Today marks the end of summer as we hit the autumnal equinox. We enjoyed listening to 102 LPs and EPs released through the season and have settled on our 15 picks for the best among them. Honourable mentions are too many to mention. They’re all honourable. We add capsule reviews to the 15 works below sorted alphabetically by title with LPs first followed by EPs.
Badu, Bear Mountain
LP Badu from Vancouver’s Bear Mountain is one of those rare discs that keeps one engaged through its entire duration with solid writing and a variety of flavours including electropop, lounge, jazz, soul, dance, and funk. We were struck especially with the professionalism on the production side. Badu sounds very slick with tightly packed sound bytes that move along at a nice snappy pace.
Illusions of Grandeur, Vito V
As luck would have it, Canada has acquired a talented EDM master from Caracas, Venezuela. He is Montreal-based DJ Vito V, and he seems to get better with each album he releases. If you’re tired of music being called EDM only to find it not danceable, Vito’s album Illusions of Grandeur is for you. It will get you moving. The LP contains a mixture of soaring vocal tracks as well as some instrumental boppers. While beat structures tend to be repetitive on many dance recordings, the ever clever Vito V gives us lots of variety and originality. Refreshingly sophisticated, Vito V’s Illusions of Grandeur will take you on an energetic trip down strobe-light lane. Very good album.
JUNO nominated group Valaire knows how to do pop music right, especially considering the amazingly good Oobopopop. Formerly known as Misteur Valaire, the Sherbrooke band’s album is funky, upbeat, brisk, and invigorating. Soaking in the sun rays surrounding their rented house in Louisianna put the players in the proper spirit to make a summery album. Returning to the home base of Montreal, Valaire sought some vocal talents to augment the work and reeled in such featured stars as Alan Prater (The Brooks), Camille Poliquin (Milk and Bone), Fanny Bloom, and more.
La pluie entre nous, Catherine Durand
Dark clouds haunt the landscape but if you look carefully, the falling raindrops have an electric blue aura. Montreal’s Catherine Durand delighted us with progressive folk album La pluie entre nous. It is her sixth. A very sweet voice, gentle strums, and delicate electronics sprinkle down like, well, rain. Bringing clarity to objects hidden in the mist, this is the perfect album to introduce us to the autumn season. The 10 tracks were four years in the making, and taking her time perfecting the composition has paid off in spades. Catherine Durand’s La pluie entre nous is one of the few 2016 albums worth buying in its entirety, a superb work of art.
Regarde autour, Bruno Pelletier
Regarde Autour is multiplatinum recording artist Bruno Pelletier’s 13th studio album and contains a batch of hearty pop-rock tunes all delivered perfectly with his great vocals. The spirit of the disc is a happy one as Bruno takes us on a ride to celebrate the beauty of life. A long list of collaborators helped make this fabulous record, some of whom are Stephan Moccio, Martin Bachand, Richard Séguin, Lynda Thalie, Kim Thuy, and Amy Sky. His overall vision was one of wanting to keep things light and rhythmic, a pop record that was positive and optimistic. He calls the new album “a selfie of a moment in my life. I deal with rather serious themes, but in a positive tone.” Wonderful album.
Ship of Fools, Elephant Stone
No one does progressive, psychedelic, and culturally rich rock music quite as well as Montreal’s Elephant Stone, and listening to the band’s fourth album Ship of Fools reminds us of this. It is, as the boomers would say, a groovy record that pulls in some neat instruments like the sitar and tablas, spices things up with synths, but most enjoyable is the overall boogie style that is sure to get your head boppin’. The album is a 44-minute jam that grips you with delight and never lets go. Elephant Stone gladdened us with a big booming sound rocking the Ship of Fools, one of the best records of the year.
Onto the EPs…
Arrows Part 2, Stef Lang
A multiple Billboard Hot 100 charting artist, Vancouver Island’s Stef Lang released the much anticipated sequel to her Arrows EP Part 1. Part 2 is just as delicious. It offers perhaps a tighter, more hastening sound with a nice edge to it.
In debut EP Beaches, duo HWYS shares a love of modern synthpop and old school romantic pop. The analogue synths provide a welcome nostalgic feel while the melodies are catchy.
CDW, Charlotte Day Wilson
This debut EP from Toronto’s Charlotte Day Wilson, shows she is a smoking hot R&B singer. It’s classy and smooth, a mellow, sultry soul done right.
Chat by Toronto’s Jaunt is a jazzy alternative pop that is so very delicious, six jingles to add some sparkle to your day.
Drawing Room, Helena Deland
Montreal’s Helena Deland provides nice guitar work and vocals on this blessed assortment of singer-songwriter jams. Very well written tracks delivered atmospherically.
Emotion Side B, Carly Rae Jepsen
Carly rewarded us with a collection of album throwaways that are better than most of the pop hits of 2016 proving that she is one of our very best.
Every Last Chance, Every Last Chance
Music with a catchy melody, beautiful vocals, a driving beat, and slick production has the power to infiltrate every cell of the body rendering the mind incapable of focussing on aught else in the surroundings. It possesses you. And that’s what you get with this debut dance EP from fresh Vancouver project Every Last Chance.
Falling Up, Lyon
Few do indie synthpop quite as well as Toronto’s Lyon. This sophomore EP is the fruit of a highly talented artist adventurously writing songs, adding edgy dynamics, and gracing them with her beautiful vocals.
Who Is Jillea, Jillea
This Slaight Music protégé delivers energetic power pop answering the question posed by the EP’s title with a whole lotta awesome.