It has been another eventful year in Calgary’s music scene — one that theYYSCENE has been proud to help cover since its Jan. 19, 2017 inception.
We’re still growing, still finding our footing and people are still finding us, so by no means has the entirety of what the city’s music-makers have to offer been showcased. Local hip-hop and EDM, for example, remain styles that have been given short shrift on the site, but we hope to rectify that as we enter our second year and expand our reach.
So, with that said, let’s celebrate what we did hear.
Here are the Top 5 local full-length albums that made their way to our ears this past year. (Please note: We want many, many more to make their way to us in 2018, so please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have an album you’re set to release — we’ll do what we can to help get it out there.)
1. Napalmpom — The Core Competencies of Napalmpom/The Dudes — East Side Good Times 5: Cop out? Sure. But even with a gun held to the head how does one choose between the two best Calgary rock bands at the height of their powers? One doesn’t. The ’Poms’ Feb-delivered sophomore offering is a slick, supple sonic time capsule of ’70s pop-rock with a whole lotta soul — never sounding musty or stale, but as fresh and awesome as the fireworks banging in the New Year. As for The Dudes’ December-dropped latest, well, frontman Danny Vacon remains Calrock’s unkempt, incorrigible, tattooed imp, churning out carpe diem anthem after carpe diem anthem, celebrating the good times while embracing the broken hearts and hangovers that are the inevitability of livin’ life to its fullest. Two local classics to bookend a pretty fantastic year in yyc.
2. Tom Phillips — Plastic Machine: It took the music of others and newfound sobriety to send the local roots king down the path towards his finest collection of songs to date in an already lengthy and luminous career. The follow-up to his magnificent covers album, 2015’s Mr. Superlove, finds Phillips backed by his tight and tasty Blues Can-assembled band The DTs and singing with clear voice and clearer insight into what happens when you let the bottle run dry after years of depending on it for your inspiration. It’s not a sombre, woe-is-me, preachy collection of material nor even a hamhanded cautionary tale, merely one man’s realization that sometimes, well, sometimes life can be a little fuller when you start from empty. Personal, powerful and often pretty, pretty stuff from one of Calgary’s finest lyrical craftsmen.
3. Raleigh — Powerhouse Bloom: From chamber pop to trippy pop, the evolution for the Calgary quartet is now fully, beautifully realized with their third full length. It’s nine tracks of lush, layered dream psych, with the vocal interplay between leads Brock Geiger and Clea Anaïs taking a Slowdive into Raleigh’s celestial waves of organic electro ambience created with the help of bandmates Matt Doherty and Will Maclellan, and other sonic collaborators, including members of Broken Social Scene. It’s experimental without being inaccessible, challenging while still being warm and welcoming for those who seek a little adventure with their melodiousness. In other words, a trip worth taking.
4. The Shiverettes — Dead Men Can’t Cat Call: The leaders of the local feminist rock movement came out swinging and kicking and curb-stomping with their full-length debut. It’s nine tracks and a rough half-hour of angry, crunchy, in-your-face, post-primitive punk delivered with an L7 snarl and a boot aimed straight at the crack of society and the pouch of the patriarchy. They’re an impossible act to ignore and they’re only going to get better, louder and, hopefully, angrier over time. (Listen to the Scene In the Wild Podcask with band and Femme Wave founders Hayley Muir and Kaely Cormack here.)
*5. Williams, Wayne & Isaak — Big City Back Country Blues: OK, the asterisk is because technically this probably shouldn’t be dubbed a local release, as two of the three artists on it — Kenny Wayne and Brandon Isaak — reside elsewhere. But we’re going to claim it as one of our own because the third of the trio is local blues legend Tim Williams. And because it’s so damn good. The three friends contribute four tracks each and fill things out together warmly, wonderfully, expertly and in a manner that makes it go down as smooth and easy as cold lemonade on a sun-baked southern Sunday afternoon.
Some more in no particular order of excellence: Al Muirhead’s Northern Adventures — The Canada Sessions Vol. 1, Julius Sumner Miller’s Rock Around the Radius, Crooked Spies’ High Plains, Mike Clark’s Forever People, Chad VanGaalen Light Information, Ghostkeeper Sheer Blouse Buffalo Knocks and Son of Ray’s Between Dust and a Dream.
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.com. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at email@example.com.