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The Eh List: Noisey Canada's Top Six Projects of 2014 - Michael Rancic

What did the Canadian punk aficionado choose as his six best Canadian projects of the year?

by Michael Rancic
Dec 17 2014, 4:25pm

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.

We've had Juliette Jagger and Greg Bouchard give us their six picks already.

Today, we asked Canadian music critic Michael Rancic about his Eh List.

6: Cellphone — Excellent Condition

Cellphone sound like a band of aliens that decided there was musical quality to the weird noises their tractor beams made, and started using those to make fight songs for Saturday morning cartoons. “Deranged” is one way of describing the kind of music Cellphone make, and “hilarious” is another, just as fitting description. In every practical sense, Excellent Condition shouldn’t work. Like Devo collaborating with the Dead Kennedys, it just shouldn’t sound as good as it does. Michael Wirth Broff’s vocals are a bit Biafra-esque, alternating between something that recalls the Kennedy’s frontman’s famous yowl and an approach that sounds more like the Soupcans’ Dave Evans. Cellphone are not only labelmates with the ‘Cans, they share producers—noted punk photographer and Shadowy Man Don Pyle lent his talents in the studio to Cellphone, which is just about the best kind of endorsement a punk band as weird and wonderful as these guys can get.

5: Daniel Caesar — Praise Break

Daniel Caesar’s Praise Break is an incredible introduction to a very gifted songwriter. After hearing about it earlier in the fall, it’s been a hard EP for me to shake. The songs fade in and out like memories, with Caesar juxtaposing ideas, feelings and sounds in a kind of seven track collage. “Chevalier,” is a bare, stripped down song that just features Caesar’s voice and a piano as well as some of the most affecting lyrics on the record. Caesar follows that with the phantasmagoric “Casablanca,” a track that recalls the similar kind of collage work featured on Frank Ocean’s Nostalgia, Ultra. Here he combines a loop of the e-bow driven guitar part from Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye” with dialogue from the film Casablanca. Given that the track prior featured just Caesar and a piano, the dialogue from Casablanca seems to suggest Caesar is comparing himself to Sam, the piano playing character in the film. Not quite. Caesar sets you up to think that so he can then sing the line “Fuck you, I’m Humphrey Bogart” in “We’ll Always Have Paris” putting himself at the centre of the song’s narrative, and taking charge in the situation. Praise Break is smart, gorgeous and an infinitely rewarding debut.

4: Hag Face — Rag Face

Rag Face doubles down on the witch punk Hag Face first debuted on cassette a year prior. These Calgarians imbue sharp, urgent post punk with heavy, doomy guitar work-- a sonic pairing that allows the band to draw equally from the worlds of groups like Delta 5 and Black Sabbath. Songs like “Rag Face” and “Slut Shame” demonstrate this excellent musical range first hand—the band sound just as comfortable writing songs that last a minute as they are writing ones that more than double that. A barbed sarcasm finds its way into the lyrics of these seven songs in ways that feel smart and refreshing, alleviating, and in some cases, intensifying, the kind of tension Hag Face conjure collectively. No record that came out this year rival’s Rag Face as a document of a band coming into their own.

3: Owen Pallett — In Conflict

I didn’t think Owen Pallett would top Heartland, his last record that came out four years earlier. Heartland seemed like such a strong statement at the time, one that was both musically and thematically hard to top—after all: *spoiler alert* it ends with his death at the hands of Lewis, one of the characters in his songs. But what better way for a musician to deal with “killing themselves” and/or their ego than to explore a plurality of selves and how they all interact with one another and contrast? Musically this record picks up where Heartland left off—there are far more percussive elements (courtesy of Pallett’s drummer Rob Gordon) and more synths incorporated carefully throughout—all adding to the grander scale that the album is operating on.

2: Thantifaxath — Sacred White Noise

It’s easy to want to dismiss Thantifaxath along with the hype that made them a major talking point in the world of metal earlier this year—when they released their debut album via Dark Descent records, more attention was paid to the band’s cloaked anonymity than the music on the record itself. It seemed as though there was little outside of their secrecy that could sustain interest. Yet I don’t think we’d be half as interested in this mysterious group if they didn’t sound like the technical marvels that they are—both as musicians and as producers. This is bold, dramatic black metal that borrows heavily from technical death metal to give each song a bit more contour than the constraints of the charred and often grayscale genre usually allow. The music is all at once harrowing, daring and expansive. The lead guitar work, bass and drums all intertwine but remain well-defined and independent throughout each song like a triple helix. It’s a seemingly minor detail, but one that helps set this record apart from its peers in a big way.

1: Weaves — Weaves

Weaves are one of the best, most original bands coming out of Toronto right now. They grin ear-to-ear as their music eludes comparison, challenging me as a listener and goading me to come back for more. They make pop that feels spontaneous and adroit, with big guitars and voices, huge attention to the low-end and plenty of weirdo flourishes that ensure they sound unlike any other band going. Their debut EP is an incredibly diverse collection of six songs that build and play on the tension between guitarist Morgan Waters’ bombastic pop sensibilities and singer Jasmyne Burke’s idiosyncratic vocal performances. Capable of swiftly shifting from fun nonsense to a sort of wise innocence, Burke is a phenomenal singer, whose energy on record is only buoyed by the amazing band she has behind her.

Michael Rancic is on Twitter.

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