16 Must-Hear Canadian Albums from Winter 2020

From big names like the Weeknd and Caribou to upstarts like Boniface and Jessie Reyez, here are the season's standouts

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Apr 3, 2020

Each day may feel like it lasts an eternity, but we're finally a quarter of the way through 2020. With the sun shining and the weather warming up, it's not a bad time to look at the Canadian albums that kicked the year off with a bang, and kept us entertained even as March appeared to drag on, and on, and on. From big names like the Weeknd and Caribou to upstarts like Boniface and Jessie Reyez, here are 16 must-hear Canadian albums from winter 2020.

The Snake That Eats Itself

If you're familiar with Aquarian (and you really should be), you'd be expecting hard-hitting bass-heavy techno, but with The Snake That Eats Itself, he offers far more than that. There's techno for sure, yet it's deftly blended with beastly jungle breaks which give way to ambient swells, IDM ripples, and downright majestic cinematic moments.
Daryl Keating

Jennah Barry
(Forward Music Group)

Jennah Barry's Holiday, arriving eight years after her debut Young Men, was worth the wait. The breezy folk and soft-rock of Holiday has some of the year's warmest and most inviting soundscapes but while you're getting cozy, Barry is corralling her anxious, sometimes heartbreaking, thoughts. The contrast makes Holiday a stunner.
Laura Stanley

(Royal Mountain)

Boniface's debut album strikes a perfect balance between grandeur and intimacy. Towering anthems like "Keeping Up" and "Oh My God" have gigantic, MGMT-sized choruses, while the verses are peppered with tender lyrical details: listening to late-night CBC radio, or using crutches after a broken leg in middle school. It will make your heart swell one moment and break it the next.
Alex Hudson


Decades into his career as one of electronic music's most adventurous songsmiths, no one would've faulted Dan Snaith for playing it safe for a change. But it's not in his nature — Suddenly, his latest outing as Caribou, is brash and jittery, mashing up straightforward house grooves with glitched-out samples and angelic vocals for another all-star entry in Snaith's stellar catalogue.
Matt Bobkin

Cindy Lee
What's Tonight to Eternity

Experimental noise music has rarely sounded as beautiful — and '50s throwback pop has rarely sounded as harsh — as when performed by Cindy Lee. Former Women singer Patrick Flegel pushes the nine songs on What's Here to Eternity to their sonic limits, drowning each track in haunted reverb and ugly dissonance. And yet, there's no mistaking the AM radio hooks of "One Second to Toe the Line" or the new wave beauty of "Lucifer Stand."
Alex Hudson

Have We Met

Each Destroyer album showcases new layers to Dan Bejar's shapeshifting songwriting, and Have We Met is no different. Bejar's latest adventure sets '80s new wave synths and tinny drum machines as the backdrop for his enigmatic, abstract vocals, but just because it's the first Destroyer album you could feasibly dance to doesn't make it any less unsettling.
Matt Bobkin

Frazey Ford 
U kin B the Sun
(Arts & Crafts)

In February, we called Frazey Ford's U kin B the Sun, her first record in six years, "an antidote to hopelessness," and, as the year unfolds, the album's remedial quality has only grown stronger. Across the eleven soulful tracks, Ford sings of joy, love and perseverance, and the resulting album is a perpetually bright light.
Laura Stanley

Hut Hut
Hut Hut Hut

The debut album from Winnipeggers Hut Hut appears to be from an alternate reality where Born Ruffians signing to Warp sparked a sequel to the '00s indie rock boom that was just as potent. With brilliant rock hooks and silly effects in equal measure, each of Hut Hut Hut's angular rock tracks is cerebral, technical and fun as hell.
Matt Bobkin

Studio Monk
(Pirates Blend)

Whether he's rapping, producing or DJ-ing for Jessie Reyez, Junia-T has an ear for talent and a knack for creating music that matches his soul — energetic, fun and carefree. Studio Monk embodies those elements and creates a refreshing space to vibe out and (re)align.
Erin Lowers

Jessie Reyez
Before Love Came to Kill Us

Toronto's own Jessie Reyez's timing couldn't be more perfect. Even as the world is dealing with a large-scale pandemic, the singer-songwriter's debut full-length Before Love Came to Kill Us features a pop formula built to last. It has something for everyone, delivered in her inimitable personal style.
Ryan B. Patrick

Andy Shauf
The Neon Skyline
(Arts & Crafts/Anti-)

Ever have moments from your past that you just can't shake? Prepare to live them all over again with The Neon Skyline, Andy Shauf's ode to the days gone by that won't stay in the rearview. Pinning freewheeling folk rock onto a narrative of a man's impromptu reunion with his ex-girlfriend, it's an album-long toast to Shauf's brilliant, nuanced and relatable songwriting.
Matt Bobkin

A Beautiful Place to Drown

Silverstein embrace their age on A Beautiful Place to Drown, and in doing so, they've produced a timeless classic. Joined by guests like Princess Nokia and Simple Plan's Pierre Bouvier, Silverstein guide their post-hardcore sound into fresh new directions, weaving in heavy electronics and saxophone solos without losing their identity.
Bradley Zorgdrager

Devouring Ruin
(Translation Loss)

It's always impressive when a band not only breaks out of their box but finds a way to stand tall atop another. Calgary grindcore outfit Wake ground until the genre could no longer hold them in, and latest album Devouring Ruin is an ugly yet deceptively beautiful piece of death metal. Here, Wake deliver one of their newfound genre's finest. 
Bradley Zorgdrager

The Weeknd
After Hours

Abel Tesfaye's journey from shadowy enigma to A-list pop star is complete. After Hours is his most fully realized pop opus, moving from soaring power ballads ("Scared to Love") to '80s electro-funk grooves ("In Your Eyes"). But really, the glittering pop production is just a Trojan horse for the Weeknd to do what he's always done: croon seedy late-night tales in a majestic vibrato.
Alex Hudson

Witch Prophet
DNA Activation

For the artist also known as Ayo Leilani, DNA Activation is a culmination of her musical past, present and future. Afro-futurism is the Ontario singer-songwriter's approach — singing over jazz and neo-soul tracks in English, Amharic and Tigrinya is the flex.
Ryan B. Patrick

(Crash Symbols)

On "Limitless," a standout track from Interplay, YlangYlang's Catherine Debard describes her state of mind as "unhindered and curious." These two adjectives perfectly describe Interplay as a whole, as Debard plays with dark and light textures while using psych-, ambient-, electronic- and jazz-influenced sounds. With each spin revealing something new, it's hard to leave the worlds Debard creates in Interplay
Laura Stanley

Listen to tracks from these must-hear Canadian albums in our Spotify playlist.

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