Exclaim!'s Best of 2013: Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums, Part Two



6. Majical Cloudz
Impersonator
(Arbutus)

Listening to the music of Majical Cloudz is meant to be a slightly uncomfortable experience, but one that leads to enlightenment. This debut album from the Montreal duo of Devon Welsh and Matthew Otto is a stunning display of minimalism, revealing raw emotions out in the open with very little instrumentation clouding its vision.

The very definition of a stripped-down record, Impersonator maximizes each member's strength to create something incredibly minimal, unflinchingly honest and not just vulnerable for the artist, but for the listeners as well.

Otto's sparse electronic arrangements construct airy pockets of keyboards, synth strings and click tracks for Welsh's heavy words to hammer in like an icebreaker. "The cheesiest songs all end with a smile," Welsh sings on highlight "Bugs Don't Buzz," before serving a heart-wrenching reality check: "This won't end with a smile, my love."

Welsh convinces us of his words with Majical Cloudz's most dramatic tool: his voice. His baritone pipes waver with each word while simultaneously standing tall as the selling point of Impersonator, warming us with its intimacy. It shakes us to our core, making the listener feel just as bare and exposed; it's a record that — assuming you can get over the ridiculous spelling of the band name, as many have commented — pays off every moment of discomfort in dividends, making it one of the year's best. (Melody Lau)