30-Second Album Reviews

Kero Kero Bonito, Taylor Swift, Manchester Orchestra, Grouplove, Sook-Yin Lee & Adam Litovitz, Chad VanGaalen, Loretta Lynn, Nick Jonas, Death from Above 1979, Whitehorse, Born Ruffians, Ringo Starr, Zara Larsson and Justin Bieber.

Civilisation II album cover

Kero Kero Bonito

Civilisation II

Genre: Art pop
Sound: Bouncy vocals and J-pop inspired production create a surreal, iridescent sound.
If you like: SOPHIE, Dorian Electra, 100 gecs
Why you should listen: Kero Kero Bonito proves to be as versatile as ever with a unique, hypermodern album that feels like a cyberpunk dreamscape.
Best track: The Princess and the Clock


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Cover of Fearless: Taylor’s Version

Taylor Swift

Fearless: Taylor’s Version

Genre: Country/pop
Sound: The classic country twang that made Taylor famous gets a mature, modern makeover
If you like: Carrie Underwood, Kasey Musgraves, Carly Rae Jepsen
Why you should listen: The album that jumpstarted Taylor Swift’s rise to fame has been completely reimagined with sophisticated production, mature vocals, and a bevy of previously-unreleased songs
Best track: Love Story


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The Million Masks of God album cover

Manchester Orchestra

The Million Masks of God

Genre: Indie rock
Sound: Classic indie-rock with sophisticated lyricism and quiet, intimate vocals
If you like: Bright Eyes, Brand New, early-career Coldplay
Why you should listen: Manchester Orchestra’s tragic concept album relies on their signature melancholy sound to make you feel like the only person in the room while they perform.
Best track: Inaudible


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Cover of This is This


This Is This

Genre: Indie rock
Sound: Fuzzy, distorted vocals over power-pop instrumentation with a strong undertone of 90s grunge
If you like: Young the Giant, late-90s Weezer, Passion Pit
Why you should listen: Grouplove have been indie royalty since their mid-2000s debut, but their finger is still on the pulse — This Is This is a soundtrack to teenage angst.
Best track: This Is The End


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jooj two album cover

Sook-Yin Lee & Adam Litovitz

jooj two

Genre: Electronic indie
Sound: Synth-y electronica and intriguing, 80s-inspired vocals create a sound that’s both nostalgic and futuristic
If you like: Aphex twin, the Avalanches, French New Wave films
Why you should listen: This experimental, otherworldly collection of tracks is possibly one of the most unique Canadian records of the year
Best track: Run Away With Her


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The Things I Can’t Take With Me (EP) album cover

Yaya Bey

The Things I Can’t Take With Me (EP)

Genre: R&B/Soul
If You Like: Solange, Greentea Peng, Jill Scott
Sound: A silky smooth voice glides on a staticy backdrop of meandering keys, guitar and brass
Why You Should Listen: Swanky sounds and low-key melodies make it a luxurious listen, while features of spontaneous laughs and conversations between Bey and friends feel like an invitation into her recording studio. All the good vibes.
Best Track: you up?


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The Art of Falling Apart album cover

Serena Ryder

The Art of Falling Apart

Genre: Bending R&B, Roots and Rock
Sound: Powerhouse vocals drive melodies layered with funk-inspired keys, strutting basslines and joyful choral backtracks
If you like: Bobby Bazini, Sarah Harmer, Brandi Carlile
Why you should listen: With her signature roots-edged voice, the six-time Juno Award winner delivers honest tracks about navigating the dark clouds and learning to let rapturous light break through
Best track: Waterfall


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Cover of Sixty Summers

Julia Stone

Sixty Summers

Genre: Indie pop
Sound: Mystical vocals, snares that beat like a heart and 60s western twang inspired by Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg’s Bonnie and Clyde
If you like: St. Vincent, Vera Blue, Angus & Julia Stone
Why you should listen: One half of the folksy brother-sister duo Angus & Julia Stone, the singer strikes out on her own to dance in the moonlight, hungry for hedonism in all its blood-pumping glory.
Best track: Dance


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Artwork for song I Want Fire

Miesha & The Spanks

Singles EP

Genre: Garage rock
Sound: Fuzz saturates crunchy guitars, punching drums and taunting vocals
If you like: L7, The Runaways, The OBGMs
Why you should listen: Attend a much-needed headbanging session after a crazy year with the Calgary duo’s blown-out, scrappy, 90s-inspired grunge rock. Word of warning: with all the face-melting riffs and gritty sonics, things might get sweaty.
Best track: Mixed Blood Girl


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Renée Reed album cover

Renée Reed

Renée Reed

Genre: Lo-fi dream folk
Sound: A celestial and haunting voice floats through frolicking acoustic notes
If you like: Mazzy Star, Jessica Pratt, Cate Le Bon
Why you should listen: Picture a 19th-century film reel projecting on a screen—sepia-toned, shaky and full of mystery. That’s where Reed’s woodsy, trancelike vocals take listeners, sweeping them up as she delicately plucks the strings of her guitar.
Best track: Out Loud


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World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener album cover

Chad VanGaalen

World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener

Genre: Experimental folk
Sound: Tinkering chimes, contemplative cellos and kaleidoscopic melodies
If you like: Yo La Tengo, Sufjan Stevens, The Besnard Lakes
Why you should listen: Flutes, synths and found sound come and go in random order, sounding like alien communication from light years away. VanGaalen’s easy folk quaver is the through line, thrashing through the beautifully messy jungle of his sonic garden.
Best track: Samurai Sword


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Still Woman Enough album cover

Loretta Lynn

Still Woman Enough

Genre: Country
Sound: Southern-twanged guitars, no-bullshit vocals and re-minted editions of vintage classics.
If you like: Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood, Kacey Musgraves
Why you should listen: 88-year-old country legend Loretta Lynn continues to set the traditionally conservative country genre ablaze with this retrospective album, featuring Carrie Underwood and Reba McEntire, proving she’s still a force to be reckoned with.
Best track: Keep on the Sunny Side


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Spaceman album cover

Nick Jonas


Genre: Pop
Sound: Soaring falsettos, glossy retro synths and airy rhythms, featuring one very showstopping saxophone solo.
If You like: ZAYN, Troye Sivan, Ne-Yo
Why you should listen: Subtly nodding to several 80s classics from I Want To Know What Love Is to Marvin Gaye, Jonas lends his perfectly pitched vocals to a champagne shower of sensual and breezy pop that’s bound to end up on a few hookup playlists.
Best Track: This Is Heaven


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Is 4 Lovers album cover

Death From Above 1979

Is 4 Lovers

Genre: Punk rock
Sound: Staticky lead vocals scuff with blown-out guitars to create a gritty sonic maelstrom that’s guaranteed to raise your BPM
If You Like: Black Pistol Fire, Japandroids, Pup
Why you should listen: Keep your head on a swivel as guitar riffs and punching drums come from all sides as DFA exorcised their quarantine demons as the Toronto duo add another installment to their headbanging discography.


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Modern Love album cover


Modern Love

Genre: Electro-pop-country
Sophisticated arrangements of tinkling tambourines, rich classical strings and easy drums steeped in a romantic country twang
If You Like: Khruangbin, Shakey Graves, Sugar Candy Mountain
Why you should listen: Ethereal vocals twist around western-hued guitars in this atmospheric album that makes the perfect soundtrack for driving down a desert highway, blazing sunset in the rear view.
Best Track: I Wanna Make Promises (That I Can’t Keep)


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Pulp album cover

Born Ruffians


Genre: Indie Rock
If you like: The Shins, Dr. Dog, Fruit Bats
Sound: A punchy snare backbone meets sun-drenched surf-inspired guitars and irresistible jump-up-and-down hooks
Why you should listen: Preceded by 2020 albums JUICE and SQUEEZE, PULP is the potent, playful and final installment in the trilogy, chock full of psychedelic chord progressions and energy-boosting tunes that prove Born Ruffians have still got their spark.
Best Track: Happy Parasites


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Zoom In album cover

Ringo Starr

Zoom In

Genre: Feel good rock
If you like: John, Paul, George
Sound: Like you ended up in a pub singing songs with the friendliest Beatle.
Why you should listen: Ringo wants us all to feel good and he and his plethora of pals – Ringo rings, you answer – have dropped a smile-packed EP of sentimental, upbeat songs designed to nurture the peace and love vibe.
Best Track: Waiting for the Tide to Turn


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Poster Girl album cover

Zara Larsson

Poster Girl

Genre: Pop
Sound: Bubblegum pop with danceable beats and screamable hooks.
If you like: Ariana Grande, Camilla Cabello, Fifth Harmony
Why you should listen: Zara Larsson’s latest album highlights her powerhouse voice with club-ready tracks and angelic stacked vocals.
Best track: Ruin My Life


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Justice album cover

Justin Bieber


Genre: Pop/Rhythm & Biebs
Sound: Bubblegum pop with danceable beats and screamable hooks.
If you like: Khalid, Charlie Puth, ZAYN
Why you should listen: Bieber is a polymath and so is this album: acoustic ballads, rap verses and all-out belting showcase the range of the voice that helped propel him to superstardom while he unabashedly declares his love for his wife.
Best track: Peaches


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