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Best Canadian Music Writing 2019

Photo credits: Orville Peck by Samuel Engelking & Haviah Might by Yung Yemi

Photo credits: Orville Peck by Samuel Engelking & Haviah Might by Yung Yemi

by Del Cowie, Invisible’s intrepid Bibliophonic editor

Here it is: the second annual Bibliophonic compilation of Canadian music writing. Expanding from last year’s 33 to a Top 40, this year’s list includes pieces about emerging and established musicians, long form pieces about city and regional music scenes, and short pieces about the creative process of acclaimed releases in Canadian music.

It’s very tempting to single out individual pieces, but doing so would make this post interminably long. The themes impacting the everyday lives of musicians (and everyone else) include the importance of representation, the environment, good mental health, and facilitating musical community against the rising costs and scarcity of space. These themes are especially prevalent in music writing around the country this year, alongside the requisite, yet engaging discussions of songwriting, musical arrangements and performance. Additionally, many of these pieces address nostalgic legacy and tragic loss. In a year where musicians such as John Mann and Kelly Fraser passed away, it’s also important to also acknowledge the contributions of industry figures like Deane Cameron, Dave ‘Bookie’ Bookman, and Darryl Weeks, among others.

Thanks to all of the writers and editors involved in editing and publishing of these pieces over the past year, in facilitating this snapshot of the artists, music, issues, and undercurrents that are making an impact in this country’s musical communities. As for the Bibliophonic imprint itself, please take a look at the titles that have been published in the series so far, here including the updated 2019 version of Mark Black’s NoMeansNo: Going Nowhere and stay tuned for more news from the imprint in 2020.

And without further ado, here’s the Best Canadian Music Writing Top 40:

Vancouver’s women and nonbinary DJs are battling the juggernauts of gentrification and intolerance by Kelsey Adams (CBC Arts)

The Rites of John Mann by Michael Barclay (Radio Free Canuckistan)

Jayda G Bridges the Art/Science Gap on ‘Significant Changes’ by Tom Beedham (Exclaim!)

Soft Landing by Sandro Perri by Stuart Berman (Pitchfork)

Peaches Explains Her Body Positive , Provocative Art Exhibit in Germany by Karen Bliss (Billboard)

Luke Lalonde Quells Environmental Anxiety Through Joyful Creation on ‘The Perpetual Optimist’ by Sam Boer (Exclaim!)

Patrick Watson dives deeper on Wave by Lorraine Carpenter (Cult MTL)

The Remix Project kickstarts dreams for at-risk youth by Jonathan Dekel (Globe and Mail)

Orville Peck masks modern anxieties in cowboy fringe by Samantha Edwards (NOW)

Sydanie doesn’t want to change herself to make it by Sajae Elder (The Fader)

‘I needed to stop’: Marie Davidson on leaving the club scene — and taking care of herself by Holly Gordon (CBC Music)

How Canadian Artists Survived the Napster Boom by Ian Gormely (CBC Music)

The musical colours of Dominique Fils-Aimé by Chaka V. Grier (Musicworks)

Black Muslim Women Keep the Energy of #BlackOutEid Alive by Huda Hassan (Paper)

Meet Toronto’s Frank Dukes, the go-to producer for superstars like Rihanna and Drake by Nick Krewen (Toronto Star)

How Tegan and Sara learned to love their younger selves by Melody Lau (CBC Music)

The blossoming of Begonia by Erin Lebar (Winnipeg Free Press)

Loud in the here and now: Quebec’s biggest rapper chooses his landmarks by Erik Leijon (Montreal Gazette)

An oral history of Thrush Hermit’s Clayton Park by Cam Lindsay (Vice)

A classic Quebec rap record turns 20 by Darcy MacDonald (Cult MTL)

Haviah Mighty Tells the Powerful Story of Life on the 13th Floor by Sarah MacDonald (Words and Music)

The uncanny parallels between Drake and Leonard Cohen by Erin MacLeod (CBC Music)

TOBi’s search for home by Claudia McNeilly (NOW)

MorMor’s Next Chapter by Max Mertens (NOW)

Behind the set list with Matt Mays by Morgan Mullin (The Coast)

Snotty Nose Rez Kids Are Laying the Groundwork for Future Generations by Luke Ottenhoff (Bandcamp)

Deconstructing the story of Toronto’s ever-evolving backing band by Michael Rancic (A-Side)

Canadian music’s new north star, Riit, lets talent do the talking by Ben Rayner (Toronto Star)

Charlotte Cornfield Embraces Space and Time on New Album ‘The Shape of Your Name’ by Kaitlin Reuther (Exclaim!)

Who’s leading the way toward accessibility in Toronto’s music scene? by Rachel Romu (NOW)

Kelly Fraser: Powerful singer brought Inuit culture to the world by Nigaan Sinclair (Winnipeg Free Press)

LAL Embrace Community on New Album ‘Dark Beings’ by Daniel Sylvester (Exclaim!)

Breaking down the politics of generating a soca hit by Sharine Taylor (A-Side)

PUP: scrappy Toronto punk band kick a hole in rock star mythology by Richard Trapunski (NOW)

Following no one’s rules, nêhiyawak proudly looks to both the past and the future with nipiy by Mike Usinger (The Straight)

Clairmont the Second Is Finally Making the Music He’s Always Wanted To Make by Riley Wallace (Exclaim!)

Queering the Canadian music industry by Andrea Warner (CBC Music)

Robbie Robertson: The confessions of a cinematic man by Brad Wheeler (Globe and Mail)

Carly Rae Jepsen: Queen of the Non-popular Stars by Carl Wilson (Slate)

Newfoundland’s Lawnya Vawnya is an antidote to the “bigger is better” mentality of major festivals by Matt Williams (A-Side)


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