Critics' picks 2013: Music | Arts + Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST


David Dahms AKA Odysseus Catfish Jenkins III, Big Titteh, Dubs, OCJ3, The Toothless Wonder, D-Double, DMN8R, One Dread and Potato Salad is a premature mic dropper and has been writing for The Coast since 2013.

The Caravan LOCAL
The Caravan (independent)

"What Up Steve?" channelled frustrations with the federal government more than any other song in 2013; a witty, angry message hidden in a omnibus declaration of a hip-hop album. Like its political analogue, this album is more than first meets the ear. If "The First Thing I Do" doesn't make your feet and heart skip a bit, you're not alive. 

Major Lazer
Free the Universe (Secretly Canadian)

Once a year there is the perfect stank face album, the kind that gets played loud in headphones and even louder at parties. From the cool crooning on "Jessica" to "Jah No Partial"'s bassy reminder of our need to shake out our limbs and revel in dance, Free the Universe was this album for 2013. 

Aqua Alta LOCAL EP 1 (independent)

"Know it like the back of my hand." That saying has never really made sense to me, but Aqua Alta's perfect three-song album is like the back of my hand. I know it, it's part of me, it's familiar, fits into my other hand. Until you look closer...what is that little synth bubble? What is that murmuring about always loving you? 

hermitofthewoods LOCAL Land of The Lotus Eaters (Endemik)

Good albums seem to learn from you. As you give feedback through stupid smirks to your own reflection on the bus, they learn what you like, what makes your serotonin drip. Great albums use that opening to invade, inform and activate. Carving wide paths from disgusted riveting raps to cooed calls to prayer, LOTLE is one of those great albums.

Killer Mike and EL-P Run the Jewels (Fool's Gold)

EL-P's delicious oily bass-heavy beats emulsified with Killer Mike's acerbic assertions of industry dominance will leave you noddin' and wondering why people ever discussed Jay Z's Magna Carta and Kanye's Yeezus, when they should have just been running the jewels. DDFH might be a little too on the nose for our times.

R.A. the Rugged Man Legends Never Die (Nature Sounds)

The WAYO LOCAL Sun Soaked/Walkin (independent)

Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of the City (XL)

Journey with No Maps: A Tribe Called Red Nation II Nation (Sony)

A$AP ROCKY Long. Live. A$AP. (RCA)


Coast writer since 2012, if Adria Young could interview anyone in the whole world, it'd be Dr. Dre.

MondreM.A.N. They Say I Struggle Rap (SWTBRDS)

"I know you dig that west coast shit," wrote my homeboy Nicolas, who sent me this album. He's right, though, and this project is one exemplary reason why. Half of Oakland's Main Attrakionz, Mondre's solo debut is an artful Bone Thuggish rap cloud of cloud rap---a perfectly rolled, slow-burning joint.

Heaven for Real LOCAL Wanton (independent)

One of the best local releases of 2013, Nathan Doucet gracefully shepherds the born-again Scott and Mark Grundy (Quaker Parents) across shadowy and sweet jazzy pastures. These four debut tracks represent the infinitude of H4R's potential. Scott, for example, is on his 45th debit card.

Shotgun Jimmie Everything, Everything (You've Changed)

Jimmie's so real he played "Skype Date" for me on our Skype date. That's some next-level business. His fourth full-length starts off with warm simplicity and starry eyes, but Everything, Everything grows dark and uncertain towards the end; it seems Jimmie's got secrets. AY

Monomyth LOCAL King, Does This Not Please You? (Behold the Power) )

These no-good, Roxy-rolling hooligans crafted this near-epic, near-perfect psych-surf mind-explosion. "10,000" as a ghost story, "Cigarette" as an existential bargain, "Vision" as a kaleidoscopic haze-gaze while "Coastal" makes a splash (lol). King surpasses all else by them so far.

Inspectah Deck, 7L & Esoteric Czarface (Brick Records)

Wildstyle is a type of graffiti writing that is so stylized, only trained eyes can decode it. Wu-Tang's Inspectah teams up with Boston's 7L & Esoteric to make a similarly complex creation with spare beats and an early-'90s-MC style. Confidence, flow, a Marvelous piece. And Ghostface Killah!

Dog Day LOCAL Fade Out (FunDog)

The Courtneys The Courtneys (Hockey Dad)

Jay Mayne LOCAL F*kiT (independent)

Drake Nothing Was The Same (Cash Money)

Cousins/Construction & Destruction LOCAL River/Sea Change (Noyes Records)


Andrew is excited/apprehensive about the idea of going as Sister Rosetta Tharpe for Halloween next year. Coast writer since 2010.

Bill Callahan Dream River (Drag City)

Every time Bill Callahan drops an album, it feels as though the whole idea of Americana shifts a little bit further to the left. With an irresistible blend of poetic diction and black humour, Callahan magnifies the subtle instances of the human condition, and then sings about something like "the taste of pilgrim guts," for example.

Darkside Psychic (Matador)

The debut collaboration between two cream-of-the-crop electronic artists based in New York city. Delectably reserved and nuanced, Psychic pulls the listener into its world of late-night reverie with lush, desert highway guitar work, oddly detuned vocals and intricately detailed percussion. Not quite a banger, not quite a bonger; it's right right.

Homeshake The Homeshake Tape (Fixture)

The best thing happening in Canadian music right now. Beautifully bruised soul songs written by a shaggy-haired Galaxie 500 fan with a midas touch. Likely destined to be remembered as a Mac DeMarco offshoot (if at all), the genius of Peter Sagar is far too delicate for the masses. Sorry, brah.

Julia Holter Loud City Song (Domino)

The songs of Julia Holter are at once strong and gentle; they are delightfully disorienting. She builds curious soundscapes using an even blend of classical rigour and electronic whimsy. She sings percussively and her voice loops over and over into familiar folds of melody. Loud City Song feels like one grand, intoxicating gesture.

Oneohtrix Point Never R Plus Seven (Warp)

Pulling in a mess of sounds from every possible crevice, Daniel Lopatin constructs deeply moving music from reanimated leftovers. All the little digital scraps that pollute the modern world are taken in, cared for, and given a new purpose on R Plus Seven. No expectations are met, no rules apply: listen closely.

Dirty Beaches Drifters/Love Is The Devil (Zoo)

Freelove Fenner Do Not Affect A Breezy Manner (Fixture)

Julianna Barwick Nepenthe (Dead Oceans)

Viet Cong Viet Cong (independent)

Jon Hopkins Immunity (Domino)


Jeff is a detail-oriented team player with strong organizational and communication skills. He is looking for gainful part-time or full-time summer employment. Coast writer since 2012.

Vampire Weekend
Modern Vampires of the City (XL)

It's only been seven months since its release, but Modern Vampires of the City already feels like a classic. And considering the amount of former haters that have been converted to fans, it also feels like a win. Vampire Weekend sounds more refined, and slightly less goofy, and the result is the band's best record.

Kanye West Yeezus (Def Jam)

I don't like talking about Yeezus without acknowledging its misogyny and megalomania, but those are complicated topics for another time. Instead, I'll just bow down to its greatness. Kanye makes better production decisions and presents more interesting themes than any other rap artist. Yeezus is a mess and a beast, and it's the most fearless record of the year.

Majical Cloudz Impersonator (Matador)

Though it's a mostly slow and stark album, Impersonator somehow still resonates as an exciting and inspired experience. Devon Welsh sings viscerally and without reservation, and his production manages to conjure up sweeping emotion not with swelling strings or cymbal crashes, but with minimal synths and murmured voice loops.

Mutual Benefit Love's Crushing Diamond (Soft Eyes)

For every Yeezus there is a Love's Crushing Diamond, a record that isn't trying to be anything other than just really nice music. As a blend of Sufjan-inspired banjo folk and dialed down symphonic anthems, this album has been a staple throughout my own autumn and winter listening.

Volcano Choir Repave (Jagjaguwar)

Repave has been out of style since 2008. It's all shout-along choruses and muffled Bukowski sound bites and lyrics that kind-of don't mean anything. But man, Justin Vernon really sings like he means it, and that can pretty much win me over every time.

Bill Callahan Dream River (Drag City)

Rhye Woman (Republic)

Danny Brown Old (Warner)

Arcade Fire Reflektor (Merge)

The Knife Shaking the Habitual (Rabid)


In June, Tara paid a Toronto scalper $80 to sit in the 500 section of the Rogers Centre with 45,000 other Taylor Swift fans. It was the best. Coast writer since 1998.

Don Brownrigg LOCAL It Takes All Kinds (To Make This World, I Find) (Outside)

Seven years after Wander Songs, this gentle songsmith returned with a robust, varied LP, defying the every-other-year release approach most artists take, and to much greater, measured effect, in part thanks to producer Daniel Ledwell's sonic palette of keys, percussion and his special brand of vocal deftness.

Nothing Was the Same (Universal)

Save "Started From the Bottom" and "Hold On, We're Going Home," there are no obvious singles on Drake's third LP, a meandering, hook-light treatise on fame and love. He doesn't give a fuck because he doesn't need to, which when it doesn't sound arrogant (often) is downright liberating.

Kacey Musgraves Same Trailer Different Park (Universal)

Great strides were made this year by women in the conservative country genre---Brandy Clark, Ashley Monroe, Juliette Barnes---but no voice rose further above the hats and beers than Musgraves, whose "Follow Your Arrow" (about making life choices for yourself) was like Dylan going electric in some circles. Sassy spitfires are always in short supply, and most of them can't turn a phrase like this one.

Mount Moriah Miracle Temple (Merge)

This dark and sturdy second record from the North Carolina trio leans a little bit country, a little bit alternative, a lot Americana. Like Charleston neighbours Shovels & Rope, MM plays bright and breezy as well as soulful sadness, with a great anchor in singer Heather McEntire, who traded in her post-punk roots for this excellent fit.

Savages Silence Yourself (Matador)

In a year where misogyny reigned and Wild Flag called it quits, nothing feels more vital than this vicious, pissed-off post-punk quartet. Led by Jehnny Beth, a storm-faced low-voiced wailer, Savages' most revolutionary moment is the build behind Beth screaming "I am here," dissolving into "I, I, I...." Hold onto your face.

Shovels & Rope O' Be Joyful (Dualtone)

Tegan & Sara Heartthrob (Warner)

Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of the City (XL)

Volcano Choir Repave (Jagjaguwar)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs Mosquito (Interscope)


Doug Taylor began writing for the Coast in June 1999. In a previous life, he interviewed Stan Rogers twice, neglecting to record either occasion. The first time, Rogers was just a guy with an album that eased the ordeal of finding Canadian content for a country show on a small town radio station.

The Motorleague Acknowledge, Acknowledge (independent)

If you want loud and fast yet tight and clear, look no further than this Moncton quartet. One title, "We Are All Going Directly to Hell," is a recurring theme. The future looks bleak, but the rock lands in angry young hands. Next to this, Green Day sounds sedated.

Cyndi Cain LOCAL Soul Food (independent)

Duly noting the silky grooves of Jamie Sparks and a 1970s relic like Professor Lett, Cain can boast the finest soul album connected to Atlantic Canada. Teaming with members of The Chronos Band, Cain captures the dynamic warmth of her live shows. Solid songwriting and a vocal-guitar duel are pleasant surprises.

Daft Punk Random Access Memories (Columbia)

Even if the robotic aspect of the French duo gives you the creeps, you have to like the humans let into the party. Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers propels one of the year's huge hits, "Get Lucky" plus two more dance-alicious tracks. Even Julian Casablancas benefits from funky spinal realignment.

Cecile McLorin Salvant WomanChild (Justin Time)

Here's a debut album displaying vast vocal range, cooly confident piano style, playful nature and a sense of grandeur. McLorin Salvant can invigorate museum pieces from Bessie Smith and Fats Waller to "John Henry." Her own compositions use words as concise entry into instrumental exploration.

Guy Clark My Favorite Picture of You (Dualtone)

At 72, Clark's wisdom and descriptive power are elevating him into a late-blooming living legend, somewhere in the country pantheon between Willie Nelson and Townes Van Zandt. Gordie Sampson co-wrote two songs, including the title number about Clark's late wife, "A standup angel who won't back down."

Haim Days Are Gone (Polydor)

Okkervil River The Silver Gymnasium (ATO)

Black Joe Lewis Electric Slave (Vagrant)

Kevin Breit and the Upper York Mandolin Orchestra Field Recording (Poverty Playlist)

Charles Bradley Victim of Love (Daptone)


Coast writer since 2005, Stephanie is the Coast's arts editor, co-organizer of the Rebel Girl Halifax Rock Camp and tried to learn dub drums last night.

Beyoncé BEYONCÉ (Columbia)

Once the requisite screaming was finished on Twitter, then began the itemizing of the songs, the analyzing of the feminist-ness of the album and the coveting of the garments. As I have said to many people before, I cannot have the Beyoncé conversation, it means too much to me. You can find me circling The Oval with "Blow" on repeat. Bow down, bitches.

Thee Oh Sees Floating Coffin (Castle Face)

I have never stopped loving this band. Every night is spent praying Thee Oh Sees last as long as The Simpsons and I can get as many flute solos into my life as possible. There's just something indescribably wonderful about blood and demented lyrics couched in sweet harmony.

Old and Weird LOCAL Judy Cool (independent)

For a 13-minute offering, Old and Weird forces the listener to unravel quite a bit. The lyrics are intriguing and impermeable, the harmonies scratch a strange itch, the composition takes us all to school. As expected, Judy Cool shimmers and unassumingly takes its rightful place at the top of the heap.

Vixens LOCAL Vixens (La Vida Es Un Mus)

Are you wound a little tightly? Just chill out, get over yourself, listen to this primal scream of a record. You can live without thinking---for a minute anyway. It won't take long because Vixens doesn't waste time---the anti-meditation actually works wonders.

Dog Day LOCAL Fade Out (Fun Dog)

Like an exceptional piece of sphalerite, Fade Out is murky and beautiful. But unlike the common mineral, this needs no polishing. Forged in the wilderness, Fade Out emerges brilliant and perfect, suitable for a wake, a night alone, a daytime walk.

Freelove Fenner Do Not Affect A Breezy Manner (Fixture)

M.I.A. Matangi (Interscope)

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan UZU (Paper Bag)

Ciara Ciara (Epic)

Teenanger Singles Don't $ell (Telephone Explosion/Southpaw)

Musical memory lane
Musicians and music fans think back on the past year of wild shows, precious moments and why you should go see more live music.

Glitterhole playing at Gus's for Oral Tradition

What appeared to be a man wearing a blonde wig led what appeared to be a man in a black gimp suit to a keyboard on the small stage at Gus'. What followed was an amorphous sexiness wrapped in a stunted cold war synth pop hurled into the future. Nothing's been the same since. —DD

Joanna Barker and fam at In The Dead of Winter

A choice memory of 2013 is an appropriately frigid night during In the Dead of Winter, when Joanna Barker invited her niece and nephew up on stage at Cempoal, in front of the cafe's skeleton mural. They accompanied her "Whale Song" with whale sounds. Beyond adorable. —DT

Cold Warps covers Dog Day

For the release of Dog Day's long-awaited Fade Out, pop-punk goobers Cold Warps covered "Love Makes it Mad" from the band's 2005 EP Thank You, a surreal and sincere act of reverence and gratitude for the coolest canines in town. —AY

Hopscotch Halifax

A street-art cypher kicked off Hopscotch 2013 near Canal Street in Dartmouth, featuring free bars from PsycThaPrince (#rare), Kaleb Simmonds on beatbox, Quake Matthews, Vanessa Furlong and many more with Halifax's hip-hop history by Hermitofdawoods. Fresh as hell. —AY

Heaven For Real at Sappyfest

During a particularly raucous Heaven For Real performance at this year's Sappyfest, I witnessed, from stage left, a deeply curious moment: mid-song, guitarist Mark Grundy proceeded to perch on tippy-toe behind his twin brother Scott (whilst the latter was singing into the mic) and exhale precisely onto the back of his neck. Why, Mark, why?! —AP

Aqua Alta at HPX

It's been a banner year in Jenn Grant, even with no LP due till 2014. In addition to her vox on the Heavy Blinkers' Health, Grant also made a supergroup with Charles Austin and Graeme Campbell. What began as a recording project came to life for the first time at HPX, as Grant and a fleshed-out band brought Aqua Alta's space-pop tracks magically to life. —TT Rebel Girl Halifax Rock Camp show

Mmeltz, Fuzzy Does'nt, Psych, Bad Apples: Four brand-new local bands playing their first show ever. After the kids spent a week in music boot camp---covering history, playing, merch, publicity, all the stuff---the Pavilion was packed to the gills by their proud parents/grandparents/friends to check out the songs they'd written together. There was post-punk, pop, rock and one of the best lullabies I've ever heard. Inspiring. —TT

"Ask First" takes on Robin Thicke

Joyful, hot and educational, J. Mary Burnet and Kayleigh Trace's "Ask First" forged the "Blurred Lines" rewrite path, taking the gross lyrics of Thicke's dance hit---recognizing, after all, that it's a pretty perfect dance song---and turns it on its ear, making sex-positive and consensual new lyrics that you have no shame shaking it to. —SJ

The Plan reunite at Halifax Pop Explosion

Raw power just won't quit...after a 12- year break, that is. Halifax Pop Explosion cooked up a doozy, gathering the far-flung hardcore/math rock group together for another go. Spurred on by eight-hour practices of the supremely complicated songs, it was all worth it when it exploded in a set full of sweat and noise. —SJ

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