12 months-end evaluate: Eric Volmers' favorite native albums of 2023

12 months-end evaluate: Eric Volmers' favorite native albums of 2023

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Calgarians and Calgary expats launched some unimaginable music this yr, whether or not or not it’s business veterans or relative newcomers. Listed below are a few of my favourites.

Braids
Calgary-born band, The Braids. Picture by Melissa Gamache jpg

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Braids

Euphoric Recall

Key observe: Left/Proper

Braids haven’t been a Calgary band since 2007 when most members have been barely out of highschool. Nonetheless, vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston, drummer Austin Tufts and multi-instrumentalist Taylor Smith proceed to supply formidable, hard-to-define pop music so we would as effectively lay declare to them. There will not be something right here as instantly gratifying because the band’s 2020 synth-pop gem Younger Buck, however Euphoric Recall is a grower that advantages from repeat spins. Evolution and Apple are each exquisitely constructed pop songs with chill grooves. The layered Fortunate Star is a mournful, art-pop hymn. Standout observe Left/Proper is a fragile stream-of-conscious stunner that’s one way or the other each heartbreaking and uplifting.

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Shane Ghostkeeper.
Shane Ghostkeeper. Picture by Heather Saitz jpg

Shane Ghostkeeper

Songs for My Folks

Key Monitor: Starvation Strike

Talking of heartbreaking and uplifting: Shane Ghostkeeper’s tune Starvation Strike might have been impressed by his grandfather’s choice to finish his life, however it’s a rollicking sing-a-long that finds the Calgary singer-songwriter celebrating his maternal grandparents’ life-long romance. Songs for My Folks was meant to honour the musical choice of Ghostkeeper’s household when he was rising up in northern Alberta communities similar to Paddle Prairie, Excessive Stage and Rocky Lane. They have been nation followers and Ghostkeeper gives sufficient twang to qualify – take a look at the mournful steel-guitar backing on lovely ballads similar to Ghost and Why Do I Disguise – however that is hardly straight-up nation music. He might have reined within the extra experimental bent he leans towards as chief of his namesake dark-folk, psychedelic act, however there are nonetheless some great musical surprises. That features his trademark off-kilter phrasing, shiny guitar-pop gems similar to V Chill and even a haunting cowl of the outdated gospel conventional Only a Nearer Stroll with Thee.

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Julius Sumner Miller.
Julius Sumner Miller, from left, Darren Ollinger, Rob Gruszecki, Wealthy MacFarlane, Sean Hamilton, Dean Rud. jpg

Julius Sumner Miller

No person Cares

Key Monitor: Talking of Cults

On the floor, it could appear as if this decade-old band has developed previous their straight-ahead punk-rock roots on its fifth album. Sure, there’s an unsettlingly cheery youngsters’s choir at the beginning of the stand-out observe Talking of Cults, which is seemingly an precise recording lifted from YouTube of a youngsters’s choir from American cult chief Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple. Additionally, whereas it could take a number of bars to sink it, that’s certainly Bryan Adams’ numbingly earnest 1983 ballad Heaven that the band turns right into a full of life, hard-rock anthem. However, concern not punk followers, the album can also be stuffed with endearingly quick, loud and catchy bangers such because the livid 43-second title observe and irreverently confrontational Rage is a Completely Legitimate Response.

Kue Varo
Kue Varo and the Solely Hopes launched Cowboy Witchcraft on Oct. 13. Picture by Heather Saitz

Kue Varo and the Solely Hopes

Cowboy Witchcraft

Key Monitor: Winter Lining

Launched as an early single, Kue Varo and the Solely Hopes’ breezy Yip Yip is a type of instantly memorable guitar-pop tunes that burrows into your consciousness after just one hear. Whereas it could appear laborious to high, what’s miraculous about Cowboy Witchcraft is that this is just one of 10 extraordinary and equally memorable tracks discovered on the album. The band could also be comparatively new, however they showcase a fully-formed sound and sensibility right here, hitting peak after peak with moody rockers similar to Furthest Place, the punchy Pretenders-like I Simply Don’t Care and the soulful and melancholic Winter Lining. It’s simply among the best albums from Calgary, or anyplace for that matter, this yr.

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The Lovebullies
The Lovebullies, from left, Caroline Connolly, Paul Jahn, Chantal Vitalis, and Joni Brent. Not pictured is Andrea Revel. Courtesy, Jeremy Fokkens Picture by JEREMY FOKKENS /jpg

The Lovebullies

Someplace

Key observe: This Woman

One of many metropolis’s premiere dwell acts, The Lovebullies has been unusually prolific within the studio as of late. That is the five-piece band’s second album in two years, providing one other stockpile of killer tracks such because the girl-group leaning This Woman, snappy rockabilly of Drive of One and candy and wistful ballad Home of Chandeliers. Recorded on the Nationwide Music Centre, Someplace mixes pop smarts with an understated musical virtuosity, significantly within the twin-guitar showdowns between Chantal Vitalis and latest Lovebully Andrea Revel. These songs could seem custom-built for the stage, however that doesn’t take away from the songwriting craft and studio savvy that went into the 11 tracks.

Jessica McMann
Jessica McMann. Picture by Candace Ward jpg

Jessica McCann

Prairie Nightfall

Key Monitor: Lament for Small Souls

On Prairie Nightfall, classical flautist and composer Jessica McMann gives soundscapes which can be each haunting and delightful. Mesmerizing instrumental prospers come courtesy of McMann’s delicate taking part in and the backing of first-rate musicians, together with American Navajo pianist Connor Chee and violist Holly Bhattacharya. In the meantime, Mountain Prairie incorporates a beautiful vocal efficiency by Metis baritone Jonathon Adams. The compositions have been knowledgeable by McMann’s Cree tradition, which is especially evident on Lament for Small Souls. The beautiful composition was impressed by the invention of unmarked graves of residential schoolchildren and mixes conventional Cree vocals with stirring and ghostly flute traces.

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Miesha and the Spanks
Sean Hamilton and Miesha Louie of Miesha and the Spanks. Picture by Sebastian Buzzalino, Unfolding Inventive jpg

Miesha and the Spanks

Unconditional Love in Hello-Fi

Key Monitor: GRLSROK

Miesha Louie has been fronting varied incarnations of this duo for greater than a decade however might have hit a peak with this multi-layered rock album that showcases each a deepening track craft and a number of the finest live-wire guitar riffs you’ll hear this yr. Her debut for iconic Vancouver indie label Mint Information, Unconditional Love in Hello Fi doesn’t flip down the amount– the thundering GRLSROCK is likely one of the yr’s finest rock anthems – however Louie tackles some darkish, private terrain with spectacular maturity, whether or not it’s exploring her Indigenous heritage with the livid and metallic Dig Me Out, her father’s loss of life with the largely spoken-word Bear Children, or motherhood and body-image with Mother Denims/Mother Genes.

Sargeant X Comrade
Sargeant X Comrade, that includes Evgeniy Bykovets and Yolanda Sargeant, launched their third album on Aug. 4. Picture by Unfolding Inventive Images jpg

Sargeant X Comrade

Lo Fi Future

Key Monitor: Travelin’ In Area

On 2020’s Magic Radio and 2021’s The Elephant within the Room, vocalist Yolanda Sargeant and producer Evgeniy Bykovets showcased each studio wizardry and glistening soul with creative mashups and chill grooves. On their third album, Lo Fi Future, the duo float to new heights with a looser vibe – apparently a lot of the album was improvised on the Nationwide Music Centre throughout collaborations with keyboardist Ravi Poliah, percussionist Luis Tovar, vocalists The Torchettes and the late Marvin Kee on guitar and bass – that nonetheless nonetheless sound meticulously crafted. The grooves are sometimes mellow, however that doesn’t dampen the playfulness of the trippy sci-fi leaning Escape the Matrix or the shape-shifting When the Stars Align, which races from jazz-piano virtuosity, to torch-song croon, to rhythmic hip-hop all inside a stunning four-minute stretch.

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Rae Spoon
Canadian musician and author Rae Spoon was photographed with the backdrop of murals at containR Park in Calgary. Picture by Gavin Younger /Postmedia

Rae Spoon

Not Useless But

Key Monitor: Shake Shake Shake

Calgary expat Rae Spoon’s courageous, unwavering activism after being recognized with cervical most cancers in March 2020 might very effectively have eclipsed their music. However you don’t have to concentrate on their admirable efforts to encourage the health-care system to be extra delicate to non-binary and gender-variant sufferers to be struck by the ability of their current album. Not Useless But chronicles some decidedly darkish moments within the non-binary singer-songwriter’s current previous, providing some sometimes unsettling truths about mortality and prejudice. But it surely’s additionally wrapped in Spoon’s canny pop smarts, making it each sobering and celebratory on the similar time. ICU, Shake Shake Shake and WTFIT is exhilarating pop music at its finest from one in all Canada’s best songwriters.

Bella White
Bella White has launched her second album. Picture by Bree Fish jpg

Bella White

Amongst Different Issues

Key Monitor: The Method I Outta Go

At solely 22 years outdated, Calgary expat Bella White has had a number of whirlwind years which have seen her turn into one in all nation’s most talked-about up-and-comers. Her current look on the Starvation Video games soundtrack ought to solely speed up her upward climb, however it solely takes a number of bars of The Method I Outta Go – the opening observe on her sophomore album – to listen to an genuine damage in her voice that sounds far past her years. The mid-tempo nation rockers  Break My Coronary heart and Numbers sound immediately timeless and White showcases a expertise for fantastically aching ballads on Price My Whereas and the title observe.

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Albums to get enthusiastic about in 2024

Erin Ross

The Wind Will Lead Me Dwelling

Launch date: February 2024

Erin Ross has been a mainstay on Calgary levels for greater than a decade, showcasing a knack for including a private contact to the blues-roots style. For her debut album, she went to Nashville to report with Canadian expat producer Steve Dawson and a few of Music Metropolis’s best session gamers. Given her assured command of roots music, mixed with Dawson’s studio wizardry, her debut album guarantees to be well worth the wait

Sunglaciers

Common Nature

Launch date: March 2024

This Calgary four-piece has spent a great deal of time on the highway post-COVID, which probably solely sharpened their spectacular expertise as purveyors of post-punk and unhinged synth-pop. The band’s sophomore report, 2022’s Subterranea, discovered them tightening their songs with out dropping their sense of sonic journey with spectacular outcomes.

Emily Triggs

TBA

Launch date: March 2024

Anybody who has heard Trigg’s exceptional solo albums – 2019’s Middletown and 2014’s When Guinevere Went Underneath – is aware of the Calgary performer is likely one of the finest songsmiths within the metropolis. So information that she has been busy recording with Calgary expat and Neko Case guitarist Paul Rigby is particular trigger for celebration, significantly for individuals who have gotten sneak peeks of some new materials at her dwell exhibits.

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