Sophie Pelletier Set to Turn 2017 Upside Down

sophie-pelletier-a-lenversShe has been described as “the vibrant conjugation of palpable sensibility, fascinating incandescence, and bewitching enthusiasm”. 2012 Star Academy finalist Sophie Pelletier of Rivière-Ouelle, QC released her debut album Le désert, la tempête in 2015. An eclectic pop/rock work, it gave us a sampling of what the singer and guitarist can do. Now, two years hence, Sophie has consolidated her sound, and it is choice. Heralding her sophomore LP, Sophie cast forth single “À l’envers”, an instant winner. Busy crafting album number two with Gaële, Fred St-Gelais, and Dumas, she recently dropped a music video for the song which we embed below.  iTunes

Mike Rocha Masters Cinematic Electronica on Finale

mike-rocha-finaleOn February 10, 2017, Toronto-based producer Mike Rocha surfed up a pleasant surprise, his debut album Finale. His past production credits include works from Greys, Electric Youth, Ivana Santilli, and Black Pistol Fire. The instrumental electronica, led by the Prophet ’08 synthesizer, at times amusing and at others dark, is highly cinematic and rich enough to please fans of both classic and modern sides of the field of time. The weaves of sound succeed in eliciting tension, urgency, thrills, suspense, and all emotional rollercoaster effects required for an entertaining film experience. At times, you will feel like you’re listening to a therapeutic mixtape in The Unborn, being hunted by the terminator, or inside the complex of Ex Machina. Finale is as good as anything by Markus Guentner or any of the other acclaimed crafters of the genre.  iTunes

Selected New Releases 24 Feb 2017 – Part 2/2

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Beyries, a newcomer from Montreal, has been stirring up lots of buzz, and selling singles like hotcakes too! Her exquisite singer-songwriter/folk album Landing is out and currently sits at #3 on iTunes. From the same city comes Maritza. Creative juices flow on her sumptuous alternative album Libérons-nous. From the realm of rap via Quebec City, Shoddy with a band of collaborators, scratches his whiskered chin and presents MF2.

NAV navigates from Rexdale, ON with a self-titled rap album packed with expletives and autotune. Find The Weeknd featured on track “Some Way”. Polaris nominated Peter Peter is back with his latest synthpop opus Noir Eden. It is one of the best releases of the week which comes as no surprise, as the Quebec City native is as talented as they come. Another big seller is Twin Solitude from Montreal folk artist Leif Vollebekk. Those who like their music a little mournful with simpler arrangements should dig it.

Also stripped down musically, showcasing her Alessia Cara-ish vocals, enters Vancouver’s Desirée Dawson with pleasing album Wild Heart. If you can imagine R&B combined with folk/singer-songwriter, this is essentially what we have here. Garage rock lovers can check out EP Young Adult from Hamilton’s Billy Moon. Celebrated singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith will be releasing new album The Last Rider on April 21. New single “Radio” is out now.

This wraps up part 2/2 of our February 24, 2017 review of new Canadian artist releases.

Selected New Releases 24 Feb 2017 – Part 1/2

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Cedric Vieno of Robertville, NB probably won’t win any awards for his Van Goghist album cover but concocts quite a good disc. L’autopsie d’un peureux consists of alternative rock and singer-songwriter tunes. The man flicks down a steady stream of nifty ideas from up his sleeve. Guelph’s Gregory Pepper who has christened his band as His Problems releases a dark indie rock album entitled Black Metal Demo Tape. It’s not as inaccessible as it sounds; in fact, the tunes are well crafted and catchy. A more recognizable name is Montreal’s The Franklin Electric doing a great job on new alternative pop album Blue Ceilings. Unlike other alt-pop groups, you will find things here a little more folky, reflective, and presented with more heart.

Waterloo, considered by some as Canada’s Silicon Valley, has spawned electronic trio Pick a Piper. The group dishes out nine fine spine-stimulating tracks on LP Distance. Light, non-repetitive percussion, vocals appropriate to the mood of each track, a variety of synth sounds, and smart composition make this one a winner. Now moving from the ethereal to the earthy. En panne de silence is a new world music album from Montreal-based Bon Débarras. In the group’s words, the album wafts with fragrances of the river, the wood, and the tundra in which modernity and tradition blend warmly.

Mobina Galore is a punk duo of Marcia and Jenna from Winnipeg. Feeling Disconnected is an album that will connect you with a caffeinated ride. Timid, the Brave is essentially Hamilton’s Tim Selles, a talented guy, as proven by the beautiful atmospheric alt-folk album Firesale. A little more alternative than The Franklin Electric is The Luyas, also of Montreal. The group dishes out solid disc Human Voicing, an excursion into a wonderland of savoury treats with sweet vocals and burbling musicianship.

This wraps up part 1 of 2 highlighting selected new Canadian artist releases this week.

A Canadian Wins a 2017 BRIT Award

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The BRIT Awards took place today. They are the UK’s version of the JUNOs but have been around for a shorter time and have much fewer categories. The United Kingdom is the world’s third largest music market after The United States and Japan, so the awards are quite prestigious. Michael Bublé was slated to host but pulled out due to family illness. His shoes were filled by British television presenters Dermot O’Leary and Emma Willis. British-born South African YouTube personality Caspar Lee hosted the live stream. A Canadian won an award in one of the three international categories. But before we get to that, let’s list winners in the other categories:

British Album of the Year: Blackstar, David Bowie
British Single: “Shout Out to My Ex”, Little Mix
British Artist Video: “History”, One Direction
British Male Solo Artist: David Bowie
British Female Solo Artist: Emeli Sandé
British Group: The 1975
British Breakthrough Act: Rag ‘N’ Bone Man
BRITs Global Success Award: Adele
International Group: A Tribe Called Quest
International Female Solo Artist: Beyoncé

The International Male Solo Artist nominees were Bon Iver, Bruno Mars, Drake, Leonard Cohen, and The Weeknd. With three Canadians, the odds were in our favour to win the category, and we did thanks to Drake.

Awards shows have proven to be favoured targets when it comes to criticism. Some is fair, some is not. Drake expressed some grievances over the U.S. Grammy Awards during an interview following the show with Apple Music which was highlighted in Billboard magazine. He feels that he has been working hard at making pop music but is still stuck with the persona of a rap artist only. “I’m a Black artist. I’m apparently a rapper, even though ‘Hotline Bling’ is not a rap song,” he said, continuing, “The only category that they can manage to fit me in is in a rap category, maybe because I’ve rapped in the past or because I’m Black.” He also submitted as an example the absence of record-breaking pop song “One Dance” from the slate of nominations.

The vast majority of “Hotline Bling” is sung. Drake does rap for about 10 seconds at the 3:10 mark. “Pop Style” which is rapped was nominated in the rap category. Views by Drake was nominated for Album of the Year. “One Dance”, not an original composition but a reworking of “Do You Mind” by Crazy Cousinz and Kyla, was not nominated except as a credit for producer Nineteen 85.

Drake has won both JUNO and Grammy awards. This is his first BRIT Award.

Canadian Chart Highlights: February 21, 2017

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The Hot 100

Spending its 6th week on top of the Billboard Canadian Hot 100 is Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” which may have to grapple in the coming weeks with Katy Perry’s “Chained to the Rhythm” debuting on the chart at #3. The Weeknd’s “Starboy” remains king of CanCon, at #7 this week. He is challenging himself with “I Feel It Coming” which reaches a new peak position of #11. A new peak is also achieved by DVBBS for “Not Going Home”, #58. New on the chart is “Some Way” by NAV which features The Weeknd, #84. Drake’s “One Dance” has dropped off the chart having spent 45 weeks on the Hot 100.

Used to compile the Hot 100 is Hot Digital Songs and Hot 100 Airplay. On both charts, Ed Sheeran’s at #1 with “Shape of You”. The Weeknd’s “I Feel It Coming” is highest for Canadian artists, at #6 on Digital and #2 on Airplay.

Albums

The Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack debuts at #1 on Billboard Canadian Albums. Mother Mother’s No Culture enters the chart at #7. It is the outfit’s third Top 10 album. Of note, in terms of pure album sales, (minus the track and streaming equivalent units), the album debuts at #2.

Emerging Canadian Artists

The Weeknd, still considered an emerging artist, at this stage, spends his 21st week at #1 with “Starboy”. New on the chart is “Four Leaf Clover” by Christian Hudson at #27. Nielsen’s artist spotlight shines on Tenille Arts (see photo above) this week. Her new single “What He’s Into” debuts at #50 on the Country Airplay chart. She’s from Weyburn, SK.

Canadian Airplay Charts

Ed Sheeran is the one to beat on three of the airplay charts with the aforementioned “Shape of You” at #1 on All-Format, CHR, and Hot AC. Green Day’s “Still Breathing” takes the cake at Rock, Jon Pardi’s “Dirt on My Boots” at Country, and Maroon 5’s “Don’t Wanna Know” at AC. The top Canadian artist entries are as follows. “I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd All-Format #3 and CHR #2. At Rock is July Talk’s “Picturing Love” at #4. Country prefers Dean Brody’s “Time” at #3. AC favours “Let Me Love You” featuring Justin Bieber at #4. Hot AC likes Alessia Cara’s “Scars to Your Beautiful, #2.

Canadian Franco

According to Nielsen, the top Franco song at radio continues to be “Kamikaze” by Patrice Michaud. In terms of sales, the #1 single is “Tu ne sauras jamais” by Les BB. The best-selling Franco album continues to be Almanach by Patrice Michaud. 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 #19. It peaked on the chart at #9. A similar picture is on the Australian chart with the track at #11 this week having achieved a peak at #7 down under. In the United States, it is all Alessia Cara with “Scars to Your Beautiful” at #8 this week, a new peak position for the song.

Vincent Vallières Explores the Phenomenon of Bad Luck

vallieres-bad-luckTired of winter yet? Well, if you can’t beat mother nature, why not just succumb to it and enjoy its beauty. Sherbrooke’s Vincent Vallières presents a wintry MV for his latest track, “Bad Luck”. The double-V man made it up to #56 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2011 with “On va s’aimer encore” a remarkable feat for a Franco tune. That song also won the Félix Award for Song of the Year at the ADISQ gala. Vincent’s last album Fabriquer l’aube was certified gold by Music Canada and 2009’s Le monde tourne fort is now platinum! Praised for his authenticity and sense of humanity, Vallières’ seventh studio album is expected out March 17.  iTunes

The Courtneys II, an Indie Rock Gem

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the-courtneys-the-courtneys-iiVancouver indie fuzz rock trio The Courtneys debuted in 2013 with a set that impressed on an international scale. In fact, New Zealand’s Flying Nun Records signed the group to oversee the sequel, The Courtneys II, released February 17, 2017. The aloof, sugary singing from drummer “Cute Courtney” binds nicely with “Classic Courtney’s” exciting phaneritic guitar work. Together with “Crazy Courtney” on bass, the trio takes us on a highly engaging ride through lo-fi slacker culture and bubble-gum garage punk. The disc opens with “Silver Velvet,” the MV of which we have embedded below (filmed in reverse). “Country Song” bursts with a wall of guitars, the album’s standout jam. “Lost Boys” pays tribute to the 80s’ vampire craze while surf rock dresses up “Mars Attacks”. The Courtneys II has 2017 off to a very good start as far as the music goes.  iTunes

Who Is Close to 100 Million Followers on Twitter?

No one has ever reached 100 million Twitter followers, but three recording artists are closing in. Katy Perry is in the lead. Close behind is Justin Bieber. And swiftly behind them is Taylor … Swift. Katy has an extra thrust from new rocket fuel thanks to her recently released single “Chained to the Rhythm”. Behind the top 3 are Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and then Selena Gomez. Other Canadians in the Top 100 are Drake and Avril Lavigne.

Things are a little different in terms of Facebook likes. Shakira is over 100 million and the top recording artist. She is followed by Eminem, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift, Bob Marley, and then Katy Perry.

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Teen Daze Serves Themes for Dying Earth

teen-daze-themes-for-dying-earthTeen Daze, i.e. B.C. Fraser Valley’s Jamison Isaak, recently served up his sixth LP, Themes for Dying Earth. The disc features contributions from Jon Anderson, Sean Carey, Nadia Hulett, Sound of Ceres, and Dustin Wong. It is a fine banquet of electronic ambient pop that explores themes of nature as a respite from the concrete forest, and the environment as something to be conserved. The album opens with “Cycle,” which begins an exploration of the artist’s personal experience dealing with anxiety and depression, and branches out to examine external forces, like climate change, that affect those moods. Another standout track, “Lost,” gently flutters in like a colourful butterfly before opening up droning vocal harmonies and bringing in Nadia Hulett’s twinkling serenade toward the close. Teen Daze’s Themes for Dying Earth expertly weaves a crystalline web of dream and euphoria. Fans of Seoul should enjoy this.  iTunes

Selected New Releases: February 17, 2017

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We kick off this week’s new Canadian releases with Alive and Kicking, the new rock album from Montreal based group Dany Laj and the Looks that should please fans of the raw and rowdy. Quebec City’s Laurence Castera goes for genre fusion on overall alternative album Le bruit des mots and contributes a number of exquisite tracks. Vancouver’s The Courtneys, an energetic indie rock trio, asserts grindstone guitar work combined with sweet vocals on The Courtneys II, an excellent sequel that betters the debut.

Dancing on Your Grave, LP from Vancouver’s The Matinee, contains a pleasing assortment of alternative rock tunes. Montreal’s Mozart’s Sister, alias of Caila Thompson-Hannant, does a good job on Field of Love, electronic, experimental pop. British Columbian roots leaning outfit Lion Bear Fox surfs up an enjoyable eponymous disc. On the more progressive side, a fine Metropolis appears from Toronto alt-pop group Parallels. Indie rock specialist Tim Darcy of Montreal celebrates Saturday Night with a “Tall Glass of Water” and other tidbits on his new album.

Joel and Bill Plaskett of Dartmouth, NS give us a batch of well-written tunes on singer-songwriter album Solidarity. “The Next Blue Sky” alone will draw you into the highly engaging music. And now we ask a question: Does Canada have an AC/DC? Answer: We do now. Kelowna, BC’s The Wild! has joined forces with eOne Music to release second album Wild at Heart, a more consolidated effort than the band’s strong debut 2015 work. The new album simply rocks. Sam Patch, i.e. Tim Kingsbury of Guelph, member of Arcade Fire, exercises his soloist chops on alternative record Yeah You, and I.

Saskatchewan’s The Age of Electric who received a JUNO nomination in 1998 for Best New Group has released a new self-titled 4-track EP and reissued 90s album Make a Pest a Pet.

SINGLES

Ottawa superstar Kira Isabella has released an impressive countrified cover of John Waite’s “Missing You”. Canada’s jazz queen Diana Krall of Nanaimo will be releasing new album Turn Up the Quiet in May. She has launched track “Night and Day” as a single. The music video of Gelsea Mae‘s last single, “Need You Now”, broke 100,000 views, and the Vancouver Island raised artist follows up with “Shoulda Known Better” that was released on Valentine’s Day.

Louise Burns in Top Form on Young Mopes

louise-burns-young-mopesSigned to Madonna’s Maverick label when she was just 15, Louise Burns of Cranbrook, BC co-founded all-female, JUNO-nominated rock group Lillix serving as its bass player. Now based in Vancouver and signed as a soloist to Light Organ Records, always ready to participate in various projects including new wave band Gold and Youth, Louise recently released her third solo record Young Mopes. Her 2011 jangle-pop debut album as a soloist earned a Polaris nomination. The new record is introspective, guitar-oriented new wave with some strokes of synth, New Orderesque high-pitched bass pulses, tight drumming, and includes a cover of the Blue Nile’s “Downtown Lights”. Track “Strange Weather” sees Burns master the country-inspired genre complete with lap steel. The tunes are deliciously shadowy, and Burns’ bright vocals and energetic delivery give it a sunny glaze. Young Mopes embodies the spirit of an old soul with a teenage heart. It is yet another ace for one of Canada’s most underrated talents, Louise Burns. Catch her on tour in March and April supporting The Zolas.  iTunes

Occupant of the Rustic Apartment: Ludovic Alarie

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Handsome Canadian singer-songwriter Ludovic Alarie of Montreal recently released his second album L’appartement. Essentially an alternative work, Ludovic writes beautiful folky songs and dresses them with sparkles of electronic hooks. In mood, L’appartement drips with pacifying melancholy. Alarie says the music embodies the “feeling of an apartment in which you lived, how you were, how you evolved, and all the feelings and memories that are attached to it”. He says the musical composition came to him quite quickly but the lyrics not so much, explaining that it took him only 3 or 4 days to finish the music but 3 or 4 months to complete the poetry. Of lyrics, he feels he is completing a puzzle where each word has a precise spot. Overall album production was handled by Warren C. Spicer of locally based group Plants and Animals. Whether you live in an apartment, a condo, or a house, Ludovic Alarie’s L’appartement will fill the rooms with alluring songs. This one’s a keeper.  iTunes

Canadian Chart Highlights: Valentine’s Day, 2017

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The Hot 100

Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” continues to reign supreme on the Hot 100. As with last week, there are no new Canadian artist entries which make up 17 of the songs on the chart. DVBBS’ “Not Going Home” is the only one to achieve a new peak position, #59. The Weeknd’s former #1 smash “Starboy” is tops for CanCon at #6.

Hot Digital Songs

Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” continues to dominate digital purchases. Lady Gaga’s “Million Reasons” helped by recent high-profile televised performances, vaults from #48 to #2. The Weeknd’s “I Feel It Coming” is this week’s best effort by a homegrown artist at #10.

Hot 100 Airplay

The Weeknd’s “I Feel It Coming”, at #3, is the most favoured at radio, while “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran is #1.

Top Albums

I Decided by U.S. rapper Big Sean debuts at #1. Two Canadian artist albums debut in the Top 10: Big Wreck’s Grace Street at #5 and Patrice Michaud’s Almanach at #7.

Emerging Canadian Artists

The Weeknd’s “Starboy” spends its 20th week at the top spot.

All-Format Airplay

Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” leaps from #3 to #1 becoming king across all radio formats. Alessia Cara has the most spun Canadian entry thanks to “Scars to Your Beautiful”. With 3,143 plays through the week, it scoops up #3. New in the Top 50 is “Chained to the Rhythm” by Katy Perry (#31), “Fake Love” by Drake (#39), “Any Ol’ Barstool” by Jason Aldean (#49), and “She’s Desire” by Brett Kissel #50.

Contemporary Hit Radio

While “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran sitting at #1 isn’t surprising, Nielsen is quick to point out that it is his first chart topper at CHR. “I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd is #3 this week. New in the Top 40 is no stranger to pop hits, Katy Perry, with “Chained to the Rhythm” at #25.

Rock Airplay

Green Day is “Still Breathing” at #1 and July Talk is still “Picturing Love” at #3. New at rock radio’s Top 40 is Imagine Dragon’s “Believer” at #35 and Danko Jones’ “My Little RNR” at #39.

Country Airplay

Jon Pardi sings “Dirt on My Boots” and stomps his way up to #1. Dean Brody’s “Time” is #5. New in the Top 50 is Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Black Road” (#48) and Aaron Pritchett’s “When a Momma’s Boy Meets a Daddy’s Girl” (#49).

Adult Contemporary Airplay

“Don’t Wanna Know” by Maroon 5 decks the summit while “Let Me Love You” featuring Justin Bieber sits at #5. Katy Perry’s “Chained to the Rhythm” debuts at #26.

Hot AC Airplay

Alessia Cara’s “Scars to Your Beautiful” which topped the chart last week spends its second at the crown. The aforementioned track from Katy Perry debuts at #28.

Canadian Franco

According to Nielsen, the top Franco song at radio continues to be “Kamikaze” by Patrice Michaud In terms of sales, the #1 single is “Aimons-nous” by the trio of awesomes Ariane Moffatt, Karim Ouellet, and La Bronze. The former two are both JUNO award winners. The best-selling Franco album is Almanach by Patrice Michaud. Bear in mind that the data is from the province of Quebec only, not Canada wide.

Canadians Snatch a Few Grammy Awards

Cultural roles in the big Anglo countries seem to have worked themselves out over the years to yield the following results. In the case of Britons, their job is to think. In the case of Americans, their task is to talk. The role then of Canadians is to ensure that the Brits think and don’t talk and that Americans talk and don’t think. There was certainly a lot of chatter at last night’s Grammy Awards, the biggest night in music for the United States. It is unfortunate that such empty talk often degraded into political commentary which does noting but divide citizens of the Republic into different camps who bicker back and forth having the rest of us strengthening our eye muscles by rolling them repeatedly.

What we are most concerned with here is looking at how Canadians did at that particular awards show held on foreign turf. Looking past some interesting performances which were set up not necessarily for excellence but for grabbing attention and gazing beyond the discovery of some exquisite music flying under Canadian radar (we were quite taken with electro-R&B trio KING), we restate that Canadians were nominated in some 18 categories. We won three of them. The media was quick to mention the two awards snatched by Drake: “Hotline Bling” won both Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Performance. The Torontonian rapper was not in attendance. The third award was given to Bob Moses for Best Remixed Recording on Andre Allen Anjos’ “Tearing Me Up (RAC Remix)”. We can sneak in a 4th nod to the maple, as Bernie Herms was a co-writer on song “Thy Will” by Hillary Scott & The Scott Family which won Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song.

The big winner of the night unsurprisingly was the UK’s Adele. Céline Dion was a presenter of one of Adele’s many awards—Song of the Year (“Hello”). The Weeknd, who has become quite a high-in-demand performer, did “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming”. Fans were no doubt happy that he finally performed with Daft Punk though technically, the two could have been stand-ins hidden in the helmets arbitrarily turning knobs, making it seem like they were doing something…