Year End Reviews

Ricky’s Favourite Concerts of the Year

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Bat For Lashes at the Phoenix Concert Theatre
Photos by Stephen McGill

Ahh 2020 – what a fuckin’ year. As per the norm, I always reflect on the year that was and normally I’d have these absurd internal arguments about what my favourite concerts of the year were. This year, it was super easy!

BAT FOR LASHES, February 23rd, The Phoenix

February 23rd – what a time to be alive. Sure, there was a crispness in the air as one would expect on any February night. As is so often the case before a show, I met a friend for dinner. Eating dinner indoors, what a luxury. The waitress approached us, maskless, and as is customary, we ordered a bunch of food to share. Sharing dishes … what a concept.

The show itself was packed, and people were oh so close to each other as we tried to get a glimpse of Natasha Khan, who flew all the way over here from England. Remember when people from England were allowed to leave their island? Haha, those were the days. I won’t re-review the show, as you can read about it here.

Definitely my favourite show of the year.

2nd Place: Noah Gundersen, March 13, Drake Hotel

Taking second place is singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen, who played what might be one of the last real concerts in Toronto on March 13, 2020. I’m not going to even pretend to know anything about Noah Gundersen – dude’s got a good voice and his show was pleasant-ish. My friend took me to this show as I was really sad about having to miss SXSW – a pity invite if you will. Anyways, he sang some songs that were okay, but really my favorite part of this night was we went to one of my favourite places beforehand, Bar Isabel. So good. Also, after the show, we went to another one of my favourite places – Brass Taps. You would think that it’s weird to have a night cap at Brass Taps after spending dinner feasting on octopus and Spanish tapas, but onion rings have a special place in my heart.

Hopefully 2021 brings forth more than 2 shows. I swear I’ll never take concert going for granted again.

Paul’s Favourite Songs of the Year

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2020 was not a great year by any standard, but there was still a lot of great music that came out this year. So continuing on from Ricky’s recent rundown of his favourite songs to come out this year, here’s a few of the songs I enjoyed quite a bit this year.

Molly Tuttle – A Little Lost
I first discovered Molly Tuttle last year (and subsequently came to regret not catching her November 2019 show at The Horseshoe – who could have predicted that’d be my last chance to see her live for the foreseeable future?) but this was the year I really got into her discography, beginning with her most recent release, a collection of covers entitled …but i’d rather be with you. Her cover of Arthur Russell’s “A Little Lost” stood out as one of the highlights, but it’s a great album overall that really shows off her talents as both a guitarist and a singer.

Shitkid – Waste of Time
Like a lot of musicians who weren’t able to tour through most of this year, Åsa Söderqvist of Shitkid turned to recording instead. And while there were others who were more prolific (top prize would likely go to Daniel Romano, who put out a total of 9 albums this year … though I didn’t listen to most of those, so he’s not on this list), Shitkid did end up putting out a total of four releases this year. “Waste of Time” comes from her 20/20 Shitkid album, which came out in September on PNKSLM Recordings.

Kelly Lee Owens – On
Kinda sad video but a great song from Kelly Lee Owens’ latest, Inner Song.

Tim Burgess – Empathy For The Devil
Tim Burgess deserves an honourable mention for this year based solely on him starting up the “Tim’s Twitter Listening Party” series, which helped to bring people together through a shared love of music, but he also released a pretty solid album (I Love The New Sky) this year as well.

The Beths – I’m Not Getting Excited
With their 2018 debut Future Me Hates Me, The Beths became one of my favourite acts to emerge over the last few years and with their second album Jump Rope Gazers, they continue to impress. Oh how I envy the people of New Zealand who will be able to see the band on tour next month …

Ricky’s Favourite Songs of the Year

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Here we go. This year I basically just listened to whatever my friends and Spotify told me to listen to. The days of digging through the crevices of the music underbelly to find the next big bands are over – I leave that to the kids. My time is now consumed weaving through corporate bureaucracy, stuck in an endless cycle of self pity while collecting a decent paycheque.

Phoebe Bridgers – I Know the End
Don’t we all want to just scream at the end of a perfect folk song? I know I do. This song and/or other songs off the Punisher album was probably on everyone’s list. It’s a great record and this song just captures this year really nicely.

Khruangbin – Pelota
Few discoveries were more enjoyable than that of Khruangbin, the Texas trio whose music can’t be described as much as it has to be experienced. Maybe I miss traveling to my second home of Spain this year or something, but this track (sang in Spanish) has got a ton of funk and travel nostalgia attached to it. A pleasant diversion on an otherwise gloomy year.

Jayda G – Both of Us
This is the song you’d play in 2020 if you were hosting a big party and it’s the first hour and you want people to mingle and feel cool about being at your party. Obviously I am not having a party this year, but if you thought the virus was fake and didn’t give a shit about everyone else like half the people in the States, this is the track you’d put on in that precious first hour to set the table.

Su Lee – I’ll Just Dance
This super cute song may have my favorite music video of the year, and really captures that Covid feeling and the uncertainty of everything these days. But this music video is something else.

Austra – I am not waiting
I wouldn’t call this a comeback, because for me to say that I would have to know how successfull/unsuccesful Austra has been in the many years since they stormed the Toronto music scene. What I will say is that this year Austra released a stellar album and “I Am Not Waiting” leads the way. This is essentially just a great pop song but as is the case with Austra, Katie Stelmanis’s amazing voice always adds that extra bit of depth and drama to the song, it’s like the fish sauce of music pop world, just adds umami.

Jessie Ware – Spotlight

It’s been fascinating watching Jessie Ware morph from gentle ballads to dancefloor fillers. I guess she is in the drink a bottle of wine a night part of her life, and I’m here for it. This track, as with anything that is on her most recent record, just mooooooooves, but at the same time does not betray her sense of writing hooks. A great combination.

2016 in Review: Ricky’s Favorite Shows

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2016 is now closing. What a year. Anyways, here are some of my favorite shows of the year, because you care deeply about my opinions.

Suede, Primavera, June
Anytime you can see your favorite band in one of your favorite cities in the world in the summer time, you just gotta do it. This Suede show was a hit fest from beginning to end and set the bar high for the rest of the bands playing Primavera.

Here’s my song by song review.

Daughter, Primavera, June
The girl from Daughter breaking into a smile halfway through a serious song because the entire crowd was singing along warmed my heart so much I might have died.

Hall & Oates, June or July, Toronto
Hard to find a better band to enjoy live on the lawns of the Molson Amphitheatre on a crisp summer night. It’s been too long since they last came around.

Vince Staples, SXSW, SPIN party
This guy was hilarious and the Spin party was it’s usual awesomeness with free booze, good sun and a stellar lineup. I definitely remember him being funny and it made his set pretty good.

El Conjunta Nueva, SXSW
Anytime you have a chance to see a Mexican band singing hard rock mariachi covers of modern pop songs while dressed up in Luchador costumes, you gotta do it. Also, they were playing in between wrestling matches featuring actual luchadores, so yeah it was pretty memorable. Only in Austin.

Estelle, SXSW, McDonalds Loft
Estelle played the McDonald’s party. Free fries, free booze and Estelle singing “American Boy.” What more can you ask for? Also, the discovery that Estelle actually has more good tracks was pretty inspiring.

Everything NXNE
Haha jk.

LCD Soundsystem, Primavera
LCD Soundsystem came back fast and furious this year and their show at Primavera was just an amazing show and a great party. A very swift reminder of just what a really great band sounds like live. Perfect festival show for a perfect festival band.