2021 was a year of tentative hope after the upheaval and chaos of 2020. We have begun our slow movement back into some sort of normalcy, waking up from the traumatic nightmare of last year with a strange mix of confusion, anger and excitement. A lot of things are still bad, but at least we can see each other again, even if that freedom is not certain to last.
Thankfully, amid all the disarray, Canadian artists released plenty of great music this year. Some artists were still mired in uncertainty, like Chad VanGaalen’s exhausted stare into the abyss on “Where Is It All Going?” or Virgo Rising’s search for emotional stability on “Headlights.”
Some offered anthems for a long-awaited comeback to the dance floor — CFCF and Sarah Bonito’s blissed-out throwback house track “Heaven,” or TDJ and fknsyd’s dreamily romantic banger “Open Air.”
Others brought moments of quiet, intimate comfort for those endless lockdown nights alone — Fog Lake’s “Catacombs,” You’ll Never Get to Heaven’s “Dust,” meadows’ “crows” and Joseph Shabason’s “0-13” offer some very comfy worlds to get lost in.
Backxwash brought a powerful blast of righteous noise-rap rage, Leith Ross delivered casually tossed-off doses of observational wisdom couched in carefully plucked acoustic guitar and Yu Su put us in a trance with her psychedelic ambient house.
The last track, Willie Dunn’s “The Dreamer,” is not technically a song from 2021, but it was included on Light in The Attic’s excellent compilation Creation Never Sleeps, Creation Never Dies, a release that brought many to his work for the first time and helped establish his place in the canon of great Canadian singer-songwriters. The song itself is perfectly applicable today for its steadfast belief that a better world is possible, but until then, all that’s left to do is dream and shine as best as we can.
These songs all offer some sort of comfort, hope, escape or harsh truth, and hopefully they will give something to you too.
Heaven — CFCF & Sarah Bonito, memoryland
Sugar — Men I Trust, Untourable Album
Tulips at My Bedside — Central Heat Exchange & Living Hour, Central Heat Exchange
I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND MY DRESSES — Backxwash & Ada Rook, I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND MY DRESSES
Headlights — Virgo Rising, Sixteenth Sapphire
Parking Lot — The Weather Station, Ignorance
Catacombs — Fog Lake, Tragedy Reel
0-13 — Joseph Shabason, The Fellowship
Crows — meadows, wild flower
Jour 2 — Hildegard, Hildegard
MORNING DEW — Dill the Giant, WEED MAN SON
Leave Life Alone — Land of Talk, Calming Night Partner
Green Glass — Andy Shauf, Wilds
Partner — Ada Lea, one hand on the steering the other sewing a garden
Melaleuca — Yu Su, Yellow River Blue
Open Air — TDS & fknsyd, TDJ002
Dust —You’ll Never Get to Heaven, Wave Your Moonlight Hat For The Snowfall Train
If I Could — Charlotte Day Wilson, ALPHA
Alright — Amos the Kid, No More New Ideas
I’d Have to Think About It — Leith Ross
Let It All Go — Francis of Delirium, Wading
Where Is It All Going? — Chad VanGaalen, World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener
Ste. Anne (Original Soundtrack) — B.P., Ste. Anne (Original Soundtrack)
The Dreamer — Willie Dunn, Creation Never Sleeps, Creation Never Dies: The Willie Dunn Anthology
T o listen to this year’s ’Toban Tracks, you can head on over to https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3Sd5dgfmKd4W5AcfgVzb6H?si=c41fb7de73b344a3.