2009 was an interesting year in Canada. Vancouver was plagued with a considerable amount of gang violence to start the year, while George W. Bush showed up in Calgary to speak. Barack Obama, meanwhile, became president in the United States and made his first visit to Canada in February. There was the tragic Newfoundland helicopter crash, too, and the first Canadian cases of swine flu that emerged in April.
2009 was an interesting year personally, too. I spent considerable parts of it exhausted by my anxiety and by persistent panic attacks, learning more about my limitations and my expectations day by day. Friends saw horrifying times, with my best friend seeing the hope of fatherhood smashed against the rocks of tragic loss in just a few short, agonizing months.
In instances like these we look for meaning. We look to art, film, literature, music, sports, food, drugs. Some of us have the courage to look within ourselves for the help that we need, but for the rest of us we need the assistance of a well-worded lyric that cuts deep. Or we need the work of a dedicated actor with presence and timing. Or we just need a laugh.
Whatever we need and for whatever reason we need it, it’s always good to reflect back on years gone by and to remember what we needed most. I think that’s why we make year-end lists. I think we like to remember what touched us most and what helped us most and what made us smile most.
And so, for 2009 anyway, I decided to look back on what I found myself returning to most in terms of Canadian music. Year-end lists are, by no means, exact. It was hard to confine my list to ten and it was hard to keep up with everything this year, but time does pass and so, without wasting any more of your time, here are my picks for the 10 Best Canadian Albums of 2009.
This album caught me coming out of a drained period at the end of 2008 and gave me the boost I needed. The Halifax four-piece constructs pure, memorable, anthemic rock music and this record, their third, should help solidify them on the Canadian scene.
9. D-Sisive – Let the Children Die
Morbid and dark, D-Sisive’s rap lurks in the shadows. This Canadian rapper emerged from a six-year absence after his father’s death and after battling depression to turn out hip hop that is as real as humanly possible. Let the Children Die is an astonishing rap record.
This is an album of substance and of experience. The Somalia-born Canadian rapper expresses himself on Troubadour with necessity. He tells stories of Africa and of violence because he must. Troubadour reveals not just the soul of an artist who’s seen it all, but the spirit of a man who wants more.
7. Handsome Furs – Face Control
This Montreal “electro-punk” band surges forward on Face Control, leaving everything on the pavement for an album filled with fun, edgy hooks. The guitars are loud, the beats are solid and the husband/wife duo of Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry effortlessly out-stripe the White Stripes.
This record embodies hope. Gordon Downie comes up with some of his sharpest and most optimistic lyrics to date and the band’s ability to gather ‘round him and offer comfort shines through immensely. It is an easygoing, ultimately listenable record that is one of the band’s best in ages.
5. Timber Timbre – S/T
Spooky. Moody. Scary. Dark. Wet. This is swamp folk, I think, and Timber Timbre (Taylor Kirk) makes magic happen all over his self-titled record. Using a beat-to-shit guitar and deadly atmosphere, Timber Timbre will have you rethinking what blues can do.
This is one of those records that stuck with me all year long. Hamilton actually recorded this thing in a shipyard, for starters, and utilizes all of the sounds and textures that brings to tremendous effect. It helps that her songs are magical, touching, and captivating beyond belief.
The most interesting and uplifting record of the year. Ontario’s Spearin, most known for his work with Do Make Say Think, comes up with a brilliant concept and lets it live and breathe with little interference. The use of instruments to shadow human voices in conversation is astonishing.
Garage punk for the ages, Vancouver’s Japandroids nearly topped this list for good reason. This record is blistering fun. Set with screaming guitars and a punk sensibility that leaves a slick of cheap beer and smokes behind, Post-Nothing is your high school prom all over again. Or what you wish it was.
Hands down the most inventive, complex, beautiful record of the year. This is one for the ages. SR present a world that is accessible and yet ultimately self-sustaining, filling us with dreams and challenges that few others would ever subject their listeners to. It’s a challenge. A fucking awesome challenge.Powered by Sidelines