Despite my previous few years ignoring the conventional “Top 10” lists, this year I naturally arrived at 10 albums with no internal debate. So here are my top 10 Canadian albums of the year, in alphabetical order:
Rich Aucoin – Ephemeral
One of the key indications of whether an album is going to make my year-end list is how many times I go back to it. Ephemeral resonates with me so much because of how unironically positive Rich Aucoin is about life and love. And here he’s stripped down his music to the essentials, mimicking the feel of going to one of his explosive live shows.
Doomsquad – Kalaboogie
Ever since first catching them at the 2013 Wavelength festival, I knew their debut release would be something special, and it undoubtedly is. The trio plays with spirituality and hypnotism, from tribal-sounding chants (“Born From the Marriage of the Moon and a Crocodile”) to ghostly fevers (“Ovoo”).
F&M – At Sunset We Sing
The latest record from Edmonton’s F&M is so goddamn beautiful that my album review was basically taken straight out of the Weird Canada playbook. Rarely does music move me enough to attempt poetry, but here it is. The sheer diversity of experiences and technical prowess formed a perfect fall album, with warmth and longing accented by bitter cold and painful emotion.
Galaxius Mons – GMO
Though Expwy is dead, Matt LeGroulx and Ian Jarvis are still keeping their synth-driven project a hell of a lot more than simply buoyant. For their second release, the catchy beats are amplified with the presence of a slew of guest singers. Year of Glad brings silky smoothness to “Making out with the shadows,” Ambrose brings unconventional delivery to “Firestorm,” Jef Barbara brings domination to the horn-driven “Controller Down” and the list goes on. This type of large-scale collaboration brings such joy to my cynical heart.
The Lonely Parade – Sheer Luxury
I wish I could talk about how great this band is without mentioning how young they are, but seriously—this trio makes better and catchier music than many bands with far, far more experience. Be it laid-back bass-driven tracks like “Tip of an Iceburg” and “Empty Cure” or the utter fury of “My Mom Got Hit on at a Punk Show” or “Sad Li(f)e” there’s seemingly little this band cannot do. And it’s not even just musically — lyrically they’re extra sharp, speaking of hipsters and the fucked-up reality of growing up in this day and age.
Owen Pallett – In Conflict
It’s been a big year for my personal musical heroes, but arguably no one has had as good a year as Owen Pallett. Though its release was plagued by a delay or two, the final product is magnificent and masterful, as Pallett sings more personally than he ever has before. Of parenthood or lack thereof; of feeling alienated by your city; of terror of the unknown. Through it all, Pallett has a crack team of collaborators, pushing his electronic backings into higher ground amid his already strong compositions on violin.
Silkken Laumann – Not Forever Enough
While I can never remember how many double consonants are in this band’s name, what I can remember is that I’ve completely lost track of how many times I’ve played this album since it came out in early 2014. The self-described “house punk band” creates groovy electronic soundscapes full of substance and physicality. There’s room for dancing and even a bit of quiet contemplation toward the end.
Tanya Tagaq – Animism
I’m not going to pretend her nomination for and subsequent win of the Polaris Prize wasn’t the impetus for finally picking up this stellar record. I was fortunate enough to see her live performance at the Polaris Prize gala, and I can still recall how speechless and even dizzy I felt at the sheer ferocity not just of her presence, but of the expressive arrangements from Jesse Zubot. Going through the record is like confronting the dark sides of Canadian history you want to pretend aren’t there, while also proving that the ancient art of throat singing is empowering and can be brought into a modern context.
Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams
Just when I thought Timber Timbre couldn’t expand its spooky arsenal after the aptly-named Creep on Creepin’ On, Taylor Kirk and co. have upped their game yet again. Colin Stetson’s magnificent sax takes a larger forefront here, especially in the gorgeous (and slightly terrifying) title track. And just when it seemed like Timber Timbre could only create terror with big, brash orchestral arrangements, that’s blown out of the water with the simple and unnerving “Run From Me.”
Chad VanGaalen – Shrink Dust
Laura’s right, I’m no casual fan of Chad VanGaalen, so it’s no surprise that I would consider this latest release one of his best yet. He’s moved somewhat away from the glitchy, experimental stuff in Soft Airplane and has now melded folk and his own brand of weirdness. “Hangman’s Son” continues to be a song that haunts my brain.