Best albums of 2017: #4 Waxahatchee “Out in the storm”

I ran into a friend of mine at the O-Train station leaving work back in July, right around the time “Out in the storm” was released. We don’t see each other as often as we used to but when we do, we often share thoughts on the music to which we’ve been listening. I had been on quite an Allison Crutchfield kick at the time so I raved about her debut album, “Tourist in this town” (see album #8 in my “Honourable mentions” post). He then countered, asking what I thought about the new Waxahatchee album, and given that I had only superficially listened to it, boldly proclaimed that I might actually prefer the other sister’s work this time around. Mike being Mike, he just levelled me a withering sneer and told me to listen to it again.

Well, I did. And he was right. Though I still find “Tourist in this town” an excellent debut, “Out in the storm” is a phenomenal album, leaping well ahead of anything else Katie Crutchfield has done under her Waxahatchee moniker.

I got into her music first with her last record, her third, “Ivy Tripp”, which was a poppier affair, happily glorying in her hurt and aimlessness, like it was a badge to be proudly worn. “Out in the storm” is a louder affair than its predecessor. It’s even more emotional, honest, and no holds barred, like she realized she wasn’t as okay with her breakup as she thought she was. So like Allison’s, Katie’s is a breakup album but she’s had more time to stew in it and ruminate on it and her lyrics are incredibly pointed and poignant. There’s a lot of hurt on the ten songs but it’s a powerful hurt, not self-pitying or loathing, taking as much of the responsibility for everything that happened as the other party. Her storm is one that we’ve all encountered and found ourselves in at one point in our lives.

And it’s a lot to take in on one listen, which is likely why it didn’t grab me as quickly as her other work. (It’s not an excuse, Mike, you were right.) And it’s also why I recommend listening to it a few times before passing your own judgement. You can start with my three picks for you below.


“Sparks fly”: A heavy wash of synths and an acoustic guitar strum at the outset suggest something dainty and delicate but Crutchfield comes in with her vocals, wiping all that away and you realize that ‘dainty’ is not what you wanted anyway. “See myself clearly for the first time since I met you on a foggy night. A disaster, dignified.”

“Recite remorse”: Feels like a song that Sinéad O’Connor might have sung on her first or second albums, vocals at the forefront of music hiding behind a curtain of stars in the sky. “Felt the sun on my face. It just felt like a rerun holding everything in place.”

“Silver”: Yes, I like the rockers on the album too. This one, from which the album draws its name, stops short of droning but certainly has that edge. “The kiss on my lips starts to feel unfamiliar. A part of me rots. My skin all turns silver.” Beautifully rendered.


If you missed album number five on this Top Five list, check it out here. Otherwise, stay tuned for the next installment next Friday.

Best albums of 2017: #5 Wolf Parade “Cry cry cry”

I’m not sure what my problem was when I first heard that Wolf Parade was releasing its fourth long player “Cry cry cry” this year. I’m still quite confounded that I didn’t pre-order it. In fact, for some reason, I even duly forgot about its imminent arrival until almost a few days beforehand. Then, on release day, a couple of months ago, I noted its arrival with something akin to surprise on Spotify and decided to give it a spin. From the opening notes, I was remembering why they are so great and by the end of the second song, I was doing what I should have done from the beginning and was ordering a physical copy for my vinyl collection.

Perhaps it was some mental disconnect, some lingering effects from the concussion I sustained earlier in the year, but in all reality, I should’ve been much more excited about this album’s arrival. I’ve been a fan since the Montreal-based, post-punk influenced four piece burst onto the scene with their blistering debut, “Apologies to the Queen Mary”, back in 2005 and followed them through two more albums and up to their hiatus in 2011. I was ecstatic when I heard that they were reuniting for a tour in 2016 because I finally got to see them live, catching their incredible headline set at the River stage at last year’s Ottawa Bluesfest with my friend Jean-Pierre.

“Cry cry cry” is Wolf Parade’s fourth album but their first in seven years, yet it plays like almost no time has passed at all. Indeed, it feels the hiatus froze them in time, bottling their energy to recharge them until they were bursting at the seams. Not that its members were idle at all, far from it. You can clearly hear that Dan Boeckner brought his experiences from working with Handsome Furs and Divine Fits and mixed them in a big salad bowl with the sounds Spencer Krug conjured during his time with Sunset Rubdown and Swan Lake, all the while channelling the energy on Wolf Parade’s debut. Yes, Boeckner and Krug are still sharing the songwriting and vocal duties and this synergy works finer than ever, the jittery, frenzied rock exploding from the clash of supremacy that’s pitting synths against guitars. And in this case, we all win.

I now want to see them live again just to see how they perform these tracks because the fire burns just as bright here as anything on “Queen Mary” but don’t take my word for it. Check out “Cry cry cry” for yourself and you can start with my three picks for you below.


”Lazarus online”: The opening number is Spencer Krug and you can almost picture him at the piano, like a cross between Jerry Lee Lewis and a mad scientist, eyes closed, laying down the heavy-handed dirge of keys that back the synth enhanced track. A haunting, mystical mandala in a digital world.

”Baby blue”: This is another Krug-led track but this one is decidedly more upbeat than the opener, almost to the point where you could almost see yourself club dancing to it. The drumming is peppier and the guitars and synths build themselves into such a frenzy that at six minutes the track still seems too short.

”You’re dreaming”: My last pick is a Dan Boeckner track and while Krug’s keys feel very present, the guitars are more pronounced than on my other two picks. Of course, it’s a rocker, raw and in your face, and oh so awesome. Can be replayed infinitely without showing any rust at all.


If you’re interested in checking out the five albums that placed just outside my top ten, click here. And of course, stay tuned for album number four next Friday!

Best albums of 2017: The honourable mentions (aka #10 through #6)

Happy Friday everyone! And the last Friday of the month to boot! To celebrate, I’ve got a bit of a treat for y’all: the start of something new for this blog.

But first, some background.

Some of you might well be aware of my previous blog, Music Insanity, and if you are, you likely remember that I made a big production of counting down my favourite albums of the year, culminating in two or more weeks of posts and thousands of words at each year’s end. I’ve decided I would do the same on these pages but in a more toned down way. My first thought was to limit it to a top five, detailing each in its own post, each Friday, in the last five weeks of the year, but it proved too difficult a task to limit myself to just five albums. So instead, I will still detail my top five albums in the coming weeks but today, will give the next five as a sort of honourable mentions post. (And then, I cheated even more by hinting at the albums just outside my top ten in the photo of record covers above. Bad, blogger, bad.)

And yes, I intend to continue this tradition on annual basis going forward and over the coming months, will likely sprinkle in some of my favourite albums lists from past years to break up all these lists of favourite songs I’ve been throwing at you.

So without further ado, here are albums ten through six of my favourite albums of 2017. Stay tuned for album number five next Friday!


#10 Phoebe Bridgers “Stranger in the alps”

It’s been quite a while since an album like Phoebe Bridgers’ caught my ear. Her debut album, “Stranger in the alps”, is a mostly quiet, deeply personal, female singer/songwriter collection, which doesn’t in and of itself sound very exciting. The young Ms Bridgers, however, is a fine and mature writer, whose strong musical knowledge and awareness is displayed in her lyrics, making this a very cool listen indeed.

Gateway tune: Smoke signals


#9 The Rural Alberta Advantage “The wild”

Despite being a huge fan of the Toronto-based indie folk trio’s first three albums, I didn’t think I would, and if truth be told, almost didn’t want to like “The wild”. Yet here it is, squeezing its way into my top ten. Just when I think there must be a limit to what can be produced by Nils Edenloff’s raw vocals and guitars and Paul Banwatt’s frenetic drumming, they find yet another gear. In the case of “The wild”, they found themselves with a new member, Robin Hatch, who replaced the departed Amy Cole, and immediately made her presence felt.

Gateway tune: White lights


#8 Allison Crutchfield “Tourist in this town”

Funnily enough, I didn’t immediately make the connection with Waxahatchee but sure enough, Allison Crutchfield is the twin sister of that band’s driving force, Katie Crutchfield. “Tourist in this town” is Allison’s full-length debut after years of collaborating with others, notably with Kyle Gilbride in Swearin’ and her sister in a number of bands, including Waxahatchee. It’s a great breakup album, but one nowhere near as angry as Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged little pill”, and focuses more on change in a more global sense. It’s power pop with synths and is as fun as it is touching.

Gateway tune: Dean’s room


#7 Alvvays “Antisocialites”

Alvvays’ self-titled debut was on pretty much everyone’s lips three years ago on the back of its collection of lovely, jangly indie pop gems. Their sophomore doesn’t disappoint, feeding us more of the same sweetness, but this time with better production (and an appearance by Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake!). If there was a critique to be made, it’s that “Antisocialites” does not adventure very far from what made its predecessor so successful. But I’m not so sure I would have been happy with anything else than what we got.

Gateway tune: Dreams tonite


#6 St. Vincent “Masseduction”

Second and final disclosure of this post: though I’ve always respected what Annie Clarke (aka St. Vincent) was doing artistically and musically, I haven’t always been a fan. That pretty much changed when I saw her live at Ottawa Bluesfest in 2014 and I realized she was the female David Bowie. The similarity is not necessarily musical but in ethos and persona, she’s a true performance artist. “Masseduction” is her take on the pop album but she does it without compromising her sound and art. And it’s pure brilliance.

Gateway tune: Los ageless