Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Shanies: Album of the Year

It's official... this blog is dead. The last post I wrote was 1 year ago with an identical title, thus flushing almost a decade of music blogging down the drain. But, in one final death rattle, why not at least throw up a top 10 from 2017, right?

10. Propagandhi - Victory Lap
Call me a sucker for angry, Manitoban punk rock, but don't you dare say that this band is any less needed when they came on the scene ~25 years ago. Victory Lap represents another step in the continuous progression of this band where they continually balance between sticking true to their roots on tracks like Failed Imagineer while still pushing the boundaries on musicality and lyricism.

9. Triggerfinger - Colossus
My crazy 'ol favourite Belgians put forth yet another riff rocker this year. Though it is also tempered with a new fusion of electronic music and beats (presumably after a collaboration with Method Man), their true nature of being beautifully sleazy old men still shines through and reminds us why they're Belgium's best (ok, maybe only) hard rock band.

8. Dirty Projectors - Dirty Projectors
One might have thought that the end of David Longstreth and Amber Coffman would have been the end of Dirty Projectors. However, this album came back stronger than ever and with all kinds of exceptionally diverse influences from hip hop, pop, and techno. As with all DP albums, it makes no sense, and yet is somehow incredibly accessible.

7. Royal Blood - How Did We Get So Dark?
I love this band, and I even love this album, however, the fact it only made #7 on this list after topping my list with their debut 3 years ago, I see as a minor failure. Again, it's still a great album, and I dig the direction they're going in with more groovy, turned-down songs like She's Creeping, however, I worry that this band may run out of things to say before too long.

6. Daniel Caesar - Freudian
I'm sad to say that I was late to the game on learning about this incredible artist in my own backyard of Toronto. I only started listening to Daniel Caesar 2 weeks ago, yet already in that time, I'm hooked. I'd call this man a modern-day incarnation of D'Angelo, but even that might be putting limitations on what he's capable of with his elegant mix of R&B, gospel, rap, rock, and lord knows what else.

5. Alert the Medic - Let Them Have Their Fun
I just love this band. They consistently put out albums chalked-full of infectiously happy rock n roll with beautiful harmonies, catchy riffs, and ever-shifting rhythms. It's pop-rock at it's finest and I'll not apologize for worshiping how damned good AtM are at it.

4. Queens of the Stone Age - Villans
Yes, Josh Homme is an asshole who likely has a drug problem and he kicked a photographer in the head a couple of months ago. That sucks, and so does he. But we've always known he was a bit of an asshole, and that's part of what makes him so intriguing. Moreover, hate me if you must, but this albums is REALLY FRIGGING GOOD. Working with producer Mark Cuban, QOTSA has tamed their sound a bit, but added in all kinds of strange dixie and swing influences to rock n roll that make for yet another head rocking, ass-swinging album.

3. All Them Witches - Sleeping Through the War
Epic epicness continues. Their albums seem to string together like one long, stoner-rock arc that continuously blends the beautiful sonic evolution of this band. This is likely their most diverse album from a songwriting perspective, but it still holds together as an exceptional piece of music and leaves plenty of tracks to chomp in on (personal favourites of Alabaster and 3-5-7)

2. Death From Above - Outrage! Is Now
It's official The Physical World  was not a one-off or flash in the pan - DFA is here to fucking rock. This album blends so many of the influences that you've heard across their previous albums (and remixes) into a cohesive sound that jumps back and forth between epically-headbang-worthy and infinitely-all-night-danceable.

1. Bonobo - Migration
Never one to surprise my rock disciples with my top picks, one of my most spun albums and artists this year was British DJ Simon Green, better known as Bonobo, and his 2017 masterpiece, Migration. In some moments, this album is pure to its electronic roots, however, in the true style of this mischievous monkey, other tracks come off as ambient, epic orchestrations. At first glance, this album is great background to a long day, however, as you dig deeper, a wealth of treasures and audio delights await you with each listen.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Shanies: Album of the Year

Here we go again... hit me back with your list from this crazy, fuggin' year.

10. A Tribe Called Quest - We Got it From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service
A sad year to lose Phife Dawg, but an incredible year to watch your idols from eons ago prove that they can still kick it.

9. PUP - The Dream is Over
Fuck yeah, Canadian punk is alive and kicking. Through trials and tribulations, PUP has survived against all odds and their sophomore album shows their struggle and growth.

8. White Denim - Stiff
Once again, the epic White Denim returns with another guitar tour-de-force. The incredible, frantic guitar work is only topped by the catchiness of these tracks.

7. Tax the Heat - Fed to the Lions
Fall slave to the riff and worship these new UK players as they march onto the scene. Watch for them to blow up in 2017.

6. Fantastic Negrito - The Last Days of Oakland
This album came out of nowhere for me but quickly became one of my most played of the year. It's depth, soul, and experimentation make it a full end-to-end listen at least a few times.

5. Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book
Third try was a charm for Chance - he showed growth leading up to this album but Coloring Book has become his opus, gaining both critical and popular success. He is redefining hip hop with heavy influences of gospel, soul, and R&B, but in a way that feels authentic.

4. Monster Truck - Sittin' Heavy
I don't know how the hell these guys keep producing album after album of wall-to-wall, riff-heavy hits, but Sittin' Heavy shows that they have no plans of slowing down. Once again, I'd have trouble identifying a weak track on this album and, while it definitely has that stereotypical Monster Truck sound, they continue to produce tunes that are fresh and engaging.

3. Public Animal - Palace Arms
What? Blurton and crew produced another album and Shane lost his shit? No one could possibly have seen that coming. The only reason this album didn't take spots 1 through 10 is that this is a band that is best experienced live - the albums are but a reminder of what you're missing.

2. The Temperance Movement - White Bear
This sat for nearly the entire year as my album of the year. It is without question one of the most solid, complete, and interesting rock albums I've heard in the past decade. TM proved that they well overcame the 'sophomore slump' by completely outdoing themselves and making an album that shows serious range across the whole of the sonic spectrum.

1. Childish Gambino - Awaken, My Love
However, my rock album of the year would not be my album of the year. In fact, I don't even know how to categorize this album. I'll level - I wasn't previously a fan of Gambino; liked a few tracks, but generally his style never really meshed with mine. Then Awaken dropped... and I lost my shit. I've listened to this album nearly every day since it was released and I keep finding things buried beneath this strange fusion of soul, R&B, hip hop, jazz, funk, and god knows what else he stuffed in here. This album didn't simply defy genres, it re-wrote them.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Shanies: Song of the Year

Everyone always raves and roars about their albums of the year (settle the fuck down, that's tomorrow), but personally, I'm always one to get lost in songs. There's something so elegantly beautiful about the handful of minutes that bring together such a beautiful array of noises into one cohesive, elegant masterpiece. 2016 had some incredible tracks like Childish Gambino's sultry R&B track, Redbone, Tax the Heat's driving riff-fest, Fed to the Lions, or White Denim's frantic-funky guitar masterpiece, Ha ha ha ha (yeah). But they were all my runners up.

This year my song of the year found a way to blend so many genres, so many instruments, so many sounds, and so many emotions into a simple, driving 2-beat that still completely owns your ears. I'm talking about Fantastic Negrito and his soulful ripper, Lost in a Crowd. Opening with some simple humming that give way (after a totally necessary piano slide) to a basic but aggressive stomping beat. This song is unquestionably led by the vocals and drums, however, during the verses, one can almost picture the pianist, guitarist, and bassist elbowing each other in the face to vie for more play time as their instruments battle back and forth. It's aggressive, it's subtle and kind, it's soulful, it's powerful, and it's weak - it's what an incredible song should be.

-Grab hold of the circle and ride it round and round to the end

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Shanies: Artist of the Year

2016 was a weird (kinda shitty) year. Aside from canonizing the laundry list of incredible musicians who died this year, for me, there was one individual who, in the face of all odds, lived for the year like no other. And, as a Canadian who grew up in the 90s, even if he'd sat back and done nothing all year but through simply existing, encouraged us all to listen to the words, "If I die of vanity, promise me if they bury me someplace I don't want to be, you'll dig me up unceremoniously," it may have still been enough.

I'm of course talking about Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip. We all know the story. After being diagnosed with a terminal form of brain cancer, Downie did more in a year than most of us hope to do in a lifetime. Releasing Man Machine Poem in June, the Hip then set off on a cross-Canada tour that would act as some sort of strange pilgrimage-meets-goodbye to the country that embraced them for so many years. But for Downie, the end of the Hip was only the beginning of his year.

He would release Secret Path in collaboration Kevin Drew (BSS) and illustrated by Jeff Lemire. This was a concept album about a young Anishanaabe boy who died in 1966 trying to escape a native school to his home. This project would both fund and raise awareness for the Truth & Reconciliation movement in Canada and do a great deal to raise the profile of this crucial cause.

However, what Downie did in all of these acts is remind us of the Canadian spirit. The never-say-die, look-out-for-the-little-guy, love your neighbour, challenge your country, and push yourself, spirit that lives within all of us. I still remember watching the final Kingston concert with a group of coworkers on a camping trip in the middle of Ontario, huddled around my tiny smart phone. It was a moment of shock and sadness, but also a celebration of life and meaning in the world.

Gord Downie is my artist of 2016 because he reminded us all to be artists of our own sort.

-Topple the days through the uncertain haze around the back of this maze and to you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Shanies: EP of the Year

I'll start by saying that there weren't a huge number of EPs that crossed my path this year, however, that doesn't diminish the quality or accomplishment that was Dan Mangan's Unmake.

Strangely, of the five tracks on this album, I became nearly obsessed with four of them except the album's "single," Race to the Bottom. The remainder of the EP was textbook Mangan, however, done through the lens of a man who had evolved so much after the harder and more experimental explorations of Club Meds. This EP was like a return to innocence and a softening of songs new and old, to remind himself as much as us of what he stands for.

Of my favourite of the album, his two redux songs from Club Med, Kitsch and Forgetery, cut through you and leave everyone involved - player and listener - a bit revealed. Tegan Quin's vocal matching alongside Mangan provide a particularly fragile and haunting background to a song seemingly about catching but mear glimpses of a better version of one's self... but never being able to keep hold.

-There will be a day when wrong will be right