These are the best albums of 2015

Best-of lists from five of our music critics, PLUS our favourite shows and most disappointing records of the year.

Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly


From trusty local indie bands to transcendental rappers to awesome electronic acts, it’s been a banner year for music — at least if you know where to find the good stuff.

Whether you’re looking for suggested listening or want to compare notes, check out these Top 10 Albums lists, as well as favourite concerts and most disappointing records of the year, by five music writers at Cult MTL.

Lorraine Carpenter

watson_Love_Songs_For_RobotsPatrick Watson, Love Songs for Robots (Secret City)

Tame Impala, Currents (Interscope)

Hot Chip, Why Make Sense? (Domino)

Chvrches, Every Open Eye (Glassnote)

Le Matos, Chronicles of the Wasteland (Fantôme)

Lana Del Rey, Honeymoon (Interscope)

The Dears, Times Infinity (Pheromone)

Peaches, Rub (I U She)

How Sad, Everything Happens (independent)

No Joy, More Faithful (Mexican Summer)


Most Disappointing Album: Grimes, Art Angels (4AD)

Best Show: Shamir, Bar le Ritz, June 12

The Montreal debut by swishy, squeaky U.S. pop star Shamir had some of the key components of a great gig: an enthusiastic full house, a party atmosphere and a star of the show who was clearly moved and thrilled by the reception, and gave the love back in his performance. Some of his songs are pretty throwaway, but if he grows and builds correctly, he could easily outdo his debut record, Ratchet. Honourable mentions to relative veterans and live perfectionists Patrick Watson, Besnard Lakes, Peaches and the Dears.


Johnson Cummins

Locrian Infinite DissolutionLocrian, Infinite Dissolution (Relapse)

Sunn O))),  Kannon (Southern Lord)

Deafheaven, New Bermuda (Anti)

Krallice, Ygg Huur (independent)

Chelsea Wolfe, Abyss (Sargent House)

Spectral Wound, Terra Nullius (Media Tree)

Big / Brave, Au De La (Southern Lord)

High on Fire, Luminiferous (E1 Music)

Zombi, Shape Shift (Relapse)

Bardo Pond, In Every Dream Home a Heart Ache (Fire)


Best Show: Swervedriver, Theatre Fairmount May 4

Most Disappointing Album: Torche, Restarter (Relapse)

Admittedly calling Torche’s latest effort a big disappointment might be an overstatement as the record just missed my top 10 list. Here’s the rub, folks: After releasing one of the best mergings of pure catchy pop bliss and perfect crush and pummel — 2008’s Meanderthal — the band has just been running on fumes for the past four releases. Restarter is far from a terrible album but the blatant carving of retread and stumble toward the long forgotten formula from seven years ago is just too painful.


Erik Leijon

Samo Sound BoyKendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg)

Samo Sound Boy, Begging Please (Body High)

Hudson Mohawke, Lantern (Warp)

DJ Paypal, Sold Out (Brainfeeder)

Eek feat. Islam Chipsy, Kahraba (Nashazphone)

Project Pablo, I Want to Believe (1080p)

Grandbrothers, Dilation (Film)

Jamie XX, In Colour (Young Turks)

Nozinja, Nozinja Lodge (Warp)

Travis Scott, Rodeo (Grand Hustle/Epic/Sony)


Most Disappointing Album: (tie) Giorgio Moroder, Déjà Vu (RCA/Sony) and Disclosure, Caracal (Island/Universal)

Best Show: Busty and the Bass, Savoy du Métropolis, July 2, 3, 4

I had no use for the contrived #mtlmoments hashtag till the day Kendrick Lamar and Yasiin Bey shared the Osheaga stage. Picking a big festival headliner as show of the year is a bit of a cop out, though, so instead I’ll take Busty and the Bass’ revelatory residency during this year’s Jazz Fest. The clean cut McGill nine-piece seemed to surprise even themselves by keeping the party going till 3 a.m., with a repertoire of covers (Action Bronson, Disclosure) and originals. A sign that word was spreading: The first night was packed, but the next two nights the lineup on the staircase to Savoy grew so long they had to turn people away.


Darcy MacDonald

earlKendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg)

Earl Sweatshirt, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album By Earl Sweatshirt (Columbia)

Dr. Dre, Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre (Aftermath)

Safia Nolin, Limoilou (Bonsound)

Cannibal Ox, The Blade of the Ronin (iHopHop/IGC)

Toast Dawg, Brazivilain Vol.II: Revisité (independent)

Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment, Surf (independent)

Illa J, Illa J (Bastard Jazz)

Kamasi Washington, The Epic (Brainfeeder)

MED/Blu/Madlib, Bad Neighbor (BangYaHead!)


Most Disappointing Album: Kurt Cobain, Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings (Universal)

Best Show: Dead Obies, Phi Centre, Oct 14-15-16

There’s something I adore about measuring scale against spectacle, an equation that helps define mood and energy in the live show environment. What makes a moment special on its own terms, and how is that distinction attained by craft? It’s simple to state that RTJ, Kendrick, Narcy and Yasiin Bey, Loud Lary Ajust, Safia Nolin, Ghostface & BBNG, Primus, Young Fathers, and countless other talents took my soul for a whirl this year. But for two of three nights at the Phi Centre, the Dead Obies — backed by hearts and souls of Kalmunity — recorded live tracking for their March, 2016 sophomore Gesamkunstwerk, going all the way in for the “universal synthesis” the work is meant to embody, with guts, style and vision. Bravo.


Michael Sallot

Jamie XXJamie XX, In Colour (Young Turks)

Neon Indian, VEGA INTL Night School (Transgressive/Mom + Pop)

Tame Impala, Currents (Interscope)

Hot Chip, Why Make Sense? (Domino)

Princess Century, Progress (Paper Bag)

The Go! Team, The Scene Between (Memphis Industries)

Protomartyr, The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)


Four Tet, Morning/Evening (Text)

Young Guv, Ripe 4 Luv (Slumberland)


Most Disappointing Album: Action Bronson, Mr. Wonderful (Atlantic)

Best Show: Hot Chip, Osheaga, Aug. 2

Rounding off the third and final afternoon of this past summer’s Osheaga Festival (and for my money, what was surely one of the best programmed schedule blocks in the festival’s history with Father John Misty, Future Islands and the War on Drugs), the mighty Chip took the stage and delivered a powerful hour of their greatest hits only to end with a surprise medley of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” that faded into LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends.” If you were there, and dancing with your friends, I can guarantee that was probably your most memorable and fun moment in a weekend that was full of ’em. ■

See our list of the Top 30 Montreal Songs of 2015 here.