The top 10 Toronto albums of 2012
The top 10 albums from Toronto bands in 2012
At the risk of making a grand statement about "the state of the Toronto music scene," it's safe to say that the material being produced by local bands is as strong as it's ever been. And while there's some familiar names on this year-end list, it'd be pretty easy to argue that the bands who released their first LPs this year deserve the highest praise (I'm thinking of METZ and Dusted in particular). On the other side of the spectrum, I'm disappointed to report that Rush's Clockwork Angels — their 19th LP — didn't make the final cut. Sorry Dad!
Below are our picks for the top Toronto albums of the year, but as always, please share your suggestions in the comments section.
Dusted — Total Dust (Hand Drawn Dracula)
This is what a guitar should sound like. Dusted is the beautiful child of Brian Borcherdt (Holy Fuck, LIDS, founder of Dependent Records) and Leon Taheny (Bruce Peninsula, Rituals and co-owner of Candle Recording Studio) and I hope they stay a family forever. Their pared down recording is gutsy because there's not much to hide behind and everything that is there needs to be. Correct! Borcherdt is from Nova Scotia and Taheny is from fucking Ireland but — guess what? — they are living and working here now, so get over it.
Cold Specks — I Predict a Graceful Expulsion (Arts & Crafts)
Cold Specks a.k.a. Al Spx (real name — we don't know — she's invented the second pseudonym to "protect" a disapproving family) has the voice and wisdom of an ancient soul-singing prophet. The bones of the album bend and creak like an old house in a wind storm, and it's not clear if you'll all make it out OK.
Crystal Castles — Crystal Castles III (Fiction/Polydor)
The duo's third full-length is darker and moodier than ever — Alice Glass is pissed at the world and rightfully so. The thing sounds so sorrowful that I get a pang in my stomach and want to vomit and cry every time I listen to it. That a couple of spoiled brats from Toronto are able to evoke such a response is, well, impressive.
Trust — TRST (Arts & Crafts)
OK, the voice — Kermit-like, wanting but disinterested — that's not why you listen to Trust. Or maybe you do, but, you shouldn't — this is well-crafted electro music that somehow overcomes its vocals by getting into that space that exists between trance and pop. Listen, this is 1) dark 2) actually not that dark 3) perfectly safe music to maybe, just maybe dance to. That's worthy of kudos, isn't it?
METZ — METZ (Sub Pop)
Their first full-length happens in approximately the blink of an eye, or, just shy of half an hour. The brevity combined with the powerful assault of what seems like one rockmonstermachine spins the head and leaves one feeling disoriented. "Wet Blanket" in particular is the perfect song for something.
BADBADNOTGOOD — BBNG2 (Self-released)
It's very hard to find approachable jazz to hump to — dig? But what if there were some really groovy cats who had just the right balm for the rash that is the lack of proper tunes for such times. Of course, I'm addressing BADBADNOTGOOD and their second album BBNG2, which includes jazzy takes on some of your favourite pop and rap hits. It bridges the gulf between uptown and downtown, if you catch my sound. So next time you find yourself on the coital cusp of beboppin' but feel that Mingus is too much for your dingus and Kanye makes the mood go away, find some middle, jazzy, ground with BBNG and let the sweat stains begin.
Evening Hymns — Spectral Dusk (Outside Music)
Taken as whole, the 10 songs that compose Spectral Dusk, the second LP from Evening Hymns, are somehow both immediate and muted all at once — the perfect sonic representation of mourning. Sparse and haunting, the album is less about catharsis as something that eventually happens and more about the ongoing process whereby we make sense of loss. As emotional and nostalgic as these songs are — the title track and "Asleep in the Pews" are particularly charged — the controlling narrative is one of self-discovery rather than grief-stricken paralysis, and the album is all the better for it.
Jason Collett — Reckon (Arts & Crafts)
Collett's latest showcases his masterful storytelling ability as he paints a picture of political unrest while never becoming preachy or obvious. Nevertheless he's ambitious in his reach on Reckon — using 2008's financial meltdown to frame a consideration of loss in general. The most insightful observations, however, come when the world events are all but absent and Collett addresses absence on a personal level. "Pacific Blue" is the standout track for me.
Diamond Rings — Free Dimensional (Secret City Records)
John O'Regan has carefully crafted his glam-inspired identity as Diamond Rings — so much so that one wonders if the music isn't just a vehicle for his persona. And if one were to go on Free Dimensional's mostly hollow, me-me-me lyrics alone, it'd be tough to ward off such suspicions, but then there's the hooks. It's kind of a shame that this album wasn't released earlier in the year, because what it does best is offer inoffensive, catchy electro-pop tunes that sound like they were made for the summer. It's anything but complicated, but that's not a bad thing.
The Weeknd — Trilogy (Republic Records)
Despite the fact that it sounds as though Abel Tefsaye just discovered the words "fuck" and "fucking" on the wildly popular "Wicked Games," it's easy to get past this once you dig into the remaining two and half hours of music that make up Trilogy. Sure, fans have already heard almost all of it before (via previous releases House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence), but brought together as one album, the pace slows, and the storytelling is cast under the spotlight. What emerges is a portrait of an artist struggling with his own ambition and, ultimately, success.
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