Sometimes it feels really weird to call an arbitrary list of music “the best.”
That said, we know what we like, and we know what we listened to over and over on our laptops at the office, on our tape decks in our cars and over our headphones as we walked. For what it’s worth, here’s Ominocity’s list of some of our “favourite” music that came out of Saskatchewan in 2016.
Andy Shauf – The Party
Any one who managed to catch one of Andy Shauf’s formidable live performances over the past few years could have guessed that it was only a matter of time before a whole lot of people were going to start paying attention to this gifted prairies songwriter. And sure enough, 2016 saw Shauf signing to American record label ANTI- for the release of his album The Party. Garnering a short-list designation from the Polaris Prize jurors, Shauf’s latest album is by far his best, and most realized, offering to date. With every note comes a strong whiff of heartwrench, while melancholic pop vocal melodies tear emotions asunder.
The Garrys – Warm Buds
By all accounts, 2016 was sort of cruddy. That said, this was also the year where a whole lot of people were introduced to the wistful, sun-soaked melodies of The Garrys, so things weren’t all doom and gloom, right? Armed with only the most astute of three-way vocal harmonies, on their nine-song cassette album the group manages to lay waste with a devastating arsenal of pure pop downer dance numbers that summon forth both frothy romance and a pervasive sense of unease – the perfect soundtrack for shuffling to a sock hop perched on the precipice of oblivion.
Soul Mates – Snake Oil
Monstrous hardcore that doesn’t skimp on the shred or shriek, Saskatoon’s Soul Mates took nearly five years to release their debut album. But if that’s what it takes to release an LP crammed with manic energy then so be it. While Snake Oil is both nightmarish and dissident, there’s nary a moment of drag. At times the guitars sound like they are physically being dredged through sludge, yet somehow manage to perfectly match the ferocity of of the vocals. Grizzled and gnarly, let’s hope the group doesn’t take another half-decade to produce a similarly startling masterpiece.
Factor Chandelier – Factoria
“Snaps.” You know, that song that you’ve probably sang along to a dozen times. Probably the catchiest thing to drop this year in all of Saskatchewan. Single of the year. But while the guestlist on any of Saskatoon producer Factor’s albums is typically an impressive one, the recipe for success is the combination of the vocals along with whatever is brimming beneath. Along with smooth raps from the usual suspects, including Kay the Aquanaut and Paranoid Castle, Factoria packs in catchy samples, noise cascades and pulsating beats, along with what is likely the best cover album artwork of the year. Boom.
The Radiation Flowers – “Dancing (Burnout)”
Taking up residence on one half of a split-7″ released with Swedish band The Orange Revival, The Radiation Flowers contributes a massive , six-and-a-half minute-long song that buzzes with shoegaze fervor and dream-drone vocals before collapsing into a tromping sludge-feast of sprawling guitar psychedelia. A haunting glimpse of things (hopefully) to come.
Dream Country – self-titled
It’s been a year since Saskatoon sextet Dream Country left us with a devastatingly succinct pop album that arrived just as the group disappeared. Filled with a mystic-sort of folk, pop, rock blend, this self-titled LP struck a chord with us and then stuck around for a while. The group’s absence from the live stage has been missed, but the songs from this self-titled LP hit just as hard. Amidst tension-filled instrumentation and near-perfect vocal harmonies, Dream Country’s contributions still haunt our stereo speakers and blister our paint.
The Florals – I Swear I Saw Hell
Rare is it when a band can produce a full-length album – especially a debut – that manages to encapsulate solid songwriting, tasteful studio wizardry, gnarly tones and sweat-soaked freneticism. While you may not get wet blasting The Florals’ I Swear I Saw Hell, it’s entirely possible you may be moved to bust a high kick in your cubicle. Combining sandpaper guitar grit with retro friction and wild-paced abandon, this Regina group has produced eight songs that mimic the energy of their stage show while performing for those who like to shake it under their headphones at home.
respectfulchild – “Glitter”
Beguiling melodies, mystic atmospheres, and a collection of tiny glimpses of ornate musicianship. With the release of one song in 2016, respectfulchild has managed to capture the ambient dreams of audiences across Canada. With violin loops that wend and weave in circular patterns, the song “Glitter” is a darkly emotive instrumental that weaves wraithlike, but emerges on literal geysers of talent and zeal.
Chunder Buffet – Social Delicacies
The best punk songs are always the ones that speak reams of angst, anger and restlessness with a requisite amount of spittle and a tad of sleaze. And on “Makeout”, Chunder Buffet craft a bullet of a song that hits like a hickey. The rest of the EP is similarly filled with whirlwind noise, raucous vocals and the rhythmic thump of an agitated jackrabbit. And if social media is to be believed, the group are in the middle of recording new material – 2017 is already looking sweeter.