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DONE DREAMIN’
Bad Bass Ackwards

I love records that defy you to keep listening. Like a great Captain Beefheart or Pere Ubu album, Done Dreamin’ throws it down from the start as if to say “I dare you to keep listening. Go ahead, just turn me off. I know I’m too cool for you”. Weird synths that go from sounding like air raid sirens to an alien abduction soundtrack, off kilter drums, and half-rapped, half-shouted vocals permeate these songs. Meanwhile tracks like “What’s A Po Boy to Do” and “Bass Lament” delve into some demented, acoustic blues that sound like a cross of Muddy Waters meets Jandek.

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SONG SPLINTERS (THE WOODYARD)
Black Molly

With five days left in February, Black Molly found herself stranded in The Woodyard, Yellowknife due to airline delays. While falling in love with her new surroundings, she also recorded most of her RPM album. Appropriately titled Song Splinters, this collection of acoustic guitar, piano and violin laced tunes have as much rustic charm as the place that inspired them. “New Life,” “Winter Sun” and “Why Bother?” are among my personal favorites, largely for their stripped down sound and thoughtful lyrics.

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ERROR:FLYNN
ErrorFlynns

This twin set of 36 minute tracks was recorded live at the RPM 2015 Last Gasp Jam in Corner Brook. For an unrehearsed improvisation it is amazingly structured and masterfully executed. The players on this project are obviously no strangers to their instruments and the way they feed off of each other to create surprisingly complex jams sounds like a band that’s been playing together for years. Listening to this RPM made me miss my college days living in Corner Brook and watching art-prog titans Kuroda play at Night Sounds on Broadway.

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LITTLE JACK
Jeff Cook

Little Jack is a collection of tracks Jeff wrote and recorded with just guitar, vocals and some fancy electronic drum programming. Despite the minimalistic approach his songs are mind-blowing. Blending alt-rock sensibilities with proggy arrangements, this is a compelling listen from start to finish. Jeff’s vocals are spot on and his song-writing is impeccable.

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OH LOOK, IT’S RAINING AGAIN
Jeff Foran

Two years ago Jeff caught my attention with his bicycle themed RPM debut. He followed it up this year with a record equally as inventive but more based around song as opposed to experimentation. Diversity is the theme as Jeff performs an alliterative rap through the alphabet of “Allison to Zorbo” and then serves up some Tom Waits meets Dr.Claw klezmer on “Imperial Scum.” There are also these beautiful, contemplative moments on tracks like the somber “Backyard Bird Count” and the jazzy tremolo drenched “Three New Leaks.”

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THAT’S PERFECT
Lorna Webb

This year Lorna Webb fills a void in the Challenge, that of the classic Country & Western album. Sure there’ve been albums that touch on the genre but That’s Perfect taps into a rich tradition of country music that’s been handed down from artists like Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and George Jones. There’s quite a bit of diversity with tracks ranging from the Shania Twainy country-rock opener “Lift Off” to the woozy, Carlene Carter-esque campfire sing-along “My Guitars Got a Buzzawn Toooo.” That being said, my favorite moments are the stripped down ballads like “We Will Stand” and “You Do” that allow Lorna’s guitar picking and lovely vocal harmonies to really shine.

Link here: http://lornawebb.rpmchallenge.com/

ASLEEP AT THE SWITCH
Sleepy

Since first hearing this record in early March I’ve become hopelessly addicted to its catchy melodies and fuzzed out, jangly guitar hooks. One of my personal favorites of the 2015 crop, it’s an all around solid album with regard to original song-writing, musicianship and production quality. Daniel Greene (AKA Sleepy) combines elements of indie pop and alt-rock to create songs that embody the spirit of bands like Starlight Mints, Guided By Voices and Built to Spill, plus his vocals bear a striking resemblance to Doug Martsch, front-man of the latter. There are no throw-aways here, every track is a stand-out.

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RABBIT PARALLEL MIRACLES
Sad Tax

No RPM Challenge would be complete without a mind-altering, slightly unnerving submission from Patrick Canning. Pat is a fixture on the RPM scene and has been recording under the moniker Sad Tax for the last few years. This year he has produced an album that could almost be palatable to the general public. Although he may take that as an insult, it is intended as a compliment. I mean there’s something for nearly everyone: noisy rockers (“A Bitter Tablet”), ambient chill-soul (“I’ll Learn How to Steal”) and feel-good dirges (“The Sun is a Horrible Thing”). It’s even got a single, “A Frightened Rabbit Let Loose in a Church Basement,” which is guaranteed to burrow into your mind and spread at an exponential rate. Do yourself a favour a download this album from Pat’s Bandcamp page, then check out his 16 other incredible records and discover why he’s one of the most original and vital musicians around.

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— USED TO MOOSE
This is Terrible

Forget everything you thought you knew about music, This is Terrible are doing their own thing and taking us all along for the ride. Every year they create an album that is as entertaining as it is challenging, and Used to Moose is no exception. The demented elevator-music of opener “Elephant in the Room” gives way to the hilarious “Story Time,” a spoken-word piece in some bizzaro world style of Ted Russell’s Tale’s From Pigeon Inlet gone terribly wrong. Other highlights include “Hot,” an ode to the ever present summer-time road construction, “Katana” which is a would-be theme song for Newfoundland’s answer to Shaft and “The First Degree” could easily be the best song Nickelback never wrote. Listen to this album, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll become fan of This is Terrible.

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