Best Before: January 2023

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Book Buddies, Best Before

Dartmouth-based Book Buddies have put out one of the best debut albums in recent memory with Best Before. Each of the ten songs are full of lovingly handcrafted lyrics that are imbued with so much emotion, heart, and imagery that you can feel them resonating deep within the core of your being. The band weaves together elements of math rock, punk, alternative rock, and indie pop to create the perfect complement to the lyrics. Best Before is a gorgeously constructed album from start to finish, and once you start listening to it, it will be impossible to stop. • Em Moore

Ben Brown, soft metals

I’m grateful for the reprieve and reset the music of soft metals from percussionist Ben Brown offers up at this time of year. On a recent blustery winter night, when the winds outside were howling as loud as the nervous voices in my head, soft metals settled the storm and soothed my nerves. The album’s dozen solo metallophone performances form a seamless aural landscape that is meditative and serene. The album’s genesis came about while Brown accompanied a weekly yoga class, but what’s materialized from that practice is a studied and substantial collection that offers calm, solace, and tranquillity. • Jim Di Gioia

The Gardeners, “She Belongs To Me”

The origin story behind “She Belongs To Me” is as quaint and charming as the song from Montreal-based duo the Gardeners itself. Written in an almost empty truck stop along the Coquihalla Highway when inspiration struck Gardener Ross Fizzard, he didn’t have a pen on him, so he woke up a driver and asked to borrow one. “She Belongs To Me” is a slice-of-life plucky country tune that’s unassuming and astutely performed by Fizzard and his partner Dale Ross. It’s the kind of tune that gets in your head and stays there for days. • Jim Di Gioia

Holobody, III

If the bleakness of mid-winter is getting to you, tie-dye the season with the kaleidoscopic sounds of Holobody’s III. The follow-up to the band’s 2021 release Phosphorus is an entrancing and strange experimental pop release that features a near-*chaotic blend of keys, percussion, and voices (including Le Ren). You don’t know where you’re going on *III, but you’re happy to be there nevertheless. • Laura Stanley

Just Fine, Sink or Swim

Ottawa’s Just Fine makes music that I would have listened to and enjoyed just as much 15 years ago as I do today. The band’s debut EP, Sink or Swim, is washed with a murky emo sound that feels as perennial as Hot Topic. • Laura Stanley

Oakrest, Summer Sun

Oakrest’s most recent release, Summer Sun, is a piece of warmth we can all appreciate in these colder months. Not only is Summer Sun a blast from the past (literally from this past summer), but it also brings shiny new sounds to an album that could also fit in with classic pop-punk releases like Avril Lavigne’s 2002 release, Let Go or Simple Plan’s 2008 self-titled album. • Alyssa Gelata

pataugeoire, Num2Num

There’s a fever dream quality to Num2Num, the latest EP from Montreal’s pataugeoire. The cover image of front person Agathe Dupéré surrounded by plastic cheetahs leaves many unanswered questions, as do the four tracks’ poetic vignettes filled with “désir et larmes” (desire and tears). Combined with the delirious haze of pataugeoire’s self-described “emo-aquatique” sound, Num2Num is a trip. • Laura Stanley

STEPHEN HERO, Patchwork 2

I picture Saint John, NB’s STEPHEN HERO as an expert bag packer. Like one of those people on social media who effortlessly manage to fit an entire chifforobe’s worth of clothing into a backpack or carry-on rolling bag. He’s single-handedly filled the latest EP in his Patchwork series with wicked and wild beats, imaginative ideas and complicated storytelling that focuses on both the trials and little triumphs of working-class Canada. Underrated but undeterred, Patchwork 2 confirms STEPHEN HERO’s status as one of the country’s most exceptional rappers and wordsmiths. • Jim Di Gioia

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