A Few Overlooked Acts in 2012

Once again this year, we received way more submissions than we had the capacity to handle. We want to thank all of the musicians and reps who send things our way, as we never run out of excellent music to listen to and write about. Below are 10 albums that we didn’t have time to get to but are now spotlighting (and we thank all of the other bands who are waiting patiently).

by Laura Stanley 

Album #1: Halfway Houses by Dylan Rysstad

In a smoky haze of a country-folk-pop fusion, Dylan Rysstad released solo album number five with Halfway Houses early this Fall. Featuring both Daniel Romano and Ian Romano as backing musicians, Halfway Houses is a very solid collection of often quick feeling numbers that range from the more upbeat “The Other Only Tried” to a sorrowful “The Last Time You Looked,” to Rysstad’s gritty pop number “When In Rome.” In an assortment of country rooted songs, Rysstad’s latest release is a great one for fans of album guest Daniel Romano and country rooted folk that is seemingly on the upturn as of late. Halfway Houses is available on Bandcamp. 

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

Album #2: Showers In The Dark by Rick Reid 

Recorded over a four year period, it makes sense that Rick Reid’s Showers In The Dark is a complete variety of sounds and styles. In seven songs Reid utilizes his strong emotionally driven songwriting in everything from atmospheric poppier songs (“Distractions”) to stark acoustic, very homemade sounding, tracks (“Divorce Song #1”) for an interesting record. Showers In The Dark is available on Bandcamp.

Rating: Young Hoot (Decent)

Album #3: Metropolis by Twin Library 

Marking their second release in 2012, Twin Library are continuing to crank out their brand of lo-fi fuzzy pop like there’s no tomorrow. Released in July, Twin Library’s EP Metropolis is, in typical Twin Library fashion, a collection of four songs that provide a quick punch of effortless pop melodies and a distorted instrumental jumble that’s full of energy and fun. The opener “The Surgery Never Left” makes the EP worth a listen by itself. Metropolis is available for name your price on Bandcamp.

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

Album #4: The Spark 7″ by Taylor Knox

After hitting the stage with Canadian acts like Sloan, Jason Collett, and Zeus, Toronto based musician Taylor Knox has put out a bunch of solo material that should definitely be on your “to-listen” list. Knox’s 7” The Spark, released in April, is full of melodious, fun loving pop-rock songs which can only be described as effortlessly cool.  The Spark 7″ is available on Bandcamp and be sure to check out Taylor Knox’s latest release FIRE 7″. Big thanks to Southern Souls for helping with the discovery of Taylor Knox.

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *swoop* 

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by Michael Thomas

reckonAlbum #1: Reckon by Jason Collett

When the latest album from Collett came out in late September this year, I think I neglected to review it out of fear that I would have no idea what I was talking about, having not previously heard much of Collett’s music beforehand. That changed when I saw Collett perform a two-hour show at the Great Hall shortly after the release of the album. In short, Collett is a confident musician that can write a great song no matter what he does with it- sweeping strings like in “Pacific Blue,” a keys-filled ballad a la “My Daddy Was a Rocknroller” or the bewitching bass groove of “I Wanna Rob a Bank.” Reckon is certainly a bit darker than his previous efforts, touching on the economic loss of people during the last recession, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less of a great piece of work by Collett.

Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) +*swoop*

wild rose orchestra iiAlbum #2: Wild Rose Orchestra II by Wild Rose Orchestra

With a name like that, I was expecting some sweeping orchestral music, or maybe some roots-flavoured folk. Nope, this is actually a ska-flavoured band out of Edmonton that emphasizes one of my favourite parts of certain songs- a horn section. Brass always adds an extra layer to songs and gives them a power that no other instruments can really provide. The songs are all tightly arranged, usually around the two-and-a-half minute mark, and they’re certainly good if you’re in need of a feel-good boost. “Draw” and “Avenue” provide solid introductions, giving way eventually to the punk-charged “An Argument” and later to “River Soul” which shows that the guys of the band can also harmonize, something that the band should definitely do a lot more of. Some of the songs sound a little too similar to each other, but it’s still a worthy effort. It’s available from Bandcamp.

Rating: Young Hoot (Decent)

love war and propagandaAlbum #3: Love, War + PRopaganda by The Caretakers

The 60s may have been the height of the “protest song” era, but that doesn’t mean some new ones can’t surface every now and then. The Caretakers, a duo consisting of Jeffrey C. Martin and Lena Montecalvo (with a slew of guest musicians), dedicated the album to “the 99% of the world population still waiting for a piece of the pie.” It comes through in their music, namedropping peace advocates like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, and even referencing folk heroes like Bob Dylan. Martin and Montecalvo alternate on vocals and are generally supported by up-tempo roots- and rock-flavoured melodies. It’s an album with an overall message, which is something not seen quite as often these days. The album can be purchased from Bandcamp.

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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by Elena Gritzan

many_earthsAlbum #1: Many Earths by Dirty Inputs

The third full-length record from Torontonian Aaron Dawson’s Dirty Inputs project sets out to look at the relationship between nature and technology, something that comes out in the otherworldy instrumental sonic tapestries through organic atmospheric drones contrasted with and created by very much man-made synthesizers. The album moves through enveloping highs and calming lows, weaving together arpeggios, heartbeat percussion, and sustained notes. This modern-day kosmiche musik can inspire an attentive listener. The album is available as a free download from Retronym.

Rating: Young Hoot (Decent)

NC_Aware_cover1Album #2: Aware by Nuela Charles

Combining the moody sensibility of Lana Del Rey and the old-time sound of Amy Winehouse with her own firecracker style, Nuela Charles has created a set of honest, soulful pop songs ranging from emphatic empowerment to dramatic introspection. She covers a spectrum of experiences: heartache, confidence, rebirth, uncertainly, loneliness, and love. It’s not perfect (the fade-out at the end is a little underwhelming, and the single piano note repeating itself throughout the first track overstays its welcome), but when Charles hits her stride, the result is powerful. This is an album full of inspiring vocal delivery and intense emotional relatability. The album is available on Bandcamp.

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

iderdownAlbum #3: Live Set One by Iderdown

This home recording representation of the Toronto–based artist’s live set brings atmosphere with a captial A. Keyboards and guitars are manipulated with reckless abandon to create the experimental ambient soundscapes. At times, the record dips into danceable grooves (like the drum beat under the fuzzy noise of “Dirth” or the stuttery percussion midway through “Amble In”), but for the most part I found myself intellectually admiring the shifting and building of layers. The same melodic line appears as a motif throughout, tying together the continuous cinematic narrative. What really gets me going though, is the final track, “Everyone’s”, a mashup of quaint sounding melodies, roaring saxophone, and scrunchy dance textures. Find the album on the Iderdown website.

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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