Nicholas’ Personal Best of 2019 – Top 20 Albums

Kitzl – 40 Moons That We Know Of [self-released]

Bombnivours – Metamorphonic [self-released]

Waxlimbs – The Autumn Bell [self-released]

Iamthemorning – The Bell [Kscope]

Mappe Of – The Isle of Ailynn [Paper Bag Records]

MIMICO – Hi-Action [Hand Drawn Dracula]

Devours – Iconoclast [Artoffact Records]

Clara Engel – Where a City Once Drowned: The Bethlehem Tapes Vol. II [self-released]

Most People – Call Me Up [self-released]

A Formal Horse – Here Comes A Man From The Council With A Flamethrower [self-released]

Mark Wylie – Moments [self-released]

Bent Knee – You Know What They Mean [Inside Out Music]

Bleu Nuit – Le jardin des mémoires [Michel Records]

Flore Laurentienne – Vol 1 [Costume Records]

Angel Bat Dawid – The Oracle [International Anthem]

Hymns57 – Peyote Road Burn [self-released]

Eric Thorfinnson – Qwag [self-released]

Warez – Warez [self-released]

Organ Mood – Indivisible [Dare To Care Records]

Courtney Swain – Between Blood and Ocean [self-released]

Honourable Mentions: nêhiyawak – nipiy [Arts & Crafts] / Archipelago – Archipelago [s/r] / Eine Kleine China – User Illusion II [Boat Dreams From The Hill] / Sunglaciers – Foreign Bodies [s/r] / The Moon Runners – Wakeless 2096 [s/r] / Sarah Pagé – Dose Curves [Forward Music Group] / Colliding Canyons – Desert Ballads [s/r] / Comedy For Airports – Ambient 1: Comedy for Airports [s/r] / Matmos – Plastic Anniversary [Thrill Jockey] / Darkroom – The Noise Is Unrest [s/r]

NOTE: This list is in nonhierarchical order 😉 ❤

Baffled Octopi/Coast to Coast to Coast Top 25 Canadian Albums of 2019

by Mark Anthony Brennan


25. “Allo Futur” by Claude l’Anthrope
Claude Sophie Périard indulges in delicious beats.


DRi HIEV’s debut full-length is packed with cleverly arranged industrial beats and noise.


23. “Honey” by lungbutter
Art-punk meets doom/sludge. It’s like thick, tasty molasses.


22. “Dark Beings” by LAL
Both dark and bubbly, this neo-soul/electronic album is slinky and satisfying.


21. “Salt” by Blessed
Blessed proves they are one of the premier alternative bands around. A poised album, with both warmth and edginess.

20. “Above All Else” by redress
Victoria experimental artist scores big with minimalist electronics and highly personal vocals.


19. “Dear Bongo” by Motherhood
Fredericton’s Motherhood manage to make a cohesive statement, despite pulling out everything from doom rock to electronica and artsy punk.


18. “V” by Swim Team
Vancouver trio like to play improv-style, but they always seem to have complete control of their avant-pop/experimental garage sound.


17. “Stillness and Stars 2” by Stillness and Stars
Prog rock never sounded as fresh and relevant as this.


16. “Pity Party” by Slut Prophet
Noisy and wild punk, with a wicked, sly sense of humour.


15. “Every House Has a Light On” by TETRIX
TETRIX combine throw-back accordion with current doom-laden psych.


14. “Le jardin des mémoires” by Bleu Nuit
Post-punk in attitude but catchy and engaging in its delivery.


13. “Have You Met Elliott?” by Hélène Barbier
Have You Heard Hélène Barbier? If not you are missing out on her quirky vocals and sly (sometimes dark) arrangements.


12. “Foreign Bodies” by Sunglaciers
Shoegazey, melodic, gritty and edgy. All smoothly delivered by Sunglaciers.


11. “The Same But By Different Means” by Yves Jarvis
Formerly known as Un Blond, Jarvis continues to expand his musical universe with transcendent coolness.


10. “A Gaze Among Them” by B I G | B R A V E
Experimental posr-rock with heavy emphasis on thundering percussion and bass.


9. “Significant Changes” by Jayda G
Intricate textures and intriguing beats are rife on this electronic/house/soul release.


8. “Metamorphonic” by Bombnivores
This Halifax duo crank out coolly modern, slick and groove-based music.


7. “The Strange One” by MNGWA
This Vancouver collective serve up feisty world music like you’ve never heard. Exciting and multicultural, with impressive progressive touches.

6. “C’est ça” by Fly Pan Am
Fly Pan Am are veterans, but ‘C’est ça’ beats the pants pants off any contemporaries in the realm of avant/post-rock.

5. “Flowers for S” by Usse
With a solid foot in free-form jazz, Usse come up with the most impressive experimental/electronic album of the year.

4. “Primitive Feelings” (Parts I & II) by The High Dials
A delightful and clever blend of styles that makes for a trippy, cool, exciting, and groovy ride.

3. “Age Hasn’t Spoiled You” by Greys
Waves of grungy noise punctuated with islands of relative calm. This is, however, a highly focused album with fierce intensity.

2. “When I say to you Black Lightning” by Common Holly
Brigitte Naggar’s sophomore effort varies from folk to slinky rock and never lets up on emotional content.

1. “Warrior Down” by WHOOP-Szo
The Guelph band reaches new heights (and depths) on this concept album. The emotional power pushes through the heavy weight of their devastating music.

Album Reviews: Bombnivores/Mallsex/Common Holly/Hélène Barbier/Usse

Reviews by Mark Anthony Brennan

‘Metamorphonic’  by Bombnivores

(Halifax)bombnivores 4

Halifax is known is a major regional music centre, but one would hardly expect something as coolly modern, slick and groove-based as Bombnivores. Even more impressive is that it all comes from the minds of two individuals: Jamie Larade (drums, samples, bass) & Sheldon Kelly (vocals, keys, bass.)

Kelly’s soft vocals ease into your soul by osmosis, while Larade’s percussion keeps things grounded. Songs like “Watching the Heat Curve” could simply float off into the ether but the nice, fat rhythm section keeps your toes tapping on Earth.

Killer track:  “Sunset Splitter”

‘Live in Reverse’  by Mallsex


Opening track “The Crux” starts in a blaze of distorted, strident guitar. Hellish, you may think. The song then settles into a beat and the vocals come in. Normality? Hardly. This is when the real hell starts.

Mining element of gothic post-punk, this Vancouver trio present a dark offering of synth-washed rock. Vocals are majestic, in a mournful, foreboding way, while the garagey beats get you dancing with the Devil.

Killer track: “Sewer Bells”

‘When I say to you Black Lightning’  by Common Holly


Brigitte Naggar (aka Common Holly) follows up her excellent debut (2017’s ‘Playing House’) with an impressive, more experimental work. Her vocal and lyrical honesty is still on full display but there is an edginess, and perhaps a sense of fear of an ugly world. For example, on “Uuu” her voice is light, whimsical even, but the subject matter is anything but, (“You’re throwing on logs/Trying to silence the ones/The ones that contradict you”).

‘When I say to you Black Lightning’ works on all levels. It varies from folk (“Little Down”) to slinky rock (“Joshua Snakes”) and never lets up on emotional content.

Killer Track:  “Joshua Snakes”

‘Have You Met Elliott?’  by Hélène Barbier


Hélène Barbier is another excellent singer-songwriter who follows her own unique path. Her vocal delivery is sweet and soft, and often deceivingly so. On “Cold” there’s an atonal quality to the music that provides a dark edge, while “Discipline Alley” has an overall nervousness to it.

Although she relies on invoking a sense of unease within her listeners, Barbier herself is comfortable in her own creative skin, slipping from a gentle whisper in your ear to the voice of alarm (such as on “Country Club”).

Killer track:  “She is a Bully”

‘Flowers for S’  by Usse

(Saint John, NB)usse

Usse hail from Saint John, NB, but frankly sound more like an illustrious member of the Montreal post-rock crowd. ‘Flowers for S’ is perhaps the finest example of electronic experimentalism we’ve heard all year.

With a solid foot in free-form jazz, this collective’s music is as much improvised (or more) as it is composed, as evidenced on the 13 minute epic “Imaginative Sympathy / Retreat”. Even the shorter, more concise numbers, such as “Free Speech Apologist Technologies”, have a flowing, unbridled feel, while the politically-charged “Hegemony” stops and starts with hesitancy.

The album is a wonderful example of apparent chaos packaged in aesthetically pleasing chunks.

Killer track:  “Hegemony”

“Half Smoke” by Walrus

Halifax’s Walrus release a new single “Half Smoke” and recruit none other than Chad VanGaalen to do another of his fantastical animations.

“The ‘Half-Smoke’ video started out as a story about life on the road,” VanGaalen says. “It then quickly derailed into synchronised psychedelic abstractions. I love it when this happens.”

“Half Smoke” will appear on Walrus’s upcoming ‘Cool to You’ album (Oct).


“Take Care” by Mauno

One of our favourites bands, Mauno, put out a video, as band members Nick Everett and Eliza Niemi get a surprise while delivering parcels. As directed by Max Taeuschel, it can be jarring and surprising, much like the band’s music.

“Take Care” is a play on words,” says Niemi, “it’s about caregiving as a woman, and also about saying goodbye. It is about filling the role of taking care of someone and self-identifying through that, while simultaneously resenting the expectation of having to do so. The chorus begins hinting at waiting for a relationship to finally feel reciprocal, and ends with the reveal of me actually waiting for it to fall apart / knowing all along that it was doomed.”