It is officially the winter solstice, so our announcement could come on no better day. (You’ll understand what we mean further down the post).
There was so much good music that came out in 2011, it will have the JUNO judges pulling their hair out to come up with a list of nominees for album of the year in a few months. Many recording artists released their magnum opus this year.
Our third favourite album this year comes from Ron Sexsmith, the most overlooked Canadian recording artist of modern times and one who is admired by the likes of Sir Paul McCartney. Long Player, Late Bloomer is a beautifully-crafted folk pop album and was produced by the eminent Bob Rock. It is the St. Catharines native’s best effort to date in our humble opinion.
At #2 is Goodbye Lullaby, pop punk princess Avril Lavigne‘s best album yet for one uncomplicated reason: there is not a single weak moment on the disc. Filled with inspired pop tunes from start to finish, it is but a gem. And, of course, no current Canadian recording artist can outsing her pure, pleasant, and pitch-perfect voice.
#1? Well, it’s a bit cold in here, so let’s “pull the wool up like a smoke screen” and introduce it gradually…
It would make more sense to fly over the North Pole, as the distance would surely be shorter, but the airlines would rather take us on the scenic route, like “two sparks tumbling along”, and have us stop over and change flights in a number of bustling cities with “busy parks” on different continents. The easiest way to fly from Vancouver to the largest city in this region of the world would be to stop over in Beijing, but that would be expensive. A cheaper alternative would be flying to Chicago, USA or London, England, then to Moscow, and finally to our destination of Novosibirsk, a city just shy of 1.5 million people, the largest urban center of northern Asia, an area of the Russian Federation known as Siberia.
Before we go on our flight, we want to stay where we are, in Vancouver, and travel back in time. We set the dial of our time machine to March 29, 2009 and push the button. After a flash of lights, we find ourselves in pre-Olympic Vancouver. We hop onto the SkyTrain which will drive our soul downtown. Many passengers will be going to our destination today and are very excited. After arriving, we disembark and walk over to what was then known as “GM Place”. We purchase tickets at the door and make our way inside. The show is about to begin. Nickelback blows us away with a tour de force performance, after which we see the host of the proceedings, comedian Russell Peters. We are, as some of you have figured from the clues, at the JUNO awards gala of 2009. A number of awards are being presented for the best in Canadian music.
At about 5:40 pm, after a performance by Sarah McLachlan and a cute comedy sketch with Peters and Michael Bublé, Maple Ridge’s beautiful Filipina-Canadian pop star Elise Estrada, the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage, and Terrace’s country singer Aaron Pritchett step onto the stage. They will be presenting the prestigious award for New Artist of the Year. The nominees are Jessie Ferrell, LIGHTS, Crystal Shawanda, Kreesha Turner, and Nikki Yanofsky. James Moore announces, “And the JUNO goes to…”. He opens the “envelope” which looks more like a CD jewel case, and then declares, “LIGHTS!”
As Elise Estrada begins clapping, another young woman, in a purple dress, looking very surprised and very happy, stands up and makes her way to the stage. The song “Drive My Soul”, a Top 20 hit, begins playing. The crowd is cheering. We are cheering too. She gives the three presenters a hug and positions herself in front of the microphone. “Whoa. Oh my goodness. I was so not expecting this … You know, I didn’t get into this to win awards; I got into this to create some amazing music, and we’ll try to anyways…”.
What was significant about LIGHTS winning the JUNO was that she had not yet released her debut album; it came out later that year in September. The Listening was an electronic pop record and was later certified gold in Canada.
Encouraged by her success, she decided, in the making of her sophomore baby, to depart from mainstream sounds to something more creative, more gritty, on the “alternative” side of the musical spectrum. Various personnel within the record company, who were more concerned with the business side of music, opposed the artistic move, and she was faced with manipulative forces trying to push her in different directions. She remained fixed in her resolve and focused on her goal of creating something different but exceptional musically. A great team consisting of Thomas Salter, Dave Thompson, Jay Parson, Brian Borcherdt, and Graham Walsh assisted her in crafting and perfecting a Canadian masterwork.
After some delays, Siberia was released on October 4, 2011. It is an indie electronic rock album with some elements of dubstep, and it received rave reviews. Siberia debuted at #3 on the Canadian albums chart behind Adele’s 21 and Feist’s Metals and sold 10,000 copies in the first week. She went on a North American tour to promote the album and will be heading to Europe next year.
Although Siberia pays homage to the great masters of electronic rock—FM, Gary Numan, Bjork, and Metric to name a few—LIGHTS has carved out a niche for herself by honing her own unique style. Amidst the ethereal, pulsating synthesizer buzzes, her voice comes through as sweet as honey, and her lyrics are more inspired than the pennings of the aforementioned.
Everyone has their favourite tracks. Ours are the title-track “Siberia”, single “Toes“, ballad “And Counting…”, and, most of all, the hauntingly gorgeous “Cactus in the Valley”, a song she composed entirely on her own.
LIGHTS fought off all opposition to make her work of art like fighting off the cold to brave the “icy tides” and “sail across the east sea”. In her song “Toes” she sings, “You capture my attention”. No, LIGHTS, you have captured our attention and have worn out the laser on our CD player from a countless number of listens.
“I didn’t get into this to win awards; I got into this to create some amazing music,” she said. And she has done just that. LIGHTS’ Siberia is our pick for album of the year 2011. Well done.
Update: At the end of April 2012, Siberia was awarded GOLD certification in Canada.
Do you have a favourite Canadian album of 2011? Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.