For the third year in a row, we’re putting together what we hope is a fairly comprehensive look at notable album releases out of Vancouver. We’re looking at both high-profile albums as well as a selection of some of our favourites that might not have received the recognition they deserve.
But first, let’s start with an overview of the year in album releases. And any round-up of Vancouver music in 2016 must, rightfully, start off with the band that not only made more critics’ year-end best-of lists than any other Vancouver act, but which appeared on more lists than any other punk rock group, period.
And that was White Lung.
Sorry, Green Day.
Paradise, the band’s fourth full-length, simply blew critics away. NME, Rolling Stone, AV Club, Spin, Esquire and Entertainment Weekly were among the tastemakers who included the record in their year-end lists.
“… Paradise captures more than just a band expanding their sonic arsenal,” wrote Matt Melis on consequenceofsound.net. “(Mish) Barber-Way’s vocals now soar to match her sneer, she steps outside herself to write from various perspectives, and she challenges modern conceptions of feminism, even her own.” Rolling Stone‘s praise was different, though no less effusive: “On Paradise, singer Mish Barber-Way no longer growls like a tortured gremlin, instead singing about trailer-park aspirations (‘Kiss Me When I Bleed’) and real-life serial killers (‘Demented,’ ‘Sister’).”
Other local acts to pop up in year-end lists include Black Mountain and Carly Rae Jepsen (and yes, we consider the “Call Me Maybe” hitmaker a hometown artist, even though she’s originally from Mission, B.C.). Psych-rockers Black Mountain released IV, their first new album in six years, while Jepsen offered up an eight-song digital-only release of out-takes from her 2015 album E•MO•TION.
While we’re on the subject of pop, can we include Tegan and Sara? One of the Quin sisters lived in Vancouver at one time, though we’re not sure if she still does, and several of their backing musicians came from here as well. That said, the Quin twins (originally from Calgary) have been touring with L.A.-based musicians in support of their 2016 album Love You to Death. Their slickest effort yet, the record also made several year-end best-ofs (including #9 on Rolling Stone’s Best Pop Albums of 2016).
Meanwhile, Hot Hot Heat surprised many who had given up on new material from the new-wave post-rockers by releasing their fifth (and final, according to the band) album, a self-titled release. Blues-rock band No Sinner finally released its long-awaited second album, Old Habits Die Hard.
Maybe it’s a case of taking consistently strong bands for granted, but Pack A.D. released a criminally overlooked new record – Positive Thinking was the cyber-punk/blues-rock duo’s sixth full-length, and one of its best.
Not to be out-done, The Evaporators’ seventh full-length Ogopogo Punk gave listeners much to think about with tracks such as “I Can’t Be Shaved,” “Eat to Win” and “Mohawks + Dreadlocks.” The surf-punk-garage-rock combo led by irascible radio/TV personality Nardwuar the Human Serviette never fails to amuse, and this time out they even recruited Seattle cartoonist Peter Bagge to contribute cover art.
Straddling the line between emerging and established – i.e., artists overdue for a break-through release – Sex With Strangers and Brasstronaut also released new records this year. The former’s Discourse is the sixth full-length from the prog-new-wave act; the latter, a genre-bending sextet (with members in Vancouver, Winnipeg and New York), released their third album (and first in four years). A self-titled release, Brasstronaut received an 8/10 from exclaim.ca.
And special mention must be made of Veda Hille. One of the city’s finest songwriters, Hille released two albums this year – the 18-song soundtrack that accompanied Onegin, an acclaimed new stage version of the classic Pushkin story, and Love Waves. The latter is her latest in a long line of solo records (dating back to her first self-released cassette, in 1992), and received some attention – exclaim.ca gave it a 9/10, and the Georgia Straight’s Alexander Varty selected it for his year-end best-of list– though probably not as much as it deserves.
Next, we’ll look at albums from less-established and up-and-coming Vancouver artists who also released records in 2016 worth checking out.
Addendum: in our rush to post, we almost forgot another VIR (Very Important Release). In the eighties and early nineties, Art Bergmann was a mainstay on the Vancouver music scene, first as the frontman for punk band the Young Canadians, then in Poisoned, and finally with a number of critically acclaimed solo albums. The Apostate, released early this year, was a triumphant comeback, and his first album of new material since 1995’s What Fresh Hell is This?