The Playlist: 10 Albums to Listen to

Find out why writer Sarah Liss thinks these albums should make your playlist this month.

The Playlist: 10 Albums to Listen to

American V: A Hundred Highways – Johnny Cash (Click to listen now)

This posthumous release-the fifth instalment in Cash’s series of collaborations with producer Rick Rubin-is both heartbreaking and breathtaking. Listen to the Man in Black’s fragile, creaky version of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” and try not to bawl.

Bad As Me – Tom Waits (Click to listen)

Rock’s junkyard Poet Laureate ditches some of his trademark gruffness on his 20th(!) studio album, released in October. His work is still a shadowy, madcap rumble populated by caterwauling horns, but there are flashes of tenderness in the melee.

Days – Real Estate (Click to listen)

Keeping track of Brooklyn’s sizable indie output can be quite the job. Simplify it with this new, summery release full of wistful, melted-Popsicle pop. A perfect pick-me-up for icy January days.

Impossible Spaces – Sandro Perri (Click to listen)

One of the under-the-radar geniuses of the Toronto music scene, Sandro Perri combines layers of kaleidoscopic sound-polyrhythms, ambient vocals and an otherworldly whirlwind of analog bleeps and bloops-into a remarkable whole.

Oh Little Fire – Sarah Harmer (Click to listen)

In 2005 the committed eco-warrior took a hiatus from music to focus on environmental activism; a half-decade later she made a welcome return with this entrancing collection of folk-laced ballads and rock anthems.

Only in Dreams – Dum Dum Girls (Click to listen)

Leaders of the latest pack of retro girl groups, these California gals make delectable garage pop songs with singalong choruses and clap-along beats.

Penthouse – Luna (Click to listen)

This 1995 album cemented Luna’s standing as one of the best bands of all time. Dean Wareham’s deadpan vocals are a perfect counterpoint to his shimmery guitars and the secret bonus track-a cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Bonnie & Clyde”-is mesmerizing.

Skying – The Horrors (Click to listen)

An echoing mélange of hollow-voiced gothic pop, fractured surf rock and swirling reverb, this third album by British darlings The Horrors is like a stylishly updated playlist from all your favourite ’80s bands.

Songs of Man – One Hundred Dollars (Click to listen)

Big-city kids spin brilliantly detailed yarns about a collection of cads, hapless drifters and hopeless scoundrels, delivered with a classic country approach inspired by George Jones, Dolly Parton and Gram Parsons. Who cares if they’re from Toronto?

TSOL – Shad (Click to listen)

This fantastic hip-hop album by London, Ont., native Shad was a no-brainer for the 2010 Polaris Music Prize’s short list: It’s got wickedly clever lyrics, addictive samples and a smart, positive message.