The best albums and shows of the year according to our music writers
Top 5 albums
1. The Bats, Free All the Monsters (Flying Nun Records)
New Zealand’s finest pop band drop their best record yet, 29 years into an unparalleled career.
2. The Feelies, Here Before (Bar/None)
These minimalist pop heroes return out of near-nowhere with an album that stands up to their classic Crazy Rhythms.
3. Real Estate, Days (Domino)
A sophomoric triumph from these fine purveyors of jangly pop and rock.
4. A Winged Victory for the Sullen, A Winged Victory for the Sullen (Kranky)
Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltzie unleash pure instrumental bliss.
5. Al Tuck, Under Your Shadow (New Scotland Records)
Canada’s best songwriter graces us with an album of beauty, sadness, humour and hope.
Best show: Colin Stetson + Tim Hecker at La Sala Rossa
Montreal titans co-headline this double album launch for the most important records of their young careers. Who could ask for anything more?
Top 5 shows
1. Portishead at Quai Jacques-Cartier
Outdoors, on a chilly fall Friday, their Wandering Star unplugged rendition moved people to tears (no shit).
2. Amon Tobin at Métropolis
His organic electronic music was perfectly complemented by out-of-this-world visuals.
3. Kyuss at L’Olympia
An unexpected comeback from the stoner/desert rock pioneers. Flabbergasted.
4. Melissa Auf der Maur at La Tulipe
For the songs, the concept (a three-part, one-night-only show) and the very special guest (Shining’s sax-blasting frontman).
5. Groovy Aardvark at Métropolis
This reunion show was 45 minutes of pure prog-alternative goodness. Thanks Vince and co.
Best album: Dopethrone, Dark Foil
Where were you guys all these years? Blackened sludge has never sounded heavier, meaner, groovier.
Top 5 albums
1. Handsome Furs, Sound Kapital (Sub Pop)
The electro-rock duo formed by Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry shines more than ever on this fierce, tight and catchy-as-fuck third LP.
2. Efrim Manuel Menuck, Plays "High Gospel" (Constellation)
The GY!BE/Silver Mt. Zion member leads us into frightening, fascinating alien soundscapes and moments of exquisite beauty.
3. Charles Bradley, No Time for Dreaming (Daptone)
These heartbreaking soul songs pack one hell of an emotional wallop.
4. Adam & The Amethysts, Flickering Flashlight (Kelp)
Twelve dreamy folk-pop gems crafted with skill and care by Adam Waito and co.
5. Tori Amos, Night of Hunters (Deutsche Grammophon)
An astonishingly sophisticated, rich and moving song-cycle built on themes from classical composers, not unlike Philippe B’s Variations fantômes.
Best show: Prince at Métropolis and Bell Centre
An intimate funk fest and a crazy dance-pop arena show, both fuelled by the genius of Prince.
Top 5 albums
1. Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, YT // ST (Psychic Handshake)
YT // ST‘s supercharged culture clash was a fourth-world infusion of the future.
2. Colin Stetson, New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (Constellation)
The sax-wielding dark horse stampeded 2011 with circular breathing fury.
3. The Offset: Spectacles, LP (Rose Mansion Analog)
Beijing’s drumless revolutionaries reanimated ghosts of rock past.
4. Femminielli, Carte blanche aux désirs (Los Discos Enfantasmes)
Montreal’s neo-Italo superstar put the death back in disco.
5. Lantern, Stranger I Come. Stranger I Leave. (Night People)
Bo’s beats and Hasil’s hunches got a jolt of swagger from this killer Philly trio.
Best label: Los Discos Enfantasmes
Stylish die-cut sleeves and a wealth of mesmerizing sounds made the Montreal tape label tops.
This was an extraordinary, even unprecedented, year for local albums. It’s almost dumbfounding.
Please seek out the exceptional records by Colin Stetson, Adam & The Amethysts, Pat Jordache, Young Galaxy, The Luyas, James Irwin, Little Scream, Efrim Menuck, Tim Hecker, Snailhouse, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, Moonface, Timber Timbre, Mozart’s Sister – and the Miracle Fortress song Miscalculations.
My two favourite LPs of 2011 were the ones released by Colin Stetson and PJ Harvey.
Best local gig: Barely edging out the steamy glint of Bombino’s show at Balattou, the winners are Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, whose Montreal debut was almost a perfect concert – expert, humble, so many different sides of a single beautiful thing.
Top 5 albums
1. Passwords, Passwords (Mercy)
What can I say? I’m a sucker for Britpop-inspired, Wolf Parade-infused indie rock!
2. Buddy McNeil & The Magic Mirrors, Introducing Once Again (Indie)
These local rock ‘n’ roll mateys delivered great surf and turf.
3. Mister Heavenly, Out of Love (Sub Pop)
This supergroup lived up to expectations with their "doom wop" debut.
4. Heavy Soundz, Tumba Parlantes (Del Mondongo)
This local Latin rap collective released a groovy CD that transcends languages and makes everybody bounce.
5. No Joy, Ghost Blonde (Mexican Summer)
Officially released in December 2010, this shoegaze album is still played often at home.
Best show: Hollerado at La Petite Boîte Noire
While it wasn’t Hollerado’s best performance, it was on my birthday, La Petite Boîte Noire is a nice loft venue in Sherbrooke, they played Queen and Weezer covers after their set, I drank too many shots and I got laid afterwards. So, yeah, it was a great show.