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Third annual review of Canada’s best music

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MIXTAPE TEAM

Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Briggins Creative Director Emma Cochrane Atlantic Editor Evelyn Hornbeck Central Editor MatĂ­as MuĂąoz Prairies Editor Jane Caulfield West Editor Erin MacKinnon Contributors Michael McGrath Jill Krajewski Calligraphy Evey Hornbeck mixtapemagazine.ca email: mixtapehalifax@gmail.com Mixtape Magazine was originally created by Jonathan Briggins, Samantha Chown, Hilary Creamer, Ryan Hemsworth, and Chelcie Soroka. Thanks to Jackpine.co for their design support.

MIXTAPE BEST OF 2015

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MIC CHECK

Letter from the editor Jonathan Briggins, Editor-in-Chief

Yes, everybody writes a list summing up the year that was. It’s a fun exercise to pause and de-construct what happened in what seems like an instant. It’s also cool knowing the future is unpredictable. Who knows what band is going to break through next? Or how we’ll listen to music in 2016 (R.I.P. Rdio). Or what bands will finally call it quits (we saw it coming the Weakerthans, but we’re still sad). I took a trip to the nation’s capital in June to check out Ottawa Explosion Week. It was a treat to see a bunch of bands who don’t get to tour much and a bunch of young local talent. Weed Mom and Gaycation released a split cassette at the event and both put on amazingly weird performances that stick out in my memory from the week. Our Central editor, Matias Muñoz, is super plugged into the Ottawa scene and explained to me the importance role each band plays in that community. Sadly, It’s the only time I’ll ever see those bands play -- they’re no longer bands. It was a treat to explore the Ottawa punk scene in a way you can only experience by being there. This local knowledge is what Mixtape relies on when compiling our best-of lists. With community editors from Vancouver, Saskatoon, Ottawa and Halifax, we stumble across treasures that otherwise may be overlooked. Each editor picked their favourite album from their scene and is highlighted to start each section. The rest follow in alphabetical order because we’re diplomatic like that. We hope you enjoy this compilation of album reviews of the Canadian albums we couldn’t stop listening to in 2015.

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MIXTAPE BEST OF 2015


BEST OF ATLANTIC Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland & Labrador

Vulva Culture – In Vain

EDITOR’S PICK

(Independent) Vulva Culture is a dream. It’s a manifesto. It’s a belief that music doesn’t belong to a boys’ club. But more than anything, this band is a tight ensemble who have made Atlantic Canada take notice. This group is a Halifax indie supergroup, and their experimental sound is a sweet balm on the brain. Unapologetically political (say their name and you participate in gender politics), they are quickly becoming one of the most important bands in the scene in Halifax. In Vain is the total package: chill tracks, A+ performances, no fucks given. - Evelyn Hornbeck

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BEST OF ATLANTIC

Fog Lake – Victoria Park (Orchid Tapes) Aaron Powell’s pseudonym Fog Lake is the perfect name for his lo-fi project and Victoria Park reinforces that. The album feels like a journey through a cloudy dream, one that when you wake up, you wish you could force yourself back into and find what was through the fog. It’s a haunting album with distant piano repetition and gorgeous somber vocals, feeling like a product of solitude and conflicting emotions. It’s all fitting, this album was made by someone from a town of 2,000 people on the east coast of Newfoundland, a town 280 km from St. John’s. When you come from a place so beautiful yet so isolated, you’re bound to make music that drips with that same beautiful isolation. - Michael McGrath

Joyfultalk – Muuixx (Backward Music) Joyfultalk is a group of guys, led by Jay Crocker, creating electronic music while hunched over a smorgasbord of custom-made instruments. It’s also quite possible Joyfultalk is a group of aliens who have crashed to earth and modified the hyperdrive of a spaceship to create what the humans call music, in this case, called Muuixx. Birthed in the woods of Nova Scotia, Muuixx puts listeners in an improvised trance, with familiar elements making an appearance before melting into a new sound. - Jonathan Briggins

Mauno – Rough Master (Independent) This new experimental band of familiar faces spent 2015 showing they mean business, relentlessly touring from coast to coast and working on their debut album. Don’t be deceived by the title, Rough Master is an impressive album with tight drumming and wafting and relaxed vocals from Nick Everett. There may be two arrows pointing the same way on the album cover, but this isn’t straightforward indie rock. There’s a playfulness to the songs, almost as if new ideas are constantly injected into songs and the rest falls into place. It’s as if predictability would cause Mauno to hate their own songs. - Evelyn Hornbeck

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BEST OF ATLANTIC

Moon – Moon (Bruised Tongue) Picture a message in a bottle. You write nice words onto a piece of paper, fold it up nice and neat, place it in the bottle. Then the bottle is off on a journey. Maybe it’ll wash up on the same shore the next day. But maybe it’ll end up a world away. I can’t shake this image when listening to “Card Crane Ha”. Maybe it’s the optimistic sound of flute, offering sound of encouragement. Maybe it’s the “yeah we made it” synths of “Dented In The Bag”. The Halifax krautrock band’s first full-length album is a diverse record of beautiful little songs. - Jonathan Briggins

Gabrielle Papillon – The Tempest of Old (Independent) On her 2012 release Little Bug, Gabrielle Papillon grabbed our attention (and many accolades) for her sharp songwriting on the track “Go Into the Night”, an intense ballad based on family history. Papillon has followed up with a fully realized oeuvre that demonstrates that album wasn’t a fluke. This slight “girl with a guitar” blows expectations out of the water. The layered poetry of the lyrics is embellished with sweeping vistas of positively orchestral music. Listen to “With Our Trouble” or “Preach Love” to see what we mean. Those who haven’t yet noticed Papillon soon will: she’s just an album away from East Coast mainstay status, with the likes of Jenn Grant. Bravo. - Evelyn Hornbeck

Partner – The ‘Ellen’ Page/Hot Knives (You’ve Changed Records) Partner, a new project from Lucy Niles and Josée Caron of the Mouthbreathers, released two singles with grungy pop melodies and clever lyrics. They’re so great we’re cheating and including them as one release in our best of. “The “Ellen” Page” takes a humourous look at being a Maritimer and being lesbian. “Hot Knives” is simply about smoking hash. With the somewhat goofy topic, they create a call and exchange between Niles and Caron deciding on if they should smoke some more. These two songs combine to make under two minutes of music, but it’s the most fun-packed two minutes of music to come out of Atlantic Canada this year. - Michael McGrath

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BEST OF ATLANTIC

Racoon Bandit – Close Your Eyes (Independent) When a Maritime band goes four years without releasing an album, it’s totally fair to wonder if they’re still around. The Charlottetown band are back with a crisper and more polished sound, thanks in part to co-producer Colin Buchanan (Paper Lions). They’ve moved on from the sweater-folk of previous albums to a breezier indie rock sound. Featuring songwriting from all four members, Close Your Eyes doesn’t sound like an old band trying to put toothpaste back into the tube. It’s a band charged with new ideas that make the four-year wait worth it. - Jonathan Briggins

Sorrey – Thick as Thieves (Independent) Emilee Sorrey has more than just raw talent and an SEO-friendly name: she has the kind of cool it factor you can’t fake. With a dreamy, nostalgic vibe, Thick as Thieves releases its heartbreaking stories that will keep you coming back. The EP came out of a demo that was so good producer Colin Buchanan (Paper Lions) pushed Sorrey to release it to the public. This is a promising start, and we hope there’s much more to come. - Evelyn Hornbeck

Unreal Thought – Amateur Comfort (Various Records) The third release from Halifax’s Unreal Thought is shimmering gloom, an uplifting melancholy. Sometimes the album can bring to mind thoughts of bands such as The Cure or Cocteau Twins only to break into a blistering guitar riff that is more akin to Black Sabbath than any post-punk band. Songs like “Meaningless Stare” juxtapose bright and dancy guitar riffs with dark hard hitting chords, creating a solemn island between hopeful and desperate. Amateur Comfort is a musical melting pot of goth, post-punk, shoegaze and ‘80s new wave that will have you dancing conservatively with your hood up and your eyes to the ground. - Michael McGrath

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Photo: Pooneh Ghana


BEST OF CENTRAL Ontario, Quebec

EDITOR’S PICK

Dilly Dally – Sore (Buzz Records)

Nirvana. The Pixies. Sonic Youth. When we think of the ‘90s, these are a few of the great bands that pulverized our ears (and still do) back then. Katie Monk and her band Dilly Dally could easily fit right in, taking a page out of early ‘90s grunge and punk rock to bring us one of the most visceral, punch-in-the-face Canadian albums of 2015. Monk’s powerful voice sounds like she poured a box of nails down her throat and gargled. Who knew that could sound so good? This, along with the thunderous percussion and gritty guitar work are defining features of Sore. It’s an album of substance: aggressive, raw and unclean with lyrical prowess. - Matías Muñoz

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BEST OF CENTRAL

The Acorn – Vieux Loup (Paper Bag Records) It’s been five years since Rolf Klausener released his critically acclaimed album No Ghost, and almost a decade since his seminal Glory Hope Mountain. Although he’s been busy curating Arboretum Festival in Ottawa and releasing music with his other project Silkken Laumann since then, Vieux Loup has been in the works for several years. His ability to convey imagery and emotion in his music has not diminished. Delicate guitar melodies are intertwined with grooveladen synth beats, signifying Klausener’s movement forward as a musician while staying true to his past. - Matías Muñoz

Marie-Pierre Arthur – Si l’aurore (Simone Records) Marie-Pierre Arthur’s third album is a sidestep from the singer-songwriter sound of previous records. Everything about Si l’aurore is bigger. Overall, there’s more oomph — the choruses soar higher, the bass lines are groovier and more genres are explored. On “Comme avant” a grandiose saxophone takes over creating a completely unexpected prog-rock moment. The slow ballads are still there, but as “Dans ma tête” shows, you don’t need an acoustic guitar to bleed out emotion into songs. Synths, keys and sparse electric guitar can do the trick. Arthur continues to cement her spot as one of Canada’s best songwriters, growing and becoming more dynamic with each release. - Jonathan Briggins

Bosveld – Veldbrand (So Sorry Records) Although Ottawa’s music scene is small, there are plenty of musicians from the nation’s capital that are creating some really incredible music. Take Veldbrand by Bosveld. The album is the brainchild of Théan Slabbert of Ottawa via South Africa, one of many talents to emerge out of a brilliant and dynamic class of musicians in the city. He has teamed up with some of the best musicians in Ottawa to make this highly-anticipated debut full-length LP. Slabbert’s vocals are reminiscent of a deeper, more brooding style similar to Jonsi, which melds flawlessly with the intricate and flowing guitar melodies. Veldbrand is woven with dramatic and moving soundscapes, and could very well represent the future sound of folk music - Matías Muñoz

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BEST OF CENTRAL

Braids – Deep In The Iris (Arbutus Records) Braids turn up the intensity on Deep In The Iris. This isn’t head-in-the-clouds dreamy electro music anymore. The beats and rhythms are more fervorous. Once again Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s vocals soar, but the lyrics are heavier than anything Braids has ever done. She recounts the trying, tiring, tumultuous female journey through the world. On “Miniskirt”, Standell-Preston touches on eating disorders and domestic violence. It’s impossible to listen to Deep In The Iris without being stirred up emotionally. Braids aren’t asking for sympathy or going for shock value. They’re making earnest and powerful music. - Evey Hornbeck

Jazz Cartier – Marauding in Paradise (Independent) After scrapping early versions of Marauding in Paradise multiple times, Jazz Cartier has skipped the hype of an up-and-coming rapper from Toronto, sliding into the upper echelon of Canadian hip-hop. Case in point: “Switch” gets regular love from 4Korners, official DJ of the Toronto Raptors. Producer Michael Lantz calls his work with Cartier as “cinematic trap music”. The two of them create art in widescreen, getting into the nitty-gritty of money, religion and love in Toronto. We’ll forgive Jacuzzi La Fleur for taking so long to release his debut mixtape. - Jonathan Briggins

Doldrums – The Air Conditioned Nightmare (Sub Pop) It’s telling Airick Woodhead chose to borrow the name for his latest album from a Henry Miller book that touches on the theme of the divorce between man and nature. On this album, songs come from a very personal place, propelled by themes of anxiety and paranoia. Yet, it’s cold electronic instruments and production that breathes life into these tracks. Some of the production on this album, “Loops” in particular, could be formulated into ready-for-the-dance-floor escapism. But there’s a harsh reality presented, a separation between ourselves and love because of technology. “Closer 2 U” closes out the album with a beautiful search for love with questions left unanswered. - Jonathan Briggins

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BEST OF CENTRAL

Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (Cash Money Records) This was Drake’s year. Blessing the world with a surprise mixtape in February, he used the momentum from the release to dominate the year. The album follows the quintessential Drake formula, weaving rap anthems and pop sensibilities in a way seemingly only he can achieve. The strongest tracks are when Drake is Drake. On tracks where he opens the door to guests, they are forced to live by the rules of Drake’s world. On the opening track, he proclaims “If I die, I’m a legend” and he’s not wrong. The cult of Drake is alive all across the world and that cult won’t let you forget as long as he’s creating music. Michael McGrath

Michael Feuerstack – The Forgettable Truth (Forward Music Group) Maybe it’s easy to take Michael Feuerstack for granted since he’s always releasing music. Since ditching the Snailhouse moniker in 2013, Feuerstack’s released a new album every year including The Forgettable Truth. The quantity is impressive, but it’s the quality that’s made him one of Canada’s great songwriters. Solo in name only, Feuerstack has a knack for picking the perfect collaborators to bring his songs to life. On The Forgettable Truth, he receives accompaniment from past collaborators along with vocals from Little Scream and Nick Cobham of labelmates Olympic Symphonium. See you next year, Michael. - Jonathan Briggins

Grimes – Art Angels (Eerie Organization) We live in an insecure era. The rise of @sosadtoday or BoJack Horseman isn’t coincidence – imperfect narrators mirror our own post-Internet worries about perception. Even Claire Boucher apologetically debuted “Realiti” by saying it wouldn’t be on the new album because it was poorly recorded. (Spoiler alert: the track was loved and made it onto Art Angels). Boucher masterfully channels her renewed confidence from the reception to “Realiti” on the album. Hearing Boucher sing “I don’t care anymore!” on “Flesh Without Blood,” weave violin magic for the first time on “Venus Fly,” or electro-pop contortions on “Kill V. Maim” is salvation from self-doubt. Art Angels is the album about letting go that a cynical 2015 needed. - Jill Krajewski

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BEST OF CENTRAL

Homeshake – Midnight Snack (Sinderlyn) There’s something comforting about a midnight snack.You don’t really need to eat food before going to sleep, you may not even be hungry, but suddenly food is the most appealing thing in the universe. Midnight Snack is comfort food for the ears. It’s oh so smooth, gently relaxing the senses. The lyrics of “Under the Sheets” are cheesy with an even cheesier synth solo halfway through. But it’s also like these two elements cancel each other out, resulting in a beautiful love song. Midnight Snack has a certain charm and comfort that keeps the cravings coming - Jonathan Briggins

B.A. Johnston – Shit Sucks (Mammoth Cave) B.A. Johnson is one of the hardest working musicians in Canada and a hell of a storyteller. Shit Sucks is a testament to B.A.’s ability to write catchy-as-hell songs without taking cues from anyone else in the music industry. His distinct acoustic punk rock style mixes in some ‘80s inspired synths. But it’s the lyrics we all relate to: comparing a love interest to irresistible IKEA hotdogs, the absurdity of skinny jeans and how commuting makes him want to die. If one measure of a good album is the emotion it evokes in listeners, just press play on Shit Sucks and see how the whole room fills up with smiles. - Matías Muñoz

Majical Cloudz – Are You Alone? (Arts&Crafts) Devon Welsh and Matthew Otto deliver another minimalist album that feels like a natural follow-up to their 2013 breakthrough Impersonator. On the surface, Welsh’s drab vocal tone and Otto’s brooding, synth-heavy sounds ooze into our ears, evoking a sense of despondency. However, unlike Impersonator, there is an optimism encoded within Are You Alone?, only to be deciphered when the listener is completely enveloped in the album. This could be a result of Welsh feeling as though he’s at a better place in life, reflected as a silhouette in his music. This album’s greatness is derived from discovering beauty in its subtext. - Matías Muñoz

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BEST OF CENTRAL

U.S. Girls – Half Free (4AD) For the better part of seven years, Meg Remy (aka U.S. Girls), has explored the depths of sound and storytelling. Half Free is the first record on big-name UK label 4AD, but that hasn’t altered her approach to writing music. There’s still a lo-fi charm, a subtle dissonance that is difficult to put your finger on but peeks out often including on “Red Comes in Many Shades” and “Navy and Cream”. Her distinct compositional creativity becomes increasingly evident throughout Half Free, as she blends disparate musical styles and dark subject matter to create a collection of tracks that leave the listener in a haze, thinking ‘what just happened?’ The narrative that Remy builds throughout is haunting. - Matías Muñoz

Young Guv – Ripe 4 Luv (Slumberland Records) It’s easy to get sucked into the power-pop rush of Ripe 4 Luv, a solo project from Ben Cook of Fucked Up fame (and a million other projects). From the opening riffs of “Crushing Sensation” to the funky bass outro of “Wrong Crowd”, the album constantly throws out sounds that satisfy the pop sweet tooth. It feels like listening to a guilty pleasure, although there’s no need to be embarrassed by digging music that’s irresistible. The press release introducing Ripe 4 Luv is filled with ridiculous and hilarious tongue-in-cheque hype, calling Cook a “retweet-worthy” artist. We buy in. Consider this ‘best of ’ designation Mixtape smashing that retweet button. - Jonathan Briggins

The Weather Station – Loyalty (Outside Music) Just because somebody’s shy doesn’t mean they’re a jerk. You just may need to say hello first, or listen a little closer than usual. Listening to The Weather Station requires careful listening. Each word on Loyalty carries the weight of purpose, telling introspective tales. It’s rude to pull out your phone and text when a friend is confessing moments of hurt, loneliness and helplessness. Frontperson Tamara Lindeman has a way of slowing time down to a crawl, bringing stories to life the way only a master of their craft can. - Jonathan Briggins

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Photo: Chris Graham


BEST OF PRAIRIES & NORTH Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territories,Yukon, Nunavut

EDITOR’S PICK

Rah Rah – Vessels (Hidden Pony Records)

The fourth album from Rah Rah feels a lot like going on an awesome adventure into the unknown with a really good friend. Moving beyond their well-established rock pop sound, the Regina band proves they can pull off a dancey groove with purposeful pedal effects and pumped-up hooks. Even their lyrics seem to stray away from the usual, exploring darker narratives and real truths. What they’ve done with Vessels highlights how you can push your boundaries without losing your roots. They’re still the campy, fun-loving band we all know and love (yeah, we get a curling reference in “Good Winter”) only now they seem to be more sure of where they’re going with it. - Jane Caulfield 18

MIXTAPE BEST OF 2015


BEST OF PRAIRIES & NORTH

Basic Nature – Circles and Lines (Dub Ditch Picnic) It’s only two people, but the duo Lizzy Burt and Claire Bones create an expansive sound. The sound of the prairiegaze band from Winnipeg falls somewhere between shoegaze and dream pop. Time doesn’t limit the music of Circles and Lines — the title track sprawls over nine minutes — with hushed vocals seeping through a landscape barren of hooks and the structures of pop music. Dream pop sometimes feels synonymous with boring, like a dream that’s dismissed from memory as soon as it happens. This isn’t the case with Circles and Lines, an album that closes out with percussion and guitar that ends the album with energy and grit. - Briggins

Ryan Boldt – Broadside Ballads (Big White Cloud Records) This first solo album from Deep Dark Woods frontperson Ryan Boldt hits you right in the feels. No stranger to musical challenges, Broadside Ballads is Boldt’s take on a collection of traditional folk songs. Recorded in Beresford and Rivers, MB and Mortlach, SK, the recording is dotted with a backdrop of birds and other perfectly suited sounds from nature. It creates an organic calmness that pairs with his haunting vocals as he takes on songs dusty from storied histories. Ultimately this is a beautiful album that evokes a sense of nostalgia and longing for simpler days. - Jane Caulfield

Human Music – Sup (Dub Ditch Picnic) This lo-fi Winnipeg trio are cool enough to sing about going to cool parties (on the song “Cool Party” no less). Their album name is a cool greeting you say to a friend, or use to initiate a conversation on Facebook chat. Recorded with old-school techniques, Sup has a chill sound straight out of New York City in the ‘70s. The track “Mtn Climb” is an anthem for those who keep their hands in their pockets but bob their heads when a song truly rocks. The vocals have an endearing quality to them, but it’s the constant guitar jams that make Sup a true cool album. - Jonathan Briggins

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BEST OF PRAIRIES & NORTH

Kindest Cuts & Ghost Twin – You Bring the Worst Out in Me, You’re All Liars (Dub Ditch Picnic) This joint EP from Winnipeg’s dark electronic projects Kindest Cuts and Ghost Twin sounds a lot like a ‘70s horror movie soundtrack on acid. The four-song album sees both groups adding their own gothic twist, complete with angsty synth lines and echoey vocals, to songs by Soft Cell, The Screamers and Thrill Kill Kult flavour. The highlight of this album, and why it’s on the Best of 2015 list, is a brave cover of Henry Purcell’s operatic aria “Oft She Visits.” It’s eerie, delicate and exactly what a cover should be. - Jane Caulfield

League of Wolves – League of Wolves (Independent) These guys released their first self-titled LP in the spring, showing their hometown of Saskatoon what happens when you turn country rock inside out. They’ve stripped the typical lyrical angst and basic tones to create an album that’s a fine balance of gritty guitar lines and pop rhythms. Each track is full of the purposeful nuances — a quick riff here, a distinct harmony there — to create memorable moments that you can sing along to. These guys make the best of list because they seem to have a really good recipe for something really amazing, and I can’t wait to see how they grow. - Jane Caulfield

Library Voices – Lovish (Nevado Music) On last year’s For John EP Library Voices made a stark change in direction from previous pop-hook laden albums with some psychedelic jams. A trend the Regina band continues on Lovish — an album that starts by declaring “All your heroes are assholes” with heavy guitar riffs on “Oh Donna”. It’s a mood that continues throughout the album until the long-jam closer “Every Night”. As a band that moves forward, Lovish is the next stage of evolution for Library Voices making it clear this band isn’t tied down to expectations from the past. - Jonathan Briggins

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BEST OF PRAIRIES & NORTH

Nava Luvu – Transport (Apothecary Compositions) It’s no surprise an album that’s over two hours in length ends up dipping into multiple genres. The Yellowknife duo/couple of Sami Blanco and Ashley Daw met in Montreal and were part of experimental noise band, Nacomi. On Transport, there are moments that touch on the harsh industrial noise of Nacomi, but these morph into something with an organic quality. As a result, the album blurs the lines between human and machine. Was this music really created by Blanco and Daw or does it control its own destiny as a miracle of programming? You have two hours to meditate and discover. - Jonathan Briggins

Scary Bear Soundtrack – Ovayok Road (Independent) I know what you’re thinking – synthpop from the Canadian Arctic Archipelago? You got that right. The remote town of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut (population of under 1,500) may not be hub for music but Scary Bear Soundtrack don’t care. As finalists in the CBC Searchlight competition, they garnered national praise before their latest release. The six-song Ovayok Road is a whirlwind of fun dream pop with hints of shoegaze. The songs are beautifully imagined, layered with synths and vocal harmonies that together create a truly euphonic experience. - Matías Muñoz

Slow Down Molasses – Burnt Black Cars (Culvurt Music) After fine tuning their fuzz rock sound for a decade, Saskatoon’s Slow Down Molasses proves hard work does pay off with their May release of Burnt Black Cars. Inspired by a series of photos taken of the 1968 Paris riots (family photos from frontperson Tyson McShane, no less), their sixth release is a collection of musical ideas strung together to create a political message. Featuring distinct rhythmic hooks, thick reverb and droney guitar lines paired with dreamy lyrics, this album is an adventure for your ears. - Jane Caulfield

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Photo: Randee Armstrong


BEST OF WEST Alberta, British Columbia

Faith Healer – Cosmic Troubles

EDITOR’S PICK

(Mint Records) Edmonton’s Jessica Jalbert exhibits songwriting at its best on Cosmic Troubles, her second solo album and first under the Faith Healer moniker. Her understated lyricism explores themes of self-reflection and ennui with a backdrop of dreamy, psychedelic indie pop. The album, recorded with Mint labelmate and friend Renny Wilson, sounds like an homage to the cherished record collection of your parents with Jalbert’s modern observations providing the dialogue. Cosmic Troubles is fantastically problematic as its darker subject matter is balanced out by Jalbert’s nostalgic riffs. Faith Healer thoughtfully lulls you into a state of content and unease using every pause as an exploration in anxiety. - Erin MacKinnon MIXTAPE BEST OF 2015

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BEST OF WEST

Destroyer – Poison Season (Merge Records) A chorus on a song is an anchor for your memory, an anchor that helps gather your bearings as tune carries on. The lyrics “you can follow a rose wherever it grows, you can fall in love with Times Square” re-occur at the start, middle and finish of Poison Season in different songs. Each time, the surrounding song morphs slightly from piano-enhanced enchantment, to a boldly confident saxophone-driven jam, to a retrospective string-based exit. The moments between those anchors are some of front person Dan Bejar’s most memorable. His eccentric lyrics, the smooth saxophone and the way it all ties together is masterful. - Jonathan Briggins

Freak Heat Waves – Bonnie’s State of Mind (Hockey Dad Records) The first two instrumental tracks on Bonnie’s State of Mind transport the listener to a weird, cold place. No clear words are needed.Then, they shatter the tension on “Design of Success” with the grooviest bass hook that grabs and controls your thoughts and will. The bass line will rattle in your head, impossible to shake. The Victoria band stirs up the ghosts of post-punk, summoned by a multitude of duelling guitars. There’s no time to smile. No joy. You are not in control. - Jonathan Briggins

Hag Face – R.I.P. (Psychic Handshake Records) Hag Face’s latest album is demonic, unrelenting and packed with enough chaos to melt your face off. Nothing about Hag Face is subtle. Live, each band member faces off against the audience as if preparing for battle. Likewise on the album, R.I.P. begs to be heard. On “Old Hag”, Hag Face belts out “I’m screaming, who’s out there / But my voice is dull and crushed”. This lyric encapsulates what Hag Face is trying to destroy with their music. They are four women demanding to be heard, dominating the attention of anyone willing to listen and the result is completely awe-inspiring. - Erin MacKinnon

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BEST OF WEST

Purity Ring – Another Eternity (Last Gang Records) In a world where every hit song gets its own remake – often a painful electrodance version – Purity Ring is making the opposite: original, beautiful, poignant electronic music. On Another Eternity, the Edmonton duo of Megan James and Corin Roddick resist the sophomore slump with the next phase of futuristic electro-pop. From the single “Begin Again” to tracks “Heartsigh” and “Repetition”, this album is full of addictive ear worms. Almost a dance album, Another Eternity is best reserved for a quiet night, in the dark, eyes shut as deep thoughts are triggered. - Evelyn Hornbeck

Siskiyou – Nervous (Constellation Records) Siskiyou’s Nervous will give you all the feels. The third album from former Great Lakes Swimmer Colin Huebert and company is a standout release with guest performances from some of Canada’s best, including Owen Pallet, Colin Stetson and Tamara Lindeman (The Weather Station). From the first spooky choral moments of “Deserter”, the journey is clear: it’s going to be dark and it’s going to be uncomfortable. A glimpse into Huebert’s experiences with anxiety, panic attacks and chronic ear-ringing, Nervous was initially rehearsed at low volumes for health reasons. Lighter by necessity, this deeply personal and immersive album is not to be missed. - Evelyn Hornbeck

Supermoon – Comet Lovejoy (Alarum Records) Featuring members of Movieland, Supermoon was the best new thing to come out of Vancouver this year. The six songs making up the Comet Lovejoy cassette are the ultimate beach day/windows down/west coast/summer chill soundtrack. It’s twelve minutes of absolutely irresistible drippy dream pop vibes. Comet Lovejoy is a brief demonstration of the beauty of simple surf tunes. The lyrics are fun and straightforward and each song rides the wave into the next. It’s the soundtrack to listen to on repeat all summer and a recommended cure for the winter blues. - Erin MacKinnon

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BEST OF WEST

Adrian Teacher + The Subs – Sorta Hafta (Independent) Imagine if the coolest teacher from your childhood had a band and they were super good. Well, Adrian Teacher is that guy. He’s back with another project after fronting Apollo Ghosts and Cool TV in recent years. The almost-solo album (Amanda P., Robbie N. and guests play with him) is a collection of simple and catchy songs that come together better than a s’more around a campfire. His day job as a teacher hasn’t gotten in the way of him and his band writing a lovable album that all listeners can relate to. Teacher’s brand of folkrock is free of pretension, and speaks from the heart. - Matías Muñoz

Tough Age – I Get The Feeling Central (Mint Records) The Vancouver/Toronto band Tough Age doesn’t settle on one cohesive sound, instead they explore multiple sub-genres of punk. Songs like “Warm Hair” have a surf-punk vibe but there are also moments where the band opts for a heavier sound with gritty guitars and dominant drums such as on “Gutter Lemon”. Even though Tough Age changes up the style throughout I Get the Feeling Central, they manage to hold a constant identity. The band are more aware people outside of Vancouver are listening, but they’re building confidence and taking more risks. The negative feelings and anxiety are shattered as they deliver a lesson in damn good garage rock. - Erin MacKinnon

Weed – Running Back (Lefse Records) Weed are the comeback kids of the Vancouver punk scene. After riding the success of Deserve (2013), Weed slowly began to disappear but Running Back proves they are anything but gone. The album’s gritty guitar and melancholic hooks sound exactly what you would expect from the land of grey skies and perpetual rain, each chord colliding with the next. The album is reminiscent of ‘90s noise grunge as singer Will Anderson’s voice emerges from the noise, seemingly reaching for something that’s just out of reach. - Erin MacKinnon

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MIXTAPE BEST OF 2015


SEE YOU IN 2016!

mixtapemagazine.ca

Mixtape Magazine Best of 2015  

Our third annual guide to the best of Canadian music in 2015.

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