Marching Forward with Chart and JUNO News

Not much activity on the Canadian charts this week. “I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd is now the top Canadian artist entry on the Hot 100 and a new Top 10 hit (#10). The Beauty and the Beast soundtrack which includes song “How Does a Moment Last Forever” from Céline Dion debuts on the albums chart at #7. The Road Hammers’ “Crazy About You” debuts at #49 on Country Airplay and Walk Off the Earth floats onto AC with “Fire in My Soul” (#34).

For those who remember the hit (I’ve got) “The Power” from German group Snap Circa 1990, the JUNO dinner and awards preceding the big televised gala the following night, can claim some power. During this SOCAN-sponsored off-camera affair, 34 of the trophies will be given out, interspersed with performances by Daniel Caesar, Jess Moskaluke, Koriass, William Prince, and Neon Dreams. Funny lady Jessie Crookshank is taking a break from emcee duties this year to celebrate April Fools Day; the event will be hosted by CBC Q man Tom Power. It will be live-streamed online April 1.

CMB Picks for Winter 2017

Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, spring is upon us. As we await warmer weather and some cherry blossoms, Canadian Music Blog has settled upon one dozen picks in terms of releases from the winter months up to the spring equinox which was March 20 this year. We listened to 125 albums from Canadian artists, 20 EPs, and a batch of stand-alone singles. To celebrate the works we found particularly exquisite, we created album badges with some words from our reviews of the works and decked them with five maple leaves. They are arranged in chronological order and are colour coded. There are eight albums, two EPs, and two singles. We took the two singles plus our favourite track from each of the LPs and EPs to create a 12-song playlist. Find it at the very bottom. We had trouble deciding on the order of the tracks, given that it’s not cohesive in terms of style, though not fully eclectic either. However, when we arranged them in chronological order by release date, it sounded pretty good. So we left it at that. We encourage all of you out there to do the same. Celebrate your favourite Canadian music by creating some playlists from the last three months.

New Releases: St. Patrick’s Day 2017 – Part 2/2

David Letterman bandleader and sidekick Paul Shaffer claims to front … the world’s most dangerous band. Paul is from Thunder Bay and has helped break a number of Canadian acts south of the border thanks to his influential position on the late-night chat show. On his new album, Paul brings in vocalists as diverse as Shaggy, Darius Rucker, and Bill Murray to deliver a wholesome banquet of adult contemporary with flashy musicianship.

Quite possibly the most eclectic album of the year belongs to The Cousins (Toronto), a duo of Barenaked Ladies’ Kevin Hearn and actor/comedian Harland Williams. And, yes, they are real life cousins. There are all kinds of flavours on Rattlesnake Love, from Utah cliff-dangling westerns to booming electronica, the common thread here being the delicious tongue-in-cheek lyrics. The title-track should succeed in etching a wily grin on your face. Jacques Jacobus of Clare, Nova Scotia’s Radio Radio completes solo project Le retour de Jacobus which is, as one would expect, a super fun hip hop masala.

Michel Robidoux has been an important behind-the-scenes figure in the Canadian music scene over the years. There is no way to do it justice by summarizing things here, but we will take a stab at it. In 1967, Michel Robidoux met Robert Charlebois and joined the troupe of L’Osstidcho. He then composed some of the most famous songs of the 70s, putting into music the lyrics of Luc Plamondon, Claude Gauthier and others. He lent his talents to shape the music of Jean-Pierre Ferland. He co-produced Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man album. Modern recording artist Pierre Lapointe decided to spearhead a project to honour Michel. Album Robidoux premier boasts a roster of front-ranking artists covering his songs presented in a more-or-less adult contemporary style.

After that weighty subject, we need to take a breather, and why not do so by heading over to Room 29. That’s where Chilly Gonzales cooked up some jazzy new tunes with Jarvis Cocker, lead singer of former British band Pulp. Moving to Waterloo, we can take a look at country artist Scotty James and his new record Streets which is a very pleasant disc, the fruit after the labour of a number of single releases.

Heading on up to Sherbrooke, we take in the sights of the hometown of platinum recording artist Vincent Vallières. His latest folky singer-songwriter album is Le temps des vivants, and it is the best-selling Canadian artist album at iTunes as of this writing. Need we say more? Finally, there is an EP this week. Til the Goin’ Gets Gone is the latest from acclaimed roots country artist Lindi Ortega (Toronto). All her discs are winners, and this one keeps things at a perfect score.

New Releases: St. Patrick’s Day 2017 – Part 1/2

Lots to talk about regarding the St. Patrick’s Day releases of 2017, so we’ve divided them into two batches. Below is an overview of eight releases in our Part 1 of 2.

High calibre vocalist Mario Pelchat (Dolbeau-Mistassini, QC), with three platinum albums under his tuque, teams up with cleric singing group Les Prêtres to deliver some heavenly songs of inspiration in album Agnus Dei. From the same province as Mario, folky singer-songwriter Mat Vezio contributes album Avant la mort des fleurs cueillies (Mmm… Before the Death of Picked Flowers) after the release of a couple of leaf-stirring singles. Mat is actually a drummer who flailed out the beats for some high-profile artists. He proves on the album that he deserves to be a soloist in his own right. Swinging down to Hamilton, rock band Radio Free Universe visits Casa del Diablo (that should be Spanish for Devil’s House). It’s an Anglophone work and for those who want something that’ll crack some boulders.

Acclaimed pianist Jean-Michel Blais joins forces with CFCF (alias of Montrealer Mike Silver) on album Cascades. This is for those who love keyboards of any sort. Blais provides the pretty acoustic piano part and CFCF some atmospheric synths. The album is smartly produced in that the latter don’t drown out Jean-Michel’s impressive finger-work but simply add some flavourful textures to give the finished product a dynamic, full sound. Very nice. For those who want full-blown ambient electronica, you will not believe your ears when they take in the sounds of North Atlantic Drift‘s Departures, Vol. I. This is a duo from Toronto. It’s one of the best albums in the genre that we’ve heard in a long time. Also electronic but vocal and more in the new wave kingdom, Toronto’s Honey Beard offers excellent album Dreamless Sleep. This is a duo who cite Depeche Mode as an influence.

Anyone hungry for some vocal jazz? How about a new album from Johanna Sillanpaa. She is originally from Sweden but now based in Calgary and has made trips out to perform at the Montreal Jazz Festival. From This Side is a beautiful record. Finally, we cap Part One off with a soundtrack. CuréLabel is a five-member group from Quebec. Kona is the soundtrack for the video game of the same name, an “interactive and episodic never ending story, which takes place in Northern Quebec in 1970”. When the soundtrack of a video game gets released on CD, you know it’s good, and in this case, it certainly is.

Platinum Country Star Jess Moskaluke & “Drive Me Away” MV

There is no question that Jess Moskaluke is currently Canada’s leading lady of country. She’s a platinum recording artist from Saskatchewan. Already a supertalent, she reached this towering plane by a tremendous amount of hard work, something that many of the successful embellish to justify questionable methods. In Jess’ case, however, she’s the real deal, a genuine example of diligence and perseverance.

As the saying goes, “man is the supreme talisman”. The right people bring you luck, and people can do that far more effectively than stroking a rabbit’s foot or twirling shamrock. Finding the right songwriters, backing band, producers, and record label involves a lot of searching and scrutinizing (not the people themselves necessarily but how well you jive together). Think of the magic spark in the early days between Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, for example.

Jess Moskaluke has won the CCMA award for Female Recording Artist of the year the past three years. She has three JUNO award nominations and has three Top 10 hits at country radio to her credit. Jess Moskaluke is the little engine that could. She’s the Rudolph pulling the sleigh of female Canadian country artists through a very thick fog. And as the title of her last full-length album would suggest, she lights up the night. Jess’ latest music video has been released for her latest song “Drive Me Away”. We embed it below for your enjoyment.  iTunes

JUNOs Expand to 2.5 Hours; New Performers Announced

The 2017 JUNO awards main gala April 2 has been upgraded from the standard 2-hour affair to 2.5 hours (for the first time in five years). Let’s hope it’s not so CTV can add more commercials to the broadcast. Three new acts have been confirmed to perform. They are punk band Billy Talent, country superstar Dallas Smith, and indie rock group July Talk. They join already confirmed stage acts of alternative rock band Arkells, EDM collective A Tribe Called Red, R&B sweetheart Alessia Cara, adult contemporary storyteller Ruth B., singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan, acoustic pop star Shawn Mendes, and folk rock group The Strumbellas. According to CARAS, additional performers are to be announced later. The 2017 show will be co-hosted by icon Bryan Adams and comic Russell Peters and kicks off at 6:30 p.m. ET from Peace Tower City.

Catherine Durand and the Stone Roof

On her 2016 album La pluie entre nous, Canadian recording artist Catherine Durand showed us how to make a hauntingly beautiful progressive folk album. A true work of art with sweet vocals, gentle strums, and delicate electronics sprinkling down like rain, we needed a music video to convert the brilliant, rich audio to a visual masterwork. And we now have that thanks to the recent release of the MV for track “Toit de pierre”. The song was produced by Emmanuel Éthier (Jimmy Hunt, Peter Peter, Bernhari) and decked with Ariane Moffatt’s ethereal keyboards. The MV takes us into a universe of dream and a dark, snowy forest. La pluie entre nous was hailed by critics as one of the best albums of 2016, including Le Devoir, La Presse, and of course Canadian Music Blog.  iTunes

Natasha Zimbaro Drops Debut EP

From the city of Maple Ridge, which lies within Metro Vancouver, comes a country recording artist who recently dropped her debut EP, an eponymous one. The six-track disc follows the release of single “Rebound” last October. Her name is Natasha Zimbaro, and if her name or face seems familiar, that may be because she was a finalist in Simon Cowell’s X Factor UK in 2011. Moreover, she was one of three in pop group Prty H3ro who placed two singles in the Billboard Hot 100, “Life of the Party” and “Young & Shameless”. As a soloist, Natasha has decided to return to her country roots, the genre she embraced when she became a teenager.

Before we tell you how much we love this treat of an EP, let us state that the country music scene needs Natasha Zimbaro. One of the reasons for Shania Twain’s success was that she made the genre accessible to a broader audience by toning down the twang and making it fun-loving. She gave it some oomph (for lack of a better word). Natasha does that in spades. She has a fresh, youthful style and injects a wallop of energy into the genre. Picture Back to the Future III’s Doc Brown tossing some Presto logs into the locomotive boiler. That’s what Natasha does here. She elevates country music to a dynamic realm. She has a great voice and the music is fab. Hoping the very best for this brightest of shining stars.  iTunes

Canadian Chart Highlights: March 14, 2017

The Hot 100

Ed Sheeran ups the number one streak of “Shape of You” to nine weeks. With the release of his new album Divide, all 16 tracks appeared on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100 this week. Lorde’s “Green Light” debuts at #9. The Weeknd’s “Starboy” is the top Canadian artist entry at #11. Coleman Hell’s “Devotion” debuts on the chart at #98.

Used to compile the Hot 100 is Hot Digital Songs and Hot 100 Airplay. On both charts, Ed Sheeran continues the reign with “Shape of You”. At Digital, Alessia Cara’s collaborative single “Stay” drops from #5 last week to #12. At Airplay, the top Canadian artist entry is The Weeknd’s “I Feel It Coming” remaining at #2.

Albums

Ed Sheeran’s Divide enters Billboard Canadian Albums at #1 with 75,000 consumption units. By comparison, Drake’s Views nabbed 110,000 units in its first week of release. In terms of pure album sales, Divide sold 60,000 copies, the highest total since Céline Dion’s Encore un soir. And in terms of streaming, Divide received 23 million, the highest since The Weeknd’s Starboy racked up 27 million. The latter album is the top by a Canadian this week at #3.

Emerging Canadian Artists

The Weeknd spends his 24th week at #1 with “Starboy”. NAV places three new tracks in the Top 30: “Good for It”, “Lonely”, and “NAV”.

This week, Nielsen shines the artist spotlight on western Canadian artist Leeroy Stagger whose “I Want It All” entered rock airplay at #34. Stagger, active since 2002, will be releasing new album Love Versus in April.

Canadian Airplay Charts

As it was last week, Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” crowns All-Format, CHR, AC, and Hot AC airplay. Rock radio is “Still Breathing” thanks to Green Day, and Country Radio likes things “Fast” via Luke Bryan.

“I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd is tops for Canadian artists at All-Format (#2) and CHR (#3). AC prefers “Let Me Love You” featuring Justin Bieber at #4. Hot AC is going for Alessia Cara’s “Scars to Your Beautiful” at #2. Mother Mother is tops at Rock radio for “The Drugs”. Dallas Smith’s “Side Effects” is boss at Country radio sitting at #8.

Canadian Franco

According to Nielsen, the top Franco song at radio continues to be “Kamikaze” by Patrice Michaud. The latter’s Almanach is the best-selling Franco album. As far as digital tracks go, “Vivre en amour” by Luc Cousineau. Bear in mind that the data is from the province of Quebec only, not Canada wide.

Canadian Artist Songs Big Internationally

At #38, Alessia Cara’s “Stay” with Zedd is the top entry involving a Canadian artist on the UK charts this week. It is tops in Australia as well doing nicely at #9. “I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd is preferred in the United States, at #12 this week.

May Wells Reminds Us That We All Want Love

May Wells was named as Bell Media’s Future Star this month. She is indubitably as talented as they come, and last week, Nielsen Entertainment shone the artist spotlight on her for song “We All Want Love”. The May Wells number debuted at #36 on AC radio. May was a member of group The Garlics who released a trio of albums receiving some strong regional airplay. Following the disbanding of the group, Wells released a self-titled EP in October 2016. The whole disc is as good as pop music gets, and now track “We All Want Love” is getting some spins. We have embedded the music video below.  iTunes

In Truth, Isabelle Boulay Shares a Memory

Canadian singer Isabelle Boulay is one of the few home-grown Francophones to see major success internationally; the native of Sainte-Félicité, QC saw her Y2K album Mieux qu’ici-bas receive diamond certification in France. Isabelle will be releasing her latest studio album En vérité on May 18. The four-time JUNO nominee has already launched a pair of singles from the disc, and from the sounds of it, it shall be glorious. We have embedded below the black and white music video for track “Un souvenir” which reminds us how wholesome her voice is.  iTunes

Selected New Releases: March 10, 2017

In alphabetical order by album title, we begin with Saint-Hubert, QC rapper Dostie who releases his album Autoportrait. (Don’t worry; he doesn’t rap from the payphone). The jack of all trades opened his own studio in 2005, Exceler Productions, and works as a sound engineer, producer, and emcee. Next, we have Dan Misha Goldman, originally from Montreal, who contributes rich alternative album Champion of the Afterworld. Dan also serves as one-half of duo Snowblink. Calgary classical pianist and triple JUNO nominee Jan Lisiecki teams up with the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra selecting some of the lesser known works of Chopin on album Chopin: Works for Piano & Orchestra. It’s simply gorgeous.

Currently sitting at #2 on the iTunes Albums chart is Coastline, the new alternative/electronic album from Montreal’s Geoffroy offering a breath of fresh seaside air. To Feel Infinite may be achieved by listening to Montreal JUNO nominee Jacques Greene‘s new electronic LP, a nice work of art. Brampton, ON has a female rapper recording under project name Haviah Mighty; Flower City shows her skills as a rapper, singer, producer, and DJ.

Punk music on the lighter side for a change is concocted with grace on album Meet You from Toronto’s Century Palm. When we think of indie rock, Nova Scotia isn’t the first place that comes to mind; however, the province’s Jon Mckiel handles the genre with mammoth skill on his new record Memorial Ten Count. Hamilton JUNO-winning blues-rock specialist Steve Strongman is back in top form with album No Time Like Now.

Quite a talented alternative rock band from Quebec City, Velvet Black, churns out some boss vibes on album Orleans. Guelph songsmith Richard Laviolette offers a disc of beautifully crafted traditional country flavoured tunes, his fourth album Taking the Long Way Home. Hailing from the far east, St. John’s, NL that is, JUNO winning singer-songwriter Amelia Curran returns with her brand of roots-leaning goodness; her new album is called Watershed.

From Winnipeg enters Vikings and exquisite new electronic pop EP Animal Kingdom. Find quality adult contemporary on Jason McNally‘s EP Les vinyles de mon père. He’s from Laval. Among all the fresh singles out this week, we were quite taken with Young Galaxy‘s “Stay for Real” a moody charmer that could pass for Canada’s answer to Depeche Mode. Very good track.

Adams and Peters to Co-Host the 2017 JUNO Awards

If Michael Bublé’s stepping down from hosting the JUNO Awards to focus on family cuts like a knife, then perhaps who’s stepping into his shoes feels so right. Yes, that’s … right, as many of you have heard by now, Bryan Adams will be co-hosting the big gala in Ottawa April 2. Joining him will be internationally famous Canadian comic Russell Peters. This will be the latter’s third time hosting the event.

Bryan Adams, an officer of the Order of Canada, born in Kingston, Ontario (not too far from Ottawa) launched his music career from his home base in North Vancouver. He has the distinction of being the first Canadian artist to score a diamond album (Reckless). His “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” from the blockbuster film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner and the late great Alan Rickman was the biggest song of 1991 throughout the English-speaking world.

Adams and Russell will trudge the stage to introduce a slate of great Canadian performers including A Tribe Called Red, Alessia Cara, Arkells, Ruth B, Sarah McLachlan, Shawn Mendes, and The Strumbellas.

Bryan says, “I’m honoured to be co-hosting this year’s JUNO AWARDS alongside Russell Peters. We have an incredible music community in Canada and this is the night we celebrate its success.”

As for Russell Peters, the man who gets large crowds in stitches with his jokes, accents, and keen observations of various cultures, he won a Gemini award for his hosting of the Calgary show in 2008 in which he commented that people of Indian descent now claim a high demographic in Canada and that Calgarians better watch out because pretty soon their cowboys are going to be Indians. Peters was recently named in Rolling Stone’s list of the 50 Best Stand Up Comedians of All Time.

Happy Days with Canadian Synthpop Stylist Ralph

The quality of alternative including progressive pop music has risen in the early months of 2017. The best extended play record of the year to date harnesses the sound of that decade that began with the release of Atari’s Missile Command and closed out with the introduction of the first Game Boys. Synthpop crafted by Toronto’s slick stylist of cool, Ralph, now finding herself signed to prestigious label 604 Records, borders on the excellence delivered by Tegan & Sara on the duo’s last two LPs. The eponymous EP from Ralph is required listening for fans of the genre. Find half a dozen bright, bubbly, and melodic gems that conjure up scenes of playing Tomy’s Waterful Ring-Toss. If nothing else, track “Tease” should make your day. MV embedded below.  iTunes

Canadian Chart Highlights: March 7, 2017

The Hot 100

On this week’s Hot 100, Eddie S.’s “Shape of You” spends its 8th week at number one. A sudden burst of collaborative singles dominates the top 10 but none have been able to dethrone the ditty of Sheeran. Speaking of collaborative singles, the latest involves a Canadian artist. “Stay” by Russian-German EDM maker Zedd and Ontario’s Alessia Cara debuts on the chart at #10. This is the highest position either artist has ever achieved on the chart. The top Canadian artist entry on the Hot 100 though remains The Weeknd’s “Starboy” at #9 this week. The Toronto R&B star is featured in Future’s “Comin’ Out Strong” which debuts at #43. Canadian actor Ryan Gosling can add pop star to his resume, as “City of Stars” with Emma Stone makes the Hot 100 at #89. The song is of course from Oscar winning motion picture La La Land.

Used to compile the Hot 100 is Hot Digital Songs and Hot 100 Airplay. On both charts, Ed Sheeran continues the reign with “Shape of You”. Alessia Cara’s aforementioned collaborative single “Stay” enters Digital Songs at #5, the top Canadian artist entry this week. The Weeknd’s “I Feel It Coming” is highest for Canadian artists on Hot 100 Airplay at #2.

Albums

Hndrxx by U.S. rapper Future, alias of Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn, is #1 on the albums chart. His Canadian counterpart NAV, from the Toronto district of Rexdale, debuts on the chart at #5 with his eponymous LP. Landing by Beyries and Blue Ceilings by The Franklin Electric make the Top 25 at #21 and #25 respectively.

Emerging Canadian Artists

The Weeknd, still considered an emerging artist at this stage, spends his 23rd week at #1 with “Starboy”. The aforementioned NAV enters the Top 30 with two tracks: “Up” #24 and “Myself” #26.

This week, Nielsen shines the artist spotlight on May Wells, formerly with band The Garlics. As a soloist, she has entered the Adult Contemporary Airplay chart at #36 with “We All Want Love”. She will be performing during Canadian Music Week in Toronto in April.

Canadian Airplay Charts

Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” crowns All-Format, CHR, AC, and Hot AC airplay. Rock radio is “Still Breathing” thanks to Green Day, and Country Radio prefers a “Better Man” provided by Little Big Town. “I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd is tops for Canadian artists at All-Format (#2) and CHR (#3). Both AC and Hot AC prefer Alessia Cara’s “Scars to Your Beautiful” (#4 and #2 respectively). Rock radio is on the “Highway” thanks to Orillia, Ontario’s Bleeker at #4. Country radio is spending some “Time” with Dean Brody, #7 this week.

Canadian Franco

According to Nielsen, the top Franco song at radio continues to be “Kamikaze” by Patrice Michaud. The remix of “Ça se danse” by King Melrose is at #2 and Marc Dupré’s “Du bonheur dans les étoiles” at #3.

In terms of sales, the #1 single is “Je pars à l’autre bout du monde” by Beyries followed by “Marine marchande” by Les Cowboys Fringants, and at #3 is 2Frères’ “M’aimerais-tu pareil?”.

The best-selling Franco album continues to be Almanach by Patrice Michaud followed by Nous autres by 2Frères and Various Artists’ Nos plus beaux souvenirs. Bear in mind that the data is from the province of Quebec only, not Canada wide.

Canadian Artist Songs Big Internationally

On the official UK chart, which gets published every Friday at 11 a.m. Pacific Time, the top entry by a Canadian artist currently is “I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd at #23. It peaked on the chart at #9. Australians prefer “Stay” by Alessia Cara and Zedd at #16. The latter debuted on the UK chart at #33 and on the US Hot 100 at #28. Americans give the nod to The Weeknd this week for “I Feel It Coming” at #11.