2013 has already seen its share of incredibly satisfying records, and the year’s not even half over. Here are the five best I’ve heard thus far:
5. The Matinee – We Swore We’d See the Sunrise
Vancouver’s The Matinee are heading out on the road this summer and hitting up the small-scale festival circuit; once they do that, I suspect that Canada will be increasingly more aware of the awesome that they’re clearly capable of. “We Swore We’d See the Sunrise” is a rollicking ode to youth – the joyous, carefree yin to Born Ruffians’ darker, angstier yang. They sing of being on one’s own and the booze-fueled chaotic Kerouac-type journey that follows, and they do it with a gritty, simplistic alt-country flare. This is a little record (for now), but make sure not to skip it!
4. Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob
Tegan and Sara have been around forever and have recently taken a turn for the better in recent years with higher-profile, dizzy melodic pop. “Heartthrob” is their best record yet, combining the fuzzy, boot-stomping folk-rock of their earlier efforts with glitzy, glamorous explosions of boisterous digi-pop excellence. Only a duo like Tegan and Sara could take the best of everything they have to offer, no matter how contradictory, and manage to toss it all together and produce a brilliant new wave record like this one that has all the makings of a catchy, radio-friendly pop classic with a healthy dose of brooding hipster cred.
3. Born Ruffians – Birthmarks
Born Ruffians have been around for a while, and seem to garner a mixed reaction due to their immature, inconsistent sound. It’s almost as if they took that criticism and challenged it with one of the finest records of the year to date, “Birthmarks”, a bratty, post-punk party that trips out with delectably catchy melodies, yearning passionate laments, and deeply personal material about sex, getting old, lusting and self-consciousness. It’s bold and brilliant and perfectly encapsulates on all levels, the gripes, fears and insecurities of one’s twenties.
2. The Lone Bellow – Self-Titled
The Lone Bellow have taken the neo-folk/pop sound of the early 2010s and made it into something that transcends catchy melodies and stylish fedora-wearing foppy lead singers. This record is a strong, mature, achingly beautiful debut that is nearly unmatched in a year that is thus far, filled with great debuts and other great surprises. With songs like “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold”, “Firehorse” and the intense “Tree to Grow”, it’s obvious that this band are the ones to beat, and the ones to watch in the upcoming year. They’re a little band with a huge, undying sound and their debut is simply magical.
1. Josh Rouse – The Happiness Waltz
As soon as I heard the soft, retro-y opening of “Julie (Come Out of the Rain)”, I thought to myself: Josh Rouse is back. And the whole record doesn’t misstep or disappoint from the first track to the last. In a return to form following a series of EPs and side projects with various bands, Rouse has made a record which stands strong alongside his classics like “Nashville” and “1972”. With non-stop adorable charm, distinctive Carol King-esque melodies, and pure, clear-eyed pop refrains, this is a truly enjoyable, delightful, comforting listen; Rouse writes confident, catchy melodies that seem impossible to fail. Rouse is a long-time favourite artist of mine and my extreme pleasure in rediscovering him when he’s creating some of his best work yet makes “The Happiness Waltz” my favourite record of the year so far.