by Laura Stanley
I’m running out of (snarky) introductions for my year-end lists! Sooo…please enjoy my opinion of outstanding albums, ordered alphabetically, from 2014. It’s been a weird year. Kind regards:
Alvvays – S/T
Making an appearance on many year-end lists, it is quite obvious that Toronto band Alvvays has exploded this year. Their self-titled debut record is an array of pop-hooks, love songs, and twenty-something insecurities put to music. While the hazy pop music style is very trendy right now, the skillful songwriting of lead singer Molly Rankin and the talents of the rest of Alvvays enables this band to not be a passing trend.
As mentioned in my overlooked acts post, jazz fusion trio BadBadNotGood are wonderfully fresh and effortlessly cool. In their first entirely original release, BadBadNotGood’s III is versatile and fits perfectly as both backing mood music or important pump-up jams, depending on your mood. Barely graduates of Humber College’s jazz program, the future is bright for BadBadNotGood.
Bahamas – Bahamas is Afie
With every passing Bahamas record, Afie Jurvanen aka Bahamas is naturally progressing into a major star. Bahamas is Afie is Jurvanen’s most candid record to date and wraps up everything good that Jurvanen has going for him, gifted guitar player, silky smooth voice, a lot of soul, into a timeless third record.
Jennifer Castle – Pink City
Jennifer Castle’s Pink City is an honest and emotionally complex record that feels both intellectually challenging and, somehow, serene. It’s as if Castle, through addressing the contemporary issues that effect both her and her friends, creates a comfortable clarity that allows Pink City to be the perfect getaway. Extra praise to Jennifer Castle for brilliantly questioning Joni Mitchell comparisons.
Olivier Clements & Dissonant Histories – S/T
Aidan Knight and the Friendly Friends member Olivier Clements’ debut album is one that I continually turned to throughout 2014. Clements and the rest of his octet have blended a more traditional jazz style with a folk rock sound not unlike that of Knight’s for a beautiful record that is captivating.
Two jazz (ish) albums on my list?! Must be a sign of things to come.
The Lonely Parade – Sheer Luxury
All of my late teenage angst is rolled up into Sheer Luxury. The DIY debut album from this young Peterborough trio is reckless, frank, and downright badass. In a punk/garage rock style, The Lonely Parade are clever musicians (who knew a song about the unwanted advances your mom received could be such a hit?) who should be viewed as an inspiration for many young musicians. I’m rooting for you guys!
Hey Rosetta! – Second Sight
Hey Rosetta! is a band that continually churns out records that will never age. Timeless and intricately arranged songs that fill your mind and body with what I will classify here as “the good stuff.” Lead singer Tim Baker is an underrated mastermind.
Tanya Tagaq – Animism
A mind-altering, soul-bending, politically important record from an incredible talent. See my Polaris Prize essay for more reasons why this record is so powerful.
Chad VanGaalen – Shrink Dust
I have always considered myself to be a casual fan of Chad VanGaalen, unlike say, Michael, but VanGaalen’s Shrink Dust threw me over to a full-fledge believer. Shrink Dust is imaginative, complex, and a mix between folk and wonderful experimental weirdness. VanGaalen’s has this ability to cast emotionally rich lyrics amongst the compelling instrumental soundscape for an incredible effect.
The Weather Station – What Am I Going To Do With Everything I Know
For those who know me, The Weather Station’s 2011 record All of it was Mine is one of my all-time favourites. Tamara Lindeman’s (The Weather Station) long awaited follow-up, the EP What Am I Going To Do With Everything I Know, surpassed my expectations of what could come after such a brilliant record. Done in hushed folk tones, Lindeman’s lyrics are intricate, delicate, and make for some exceptionally crafted folk music.
P.S. After hearing a few songs from her forthcoming record Loyalty at the EP’s release show in Toronto, I am confident in saying: check back here next year to see Loyalty on 2015’s top ten list.