According to the host of CFUV’s “Beyond the 49th Parallel”
Maybe it’s optimistic of me to think that anyone other than myself cares about personal year-end lists. But searching through year-end lists can be exciting and inspiring! It’s a chance to find new bands and artist who you maybe missed completely because exams and final projects only call for comfort music, not musical self-discovery. Perhaps it even sparks the idea to create your own list.
You spend your time thinking of all the albums you listened to over the course of the year, you compile a list, and you remove all the choices deemed too “pedestrian.” Skim out some of the bands everyone else is talking about, and you’re left with six experimental noise-rock duos, an acapella group, and some post-punk band from New Brunswick who has 12 monthly listeners on Spotify, all of which are paraded to the public in an attempt to seem cool.
In a world where simply finding the time to discover new bands has become more and more tedious and anyone with an iPad, an out-of-tune guitar, and a salt shaker can create a five-star album, here is a list of some albums straight out of the Great White North that I think are worth your time.
The Luyas—Human Voicing
After a five-year break between their last full-length record, The Luyas (pronounced loo-yeahs) return with an intensely-full and highly-imaginative project. Spanning only eight tracks, but clocking in at over thirty-five minutes, it’s easy to get lost in between the reverb-y synthesizers, echo-y guitars, and the heavy drums that could only have been influenced by the legendary kraut-rock band, Can. Human Voicing starts out with the intense and cinematic track “Dream in Time,” where boiling beats and a repetitive bassline carry the song into the one-minute mark. Then, a screeching guitar takes centre stage and fades into a clamouring drum beat almost introducing the instantly recognizable voice of Pietro Amato and the heavy synth that follows. This becomes the mission statement for the album: heavy synth, big groovy drum sounds, and heavy reverb guitars, all punctuated by Amato’s accented voice. If you’re looking for some psychedelic, artsy-synth pop with a bit of an experimental edge, then this is the album for you.
Perhaps one of the more under-the-radar albums on this list, Mauno’s second full-length album consists of a myriad of pop-y tunes, and interesting soundscapes. From the little beeps made by a grocery store scanner to the ringing of a decayed church bell, there are more than enough audial tidbits in Tuning to keep you listening. Although there are soundscapes and pieces of “emotional environments,” it’s also filled to the brim with catchy guitar hooks, clear and heavenly vocals, and thick basslines that give the album an almost post-punk punch for listeners to jam along to. On the track “Com,” singer and guitarist Nick Everett sarcastically mimics his guitars crunchy sound by continuously yelling out “Com.” It makes for a fun listen before the album immediately draws you back in with the next track, “Anything Anything.” In that track, shy, twinkly guitar chases the hushed singing of Eliza Niemi before completely taking over and building back up. This experimental record with jumpy rhythms from the Halifax quartet will have you dancing around wishing you discovered it earlier.
Fake Palms—Pure Mind
Fake Palms is the Toronto post-punk project who have been bouncing around in the local scene and in Toronto since early 2015. With haunting, reverbed vocals and screeching, echoing guitars, Pure Mind is both bombastic and hypnotic. Backed by perhaps the best drumming on any of the albums listed, each instrument pairs perfectly together in support of the unexpectedly poetic lyrics of singer Michael le Riche. The album teases with sharp snippets of rhythmic guitar riffs before fading away to make room for a bassline to do just the same. At the end of “Glass Walls,” the unpredictability of sound becomes most prominent, when a classic Beach Boys inspired jam quickly turns into a racing bass riff punctuated with two dueling guitar tones. Perhaps inspired by the post-punk greats like Wire and newcomers like Preoccupation, this album will bring you into the bursting scene of Vancouver rock without any hesitation. Expect the unexpected with a head-bobbing rhythm busting at the seams.
Land of Talk—Life After Youth
Land of Talk is the indie-pop project of Elizabeth Powell, a singer-songwriter who seemingly disappeared from the early 2000 music scene amidst some family health concerns. In a recent CBC interview, she revealed how she left her music career to care for her father but never stopped writing. Seven years following the release of 2010’s Cloak and Cipher, she returns with an absolutely beautiful record that deserves your attention. Her lyrics are strategically poetic, and her songwriting reflects a direct link to her consciousness. One of the most beautiful moments on the album follows Powell’s introduction or mission statement, where she recalls her absence from music — “I don’t wanna waste it this time / And see fate as the end of me.” The dueling guitars begin to swell, and the percussion follows quickly behind before exploding into an extraordinary sound of wholeness that wraps around your head. With every possible audial crevice filled, she starts again — “I don’t wanna waste it this time / I don’t wanna waste it, my life” — over and over until her point is made. If swelling guitar harmonies, and poignantly poetic lyrics are something you love, look no further than this incredibly underrated record.
Possibly one of the most creative and gifted melody makers to come out of Canada in the last decade, Molly Rankin’s Alvvays accomplishes another wonderfully dreamy pop record with all the cadence of late summer walks and semi-buzzed festival visits. Antisocialites has all the pieces to be a heralded dream-pop album for years to come. The album’s synth-y, dance opener “In Undertow” sees Rankin echo “what’s left for you and me / I ask that question rhetorically.” There’s no question this album of the summer still holds a fire to the frosty air of December three months later. The wavy guitar sound that swells and ambushes the synthesizer jangles in and out of feedbacked tones while Rankin bellows another set of “there’s no turning back” lyrics. It’s an incredible track to open the album. Alvvays have a knack for writing slow burners, quiet love songs, and even garage-rock inspired romance tracks — the latter of which can be found in “Plimsoll Punks.” There’s everything you could possibly want and more from the Nova Scotia band as they return to the exploding Canadian music scene with a huge-sounding pop record, perfecting pop sensibilities while carving out their own sound and space.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the band Fake Palms is from Vancouver. They are from Toronto. We regret the error.