A total of 659 albums released in 2014 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 470 (i.e. 71.3%) of them in some form. Formal reviews were given to 191 or 29% of them. Of the 659 LPs, 39 were greatest hits, various artist compilations, live albums, etc., and we did not count them towards contention for our Top 30 of the year. There were only 9 albums that we entirely disliked. The vast majority, at 407, we deemed run of the mill Canadian majesties. A cut above were 106. Great albums numbered at 36. Masterpiece works at 62 (9.4% of the total) were marked as contenders for the CMB favourites of the year. We ranked these after many listens and came up with the top 30 which we have listed below. The chart on the left shows just how elite this group is (click to enlarge).
#30. III, Badbadnotgood. Though the third album from the Toronto fusion jazz trio, this is the first disc of entirely original compositions. They are instrumental, cinematic, jazzy electronic jewels with big boom beats. Fresh and fun, perhaps a motion picture can be created from scratch for the express purpose of using this as the soundtrack. Then again, the music is so fine, viewers may well prefer it to the film.
#29. Cold Coast, Secret Sun. This is a new electronic group from Montreal helmed by Simon Landry and vocalist Anne-Marie Campbell, the latter reminding us a little of Propaganda’s Susanne Freytag. Debut album Cold Coast is remarkably good. The strong writing with complex instrumentation constantly drops unexpected things into the mix and puts simpler arrangements from other acts to shame.
#28. Between Colours, The Wilderness of Manitoba. This Toronto band was nominated for a JUNO thanks to its previous album and released its fourth in 2014: Between Colours. What we have on this wonderful work is a desirable turn-taking of male and female lead vocals and a less roots and more progressive overall sound, or we can say a blending of folk rock and dream pop.
#27. Les amours parallèles, Stéphanie Lapointe. This Montréal Star Académie alumnus was nominated for a JUNO for album Sur le fil in 2006. Les amours parallèles is a beautiful work hailing back to classic 1960s French pop with occasional new age sprinklings. The album’s strength is in its refreshing gentleness, a rare attribute, that combines nicely with a genuine and sweet melancholy.
#26. Conversationalist, In-Flight Safety. This is album number three from Halifax’s JUNO-nominated band, now down to a duo of singer / guitarist John Mullane and drummer Glen Nicholson. Conversationalist is attractively coated with a new wave tint, atmospheric glitter, and plays like a good book that you can’t put down. This should hit the spot for fans of Travis, Coldplay, and Snow Patrol.
#25. Made Them Lions, Made Them Lions. On its second album the Montreal band shows it has developed a full, rich, modern pop/rock sound with dashes of reggae like “Light Up the Dark”. Other standouts are hit single “Crazy”, Down With Webster type feel-good anthem “Tidal Wave”, thumping ballad “Hyde”, charming David Myles-like “Love, Love, Love”, and “Forgotten How To Dream”.
#24. Tss Tss, Chocolat. After Félix winning solo work, Jimmy Hunt returned to the chocolate helm, and new album Tss Tss sees the outfit flip over from the roots rock leanings of past album Piano Élégant to full-on synth inflected progressive rock, and it is wonderful. The energy never wanes and is surrounded by theatrical atmospherics, strong writing and ripples through the airwaves in a laser light jam.
#23. Accords, Sylvain Cossette. Platinum JUNO-nominated bilingual artist Sylvain started out with the band Paradox that scored #24 hit “Waterline” in 1989. In 2014, he returned in top shape with album Accords with powerful vocals and guitars containing a little bit of everything: Francis Cabrel type ditty “Je t’écris”, sky-scraping lead single, “Seul”, and alternative rock nugget “La fin de notre histoire”.
#22. À la manière des anges, Mara Tremblay. Essentially an alternative work, the sixth album from the Hauterive, QC multiple Félix winner blends melancholic and chipper moods and is a little more energetic than some of the more laid back releases in the same category this year. The album merges alternative rock with both electronica and folk and contains both densely rich soundscapes and wispy climes.
#21. TimeBomb, Alyssa Reid. This solid pop album has a few snippets of funky narrative crowning it as the stylish jam it is. Alyssa Reid proves herself adept at blending urban grooves, dance beats, pop hooks, and electronic punches that make the whole package very luxuriant and current. Through all the sonic flourishes, her crisp, robust voice shines through making TimeBomb one of the year’s hippest records.
#20. Golden, Paige Morgan. After the release of three singles, this debut LP from the new Vancouver singer is a joy to listen to from start to finish and was crafted by a pool of the local elite who managed to turn over all the colours of Paige, a bona fide musical chameleon who easily handles all facets of the musical spectrum. This is the most eclectic pop album of the year and as such is a real treat for the ears.
#19. Our Stories Matter, Jonathan Li. This is album #2 from the independent artist whose style ranges from folk pop to rock. The album’s first two super catchy tracks, like a one-two hook, draw you right into a disc that is delightful throughout. We named “One Life” as the 3rd best song of 2014, one the catchiest songs we have ever heard. Jonathan Li is a natural and one of the best performers in the city of Calgary.
#18. Pagan Day, PyPy. Montreal punk rock quartet PyPy stunned us with their frenetic debut album Pagan Day. The driving, electrifying energy fans out the mohawks, female vocals wail, relentless Tones on Tail bass struts itself, black polished finger nails scratch along the echoing guitar strings, and vocal distortion effects chill us to the bones. Pagan Day is a totally decadent and so very delicious jam.
#17. Little Machines, LIGHTS. After a JUNO award, 2 gold albums, and 9 Billboard Hot 100 hits, Toronto electronic rock virtuoso LIGHTS returned with album #3, Little Machines. In terms of style, the album merges the synth pop catchiness of debut The Listening with the gritty experimental brilliance of Siberia. This is a host of infectious anthems all decked in handsome electronica and endearing vocal delivery.
#16. Kalaboogie, Doomsquad. Sibling Blumas trio created ambient moods from original textures qualifying them as archaeologists unearthing relics from both tribal villages and radically advanced metropolises on foreign planets. The robust hypnotic music proceeds from grunts and grinds through droning shimmers in some form of a Suspiria-based X-file. It’s dark and dense and absolutely brilliant.
#15. Nos cœurs ensemble, Alfa Rococo. The fabulous, multiple Félix Award winning electropop duo gets better with each release. This third offering is chock full of irresistible hooks and unanticipated detailed techniques. The electro pulses and gritty guitars on “Le sexe des anges” are as addictive as the smooth guitar plucks and whistling keys on “Deux” and the hum-along charm of the title track.
#14. #Round3, Elise Estrada. Round 3 continues the JUNO nominee’s expertise in delivering exuberant R&B/pop treasures filled with rhythmic fun, urban beats, and enticing teases. We think she is one of the best singers in the country; her voice is just beautiful. Here we have summer anthems, heart-melting ballads, a New Order sample, a dedication to typhoon victims, and a tribute to Amanda Todd.
#13. Little Lines, Robyn Dell’Unto. It comes as no surprise that the Mississaugan’s music is a favourite among television production entities. On Little Lines, her sweet voice adds colourful sprinkles to ear-pleasing melodies that soothe the heart and edify the spirit. Robyn’s style comfortably straddles pop and adult contemporary kingdoms and snugly perches itself between indie and mainstream grooves.
#12. Rookie, Catherine Leduc. A key member of Félix Award winning indie pop band Tricot Machine from Trois-Rivières, Leduc’s debut solo album, Rookie, embraces a different style: an artistic, dreamy folk pop and a mixture of the acoustic and electronic drenched with dreamy melancholy and charm. If Catherine considers herself a rookie, we can’t wait to hear what she has planned as a veteran!
#11. Occult Delight, Mode Moderne. On its third album, Vancouver outfit Mode Moderne rekindles the spirit of underground 80s new wave found in the dreamy vibes of early New Order and The Cure. It is a division of grief as opposed to joy with quirkily choice vocal style. Occult Delight cleverly blends intricate guitar work with synth textures, higher-pitched bass, and punky percussion which charms and excites.
#10. Avant l’aube, Stefie Shock. Montreal gold certified male soloist Stefie Shock (Stéphane Caron) is a creative genius and has dabbled in various styles of music since he went from a disc jockey to a recording artist in Y2K. Bilingual album Avant l’aube is essentially a new wave gem though he mixes in a few surprises. Some of these cuts are ripe for the dancefloor, all delivered in a cool baritone voice.
#9. Après la tombée du rideau, Patrick Norman. Canadian legend Patrick Norman, in celebration of his 45 years in music, released his 29th (wow!) album, Après la tombée du Rideau, and it’s profoundly beautiful. Although classified as country, a more accurate description would be 1970s soft rock compositional style, drenched in modern atmospherics, and sprinkled with cowboy country seasoning.
#8. Sea Island, Loscil. Vancouver’s looping oscillator (i.e. Scott Morgan) has been at it for a while but everything comes together and he hits his stride on Sea Island, one of the greatest ambient electronic albums ever to come out of Canada. Sweeping and airy, it subdues, it captivates, and it tugs the listener into a glorious hypnotic state. Track “Iona” alone is a world-class masterpiece of ambient electronica.
#7. Neon Zero, Die Mannequin. JUNO nominated Die Mannequin smoothly slithered from the punk proclivities of its past into full on modern rock and released the finest rock album of the year with plundering beats, measured synth touches, and loud, mangled metal guitars, all led by the glistening vocals of Care Failure. Neon Zero bristles with high octane ecstasy and potent adrenaline throughout.
#6. 27 fois l’aurore, Salomé Leclerc. Album #2 from this dynamo was hailed by critics all around the world as a masterpiece. Sculpted from folky basics, a latticework of art and electronics was continuously refined with intricate detail. Suspense and atmosphere abound and curve balls get thrown in. This is a hair-raising thrill ride through uncharted territory, always surprising and forever impressing.
#5. Crazy Enough, Bobby Wills. Calgarian CCMA Rising Star award winner Bobby Wills first landed on the Hot 100 with “Somebody Will” in 2013. We consider his third LP Crazy Enough the best country music album of the year with cleverly poetic lyrics, wonderful vocals, and alluring Building a Mystery guitar riffs. The music’s appeal stretches far beyond the quaint picket fences of country, even to the stars.
#4. Sound of a Woman, Kiesza. It’s rare to find an album where all tracks rate from good to excellent, and Kiesza’s Sound of a Woman is one such LP. Opening with her UK #1 and CA platinum smash, “Hideaway,” the Calgarian takes us on a sumptuous journey through deep house infused treasures punctuated by her exquisite vocal talents. If she can pull this off on a debut, her future looks glorious.
#3. Out of the Blue, Adam Smale. Originally from Bar River, ON, just east of Sault Ste Marie, Adam is a highly skilled seven-string jazz guitarist now based in New York. We had Out of the Blue, a masterpiece of instrumental jazz, on repeat through most of the year. It simultaneously invigorates and soothes with its highly intelligent sophisticated form. Adam’s guitar work is accompanied by a trio (bass, drums, keys).
#2. Let ‘Em Eat Cake, Alexz Johnson. Demi Lovato has said that it is because of Alexz Johnson that she decided to make a career in music. The 2nd formal LP from the Coquitlam, BC singer-songwriter is adult pop with soulful vocals, progressive undercurrents, a good groove, and crisp and robust drumming that carries everything at an exciting pace. Alexz has both substance and a style she can call her own.
Canadian Music Blog’s 2014 Album of the Year
Starting piano at 4 years old, mastering the guitar, and beginning to compose at age 10, this singer-songwriter from Montreal was inspired by the works of Sarah McLachlan, Norah Jones, and Adele. Recognized as a prodigy, the industry felt that, at 15 years of age, it was time for her debut album, and a team was assembled to assist her which included gold-certified artist Dumas. With the voice of an angel, majestic compositions, and stunningly beautiful music, the resulting album is nothing short of a masterpiece of soulful soft rock.
While listening to this, we kept wondering: how could adult contemporary music so mature spring from the heart of someone so young? The hair style featured on the album cover reminds us though that she still has some youthful spunk in her. And we should also mention that she has quite possibly the world’s most beautiful smile.
On the album, keys patter down like spring rain and are joined by some bluesy guitar, sparkling brass, and heart-tugging strings. The extra delicate arrangements and musicianship bring out the finesse of the composition, not to mention the voice. While the blood of the album is melancholy, it is pumped through channels gracefully with occasional intensity. It is as though we are riding on a low-flying raincloud over rush hour traffic, free of stressful gridlock and dry. Title-track opener and “Falling For You” heralded the LP as singles. An MV for the latter was released.
While several household names laid down some powerful poker hands in 2014, it was a 15-year-old newcomer from Montreal who dropped a royal flush.
The Canadian Music Blog declares Something Good by Montreal teen prodigy Azélie as 2014’s Album of the Year!
Domestically, the most successful album from a Canadian artist released in 2014 was Where I Belong by Bobby Bazini. It was 14th on Billboard Canada’s Top selling albums of the year chart surpassed both by albums from foreign artists as well as a couple of Canadian albums released in 2013. It and Serge Fiori’s self-titled work were the only two Canadian albums released in 2014 that were certified platinum by the end of the year.
Internationally, there were no Canadian blockbusters this year. The only album to appear in the United World Chart Top 40 of 2014 was Michael Bublé’s Christmas from 2011. In 2014, it became the first Canadian album release since Avril Lavigne’s Let Go in 2002 to achieve diamond sales and is the first Canadian album to hit diamond since Music Canada downgraded the status from 1 million units sold to 800K in 2008.
Five Canadian albums released in 2014 struck gold by the end of the year: Sarah Mclachlan’s Shine On, Marie-Mai’s M, Various Artists’ La Voix II, Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems, and Fred Pellerin’s Plus tard qu’on pense.
Through the year, five Canadian albums topped Billboard Canada’s weekly Albums Chart: the aforementioned works by Bazini, Fiori, McLachlan, and Cohen, plus Tracks of My Years by Bryan Adams. Albums making the weekly Top 10 numbered 51. By comparison, 2013 saw 10 number one albums, 38 making the Top 10. Billboard’s year-end Top 50 had 11 albums from Canadians. Of these, 7 were released in 2013 and 4 in 2014 (Bazini #14, Fiori #15, Cohen #24, and Marie-Mai #33). By comparison, 2013’s year-end Top 50 had 13 Canadian entries, 7 of which were released that year. The following table compares the last three years of successful albums.
|Top 10 Albums||44||38||51|
|Year-End Top 50 Albums||15||13||11|
Not included, though worth a mention, is album Rose Ave. by City and Colour’s international collaboration with Pink as duo You+Me. The album hit #1, was #32 on the year-end chart, and was certified gold by the end of the year.
Below is a comprehensive table of the most successful 2014 Canadian albums domestically. To be included in the list below, an album had to fulfill at least one of the following criteria:
A. Gold certification or higher (CE).
B. Appeared on the Top 50 year-end Billboard Canadian Albums Chart (YE).
C. Peaked in the Top 10 of the weekly Billboard Canadian Albums Chart (WP).
TOP CANADIAN ALBUMS OF 2014
|Where I Belong||Bobby Bazini||P||14||1|
|Serge Fiori||Serge Fiori||P||15||1|
|Popular Problems||Leonard Cohen||G||24||1|
|Shine On||Sarah McLachlan||G||1|
|La Voix II||Various Artists||G||2|
|Plus tard qu’on pense||Fred Pellerin||G||3|
|Tracks of My Years||Bryan Adams||1|
|Trauma: Season 5 Soundtrack||Coeur de pirate||2|
|Party For Your Life||Down With Webster||2|
|Everything Almost||Jann Arden||2|
|No Fixed Address||Nickelback||2|
|Lo-Fantasy||Sam Roberts Band||3|
|The Trews||The Trews||3|
|Jerome Couture||Jerome Couture||3|
|The Physical World||Death From Above 1979||3|
|Une fleur pour vous||Georges Hamel||4|
|Vivre debout||Gilles Vigneault||4|
|Little Secret||Nikki Yanofsky||4|
|Merci Serge Reggiani||Isabelle Boulay||4|
|Savages||Theory of a Deadman||4|
|Bahamas Is Afie||Bahamas||4|
|Very Good Bad Thing||Mother Mother||4|
|Olivier Dion||Olivier Dion||5|
|Don’t Kill the Magic||MAGIC!||5|
|The Shawn Mendes EP||Shawn Mendes||5|
|Ils chantent Louvain||Various Artists||5|
|On A Tous Quelque Chose||Various Artists||5|
|Sans regret||Brigitte Boisjoli||6|
|Between Illness and Migration||Your Favorite Enemies||6|
|We Go Home||Adam Cohen||6|
|Second Sight||Hey Rosetta!||6|
|Un homme qui vous resemble||Mario Pelchat||7|
|Highways, Heartaches …||Lisa LeBlanc||7|
|Advanced Basics||Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker||8|
|Brand New Day||Swollen Members||8|
|Oxygen : Inhale||Thousand Foot Krutch||8|
|Glory Under Dangerous Skies||Moist||8|
|3e rue sud||Maxime Landry||9|
|Une Seule Fois / Live 2013||Celine Dion||10|
|Face a l’ouest||Kevin Parent||10|
|Musique & Cinema||Bruno Pelletier/Guy St-Onge||10|
|La dans ma tete||Marc Dupre||10|