The Canadian Music Blog tracked a total of 588 Canadian artist studio albums released in 2019 (nine more than last year). To close out the 2010s’ decade, below is a ranking of our 21 favourites of these regardless of genre, language, region, and popularity of the artist. These 21 represent 3.6% of the albums. We did not consider live, various artist, Christmas, and compilation albums, none of which are included in the 588. For EPs we published a separate list. At the CMB, we like music that is sophisticated and progressive with catchy melodies and pleasing vocals (unless it is instrumental). Find below our 21 favourite Canadian artist albums of 2019 including our Album of the Year!
by Eli Rose
Eli Rose took to solo flight after serving as half of applauded duo Eli and Papillon. In 2019, she launched her debut album through Universal Music, an eponymous affair with a collection of delicious pop confections. While Canadian Franco is heavily dominated by folk, singer-songwriter, and neo-trad concoctions, Eli manages to pull off a modern brand of urban pop in the French language that sounds nifty and fresh. This is a meeting of Taylor Swift and Christine and the Queens with Caribbean beats. The electropop charm of “Carousel” led the work as a single. It’s a solid effort that should propel the singer and songwriter into a successful career in music.
The Trees Are Singing
by Around Joshua
We are headed to the forest to hear what singing trees sound like. Around Joshua recorded its second album The Trees Are Singing in Morin Heights, QC and Vancouver, and it was mastered in New York. Produced by the legendary Mike Fraser (AC/DC, Aerosmith, and Metallica), the disc contains a welcome blend of hard-hitting rock tunes with a few smooth tracks, some progressive and some standard, all propped up with razor sharp electric guitars, thumping bass, blistering drums, solid vocals, as well as some satisfying keyboards. The songwriting is particularly strong making this one of the best rock albums of 2019.
? (Question Mark)
by Angela Zhang
Vancouver’s Angela Zhang celebrated 15 years in music with the release of her Question Mark album on December 18, 2019, and as one would expect, it’s a winner. Her signature slightly raspy vocals with touches of vibrato are always her strong suit, and they are given some choice songs here. Besides standard Mandopop pretty piano ballads like “River”, find artistic, bombastic cuts like “The Kite Leads the Way” which at times could pass for something from ABBA. The baroque ditty “Return” has her voice reaching sky-high levels. “Writing to You” has an air of mystery about it and “Don’t” surprises with Vocoder and ground-shaking bass. The remainder of the tracks are just as splendid.
Digital & Analogue
by Total Gipsy
Are digital and analogue two great sounds that sound great together? Listen to the 2019 album from Total Gipsy to decide. The artist is a Canadian import from Haiti and is crafting marvellous instrumental electronic music. Digital & Analogue takes you on the wings of a bird through digitized clouds and a seamless sky. Sawtooth blades cut through the air in tracks like “Un signal” and “Fracture”. Breezes of cool waft over in “Poésie en I & O”. Fog creeps along in “Sur ses doigts” as we head towards the swamp thing that is “Ergo Sum”. Wintry chills blow with flurries in “L’immatériel”. All in all, this one is lots of fun.
by Marie-Eve Roy
Quebec’s Marie-Eve Roy released her excellent debut album Bleu Nelson in 2016. In 2019, she followed it up with Multicolore, a progressive singer-songwriter disc with pop leanings. The album was crafted by the capable hands of JUNO nominated producer Gus Van Go. There are a number of memorable tracks on here, most notably opener “Je pleure je ris” with its electric guitar jabs, punchy drums, and piano chord stabs. “Telephone” continues the charm adding some dreamy synth riffs with things becoming even more electronic on “Je n’ai besoin de personne”. A delicate vocal delivery adds to the lure of piano ballad “La vaise de l’insomnie”. The rest of the album fares just as well. Don’t pass this one up!
by Project Pablo
Producer Patrick Holland operating under moniker Project Pablo has released many discs. This was his third in 2019 alone. His music seems to get better with each outing. Inside Unsolved is club leaning instrumental electronica – chillout with savory beats. Here we have four tracks long enough to make this an LP. Effortless grooves thrust forth by a driving beat in “The Solution” kick things off. The quirky, mechanical steam machine “Pill” follows. Enjoy the lush, breezy, bongo punctuated “Pressure No Impact”. Cool keys and choppy percussion closes things in “Big Room Delusion”. Why we like it is now solved.
by Victoria Duffield (JN)
British Columbia’s JUNO nominated, platinum recording artist Victoria Duffield parted ways with Warner Music to carve out an independent route for her brand of delicious Canadian pop. The result is impressive album Day Won led by a couple of singles, such as the sugary “Wow”. We have here 10 songs that are all superb earworms. “The Feeling” is a favourite but fun fills the journey right through the disc with popular cuts like “Hiding Place”, funky jams like “My Mistake”, the frolicking “Remember You”, and a touch of rock in “Stay in Your Lane”. Won…derful stuff.
by Hua Li 化力
What Kali Uchis has done to the genre of R&B – added original, artistic elements, making it more rich and sophisticated – Hua Li has done so for the field of rap. Perhaps we can call it neo-rap. Album Dynasty is so stunning it deserves an award of some kind. Hua Li is the alias of Peggy Hogan and this album cuts through the usual fury and fluff and taps into authenticity and composure pulsating with vigour at the heart of florid soundscapes. Totally blown away.
Singer-songwriter Laurence-Anne makes 2019 the year of her debut album, Première apparition, a nine-track excursion into indie rock territory, with shrubs of folk and the occasional dream cloud floating overhead. The disc received a Polaris nod. The songs are catchy and replete with little details; there are these fuzzy, plucky sounds plunking themselves into the mix here and there which keep the interest up. Her music has been described as early Karkwa, but it is arguably her delicate vocal delivery that makes everything gel together and sound very pleasant. Don’t miss out on this golden disc.
by Sonia Johnson (JW)
JUNO award winning vocal jazz artist Sonia Johnson, who both sings and writes, released her first English-language album in 2019, and it’s a winner. Entitled Chrysalis, the work features two backing vocalists and nine musicians playing guitar, piano, keyboards, electric bass, drums & percussion, flute, alto sax, tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, trombone, trumpet, and flugelhorn. Sonia’s voice is perfect for what she does, balanced and smooth. The music simultaneously relaxes and invigorates. Together, and as a whole, we have a beautifully done soulful jazz with a good groove. An added bonus is having original songs, as so much of the genre relies on covers. As a composer, Sonia shines resplendent; these tracks are fabulous. Enjoy.
by Jesse Mac Cormack
Jesse Mac Cormack of Montreal presented his first full-length album in 2019, Now. It unravels like a grand display in an isolated, desolate place. The music is unpredictable in its operation and the voice impassioned, detached, and determined in its execution. Both unfold in an off-kilter genius that unmasks intricate detail. The metronomic “Give a Chance” conveys a sense of urgency, and with that opener, we are off to the races, exhilarated through laid back numbers like “No Love Go” and rousing anthems like “Stay”. The short “Passageway” is a ballad with a surprise electronic twist, bursting into some sort of Divergent zip-line scene. Mac closes things off with smoky cactus rambler “Nothing Lasts”. Now is an artistic album to be savored.
Let Me Show You
by Lydia Persaud
Toronto’s Lydia Persaud takes us on a time machine ride back to the 70s thanks to her soulful album Let Me Show You which may remind some of Carole King or Stevie Wonder. She hits the mark in both the singing and songwriting departments and was able to keep us engaged through the whole disc. One of her secrets is dashes of various spices here and there, like analog synthesizers on delicious opening track “Hold On”, some reggae on “Honey Child”, lullaby crooning on “Low Light”, and atmospheric backing vocals on the title-track. This is an amazing record and deserves a trophy.
by Shay Lia
A number of EPs this year upgraded themselves to LPs through a re-release with additional tracks. This is one of them and is dubbed Dangerous (Deluxe). Canada is dabbling in the R&B soup factory like nobody’s business and are perfecting the recipe, in large part by focusing on melody, something of which their southern neighbours have fallen short. Shay Lia seems a natural at this. Dangerous is mood music to drool over. Some big names appear on this, including Kaytranada and BadBadNotGood. “I’ll Be There” is our favourite track, and the general public seems to dig “Voodoo” and “Find a Way”, but every slice here is brimming over with cool endeavours.
by Radiant Baby
Synthpop specialist Radiant Baby released his debut full-length album in early 2019, Restless, opened by exquisite 80s themed song (it even has a saxophone solo!) “Firecracker”. Through the disc, he keeps things perky, funky, and danceable. You will, however, hear the album shifting gears at a couple of turning points. After the first four breezy tracks, he really gets the beats going on “Out Crowd”, and heightens the pace on “Funny Games”. He slows things down into some sentimentality on “Don’t Push” and closes out on a darker note with the spooky title-track. We need more music like this. Wonderful!
Heavenly: A Second Collection of Songs
by Rosemary Fairweather
Toronto’s Rosemary Fairweather sprinkled the atmosphere with magical fairy dust in her brand of angelic synth pop in debut outing Heavenly: A Collection of Songs which was essentially a grouping of previously released singles into a digital album package. She was signed to Universal and all set to break out but suffered an unfortunate concussion from an accidental fall. A slow recovery ruled out performing but she was able to craft new music when feeling up to it. Her second collection of songs began with synth pop charmer “MTV” which set in motion a string of new songs furthering her brand. Just about all the tracks on this are … well … heavenly.
by Louise Burns
Cranbrook, BC native Louise Burns, twice Polaris nominated, released her fourth solo album in 2019 (she is the former bass player for band Lillix). Musically, Portraits is generally a brighter effort than at least her previous two discs, though the lyrics contain various sentiments. “Like a Dream” opens things up nicely with torch-bearing beats and an ambient cruise through an emotional chorus. “Cry” can perhaps boast the catchiest earworm on the hooks, the sort of tune that gets stuck in your head but you are glad to have it there. Steel drum sounds decorate the perky “Just Walk Away”, the album’s lead single. Burns went for single-word titles beginning with a C for four of the album’s tracks. Aside from the aforementioned “Cry”, we have “Cherry”, “Cheers”, and “Clowns”. The first is the most progressive track on the record and our favourite. “Everything You Got” benefits greatly from the erhu sound which complements Louise’s savory voice.
The gold pocket watch swings back and forth, and we feel ourselves getting sleepy. Such is the hypnotic power of nu-R&B ace Akua (Carson) of London, Ontario, a Canadian of Ghanaian descent. She is a singer, producer, and songwriter whose rich brews of musical genius embrace R&B, pop, and electronic flavours. She released 7-track album Them Spirits in March, a superb disc dressed handsomely with her silky vocals and spellbinding in terms of its dreamy atmospherics. The beautiful package flows gracefully. In fact, opening track “Righteous Way” would have lulled us into a perfect snooze, but the nice addition of carefully placed piano strokes kept consciousness alive. “Heaven”, the standout track, will blow your mind. It builds gradually from a velvety slow-burn to a shuffle of bass and soft cords, and finally to an exhilarating electronic heavy chorus. “My Body”, musically sophisticated, throws in some interesting sounds to drool over. Akua shows some vocal prowess on track “Queen” satisfyingly backed by orchestral tip-toes. Lyrically, Akua centers the album’s theme on the passing of her father.
Open Reduction Internal Fixation
by Blue Hawaii (JN)
The JUNO nominated duo that is Raphaelle Standell-Preston and Alex “Agor” Kerby titled its fourth album after heel surgery the latter received. Masters of chillout electronica burbling out of a unique, carved out niche, Blue Hawaii has created its best album yet, Open Reduction Internal Fixation (known in the medical world as ORIF). The choppy waves of “Still I Miss U”, the bouncy surf of “All That Blue”, the creeping tides of “Sparkle”, and the splashes of cuteness in “Trust” are all first-rate cuts.
by Jacques Greene (JN)
In his second LP Dawn Chorus, electronic maestro and JUNO nominee Jacques Greene pulls out all the stops. It has moods, melodies, and textures to die for. “Drop Location” skulks along with big booms and flailing vocals before we experience the trippy “Do It Without You” which combines shuffling beats with Laika atmospherics and vocal woos. Rapper Cadence Weapon slaps his rhythmic vocals on “Night Service” to make it an ultra cool bop. In “Sel”, hear fluttering synths and airy vocals get bounced up by thick beats. “For Love” is a more energetic offering with some 70s jazz-funk and bongos in the mix. “Sibling” calls to mind Mu-Ziq with its sawtooth spells and frothy pulses. Our favourite track “Understand” conveys a sense of urgency but also eeriness. “Distance” presents interesting vocal samples over ethereal climes. This is a very solid record and one not to be missed for fans of the genre.
New Day New World
by Spoons (JN)
JUNO nominated Burlington, Ontario band Spoons, active since the early 80s, delighted us with its first disc in eight years, New Day New World, recorded in Guelph. The group’s last offering, 2011’s Static in Transmission, was well received. This one is just as grand from our reckoning. While many have commented on the smart stylings of the album, of how it bridges 80s new wave with modern pop-rock and electro, what makes the album so good is the songwriting. Frontman Gordon Deppe, with assistance from Sandy Horne, continues to channel inspiration in penning catchy tunes. The atmospheric sweep and thundering booms of the album’s title track has chants from online fans mixed into the chorus. “All the Wrong Things” proves the band has still retained its energy. As has been pointed out, “Beautiful Trap” recalls the doot-doots of 1984 song “Romantic Traffic”, something the band says is in its DNA. Find those nuggets of fun as well on “For the First and Last Time”. Another gem is “Repeatable” with some wonderful bass work. The interplay among that playful bass plus, the synth pulses, and higher-pitched plucks, makes this track simply irresistible and, well, repeatable. “Life on Demand” progresses from simple piano keys to a very satisfying chorus. For those hungry for something heavier on the electronic side, “Landing Lights” should hit the spot. It has a great snare-beat as well. The charming “Paint by Number Day” is melodically similar to “For the First and Last Time” but with pleasant female-led vocals.
Canadian Music Blog’s
Album of the Year 2019
It was a long wait, rewarded in part by a soundtrack album, for this Canadian duo to release a followup studio album to the brilliant Innerworld from 2014. The anticipation was rewarded, the artistry hit progression, and there were few albums released in 2019 throughout the planet that were this good. Dynamic vocals, cascading synthesizers, and emotional depth dot the landscape with vivid colours. Pulsating “The Life”, wispy “Arawa”, 80s-esque “Breathless”, and dreamy “Real Ones” effectively open up the dazzling world of electrifying tranquility. And then comes the captivating “On My Own” which really gets the ride going. The vocals are as angelic as ever and the path breathtaking. “Thirteen” is a nice throwback to the Innerworld era with those pulsating bass synths. But it is perhaps the melodic, delicately crafted, and a touch creepy “Evergreen 143” that serves as the album’s best track. Canadian Music Blog Declares Memory Emotion by Electric Youth as 2019’s album of the year!
by Electric Youth