This past year has seen a slew of great releases from Vancouver artists. Although few if any have been topping best-of lists in U.S. publications, quite a few of them have been popping up on lists by music critics closer to home. Here are some Vancouver releases that writers here and in Toronto have been picking for their 2013 10 best lists.
Veda Hille, Peter Panties – For this high-concept album, East Van singer/songwriter created a musical version of Peter Pan with a playwright with Down syndrome, and performed it with a group of 15-year-old boys. On his blog, MacLean’s music critic Michael Barclay writes that Peter Panties “is 18 songs of less than three minutes each that have better melodies than Broadway has heard in at least the last 20 years. Despite the odd concept and appropriated pop culture references, Peter Panties is not just silly and fun, it has actual fist-pumping anthems and tender ballads. In a career as productive and varied as Veda Hille’s, it seems strange to elevate something called Peter Panties to the top of her discography. Until you hear it.”
Louise Burns, The Midnight Mass – On her second album, Louise Burns worked with Sune Rose Wagner of Danish band The Raveonettes. The result, Vancouver writer Trevor Risk says in his list of Top Ten Indie Albums of 2013, is “a darker record than one might expect from her.”
The Ballantynes, Liquor Store Gun Store Pawn Shop Church – Trevor Risk again: “Vancouver’s The Ballantynes may be one of the only acts doing a straight-ahead version of this style [Northern soul], but they’re not lazy about it. With vintage Hammonds and powerful backups vocals, they are being true to the genre and making even young fans nostalgic for a time they don’t remember.” The release is actually a six-song EP, and you can hear it on The Ballantynes’ bandcamp page.
Shawn Mrazek Lives!, Thought He Was Dead – In his picks for 2013′s best, Alex Hudson, writing in Vancouver weekly The Georgia Straight, says “The title of ‘Love Is Bursting Through the Walls’ sums up the life-affirming spirit of this local drummer-turned-frontman’s big-hearted indie-rock anthems. With just eight songs in 19 minutes, it’s short enough to be considered an EP, but it has the emotional scope of a much larger project.” You can hear Thought He Was Dead on the Shawn Mrazek Lives! bandcamp page.
Nicholas Krgovich, Who Cares? – Hudson again: “The Vancouver-based P:ano/No Kids frontman goes solo for a collection of sad-sack acoustic laments, which are softly strummed and sung in a whisper. It takes restraint to release music with this much negative space, and the results are beautifully intimate.” Listen to it here.
Jordan Klassen, Repentance – Michael Barclay (again): “Yes, it’s another sensitive soul playing a lilting banjo on hushed songs and occasionally singing wordless choruses in falsetto. It doesn’t help that he describes his own music as ‘fairy folk.’ Except that this Vancouver songwriter has songs that silence any doubts, and instantly transport the listener away from urban hustle on a Rocky Mountain high.” Listen to it here.
Tough Age, s/t – John Lucas, writing in The Georgia Straight, calls the song “The Heart of Juliet Jones” “a perfect sock-hop bopper” and says that the Vancouver band “is pretty damn handy with fuzz-bombed garage rock, too.” Listen to it here.
We Are the City, Violent – Lucas calls this second album from the Vancouver trio “jaw-droppingly accomplished” and says We Are the City “uses pop songcraft, prog-rock bravado, and serious compositional chops as vehicles for lyrical introspection.” Watch the video for the song “Baptism” here.
Said the Whale, hawaiii – Lucas, again: “I’m not even going to say what a great, impeccably crafted indie-pop record hawaiii is because I don’t want it to go to Said the Whale’s collective head.” (Said the Whale plays two shows at the Commodore Ballroom Dec. 28.)