2015 Rokky Awards: Favorite Canadian Indie Albums

by Jeffrey Burns on December 27, 2015

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2015 Rokkies: A rundown of our Favorite Indie Albums from the Past Year (Top 15)

It is difficult and perhaps even irrelevent to pick winners when it comes to artistic endeavors, after all, unlike a sporting event music is a subjective and personal experience for the listener, that which can only be judged on a level of individual interpretation.

That being said, The ROKKY AWARDS is an annual selection of Favorite Indie Music Achievements from the past year (See 2014 Rokky Awards), with an emphasis on the independent/unsigned artist whose eager devotion to artistic expression often matches or exceeds that of more celebrated contemporaries. This year end review is essentially comprised of Artists we’ve featured throughout the year, and while it’s simply not possible to have listened to every album released in 2015, I like to think the following selections cover a fairly broad range of styles consistent with an ongoing pursuit of musical discovery, rather than simply a reflection of personal preferences.

For our purposes, the criteria used for this Top 15 of ’15 List is that they be Canadian releases of more than 4 songs, and it’s worth mentioning that some favorites were omitted because of the high profile media exposure already bestowed upon them, for things like the Polaris Prize (Braids, Viet Cong, Bad Bad Not Good & Ghostface Killah) and the Peak Performance Project (Leeroy Stagger, Transit). And suffice it to say, the Canadian indie music well is vast and deep, so why be unnecessarily redundant.

So on that note and without further ado, here is ROKLINE’s Favorite Canadian Albums of 2015 >>

Favorite Album of 2015: Burnt Black Cars by Slow Down Molasses


  1. Burnt Black Cars by Slow Down Molasses [Saskatoon, SK]

    Saskatoon band Slow Down Molasses makes dreamy, reverb laden fuzz rock that’s instantly endearing and highly addictive, especially in the case of their 4th LP Burnt Black Cars. The instantly engaging 9-track offering is like an ideal nexus of frontier-blazing sounds and visionary style that broke ground in the U.K. during the 80s new wave era, and which has since re-emerged as thriving sub-genres psychedelic, shoegaze-rock and dreampop in North America. It’s no surprise that at the helm of this eloquently crafted modern rock milestone is Jace Lasek of the Besnard Lakes, someone who’s produced a myriad of albums all noted for their unique capturing of ethereal tones and lush soundscapes (Suuns, Elephant Stone, Young Galaxy), and this album is certainly no exception. And there’s simply not a dull track here, but rather a steady and compelling stream of intoxicating, viscerally charged moments, accomplished with layers of jangly guitars and synth-driven melodies that in combination have an eerily cosmic, orchestral effect. The album’s climactic finish “Underneath The Cobblestones” is as perfect a closing track as I’ve heard in a long while, in fact there isn’t enough I can say that isn’t better served by simply poring over every track of this wholly gratifying album, if you haven’t done so already. Five Stars, and then some …

  2. Favorite Song: Burnt Black Cars
    indie label – Culvert Music
    Artist Website – slowdownmolasses.com

  3. Death Sweats by War Baby [Vancouver, BC]

    Vancouver trio War Baby boldly made their presence known in 2013 with the debut LP Jesus Horse, a scene-stealing, noise-rock declaration that resonated heavily with music reviewers nationwide (including Huffington Post’s top ten Indie albums of 2013) by crafting songs that transcended the genre’s general “punk-infused heaviness” with a shimmering melodic appeal and sonic quality reminiscent of 90s grunge masters Nirvana, STP and Soundgarden. But lazy comparisons aside, this band’s uniquely menacing power riffage and lyrical fortitude makes them an imposing musical force by any measure, and by their own design, essential attributes when touring with the likes of trail-blazing fringe-rock compatriots White Lung, Mystery Machine, and SNFU. And in building on the momentum they carved out after forming in 2008, the band’s sophomore album Death Sweats (released on Bummer Records) has a more methodical, ballsier sound if that’s possible, and a thematic approach that’s best summed up by War Baby themselves: “Death Sweats is the audio equivalent of a chemical imbalance in the brain. This album to us is equal parts fear of the dark and disgust for the morning light….the very thought of being fully aware is terrifying…survival can mean many things; DEATH SWEATS is one of them. Believing in yourself when no else does will make you sweat. Believing in everyone else and not yourself will give you DEATH SWEATS.”

    If you’re not easily tired of rocking out, then you’re going to listen to this record A LOT! Music this good certainly feels timeless, and doesn’t require mainstream media branding to make it so.

    Favorite Song: Belly Ache
    indie label – Bummer Records
    Artist Website – warbabymusic.com

  4. Dream City by Cannon Bros [Winnipeg, MB]

    The sophomore LP Dream City from Winnipeg duo Cannon Bros. (Cole Woods & Allannah Walker) takes me back to the rarefied heydey of 90s Canadian indie-rock revelry, when the low-fi garage-pop allure of bands like Superfriendz, The Inbreds, Eric”s Trip, Jale, Thrush Hermit and others brought a fresh face and invigorating spirit to the prefab, tightly controlled musical landscape. By no means was it merely a trend, and some 20 years later Dream City is ample, torch-carrying proof with it`s 19 melodic bursts of sophisticated pop-rock synergy that honors the genre’s sonic origins, perhaps even reclaiming the indie brand‘s diminishing integrity. The album`s only shortcoming is each song’s duration, which at an average of 2 minutes feels like a mere teaser considering the substantive feel of each track. Nevertheless, this is a generous full-length album with nary a throwaway, just an impressive display of prolific songcraft delivered with expert minimalist panache.

  5. Favorite Track: Winter
    indie label: Disintegration Records
    Artist Website – facebook.com/pages/Cannon-Bros/139679056063138

  6. Above Club by We Are The City [Vancouver, BC]

    And now for something completely different. If you like music that leans toward the eccentric, the esoteric, that which strays well beyond the beaten path, perhaps in the vein of bands like Yes, The Flaming Lips, or even Toronto’s Zeus, than you’re in for a treat. Especially if you rank among the uninitiated who’ve not yet experienced this band, because musical discovery of this magnitude is a profound experience … like falling in love. Since 2009, We Are The City have dazzled hearts, minds, and imaginations with their ambitious brand of experimental pop music, resplendent with an array of mood inducing tones and perspective altering twists on song structure and rhythmic design, almost as if the boundlessly innovative trio have divine access to another musical dimension. And their fourth album Above Club is certainly no exception. For the average rock and roll enthusiast, this may be a listening endeavor best unpacked gradually so as not to get lost in the unbridled progressive wizardry. But it’s also worth opening that door in terms of forging a path to sonic enlightenment … one that leads you on an awe-inspiring journey of melodic twists and turns you won’t likely regret, or soon forget.

    favorite song: Heavy As A Brick
    indie label: Boompa Records
    Artist Website – wearethecity.ca

  7. Little Creatures by Vast Robot Armies [Toronto, ON]

    Vast Robot Armies is the brainchild of veteran Toronto musician Jason Thomson, a uniquely ambitious solo project that debuted in 2013 with the gargantuan sounding LP `Goodnight Myopia`. Besides the noteworthy individual accomplishment of one person fulfilling every role in rendering such a substantial musical work, what resonated most was the project`s formidable signature sound, a genetic sonic imprint of synth, guitars, and dark celestial melodies piled high, coalescing into an ominous lifeforce that conveys the feel of an advancing army. And now, with the addition of musical collaborators John Agee, Joseph Wells and Chris Metcalf, the template for 2015’s Little Creatures has gone high defniition and fully dimensional, with a more complete arsenal in terms of fluid arrangements, subtle dynamics and the commanding presence of Chris Metcalf`s blanket percussion, all essential to this prog-rock coalition releasing one of the best full album listen‘s of the year.

    Favorite Song: In Shreds
    indie label: Independent
    Artist Website – facebook.com/VastRobotArmies

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  9. Fine Lines by Samantha Savage Smith [Calgary, AB]

    Artist Description: Samantha Savage Smith is a singer, guitarist, and songwriter based in Calgary, Alberta. The release of her debut album Tough Cookie in 2011 garnered critical acclaim for her startling, unique voice, which seems at once familiar and totally new. Smith’s new batch of songs for Fine Lines keep intact the vocal-heavy allure of the debut while exhibiting a gigantic leap forward in the development of a truly personal songwriting style. The album was recorded by Lorrie Matheson (Rae Spoon, Ghostkeeper) and features contributions from members of Lab Coast, Viet Cong, and Chad VanGaalen’s band. Fine Lines is slated for a late 2014 release.[Indie Folk Pop]

    Favorite Song: ‘Til We Are Found
    indie label: Pipe & Hat
    Artist Website – samanthasavagesmith.com

  10. Lee Reed – The Butcher, The Banker, The Bitumen Tanker [Hamilton]

    Artist Description: With a microphone, 2 turntables, a falafel sandwich and a cadre of super-elite ninja rap practitioners, Reed creates and performs hip-hop that pulls back the curtain and pisses on the power supply. a vocal documentary of our bloated, mother-earth eating culture and its rapid freefall into the gaping mouth of hell. And stuff like that. [Hip Hop]

    Favorite Song: No Kanada
    indie label: Independent
    Artist Website: leereedrevolt.com

  11. Start Slow by HOOK AND EYE [Calgary, AB]

    Artist Description: Hook and Eye is Stephen Burchill, Carl Davison and Jeff MacLeod. [Post Rock]
    Calgary is not normally known for producing dour, dreamy slowcore but Hook and Eye’s work within the genre is simply amazing. Their innovative approach adds syncopated drums, catchy guitar arpeggios and 7th-chords without sacrificing a sullen aesthetic. – Sled Island

    Favorite Track: Poacher Of The King’s Deer
    indie label: Independent
    Artist Website – hookandeyeband.tumblr.com

  12. You Had It Coming by The Dying Arts [Toronto, ON]

    Artist Description: The Dying Arts are nice guys that show up on time to gigs. [Punk Rock]
    The fury of Fugazi and early Nirvana meets the somber ambient soundscapes of later Radiohead. – VICE/NOISEY

    Favorite Track: Alice Practice
    indie label – Culvert Music
    Artist Website – thedyingarts.com

  13. Stills by Megan Landry [Ottawa, ON]

    At just 19 Megan Landry is a vintage talent, brimming with an avant garde quality not to be confused with the tiger beat, pop-star phenomena of a Justin Bieber or Carly Rae Jepsen. Her creative outpouring is more fine wine than gimmicky cocktail, and the proof is in her recently released debut LP Stills. This rich tapestry of spiritualized storytelling shifts from abstract personal musings to compelling narratives, even probing the morass of societal ills that can weigh heavily on a young, empathic, unjaded mind. And ultimately, throughout the 12 song introspection there’s an omnipresent state of sonic bliss, particularly on the album’s quieter acoustic moments when the finely blended intricacies of the lyrics and music are most striking. [Read the Full Rokline Article with Q&A]

    Favorite Track: Yellow At A Funeral
    indie label: Independent
    Artist Website – reverbnation.com/meganlandry

  14. Dry by Lint [Toronto, ON]

    Rokky Awards alumnus LINT sound vaguely like a fusion between The Sex Pistols, MC5, and L.A. skate-punkers FIDLAR, while also possessed by a dark and menacing interior all their own. With a soul-baring honesty and anarchistic fervor that transcends the prototype of sneering irreverance and abrasive tones, the punk rock maelstrom on this record feels innately underground and unconventional, which is exactly where it wants to be. [Garage Punk]

    Favorite Track: Kerosene
    indie label: Independent
    Artist Website – facebook.com/ihatelint

  15. <3S by Sidney York [Calgary, AB]

    Artist Description: Begun as a long-distance musical collaboration between opera singer Brandi Sidoryk and bassoonist Krista Wodelet, Sidney York is known for high-energy live shows featuring instruments seldom seen beyond the orchestra pit. [Avant Pop]

    Favorite Track: Weapons Grade Love
    indie label: Independent
    Artist Website – sidneyyork.com

  16. Wild Love by Wild Love [Toronto]

    Artist Description: The self-titled seven-track debut from Ottawa-based four-piece Wild Love incorporates everything from noisy punk-tinged grunge to slower, more melodic elements of ambient post-rock. [Post Hardcore]

    Favorite Track: The Way It’s Always Been
    indie label: Independent
    Artist Website – facebook.com/wildloverock

  17. Midnight Century by The Black Fever [Toronto, ON]

    Artist Description: THE BLACK FEVER is a post-punk indie rock band based in Toronto, comprised of Shoe (vocals, guitar), Pat Bramm (bass, back-up vocals), and Dan Purpura (drums). The band’s 2015 album, Midnight Century, is the follow-up to two self-released albums, Romanticism (2010) and Revisionist (2012), and a three song EP, A Little Help (2014). [Post Punk]

    Favorite Track: Hey! We Never Really Had A Chance
    indie label: Independent
    Artist Website – theblackfever.com

  18. Escapists by The Autumn Stones [Toronto, ON]

    Since forming in 2010, this inspired quartet doesn’t seem to compromise when delving into their creative consciousness, a musical alchemy that nurtures and explores the essence of the songs, capturing each as an organically driven, thought provoking journey. Their sound can be compared to seminal 80s groups like Echo & The Bunnymen and The Smiths, although somewhat more refined and cerebral as opposed to unbridled and trailblazing. They’re not attempting to break new ground as much as they are enriching the soil, and the results are a heightened listening experience … [Read the Full Rokline Article with Q&A]

    Favorite Track: End Of Faith
    indie label: Independent
    Artist Website – theautumnstones.com


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