24 Albums You Shouldn't Have Missed in April 2022
Don't skip these recent releases by A-Trak, Tanerélle, Julie Doiron and Dany Placard and more
Published May 11, 2022It's impossible not to feel like you're falling behind with all the great new music coming out on a daily basis. That's why we've compiled a list of our favourite albums from last month that might have missed your ears, from collaborative experiments by veteran artists to EPs by rising stars. If this list isn't enough, check out our latest album reviews for more new music worth paying attention to.
10 Seconds Vol. 1
Sure, this EP from the award-winning Canadian DJ and producer runs a little longer than its title implies, but the artist's range is something to marvel at. Opener "Spit" exacts its French house feel with a two-note groove and scraping snare, while the active kick of "Bubble Guts" punts its samples into funkier, filtered territory. Elsewhere, "Sling Shot" gets its chops stretched in all directions, and "Bee Bop" kicks bass and brass around some heavenly held chords.
Animals as Leaders
Just over five years on from embracing writing as a trio on The Madness of Many, Animals as Leaders feel like a much more communal, connected unit on Parrhesia. Of course, the threesome remain at the top of their game technically, but on their leanest record to date, the push-pull between dizzying instrumental proficiency and more memorable, emotional writing feels better balanced than that of its predecessor.
Vancouver singer-songwriter Francis Baptiste is also a music writer (he's written for Exclaim! a few times in recent years), so he really knows how to make his songs stand out. Debut album Snəqsilxʷ (Family) is notable not just because it's the first folk rock album partially written in Nsyilxcən, but because of Baptiste's powerful pipes, robust arrangements, and heartfelt grappling with addiction and trauma.
Though Digital Damage is intended as the first half of a two-part album, the latest EP from Heartstreets' Emma Beko stands alone as a brief but hard-hitting look at technology-induced trauma, opting to focus on the emotional aftermath rather than point fingers at its origins. The signifiers of emo rap — stark guitars, trap drums and vocal effects — enhance Beko's moody messaging, and its best moments maximize the dramatic potential of both rock and hip-hop, like on "sadguitar_V777.wav."
As Bodysync, Ryan Hemsworth and Giraffage feel at right home in the world of '90s house on debut Radio Active — a wholly engaging, lovingly referential take on a style whose form and function are constantly in motion. At this party, the most crucial genre hallmarks mix and mingle under one roof: uplifting piano stabs, methodical percussion, all the best synth sounds of the era, and high-level vocal hooks from Tinashe, Nite Jewel, Daniela Andrade and Devin Morrison.
Evan J Cartwright
bit by bit
Evan J Cartwright is best known as the drummer for the likes of U.S. Girls, the Weather Station and Cola, but bit by bit, his debut solo album, takes a near-opposite rhythmic approach. It's a freely flowing art-folk sequence driven by acoustic guitars and vocals, while other elements come and go like friends at a drop-in picnic, overlapping and engaging with each other for brief, fortuitous moments. Each squeak of a string and pause of a lyric only heightens its homespun intimacy.
(Heavenly/PIAS/I OH YOU)
Making new shapes from the bubbly '60s-gone-'90s blueprint left by Deee-Lite, Confidence Man are devotees of all things unapologetically colourful, stupid and freeing. Their brand of feather-draped, candy-coated dance pop finds meaning in a steadfast commitment to meaninglessness, asking that you shed all thought in pursuit of sweat, movement and the kind of smile that hurts your cheeks. Politics, climate disaster, those overdue bills? They'll still be there when you come back down — for now, you've just gotta move.
(des hume initiative)
Vancouver songwriter des hume keeps up his prolific release schedule with huh., a three-track EP that, at a little over four minutes, is about the length of one normal song. From the heavily processed robo harmonies of opener "huh." to the glitched out beats of "naurrr" to the new age IDM of bite-sized closer "smoothbrain.wav," it's a frenzied voyage through futuristic electronic experimentation.
Julie Doiron and Dany Placard
Julie & Dany
An entry in the ever-growing genre of "lockdown albums," Julie Doiron and Dany Placard invite listeners into their private world with a decidedly domestic collection. Full of loose acoustic jams, hypnotic fuzz grooves, bilingual lyrics and lighthearted background chatter, Julie & Dany feels like half an hour in the couple's New Brunswick home. Plus, there are some incredible songs — like Doiron's touching tale of new love, "Jean-Talon Market."
Just three years since burly debut Dogrel, the Dublin post-punk quintet have embraced the power of melody on third album Skinty Fia, as Grian Chatten more accessibly channels his modern world frustrations through plaintive singing rather than his old standard of blunt spoken word. It finishes the transformation hinted at on 2020's A Hero's Death, and steps things up amid the similar-minded competition from their UK neighbours. There's all of the Smiths' arresting jangle pop melancholy with none of the icky Morrissey-sized baggage.
We're All Going to the World's Fair (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
You always know when you're listening to an Alex G song. The Pennsylvania musician's sonic thumbprint is so unmistakable that it's almost surprising that his debut film score works so well, but there's no doubt that his score for Jane Schoenbrun's We're All Going to the World's Fair does just as it intends. Giannascoli's gentle soundscapes tease tenderness and a dreamlike unease from the film's claustrophobic horror, managing to subsume his music in the world of the film without losing his own mischievous glint.
Christian Lee Hutson
As the artist being heralded by Pitchfork as "vaguely handsome," Christian Lee Hutson has to have a sense of humour about these things. That lyrical vein of biting self-awareness and stony observationalism suits him best on sophomore Phoebe Bridgers-produced offering Quitters, even going so far as to open one of his ABCB-rhyming conversation pieces with, "Are they siblings? / Are they dating?" before deciding, "They are definitely fucking."
Drone-hymn experimenters Joyful Joyful — the project of Toronto duo Cormac Culkeen and Dave Grenon — spent the latter end of the 2010s making the live-music rounds, introducing their disarming, innovative sound to audiences across the Maritimes and Ontario's festival circuits and playing tear-jerker sets in churches, community centres and tiny clubs. Their five-track self-titled debut compiles much of their free-wheeling live show: dominated by looping field recordings, drones and Culkeen's traditional Irish folk vocals, and punctuated by Grenon's expansive, celestial synths. It's an entirely peaceful affair, thanks to the duo's incredibly intuitive, near-psychic chemistry.
Singer-songwriter Abigail Lapell's Howard Bilerman-produced third studio album simultaneously channels the earthiness of '70s folk-rock and the severity of Montreal and Toronto's alternative scenes, employing major Canadian music players Dani Nash, Pietro Amato and others over the album's 11 tracks. Dealing in the themes of recovery, loss and love, Lapell's latest is the new generation's heart-rending answer to Tapestry's call.
Playfulness is inherent to the trio of brothers Rhett and Max Cunningham and Calpurnia's Ayla Tesler-Mabe, whose project takes its name from a term coined by child psychologists in the 1940s. Very limited psychoanalysis determines the appeal of the Vancouver funk-jazz-soul-pop fusion act on their debut EP: each multi-instrumentalists in their own right, they come together in the groove pocket to marry timeless rhythms with modern coming-of-age sensibilities, exemplified by anti-Instagram anthem "Instabeat."
why can't we just pretend?
The R&B-electropop duo of Samantha Gongol and Jeremy Lloyd pencil in a specific year on "pretend (2003)" featuring Edmonton's Tennyson, but the same desire could be said for 2016 — the year Marian Hill made waves with glitchy platinum single "Down." From the comedic thump of self-love anthem "omg" to the bassy horn riff of "SPINNIN," their third LP sparkles just as much in its shadowy seduction, with an added unpredictable clangour in cuts like "visions of you."
five seconds flat
A picnic blanket in a dusky park is the image of Lizzy McAlpine's debut album, 2020's Give Me a Minute, perfectly embodying its hand-spun folk-pop feast. Touting features from the likes of pop visionaries Jacob Collier and FINNEAS on her sophomore LP, the Philadelphia singer-songwriter embraces a darker expansiveness in a more mature palette that equally finds a brighter ember — asterisked by the youthful voice memo laughter that grounds album closer (and, interestingly, most uptempo track) "orange show speedway."
Lily Konigsberg and Nate Amos's sideways indie pop is at times gross, delicate, immature, thoughtful and devastating. That they can cram all this feeling into a record that careens through genre just as wildly is a testament to their air-tight pop instincts and understanding of the power in a simple chord change or off-handed turn of phrase. From the thatch-work dream world of the title track to the improvised piano pop of "Lily's Phone," there's a dimension of newness to be discovered with each listen.
Goofy spoken-word greeting "Welcome…!" admittedly feels a bit like a frill, but what follows is a decidedly frill-free selection of jangling college rock, anchored by songwriter Daniel Busheikin's quirky, conversational observations. "Everyone knows I'm a bummer / Everyone knows I'm no fun at all," he drawls on "Save the Bees." I beg to differ — this album is fun as hell.
Flex with Benefits
R&B-popster R. Flex has spent the four years since their IN & OUT EP in the world of singles, dropping short bursts of song packed with sweaty lust and pop hooks. Their Flex with Benefits EP applies those lessons back into a longer format, offering a concise and versatile series of bangers that fit right in amid all of today's Y2K nostalgia. With intricate production and impressive vocal runs, there are many fine details to discover on repeat listens.
Ideas of Space
"Aerial view / From me to you / Separate the memory from the truth," Montreal (via Toronto) polymath Tess Roby coos on "Path," effectively summarizing the position from which one listens to her spellbinding sophomore album. A babbling brook of airy opulence, there's no choice but to look up as she floats us among a steady rush of celestial soundscapes, kaleidoscopically twisting the minimalism of Philip Glass and Imogen Heap's synthetic sound bath.
(Mama Saturn Enterprises)
In the time before her "Star" ascended to new heights upon linking up with Machinedrum in 2020, Tanerélle was mapping the universe of her spacey, sultry R&B with a run of singles. On EP 82 Moons, the artist charts a course to orbit love and devotion, her brooding voice the guide of this six-song spacewalk.
Avalon Tassonyi isn't afraid to ask the tough questions. Atop banjos and lap steels on "Kids Like Us," they ask, "So you wanna be a country singer / But have you really lived enough?" By that logic, they have — from world-weary protest ("Peace Time") to high-concept alien abductions ("Green Light"), every idea fits snugly in a warm alt-country bed that's equal parts Nick Drake and Wilco, teeming with imaginative splendour. (Technically, it came out at the end of March, but that makes it extra imperative that you check it out.)
Named for the 600-acre park in his current home city of Los Angeles, elysian revives the tstewart moniker of Machinedrum's Travis Stewart for 16 vignettes that unfurl in contrast to the dance music explorations that have defined the producer's career. Not unlike how a closer look at the natural world uncovers further depth and detail, a play-through of Stewart's latest reveals an even greater command of melody, structure and acoustic instruments than seen previously.