by Tiana Feng

It’s one thing to call an album awesome, but what’s the point if they aren’t being listened to on a continuous basis. The following list of albums is based on plays, and their ability to hook you again emotionally or just simply must be played more than once. These are the albums I haven’t forgotten about since day 1 of their release until the very end of 2013.

20.   Arcade Fire- Reflektor
(Merge Records)
I chose not to review the album at the time of the release because I wasn’t sure if I didn’t want hype to add any bias, whether positive or negative. Compared to the other Arcade Fire records it wasn’t something that I immediately loved. It was a grower, different than their other records. Arcade Fire proved that they could continually evolve and churn out records that people would enjoy. With the help of James Murphy, Reflektor filled a certain void that LCD Soundsystem had left us with.

19.   Suuns- Images Du Futur
(Secretly Canadian)
While my initial review for Images Du Futur was not necessarily a glowing one, I revisited it after seeing them live a couple of times. The pulsating beats and Ben Shemie’s killer shoegaze demeanor translates itself better on stage. With each repeated listen of this album Shemie’s creepy murmurs became seductive, the listener lusting to be part of his angst.

18.   Born Gold- I Am An Exit
(Crash Symbols)
I Am An Exit is the perfect amalgamation of Cecil Frena’s previous pop-album Bodysongs and the experimental Little Sleepwalker. The album is fun and sugary but beneath the colourful music is darker subject matter.

17.   PUP- PUP
(Royal Mountain Records)
Dropping their cutesy former name, PUP got more loud, more angry. The aftermath is a record that you must be careful not to knock shit (or people) over while air-guitaring to.
iTunes | Bandcamp

16.   Royal Canoe- Today We’re Believers
(Nevado Records)
The eccentric Royal Canoe finally presented us with Today We’re Believers, an album that mixes elements of R&B, hip-hop and alt-pop. The result is something that we’ll make you believers (in the band) too.

15.   Beliefs- Beliefs
(Hand Drawn Dracula Records, Manimal Vinyl, No Pain In Pop)
Toronto shoegazers Beliefs never sound like they’re making noise just for the sake of it. In their self-titled, it all serves a purpose of moving the music forward, perpetuating an idea or providing tension to be released later. Through all the haze, their choruses remain catchy. Reverb tickles the ears until the very end.

14.   The Belle Game- Ritual Tradition Habit
Andrea Lo’s powerful and confident voice stars in Ritual Tradition Habit, an album about a missed opportunity, a lover. With such a strong debut, I’m excited for what’s to come next.

13.   Data Romance – Other
(Dine Alone Records)
Data Romance’s “Other” was an unexpected love affair. Amy Kirkpatrick’s sugary voice made it irresistible. Ajay’s beats kept things interesting and alluring. It was the upbeat album to get me through slow days. In a way, they were like Canada’s answer to CHVRCHES.

12.   Majical Cloudz- Impersonator
Devon Welsh left his poppy past as Pop Winds (excuse the pun) and committed himself as Majical Cloudz, whose live collaborator includes Matthew Otto. Inside Impersonator Welsh allows you get inside his most introverted thoughts, and we believe him, whether he is fooling us like the title would imply, or not.

11.   Doldrums- Lesser Evil
(Arbutus Records)
Airick Woodhead’s Lesser Evil remains one of the hardest to describe albums of this year. However, there’s something unique about clusterphobia and anxiety inducing music that draws the listener back to investigate further. Each listen renders you helpless to listen to the thing in its entirety. Woodhead’s music embodies the dark spiral that we don’t’ admit we have inside.

10.       Groenland- The Chase
If I had to choose an album that I thought was vastly underrated, it would be Groenland’s The Chase. It was released in the beginning of the year, but I haven’t forgotten about it. It’s straightforward orchestral folk-pop, done really really well.
Bandcamp | iTunes

9.       Young Galaxy- Ultramarine
(Paperbag Records)
I was a big fan of 2011’s Shapeshifting and Ultramarine took the strongest parts and worked with it. With the help of Swedish producer Dan Lissvik, it went even more pop and handed over the vocal spotlight to Cathering McCandless. The result is a feel good album for the summer, or for the dance party inside in winter.

8. Jessy Lanza- Pull My Hair Back
Newcomer Jessy Lanza released a debut record that sounded way beyond her  years. It was bravely bare and a smart collaboration with Junior Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan. The two play in perfect harmony. While Lanza’s name is on the project, she proudly shares the light with Greenspan’s production.The result is a record that could back any sex scene.

7.       Moonface- Julia With Blue Jeans On
(Jagjaguwar/Paperbag Records)
Spencer Krug languishes in beautiful music in the piano accompanied Julia With Blue Jeans On. The same week that Arcade Fire released their manufactured sounding Reflektor Krug surprised us with an album that sounded very bare bones. He lay it all to bare with emotionally distressed vocals and piano flourishes.

6.       No Joy- Wait to Pleasure
(Mexican Summer)
No Joy show us in Wait to Pleasure that there is beauty in cacophony. With a touch of pop sensibility, the band presented us with an album where the lyrics are like 50% inaudible but yet we get swept up in the chaos surrounding it. The title might as well refer to the continuous tension that isn’t really released until the album’s final track. Bound-breaking layers provide something new to dig into each time providing a true pleasure to hear through headphones.

5.       Boats- A Fairway Full of Miners
(Kill Rock Stars)
Winnipeg’s Boats churned out a pretty bizarre album with A Fairway Full of Miners but simultaneously remained digestible. Their song titles alone were enough to spark an interest with songs like “Advice on Bears” and “Advice on Bioluminescent Bears”.  Each song is quite different, sporting unconventional song structure to tell weird tales. “Animated Gifs” uses internet memes to tell a story of aging and losing all your friends. I promise you won’t be bored with this one.
Bandcamp | iTunes

4.       Braids – Flourish // Perish
(Arbutus Records)
After a fallout with Kathy Lee, Braids went more electronic, pulling a few influences from Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s Blue Hawaii project. The result is an otherworldly experience created by both Standell-Preston’s angelic voice and creative rhythms.

3.       The Darcys- Warring
(Arts & Crafts)
Warring was the turning point of my love-hate relationship with The Darcys. As much as I love to support local music, I never liked something just because they are big in the city. AJA and their shoegazey self-titled I didn’t particularly connect with. Warring was much more structural, deliberate, each member of the band doing what they do best. Jason Course’s heartfelt croons, Wes Marshall’s dramatic drumming and the stellar production filling of sound in all corners. With this record, The Darcys certainly won this war for my ears.

2.       Shad- Flying Colours
With Flying Colours Shad presented a rap album that appealed to both people who don’t normally listen to the genre and clever enough to hook veterans of the genre. Lyricism is Shad’s strength, and he knows purposely inserting masterful wordplay throughout. Packed with special guests, intensely beautiful production, it never for a moment feels any less a Shad album.

1.       Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – Uzu
(Paperbag Records)
If YT//ST was way too weird, Uzu in comparison was a lot more accessible playing careful attention to melodies. Despite this, they left plenty of room for experimentation delving into metal guitar and Japanese pro-rock sounds. Through their music, there is a sense of loneliness that heightens our need to continually learn more, and listen more as if that is the only way to soothe such loneliness.