Posts Tagged ‘best of 2011


Extended Play’s best new Canadian music of 2011

Purity Ring – Lofticries

Purity Ring‘s one of our favorites here at Extended Play HQ (one of a few acts we’ve written about previously). We’re big fans of their lo-fi, slow, melodic pop – enough so, that their 7″ Ungirthed is one of our fave releases of the year, Canadian or not. And while the A-side of that release is getting a fair amount of attention, we’re actually digging the other track, Lofticries. A little slower, a little more laid back, this is their chillout side. It shows there’s a lot more depth to this band than their thumping debut and is why we’re excited for their full length.

The Weeknd – House of Balloons/Thursday/Echoes of Silence

This trio of mixtapes has proved, more than any other release, the power of the internet. The Weeknd – the brainchild of Abel Tesfaye – started as a mysterious release that nobody quite knew the details of; I remember being convinced it was a Drake side project at one point. But it’s grown and grown, to the point where his own website crashed almost immediately on Thursday’s release. The music in each is great and a testament to Tesfaye’s talent: it effortlessly ranges from the moody R&B of What You Need to the spacy, almost reggae-like Heaven or Las Vegas (great bassline in that one, too!) to Montreal, where he sings his ass off. Each of these three mixtapes is good enough to crack any reasonable person’s best of; taken as a whole, it’s a hat trick of the highest order.

Sloan – Follow the Leader

I’m a big power pop apologist and I’ll listen to almost anything Sloan attaches their name to. Their newest album is no exception. It’s not their strongest – far from it, actually. But it’s opening track is an overlooked gem. It showcases them excelling at what they do best, until it’s coda abruptly shifts gears to a piano-driven rocker. It’s a strong opening track and although the rest of the album couldn’t keep pace, it’s one of my fave songs of 2011

Cadence Weapon – Baby I’m Yours (Feat. Shad)

Another one we wrote about earlier this year, this standout from Cadence Weapon’s Tron Legacy mixtape is another criminally overlooked tune. I love the beat here and Shad just kills it on his verse with lines like “The one that got away, I got a few /  never been to heaven, but I always got a view” and memorably rhymes fetus with Adidas. And I haven’t even gotten to Cadence yet! His mixtape is yet another example of a great self-released album. It’s not free, but on a pay-what-you-want basis; no matter what you pay, you’re not getting ripped off. Here’s a ripping live version:

Dan Mangan – Post War Blues

One of the year’s most critically acclaimed albums – getting props everywhere from The AV Club to Comedy Bang Bang – Dan Mangan’s Oh Fortune shows one of Canada’s strongest songwriters at the peak of his craft. The rocker Post War Blues highlights that album’s strengths as his clever lyrics meet rocking guitars. It’s a standout track from a standout album.

Rich Aucoin – It

A soaring pop track, complete with what I’m pretty sure is a church organ, is one of the best tracks off Aucoin’s great album We’re All Dying to Live. There he blends sounds and styles almost effortlessly, crafting one of my favorite listens of the year. It’s not too far from The Arcade Fire, but it’s got more energy than anything they’ve released in years and it’s a lot more fun to dance to, to boot. And did you see the video, packed full of movie references?

Oh No! Yoko! – 90’s Kids

A total ode to the decade that’s now, God help me, a full 11 years gone, written and performed  by people young enough to be born the same year I remember getting distraught over the Maple Leafs for the first time. But fake-ass nostalgia has nothing to do with my love for this band. They’re one of the catchiest bands I’ve heard in a long time; this song is like something a a sugar-addict younger brother to Tokyo Police Club would come up with, and remember that TPC is another fave here at Extended Play HQ. These kids, on yet another free release, kick out hooky, keyboard driven pop like it’s nobody’s business. Support them by attending their shows. I can’t wait to see what 2012 brings from them.

Update: Fucked Up – A Little Death

Here’s an album I can’t believe I forgot: Fucked Up’s David Comes to Life. Fucked Up is the kind of band one wants to attach bullshit labels like post-hardcore or buzzwave or whatever to, when really they’re just a great act. They’re punk in the best sense of the word: their music is uncompromising and demands to be met on it’s own terms. There’s a whole package here, from the chiming guitars to the smooth backing vocals to Damian Abraham’s lead vox. And on David…, we’re seeing a band in full flight: it’s a better album than The Chemistry of Modern Life, itself no slouch. It’s inexcusable I forgot to include in this first draft.


Our favorite books of 2011

We read a lot here at Extended Play HQ and thought we’d recognize some of our favorite reads of this past year.

  1. My fave this year was Kate Beaton’s new anthology Hark! A Vagrant! Drawn and Quarterly’s hardcover is a great hardcover collection of her comics. They’re very nicely reproduced – no small feat considering they were hardly drawn for print – and fully annotated. But then, her comics don’t really need any explaining. Details may come later – I’ve been working on a piece about her cartoons for another publication – but it’s no secret that one doesn’t need to know the history her comics poke fun at –  her humor is a lot more universal. They range from the bittersweet to the bawdy, but all are among the best the internet, and now a bookshelf, has to offer.
  2. Another great read this year was James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales’ oral history of ESPN, Those Guys Have All the Fun. Granted, it’s something of a mixed read – it neither dishes the dirt nor seems as brutally candid as their earlier oral history of Saturday Night Live – but it’s still a good story well told: ESPN is one of the great successes of our time, a virtual monopoly that seemed to rise almost overnight. The definitive history of ESPN has yet to be written, but anybody with an interest in sports, and especially in sports media, can’t go wrong with this book.
  3. Technically, this one came out at the tail of last year, but I only read it in paperback this spring so I’ll fudge it a bit: Life, the autobiography of Keith Richards. Again, this one was a bit of a mixed read: I would have loved to hear more about the creative process, about people like Gram Parsons or Rory Gallagher and about the famous bust in Toronto. But still, this was a relentlessly charming read: Richards is something of a disarming memoirist. Yes, he’s one of rock’s great bad boys and was a hell of a junkie for a spell, but he’s not too afraid to address almost everything: getting busted in the States, getting into brawls with people during the Exile on Main Street sessions and the complex relationship between himself and Mick Jagger. There’s been other books about the Stones and they may have more facts in them, but there probably won’t ever be one as much fun to read.
  4.  A few new books in 2011 I didn’t get around too, but mean to read: Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen; The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides; The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach; The Tiger’s Wife, by Tea Obreht; Flip Flop Fly Ball, by Craig Robinson and Rob Neyer; Boomerang, by Michael Lewis. If anybody out there wants to hook me up with a review copy, please feel free to contact me.


Our favorite online reads of 2011

Us here at Extended Play HQ have diligently spent the year reading, marking down our favorite online reading, in anticipation of this, our second annual Best Online Reads post. The rules to qualify were simple: if we read it and liked it, we saved it to a folder called ‘best online writing’. Then, at year’s end, we dug through all the posts and chose our favorites of our favorites. There wasn’t any rules about length or topics or form, although we’ll be the first to admit we skimped on the fiction this year.

Anyway, here’s the list, complete with explanations why we liked the post. Take that longreads! Continue reading ‘Our favorite online reads of 2011’