A few overlooked acts in 2015: The year end edition

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by Eleni Armenakis, Laura Stanley, and Michael Thomas

There was so much great music in 2015 that for the first time we had to have a half-way through edition of this post! Below is even more music that we almost didn’t get to but we just had to write about before the year is out:

Almonds, Cohen – Ceiling Once Ltd.

I’m a sucker for a complex, mischievously up-beat experimental pop album which is what Torontonians Almonds, Cohen has blessed us with in Ceiling Once Ltd. Released this summer, Ceiling Once Ltd. is like a cool breeze on an insufferably humid summer’s day in the city. There’s an anxiety rattling throughout the LP most notably swirling in “Spinning Bottle,” in each side of the multi-faceted “Dodecahedron,” and bulging at the end of “Under the Night” but with its breezy presentation there’s something more at play here. A kaleidoscope of voices and instruments, perhaps what we’re hearing is Almonds, Cohen returning all their fears in exchange for pleasure – in the various forms it takes. –Laura Stanley


Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

Eva Foote – Sparrow & Stone

Eva Foote floats in her debut Sparrow & Stone. She floats on the backs of birds (“Sparrow & Stone”), amongst the front stoop smoke of “Strong Hands,” and in time’s unsettling cold wind (“Passing Through”). Sparrow & Stone is a humble little folk release that shouldn’t be overlooked this year and Eva Foote is a treasure that’s ready to be unearthed – LS


Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

Everything is Geometry – six fun little songs from summer 2015

You can’t get much more straightforward than this EP title, but of course this cross-country duo is anything but straightforward. Each of the six songs—none of which pass the 2:30 mark—are bursting with energy. There’s a theme of longing and nostalgia that seems to infuse this little recording, like the rocking “it’s never too late and i hope you feel better.” Then there’s the especially masterful “everything is geometry in amherst, ns 1 &2 ” which features an acoustic buildup to a more propulsive chorus starting with “Ride around high on Robaxacet, trying not to notice…” Add in the “summer jam” duo of “eddy g” and “jenny b” and the celebratory “standard eardrum pan” and you’ve got one of the most essential short releases of the year. – Michael Thomas


Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*

Gnarwhalz – Dolphin Boy

Halifax has just been beaming positivity this year, and it’s no coincidence that self-described “bro-rock” band Gnarwhalz had their album produced by Harley Alexander. Throughout the nine-song journey from “Dolphin Boy” to “Dolphin Man,” the five-piece runs the gamut of guitar rock, from the celebratory, Japandroids-like “Zechkquel Returns” to the early Hollerado sounds of “Jubilee.” It even takes a foot in mournful folk (“This Love is not a Battlefield”) and somehow works in a bit of rapping into the the title track. By the time it’s at the last song, the Dolphin Boy has grown up and the arrangement is noticeably sharper. It’s a great journey to take in. –MT


Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

Ivory Hours – Morning Light

There’s no colour in the album art of Ivory Hours’ debut, but there’s plenty of it bursting forth from the opening notes. A “sassy alt pop trio from London” might initially seem like yet another bio spin, but it actually proves to be a pretty accurate description of the youthful threesome as they channel some of Britain’s best bouncing indie of the decade—even if they are from that other London. – Eleni Armenakis


Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

John Gill – Visions 

There’s a lingering roar in John Gill’s vocals that really strikes home at his Nova Scotian roots—a whole legacy of Canadian folk is just heaving at the edges of his far more gentle croon. Visions is haunting, tragic and full of atmosphere, craftily played out by a simple aesthetic that opts for a steady, mellow beat, a few cords and the odd electric solo. But Gill’s voice is the really charm as it channels ancient sounds into new surroundings. – EA


Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) + *swoop*

Lakes of Canada – Transgressions

Margaret Atwood is a notoriously tricky writer to write about, but even I feel pretty confident she’d be into this rock opera-style interpretation of her famous feminist dystopia, The Handmaid’s Tale. Anxiety, fear and an overwhelming sense of betrayal ring out from the wailing guitar crescendos as lead vocalist Jake Smith cries out “We weren’t ready for the fall.” As anyone who’s read Atwood’s novel can attest, no one’s ever quite ready for the terrifying future she can envision just around the corner, but Lakes of Canada can at least offer you an apt soundtrack. – EA


Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

Scary Bear Soundtrack – Ovayok Road

There have been few releases that radiate as much warmth as this formerly Nunavut-based (now Ottawa) group’s latest EP does. The synth-pop songs don’t need a lot to keep listeners happy; a catchy beat that will have you grooving along, a few refrains, and of course the lush lyrics that transport you away. The self-titled track guides you with shimmery guitars and a lo-fi backing beat as it implores you: “C’mon let’s spend the night outside/Yes I know you’re afraid of mosquito bites.” “My First Northern Lights” commands you to unplug and connect with the natural wonders around you. “Blanket Burritos” is a heavy-sounding tribute to warmth itself. The majesty of the arctic is detailed by “Victoria Island,” and it all draws to a close with the celebratory “Water Truck.” Not an ounce of filler here. –MT


Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

Western Jaguar  – Wayfarer 

There’s many sides to Jeffrey Trainor’s (Western Jaguar) latest record, released in March, Wayfarer. It’s a part-pop, part-rock, and part-ambient offering, it’s ghostly yet naturalistic, soothing but deeply unsettling. It makes sense then that Trainor comes from and would craft such a multi-faceted album in the very geographically diverse city of Vancouver. The all-instrumental “Shores” or the surf-pop like “Brodie, CA” match the ebb and flow of the west coast while other tracks like “Council” or “Vessels” are like devastating storms disrupting this comforting rhythmic pattern. Western Jaguar covers a lot of ground in Wayfarer, all of which is worth exploring. –LS


Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

 

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