by Laura Stanley
It seems that when every year that I am involved in the blog passes, the strength and diversity of Canadian independent music grows. Although my list of simply 10, because I am not as rebellious as some of the others around here, reflects my own views on what has been some of the strongest releases in the nation from the small corner of the musical world that I like to reside in, the mixture that will be presented in the various year-end lists from our writers/editors will certainly reflect the true character of music in Canada. What I’m saying is, 2013 was a swell year!
Polaris Music Prize winners in my mind, A Tribe Called Red have had a year matched be very few in Canadian music this year; Polaris Prize winners or not. In their unique brand of mixing traditional pow-wow music with a contemporary blend of electronic, hip hop, and dubstep elements, the band’s second full-length release Nation II Nation came out in a year where the Idle No More movement pushed the public into some recognition of the devastating position of Aboriginals in contemporary Canadian society. Mirroring the contemporary with history, the music itself drives deep into your soul, promoting needed change with every beat, and getting you up and dancing all at the same time.
In case you missed it, our guest writer Chris Wheeler wrote one of the most elegant pieces Grayowl Point has ever seen on why A Tribe Called Red should win the Polaris Prize which is very worthy of your time.
Basia Bulat has created an album in Tall Tall Shadow that can make you openly weep in public. The darkness of Bulat’s lyrics are brilliantly juxtaposed by one of the strongest voices in Canadian music and a gentle music style that finds Bulat exploring previously uncharted territory. “It Can’t Be You,” alone, is one of the best songs from 2013. Period.
Melodious folk tunes, wry and yet heartbreaking lyrics, and sweet dance moves. He has it all. Donovan Woods is also a songwriter you need to hear. (I’ll leave my gushing/feelings to my review of Don’t Get Too Grand)
In his return of sorts to making music, Us Alone is a continuation of Hayden’s strength as a songwriter. This time revealing more about his personal life, in particular, love, his child, his seventeen+ year spanning career, and death, Us Alone is a small but impressive collection from an illustrious greater catalogue of songs.
As part of my summer soundtrack, Leif Vollebekk’s North Americana has grown to become one of my favourites records. Like ever. A smooth medley of folk, rock, and a voice that grasps your attention, Vollebekk’s timeless lyrical stories are what gets me the most; “There’s two sides to every story but it seems like you’ve got ten.”
In my 2011 top EP list, Nick Everett made an appearance with his solo Rocky Top release. This time, in Everett’s fuller band effort, he expands his already fringe folk sound to soaring new heights. For a little more experimental drive in your folk music, Everett and Elsething is the perfect fit.
As another record that is the strongest to date and sees a change in sound from a musician, Pat LePoidevin takes a clever lyrical muse, each song tells the tale of a fictional story based in various American small towns, and turns it into brilliance. American Fiction is a journey well worth the taking.
Shad is one of the most important rappers in the nation and Flying Colours cements this fact. Socially conscious and intelligent lyrics make up the breadth of his record(s) while the notable collaborations and creative beats throughout the record make it impossible to ignore.
I think we might be getting into some touch EP/LP territory here, but nevertheless Snoqualime’s experimental ambient record skyland mtn a creative force worth noting. Recorded in analog format and never once touching a computer, between the instrumental created atmosphere and the one created by the textured recording sounds, skyland mtn. is driven by character and fuelled by experimentation.
Like Vollebekk’s North Americana, We Are The City’s Violent was an early summer soundtrack that gave me a lot of feelings. In their strongest record to date, We Are The City push their “prog-rock” sound to blistering new intensity and decide to pair it with emotionally heightened lyrics just to mess with our own emotions. Lyric of my year, “everything has changed and I don’t want to change.”