Top 20 Albums of 2016

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20. Marie Davidson – Adieux au Dancefloor

Marie Davidson has always been impossibly cool, and her second album takes us to new frontiers of impossibility. The biggest, most fully realized Davidson release to date, and a deft sibling to her other project Essaie Pas’s 2016 masterwork.

 

19. Sean Nicholas Savage – Magnificent Fist

Savage breathes new life into music with the emotional weight and nostalgic lyrics, which by now is a signature move of his. For his latest release, Magnificent Fist, our lonesome balladeer has once again crafted an excellent soft-rock album that is one of his most focused efforts yet.

18. Devon Welsh – Down the Mountain

Devon Welsh wound down his legendary Majical Cloudz project this year, but also announced he’d be releasing music under his own name. His first album was a quiet Bandcamp release of songs he felt should be out there, but would be forgotten by the time of his first “proper” album. But it’s tough not to listen to this collection and not think it belongs right up there with Welsh’s other landmark records.

17. Old Girl – Objet A

These tracks are a whorl of clattering drum machines, swooshing synths, and some of the evilest-sounding guitar you’ll find. No one song is like another, but they all hang together extremely well in their instrumentation, slow-burning tempo, and melancholy. All in all it’s a stunning release: Old Girl is the dark, philosophical goth-pop auteur of our (psychoanalytic) dreams.

 

16. Lido Pimienta – La Papessa

In 2016, Lido Pimienta–who has been a fixture of the Toronto music scene for quite some time now–dropped her first official album in six years, and it is well worth the wait. It’s a densely layered production masterpiece with so many elements, it’s hard to keep track. The centrepiece, of course, is Lido’s soaring vocals.

 

15. Ice Cream – Love, Ice Cream

We’ve long been impressed by the consistently cool and original tunes penned by Toronto experimental electronic pop duo Ice Cream. They’d really taken things to another level this year with the menacing, atonal “Veronica” and the hypnotic no wave of “Receiver”. They’ve paired all the new jams with old now-classic favourites such as “Science” on their debut album Love, Ice Cream and the result is one of the most envelope-pushing, yet catchy, post-punk albums in recent memory.

14. Ase v. Grapes – Throw Diagram

When we heard that Woodhands‘ Dan Werb was producing a hip hop mixtape with 21-year-old Torontonian Ase Eschu Bafamet, we were excited. The duo’s debut mixtape Throw Diagram is a wonderful blending of two worlds that can stand next to any of the best up-and-coming projects.

13. L Con – Moon Milk

L Con, aka Lisa Conway of Toronto’s Del Bel, has been making excellent music for a very very long time, but her breathtaking album takes us back to the Chrome and the Ice Queen days. Some highlights: “Distance of the Moon” is a slow-burner full of longing, with the slightest tinge of Lynchian darkness; and “Form Of Space” delivers intense, burning horns over a sparse drum machine groove, with an extradimensional sequenced bass bursting in and out of the track. Astonishing stuff.

 

12. Doomsquad – Total Time

Oh lordy, Doomsquad. We suppose anyone could have predicted that if you sent these three off to a cabin in New Mexico, they’d write the masterpiece they’ve always seemed destined for. So to the swirling desert sands that gave life to Total Time, thank you.

 

11. Low Factor – Leçons du tonnerre: Comment créer un orage

Back in 2014, Montreal‘s Low Factor reimagined her sound and became our favourite alternate universe pop star with “Icicle.” When we found out that she released her second album, we jumped into action: it’s so worth the wait, full of layered grooves that sound like the best after-hours party in outer space.

10. Above Top Secret – S/T

Toronto electronic hip-hop trio Above Top Secret deliver huge on their debut album. Effortlessly shifting from psychedelic wanderings to blistering beats, they don’t obey anyone’s genre rules as they stake out the sound of the future. One dimension is not enough.

9. Loveland – Aloe Hotel

Halifax’s Robert Loveless gradually expanded his project into a full band: the sumptuous, psychedelic, and playful Loveland. Their debut album Aloe Hotel plays around with drum machines, synths, and disco influences, all the while retaining a psychedelic, strange-pop core. A worthy successor to Loveless’s masterpieces Domino and Can’t Bobby Love.

8. Rae Spoon – Armour

After a few years’ break, Victoria’s Rae Spoon show absolutely no signs of slowing down their streak of amazing full-length records with album #8 Armour. Every song here could have been a single: perfect electronic pop songs that groove, tear at your heart, and seek to create real change.

7. Diana – Familiar Touch

Toronto trio Diana return triumphantly after a staggeringly amazing debut with a smoother-than-thou follow-up that doubles down on the sophistication and attention to detail that marked Perpetual Surrender. A knowing record that deeply understands and reveres its influences, Diana don’t let self-knowledge get in the way of making honest, true pop music.

6. Odonis Odonis – Post Plague

Odonis Odonis’s second album Post Plague is positively massive, an aggressive record that challenges and pounds without ever getting grating, and contains some surprisingly serene moments. A collaborative effort through-and-through, with each member having a unique and discernible contribution to the overall sound, their frenetic energy is unparalleled, as is their willingness to experiment while keeping everything on a tight pop leash.

5. Tasseomancy – Do Easy

Tasseomancy doesn’t waste time. Just last year, they put out the magisterial Palm Wine Revisited, a captivating record that was our #4 of 2015. Do Easy isn’t at all a retread though, but another bold departure for the Toronto duo, one which sees them fully embracing their pop tendencies. There’s still a ton of experimental goodies in the margins for the classic Tasseoheads but this is a highly accessible record that will eventually worm its way throughout the underground pop collective unconscious.

4. Michele Nox – Monolith

Michele Nox‘s music has always been an overwhelmingly beautiful affair. Celestial reverb trails, stunning original production, and of course, her jaw-dropping, ever-soaring voice. Her astonishingly fully-realized debut album Monolith marks her arrival as Canada’s preeminent ambient pop songwriter. Entire worlds await within.

3. LAL – Find Safety

LAL’s first full-length record in eight years lives up to all the promise of the early singles, with most of the songs on Find Safety being phenomenal dance-floor packing bangers. Singer Rosina Kazi’s soaring and unique vocals lead us on a journey of self-discovery and awareness. Paired with Nicholas Murray’s ridiculously infectious beats and impeccable sense of rhythmic flow, we have a hit record on our hands.

2. Essaie Pas – Demain est une autre nuit

Picked up by DFA Records for their first full-length, Essaie Pas follow through on all the promise of their early singles and EP. Demain est une Autre Nuit was worth the wait, with every minute of its dark, minimal and sinister electronic pop sounding meticulously crafted down to every last beat, its complex mayhem a tightly controlled one. 2016 has made them known in the most avant-garde corners of the world’s most avant-garde cities – but we think we can rest assured their infiltration of the airwaves has only just begun.

1. Jessy Lanza – Oh No

Jessy Lanza‘s 2013 debut was amazing, but the Hamilton-based pop artist has truly outdone herself the second time around. Oh No incorporates the best elements of Lanza’s previous work: airy vocal delivery, interlocking layered percussion with gloriously sequenced analog synths, and of course, the catchiest of pop hooks. But the experimentation and ambition at work here, Lanza’s commitment to exploring the outer realms of what dancefloor pop can be, without ever messing with immediacy or groove, is fearless, peerless, and succeeds on every conceivable level. We’re in awe.

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