Canadian Musicians Reveal Their Favourite Local Albums

Show & Tell

Status/Non-Status, KEN mode, Jason Collett, Jayli Wolf and more highlight the best of their own communities

Photo: Jayli Wolf

BY Alex HudsonPublished Sep 28, 2022

Any devoted fan of indie music has a favourite local band — the one we've seen dozens of times at the venue down the street, who we swear would be famous if only more people knew about them.

Canadian musicians are the same, which is why we asked some artists to pick their favourite album by a local artist. Their picks highlight hometown pride and community camaraderie — ranging from formative influences to literal family members.

Check out these artists' favourite local albums below, and check out past instalments of Exclaim!'s Show & Tell here.

…Note the Sarcasm by Mike Boyd

Photo courtesy of Classified

It doesn't get much more local than a member of your own family. Nova Scotia rap veteran Classified shouts out his brother Mike Boyd, who also makes rap music, and in 2014 released his first (and to date only) album, …Note the Sarcasm. Naturally, it features a guest appearance from Classified — as well as Shad, D-Sisive and Madchild.

Classified calls it a "great album with a lot of great songs," explaining, "Mike has always helped me out with my own music, so when he dropped this album and it started to get some buzz, it was pretty cool to see Mike get some shine on the mic rather than behind the scenes."

Jason Collett
Sewn Back Together by OMBIIGIZI

Photo courtesy of Jason Collett

We didn't plan this — we had already asked Adam Sturgeon of OMBIIGIZI to participate in this feature before Jason Collett picked their album Sewn Back Together as his favourite local album. He was introduced to the album by his Broken Social Scene buddy Kevin Drew, who runs Arts & Crafts — the label behind Sewn Back Together, as well as Collett's upcoming album Head Full of Wonder (out November 4). 

"I was immediately turned on to this record when Kevin Drew played me some early rough mixes," says Collett. "There's an uncanny purity to these joyous jams. I love the wide-eyed whimsy, the uplifting spirit and sublime melodies. And I love that it's revival music buoyed by their commitment to resilience and ancestry. All in all, a heady mix of beautiful noise."

Franco Rossino of Dumb
Babies by Champion Lawnmower

Photo courtesy of Franco Rossino

Just like Dumb, Champion Lawnmower were a Vancouver post-punk band. And, just like Dumb's music, Champion Lawnmower's cassette 2017 Babies is full of what singer-guitarist Franco Rossino describes as "lots of riffs, good song-writing [and] cool vocal delivery." In an extra piece of YVR synergy, the album was recorded and mixed by Dumb's own Nick Short.

Champion Lawnmower were short-lived, and most recently released a second tape in 2019. Luckily, Dumb are still carrying the Vancouver post-punk torch with a new album, Pray 4 Tomorrow, out November 11 on Mint Records.

Raphaëlle Chouinard of Les Shirley
Lighter Fluid by Les Deuxluxes

Photo: Lisandre Bourdages

Montreal's Les Shirley cheekily nod to the traditions and tropes of classic rock — so it makes a lot of sense that singer-guitarist Raphaëlle Chouinard picks an album by fellow rockers Les Deuxluxes as her local favourite. She describes their 2020 album Lighter Fluid as "a bluesier version of the White Stripes with the energy of Brody Dalle of the Distillers. Their love for each other and for thrift shops vintage looks is fuelling this project, and this album is full of gems."

Speaking of albums full of gems — Les Shirley release their fun, fiery sophomore album More Is More on October 28.

Jesse Matthewson of KEN mode
Bazooka and the Hustler by Kittens

Photo courtesy of Jesse Matthewson

June and July of 1997 was a big time for KEN mode vocalist-guitarist Jesse Matthewson — that's when Sonic Unyon released both Kittens' Bazooka and the Hustler and Shallow North Dakota's This Apparatus Must Be Unearthed, which Matthewson calls "two of Canadian noise rock's high-water marks." He was 15 when he saw Kittens in concert around that same time, and he calls it "an experience that would forever change me." All these years later, his love of Bazooka and the Hustler remains undiminished. "Bazooka would see the band blending so many different styles into their already punishing noise rock, with elements of punk, country, metal and even traditional First Nations music," he says. "To this day, it's still one of my absolute desert island albums."

KEN mode appear to be inspired by their Winnipeg noise rock forebears to this day, having released their album NULL last week.

Anthony OKS
Fear by Begonia

Photo: Molly Karp

When Winnipeg rapper Anthony OKS wants to go on what he calls a "sonic journey," he turns to Begonia's 2019 album Fear. "This one's got so many rich soundscapes, and her vocal range just intensifies it even more," he says. "Some tracks are subtle, sweet, and powerful. But then others are in your face, intense and gripping. It all holds so well together."

He clearly loves lush soundscapes — just listen to the warm sounds of his spacious, soul 2021 EP In the Garden, which just so happens to feature an appearance from Begonia.

Ruby Singh
A Splash of Light by Gursharan Singh

Photo: Tiffany Ayalik

Ruby Singh points out that Vancouver's rich history of South Asian music is too often ignored — and that includes this 1983 album recorded by Paramjit Singh, Kewal Dhaliwal and Dalip Bhanot, along with dholak player Piara Lal. Singh says, "It contains songs of revolution that speak to our history of oppression, our heritage of struggle, and invites us to change our lives and the world."

Singh and his band the Future Ancestors are doing their own work to shape the world for the better on their self-titled album, out October 14.

Adam Sturgeon of Status/Non-Status and OMBIIGIZI
Images by You'll Never Get to Heaven

Photo courtesy of Adam Sturgeon

Adam Sturgeon is best known for his rocking, shoegazing sounds with projects like Status/Non-Status and OMBIIGIZI, but his soundtrack at home is very different. He reveals, "At our house we like to listen to a lot of relaxing music. Chaos of the road, rambunctious children, many moving parts." That's where the "ambient electronic goodness" of You'll Never Get to Heaven comes in.

"Perfect basslines, sampled pianos and hissy tape loops are the motto for this duo," says Sturgeon of Images. "Fellow parents and London transplants, Alice [Hansen] and Chuck [Blazevic] provide the soundtrack to bright mornings and colourful sunsets at home, or in the van on the road." He'll surely have plenty of time in the tour van to listen to the album, since both Status/Non-Status and OMBIIGIZI have 2022 albums to promote — Surely Travel for the former, Sewn Back Together for the latter.

Courtney Ewan of Twin River
"OUCH" by Nicholas Krgovich

Photo: Darcy Hancock

As the singer-songwriter of Twin River, Courtney Ewan makes catchy indie rock tinged with bittersweet melancholy, as heard on the recently released EP When We Think About Time. That likely explains why she connects with 2018's "OUCH" by fellow Vancouverite Nicholas Krgovich.

She very eloquently describes the album like this: "'Ouch' is truly the perfect breakup album. It's completely raw and relatable, highlighting all of the seemingly mundane things about a relationship that can really tear you up when it's over. It's beautiful, it's heartbreaking, it's both universally relatable and devastatingly specific. There are no grand metaphors here; this album was written with a degree of specificity so rare in contemporary music — probably because it takes guts and stings like hell on the way out. 'Ouch' plays like you're sitting across a table from an old friend currently going through the ringer, and pressing play turns you into Krgovich's closest confidant as he leads you through the alleys of East Vancouver and invites you to obsess over changing tenses and un-given gifts." We couldn't have put it any better than that!

Jayli Wolf of Once a Tree
The Best of Buffy Sainte-Marie by Buffy Sainte-Marie

Photo courtesy of Jayli Wolf

Solo artist and Once a Tree member Jayli Wolf appears briefly in the new Buffy Sainte-Marie documentary — so it's only fitting that she chose the legendary singer-songwriter's 1970 Best Of compilation as her favourite local album. "This album is filled with the most raw and powerful sonics," says Wolf. "It's political, experimental, classic and absolutely magical. Buffy cuts to the heart with her sound." Wolf delivered her own powerful sonics last year with her Wild Whisper solo EP (which earned her a nomination for Contemporary Indigenous Artist of the Year at the 2022 JUNO Awards), as well as the EP The Good, the Bad with her synthpop duo Once a Tree.

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