Last year when picking my top 10 for Matthew/i(heart)music’s Hottest Canadian Bands poll my metric for hotness was “artists that I like more this year”. Certainly, that will remain part of my (unknowable) formula this year.
The second part of this year’s (unknowable) selection formula measures how, air quotes, successful the band has been this year: Have people been writing about them? Going to their shows? Have they been winning awards real or imaginary? Do they have a twitter account? If so, do they post hilarious stuff for my enjoyment? And so on…
The third part of the (unknowable) formula is how I think the band/artist needs some help, or how much I feel compelled that others should hear the band. In this respect, all other things being equal, the lesser known band will get the nod over the more established.
The forth part of the (increasingly more knowable) formula is that I’m a huge homer, meaning, given the chance to promote a band from close to where I live now (Toronto) or where I used to live (London) I’ll take it.
A couple of picks to land on the master list that you’re not going to see here because I haven’t heard the albums: Fucked Up (polaris winner b/w #5 – 10), The Balconies (#7 – 15), Zeus (#15 – 30), Julie Fader (#15 – 30), Japandroids (#10 – 20). Also, K’Naan (#3 – 14) whose album I have heard, but generally thought it was over produced, a little bit broad compared to his debut, but will have won over a bunch of new fans, since, he is actually quite good....
* * *Here're my picks, although you might note that only my first 10 picks will count on the i(heart)music master list.
15. Timber Timbre (Toronto, On)
Last album: s/t
[mp3] Timber Timbre – Demon Host
Why he/she/they are here: Because he has steadily grown on me since releasing the harrowing Medicinals  (pick of the week #13). While having a slightly different – yet still seriously creepy – aesthetic he put out another album that should be played on doorsteps for many, many, Halloweens to come. That, and he made a big leap by signing with Arts & Crafts, which is a pretty big deal and presumably means that this won’t be the last year we’ll see him on the master list.
14. Rah Rah (Regina, SK)
Last album: Going Steady
[mp3] Rah Rah – Betrayal pt.1
Why he/she/they are here: mostly because Going Steady (pick of the week #2) was an album that I felt deserves, and continues to deserve, a lot more attention that it is getting. This might be a geography thing, which is unfortunate, but the lyrics behind Going Steady are just so engaging and clever, when combined with the swelling, epic sort of instrumentation make me feel as though I have to sell people on this album every chance that I get. Also, I feel a little guilty because if I had got off my ass to see them this year they probably would’ve been between 7 and 10 spots higher.
13. Pink Mountaintops
Last album: Outside Love
[mp3] Pink Mountaintops - Vampires
Why he/she/they are here: despite my distaste for Black Mountain, Stephen McBean and co. have put together an incredibly memorable psych rock album. Outside Love is an album that I wanted to dislike, but I just couldn’t. Somehow, they are able to melt these heavy, distorted guitars with layered, often angelic harmonies to create a sound that mixes ‘90s grunge rock with the flower power of the ‘60s to create what will be one of the best albums of 2009.
12. Ketch Harbour Wolves
Last album: Dead Calm Horizon
[mp3] Ketch Harbour Wolves - Letters
Why he/she/they are here: basically, cause I completely missed out on including them on this list last year. They haven’t really done anything this year i.e. they haven’t released an album, but I have heard some new songs (live, which are excellent), and I’m pretty excited for a second album which I’m told is coming some time next year (if I’m remembering correctly).
Last album: Illinoize
[mp3] Tor/Sufjan Stevens – The Tallest Man/I Like It ft. Grand Puba
Why he/she/they are here: because this might be the best mash-up album… ever. Not that, off the top of my head, I can think of more than say, ten or so, but Illinoize (pick of the week #12) is wicked awesome. Theoretically, you wouldn’t think having Aesop Rock rapping over a Christmas song would work (“Star of Wonder/None Shall Pass”), but I suppose that’s the beauty of this album – Tor uses Suf’s lush instrumentation to serve as the back drop for some good rap tracks and he makes them great.
10. Ohbijou (2007 - #2)
Last album: Beacons
[mp3] Ohbijou – Black Ice
Why he/she/they are here: because they’ve gradually picked up more and more steam every month since they released Swift Feet for Troubling Times (potw #7)a couple of years ago. They’ve shown up on magazine covers, been playing all kinds of shows, and Beacons (potw #27) is really a heck of a record. I mean, the stretch of four songs from “Eloise and the Bones” to “Make it Gold” is about as good as this type of melodramatic pop music gets.
9. Diamond Rings
Last album: Diamond Rings/PS I Love You Split 7”
Why he/she/they are here: because the video, with those value village NBA jerseys, eye make-up, and moon-walking is highly entertaining. I confess, being familiar with the D’Urbervilles (but not knowing John O personally) I never would’ve predicted he was capable of this kind of sound/video/aesthetic…
8. Olenka and the Autumn Lovers
Last album: Either s/t or the Papillonette EP
[mp3] Olenka and the Autumn Lovers – Flash in the Pan
Why he/she/they are here: in part because I’m a huge homer and they’re from London – they haven’t released anything this year; but, the other part is that the often cryptic, Eastern European influenced Olenka (think a female Beirut) writes some excellent songs. I think if I had these albums in my sweaty mitts last year one, or potentially both, could’ve ended up on my top-10 list.
7. The Wooden Sky
Last album: If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone
[mp3] The Wooden Sky - Something Hiding For Us In The Night
Why he/she/they are here: maybe it’s just me, but I really didn’t see this album coming. I knew the Wooden Sky existed, but they were sort of just another Toronto band whose name I had seen a bunch of times in show listings, on other blogs, and in those really awful mass press release type things that PR companies send out. The Wooden Sky have really demonstrated on If You Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone (potw #30)that they are one of the best bands Canada has to offer right now. Plus, in conjunction with Scott Cudmore, they’ve been putting of the most entertaining live videos I’ve seen in a while, thus making “The Late King Henry” one of my most sung in the shower songs this year. Yeah, I bet the bands feeling really good about that.
6. Dan Mangan
Last album: Nice, Nice, Very Nice
[mp3] Dan Mangan - Robots
Why he/she/they are here: I’m sort of Dan Manganed out, having written about him last week (potw #42), but suffice to say that he has differentiated himself from the zillions of other singer-songwriters out there and released a memorable album that hints at him becoming a staple of Canadian music for years to come.
5. Bruce Peninsula
Last album: A Mountain is a Mouth
[mp3] Bruce Peninsula - Steamroller
Why he/she/they are here: because although some cooler, trendier types were listening to them last year, I wasn’t, and that means I get to include them on my list. Having seen them live didn’t hurt either – since they were an absolute force of nature…
4. Chad VanGaalen (2007 - #7, 2008 #1)
Last album: Soft Airplane – B-sides EP
[mp3] Chad VanGaalen - Corvette
Why he/she/they are here: in part, because I’m still bitter about him losing the Polaris Prize. But, bitterness aside, the Soft Airplane B-Sides EP (potw #39) – once you get past the weirdness – is every bit as good as the original album… and he was the hottest in Canada last year so I may still be feeling some residual hotness from 2008.
3. The Rural Alberta Advantage (2008 - #10)
Last album: Hometowns
[mp3] The Rural Alberta Advantage - Frank, AB
Why he/she/they are here: because they’re really hot. They’ve signed a record deal, they’re playing all over the place (even on ABC, weird), and from the new/unreleased songs that I’ve heard they don’t show any signs of slowing down.
2. Wilderness of Manitoba
Last album: Hymns of Love and Spirits
[mp3] Wilderness of Manitoba - Manitoba
Why he/she/they are here: because, without mincing words, this is a band (and an album) that more people ought to be hearing. Before (Pick of the Week #36) I suggested that they were the best parts of Fleet Foxes (the multi-part choral harmonies) and Bon Iver (the really tangible heartache) and I think that’s still true, but after spending more time with their music, I think they deserve a great deal more than that comparison because regardless of whether they go on to become famous, or release more albums, or whatever, this is a truly, truly, special album. Also, now the reviews are starting to come in and they are very, very, good.
1. Black Hat Brigade (2008 #4)
Last album: Fathers EP
[mp3] Black Hat Brigade - Zombie City Shake
Why he/she/they are here: because they’re my favourite band that doesn’t really have a national following. They’ve release two super-wicked EPs (s/t and Fathers) plus a great (particularly considering the budget) video for “Zombie City Shake”. So, I guess this is my way of hoping that a few more people will check out the BHB if I can bump them a little higher on this year’s list.