Following up from my list last week that chronicled my favorite twenty album releases this year, with so many fantastic albums to choose from, it was not at all easy to pick four that stood out about all others. After revisiting each of my choices, and whittling down the numbers, here are the four albums that I consider to be the best Canadian releases over the last twelve months.
Runner Up: Terra Spencer, “Other People’s Lives”
Here lies proof that independent artists continued to thrive in 2019. “Other People’s Lives” is a monumental album, and one that I may have missed completely if Terra had not introduced herself to us and pitched her album as a possible review. It was impossible to ignore an album described as a ‘record of relationships held together with nylon strings and Scotch tape,’ and with my curiosity piqued, several spins later I came away with a deep connection to this talented Nova Scotia artist. Tracks such as “Brooklyn” and “Cotton Mill” are simply stunning, as is the beautifully moving title track – making this one a lock for my final four, period!
Runner Up: Lydia Persaud, “Let Me Show You”
One of the greatest joys for a music blogger is witnessing the rise of new artists, and seeing them grow and earn recognition within the industry. I quickly became a fan of Lydia Persaud upon the first listen of her 2017 EP, “Low Light,” and knew that her full-length album released earlier this year would be something very special. Blessed with a soulful, perfectly emotive voice, Lydia cannot fail to captivate anybody with standout tracks such as “More Of Me” and “Well Wasted,’ both very modern, yet oozing a great cross-generational soul vibe. “Honey Child” continues to be a personal favorite, with some vintage guitar licks and those slight vocal refrains that always put a smile on my face.
Runner Up: Jay Gilday, “The Choice and the Chase”
I must confess that the fight for my top spot was a hard fought battle between this album and the eventual crowned winner. I must also confess that I did not think that this album could possibly top Jay’s stunning 2016 “Faster Than Light” album, but once again, Jay completely exceeded my expectations. Much more acoustic focused this time around, “The Choice and the Chase” allows Jay’s vocals to do all of the talking, soft and intimate one moment, growling and passionate the next. Tracks such as “So Brand New” and “Carry Me” really shine, as does “On Into The Wind,” a great light-hearted toe-tapper from this incredibly gifted (and brutally honest) singer-songwriter.
Winner: Leanne Hoffman, “What Remains”
If I had been asked last year about who would likely take the top spot on my Best Canadian Albums list, Leanne Hoffman would have never been in the conversation. Unaware of this artist until this past spring, once I learned of her status as a backing vocalist for acclaimed Nova Scotia artist Erin Costelo, I was keen to know more. And kudos to Leanne, for her courage to step up to the lead microphone, and knocking out this simply outstanding debut album in the process. Mating her own bluesy folk-pop style leanings with Costelo’s soul grooves and Clive MacNutt’s signature guitar twang, it is ultimately Hoffman’s simply gorgeous voice that keeps me returning to this album. Both “If I Leave Town” and “Blind and Broken” offer insights to her vocal range, which fully explodes during the powerful synth heavy “Human.” If you have not been fortunate enough to hear this album, drop everything right now and give it a spin, or two, or three – trust me, you’ll forever be in my debt!