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.

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

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

Selected New Releases 10 February 2017

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Vibrant Heels of Lévis, QC contributes a good metal album for fans of the genre. Crank up Driven for some concussion inducing hard rock tunes. It’s not all noise and fury but offers too some skilled instrumentation and blends in a little alternative rock which makes the disc more engaging.

Winnipeg’s The Treble could not be more excited to release its debut album Modernaires, and we are impressed with it. The group has a pleasant, driving folk-pop sound which will get you slapping your knee along to the well-crafted tunes.

Vancouver alternative group Mother Mother delivers No Culture. Described by iTunes as a mix of “crunchy rock and explosive pop”, it debuted on the platform’s chart at #2. It is certainly a fun album to listen to with ample theatrics and pizzazz.

Like Mother Mother, but more on the roots as opposed to progressive side, two JUNO nominations deck The Sadies‘ halls. The new album Northern Passages blends several genres together resulting in an alternative soup that is quite delicious.

Surprisingly fine is the self-titled album from Cape Breton’s Port Cities. Smooth groove and punchy pop music with some heartland ambiance makes this one of the best releases this week.

Raton Lover does soft rock right on Le sens du vent. The band is from Quebec City. You will hear the occasional spark of country and some clever hooks yielding a rewarding listening experience.

Our pick for the week is electronic project Teen Daze from the Fraser Valley, BC’s exceptionally talented Jamison Isaak. Album Themes for Dying Earth is both soothing and dazzling, conjuring up an atmosphere of futurism and dreamy melancholy that transported us to another dimension. The album is unbelievably good.

Those eager for some 60s style French pop, look no further than the new album from bilingual artist Sally Folk, 3e acte. She’s from Montreal.

There are a few EPs this week to talk about. Montreal’s Nicolas Patterson contributes a really nice singer-songwriter disc Everything Is Changing. Begonia, project of Chic Gamine singer Alexa Dirks, releases alternative EP Lady in Mind. Raphaël Dénommé of Quebec makes decent blues trash rock on a new eponymous disc. Finally, Vancouver’s Emma Citrine serves gritty folk rock on EP Sad Surprise.

Selected New Releases February 3, 2017

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We kick off this week’s releases with Almanach from Cap-Chat, QC’s Patrice Michaud. It debuted at #3 in the iTunes chart and is essentially a pop album with some rock and singer-songwriter flavours in the mix. It’s a nifty little album.

For blues-rock lovers, Matt Minglewood is the man. The native of Glace Bay, NS releases the fine work, Fly Like Desperados.

Edmonton’s Peter Sagar, recording under the moniker Homeshake, contributes alternative disc Fresh Air. He is now based in Montreal.

Ottawa’s Her Harbour may oscillate between soloist Gabrielle Giguere and a band but new album Go Gently into the Night settles on a relaxed, sparsely arranged folk album.

Big Wreck needs no introduction. The acclaimed rock band debuts at #2 on iTunes with Grace Street.

How about giving Montreal gridlock a dose of grit rock from local band Le Trouble. But be careful. The new album may lead to Making Matters Worse.

How about that JUNO Award winner Rose Cousins? The Halifax folk artist is back with a very good album as usual—Natural Conclusion.

Kitchener-Waterloo group Courage My Love launches album Synesthesia which should impress fans of Crystalyne and Hedley.

Last but not least is our favourite album of 2017 to date: Young Mopes from Cranbrook, BC’s Louise Burns. It’s guitar-oriented new wave with some synth touches and reminds us that she stands as one of Canada’s most gifted recording artists. A wonderful album.

Selected New Releases: 2017 Chinese New Year Edition

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Wishing all, Chinese Canadians in particular, a big gong xi fa cai, eh. The year of the beloved rooster is upon us to make sure we’re up and at ’em every day. Get your mornings kickin’ with congee, Longjing tea, and the following brand new releases from Canadian recording artists. Two currently sit in the iTunes Top 10.

Alphabetically by title, we begin with a very impressive album. Montreal’s Ludovic Alarie has been busy crafting every detail of L’appartement. It’s folky, electronic, and in spirit reminds us a little of Ennio Morricone’s score to Once Upon a Time in America. The music is very pacified, so nighttime listens might be best. For alternative country Toronto style, check out the new Chris Gostling & the Tempo album Breath, Blood & Tempo. This week’s sole rap release is Chasser ses démons from Montreal duo La Carabine, more on the fun side like Radio Radio.

A former participant in The Voice 2014, Saint-Rémi, QC’s Julie Lefebvre debuts in the long play arena with Déjouer le temps, a solidly sung pop-rock effort filled with good tunes. Americanadian duo Thorcraft Cobra contributes more alternative country on The Distance. Bill is from Calgary and Tammy the States. For something quite different and unexpected, guitarist of The New Pornographers (Todd) Fancey lacquers 70s disco pop with a modern psychedelic indie pop coat. The resulting Love Mirage is fascinating.

A staple of music blogs, Vancouver duo Japandroids (not sure which one is the Roboto Industries’ R2 unit) provides straight shooting punk on Near to the Wild Heart of Life. It’s currently the best-selling maple-glazed album at iTunes. Calgarian trumpeter Al Muirhead releases beautiful jazz album Northern Adventures bringing in a host of players for some soothing grooves. Toronto contemporary folk artist Andrea Ramolo contributes Nuda, that comes with a bonus disc of simpler presentations of the tracks.

The lone truly pop album of the week belongs to Quebec City group Automat and album Pandora which is, in a word, excellent. Calgary’s JJ Shiplett finds himself in the iTunes Top 10 thanks to Something to Believe In, sort of a country/roots rock effort and a good one. Toronto’s Alejandra Ribera is back with her brand of singer-songwriter flavours on This Island.

Three EPs worth mentioning are as follows. For rock, we have Spruce Grove, AB’s The Red Cannons doing a good job on Always Something. The very pleasant Les yeux comme deux boussoles from Caplan, QC’s Cédrik St-Onge is doing well on the musique Francophone charts, a folk/singer-songwriter disc. Finally, US-based PEI country artist Whitney Rose offers more traditional country music on South Texas Suite which is wonderful.

Enjoy the new music!

Austra’s Third Offering Looks at Future Politics

austra-future-politics-1484230134Austra is a JUNO nominated electronic pop project from Toronto, created by Katie Stelmanis in 2009 and includes three other players. Future Politics, released January 20, 2017, is album number three. The first LP, Feel It Break, was a new wave carnival ride, and the second Olympia was a theatrical groove show. The new album offers a tighter, punchier sound with addictive beats and instant likeability. Lyrically, the songs are smart in not offering specific political ideas in a world where a cacophony of entrenched opinions and opposing interests is flourishing fiercely, scattering humanity into different antagonistic camps.

Universal themes are touched upon, for example that both exploitation and mendicancy are undeserving of praise. Katie also re-introduces the subject of alienation by technology, certainly more true in today’s world with ubiquitous cell phone finger flicking. She does this, however, with a warmer presentation than grim visions presented by say Ultravox in “Dislocation”. As such, the album has more of a hopeful vision of the future and inspires us to be creative in conjuring up new and better systems of society than the worn-out models of today. And amidst the chaos and the hostile arguments, it reminds us too, via the cover, that you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. Austra’s Future Politics offers a refreshing cleanse for wearied minds. We have embedded two music videos below: title-track “Future Politics” and “Utopia”.  iTunes

Selected New Releases: January 20, 2017

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Toronto dance house DJ and producer Miss Tara releases 34-track super album Let’s Live! It is filled with club thumpers that will wear your shoes out in no time. As well, extended and remixes are included for avid boogie adventurers. Have fun with this one.

In a climate suffused by country pop, and a growing array of progressive country numbers, it is a good thing to keep the more traditional style alive as well. A very fine job is done by Grandview, Manitoba’s Kayla Luky on her new album Back to the Dirt.

From there we swing over to progressive pop thanks to Toronto’s Austra. The band has outdone itself on Future Politics which is a very good album. The unique vocals and atmospheric shimmers will be familiar to fans. The group adds some addictive beats to broaden appeal.

Also from CN Tower lands comes Abigail Lapell, a folk artist, and impressive disc Hide Nor Hair. The songs are beautiful and capture a peaceful spirit well. Those who appreciate artists like Gillian Welch will enjoy this.

Another dabbler in folk music is Kitchener-Waterloo’s Danny Michel. The album is named after Russian icebreaker Khlebnikov. We found ourselves drawn into the lyrics, as the songs are built around captivating poetry.

The debut album from Jonathan Roy is out. Mr. Optimist Blues is a strong modern pop work and sits at #3 on iTunes albums. He is a Billboard Hot 100 charting artist and released the album through Corey Hart’s boutique record label. Jonathan is on his way to big things.

Kid Koala, alias of Eric San, who grew up in Vancouver, has teamed up with Icelandic singer Emilíana Torrini for alternative album Music To Draw To: Satellite. Some instrumental, some vocal, the tracks are dream-world ambient with some touches of subdued trip-hop.

Montreal’s ragged guitar-oriented post-punk outfit Heat unleashes delightful debut album Overnight. While the band could be compared with any postpunk band of the era, it cites influences Sonic Youth and Oasis. You may even hear some Crash Test Dummies vibes if you listen carefully.

Also from Montreal, the indie music capital of planet Earth, appears Fleece. Album Voyager, a followup to 2015’s Scavenger, is an alternative work that encompasses more of a jazzy, psychedelic style. This is a sweet, adventurous ride.

Enjoy the new music!

Canadian Albums Turning 10 in 2017

2007 were trying times, especially in British Columbia. The domed roof of BC Place Stadium in Vancouver collapsed. At YVR airport, Robert Dziekański was tasered to death by the RCMP. In the suburbs, a high-rise apartment was the scene of the Surrey Six slayings. The first incident of a severed foot washed up on the BC coast. But it wasn’t all bad news. At a Calgary Flames game, young Cree singer Akina Shirt became the first to perform “O Canada” in an Aboriginal language at a major-league sporting event. Media magnate Conrad Black was convicted on three charges of fraud.

 The highest grossing film of the year was Spider Man 3 followed by Shrek the Third. American Idol continued its reign at the top of Nielsen television ratings. Brian Melo won Canadian Idol. The Billboard Canadian Hot 100 debuted. Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend” and Nelly Furtado’s “Say It Right” were huge hits internationally.

Two quadruple platinum Canadian artist albums appeared in 2007: Céline Dion’s Taking Chances and Michael Bublé’s Call Me Irresponsible. At double platinum were Avril Lavigne’s The Best Damn Thing, Feist’s The Reminder which won the Album of the Year JUNO, Céline Dion’s D’Elles, and Johnny Reid’s Kicking Stones. Also reaching the certification level were two duet albums: Anne Murray’s Duets, Friends, and Legends and Claude Dubois’ Duos Dubois.

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Canadian Albums Turning 20 in 2017

1997 was a year that saw massive flooding of the Red River in Manitoba. Confederation bridge linking Prince Edward Island with mainland New Brunswick opened. Princess Diana died in a tragic car accident. Fourteen-year-old Reena Virk was beaten to death by classmates in Victoria. 43 were killed in Canada’s worst ever traffic accident as a tour bus fell off a cliff. Canadian film The Sweet Hereafter by Atom Egoyan about a school bus accident debuted. Motion picture Titanic by Canada’s James Cameron premiered at the cinema in December eventually setting a box office record which remained unbroken for 12 years. The Arrow, a mini-series about the Avro Arrow project, gained a large television viewership. Television comedy series Seinfeld topped the Nielsen ratings.

“Building a Mystery” by Sarah McLachlan was the #1 song of the year. Her album Surfacing was certified diamond (or 10x platinum) for sales of 1 million copies and won the Album of the Year JUNO the following year. Céline Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love which included “My Heart Will Go On” featured in the aforementioned film Titanic also went diamond. It won the same JUNO in 1999. Our Lady Peace released Clumsy, another diamond album. But surpassing all of them, reaching two million in sales, and becoming one of the most globally successful albums ever released, was Shania Twain’s Come on Over. 1997 saw the release of more Canadian albums certified multiplatinum than any other year in history with a total of 13. It was possibly the biggest year ever for album sales. Other big sellers were Loreena McKennitt’s The Book of Secrets at quadruple platinum. Play by Great Big Sea made triple platinum.

Double platinum albums in 1997 were Big Wreck’s In Loving Memory Of…, Bruno Pelletier’s Miserer, Chantalk Kreviazuk’s Under These Rocks and Stones, Diana Krall’s Love Scenes, Jann Arden’s Happy?, The Tea Party’s Transmission, and The Tragically Hip’s Live Between Us.

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