JJ’s Fave Albums of 2021: Zombie Apocalypse Edition 2.0

Mother Mother - Inside

Happy New Year!

I don’t know about you, but I am SO stoked that this pandemic is FINALLY over!

*checks notes*

Damn, apparently that was just a dream I had. My bad. We are actually almost two years into this seemingly endless zombie apocalypse. However, as much as our “new normal” has sucked and provided numerous challenges to our physical health, mental health, employment, travel plans, and entertainment options, one major positive has been that musical artists have had way more time to write and record albums in lieu of touring. This has allowed musicians to be much more prolific than usual.

Coming just a few short months after my favourite album of 2020, Taylor Swift released another instant classic with evermore. While not quite as perfect as folklore, it showed that she is indeed the real deal and needs to collaborate with Aaron Dessner (The National) and Jack Antonoff more often. Oh, and she also re-recorded her early albums Red and Fearless, complete with a couple albums of impressive unreleased material. She sure wasn’t slacking in 2021.

Alt-rock veterans Mark Lanegan and Juliana Hatfield keep pumping out great tunes with various projects and this past year was no different. Mainly known for fronting Screaming Trees during the grunge era, Mark Lanegan’s latest album and collaboration Dark Mark & Skeleton Joe is a darkly fun electro-rock listen. After making cover albums of Olivia Newton-John and The Police, Juliana Hatfield released the criminally overlooked Blood.

Speaking of alt-rock vets, Liz Phair FINALLY returned with her first album in over a decade. After the frustrating and disappointing Funstyle, Phair decided to right the ship and release the stellar Soberish. Nothing will ever top Exile in Guyville, but this was a nice return to form.

This past year was also about pleasant surprises. After their first couple albums, I basically gave up on The Killers. They always had *ahem* killer singles but they basically shat the bed with their albums… until the last year and a half. They finally found their mojo with 2020’s Imploding the Mirage. When their tour plans got derailed because of the pandemic, Brandon Flowers and company decided to go into full Bruce Springsteen Nebraska mode with Pressure Machine. If you were expecting another “Mr. Brightside” then this would not be an album for you, but it is stunning from start to finish.

The biggest redemption story of the year was Weezer. Like The Killers, they almost seemed like they were going through the motions after classic early albums. But Rivers Cuomo and the gents delivered the goods with two incredible albums in 2021, and they couldn’t be anymore different. Ok Human has a chill, ‘70s singer-songwriter vibe while Van Weezer is an unashamed love letter to ‘80s hard rock acts like Van Halen and Ozzy Osbourne.

Locally, Saskatchewan proved once again to boast an incredible amount of talent that are getting much deserved national and international attention. Megan Nash, Andy Shauf, Jeffery Straker, Christofur Real, Val Halla, and many others made the SK proud.

While lots of my favourite albums are pretty mellow, I always need to rock out and strut and be the cock of the walk sometimes. Some of my fave “rawk” albums were by bands like IDLES, Viagra Boys, Amyl and the Sniffers, Serlin Greaves (of The Watchmen), Death From Above 1979, Royal Blood, Real Sickies, and the Foo Fighters.

2021 didn’t have an obvious “album of the year” for me, but I have to go with Mother Mother’s Inside. I have always appreciated this band’s earlier work but I never really gave them the proper attention they deserve. That all changed with this album. It’s been the one release I find myself gravitating to more and more. Overall all it is fairly mellow, but it just exudes positive energy and celebrates love in all its forms: romantic, sexual, friendship, family, you name it. And after two years of this zombie apocalypse the world certainly could use some more love.

Anyhoo, here are 30 of my fave albums of 2021. For a taste of each album I made a playlist of one song from each release I think people should check out.


  1.  Mother Mother – Inside
  2. The Killers – Pressure Machine
  3. Taylor Swift – evermore
  4. Viagra Boys – Welfare Jazz
  5. Dark Mark & Skeleton Joe – Dark Mark vs Skeleton Joe
  6. Weezer – Van Weezer
  7. Jesse Malin – Sad and Beautiful World
  8. Liz Phair – Soberish
  9. Garbage – No Gods No Masters
  10. IDLES – Crawler
  11. CHVRCHES – Screen Violence
  12. Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend
  13. Foo Fighters – Medicine at Midnight
  14. Serlin Greaves – Sad Songs For Sale
  15. Amyl and The Sniffers – Comfort To Me
  16. Megan Nash – Soft Focus Features
  17. Real Sickies – Love is for Lovers
  18. Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
  19. Juliana Hatfield – Blood
  20. Weezer – OK Human
  21. Brandi Carlile – In These Silent Days
  22. Nancy Wilson – You and Me
  23. Royal Blood – Typhoons
  24. Death From Above 1979 – Is 4 Lovers
  25. Whitehorse – Strike Me Down
  26. Snail Mail – Valentine
  27. Jeffery Straker – Just Before Sunrise
  28. St. Vincent – Pay Your Way In Pain
  29. Christofur Real – Little Addictions
  30. The Wallflowers – Exit Wounds

JJ’s Top Albums of the Year: Zombie Apocalypse Edition

LISTEN: Taylor Swift Drops 'folklore' Quarantine Album

2020. What a year. Let’s never have a pandemic again, shall we? COVID-19 took the world as we know and yanked the rug out from under all of us. Things we took for granted like going to live concerts, sporting events, and movies are no longer possible for the foreseeable future. Working from home will likely be the new norm for most office workers. It’s like we are living in the first act of a dystopian movie. Up next, hazmat suits followed by full-tilt Mad Max barren wastelands. Giddyup!

In short, 2020 has been the equivalent of eating a shit sandwich laced with fentanyl while fending off zombies with Nickelback blaring in the background. And don’t even get me started about Tiger King.

However, one of the handful of positives this past year has been a constant influx of incredible new music. This was much needed since we’ve all been in quarantine mode for most of the year. Personally, I found myself gravitating more towards pop music. As someone with depression and anxiety, fun upbeat tunes were a nice escape from dealing with these unprecedented times. Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Hayley Williams, Carly Rae Jepsen, Meg Myers, and lots of others put out amazing albums this year.

During troubled times it’s always nice to have some comfort food, so it was refreshing to hear new music from some of my fave artists like Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, and Steve Earle. It was also heartwarming to get one final gift from Gord Downie. It’s still hard to believe he’s no longer with us.

2020 also seemed to be the year of JJ (which is a mighty fine name, I might add) with a trio of stellar albums from JJ Shiplett, JJ Voss, and JJ Wilde. And all three hail from Canada, eh.

Choosing my top album of the year was a tough call. UK punk rockers IDLES have been my favourite band/artist of the last ten years, The Boss and Fiona Apple released instant classics, and The Killers made a huge comeback, but I have to stick with folklore from Taylor Swift. It’s probably the “no shit, Sherlock” pick and likely tops most year-end lists, but the album is just that damn good. Collaborating with Aaron Dessner from The National proved to be a perfect combination. There are no 1989-ish bangers on this album, but that’s what makes it great. Tay Tay is the real deal.

So without further ado, here are my 40 top albums of 2020. I also made a Spotify playlist with my fave song from each album for your listening pleasure.

Enjoy! And let’s hope that this pandemic subsides sooner than later so we can actually go to some live shows in 2021!

P.S. Wear a damn mask!

  1. Taylor Swift – folklore
  2. IDLES – Ultra Mono
  3. Bruce Springsteen – Ghosts
  4. The Killers – Imploding the Mirage
  5. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
  6. Elliott BROOD – Keeper
  7. Lady Gaga – Chromatica
  8. Mark Lanegan – Straight Songs of Sorrow
  9. HAIM – Women in Music Pt. III
  10. Sarah Harmer – Are You Gone
  11. Best Coast – Always Tomorrow
  12. Nathaniel Rateliff – And It’s Still All Right
  13. Meg Myers – I’d Like 2 Go / Thank U 4 Taking Me 2 The Disco
  14. Drive-By Truckers – The Unraveling
  15. Miley Cyrus – Plastic Hearts
  16. Kathleen Edwards – Total Freedom
  17. Pearl Jam – Gigaton
  18. Gord Downie – Away is Mine
  19. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Reunions
  20. Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor
  22. Hannah Georgas – All That Emotion
  23. The Pack a.d. – it was fun while it lasted
  24. The Chicks – Gaslighter
  25. July Talk – Pray For It
  26. Brian Fallon – Local Honey
  27. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
  28. Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated Side B
  29. Beach Slang – The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City
  30. JJ Shiplett – Ruthless
  31. Bob Mould – Blue Hearts
  32. Steve Earle – Ghosts of West Virginia
  33. Chris Stapleton – Starting Over
  34. The Strokes – The New Abnormal
  35. Public Enemy – What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down?
  36. Green Day – Father of All…
  37. Brandy Clark – Your Life is a Record
  38. JJ Voss – Come Along With Me
  39. AC/DC – POWER UP
  40. JJ Wilde – Ruthless

JJ’s Best Albums of 2019

Sturgill Simpson

2019 was a year where I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am getting more and more out of touch with contemporary music. The less I know about Cardi B or rappers with Lil as a first name the better. But I’m okay with that. I’m in my forties so if I had the same tastes as a teenage girl and wore those skinny pants with the low crotches that make people look like they shit themselves I would look a tad ridiculous. That being said, some newer artists and bands caught my eye this past year, and I can at the very least appreciate their talent. Billie Eilish grew on me over the year, and I even think Post Malone’s new album is actually not bad.

This year I found I didn’t listen to as much music in my spare time as I usually have in the past, and didn’t find one album that automatically leaped out at me as the runaway album of the year. However, there were a ton of killer albums and EPs that made my ears happy. I tended to gravitate towards pop music more so than I have in past years so my list is pretty eclectic this year.

PUP put out an almost perfect punk album. Bad Religion and the Headstones showed once again that old farts can still outrock most of the kids. Bruce Springsteen released the cinematic Western Stars, appropriately accompanied by a stunning film. Charly Bliss released an album full of power pop songs that would sound right at home back in 1994 on The Wedge and Alternative Nation. Tegan and Sara literally went back in time to record a batch of tunes they wrote as teenagers. And sadly, one of the ‘90s biggest bands, The Cranberries, released a nice farewell to singer Dolores O’Riordan.

It was pretty much a coin flip to determine my favourite album of 2020. Jenny Lewis released the best album of her career, On The Line. Her sharp-as-a-tack songwriting and powerful voice has never been better, but Sturgill Simpson became a genre all unto himself with SOUND & FURY. With synths, disco beats, shredding guitar, and a super cool anime Netflix film to accompany the album, Simpson took a risky creative leap and ended up with the best album of the year. (Zac Brown could take some notes on how to change your sound and not embarrass yourself.)


For a taste of each album, check out my Spotify playlist featuring a track from each album.


Merry Xmas and Happy New Year!


  1. Sturgill Simpson – Sound & Fury
  2. Jenny Lewis – On The Line
  3. PUP – Morbid Stuff
  4. Bad Religion – Age of Unreason
  5. Headstones – PEOPLESKILLS
  6. Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars
  7. Charly Bliss – Young Enough
  8. Tegan and Sara – Hey, I’m Just Like You
  9. The Highwomen – The Highwomen
  10. The Cranberries – In The End
  11. Jade Jackson – Wilderness
  12. Tyler Childers – Country Squire
  13. Taylor Swift – Lover
  14. Jimmy Eat World – Surviving
  15. Pixies – Beneath The Earie
  16. The New Pornographers – In The Morse Code Of Brake Lights
  17. Iggy Pop – Free
  18. Leonard Cohen – Thanks for the Dance
  19. Jesse Malin – Sunset Kids
  20. Mannequin Pussy – Patience
  21. The Dead South – Sugar & Joy
  22. Sheryl Crow – Threads
  23. Steve Earle – Guy
  24. Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
  25. Marshall Burns – Dogs and Booze
  26. The National – I Am Easy to Find
  27. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell
  28. Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
  29. The Beaches – The Professional (EP)
  30. Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated
  31. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
  32. Del Barber – Easy Keeper
  33. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride
  34. The Northern Pikes – Forest of Love
  35. Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
  36. Arcana Kings – Lions as Ravens
  37. Tool – Fear Inoculum
  38. Filthy Friends – Emerald Valley
  39. Volbeat – Rewind, Replay, Rebound
  40. Natural Sympathies – Porous


JJ’s 40 Best Albums (& EPs) of 2018

Every few years people ring the death knell, bemoaning that “rock is dead.” 2018 was no exception, but this year there seemed to be more credence to this sentiment. At least in terms of record sales (is that even a thing anymore?) and streams, it’s evident that the kids these days are listening to more hip-hop, country, and pop. Cranked up guitars, bass, and drums seem to cater to more of a niche/older audience these days. When compiling my yearly Best Of list, I’m pretty surprised at how few “rock” bands made my list. This year I found myself listening to more roots, singer/songwriter stuff. Plus, I’ve always been a sucker for electro-pop music, and this year was a great year for that genre.

Unlike in recent years, there wasn’t that one album that instantly stood heads and shoulders above the rest for me. However, thanks to the magic of Spotify’s algorithms I have to pick Metric’s Art of Doubt as my fave album of 2018. Emily Haines and company have been one of the most consistently great bands of the last 15-20 years, and this album is no exception. Their last couple of albums have been fairly polished, but this one has a more raw, live, urgent, and off-the-cuff feel. Synths will always be a huge part of Metric’s sound but it’s nice to see Jimmy Shaw’s guitars getting some more love this time around. I still get chills every time I hear “Now or Never Now.”

Grunge pioneers Mudhoney never achieved the commercial success of their Seattle peers Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, or Alice in Chains, but they’ve been plugging away left of the dial, cranking out their fuzzed out, sardonic brand of rock. This year they released the perfect album for our time. In the age of Trump, Digital Garbage is a scathing, yet darkly funny look at everything wrong with the world today. Corporate greed, climate change deniers, flat earthers, evangelical wingnuts, NRA gun nuts, selfie culture, you name it. To quote an early Mudhoney classic, the world truly is flat out fucked. This is one album that George Carlin would enjoy and that’s a good thing.

Locally, Saskatchewan artists proved once again that they can more than hold their own against major artists around the rest of the world. Colter Wall proved that he is the real deal with the exceptional Songs of the Plains. When Steve Earle calls you the best songwriter out there today then you know you’re doing something right. After being such a talented and compelling live act for the last few years, Belle Plaine released a studio alum that properly showcased her stunning voice and songwriting. Malice, Mercy, Grief & Wrath is pretty darn close to roots/country/jazz perfection. Not to be outdone, Nick Faye & The Deputies, Dagan Harding, Blue Youth, Deaf Idols, League of One, Port Noise, Braindead Rodeo, and so many more put out stellar albums and EPs to make Saskatchewan proud.

Without further ado, here are the 40 albums and EPs that made my ears happy. Enjoy!


  1. Metric – Art of Doubt
  2. Mudhoney – Digital Garbage
  3. Colter Wall – Songs of the Plains
  4. First Aid Kit – Ruins
  5. Belle Plaine – Malice, Mercy, Grief & Wrath
  6. Brandi Carlile – By The Way, I Forgive You
  7. Dear Rouge – PHASES
  8. Brian Fallon – Sleepwalkers
  9. CHVRCHES – Love Is Dead
  10. Kasey Musgraves – Golden Hour
  11. Death Cab For Cutie – Thank You for Today
  12. Lindi Ortega – Liberty
  13. Snail Mail – Lush
  14. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
  15. Robyn – Honey
  16. Dagan Harding Band – I Learned How
  17. Sloan – 12
  18. Ruby Boots – Don’t Talk About It
  19. Nick Faye & The Deputies – Stumbling Distance
  20. Mother Mother – Dance and Cry
  21. Blue Youth – Dead Forever
  22. Lykke Li – so sad so sexy
  23. The Decemberists – Traveling On
  24. Juliana Hatfield – Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John
  25. Lone Wolf Dreamer – Tonight (EP)
  26. Arthur Buck – Arthur Buck
  27. Sean Burns and Lost Country – Music For Taverns, Bars, And Honky Tonks
  28. Ghost – Prequelle
  29. Greta Van Fleet – Anthem of the Peaceful Army
  30. The Deaf Idols – Blasphemy (EP)
  31. Beach House – 7
  32. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Tearing at the Seams
  33. 54-40 – Keep On Walking
  34. Port Noise – (a Disco Moose)
  35. A Perfect Circle – Eat The Elephant
  36. The Smashing Pumpkins – SHINY AND OH SO BRIGHT, VOL 1.
  37. The League of One – Dispatch
  38. Anderson East – Encore
  39. Braindead Romeo – War Is What We’re Good For
  40. The Breeders – All Nerve

Q & Eh: Nick Faye & The Deputies

Nick Faye - Chris Graham.jpg

photo credit: Chris Graham


I’ve been slacking on updating my blog, so I’ve decided to kick myself in the butt and start an ongoing project by shining the spotlight on local musicians. Nick Faye was a good sport and has graciously become my first guinea pig. The concept is simple: 5 questions and 5 answers. Q & Eh. Clever title, hey? I thought so.

Nick Faye has been a staple in the Regina music scene for the last few years. Originally starting off as primarily a singer/songwriter, Faye has evolved into a full-fledged band leader with Nick Faye & The Deputies. Their brand of melodic rock is mixed with a nice dose of folk and roots.

Faye and the gents are about to release their fantastic new album Stumbling Distance, available April 14. To mark the occasion they are playing an album release show April 14 at The Exchange. Andino Suns are the openers.

For a taste of what the band has in store, check out their new video for first single “Hold Me Back.”

Q: Stumbling Distance was produced by Michael Phillip Wojoweda (Spirit of the West, Rheostatics, Barenaked Ladies). What was it like working with someone behind the board of some of Canada’s most seminal albums?

Eh: It was really cool. We did a lot of pre-production work via Skype where we solidified the album concept, and he picked apart our early versions of our songs. We had never really had anyone do that before, and so it pushed us out of our comfort zone and forced us to re-evaluate songs that had become ultra familiar. It definitely helped push the songs to the new level, and we spent a few evenings in our basement once he came to Regina getting the right “vibe” or “feel” in each song before hitting the studio.

In the studio, Michael was a wizard at finding amazing tone and working with us to find interesting production bits and flourishes to keep things sonically interesting. He totally understood the vibe we were going for, our strengths that we had to work with, and managed to guide the album to its final product. It’s a little nerve-wracking to work with a big name producer when you don’t really know them, but he really did understand us and it helped us to take our songs and sound that we already had to a new level. He helped us go deeper and deliver a really interesting record with a lot of depth.

Q: There are horns galore on this album. One might say it makes the album ‘horny.’ Haha. Was that your idea or Wojoweda’s suggestion?

Eh: Heyohhh! We’ve been putting horns on our album since the first full band release in 2011. Horns and pedal steel have kind of become a cool staple of our recorded works. The last few releases we’ve been fortunate to have member of Bears in Hazenmore lend their time and talent to our albums, and they helped out again! It was a little different because by the time they got in the studio, the songs had changed and been produced so differently that a lot of their lines that they developed were ultra similar to keyboard organ lines that we had recorded. Michael really put them on the spot, and Dana, Dalton, and Brady responded with a real mature level of professionalism. Those guys are amazing musicians and songwriters, and I can’t wait for Bears In Hazenmore’s new record!

Q: One of my favourite memories of the 2016 Regina Folk Festival was during the finale when you did a killer rendition of Eagle Eye Cherry’s “Save Tonight” with Megan Nash and Eric Taylor. How did that come about?

Eh: Hahahaha… Oh man… We had actually spent HOURS jamming in a parkade preparing to sing a really beautiful rendition of “Harvest Moon” after The Mavericks. We were nervously pacing backstage, when The Mavericks played “Harvest Moon” as their second last song. We were so screwed and had honestly like 5 minutes to prep something new. After 2 minutes of stressing and wondering if we could just play the same song again (obviously you can’t because the Mavericks version was SO GOOD), we hastily decided to play “Save Tonight” out of sheer panic. We were all so rattled, and honestly couldn’t process what just happened. Haha. Great story.

Q: Van Halen or Van Hagar?

Eh: Uhhh, Goo Goo Dolls?

Q: What’s your tour/show plans this spring and summer?

Eh: We’ll be hard at work touring in AB/SK over April and May and we’ll be heading out to Halifax and back in June, but we’ll be announcing stuff soon! Gonna be so fun to hit the road! We’re pumped to have a number of awesome musicians like Landon Leibel (Laska, Trash Hawks, Tiger Charmer), Andy Beisel (Wolf Willow, The Steves, The Gates of Dawn), and Matt Fraser (Orbital Express, Kelevra) fill in for various parts of the tours. It’s actually our FIRST TIME ever touring as a band, which is super exciting. Usually I just do solo acoustic tours.

2017: The Year of My Assventure

I’m not one for making New Year’s Eve a big deal because January 1 is just one of 365 days of the year. Millions of people have good intentions of starting from scratch and making resolutions about eating healthier and working out more, but usually old habits come back within a couple weeks and people carry on as they were. Normally I write off January 1 as a time to rest, but this year is different. Why? Because 2017 was literally ass for me.

2017 was the year when I realized that I’m not invincible. Apparently when you turn 40 your body decides to be an asshole. In recent years I’ve battled depression and anxiety, but physically I’ve been in pretty great shape. Running and working out have been essential tools in keeping my mental health in check. But in early August I started experiencing pain and discomfort in my ass. I initially thought it was hemorrhoids, but it ended up being a nasty abscess, which developed into a horseshoe abscess and fistula. I’ll leave it you to Google it, but trust me… it’s not fun! You take something as simple as the act of sitting down for granted, so when you have a job that requires sitting down in front of a computer for 8 hours a day and you’re in varying degrees of pain and discomfort for a few months, well… it just flat out sucks.

Needless to say, running hasn’t been an option lately. I’ve done some limited workouts and a bit of yoga, but for all intents and purposes I’ve pretty much worked as much as I can and been resting my butt on the couch for the last few months. I’ve done pretty decent putting on a happy face and joking about my situation and being the “butt of jokes,” but these last few months have really had a negative effect on my mental health. Thankfully, I’ve had amazing support from my parents, friends, and coworkers to help me cope. Hands down, my biggest source of support this year has been my mom. She had a battle with breast cancer this year but despite going through chemo and radiation and ultimately kicking cancer’s ass, she was legitimately more concerned about my arse during her ordeal. If that’s not enough inspiration to keep plugging away then nothing will be. What a fighter she is!

I recently had the surgery I needed to rectify the situation and I have another followup with my surgeon next week so (knock on wood) I should have a clean bill of health in early January. After having this health scare and my mom’s battle with cancer, I will never take being healthy for granted ever again.

2017 has been super crummy for me on a personal level, but I am chomping at the bit to get back in the groove in 2018. I went through struggles this past year but I never lost hope. So I’m not sad that 2017 is done. But I know for a fact that 2018 will kick *ahem* ass! I’m excited for what my team at work will do, I’m amped up to get more freelance writing gigs, and I’m pumped up to get back to running again. 2018 will be great… even if I have to see Donald Trump in my newsfeed every day. 🙂

JJ’s Top 50 Albums of 2017



2017 was a shit show. Donald Trump, endless mass shootings, the rise of white nationalism, natural disaster after natural disaster, #MeToo, the deaths of Gord Downie, Tom Petty, and Chris Cornell… turning on the news or logging onto Facebook or Twitter these past 12 months have made it pretty damn hard to put on a happy face. Needless to say, the world just needs a great big hug. Thankfully, Broken Social Scene brought a Hug of Thunder. In a time when sadness, despair, and anger are the easy default emotions, Kevin Drew and his extended Broken Social Scene family had their hands in many of the year’s best albums, spreading much needed love, joy, and positivity.

Broken Social Scene came back after a long hiatus with the triumphant Hug of Thunder, featuring prominent contributions from Emily Haines of Metric and Feist. Kevin Drew produced Gord Downie’s beautiful epitaph Introduce Yourself. Feist released her first album in a few years, the spare and haunting Pleasure, while Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton unveiled the stunning Choir of the Mind. Along with Stars’ There is No Love in Flourescent Light, it’s safe to say that the Broken Social Scene collective weren’t slacking in 2017.

Speaking of indie Canadian collectives, The New Pornographers released one of their finest albums to date with Whiteout Conditions. Carl Newman had to do the heavy lifting for songwriting since Dan Bejar was focusing on Destroyer and he more than rose to the occasion. This album is a power pop masterpiece.

Ryan Adams continues to be the busiest man in the music biz. Not only did he release the flawless Prisoner, but he released a full album of b-sides that most artists would be proud to release as a proper album. That, and he’s produced the upcoming Liz Phair and Jenny Lewis albums. I guess if you get divorced you have to keep busy.

The biggest pleasant surprise for me this year was the latest Rancid album. I was expecting a fun listen, but I still listen to Trouble Maker nonstop. It’s inspiring to see a band, especially a punk band, at this stage of their career release music that stands toe to toe with their best work. This album is perfect from start to finish. Joe Strummer would be proud.

Other highlights include Wolf Alice creating the perfect blend of grunge, shoegaze, and pop with Visions of a Life, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit releasing an instant alt-country classic with The Nashville Sound, and Matthew Ryan channeling his best Springsteen with Hustle Up Starlings.

Locally, 2017 was an unbelievable year for bands in Regina and the rest of Saskatchewan. Colter Wall proved once again that he’s the real deal with his self-titled album. If Steve Earle says that you’re one of the best songwriters around then you’re doing something right. Blake Berglund delivered the stunning concept album Realms. This is an album that needs to be listened to front to back, and then repeat. It’s that good. As well, Megan Nash, Johnny 2 Fingers & the Deformities, the Snake Oil Salesmen, Brodie Moniker, Lunar Lander Dance Commander, Joe O’Connor, Jeffery Straker, Grim, Justin Sheppard, Val Halla, Wanda Gronhovd, and Chris Real are just a few of the artists who released stellar albums or EPs.

With all the incredible music that came out this year, one album has been on my mind the entire time. Keeping in the spirit of giving the world a hug, Japandroids released hands down my favourite record of the year, Near To The Wild Heart Of Life.  This album just bursts with positive, life-affirming energy. It boggles my mind that two Canadian guys can make a sound this big and far reaching. In a perfect world they’d be one of the biggest bands on the planet. But in a time when the world seems to be going down the shitter it’s important to remember that there is still lots of beauty in it. Japandroids, Broken Social Scene, and every other artist or band on this list are pleasant reminders of that.

Without further ado, here are 50 albums that made 2017 worthwhile. If you want to dip your toe into each album I created a playlist on Spotify. Enjoy!

1. Japandroids – Near To The Wild Heart Of Life

2. Ryan Adams – Prisoner

3. Rancid – Trouble Maker

4. Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder

5. Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life

6. Gord Downie – Introduce Yerself

7. The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions

8. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound

9. Colter Wall – Colter Wall

10. Matthew Ryan – Hustle Up Starlings

11. Headstones – Little Army

12. The Pack a.d. – Dollhouse

13. Steve Earle – So You Wanna Be an Outlaw

14. U2 – Songs of Experience

15. Micah Schnabel – Your New Norman Rockwell

16. Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton – Choir of the Mind

17. Blake Berglund – Realms

18. Feist – Pleasure

19. Alvvays – Antisocialites

20. Jade Jackson – Gilded

21. The National – Sleep Well Beast

22. Lorde – Melodrama

23. Chris Stapleton – From a Room Volume 1

24. Chris Stapleton – From a Room Volume 2

25. St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION

26. Greg Graffin – Millport

27. Death From Above – Outrage! Is Now

28. JJ Shiplett – Something to Believe In

29. Filthy Friends – Invitation

30. Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold

31. Future Islands – The Far Field

32. Megan Nash – Seeker

33. LCD Soundsystem – american dream

34. Bash & Pop – Anything Could Happen

35. Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark?

36. Johnny 2 Fingers & the Deformities – Built to Rock ‘N Roll

37. The Snake Oil Salesmen – Dead and Breathing

38. Phoenix – Ti Amo

39. Stars – There is No Love in Fluorescent Light

40. Lunar Lander Dance Commander – Liquid Smooth EP

41. Cherry Glazerr – Apocalipstick

42. Queens of the Stone Age – Villains

43. Brodie Moniker – Nowhere Left To Ghost

44. Whitehorse – Panther In The Dollhouse

45. Laura Marling – Semper Femina

46. Arcade Fire – Everything Now

47. Whitney Rose – Rule 62

48. Joe O’Connor – No Turning Back Now

49. Sarah Slean – Metaphysics

50. Spoon – Hot Thoughts


Tuning Out Depression: Radio Life


There’s an old saying that if you love what you do you never work a day in your life. For a guy like me with few practical, real world skills and whose head is always in the clouds, winding up being a Creative/Copy Writer in radio is as close to being my ideal job as you can get. I’m a huge music nerd and I love writing so being able to pay the bills by being creative, being around music, and being surrounded by fellow weirdos is pretty mind blowing for me. Like any job it comes with its share of bullshit, but I honestly never dread coming into work on a Monday. As someone who deals with depression and anxiety, this is HUGE. Working in radio (or any other form of media) is a truly unique experience. I’ve worked at a grocery store, a call centre, a group insurance office, a bar, and an ad agency, and nothing compares to the vibe that exudes from working in radio. I wish the pay was a little better (who doesn’t?), but spending 37.5 hours of my life with people I would dodge a bullet for is pretty amazing. Radio attracts some seriously twisted, funny, broken, warped, and big hearted people. In other words, I’ve found my tribe. It’s a job where being a weirdo is a virtue, and I excel at being a weirdo!

Tuning Out Depression: #BellLetsTalk



Today is the annual Bell Let’s Talk Day, a day which holds a deeply personal significance to me. I attribute the public outpouring of millions of people sharing their stories of dealimg with mental illness a few years ago with helping plant the necessary seeds in my head to finally get the help I desperately needed for depression and anxiety four years ago. Seeing the likes of Clara Hughes and Michael Landsberg open up about battling crippling depression really opened my eyes and made me gradually come to grips with the fact that I might have the dreaded ‘d word.’

In January of 2013, after my second mental breakdown within a couple of months (due to an assortment of pent up factors like money stress, uncertainty with a change in employment, the winter blues, etc), I finally reached a breaking point and went to see my doctor to help start me on the path to healing. Because I kept everything bottled up inside for so long the floodgates opened and I HAD to get help or I might not be here to tell the tale. But I am so happy I had enough wherewithal to take that first step and ask for help. My folks were so amazing during that major period of transition and they’ve been my rock ever since.

Within a week of getting officially diagnosed with depression and starting the journey of returning to normal (well, as normal as I ever was) it happened to be Bell Let’s Talk Day. You have no idea how much it helps someone suffering with a mental illness to hear other people’s stories and how therapeutic it is to share your own. You quickly find out that once you are open about your illness that you are not alone. People who you think are super confident and have it going on are secretly broken inside. Like you they are usually able to put on the mask while they’re in public. In a weird way knowing that there are tons of other awesome people who are just as fucked up as you are is pretty liberating.

When I first went public I had so many family members, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances give me kind words of support and helpful tips on reading material and medication. And now that I’m used to officially living with depression and anxiety I’ve payed it forward by reaching out to others who are taking that important first step in getting help. It feels incredible to be able help others who are in the same boat.

Now, of course it is easy to be cynical about Bell’s alterior motives behind this massively successful campaign. In fact, CBC just reported a story about a woman who was fired at a Bell radio station for needing some time off work to adjust to her new SSRI medication for depression and anxiety. It’s nerve wracking trying a new medication. I’m currently on my second antidepressant but I was able to plan ahead and take some days off just in case my body didn’t react well to them. Not everyone is so lucky. So if this woman’s story is true then Bell should be ashamed of themselves. If it is strictly an individual station manager making a shitty decision then Bell should rectify the situation and rehire that woman and fire or transfer that station manager. If Bell promotes a wonderful message like ‘Let’s Talk’ then they better damn well practice what they preach.

Regardless of any nefarious reasons behind this corporate giant’s campaign, credit still has to be given due because this campaign has raised millions of dollars towards mental health initiatives, plus the stigma of mental illness is gradually fading away. The number one reason all major corporations engage in philanthropy is to improve their brand and make them seem like there are human beings behind the monolithic corporate machine. But if the end result does some legitimate good and helps thousands of people and changes the public discourse, then it’s worth it. It’s helped me and a I know firsthand that it’s helped lots of other people so you can’t be cynical of that.

Tuning Out Depression: Politics


“People are wonderful. I love individuals. I hate groups of people. I hate a group of people with a ‘common purpose’.”

     – George Carlin

Donald Trump. The two ugliest words in the human language. It’s no secret that the two things that get people riled up the most are politics and religion. Well, this last American election cycle has succeeded in dividing not only our neighbours in the U.S., but right here in Canada, as well as the rest of the world. People throughout the political spectrum have been at each other’s throats and it won’t stop any time soon now that Trump has the keys to the kingdom.

A couple weeks ago I was watching a political discussion on CBC Newsworld and one of the guests said something that gave me a glimmer of hope. The man, whose name I can’t recall for the life of me, said that there are five things that divide us: politics, religion, race, class, and sex/gender. That’s it. But we have over 500(!) things that we have in common. The average person just wants to go to work, pay their bills, have good health, enjoy good food, you name it. If we remove the labels associated with politics, religion, race, class, and sex/gender then the vast majority of people would get along, or at least smile and nod and keep walking.

Unfortunately, these five things seem to be all that people focus on nowadays. The world has become a case of Us vs Them throughout all walks of life. With the rise of social media, ‘The Left vs. The Right’ has always been a case of lowest-common-denominator in the comments sections, where lame terms like CONservatives, LIEberals, and the always classy libtards get tossed around. However, things have escalated these last couple of years. There has been a scary trend of xenophobia, racism, and white nationalism brewing in North America and Europe. Thankfully in Canada we elected a Liberal government that campaigned on compassion and inclusiveness and we didn’t fall for fear mongering tactics presented by the Conservatives, but our American neighbours were hellbent on fucking shit up that they went with the only candidate remaining who was considered an outsider to the system. People wanted to feel the Bern, instead they get to see the world burn.

Now, with someone as divisive as Trump in the White House, you would think that ‘the Left’ would do everything in their power to unite against a common enemy. You’d think. Instead, a gradual splintering of ‘the Left’ has only intensified. With the Idle No More, Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, and Million Woman March protests this past year, it’s clear that the marginalized sections of our society are pissed off, and rightfully so. With Trump in power, if you’re not a white, rich, straight guy in the U.S., you’re fucked. The shitty thing is that as a white, straight, male liberal, I run the risk of being labelled a misogynist while showing support for women’s rights. White female liberals run the risk of being called racist for showing support for Black Lives Matter. If we show support and solidarity for those who aren’t our race, sex, or gender, we get told by some liberals to keep our mouths shut. The message sent is that if we observe some shitty things in the world we’re not supposed to comment on it unless we’ve experienced it ourselves. But turning a blind eye doesn’t help the situation. So instead, we bicker at each other.

Everyone seems so angry and bitter, so what are we left with? Now it’s no longer just ‘the Left’ vs ‘the Right’ or conservatives vs liberals. It’s liberals vs liberals, conservatives vs conservatives, Black Lives Matter vs LGBTQ, women vs women, working class vs elites, blue collar workers vs hipsters, Generation X vs Millennials, Catholics vs Muslims, Catholics vs Atheists, etc etc etc. It’s maddening. And every time I turn on Facebook these days I get sickened by the racist, xenophobic comments of those on ‘the Right,’ and get fed up with those on ‘the Left’ who tell people who are on their side to shut up while they are on their soap box.

So when it comes to politics, I’m done. At least for now. I’ve realized that being politically engaged is bad for my mental health. I can get annoyed with people every now and then but when I dive into politics I get angry with some people. And for what? George Carlin was a hero of mine and he had no political attachments. He was skeptical and critical of every political party. Instead of engaging in the political process he sat back, grabbed the popcorn, and watched the shitshow.

“Sooner or later, the people of this country are going to find out the government doesn’t give a fuck about you. All they are interested in is keeping and expanding their own power.”

     -George Carlin

The above Carlin quote became evident today when Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau, Rachel Notley, and Brad Wall were all on the same page in going forward with the Keystone XL pipeline. Any supposed concerns for the environment by the left leaning Liberal and NDP governments fell by the wayside because Big Oil has all these politicians bought and paid for. So all this bickering with our friends, family, and internet strangers over politics just isn’t worth it. I’m going to just grab the popcorn and watch the world burn.

Not stressing about the things I can’t control is one tool I’ve tried to implement in my battle with depression and it’s been extremely helpful, but it’s easier said than done. With politics it’s obvious I can’t control what our elected officials do so I am going to try my best to disengage and say fuck it. I will try to focus less on labels like ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative.’ Instead, I will attempt to see people more as individuals who are separate from their self-imposed tribe because people have waaaaaay more in common than differences.

“Every person you look at, you can see the universe in their eyes, if you’re really looking.”

     – George Carlin