MU­SIC

What does Toronto sound like? Groovy protest pop, post-al­go­rithm hard­core, cos­mic R&B and a lot more

NOW Magazine - - CONTENTS -

1 U.S. GIRLS: IN A POEM UN­LIM­ITED (ROYAL MOUN­TAIN/4AD)

The al­bum that best summed up Amer­ica this year came from Toronto. Meg Remy (who, sure, is orig­i­nally from Chicago) shined up her in­ci­sive po­lit­i­cal pop and, with help from lo­cal in­stru­men­tal wiz­ards the Cos­mic Range, pre­sented it as lush big band disco-rock. And then, sud­denly, the zeit­geist caught up to her. She’s al­ways had a knack for ex­pos­ing Amer­ica’s dark un­der­belly through her char­ac­ter-based songs, but in a year when sex­ual im­pro­pri­ety and abuse of power was un­der the mi­cro­scope, U.S. Girls’ songs found re­cep­tive ears.

RICHARD TRAPUNSKI

6 BONJAY: LUSH LIFE (MYS­TER­IES OF TRADE)

What is the Toronto sound? On Lush Life, Alanna Stu­art and Ian “Pho” Swain showed us that it could be bolder, more glam­orous than what we’ve come to know. The al­bum’s eclec­tic sounds – from Afro-beat chants to fierce vo­cals that hear­ken back to UK house – brought in a world’s worth of sounds and reached be­yond our bor­ders. “Th­ese days I don’t think I be­long any­where,” Stu­art sings on Medicine For Me­lan­choly, and maybe it’s that search­ing qual­ity that makes it such an ex­cit­ing lis­ten. CHAKA V. GRIER

2 JEREMY DUTCHER: WO­LAS­TO­QIYIK LIN­TUWAKON­AWA (IN­DE­PEN­DENT)

The win­ner of this year’s Po­laris Prize was an al­bum writ­ten in a lan­guage cur­rently spo­ken by fewer than 100 peo­ple. Dutcher’s com­po­si­tions – tra­di­tional songs from the Wo­las­toq First Na­tion that he re­cov­ered from both his el­ders and through in­tense mu­si­co­log­i­cal re­search – are both a fas­ci­nat­ing doc­u­ment of mu­sic threat­ened by cul­tural geno­cide and some of the most beau­ti­ful sounds we heard all year. With his soar­ing, op­er­atic voice and head-turn­ing songcraft, the Indige­nous Next Wave sounded more breath­tak­ing than ever. RT

7 WITCH PROPHET: THE GOLDEN OC­TAVE (88 DAYS OF FOR­TUNE)

The ti­tle of Ayo Leilani’s de­but Witch Prophet al­bum was in­spired by her fas­ci­na­tion with math­e­mat­i­cal se­quences and how they re­late to her en­er­gies. A fit­ting choice, given how the record’s 11 cos­mic R&B songs tackle themes in­clud­ing men­tal health, mother­hood and self­i­den­tity. Fea­tur­ing Lido Pimienta and the Cliks’ Lu­cas Sil­veira, and pro­duc­tion from Sun Sun, The Golden Oc­tave feels like a cel­e­bra­tion of not only her­self, but Toronto’s DIY com­mu­nity. MAX MERTENS

3 CHAR­LOTTE DAY WIL­SON: STONE WOMAN (IN­DE­PEN­DENT)

Stone Woman’s sub­lime elec­tro-R&B songs course through your veins. Wil­son lev­elled up her pro­duc­tion af­ter her de­but, Work, in­no­vat­ing through much more rigid self-dis­ci­pline and pas­sion for the, well, work. With metic­u­lously crafted lyrics, lurid croon­ing and sigh­ing, Stone Woman gives us a scope of how much Wil­son will be able to ex­cel on a full-length. Hope­fully soon. Six songs is not enough to sa­ti­ate us.

SARAH MAC­DON­ALD

8 S.H.I.T.: WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? (IRON LUNG)

This is the sound of con­trol slip­ping through your fin­ger­tips like an end­less cas­cade of con­tent on au­to­play. Ca­reen­ing by in 16 min­utes, What Do You Stand For? con­tem­plates per­sonal au­ton­omy in an age of al­go­rith­mic or­der, re­flect­ing the ab­sur­dity of mod­ern life back onto it­self with acer­bic vo­cals, rag­ing gui­tars, fu­ri­ous drum­ming and fun­house rhythms. An ab­so­lutely po­tent hard­core record front to back.

MICHAEL RANCIC

4 JEN­NIFER CAS­TLE: AN­GELS OF DEATH (IDÉE FIXE/PAR­ADISE OF BACH­E­LORS)

She’s been on the lo­cal scene since the early 2000s, but Cas­tle’s work just keeps blos­som­ing. Af­ter 2014’s Pink City crys­tal­lized her grounded but mys­tic folk-rock, An­gels Of Death was worth the wait. With her pow­er­ful, quiv­er­ing voice and dy­namic in­stru­men­ta­tion, she sings about love and loss while delv­ing into an­gelic sym­bol­ism and ex­plo­ration of muses. Cas­tle con­tin­ues to prove her­self as a world-class tal­ent who could just as eas­ily be singing in a liv­ing room in Guelph. NICK FLANA­GAN

9 JOEL EEL: PER­FORM­ING A CRIME (PERPETUAL CARE)

Techno artist Eel ex­plores themes of love, pain and self-re­flec­tion. The seven-song LP fea­tures the kind of in­tense EBM that has come to rep­re­sent Toronto’s elec­tronic sound – and Eel’s skilled blend­ing of dis­torted synth melodies and polyrhyth­mic beats proves he’s one of the city’s best. Eel builds on the en­ergy of ev­ery track to show off his true techno chops on Gar­den Of Roses. It’s the ideal 3 am rave banger that makes dancers fall to their knees. MICHELLE DA SILVA

5 BER­NICE: PUFF LP: IN THE AIR WITHOUT A SHAPE (ARTS & CRAFTS)

Seven years af­ter their de­but LP, Ber­nice fi­nally came back with this short and sweet col­lec­tion, an eclec­tic mix of breezy in­die pop, smooth R&B and jazz em­bel­lish­ments that take each song into un­ex­pected di­rec­tions. All of this sounds like a lot – and it is – but Ber­nice’s lead song­writer Robin Dann’s silky vo­cals keep each track an­chored amidst all the whim­si­cal idio­syn­cra­sies. Here’s hop­ing they don’t take so long for LP num­ber three.

SA­MAN­THA EDWARDS

10 SEAN LEON: SEAN LEON (THE DEATH OF) (IXXI INI­TIA­TIVE)

Af­ter lit­er­ally turn­ing his life into a movie in 2017 and trans­form­ing his base­ment apart­ment into a mu­seum ear­lier this year, Sean Leon has set­tled into his sig­na­ture cin­e­matic style. The Park­dale rap­per’s life plays like a score, seam­lessly mov­ing through the highs and lows of his story, from airy and op­ti­mistic to gritty and sullen, over one 32-minute track. (A 12-track ver­sion was later re­leased, but the longer un­sep­a­rated track is the bet­ter way to hear it). SUMIKO WILSO mu­[email protected]­toronto.com | @now­toronto

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