Saturday, December 12, 2009

Top Albums & Live Shows for 2009

As 2009 is coming to a close, let's wrap up a formidable year in (Canadian independent) music by listing my personal highlights. Feel free to disagree and point me in the direction of your personal favourites!

Top Albums of 2009
Ha, it's not until I researched a bit deeper that I realized a good chunk of my current favourite albums are actually from late 2008! Nevertheless, 2009 saw some strong releases in both full-length and EP categories. Some are Polaris-nominated and some, well, should be.

Honourable Mentions (EPs):  
Zeus - Sounds Like Zeus
J.Period & K'naan - The Messengers EP

7. Metric - Fantasies
6. Patrick Watson - Wooden Arms
5. Rose Cousins - The Send Off
4. The Swell Season - Strict Joy*
**1. You Say Party! We Say Die! - XXXX
**1. Joel Plaskett - Three
**1. Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels
*note: The Swell Season are not Canadian.
** These 3 albums are virtually tied and are in alphabetical order.

Top Shows of 2009
This past year saw the beginning of my infatuation, now full-blown love with attending live shows. It began in January with the Sam Roberts Band and The Stills at the Orpheum, and ended with Patrick Watson and Aidan Knight**. I've both gone to huge stadium shows (U2, Coldplay) and witnessed small, inattentive crowds in bars (Matthew Barber). 2009 also saw the Junos descend upon Vancouver, and early 2010 will see the Olympics with its associated Cultural Olympiad. I was also able to attend festivals, new (Rifflandia) and old (Vancouver Folk Fest). Who stood out? Keep reading!

Honourable Mention: Hey Rosetta! at Rifflandia -- the set was just way too short.

10. Mother Mother at UBC Pit Pub
Being in the crowd for this fanatic-making show was "like watching Rock Band live," according to the reviewer for the Ubyssey (UBC campus paper). No casual fan left without feeling fanatic and extremely impassioned about this talented Vancouver band.

9. Champion at Rifflandia
His feverish conducting of his team of guitarists and bassists stirred the large crowd into the most rhythmic, hypnotized mosh pit that I've ever witnessed.

8. Hannah Georgas opening for Said The Whale at St. James Hall
This winner of the 2009 CBC Radio 3 Bucky Award for Best New Artist showcased her whimsical lyrics, her playful voice and her chops on guitar with a full backing band consisting of members from Said The Whale.

7. Rose Cousins opening for Royal Wood at the Media Club
I'm not just biased from playing shaker egg for her; it was a phenomenal show. Hilarious and tight knit, musically and personally engaging. Voice like an angel. Upstaged her headliner Royal Wood.

6. Great Lake Swimmers (backed by members of The Breakmen and Rock Plaza Central) at Vancouver Folk Music Festival
Imagine lying in the hot July sun by Vancouver's waterfront, dragonflies flitting above while listening to the angelic melodies of GLS compositions. Tony Dekker's voice surely haunts the halls of heaven.

5. Dan Mangan CD Release for Nice, Nice, Very Nice at the Cultch
There's a drawback to this excellent show; since hearing his material live, I've had a hard time listening to Dan's album. It's hard to capture the raw energy of the band and of Dan's voice that made him so feverishly popular with audiences across Canada and abroad.

4. Joel Plaskett Emergency at the Surrey Fusion Festival
This seemingly impromptu concert, held in one of the most surprising of locales (a relatively far away suburb of Vancouver), was free of charge in a large field in the middle of the city. That didn't stop JPE from putting on an impassioned show filled with favourites from their long career, including from their latest album Three. Peter Elkas singing the back up parts in lieu of Ana Egge and Rose Cousins was the cherry on top.

3. The Swell Season at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts
The romance of The Swell Season continues to seduce audiences. To borrow Glen Hansard's phrase, this concert has only made the love for their music "more buoyant." No matter if Hansard or Marketa Irglova was on stage solo, with one another or backed by The Frames, they filled the large theatre with earnest love songs soaked in passion and the grittiness of Hansard's voice.

2. Patrick Watson at the Vogue Theatre
What an inventive, musically satisfying night. Patrick Watson and his band had all ears from the second they took the stage as well as when they left the stage to play through the audience (yes, with the megaphone pack that he sported at the Polaris gala). The delicate, intricate compositions of his latest Wooden Arms came to roaring life in his live show. The audience forgot to breathe and saliva was everywhere from dropped jaws.

1. Joel Plaskett w/ Family and Friends at the Vogue Theatre
A 3-set, 3 hour show from the most personable, lyrically gifted singer-songwriter that Canada has to offer, backed by his father Bill Plaskett, who's an admirable songwriter in his own right, as well as Ana Egge and Rose Cousins, established singer-songwriters with their own critically acclaimed careers. Each artist supported one another and was given their own chance to shine and impress with their personal material, giving the audience a true taste of what the music community should be like.

(Joel Plaskett Emergency, shot at Surrey Fusion Fest)

** or possibly will end with the NYE party at the Media Club known as One Night Stand, featuring Hannah Georgas, Laura Smith, and members of Said The Whale, The Painted Birds, Elias, Bend Sinister, & The Gentle Infidels. For more details ... here!