Coast to Coast to Coast (Baffled Octopi) 25 Best Canadian Albums of 2022

by Mark Anthony Brennan

25. “Susans” by Susans

A delightful collection of harsh, art-punk mayhem from a crazy group from London, Ontario.

24. “We Found This” by Gloin

So-called “death rock” from Gloin is actually some dark, swirling post-punk with an experimental edge.

23. “Forget Your Own Face” by Black Dresses

Despite being abrasive, the noisy, industrial pop of Black Dresses (Devi McCallion and Ada Rook) is ultimately endearing.

22. “Ghost Woman” by Ghost Woman

In a year of excellent psych-rock, the western Canadian based group Ghost Woman rank highly with their self-titled album of blues-rock inflected psychedelia.

21. “Water & Tools” by Jairus Sharif

A startling album in its originality and execution, ‘Water and Tools’ is a wild trip through experimental hip-hop and free-jazz.

20. “Something’s Gotta Give!” by The John Denver Airport Conspiracy

The JDAC offer up track after track of exquisite garage-pysch, complete with some Grateful Dead-style instrumental excursions.

19. “LP1” by GODFREE

Montreal producer GODFREE brings in a host of collaborators on his album of irresistible beats, delivered with tongue-in-cheek charm.

18. “Recalibrate” by Eccodek

This album of electronic world music from Eccodek is both playful and meticulous in its execution.

17. “Lemons” by Fake Palms

Fake Palms (Michael le Riche) hits new heights in an exciting collection of angular post-punk.

16. “Five Fathom Hole” by PAPAL VISIT

A staggering 25 tracks (all short, however) of PAPAL VISIT’s inimitable lo-fi garage rock.

15. “Heaven’s Mini Mart” by Troll Dolly

A work of delicate beauty and intricate detail from Vancouver’s Troll Dolly (aka Jen Yakamovich).

14. “The Zug” by Yves Jarvis

Yves Jarvis has always had a fiercely creative mind, and ‘The Zug’ is chock-full of his wild creations.

13. “Say Laura” by Eric Chenaux

Canadian artist residing in France, Eric Chenaux unleashes five tracks of highly inventive jazz, folk and beyond.

12. “Chiac Disco” by Lisa LeBlanc

A highly spirited album that explores the realm between disco and chiac (a Creole variety of Acadian French).

11. “Fluxus Pop” by Rip Pop Mutant

A gem of distorted, warped pop from Alexander Ortiz & Adrian Popovich (aka Rip Pop Mutant).

10. “(Self Titled)” by Sam Jr.

A terrific collection of doomy, fuzzed-out psychedelia.

9. “Panis Angelicus” by Ultra Mega

Canadian slacker spoken-word from Winnipeg that is bound to appeal to the true Canuck in all of us.

8. “Who Would Hold You If the Sky Betrayed Us?” by Thus Owls

 An ambitious work of experimental jazz/rock with elaborate and intricate arrangements from the duo of Erika and Simon Angell.

7. “Twenty Twenty Twenty Twenty One” by Spencer Krug

Veteran Spencer Krug concocts a variety of exotic beats to go along with his strange lyrics and mournful, but engaging, vocals.

6. “Staying Mellow Blows” by Eliza Niemi

Singer-songwriter Eliza Niemi shares her personal musings over sparse arrangements, with the ultimate reward found in the details.

5. “Tracer” by JEEN.

A shimmering, sparkling explosion of clever pop-rock from Toronto’s JEEN.

4. “The Elephant in the Room” by Sargeant X Comrade

Sly, slick and groovy experimental R&B, from Calgary’s Yolanda Sargeant and producer Comrade.

3. “Turn to Rust” by AUS!Funkt

An anthemic post-punk/disco ride. Dance music for the disaffected.

2. “Tongues” by Tanya Tagaq

Tagaq combines the visceral thrall of the wilderness with modern experimental instrumentation. Mind boggling.

1. “I Keep Floating Away” by TOVI

Rebecca Emms’ album of dark, rhythmic trip-hop takes the cake. Excellent songwriting and production throughout.


Interview with Papal Visit

Interview by Mark Anthony Brennan

I had a chat with Pierre Cormier of Papal Visit. The Saint John, NB band is led by Cormier and vocalist/lyricist Adam Mowery. We talked about the beginnings of the band and the making of their latest album, ‘Five Fathom Hole’, a 25-track blockbuster.

MB: I’m doing great out here on the West Coast. How’s the East Coast?

PC: Right now it’s raining, but it’s almost summer so that’s good.

MB: Yeah, kind of the same here in Victoria. OK, let’s go back a bit. How long has Papal Visit been together?

PC: The first album came out in 2015 but we started about two years before that. It started randomly by me just recording stuff. I don’t really write lyrics. My friend Adam (Mowery) and I were in a band called Wooden Wives, but he moved to Halifax. I just started thinking that maybe Adam would want to contribute lyrics to one of these tunes, so I sent one to him and ask him. He was gracious enough to do it and I liked it so much I sent him another one. After two or three of those we thought we should get a name and see if we want to put stuff out. It wasn’t intended to be a live thing at first but it morphed into that eventually. We have a beautiful rehearsal space here in Saint John and it was just sitting there doing nothing, so I thought I’d start working on my own stuff and then it just sort of turned into Papal Visit.

MB: Before ‘Five Fathom Hole’ the last album you put out was five years ago. Why the gap?

PC:  We had most of ‘Five Fathom Hole’ already recorded back in 2017. We wanted to put it out on vinyl, that was our main goal with the 3rd album. So we had to play some gigs, save some money. We also wanted it to be a huge album — we wanted 28 to 30 songs. But we figured that you can only fit about 44 minutes on a record, so we jam-packed it. There’s only about 30 seconds of leeway, so we pretty well stuffed it. So it took a little bit more time. And then covid hit, and we asked ourselves, “Do we really want to release an album that we can’t play shows?” It was hard to justify putting out physical copies then so we decided to wait. 

MB:  What I like about ‘Five Fathom Hole’ is the variety. There’s the really solid songs like “The Heaviness” and “The Opposite Heart”, but then there’s some experimental stuff, especially towards the end.

PC:  Well, that’s Adam’s work. He did the sequencing. A lot of the songs are a minute or two longer, but he made it all fit in there like a collage. He squeezed a lot those songs. Some of the songs are five minutes long, but that’s his magic [in making them shorter]. Whenever I didn’t have an idea I’d get the guys together at the jam spot and we’d just goof around and see what we could come up with. We sent them all to Adam and he liked them all, so we ended doing something with everything!

MB: It’s definitely a fun album.

PC:  We were having fun doing it, there’s no real pressure. We’re serious, though — we want to make good music. But we wanna have fun too.

MB:  Well, that sense of fun comes across. OK, so what’s up for the rest of the year? Touring?

PC:  Touring is so expensive. If we do tour it will be just the Atlantic provinces. Fredericton, Moncton, Saint John, Halifax and Charlottetown. That would be it. We are hoping to maybe go to Pop Montreal in September. But we’re not sure. And then there’s recording — we are going to keep recording, that’s for sure. We already have a 4th record pretty much ready.

MB:  OK, one more really important thing. Who do think is going to win the Cup?

PC: Well, I was going for Toronto. But now… I kind of hope that New York wins that series because Tampa’s already won enough. I’ve been transfixed by the Blue Jays. That’s all I’ve been watching. When you called I was watching the game from yesterday.

Irregular Dreams’ Best Songs of June

These are our ten favourite tunes right now:

“Mirror” by Russell Louder

“Be Nice to Everyone You Meet” by The Moneygoround

“No Sun” by The Dog Indiana

“Wet Streets” by FICMARO

“Tu as tellement changé (ft. Les Deuxluxes)” by Larynx

“White Noise” by Dried Out

“Bath With Friends” by Dump Babes

“La poudre aux yeux” by Lisa LeBlanc

“Solipsism” by Dual Nature

“Impress Your Neighbours” by Susans

Music to Your Ears: Five Albums For Your “Must Hear” List

Reviews by Mark Anthony Brennan

‘And Those Who Were Seen Dancing’ by Tess Parks

Although she has collaborated with others over the years (mostly notably with Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre), ‘And Those Who Were Seen Dancing’ is only Tess Parks’ second full-length album since her 2013 debut. And the loss is certainly ours, as she proves her gift for composition and in creating a laid-back, lysergic sweetness.

Throughout the album her piano plonks the melody, the guitar wails the mood, and the drums keep it all in check. Whether it’s the gentle folkishness of “WOW”, the shimmering pop of “Happy Birthday Forever”, or the more blues feel of “Do You Pray”, Parks maintains a breezy, freewheeling attitude that is relaxing. It isn’t that she is not serious because she displays a certain gravitas, as evidenced in her gravelly spoken word on the slinky, trip-hop inflected number “Brexit at Tiffany’s”.

Fans of dreamy, swirling psych-pop will find a home here. So, Tess, please don’t keep us waiting nine years next time.

‘Five Fathom Hole’ by Papal Visit

It has been five years since Papal Visit released their last full-length album, ‘Golden Grove’, so they have a lot of material packed into their latest offering, ‘Five Fathom Hole’. In fact, there are a staggering 25 tracks, although with short running lengths the entire album only lasts 43 minutes.

Time will tell, of course, but this must surely be their magnum opus, with the full breadth of core members Adam Mowery and Pierre Cormier’s creativity on display. Yes, there is a certain coherence of style here (call it lo-fi americana punk-rock) but it is played out in many forms. “Destroy the Hive” is classic ‘60s garage rock, while “Wolfgang Von Trips” is wild, unbridled punk. Then there slower numbers, like the stoner-pop “Tootsie Pop” and “The Swimmer”, which sounds like The Beatles at their heaviest. Towards the end of the album there are some flights of pure fancy, like “Fuzz Tone Opera”, a literal experiment in fuzz guitar, and the weird psych rock “Flight of Fantasy” with indistinct vocals and instrumentation that is “barely there”.

The cream that rises to the top are tunes like “The Opposite Heart” and “The Heaviness”, tracks which showcase Mowery’s unique, quirky vocals and the two songwriters’ flair for exquisite pop gems.

‘You Have Got To Be Kidding Me’ by fanclubwallet

In the last 10 years or so (maybe longer) the term “indie pop” has been devaluated to the point that it basically means radio-friendly, commercially packaged music. It is, therefore, refreshing to hear an artist who is true to its original meaning, i.e. intriguing music that it not “run-of-the-mill”.

Ottawa singer-songwriter Hannah Judge (aka fanclubwallet) is absolutely charming with her quaint voice, but it is her clever arrangements that make the tracks on ‘You Have Got To Be Kidding Me’ something special. She has a gentle, feathery-light touch on tracks like “Fell Through”, but the choppiness of the drums makes it bouncy and interesting. There are some terrific synth flourishes throughout, but particularly evident on “That I Won’t Do” as a nice complement to the woozy backing and breathless vocals. In fact, the airy and wonky instrumental “55” proves that she doesn’t even have to sing in order to charm.

Lyrically the album is uplifting and assertive. On the high-energy rock-pop gem “Gr8 Timing!” she chirps:

“I don’t deserve to be/With someone that hurts me/So I’ll just spend/All of my time with myself/I don’t need anybody else’s help”

In the album notes, Judge declares “i am simply just kickin it”. We have to agree — yes, you are!

‘Something’s Gotta Give!’ by The John Denver Airport Conspiracy

The intrigue of Toronto’s The John Denver Airport Conspiracy starts with their name, which cleverly reference two urban myths (the mystery of John Denver’s plane crash and the strange tales surrounding Denver Airport), but it certainly doesn’t end there. On ‘Something’s Gotta Give!’ the band brings together disparate styles from the 1960’s in a carefree celebration.

JDAC lovingly recreates the underground sound of psych-garage rock, with the jangle of The Byrds and the pop stylings of early Velvet Underground. The track “Green Chair” is truly evocative, featuring ‘60s organ and guitar, while others like “JDAC” kind of bring to mind The Kinks (but on acid). “Ritchie Says” is a lovely ballad with lilting vocals, but the group also go into extended Grateful Dead-style jams, such as on “The World Has Surely Lost Its Head”. 

The production is lo-fi and murky, but that just makes the trip to the lysergic days of hippiedom more complete.

‘Lushings’ by Lushings

With ballads both dark and beautiful, the Calgary band Lushings come up with some interesting ideas on how to break out of the loneliness and isolation that the pandemic brought to our lives.

“Something” kicks things off in an upbeat mood, with a lively pace. Highlighted by a memorable guitar lick and Kendra Lush’s coy vocals, the next track “Rough Me Up” gets more into the meat of the matter with the lines: “Sell me out and rough me up again/I’ve been far too lonely with these walls for friends/Do me some harm. I’ll get by.”  Musically, it all leans towards ‘90s alternative, even though there are shades of ‘60s surf, particularly on “The Little You Know”. However, lyrically this is completely a creature of 2022, as evidenced on the deliberately paced “Pretty Machines”: “Sidewinding brittle and mean, it’s a crime you’d settle for me/I dream of pretty machines, I will go now follow their lead”.

If there was any silver-lining to the pandemic perhaps it’s the fact that some of us had time to sit back and reflect on the realities of life, and Lushings have come out of the covid era swinging.

Music to Your Ears: 5 Albums You Simply Must Hear

Reviews by Mark Anthony Brennan

Susans by Susans

The last track on Susans’ self-titled album is “It’s OK (To Be Weird)”, and that pretty well sums up their entire ethos. In fact, it’s not just OK, it’s something to be celebrated, and celebrate they do.

This trio from London, ON, specialize in that form of art-trash that came along in the late ‘70s (think the CBGBs ilk). Although their sound owes a lot to punk, they eschew the use of electric guitar in favour of ukulele, giving them a very distinctive sound. The first track is indicative of your journey here, starting off with wonky bass and comedic vocals, which suddenly breaks out into a manic pace with virtually screamed vocals. The second track, “Impress Your Neighbours”, is slower paced but equally strange, like Talking Heads at their very weirdest. The two singers get into an interesting interplay about the benefits of astroturf (“No water!/ No dirt!”). 

There’s lots to love here, such as the Hinterland Who’s Who intro kicking off an art-punk (mostly) instrumental on “Up North” and the hilarious snippet of a ‘50s TV show in “Hands”. A true highlight is “Sleep E”, an almost free-form jazz number (except with crazy bass and picked ukulele) accompanied by the sounds of snoring.

If you are like me and wished that Talking Heads had remained punky, lo-fi and peculiar then Susans are probably right up your alley.

‘The End of History’ by Dual Nature

Dual Nature’s sound is characterized by shrill but melodic guitars and agonized vocals. Yes, Dezi DeHaan has that moan in his voice which was common with British post-punk bands. However, this Edmonton band do not indulge in lofty pop but have a definite visceral edge.

The opening track, “Solipsism”, is fairly typical of their ouevre, as DeHaan lets loose a flood of stream-of-consciousness vocals over a bed of swirling guitars. They can also get a little “artsy”, with the lengthy track “Fertility” dissolving into discordance towards the end. Perhaps the album’s high water mark is the epic “Fountain”, which midway settles down into a Scott Walker-style mood, featuring gothic vocals and atmospheric, echoing guitars.

Dual Nature may have some high notions but they never get pretentious, because they are, above all, a rock band and their sound never lets you forget that.

‘breakfast in bed’ by Easy Tiger

Ex-NOBRO Gabrielle La Rue recruits current NOBRO drummer Sarah Dion for her solo release as Easy Tiger. The result is a pop gem as comforting as breakfast in bed.

It is most breezy pop, but La Rue’s sharp lyrics and clever arrangements keeps things interesting. There is certainly no sameness here as the vibe runs from ‘80s pop (“chemtrails”) to country ballad (“havre saint-pierre”), and from folk (“midnight snack”) to art pop (“toothbrush”). Dion’s percussion keeps things lively, especially on the sassy “ibiza” and the aforementioned “toothbrush”. All the while, lyrics like “2 o’clock/Man you’re still fucked up/What a lovely couch potato” keep you more than entertained.

‘breakfast in bed’ proves how satisfying well-crafted pop music can be. 

‘Chiac Disco’ by Lisa LeBlanc

Lisa LeBlanc’s latest album is a wonderfully creative work that mines, of all things, disco. To be honest, despite the occasional high point (“I Feel Love” by Donna Summers comes to mind) ‘70s disco music was mostly throw-away rubbish with incessant garbage beats and stupid hooks (such as using a Donald Duck voice for vocals). Fortunately, ‘Chiac Disco’ is not a nostalgia trip but a complete reimagining of disco in a cleverly constructed format.

“Pourquoi faire aujourd’hui” kicks things off in high style, featuring true funk and lively string highlights. LeBlanc’s vocals come in lending an Acadian French lilt (“Chiac” is a reference to Acadian language and culture), an element that makes this album special. ‘Chiac Disco’ is, in fact, chock full of such amazing arrangements, including dazzling vintage synth flourishes (check out ‘“Veux – tu rentrer dans ma bubble?”, for example). For good measure, LeBlanc also throws in a couple of Lee Hazlewood-inspired numbers — the baroque country-pop “La poudre aux yeux” and “Me semble que c’est facile”, a more folksy ’60s ballad with highly dramatic strings.

Show up for LeBlanc’s danceable fun romp, but stay for her truly inventive and complex song structures.

‘niya kîminîcâkan’ by Dump Babes

Saskatoon’s Dump Babes are a gifted troupe of musicians led by the singing-songwriting talents of Aurora Wolfe, and with ‘niya kîminîcâkan’ they have quietly becoming one of Canada’s leading lights in contemporary rock-pop.

Building on their folk roots the band ventures into many different territories and excels at them all. “Patchwork”, for example, is a lovely country-folk ballad, which is far removed from the jangle pop of “Bad Medicine” or the shuffling, funky rhythms of “Talk to Me”. Wolfe’s engaging vocals stand tall, even next to gorgeous reverberating guitar work in the likes of “Victim of a Good Time Redux” or “Syntax”. However, it’s the underlying lyrical strength that really moves you. In the aforementioned “Victim of a Good Time Redux” Wolfe coos:

“Just your luck/Brother, what a long face/Now you’re stuck/Between your mother and a hard place/Locked in a limited space/Captivity is an acquired taste”

Dump Babes claim to be fresh from the city landfill, by there is really nothing trashy about this cool, self-assured band.