Impressions of Avril Lavigne’s Goodbye Lullaby

FACTS IN BRIEF

Goodbye Lullaby:
• Avril Lavigne’s 4th Studio Album.
• Released 8 March 2011.
• Considered by fans as her 2nd best album after Under My Skin according to an Avril Bandaids’ poll.
• The 4th best-selling 2011 Canadian album in the world, 1st by a female artist.
• Contains the #1 most successful Canadian 2011 single worldwide—”What the Hell”.
• Exactly half of the songs were written by Lavigne herself; the other half were co-written with others.
• Avril produced 2 of the tracks.

Thank you to our readers for voting for your favourite of the best-selling Canadian albums last year. You chose Avril Lavigne’s Goodbye Lullaby over albums by Michael Buble, Nickelback, Drake, and Justin Bieber as your favourite. Because of this, below is our special piece on the album.

On the cover of Avril Lavigne’s fourth studio album, Goodbye Lullaby, is a grand piano set in a glade surrounded by a forest of leafy trees. In world literature, the forest has always stood to symbolize demons of unknown ferocity. But those who were brave enough to enter such a dark and spooky realm were rewarded by finding hidden within a treasure, a holy being, a talisman, a magic sword, a band of merry men, or something as simple as a refuge from the menacing world on the outside. After a marriage that crumbled like brittle leaves in the autumn, a refuge awaited Avril; she found a peaceful, mellow spot with a piano lying in wait and began to craft her new work.

This was the first album on which Lavigne wrote a number of songs on her own, two of which she produced. Previously, she had co-written all tracks with others. The song-writing, production, and singing are first-rate through the entire disc. The style of music is somewhat mellower than on her previous works, as she composed most of the tracks on acoustic piano and strove for a more emotional vibe.

The year 2011 was launched, in part, by Avril Lavigne’s debut of the 2nd track on the album, the most successful Canadian single of 2011 worldwide. She performed “What the Hell” on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. “What the Hell” or “WTH” is the song that drove home the fact that Avril Lavigne can sing the pants off most of her contemporaries. The vocal range and strenuous demands of pitch-accuracy required to sing this piece are highly challenging, and Avril performed this live without any use of Autotune devices on variety shows, chat shows, reality shows, and concerts through the year, nailing each note with precision every time. Even those who dislike Avril’s style and music were forced to concede that her singing skills are exceptional.

Avril’s record company at the time, RCA, decided to release tracks co-composed by Max Martin and Shellback as the singles. “Smile” is a sassy number in which funky electric guitar strums and punchy beats precede a powerhouse chorus. “Wish You Were Here” is a more stripped-down acoustic number with a crisp, strong beat. The song centers on the feeling of missing someone, and one can see Avril’s real tears in its music video. The album includes bonus track “Alice” which Avril composed unaided for the Tim Burton Hollywood feature film.

Little Black Stars (Avril Lavigne fans) tended to favour songs that she co-wrote with former bandmate Evan Taubenfeld, especially “Everybody Hurts” and “Push”.

After listening to the songs Avril wrote herself we could almost conclude that she does not need to co-write her music with others. One of our favourite tracks on the album is “4 Real”, a song she wrote and produced herself. This beautiful song is about sincerity and commitment in relationships. It is very rare for a recording artist to be both an exceptional singer and composer and Lavigne proves here that she is one of those rare embodiments of such dual talent.

Like Elvis and the other founders of rock and roll in the 1950s, Avril has centered her lyrical themes on relationships, romance, heartbreak, and life’s struggles. Because her superstardom blasted through the domestic realm and embraced the entire planet, she had to consider that most of her fans were not native English speakers and many were in cultures where karaoke was the most important form of entertainment. It was not simply good enough to compose attractive music; she had to ensure that the songs were fun to sing with accessible everyday English verses bearing universal themes: “You say that I’m messin’ with your head”, “Didn’t think about it, just went with it”, “You stole my heart and you’re the one to blame”, “Everybody hurts some days; it’s okay to be afraid” are examples of such catchy verses.

Avril Lavigne is a Canadian princess who grew up in small town Ontario. She was, in the blink of an eye, thrust into a complicated and ferocious environment and, through her music, she tries to make some sense of it all. Seeking that place of romantic calm, like the kissing couple amidst the hockey riots, she worked her magic, putting her whole heart into this very, very good album.

In a music industry saturated with uninspired rock and filled with stars of style, not substance, talentless and manufactured, we welcome Avril Lavigne, and the few like her, to save the day and show us what real music is all about.

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Francophone Hat Trick

In recent weeks, three Francophone artists released albums that made the Top 10 Canadian Billboard albums chart at the same time. Duncan gives some more insight into these highly talented people.

L’Album du peuple – Tome 8 by François Pérusse

Francois Perusse, of Quebec City, is a hilarious comedian, and also a singer and musician. He is credited with creating a new genre of comedy. He began his career by doing radio sketches at the age of 12 and, by 17, he was the bassist in bands with his older brother Marc. Perusse’s latest album is comical music, spoken comedy, or a mixture of both. The songs can be extremely simple or more professionally done, but the main selling point is the comedy. His songs and monologues, can be really ridiculous, sort of like Robbin Williams in French, but I think even funnier. He also has done advertisements, like with Petro Canada, using his humour. He has been quite prolific, winning a number of awards, including…

■ 6 Félix for Albums du peuple – Tome 1, Tome 2, Tome 4, Tome 5, Volume 1 and l’Album pirate
■ 1 Juno for Tome 2, Best Selling Francophone Album, 1994

It goes to show that, whether in English or French, Canadians are masters at comedy. It’s so cold here that we have nothing better to do than to crack jokes, eh.

C’est un monde by Fred Pellerin

As for Fred Pellerin, CBC has an article which talks about his storytelling abilities (see Right Said Fred) which has no comparable phenomena in western Canada, as far I as I understand. Storytelling dates back centuries in Québec, which might explain why western Canada, hardly more than a century old, for the most part, doesn’t have the art form now (or ever?). Pellerin sounds similar to Daniel Lanois. Besides his records, Pellerin has also published many books. He uses “joual”, which is a Quebec street-slang dialect. He often reinterprets old folk songs. Some of the stories he tells come from his hometown of Saint Élie de Caxton, in the lake-dotted foothills of the Laurentian Mountains.

L’avenire entre nous by Maxime Landry

As for Maxime Landry, he was born in 1987, Saint-Georges-de-Beauce. When he was a teenager, his father committed suicide. He started to play guitar and began winning singing contests. Lynda Lemay wrote a song about his father’s suicide, “Cache-cache” (hide and seek) on his first album Vox pop, 2009, which won him the Felix in 2010 for best popular song of the year. On December 13 this year, his latest album went platinum, selling 80,000 copies in just a few weeks. Unlike his first album, which contained mostly covers, this album is all originals composed by Lynda Lemay. Landry has surrounded himself with a popular entourage, including Ginette Reno. His first album has sold 200,000 copies.

A side-splitting comedian, a captivating storyteller, and a soul-soothing singer, Francophone artists just can’t be beat in terms of pure talent and wondrous Canadian creativity.

Canadian Music Blog’s Album of the Year 2011

It is officially the winter solstice, so our announcement could come on no better day. (You’ll understand what we mean further down the post).

There was so much good music that came out in 2011, it will have the JUNO judges pulling their hair out to come up with a list of nominees for album of the year in a few months. Many recording artists released their magnum opus this year.

Our third favourite album this year comes from Ron Sexsmith, the most overlooked Canadian recording artist of modern times and one who is admired by the likes of Sir Paul McCartney. Long Player, Late Bloomer is a beautifully-crafted folk pop album and was produced by the eminent Bob Rock. It is the St. Catharines native’s best effort to date in our humble opinion.

At #2 is Goodbye Lullaby, pop punk princess Avril Lavigne‘s best album yet for one uncomplicated reason: there is not a single weak moment on the disc. Filled with inspired pop tunes from start to finish, it is but a gem. And, of course, no current Canadian recording artist can outsing her pure, pleasant, and pitch-perfect voice.

#1? Well, it’s a bit cold in here, so let’s “pull the wool up like a smoke screen” and introduce it gradually…

It would make more sense to fly over the North Pole, as the distance would surely be shorter, but the airlines would rather take us on the scenic route, like “two sparks tumbling along”, and have us stop over and change flights in a number of bustling cities with “busy parks” on different continents. The easiest way to fly from Vancouver to the largest city in this region of the world would be to stop over in Beijing, but that would be expensive. A cheaper alternative would be flying to Chicago, USA or London, England, then to Moscow, and finally to our destination of Novosibirsk, a city just shy of 1.5 million people, the largest urban center of northern Asia, an area of the Russian Federation known as Siberia.

Before we go on our flight, we want to stay where we are, in Vancouver, and travel back in time. We set the dial of our time machine to March 29, 2009 and push the button. After a flash of lights, we find ourselves in pre-Olympic Vancouver. We hop onto the SkyTrain which will drive our soul downtown. Many passengers will be going to our destination today and are very excited. After arriving, we disembark and walk over to what was then known as “GM Place”. We purchase tickets at the door and make our way inside. The show is about to begin. Nickelback blows us away with a tour de force performance, after which we see the host of the proceedings, comedian Russell Peters. We are, as some of you have figured from the clues, at the JUNO awards gala of 2009. A number of awards are being presented for the best in Canadian music.

At about 5:40 pm, after a performance by Sarah McLachlan and a cute comedy sketch with Peters and Michael Bublé, Maple Ridge’s beautiful Filipina-Canadian pop star Elise Estrada, the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage, and Terrace’s country singer Aaron Pritchett step onto the stage. They will be presenting the prestigious award for New Artist of the Year. The nominees are Jessie Ferrell, LIGHTS, Crystal Shawanda, Kreesha Turner, and Nikki Yanofsky. James Moore announces, “And the JUNO goes to…”. He opens the “envelope” which looks more like a CD jewel case, and then declares, “LIGHTS!”

As Elise Estrada begins clapping, another young woman, in a purple dress, looking very surprised and very happy, stands up and makes her way to the stage. The song “Drive My Soul”, a Top 20 hit, begins playing. The crowd is cheering. We are cheering too. She gives the three presenters a hug and positions herself in front of the microphone. “Whoa. Oh my goodness. I was so not expecting this … You know, I didn’t get into this to win awards; I got into this to create some amazing music, and we’ll try to anyways…”.

What was significant about LIGHTS winning the JUNO was that she had not yet released her debut album; it came out later that year in September. The Listening was an electronic pop record and was later certified gold in Canada.

Encouraged by her success, she decided, in the making of her sophomore baby, to depart from mainstream sounds to something more creative, more gritty, on the “alternative” side of the musical spectrum. Various personnel within the record company, who were more concerned with the business side of music, opposed the artistic move, and she was faced with manipulative forces trying to push her in different directions. She remained fixed in her resolve and focused on her goal of creating something different but exceptional musically. A great team consisting of Thomas Salter, Dave Thompson, Jay Parson, Brian Borcherdt, and Graham Walsh assisted her in crafting and perfecting a Canadian masterwork.

After some delays, Siberia was released on October 4, 2011. It is an indie electronic rock album with some elements of dubstep, and it received rave reviews. Siberia debuted at #3 on the Canadian albums chart behind Adele’s 21 and Feist’s Metals and sold 10,000 copies in the first week. She went on a North American tour to promote the album and will be heading to Europe next year.

Although Siberia pays homage to the great masters of electronic rock—FM, Gary Numan, Bjork, and Metric to name a few—LIGHTS has carved out a niche for herself by honing her own unique style. Amidst the ethereal, pulsating synthesizer buzzes, her voice comes through as sweet as honey, and her lyrics are more inspired than the pennings of the aforementioned.

Everyone has their favourite tracks. Ours are the title-track “Siberia”, single “Toes“, ballad “And Counting…”, and, most of all, the hauntingly gorgeous “Cactus in the Valley”, a song she composed entirely on her own.

LIGHTS fought off all opposition to make her work of art like fighting off the cold to brave the “icy tides” and “sail across the east sea”. In her song “Toes” she sings, “You capture my attention”. No, LIGHTS, you have captured our attention and have worn out the laser on our CD player from a countless number of listens.

“I didn’t get into this to win awards; I got into this to create some amazing music,” she said. And she has done just that. LIGHTS’ Siberia is our pick for album of the year 2011. Well done.

Update:  At the end of April 2012, Siberia was awarded GOLD certification in Canada.

Do you have a favourite Canadian album of 2011? Let us know: canadianmusicblog@yahoo.ca.

Speaking of Canadian Christmas music…

Sound Vat, based in Northern Ontario, has just released a Christmas compilation album of various Canadian indie artists called If Jesus Had Been Born In Canada, He Would Have Needed More Than Swaddling Clothes. The album features covers of Christmas classics as well as new material. Shawna Nacklicki assures us that the music can be downloaded for free. Check out the songs HERE.

Que du vent

I asked Duncan to help out with some more info on Les Cowboys Fringants’ new album, Que du vent. I love typing French titles because they don’t require as much capitalization as English; it’s easier on the fingers, eh.

Que du vent, currently 5th on the Canadian Albums Chart, is, in fact, the band’s 8th studio album in 14 years, a very impressive accomplishment. The band consists of Jean-François Pauzé (guitar), Marie-Annick Lépine (piano and other instruments), Karl Tremblay (vocals), and Jérôme Dupras (bass). Pauzé is the primary composer while Lépine arranges the music.

Que du vent centers around the theme of meaninglessness of the world and of life. The weather vane pictured on the album cover, a device that whirls around in every direction by the wind, symbolizes modern life which has us bustling around in a hectic pace. The song “Shooters” focuses on how hard people of the Montreal suburb of Assomption (the band’s hometown) took the closure of the Electrolux plant, laying off 1,300 employees. “Hasbeen” deals with misplaced stardom. The songs address issues like poverty, lost love, and depression.

Just a month ago, Les Cowboys Fringants posted a message on their Facebook page asking fans not to vote for them in the upcoming Felix awards. Their fans ignored this, and they won Group of the Year – for the third time.

Les Cowboys Fringants Official Website

A Quiet December

After a whirlwind of releases this Autumn, things appear to be quieting down in December. Most Canadian recording artists celebrate Chirstmas and want to be with family during the holidays, not travelling around to promote new albums. Here are a few things that are happening, however.

This is of course Grey Cup weekend, one of the biggest events of the year in Canada. The BC Lions are playing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Incidentally, a big band leader in Vancouver rewrote the lyrics of “I Love the Sunshine of Your Smile” to “Roar You Lions Roar” to cheer on the Lions. His name is Dal Richards, the king of swing. An album of his material is coming out on November 29th titled Musically Yours. For those of you who fancy a cruise to Alaska, Dal’s band will be performing aboard Holland America’s Zuiderdam July 7th – 14th 2012. More info is on Dal’s website HERE. Dal is at the ripe old age of 93 and he’s still going strong. God bless him.

Next, we want to talk a little about Kevin Hearn who is probably best known as the keyboardist for The Barenaked Ladies. He has also played with the Rheostatis, Lou Reed, and his own group Thin Buckle. Kev was born in Grimsby, Ontario, growing up in the Toronto area. And we’re very excited because he is releasing a solo album on December 20th, called Cloud Maintenance. For those of you who are a bit tired of guitar-saturated rock and are pining for some cool keys, you can look forward to Kevin’s work. He has a background in classical piano. His website is HERE. He definitely gets our vote for the coolest album cover of the year!

Sir Francis and the Frisky Cowboys

Canada has a new #1 album, and it’s not from sea captain Sir Francis but a rapper named Drake. Take Care is the Torontonian’s second studio album. The title track, which features Barbadian artist Rihanna is #17 on the Canadian Hot 100 this week. Another new addition to the album charts is néo-trad, multi-award-winning Montréal band Les Cowboys Fringants with Que du vent (#5). Vancouverites, who are not as fond of rap as Torontonians and néo-trad as Montrealers, can take pride in the fact that Abbotsford’s Victoria Duffield has moved up a notch on the singles chart with her “Shut Up and Dance” (#18). Two Vancouver-based groups have released new albums this week: Nickelback (Here and Now) and Marianas Trench (Ever After). The former will be performing at the Grey Cup halftime show on Sunday.

4 Diverse Releases on the Ides of November

A quartet of new releases will be in shops tomorrow on the ides of November this 2011.

1. To celebrate their 45th anniversary, the great partying Canadian performers The Irish Rovers are releasing a live album, Home in Ireland, from their performance in Belfast, Northern Ireland. This is sweet for them because they immigrated to Canada from Northern Ireland in the first place. These were the guys that gave us their famous cover of “The Unicorn” in 1968 as well as the classic “Wasn’t That a Party” in 1980. As many Canadians have some Irish blood from their ancestry, music like this is bound to hit the spot.

2. From Irish-Canadian folk, we hyperwarp into territory where music isn’t sung but rapped. When we think of Canadian rap, the first name that comes to mind is probably Drake. A brand new studio album (his second) called Take Care will be out. Winnipeg songstress Chantal Kreviazuk contributed to some of the writing (and backing vocals) on the album.

3. For those of you who don’t like rapping, you can listen to the godfather of Canadian rock and roll, Mr. Paul Anka, while wrapping (with a w) Christmas gifts. His new Christmas album Songs of December will be on store shelves tomorrow.

4. If none of the above is your cup of tea and you dig the more alternative side of the musical spectrum, you might consider Calgary twin sisters Tegan and Sara who are releasing a greatest hits package called Get Along. It comes with a DVD. Although considered “indie” artists, they were featured in the radio hit “Feel It In My Bones” by Dutch trance artist Tiesto. 

Finally, if you’re more into rock bands, you need only to wait a week as new releases from Marianas Trench, Nickelback, and box sets of Rush material will be out.

White Sahara, Susan Aglukark

Susan Aglukark has released what appears to be a “greatest hits” album called White Sahara. It includes her classics as well as a new tune or two. It came out at the end of September and is available for download at iTunes and on CD at HMV. Susan was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2005. We have just finished writing a major profile on her which is filed under our 1990s section HERE. You can also check out Susan’s Official Website.

Storms by Hedley

The Hedley boys Jacob, Dave, Tommy, and Chris have just released their new studio album Storms. Lead digital single “Invincible” was certified gold in Canada last month, meaning 40,000 Canadians downloaded it. New single “One Life” is currently #16 on the Canadian singles chart. They’re doin’ well; and if enough albums are sold, they may be able to fulfill their dream of purchasing the town of Hedley, BC which went on sale for 346 grand a while back. Wouldn’t it be cool if a town was run by a rock band? Personally, I think they’d do a better job than the politicians, eh.

The Vancouver-based group will be touring next February to promote the new release. The music scene needs people like Jacob Hoggard: bouncingly charismatic, a most excellent, energetic, and exciting performer.

Hedley’s Official Website
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New Christmas Release from Paul Anka

The founding father of Canadian rock and roll is releasing a Christmas album, his first in more than 50 years. Paul Anka‘s Songs of December, on the Universal label, will be out on November 15. It promises to be a lush, romantic recording with a full orchestra, of 11 holiday classics. The songs were arranged by David Foster, Johnny Mandel (no relation to Howie as far as I know), Chris Walden, and Patrick Williams.

And to prove that he’s still full of youthful energy, he’s currently on a world tour that will last until February. There are a few dates in Ontario. Check his website for more details.

Ottawa’s Paul Anka was Canada’s first teen idol and first superstar of rock and roll. He wrote all his own songs (“Diana”, “Lonely Boy”, “Put Your Head on My Shoulder”) and songs for others, including Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”. For those of you who aren’t too impressed by the rookies, this holiday release from the seasoned veteran master of music should hit the spot.

Long Time Ago, Current Swell

If someone says, “I’m from dee island, mon” you know the island he’s referring to is Jamaica. But what if he says, “Lookit, we’re on the island catchin’ some surf in Tofino, eh”? Yes, that would be Vancouver Island. Vancouver Island is developing its own musical community with a number of bands and singers. One of them is called Current Swell. They’ve already released a few albums and have just released a new one called Long Time Ago. Check out their sound and what they’re up to at their website HERE.

Mark Sultan: Whatever I Want Whenever I Want

Montrealer Mark Sultan who spent his early days in garage bands and more recently as a character on the King Khan and BBQ show, is releasing a double album of his punky rockabilly tunes. The first disc is called Whatever I Want and the second Whenever I Want. I suppose the “Wherever I Want” bit is embedded in his upcoming tour of Canada and the U.S.

More info, including song samples and tour dates can be found on his website HERE.

New Releases, November 2011

Once Halloween is passed and we don the poppy, we can look forward to some new releases. Superstar Isabelle Boulay is releasing a country / folk inspired bilingual album called Les Grandes Espaces. Non-cowboy Albertans Nickelback will be releasing their seventh studio album Here and Now. Calgary’s Jann Arden is releasing a followup to her platinum 2007 album, Undercover Me 2. Justin Bieber‘s Christmas album, Under the Mistletoe, will be coming out. The first single “Mistletoe” has entered the Billboard Canadian Singles Chart at #9 (week of Nov. 5). London, Ontario’s Meaghan Smith will be releasing her Christmas album as well, It Snowed. Canada’s founding father of rock and roll, Paul Anka, is releasing his first Christmas album in over 50 years: Songs of December. Two Torontonian rap outfits are releasing albums this month: Down with Webster is coming out with Time to Win, Vol. II. and Drake‘s second studio album Take Care will be on store shelves on the ides of November. Chantal Kreviazuk co-wrote the first track. Montreal’s Coeur de Pirate (stage name for Beatrice Martin) is releasing her second studio album called Blonde and Les Cowboys Fringants’ Que du vent. On the west coast, two Vancouver bands are releasing new albums: Hedley‘s fourth studio album, Storms and Marianas Trench‘s third, Ever After.

In case you missed the new releases in October, see HERE.

As more November new releases come to our attention, we’ll be updating this posting through the month.