Spring 2019 preview: 15 albums you need to hear
From Broken Social Scene to Siskiyou, here are all the upcoming Canadian releases we can't wait to hear.
As we slowly crawl out of our winter hibernation, we are greeted with not only warmer weather but bright new tunes.
This spring is going to be an exciting season for Canadian music: from veteran acts like Broken Social Scene and Wintersleep to rising stars Haviah Mighty and Joseph Shabason, the soundtrack to the next few months is going to be filled with wonderful new additions.
Scroll down to see our guide to the Canadian releases we think you need to hear for spring 2019, listed by release date.
Album: X Marks the Swirl
Release date: March 29 (digital), April 19 (physical)
"I wanted to create music that my community, primarily queer people of colour and queer Filipinx diasporic ppl [sic] can relate to, reflecting the conversations we have about decolonizing on land that isn't ours, longing for ancestral connection, and not only taking up space as queer people of colour but reimagining what love can look like." This is Kimmortal's vision for their second album, and it's one they bring to glorious life over the course of X Marks the Swirl's 11 tracks. "We are the movement," Kimmortal raps on the closing line of the album's vibrant and urgent opener, "Stars," featuring JB the First Lady and Missy D. It's a promise and a final notice, an invitation or a warning depending on what the listener is bringing with them to the experience. Lyrically, X Marks the Swirl is incisive, poetic and radical, and its mix of electro hip-hop ("Sad Femme Club"), indie neo-soul ("Longing") and spoken word keeps things fresh track by track. It's a bold and thrilling record that positions Kimmortal as a dynamic force in the future of this country's music industry.
— Andrea Warner
Album: In the Land Of
Release date: March 29
"Beneficiary of a genocide" is a standout line to repeat on a radio single, but Wintersleep's new album, In the Land Of, is a homecoming of sorts, and it's important to reckon with where you're from. The Nova Scotia-formed band — comprised of Paul Murphy (lead vocals), Loel Campbell (drums) and Tim D'Eon (guitar) — hasn't been based in its home province for years now, but Murphy recently moved back, and songs like "The Lighthouse" ("All the way up to the lighthouse/ where we spent so many nights/ always thought you'd live a long life/ you're a ghost on your own time") and "Beneficiary" ("I'm a history of violence") examine what coming home — and living on unceded land, no matter where you are — means.
Produced by Tony Doogan (who's worked on four previous Wintersleep albums, as well as releases for Mogwai and Belle & Sebastian), In the Land Ofbalances those reckonings with punch-to-the-gut love songs, as opener "Surrender" delivers the lines, "I loved you before I felt my doom/ my past my future/ fold into you" just before an instrumental build that crashes with Murphy yelling "I surrender to you!" What's a homecoming without a heart breaking — or mending? Amidst sing- and clap-along melodies and heavier, layered numbers, In the Land Of gives listeners a fill-in-the-blank title on which to project their own homes, too.
— Holly Gordon
Album: Morbid Stuff
Release date: April 5
Over the past six years, Toronto's Pup has become one of Toronto's great punk exports. The band's first two albums, 2013's Pup and 2016's The Dream is Over, were critically acclaimed by Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Billboard and more. Pup's been shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize and the Prism Prize, and most recently, made its late-night television debut on Late Night with Seth Meyers. That star status is destined to continue rising with this upcoming album, Morbid Stuff, which promises to build on what the band has already perfected. That includes: gloriously fun gang vocals, guitar riffs that can tear down mountains, and lyrics that stare reality in the face — both the highs and sometimes extreme lows. These are anthems made for us to shout along to, throw our arms around friends and strangers alike, and commiserate in a sweaty mosh pit. In other words, it'll be a messy, fun time.
— Melody Lau
Artist: Broken Social Scene
Album: Let's Try the After, Vol. 2
Release date: April 12
Following the release of its triumphant comeback album in 2017, it was unclear whether Toronto collective Broken Social Scene would make more music or just call it a one-off reunion. But as leader Kevin Drew assures in the band's latest press release: "The theme is to continue." This year, the band brings us two new EPs, Let's Try the After Vol. 1 and 2, which advance the band's motto of fusing raw, emotional songwriting with big, rollicking indie-rock experimentation. Drew adds that he and his bandmates want to "start building again," and with a solid 20-year foundation underneath them, we cannot wait to see all the new and exciting ways the band can grow from here. — ML
Artist: Tim Baker
Album: Forever Overhead
Release date: April 19
Tim Baker has been filling venues as one-seventh of Hey Rosetta! for the last decade, but after the Newfoundland bandmates parted ways in fall 2017 the now-Toronto-based musician branched out on his own, releasing intimately performed and shot acoustic videos as part of The Side Door Sessions since October of last year. It all leads to his debut album, Forever Overhead, which holds 11 songs of original material, showing us that Baker's voice rings out just as heart-wrenchingly on its own atop guitar and piano, particularly on a track like lead single "Dance" where he sings longingly for that titular dance (though a slow, slinky build in the second half brings some lightness to the heartache).
Baker writes nostalgically of his Newfoundland home ("'Cause no matter where I'm headed/ I'll only end up where I been," he sings on "All Hands") and how those old haunts and ghosts can become a big part of your present ("Once a stranger to me/ but now you're the song in my mouth," he sings on "Spirit"). Forever Overhead is the singer-songwriter at his most vulnerable, one foot on the land that formed him and the other striding forward. — HG
Artist: Mac DeMarco
Album: Here Comes the Cowboy
Release date: May 10
Last year, singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco launched his own label aptly called Mac's Record Label. This year, he will put out the label's first album, his own solo follow-up to 2017's This Old Dog. There aren't many other details about the release so far, but fans do have laidback lead single "Nobody" to listen to for the time being, as well as a string of upcoming summer tour dates. And while many music fans immediately drew similarities between DeMarco's album title and rocker Mitski's 2018 album, Be the Cowboy, the Canadian artist has explained the idea behind his: "This one is my cowboy record. Cowboy is a term of endearment to me.... Where I grew up there are many people that sincerely wear cowboy hats and do cowboy activities. These aren't the people I'm referring to." — ML
Artist: Haviah Mighty
Album: 13th Floor
Release date: May 10
In her Allan Slaight Juno Master Class video, Haviah Mighty said, "You can't give up just because you don't see the rewards right away." Always one to be on the grind, Haviah Mighty has taken every chance to learn and improve, be it formally studying music industry arts, working in music retail or writing, composing and performing with the Sorority. Her forthcoming album, 13th Floor, is a culmination of these experiences, and promises to be her most sonically and lyrically complex project yet. The title alone holds layered meanings: referencing the 13th Amendment in the States, the project focuses on "society's concept that slavery and racism has been abolished, yet acknowledging the fact that it is still very present," which is also evident within Canada. Furthermore, the title pivots away from the concept of the number 13 being a bad omen in North America to the number being associated with luck, femininity and rebirth in other areas of the world.
13th Floor features rising hip-hop artists like Sean Leon and Clairmont the Second, and was executive produced by 2oolman of A Tribe Called Red. Haviah Mighty is one of the most important — and hardworking — emerging figures in Canadian hip hop, and we look forward to seeing her reap the rewards.
— Natasha Ramoutar
Artist: Lydia Ainsworth
Album: Phantom Forest
Release date: May 10
"Tell Me I Exist" and "Can You Find Her Place," the first two singles from Lydia Ainsworth's forthcoming album, Phantom Forest, reveal a mesmerizing and intricate soundscape that's awash in emotional, social and environmental tension. Ainsworth, who possesses a masters in film scoring composition, interweaves electronic, orchestral and pop elements together, crafting songs that compel the listener closer while also resisting any perfunctory or cursory engagement. That's not really a surprise given the concept of the record, which Ainsworth described via a press release as "a play taking place in Mother Nature's vanishing home." Ainsworth also sings from a multiplicity of perspectives throughout — hers, Mother Nature's and that of a Greek chorus — deepening Phantom Forest's dizzying complexity. — AW
Artist: Snotty Nose Rez Kids
Release date: May 10
Snotty Nose Rez Kids only formed three years ago, but the Haisla Nation hip-hop duo has done a lot in that small window of time. Their music, which blends critical and urgent lyrics with brash trap beats, has been hailed by George Stroumboulopoulos as "trying to move the needle forward" when it comes to highlighting Indigenous issues that still persist in Canada and beyond. Trapline will be Snotty Nose Rez Kids' third full-length in two years, following their Polaris Music Prize shortlisted album The Average Savage, and it promises to continue challenging mainstream music fans while engaging them with hard-hitting bars that can easily go up against hip-hop's best rappers. — ML
Artist: Joseph Shabason
Album: Anne EP
Release date: May 10
Joseph Shabason has been one of Canada's busiest musicians in the past decade. The go-to saxophonist may be best known for his work with Destroyer, or his band Diana, but his list of credentials stretch far beyond that. He has appeared on albums by Great Lake Swimmers, Hannah Georgas, Born Ruffians, the War on Drugs, Jill Barber, Matthew Barber, Peter Elkas and Dragonette. But when he's not busy collaborating with others, he's working hard on his solo instrumental project, which has produced two critically acclaimed records already: 2017's Aytche and last year's Anne. And soon, he will release an EP that'll act as a companion piece to his last album. Anne EP, which expands on the lush sonic soundscapes that he's meticulously carved out on his previous albums, will feature guest appearances from Destroyer's Dan Bejar and Thom Gill (Owen Pallett, Bernice). — ML
Artist: Tanika Charles
Album: The Gumption
Release date: May 10
Was it only 2016 when Tanika Charles released her stunning debut, Soul Run? The Toronto-based artist is such a polished musician, it seems wild that her forthcoming album, The Gumption, is just her second record. We've only heard the album teaser, a short clip of "Cadillac Moon," but we're hooked. Charles' voice is warm and buoyant, her delivery playful and knowing, and she's a witty, honest artist and fearless performer. Which is fitting considering the title of her new record. It feels like a reclamation of sorts, or at the very least a deliberate and specific choice by Charles, based on how she's described the album: "It's not feeling guilty about being up front, not being afraid to address situations that aren't comfortable for me. I'm comfortable in my skin now in a way I never was before." — AW
Artist: Rich Aucoin
Release date: May 17
A new Rich Aucoin album is always a good sign for spring: the Halifax musician creates layers of danceable music that also zero in on your most burning life questions, and Release is no different. Single "The Middle" cheerily questions mid-life (and the end of it) — "This is the middle of you," Aucoin continuously points out, as if we're running out of time — while "The Fear" has an ominous name and a single lyric to face ("You never get to move on") coupled with a hell of a playful bass line. Life is complicated.
Aucoin creates and draws from community with each of his albums, so it's no surprise that he's listed a large number of collaborators on this one: credits include vocals from Jenn Grant ("The Mind"), guitar from Dan Mangan and Tim Crabtree ("The Fear"), saxophone from Joseph Shabason ("The Dream") and additional vocals from Maylee Todd, to name just a handful. Aucoin is well known for uniting fans (and strangers) under a party parachute, and Release feels like the perfect dancey, existential hug for 2019. — HG
Album: Not Somewhere
Release date: May 17
"Everything ain't going the way I planned," Colin Huebert sings on the opening track to his fourth Siskiyou album, Not Somewhere. Like its title indicates, this is a record that is rooted in its nowhere-ness. Folk-y one moment, cacophonous the next, Not Somewhere is warm, haunting and impossible to absorb in just one listen. It speaks to the frustration, helplessness and rage that accompany the dissolution of certain dreams; displacement and other capitalist horrors; mental health and the lies we tell ourselves; and all the unplanned endings and reluctant new beginnings we undertake because we have to, because that's what living is. It's also darkly funny. The vocals are loosely and lushly layered, pillows full of feathers coming apart at the seams. Horns flare up and fall away, acoustic guitars like open hearts and sunrises, a gentle brush of drums, cello and woodwinds that alternate between a whisper and a scream. It's not easy to be a person right now, and Huebert captures that beautifully. — AW
Artist: Milk & Bone
Release date: May 24
Milk & Bone just won a Juno for their excellent 2018 release, Deception Bay, and they've followed it up with a new single and the announcement that an EP is coming at the end of May. There aren't many details yet, but we do know that the Dive EP was co-produced with Belgium's Alex Lustig — and if "Ride or Die" is anything to go by, Milk & Bone are dipping into the '80s with their synths and bass while continuing with their sharp, addictive lyricism that'll swim in your head for days. — HG
Artist: Jenn Grant
Album: Love, Inevitable
Release date: May 31
Love seems like too small a word for such a vast expanse.
When something is both so small and so big, when it's both just a tiny star and the whole damn universe, the best thing we can do is let it be as big as it wants to be and as small as it needs to be. This is what Jenn Grant manages to achieve on her new record, Love, Inevitable. Grant's gorgeous voice swoops and soars across shimmering pop anthems, folk gems and sunset ballads. The collection offers up a nuanced yet universal exploration of the jagged fears and glorious joys of soulful, life-changing, empowering intimacy. And not just with other people, but also falling in love with yourself and your own power, as Grant said about the album's first single, "Raven": "It's about taking a step into the unknown and learning to trust yourself. It's about making a choice to let go of the idea that you needed something or someone, and finally stepping into your freedom." — AW