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Best of 2015: Unearthing 25 of Vancouver’s local music gems from the past year

Thursday 10th, December 2015 / 02:08
By Glenn Alderson, Joshua Erickson, Evangeline Hogg, Alex Hudson and Maya-Roisin Slater
Brass

Brass

1. Brass – No Soap Radio (Independent)

Brass came out squeaky clean in 2015 with No Soap Radio, a good old fashioned punk rock offering. To call this debut full length from these street walkin’ cheetahs a drunk punk opus would take away from the sobering potency of its hard hitting riffs, captured perfectly by the illustrious Jesse Gander at Raincity Recorders. Frontman Devon Motz is as much a pleasure to watch live as he is to listen to on record, taking us through ten tracks of pummeling hardcore, guaranteed to get a mosh pit good and sweaty. The final track, “Planes That Never,” ends with an unpolished sax solo that easily sets this record apart, one squeak and half a six-pack above the rest. (GA)

Destroyer

Destroyer

2. Destroyer – Poison Season (Merge Records)

Every Destroyer album is a completely different beast, and Poison Season is no exception. Songwriter Dan Bejar and company explore an ever-shifting soundscape of serene jazz balladry, swaggering glam, danceable salsa, and lush neo-classical orchestrations, making this their most lavish masterpiece yet. (AH)

Cindy Lee

Cindy Lee

3. Cindy Lee – Act of Tenderness (CCQSK Enterprises)

Patrick Flegel has maintained a quiet disposition since moving to Vancouver, following the dissolution of Women. Cindy Lee is his modest bedroom-recording project of sorts, exploring myriad facets of his songwriting palette and Act Of Tenderness makes just the right amount of beautiful noise. For all of its raw emotion and lo-fi prowess, Flegel keeps his weird and wonderful creative juices flowing through a blown out speaker in his Strathcona hideaway. (GA)

Francesca Belcourt

Francesca Belcourt

4. Francesca Belcourt – Zongs (Genero)

Zongs is a polished alt-pop album bursting with the simple stream of consciousness flavour Francesca Belcourt brings to all her projects. Inspired by sounds made with a Roland JX-8P synthesizer, the album was recorded and produced by Belcourt in her bedroom on Commercial Drive. This record is fun and loose in some moments, while morose and self reflective in others. Belcourt treats us like her closest friend, confiding in us her fears and victories, and expressing her history in whimsical electronic noise. (MR)

We Are the City

We Are the City

5. We Are The City – Above Club (Boompa Records)

This trio of long time mates is everything but conventional. Above Club was recorded in an undisclosed location and the band broadcasted a 24/7 stream of the process. The end result is a complex and challenging collection of intelligent indie rock that will engage you on and off the proverbial dance floor. (GA)

Freak Heat Waves

Freak Heat Waves

6. Freak Heat Waves – Bonnie’s State of Mind (Hockey Dad Records)

The moodiness of post-punk, expertly fused with futuristic psychedelia move together beautifully in this hypnotic album. Artistically crafted with deep monotone vocals and oddities, it unfolds into something both curious and technically proficient. (EH)

Humans

Humans

7. Humans – Noontide (Hybridity)

Keeping the feel good party vibes alive throughout with a mélange of beats and soulful vocals, Peter Ricq and Robbie Slade have solidified their place in the hearts and ears of many with Noontide. It is the duo’s first proper full-length following a five-year history of releasing fine tuned indie electronic singles/EPs. (GA)

Weed

Weed

8. Weed – Running Back (Lefse Records)

Though the drawling vocals escaping from Will Anderson are heavily distorted, the shear amount of emotion behind Weed’s jarring guitars evoke a certain contemplative malaise and they remind us that there is artistry in melancholy. This noise-rock album has proven Weed to be masters of their craft. (EH)

Mourning Coup

Mourning Coup

9. Mourning Coup – Baby Blue (No Sun Recordings)

With Baby Blue, Morning Coup transforms pop music into a melee of industrial noise and dissonant thoughts. Chandra Melting Tallow, the driving force behind the project, has a background in performance art. This adds a distinctly intentional element to the noise. An aura of destruction perfectly presented as an experimental electronic project. Unlike the colour, Baby Blue is far from gentle and generic. (MR)

Waingro

Waingro

10. Waingro – Mt. Hood (Independent)

A loud, pumelling collection of balls-to-the-wall headbanger anthems—Waigro’s Mt. Hood puts them among the best of Canada’s metal bands. Bridging the gap between stoner and thrash, Waingro’s amps clearly don’t go below 11. (JE)

Thee AHS

Thee AHs

11. Thee AHs – Names (Kingfisher Bluez)

Thee AHs have been growing steadily less cute over the years, and with Names, they completely abandon their twee leanings in favour of grungy pop-rock. Every song takes its title from someone’s first name, and these personalized tributes make the album as sweet as it is catchy. (AH)

The Isotopes

The Isotopes

12. The Isotopes – Nuclear Strikezone (Stomp Records)

Sure the world’s greatest baseball punk band also happens to be the world’s only baseball punk band, but there’s a lot to be said for originality. The Isotopes deliver another blast of Ben Weasel approved pop punk on Nuclear Strikezone and, you guessed it, it’s a home run. (GA)

Project Pablo

Project Pablo

13. Project Pablo – I Want to Believe (1080p)

1080p is undoubtedly one of the coolest labels in electronic music right now and the full-length debut from formerly Vancouver (now Montreal based) producer Patrick Holland’s Project Pablo is a perfect example of why. Mixing deep house with loungey textures, funky bass lines, and dreamy synths, I Want to Believe is for house-heads and casual listeners alike. (JE)

Tommy Genesis

Tommy Genesis

14. Tommy Genesis – World Vision (Awful Records)

Tommy Genesis exudes an offbeat confidence, which is captured in her gentle boast rap. Her lyrics are sometimes playful, sometimes a little aggressive, but always delivered with a laid back tone. She brings a west coast vibe to a new brand of internet rap. A member of Atlanta-based label Awful Records, Tommy Genesis is bringing Vancouver that much closer to the global hip-hop community. (MR)

Open Letters

Open Letters

15. Open Letters – 10-23 (Kingfisher Bluez/ Gipper Tore)

Open Letters are to punk what Drake is to rap. That is, they are both incredibly honest, wear their emotions on their sleeves, and are known for being very sad. The band’s debut record 10-23 is full of anthems for both moshers and sad boys who prefer to stay in their room. (JE)

What's Wrong Tohei?

What’s Wrong Tohei?

16. What’s Wrong Tohei? – Bruce (Independent)

“Intense” is the first word that will come to mind while listening to mathy post-hardcore trio What’s Wrong Tohei?’s Bruce. At some points it feels as if the music is going to fall apart into oblivion, while at others the band is so tight it sounds like they are building a sonic structure toward the sky. (JE)

Soft Serve

Soft Serve

17. Soft Serve – Soft Serve (Independent)

Indie-rock trio Soft Serve’s self-titled record is true to its name. The album is melty and sweet; it sticks to you, it refreshes you, it reminds you of your favourite summer days. Soft Serve jingles and jangles about, hopping from songs about self-actualization to family matters. (MR)

War Baby

War Baby

18. War Baby – Death Sweats (Bummer Records)

Long time local favourites War Baby sound bigger, louder, fuller, and more dynamic than ever on Death Sweats. Part punk, part grunge, all attitude. (JE)

Fountain

Fountain

19. Fountain – 2 (Independent)

Post-punk, krautrock, and a feeling of youthful vitality clash together on the second album of Victoria’s Fountain—appropriately titled 2. Compact and exhilarating, it’s one you can’t miss. (JE)

Knife Pleats

Knife Pleats

20. Knife Pleats – Hat Bark Beach (Lost Sound Tapes)

Rose Melberg’s latest project Knife Pleats showers its listeners in sunny, lo-fi vibes filled with playful guitar and chipper vocals. As a whole, this album delivers the perfect amount of twee and heavenly riffs to form an indie-pop gem. (EH)

Summering

Summering

21. Summering – Summering (Independent)

Slow and steady, with manic bursts and heavy tendencies, Summering divulges a melting pot of different styles and feelings that mold together, forming a mountainous terrain of post-punk for us to climb. (MR)

Carly Rae Jepsen

Carly Rae Jepsen

22. Carly Rae Jepsen – E•MO•TION (604 Records)

It would have been easy to peg Jepsen as a one-hit wonder after “Call Me Maybe,” but E•MO•TION contains enough undeniable standout singles to make it one of the best mainstream pop releases of the year. (AH)

Dan Mangan + Blacksmith

Dan Mangan + Blacksmith

23. Dan Mangan + Blacksmith – Club Meds (Arts & Crafts)

Anyone looking for “Robots” style singalongs will be sorely disappointed by Club Meds. On the other hand, anyone looking for moody jazz-rock soundscapes and scathing critiques on the modern world will find a lot to love. (AH)

Fake Years

Fake Years

24. Fake Tears – Fake Tears (Mint Records)

Singer/keyboardists Larissa Loyva and Elisha May Rembold are both veterans that have worked on various local projects over the years. Under their Fake Tears banner, the duo make addictive dance jams that are equal parts haunting and pop-friendly. (AH)

Unalaska

Unalaska

25. Unalaska – Unalaska (Light Organ Records)

Zachary Gray (The Zolas) and Edo Van Breeman (Brasstronaut) formed Unalaska as a fictional band in the vampire movie Afflicted, and it has since evolved into a full-fledged product. This EP only contains four songs, but its creepy art-rock makes a big statement. (AH)

For more 2015 highlights elsewhere throughout Western Canada, also see BeatRoute Alberta’s list of music coverage throughout the year.

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