1. The Weeknd
House Of Balloons (independent)
What does it say when one of the hottest new acts in the world puts out his music for free, doesn't have a publicist, has never played a gig outside Ontario and gets as much love from indie blogs like Pitchfork as from hip-hop mags like Complex? It says he's very, very talented.
2. Fucked Up
David Comes To Life (Matador)
You might notice that David Comes To Life beats Drake's Take Care on the local albums list but loses to it on the albums of the year list. How? After studying the numbers, it seems that nearly all NOW music contributors like Fucked Up enough to give them a vote in this category, whereas the more divisive Drake got consistently stronger rankings in both categories, but from fewer writers.
Feel It Break (Paper Bag)
Many NOW contributors thought Austra, like Fucked Up, put out one of the best local discs of the year, but democracy is messy, so the group lost ground in the international list due to what can best be described as music-critic vote-splitting. An exceptionally strong debut.
Take Care (Young Money/Universal)
For a musician thought of primarily as a nice-guy rapper, Drake sure inspires polarized reactions. Love him or hate him, you can't deny that he's changed the hip-hop game and has a voice that's uniquely and proudly Torontonian.
5. Sandro Perri
Impossible Spaces (Constellation)
If the buzz around this remarkable disc continues to grow, the days of thinking of Perri as a "musician's musician" will soon be a distant memory. It's exceedingly rare for music this smart to also be so immediately rewarding and enjoyable.
The Double Cross (Outside)
It feels weird to call the former Halifax power-pop band "local," but the East Coast's loss is Toronto's gain. Bands this deep into their careers shouldn't still sound this good, yet this is easily one of Sloan's best discs yet.
Metals (Arts & Crafts)
This far into the iPod era, it takes guts for a musician to deliberately make an album with no obvious singles. But if you have an attention span of longer than three minutes, you'll see that the immersive and cohesive Metals is pure gold.
8. Azari & III
Azari & III (Turbo)
International success has left this house-music group relatively invisible locally - they've been touring constantly for the past year. But the secret to their sound is how successfully they sum up the unique history and mood of underground dance music in Toronto, and it's a flavour the world is lapping up.
9. Jennifer Castle
Castlemusic (Flemish Eye)
Castlemusic is a concise, subtle and unpretentious stoner country album that rises above ones by higher-profile local roots acts due to the strength of its songs and the hypnotic beauty of Castle's quivering voice.
10. Timbre Timber
Creep On Creepin' On (Arts & Crafts)
The album title says it all. Creep On Creepin' On is one of the most gleefully dark roots-inspired albums ever and opens a window onto Timber Timbre's transition from solo project to intriguing full-fledged band.