Here goes… this has been a fantastic year for music. Some years I feel like I’m stretching out the list to hit ten, but I’ve been constantly revising. I put together a 43 minute mix of some of the stuff on this list if anyone’s interested: http://www.melodymckiver.com/media/2013%20in%20review.mp3
EDIT: Full track list:
Elvis Costello and The Roots – Cinco Minutos Con Vos;
Dawn of Midi – Algol;
Colin Stetson – Brute;
Biipiigwan – Descamisados;
Cakes Da Killa – Fuck Ya Boyfriend;
A Tribe Called Red – Tanto’s Revenge feat. Chippewa Travellers; Trombone Shorty – Vieux Carre;
Frank Waln – Oil 4 Blood (All Red Everything);
Shining Soul – Do;
Tara Williamson – Boy;
Tall Paul – April Fools;
Old Money – Black Pepper;
MIA – Bring The Noize;
T-Rhyme – From Scratch;
Le1f – Damn Son
This list was originally compiled for my friend Waubgeshig Rice, who has an annual mailing list where people share their top picks in music. You can read his list here.
There’s also a lot of overlap with the selections I sent to my friends and colleagues over at RPM.fm – read the choices here.
1. A Tribe Called Red – Nation II Nation
I think this is my third year running they’ve topped my list. There’s been a lot of ink spilled on them this year and I’ve written about them elsewhere, but this is a really big step forwards for them that’s propelled ATCR into the international spotlight. Access to the Tribal Spirit sample catalogue is a huge boost for this release as their production matures. Can’t wait to see what’s next.
2. Dawn of Midi – Dysnomia
I came across these guys in a one-off mention in a Sasha Frere-Jones article, and I was stuck streaming their Soundcloud on repeat for weeks until I finally dug up a CD after trying several Ottawa record stores. Their earlier work was more typical of modern jazz, but here they’ve retained the acoustic piano trio setting, and stripped it down to pure rhythm and texture. They’re not the first to do minimalist / electronic-inspired rhythms in an acousticsetting, but it’s incredibly compelling. Think Steve Reich, Aphex Twin, and Vijay Iyer.
3. Cris Derksen – The Collapse
Another strong sophomore release from the Indigenous music scene. Cris’ compositions have matured, covering a broad range of styles and pushing her cello to the limit. I was fortunate to rehearse and perform with Cris this year, and it’s a treat to watch her work.
4. Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light
Vol. 2 is one of my all-time favourite albums so this was a tough album to follow, but Colin pulled it off. In some places his collaborations with Justin Vernon worked brilliantly (check Justin’s growl on Brute, included on my mixtape), but elsewhere it drowns out the subtleties of Stetson’s work. That being said, the 15-minute title track is one of my most-played songs of the year and shows Colin Stetson at the top of his game. The bass saxophone game might be a small one, but Colin Stetson’s really in a league of his own.
5. Frank Waln – Born Ready EP
I stumbled across Frank Waln’s wise-beyond-his-years tweets on Twitter (really), but checking out this release blew me away. This 24-year old MC from Rosebud Sioux has great flow, does his own productions, and is way smarter than a lot of the Native – or any – MCs out there. Bar raised. Check out Oil 4 Blood, which is both timely after the Northern Gateway announcement, but also my hip-hop beat of the year for flipping Ulali’s Mahk Jchi.
6. Biipiigwan – Something for Everyone; Nothing for Anyone
A great release from Ottawa’s finest sludge metal. I’ll repeat the album three times in a sitting without even noticing. I like hearing a metal band yell about “greed, patriarchy, and racism” – while naming half their tracks in Anishinaabemowin.
7. Elvis Costello & The Roots – Wise Up Ghost
I’m not as familiar with Costello’s catalogue as I should be, but his legend status is undeniable. ?uestlove and the Roots crew are some of my biggest musical influences, and this is a really wonderful collaboration. I’m still slowly unpacking this album, and it grows better with repeat listens.
8. Tall Paul – Birthday Present EP
It’s tough for me to put a 5-song EP on a list, but this EP leads my iTunes playlist in repeat plays after ATCR’s album and Tall Paul’s quickly becoming my favourite MC. Last year’s Prayer in a Song went viral for its Anishinaabemowin chorus (first and only in hip-hop? show me otherwise!) and this year’s lead track April Fools further unpacks that track, situating himself with the challenges of being an adult Anishinaabemowin learner. He works with some really great producers, and his latest single (dropped three days ago) is just killer:https://soundcloud.com/tallpaul612/the-show-act-i-act-ii
9. Trombone Shorty – Say That To Say This
This is a really fun album. Shorty’s one of the current ambassadors of New Orleans music, and he does a great job of bridging the deep heritage of his city with some contemporary sounds. Be My Lady reunites the original Meters (and they’re easily my most-played artist this year without a 2013 release) and hearing them in modern production is a treat. There’s some hard-rocking tracks, some classic New Orleans brass band music, sing-along songs, and Shorty pulls it all off with ease and virtuosity.
10. Tara Williamson – Lie Low EP
Tara just released this at the end of November, so I’ve only had a few weeks to let it sink in but it’s been on repeat. A well-overdue debut from Tara, she’s a smart singer-songwriter-pianist out of Nogojiwanong/Peterborough worth watching out for. Operatic pipes meeting a jazz sensibility with some cabaret sass, and she’s got a killer group of some of Peterborough’s finest musicians backing her up.Honorable mentions: Leanne Simpson’s Islands of Decolonial Love, Kristi Lane Sinclair’s The Sea Alone, Shining Soul’s Sonic Smash, Old Money’s Fire In The Dark, Chris Dave and the Drumheadz, Northern Voice – Dance of the Moon, Cakes Da Killa – The Eulogy, Le1f’s Fly Zone and Tree House, Beaatz, Impossible Nothing, Kinnie Starr, and K-Otic One’s Idle No More mixtape. I haven’t even checked out the latest releases from Gorguts and Four Tet. (ok, and I’m listening to Kanye and Drake a lot as well. I know, I know.)
Clearly, I have narrowing music down into top tens. My stance is always that my favourite music is what I’ve yet to listen to, and making new musical discoveries is one of my greatest pleasures.
In conjunction with her forthcoming collection of short stories, Islands of Decolonial Love, my friend Leanne Simpson teamed up with musicians to record some of her writing as spoken word/musical performances.
I wrote and performed the music to “Identity Impaired”, and the album also features music from Nick Ferrio, Tara Williamson, Sarah Decarlo, A Tribe Called Red, Sean Conway, and Cris Derksen.
I spoke with Alan Neal from CBC Radio One Ottawa’s All In A Day about the Honour the Apology rally I helped to organize in Ottawa. We spoke about the importance of the federal government’s full co-operation with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and my own experience with residential schools archival research. You can hear the interview here.
Heather Anderson will moderate a conversation with Rebecca Belmore (Winnipeg), Ursula Johnson (Cape Breton), and Melody McKiver (Ottawa), in conjunction with Rebecca Belmore | What Is Said and What Is Done. Belmore is renowned for powerful works in performance, sculpture, photography, and video that through spare and exacting means examine sites of historical and contemporary trauma and injustices, in particular those resulting from history of contact between European settler and Indigenous populations.
In recognition of Belmore’s path-breaking work, and on the occasion of the National Gallery of Canada’s landmark Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art, we’re broadening the conversation, inviting two rising Indigenous rising artists to join Belmore in conversation. Ursula Johnson, a Mi’kmaw artist currently residing on the Eskasoni Reserve in Cape Breton, creates performances and sculptures that frequently incorporate and transform the traditional basket weaving she learned from her great grandmother, artist Caroline Gould. Ottawa-based Anishinaabe Melody McKiver is a musician and media artist. The conversation will take each artist’s practice as a point of departure and reflect upon what it means to be a contemporary Indigenous artist today.
Rebecca Belmore was born in Upsala, Ontario, and lives in Winnipeg. She represented Canada at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005, the first Indigenous woman to do so. The Anishinaabe artist’s work has been included in important exhibitions including Close Encounters (2011), Global Feminisms (2007), the Biennale of Sydney (2006), Land, Spirit, Power (1992), and the IV Havana Biennial (1991). The Vancouver Art Gallery mounted a major survey Rebecca Belmore: Rising to the Occasion in 2008. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2009 Hnatyshyn Award and a 2013 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.
Ursula Johnson has a BFA (2006) from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where she studied photography, drawing, and textiles. Johnson descends from a long line of Mi’kmaw Artists, including her late great grandmother, Caroline Gould, from whom she learned basket making. In 2010 she curated Klokowej: A 30-Year Retrospective commemorating Gould’s contribution to the evolution of Mi’kmaw basketry. Several of her performances, including Elmiet(2010), Basket Weaving (2011), and L’nuwelti (We Are Indian) (2012), incorporate basketry as a key element, and draw on her studies in theatre. Recent exhibitions include Basket Weaving, Planet IndigenUS Festival and Material Wealth: Revealing Landscape at Harbourfront Centre (2012), and L’nuk (In Collaboration with Jordan A. Bennett), Anna Leonowens Gallery, Halifax (2012) and The Other Gallery, Banff AB (2010). Johnson lives on the Eskasoni First Nation on Cape Breton Island.
Melody McKiver is an Anishinaabe multi-instrumentalist, improviser, interdisciplinary media artist and researcher. As a solo performer, she explores the range of the viola’s possibilities, from minimalist to danceable, often incorporating laptop processing and looping. Within media arts, she works with digital video and photography to capture images of Indigenous resurgence, and uses this footage both editorially and within video and sound art. McKiver is affiliated with Tribal Spirit Music and plays drums with Toronto’s Indigenous hip-hop fusion band Red Slam Collective. She also records and produces digital media under the pseudonym Gitochige. McKiver is currently completing a MA in Ethnomusicology at Memorial University of Newfoundland. She holds a BFA Honours Major in Music, Minor in Race, Ethnicity & Indigeneity from York University (2010). She currently splits her time between Ottawa and Toronto.
I’m happy to announce that I am beginning a year-long residency with Artengine and Apartment613 as Critical Blogging Resident. I’m excited to begin this partnership with a trip to the Elektra Festival in Montreal from May 1-5, and will be using the blogs throughout the next year as creative spaces for critical discourse around the media arts and creative technological expression.
Some of my happiest moments in Newfoundland were spent last spring as the East Coast Trail began to thaw and the icebergs floated by the coast. I’ve been missing the land and my friends a lot recently. What started off with a single black and white photo I edited was jokingly dubbed “Newfoundland Gothic” by a friend in the shot, and inspired this mini-series. These photos were taken on March 18, hiking the Brigus Head Path of the East Coast Trail, and on March 19 road tripping up the Bonavista Peninsula to spot the first iceberg of the year and walk out onto the pack ice.