If you were to judge my musical tastes based strictly on this list, you would assume that I mostly like guitar-based indie pop (primarily of the local variety), but have a seemingly antithetical fondness for foul-mouthed female MCs. That’s not entirely inaccurate, come to think of it.
Old Man Canyon
A Grand Facade
A few things become quite clear when you listen to A Grand Facade. One is that Jett Pace obviously listens to a lot of Tame Impala, and another is that he smokes a lot of weed. Both of those habits have evidently shaped his aesthetic in wonderful ways, though, and this dreamy haze of an album is the sonic equivalent of floating in a warm bath.
Looking for the perfect workout-playlist track guaranteed to get more adrenaline coursing through your system than two litres of Red Bull? Fire up Rico Nasty’s ode to not giving a fuck, “Bitch I’m Nasty”. Or, better yet, the righteously furious “Rage”, a bass-bombed shard of seething hatred that inspired one YouTube commenter to observe “this song makes me want to throw a chair through the window.”
When I wrote about Their Prime back in May, I observed that Jo Passed leader Jo Hirabayashi “has an uncanny ear for an infectious melody and an apparently unlimited supply of mind-twisting guitar riffs”. I’m too lazy to come up with a new description for the local group’s abstract-expressionist noise-pop.
We Are the City
On first listen, the fractured beats and towering drones of “Ones You Love” and “When I Dream, I Dream of You” seem to suggest that We Are the City has finally let its experimental tendencies overtake its pop sensibilities. At its core, though, this is a collection of songs firmly rooted in melody, and although the progressive elements are more than mere window dressing, you don’t need an engineering degree to love it.
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
Imagine if Radiohead filtered its love of postpunk and avant-garde music into unironically Auto-Tuned modern pop instead of pretentious twaddle.
Sophie Allison may name Taylor Swift and Avril Lavigne as formative influences, but then again, she was born in 1997. Those who lived through more of the ’90s than Allison did will probably hear echoes of Liz Phair and Tanya Donelly in Soccer Mommy’s earnestly sardonic guitar pop.
Following last year’s A Crow Looked at Me, this is Phil Elverum’s second album-length response to his wife’s tragic early death. If that first record was a thing of fragile beauty but almost painful to listen to, Now Only lets a few shafts of light into the darkness, suggesting that Elverum is past the worst of it. The opening lines of “Earth” neatly summarize the push-pull of grief: “I don’t want to live with this feeling any longer than I have to/But also I don’t want you to be gone.”
Being So Normal
Anyone who has ever been an awkward high-schooler will relate to Peach Pit’s exhumation of adolescent angst, and the Vancouver band’s tuneful indie rock will please anyone who possesses the conviction that every song needs an awesome guitar solo.
Sure, it’s the riotously filthy likes of “Duck Duck Goose” that made Elizabeth Eden Harris go viral. But CupcakKe spits just as hard whether she’s engaging in some unflinching introspection on “Self Interview” or standing up for LGBT equality on “Crayons” (“Ain’t no confusion, everybody human/Get to know people instead of just assumin’ ”). This was the year when, while the men of hip-hop were busy mumbling their way into irrelevance, the women took over with a vengeance.
Just when you have Art d’Ecco pegged as a glam rocker with an appreciation for a Phil Spector–esque Wall of Sound, the guy throws you a curve ball that makes you think you really don’t get him at all. Consider “Nobody’s Home”, which improbably sounds like Marc Bolan and Joy Division commandeering the dance floor at Studio 54. Or “Dark Days”, a throbbing salvo of synth-punk that will have you digging out your old Tubeway Army LPs. You might never figure d’Ecco out, but you’re guaranteed to have fun trying.