Here’s a playlist of key tracks from (mostly) decent-to-good albums that didn’t make the top 40 in the last post.
A Tribe Called Red (featuring Northern Voice) - "Sisters" from Nation II Nation (Pirates Blend). I wish I liked this group’s full-length more than I do, but in small doses it’s totally killer.
Belle and Sebastian - "Your Cover's Blown (Miaoux Miaoux remix)" from The Third Eye Centre (Matador). The archetypal twee pop band get a prog-disco makeover. Listen here.
Billy Bragg - "No One Knows Nothing Any More" from Tooth and Nail (Dine Alone). The highlight of a welcome comeback record.
Black Joe Lewis - "Come to My Party" from Electric Slave (Vagrant). There is no way you can turn down an invitation this rockin’.
Destroyer - "El Rito" from Five Spanish Songs (Merge). We never understand what Dan Bejar is singing about in English, so this Spanish glam rocker makes a lot of sense.
Dirtbombs - "Sugar on Top" from Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey (In the Red). Ridiculous—and a really, really good time.
Foxygen – “No Destruction” from We Are the 21st-Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic (Jagjaguwar). Slacker rock hasn’t sounded this good since the 1990s—if in fact, it ever did.
Grapes of Wrath - "Mexico" from High Road (Aporia). The soundtrack to your snow shovelling and dreams of sun, from a surprisingly strong comeback album. Listen here.
Hidden Cameras & Snowblink - "The Chauffeur" from compilation Arts & Crafts X (Arts & Crafts). This Duran Duran cover was way better than it deserves to be, and a highlight of this Toronto label’s anniversary releases. Listen here.
Lorde – “Royals” from Pure Heroine (Universal). Unquestionably 2013’s breakout artist, this 17-year-old New Zealander is ready to make a whole album as good as her singles.
M.I.A. – “Come Walk With Me” from Matangi (Universal). Rarely does she combine actual pop hooks with such loopy, ADD backing tracks.
Mozart’s Sister – title track from eponymous EP (Merko). Among the legions of ’80s-worshipping modern pop acts, this Montreal group stands tall. Should be touring with Solange. Listen here.
Sarah Neufeld – title track from Hero Brother (Constellation). Montreal violinist (Arcade Fire, Bell Orchestre) entrances with a woozy, foot-stomping solo performance that sweeps you up and wraps you around her bow.
Randy Newman - "Big Time" from Peter Gabriel’s And I’ll Scratch Yours (Universal). Who better than a master satirist to rediscover the sardonic humour in Gabriel’s ode to ’80s excess? Listen here.
Pet Shop Boys - "Love is a Bourgeois Construct" from Electric (x2). A song that sums up every brilliant moment of this band’s 30-year career.
Rah Rah – “Art and a Wife” from The Poet’s Dead (Hidden Pony). Rousing power pop from Regina about balancing life and art past your 20s.
Shad – “Fam Jam” from Flying Colours (Black Box). This country’s most dexterous MC delivers a first-generation Canadian anthem.
Superchunk - "Me & You & Jackie Mittoo" from I Hate Music (Merge). The best opening line of any song this year: “I hate music / what is it worth / can’t bring anyone back to this Earth.”
Bob Wiseman - "The Reform Party at Burning Man" from Giulietta Masina at the Oscars Crying (independent). A light funk ditty about the Harper government’s muzzling of scientists, with Serena Ryder on the rap. Listen here. Or watch the very different Exclaim TV version:
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Subway" from Mosquito (Universal). This hushed subterranean ballad is a reminder of the fragility at the heart of this band’s magic—especially on an album that often tried too hard.