Grayowl Point’s Favourite 25 Releases of 2017

Hello, dear reader – first of all, thank you! Thank you for reading our blog, supporting the artists that we feature, and for caring about art made in this country. Unfortunately, we lost a long-standing voice in Canadian music, Silent Shout, this year, and let’s just say charitably that 2017 has been a dumpster fire for many. But circumstances be damned, there has still been a ton of excellent music released this year, far more than we could possibly fit on this blog.

This year, in response to said dumpster fire, we felt that we needed to have a clear expression of what we want our site to be so we added an inclusivity statement to our submissions page. We recognize that we still struggle with covering a diverse selection of artists but we are taking steps to be better.

To wrap up the year, we, along with our wonderful writers, picked some of our favourite releases (EPs or LPs). We didn’t tally votes or encourage any picks, we just asked our writers and ourselves what we liked to listen to this year. We hope that you see some familiar names on this list and maybe you will discover something new.

Hoots + love,

Michael & Laura

The Barr Brothers – Queens of the Breakers

The Barr Brothers just played a long, luxuriating show in Toronto following the release of Queens of the Breakers and a busy European tour with The War on Drugs. It was a set that suited their fall release—mellow, beautiful and timed as a perfect slow release. Sarah Pagé’s harp trills on the rending “Look Before It Changes,” while “Song That I Heard” finds the rhythmic rhymes that have made the band’s previous releases so engaging, even as the band plunges into new, more resonating depths. – Eleni Armenakis

Blood and Glass – Punk Shadows

Blood and Glass’ experimental sophomore album is teeming with tantalizing ideas. Each new track is a transformative experience that sees the band shift, shriek and spin as they find new directions to explore. Single “Hop the Fence” is a burst of energy that leads the way – bringing what feels like a full marching band with them – on a musical adventure that promises to take you anywhere and everywhere. – EA


2017 has not been a year without challenges and BOUSADA’s debut EP, Shake, is not afraid to face them. Shake is a concentrated burst of compassion that allows problems to be worked through with a looping station — an apt choice if I ever heard one. The melodies hint at reggae while the vocals swing from low-key smooth to quick-pace incantations. Not only is Shake a 2017-encapsulating EP, but the clip of the pacing is sure to propel you heart-first into the new year. – Kaitlin Ruether

Brett Wildeman – The Tools We Possess

The air must be different where Brett Wildeman makes his music, because nothing I’ve heard sounds quite like it. It’s so much more than folk, but not quite pop. It’s just natural—as though Wildeman is in tune with the earth. His latest album is focused on the concept of time, but it’s not like peering into a dense book of philosophy. Instead, it’s simple in its theme: we only have so much of it, so we have to choose how we spend it. The lighter, cuter songs on his album contrast nicely with the heavier songs, like the quietly devastating “Simple Song.” – Michael Thomas

Catherine Leduc – Un bras de distance avec le soleil

There’s such a pleasing balance of weirdness and beauty in the latest album from Catherine Leduc. She grounds her pieces in piano but adds little ounces of strangeness to make you wonder if anything you heard was ever straightforward at all. Leduc’s lyrics are exceedingly thoughtful if you can understand French, but if not, you can still have this soundtrack your next quiet moment. -MT

Common Holly – Playing House

I saw Common Holly (Brigitte Naggar) play twice in 2017: once she played with a full band and shared the bill with fellow listers Little Kid and the other time Naggar played by herself opening for Julien Baker. In both instances, I, along with the rest of the audience, was enthralled with Naggar and the intricate web of emotions she weaves on her songs from Playing House. It’s an album of shadowy, folky songs from an artist that is likely going to have a huge 2018. – Laura Stanley

Fiver – Audible Songs from Rockwood

As a former academic, to me I view Fiver’s thoroughly researched and incredibly put together Audible Songs from Rockwood is a thesis; one that’s worthy of an A. Done in a dusty folk style, Simone Schmidt’s songs are based on the case files of female patients who were kept at the Rockwood Asylum for the Criminally Insane in Kingston, ON between 1854-1881 and highlight colonial, patriarchal, and class injustices. It’s a sharp and timeless record. – LS

Giant Hand – Old Cosmos

Put simply, Old Cosmos is one that will stick with you for a long time after you hear it. Death is a major player in this album, but it never feels scary or threatening. Instead, Kirk Ramsay wrote a “drone-gospel” album that traffics in vivid images woven by Ramsay’s uniquely creaky vocals, and death is seen as something inevitable, but not worth getting worked up over. But even then, Ramsay isn’t just lying down and giving up. It’s simultaneously soothing and empowering. – MT

Holy Data – Holy Data

Holy Data’s self-titled LP is contagiously chaotic in the best of ways. Eccentric strains of synth-pop lead us through an exploration of everyday ennui. On tracks such as “Ether,” “I Want It All,” and “Don’t Look Too Close,” Holy Data’s vibrant variations of psych-pop culminate, and captivate us. Ultimately, as they delve into the depths of our daily disintegration, Holy Data take us on a journey caught between euphoric and eerie; it is quintessentially 2017. – Soraya Mamiche

Holy Hum – All Of My Bodies

Andrew Lee’s (Holy Hum) All Of My Bodies is an expulsion of his grief. Part-ambient, part-post-rock, the album sprawls out like the long limbs of Lee’s titular multiple bodies, as he seeks out comfort following the death of his father. At some points, the album comes down as light mist but at other times, it teems down as icy pellets. – LS

Jom Comyn – I Need Love

For years Jom Comyn has been the kind of artist that fellow Edmontonians talk about in reverence. His guitar-based compositions are enlightening, but on I Need Love he abandons that format temporarily for long-form experimentation. There’s some drone-like songs, little interludes, guitar-based lullabies, and even a full-on Motown song. It’s bold and nothing one would ever expect from Jom Comyn, which is why it’s nothing short of incredible. -MT

Land of Talk – Life After Youth

For last year’s throwback week, I reviewed Land of Talk’s Cloak and Cipher. I only knew a few LOT songs so this was my first time really diving into one of their records which I followed up with binge-listening to all of the other LOT releases. It wasn’t long after that LOT announced their return by way of Life After Youth, Elizabeth Powell’s best record yet. Life After Youth is a steady embrace and a celebration of being alive and making art. – LS

Leif Vollebekk – Twin Solitude 

For me, 2017 has been the year of Twin Solitude. I was on the Polaris Prize grand jury this year and Leif Vollebekk’s record was on the short list so I had to listen to it a lot. But I also fell in love with this record before Polaris, so I had been listening to it – I’ve lost track how many times I’ve listened to “Elegy” and “Into The Either” alone. It’s a record that is soft and subtle and heals any weariness that may plague you.  – LS

Little Kid – Sun Milk

Little Kid‘s Sun Milk is a fortifying concoction of country and folk and squeals and whispers. Over the course of the record, Kenny Boothby aches for clarity, tells stories of love that has been found and loss, and, on the dynamite opener “The Forth,  takes a swing at the gender binary and the advertising industry. Sun Milk also contains one of Little Kid’s best songs ever in “Dim Light Coming Down”. Cheers to Sun Milk– LS

Lo Siento – Bingo Bango

Lo Siento was another bright light in the 2017 dumpster fire, and given how we’re now discovering tons of powerful men are -gasp!- total monsters, Bingo Bango has even more prescience. With lyrics sung in Spanish and with a garage-rock sound infused with punk, this band already has a ton going for it, and Pepa Chan’s bold lyrics make it all the more worthwhile. Get into it. -MT

LUKA – What Kind of Animal

A year and change after Summon Up a Monkey King, LUKA already has another album and it’s just as incredible as its predecessor. Luke Kuplowsky calls this album a “slow burn” and it’s definitely one that takes the tempo down overall. But these slower songs never feel sleepy; Kuplowsky continually infuses them with thoughtful, riddle-like and often surprising lyrics. If that’s still not enough to convince you, listen to a song like “Happy” and tell me with a straight face that your mind wasn’t blown. – MT

Max T – Palm Isle

Imagine downing a few energy drinks while spinning around in circles. Repeat the process a few more times and you’ll still not even come close to matching the energy and intrigue on the debut EP from Max T. “Terror, Bright” is legitimately one of the best pop songs released this year, for starters. And when Max T isn’t playing hyperspeed warped pop, he’s looping in tropical and childhood-inspired sounds to create something unthinkably creative. -MT


Going back to my first-listen notes for NOVEMBER’s OLYMPIA, I found a note scrawled on the bottom of the page: “There isn’t a single minute that isn’t blowing my mind.” After reviewing the EP, I had the chance to talk to NOVEMBER and learn that OLYMPIA was  — perhaps subconsciously — created with a sense of immersion, an intent that translates in the rumble of the low vocals and snap of percussion when listened to loud or through headphones. It’s an intimacy that keeps OLYMPIA feeling like a year-long embrace. – KR

Partner – In Search of Lost Time

Partner’s highly anticipated debut record In Search of Lost Time did not disappoint. It is a face-melting Rock Album that uplifts and cherishes you. The guitar solo on “Ambassador to Ecstasy” is one of my favourite sonic moments of the year, “Everybody Knows” is hilarious, and “Comfort Zone” offers some of the best encouragement to practice self-care. Long live Partner. – LS

Raveen – Always

Albums that make my year-end list have extra sticking power, and I feel like I’m dazzled anew every time I revisit Always. It feels so effortlessly smooth and powerful when it obviously took a while to get everything where it needed to be. The Radiohead vibes of this album’s instrumentation already drew me in, but combine that with wonderfully devastating lyrics of Eric Seguin and you’ve got an album that’s emotionally human and instrumentally supernatural. – MT

Stars – There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light

There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light is the ninth — ninth! — album by the unceasing pop presence Stars, who continue to give chorus to good times with a dash of recklessness. Less politicized than previous releases — a much needed break, though at their shows the band promises to never stop fighting —No Love is a series of anthems for dark times, but finds concreteness in relationships and love. After all, “no one’s getting older, and nothing ever changes, and I will never lose you, and you’ll never lose me.” I hope not, Stars. – KR

Vivek Shraya & the Queer Songbook Orchestra – Part-Time Woman

In the mess that is 2017, we needed more albums like Part-Time Woman, which is a beacon of light that brings empathy and empowerment. Vivek Shraya, along with a huge cast of musicians that make up the Queer Songbook Orchestra, takes swings at horrific men, encourages women and also critiques the way women are treated by others. Shraya wonders in the title track how long it’ll take before she’s considered a “woman” to people. On “Sweetie,” she shows how language degrades women. But by “Girl, It’s Your Time,” Shraya is setting the stage for more women to come forward and kick some ass in the world. -MT

The Weather Station – The Weather Station

“I noticed fucking everything.” Tamara Lindeman spits this around the half-way mark of the startling good track “Thirty.” It’s one of my favourite lyrics of the year. But it’s also an apt summary of her ruckus-y (by The Weather Station standards) self-titled album. Lindeman is taking in everything the world has to offer, she’s in control of her heart, and each step is a determined march forward. – LS

Wept – Dress Me Like I’m Yours

In my profile on Samuel Wells of Wept in June, I mentioned how much I was drawn to the restlessness of Dress Me Like I’m Yours. Wells even admitted to being “a mess” when writing the record which probably explains its unsettled nature. Yet despite this restlessness, Dress Me Like I’m Yours is a comforting record. A familiar emo, pop-punk soundscape envelops you on the tumultuous trip through heartbreak and self-reflection, delivered in such a way that you know that you’ll be alright in the end. – LS

Year of the Wolf – As If We Are Sinking

In a rare twist of fate, Year of the Wolf came about when two Ottawa transplants found each other half a country away. That story of separate paths leading to the same place fit an album—and a band—that has two leads exchanging folk and rock as they go back and forth on songs. Full of energy, the band moves easily between sounds for a debut that feels full of life and potential. – EA


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