Toronto produced an embarrassment of riches in terms of local discs in 2005. So much killer shit was created that this list could've been five times longer -- props to Republic of Safety, controller.controller, the Creeping Nobodies, S.S. Cardiacs, Tangiers, Anagram and anyone else we forgot. But since we had to whittle it down, here are 10 of the finest releases that made us at NOW proud of our hometown this year.
1 FINAL FANTASY Has A Good Home (Blocks Recording Club) After following up a stuffy music education by establishing himself as an arranger par excellence, then dabbling in the spotlight with Les Mouches, it almost seems Owen Pallett 's Final Fantasy solo project simply happened . His first album pulls together Pallett's contradictions -- classical training vs pop wit, hushed timbre vs raw lyricism, solemn violin vs excited yelps, intimacy vs grandiosity -- in a way that seems completely effortless and blows the lid off all expectations.
2 THE DIABLEROS You Can't Break The Strings In Our Olympic Hearts (independent) Barrelling out of T.O's underground with little warning, the Diableros unleash a tight, sparking, addictively melodic disc so good it's hard to believe it's their first. Lashing delirious double-organ wheezes around hazy, jangly guitars and fuzzed-out bass lines, they create a marvellously manic backdrop for Pete Carmichael 's man-on-the-verge yelps and moans. Sprawling psyched-out epics in the guise of barely contained pop songs, this shit is B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
3 BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE (Arts & Crafts) Faced with the daunting task of following up an indie rock classic, the drama queen collective nearly crumbles under the pressure -- and Dave Newfeld gets the results on tape. Cascading, blurry-edged guitar armadas, cut-and-pasted sonic collages, shimmering horns and some of the most devastating broken-and-bruised singing you'll ever hear, with a few hooks snuck in under the radar -- this is the bloody heart of Broken offered up to the vultures, battered and beautiful. The sound of that thin line between love and hate.
4 FEMBOTS The City (Paper Bag) Long-time scene fixtures Brian Poirier and Dave MacKinnon get it totally right the third time, abandoning pawnshop cast-offs and mythical ghost towns for a beautifully heartfelt tribute to the city they call home. Bolstering their front-porch jams with keen songwriting and a full-on roots-rock orchestra, the FemBots lay down the definitive singalong history of Toronto.
5 C'MON In The Heat Of The Moment (MapleMusic) Guitarist/producer Ian Blurton , bassist Katie Lynn Campbell and drummer Randy Curnew know their classic punk rock formula inside out; the key is how they make it sound spontaneous and viciously heavy. Already a ripping good follow-up to Midnight Is The Answer, In The Heat Of The Moment sealed the deal when C'mon put out a run of 1,000 on clear vinyl last month.
6 NO DYNAMICS (Bloodworks) Admittedly, No Dynamics' live skronk needs some work, but lock them in a studio for a few hours and stand back: their four-song introductory EP is an end-to-end burner that hits like some kinda lost 80s no wave masterwork. Get it while you still can.
7 FOGGY HOGTOWN BOYS Northern White Clouds (independent) Top T.O. twang crew broaden their horizons by moving beyond traditional styles and repertoire, inadvertently redefining the sound of northern bluegrass in the process.
8 HOLY FUCK (Dependent) The debut disc from the low-tech noisemakers forgoes the steely precision of laptops and loops to orchestrate an anything-goes improv of wild soundscapes and danceable rhythms. Combining thrift-store keyboards, clunky guitar pedals, ancient museum toys and magnetic tape fed through a film synchronizer, they deliver an unpredictable instro-record that flows from start to finish.
9 JON-RAE & THE RIVER Old Songs For The New Town (Permafrost) Jon-Rae Fletcher 's impassioned, fractured vocals lead the way through this mesmerizing set, but his River bandmates are no slouches at having his back. Together, they've created a soul-stirring tour de force that consistently seems two seconds away from completely coming apart.
10 BRUTAL KNIGHTS The Pleasure Is All Thine (Deranged) The Brutal Knights could easily have turned out to be another screwy comedy vehicle for shouter/stand-up Nick Flanagan -- which is why their stormin' debut disc is such a kick-ass surprise.