Laurence Nerbonne Wins a JUNO and Deluxifies XO

No one was more surprised at winning the coveted Francophone Album of the Year JUNO for 2017 than its recipient, Laurence Nerbonne. Laurence is the ex-lead of group Hôtel Morphée. Her debut album as a soloist, XO, took home the JUNO trophy in somewhat of an upset amidst fellow nominees of high profile. In making her album, Laurence had to break through the mould of the heavily entrenched folk-leaning musique Francophone in Canada.

“The hip hop or dance beats, it really was all done in the English language by the Americans,” Laurence says. “We Francophones have a tradition with composition, the French song, the folklore. When you look at it, it is nothing but folk music that is rhythmic. Our musical history is built around the guitar.” To do something more pop,” Laurence comments, “It’s so difficult to write in French! It’s so square, and also it takes a lot of words to convey a simple idea.” As progressive pop music has been handled successfully in the French tongue by artists like Ariane Moffatt, Mylène Farmer and her protégée Alizée, Nerbonne began an intense period of listening carefully to songs from Stromae and Christine and The Queens to see how the music, lyrics, and production all worked to deliver a pleasing modern Franco pop sound.

Laurence Nerbonne boldly left behind the rich tradition of folk, the acoustic guitars, the fiddles, to the colourful field of electropop where artists like Robyn and MØ roam happily. She swam against the current penning empowering lyrics, bold melodies, and danceable rhythms.

“People around me listen to what’s going on internationally: Beyoncé, Disclosure, et cetera. I don’t know if it’s because we [in Quebec] are not game or not ready, but the impression is that we never dare go there. We are very afraid to make pop because of what others will say.”

Nerbonne recently released a deluxe version of her JUNO-winning album XO. It contains three bonus tracks, one of which features Jason Bajada.

Laurence Nerbonne is originally from Gatineau, Quebec. In addition to her Juno Award win, she won the 2016 SOCAN Songwriting Prize in the French-language division for the song “Rêves d’été”. Music video for album opener “Si ton coeur bat” embedded below.  iTunes

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The Most Successful 2016 Canadian Albums

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The only Canadian album released in 2016 to be certified multiplatinum by the end of the year was Celine Dion’s Encore un soir (double platinum). Highest up on the Billboard year-end albums chart was Drake’s Views at #3. Eight Canadian albums released in 2016 hit #1 on the weekly charts. Below are two tables. The first in a list of all 2016 albums that received gold/platinum certifications by the end of the year, appeared on the year-end Billboard chart, or made the Top 5 of the weekly charts. The second table has all 2016-released albums that peaked at #6 to #10 on the weekly charts. Note that only albums released in 2016 are included. There were a number of albums released in previous years (especially 2015) that appeared on the weekly and year-end charts for 2016. A number of the 2016 albums will no doubt continue to sell in 2017 and may receive higher gold/platinum certification in the future. Thirty-five 2016 Canadian artist albums made the weekly Top 10 in the Billboard Canadian Albums chart. Sarah McLachlan’s Christmas record Wonderland did not make the Top 10 but managed to go gold through steady sales over a number of weeks.

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New Music Video from Award-Winning Fred Fortin

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The super talented Fred Fortin won two Quebec music industry awards this year for his fifth career album Ultramarr, released 20 years after his debut self-titled work in 1996. Those two ADISQ Félix awards were for Critically Acclaimed Album of the Year and Songwriter/Composer of the Year. The album was also named by iTunes Canada staff as the best Francophone album of 2016, and we would say it has a good chance of getting nominated for a JUNO. Fred has five birth names; his full name is Joseph Antoine Frédéric Fortin Perron. He’s originally from Dolbeau-Mistassini, QC which is a town of just under 15,000 in the north. Ultramarr is certainly a wholesome work. Fred recently released an artistic music video for one of the album’s more popular tracks, “Oiseau”. We embed it below.  iTunes

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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The 10 Best EPs of 2016

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An extended play record (EP), as far as we are concerned, is one than has a total run time of less than 25 minutes and has at least three unique songs. One exception is a disc over 25 minutes that is an addendum to an album, i.e. a collection of bonus tracks or outtakes from an album’s recording sessions. Another exception is one in which a remix of a track on the disc puts it over 25 minutes. We did not include remix EPs (i.e. a disc containing several remixes of one or two songs). Below is a list of our 10 favourite Canadian artist EPs of 2016 among the 136 that came to our attention through the year.

10Heliocentric by The Coriolis Project

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Vancouver’s The Coriolis Project concocts ambient atmospheres in Heliocentric, a disc that takes us on a cinematic ride through beauteous anthems dedicated to the four directions of the compass. Chirps, thunder, and lasers animate the north, chants and mystical brews deck the east, burbles and tinkling adorn the west, and in our favourite track “South” find oceanic chimes and hypnotic hymns. Very cool stuff.  iTunes

9Kaylee Johnston by Kaylee Johnston

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Vancouver up and coming pop artist Kaylee Johnston on her second, self-titled EP provides six original songs plus a remix of one all dressed with her vocals of honey. The writing is particularly strong and thus it comes as no surprise that Kaylee has opened for such acts as Ace of Base and has shared the stage with One Republic and Joe Jonas. Don’t miss out on this exquisite pop EP.  iTunes

8Beaches by HWYS

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Progressive Montreal duo HWYS released debut EP Beaches following some buzz generated by singles “Bliss” and “Stranger”. This superb disc combines modern synthpop with old school romantic pop. The analogue synths provide a welcome nostalgic feel while the melodies are catchy. A pleasant addition to your music library.  iTunes

7Weightless by Olivia Penalva

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Weightless by Vernon, BC’s teen ace Olivia Penalva contains wonderful, mature or AC pop songs, and the singer herself sports a voice as sweet as Alessia Cara’s. Track “Skyline” gained some traction at radio, and she received a feature in Nielsen Music’s weekly newsletter. The EP contains nuggets of pizzazz making it sound both fresh and experienced. This one is just wonderful.  iTunes

6Arto Arto by Elliott Vincent Jones

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Toronto’s Elliott Vincent Jones has a knack for making good things along the artery of new age and art pop and has performed and recorded in various locales around the world. He has opened for such acts as Tame Impala, Blood Orange, and Majical Cloudz. Debut EP Arto Arto does an excellent job at providing well-written songs with an 80s synthpop vibe reminiscent of an act like Blancmange with some Brian Eno glaze.  iTunes

5CDW by Charlotte Day Wilson

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Praises from all over wafted in for the debut EP from Toronto’s Charlotte Day Wilson, another smoking hot R&B singer like Julie Crochetière. When we say R&B, we mean the classy, smooth style that acts like Sade did so well. This is mellow, sultry soul done right. Charlotte has worked with Badbadnotgood as well as River Tiber. Disc CDW is mood music at its best.   iTunes

4Every Last Chance by Every Last Chance

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“Spotlight” featuring the vocals of Crystalyne’s Marissa Dattoli was the most infectious EDM track since “This Is What It Feels Like” by Armin van Buuren featuring North Vancouver’s Trevor Guthrie. This CMB 2015 song of the year by project Every Last Chance gained some traction at radio. Its followup “Roll the Credits”, with vocal duties handled by Toronto singer-songwriter David Spekter, debuted on the Mainstream AC Billboard chart at #37. Every Last Chance put these two charmers along with three more pearls of EDM on its self-titled EP, a must for enthusiasts of the genre.   iTunes

3Arrows Part 2 by Stef Lang

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A multiple Billboard Hot 100 charting artist, Vancouver Island’s Stef Lang releases 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. Opener “Warrior Face” will get you a-chuckin’ and a-jivin’ right away. The following two tracks keep the pace exciting before “Toxins” pulls back allowing for a nice sensation of gliding. “Face the Arrows” takes a reflective, almost dreamy stance which finishes things off beautifully. The incomparable indie champ Stef Lang wrote and produced the entire disc. Arrows Part 2 is simply boss. iTunes

2Emotion: Side B by Carly Rae Jepsen

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Mission, BC’s Carly Rae Jepsen became a darling of the critics who placed her third studio LP Emotion at the top of their 2015 best album lists. Carly decided to release a companion volume of album outtakes and throwaways most of which were hailed as better than 90% of the pop songs of 2016. And that’s quite impressive. This jewel of an EP, hailed as the best one of the year by U.S. music blog Idolator, is a must-acquire disc for fans of tasty pop music.   iTunes

1Canadian Music Blog’s 2016 EP of the Year

Following the release of six singles, this Albertan recording artist launched her debut EP. And with that she won Pop Artist of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards. The Calgary Herald called her the perfect combination of sensitive singer-songwriter and flashy pop star. The disc, which showcases some delicious flavours of pop delivered perfectly by her seductively spicy vocals, was released through Hands Up! Records. Opening with the shimmering electronic sparkle of “Diamond Eyes”, Waves continues to splash up savoury treats from soul bop anthem “Out of My Head”, through the dreamy Caribbean smooth of “Tattoo”, alt-pop charmer “Miss Me” (plus an upbeat remix), peppy cool of “So Simple”, to the punchy, fun waddles of “Antidote”. The Canadian Music Blog declares Waves by Lexi Strate as 2016’s EP of the year.   iTunes

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2016 Christmas Releases

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A number of Christmas albums have been released this tail end of 2016. This is a synopsis.

For those who dig something with true soul, Quebec’s powerhouse singer Mélissa Bédard gives Christmas standards the R&B treatment with pizzazz. The album is titled Ma liste de Noël. Man, can this gal sing! Find Franco versions of “What Child Is This?”, “Joy to the World”, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”, and many more. Melissa was a Star Academy finalist.

Male tenor singing group Tocadéo continues Christmas classics on beautiful bilingual album Meilleurs Voeux. Find “Minuit, Chrétiens” (O Holy Night), “Blue Christmas”, and “Petit Papa Noël”.

To put some glee into the young ones, Ari Cui Cui delivers children’s music Christmas album Le Noël d’Ari Cui Cui. This one is Franco and very delightful.

JUNO nominated roots duo Madison Violet from Toronto do Anglo album Sleigh Bells in the Snow. This one’s a bit stripped down and raw for those who enjoy a measured pace delicately delivered. Find “Silver Bells”, “Deck the Halls”, and “The Christmas Song”. Very nice little record.

For those who love instrumental strings, Les Violons du Roy is a chamber orchestra based in Québec City and founded in 1984 by Bernard Labadie. The group has performed in Europe and The United States and won a trio of JUNO Awards. Symphonies des Noëls interprets seasonal-inspired pieces by a number of European composers of old. The album is just gorgeous. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the wintry spirit of the classical music should hit the spot.

The big name release this year is of course Wonderland by Halifax-bred Sarah McLachlan. This is her second Christmas album and is, as one would expect, very professionally arranged. Hear her golden falsetto on “Angles We Have Heard on High”, “Let It Snow”, and “White Christmas”.

From Sarah’s hometown is indie-folk group Quiet Parade and holiday EP Christmas Through the Fog. The four tracks close with the band’s impressive original composition, “Heavy Winter”.

Last year, singer-songwriter Lesley Pike of Toronto delivered an album called November. This year, she releases atmospheric Christmas themed EP December.

Vancouver pop/R&B duo Dani and Lizzy who released debut album Work of Heart in September, release 3-track EP Just Like a Shooting Star. The first two tracks are holiday themed. The third is a live acoustic version of viral hit single “Dancing in the Sky”.

Happy holidays from Canadian Music Blog.

New Releases 2 December 2016

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Celebrated Montreal-based EDM duo Adventure Club has released the select party album to close out the year with a smash. Red // Blue is the title of the debut LP. It features a troupe of ear-massaging choice vocalists and includes a brilliant collaboration with DallasK. Red // Blue, as the title suggests, is as hot as it is super cool.  iTunes

No stranger to the Billboard Hot 100, whether teaming up with fellow Ontarian Alyssa Reid, drawing inspiration from Rockwell, or flying solo, the talented Virginia to Vegas, alias of Guelph’s American-born Derik Baker, has released his debut album, Utopian. If nothing else, the LP reminds us of his indomitable knack for crafting savoury EDM-inflected pop. We are very fortunate to have this ace a part of team Canada.  iTunes

Also from Guelph, ON is as yet to be crowned master of cool-groove R&B Elaquent. Worst Case Scenario is his latest LP. Mostly instrumental, it is filled with sumptuous beats and chillout vibes. Kick back, relax and enjoy this great work from this marvellous producer.  iTunes

Niagara Falls’ deadmau5 is back decking the electronic music halls with his eighth album W:/2016Album/. At times, spacey and others gritty, the mostly instrumental disc sparkles along with relaxed beats and atmospheric shimmers.  iTunes

Twin Sisters Dani & Lizzy Create a Work of Heart

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As far as twin sister duos go, Tegan and Sara are not the only members of the club. Vancouver duo 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” (see MV below) 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 instant pop crush waves as in “Dive In”. Dani & Lizzy’s Work of Heart is a super fun record that will have you all smiles.  iTunes

Daniel Bélanger’s DIY Paloma Is a Hit

daniel-belanger-palomaTwo-time JUNO winner and multiplatinum Canadian recording artist Daniel Bélanger released his tenth album Paloma last week. It follows the Montrealer’s adventure into rockabilly territory with his last effort, 2013’s Chic de ville. The new album 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

Selected New Releases 25 November 2016

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The main question this week is … who was brave enough to release an album the same day as The Weeknd? Quite a few actually, both newcomers and legends.

Speaking of the latter, Montreal’s Jean-Pierre Ferland releases album Chansons jalouses. As the title suggests, this is a covers album of songs he wished he had written. The man is now in his 80s and still going strong.

Next, we have two rap albums both from Quebec based Franco artists Infrak‘s La chute de l’ange is filled with heavy beats and twirly keys while Disstrick11‘s Délit de fuite is more vocal heavy.

From Roberval, QC is 4-piece puck-handling garage rock band Les Dales Hawerchuk, and the album is Désavantage numérique for those who like their music cranked and adrenaline eliciting.

Beaubassin East, NB’s George Belliveau gives us an array of delightful bop-rock jingles on new album Drop l’aiguille.

For those who pine for old school jazzy, funky R&B, a treat for you is Pain & Bliss, the new LP from Montreal’s The Brooks.

Multiple JUNO award winner Daniel Bélanger is back with excellent album Paloma which is not surprisingly giving the Weeknd a run for his money on the charts. The album is one of expertly sculpted rock filled with details and flourish.

The Weeknd‘s Starboy, at the summit of the iTunes charts, is arguably his best yet. Though a collaboration with Lana Del Rey is wasted on a brief interlude track and “Secrets” gives up invention by sampling from Tears for Fears and borrowing from The Romantics, the Torontonian deserves credit for keeping good music going through this entire double album which is not easy to do.

Legendary classical / new age pianist André Gagnon knows how to capture the spirit of winter as he proves once again on instrumental work Les voix intérieures.

More piano music can be found on various artists’ album Doux moments pour Philou (not pictured above). The artists include Florence K, Coral Egan, and Stephan Moccio. This album completes a trilogy. The first two won Félix awards. Each artist is asked to contribute either an original piece or a cover and record it on piano. All proceeds from the sale of the album will be donated to the Center Philou which helps families who have children with severe disabilities.  iTunes

Twin Rains Has an Automatic Hand

The debut album of Toronto-formed, Vancouver-based electro dream pop duo Twin Rains has 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 intriguingly engaged throughout the whole album unable to predict what was next around the bend. Automatic Hand is an album not to be missed. Preview below.  iTunes

The Familiar Touch of Diana

diana-familiar-touchToronto trio Diana may or may not have drawn inspiration from Paul Anka’s breakout hit but musically the path is paved with electronic intentions. Album number two has hit the shelves, Familiar Touch. The first effort attracted a Polaris nomination. Less scattered round two is a more cohesive effort and overall a better album. Exclaim mag rates it a 9/10. On the smoother and flatter versus richer and spicier electronic scale, the album sits in about the middle. Some tracks include lots of random beats which can be appreciated by some. The mood here is more subdued than perky and goes for the dream jugular at its close with “These Words” complete with fuzz guitar and the sombre glide of “Take It Over”. “What You Get” and “Moment of Silence” have the best chance of being accepted into the synthpop canon. We feel that Diana is at the top of its game when it strives for creativity without being too experimental. Track “Cry” is an example. Diana’s Familiar Touch is pure awesomeness.  iTunes

Selected New Releases November 18, 2016

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The Albums

We begin this week’s batch of new releases with Angels Bend Closer from Guelph’s artistic ace Jane Siberry. She is best known for her big radio hit “One More Colour” from 1985. The sparkling new album can best be described perhaps as alternative adult contemporary.

Toronto dream pop duo Twin Rains is all about Automatic Hands, its debut album. The songs are very well written and effectively engender a subdued mood. Check out the delicious funky track “Flash Burn”. The album barely has a dull moment making it one of our top picks among this week’s releases.

Nicely done as well is Chérie, les heures from Montreal’s François Roy. Essentially, this is a singer-songwriter work, though with some alternative vibes kneaded in for some smile-inducing thrills.

La Crete, Alberta is home to country superstar duo High Valley. The Brothers made the iTunes Top 10 with new album Dear Life. High Valley is one of the top hopefuls for a Canadian country breakthrough internationally, and the new album, slickly produced, will definitely rev up the momentum.

From Jane Siberry’s hometown of Guelph, there is another star. Her name is Andrea Lindsay. The JUNO award winner was raised an Anglophone but learned French as a second language and opted to make Franco music especially with husband Luc de Larochellière. On new album Entre le jazz et la java she tries her hand at jazz and succeeds brilliantly.

Toronto electronic outfit Diana is back with new album Familiar Touch which is getting rave reviews. Add ours to the list. The trio is in top form when cooking up more creative tracks; “Cry” is a standout for us, but the whole album is an enjoyable ride.

Heading on up to Edmonton, 100 Mile House delivers new album Hiraeth, the married couple’s fourth. This should knock the wind out of those who love roots music on the smooth and reflective rather than noisy, raucous side. The arrangements are very impressive and beautiful.

Traditional folk doesn’t get much better than Regina’s The Dead South. Illusion & Doubt is perky and fun. The fourpiece band will get you slapping your knee along with these sweet ditties.

London’s Rose Cora Perry presents rock album Onto the Floor. She provides a nice range from Patti Smith type piano rock to the swaggering pump of “Empty” for which she recently released a music video.

From south riverside Quebec comes rapper Saye and album Ultimatum. He is joined by some of the biggest names of the genre in Canada like Souldia and Koriass.

Guelph artists have certainly been busy this week. Jim Guthrie joins JJ Ipsen to concoct the instrumental soundtrack of construction and management simulation video game Planet Coaster entitled You, Me & Gravity. You’ll have to wait a bit for the amusement park game to hit the shelves but you can enjoy the music now.

The EPs

Dance music (house) with some R&B inflection is done incredibly well on new EP Another Chance from Sandy Duperval. She’s based in Canada’s indie music capital of Montreal, and the EP is so good we wish there would be more Canadian artists making this kind of music. A collaboration with Kiesza would be choice.

Hawksley Workman teams up with Thomas D’Arcy as Tommy Hawkins on alternative rock EP Amy. With quirky vocals, this should hit the spot for fans of the genre.

Montreal’s Lydia Kepinski offers some alternative singer-songwriter cool on her EP entitled … EP. The songs are exceptionally well-crafted; thus, we really look forward to her career as it unfolds.

Last, but not least, the destination is Winnipeg! The five members of band Lanikai, “like the Hawaiian beach they get their name from, mix the serene and the stormy, pulling together lush, sparkling alt-pop vibes and swaggering ‘60s soul groove to create a timeless, distinctive sound,” as stated on the group’s Facebook page, a perfect description of the fine, self-titled EP.

Other Cool Stuff

Vancouver’s alluring alt-pop female trio The Katherines will be releasing a new LP in the new year. Paul Janz’ son Colin who records under the name Frederick is featured on track “Better Off Now” which is available on iTunes. Frederick himself has launched sumptuous single “Silver Light”.

Also of note, hot folky award winning artist Safia Nolin has released a collection of covers in Reprises Vol. 1. which is in the iTunes Top 10.

A number of Christmas albums are coming out these days. We will profile them at some point in December.

Summer Is Gone, Bobby Bazini

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bobby-bazini-summer-is-gone1Canadian soul singer Bobby Bazini has 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 new album which shipped gold prior to release was heralded by single “C’est La Vie”, which topped the CBC Radio 2 chart, as well as a release show in Toronto. Summer Is Gone was recorded in the U.S. and Britain with producer Martin Terefe (Mike Posner, James Morisson, James Blunt, Cat Stevens, KT Tunstall, Shawn Mendes, and Jason Mraz). Onboard the project were songwriters Eg White (Adele, Florence and the Machine), Samuel Dixon (Adele, Sia), Jimmy Hogarth (Amy Winehouse, James Bay), Jake Gosling (Ed Sheeran, One Direction), and country sensation Chris Stapleton. Bazini will tour Canada in 2017 in support of the album.

“On my first album,” Bazini states, “I essentially recorded the first batch of songs I had written. For my second album, I saw myself as an artist actively choosing a direction. I wanted something old school – and working with Larry Klein and Booker T gave it that classic vibe.” In addressing the new album, he says, “Now, I want to preserve the organic feel but modernize it at the same time for a blend of the old and the new.”

On Summer Is Gone, Bobby Bazini harnesses the energy of contemporary soul surfing waves while digging down musically to the roots of the legendary artists who inspired him. A track is titled after and dedicated to Leonard Cohen who recently passed away. Bobby appeared on CBC’s The National to convey how much the iconic genius meant to 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.

New Releases: Remembrance Day 2016

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Hailing from Trois-Rivières, QW4RTZ kicks off this week’s new albums with some fine a cappella pop covers on A Cappella 101. On Goodnight City, Montreal’s Martha Wainwright shows that she is continually reaching new heights of creative genius with her brand of alternative singer-songwriter ditties. For those kept awake by belly dancing zombies, do acknowledge that no dearth of ideas is present in Ottawa rapper Belly, as he unleashes his second 2016 studio album, Inzombia.

His song “Polaroid” has been dominating the Franco radio airwaves this year and also cleaning up in the sales department, and now Granby, QC’s Alex Nevsky launches solid electropop album Nos Eldorados. Guests on the disc include hip hop star Koriass and none other than Coeur de pirate. Montreal alternative rock band Chocolat returns to seduce us with Rencontrer Looloo. Triumph’s Rik Emmett says he wanted to bend it like Beckham, and the result is rock album Res9 with RESolution 9.

Also from Toronto, electropop group Dragonette gives us a shot of the Royal Blues in which they search for “Lost Teenagers”, a “Future Ghost”, and of course “Darth Vader”. Let’s “Let the Night Fall”, then shall we. For some beautiful classical vibes, Alexandre Da Costa plays his violin backed by the Vienna Symphony on Stradivarius à l’Opéra. The JUNO award winning musician is from Montreal. Last, but not least, platinum soul singer Bobby Bazini releases his third studio album, Summer Is Gone. Expect it to outsell most of the competition. If nothing else, track “C’est La Vie” is one of the best songs of 2016. There is also a track on the recently deceased legend Leonard Cohen.

Singles

A few significant singles debut this week. These include “St. Lucia” by Bernice (alias of Toronto’s Robin Dann). The alternative R&B song debuted at Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 program and The Fader and is released through label Arts & Crafts.

Internationally charting Brampton, ON pop star Alyssa Reid has released brand new track “Badlands”.

Finally, we are super grateful for a new song by the incomparable Keshia Chanté, “The Valley”.

You can grab a copy of these 3 delicious tracks from iTunes.