We Forgot How to Dream (4AD)
Sufjan Stevens, Carrie and Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)
Torres, Sprinter (Partisan)
Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp (Merge)
Worriers, Imaginary Life (Don Giovanni)


Selected album reviews

Babysitter, Babysitter (Psychic Handshake)
The best Canadian rock band alive. See "Hard Times" for bass line and biting lyrics ("Recession, what's that?/All I see are corporate pigs trimming the fat"), plus the wild vocals and saxophone on "Hippy in the City." Genuine, drugged-out, unbridled. I don't believe in soulmates, but I partied with Babysitter for three nights straight this summer and these are my people. —Adria Young


Beach Slang, The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us (Polyvinyl)
Thrilling rock 'n' roll about the thrills of rock 'n' roll. A bit like a snake eating its tail? Sure, but when it tastes this good, why complain? Beach Slang's impassioned debut LP is continued proof that "The Replacements, but for [insert year here]" is always a great idea for a band. —Ryan McNutt


Buddy Guy, Born to Play Guitar (RCA)
At age 79, Guy is old enough to have inspired Jimi Hendrix, yet sufficiently spry to induce fresh ecstatic yelps from his guitar. Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) and Van Morrison gain substance from Guy's presence. "Turn Me Wild" and "Crazy World" are songs younger performers could attempt, if they dare. —Doug Taylor


Carly Rae Jepsen, E-Mo-Tion (Interscope)
No "maybe" about it: I knew Carly Rae Jepsen had a great album in her, especially after she came damn close to one on 2012's unfairly neglected Kiss. E-Mo-Tion fulfilled my expectations and then some. It's a glorious a fever-rush of whirling, twirling, sparkling pop. —RM


Chilly Gonzales, Chambers (Gentle Threat)
Canadian pianist Jason Beck has added lustre to the music of Feist, Drake and Buck 65, among others. In Germany with the Kaiser Quartett, his compositions combine beauty with pop precision. For classical that is contemporary, serene yet punchy, Gonzales is worth exploring before the fancy restaurants discover him, if they haven't already. —DT


Chvrches, Every Open Eye (Glassnote)
The most thoughtful pop music of this year comes from a Scottish trio with much to prove on its second record. Pairing sad lyrics with upbeat tempos is nothing new, but few do it with feeling so effortless and heartfelt, and only one band has Lauren Mayberry in it. —Tara Thorne


Florence & The Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (Republic)
Florence Welch and company topped most major festivals' line-ups this year, but the buzz on just another stellar weirdo porch-rock collection flatlined early. Revisit monster singles "Ship to Wreck" and "What Kind of Man," then the inspiration anthem "Third Eye" to pick up your new mantra: "I'm the same/I'm the same/I'm trying to change." —TT


Freak Heat Waves, Bonnie's State of Mind (Hockey Dad)
Neu!-wave, kraut-wave, drone-wave, it's all amazing. I've never met a freak I didn't love. "Dig a Hole," "A Civil Servant Awakening" and "Design of Success" are slow-burners with power beyond my words. You don't need me, you need Steve Linds: "Don't tell me that the fun is over." You need Freak Heat Waves. —AY


Future, Dirty Sprite 2 (Epic)
Take the best line of the summer ("I just fucked your bitch in some Gucci flip-flops"), mix in Future's concerning drug problem—glamourized by his lazy, codeine-fuelled versification—add trap-beat production by Metro Boomin, a swirl of "Fuck Up Some Commas" and you've got a styrofoam cup of pure filth. —AY


Gypsophilia, Night Swimming (Forward)
After mastering 1930s Parisian hot jazz, Halifax's Gypsophilia tap into an improv adventure. With all seven members guiding the band's choices, a listener's imagination has many places to go. The playful horns of "Cake Walk" and creeping B-3 organ of "Long Shadows" are unforgettable. —DT


Hag Face, R.I.P. (Psychic Handshake)
Calgary's Hag Face is some heavy un-fucking-real hardcore. R.I.P. captures their screaming, shredding, vomit-inducing thrash, their hard-rock underworlds, the dangerous power below the surface ("The Big Freeze," "Rip It"). Sacrifice yourself to Martine, Lindsay, Kelsey and Nyssa, and fucking hail them. —AY


Hop Along, Painted Shut (Saddle Creek
A charmingly inviting indie rock record that flirts with true greatness every time Frances Quinlan's vocal cords hit their upper register and begin to break, crackle, shiver. "Is this the best voice in rock music today?" asked Vulture earlier this year. It's certainly the one I couldn't shake. —RM


J.D. McPherson, Let the Good Times Roll (Rounder)
Following his 2012 debut, this Oklahoman harnesses his punk rock origins to forge the jumpin'est roots rock around, using rhythmic tension like an elastic band. "Bossy" and "Have You Met Little Caroline?" make you twitch out of your shoes, no matter where you are. —DT


Old Man Luedecke, Domestic Eccentric (True North)
With Nashville vet Tim O'Brien's subtle guidance, Chris Luedecke recorded his sixth album in a house he built near Chester. Beyond the warm demeanour, rustic wordplay and agile fingers, Luedecke's rhythm makes a tune like "Low on the Hog" roar. Now "a well-soiled machine," his persona feels completely genuine. —DT


Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)
Rarely has a reunion been met with zero trepidation. The iconic Portland trio bowed out at the top of its game via 2005's The Woods; dignity and integrity mean too much to these women to return with subpar material. The songs here thrum with taut vitality, just when we needed a band like this most again. —TT


Sufjan Stevens, Carrie and Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)
Stevens' whispery vocal timbre evokes sadness without even trying, so doubling down on the weepies by writing an album about the death of his mother threatens to be a bit much. But Carrie and Lowell's restraint and focus makes for a powerful, haunting listen. —RM


Titus Andronicus, The Most Lamentable Tragedy (Merge)
Key words here: "The Most." Even from a band known for its excess, a 90-minute, 29-track rock opera about manic depression doesn't make for the easiest listen. But no record this year rewarded my patience quite like TMLT and its infectious survey of anthemic, fist-pumping punk rock. —RM


Torres, Sprinter (Partisan)
Sprinter begins with the vicious, angry "Strange Hellos" ("Heather I dreamt that I forgave/but that only comes in waves/I hate you all the same") and ends with the delicate, plaintive "The Exchange" ("if you're not here I cannot be here for you/if you're not here I cannot be alone"), two sides of Mackenzie Scott's thrilling, complex coin. —TT


Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp (Merge)
Katie Crutchfield is only in her mid-20s, but has spent most of her second decade building a DIY scene in Philadelphia, recording and touring by any means necessary. Whether she meant it to or not, this year marked a move to the big-time, with her third record released on Merge, but swallow the word "sellout": Ivy Tripp is pure Waxahatchee, as incisive and scrappy as ever, Crutchfield's conflicted feelings reaching their biggest audience yet, lucky us. —TT


Young Thug, Barter 6 (300)
"Constantly Hating" is melodic, bass-heavy and the peak of Young Thug's lyrical mania, and while Birdman's verse is a weakness, he completes this track and all others ("Rich/Gang"). Barter 6 is Thugger's standalone release of the year, plus his co-directed videos. He's having a pretty good run. —AY

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Vol 25, No 11
August 10, 2017

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