Top Ten Albums of 2015

As I do every year, I’m posting my favourite albums from the past 12 months. What music did you enjoy in 2015?

Kendrick LamarTo Pimp a Butterfly

Epic in almost every sense of the word, this compelling tour de force from one of the most important musicians of our time will be a critical cultural and artistic reference point for generations to come. Through his rap, soul, funk, and above all, the spirit of his words, Kendrick Lamar has made me believe once again in the revolutionary power of music.

Sleater-KinneyNo Cities to Love

Musical reunions are a dime a dozen these days, and so rarely does actual new music accompany those nostalgic tours. After a hiatus of nearly a decade, this powerful rock trio returned in 2015 and surprised everyone with a record that I believe is their best ever.

High on FireLuminiferous

Every High on Fire album is deadly. Some are deadlier than others. This is their deadliest since Blessed Black Wings, in my opinion. If you like speed, heavy bass, and blazin’ solos in your heavy metal, this album is for you.

METZII

The second album from this Toronto/Ottawa three-piece is fierce, dirty, and loud, just like the first. They wear their punk/hardcore influences proudly on their sleeves to create a fervent sound. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to the formula, if it works and it slays.

KEN modeSuccess

When the guy who produced In Utero gets behind the boards for the new album from one of the most unique metal bands in the world, that’s a surefire recipe for success! I’ll see myself out.

Faith No MoreSol Invictus

When I heard one of my favourite bands from my youth was putting out an album of new material after years of reunion tours, I set pretty low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised to hear interesting, original songs that take steps in a few different directions, while staying true to the band’s roots in rock and weirdness.

TorcheRestarter

Torche is the band for metal fans who like loud, crushing guitars paired with catchy, melodic vocals. The riffs are huge on this one, as usual, but there’s a harder edge to the tunes that’s a slight departure from the soaring harmonies that highlight their previous albums. As such, an already heavy band sounds even heavier.

Buffy Sainte-MariePower in the Blood

Speaking of revolution, she’s been leading it for five decades. Our hero came through this year and delivered a masterpiece that’s incredibly timely and vital. It transcends genre and culture, and managed to unify a collective of notorious critics who granted it the Polaris.

SlayerRepentless

I choose to believe that Jeff Hanneman had more to do with this than he gets credit for. RIP.

BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface KillahSour Soul

The foundation of music here is pretty good, but it’s really Ghostface and his guests that make this record exceptional. He could rap over the ambient sound of a construction site and yield something enjoyable.

Honourable Mentions:
Cris DerksenOrchestral Powwow
The Dead WeatherDodge and Burn
BaronessPurple
Eagles of Death MetalZipper Down
My Morning JacketThe Waterfall

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Still spinning yarns, two decades on

I’m currently on a brief leave from my job at CBC to work on my next fiction project, thanks to a grant from the Ontario Arts Council. I’m thankful to both great organizations for allowing me to take the time to pursue this opportunity. To mark this next step in my literary career, my mom recently dug up something I wrote as a teenager and scanned it for me. Feel free to read, while I cringe:

Budding Writer

Mountain Songs

I grew up on the shores of Georgian Bay (Manidoo Gaming), so my heart will always be by the water. But I’ve had the fortune of being among many powerful mountains in my life, and their epic beauty always strikes a fierce buzz within me. Most recently, I was among the Torngat Mountains in northern Labrador, and this month, I’ll be in the Rockies in Banff. When I’m in such a grand landscape, I can’t help but think of a certain soundtrack. There are some great songs that just echo in my head when I see mountains. Here are some of my favourite songs about mountains, and some that remind me of them.

Jane’s Addiction – “Mountain Song”

Kyuss – “Odyssey”

Pink Floyd – “One of these Days”

Mastodon – “Sleeping Giant”

Björk – “Joga”

Black Sabbath – “N.I.B.”

Sigur Rós – Untitled (Vaka)

Loretta Lynn – “High on a Mountain Top”

Meshuggah – “I”

Grateful Dead – “Fire on the Mountain”