Best Vancouver albums 2011
– by Shawn Conner
The biggest musical success story, critically at least, out of Vancouver in 2011 would have to be Destroyer‘s Kaputt. Pitchfork picked the Dan Bejar-fronted group’s ninth album as the number two record of the year.
2011 also saw emerging local artists consolidating their success. Dan Mangan and Mother Mother, for instance, continued to win fans with third albums Oh Fortune and Eureka, respectively. The blues-based duo Pack A.D. expanded their sound with album number four, Unpersons. And Kathryn Calder received raves – including a notice from the New York Times – for her second album, Bright and Vivid.
But there were quite a few releases bubbling under, usually (but not always) debuts that maybe didn’t get as much attention as they deserved. We asked a few musician pals as well as music critics for suggestions and came up with the following list of notable Vancouver releases we think you should know about. (For reasons of space and time, we’ve restricted the main list to full-length albums; EPs and such however made the honourable mentions that follows.)
Our thanks to Stuart Derdeyn, Sarah Jickling, Mike Devlin, Kyle Harcott, Alex Hudson, Amanda Farrell-Low, Alan Ranta, Jesse Locke and Robyn Hanson for their suggestions.
Petunia and the Vipers, s/t – A debut album from the outfit, though yodeling frontman Petunia himself has been kicking around these parts playing live and recording for seven years or so. Petunia and the Vipers‘ rendition of Hoagy Carmichael‘s “Stardust” is a standout on a record of rockabilly and roots keepers.
Video – Petunia and the Vipers, “Cold Heartbreaker”:
Mitochondrian, Parasignosis (Profound Lore) – Metal blogs are showing lots of love for this band, whose latest is fast, ambitious, complex, and unafraid of Latin (sample track title: “Plague Evockation (Pestilentiam Intus Vocamus, Voluntatem Absolvimus Part I))”. Not your hesher uncle’s metal, that’s for sure.
Bocephus King, Willie Dixon God Damn! – One of the West Coast’s most under-appreciated songwriters, Bocephus Kinghas been recording his unique take on Americana (a mix of folk, blues, country, folk and pop) for over ten years. This album, his fifth, runs the gamut, from the acoustic intimacy of “The Epiphany of the Saints” to the epic arrangement of “The Myth of Philadelphia”.
MYTHS, s/t – This two-woman unit crashes the electro-rock party with a debut that is noisy and raging, chaotic and controlled, dark and not-quite-as-dark. Abrasively beautiful, or perhaps beautifully abrasive.
Video – MYTHS, “Prism Portraits”:
No Gold, s/t (Unfamiliar Records) – Guitar, bass and drums butt up against ultra-modern electro-pop production on this debut of hypnotic grooves, slinky melodies and tropical jams. You can hear the record on the No Gold Facebook page.
Dixie’s Death Pool, The Man With Flowering Hands (Drip Audio) – Dark-night-of-the-soul atmospherics dominate on this latest release from Lee Hutzulak. Bonus points for Guided By Voices-worthy track titles like “A Return to Science Fiction” and “Let’s Sleep on Beautiful Plans”.
Video – Dixie’s Death Pool, “Tranquilizer”:
Jackie Valentine, Building Walls and Burning Bridges (604 Records) – For this one, we’ll quote our esteemed colleague (and sometime Snipe contributor) Adrian Mack in the Georgia Straight: “… a scarily accomplished debut that sounds like the Jackson Five collaborating with ELO…”
Video – Jackie Valentine, “Someone to Go Home With”:
Terror Bird, Human Culture (Night People) – Heavy on the synths and Goth-’80s mood, but based around some solid pop songs.
Video – Terror Bird, “Shame Is On Your Side”:
Louise Burns, Mellow Drama (Light Organ Records) – The debut from former Lillix bassist Burns, Mellow Drama is an underrated album of crafty and catchy ’60s-influenced pop. Lovers of Beach House should check out the tune “Drop Names Not Bombs”. [Note: according to Burns' Twitter page, she currently resides in Toronto, but we believe she was still B.C.-based when the album was released earlier this year.]
Video – Louise Burns, “Island Vacation”:
41st and Home, Raised By Wolves – Insistent, large-hearted indie-pop from a self-sufficient five-piece featuring science students-turned-songwriters. There’s a little Sea & Cake in the vocals, a little Hey Rosetta! in the arrangements. Hear Raised By Wolves at the 41st and Home bandcamp page.
Honourable mentions – Shearing Pinx, Night Danger (Isolated Now Waves); The Oh Wells, Not That Girl From Transformers; Benoit Delbecq/Francois Houle, Because She Hoped (Songlines); Tyranahorse, Ghostwolfmotherhawk… ; Adaline, Modern Romantics (Light Organ); Adrian Glynn, Bruise (Light Organ Records); Scythia, … Of Exile; Longwalkshortdock, Bigger Fish Frying; Basketball, Maw (The Broadway to Boundary); Far Far Away, AstroLogical (Jellfyish Recordings); Secret Mommy, The Mall; Peace, My Face (Pop Echo Records); Wars, Pacey from Mighty Ducks.