Best Sask Albums
The Best Saskatchewan Albums of 2017
Thank you to everyone who participated in our 2017 Best Sask Albums poll - both artists, and voters.
This project was created to raise awareness of and to celebrate the fantastic music being created in our province. Whether you made the Top 10 or not - keep doing that amazing work! We’re proud of all our talented Saskatchewan artists
Def3 “Small World”
Danny Fernandez is Def3, a well-established Regina-based hip-hop artist whose unique journey has helped pen an engaging narrative and curate an eclectic sound. Spending the better part of his youth travelling the world via hospital ship shaped Def3’s productive outlook and wealth of creativity. His 2014 album WILDLIF3 (produced by Saskatoon’s Factor) garnered a Western Canadian Music Award for Rap Recording of the Year, graced the top of the iTunes Canadian Hip Hop charts in overall bestselling album, and dominated both Canadian and US college radio charts (Earshot Magazine, CMJ). His follow-up “Small World”, released fall 2017 (URBNET) includes guests Masta Ace, Del the Funky Homosapien, Mystic, Moka Only, Dertmerchant (of Sweatshop Union), Probcause, and turntablist Skratch Bastid. Small World packs in 11 tracks of sharp writing and a tight mission statement, all of which is fueled by soulful and funky production from Denver’s Late Night Radio. His approach to Boom bap fits Def3 like a glove, whether it's providing a guitar-laden swagger on "S.O.S." or capturing the emotional turmoil of "Carry On."
#9 - TIE
Jeffery Straker "Dirt Road Confessional"
Straker’s latest album (Acronym Records/Universal Canada) brings a roots-inspired flavour to his piano-driven sound. The singer-musician and road warrior has created a recording that sounds like his multitude of influences: a little bit roots/country, a little bit piano-folk-pop, and a lot of wonderful stories. Lyrically, the album speaks to the tug between life on the road pursuing a dream of music and the longing for love and cultivating a relationship. The album was produced through 5 recording sessions that took place in Lake Echo, Toronto, Los Angeles, and Regina, with a number of great Canadian producers and includes co-writes with Jay Semko and Karen Kosowski. Among his achievements, Straker has recorded for CBC Radio’s ‘Canada Live’, had a top 10 music video on Much More Music Canada, won the prestigious Vina del Mar (Chile) song competition in 2014, and has toured internationally as far as Peru, Mexico and Chile. Straker regularly draws comparisons to a young Billy Joel or Elton John, with shades of Rufus Wainwright and Harry Nilsson thrown in, but on Dirt Road Confessional his personal storytelling style has evolved into his own unified voice.
The Garrys "Surf Manitou"
This all-female garage-surf trio of Erica, Julie, and Lenore released Surf Manitou (Grey Records) in May 2017. It’s a concept album inspired by various places in the resort village of Manitou Beach, Treaty 6 Territory. The band maintains their classic, early rock’n’roll and doowop-inspired sound for this release, but offer a more “technical and musically matured” version polished by performance experience garnered over the past year. The Garrys have become festival favourites with appearances at The Gateway Festival, Ness Creek Music Festival, Regina Folk Festival, Femme Fest, Sled Island, SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Fest, Winterruption, Big Fun Festival, and M for Montreal. “Sisterly Saskatoon trio the Garrys gave us Warm Buds last year, and now they're keeping the retro sounds and good vibes going strong for a new record called Surf Manitou,” noted Exclaim.ca. “Injected with what the Garrys call ‘a gratuitous dose of beach sass,’ tracks like ‘Make Out at the Drive-In,’ ‘Mike's Beach Bar’ and closer ‘Waiting on a Wave’ will instantly have you pining summertime fun.”
Tenille Arts "Rebel Child"
Artist/songwriter Tenille Arts was born and raised in Weyburn SK. After years of dance, piano, and vocal lessons, and soaking up a lot of Dixie Chicks and other favorites, Tenille began making trips to Nashville to advance her songwriting skills, eventually earning a publishing deal with Noble Vision Music Group. Her 2016 debut EP hit #1 on iTunes Canada Country Albums, iTunes Top 8 Best Country Track of 2016 (Wildfire and Whiskey), top 100 on the U.S. iTunes Country Albums chart, and top 10 on iTunes Canada All Genre albums chart, among other milestones. Tenille was also a 2016 Canadian Country Music Association Discovery Program Finalist. In 2017, she has surpassed 2 million streams and was named a “2017 Country Artist to Watch” by Pandora. Arts released her first full-length album “Rebel Child” (19th & Grand Records) in October 2017, having co-written 10 of the 11 songs on the collection. Music Row Magazine critic Robert K. Oermann called Tenille "Promising in the extreme," with Pandora raving, "with songwriting inspired by Don Henley and reminiscent of early Taylor Swift, and vocals the size of her native Canada, Arts' future is bright."
The Deep Dark Woods "Yarrow"
Floods and plagues, ghosts and slaughter: woe to those who populate the songs of The Deep Dark Woods’ new album Yarrow (Six Shooter). A gentle summer breeze swings the gallows ropes, flowers bloom callously on lovers’ graves. These anthems are definitely not from Eden. Yarrow was borne in a fever – scarlet fever, to be medically specific. A disease of the last century is a fitting backdrop for songs that dig bare handed into the loam to unearth the corpses of old English folk and country blues. After a five-year hiatus and band reconfiguration, Yarrow is The Deep Dark Woods reimagined by leadman Ryan Boldt. Produced by Shuyler Jansen and Boldt, the album also features touring companions Kacy & Clayton. The JUNO-nominated (Roots & Traditional Album of the Year: Group, 2012 and 2015) group has developed an international following with particular success in the Americana realm, nominated alongside Alabama Shakes and Dawes for Emerging Artist of the Year at the 2012 Americana Music Awards. The Deep Dark Woods fuse spooky prairie folk with Texas country blues and California psychedelia. Exclaim.ca describes, “the Saskatoon trio give LP number six an invigorating new restoration that finds them sounding more patient, intricate and contemplative than they've ever been.”
Blake Berglund "Realms"
“Realms” (Oceanman Records) is an allegorical concept album about the breadth of human experience, the recognition of God and the awareness of one’s own power. Inspired by the teachings and observations of Thomas P. Fusco, Dr. Rick Strassman, and authors Joseph Campbell and C.S. Lewis, the 10-track album follows its hero through a transformational journey, exploring spiritual themes, alternative beliefs and universal truths hidden in patterns, nuances and puzzles. Berglund’s long time hot-shot honky tonk band, The Vultures, are showcased from the get-go and joined by a handful of vocal appearances including Chris Henderson, Megan Nash, Jason Plumb and Belle Plaine. Berglund shows no signs of slowing down his unique approach to storytelling – exhibiting his research and hustle in his 'Quest for Real Country Music' in 2016 and #May1000 campaign in 2017. He documents everything, exploring new areas of self-expression based on his unpredictable, genuine musical style, collaborative mindset and out of the box marketing – his grassroots reputation as “the guy who sold 10,000 records” still going strong.
Kacy & Clayton "The Siren’s Song"
Following their 2016 record Strange Country, The Siren’s Song (New West Records) is the first album on which Kacy Anderson and Clayton Linthicum have incorporated electric full-band arrangements; they’re joined for the project by drummer/percussionist Mike Silverman and bassist Shuyler Jansen. “The second cousins hail from rural Saskatchewan, where they absorbed knowledge and borrowed instruments from their elders, did their own record collecting, filled in the gaps with obscurities others posted online, and developed their musical voices in tandem, valuing freedom alongside familiarity.” – NPR. “Like something out of a dreamy folktale, [they] seem to have been beamed down to us from a hazy summer sky. On the follow up to their 2015 release Strange Country, the duo have crafted one of the best albums of 2017 with The Siren’s Song. Aided by the touch of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, who produced the nine-song record, Kacy & Clayton have homed in on their sound – a dreamy twang, like Laurel Canyon but country. A heavenly blend of Clayton Linthicum’s trippy guitar melodies with Kacy Anderson’s haunting, filigree vocals are grounded with lyrics about youthful angst and the struggle to know yourself.” – No Depression.
#4 - TIE
Jess Moskaluke "Past the Past"
JUNO Award winner, 3x CCMA Female Vocalist of the Year, and platinum-selling artist, Jess Moskaluke’s latest EP Past the Past (MDM Recordings) showcases her powerhouse vocals in a 'new country' setting with a pop edge. Produced by Grammy-nominated Corey Crowder, Past the Past “sticks to a theme of perseverance against negative emotions. The seven-track EP encourages many replays, and should reach audiences from dance to pop-rock and country-pop; it's irresistible.” – Exclaim.ca. As Jess explained to iHeartRadio, “For the first time in my career, there’s an actual theme to this album. It wasn’t intentional, I didn’t plan it, it just fell into place this way. It was important for me to share this message with my fans, as there are a lot of sad songs, or break up songs, or starting over songs on this record. That is not where I’m at in my life anymore. For that reason, the theme of this album is #PastThePast.” As The Reviews Are In describes, “While the themes and tone of the songs on this new album may be different from Kiss Me Quiet and Light Up The Night, one thing remains the same…Jess Moskaluke sings the hell out of the songs she’s preparing to release to the world. The CCMA, country radio and fans from coast-to-coast aren’t wrong when they heap praise on the talent that Jess brings to the table. She’s got it, and with releases like Past The Past, she’s once again confirming that she belongs in the upper echelon of female country singers in Canada. Strike that, she belongs in the upper echelon of Canadian country music talent, period. No qualifiers required.”
Hunter Brothers "Getaway"
Luke, J.J., Ty, Brock and Dusty - a.k.a. The Hunter Brothers - are the epitome of Canadiana country. The five brothers from Shaunavon grew up singing gospel with their family across Canada and the U.S., working on the family farm, and playing hockey for the likes of the Kelowna Rockets to Edmonton Oilers. Releasing their first country-pop album, Getaway (Open Road Recordings) this year, they have already seen 3 singles hit the Canadian Country Top 40 including the latest “Born & Raised” reaching the Top 10. The album is a compilation of fun, light-hearted, uptempo tracks about love and small town life, inspired by the brothers’ life on the farm together. Showcasing their jaw-dropping sibling harmonies on tour, at the CCMAs, and in live radio and television spots, their shows feature a mix of their favourite styles of music; they even show their sense of humour with song parodies (video “The Tractor Got Stuck" going YouTube viral). Canadian Beats noted, “The Hunter Brothers never fail to impress. Their smooth harmonies, their effervescent approach to singing, their passion for life and music is very special. Getaway is absolutely incredible. The album is full of fun and upbeat relationship-type songs, of life and love in a small town, of growing up on the prairies. This is the album that will bring you out of your winter doldrums and brighten your day like the first wash of colour on a spring day.”
ONE BAD SON "Made in the Name of Rock N Roll"
With more than a decade of hard work invested in the band, Saskatoon’s One Bad Son has achieved numerous Top 10 singles - including Made in The Name of Rock N Roll’s lead single, Raging Bull, which reached #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart. They’ve performed with the likes of Def Leppard and Judas Priest, and worked with notable producer Gavin Brown (Three Days Grace, Billy Talent, Metric, The Tragically Hip) on this 604 Records release. The band has spent years touring constantly, converting audiences and gaining legions of loyal fans across the country, with multiple sold out tours, support and headline dates. The lineup currently consists of singer Shane Connery Volk, drummer Kurt Dahl, guitarist Adam Hicks and bassist Steve Adams. "This is definitely a new OBS. I feel like we've finally embraced what we are and what we are is Rock n’ Roll!! We've truly opened up and written songs that reflect the power and energy of OBS as well as expressing our eternal love for all the fans who keep Rock music alive!!” - Shane Volk. “You can hear and feel the passion of this band behind their music, their lyrics delivered in the quintessential rock sound with their shredding guitars, raspy vocals, and catchy choruses. Split into two sides, ten songs in total, this album has the power to make anyone that enjoys the genre fall for One Bad Son.” – Canadian Beats. “From top to bottom there is no shortage of rock and roll firepower here” - The Reviews Are In.
Colter Wall "Colter Wall"
With a well-travelled, rumbling baritone and mindfully-constructed songwriting that intensely contradict his lack of years, Colter Wall’s debut full-length, produced by Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson) (Young Mary’s Records/Thirty Tigers) has garnered that rarity: the esteem of both critics and fans. With achievements to date including performance at the Ryman Auditorium opening for Lucinda Williams, and Margo Price; show dates with Steve Earle, a publishing deal with Rick Rubin, and sold out shows across North America, Wall’s is an album that pays homage to country & western’s roots while firmly claiming a sound that is entirely his own. He’s been included in Rolling Stone’s “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know” (November 2016); #5 on the Rough Trade Best of Year; American Songwriter’s Top 25 Songs of 2017 (“Me and Big Dave”); and achieved over 2 million streams in 2017 alone. “Colter Wall is one of country music’s most exciting young voices. His debut album is strange and stirring, rarely ever rising above a gentle rumble,” writes Rolling Stone. “Wall writes country songs as stark and traditional as they come, accompanied by little more than an acoustic guitar. To call him wiser than his years would be an understatement: veteran songwriters go to great lengths to sound so gruff and world-weary. The 11 tracks on his self-titled debut are strange and stirring enough to make him one of the genre’s most exciting young voices. Rarely ever rising above a gentle rumble, Wall’s songs zoom in on haunting scenes and resolve in unexpected ways.”
Megan Nash "Seeker"
On her 2017 album Seeker (Acroynym Records), alternative/roots singer/songwriter Megan Nash collaborates with ambient/alt-rock group Bears in Hazenmore on a bold 12-track album with impressive results. In a marked departure from her last album - the stripped down guitar-and-vocal setting of 2015’s 'Song Harvest Volume One' - Seeker takes Nash’s confident, yet intimate songwriting into intriguing new textural dimensions.
With a wildly emotive voice that alternates from a sweet whisper to a hurricane-strong-rush in the space of a breath, Megan is complemented on Seeker by the uniquely orchestral sounds of Bears, with engineer Orion Paradis at the helm at Soul Sound. In reference to its title, Nash is on a quest for spiritual meaning on her own terms. Her chosen path is through music, and as an artistic statement, Seeker displays the breadth of Nash’s talents as a songwriter, vocalist and producer.
Nominated for Songwriter of the Year at the 2016 Western Canadian Music Awards, Megan has been described by CBC Radio One’s Tom Allen as having “a powerful voice and an authoritative style.” A captivating live performer, she has performed at Reeperbahn, Folk Alliance International, Regina Folk Festival, Ness Creek Music Festival, In The Dead of Winter Festival, Folk on the Rocks, The Burdock, Elora Riverfest, The Gateway Festival, Love and Records, Halifax Pop Explosion and Moose Jaw’s Festival of Words, with over 100 live show dates on the calendar in 2017.
“With a powerful voice and emotional delivery, it's no surprise that the singer-songwriter has drawn comparisons to Serena Ryder and Martha Wainwright.” – Exclaim.ca
As Megan continues her journey as a superb songwriter and charismatic live artist, we congratulate her on reaching our #1 spot for 2017!
THE 2017 LONG LIST
Curated by an industry and peer jury from a list of over 100 qualifying albums* released this year, this year's Long List contains 42 great albums. These were then sent forward to the public for voting to select the 'best of the best.' While voting has now closed, we encourage you to check out all these awesome albums! There's a little something for everyone - rock, roots, hip hop, pop, country and more!
Spotify Playlist: Long List (to hear most of the long list albums)
Blake Berglund - Realms
Brodie Moniker - Nowhere Left To Ghost
Chris Henderson - The Charm
Close Talker - Lens
Colter Wall - Colter Wall
Cristian Moya & Merky Waters - Learners
The Deep Dark Woods - Yarrow
Def3 - Small World
Ellen Froese - Ellen Froese
Étienne Fletcher Music - Side A/Côté A EP
The Garrys - Surf Manitou
The Great Fuss - The Great Fuss
Hunter Brothers - Getaway
Jack Semple - Live at Mt. Baker R&B Festival
Jared Robinson - The Strange and Tumultuous Life of Edgar Allan Poe
Jay & Jo - Grounded and Light
Jeffery Straker - Dirt Road Confessional
Jess Moskaluke - Past the Past
The Johner Boys - Stories
Kacy & Clayton - The Siren's Song
Keith Kitchen - Orbits
Kiera Dall'Osto Music - Kiera Dall'Osto
Megan Nash - Seeker
Nono Ryan Poetry - Flow Tank
One Bad Son - Made in the Name of Rock n Roll
Oral Fuentes - Rise Up
Orbital Express - Light Years From Home
Parab Poet and the Hip Hop Hippies - Parab Poet and the Hip Hop Hippies
The Pistolwhips - Voices
Planet Eater - Blackness from the Stars
respectfulchild - searching
Samara Yung - Steamroller
Shawn Jobin - Éléphant
Shooting Guns - Flavour Country
Spationauts - Bike Ride to the Doom
Steph Cameron - Daybreak Over Jackson Street
Surf Dads - All Day Breakfast
Tenille Arts - Rebel Child
Ursa - Prism System
Val Halla - A Walk on Part in the War
vbnd - we go on infinitely
Xana - xana
This year's process:
1) Initial qualifying round. We put out a call for information and assemble a list of all known qualifying Saskatchewan albums (100+).
*Album Criteria. To be considered for Best Of, the album
- Was released by an artist residing in Sask. (physically living in Saskatchewan at the time of the album's release date regardless of where artist is living at the time this list is underway)
- Was first released to the public between Nov 15, 2016 and Nov 30, 2017. The first verification we will use will be its date of release in iTunes. If not on iTunes, we'll accept other forms of verification of both "release date" and "commercial release" at our discretion (ie BandCamp release date, manufacturer's shipping date, etc).
- Is at least 30 minutes or at least 5 tracks in length.
All genres of music are included in consideration. Artists do not need to be members of SaskMusic to participate. There is no "entry fee."
Official reissues/compilations of previous material, where released as a new package, will be considered.
2) An industry jury will listen to the qualifying albums to help us determine the longlist of approximately 40 albums.
3) The longlist will be open for general public voting online from December 9-18. These votes alone will determine the top 10. Only one vote per IP address will be recorded.
4) The Top 10 shortlist will be announced between December 19-22. Please note, ties would result in more than 10 albums appearing on the shortlist.
This project is for the promotion and celebration of Saskatchewan music. We apologize for any oversights, errors or omissions.