Posts Tagged ‘canadian music


Best New Albums 2013: #1 – Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – Uzu

Running through the end of the month (with a short Christmas break), I’ll be running a post each weekday taking a look at one of my top 20 albums of the year, slowly working my way down to number one. Some I’ve reviewed previously for Bearded Gentlemen Music – I’ll provide links where necessary – and the entire list will eventually end up there, too. But for most of these records, this is the first time I’m writing about them at length, making this a chance to explain my choices in a little greater detail. Last year’s list is no longer online, but for 2011′s Best Canadian Music click here and for 2010′s list, click here.

#1 (aka my favorite new album of 2013): Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – Uzu (Paper Bag/Suicide Squeeze)

A while back, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan (YT//ST) exploded on my radar with a self-released, self-titled album. It was a stunning debut: they sounded a little like a lot of things, but a lot like nothing else. Their stage show was already killer too; when I broke down that year’s Polaris Prize ballot, I actually knocked them points for being so good on stage.

Over the past year and a bit, little leaks and trickles of a new album found their way online: Adult Swim released a song last summer and there was new music in the trailers for their crowdfunded video game Your Task Shoot Things. Alongside this came record deals, first with Canada’s Paper Bag Records (who immediately reissued their debut) and later with Suicide Squeeze, and accolades from all over.

Even so, Uzu knocked me out. Minutes after I got my copy, I was listening to it on headphones while I puttered around the house. And I kept stopping, pausing my iPod and going back. What was that? A native chant? A flood of water? A tsunami of guitars? Pounding drums and shouted vocals, a storyline just vague enough to make it a concept album (remember those?) and music filled with touches of just about everything Alaska B, Ruby Kato Attword, et al could get their hands on. I was floored.

A while back I chanced across a promo copy of Grimes’ LP Visions. If you’ve never gotten one of those, they’re basically like the CDs you can buy anywhere but they don’t have any liner notes. And on the back, instead of any album art, there’s a track listing, some media contact info and usually 200 or so words of promo copy, usually written by some anonymous PR rep at the label. A phrase from the copy of Visions stayed with me: “post-internet.”

At the time, I rolled my eyes; another day, another buzzword. But I’ve come around on it and think it’s a good way to describe this music. We live in a connected society. Youtube, Grooveshark, Reddit, Tumblr. It’s easier than ever to find new music and listen to it, often without having to pay a cent. It’s also easier to get inspired by it.

There are traces of almost everything here. Sometimes a song reminds me of the Visual Kei bands an old girlfriend used to listen to, other times I think of David Bowie or Sonic Youth. Sometimes the music goes somewhere else, like on the aching piano ballad Atalanta or the pulsating, relentless rhythms of Bring Me The Hand Of Bloody Benzaiten. And that’s not even getting into the secondary aspects of this album: a loose storyline about the Buddhist god Mazu, the visual angles (if their appearance on CBC Radio’s Q is any suggestion, it’s going to be a doozy of a live show), the connection (is there one?) to Your Task

Like I said in my original take, this was a hell of a listen. And even if I’ve waffled on my list a bunch, moving albums up and down, adding and dropping as I go along, there’s never been any doubt about sticking this at the top spot. Next time I break down a Polaris Prize ballot, there’ll be no doubt for who’s getting my vote.


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.