Best Albums of 2019... So Far.
Canada Day has been and gone, officially marking the halfway point of the year. Here at the Cups N Cakes Network, we decided to take a six month look into the past to create a list of our favourite Canadian albums released in 2019… so far. We’ve never done this before, but with the rapid rate at which music is released and consumed, it’s easy to miss something that should not be missed. For this reason, the Cups N Cakes team of writers decided to weigh in and say a few words on the albums they are championing this year.
Dear Bongo // Forward Music Group
There’s too much to say when writing about how much I love Motherhood’s record Dear Bongo (Jeff wants this write-up capped at 150 words). When I got the chance to speak to them about the album at Sled Island this year, we touched on the sublime experience of listening to a record and instantly feeling like you “get it”. It’s impossible to listen to this record and not feel like that; the breadth of influences and musical in-jokes that Motherhood bring to the table is stunning, not to mention Brydon Crain’s playful, dense, and perfectly inscrutable alliterative escapades. “Way Down”, “Pick of the Pugs” and “Hallway” are the crown jewels of this loose concept album about painting, making art, and a (hopefully) good dog named Bongo.
- Sean Newton
Salt // Independent
From every angle, Abbotsford, British Columbia’s Blessed have been methodical in their approach to their music. The first few years of the bands tenure has been characterized by aggressive touring schedules across the entirety of North America and pointed releases of a few EP’s, splits and singles. Over that time Blessed has built a strong reputation for proficiency and professionalism at their craft, building up to the release of their first full length, Salt. Adding drum pads and a fifth member on guitar and synths has brought more dynamic instead of cluttering things up, showing off songwriting maturity revealing subtle intricacies with each listen. The album is nothing short of a masterpiece and continues to highlight the groups mastery of melody and rhythmic movement. In closing, Salt is the one thing you need on your musical shelf, boasting flavourful guitar work and one of the strongest rhythm sections you’ll ever hear.
- Jeshaiah David
Snotty Nose Rez Kids
Trapline // Minay Music
Haisla Nation’s hip-hop duo, Snotty Nose Rez Kids, have released their heavy hitting, sharp-witted album Trapline as they continue to captivate with their politically charged, creative wordplay and conveyance. Simply put, their blatant resistance to colonial settler society creates a strong sense of solidarity and pride. Darren “Young D” Metz, and Quinton “Yung Trybez” Nyce’s synergy is unparalleled and they are truly revolutionizing the hip-hop realm, but they also remind us that indigenous folks have been dancing, singing and revolutionizing since time immemorial. I cannot stress enough that you need to see them live!
The overall production of this album is pristine. Stylistically echoing predecessors such as Wu-Tang Clan, but thematically representing their indigenous experience and identities in a sound they refer to it as ‘Indigenous Trap’. Trapline sees Canada’s hottest rap act stay true to themselves with homage to their ancestors, The Creator, and Mother Earth. Time to get onboard with the ‘seven generation club’. ENERGY! ENERGY! ENERGY!
- Nicola Gunter
Pony // SubPop
In the oppressive mid-day stillness of a drab roadside truckstop, where mouths (and zippers) of listless locals hang open, Orville Peck arrives with the crack of a bullwhip and bondage mask to thrust his bulge into the bland world of country music. On Pony, his debut album, Peck wears the underwear of dozens of desert-drifting icons and summons their ghosts in the name of love and fear, lust and innocence lost. Tremolo guitar-laden desert dramas, touches of new wave wistfulness, crooning 50’s love-balladry that could be plucked from the songbook of Richie Valens, Peck schmaltzes and waltzes and (superbly) croons in his guise as the country-apple-in-the-eyes of the bruised boxers, thieves and janitors that he hand-picked to surround him. Finally, a rodeo you can bring your ball-gag to.
- JD Ormond
The Same But By Different Means // Flemish Eye
When we were asked to pick our best of 2019 so far, this album was the first that came to mind. Let me get conversational and ask; you know when the first listen isn’t the best? That was The Same but by Different Means. By late June it has been installed into one of my favourites. Full of interludes, scattered samples, instrumentation galore, and heavily layered vocals, it is an impressionistic dream. Strap in with this one and give it some time.
- Ella Coyes
Football Money // Mint
We were a little late to the game with Kiwi Jr. but will make up for it by featuring their incredible album, Football Money on this list. Bringing back memories of perfect indie rock of the 2000’s (it’s hard not to think of “radio-friendly” Pavement), Football Money hits every note necessary for a perfect summer album. Filled with top notch hooks and ear-worm melodies, the song craft is perfect. Lyrically, the album focuses on Toronto and life in a massive urban centre. Each song tells a tale that begs for repeat listens because you always catch new, clever lines that had been missed the last time around. Kiwi Jr.’s debut is a knock outta the park, listen to it once and you’ll be stepping up to the plate over and over and over.
- Jeff MacCallum
Vol. 6 // Artoffact
Hailing from one of the most diverse musical markets in Canada has payed huge dividends for Vancouver’s Seer. The band is not scared to explore unique arrangements and break free from the restrictive confines of conventional loud music. Vol. 6 is a guttural and earthy black-metal album that chugs along in the depths of the deepest valley where tranquil musical passages carry the same bewitching power as the hair-raising call of the wild. This mirrors the vastness of nature that is ever present in a city that has wilderness, mountains and the ocean on it’s doorstep. The album is raw and ferocious and masterfully uses the full vocal range at the bands fingertips to deliver a heavy feeling from front to back.
- Jeshaiah David
Rubber Eye // Double Lunch, Mangled Tapes
l.n. baba is Edmonton-based Keanan Swan-Azmon and it seems he’s as interested in misshaping a great song as he is at perfecting it. Most great songwriters have that quality. Rather than rely on genre traditions, he forges his own way and reminds us of the allure of the obscure. Rubber Eye is exceptionally distinct and within that authenticity leaves the indelible mark of true poetic integrity.
Perhaps Rubber Eye represents a weirdness only the isolation a cold prairie winter can evoke, the product of solitary creative confinement. Regardless, the album embodies the idiosyncratic charm that develops when a poet is left to their own devices. It emerges as an avant-garde folk album that beguiles you with intricately gorgeous guitar and striking story-telling that will leave the line “staring at your palms through the suds” stuck in your head for days.
- Nicola Gunter
Stay Tuned! // Ensoul
Blending Neo-Soul with R&B, Jazz, and Gospel, Dominique Fils-Aimé’s impeccable sophomore album Stay Tuned! commands attention. Silky smooth vocals are looped to create gorgeous harmonies that make up the melodies on this album. They rise like a choir as Fils-Aimé uses her voice as the most integral instrument. Knowing when to let her voice go to work, and when flourishes are needed, her band showcases a complete understanding of the albums vision. Lyrically, Stay Tuned! focuses on the civil rights movement of the 60’s and pays homage to some of it’s integral historical figures, but it also remembers the unsung heroes who gave just as much. It’s an album that can be played for any occasion but is best heard as a mystifying, deep-listening experience.
- Jeff MacCallum
Character Witness // Mangled Tapes
Doug Hoyer’s Character Witness is an absolute pleasure to listen to for those of us who take joy in intricate song craft and a spot-on production aesthetic. Every song sounds like Hoyer had a crystal clear picture of what the finished product should be right from the get go, from the Nick Drake-ian “Hive Mind” to my personal favourite on the record, “Partner”. His lyrical intuition and ability to talk about facets of modern life that don’t normally feature in pop songs cement Hoyer as the finest purveyor of 21st century kitchen sink realism currently working in the prairies.
- Sean Newton
Deluxe Hotel Room // Rock Creek Music
Lauren Gillis really did me in with this one. I’ll be the first to say that I love a good pop song. Deluxe Hotel Room is a collection of great ones, avoiding classic pop tropes, with a strong Americana influence over many melodic choices. It’s familiar and comfortable, but not boring. Plus, I’ve had “Lover Don’t Give Up On Me” (the last track of the album), on repeat too many times to count, and I’m still not close to tired of it.
- Ella Coyes
Good Morning // Kingfisher Bluez
Edmonton’s Counterfeit Jeans have a gift for creating noisy songs that have mass appeal (Their track “Nervous Wreck” gets airplay on corporate radio in their hometown). Their long-awaited sophomore album Good Morning, showcases a band that has grown to become experts at their craft. They control feedback like it’s a superpower, they understand when a song needs a melodic break, and they know how to sound bigger than most three piece acts ever can. On Good Morning, they’ve blended noise-rock and post-punk with grunge, which is a genre that still carries mass appeal. The album is familiar, yet foreign. This attribute has solidified them as a Canadian band worth following for years to come.
- Jeff MacCallum