Released earlier in the year, Dan Snaith (aka Caribou, aka Daphni) put out Fabriclive 93, a collection of unreleased edits taken from his deep vault, rounded out with a handful of tracks from like-minded artists. On Joli Mai, Snaith cherry-picks 11 of those 23 tracks, giving the listener wide-eyed full-length versions of these inventive, hypnotic old-school techno bangers.
The sophomore LP under Snaith’s Daphni moniker benefits profoundly from the immediacy with which these cuts were constructed and the intimacy with which they’re presented. Joli Mai is a majestic extended edition of 2017’s best DJ mix. Daniel Sylvester
20. Partner In Search of Lost Time
(You’ve Changed Records)
Who moves from Sackville, passing over Montreal and Toronto, to launch their career in Windsor, Ontario? Only a group as committed to blazing their own path as Partner. On their debut, In Search of Lost Time, Josée Caron and Lucy Niles are at perfect ease being themselves, penning songs about watching TV, smoking weed and living with roommates. But it’s the way they match this tongue-in-cheek banality with soaring ’90s guitars and an amazingly droll sense of humour that gives this album its undying charm.
There are thousands of musicians in Toronto right now wishing they could craft something as original as Partner have going from their Windsor apartment. Daniel Sylvester
2. Patton Oswalt Talking for Clapping
Released one the day after his wife, Michelle McNamara, passed away, Patton Oswalt’s seventh comedy special was destined to be viewed through a different lens than originally intended. His bits about the enduring optimism he possesses when raising his daughter, or how stingy his doctor had become with prescribing painkillers, take on a new, eerie meaning (in an interview, Oswalt speculated that his wife may have died from an accidental Xanax overdose). But what makes his 90-minute performance so buoyant and enjoyable is Oswalt’s ability to draw the audience member in, even when his material becomes extremely personal. On Talking for Clapping, Oswalt’s comedy comes off extraordinarily honest and real, completely unaware just how real his life would soon become. Daniel Sylvester
5. Steph Tolev Hot N’ Hungry
On Hot N’ Hungry, the debut from Steph Tolev, the Toronto comedian introduces herself to the world by pointing out every imaginable flaw about herself within the first ten minutes. Making hilarious (and mostly exaggerated) observations about her body hair, gravelly voice and weight, Tolev comes off completely empowered, beating most male comedians at their own self-deprecation game. But what makes Hot N’ Hungry one of the year’s best is how clever her jokes are (about crapping her pants and weighing herself in tuna on a first date), once the listener is acquainted with the pathetic picture Tolev paints of herself. When it comes to Tolev, nothing is off limits, making Hot N’ Hungry a breath of dirty air. Daniel Sylvester
You can just hear Ian William Craig’s mom now: “Honey, you have such a beautiful voice, why are you trying to bury it under all that noise?” But the true appeal of Centres, the third LP from the Edmonton experimentalist, lies not just within his beautiful voice or even all that noise — it’s all about the specific type of texture Craig chooses to construct.
Yes, it’s true that the 36-year-old uses faulty and decrepit tape machines to create his end-days recordings (which is nothing new; see William Basinski) alongside electronic-tinged classical arrangements (see also Hauschka), but there’s something about Craig’s utter dedication to modifying and fucking with every note and every element that makes this 13-track LP so absorbing. Ian William Craig’s tactile obsession with sound gives Centres‘ sweeping moments an eerie feel, its stoic moments an urgent feel. Every vocal comes off like an angelic drone, while every drone sounds like nothing less than the absolute logical choice. Daniel Sylvester
What makes the Avalanches’ Wildflower — the forever-in-the-making follow-up to the Australian turntablists’ 2000 masterpiece, Since I Left You — such a fascinating listen is the bonkers way they approach the album’s samples, themes and collaborators. While many successful electronic artists have used their stature to indiscriminately bring in the biggest guests they can land, the Avalanches dug deep into their contact list, working with artists that best suited the album’s warped vision, from Biz Markie to Toro Y Moi, MF DOOM to Royal Trux’s Jennifer Herrema — hell, they even managed to pull David Berman out of retirement.
The samples used on this 21-track LP are bursting with just as much personality as those on their debut: the goofy “Frankie Sinatra,” for example, is a masterfully stitched earworm that benefited from eternal patience and foresight in clearing both Rodgers and Hammerstein and the Beatles. If Wildflower is what 16 years of hard work gets you, then 2032 should be a good year for quirky electronic music. Daniel Sylvester
Let’s face it — most collaborative albums are known to be largely disappointing. For every Dolly, Linda and Emmylou there are a dozen Dylan & the Deads. So what makes the union of Neko Case, k.d. lang and Laura Veirs work so damn wonderfully? It may be because the trio never seem the least bit interested in being in a supergroup, as they find themselves rather content working to each other’s strengths, crafting something that sounds equally comfortable and invigorating.
Their 14-track debut manages to avoid sounding bloated, as Case, lang and Veirs possess enough musical intelligence to find the simplicity and beauty essential to each track — even the superb group of musical collaborators (including Wilco’s Glenn Kotche, Soul Coughing’s Sebastian Steinberg and producer Tucker Martine) serve the songs the way old-time session players were accustomed to. Expertly showcasing Case’s from-the-rafters delivery, lang’s vintage aesthetic and Veirs’ emotional versatility, case/lang/veirs comes off as the sound of three superstars, not one supergroup. Daniel Sylvester