A roundup of this year's most impressive local releases.
Let’s hit you with an understatement: 2014 was a kick-ass year for Toronto artists and music. As is the case with any end-of-year compilation, this list of best Toronto albums is the result of a purely subjective exercise. But we feel strongly that the following albums represent a wide range of genres, reflect artistic excellence—and prove that Toronto produces some of the best music in the country, if not the world.
And with that, here is the list for the best Toronto albums of 2014:
Fucked Up—Glass Boys
Question: If you’re indie rock’s favourite hardcore band, how do you follow up your weird, hour-plus-long rock opera? By making a tight, slightly more sonically traditional hardcore record about the totally not-traditional topic of aging, is how.
Various Artists—God Bless Toronto
If you’re wondering what Drake hath wrought in the Toronto hip-hop scene, this is it: a whole bunch of dark, moody, spacey hip-hop from artists young enough that they barely remember a world before Drizzy.
Tre Mission made his name as North America’s only grime MC, but on his Big Dada Records debut, he showed that he can rhyme over everything from cloud rap to future garage, and that he has a real gift for rapping-as-storytelling.
Joyland was Trust’s first record as a solo project, following the departure of Maya Postepski, who left the band to focus on Austra full time. Robert Alfons didn’t disappoint, producing an album that was inspired equally by old-school rave and ‘80s new wave.
This half-Torontonian, half-Ottawanian industrial duo managed to put a whole range of dark electronic music into one tight package that was both smart and undeniably danceable.
DFA 1979—The Physical World
The boys are back. With The Physical World, Jesse F. Keeler and Sebastien Grainger reunite after a less-than-happy split to deliver a powerful rock-minded album that reflects their newfound maturity while maintaining a DIY, indie feel.
Cold Specks’ Al Spx manages to build off the “doom soul” of its debut album I Predict a Graceful Expulsion to bless us with Neuroplasticity. The Toronto-born artist has grown artistically, and it shows: the vocals and songwriting are even stronger this time out.
The latest from the Toronto band is indie pop done right. While far from being an “overnight sensation,” it did have a breakout year. Album Alvvays is the proof—a delightful study in contrasts that balances mainstream ambition with lo-fi sensibilities.
Underground R&B darling Rochelle Jordan returns with her ongoing take on Aaliyah-styled soul. The full-length project known as 1021 builds off her well-received mixtapes and further develops her electro-R&B sound.
Daniel Caesar—Praise Break
With the soulful and introspective tracks that make up Praise Break, emerging singer-songwriter Daniel Caesar proves there is a budding underground R&B scene in this city. Powerfully encompassing themes of love, religion, and spirituality, the EP was a revelatory experience in 2014.