17. White Lung, Paradise (Domino)
Vancouver band White Lung had been on my radar for years, to the point where I knew I’d hear an album I liked by them, but never knew when. Something seemed to be holding them back; either their hardcore felt too plain to my ears, or their attempts at commerciality felt derivative. Their fourth album, much to my pleasant surprise, hit all the right notes. Here’s a band that finally developed supreme confidence on all fronts: songwriting, guitar work, singing, and best of all, hooks. With Lars Stalfors they amped up the production, too, and the end result is very much akin to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Fever to Tell and Hole’s Live Through This: a rock album that feels catchy and sleek, yet at the same time retains the feral ferocity of the punk rock from which it sprung. Mish Barber-Way, for all her Courtney Love affectations, is on point from the get-go, spewing aggressive, blunt lyrics (“I will give birth in a trailer / Huffing the gas in the air / Baby is born in molasses / Like I would even care”), while guitarist Kenneth William is astounding, shredding like Propagandhi one minute, creating Kevin Shields-style swirling atmospherics the next. Everything comes together on the stunning “Below”, which is one of the most affecting rock tracks since the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps”, and coincidentally, it works in the same way, William creating a gorgeous backdrop for Barber-Way to show more vulnerability than she ever has before. I enjoyed this album when it came out, but in the work preparing for the Polaris Prize gala, my affection for Paradise grew even more.