5: Strangers To Ourselves – Modest Mouse
‘Strangers To Ourselves’ was certainly an album many believed to be in a limbo, always being recorded but never being released. The announcement of Modest Mouse’s sixth studio album ‘Strangers To Ourselves’ certainly brought with it equal amounts of anticipation and skepticism, though this reviewer believes that the album delivered perfectly, with the album featuring some of the best and most memorable songs from the band thus far. The album itself might feel a little muddled at times, and offer a few tracks that don’t really work all that well, but when Modest Mouse push out tracks like ‘Lampshades On Fire’, ‘Ansel’ and ‘The Ground Walks With Time In A Box’, we hear once again what it is that makes Modest Mouse so amazing to listen to.
4: Ones And Sixes – Low
Low’s previous album effort of ‘The Invisible Way’ may have polarised some people, but there was something wonderfully gentle and gorgeous about the whole album effort. The band’s latest album effort of ‘Ones And Sixes’ didn’t continue this gentle expression of music, but did see the band offering something of equal intelligence and creativity. ‘Ones And Sixes’ hearkens back to the early days of Low’s career, whilst still sounding modern and up-to-date in some respects. The album itself is a mostly dark and macabre affair for the most part, whilst still sporting some rather upbeat and fun tracks. At the core of everything though is the perfect partnership of husband and wife team Alan Sparkhawk and Mimi Parker, whose talents of song-writing suggest that they can truly do anything.
3: Universal Themes – Sun Kil Moon
Mark Kozelek’s previous album effort of ‘Benji’ received near unanimous acclaim from many critics, though this one feels it’s his latest effort of ‘Universal Themes’ that stands out. The latest album released under the Sun Kil Moon moniker saw Kozelek offering up one of his most challenging album experiences to date, where beautiful acoustic passages find themselves intertwined amongst hurried vocals and spoken passages, before giving way to rough sounding garage rock. It’s wonderfully immersive, with each song sucking the eager listener right into Kozelek’s head, showing them his own fractured viewpoint of the world around him. It’s not the easiest album to listen too, but it’s one of Kozelek’s most brilliant and amazing ones thus far.
2: Nervous – Siskiyou
Siskiyou’s third studio album saw a band whose arguably relatively unknown truly immerse themselves in the creation of an album, working absolutely everything to the best of their abilities until something they could truly be proud of was produced. ‘Nervous’ saw Siskiyou push out a truly wonderful album, one that was a little challenging in places, but ultimately sincere and full of creativity. ‘Nervous’ was released early in 2015, but somehow tracks like ‘Deserter’, ‘Bank Accounts & Dollar Bills’ and ‘Violent Motion Pictures’ stuck around in memory throughout the entire year. The amount of effort and creativity pushed into this album is incredibly evident, with everything resulting in one of the band’s (and one of Canada’s) best albums of the year.
1: Benoît Pioulard – Sonnet
Benoît Pioulard’s ‘Sonnet’, released on Kranky, seemed to go by relatively unnoticed this year, but for some reason or other it completely ingrained itself into my head and refused to let go. Benoît Pioulard (Thomas Meluch)’s previous albums have all featured an ambient edge, though ultimately dominated by an experimental folk ideology. ‘Sonnet’ saw Meluch completely immersing himself into an experimental ambient album, where walls of noise and static turned into some of the most beautiful music released this year. ‘Sonnet’ earns The CD Critic Album of the Year spot purely for it’s wonderful experimental notions, its sheer amount of creativity, and the under-stated beauty of its music. Perhaps a little out there at times to earn this position, but the amount of joy this album has given me this year is too hard to ignore.