The 25 Best Albums of 2016

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A total of 570 albums released in 2016 by Canadian artists came to our attention. We tried to feature as many of them on the blog as we could. We ended up making mention of 434 (i.e. 76%) of them in some form. Of the 570, 60 were greatest hits, various artist compilations, live albums, holiday releases, etc., and we did not count them towards contention for our Top 25 of the year. We ranked our top 25 of the remaining 510 after many listens regardless of genre, language, region, and relative popularity of the artist. The top 25 represent 4.9% of the Canadian artist studio albums we tracked in 2016. At Canadian Music Blog, we like music that is sophisticated with catchy melodies and pleasing vocals (unless it is instrumental). Find below our 25 favourite Canadian artist albums of 2016 including our Album of the Year.

25Love Streams by Tim Hecker

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Vancouver JUNO award winner Tim Hecker is one of the world leaders in experimental electronica. He released album Love Streams in 2016. Characteristically, he not only reinvents the genre but his own style at it. The album sculpts ethereal soundscapes with enough detail that we are taken through a fresh experience with each listen.  iTunes

24Fire in the Flame by The Marrieds

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This is a gorgeous folk album by award winning London, ON duo Jane Carmichael and Kevin Kennedy who have crafted very catchy melodic tunes that even those not into the folk kingdom can sink their teeth into. Wonderful writing and delivery made Fire in the Flame easily one of the best albums of 2016.  iTunes

23Catherine Servedio by Catherine Servedio

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We couldn’t get enough of the beautiful self-titled singer-songwriter album from Montreal’s Catherine Servedio. The gentle but rich music does a fine job in underscoring her fabulous vocals, and there are unexpected twists in the instrumentation which keep the ears engaged. The album effectively elicits a nostalgic mood with its delicate melancholy.  iTunes

22Familiar Touch by Diana

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When it comes to Toronto trio Diana, the musical path is paved with electronic intentions. The first effort attracted a Polaris nomination. Less scattered round two is a more cohesive effort and overall a better album. On the smoother and flatter versus richer and spicier electronic scale, the album sits in about the middle. The mood here is more subdued than perky and goes for the dream jugular with occasional random beats, fuzz guitar, and sombre glides. Diana’s Familiar Touch is pure awesomeness.  iTunes

21Taste by Islands

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We weren’t sure what to make of the album cover, but putting on this savoury synthpop made our own mouths drool. Montreal alt-rock band Islands has grown in popularity and accomplished an awesome feat this year, releasing not one but two albums at the same time. Should I Remain Here at Sea is more guitar oriented while Taste is more synth heavy. Both are great but we dug Taste best.  iTunes

20Neither in Heaven by Huis

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Montreal’s 70s-style progressive rock outfit Huis is assuredly one of the best in the world at the genre. The band name is Dutch for house. On Neither in Heaven, find complex musicianship, keyboard and guitar solos, sampled sounds of nature and civilization, classic Moog, Hammond, and Mellotron keys, luxurious textures, unpredictable tempo and chord changes, pleasing vocals, and a music the moves along very naturally from the subdued to the theatrical and back again.  iTunes

19Love & Lust by Jadea Kelly

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Toronto singer-songwriter Jadea Kelly has bounced from providing vocals to metal group Protest the Hero to charming critics with her previous folk albums. 2016’s Love & Lust ups the ante boasting a legion of some of the finest songwriters and musicians in the business, as well as expert production. Jadea co-wrote these beautiful songs with Jeremy Fisher, Peter Katz, and Robyn Dell’Unto. She co-produced the disc with Stew Crookes (Hawksley Workman) and Tom Juhas (Royal Wood) and spent a long time perfecting the recordings at Noble Street Studios and The Woodshed in Toronto. The recording process was done live off the floor which nicely complements the lyrical intimacy and adds a sense of genuineness to the expressive sentiment of her vocals.  iTunes

18Paloma by Daniel Bélanger

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Two-time JUNO winner and multiplatinum Canadian recording artist Daniel Bélanger released his tenth album Paloma this year. It follows the Montrealer’s adventure into rockabilly territory with his last effort, 2013’s Chic de ville. Paloma finds Bélanger at the helm of exquisite, heterogeneous rock. He penned all lyrics, wrote all songs, and played most of the instruments himself. As to be expected with any work from the master craftsman, Paloma’s expertly sculpted tunes are filled with captivating details and thrilling flourishes. Find an Ice Age’s skulk-folk, Losing it to Revolveresque meditation, a rousing Metamorphosis, instrumental Preaching, and other goodies in this nifty little disc.  iTunes

17Automanic by Krief

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Former Dears lead guitarist (Patrick) Krief gave us ambitious concept double album, Automanic. The first disc, which is Red, embodies fire, anger, boldness, and blood with music that is fittingly dense and hard hitting. The second, Blue, envelops water, sky, and dreamy calm. Its sound takes on a more subtle and reflective posture. Krief played most of the instruments on the album, and also handled its arrangements and production. The painful anguish of the first disc is answered by a more positive, even spiritual mood on the second. Throughout the album, the tracks roll along dynamically, animated by fresh and creative ideas. Krief’s Automanic is alternative rock at its best.  iTunes

16Ria Mae by Ria Mae

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“Clothes Off”, now certified platinum, spent 20 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2015, reaching a peak position of #31 on August 31. It gave Halifax’s Ria Mae breakout success and a JUNO nomination, a singer who had turned to her first love of writing songs after a brief postsecondary stint at construction management. Ria released independent music, an EP in 2009, and debut LP Under My Skin two years later. Her talents were profound enough to attract attention from Sony Music Entertainment who signed her. This is her first major label album. The self-titled disc provides a welcome balance between her folky roots and modern electro-tinged funk pop. The overall effect is one of earthy wholesomeness and catchy riffs carried by a very pleasant voice. There are lots and lots of good songs on this one!  iTunes

15Bubble Bath & Champagne 2 by France d’Amour

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Having attracted two JUNO nominations and scored a pair of gold albums, France d’Amour returned with the second disc in her jazz-themed Bubble Bath and Champagne project. The bilingual (mostly English) album is just beautiful, and most impressive is that all tracks are original compositions. France co-produced the album and played all guitars. This is the perfect album to unwind to after work and fill an evening with soothing romantic, mind-clearing sparkle. Not too many singers are gifted with a voice so alluring.  iTunes

14Magnolia by Megan Bonnell

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Toronto’s Megan Bonnell released this very impressive sophomore LP, Magnolia, following her getting hooked by Maple Music (now Cadence). On the production side are Chris Stringer (the Wooden Sky, Holly McNarland, Timber Timbre) and Josh Van Tassel (David Myles, Christine Bougie). She is essentially a roots artist, though the detailed writing, neo-trad instrumentation, and production coatings on these songs are so strong as to give the finished product a very wide appeal. The work is as soft as clouds, flowing as water, and intricate like a landscaped garden.  iTunes

13La pluie entre nous by Catherine Durand

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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 a progressive folk album, her sixth, bearing the title La pluie entre nous. For those familiar with Elisapie and Salomé Leclerc, this sits somewhere between the two. A very sweet voice, gentle strums, and delicate electronics sprinkle down like, well, rain. Bringing clarity to objects hidden in the mist, this autumnal collection of 10 tracks were four years in the making, and taking her time perfecting the composition has paid off in spades. A superb work of art worth buying in its entirety.  iTunes

12Work of Heart by Dani and Lizzy

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Vancouver duo of twin sisters Dani & Lizzy released debut album Work of Heart in September 2016, and it’s just fabulous. From highly reputable label 604 Records, the disc contains a mishmash of pop, R&B, soul, and hip hop. Every song was composed by Dani and Lizzy. Though twins, their tastes in music are not necessarily the same. Lizzy finds herself drawn more to pop, EDM, and singer-songwriter, while Dani enjoys the urban music field. Work of Heart contains a fresh version the duo’s buzz single “Dancing in the Sky” which has garnered 1.8 million YouTube views to date. The song is a soulful vocal tribute to some close friends they lost over time. The album has much more to offer than such delicious sentimentality. Glittering electropop banger “Detox” opens up a can of cool that sees chuck and jive grooves as in “Do It Again” and crashing pop waves as in “Dive In”. Dani & Lizzy’s Work of Heart is a super fun record that will have you all smiles.   iTunes

11Automatic Hand by Twin Rains

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The debut album of Toronto-formed, Vancouver-based electro dream pop duo Twin Rains appeared, and it’s a charmer. Jay Merrow and Christine Stoesser were formerly with alt-rock group Make Me Young and have licensed music to film and television including Degrassi: The Next Generation. Twin Rains’ Automatic Hand is filled with pleasant surprises and nifty ideas all held together by the silver string of Christine’s pensive vocals. Essentially a reverie of ghostly melancholy, there are moments of funky perk and jazzy sparkle. We found ourselves engaged throughout the whole album unable to predict what was next around the bend. Automatic Hand is an album not to be missed.  iTunes

10Regarde autour by Bruno Pelletier

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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 album “a selfie of a moment in my life. I deal with rather serious themes, but in a positive tone.” Wonderful album.   iTunes

9Summer Is Gone by Bobby Bazini

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Canadian soul singer Bobby Bazini launched his third career opus, Summer Is Gone via Universal. His first two works went platinum, the last becoming the best-selling album of 2014 earning Bobby his 4th JUNO nomination. The 2016 album which shipped gold prior to release was heralded by single AC and Hot AC radio hit “C’est La Vie”. Summer Is Gone was recorded in the U.S. and Britain with producer Martin Terefe. On the album, Bobby Bazini harnesses the energy of contemporary soul surfing waves while digging down musically to the roots of the legendary artists who inspired him. Crafted with bluesy keys and breezy guitars, the album’s beautiful music, like carefully cut wood, is dressed with Bazini’s masterful vocal delivery like the rich grains being gently stroked with protective lacquer. Bobby Bazini’s Summer Is Gone is an ace in the hole.  iTunes

8You Say Party by You Say Party

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Abbotsford, BC post-punk / new wave group You Say Party released its self-titled LP in February the band’s 4th since debuting in 2005. Members are Krista Loewen, Becky Ninkovic, Stephen O’Shea, and Derek Adam. Sadly, the band’s drummer Devon Clifford is no longer with us. Dealing with the tragedy, You Say Party went on hiatus from 2011. The eponymous disc is the band’s first in six years. Rather than hire a new drummer, the core four decided to go with drum machines, which effectively give the music a more emotionally drained sound, as the album tries to make sense out of loss and uncertainty. The cover is an accurate reflection of the gloomy atmospherics the disc explores. It’s an honest and authentic representation of the dark detour the band was forced to take, slightly experimental, as the four players explored unfamiliar terrain but emerged with an impressive work of art.  iTunes

7Volcano by Jason Bajada

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Jason Bajada launched album number 6, Volcano in 2016. The music is rich, well-written, and brilliantly executed. We love how he tenses up the verses to burst into eruptive choruses, not so much in terms of noise and fury, but rather dreamy, hair-raising gleams of infectious melodies. His soothing vocals take us on a pleasant ride through the disc with the perfect tempo to keep our ears perked, and he throws in some molten hot guitar solos that flow like lava, most notably in opener “Pékin (les amitiés)”; we haven’t heard a jam that good in quite some time. Other standouts for us include “Si je craque” which begins with folky, level field guitar strums combined with bouncy vocal notes and then bursts into a gorgeous chorus. “Busky” begins with minimalist keys and a funky bass and then yields to an irresistibly delicious wall of sound. Yup, Jason Bajada got our wow factor on automatic repeat with Volcano iTunes

6Leaving by Ominar

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Adding some sparkle to the local scene in Halifax via the band route, Tawny Lucas, now based in Toronto under alias Ominar released her latest solo LP Leaving. Dark, moody, and gothic, this thing drips with a black, ominous rain. It is a very cohesive work, and many tracks feel like a variation of a central theme, leaving the listener both morose and spooked (in a good way). For those who dislike overproduced alternative works, Leaving is satisfactorily raw and juicy. This talented gal heroically fills a hungry void, as dark wave is relatively barren here, and she does an excellent job at it. If nothing else, this disc reminds us of indie pop’s capacity to make things exciting.  iTunes

5Lipstick Graphiti by Graph

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One of the year’s most pleasant surprises came by way of Toronto female soloist Graph who has been gradually honing her sound over the past few years and has at long last released the fruit of such labours in debut LP Lipstick Graphiti. It is a unique album for a couple of reasons. First off, amid a plethora of artists claiming to have recaptured the 80s sound, hers is strikingly authentic. Its sound stood unique especially when compared with other Canadian artist albums through the year. Moreover, the album is one of those rare instances where all tracks are good. It has the potential to overhaul the current mainstream mould for a change of climate, and her playfully delivered vocals make this a very fun record to listen to.  iTunes

4Illusions of Grandeur by Vito V

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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.   iTunes

3Rites and Ritual by Traitrs

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2016’s finest rock album came out of Toronto thanks to new duo Traitrs. Concept album Rites and Ritual explores the dark gallows and shambled stone shacks of witch trials, youth cults, and burnt offerings. Musically, the duo presents a sound that echoes the greatness of The Chameleons UK and composition on par with The Spoons. This gritty post-punk cold wave, with atmospheric guitars, boldly sashays itself in with a tsunami of sound that will fill your spine with a delicious cacophony of shivers. Rites and Ritual packs an impressive bite and is a welcome addition to the best works of 2016.  iTunes

2Follow by Memorecks & Jenna Pemkowski

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Early in the year, Brantford, Ontario’s Jenna Pemkowski released her debut album, Follow, in collaboration with Toronto producer Memorecks. It is an atmospheric electronic record jam packed with good songs and hailed as a pop gem by The Cord. Jenna acquired a Music Industry Arts diploma from Fanshawe College in London where she met many of her collaborators. Follow outshone albums from established artists of the genre by adding detail to the landscape making it sound intelligent, by laying the album’s foundation on the bedrock of songwriting, and by providing variety within the cohesive framework. On a side note, Jenna was also featured on a track from the Zeds Dead album Northern Lights. Follow is the best chillout album you have yet to hear, an astonishingly excellent work.  iTunes

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Canadian Music Blog’s 2016 Album of the Year

We are very pleased to announce our pronouncement of a French language pop album as our 2016 album of the year. It was, in our estimation, a cut above everything else that came out this year with top notch writing, singing, and production. This is the way to make music.

This finalist of The Voice, Season 1, launched a single called “Placebo” that completely slayed the Franco airwaves and won a #1 SOCAN award topping the BDS charts for 7 weeks. A three-track EP came out last year. On May 20, 2016, her debut, eponymous album hit the shops. The album is a pop tour de force with catchy beats, peppy swagger, sonorous choruses, and a fabulous, creamy voice leading it all. “Mirage” and “Couleurs” had us hooked immediately. The delicately played “Éclat” glowed its way up the musique Francophone charts. Staff over at iTunes Canada praised the atmospheric “Tempête” for the singer’s “breathy coo piercing through like a ray of sunshine”. In short, every track is a winner. In our estimation, this gem of an LP was the best work released in 2016 across all genres, across all provinces of origin. The Canadian Music Blog declares Alexe Gaudreault as 2016’s album of the year!  iTunes

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