Finding the soft balance between Weezer and Replacements influences, Salinas have crafted a catchy and smart pop album.  They thrust 80’s indie jangle against some big, anthemic rock n roll.  It is held together with songwriting skills belying their young age, allowing this album to rock pretty solidly from top to bottom.

Matt Austman’s lyrics are full of the young romantic’s trials – unrewarding sex, missing connections, and the quest for meaningful relationships.  A tense politik also weaves its way throughout.

No Caulfield Absolutes is the only low mark – an intimate song which should be rewarded with intimate vocals to match.  Instead, the post-hardcore yelps create a barrier to the emotional punch the song could otherwise have.

Younger hints at some of the Red House Painters’ more rocking moments before turning back towards the band’s safe anthemic stylings.

Smartly produced by Royal Canoe’s Matt Peters, this debut album showcases a band reaching towards lofty goals.  They show much promise and with continued efforts such as this plus some good old fashioned hard work, will grow into the kind of band people will rally around, fists in the air.

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Collect all 7

A quick browse through most reviews for Arcade Fire’s newest – The Suburbs – reveals an ironically short-sighted focus on the sounds within.  Sure, they’ve been listening to some Depeche Mode to go with their Springsteen influence.  Sure, they’ve got some cool arpeggiating synths and a leaner, tougher sound.   Sure, its a welcome left turn after the heavy-handed bombast of Neon Bible and youthful yelp of Funeral.

But what about the underlying forces moving this record.  Shortened attention spans in a tech-mad world?  Lets choose We Used To Wait as our first single and reminisce about writing letters through the mail.  Everyone talking about singles and the death of the ‘album’?  Lets release a 16-song concept album about the very geographic phenomenom at the root to society’s current shortcomings.

The heart of this album is, surprisingly, hopefulness.  Win Butler is calling out for a more meaningful existence, for deeper connections, and some sense of rightfulness in a society slipping further into sectarianism.

“Now our lives are changing fast.  Hope that something pure can last.”

Half Light II (No Celebration) calls out “Some people say we’ve already lost.  They’re not ready to pay the cost.”  Later summed up “One day they’ll see its long gone.”

And my favorite, a gentle swipe at Seth Godin, or his lackey Bob Lefsetz: “The music divides us into tribes… you choose your side and I’ll choose mine.”

Alienation from a world that lacks a meaningful centre – “They keep changing all the names of the streets I grew up on.”

A call for purpose instead of posturing – “The kids are still standing with their arms folded tight.  I know its heavy, I know it ain’t light, but how you gonna lift it with your ams folded tight.”

Its not all a cohesive, barbed and reflective trip down childhood memory lane – but given the subject matter, its oddly fitting that there are a few dud songs.  Cul-de-sacs of incomplete ideas (Sprawl I) and, well admittedly, the never-ending references to ‘the suburbs’ and ‘sprawl’ get a little monotonous.  Maybe thats the point?  If so, its a clever way to diffuse criticism.

Oddly, its the most specifically topical songs which fall the flattest – “The Suburbs”, “Suburban War” and “Sprawl I” all lack the reflective immediacy and swagger otherwise dominating the album.  Its as if the concept ultimately got imposed onto an otherwise impressive and cohesive song-cycle.

The raw urgency of Ready To Start, Half Light II, Month Of May and Sprawl II contain new magic for a band that could’ve rested on its laurels and proven formula.

So yeah, sure, there’s a different sound.  But this isn’t a band dealing with the shallow surface, so its a disservice to the very nature of art to approach this album on such shallow terms.  Its time to move downtown in your listening.

Alex Chilton

I still feel the great rumbling of sadness at the passing of Mr. Chilton. My eyes are moist even now. I am becoming more cognizant daily that we have lost the ultimate cult hero. Few people properly belong in that category in our time. I would count Sam Phillips, Go-Betweens, Suicide, even Wanda Jackson deserves a higher throne. A man so worthy of the Memphis legacy and the great ambassador of the Ardent Studio sound.

Every decade seems to have that one band that changed the world and, very often, didn’t live long enough to really see it. Link Wray in the 1950’s. The Velvets in the 1960’s, The Go-Betweens in the 1980’s. The 1970’s – well that’s Big Star. Their contribution is still being surmised by the music community.

The world we live in aids and abets the discovery of such treasures among a plethora of “musicians” who have no more business singing a note for the masses than I do picking up a scalpel, designing a building, repairing a car or refereeing a world cup soccer game. If I grew up in Winkler in the 70’s, where would I have heard bands like Big Star? Certainly not on CISV, CKY or the like. Perhaps they played some Raspberries or Marshall Crenshaw. There were no video shows on then. Sure, I might have lucked out on an appearance of Hank Snow or Ian and Sylvia in a local gymnasium for another rousing rendition of The Western Hour.

It’s unfair, but a necessary evil to make sure the whole thing goes – the way it SHOULD. The cult status also ensures an artist stays true to its roots – or fights against them. Both can bring about thrilling results. Isn’t it a beautiful thing, though, when this band gets to be “yours” for a while? When no one understands why “Thirteen” rattles the heart because it flies true and free into the fading nucleus of young love; the courage of writing such a rousing anthem in “Ballad Of El Goodo” about dodging the draft, or the fragile angst of the twisted love song “Kanga Roo”. The career of Alex Chilton continues to be, largely, in the words of master linguist George W. Bush, misunderestimated. But not by you and I. We were fortunate to find him. We beat the gold rush and our harvest is plentiful. And I, for one, am grateful.

For those of you, my dear public, who feel #1 Record and Radio City are the only Big Star records you need, I beseech you to reconsider. Unlike many, that was the first record I actually heard by them. That’s right. this writer didn’t begin with “Thirteen”, “Ballad Of El Goodo” or the like. For me, the genesis of Big Star was in the sad beauty of their rough demise.

Here lies the rub with Third/Sisters Lovers – Big Star’s final record. Big Star made two flawless records – loaded in blue-eyed soul, Beatles psychedelia, proto-type power-pop, and the early blueprints for what would emerge as cosmic americana and alternative country. They sustained a huge change in the exit of Chris Bell after #1 Record – kind of like if John Lennon, Jimmy Page, John Cale, Tony Iommi, Grant McLennan, or Rick Nielsen (for example) had left their writing partners. One could argue his talent dominates the first record. This is not surprising as it was Alex Chilton who joined the party in the Icewater/Rock City days (the first real magic of the Chilton/Bell partnership being the beautiful “Try Again” on Rock City’s only album). Bell was heartbroken, even suicidal, about the indifference #1 Record met. He left, contributing to only a few tracks on Radio City. Chris still played with drummer Jody Stephens on demos (later to become “I Am The Cosmos”, one of my favourite records of all time) and Chilton appeared on his solo work as well.

But Chilton and Bell had lost the foils in one another that made their work so great together. The apparently faithful supporters began to jump ship. Chris Bell recorded demos with his brother and Beatles’ engineer Geoff Emerick (who went on to be a great producer himself, ie. Elvis Costello’s Imperial Bedroom) – mixing the demos at Abbey Road Studios. But the record company didn’t like what they heard. Andy Hummell had enough of the spotlight (or lack of it). Big Star was reduced, basically, to Jody Stephens and Alex Chilton.

Here’s where the parallel becomes so rich between Paul Westerberg and his hero, Alex Chilton. They’re both stuck in a band that has all but fallen apart and they’re contractually obliged to finished the next record. Drunk, tired, broke, with many of their supporters turning their backs in boredom and discouragement, they’re forced to paste their fresh and weary wounds on magnetic tape and squeeze blood from a stone. Like “All Shook Down”, the fans and critics (well, the precious few who know about them) cried “what a mess!” and “where’s the THIRTEEN we’ve been waiting for?”. Or they didn’t bother listening at all. The expecting public, and their unambitious distributors, quashed a very fragile, honest, and beautiful record.

Why listen to this record? It doesn’t “flow” like the rest of the records. It’s difficult to listen to. Jarring even. If one is looking for a smooth and pleasant ride, there are any number of records by George Benson, The Manhatten Transfer and James Taylor one can be pointed to. Looking for the perfect album? Well – there’s Blood On The Tracks, Aja, Revolver, Court And Spark, and Pet Sounds, then. The point I vehemently dispute is that a work of art should be “perfect”; no flaws, no blemish; a perfect experience from beginning to end. I find this approach to art will simply allow a one dimensional approach – no more. The sum. But what of its parts? The great geniuses of the world have created many imperfect films, books, songs, paintings, etc. It can’t always be a home run.

So, what about the parts? Daniel Day-Lewis is peerless in the underwhelming mess that is The Gangs Of New York. Shall I tell someone to miss this performance because the movie is disappointing? Shall I direct someone to not listen, then, to the lack-luster Let It Be? Would the Beatles canon be complete without The Long And Winding Road, Get Back and Let It Be? Certainly not!

Sure Henry Miller’s Tropic Of Cancer is spellbinding. But what about tackling Tropic Of Capricorn? Perhaps the latter will serve to enrich the experience of the former. Sometimes the context of the artist’s life can enrich what is perceived as “weak” work. Are there bad films? Sure. Godard didn’t always hit his mark. I’m going to watch all his films anyway, because I have already found that history has been wrong. Constantly. I find the Mona Lisa is incessantly boring. It does not intrigue me or put me in awe. It’s a woman staring back at me. I couldn’t give two shits whether she’s smiling or not. Is your favorite Bob Dylan record Saved or, stranger yet, your favorite Joni Mitchell record Dog Eat Dog? Joni doesn’t even play guitar on that record. It’s all studio wizard Michael Landau! But it has The Three Great Stimulants and Wayne Shorter on it. It doesn’t matter. If it kisses your heart and rattles your soul, play it every day for the rest of your life. That’s all that matters. Hence, this earnest apology for what is my favorite Big Star record, Third/Sisters Lovers.

Save, perhaps, for “Thirteen”, this is Alex Chilton at his most vulnerable, naked self. He is defeated. He is painting wildly, desperately on his canvas – like Pollock in a fit of rage. He is longing for escape from his demons. “I hate it here. Get me out of here.” (from “Nighttime”). “Thank You Friends” is a sly and bitter wink at the small few in the audience who couldn’t keep the Big Star ship afloat (a song many of them never bothered to hear). “Jesus Christ” is an honest to goodness re-embracing of his blue-eyed roots – and a fantastic Christmas song to boot. Alex is so tired he’s “resorting to covers”. There’s no crime in singing others’ songs! “Femme Fatale” is both more fragile and playful than the Velvets’ original. Why not a reverent version of the standard “Nature Boy”? There’s even early Glam Rock in “Kizza Me”! And what about the intimate, desperately broken love song that is “Kanga Roo”.

A friend asked the other day on the internet which Big Star record he should start with, as he was disappointed he had missed out on their career. Inevitably, many felt the first two records were all one needs. I’m sorry, but it is unconscionable to consider oneself a Big Star fan without, in the very least, listening to all THREE Big Star records. #1 Record and Radio City are a gimme – you can buy them as a “twofer” for goodness sakes! The real test is the challenge Alex put to us all in Third. It’s not easy, there is a bounty of beauty and unrest waiting for you. There is something for everyone – if they will only dig.

We all pass these towns a thousand times. This time, I ask you, traveler, to stop and look. Get to know the place. There is much for you here. And if you don’t like it, won’t you love the others that much more?

Kafka said the crowd has a common purpose. The individual is harder to control. Mr. Alex Chilton was certainly an individual.  And so are you for having found him in the rough. What a gem he has been. It is so sad to know he will not add to the story, but the legacy will live and breath on for a long time.

Alex Chilton Forever!

-Darren Day

It opens like cheap date at a pizza pickup window.  And then wham, harmony.  Thick, saccharine, Fab-Four harmony.  Oozing in and out of the live groove, swapping melodic stories with vintage synths and jangling guitars.

There’s a lot of talk about Lawrence Arabia and that this album should be trumpeted from the rooftops.  Given his associations with Okkervil River and his Destroyer-isms, I can see why a certain set gets all hot and bothered by these throwback melodies.  I’m not that kind of guy.  So I’ll be nice and say that there aren’t many original ideas here.  Catchy?  Yup.  Fun?  Yup.  And hey, maybe thats all you need in your life.  But I need a record that I can listen to more than twice before having exhausted its emotional and intellectual offerings.

Aukland CBD is an awkward and tense experience.  “I touched most of her body cuz I knew I could” – a great lyric that doesn’t get the musical fine-tuning it deserves, and changes tense to sing “You’re the girl of my dreams” before washing into retro lounge organ.

Apple Pie Bed is admittedly catchy as all hell, and the groove is the album’s highlight – able to insight sing-a-longs on road trips, to be sure.  If the rest of the songwriting was this strong, we’d likely have more positive praises to sing.

The Crew Of The Commodore is the only song to transcend the stylistic limitations of Chant Darling’s production.  It warrants repeat listening, speaks to our hollowed out tv memories, and musically seeks out something more evolved than 60’s rainbow rehash.

Fans of Belle & Sebastian, Destroyer, Telepathic Butterflies and New Pornographers will probably find more to latch onto than I did.  Low marks for innovation, but top marks for stylistic execution.

Laura Viers - July Flame
I remember the first time I heard Laura Veirs. I was listening to KCRW’s Brave New World With Tricia Halloran and on came “The Cloud Room” from Laura’s first record for Nonesuch, Carbon Glacier. So catchy, darkly humorous and such a pure voice. That proved to be one of the best releases of that year. The next record, A Year Of Meteors, while containing another batch of brilliant songs, seemed overproduced by comparison. 2007’s Saltbreakers was, perhaps, a step closer to Carbon Glacier.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I haven’t heard a Laura Veirs record I don’t love yet, but I’ve been waiting for an album that would impact me on the level that Carbon Glacier did. I’m happy to say that July Flame is that album.

When word came that she had re-signed with Bella Union, a great label run by Cocteau Twins’ Simon Raymonde (and formerly Robin Guthrie), I had mixed feelings. Nonesuch seemed a perfect artistic home for her, yet Bella Union was the home of my favorite album of hers.  Was Laura Veirs about to make a noise pop record?! Alas, Laura Veirs simply has made a record that Laura Veirs would make. Very wisely, she has kept the same producer she’s had since Carbon Glacier, the brilliant Mr. Tucker Martine. His treatment of Veirs’ material is perfectly graceful, knowing when to dress up a joyful moment and strip a solemn one to a pure voice in an empty room.

The record begins with the sparse and beautiful I Can See Your Tracks, adorned with the echo-laden voice of My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. It is followed by the record’s finest song and title track, July Flame. With driving bass and percussion pulsing below, Veirs’ voice soars in the chorus with the refrain “Can I Call You Mine?”. It’s the finest song I’ve heard in 2010 and it even bests “The Cloud Room” in her canon. One would be remiss without mentioning her beautiful tribute to session musician Carol Kaye, entitled, well, Carol Kaye. Smile if you know who she is.

This record is a quieter one for Veirs. There are flashes of 99.9F-era Suzanne Vega and Neko Case, but Laura Veirs walks a unique path of her own. Beautiful support is provided by James, Martine, Karl Blau, Steve Moore, seasoned string arranger Stephen Barber and John Zorn/Bill Frisell regular (and former Winnipegger) Eyvind Kang.

I used to tell people to start with Carbon Glacier. That has now changed.

Kissaway Trail - Sleep Mountain

Kissaway Trail - Sleep Mountain

The first of a three-part spotlight on British label Bella Union.

When a band’s influences seem obvious it’s easy to dismiss them as unoriginal or unchallenging. But when a band can take those influences, embrace them and craft them into something their own that comes across as a balanced musical undertaking this is a sign of their true creativity and self awareness. The Danish indie rock quintet The Kissaway Trail are a good example of a band that have embraced their musical influences and turned them into a solid album.

Sleep Mountain is The Kissaway Trail’s 2nd album released on Bella Union, intermingling rich multi-instrumental songs and strong vocal harmonies. From the monumental church bells on the opening track SPD it’s apparent they are fans of anthems. This and other tracks such as Friendly Fire, New Year, Don’t Wake Up & Enemy show why they draw obvious comparisons to the likes of Arcade Fire, Flaming Lips & the Polyphonic Spree while other tracks such as Beat Your Heartbeat are reminicent of early Death Cab for Cutie, especially vocally. Lead singers guitarist Soren B. Coreneliussen & Thomas Fagerlund’s sharing of vocal/ guitar duties (along with Daniel Skjoldmose on guitar/ keyboards & Hase Mydtskov on drums) are one of the albums strong points. While this album is very strong vocally, lyrically it doesn’t challenge or impress as much. The lyrical themes of the album are singular and narrow – loving love or the idea of love is not exactly breaking new ground.

With so many stylistic and vocal arms pulling in different directions, renowned producer Peter Katis manages to reign in the homages and bring focus and direction. The only seemingly disjointed track is the cover of Neil Young’s Philadelphia – beautiful, but somewhat out-of-place and failing to improve on the original.

If you can get past the obvious modern indie pastiche, you will see what this album is at heart: a balanced and solid undertaking with strong vocals and beautiful anthemic songs. If you can’t get past the influences then just continue listening to the Beginning Stages of… and Neon Bible. But you’ll be missing out in the end.

Majestic!

Courtney Wing’s new album The Bouquet Of Might & Fury is a mighty impressive opus.  Conceived as a response to a request to perform on CBC Live, Courtney has turned that corner from “an artist with potential” to “an artist”.  Bouquet Of Might & Fury magically weaves heartfelt vocals into string section backdrops with operatic ornaments.  It is undeniably intimate, holding your focus while the grandeur swirls behind you.

Amid playful melodies, whimsical flair and otherworldly imagery, Courtney sings of the heart’s trials and adventures.  And he’s found an outstanding cast of supporting friends to flesh out the big vision – members of Godspeed You Black Emporer, Torngat, Arcade Fire, Be Good Tanyas – and even the Record Of The Week Club (transplanted Manitoban Jen Thiessen).

Check out Courtney Wing with Royal Canoe & Dryer – Tuesday April 6 @ the WECC.

“Now, I’m-a let you finish, but…”

What a year. I almost lost my mother.  Twice. I lost my grandmother at Christmas.  I stepped down from a management job to focus on music.  My dreams of love and art were battered even more beyond recognition.  They watch the backs of one another as we soldier on.  There’s water on that horizon and I WILL drink my fill.  This city broke me down and then sewed me up.  Over and over again.  I chose to wear my heart on my sleeve for as many people as possible.  “Just bein’ real.”  Right, Kanye?

Jeff Hanson (tragic and too young), Vic Chesnutt (tragic and fucked up), and Lux Interior (tragic and too soon) passed away.  I will never see The Cramps.  Ever.  Sad, that.  A lot of great records came out.  I actually spent a good chunk of the year listening to fabulous reissues by Karen Dalton, Kraftwerk and Sarolta Zalatnay as well as stuff on the Numero Group and Soul Jazz labels.  Check it.

There are some artists who, perennially, make my top ten.  This year, for various reasons, they didn’t.  Wilco – bored me to tears, sadly. Being simple is no longer innovative or a fresh approach.  Paul Westerberg – beautiful, but quit fucking around and make a proper record already.  David Bazan – so brilliant and so painful for me.  Akin to Nick Hornby’s assessment of Suicide’s brilliant “Frankie Teardrop”.

“Are You Sitting Comfortably? Then We’ll Begin.”  -Platinum Blonde, It Doesn’t Really Matter

10. Spinnerette // Spinnerette (Anthem)

A few years back, Brody Dalle left her post in the band The Distillers, married QOTSA’s Josh Homme, and became a mother.  That seemed to be the end of her.  This record was a huge surprise.  Aggressive, angry, sexy, and supremely addictive.  I played this record LOUD all year long.

9. Richard Hawley // Truelove’s Gutter (Mute US)

Having honed his guitar skills with the likes of the Longpigs, Pulp, and Robbie Williams, we all knew Richard Hawley was a supreme talent. As a guitarist, he is, no less, a peer to the great work of Johnny Marr, Bernard Butler, and Graham Coxon.  What a surprise it was to discover that he was such a writing talent and had a voice that has earned him the accolade “the next Scott Walker”.  Even Scott Walker loves him.

8. Richmond Fontaine // We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like The River (Arena Rock)

Willy Vlautin is a fantastic author, whose haunting books (Northline, The Motel Life) about the violence within blood ties and the constant hell of heartbroken men are a close cousin to the work of playwright Sam Shepard.  He also happens to head one of the finest bands in the history of the No Depression scene.

Each song is like a southern novel,  written while Vlautin was bedridden (due to an injury) and mourning the passing of his mother.  This somewhat made up for feeling embarrassed to be a Dylan fan; several times over.

7. Halloween, Alaska // Champagne Downtown (East Side Digital)

Hailing from Minneapolis and sharing a drummer with The Bad Plus.  I discovered them when their second album was used as the house music for a Sun Kil Moon concert at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis.  Thank you, sound man.  They continue to make slick and earnest electro-new-wave pop, but there is more muscle and funk this time around.

This RECORD should have been playing loud in clubs everywhere (as opposed to overrated SINGLES by people who interrupt acceptance speeches, those who win or don’t win awards at glorified and televised high school “talent” shows with out-of-work celebrities as judges, and bubble-dressed attention seekers who sing really awkward medleys on SNL and rip off their look and style from Missing Persons’ Dale Bozzio).

6. St. Vincent // Actor (4ad)

AKA Annie Clark, began her genius with Glenn Branca, Joan As Policewoman, and Sufjan Stevens.  No wonder she’s so good.  A record chock full of incredibly creative arrangements, Actor rewards tenfold; listen after listen after listen.  There is such a feast of innovation on this record and, yet, it is so wonderfully pop.  The video for Marrow (see link below) is a masterpiece. Annie Clark, will you marry me?

5. El Perro Del Mar // Love Is Not Pop (Control Group/Tcg)

Since her perfect debut, Sarah Assbring has been making celestial pop records. God Knows (You Gotta Give To Get) would have ruled Motown in its day.  This new record slipped in quietly.  It didn’t make much noise.  In fact, it got a couple of plays on my MP3 player and then was forgotten.  I received it on vinyl as a gift from my sister.  Thanks, Hev.  Suddenly, it had new life.  Wow.  Change Of Heart, my favorite song of the year, would have been a huge hit had The English Beat, Grace Jones, or Laura Branigan recorded it in their day.

4. Phoenix // Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glass Note)

Most of us have Sofia Coppola (Lost In Translation) and Erlend Oye (DJ Kicks) to thank for this gem of a band.  One of the catchiest records of the year.  They debuted “Lisztomania” on SNL well before the record came out.  Such an addictive rhythm. When singer Thomas Mars (AKA Mr. Sofia Coppola) sang the infectious line “Do let do let do let jugulate…”, I knew this was going to be their best record yet.  It is.  1901 was used so much in advertising this year and, yet, I still want to listen to it.  Very durable pop.  Pinch me.  Let’s dance the floor to pieces.

3. Bat For Lashes // Two Suns (Astralwerks)

Natasha Khan created a woman named Pearl for this record and lived in her world.  The result is a collection of lush pop that would make Kate Bush proud.  Not to mention, she does it all herself. Daniel is a modern classic.  There’s even a duet with Scott Walker!  She has so much good work ahead of her.  Stunning.

2. Wendy & Lisa // White Flags Of Winter Chimneys (W. Melvoin/L. Coleman)

Lisa Coleman joined Prince’s Revolution and then brought in her friend Wendy Melvoin.  Some of the best pop of the eighties was made with that band.  When Prince ended the revolution, they went on as Wendy & Lisa.  They recorded some beautiful records, became sought after for studio work, and then became an absolutely killer production team.  In recent years, their work can be heard on albums by Neil Finn, Sheryl Crow and Victoria Williams as well as their scoring work on film and television (Heroes, Dangerous Minds, Snoops, etc.).

Their last record, the brilliant Girl Bros., was quite a while ago.  Thankfully the new record appeared this year.  Whether it is due to limited distribution or being slightly brain-dead, the college radio and mainstream media people seemed to miss out on this record.    Whatever the case, I LOVED LOVED LOVED it.

1. Asobi Seksu // Hush (Polyvinyl)

One of the most anticipated records of the year.  Reminds me of stuff like Curve and the magic 4ad sounds of Lush, Cocteau Twins, and Pale Saints.  Remember 4ad?  They’re still going strong, mind you, but their truly golden era was the 1990’s.  Hush takes all that magic and carries on.  Yuki Chikudate has such a pure voice that soars above the insatiable grooves of drummer Larry Gorman and the heavenly swirl of James Hanna’s tower of guitars.  The ending of Glacially is glorious and sweet like a cinnamon kiss.  Destined for dreamy, noise pop glory. 

10. Silver Starling // s|t

I may be a little biased.  But Marcus Paquin’s songwriting is full of grace, spaciousness and honesty.  This slow-burner will burrow deep into your heart.

9. Patrick Watson // Wooden Arms

Beautiful.  Personal.  Sublime.

8. Nestor Wynrush // Trinnipeg !78

Take that Bon Jovi shit off the stereo and go buy Nestor’s album.  Indie hip hop at its finest.

7. Handome Furs // Face Control

The Boss + drum machines = the best part of Wolf Parade makes good.

6. Mos Def // The Ecstatic

The album title sums it up.

5. Grizzly Bear // Veckatimest

Its like the Beach Boys doing Morrissey’s acid.

4. Dan Deacon // Bromst

I swear he is modern music’s closest thing to Einstein.  Or Bach.  Such brilliance.   (ps: DanDeacon.com is now password protected?  What?)

3. Savath & Savalas // La Llama

Another long overdue album by one of my favorite artists.  Prefuse 73’s Catalan-psych-folk side project with Eva Puyuelo Muns.

2. Anti-Pop Consortium // Fluorescent Black

Comeback album of ever.  Damn I love these guys.   Topping off my year of hip hop.

1. We Were Promised Jetpacks // These Four Walls

Four energetic young lads from Scotland that are gonna bust your brain open.  So epic.  So personal.  So hopeful.

10. Wilco // The Album:

Not their best but still a step up from from 2007’s Sky Blue Sky and a step sideways from 2004’s A Ghost is born.

9. The Gossip // Music for Men:

Chunky guitars, danceable drum beats, heavy disco influences (in a good way). Beth Ditto is a vocal goddess. Standout Tracks: Dimestore Diamond & 8th Wonder.

8. Jenn Grant // Echoes:

Jenn has a truly beautiful voice and this album shows that she knows heartache personally. Like she lived next door to it as a teenager and awkwardly dated it briefly in college. Stand out tracks: Sailing by Silverships & Blue Mountains.

7. Dog Day // Concentration:

Indie rock is alive and well and (still) living in Halifax. Fantastic album – if you ever get a chance to see them live do it.

6. Handsome Furs // Face Control:

Dan Boekner (also of Wolf Parade) can do no wrong. Everything he touches turns to musical gold. Love the song Evangeline

5. Patrick Watson // Wooden Arms:

Magnificently moody.  This is a great album worth getting lost in.

4. Grizzly Bear // Veckatimest:

Jason introduced me to them, and I’m so glad he did. Wonderful layered melodies that completely draw you in.

3. Japandroids // Post Nothing:

This Vancouver garage rock duo created an album of fuzzy guitar riffs & fuzzy vocals that left me feeling all warm and fuzzy. Standout tracks: Young Hearts Spark Fire, The Boys Are Leaving Town & Wet hair.

2. Chad VanGaalen // Soft Airplane:

This Calgary based musician/artist’s most polished and consistent album to date. He seems to keep getting better with every new outing. Stand out tracks: Willow tree, Phantom Anthills & especially Bare Feet on Wet Griptape.

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs // It’s Blitz:

Karen O has still got it! As if there was any doubt. Hopefully this isn’t their last album