Did you have a good year? Did you accomplish everything you set out to do, or did you fall short of meeting the goals you set at the start of the year? Do you even have goals? We at Noisey Canada have one main one, and it's to introduce our readers to the best Canadian music of the year. We've worked on this for the duration of 2014, and while we haven't covered everything amazing to come out of the great white North, we've certainly got to most of it. Part of the reason we're able to have such varied coverage on Noisey Canada is because of our dedicated and tireless team of freelancers. We decided to "reward" a few of our best writers by having them take time away from their busy holiday season to do more work! Each writer was tasked with choosing their own personal top six Canadian albums that were released in 2014 for their "Eh List," which we'll be releasing throughout the course of this week. On Friday, Noisey Canada will publish its Top 10 Canadian Albums Eh List.
To start things off, we asked rock n' roll journalist Juliette Jagger about her six picks for the Eh List.
6: Daniel Lanois — Flesh and Machine
Released October 27th, 2014 via Anti Records, musician, producer, and sonic visionary Daniel Lanois’ sixth solo effort Flesh and Machine, proves that he may be the last great musical mind of a generation left in this country. Comprised of eleven fully ambient tracks, Flesh and Machine speaks directly to Lanois’ roots as a young fledgling producer in Hamilton, Ontario in the 1980’s and the groundbreaking ambient/electronic work he created under the mentorship of Brian Eno. These days Lanois is widely known for his work with the likes of U2, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, amongst countless others, but it remains through his solo efforts that we acquire a true taste for his ability to deconstruct and sculpt sound.
Flesh and Machine is much more than just pretty noise; it is a testament to a battle that Lanois has been fighting for years and that is how to blend humanity with technology. If ambient music doesn’t suite your palate and you only ever take the time to listen to one track on this album, make sure it’s “The End.” As Lanois’ take on a modern protest song, this instrumental is so frantic and impending in its delivery that it demands the listener engage with it on a level that makes most of us incredibly uncomfortable. If nothing else Flesh and Machine is sonically bold. It ventures into some exceedingly dark musical territory and calls upon each of us to examine the flawed nature of our own existence. Simultaneously, the album also delivers a number of weightless and beautifully handcrafted soundscapes that, not unlike a ballet, unfold before the listener to reveal a multi-dimensional story without uttering a single word.
5: Biblical — Monsoon Season
Released in March of 2014 via New Damage Records, Biblical’s Monsoon Season was a hell of a debut. Straddling the line between psychedelic hard rock and metal, this album is one thundering cavalcade of sound after another. Not only is it seriously heavy but it just possesses such a distinct swagger. These guys are cut from the same cloth as a band like Motörhead in that they’re sound is hefty, they manage to avoid the tropes of hard rock fromage, and they’re just fucking cool. Monsoon Season delivers everything that makes Biblical’s live show praise worthy but cloaks it in filthy guitar tones that burn up into the atmospherics of each song, and couples that with muddy organs and the kind of kickback that’ll make any rock fan’s nostrils flair.
4: Tokyo Police Club — Forcefield
When Tokyo Police Club finally released their third studio album Forcefield on March 24th, 2014, the album had already been three years in the making. With the industry being what it is today, taking three years to write and record an indie rock album is a risk most bands wouldn’t take. For Tokyo Police Club, it was really a matter of not going down the same path towards a record they had already written twice. Though creating Forcefield was a long, drawn-out and at times dark expedition––something frontman and bassist David Monks chronicles quite clearly on the band’s current single “Tunnel Vision”––the album proved to be worth the wait. Producing an additional radio single in the infectiously delivered, “Hot Tonight,” Forcefield is arguably the band’s most well rounded release to date. Think about how quickly both music and the media change these days. Now consider how many things have come and gone over the course of the past three years; it would have been easy for any band to shit the bed on this kind of a release, but not Tokyo Police Club and that’s commendable. Forcefield is the kind of album that relies upon its songwriting merits rather than gimmicky talking points, and ultimately revealed a band that hadn’t lost its touch but rather was busy honing its ability to write both contagious pop hooks and simple, straightforward indie rock.
3: Arkells — High Noon
What has made Hamilton indie rock darlings the Arkells so successful over the years is their unwavering ability to write well-crafted radio friendly hits. From songs like “Pullin’ Punches,” “Oh, the Boss Is Coming!,” and “The Ballad of Hugo Chavez” to “Michigan Left,” “Kiss Cam,” and most recently “Come To Light,” their third studio album High Noon, which dropped back on August 5th of this year is certainly no exception. Debuting at number 3 on the Canadian Album Charts (the band’s highest chart position to date) and written and recorded in a 150-year old factory turned gay night club, High Noon is full of classic swingin’ Arkells melodies, brassy-guitars, tinkering keys, and throwback soul. As was to be expected, Max Kerman’s signature raspy, heartfelt vocals are the glue that holds this album together and between tales of old friends, foolish lovers, the comforts of home, and the struggles of being a decent human being, Kerman remains the backbone of the Arkells sound. High Noon revealed just how well-seasoned this band has really become and ensured their continued success on the airwaves as one of Canada’s most beloved indie rock acts.
2: Death From Above 1979 — The Physical World I still have vivid memories of driving around at night in the neighbourhood where I grew up, listening to Death From Above 1979’s You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, louder than is necessary as stupid youth tend to do. Yeah, that album definitely has a place in the heart of my formative years, as it does for many Torontonians, hence why when DFA announced earlier this year that they would finally be releasing their sophomore effort The Physical World, fans of the band were more than ready.
As the drum and bass duo’s first official album since their break up some ten years ago back in 2006, The Physical World is earmarked by the same pounding drumbeats, fervorous, melodic basslines, screeching peaks, and sweaty, libido-charged lyrics, that made DFA so damn appealing the first time around. The album’s lead single, “Trainwreck 1979,” was everything a DFA could have hoped for. It drove straight to heart of the duo’s dance-punk sound and exploded off of the radio with that killer hook.
The Physical World successfully builds upon the framework of DFA’s early sound but also completely delivers when it comes to capturing that thick, demonstrable tension that was a cornerstone of their first release. While I imagine it was difficult for the band to ignore the opportunity to capitalize on the timing of the album and all of the buzz that inevitably ensued, none of that seems to have prevented Sebastien Grainger and Jesse F. Keeler from stepping things up both musically and melodically this time around, and ensuring that The Physical World is far from flat.
1: Single Mothers — Negative Qualities
Having finally unleashed their much anticipated debut album Negative Qualities, on October 7th 2014, London, Ontario’s Single Mothers, take the cake when it comes to this year’s strongest Canadian rock release. Produced by Joby J. Ford of Los Angeles hardcore band The Bronx and recorded in LA, Toronto, London, Ontario, and New York, Negative Qualities, which took the band nearly two full years to create, is an absolute behemoth. Succeeding in capturing the true appeal of Single Mothers’ explosive live show, the album is 26 minutes of sweaty, unrelenting, punk rock. The album also reveals an unabashedly blunt lyricist in frontman and vocalist Andrew Thomson, whose fly on the wall take on topics such as sex, drugs, alcohol, religion and relationships, are all fueled by the frustrated and monotonous nature of small-town-life. But, probably most impressive is the level of palpable tension present on Negative Qualities. There is something desperate and human about this album and it’s that very thing that is so obviously missing from Canadian rock music today.