SAVK - Love Letters and Hate Mail
I bought this album upon hearing one song played on CBC, and fell immediately in love with the record. Hopefully it is not the kiss of death to call an album pretty, because that's the best word to describe this release from Calgarian and former Beija Flor member Stephen van Kampen. Soulful, lilting, and a touch gritty, with lots of folksy backup chorus. Very satisfying.
Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse
Damn, the Frabbits just keep getting better and better! Dour Scottish angst laid bare in an insanely rhythmic upbeat fashion that I cannot resist howling along with (in my best fake Scottish brogue), is so good for my soul. And since many of the tracks from this album also featured prominently on the workout mixes I made this year, good for the rest of me too.
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan - Uzu
Gorgeous, soaring, shape-shifting, theatrical, rock opera that calls upon the ancients and cries out to the future of rock.
Rae Spoon - My Prairie Home
After delving in electronica on two previous releases, Rae Spoon made a brave return to country folk roots in 2013. My Prairie Home, which is the soundtrack for the NFB film of the same name, features starkly beautiful and surprisingly catchy songs interspersed with brief choral interludes. Spoon's perpetually sweet voice is the perfect foil to these songs of quiet rebellion. (fun fact: this album and SAVK's were both produced by local wunder-kind Lorrie Matheson - go Calgary music!)
Matthew Good - Arrows of Desire
Feels like a throwback to the MGB that tore up the college radio charts in the late 1990's and the early part of this century - straight-up politically charged alt-rock delivered with a sneer and driving beat. Good shit.
The Sadies - Internal Sounds
I became a Sadies fan far later than I should have. They were always on the periphery of my consciousness, as the premier purveyors of Canadian alt-country, but it wasn't until I really sat down with their considerable back catalogue that I came to appreciate just how majestic they are. Internal Sounds is a satisfying melange of that signature dark twangy guitar and experimental forays into the underworld.
The National - Trouble Will Find Me
It took me a while to get into this album, but I think that was more a lack of time and opportunity. The National does what they do very very well, and I am happy they didn't mess about with things too much.
Josh Ritter - The Beast In Its Tracks
I have just about worn this CD down to the nub. Heartfelt and often joyous, this album is Ritter's most personal. Here he moves away from the literary songs peopled with characters from his fertile imagination and sings instead about getting through to the other side of heartache, in a very real way. Lovely personal stuff.
Abramson Singers - Late Riser
This album resonated with me immediately. At times playful and lilting, at other times full of heartbreak, it is a delicious blend of layered chorals, ethereal voices soaring above rounds of notes. Leah Abramson has a wonderfully effortless voice - light and playful but at the same time filled with quiet strength. Highly imaginative.
Basia Bulat - Tall Tall Shadow
Same honeyed husky tones, same plucky autoharp, but the songs on Tall Tall Shadow feel more mature, with a melancholy that was absent from Bulat's previous joyous romps. This album is all growed up.
I just realized that seven of my ten favourite albums from 2013 are Canadian, proof positive that, in the zombie household at least, Canadian music is powerful and thriving.