My most inspiring music moment came from the Polaris Prize gala this year where i was introduced to the greatness of Jean Micheal Blais and young fire-y Hubert Lenoir.
As I get older, it seems that I continue to gravitate towards a wider range of music interests, especially upstart Canadian acts. You have no idea how much amazing music is made here in our back yards all across Canada. The Polaris prize brings out the best and most diverse across all genres. I wish everyone could attend this event.
WATCH THE ENTIRE Polaris EVENT
It’s literally the only event that gets me teary eyed and proud to be Canadian. So many good people work tireless hours to make sure music stays alive and well in Canada. I’m so proud to be able to support them and the music through Lixar and I thank my biz partners for never questioning its importance.
2018 was a weird year as nothing really garnered an absolute number 1. The selection process always improves around this time of year as we all sit around and review what was good and all the lists that come out. When I go to choose my list, what typically happens is that I return to my more indie roots and pick some favorites that made me smile. Not because they were so different. More because they weren’t boring.
As for my top picks, usually they are influenced by singles or live shows that won me over and carried momentum throughout the year. Singles that made me dance in my kitchen with my family or friends. Live shows where artists showed they care and it was their job to inspire and win you over.
A lot of great stuff didn’t make this list so i may come out with a top 20 singles over the holidays. Until then, enjoy this.
Here’s the Spotify playlist that have a single for each album highlighted – https://open.spotify.com/user/12181629077/playlist/1mzGHZO42cQIhetp8M1Sm6?si=KGh48GOwTZ6qr2a42KV1sQ
So here it goes;
1. Parquet Courts – Wide Awaaake! – Damn! It was the first single “Had to Start a Fight/In and out of Patience that had me. A brilliant two parter but so perfect. That song and “Wide Awake” gets you to dance. I like that. No politics. Just short quirky thoughts weirdly representative of things people do and think. Things you don’t think about writing into songs. Real cool sounds and great bass all the way around. Brooklyn continues to deliver.
2. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino – Because it was what you least expected and didn’t want to like but annoyingly liked and appreciated over time but you still wanted to hate it or are too cool to admit you like it. This was AM’s Sg. Pepper/Pet Sounds album. Nobody liked it but maybe in 10 years when we’re immersed in virtual worlds, “Four Out of Five” will mean something. I loved this album and may be sad when they follow it up with something everyone wanted and was so predictable. This truly was the Ultracheese.
3. Pinegrove – Skylight – I got to hear some of the singles last year at Iceland Airwaves and it kinda just dropped in October to no fanfare. It’s a quick 30mins long so wished there was more. “Angelina” and “Skylight” are great songs.
4. Post Malone – Beer Bongs and Bentleys – “Better Now” was played 661 million times on Spotify and “Rockstar” topped a billion. Great show at Osheaga and very easily attracted endless fans from all age groups and genres.
5. The Voidz – Virtues – What a scorcher! I’ve always been a huge Strokes fan and some of these songs could of easily been on a Strokes album but Julian doesn’t want that. Julian Casablancas has that NYC swagger that you kinda love and hate at the same time. He’s pretty brilliant, arrogant but honest about his thoughts. Lots of variety here. Wide range of sounds and experiments on this.
6. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs – It’s great to have Australia represented on the list again. I liked this album right out of the gates with “Talking Straight” as the first single. A modern day Midnight Oil and maybe a little INXS in there. So much good stuff here and I hated missing their show at the Horseshoe during NXNE.
7. Lucy Dacus – Historian – I love this album. It’s why I love Wilco and Ryan Adams. Her album and her work in Boygenius together was amazing. This is one of those albums that I picked up recently as all the “best of” lists started rolling out. “Night Shift” is the first song and it’s a six in a half minute journey that could easily be song of the year. Kinda reminds me of Liz Phair…..”buy low sell high kind a guy” lyrics. Real good stuff.
8. Kurt Vile – Bottle It In – I waited for this one for a while and knew it would be good. His work with Courtney Barnett really set this one up. “One Trick Ponies” is one of those ear worm songs that stays in your head all day long. I remember hearing it in a record store in Dublin and instantly fell in love with it.
9. Keys n Krates – Cura – An excellent Canadian effort. Lots of reasons for this entry on my list. Well known to my colleagues, they were real stand up guys when they met my boys at Bluesfest. The show was great. I loved “Flute Loop”. Really witty.
10. Rainbow Kitten Surprise – How To: Friend, Love, Freefall – This will be on no one’s reputable list but that’s ok. I loved this album. It was fun, cheeky and refreshing and strange coming out of North Carolina. They were great at Osheaga and produced an awesome single and video in “Holy War”. Lots of singles on this album. Great spirit and attitude live.
11. Phosphorescent – C’est La Vie – Great follow up to last album Muchacho. Easy listening to be played while making dinner and nice drives on your way into work.
12. Khruangbin – Con todo el mundo – Could of easily made it into my top 10. Reminds me of Calexico and Friends of Dean Martinez back in the 90’s. Cool tex mex instrumental vibe.
13. US Girls – In a Poem Unlimited – Great effort. I absolutely loved their performance at Polaris and was my initial pick to win it.
14. Bahamas – Earth Tones – What’s not to like about this one. Great summer album to listen to while drinking Miller Lite on the dock at the cottage. Likely a good candidate for this years Polaris. Looks like he’s picking up a broader US audience as well. Good for him. He’s earned it.
15. Brockhampton – Iridescence – Great hip hop album. Went through a pretty wild year but managed to keep putting out albums at a torrid pace.
16. Hubert Lenior – Darlene – Incredible energy and an amazing band. Another Polaris prize contender that would of got my vote in the end if i had one. He’s young and I have a feeling we’ll hear more from him on a larger stage soon.
17. Jean Michel Blais – Dans Ma Main – breathtaking listen. He plays the piano like no one i’ve seen. Another Polaris standout. See the trend here? Polaris really brings out the best!!! Thank you Steve J! You really want to impress over dinner? Throw this on.
18. Lord Huron – Vide Noir – Haunting sound. Perfect to listen to when you’re lost in Northern Iceland. These cats are dress in suits on stage. One super cool LA outfit. If you want to go on a journey, this album is a must when your wife is sleeping in the passenger seat and you just want something relaxed. Cool hipster indie music.
19. Saint JHN – Collection One – Both my boys considered this a top 2 on their list and the more i listened to it, the more i liked. Hip hop continues to evolve and if you dig deep, you’ll discover a tonne of new artists. It’s amazing to see the impact it has had on the younger generation.
20. Slaves – Acts of Fear and Love – Think DFA1979 and Japandroids but the UK version. Damn it feels good to play this. It’s for whenever I feel like being young and crazy again and hangin at the Dominion Tavern.
BONUS – because now i think this list is complete…
21. Rhye – Blood – Fantastic album with two albums worth of remixes. Some great singles. Listen to the many remixes of “Taste”!
22. Still Corners – Slow Air – This is that album that you stumble on by luck on Spotify when the album you were listening to comes to and end and an algorithm picks the next artificially generated pick. This one was a goods one. Super super chill listen.
Special mentions – Beach House 7, Odesza and San Holo.
Enjoy & Happy Holiday Music Listening.