Ok. The final installment. The big hitters.
1:: Fred Squire – March 12
March 12 is full of some of the most beautiful, genuinely sad songs I’ve ever heard. The songs hit on emotions and fears so real that Fred just can’t turn and tell someone, so he writes songs to tell everyone. The songs are grown from women and the drink, but they aren’t songs about booze and broken hearts. Fred isn’t scared she might not come back. He’s terrified that love itself is the problem and he might fucking die alone. He isn’t staring at the bottom of the bottle to numb the pain, he’s drinking because if he stops he has to stare himself in the mirror and make the changes that seem as impossible as moving a mountain with his own two hands.
2:: Apollo Ghosts – Mount Benson
When Apollo Ghosts made the long-list for Polaris, I cheered out loud. Considering it was at The Drake, surrounded by TOs most important music voices, my excitement for underdog far outweighed the fact I looked like an idiot fanboy. Truth be told, I am, and that’s ok. Blogging doesn’t pay the bills, but finding bands like Apollo Ghosts is the reason I do it. Throw in the fact their set at Gus’ Pub was my musical highlight of the year, and you can see that at least in my eyes, 2010 was the year of Apollo Ghosts.
3:: Rae Spoon – Love is a Hunter
What’s most amazing is that as he reveals intimate details of himself and a community most are unfamiliar with, Rae actually forces you to forget that you are as much an outsider to his community as he has been to so many. As he and Lucas trade vocals and soothing oohs and aahs and defy the hatred of the confused and walk home “hand in hand”, you can’t focus on anything but their love and strength. As he dances alone on the album opener “Death By Elektro”, you feel his loneliness and obsession with finding someone in a club, but just as the song starts to come down, you hear another voice ring out like a shot, and at that moment you realize that Rae’s found someone that sees the world the same way. If that message doesn’t speak to every single person on this earth, I’m not sure what does.”
4:: It Kills – self-titled
“There is something rural, almost spiritual about the drums and soaring oohs/ahhs that help shape uplifting numbers, but the trio isn’t afraid to retreat into the tormented shadows either. Those emotional highs and lows give the album a more realistic feel and force a connection with every listener. “Jump Kid” is ominous – and honestly, mildly unsettling – but the triumphant piano chords of “Sinners” and inspired defiance of “Sailors” that follow, clear the dark clouds until you feel like nothing can stop you.”
5:: Russian Futurists – The Weight’s on the Wheels
I’d be remiss to not single out, “100 Shopping Days Til Christmas.” As stores start putting out holiday decorations, Hart might challenge Billy Mack for the Christmas song of the year. Starting with a beat that could have easily been found on an early Fresh Prince / Jazzy Jeff effort, he builds a melodic, head nodder that really lets Hart get a bit more nimble with his delivery. The chorus seems so romantic, but really Hart saves the album’s most infectious moments for one of the saddest songs. It’s early November and the song is already battling rum and eggnogs for my favorite holiday indulgence, but make no mistake, The Weight’s on the Wheels will be around long after the light are taken down.
6:: Postdata – self-titled
“The songs – recorded under the moniker Postdata – were not written as work. No, the nine songs are an expression of love; an expression of reality. I hesitate to put too much of my own words into such a personal record – the family dynamics revealed on these heartfelt, honest compositions will probably be misinterpreted by everyone as we try to relate to the Murphy’s story – but that desire to relate to his words is why the stripped down songs work so well. Like good music should, each of these songs forces a connection on the listener, causing you to scramble through your own memories of awkward love, family bonds, and pain as you try to answer questions that have no real answers.”
7:: Jim Bryson & The Weakerthans – The Falcon Lake Incident
The best thing about the experience is that everything Jim hashed out with his friends seems so natural. Bryson hasn’t lost his voice or alienated fans of his bedroom masterpieces, simply expanded his palette for all to enjoy. Without question the extra oomph The Falcon Lake Incident offers up is going to turn this talent into a name known by an audience bigger than CBC3… and it couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy.
8:: Women – Public Strain
“That confident nonchalance is undoubtedly the star of the band’s sophomore release, Public Strain. Instead of trying to unearth hidden treasures on the beaches that indie rock has picked clean in the last few years, Women present a singular vision, one that refuses to take the easy way out by relying on hooks. Instead, the 42-minutes starts with aggressive abrasions (“Can’t You See”) and dares the listener to keep going until finally relenting for the triumvirate of noisy bliss that is “Locust Valley”, the delightful Velvets-eque ballad “Venice Lockjaw” and the epic “Eyesore.”
9:: Hooded Fang – self-titled
“You can still hear the influence of The Magnetic Fields (mostly due to Daniel’s delivery), The Strokes and Belle & Sebastien, but instead of young kids emulating successful acts, Hooded Fang meld horns, synths and baritone male vocals with ear pleasing female harmonies into their own sound, one that certainly warrants the flattering comparisons. I hesitate to call this album a maturation; the septet already sounded wise beyond their years on their debut EP, but these meticulous arrangements feel weightless and remarkably spontaneous. More importantly, in an age where sound quality is seems less of a requirement and more of an annoyance, the band leverages every ounce of fidelity their home studio has to offer.”
10:: Baby Eagle – Dog Weather
“And by no means is Dog Weather littered with sunshine, kittens, hugs and warmth, but for the first time you start to feel that Lambke might be smiling inside. His songs are still brittle like a heart that’s been tested too many times, but there is an undeniable playfulness (the picking in “Broken Bones” transforms the sludgy backbone and the synthy syncopation that lightens “Child of the Weather does the same”) and spirited rebellion that gives the record subtle glimpses of hope and clarity.”