Well, it's almost time to tie a bow on and stick a fork in the year that was 2016. It is also that time when we, the musically-obsessed, start to reflect on what turned our collective crank, or floated our collective boat (musically speaking, of course) over the last 12 months.
A handful of CFCR hosts have compiled their favourite musical releases into some lists for you to check out. Some are simple lists of releases, while some of them go into further detail about why they rose to the top of the crop. There are lots of links and even some audio/video to check out, so read on and maybe you'll discover a release that will be a last-minute addition to your own list of favourites for the year!
**Warning: Some of the content below may be offensive to some folks, so reader discretion is advised.
Host of The Owls Are Not What They Seem (Tuesdays, 11pm-12am)
Bitchin Bajas and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties (Drag City)
Secular mantras and atheistic meditation are on full blast with Epic Jammers. Those familiar with Will Oldham’s regular folk gig might be taken aback by what’s going here but don’t let the holiness scare you off; there’s nothing sacred on this record, just pure piece of mind.
Heaven for Real – Kill Your Memory (Mint)
Indie pop is back in the best way possible. Gone are the days of excessive toy instruments, out of tune horns and cheesy group vocals. Twee can be sophisticated and no one does it better than this crew. Dig the Mint records revolution with Jay Arner and Supermoon too!
Jerry Paper and Feelings Unlimited – Toon Time Raw (Bayonet Records)
One of those records that can be enjoyed as background muzak or with intense attention and contemplation. Lucas Nathan presents modern-young-urban existential troubles with a cast of characters that walk in and out of each other’s song worlds. Bad Bad Not Good as backing band really fills out Nathan’s jazz pop nicely.
Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing (Bayonet Records)
Short pop jams with big emotion that get right to the point making you want to hear them again and again. If you like to feel feelings (like all humans should) consider picking this one up. Julie Doiron fans take note!
Eric Copeland – Black Bubblegum (DFA records)
Eric’s work with experimental band Black Dice had me pumped for this solo record but it’s unlike anything heard by him before. Pop ‘n’ roll songs of heavily filtered hooks and beats get grooved into your brain. The name says it all, rotten-mold, sugar-sweet: Black Bubblegum.
Eola – Dang (Leaving Records)
A collection of Tonstartssbandht member Edwin White’s acapella work. Layered loops of beach boy harmonies fly into pure light. Covers of traditional gospel and blues songs pair nicely with Eola’s own work. This record is somehow both otherworldly and timeless.
Nap Eyes – Thought Rock Fish Scale (You’ve Changed)
Halifax rock band Nap Eyes bring a live off the floor record of jangle jams in an era of heavily overworked and layered indie music. Nigel Chapman’s lyrics are wordy but never go over your head, rather they latch onto the grey matter and swing around with the endless riffs that never get old.
Un Blonde – Good Will Come to You (Egg Paper Records)
Jean-Sebastien Audet has morphed nicely from the atonal punk of his early work to the soothing spiritual tones of Good Will Come to You. Sounds of a calm, reflective sunny afternoon fill this tape from start to finish. Listen in with Jean-Sebastien smiling out his front door.
Angel Olsen – My Woman (Jagjaguwar)
This album rocks. Olsen croons and swoops like a magic bird (an angel?) but doesn’t shy from getting angry and tellin’ it like it is. Sometimes life ain’t great but we can deal.
Some records that didn’t get enough attention cuz I didn’t buy them yet:
Sean Nicholas Savage – Magnificent Fist (Arbutus Records)
Jons – At Work on Several Things (Self-Released)
Blood Orange – Freetown Sound (Domino)
Host of Green Eggs & Ham (Wednesdays (every other week), 8-10am)
Andy Shauf – The Party (Arts & Crafts)
Andy Shauf has a pretty impressive CV. With this album specifically, he was shortlisted for the Polaris Prize, he played most of the instruments himself, and toured this album supporting Case/Lang/Viers. Although most importantly, Shauf is from Saskatchewan.
The Highest Order – Still Holding (Idée Fixe)
If you have ever listened to my radio show, it would be no surprise that this album made it onto my list. I even re-routed my vacation so I could catch them live this summer. Still Holding is one of those albums that gets better with every listen. This was by far my most favourite release of 2016, and I highly recommend this album to real music lovers.
Les Hay Babies – La 4ième Dimension (Simone Records)
Les Hay Babies was definitely my highlight of Ness Creek for me last summer besides finally trading my tent in for a fibreglass trailer (so much better). Les Hay Babies are Francophone and even though I don't speak French, I still find myself wanting to sing along to most of this album.
Laura Sauvage – Extraordinormal (Simone Records)
Laura Sauvage is the Les Hay Babies Viviane Roy's solo-project, and as soon as a I heard a song, I was hooked. My friend even left her own Bachelorette party to sneak to Amigos to catch an opening set by Sauvage last winter. Extraordinormal is one of those solid albums from start to finish and I can actually sing-along to it because it's in English.
Zachary Lucky – Everywhere A Man Can Be (Self-Released)
My cat died the same week this album came out and I listened to this album on repeat for a month straight. I'll forever associate the two, but regardless, I love this album and the ability Lucky has to provoke feelings through his music.
The Garrys – Warm Buds (Self-Released)
This Saskatoon release is a total gem. The Garrys remind me of the obscure sister band from the 60s called The Shaggs, but The Garrys are way more talented. Plus, Warm Buds was released on a pink cassette which makes it such a great collectors item!
Host of Nightwaves (Tuesdays (alternating), 9-11pm; Host of Hot Buttered Soul, Mondays, 12-1pm)
The Higher State – Volume 27 (13 O’Clock)
Formed in Kent, England, in 2005, this overlooked trio features Marty Ratcliffe (ex-Mistreated and Embrooks) and Paul Messis. Their fifth album release was pure 60’s-influenced garage-pop and had liner notes promising, “fuzz, farfisa, snot, snarl, reverb and harmony”, which the group delivered. The mono version on vinyl certainly packs a special wallop.
Seratones – Get Gone (Fat Possum)
This female-fronted quartet from Shreveport, Louisiana has come up with a debut album that is equal parts Memphis Soul, Mississippi Delta Blues, New Orleans Jazz, Texas Swing and Heavy Rock. Fans of Alabama Shakes shouldn’t pass this one by.
Viv and the Sect – This Will Pass (Get Hip)
An impressive debut effort by these four lads from Mexico City, reminiscent of the more “primitive” garage sounds of the sixties. Their sound recalls The 13th Floor Elevators, The Music Machine and The Electric Prunes, as well as many of the obscure bands found on such sixties’ compilations as Pebbles, Back From the Grave and Highs in the Mid-Sixties.
Sulfur City – Talking Loud (Alive)
From Sudbury, Ontario (hence the band name), these four guys and one gal (vocalist and electric washboard enthusiast, Lori Paradis) present a wild blend of rock, R&B and Blues on their debut full-length release. Produced by Dale Morningstar (Neko Case, The Cowboy Junkies), the album strongly hints at how powerful a live act Sulfur must be.
The Karovas Milkshake – In the Shade of the Purple Sun (Groovie)
Named after a fizzy cocktail, karophas mielkshag (so we’re told), this Russian outfit displays an obvious love of vintage British psychedelia (such as early Pink Floyd and Revolver-era Beatles) on its debut long-player.
Bleached – Welcome the Worms (Dead Oceans)
This trio has been making a name for itself on the Los Angeles music scene since 2011. Bleached’s second album continues to deliver straight-ahead rockn’roll with a punk edge, a la Hole, Joan Jett and the Shangri-Las.
Javier Escovedo – Kicked Out of Eden (Saustex)
From the opening salvo of roaring guitar chords, we know we’re in for a generous serving of genuine rock’n’roll on this, Javier’s second solo release. Javier grew up in the Los Angeles area and went on to form the Zeros before relocating to Austin to join his brother, Alejandro (of the Nuns, Rank and File and Buick McKane fame), in the True Believers. (Another brother, Mario, was a member of the Dragons.) If your tastes run to kick-ass, rootsy rock’n’roll, don’t overlook this one.
Night Beats – Who Sold My Generation (Heavenly)
If you favor your psych-rock filled with plenty of guitar riffs and reverb, check out the Night Beats. This Seattle trio’s third album won’t disappoint. www.nightbeatsyoutube
The Missing Souls – The Missing Souls (Dangerhouse Skylab)
Hailing from Lyon, France, these three guys and one gal combine Garage-Pop with Soul to create perfect dance music for any party. As the liner notes on their debut release state: “So, whether you be putting needle on the record, or anticipating a live show…if you ain’t movin’ within four beats, ya better check that you is still breathin’”.
The Mystery Lights – The Mystery Lights (Wick)
This Brooklyn-based psych-garage combo has the distinction of being the inaugural act signed to Daptones Records’ subsidiary label, Wick Records, which released this, the band’s second full-length album, late in the year. Heartfelt vocals, rich instrumental backing, frequent tempo changes and hooks galore characterize the project, resulting in one of the more exciting releases of 2016. This album would most definitely have landed in the top spot had I arranged this Top Ten list in numerical order. Words can’t do The Mystery Lights justice.
Host of The RCMP (Tuesdays, 4-5pm)
Blue Moon Marquee – Gypsy Blues (Self-Released)
Scott Nolan – Silverhill (Self-Released)
The Whiskey Jerks – Neat (Self-Released)
The Vivants – Bluegrass Special (Self-Released)
Jamye Stone – The Lomax Project (Borealis)
Host of The Buzz (Tuesdays, 5-6pm)
1. Basia Bulat – Good Advice (Secret City)
The instrumentation was a little more keyboard focused than previous efforts and Jim James' influence provided a welcome shift to a fuller sound. Basia Bulat could sing the phonebook to rehashed chord progressions and people would buy it but she offers so much more.
2. Andy Shauf – The Party (Arts & Crafts)
Nobody quiets a room down like Andy Shauf does. It seems he is finally getting some of the attention he is overdue for.
3. M.I.A. – Aim (Interscope)
M.I.A. still has swagger. If she actually retires, she is leaving on a high note.
4. Gold Panda – Good Luck and Do Your Best (City Slang)
Gold Panda provides another mellow soundtrack for all your daily activities.
5. DJ Shadow – The Mountain Will Fall (Mass Appeal)
DJ Shadow has never shown evidence of being stuck in a rut. He’s a veteran legend of hip hop production and Entroducing just celebrated 20 years.
6. BadBadNotGood – IV (Beat Records)
Is this instrumental jazz for hip hop fans or instrumental hip hop for jazz fans? It doesn't actually matter. This also happened to put the wonderful new Charlotte Day Wilson’s EP on more than a few radars.
7. Dream Country – Dream Country (Self-Released)
This genre-named band broke up before the internet only release. It’s Saskatoon alt-country for road trips and prairie nights.
8. Justice – Woman (Ed Banger)
It’s a late arrival but a good one that we’ve been waiting a long while for. Justice fans won’t be let down.
9. Moby – Music from Porcelain (Thrive)
It’s music from his memoir which covered the pre-Play (and leading into Play's release) era of his career. It has a bunch of old Moby songs and then an album worth of songs curated by Moby. His back catalogue is largely debated and worth a re-visit.
Host of Fake Headlines (Wednesdays, 7:30-9pm)
Fake Headlines 2016: Love Trumps Hate
1. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years (Sinderlyn)
2. Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Rough Trade)
3. White Lung – Paradise (Domino)
4. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition (Warp)
5. Savages – Adore (Pop Noire/Matador)
6. Against Me! – Shape Shift With Me (Total Treble Music)
7. Preoccupations – Preoccupations (Jagjaguwar)
8. Beach Slang – A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings (Polyvinyl)
9. LVL UP – Return To Love (Sub Pop)
10. Jeff Rosenstock – Worry (SideOneDummy Records)
11. Local Natives – Sunlit Youth (Loma Vista Recordings)
12. Woods – City Sun Eater In The River Of Light (Woodsist)
13. Black Mountain – IV (Jagjaguwar)
14. Primal Scream – Chaosmosis (Warner)
15. Weezer – White Album (Crush Music)
16. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound (Domino)
17. DIIV – Is The Is Are (Captured Tracks)
18. Bent Shapes – Wolves Of Want (Slumberland Records)
19. David Bowie – Blackstar (Columbia)
20. Sunflower Bean – Human Ceremony (Fat Possum)
Host of The Buzz (Thursdays, 5-6pm)
1. Andy Shauf – The Party (Arts & Crafts)
My favorite album from Andy to date. His lyrics about the lovely socially anxious boy he is are more relatable than ever and his sound is terribly full and beautiful. All the feels for this one.
2. July Talk – Touch (Sleepless Records)
Peter's heavy growl and Leah's soft serenades are the loveliest contrast and their explosive chemistry comes right through the speakers.
3. Jealous Of The Birds – Parma Violets (Big Space Records)
When I first heard "Goji Berry Sunset," I melted instantly (I'm a sucker for those whistling tunes). The rest of the album is somehow just as good. A must hear.
4. Oh Pep! – Stadium Cake (Dualtone/Barely Dressed)
Oh Pep! is the loveliest blend of pop and folk and their perfect little harmonies will soothe your troubled heart.
5. Kaytranada – 99.9% (XL)
The most colourful sound and the coolest of collabs will have you dancing all dayyyyy.
6. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – PersonA (Community Music)
With this album comes a little darker and weirder sound and I am so down for it.
7. The Pack A.D. – Positive Thinking (Cadence Music)
I've never been dissapointed by this duo. Everything you could possibly hope for in a rock record.
8. Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing (Bayonet)
Each song is written like a little poem and takes you on the prettiest journey.
9. Big Thief – Masterpiece (Saddle Creek)
A charming and twinkly masterpiece just as you should expect.
10. Andrew Bird – Are You Serious (Loma Vista Recordings)
Just a real nice record that is just the right amount of smooth and gentle with a side of grooooove.
Host of Green Eggs & Ham (Mondays, (every other week) 6-8am)
1. Ford Madox Ford – "Expect It" (Single) (Porterhouse Records)
Chip Kinman of The Dils and Rank & File fame returns with a hard hitting Blues/punk mix featuring the twin guitars of Chip and his son, Dewey Peek, and ace California veteran rhythm section, bassist Matt Littell, and drummer S. Scott Aguero. Debut album slated for 2017!
2. Javier Escovedo – Kicked Out of Eden (Saustex Records)
Javier Escovedo, founding member of The Zeros and The True Believers was back this year with his 2nd solo release. If you're a fan of great Rock & Roll in the vein of the Stones, NY Dolls & others make sure to check this one out!
3. Ian Hunter – Fingers Crossed (Proper Records)
One of my all-time faves, former Mott the Hoople frontman, ageless 77 yr old Ian Hunter still knows how to Rock as evidenced by his latest release wiith the Rant Band featuring the single, Dandy, a wonderful tribute to his friend David Bowie.
4. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression (Loma Vista)
Another veteran Rocker who returned this year with one of the strongest albums of his whole career. Great stuff start to finish! Nice to see these "old guys" show 'em how it's done!
5. The Mahones – 25 Years of Irish Punk (Sailors Grave Records)
If you've ever tuned into my show, you'll know how much I love Celtic music. Canadian Irish Punk legends The Mahones had Piper Scruffy Wallace return to the band after a long stint with The Dropkick Murphys. They celebrated by re-recording 21 of their best loved tracks with all of the energy and excitement we've come to love from them!
THE JAY OF SPADES
Host of Pirate Radio (Thursdays (alternating), 7:30-9pm)
B-17 – Goodbye (Optical Sounds)
On their second release (following 2012’s Wishing Won’t Make It So EP), this Toronto four-piece offers a few distinct song styles; from the noisy guitar fuzz of album opener “Fingers Painted Gold,” to the paisley psychedelia of “It’s Your Time,” to the more backbeat-driven “For Good” or “You Don’t Come Around Anymore.” But rather than ending up convoluted, the styles all work together, creating an eclectic-yet-united sound that embodies B-17.
Ancient Shapes – Ancient Shapes (New West/You’ve Changed)
Daniel Romano has been pretty prolific in the last few years, going from hurtin’ country twanger/crooner to rambling Bob Dylan-y mumbler. It’s all been pretty good, but nothing compares to the raw, frenetic garage pop of Romano’s side project, Ancient Shapes. Blazing through the album’s 10 songs in just over 16 minutes, there isn’t even time to take a breath, let alone figure out what hit you by the time it’s over. The cure for this is to just play it again (and again).
Wolf People – Ruins (Jagjaguwar)
These UK psych minstrels return with another dose of music to roam the English countryside in a technicolour haze to.
The Mystery Lights – The Mystery Lights (Wick)
Even though this album came out in the early summer, it was a very late addition to my list of favourites for the year. Nightwaves host Ron Spizziri wised me to this Brooklyn band and their self-titled release on Daptone subsidiary Wick records in early December, and I’ve had my ears glued to it ever since. Sure, it’s not the most original sound in the world. Lots of bands have tried this brand of 60s garage rock, but wow, this is done to an absolute T. I can’t remember when I last heard such an authentic sound, like they recorded to analog tape and soaked it in Roky Erickson’s bath water. 10 out of 5 stars.
Snake River – Sun Will Rise (Self-Released)
Another in their series of albums documenting the lives of the residents in the fictitious town of Snake River Mountain, Regina band Snake River up their game once again with Sun Will Rise. The great thing is, you don’t have to follow along with the narrative to enjoy the album, because the songs all stand-up on their own. These cats always had their reverb game locked in, but with Sun Will Rise, they tighten up the melodies and seem to amp up the overall tempo, giving it an even broader listenability.
**Side note: Also check out the Her Hair Encircles The Globe EP that Snake River singer/guitarist Chris Sleightholm put out with Carl Johnson from Library Voices as Spationauts. It’s awesome.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity (ATO)
Sometimes this album makes you feel like you’ve been drugged because you’re sure you’ve heard a particular riff or vocal line already, but that’s just because the record is like one giant song, with one track on the album leading into the next. The whole thing has such an urgency to it that you can’t help but be drawn in. It’s percussive, it’s primal, it’s weird. It’s also really, really good.
The Switching Yard – Yet Again (Pre-Rock Records)
There was a moment where it seemed like Saskatoon’s The Switching Yard might never get a debut recording out. They had some recordings done, but the release stalled. After one of the original members left town (Peter Henderson, who has returned to Saskatoon and is now in SRA), and guitarist/singer Brennan Barclay joined Shooting Guns, the band tried out a couple of temporary lineup configurations before Barclay’s Shooting Guns bandmates Chris Laramee (guitar) and Jay Loos (bass) joined the fold. From there, the band began writing the songs that would appear on Yet Again. The album is a raw rock n’ roll gem, full of nod-inducing jammers, fuzzed out guitars and Stooges-y swagger.
Heaters – Baptistina (Beyond Beyond Is Beyond)
Chock full of 12-string guitar tones, driving bass & drum lines, and soaring vocal melodies, Grand Rapids, MI band Heaters’ 2016 release Baptistina delivers an outstandingly full piece of atmosphere-rock. Fans of Quest For Fire, take note.
Host of End-Times Transmissions (Thursdays, 11pm-12:30am)
Buñuel – A Resting Place For Strangers (La Tempesta/Tannen)
Strokes of visceral, base human movement set to machinery that both creeps and pulverizes within the same gear turn. The energy of Buñuel's blinding debut is uniformly 'Fuck or Fight', and so expertly balanced between libido and barbarity that it's potency couldn't lead to anything put a savage and absolute blackout. One of consummate Warrior/Poet Eugene S. Robinson's finest performances, and that's insisting nothing shy of a bloody mouthful. Album of the year.
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – The Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed Ltd)
Captured amidst a harrowing personal tragedy in its author's life, 'Skeleton Tree' finds Cave unarmed, at his least strategic, and most profoundly, without an apology. The compositions are sketchy, the lyrics unrefined, and it was this aloof approach, presumably the only method Cave had the strength for, that suitingly bottled the fog of the grieving process so vividly.
Deathspell Omega – The Synarchy of Molten Bones (Season Of Mist)
Such incomparable sorcery. One of only a handful of Black -Metal projects not tethered to the tired, blown-out womb of the genre's restrictive ground zero, Deathspell's bloody waves of dissonant, undulating guitar cloaking unpredictable rhythmic tangents have never been more sure-footed. What once appeared as an awe-inspiring blur of chaos has assumed full awareness and is all the more terrifying for it. Deathspell's finest hour to date.
Puce Mary – The Spiral (Posh Isolation)
Both Sonically and emotionally, The Spiral promotes a sense of drowning in something that is only as cruel and unforgiving as it is totally alien. The experience is largely unpleasant and will separate those who consume music as comfort food from those who are more impressed when they find themselves choking on an album.
Emma Ruth Rundle – Marked for Death (Sargent House)
Emma Ruth Rundle made heroic strides in terms of confidence and performance on her latest full length, and these strides in question appear to have been a death march in to the abyss of self. Airing on the side of stark confession paid off in spades artistically, but it does indeed leave one hoping that the author will survive to pen a follow up. A chilling and worrying collection.
Host of RCMP (Mondays, 4-5pm)
1. PUP – The Dream Is Over (Royal Mountain Records)
The best album of 2016 in my mind, hands down. No questions asked. The narrative and the songwriting is on-point. The first two tracks (“If This Tour Doesn't Kill You, I Will” and “DVP”) sets the tone for this emotional, hard and fast punk album.
2. Dirty Wounds – Fields (Independent)
The Contrast of the two vocalists create a raw and melodic sound that is my favourite album of 2016 from Saskatoon. This Saskatoon punk band has a sound that is reminiscent of 13 Songs-era Fugazi. One of the most underrated albums to come out this year from the 306.
3. Mulligrub – Soft Grunge (Independent)
I had the pleasure of seeing Mulligrub during a Sound and Silence Collective event at Amigos Cantina. The voice of Kelly Campbell is one that grabs you and the lyrics make you feel. One of the best out of Winnipeg, and I cannot wait to see them again.
4. G.L.O.S.S – Trans Day Of Revenge (Independent)
One of my favourite albums, but there is sadness that there will not be a new album from G.L.O.S.S in the foreseeable future, due to them breaking up in September. "Angry," "fast," and "loud" are the only adjectives that should be used to describe this album.
5. Off The Top Rope – I Survived A Deathmatch With... (Independent)
The "Fun Factor" of this album is a perfect ten. This is a major improvement over their previous EP release, with a real focus on the quality of the recording. The songwriting is nostalgic and fun. I cannot wait to see them live again in 2017.
6. Against Me! – Shape Shift With Me (Total Treble)
As described by frontwoman Laura Jane Grace as the “Trans Response to Exile on Mainstreet,” this album uses catchy hooks and relatable themes to all people, to express the love and relationship from the perspective of a trans person.
7. Descendants – Hypercaffium Spazzinate (Epitaph)
The Descendants stand as the old guard of the punk scene and delivered with this release. It is weird that a band with the median age that is in their 50s can relate with a 20-year-old. Songs like “No Fatburger” are incredibly relatable and are fun to listen to.
8. NOFX – First Ditch Effort (Fat Wreck Chords)
NOFX is my favourite band. So it might seem a bit biased that they appear on my list. Though, with songs like “Six Years on Dope” and “Happy Father’s Day” being textbook hard core songs, they definitely deliver on every track on this album.
9. Greys – Outer Heaven (Buzz Records)
The grunge-y sound of Greys were the sounds that filled my summer. The songs are filled with an energy that I do not think was matched this year. The exploding guitars were great and matched the energy of vocalist Shehzaad Jiwan.
10. Man Meat – Hail Nothing Eat Shit (Independent)
I first saw Man Meat at the 2016 CFCR Femfest and the loud, raging, and abrasive sound caught my ear immediately. This EP is all I want to hear in my punk: fast, loud and wanting to yell at something. Man Meat did an unreal job on this album, and I cannot wait to see what is to come.
Host of RCMP (Fridays, 4-5pm)
Here are my top picks of 2016. These albums hit me at the right time and the right place. If you know me, I'm not always good with words and would rather let the music do the talking. So here it goes...
Ancient Shapes – Ancient Shapes (You've Changed)
Sunflower Bean – Still Holding (Fat Possum)
Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression (Loma Vista)
Wolf People - Ruins (Jagjaguwar)
Public Animal - Palace Arms (Yeah Right!)