Well, it's that time of year again. The time where I write a bunch of year-end posts where I borrow the title from a favourite Los Campesinos! song.
As always, I like to make a list of my favourite albums from the year. Since I don't have time to listen to all of the albums, this is no best-of list, but just the favourites of one part-time music obsessive.
2012 was a strong year for albums. There are great albums by Patrick Watson, Rufus Wainwright, Ben Folds Five, and Serena Ryder that I really enjoyed, but they didn't even get to crack the top ten. As always, my list is made up of mostly Canadian artists. I think Fiona Apple is the only non-Canadian on my list... I listen to a lot of home-grown stuff. Anyway, let's get to it!
10) Celebration Rock - Japandroids
The name of this album describes it perfectly. You need rock music that you can sing-along to and pump your fist with? It’s here. One of my favourite defunct rock bands is The Constantines, and I feel that Japandroids are definitely in the vein of The Cons, but they are definitely more accessible. Each of the eight tracks is a great rock anthem, and if you need some good loud music, get this album.
Favourite Songs: The Nights of Wine and Roses & The House That Heaven Built
9) Scrappy Happiness - Joel Plaskett Emergency
“Let’s make a record for the old and young” declares Joel Plaskett on the song You’re Mine on this super fun rock record. Scrappy Happiness is an experimental record - the JPE recorded one song per week for CBC Radio, and then released the songs as the album Scrappy Happiness at the end of March. This song has some amazing rock moments that won’t disappoint any Joel Plaskett fans: the song Lightning Bolt is a rock epic. There are some sweet moments here too. Harbour Boys is one of my favourite songs ever, and I’m Yours is sweet campfire singalong. Joel Plaskett is a Canadian treasure, and he continues his streak of great albums with Scrappy Happiness, which will bring more than a scrap of happiness to any listener.
Favourite Songs - Harbour Boys & Lightning Bolt
8) I Predict A Graceful Expulsion - Cold Specks
Al Spx, the singer-songwriter at the helm of Cold Specks, has a powerful gospel-style voice. Her songs are absolutely beautiful, and invoke cold, northern imagery with shout-outs to her hometown of Toronto. I was trying to figure out how to describe her music, and Wikipedia used the term “doom soul” which I think is perfect. This album is dark, soulful, and absolutely beautiful.
Favourite Songs - Elephant Head & Winter Solstice
7) Bodyparts - Dragonette
This is probably the first electronic/dance record that’s ever made my favourite albums list. Perhaps this speaks to the fact that I’ve committed myself to running, and finding a great running album is such an awesome thing for me. I also have a really personal connection to Dragonette: I used to follow lead singer Martina Sorbara in her singer-songwriter days, so I think it’s great that her band has gotten some international acclaim. Anyway, Bodyparts is made up of mostly fun electronic dance-pop songs, and is great to have on when you need energy or fun injected into your day. This is pop music that’s not a guilty pleasure in the least.
Favourite Songs - Let It Go & Run, Run, Run
6) The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do - Fiona Apple
Who doesn’t love it when an artist from the 1990s comes back with an awesome album? Incidentally, I wasn’t the hugest Fiona fan back then. I only picked up this album because she was playing The Chicago Theatre when I was in Chicago this summer and I wanted to see a show there. It turned out to be extremely lucky, not only did I see one of my favourite shows ever, I discovered this lyrical album highlighted by Fiona’s soulful voice.
Favourite Songs - Werewolf & Every Single Night
5) Synthetica - Metric
“I’m just as fucked up they say” (from the song Artificial Nocturne) may be one of my favourite opening lines to an album ever. With this album, Metric continues their streak of creating awesome rock albums. Emily Haines is one of my top rock ‘n roll crushes and when she sings “have I really helped anybody but myself believe in the power of songs, believe in the power of girls?” I want to raise my hand, as completely corny as that gesture may be. This is a great album, and if you’ve never seen Metric live, you must. They are a consummate rock band.
Favourite Songs - Dream So Real & Artificial Nocturne
4) Provinical - John K Samson
When I went to Winnipeg this summer, I came home with a copy of John K Samson’s collected poetry and lyrics from 1997-2012, including those from this album. John K Samson’s music is poetry, and each of his songs invokes a story, a place, or both so vividly that it sticks with me long past when I turn the album off. The Last And is especially beautiful; the sad school-teacher in her classroom lamenting her ill-fated affair with her principal is the stuff of dark Canadian novels that I so adore. Another standout on this album is the song that’s a URL address www.ipetitions.com/petition/rivertonrifle which is a petition to get an Aboriginal hockey player into the Hockey Hall of Fame; not only is it an interesting story, the vocals of John and his wife, Christine Fellows, are in perfect harmony. Of course I went and signed the petition.
Favourite Songs - The Last And & www.ipetitions.com/petition/rivertonrifle
3) The North - Stars
This album contains my very favourite song of 2012: Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give Love. The North is a collection of songs centred around the themes of love, friendship, death, politics, and, well, the north. As with every Stars album, I fall in love with how Torquil and Amy share singing duties; each voice is beautiful and interesting each other and support the other one. I think that deep down in my soul, I am an absolutely incurable romantic, and that’s why I love Stars so much.
Favourite Songs - Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give Love & The 400
2) We Have Made A Spark - Rose Cousins
Rose Cousins first came to my attention as one of the supporting vocalists on Joel Plaskett’s 2009 album Three. I read good things about her latest album, and I’m so glad that I picked it up. Rose has a lovely voice, and her songs are heartbreaking and beautiful. This album centres around a failing relationship, and Rose perfectly describes all of the emotions that go along with realizing it’s time to let go. One of the silver linings of heartbreak is that it produces great art.
Favourite Songs - The Shell & All the Stars
1) Voyageur - Kathleen Edwards
This is Kathleen Edwards’ fourth album, and it's amazing that each of her albums just gets better and better. This one’s very close to perfection. I’ve always been a fan of her pretty, yet gritty, singing voice, and her songs on this album are very personal, since it’s her post-divorce album. Songs like House Full of Empty Rooms, and Pink Champagne frankly describe the emotions that come with a failed marriage. Despite the subject matter, this album isn’t overwhelmingly sad - there are lighter moments with songs like Empty Threat and Sidecar. Overall, this is a collection of beautiful and truthful songs with outstanding musicianship. On For the Record, Kathleen sings “for the record, I only wanted to sing songs” and I am so glad she did that. This is such a special album and my very favourite of the year.
Favourite Songs - Change the Sheets and A Soft Place to Land