Music 2011: The Best of Vancouver

Canadian music continued to make huge waves this year. In the wake of the world’s love affair with Arcade Fire, North American critics are still agog over Canuck product. Drake, Feist, The Weekend and tUnE-yArDs have all been dominating top ten lists, even if most of the time American writers conveniently forget those artists’ country of origin.

When it comes to critical regard, Destroyer did the most to represent the West Coast with its ninth album, Kaputt. Fronted by singer/songwriter Dan Bejar (who is also in The New Pornographers), the 16-year-old project came in at number two on Pitchfork’s list of 2011’s top 50 albums, with the online arbiter of all things hip and indie praising the record for its yacht-rock/lite-rock sound.

There were plenty of other Vancouver offerings worth noting, though. Here, five albums in five different genres to prove the point, and the passion.

Black Metal
Mitochondrion, Parasignosis 
Somewhere, somehow, when the cool kids weren’t looking, metal moved from the basements of suburban mooks and into the labs of intellectual subversives. At least, that’s the impression given by records like the complex, ambitious and Latinate-friendly Parasignosis. Not your hesher uncle’s black metal, that’s for sure.
Recommended track: “Plague Evockation (Pestilentiam Intus Vocamus, Voluntatem Absolvimus Part I)”

Bocephus King, Willie Dixon God Damn! 
One of the West Coast’s most under-appreciated singer/songwriters, Bocephus King (aka Jamie Perry) has been recording his unique take on Americana — a mix of folk, blues, country, folk and pop — for over ten years. This album, his fifth, is brimming over with epic arrangements, cautionary tales and literary detail. When Bocephus King tells a story, you want to hear and you stop to listen.
Recommended track: “The Myth of Philadelphia”

Myths, Myths
This two-woman unit crashes the electro-rock party with a debut that deserves its own sub-genre: horror disco. Noisy and raging, chaotic and controlled, dark and not-quite-as-dark — if MYTHS can align its annoy-the-neighbours impulses with this record’s hinted-at melodicism a little more, the next album will be a killer.
Recommended track: “Deadlights”

Ambient/dance rock
No Gold, No Gold
Traditional instruments butt up against ultra-modern electro-pop production on this endlessly creative debut. No Gold’s blend of hypnotic grooves and slinky melodies, dreamy soundscapes and jammy electropop make it one of the year’s best (and most under-rated) — from any city. Recommended track: “Weird Week”

Indie pop
Kathryn Calder, Bright and Vivid
Speaking of The New Pornographers, Kathryn Calder — the band’s keyboardist/backup vocalist (and niece of frontman Carl Newman) — has just released a second album that is leaps and bounds kinkier and more sophisticated than her charming debut, last year’s Are You My Mother? Buy it for your girlfriend, then download it for yourself.
Recommended track: “Turn a Light On”

Image courtesy of  The Snipe


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