By Daniel Polowin
10. ?Leonard Cohen -?Old Ideas
After a somewhat unfortunate decade, this septuagenarian Canadian icon staged a comeback in 2012 with a?worldwide?tour and this platinum-selling album. Cohen is at top form in this, his first album of new material in eight years. Accompanying the bluesy instrumentation and the smoky baritone vocals we?ve come to expect from Cohen are some of his most moving lyrics yet. Cohen returns to his familiar meditations on love, sex, and God but with the added poignancy of a poet in the autumn of his life.
9. ?A Tribe Called Red -?A Tribe Called Red
Combining electronic, hip hop, reggae, dubstep, and dance with First Nations musical elements, this unique group, based out of Ottawa, has already been nominated for a Polaris Prize for this stellar debut album. Featuring?traditional?First Nations drumbeats and vocal chanting, A Tribe Called Red dub their unique style ?powwow-step.?
8. ?Carly Rae Jepsen -?The Kiss
Perhaps you?ve heard ?Call Me Maybe,? the song of summer 2K12 with possibly the catchiest melody ever written. After a pivotal endorsement from fellow Canadian heartthrob Justin Bieber, this song went viral, with thousands of parody covers and?lip-dub?videos. While ?Call Me Maybe? is the main event on this, Jepsen?s first internationally released album, it is accompanied by other solid?sugary-sweet bubble-gum pop songs that suggest that Jepsen will not be a one-hit wonder.
7. ?A.C. Newman -?Shut Down the Streets
This is lead singer of the New Pornographers Carl Newman?s third solo album and his best yet. More introspective and wistful than the power-pop of his band work, Newman?s songs on this album are some of his most affecting, with lyrics about family, home, and fatherhood. Standout tracks include ?Strings,? ?Hostages,? and ?Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns,? featuring guest vocals from Neko Case.
6. ?Metz -?Metz
Admittedly, this is not for everyone. Toronto-based trio Metz are loud, noisy, and aggressive. Playing post-hardcore sludge-punk, Metz?s debut album features screaming vocals, thundering drums, and ferocious guitar-work. But there is art in all this chaos and pop elements like vocal harmonies, tambourines, and piano riffs, evoking nineties bands like Nirvana and the Jesus Lizard. If this type of music appeals to you, we highly recommend seeing Metz live for the full punk experience.
5. ?Grimes -?Visions
Grimes is the?vehicle of Vancouver-born, Montreal-based musician, artist, and music video director Claire Boucher. Visions is her third album and biggest commercial and?critical?success. With an eclectic mix of influences and styles that Grimes describes as ?ADD music,? I imagine this album as the future official soundtrack of outer-space. Watch the video for one of the standout tracks off?Visions below and note Grimes? unique fashion-sense.
4. ?Kathleen Edwards ? Voyageur
Ottawa-native Kathleen Edwards? fourth studio album is produced by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (her boyfriend) and features notable guest musicians like Norah Jones, the Good Lovelies, and Megafaun. Edwards, with her beautiful and haunting voice, is a master of alt-country.?Voyageur, which Edwards labels her ?divorce album,? features some of her most accessible rock music ?to date but also some of her saddest and most cathartic songs.
3. ?Mac DeMarco -?2
The second album from this Edmonton-raised and Montreal-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is a triumph. Mixing folk, glam-rock, country, and R&B, DeMarco sings off-kilter yet simple pop songs about cigarettes and his girlfriend, accompanied by warm and inviting bedroom-recorded instrumentation. The standout track off this album is the lovely ?My Kind of Woman.? Just turning 22 this year, the future looks bright for DeMarco if he continues releasing gems like?2.
2. Purity Ring -?Shrines
This duo from Edmonton released the best electronic album in a year with tough competition; even more impressive is that it?s their debut. Standout songs include ?Ungirthed,? ?Lofticries,? and ?Belispeak,? but the entire album is a cohesive collection of great tracks with ghost-like vocals and danceable synth beats. Though masked under heavy-production, the lyrics are excellent: literary and impressionistic yet accessible and catchy. Shrines is an impressive artistic statement from this young, up-and-coming, and unique band.
1. ?Japandroids -?Celebration Rock
Not a great year for rockers, but Japandroids? appropriately titled second album is redemption for true rock & roll. While missing some of the aggressive punk of their debut, Celebration Rock has similar catchy riffs over songs about partying, intoxication, and love, with more crossover appeal and pop touches. Songs like ?Fire?s Highway? and ?Younger Us? evoke the driving rock ballads of Bruce Springsteen, while the slower closer ?Continuous Thunder? hints at a more introspective direction for this duo, showing that while Japandroids still rock hard, they are growing up.