Good To See You: December 2021

The DOMINIONATED Newsletter is a monthly(ish) round-up of music and creativity from across the country, bringing reviews and recommendations from our writers right to your inbox.



Bestfriend, places i’ve lived (Vancouver BC / Toronto ON)

The soft electro-pop songs of Vancouver/Toronto duo Bestfriend (Stacy Kim and Kaelan Geoffrey)’s EP places i’ve livedtouch on love, lust, uncertainty, and heartbreak (this line from “Does It Matter?” summarizes most of my daydreams when I have a crush: “What I know is that I’d give anything to see you on the subway.”) But what’s most striking is how much the EP is rooted in honesty and so it sounds, fittingly, exactly like an exchange between two best pals. This is music that thrives under the glow of streetlights on the night you finally kiss your crush. And then you excitedly text your best friend about it. • Laura Stanley

Calm Lake, “Le Seltzer” (Montreal QC)

Ever come across or tried a product that you can’t get out of your mind? On a trip to Japan, my fiancee was obsessed with a specific pear-flavoured drink available at 7-Eleven stores, and every time we passed by one, she had to look around for one. “Le Seltzer” is a song and the hilarious name of a product Nikki Celis of Calm Lake got obsessed with during the pandemic. The song is both a tribute to that love and a hope that things will get better. Le Seltzer (the drink) was conceived during the pandemic, and so the song sees it almost as a ray of sunshine during darker times. Or perhaps it’s only a distraction? Either way, this quick, shoegaze-y song is as refreshing as water on a hot day, right down to the crystal clear can-opening sound right off the top. • Michael Thomas

Estyr, All Tied Up (Toronto ON)

Estyr‘s introspective EP brings a soothing calmness that makes you feel at home, even if the themes focus on the nature of displacement as a multiracial child in the suburbs of Greater Toronto. It floods every nook and cranny of your conscience with a comprehensive contemplation, allowing you to sink into the lushly layered acoustic tones and angelic vocals. It’s like you’re drowning in decadence, though the heartbreak and pain that injects itself into each song keep you from going totally under. “All Tied Up” captures this feeling wonderfully: grief floats on by, but the beautiful ambience provides an even keel from which to untangle yourself from the grief. • Michael Beda

Étienne Fletcher, Entre​-​deux (Regina SK)

Entre​-​deux is groovy. When I finish one run-through of Étienne Fletcher‘s bilingual release, I always play it again because it feels better to move to his pop-rock melodies than to be still with my thoughts. Fletcher’s thoughts are also always in motion. He sings about regrets and love and they both carry enormous weight like on “Entre la mort et moi” when he sings, “Entre la mort et moi / Il y a son sourire” (“Between death and me / there is her smile”). Sometimes the ways that Entre​-​deux moves can be strangely unexpected — like on the danceable “Waiting On You” — but then again, sometimes love is strangely unexpected. • LS

Glutenhead, Palmerston (Toronto ON)

Glutenhead calls Palmerston “a love letter to folk music and friendship,” and the seven-song release feels like it’s borne from that special connection that comes from being in close quarters with your chosen family. Principal songwriter and producer Benjamin Shapiro assembled the Glutenhead family to bring these tunes to life. Kylie Patton takes lead vocals on single “Genevieve,” a twinkling sunrise song meant to raise us from our collective slumber. It’s the opposite of a lullaby and it’s gorgeous. And it does little to define Glutenhead’s sound for the uninitiated. The band’s blend of psychedelic influences and alt-country flare percolates and bubbles up through tunes like “Spinal Cord” and “My Skin” through to “Lord of Song,” a nigun — which is a Jewish wordless song “sung as a means of elevating the soul to God” — a perfectly unexpected closing track for a perfectly unexpected delight. • Jim Di Gioia

Stephen Hero and Brydon Crain, “Nose to Tail” (Saint John NB)

Saint John MC Stephen Hero and beat-maker Brydon Crain have pulled together EAT THE RICH, a rich collection of tunes about class division and trying to make a living that’s a smorgasbord of aural treats. Their latest single, “Nose to Tail,” is chock full of Crain’s one-of-a-kind samples and Hero’s straight-talking flow, that’s both laid back and urgent. The song recognizes the system is broken, capitalism isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and that the only option left for any kind of change to happen is to make as much noise about it as possible. And Stephen Hero and Brydon Crain are making a fantastic racket. • JD

des hume, Bub (Vancouver BC / Toronto ON)

Thank you, Alex Hudson and Exclaim! for featuring Vancouver songwriter des hume in your list of great Canadian albums that I might have missed in 2021, for indeed, hume’s Bub was nowhere on my radar this year. What a shame, as its lush synth-pop melodies and striking production would have made it a shoe-in for my Favourite Fifty ballot otherwise. • JD

Dave Monks, I’ve Always Wanted To Be Me

Dave Monks opens up a musical taste-test factory on his latest LP, I’ve Always Wanted To Be Me. Monks seems unwilling to be creatively compelled to stick to the roots that gave him recognition as the frontman of Tokyo Police Club, and it certainly shows. There are fourteen rooms that all fork from the lobby, each room serving up extremely unique flavours that contrast heavily from one another. There’s the charred, campfire burn from “Set Yourself On Fire,” the tangy sweetness of “Wild Like Me,” the crunchy bitters of “Stuck,” and the gelatin smoothness of “Don’t Get Pushed Around” which features a few spices from Shad. Be sure to have a palate cleanser after you’re all done sampling! • MB

Pursuit Grooves, Mo​:​Delic Island (Toronto ON)

“Every living thing gives off electricity,” writes Pursuit Grooves‘ Vanese Smith in the Bandcamp release notes for Mo​:​Delic Island. It’s a fitting introductory statement to this crackling set of genre-blurring electro tracks. I love how alive “Hope” feels with its thunderous beat and the sparks of “Zing” are so sharply vivid. With each release, Smith’s rich imagination and curiosity about sound are at the forefront and Mo​:​Delic Island is no exception. • LS

Queer Bones, Queer Bones (Montreal QC)

Queer Bones‘ (Emily Carson-Apstein) self-titled EP begins right in the middle of an apocalypse. The world is in ruins and things are looking bleak but by the end of the song, Carson-Apstein will make you smile when they sing: “I’ve got ten bags of lentils, a raccoon that knows its name and maybe if you want you could stay.” This charm can be felt in each of the EP’s lo-fi banjo tunes. Carson-Apstein fights against the gender-binary and fascists while championing love and freedom. As a parting gift, we hear this simple, marvellous refrain: “I think this queer love might save us.”

Bonus goodness: All profits from the EP will go to ATQ (Aide aux Trans du Quebec). • LS

Alexander Saint, “Thank You” (Toronto ON)

On his joyful new track “Thank You,” Alexander Saint gives thanks to his friends and family for their unwavering love and support. Even though Saint doesn’t hesitate to admit it’s not always easy — “I have a hard time asking for help and I have a hard time asking people to help me back up,” Saint says in a spoken message towards the end of “Thank You” — the song’s buoyant rock rhythm and catchy soulful melody maintain its wonderful hopefulness. Ultimately, “Thank You” is a reminder to let go: let go of false pretences, of hiding, and of being too afraid to ask for (and accept) help. • LS

Lee Van Lucas, Marée Basse (Montreeal QC)

Lee Van Lucas embraces the present on her debut album, Marée Basse. After reading a few books that emphasize the need for taking things slow, I’ve started embracing the slow-down and the songs of Marée Basse fit perfectly with a more measured pace of life. With tracks that range from having muted electro-pop soundscapes that cover your entire body — like “Brüder” or “Premier Voyage” — and lush pop-rock with orchestra touches like the languid “Paradoxe,” Van Lucas fosters a wonderful tranquillity on her debut LP. • LS

DOMINIONATED’s Favourite Fifty 2021: the Long List

2020 was the kind of year where it just didn’t feel right doing the same old same old when it came to our annual year-end list. Instead of rankings, we went with an alphabetical list of the fifty albums our team of writers collectively held up as their favourite. To get to fifty, our team nominated over a hundred albums — 131 to be precise — which we shared with our newsletter subscribers last December.

This year, we’ve done it all over again. We published our annual Favourite Fifty list for 2021 on December 6 and are once again sharing with our devoted newsletter readers the full list of 109 records our writers named among their favourites. Asterisks denote the fifty albums on the official list, and each is linked to Bandcamp or Spotify, in hopes that you’ll consider supporting these artists and their amazing art, just as you have been supporting the work we do. Team DOMINIONATED thanks you for subscribing to, reading, and recommending our newsletter and following along with our work over at dominionated.ca. We wish you all the best during this holiday time and hope that you and your loved ones stay safe, healthy, and happy in 2022.

Absolutely Free, Aftertouch

Jazz Ali, You Can’t Go Home But You Can’t Stay Here

Andromède, Andromède

Astral Swans, Astral Swans

Backxwash, I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND MY DRESSES*

BADBADNOTGOOD, Talk Memory*

Quinton Barnes, As a Motherfucker

Bernice, Eau De Bonjourno*

The Besnard Lakes, The Besnard Lakes Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Theory of Ice*

BIG|BRAVE, Vital

Black Dresses, Forever In Your Heart*

Blessed, iii*

Body Breaks, Bad Trouble

Bon Enfant, Diorama*

Boy Golden, Church of Better Daze

Brand of Sacrifice, Lifeblood

Bria, Cuntry Covers Vol. 1

Bukola, The Chronicles of a Teenage Mind

Cadence Weapon, Parallel World*

Charlotte Cardin, Phoenix

Century Egg, Little Piece of Hair

CFCF, memoryland

Charles Spearin, My City of Starlings

Coeur de pirate, Impossible à aimer

Charlotte Cornfield, Highs in the Minuses

Daniel Romano’s Outfit, Cobra Poems

Charlotte Day Wilson, Alpha

Devan, Liquid Sunshine

Devours, Escape from Planet Devours

DijahSB, Head Above The Waters

Dill The Giant, WEED MANS SON

Mathilde Diotte, 30 juillet

Julie Doiron, I Thought of You

dreamcars, Myth of the Cat

Dresser, Seventeen Blocks and then Some

Willie Dunn, Creation Never Sleeps, Creation Never Dies: The Willie Dunn Anthology*

Dan Edmonds, Good Fortune Assembly

FÉLIXE, Les jours peureux

Dominique Fils-Aimé, Three Little Words

Fiver with the Atlantic School of Spontaneous Composition, Fiver with the Atlantic School of Spontaneous Composition

Flash Back, Wide Awake 

Fleece, Stunning & Atrocious*

Etienne Fletcher, Entre-deux

Free the Cynics, Diogenes

Fucked Up, Year of the Horse

C. R. Gillespie, Tracings in Honey

Godspeed You! Black Emperor, G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!

Hobby, Weed

Homeshake, Under the Weather*

iskwè, The Stars

JayWood, Some Days*

Rochelle Jordan, Play With The Changes

Keeper E., The Sparrows All Find Food

Brittany Kennell, I Ain’t A Saint*

Thierry Larose, Cantalou*

Le Ren, Leftovers*

Ada Lea, one hand on the steering wheel the other sewing a garden*

Hubert Lenoir, PICTURA DE IPSE : Musique directe

Little Sprout, Fake Cake

Russell Louder, Humor

LUMIÈRE, A.M.I.E.S.A.M.O.U.R.

Men I Trust, Untourable Album

John Michigan, Songs For Long Rains

Misc., Partager l’ambulence

Ariane Moffat, Incarnat*

Motorists, Surrounded

Mustafa, When Smoke Rises*

N0V3L, Non-Fiction*

neb., Silhouette Of Yesteryear

No Tourists, Ultraviolet

Cedric Noel, Hang Time

Safia Nolin, SEUM*

Anthony OKS, In The Garden*

Orson Wilds, What is it that you Won’t Let Go?

oui merci, chaque chose

Dorothea Paas, Anything Can’t Happen*

Parlour Panther, Retrograde

Peace Flag Ensemble, Noteland

RAY HMND, Komorebi

Julien Sagot, Sagot*

Sauf les drones, Chercher le trouble

Nick Schofield, Glass Gallery

Joseph Shabason, The Fellowship

Shabason, Krgovich & Harris, Florence

Shad, TAO

Andy Shauf, Wilds*

Skiifall, WOIIYOUI Tapes Vol. 1*

Sook-Yin Lee and Adam Litovitz, jooj two

Spectral Wound, A Diabolic Thirst*

Status/Non-Status, 1, 2, 3, 4, 500 Years*

Suuns, The Witness

swim good now & The Techno Hall of Fame, Part III

Swimming, That’s OK*

Tampa, Baby

Teke::Teke, Shirushi 

Tewksbury, Paths

The Dirty Nil, Fuck Art

Tryal, DogGone

Sam Tudor, Two Half Words*

Tunic, Quitter*

Kylie V, Big Blue

Valence, Pêle-mêle*

Vanille, Soleil ’96

Virgo Rising, Sixteenth Sapphire

The Weather Station, Ignorance

Wine Lips, Mushroom Death Sex Bummer Party

Yu Su, Yellow River Blue*

Erez Zobary, To Bloom