Even with the abundance of piracy, music blogs and award shows, keeping up with the latest and greatest Canadian bands is no easy task. Sometimes a few manage to scratch the surface — recent explosions of Drake, Justin Bieber and Arcade Fire surely, but nonetheless surprisingly, put Canada on the radars of critics and audiophiles alike. Still, a lot of talent goes unnoticed, especially coming out of Montreal. We’ve put together a list of top-notch 2011 recordings to get you caught up, and, perhaps, make some last-minute Christmas shopping easier than expected. Here, five albums in five different genres to prove the point, and the passion.
BRAIDS, Native Speaker
Originally from Calgary, BRAIDS recently moved to Montreal; geographic coincidence or not, the change has had a positive effect on their music. If you enjoy soothing, electro-inspired indie, similar to the likes of Animal Collective, you’ll find yourself at home with the coaxing melodies found on Native Speaker. A must-have for those who rely on background music to fall asleep to, this album also caters to those looking to ease into their mornings with bliss. In fact, many of the selections suit either.
Recommended track: “Little Hand“
>>Calgary wants some well-deserved BRAIDS credit: click here for a western take.
The Frano Proietti Morph-tet, Like the Shore Is to the Ocean
Bridging soulful R&B harmonies with the complex instrumentation of jazz music, The Franco Proietti Morph-tet received a well-deserved Grammy nomination this year for their album Like the Shore Is to the Ocean. Each song leaves us both relaxed and impressed at once — no mean feat. Watch for a stellar guest performance by rapper Jonathan Emile, jack of all trades and master of, well, all of them. A cancer survivor, spoken word poet and founder of the Mindpeacelove record label, Emile is, quite simply, a role model.
Recommended track: “Like the Shore Is to the Ocean”
Ain’t No Love, Ain’t No Love EP
Pioneering the subgenre “thugstep,” Ain’t No Love aims to make contemporary rap accessible without being artificial or abrasive. (Looks like it’s working: One of their tunes, which we’re recommending below, made the POP Montreal Best Of soundtrack.) The quartet keeps pace with trends set by mainstreamers Black Eyed Peas and Baltimore club DJs in that it blurs the line between “booty bass” (yes, that’s a thing) and straight hip-hop: honed lyricism that emphasizes rhyme and wordplay.
Recommended track: “Step Hard”
Colin Stetson, New History Warfare Vol. II: Judges
Longlisted for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize, New History Warfare Vol. II is a perfect example of craftsmanship that seems to been overshadowed by crowd favouritism — cough, Arcade Fire, cough. The entire album was recorded live in single takes, upping the ante when it comes to experimental jazz as it makes the listening experience as close to a real performance as possible. With our scotch and soda, we like to kick back to, well, all of it.
Recommended track: “Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes”
Jacques Greene, Another Girl EP
One of the biggest names in Canadian beat-making, Jacques Greene made Pitchfork’s Top 100 Songs list this year with “Another Girl.” The same-titled EP has the extended mix, as well as two remixes by other bass musicians — though the original is so catchy you’ll have it on repeat for weeks. If you followed the evolution and eventual disappearance of Aphex Twin, and are looking for your next fix, search no further.
Recommended track: “Another Girl”
Image courtesy of Milosz1.