Steve Murphy: 2021 Top Ten Canadian Album List

Steve Murphy Top Ten Albums

What a crazy year 2021 has turned out to be.  Perhaps because of shipping delays, or perhaps because of the reviews for this site, but I purchased far more Canadian albums this year over any other country.  This is quite a feat because I tend to have an equal affinity for UK and USA artists, but not this year.  That being said, I’m still waiting for my Billy Bragg and Bo Burnham LP’s to arrive.  Damn you delays!  But I digress.  This year was full of brilliant, original music from the country I call home, and I’m happy to share my ten favorite records from 2021 (listed alphabetically by first/band name).

Blue Rodeo: “Many a Mile”

Do you like Blue Rodeo?  Me too.  They’re comfort food for the Canadian soul.  They combine the best parts of folk-rock for your ears and mind like coffee, pancakes, maple syrup and peameal bacon can do for your belly.  This album may have just come out, but it’s already one I’m listening to on repeat.  Check out: “When You Were Wild.”

Daniel Romano’s Outfit: “Cobra Poems”

Another year passes and the Canadian Dylan hands us another masterpiece from his place atop the songwriting mountain.  Accompanied by his stellar ensemble of musicians in the Outfit, the group seems additionally unified with each release.  One gets the impression the group members live and breathe music together 24-7.  “Cobra Poems” is bluesy psychedelic rock and roll in the best way imaginable.  Check out: “Baby If We Stick It Out.”

Ducks Ltd: “Modern Fiction”

Having just come out in October and only recently on my radar, this is an album that snuck onto my list, but I honestly think it will rise in the ranks given time.  Melodic, jangling post-punk is given a new shine on these brief 10 tracks.  The group manages to convey a familiar feeling that resonates.  I’m reminded of early Real Estate from the 00’s, and The Feelies, The Smiths or Galaxie 500 from the 80’s.  Check Out: “Always There.”

Godspeed You! Black Emperor: “G_d’s Pee at State’s End!”

Montreal’s majestic and epic Godspeed return with another fantastic record.  The group balances ambience with powerful and heavy passages better than anyone.  At different times during the record, you’ll be blown away with the crescendo’s, other times, you may forget it’s even on as the quiet ambient spaces blend into your surroundings.  Check out: “First of the Last Glaciers.”

Julie Doiron: “I Thought of You”

There’s no denying the influence Julie has had on the recent women-led songwriting explosion.  You can hear the cool inflection of her voice and dream-pop style electric guitar.  Her songwriting is specific and poignant. On this record, another of my favorites, Daniel Romano lends a hand to help produce this record that blends 90’s indie rock with 70’s AM radio singer/songwriters.  Check out: “You Gave Me the Key.”

Kiwi Jr: “Cooler Returns”

Kiwi Jr were my most immediate musical love this year.  I was a fan within hearing the first few bars of “Domino and became a devotee by the time the song had finished.  The groups’ second album is a concise collection of jangly, post-rock, literate, unfettered tunes.  Songs are jam packed with clever one-liners and constantly evolving melodies.   Check out: “Domino,” “Tyler,” “Undecided Voters,” and all the rest.

Nicholas Krgovich: “This Spring”

Since producing the brilliant 60’s pop masterpiece “Gigi” in 2010, Vancouver’s Krgovich has released a steady stream of quality pop albums.  “This Spring” combines his silky voice and classic sensibilities with textured synths.  Check out: “Lucklucky.”

Parler Bien: “histoires du comté d’essex”

A work unlike anything I’ve heard before.  Although this isn’t getting my nod as favorite album of the year, that is only because it is too emotionally charged to listen to on a daily basis.  This record is best enjoyed with your full attention and focus.  Please read my full review here on GDW for a more complete description of my thoughts regarding this monumental and brilliant collaboration that joins francophone spoken word with classical strings and dub-style drums.  Check out: “Ces Trois Choses la.”

The Weather Station: “Ignorance”

Toronto’s Tamara Lindeman has completed an impressive transformation over her last few records from traditional folk to jazz-inspired pop songwriting. Her willingness to stretch her boundaries is exhilarating to hear. It reminds me of Iron and Wine’s subtle change during the early 00’s.  The music in the songs here are often playful and loose.  Particularly the saxophone which seem to have been given carte-blanche. Not to give the impression this is solely a free-jazz freak out. Far from it, “Better Now for instance is a gentle tour de force.  Check out: “Robber.”

TUNS: “Duly Noted”

This super-group trio returns with their second set of superb and catchy three-part-harmony numbers.  Their minimalist production is a perfect format to showcase each members’ contributions.  “Duly Noted” picks up exactly where the group left off on their self-titled outing back in 2016.  Three masters of indie-rock writing the catchiest tunes they can come up with.  This album was the soundtrack to my summer.  Check out: “Words and Music,” “We’re Living in it Now,” and “My Memories.”

Link to Playlist of My Favorite Selections:

A bit of a Renaissance man, Steve Murphy is a singer-songwriter, author, and journalist based out of London, Ontario. An avid vinyl collector and audiophile, his personal collection of albums is wide ranging and in the thousands, including four released from his band Westminster Park.