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Best Canadian Music Writing 2018

by Del Cowie

Invisible’s Bibliophonic imprint is back. After publishing books on The Dears, NoMeansNo, The Wooden Stars, The Deadly Snakes and Jim Guthrie the imprint is returning after a short hiatus to publish short books about contemporary Canadian musicians and I recently joined Invisible’s team to be the editor of the series.

Consequently, reading about Canadian music is inherently part of the role and it crossed my mind that it’s rare to see articles about Canadian music collected together in one spot at a time when year-end lists are everywhere.

So I decided to compile a list of my own. Additionally, I asked the 200-strong cross-Canada Polaris Music Prize jury, of which I am a member, to submit one article they were most proud of writing this year (If I’m allowed to add my own personal submission, it would be this article on Why Northern Touch Still Matters). This list is an admittedly unscientific curated sampling of this combined process.

While these pieces generally focus on musical artists across a plethora of musical genres, in many cases the articles expand on social and cultural themes reflective of undercurrents that were particularly resonant in the past 12 months. Not only does the writing feature profiles of engaging artists at various stages with interesting things to say about excellent musical projects, it also hones in on intimate creative processes which are often impacted by various external factors important as gentrification, mental health issues and systemic racism and sexism.

As I had already mentioned the Polaris Music Prize, I’d be remiss in overlooking the significance of Jeremy Dutcher heralding what he calls the ‘Indigenous renaissance’ in winning the prize this year. Other themes explored in these pieces include critical interrogation of how women are viewed, positioned, and assert agency in the music industry in the #MeToo era, and also how themes of diaspora and being away from Canada can impact creativity. There’s no shortage of compelling Canadian music writing this year. Many writers wrote more than one excellent piece and out of fairness I have only included one story per writer. There’s far too many to include in one post, but I do believe these 33 articles represent a varied, entertaining, and thought-provoking sampling of what is on offer.

Thanks to all the writers and editors involved in publishing these pieces, as well as Steve Jordan and Aaron Brophy, and the members of the Polaris Music Prize jury for their input. Please keep an eye out for more news from Bibliophonic in 2019.

And here’s the list, featuring the writers in alphabetical order:

  1. Award Shows Need Rappers More Than Rappers Need Award Shows by Erin Ashley
  2. The secret music career of legendary filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin by Michael Barclay
  3. Halal Gang Set the Record Straight by Amani Bin Shikhan
  4. Q&A: Pianist Jean-Michel Blais Says Music Stops His Tourette Syndrome Symptoms by Aaron Brophy
  5. U.S. Girls’ Unique Vision finds Unlikely Indie-Rock Breakthrough by Stuart Berman
  6. Meet Hubert Lenoir, the Iconoclastic Young Quebecois Songwriter Behind the Polaris Music Prize-Nominated ‘Darlène’ by Stephen Carlick
  7. Lil Berete is living up to his name by Jordan Darville
  8. A day in the life of Jessie Reyez, Toronto’s next big pop star by Samantha Edwards
  9. Rethinking my rock fandom in the age of #MeToo by Carla Gillis
  10. How Cœur de pirate broke the cycle of trauma on her new album by Holly Gordon
  11. How Taking Chances, Joan Didion and Death Brought Jennifer Castle’s ‘Angels of Death’ to Life by Sarah Greene
  12. How Musicians Are Keeping Endangered Languages Alive by Chaka V. Grier
  13. Venetian Snares and Daniel Lanois Are From Worlds So Different, They Decided to Make Their Own by Daryl Keating
  14. How Drake’s obsession with New Orleans finally paid off by Jesse Kinos-Goodin
  15. Dilly Dally Almost Died by Jill Krajewski
  16. Cape Breton’s fertile music scene by Nick Krewen
  17. Alice Glass is finally telling her story by Liisa Ladouceur
  18. Former Braids member Katie Lee opens up about band’s ‘performative allyship’ by Melody Lau
  19. Montreal’s anglo rappers are ready for their breakthrough by Erik Leijon
  20. At Venus Fest, inclusion isn’t a buzzword — it’s the heart of their fight for women in music by Sarah MacDonald
  21. Nap Eyes’ subjective science by Brennan McCracken
  22. Art Is Our Language: Inside the Indigenous Renaissance with Jeremy Dutcher and Snotty Nose Rez Kids By Melody McKiver
  23. Zaki Ibrahim: The Secret Life of Planets By Anupa Mistry
  24. Fucked Up Want To Inspire The Next Fucked Up by Luke Ottenhof
  25. Rhye Discusses Mistaken Identity, Russian Folk Influence and the Solo Journey of ‘Blood’ by Ryan Patrick
  26. Arkells are on a mission to right rock’s historic wrongs by Michael Rancic
  27. Cold Specks details her battle with schizophrenia and hospitalization by Benjamin Rayner
  28. Shad introduces the characters that populate his Short Story About A War by Tabassum Siddiqui
  29. Witch Prophet Challenges Genre, Reveals Past Lives and Finds Creative Safe Space on ‘The Golden Octave’ by Laura Stanley
  30. Charlotte Day Wilson wants to break up the boys’ club by Richard Trapunski
  31. When Buffy Sainte-Marie Met Big Bird by Andrea Warner
  32. Polaris Prize winner Lido Pimienta’s life changing moment by Brad Wheeler
  33. The Sorority are ready to shake up the world of hip-hop by Kevin Ritchie

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