Top 10 Albums
It’s that time again, when I ask myself “which CDs did I bother to buy this year?” You read that correctly—yes, I still buy CDs, and yes my best-of list is based on personal preference. No album is getting on here because everyone else thought it was cool. And seeing that several of my very favourite bands made a comeback in 2013, it wasn’t difficult to compile this top ten:
1. AFI– Burials
If you know anything about me, this one will be no surprise. AFI would have to release something pretty awful in order for me to leave it off my favourites list. But this album is nowhere close to awful. In fact it marks a return of the old, dark and angsty band that caught my attention over 10 years ago (albeit with hints of their more recent synth-pop style.)
2. Nine Inch Nails– Hesitation Marks
This is another default pick, of sorts. Though I was initially disappointed at how hard this album wasn’t, it has since grown on me. And that’s the main idea here—growth. You’d be pretty bored if Trent released Downward Spiral ten times over, no?
This is undoubtedly the most heartbreaking album of the year. A bit of a departure from their folk-rock roots, Heartthrob is super poppy, heavily 80s-inspired, and will remind you of every breakup, and lost chance you’ve ever had. Get out the tissues.
4. Volbeat– Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies
I stumbled up this Danish band at the beginning of the year, and quickly fell in love. A peculiar hybrid of metal, rockabilly, and country, they’ve been compared to everyone from Metallica to Johnny Cash. While I’m not going to say this is the best release of their stellar 5-album catalogue, it is a great standalone piece, and a good introduction to their discography.
5. Ghost B.C.– Infestissumam
Another excellent discovery this year, Ghost—or Ghost B.C. as they’ve been forcibly named— is a Swedish metal side project. The catch is, no one knows whose side project it is. Following up on their incredible 2010 debut album, these Nameless Ghouls have released a piece that is way too good to be a sophomore effort.
6. Wildlife– On the Heart
The success Wildlife has been receiving with this album has been so great to see, considering how earthshaking (yet, almost unnoticed) their last effort was. A slower, somewhat mellower follow up to Strike Hard, Young Diamond, they show both maturation and musical growth on this release.
7. The Creepshow– Life After Death
The Creepshow changed singers (again), added an additional guitarist, and slightly altered their sound between album releases. The aptly titled, Life After Death may lean more towards punk than the horrorbilly/psychobilly the band is known for, but still boasts some standout tracks. Not to mention, it’s pretty tight for essentially being the debut release for this now-fivesome.
Check Out: Born to Lose, Take it Away
8. The Beaches– The Beaches EP
Want to feel like you’ve wasted your life? Check out this debut effort from a bunch of Torontonian high schoolers. Brash, catchy, sexy, and smart, these girls prove they’re already way cooler than you will ever be.
9. Queens of the Stone Age– Like Clockwork
I won’t lie, I wasn’t super enthused about this album at first. Slower and mellower, it seemed a lot less exciting than QOTSA’s previous efforts. Take a few listens, the multiple gems will begin to unearth themselves.
10. Chvrches– The Bones of What You Believe
Chvrches have achieved the seemingly impossible—putting out a chipper electro-pop album that doesn’t get tiresome halfway through. Seeming to take a page out of the Naked and Famous’ book, they keep things fresh by combining male and female vocals, and alternating between slow and upbeat tracks.
Short List Predictions
It’s that again! When “music people” such as myself wrack their brains to try and predict the Polaris Music Prize Short List. This year was difficult, as there weren’t as many standout albums for me on the Long List as in previous years. But here are a few that caught my ear:
A Tribe Called Red– Nation II Nation
Alaclair Ensemble – Les maigres blancs d’Amérique du Noir
The Besnard Lakes – Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO
Hannah Georgas – Hannah Georgas
Jim Guthrie – Takes Time
Kid Koala – 12 bit Blues
Danny Michel with the Garifuna Collective – Black Birds Are Dancing Over Me
AC Newman – Shut Down The Streets
Suuns – Images du futur
Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob
Find out on July 16th how horribly off I am!
The heart can ache in many ways; love, lust, longing, pain, regret. All of which are explored on Tegan and Sara’s aptly titled 7th major release, Heartthrob. Before you even play a note, take a glance at the track list; ‘Now I’m All Messed Up’, ‘I Was a Fool’, ‘How Come You Don’t Want Me?’, and ‘I Couldn’t Be Your Friend’. Honest, no-nonsense titles; an indication of the diary-like content that lies ahead.
Continuing with what Sainthood started in 2009, Heartthrob is heavily rooted in the 80s. This time, the twins have ditched the rock arrangements in favour of synthesized dance pop. Everything sounds light, twinkly, painted with a pink Glamour Shots glow. Even the album art resembles the iconic Girl Talk game. Though the sound may be generations away from say, So Jealous, rest assured that Tegan and Sara haven’t messed with their trademark vocals. Their usual tradeoffs, call and answer, and DNA-matched harmonies are all present.
‘Closer’, the popular first single, is a happy, lust filled tune, and a bit of an anomaly. That’s because Heartthrob mostly rests in the twins’ realm of expertise; the desperate, hollow, curl up in a ball on the couch depression that they’ve been so good at articulating on past efforts. Despair-drenched lyrics abound, like the refrain “go if you want, I can’t stop you” from ‘Now I’m All Messed Up’. Or “tell me why you couldn’t try, couldn’t try and keep me here.” (‘How Come You Don’t Want Me?’) Other songs, like ‘I Was a Fool’ and ‘Drove Me Wild’ are full of painful hindsight.
Before you jump to conclusions and write Tegan and Sara off as a couple of pathetic emo sad sacks, look a little further. There’s a lot of strength and hope to be found here too. Especially in ‘I’m Not Your Hero’, “Learning all I know now, losing all I did, I never used to feel like I’d be standing so far ahead.” Or ‘How Come You Don’t Want Me?’, “Some day soon, I won’t be the one who waits on you.” And, well, the titles ‘Goodbye, Goodbye’ and ‘I Couldn’t Be Your Friend’ are pretty self-explanatory.
I would never wish pain or unhappiness on either of these girls, but it’s clear that heartbreak is their creative fodder. They’re able to tap into the worst aspects of their relationships without becoming whiny or weak; which is a talent in itself. Out of the ten songs on the album, only two deal openly with love and lust. There’s the aforementioned ‘Closer’, and a sort of mushy romantic ode, ‘Love They Say’. While not a bad song, the latter is arguably the weakest on the album; perhaps because it strays so far from the twins’ familiar angst.
What it all comes down to is this; if you can get through Heartthrob without your heart throbbing at least once, you should a) check your pulse, b) congratulate yourself on living a charmed life, and/or c) be pitied for having never met (and subsequently lost) someone worth your while.