Published Dec 07, 2020The past year has been filled with plenty of incredible new music, including Exclaim!'s 50 Best Albums of 2020, but even the most fastidious listener is bound to have skipped over a few quality releases. These 25 Canadian albums you might have missed cover a wide variety of sounds, scenes and locations, but all are worthy of a deeper listen this holiday season and beyond.
Badge Époque Ensemble
Max Turnbull (f.k.a. Slim Twig) and his adventurous septet effortlessly weave together avant-jazz explorations and catchy soul-pop songwriting on their sophomore album. They sound equally at home creating a toe-tapping lounge anthem with U.S. Girls leader Meg Remy ("Sing a Silent Gospel") as they do deconstructing rock and jazz with an 11-minute instrumental epic ("Birds Fly Through Ancient Ruins").
Usual Suspects: Season III
Effortlessly mixing hip-hop, rock, funk, soul and R&B, Blakdenim have the kind of well-rounded sound that probably shouldn't be as unique as it is. Stacked with perfectly paired vocal duets, pounding rhythms, scene-stealing guitar playing and a groovy brass section (see "Champagne" in particular), the bilingual Ottawa band also enlists the major-league rap talents of DMC on the high-calibre "Sharks."
The debut album by Winnipeg artist Micah Visser brings together the kaleidoscopic sounds of M83, the wide-eyed romanticism of Carly Rae Jepsen and the rock'n'roll bombast of the Killers for a synth-pop record that's colourful and youthful. Also this year, Boniface cut to the tender heart of these songs with a stripped-down companion EP of acoustic renditions.
Jumping triple salchows through boy band conventions and queering them with liberal pitch shifting and radical electronic disruptions that variably scorch and twinkle, Casey MQ's full length debut reinvents the wheel while throwing the traditional chart-fucking formulae off-balance just enough that you can reckon with what's kept those machines churning.
What's Tonight to Eternity
(W.25th / Superior Viaduct)
With What's Tonight to Eternity, Cindy Lee has released one of the most harrowing records of the year. By the time you arrive in this album's universe, the volcano in your psyche has just erupted. Despite your best efforts to keep the destruction at bay, guitars rain down like sheets of molten ash. Saccharine vocal melodies serve as painful reminders of all that is being turned to dust before your eyes. There are glimmers of hope, but the album's power is in how confidently it presents the process of burning things down so one can rebuild.
2020 the Album
Clocking in at 23 minutes, 2020 the Album is a perfect distillation of everything that makes DijahSB one of the most exciting voices in hip-hop: easy flow, incisive lyrics and smooth beats that would fit as easily on a certain popular lo-fi YouTube channel or your next Zoom party's playlist.
Fuck the Facts
Pleine Noirceur, Fuck the Facts' first album in five years, perfectly continues their self-proclaimed bastardized grindcore sound, which is to say it uses extreme punk as a basis to do everything extreme punks wouldn't do. Slapping post- on any genre is a tired trope, but as they increasingly incorporate post-metal, post-rock, post-hardcore and even post-punk, maybe it's inevitable. Bastardized sounds cooler, though.
Even though the world that Jennah Barry builds on her sophomore record Holiday is filled with the same anxious thoughts that crawl into your head as you try to fall asleep, it's a place that you never want to leave. Sonically, Holiday is a retreat from harshness and it makes the ideal companion for working through your worries.
Bobby Joe Hope
Music-making and record collecting have long been pursuits preoccupied with rediscovering and recontextualizing sounds from the past. On Bobby Joe Hope, Maritime legend Jon McKiel manages to do both, constructing loops out of a forgotten tape found in a Teac A-2340 reel-to-reel recorder purchased online to create a haunting, psychedelic masterpiece for a new generation.
There's a lot of separation on Jonah Yano's debut album, souvenir. Yano wrote the exceptional album closer "shoes," for instance, after seeing his father for the first time in 15 years. But by contrast, every song — all pop and R&B affairs — is warmly connected, sliding easily from one to the next, and altogether forming a remarkable memento of Yano's artistry.
Cohesive, atmospheric and captivating, Studio Monk highlights what makes the rising class of Toronto hip-hop so vital. Junia shines on the mic and behind the boards, with jazzy, soulful instrumentation and samplework to pair with some fantastic collaborators including Faiza, J.O. Mairs and STORRY.
All My Friends
Merging clean, detail-rich production with bedroom pop intimacy, Toronto's Giuliana Mormile punctuates lush, emo-tinged tracks about the power of companionship with expertly placed field recordings of friends and happier times, adding another layer of nostalgia to All My Friends' road trip through the sounds of '90s alt-rock.