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The Best Canadian Albums of 2013

Stuart Henderson and Joshua Kloke

There's a thrilling breadth of styles and approaches explored by the best albums hailing from Canada in 2013, ranging from good ol' garage rock to East-West "noh-wave", from traditionalist country to First Nations' EDM.

10 - 6

Artist: Brendan Canning

Album: You Gots 2 Chill

Label: SQE

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List Number: 10

Brendan Canning
you Gots 2 Chill

Broken Social Scene were the type of band whose genius could often only be found in the crevices of their songs; layer upon layer of noise drowned out some of their more talented performers. You Gots 2 Chill puts Brendan Canning's relaxed approach front and centre with engrossing acoustic tracks, the kind that could keep you warm while alone on a harsh winter evening. Canning finds a happy balance within each of the 14 tracks as none sway much longer than absolutely necessary. It's tough to stop listening to You Gots 2 Chill as it'll raise your spirits without forcing you to break a sweat. Joshua Kloke

Artist: A Tribe Called Red

Album: Nation 2 Nation

Label: self-released

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List Number: 9

A Tribe Called Red
Nation 2 Nation

Perhaps it was merely an accident that A Tribe Called Red emerged at the same historical moment as Idle No More, the pan-Aboriginal movement toward self-determination and political autonomy that has come to haunt Canadian political consciousness. However, there is nothing accidental about the way this group of three wildly talented DJs has channeled the form and passion of First Nations' cultures, histories, and visions into this dazzling record. Such a fervent expression of identity and urgency was rarely heard this, or any, year. At once a howling cry of anguish over historical and persistent political realities, and an ultra-progressive sweaty dance-club of an EDM record, Nation 2 Nation manages to challenge settler complacency even as it marshals native pride. As I wrote about Tribe last year on this site: This is what the future sounds like. Hear it, now. Stuart Henderson

Artist: The Good Family

Album: The Good Family Album

Label: Latent

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List Number: 8

The Good Family
The Good Family Album

Who else but the Goods could make the list twice? About as unassuming as any record you're likely to hear, the Good Brothers and their kids -- you may know them as the Sadies -- along with a cousin and a mum, have managed to make a future Americana classic. Too bad so few know it yet -- this album has somehow flown below the radar of most major media outlets. A collection of traditional country, bluegrass, and folk, all given the cosmic-Kool-Aid wash the Sadies bring to whatever they touch, The Good Family Album bubbles over with great songs. Lovingly produced by Michael Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies and featuring a pair of songs co-written by Blue Rodeo's Greg Keelor, this is less a family affair than a multigenerational Canadian supergroup. The individual performances are warm and compelling (especially the expressive vocals from cousin D'Arcy Good), the group's familial synergy is palpable and infectious, and the overall effect is like a crackling fire on a crisp autumn night. The best record nobody heard this year. Stuart Henderson


Artist: Solids

Album: Blame Confusion

Label: DineAlone/Fat Possum

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List Number: 7Solids
Blame Confusion

It's almost comical to think that the two members of Montreal's Solids started the emphatic guitar-drums duo as a side project they wouldn't take seriously. Blame Confusion bowls you over at first spin. It's an empowering listen that captures everything we love and originally fall for in music: big choruses give us a chance to sing along, dramatic rises allow us to join hands with our friends and become part of something larger than us, and, hey, it'd be tough to find a better record to crank up to 11 with the windows down and an empty road in front of you. Joshua Kloke

Artist: Kobo Town

Album: Jumbie in the Jukebox

Label: Cumbacha

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List Number: 6

Kobo Town
Jumbie in the Jukebox

Toronto-based Kobo Town has been building towards this extraordinary record for the better part of a decade. Fronted by Trinidadian-born Drew Gonsalves, this innovative but criminally underheard band blends traditional calypso with elements of hip-hop, ska, reggae, and zouk, crafting something that is as excitingly fresh as it is comfortingly familiar. A politically charged record -- see, for instance, the blistering "Postcard Poverty" for a taste of Gonsalves' cutting social commentary -- Jumbie is nevertheless happy to get your toes tapping and your head bobbing. All over this record, the grooves are deep, the words are smart and true, and the energy is pitched just right; this is what my summer sounded like. Stuart Henderson

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