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Rewinding 2021 | Canadian Music

Honestly, any of the Honourable Mentions could just as easily be in the top spot.

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Some of these categories are easy. Others are harder than calculus. This one was incredibly difficult — mostly because there were so many excellent releases this year. I went back and forth between half a dozen titles before I decided to go with the one that seemed to be the most significant / historic / universally appealing / Canadian (whatever the hell that means). But honestly, any one of the Honourable Mentions could just as easily be in the top spot. So think of them all as winners. I do.

 


TINNITIST’S PICK

The Tragically Hip
Saskadelphia

Holy crap! And phew! Those two thoughts popped into my head pretty much  simultaneously as I listened to Saskadelphia, The Tragically Hip’s new surprise EP of recently rediscovered leftovers from 1991’s Road Apples. The excitement of the former exclamation stems from the pleaseant realization that damn, these six songs are all great. Four are grittty, gnarly, raw-boned barnburners cranked out with the boundless energy and enthusiasm of a young band hitting their stride and firing on all cylinders. The other two (including one live cut) are a little slower and moodier, but still top-shelf work from Gord Downie and co. That’s where the relief comes in. So often — too often, in fact — posthumous releases like this turn out to be disappointing cash-ins cobbled together by committee from a bunch of half-baked ideas, second-rate filler and barrel scrapings. And that’s the last thing any Hip fan wants or needs. But this time you can actually believe the hype: These unburied treasures are every bit as good as anything they put out. So the legacy remains untarnished. The reputation stays intact. Gord stays golden. All is as it should be. Of course, it does sparks another thought, namely: Could there be more where this came from? Holy crap, indeed.

 


THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:The Tragically Hip’s Saskadelphia is made up of six previously unreleased tracks written in 1990. Five were recorded that same year during the Road Apples sessions in New Orleans, and one live track, Montreal (Live from The Molson Centre, Montreal, Dec 7th, 2000), was written at the same time, but an original studio recording has yet to be found.

With no shortage of material and higher-ups at the American record label resisting the band’s call to release a double album, countless tracks were left behind on the studio floor. And so one album, Road Apples, heads out into the world, a rung on The Tragically Hip’s climb to legend status, while the rest of the tracks are tucked into boxes and moved out of sight. Until now.

Welcome to Saskadelphia: The record that stayed in the wings as Road Apples hit the stage. The title, a term coined by the band in a nod to the extensive touring they were doing in the early 1990s, was the original working title for Road Apples before it was rejected by those same label execs as being “too Canadian.”

From lead single Ouch, which greets listeners with the familiar roaring vocals of late singer and lyricist Gord Downie, to Not Necessary, a song whose fiery sound is layered with gentle and emotional lyrics — are pure, undistilled The Tragically Hip, as Rob Baker (guitar), Gord Downie (vocals, guitar), Johnny Fay (drums), Paul Langlois (guitar) and Gord Sinclair (bass) lay the groundwork for their unmistakable sound.

“I went ‘Wow’ when I heard Ouch after all this time,” says Baker. “We were a pretty good little band.”

After rediscovering the tracks they wrote more than three decades ago, The Tragically Hip knew they had to share the music with fans. Of these abandoned souvenirs from the past, Johnny Fay said, “We didn’t know what was there, so this meant baking them and listening to them as they were being transferred. Hearing them for the first time in 30 years was crazy.”


HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Backxwash | I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and My Dresses
Bad Waitress | No Taste
Art Bergmann | Late Stage Empire Dementia
Black Pistol Fire | Look Alive
Blinker The Star | Arista
Boy Golden | Church of Better Daze
Cleopatrick | Bummer
The Dirty Nil | Fuck Art
Dishpit
| Dipshit
Julie Doiron | I Thought Of You
Miesha & The Spanks | Singles EP
Mustafa | When Smoke Rises
Daniel Romano’s Outfit | Cobra Poems
Daniel Romano’s Outfit | Fully Plugged In
Allison Russell
| Outside Child
Tunic | Quitter
The Weather Station | Ignorance

Wine Lips | Mushroom Death Sex Bummer Party


THE REST OF THE LIST

Arkells | Blink Once
Autogramm | No Rules
Besnard Lakes | The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings
Blue Rodeo | Many A Mile
The Blue Stones | Hidden Gems
Pennan Brae | Cinema
Pennan Brae | Planted
Cat & The Queen | I Caught A Fish
Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs | Real One
Comet Control | Inside the Sun
Death From Above 1979 | Is 4 Lovers
DEAR-GOD | 1-844-4DEAR-GOD
Death Party Playground | The Good Years
Gord Downie | Coke Machine Glow: Songwriters Cabal
Tricia Fitz | Epic Penguin Sharks
Godspeed You! Black Emperor | G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!
David Gogo | Silver Cup
Islands | Islomania
Danko Jones | Power Trio
Jr. Gone Wild | Still Got The Jacket
Kandle | Set The Fire
Greg Keelor | Share The Love
Kirty | We Are All On Fire
Kiwi Jr. | Cooler Returns
Daniel Lanois | Heavy Sun
Lee Paradise | The Fink
Lightman Jarvis Ecstatic Band | Banned
Colin Linden | bLOW
Lowest of the Low | Taverns And Palaces
Andy Shauf | Wilds
The Sheepdogs | No Simple Thing
Son Of Dave | Call Me A Cab
Charles Spearin | My City Of Starlings
Strippers Union | The Undertaking
Sunlust | Geek Confessions
Talk Show Host | Mid-Century Modern
Thug Shells | Rainy Day EP
Milla Thyme | Everything Has Its Thyme
The Town Heroes | Home
The Tragically Hip | Road Apples 30th Anniversary Edition
Tunic | Exhaling
Chad VanGaalen | World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener
Martha Wainwright | Love Will Be Reborn
Whitehorse | Modern Love
Whitehorse | Strike Me Down
Breit Workman | Breit Workman
Neil Young | The Neil Young Official Bootleg Series: Carnegie Hall 1970
Neil Young | Young Shakespeare
Neil Young & Crazy Horse | Barn
Neil Young & Crazy Horse | Way Down In The Rust Bucket
Brandy Zdan | Falcon