Exclaim!'s 29 Most Anticipated Canadian Albums of 2021

BY Alex HudsonPublished Jan 4, 2021

We can all agree that we've been quite keen for 2020 to come to an end, but it still might be a while before life returns to something resembling "normal." With that in mind, we're going to be seeking lots of comfort, entertainment and distraction in the coming months — and, thankfully, Canadian artists are here to provide just that. From homegrown legends (Drake, Daniel Lanois) to established indie faves (Rhye, the Weather Station) to promising debuts (TiKADoohickey Cubicle), these are our most anticipated albums of 2021.

Acts of Worship
(Artoffact Records)
Release date: TBA

Vancouver post-punks ACTORS released their single "Love U More" just in time for Halloween, soundtracking the spooky season with horror movie synths, throbbing beats and gothic '80s croons. The album was self-produced, mixed and mastered by frontman Jason Corbett at his Jacknife Sound studio.

Ashleigh Ball
Before All the Magic's Gone
(A Ball Entertainment)
Release date: TBA

Hey Ocean! singer (and My Little Pony voice actor) Ashleigh Ball went solo for 2017's Gold in You EP, and now the Vancouver pop artist is readying her first full-length under her own name. It was produced by Deadmen (Royal Canoe members Matt Schellenberg and Matt Peters), and the four singles released so far show off a fondness for swaggering, futuristic soul-pop.

Quinton Barnes
As a Motherfucker
(Grimalkin Records)
Release date: January 15

Montreal/Kitchener artist Quinton Barnes blends experimental electronic production with vocals that draw on pop hooks, hip-hop flow and R&B soulfulness. According to an announcement, As a Motherfucker is said to be an "adventurous, ambitious work that explores the difficulties of balancing and navigating contradictions — between embracing love and seeking comfort in avoidance, between self-assurance and dejection, and the struggles that occur when ideals meet reality."

Eau de Bonjourno
(Telephone Explosion Records)
Release date: March 5

What's that intoxicating smell? It's Eau de Bonjourno! Songwriter Robin Dann and her Toronto group recorded with producer Shahzad Ismaily, drawing on the band members' jazz background for a chopped-up, experimental style that "openly plays with the shape of a pop song," according to Dann.

The Besnard Lakes
The Besnard Lakes Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings
(Flemish Eye Records/Fat Cat Records/Full Time Hobby)
Release date: January 29

Jace Lasek's Montreal psych band have leaned into their sprawling, ambitious side with their new 72-minute opus. Inspired in part by the death of Lasek's father in 2019, a press release says this nine-song suite is about "the darkness of dying and the light on the other side." It reportedly features a rougher, distortion-laced sound that harkens back to the group's early works.

Brand of Sacrifice
Release date: March 5

The Toronto deathcore crew are back with an album filled with brutal blast beats, brash synths and ultra-heavy breakdowns. Brand of Sacrifice take their name from the Japanese manga series Berserk, and Lifeblood focuses on the post-apocalyptic protagonist Guts. The band's viciously heavy sound can be heard on lead single "Demon King."

Doohickey Cubicle
Don't Fix Anything ;)
Release date: March 12

If the Vancouver dream pop duo (formerly known as Booty EP) didn't fix anything, that's because they're already perfect. The emoticon-assisted album was self-produced at the band's home studio, the Jupiter Room, as well as in Montreal — and the latter recording location seems especially appropriate, given the way their sound recalls Montreal smooth-wavers like TOPS and Sean Nicholas Savage.

Certified Lover Boy
(OVO Sound/Republic Records)
Release date: January

We're not totally sure who this Drake guy is, but if his grandiosely catchy single "Laugh Now Cry Later" is any indication, he could make a big splash in 2021. Bayyyby!

Dominique Fils-Aimé
Three Little Words
(Ensoul Records)
Release date: February 12

Following 2018's bluesy Nameless and 2019's jazz-inspired (and Juno-winning) Stay Tuned!, Montreal artist Dominique Fils-Aimé completes her trilogy of albums exploring African-American musical traditions, this time focusing on soul music. "Love Take Over" sounds like a mix of R&B past and future, its timeless melodies and richly organic rhythms given a futuristic, atmospheric sheen.

Jane Inc
Number One
(Telephone Explosion Records)
Release date: March 19

Carlyn Bezic makes up one-half of Toronto's Ice Cream (and plays in Darlene Shrugg and U.S. Girls), and she's making her solo debut under the name Jane Inc. According to an announcement, "Synths sneer and shimmer, fuzzed-out guitars play against Bezic's soothing and hypnotic voice, and a constant and confident bass grounds each track." Get a taste of this via the swooning synthpop single "Gem."

Ian Daniel Kehoe
Disco Body Buzz
(Tin Angel Records)
Release date: March 5

Former Attack in Black member Ian Daniel Kehoe already released Disco Body Buzz last summer as part of three simultaneous cassette-only albums. The '80s-inspired Rock & Roll Illusion subsequently got a wide release, and this danceable synth collection is following suit. Kehoe says that lead single "Don't Stop Fallin in Love" is a "unifying chorus of empathy. An encouragement to engage with reality on its own terms, a reality of the world and of oneself."

Kiwi Jr.
Cooler Returns
(Sub Pop Records/Kiwi Club)
Release date: January 22

Having signed to Sub Pop, the East Coast-via-Toronto band return cooler than ever with 13 more tightly wound pop-rock tunes that combine Pavement's lackadaisical wit with complex song structures and razor-sharp technical proficiency. According to an announcement, it was "put together like a thousand-piece puzzle, assembled in flow state through the first dull stretch of quarantine."

(Tin Angel Records)
Release date: February 12

Four hours! Thirty-six tracks! Fifty guests! The Montreal-based Algonquin two-spirit artist formerly known as Mìch Cota recruited Beverly Glenn-Copeland, Owen Pallett and many, many more for a sprawling album that ventures into experimental pop, spoken poetry, techno and Algonquin dance. Good luck finding a more ambitious album in 2021.

Daniel Lanois
Heavy Sun
(eOne Music)
Release date: April

Legendary producer and veteran songwriter Daniel Lanois is back with the latest chapter in his long and storied career. Heavy Sun was recorded between Toronto and Los Angeles and blends modern electronic sounds with old-school gospel. Says Lanois, "We want to lift people's spirits with this music. It's so easy to feel isolated right now, but we want everyone to feel included in what we're doing."

John Orpheus
(The Confidence Emperors)
Release Date: Spring 2021

Born and raised in Trinidad, Toronto-based artist John Orpheus will release his memoir Saga Boy: My Life of Blackness and Becoming on January 19 through Penguin Random House Canada. He's releasing a companion album this spring, also called SAGA BOY, and lead single "Electric" features Auto-Tuned pop melodies, electronic island rhythms, and a guest rap verse from Jordan Hamilton.

Michael Peter Olsen
Yearning Flow
(Hand Drawn Dracula)
Release date: January 15

BC-born/Toronto-based composer Michael Peter Olsen has made a career out of being a contributing cellist, playing with Arcade Fire, Drake, HAIM, Owen Pallett, the Hidden Cameras and more. For his ambient, avant-garde solo album, Yearning Flow, Olsen is exploring a style he calls "post-cello," combing neoclassical composition with synthesized pop influences.

Twin Flames
(Paper Bag Records)
Release date: March 5

Wintersleep frontman Paul Murphy is back with another album from his solo project POSTDATA. Recorded partly with co-producer Ali Chant in Bristol, UK, and partly in isolation in Halifax, the intimate and introspective album features Wintersleep's Tim D'Eon and Frightened Rabbit's Andy Monaghan. The title track features glitchy beats and ethereal atmospherics while still remaining a raw folk ballad at its core.

Princess Century
(Paper Bag Records)
Release date: TBA

One-time Austra member Maya Postepski told KALTBLUT, "When I moved to Berlin last year I was sucked into the vortex of club music and after-hours experiences." That sweaty, late-night dance vibe comes across in the creepily thumping lead single "Cosmic Minivan," and we can expect more from the forthcoming Surrender.

(Last Gang Records)
Release date: January 22

Toronto's Mike Milosh has spent the pandemic busy with his project Secular Sabbath, where he and partner Genevieve Medow-Jenkins combine ambient music with meditation, massage and wellness. Now, he's returning to his R&B project for Home, produced throughout 2019 and 2020 at a handful of studios (including his own home studio in Los Angeles). After last year's piano-focused Spirit, this is his return to smouldering electronic production.

Release date: January 29

Bilingual Québécois folk group Rosier (f.k.a. les Poules à Colin) describe their music as a modern take on folk music — which, based on recent singles, can manifest in the form of grooving lounge-pop ("Pontoise") or atmospheric moodiness that sounds halfway been the barn and the garage ("Mad River"). It was produced by Quinn Bachand (who also performs) and mixed by Jon Anderson (Andy Shauf, Aidan Knight, Teen Daze).

Russell Louder
(Lisbon Lux Records)
Release date: February 26

PEI-born/Montreal-based artist Russell Louder has been releasing singles over the last couple of years, and it's all culminated in the debut album Humor. With mid-tempo electro-pop rhythms, '90s techno synths and theatrical, operatic vocals, these nine songs make larger-than-life emotions feel like a party.

You Can't Go Back
(Prosthetic Records)
Release date: February 5

You can't go back, which explains why Toronto's Sarin are pushing their music forward with a post-metal sound that incorporates clean vocals and more keyboards. It's been nearly a year since they posted a head-banging, riff-fuelled teaser clip, and the wait will finally end when You Can't Go Back lands in February.

Nick Schofield
Glass Gallery
(Backward Music)
Release date: February 5

Montreal composer Nick Schofield channels electronic and new age influences into his new album, an all-instrumental collection inspired by Ottawa's National Gallery and based around the distinctive sounds of the Prophet 600 synthesizer. Drift off into a beautiful daydream with Glass Gallery's lead single, "Mirror Image."

Small Sins
Volume II
Release date: February 12

Toronto songwriter Thomas D'Arcy has spent the past decade working under his own name and producing for artists like July Talk, Yukon Blonde, the Sheepdogs and Hannah Georgas. Now, he's returning to his long-defunct band Small Sins for the project's first album in more than a decade. The follow-up to 2010's Pot Calls Kettle Black is called Volume II — look out for lead single "Andre" to land in January.

Snotty Nose Rez Kids
Title TBA
(Record label TBA)
Release date: TBA

When Exclaim! interviewed SNRK earlier this year, the rap duo said, "Everything going on in our world right now seems to fit the theme of a new concept album we've been working on for the last year, and it's really freaking us out!" It's due out in mid-2021. It's currently unclear whether recent singles "Screaming Indian" and "Where They At" will appear on the full-length.

Anywhere but Here
(Next Door Records)
Release date: February 26

Montreal-based multidisciplinary artist TiKA gets production work from Casey MQ and sings a duet with DESIIRE on her debut album. According to a press release, "Some of the tracks [on Anywhere but Here] are inspired by TiKA's Jamaican roots while others are sonic representations of conversations with the self." Singles "Soothing Love" and "Sideways" showcase sultry R&B pop croons and pillowy new age production.

(Artoffact Records)
Release date: April 9

Winnipeg hardcore noisemakers Tunic grapple with themes like toxic friendships, the dark side of creativity and a loved one's illness across the 23 tracks on Exhaling. Influences include Converge, Daughters, KEN Mode and METZ. "I'm not one to write about situations/emotions that I haven't lived through," says frontman David Schellenberg. "I need that catharsis of screaming about these things over and over again. These are all things that have unfolded in my life and I use Tunic as a coping mechanism."

The Weather Station
(Next Door Records/Fat Possum Records)
Release date: February 5

After a few albums of poignant folk rock, Toronto songwriter Tamara Lindeman has taken her sound widescreen, as heard on the jazzy art-rock deconstruction of "Robber" or the steady krautrock pulse of the aching "Tried to Tell You," which sound a bit like Joni Mitchell on a late-era Talk Talk kick. Writing for the first time on keyboard rather than guitar, Lindeman tapped Marcus Paquin (Arcade Fire) as co-producer on the lavishly hi-fi album.

Whitney K
Two Years
(Maple Death Records)
Release date: February 19

Five years on from 2016's Goodnight EP, Whitehorse songwriter Konner Whitney has returned with an album intended to "break with the traditions of a corrupt, hypocritical, and hateful society/lineage." Single "Maryland" takes a walk on the wild side with Lou Reed-evoking sing-speak, jaunty acoustic strums, honky-tonk piano and lushly twinkling orchestrations. It was recorded with Josh Boguski at Montreal's Studio Parc.

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