9 Wintersleep – The Great Detachment

Wintersleep’s sixth studio album marked a return to form for the group. Compared to the band’s previous two efforts these tracks sound absolutely expansive. It was recorded primarily live-off-the-floor at their old stomping grounds of the Sonic Temple in Halifax (the same location they recorded their first 3 albums).

8 Hannah Georgas – For Evelyn

For Evelyn is Georgas’ most confident record yet. Though she opens it by admitting, “I wake up in the middle of the night thinking, ‘Oh my God, who the hell am I?'” an assertiveness quickly quells these late night anxieties as she becomes determined to take hold of her life. This self-assurance shines through again when her response to the end of a relationship is acceptance, singing, “When you left me, I was ready for you to leave” (“Walls”) and again as she courageously says goodbye to a city that no longer feels like home (“City”).

7 White Lung – Paradise

White Lung pride themselves on overwhelming listeners, pushing their skills to the limit, and though it sometimes seems like they may box themselves into a corner, with each release the Vancouver- and Los Angeles-based quartet manage to push the walls further outward, making subtle tweaks to their formula that reveal deeper depths to their aural attack.

6 A Tribe Called Red – We Are the Halluci Nation

We Are the Halluci Nation is an extremely well executed concept album that sticks unwaveringly to its vision. The late singer/American Indian activist John Trudell’s recitation introduces the concept right from the jump: we can all be part of the Halluci Nation if we wake up and reject current ways of living in iniquity and learn to truly love and understand one another.

5 Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker

You Want It Darker finds the musician reflecting upon what once was and what can no longer be. It’s classic Cohen, making mention of death, romance and religion, the latter being the strongest theme here, as he shows curiosity surrounding death, some regret regarding romance and a belief in God but a disappointment with him and fellow believers, too. But most evident of all is an acceptance of all three.

4 John K. Samson – Winter Wheat

Winter Wheat is fairly comparable to Samson’s debut Provincial, though broader in scope and subject matter. His lyrics are varied, vivid and heavily inspired — by novels, documentaries, history books and more — as he tests the boundaries of his literary creativity, exploring a vast range of narratives, perspectives and topics. His substantial Neil Young influence (particularly 1974’s On the Beach) is quite apparent, perhaps nowhere more than on “Vampire Alberta Blues.” The song, with a title taken right from one of Don Grungio’s own, has a distinctly Youngian feel to it while extending an anti-oil industry message, the kind that Young has been spreading for decades.

3 Andy Shauf – The Party

Most of these songs are set at a house party, so though Shauf insists this isn’t a concept record, there’s at least a sense that they exist in the same world; you’ll discover, for example, reoccurring characters, a technique Shauf has mastered since his last full-length release, The Bearer of Bad News. Like Randy Newman and Paul Simon before him, Shauf has a mind for creating character narratives that tell a tale in mere minutes’ time. These are characters you’ll quickly find yourself caring for, that you’ll wonder about once the song’s up, that you’ll hope will find the happiness they all seem starved for.

2 Tanya Tagaq – Retribution

On her fourth album, Retribution Tagaq achieves an experience as potent as, and analogous to, her live show: Retribution is immersive, cathartic, potentially even transformative. And while on Animism some of Tagaq’s political beliefs were implied (and in the case of “Fracking,” frightfully clear), this time around she’s taken things farther and deeper, made her outspoken messages more outspoken, more crystal clear.

1 Basia Bulat – Good Advice

Like her Polaris-shortlisted and Juno-nominated 2013 album Tall, Tall Shadow, Good Advice deals frankly and intimately with loss. Musically, it also continues Bulat’s exploration of electronic sounds over folk storytelling. This time, keyboards of various eras and moods dominate, from the opening notes of “La, La, Lie” to the plucky ballad “Time,” which features vintage Hammond Novachord (recorded at the National Music Centre in Calgary, which houses the rare instrument); Mellotron haunts the cinematic closer “Someday Soon.” Producer Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) brings the same balance to the soundscapes Bulat maintains with her lyrics, positioning the space-age synths and backup harmonies in ways that invoke both gospel and girl group traditions without overshadowing the album’s strongest suit: Bulat’s vibrant vocals.