Thursday, December 17, 2009

Toronto's Best Albums of 2009

When I started compiling my year end list and trying to rank everything, it became exceedingly clear to me that comparing local Toronto band X to Jay-Z just wasn't going to work. Not that I haven't done that in the past, my top three albums last year were Chad VanGaalen's Soft Airplane, Ketch Harbour Wolves' Dead Calm Horizon, and Kanye West's 808s and Heartbreaks, but it just seemed like this year, there was going to be such a weird grouping of albums that it didn't really make sense to do a single list. So, sadly (or not, I suppose) you're going to have to wade through a series of 4/5 lists... or not...

10. Sunparlour Players Wave North
[mp3] Sunparlour Players - Battle of '77
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #19, Live @ the Theatre Centre Aug. 14. 2009
One of my favourite bands in the city, one of the best groups to see live in the city, and, I think, one of the best albums to come out of the city as well. There's still the moments of unbridled energy on this album that we saw on Hymns for the Happy, but the story telling "Battle of '77" and "Point Pelee" is something new, and something that makes me really want to hear them put together some type of concept album - i.e. like Sufjan did w/ Michigan, Illinois... I smell an album about Tomato country!

9. Howie Beck How to Fall Down in Public
[mp3] Howie Beck - Flashover
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #21
If I were to be completely honest, after seeing Howie Beck open for Hayden once, possibly a couple of times, I would've bet very strongly against me endorsing one of his albums. At the time I think I probably felt like he was just another song-writer. This album shows a lot more depth and breadth than I was expecting, and is just a generally well put together singer-songwriter album.

8. Hayden The Place Where We Lived
[mp3] Hayden - Let's Break Up
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #24
I'm not sure whether I'm more surprised that Hayden turned around and put out two albums in two years or that neither album featured some type of grizzly murder scene, but either way another Hayden record is always a good thing. He's never going to put out anything that'll bowl you over (though "Trees Lounge", the lead song to the Steve Bushemi movie of the same name, was one of my favourite songs ever), but you can always count on him to write songs that mean something. There's never any waste, never anything half-hearted, and I'm just about worked up enough right now to proclaim him the greatest Canadian song-writer ever (I'm not that far off, am I?).
Q1: Can anyone confirm deny that Hayden leaves his house more/less than once per week? I have this vision of him being like the Sean Connery character in Finding Forrester.

7. Timber Timbre Timber Timbre
[mp3] Timber Timbre - Demon Host
Elsewhere: n/a
After Taylor Kirk was good enough to send me Medicinals, his debut album recorded under the pseudonym Timber Timbre, I was good enough to take about 11 months to write about it. It was nothing personal, it was just a record that, while incredibly good (review here), requires that the listener is in a certain frame of mind to listen to. It's just like, you don't flip on a movie like, Schindler's List, when you want something to watch. Similarly, I haven't written anything about Taylor's new(ish) s/t record since I just haven't been in the right frame of mind to write about it. That said, if you can get yourself to that place, wherever that is, it's a great, haunting, record.

6. Ohbijou Beacons
[mp3] Ohbijou - Black Ice
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #27
Ohbijou has been one of the most blogged bands here since the BM's inception in 2007, so I'm not going to beat a dead horse, but this album is beautiful. And beautiful in a sort of Grace Kelly, Mrs. Don Draper, you're worried if you touch it you might break it, sort of way.

5. Bruce Peninsula A Mountain is a Mouth
[mp3] Bruce Peninsula - Inside/Outside
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #4, Live @ the Horseshoe Jan. 31. 2009
Initially, I had this album pegged as one of the best of the year, but with no slight directed toward the band, there were a few others (below) that were just that much better. That, and BP fell prey to the dreaded Liz effect, whereby the band doesn't get played in my house b/c Liz is not a fan -- oh, if you could see her face everytime BP comes up on iTunes shuffle. Still, a great, almost movement of an album.

4. The Wooden Sky If I Don't Come Home You'll Know I'm Gone
[mp3] The Wooden Sky - Something Hiding For Us in the Night
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #30
This album, more than any other this year, really surprised me. I didn't really know the Wooden Sky prior to this album, and I listened to the album a few times and it gradually dawned on me that IIDCHYKIG is a really great album. I'm not sure why it took so long, but I think I started to really become more affected after seeing the video for "The Late King Henry". The video, resembling something of a religious revival ("save me/take me to the river and bathe me"), had enough soul(?) to make me think about getting baptized... or something... it's early... forgive me...

1(T). Black Hat Brigade Fathers
[mp3] Black Hat Brigade - Zombie City Shake (Basement Sessions)
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #20, Exchanging emails with... the Black Hat Brigade
The BHB have been one of my favourite bands, not just in Toronto but anywhere, since they release of their first s/t EP last year. Given that the band has, you know, jobs, we haven't exactly seen albums at a Ryan Adamseque clip, but what they have released (the Fathers EP) and a video for "Zombie City Shake" has been extraodinary. Here's to hoping that we get a full length next year...

1(T). Evening Hymns Spirit Guides
[mp3] Evening Hymns - Broken Rifle
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #48, Live @ the Tranzac Dec. 4. 2009
I've talked about E.H. and the album S.G. alot in the past weeks, so, suffice to say I'm definitely not sick of it! I bought the vinyl last week and that's pretty awesome too.

1(T). The Wilderness of Manitoba Hymns of Love & Spirits
[mp3] The Wilderness of Manitoba - Evening
Elsewhere: Pick of the Week #36, Live @ the Garrison Oct. 29. 2009
So, I guess this is a lesson to bands who are interested in getting written up on the BM, write an album about spirits. I'll be sure to enjoy it. But seriously, Hymns of Love and Spirits is probably my most listened to album of the year, and an album that not enough people have heard, yet. This is a band to expect big things from in 2010.


ack said...

If you tune into herohill tomorrow, you will see something from W o M that might be a cover of something else on your list.... It's amazing. :)

The R.O.B. said...

Sweet. Looking forward to it.

historyjen said...

(It will be a TT cover, right?)
And, heck, Rob, we totally are into the same bands. Why do we not see each other more often?

The R.O.B. said...

Jen, I'm a little bit of a hermit... it's my bad...

historyjen said...

I've been hiding lately, too.
And, I was right about WOM covering TT. Ha!

Sean Wraight said...

Really nice list my friend. I am in full agreement on all of your choices this time out. Your list really is a testimony to what a brilliant year it was for Canadian music in general.

The Evening Hymns release is just unbelieveably good, I just wish I had been able to hear it sooner. And the Wooden Sky? WOW! A band we will no doubt be hearing from for years to come.

Great job on the list Rob. Nice job throughout the year too with the blog. Always a great read.