The Launch of 2018, Part 2

Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine Pin a Number One

With Logan Staats taking care of business last week, the second semaine of CTV’s The Launch saw a pair from Ottawa take the tiara. Mentors Scott Borchetta of Big Machine Group (tent of Taylor Swift), OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder, and Sugarland singer-songwriter Jennifer Nettles oversaw the launch of electro-pop music master Elijah Woods and singer Jamie Fine with their treatment of the Tedder-penned song “Ain’t Easy”. Borchetta was completely bowled over by Fine’s vocals describing her as a “street Adele”. Woods discovered her four years ago hearing her sing over a friend’s smartphone, and the two began working together a few days later. The song topped iTunes immediately upon release. Watch how things came together in the studio via the video embedded below.

Drake Bowls a Spare

There is only one thing that can knock out a pinned number one – a perfectly aimed bowling ball, and Drake let one loose. The above “Ain’t Easy” was knocked to #2 at iTunes by the Drake fastball, a new song entitled “God’s Plan”, part of a traditional (i.e. two-track) single. (“Diplomatic Immunity” sits on the B-Side.) In the new #1 song in Canada, Drake raps about how he thinks a higher power will not let him fail despite ill-will from his haters.

The JUNOs Get Bare Naked

The JUNO Awards recently announced this year’s inductee into the Music Hall of Fame – Barenaked Ladies along with ex-member Steven Page. BNL became extremely popular in Toronto long before breaking out nationally, and then internationally. The collective, that initially received some heat for its name, scored two Top 40 hits in Britain including “One Week” which made it to #5 there. Album Gordon was certified Diamond in Canada. BNL has won eight JUNO Awards to date. The group’s popularity was at its peak in the 1990s.

Gord Bamford and the New releases

Albertan platinum country star Gord Bamford releases his latest album Neon Smoke this week. JUNO winner Dubmatix joins Jamaican act Sly & Robbie for some reggae on Overdubbed. Heavy metal group Anvil is still rockin’ releasing its 17th studio album Pounding the Pavement. Singer-songwriter discs this week include one from two-time JUNO winner Bahamas (Earthtone) and newcomer Sarah Cripps, a self-titled work. A couple of sumptuous jazz albums are out. Chillout instrumental city jazz comes by way of The Francois Richard Quartet and Liberation. A New Standard from Thompson Egbo-Egbo is a bright piano-led sizzler. Rap LPs include Oddball Slang from Ontarian Fresh Air and an eponymous disc from Alberta’s Cadence Weapon.

Chillout R&B is at its finest on EP Joseph from Birthday Boy & Trish. Indie rock flies on Cycles deux from L’Indice. In the kingdom of pop, find excellence on La tristesse n’est qu’une saison by Eric Charland and T’écrire by Mégane Cyr.

We leave you with the brand new single/MV from good ol’ Coeur de pirate, “Prémonition”.

Ashes and Dreams Take Us on a Trip to Havana

WINNIPEG – Portage and Main is often regarded as the coldest spot in The Great White North with the wind chill’s awesome gravitational pull on the mercury; however, local duo Ashes and Dreams wants the locals and the rest of Canada to feel lots of warmth. Introducing new album Havana, a sumptuous work of electro chillout pop. On the disc, hear singer Lisa Saunders’ smooth vocals reminisce of her former trip to the Cuban isle reclining on warm, sunny beaches beneath the shade of towering palm trees. The album is given a generous dose of feel-good beats and ethnic flavours. “Hang Low” is an irresistible clap-along jam while one can vividly see coconuts dance in “Voice Inside”. Feel the boat jump the waves on its way south with opener “Havana”. Ashes and Dreams’ Havana is a pure delight that folks of all ages – from children through to seniors – can enjoy.  iTunes

The 25 Best Albums of 2017

We tracked a total of 678 Canadian artist albums released in 2017. Of these, 55 were greatest hits, various artist compilations, live albums, or holiday releases, and we did not count them towards contention for our Top 25 of the year. We ranked our favourite 25 of the remaining 623 after many listens regardless of genre, language, region, and relative popularity of the artist. These 25 represent an elite 4% of 2017 Canadian artist studio albums. 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 2017 including our Album of the Year!.

258 of Hearts by Blinker the Star

Since the mid-90s, Pembroke, Ontario’s Blinker the Star has been concocting some delicious music. 2017’s 8 of Hearts could be classified as alternative rock; in addition, you will hear a good dose of a retro progressive rock kneaded into the dough. At times, there are surprises, like a banjo on track “Heather” and haunting piano with fluttering analog synth on “Caves and Shadows”. Here are well written songs that are highly enjoyable to listen to. We’re lucky to have this great band aboard Team Canada.  iTunes

24The Space Between by Majid Jordan

It’s the Canadian duo that does R&B right. Majid Jordan brought us sophomore effort The Space Between. The Toronto pair is best known for giving Drake his first Top 5 hit as a main artist – “Hold On, We’re Going Home”. The Space Between sees Majid crooning smoothly over Jordan’s downtempo musicianship. It is chillout music with ground-shaking bass, addictive beats, cool grooves, and (thankfully) clean lyrics. Both those heavily into R&B and those not typically taken by the genre will find this little nugget diggable. The album features well-known artists dvsn and PartyNextDoor.  iTunes

23A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone by Mappe Of

Whitby, Ontario’s Tom Meikle, through Paper Bag Records, presented his debut album A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone under moniker Mappe Of. Lyrically, he populates the disc with an interesting gang of characters: a disturbed boy setting fire to his family’s home, a vagabond in Australia who’s disavowed all family ties, a Canadian youth figuring life out overseas, and an elder dying from Alzheimer’s who can’t recognize his family. Musically, the album is a dreamy, meta-dimensional sequence of alternative folk masterpieces. Mappe Of blends synthesizers with organic instruments including guitars (both acoustic and electric), trumpets, violins, kalimba, and autoharp. Where you allow this album to take you is entirely up to you; it’s filled with sonic magic.  iTunes

22LLL (Love, Loss, Latitude) by Wanting

Vancouver based Wanting released this, her third album. While keeping her singer-songwriter and adult contemporary sensibilities, she dressed some of the songs up with a slicker, more upbeat, electronic pop sound. Assisting her with this was producer Justin Gray whose impressive CV includes work with two MCs – Miley Cyrus and Mariah Carey. As a result, we get a nice blend of flavours. One of the things that makes LLL so enjoyable is that Wanting’s clear vocals shine though the music in such a way that you get drawn into the lyrics, and as far as lyrics go, she holds nothing back and tells it as it is. Check out especially tracks “You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore” and “Set You Free”. Wanting expresses without reservation the euphoric throes of love and the paralyzing sting of loss. Her skills at songwriting have never been stronger, and her vocals seem to have gotten even better. Every track here is enjoyable, and LLL is a beautiful album.  iTunes

21Love Is Gold by Ryan Kennedy

A singular voice and beautifully written smooth folk-pop songs deck this one. Last year, Ryan Kennedy‘s “Honest Song” stirred up some buzz and graced the airwaves in certain regions of the country; its MV has racked up over 100,000 views. He composed all tracks on the 2017 album, and there isn’t a single bland one in the batch. As both a singer and a songwriter, Kennedy aces both which is uncommon. Count this album a winner.  iTunes

20Midnight for a While by Walkwaves

Walkwaves, a Markham, Ontario group goes beyond the popular pool of smooth synth pop into the rougher seas of new wave here and succeeds. At times funky, at others gritty, but always with catchy beats and expressive vocals, Walwaves strikes us as a more organic Depeche Mode. Opener “Get You Out” burbles along carefully before switching on some rumbling bass pulses; it’s a delicious track. The catchy “Girls on Snapchat” combines vocal crooning with detailed instrumentation. While modern electronic musicians seem to perpetually use the same few synth/computer voices when there are thousands available, you’ll find a nice variety through the Walkwaves disc; find many on track “T.T.T.L.”. For something different, check out the atmospheric “Friend” one of the more experimental tracks which satisfies by throwing in unexpected musical twists. Closer “Nightfall” packs a nice punch to cap things off with a bang.  iTunes

19La grande nuit vidéo by Philippe B

Everybody enjoys a big video night. JUNO nominee and collaborator of such aces as Pierre Lapointe, Groenland, and Salomé Leclerc, Philippe B dazzles on fifth album, La grande nuit vidéo. Find meticulous attention to detail and a knack for penning masterful tunes with immaculate arrangements. Philippe is the sort of fellow who makes music critics drool copiously, a true champion of folk or singer-songwriter styles. On the album, he explores the bygone age when couples would spend the night together before cathode-ray screens watching television series, movies, and everything presented by the intelligent box of communication. The nostalgia abounds with superb orchestral arrangements and is augmented by the sweet guest vocals of Milk & Bone’s Laurence Lafond-Beaulne. If you want a work of art, this is it.  iTunes

18Antisocialites by Alvvays

Toronto group Alvvays pressed its sophomore album, Antisocialites. The band is helmed by Nova Scotian raised Molly Rankin. The smart mixing job appropriately obscures the vocals slightly on the shoegaze tracks, such as delicious opener “In Undertow”. And on jangly pop tracks, like “Dreams Tonight,” they shine through. Molly purposefully sings in a deadpan style which works well with the Alvvays design. The writing is strong and the fusion of flavours is seamless, as heard on songs like decade defying “Plimsoll Punks”. Although the cubby-hole genre does not have broad spectrum appeal, the musical composition here will waft onto many wanderers its charms. No one can resist a good tune, and Alvvays has the savvy to craft more than a few. Nicely done!  iTunes

17Finale by Mike Rocha

Toronto-based producer Mike Rocha surfed up a pleasant surprise, his debut album Finale. His past production credits include works from Greys, Electric Youth, Ivana Santilli, and Black Pistol Fire. The instrumental electronica, led by the Prophet ’08 synthesizer, at times amusing and at others dark, is highly cinematic and rich enough to please fans of both classic and modern sides of the field of time. The weaves of sound succeed in eliciting tension, urgency, thrills, suspense, and all emotional rollercoaster effects required for an entertaining film experience. At times, you will feel like you’re listening to a therapeutic mixtape in The Unborn, being hunted by the terminator, or inside the complex of Ex Machina. Finale is as good as anything done by Markus Guentner or any of the other acclaimed crafters of the genre.  iTunes

16There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light by Stars

Twinkling ever so brightly is this one by Quebec group Stars, produced by Peter Katis who has done an excellent job blending orchestral manoeuvres with upbeat synth pop. As always, Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell take turns at the mic delivering sensitive lyrics. The album was heralded by single “Privilege” which opens the disc. Playful B-side “We Call It Love” is included. “Losing to You”, at over 6 minutes, is packed with enough goodies to keep you captivated: a nocturnal shimmer that breaks into slapping beats and burbling bass. Another standout is “Hope Avenue” suggesting a place to go for Strange Advance’s “We Run”. “Real Thing” seals the deal for a great album, a synth pop ace. Even on the mellower tracks, genius is present, an example being “California, I Love That Name”. “Wanderers” is the perfect closer, dramatic and feel-goody. Three JUNO nominations, all for Alternative Album of the Year, are among Stars’ achievements.  iTunes

15Cindy Doire présente: Panorama by Cindy Doire

With origins in Timmins, Ontario, and serving as one-half of popular singer-songwriter duo Scarlett Jane, Cindy Doire presents her fourth solo album Panorama. The disc is a genre-defying collection of carefully calculated catchy compositions encompassing measured grooves. The panoramic sound is both ethereal and delicate, as Cindy concocts a new style for this work, an amalgam of dream pop and Moog synthesizer inflected folk all wrapped up in a silvery sheath of angelic vocals. On production detail is Mark Howard (Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, and Tom Waits). Cindy Doire présente: Panorama is an album for the intelligent who love to dream. It soothes, captivates, and rearranges frayed emotions into perfect order.  iTunes

14Hug of Thunder by Broken Social Scene

Toronto collective Broken Social Scene (a.k.a. BSS) has scored two gold albums each of which won a JUNO (Alternative Album of the Year). At the core of the lineup which has gone anywhere from six to nineteen members were founders Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning. Though a hit single has eluded the group, critical acclaim has poured in. BSS failed to stay afloat announcing a hiatus in 2010, but in 2017 experienced a strong return via this fab new album. Onboard are such notables as Feist and Metric’s Emily Haines & Jimmy Shaw; 15 members are on the disc. Track “Halfway Home”, absolutely epic, combines a towering Coldplay anthem with intelligent Arcade Fire facets; this was our favourite cut. Metric’s Emily Haines seems to have set off on a ski jump with a gliding vocal delivery while guitars pump the air beneath her in “Protest Song”. “Skyline” blends the cinematic folk of Grapes of Wrath with the alternative atmospherics of Love & Rockets; we dig the guitar work yielding to boss percussion halfway through. The popular “Stay Happy” is funky, quirky, and bold. Feist takes the mic in title-track “Hug of Thunder” drenched with her signature choppy approach, flickering bass, and subdued boom.  iTunes

13Black Moon by AMAARA

Triple threat Kaelen Ohm, recording artist, actress, and award-winning filmmaker, released album Black Moon under moniker Amaara. Technically an LP (with six tracks, it has a run time of 27 minutes), the album is drenched in dream pop atmospherics. Amaara, having served as a member of Reuben and the Dark, proves she can make just as satisfying music as a soloist. The music frolics airily through lullabies, fantasies, and fairy tale magic. The exceptional title-track perfectly delivers her style. “Dreamcatcher” blends the ominous with the soothing before breaking into a soft flow. Amaara’s Black Moon is a hauntingly beautiful album for those seeking something magical.  iTunes

12L’appartement by Ludovic Alarie

Handsome Canadian singer-songwriter Ludovic Alarie of Montreal gave us his second album L’appartement. Essentially an alternative work, Ludovic writes beautiful folky songs and dresses them with sparkles of electronic hooks. In mood, L’appartement drips with pacifying melancholy. Alarie says the music embodies the “feeling of an apartment in which you lived, how you were, how you evolved, and all the feelings and memories that are attached to it”. He says the musical composition came to him quite quickly but the lyrics not so much, explaining that it took him only 3 or 4 days to finish the music but 3 or 4 months to complete the poetry. Of lyrics, he feels he is completing a puzzle where each word has a precise spot. Overall album production was handled by Warren C. Spicer of locally based group Plants and Animals. Whether you live in an apartment, a condo, or a house, Ludovic Alarie’s L’appartement will fill the rooms with alluring songs. This one’s a keeper.  iTunes

11Human Voicing by The Luyas

Montreal indie alt-rock group The Luyas hit the scene in 2006 and saw a Polaris Prize nomination for third studio album Animator in 2013. The band is known for including some unusual instruments in its recordings. Human Voicing is album number four. The Luyas, currently signed to Paper Bag Records, are four members including lead singer Jessie Stein. The vocals hit the spot, and the music is well-written and intelligent. Our ears remained engaged throughout most of the album. There’s a nice wall of sound, dynamic and stimulating, and edgy without being too noisy. An enjoyable listening experience from one of the world’s better indie bands.  iTunes

10Themes for Dying Earth by Teen Daze

Teen Daze, i.e. B.C. Fraser Valley’s Jamison Isaak, has a formidable work ethic releasing two albums this year. We loved both but were quite taken with this, the earlier disc. It features contributions from Jon Anderson, Sean Carey, Nadia Hulett, Sound of Ceres, and Dustin Wong. The album is a fine banquet of electronic ambient pop that explores themes of nature as a respite from the concrete forest, and the environment as something to be conserved. The album opens with “Cycle,” which begins an exploration of the artist’s personal experience dealing with anxiety and depression, and branches out to examine external forces, like climate change, that affect those moods. Another standout track, “Lost,” gently flutters in like a colourful butterfly before opening up droning vocal harmonies and bringing in Nadia Hulett’s twinkling serenade toward the close. Teen Daze’s Themes for Dying Earth expertly spins a crystalline web of dream and euphoria.  iTunes

9You Don’t Know by Jenna Nation

As far as R&B goes, it doesn’t get much better than Toronto’s Jenna Nation. You Don’t Know was the best album of the genre through the year. It includes her stunning vocal work, ground shaking beats, and a ton of atmosphere, with melodies, sky-scraping choruses, and all the trimmings of a masterful recording. The album’s standout track if there is one is “Can’t Get Over You” with bass to drool over. Electronic pizzazz abounds on “I Love It” and mysterious grooves animate the title track.  iTunes

8La vie qu’il nous reste by Marc Dupré

Canadian superstar Marc Dupré launched his sixth album in 2017 – La vie qu’il nous reste. It swiftly scrambled into the iTunes Top 10. Two of Marc’s previous albums have gone gold. Five of his songs have appeared in the Billboard Hot 100 including Félix song of the year winner “Nous sommes les mêmes” at #47. This album is one of the best pop albums of 2017, chock full of very enticing tracks enhanced by sharp production and an uplifting delivery.  iTunes

7Departures, Vol. I by North Atlantic Drift

When we think of ambient electronica, the Germans come to mind as being world leaders of the genre. Well, guess what, Canadians rank right up there too. You will not believe your ears when you take in the sounds of North Atlantic Drift‘s Departures, Vol. I. This is a duo from Toronto, and it was one of the best albums in the genre that we’d heard in a long time. “Temperance” is an instant classic.  iTunes


With this album, Oakville, Ontario’s Allie X earned a pass into the league of extraordinary pop music pros. She hit her stride and is now in a position to charm the masses with her brand of catchy synth pop. A Billboard Hot 100 charting artist, thanks to “Catch” (#55), Alexandra Ashley Hughes launched a career in indie pop from Toronto. Four years ago, her talents took her to Los Angeles, US where she worked as a songwriter and on her own music, often collaborating with JUNO award winning Canadian producer Cirkut. CollXtion II is her first formal full-length album. Choice cuts include ripe-for-radio whistling and plucky opener “Paper Love”. Slow-burning “Need You” combines seductive flickering percussion with an effective processed vocal feature of Valley Girl. “Lifted” crescendos into an exhilarating reggae-tinged chorus. A similar effect envelops the slightly eerie “Simon Says” which creeps into a synth-spicy chorus. Giving the album a large wattage of shimmer is “Old Habits Die Hard”. Previously released as a single, “That’s So Us” has perhaps the album’s winning melody. Strong writing for CollXtion II is enhanced by pristine production. Ideas have been carefully cultivated into perfect fruition.  iTunes

5Future Politics by Austra

Austra is a JUNO nominated electronic pop project from Toronto, created by Katie Stelmanis in 2009 and includes three other players. Future Politics is album number three. It offers a tighter, punchier sound than the previous two with addictive beats and instant likeability. Lyrically, the songs are smart in not offering specific political ideas in a world where a cacophony of entrenched opinions and opposing interests is flourishing fiercely, scattering humanity into different antagonistic camps. Universal themes are touched upon, for example that both exploitation and mendicancy are undeserving of praise. Katie also re-introduces the subject of alienation by technology, certainly truer in today’s world with ubiquitous cell phone finger tapping. She does this, however, with a warmer presentation than grim visions presented by say Ultravox in “Dislocation”. As such, the album has more of a hopeful vision of the future and inspires us to be creative in conjuring up new and better systems of society than the worn-out models of today. And amidst the chaos and the hostile arguments, it reminds us too, via the cover, that you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. Austra’s Future Politics offers a refreshing cleanse for wearied minds.  iTunes

4Fear/Nothing by The Belle Game

Vancouver group The Belle Game launched Fear / Nothing, its second LP. While the debut was an adventurous trek of a band trying out different things, everything gels on #2, and the group hits its stride. The music packs quite a punch, with its appreciable energy, dreamy crooning from lead singer Andrea Lo, rich, piercing synthesizers, and addictive percussion. Track “Spirit” is one of best songs of 2017 released anywhere in the world; it’s the kind of uplifting number with which any artist would love to close out a show. Onboard the Belle Game team for this album are producers Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene) and Dave Hamelin (The Stills). Fear / Nothing is both dynamic and dramatic encompassing a sound described by the band as “crush pop”.  iTunes

3Noir Éden by Peter Peter

Peter Peter, a synthpop specialist, Quebec City native, and multiple Polaris Prize nominee, cast forth his third studio album, Noir éden. He proves on this record that he is especially good at crafting a catchy and satisfying chorus. We highlight some standout tracks such as delightful keys dancing along in “Damien,” reminiscent of say Gazebo’s “I Like Chopin” or Double’s “The Captain of Her Heart”. “Allégresse” includes a nice touch of aloof vocal work that Phèdre did so well on “Ancient Nouveau”. Hear captivating bass synth on the title track adding nicely to other detailed touches in a very well put-together song. “Loving Game” is pure 80s, a bilingual, pulse-driven standout with French verses and an English chorus. Noir éden is Peter Peter’s best work yet and so much worth checking out for fans of the genre.  iTunes

2The Courtneys II by The Courtneys

Vancouver indie fuzz rock trio The Courtneys debuted in 2013 with a set that impressed on an international scale. In fact, New Zealand’s Flying Nun Records signed the group to oversee the sequel, The Courtneys II. The aloof, sugary singing from drummer “Cute Courtney” binds nicely with “Classic Courtney’s” exciting phaneritic guitar work. Together with “Crazy Courtney” on bass, the trio takes us on a highly engaging ride through lo-fi slacker culture and bubble-gum garage punk. The disc opens with “Silver Velvet”. “Country Song” bursts with a wall of guitars, the album’s standout jam. “Lost Boys” pays tribute to the 80s’ vampire craze while surf rock dresses up “Mars Attacks”. This was easily 2017’s best rock album. No contest.  iTunes


Canadian Music Blog’s 2017 Album of the Year

Our 2017 album of the year artist is from Cranbrook, BC. When she was just 15, she was signed to Madonna’s Maverick label as bass player of all-girl JUNO nominated rock group Lillix. Now based in Vancouver and signed as a soloist to Light Organ Records, always ready to participate in various projects including new wave band Gold and Youth, this slayer released her third solo record in early 2017. It earned a Polaris Prize nomination. The album is introspective, guitar-oriented new wave with some strokes of synth, New Orderesque high-pitched bass pulses, and tight drumming. But there’s more to the opus. Track “Strange Weather” sees her master the country-inspired genre, complete with lap steel! The tunes are deliciously shadowy, and her bright vocals and energetic delivery give it a sunny glaze. There’s the charming “Pharaoh”, the delicious “Moonlight Shadow”, the dreamy and dazzling “Hyesteria”, and the gliding surf of “Who’s the Madman”, the latter as good as anything done by Echo and the Bunnymen. This is yet another ace for one of Canada’s most underrated talents, and her best work to date: great singer, songwriter, and musician. The Canadian Music Blog declares Young Mopes by Louise Burns as 2017’s Album of the Year!  iTunes

The 10 Best EPs of 2017

An extended play record (EP), as far as we are concerned, is one with at least three original tracks that have a combined run time of less than 25 minutes. Sometimes remixes of one or more tracks on the EP result in a disc run time of over 25 minutes. We still consider these to be EPs. We do not count as an EP a disc with only one or two original songs plus various remixes of them. We may consider as an EP a collection of bonus tracks released as an addendum to a studio album even if it runs over the 25-minute mark.

Canadian music blog editors tracked 128 qualifying extended play records from Canadian artists released in 2017. We listened to all and settled upon a year-end ranking of the 10 best regardless of genre. Find below our 10 favourite Canadian artist EPs of 2017 including our 2017 Extended Play Record of the Year! 

10Joseph of Mercury by Joseph of Mercury

Toronto’s Joseph Salusbury, under stage name Joseph of Mercury, had the thermometer visibly rising with the release of his superb 2017 EP. It’s 80s synth pop combined with 50s velvety crooning. He has the theatrical good sense of Freddie Mercury, captures the excitement of Future Islands, and dishes out the echo heavy proclivities of Roy Orbison. With the Joseph of Mercury disc, the man was named artist of the week by Apple Music in both The United States and Canada. The beats are well done, and the ride is one of unexpected twists; the whole package sounds fresh and is as engaging as fireworks on the 1st of July. This is quite the ace in the hole and we look forward to a full-length from this super talented artist in the future.  iTunes

9Beautiful Chaos by Kayla Diamond

Toronto’s Kayla Diamond dropped her debut mini album Beautiful Chaos which contains some of the finest pop music of 2017. Kayla’s academic pursuits in law school were interrupted when she won Slaight Music’s It’s Your Shot Contest and was offered a recording contract with Cadence Music. Leading up to the EP release was her delicious single “Carnival Hearts” which got her named iHeartRadio’s Future Star for the month of July. The song did well hitting airwaves across the country, getting spun into the hundreds of thousands on Spotify, and charting on Shazam. But the EP has much more to offer with well crafted charmers dressed with her glittery vocals.  iTunes

8Maps on the Palms by Aléatoire ft. Alina Libkind

Though he started out on guitar, Montreal’s Charles-Alain Roy expertly crafts chillout electronic music under the moniker Aléatoire (French for random) and presented EP Maps on the Palms containing four tracks all featuring the exquisite vocal talents of Toronto’s Alina Libkind. “Immune”, previously released as a single, received a nice writeup in Fader Magazine which stated the song “weaves a crushing set of circumstances into a warm and blissful light at the end of the tunnel”. Indeed, the tracks are each a comfortable cushioned sofa and serve as hypnotic neon lights pushing away the darkness of night with sonic flashes and shimmers all dressed with Alina’s mesmerizing coos.  iTunes

7Electric Heart by Emily Rowed

Vancouver’s Emily Rowed was heavily into folk music when EDM wizard Tiësto chose her as the voice on “Say Something”, a reworking of the song by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera. She found the progressive currents exciting and decided to make music that was bigger, more energetic, colourful, and electric. Signed to world renowned label 604 Records, Emily launched her single “Arrows” in May. Presenting a warm vocal delivery, the song is rooted in her acoustic songwriting while brought into fruition by smart alt-pop production. The La+ch remix of the track dresses the music with more ornate electronics. Rowed heralded her EP Electric Heart with the exquisite song “Electric”. Beginning as a boot-stomping bluesy number, it morphs into an advanced sculpture with both electric and electronic grooves. The other tracks on the disc are just as popular: “Burn” flickers, “Swords” cuts to the chase, and “Rubies” dances brightly.  iTunes

6Natasha Zimbaro by Natasha Zimbaro

From the Metro Vancouver city of Maple Ridge is this country newcomer who decked 2017 with her debut EP, an eponymous one. The six-track disc followed the release of single “Rebound” last October. Her name is Natasha Zimbaro, and if her name or face seems familiar, that may be because she was a finalist in Simon Cowell’s X Factor UK in 2011. Moreover, she was one of three in pop group Prty H3ro who placed two singles in the Billboard Hot 100, “Life of the Party” and “Young & Shameless”. As a soloist, Natasha has decided to return to her country roots, the genre she embraced when she became a teenager. Natasha gives the country music scene what it needs – a fresh, vibrant, youthful style, and she injects a wallop of confident energy into the genre. Picture Back to the Future III’s Doc Brown tossing some Presto logs into the locomotive boiler. That’s what Natasha does here. She elevates country music to a dynamic realm. She has a great voice and the music on this is fab.  iTunes

5Relax by Kashka

Kashka is the project name of Toronto’s Kat Burns who had us all smiles with synthpop EP Relax. Standout tracks include the burbling, glittery “Holding Steady”; funky, chiming “Wild Things”; and trippy yet sobering “Reset/Outro” propelled by eerie synths and backed by grieving strings. As the EP’s title suggests, this is music to relax to with unprocessed, crystal clear vocals, haunting electronica, and superb songwriting, in short everything a fan of progressive music can ask for.  iTunes

4In Comes the Night by Bobby Wills

Calgary’s Bobby Wills released a stellar EP in 2017, In Comes the Night, heralded by two singles, “Get While the Gettin’s Good” and the title-track. The writing, vocal delivery, and production are all top-notch making this 7-track disc a gem among the year’s country music releases. The EP soothes, exhilarates, and has us cheering as great track follows great track. It was a fabulous late summer release that had us welcoming the fall. Bobby Wills won the CCMA Rising Star Award in 2013 and the following year released his music through MDM Recordings.  iTunes

3Lolaa by Lolaa

Sisters Lex Valentine and Nadia Valerie King formed pop duo LOLAA last year launching debut single “Always Been” with backing vocals by Love Inc.’s Simone Denny. The duo put on some live shows around the GTA supporting such acts as MSTRKRFT. Lex and Nadia are not necessarily new to the game; they were part of rock trio Magneta Lane which has put out some albums. On board the LOLAA project is producer Jon Drew (Tokyo Police Club). The duo cites Gloria Estefan, Kim Carnes, Laura Branigan, Debbie Harry, and Donna Summer as influences. On the EP, find six radio quality pop charmers with memorable melodies, pleasant vocals, and addictive beats. This one has a nice bite to it.  iTunes

2First Move by Stacey

Toronto’s Stacey is surfing at the forefront of a new wave of music we can describe as “nuage-pop” being made right here in Canada. Canadian women such as Stacey, Rosemary Fairweather, and Amaara are world leaders in making ambient pop music with crystal clear vocals and dreamy keyboard sequences. It’s all very exciting. Stacey offers a style that is at times a little more vigorous. Her latest EP is entitled First Move, and it comes with five exquisite tracks. They take on a nice balance between soothing background mood music and surging foreground suds of captivation.  iTunes

1Canadian Music Blog’s 2017 EP of the Year

The quality of progressive pop music kept bubbling up to new heights through 2017. The best extended play record of the year harnesses the sound of the decade that began with the release of Atari’s Missile Command and closed out with the introduction of the first Game Boys. Fresh 2017 synthpop was crafted by a Toronto slick stylist of cool who found herself signed to prestigious label 604 Records. The EP borders on the excellence delivered by Tegan & Sara on the duo’s last two LPs. And in fact the Quin twins became fans of this disc, a pretty big endorsement. Find half a dozen bright, burbling, and melodic gems that conjure up scenes of playing Tomy’s Waterful Ring-Toss. If nothing else, track “Tease” should make your day. Canadian Music Blog declares Ralph by Ralph as 2017’s Extended Play Record of the Year!  iTunes

Ten 2017 Christmas Albums Worth Checking Out

It’s been proven that a good Christmas album, even though it contains songs that have been covered hundreds of times over the years, can sell very well. As the folks who celebrate the holiday yearn for fresh interpretations by their favourite artists to listen to while they wrap gifts and decorate the tree, we present 10 Canadian artist Christmas albums released in the past couple of months. These are listed alphabetically by title. Hopefully one of these will appeal to you.

Christmas Caravan by Sultans of String

A trio of JUNO nominations grace this Ontarian string quintet. Beyond string arrangements, the world music group combines shards of traditional Arabic, Cuban, French, and Spanish styles: everything from Flamenco to Gypsy jazz. Christmas Caravan includes a number of prominent vocalists: Crystal Shawanda, Nikki Yanofsky, and Alex Cuba among them. Well-known holiday treats include “Little Drummer Boy” and “Jingle Bells”. Also find Turkishified “Greensleeves”. A culturally rich masterwork. iTunes

Christmas Together by The Tenors

Triple platinum JUNO winning group The Tenors originated from Victoria, BC. The trio is comprised of humble gentlemen with pristine, handsome vocals. This is the second Christmas album to appear from the group. The disc includes two originals and eight classics, the latter including “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”. A beautiful production.  iTunes

Coconut Christmas by The Lost Fingers

For something more on the upbeat side, comes this world-flavoured pop charmer. The Lost Fingers struck platinum and attracted a pair of JUNO nominations. It’s interesting listening to the Christmas songs done in tropical style but remember that many people celebrate the holiday in the tropics. It’s only about snow and cold weather in the north. There’s also some Indian folk; check out “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. Find “Sleigh Ride” and “Blue Christmas” but also some comical tracks like Austin-Powers approved “Santa’s Lost His Mojo”. Enjoy as well a cover of U2’s “New Years Day”. This is a fun one. iTunes

Les Gars Du Nord by Les Gars Du Nord

The Acadians are coming! The Acadians are coming! Four popular singers from New Brunswick band together to form this group and create a Christmas album in Acadian folk style. The singers are 2003 Star Academy winner Wilfred Le Bouthillier, Maxime McGraw, Jean-Marc Couture, and Danny Boudreau. Find John Lennon’s “War Is Over (Happy Xmas)” and “Minuit, chrétiens” (“O Holy Night”). Get down to earth in the heartland with this one.  iTunes

Imagine by Heather Rankin

While in the Atlantic, let’s swing over to Nova Scotia to find the hometown of Heather Rankin, a JUNO nominee. With candy cane vocals, she gifts us with this very soothing and peaceful holiday record. The album contains lots of originals and a few covers. “Once in Royal David’s City” and “Picture Perfect” are very well done. Also find an exquisite cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine”. Relax and let this album remove all stress away.  iTunes

Lumieres d’hiver by Emilie-Claire Barlow

This two-time Ontarian JUNO winning jazz vocalist dresses up jazzy piano driven songs with her sumptuous vocals. Find nice string and percussion arrangements on “Le dernier Noël”. Popular singer Ingrid St-Pierre joins her on “Hey Santa” and Mitsou (of “Bye Bye Mon Cowboy” fame) on “As-tu vu le Père Noël?” The latter track has a righteous saxophone solo. If nothing else, this album is the female counterpart to Michael Bublé’s Christmas record. Invigorating.  iTunes

Lux by Choir of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, Jonathan Oldengarm & Jean-Sébastien Vallée

For those who like their Christmas music more on the spiritual side, this work should do the trick. Gorgeous human voices in choir with a church organ is always magical. The album impressed staff at iTunes who put it best: “Imagine a large snow-covered church at Christmas, lit only by candles, the voices of a well-trained choir curling up into the roof.” The album reminds us that the world’s most beautiful instrument is the human voice. “What Child Is This?” just may make you cry. Warm and glowing with cushions of comfort.  iTunes

Noël Ensemble by Mario Pelchat and Les Prêtres

Gifted vocalist, platinum recording artist, and four-time JUNO nominee Mario Pelchat scored a gold album this year when he teamed up with Les Prêtres on Agnus Dei. This holiday season, he presents Les Prêtres in Christmas album Noël Ensemble. A legion of popular singers, besides Mario, guest including legendary Joe Bocan, Cindy Daniel, popular folk duo 2Frères, and Tocadéo. The album has a nice blending of classical and folk flavours.  iTunes

Old School Yule! By Matt Dusk

Triple JUNO nominee Matt Dusk has a gold record among his achievements. The Ontarian serves a swing jazz Christmas album that should do it for fans of old blue eyes and the rat pack. It’s bright and cheerful. Enjoy the perky “Sleigh Ride” and smooth “Do You Hear What I Hear?” For those who like old school adult pop vocal, Matt’s the man – forthright and confident.  iTunes

Peace, Love and Opera by Julien Brody

Twelve-year-olds rejoice! One of your own has become a star. Julien Body’s dream is to become an opera singer, and he’s off to a splendid start. The dapper fellow with the assistance of Giancarlo Scalia drops a real winner that will inspire desires for peace on earth. This is a sweet one.  iTunes

You Don’t Know, Jenna Nation

As far as R&B goes, it doesn’t get much better than Toronto’s Jenna Nation. You Don’t Know is the name of her new album. It includes her stunning vocal work, ground shaking beats, and a ton of atmosphere, with melodies, sky-scraping choruses, and all the trimmings of a masterful recording. The album’s standout track if there is one is “Can’t Get Over You” with bass to drool over. Electronic pizzazz abounds on “I Love It” and mysterious grooves animate the title track. Jenna Nation’s You Don’t Know is in the running for R&B album of the year (2017).  iTunes

Dec 1, 2017 Releases: Neil Young, Heather Rankin

What’s Hot

1. Mabou, Nova Scotia’s Heather Rankin scored a JUNO nominated album last time around. Now she delights with a seasonal album called Imagine. It is a mixture of Christmas classics and new holiday songs all dressed up with her sweet vocals.

2. Ottawa’s Daniel Taylor has under his toque a whopping 11 JUNO nominations, yet to win one. He is definitely one of the finest talents in the land when it comes to classical music. The new disc is The Path to Paradise and features the vocal talents of The Trinity Choir.

3. With 9 JUNO trophies, Winnipeg’s Neil Young needs no introduction. The latest album of new material is politically charged The Visitor. Neil is joined by players Promise of the Real. The style on this one is 70s flavoured rock.

4. From St. John’s, Newfoundland is JUNO nominated folk rock group Rawlins Cross presenting new EP Rock Steady.

What’s Cool

1. Classitronic is the name of the game for Marie-Pier. This gifted gal combines electronic lounge music with the soothing vibrations of the cello. Cello Lounge is a beautiful relaxing and invigorating instrumental album, very nicely done.

2. Cinematic arrangements, airy vocals, and downtempo beats, reminding us a little of Delerium, collective Clann serves a fine electronic album in Seelie. It is part of an ambitious multimedia project which combines the music with a number of short movies which is to culminate in a feature film. The album contains the vocal talents of Charlotte Oleena and violinist Chloe Picard.

3. Jenna Nation is back with album You Don’t Know. Simply put, it is one of the finest R&B albums of 2017. Besides being accessible to pop lovers, bursting with choice beats and Jenna’s great vocals, the album is rich in atmosphere making it a winner.

4. Hudson Alexander debuts with an EP to make your party sizzle. This gifted producer is originally from Winnipeg. The disc is called We’re Gonna Have a Party and contains four dancey electronic super jams. Great fun.

Find these and more Canadian releases in the table below.

Cello Lounge Marie-Pier  Classitronic
French Kiss Joe Rocca Rap
Hku Ty-Q Rap
Imagine Heather Rankin Christmas
OMW Gisto Rap
The Path to Paradise Daniel Taylor  Classical
Revolution conservatrice Mononc’ Serge  Rock
Say Less Roy Wood$ R&B
Seelie Clann Electronic
Synergy Rob Tardik Fusion
The Visitor Neil Young & Promise… Rock
You Don’t Know Jenna Nation R&B
We’re Gonna Have a Party (EP) Hudson Alexander Party
Rock Steady (EP) Rawlins Cross Folk Rock

Kayla Diamond Sparkles Through Beautiful Chaos

Toronto’s Kayla Diamond recently dropped her debut mini album Beautiful Chaos which contains some of the finest pop music of 2017. Kayla’s academic pursuits in law school were interrupted when she won Slaight Music’s It’s Your Shot Contest and was offered a recording contract with Cadence Music. Leading up to the EP release was her delicious single “Carnival Hearts” which got her named iHeartRadio’s Future Star for the month of July. The song did well hitting airwaves across the country, getting spun into the hundreds of thousands on Spotify, and charting on Shazam. But the EP has much more to offer with well crafted charmers dressed with her glittery vocals.  iTunes

24 November 2017 Releases: Kayla Diamond, Julien Brody…

Albums this week range from 12-year-old aspiring opera singer Julien Brody and his Christmas album Peace, Love and Opera to 83-year-old legend Jean-Pierre Ferland and La vie m’émeut, l’amour m’étonne. It’s a diverse batch in terms of style. A standout, and one of the best pop releases of the year, is debut mini album Beautiful Chaos from Toronto’s Kayla Diamond. Her song “Carnival Hearts” received some radio spins this year. Kayla was studying to be a lawyer; we’re glad she made the switch to a music career. Find a list of 15 LPs and 5 EPs/mini albums below. We leave you with “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” from the aforementioned Julien.

Les backroads Daniel Goguen  Country
Blue Smoke… Cousin Harley Country
Fil de fer Mélanie Renaud AC
Give Me That Beat The Achromatics Alt Pop
Intense cité Paul Cargnello  Alternative
Jimmy & The Moon  Stephen Stanley Band Alternative
Menestrel Jeff Dubé  Folk Rock
Nocturne Only Mikey Manville Rock
Pacem Hugh Christopher Brown  S-S
Peace, Love and Opera Julien Brody  Christmas
Rapthor Nordheim Metal
Tarmacadam Les Tireux d’Roches Folk
Underdog Overlord Edward Sayers Alt Rock
La vie m’émeut… Jean-Pierre Ferland  S-S
X-Dreamer LeRiche Alternative
Beautiful Chaos (EP) Kayla Diamond Pop
Geode (EP) Courtney Dubois S-S
Odd Man Rush (EP) Be Astronaut Rock
The Projektor II (EP) Alex St. Kitts R&B
A Strange Curiosity (EP) The Reed Effect Rock

Wanting: Third Time’s the Charm

Vancouver based Wanting recently released her third album, LLL which stands for Love, Loss, and Latitude (Nettwerk Music Group). While keeping her singer-songwriter and adult contemporary sensibilities, she has dressed some of the songs up with a slicker, more upbeat, electronic pop sound. Assisting her with this is producer Justin Gray whose impressive CV includes work with two MCs – Miley Cyrus and Mariah Carey. As a result, we get a nice blend of flavours. It has been four long years since Wanting’s last disc, though she has been putting out some singles leading up to this new album.

One of the things that makes LLL so enjoyable is that Wanting’s clear vocals shine though the music in such a way that you get drawn into the lyrics, and as far as lyrics go, she holds nothing back and tells it as it is. Check out especially tracks “You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore” and “Set You Free”. Wanting expresses without reservation the euphoric throes of love and the paralyzing sting of loss. LLL draws inspiration from Wanting’s highly publicized relationship with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, with the album being wrapped up a year prior to the couple’s mutual decision to call it quits.

Wanting’s skills at songwriting have never been stronger, and her vocals seem to have gotten even better. Musically, the disc’s crowning achievement is perhaps its closer, the Chinese language “Best Plan”, a powerful piano ballad which is absolutely gorgeous. Feeling responsible for infusing elements of her culture into modern pop music, club banger “Moon and Back” brings the traditional Chinese instrument erhu into the mix. Every track here is enjoyable, and LLL is a beautiful album. We’re very, very lucky to have Wanting with us. What a breath of fresh air.  iTunes

November 17, 2017 Releases: Rymz, BNL, Les Gars Du Nord

The number of weekly new releases is on the decline as we head towards the end of the year. We just have 11 albums and an EP this week. October has been the busiest month with over a hundred Canadian artist LPs.

They say that in the late 1970s in Britain record contracts flowed like water for any artists making punk music. It would seem that in the late 2010s in Canada the same is true for rap music. There are four new rap albums out this week. Christmas albums are less abundant, but there are a few of those.

Leading the pack is Mille Soleils from rapper Rymz which is outselling Tove Lo at iTunes and currently sits at #4.

Next, we have Fake Nudes from The Barenaked Ladies. There’s nothing fake about the band’s success – a diamond album award and eight JUNOs – much of it due to its knack for penning colourful lyrics.

The Acadians are coming! Four popular Acadian artists from New Brunswick have teamed up to make a folk Christmas album. The group and the album bear the title Les Gars Du Nord. The album is selling well.

Find these and more in the table below … but first, enjoy the brand new MV from Shawn Hook – “Never Let Me Let You Go”.

The Amber Room Maurice Moore R&B
Coach Fresh Maestro Fresh Wes  Rap
Fake Nudes Barenaked Ladies Pop
Les Gars Du Nord Les Gars Du Nord Christmas
Johnny Goldtooth/Chevy Casanovas  Kevin Breit  Guitar
Larme de guerrier Ampee Rap
Léveillée, entre Claude et moi Marie Denise Pelletier AC
Lux St. Andrew & St. Paul Church Choirs… Christmas
Marée haute Émile Proulx-Cloutier  Alt Pop
Mille Soleils Rymz Rap
A New Christmas (EP) Florence K Christmas


25 Canadian Artist 2017 Albums Have Made the Top 10

Three Canadian artist albums debut in the Top 10 this week. Leading the batch is retro adult contemporary Revival from Johnny Reid at #4. Mario Pelchat and Les Prêtres team up to release a second 2017 album. The first one, Agnus Dei, has been certified gold. Now the team releases Christmas album Noël Ensemble which features a number of guest singers. The album debuts at #6. Right behind at #7 is excellent pop album La vie qu’il nous reste from Marc Dupré.

This brings the tally up to 25 Canadian artist albums released in 2017 making the Top 10, five of which hit #1. Two albums have gone gold, one platinum, and one double platinum. Eleven of the 25 are from Quebec artists, nine Ontario, three British Columbia, and two Alberta. Edmonton’s Ruth B struck gold with her album Safe Haven despite its not reaching the Top 10. Drake‘s More Life is the most successful to date achieving double platinum sales and debuting at #1. Second is Arcade Fire‘s Everything Now, also a #1 album and attaining platinum status. View the albums below.

Remembrance Day 2017 Releases: 2Frères, Buffy, Blaine

The big release this week is the highly anticipated sophomore album from molten hot platinum folk-pop duo 2Frères. La route is giving Taylor Swift a run for her money, currently sitting at #3 at iTunes behind the new comedy album from funny Canuck François Pérusse.

Legendary Saskatchewan singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie is back with a new disc. She combines new songs with re-recordings of some of her old ones she felt sounded dated having been recorded with archaic technology. The new album is called Medicine Songs.

Country music’s Jason Blaine has propped 7 songs up into the Billboard Hot 100. Boy with a Guitar is the Name of his new EP.

New age artist Teen Daze, stage name of Abbotsford, BC’s Jamison Isaak, has been working hard this year, as he drops his second 2017 album, Themes for a New Earth which follows February’s Themes for Dying Earth.

Find these and more Canadian artist albums in the table below.

Une année record Loud QC Rap
Apu peikussiaku Shauit QC Reggae
Awakening Yiannis ON World
La gymnastique de l’amour Anthony Roussel QC Folk
It Don’t Get Better Than This Norm Brunet ON Country
Mautaditement Bori Edgar Bori QC AC
Medicine Songs Buffy Sainte-Marie SK S-S
Occasion Yoël Diaz & Cubarteto OC Cuban Jazz
Place Holder Vissia AB Folk Rock
The Quiet Erosion Cardinals Pride QC Metal
La route 2Freres QC Folk Pop
Subduction Julie Thériault QC Classical
Themes from a New Earth Teen Daze BC New Age
Boy with a Guitar (EP) Jason Blaine ON Country
Chronicles from the Cave (EP) Val Thomas QC Folk

Nico Lelièvre Searches for Treasure in the Lowlands

Nico Lelièvre recently dropped his latest offering, alternative rock album Le trésor des bas-fonds. While we took to melancholy closing track “Un monde parfait” immediately, the album as a whole grew on us. Nico’s vocals often taken on a mopey stance and are at times abrasive in an attempt to personify the spirit of the song lyrics (think of Stromae in “Alors on danse”). Nico was born in Nice, France but emigrated to Canada as a youngling. He names The Cure and Sigur Ros as influences. The new album musically is quite brilliant with expert musicianship including exciting rock drumming.  iTunes

Ria Mae Is on Fire

Nova Scotia’s Ria Mae is one of the hottest new songwriters out there. Four of her songs have landed in the Billboard Hot 100 including “Clothes Off” (#31), a platinum single. Ria’s latest disc is EP My Love. It exposes her knack for writing catchy songs and does a nice job at fusion pop – hear touches of new wave, folk, blues, you name it, all blended into an amalgam of choiceness. The disc includes her current Billboard Hot 100 hit “Bend” and on “Broken” features Calgary’s Tegan Quin (one-half of Tegan & Sara). Ria Mae is Ralph, Serena Ryder, and Shawn Mendes rolled into one. My Love is a very good pop EP. Below is the MV for “Bend” currently at 440k views which is quite something.  iTunes