From pop supergroups to rock legends, there was plenty of great music coming out of our home and native land in September. Here are the best titles I heard, presented in alphabetical order. Just click on the cover pic to read the original review (and probably listen to the album in full).
WHO ARE THEY? The 20-year-old Vancouver indie supergroup (or collective, if you’re into the whole egalitarian thing) featuring guitarist and songwriter A.C. Newman, accompanied at various points by Neko Case, Kathryn Calder, John Collins, Todd Fancey, Joe Seiders, Simi Stone and Blaine Thurier — but still not MIA member Dan Bejar of Destroyer.
WHAT IS THIS? Their eighth collection of expertly crafted and immaculately rendered power-pop and indie-rock, the followup to 2017’s Whiteout Conditions and their second without the idiosyncratic Bejar.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? A little more unified than some previous efforts — mostly due to the fact that Newman wrote all 11 tunes on the album. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; lyrically and musically, he’s in fine form here, mixing typically clever songs about romance (and yes, enough car metaphors to justify that title) with more topical and political concerns.
WHO ARE THEY? The beloved Canadian indie-rock foursome of Dave Bidini, Dave Clark, Martin Tielli and Tim Vesely, who reunited and returned to active Rheostatics duty in 2016 after nearly a decade apart.
WHAT IS THIS? Their first new studio release in 15 years, featuring songs that pretty much pick up where they left off all those years ago — and which they’ve been performing live since their much-ballyhooed revival.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? The sort of smart, poetic Can-rock that folks have been sorely missing since the death of Rheos’ contemporary and Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie. Granted, these guys never took themselves quite as seriously as The Hip. And they were always more musically eclectic — which hasn’t changed on this 53-minute disc, which freely mixes and matches pop, rock, folk, glam, metal and more.
WHO IS HE? The Band’s main man. Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan’s old sidekick. Martin Scorsese’s former roommate. An erstwhile resident of Big Pink and Shangri-La. One of the guys who played The Last Waltz. A retired Carny. And one of the most influential Americana musicians in history — who just happened to come out of the Great White North. Go figure.
WHAT IS THIS? Only his sixth solo album in more than three decades (not counting film scores, soundtracks and reissues), his first disc of new songs since 2011’s How to Become Clairvoyant, and a work supposedly inspired by the 76-year-old artist’s recent film scores for Scorsese’s The Irishman and the Band documentary Once Were Brothers.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Somewhere between a soundtrack, a score and a star-studded comeback album. The guest list here includes Van Morrison, Doyle Bramhall II, Citizen Cope, Glen Hansard and Derek Trucks. But to their credit, they all take a backseat to Robertson and his songs. About those: Much like the bulk of his solo work, most of these 13 stylish cuts are groovy slow-burns topped with tasteful instrumentation, lush sonics and literate, husky-voiced tales of life, death and love on the wrong side of town. It could easily have been a rock opera. Thankfully, it isn’t.
WHO ARE THEY? The Calgary-raised twin sisters who have been making personal yet polished folk and indie-pop together since high school — and who just published a memoir fittingly titled High School.
WHAT IS THIS? Their ninth album, in keeping with the time frame of their autobiography, contains 12 synth-pop songs pieced together from 20 of the many demos the precocious pair wrote and recorded as teenagers in the late ’90s (and recently rediscovered after two decades).
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Not surprisingly, as loaded with teen angst and naivety as you might figure — and as you can tell from titles like Hold My Breath Until I Die, Please Help Me, We Don’t Have Fun When We’re Together Anymore and (my favourite) Keep Them Close ’Cause They Will Fuck You Too. Thankfully, the songs themselves sound a lot more sophisticated and mature than their titles — likely due to the more recent reconstructive musical surgery mentioned above.