R. Jeanette Martin
A look across Toronto's music landscape reveals that there still isn't one particular sound we can call our own. Instead, what's increasingly obvious is that diversity is our strength and identity. [briefbreak]
1. METZ - Metz
We'd long believed in local noise rock heroes Metz, but it was still surprising to see the rest of the world suddenly start agreeing with us. Their long-awaited debut full-length more than lived up to expectations, and also proved that their deconstructed minimalist punk fury doesn't just appeal to Toronto music nerds.
2. THE WEEKEND - Trilogy
Technically, the three mixtapes that make up the Weeknd's Trilogy came out in 2011, but it would be an oversight not to recognize the importance of Abel Tesfaye's wildly ambitious debut album's getting a commercial release as a triple album. Turns out people will buy music they got for free when it's as good as this.
3. BAHAMAS - Barchords
On his contemporary-sounding 50s-inspired sophomore album, Bahamas' Afie Jurvanen continues his transformation from under-the-radar guitar wiz sideman to respected singer/songwriter. Barchords is an eminently listenable (at moments even danceable) eulogy to a failed relationship. As Jurvanen sings in one of the tunes, there's joy in feeling sad.
4. TRUST - TRST
A romantic rush of booming industrial acid rhythms and garbled balladry, the debut album from synth-pop duo Robert Alfons and Maya Postepski has enough satisfyingly sleazy beats to keep the wallflowers planted in the centre of the dance floor. One of the year's best dance-pop records.
5. DUSTED - Total Dust
With help from producer/bandmate Leon Taheny, Brian Borcherdt discovered the perfect middle ground between the daring sonic experimentation of his work with Holy Fuck and his solo introspective folk tunes. A hauntingly beautiful collection of songs full of eerie atmosphere and sonic texture.
6. COLD SPECKS - I Predict A Graceful Expulsion
Someday Toronto talent won't have to go overseas to get the recognition it deserves, but in the meantime we'll swallow our pride and admit that it was the UK that first saw the potential in Cold Specks' gloomy rewiring of early blues and gospel. She can send shivers down your spine with just a few gorgeously raspy notes.
7. EVENING HYMNS - Spectral Dusk
Singer/songwriter Jonas Bonnetta touched on the loss of his father in his 2009 debut, but felt the need to fully work through his grief. For his sophomore album, he holed up with partner Sylvie Smith and backing band the Wooden Sky in a cabin near Perth, Ontario, and crafted this expansive, heartbreakingly personal meditation on pain, memory, responsibility and adulthood.
8. RUSH - Clockwork Angels
Rush's 19th studio album is a proggy-headed beast that centres on drummer Neil Peart's narrative about a distant land ruled by a watchmaker. In other words, nerdy as ever. Fans get the requisite notey guitar solos, ever-shifting musical changes and Geddy Lee's familiar wail, but what's best is that the iconic Toronto trio sound like they're having the best time ever.
9. PHÈDRE - Phèdre
Hooded Fang's Daniel Lee and April Aliermo and Doldrums' Airick Woodhead wrote and recorded Phèdre's self-titled album in one spontaneous, wine-fuelled weekend. In doing so, they accidentally made one of the most fun, decadent debuts to burble up from Toronto's underground this year. Their woozy, psychedelic, hedonistic pop is both disorienting and infectious, a tantalizing offering to a Canadian indie scene suddenly predisposed to weird.
10. INDIAN HANDCRAFTS - Civil Disobedience For Losers
Indian Handcrafts don't fuck around. On their second album, the duo take all that's good about sludgy, heavy, bong-friendly titans like the Melvins, Harvey Milk and Sleep and distill it to its essence: the almighty riff. Civil Disobedience For Losers is 11 songs of colossal down-tuned guitar-and-drums stoner metal pummelling courtesy of Daniel Allen and Brandyn Aikins.