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 acoustic setting, 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.