Michael’s Top 10 albums of 2011

Chad VanGaalen

Here are my top ten Canadian albums of the year in alphabetical order. It will be followed by another few honourable mentions.

Code Pie- Love Meets Rage

This was the biggest surprise for me this year. Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Love Meets Rage absolutely blew me away. This big group uses a whack of instruments to produce exceedingly catchy songs. I’ve listened to the album tons of times since I first reviewed it. As well, their song “Muddy Shoes” is one of the only songs that fits my three favourite things in a song- a length under 2:30, horns and group vocals.

Chad VanGaalen- Diaper Island

Since I fell in love with Soft Airplane two years ago I eagerly awaited the next offering from this somewhat-reclusive solo artist. As the inclusion on this list shows, I wasn’t disappointed. VanGaalen this time around is pretty normal- very little electronics and a lot more guitar. Turns out he does normal just as well as he does weird. And “Sara” may be one of his most emotional and personal songs he’s ever written.

Dan Mangan- Oh Fortune

Considering Nice, Nice, Very Nice was almost a life-changing album from some people. I had no idea how Dan Mangan would craft a follow-up. Turns out he got a bigger band and got a little louder. His songwriting wit remained completely intact, with the song “Rows of Houses” being a huge nod to Stand By Me. My favourite part of the album is by far the guitar solo of “Post-War Blues.” If I ever end up listening to that song on a subway car I’ll probably look like a crazy person as I rock out.

Dog is Blue- Tortoise

The major strength of this Toronto “ghost-folk” duo’s second album is that there really is nothing that it can be compared to. The album is a charming set of numbers with laid-back numbers like “Slow Boat to China” and folk numbers like “Dusty Bones” which end with a rock ending and the very memorable lines: “Look out monkey/Be careful toxic snake/I’m climbin’ your motherfucking mountain/And I’m swimmin’ in your lake.”

Graham Wright- Shirts Vs. Skins

I meant it when, in my review, I called it one of the most perfect albums I had heard in a while. The twelve songs of the album go by at a rapid-fire pace but each and every one registered. He packs each quick song full of meaning and quirky characters- from a boy who knows nothing about his promiscuous girlfriend to a guy who loves his girlfriend despite all of her eccentricities.

Ohbijou- Metal Meets

For a self-proclaimed “awkward band,” Ohbijou’s new found confidence is clear here. I loved their previous album Beacons and Metal Meets took the beauty a step further. I still get chills almost every time I hear “Niagara” and “Sligo” does so much with so little. Ohbijou proved that a little experimenting goes a long way.

Rebekah Higgs- Odd Fellowship

As I’ve said previously, there seems to be nothing that Rebekah Higgs can’t do. On her second full-length, she uses vocal loops and flirts with the pop and rock genres with ease. Nothing seems unnatural or forced, even in more experimental songs like Lazy Morning. I look forward to seeing what Higgs does with the Cassettes should they be planning any kind of recording.

Rich Aucoin- We’re All Dying To Live/Over the Top LP

This is the latest addition to my list and by far one of the most deserving. It’s one thing for an artist or group to enlist a guest musician here and there; it’s quite another to enlist the help of 500. Aucoin managed to recruit top musicians from all across the country in addition to several choirs. The result is the spectacle of an album that is We’re All Dying To Live. It defies any kind of categorization and is one that has to be experienced to understood.

Spring Breakup- It’s Not You, It’s Me

The first time I heard this album in its entirety I knew it would wind up on my top 10 list. While the subject of love is one that probably every artist has covered in some capacity, not many cover it with as much talent as Kim Barlow and Mathias Kom. The minimal instrumentation helps put emphasis on the absurd amount of wit these two songwriters have, such as in lines like “The world is my oyster/But I’m allergic to shellfish.”

Timber Timbre- Creep On Creepin’ On

While I enjoyed Timber Timbre’s previous album, I can see why some were turned off. This album, however, pushed those objections away with a flourish. The album manages to successfully embody that moment at night when you think a creature is following you. Starting with the creepy “Bad Ritual” and leading into the terror-inducing instrumental track “Obelisk” to the trippy “Woman,” Creep On Creepin’ On was a well-deserved Polaris short-list nominee.

Honourable mentions: David Myles- Into The Sun; Austra- Feel It Break; Lovely Killbots- Once Smitten; Tyler Butler- Winter King

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