1 KARDINAL OFFISHALL Kill Bloodclot Bill (www.kardinaloffishall.com) Rather than wait for a label hookup, mighty Toronto MC Kardinal Offishall called together his Black Jays posse, produced this murderously great collection of raw hiphop, dancehall and ragga-rap joints and distributed it himself, further underscoring the increasing irrelevance of the majors. Kardi and crew give notice to label reps and B-boy decoys to check themselves before they wet themselves.
2 DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979 You're A Woman, I'm A Machine (Last Gang/ Universal) Toronto scene outsiders Jesse F. Keeler and Sebastien Grainger kick up an industrial-strength fuss on their bruising full-length debut, confirming that you don't need guitars to rock out. The crushing new sound of drum and bass.
3 HIDDEN CAMERAS Mississauga Goddam (Evil Evil/Rough Trade) Toronto's favourite gay church folkestra strikes again, but with Evil Evil mastermind Joel Gibb replacing Andy Magoffin at the helm, Mississauga Goddam is more measured and less gratuitously baroque than last year's The Smell Of Our Own. Still gleefully perverse, though - goddammit, ain't nobody else with Gibb's knack for writing catchy pop songs about poo.
4 JANE BUNNETT Red Dragonfly (aka Tombo) (EMI) The ever-adventurous Jane Bunnett picks up soprano sax and joins forces with the Penderecki String Quartet to explore the rhythmic and harmonic possibilities presented by the folkloric music of Quebec, Japan, Brazil and Cuba with soul-stirring results.
5 JAKE FAIRLEY Touch Not the Cat (Paper Bag) Toronto-raised minimal techno producer Jake Fairley's love of rock has emerged slowly over the past few years but was solidified with this album. Kind of like Iggy Pop replacing the Stooges with Kraftwerk, but slipping them some pills first.
6 C'MON Midnight Is The Answer (MapleMusic) You might want to pop an Advil and wait a while before throwing on the bullshit-garage-revival-defying 70s-rock/punk-revamp Midnight Is The Answer, the no-nonsense polished demo by bearded belter/producer Ian Blurton , ex-Nashville Pussy bass babe Katie Lynn Campbell and Randy Curnew .
7 HOWIE BECK (True North) Five years after striking gold with the acclaimed Hollow, Beck comes back with a brilliantly understated singer/songwriter stunner. Meticulously constructed and melancholic but never maudlin, every note - every overdubbed sigh, even - counts. Elliott Smith without the smack.
8 THE BACKSTABBERS Deep, Dark And Dangerous (Run Mountain) The well-loved local string band avoid all the obvious throwback clichés about boxcar jumping and coal mining to deal with relevant issues like Queen West gentrification and getting plastered. Nice one.
9 FEMME GENERATION Circle Gets The Square (independent) Fab foursome place high in the post-punk Olympics, balancing spiky, angular guitars and loopy Atari electronics with sweetly shimmering Bloody Valentine slow-burners. Six tracks that are all killer, no filler.
10 GENTLEMAN REG Darby & Joan (Three Gut) The falsetto-happy ex-Guelphite sheds some of the shyness, hooks up with a kick-ass band and emerges with stunning confidence on his third effort, which swaps frail folk-pop for ace arrangements, sharp lyrics, heart-rending vocals and delectably hooky melodies that rock. The opposite of limp-wristed.
11 LAL Warm Belly, High Power (Public Transit Recordings) It would be fairly easy to ignore the message behind LAL's brand of aural advocacy, which is a testament to how well Warm Belly, High Power is crafted. An earthy stew of brittle beats, sinewy samples and bittersweet vocals at the nexus of soul, dub and what used to be triphop that's infectious enough to suggest LAL realize a good song is better than a hard lecture.
12 JENNY WHITELEY Hopetown (Black Hen) Former Heartbreak Hill belter and ex-Junior Jug Band moppet puts a delightfully dark pomo twist on trad country, with sinister barn-burners and aching ballads populated by money-grubbing evangelists and prisoners who wanna stay behind bars. Doggone good.
13 THE SADIES Favourite Colours (Outside) For their fifth set, our favourite psych-rock spaghetti surf quartet let the smoke clear long enough to offer up their best songs yet. If you've ever wondered just how good the Flying Burrito Brothers would have been with Clarence White in the original lineup, you really need this album.
14 BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE Bee Hives (Arts & Crafts) From the lazy shuffle of Market Fresh to the majestically wistful girl-powered layers of Backyards to Feist 's quietly devastating spin on Lover's Spit, proof that even the dysfunctional family's cast-offs are better than most bands' A-sides.
15 CREEPING NOBODIES Stop Movement Stop Loss (Blocks) Derek Westerholm and his creepy crew are assisted through their self-limiting Fall fascination by producer Wharton Tiers , who helps them turn their jittery paranoia to their advantage.
16 FOGGY HOGTOWN BOYS Live At The Dominion (independent) If there was any doubt that the Foggy Hogtown Boys are the standard-bearers for traditional bluegrass in Toronto - perhaps Canada - this hard-driving live session from one of the city's oldest watering holes should settle any arguments. Nobody can touch 'em.
17 DUBIOUS (Prize Records) The local label seemed to spring up out of nowhere, but this strong first release by label head Jon Dacey (aka Dubious) perfectly captures the mood of the next wave of rock-informed dance music. The four-song EP evokes some of the electro-disco of Metro Area, but from the perspective of someone who spent more time at indie rock shows than raves.
18 APOSTLE OF HUSTLE Folkloric Feel (Arts & Crafts) Lush, poetic and beautifully disorienting, BSS guitar guru Andrew Whiteman 's long-awaited solo spin is like smoking hash and eating mangoes on a beach in Xanadu, a trip to some sleepwalking spacious state where bossa meets Buckley and Ribot rolls dice with beat poets.
19 CONTROLLER.CONTROLLER History (Paper Bag) Looking back at the year's flood of disco-punk releases, this debut EP by controller.controller totally holds its own against the competition. Art rock is rarely this catchy, danceable or fun.
20 ARYTHMETIC The Mixtape (independent) Bar none, rising producer Arythmetic's got some of the illest beats for the T-dot's hiphop rappers to sock it to. We refer to his 04 release The Mixtape, a who's who of underground circuit shakers ( J-Staxxx , Dan-E-O , DL Incognito , Juice , etc.) spittin' harder than a pissed-off Daffy Duck over that ol' DJ Premier-on-crystal-meth shit.