25 Canadian Albums You Might Have Missed in 2020
Published Dec 07, 2020
Named after an island municipality on the Saint Lawrence River, the follow-up to 2016's lauded L'Étoile thoracique somehow manages to buck all expectations while remaining true to Klô Pelgag's already impressive catalog. Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs is an immersive experience that highlights Pelgag's artistry without succumbing to the album's dark themes and lyrics.
Sleek keys, sticky bass lines, and luxurious grooves fuel Concorde's svelte disco-pop. But dreaminess turns to nightmare when you realize the Francophone album's inspiration, the 2000 Air France crash. Concorde satisfies the pleasure principle and celebrates the 1970s airliner's posh symbolism without ever losing sight of the fragility of life.
Leslie Ken Chu
You Want It Real
Vancouver's vicious "dark punk" trio lié bring immense power to their fourth full-length, You Want It Real — a visceral, cathartic album leading the charge in the new wave of heavy Canadian music. Opting for a more open-ended approach to their lyrics, the band balance their efforts to favour musicality here, while still delivering as much roaring anti-oppression messaging as ever.
Montreal musician and soundscape artist Markus Floats is well-suited for pandemic protocols, as he's been making solitary, synthesized music for some time. On Third Album, he performs in the moment, improvising with the technology at hand, and creating a batch of busy, bubbling, ambient pieces that are visceral and truly mood altering.
Matthew "Doc" Dunn
Rain, Rain, Rain
Music is great for showcasing extremes, which is why there are so many records for summer and winter, but less so for spring and fall. Matthew "Doc" Dunn succeeds in his goal of crafting an autumnal record with Rain, Rain, Rain, a subtly psychedelic odyssey of folk and country sounds perfect for wistfully staring out a window.
Voice of a Virgo
Virgos are known to be meticulous, organized, and command attention when needed — for soulful Brampton R&B singer Nicole Chambers, she decided to introduce herself with sultry debut Voice of a Virgo. Though the 12-track album does have features, Voice of a Virgo is saturated in Chambers' honeyed vocals and, of course, pure Virgo tendencies.
(Hand Drawn Dracula)
Prince Josh's The Joy is a well-sequenced look at the Prince Innocence producer's stylistic breadth; dreamlike in the way it flits between a range of tones and dynamics. While Cold Specks, LA Timpa, Yves Jarvis and Lauren Armstrong guest, the rhythmic function of sampled vocal fragments is the album's defining feature.
Get to Know Lonesome
Corrosive whiskey recrimination and barstool philosophy; a southern Alberta gem informed by Merle, Buck, and the honky-tonk sound of another century. Concise liquid truths and lies of commission are hardcore country essentials: three chords and misremembered truth. The distilled spirit of wide-cut country, pedal steel and "Dreamin'," Skinny Dyck pours a generous measure.
On her second LP, Thanya Iyer melds indie rock's vulnerability with free jazz's blurred lines and R&B's sensualism. Across 11 highly adventurous and brilliantly structured songs, the Montreal singer/songwriter/violinist/keyboardist crafts exactly that eclectic atmosphere that Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend have been shuffling bandmates to achieve. Sorry, your secret weapon is spoken for.
Glory Glory! Apathy Took Helm!
The grotesque beauty of this transcendental album cover sums up the feel of the music within: blackened doom with a silver — or sky blue — lining. The Shakespearean dramatism of its title is inspired by the Bard's sarcastic bent, but beneath that cynical veneer is a duo who care deeply and fend off apathy with every droning thud.
Led by the unparalleled Cassia Hardy, Edmonton-based Wares' second record is a nakedly ferocious endeavor full of unbridled passion exploring identity and burning intimacy. Throughout the record, nervous, fastidious guitar work is unshackled with bursts of ecstatic proclamations with pure power-pop abandon. Survival is a delightful, triumphant statement about overcoming complex vulnerabilities within a reachable reality.
(Not Not Fun)
Crystal Dorval's latest release as White Poppy feels like a balm for isolation. Swirling together kosmische grooves, new age atmosphere and dream pop hooks, Paradise Gardens soothes the ache of mental illness and separation by addressing it head on. It's a particularly comforting record for a particularly lonely year.
Daniel Glen Monkman stamps his distinct imprint on shoegaze with Bleached Wavves. The genre's standard blissful guitars cascade over traditional First Nations drumming as he reckons with his experiences with racism, poverty, and substance use. The name Zoon comes from Zoongide'ewin, the Ojibwe word for "bravery" "courage." Bleached Wavves is Monkman discovering strength in pain, as an individual and as part of an ancestral community.
Leslie Ken Chu