Top Ten Albums of 2011: # 1

1. Emm Gryner, “Northern Gospel”

I’ve followed this Canadian singer/songwriter’s career for about a decade now. She remains fairly obscure on this side of the border, but that’s less due to her nationality and more to a preference for self-releasing her music rather than signing to a major label (she actually did that in 1998 and only one album came of it). Staying independent has allowed her to build up a dependable body of work: good, solid albums with usually two or three exceptional pop songs on each that could make one swoon and also leave one puzzled as to why she’s not a big star.

With Northern Gospel, she’s crafted a great album full of nothing but exceptional pop songs— not anything that would give Rhianna a run for her money on top 40 radio, mind you, but pop in a classic sense, full of Gryner’s crystal-clear vocals, strong, smart melodic hooks and full-bodied but not overdone production that mostly eschews of-the-moment techniques (which have dated some of her earlier work) for a more timeless feel. From peppy opening salvo “Ciao Monday” to up-tempo rocker “Fast Exit” (which plays like Carole King covering The Pointer Sisters) to gleeful kiss off “Last Day on Earth” to majestic lighter-waver “A Little War” to the all-out glorious “Heartsleeves”, this is a flawlessly, unashamedly perfect pop album. In a year where I honestly began gravitating more towards singles than albums, this reminded me how affecting and essential the latter could still be.

Favorites: “Heartsleeves”, “Ciao Monday”, “Fast Exit”, “North”, “Last Day on Earth”

One Response to Top Ten Albums of 2011: # 1

  1. Michael C. says:

    Woo hoo! Go Emm! I’m so pleased to see this sitting at the top of your list! Now let’s hope she does a little North American tour again sometime in the near future. I wonder how much she’d charge to play a concert in the courtyard at the Boston Public Library?

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