Our annual assessment of the 10 awesomest albums released by local artists in the past year.
There was much ado about the fact that Toronto’s most touted noiseniks were finally releasing a proper album, but the most important take-away from Metz’s self-titled debut was that it delivered on the massive promise of their impressive live show. For an exhausting 30 minutes, the band whips their updated take on ’90s post-punk into an unrelenting sonic whirlwind. Mosh-pit alert: You might want to push all the furniture out of the way before cranking this up.
I PREDICT A GRACEFUL EXPULSION
Arts & Crafts
There’s a line from Madame Bovary, about how language fails us, that goes something like this: “Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out crude tunes for bears to dance to, when…we are longing to move the stars to pity.” Etobicoke-bred Cold Specks (a.k.a. Al Spx) has a glorious cracked kettle of a voice, but her music is anything but crude. Cloaked in a rich patina, her vocals merge with the haunting, billowing-steam arrangements on I Predict a Graceful Expulsion to produce songs that could make the stars weep.
Phèdre surfaced in a sensual haze of self-created mythology and twisted pop melodies this past January. They announced their arrival with a delightfully bent, orgiastic video for the infectious single “In Decay,” and proved they were no one-trick trio with the 30-minute digital album that followed. Soaked in synths, psychedelia, and red wine, the fantasy-filled release keeps you hooked on a wild ride through decades of pop music history.
DEAD SET ON LIVING
Toronto’s hardest-working band went so far as to play six U.K. shows in one day this year, which is doubly impressive when you consider the material that they covered a half-dozen times in those 24 hours. Cancer Bats’ fourth album veered even deeper into power-metal territory, beefing up their hardcore attack with even more muscular riffs. Really, is any band more deserving of having a Sneaky Dee’s nacho plate dedicated to them?
SOF’ SIKE/A HOUND AT THE HEM
Paper Bag/Calico Corp.
Slim Twig’s never lacked for ambition, dividing his time between acting, fronting trash-punk duo Tropics, and producing sample-splicing experiments under his own name. But in 2012, the once pompadoured phenom let his hair down, literally and figuratively, on a pair of albums: the cracked kaleidoscopic pop of Sof’ Sike and the ostentatious, Owen Pallett–assisted A Hound at the Hem. Together, they represent Slim’s one-man, goth-glam answer to OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below: complementary yet contradictory releases that expose markedly different sides of their maker’s hyperactive psyche.
AND I THANK YOU
The tax forms filed by this youthful quartet may list their home base as Keswick, Ont., but they’ve crashed on so many west-end couches after triumphant local gigs this year that we’ll gladly sign off on their common-law union with T.O. Their relentlessly catchy debut, And I Thank You, feels like a lost ’60s classic, filtering golden-era jangle-pop through a modern indie-rock lens. With the year’s most hook-laden LP, The Elwins breezily established themselves as one of our favourite new bands of 2012.
The record label they founded, Telephone Explosion, just celebrated its fifth birthday, but blessedly, flagship act Teenanger refuse to grow up. Even the unlikely presence of studio pro Howie Beck behind the boards for Frights only serves to sharpen the garage-punk quartet’s shiv-cut riffs and accentuate the sneer in their bratty bitching about all the things that suck (being broke; the legal system; you). Bad moods rarely feel so good.
THE OTHER SIDE OF TOMORROW
Do Right! Music
The Slakadeliqs project was four years in the making. While Byram Joseph was off crafting tight hip-hop beats as Slakah the Beatchild, and producing for the likes of Drake, Nelly Furtado, and Divine Brown, he also picked up a pile of instruments and directed his inner singer-songwriter to the land of psychedelic soul. The result is a beautifully crafted debut album that travels through time and tempos and reveals more of itself with every listen.
The context of Voyageur—the dissolution of a marriage, the foundation of a new creative and romantic partnership—got a lot of ink in stories on Kathleen Edwards this year, but her songs were the only thing worth talking about. Written with an exquisite balance of no-bullshit honesty and tender, careful metaphors, and elevated by crystalline melodies that echo off the walls of textured guitar, the material on Edwards’s fourth album is as compelling as it is lovely. Love hurts, but in the right hands, that heartache makes for some extraordinary art.
Shuffling Feet Records
Toronto’s saddest album of the year is also one of its most unforgettable. An artful and sublime folk-rock masterpiece, Spectral Dusk is Jonas Bonnetta’s heartbreaking treatise on mourning the death of his father. As he guides us through deeply evocative memories of the dense rural Ontario forests where their bond was forged, we find in Bonnetta’s voice a companion for our own darkest moments. This album cements his status as one of our most skilled storytellers.