24 New Releases 9 September 2016


We have 24 works to talk about this week which we will summarize alphabetically by title with the LPs first. First up is Frères D’ombre a rap duo from Rimouski, QC examining verbal attacks on album Attentat verbal. Vancouver’s Bear Mountain champions miscellany on very good new album Badu by giving us some jazzy electronica, funk, soul, and other spices. Fans of classical music, especially piano, will enjoy Charles Richard-Hamelin‘s live album Beethoven, Enescu & Chopin: Works for Piano. Toronto’s Harrison, clothes music mostly on the urban side with an electronic tuque on Checkpoint Titanium; guests include JUNO winner Ryan Hemsworth.

Country music is done with class and charm on Cœur sédentaire, the new disc from St-Tite, QC’s Cindy Bédard. Energetic folk reminding us at times of Lisa LeBlanc is done excellently by Dolbeau-Mistassini, QC’s Sara Dufour on album Dépanneur Pierrette. At first listen, you would think the new album from multiple JUNO winner Daniel Lanois (Hull, QC) was an electronic work, but with special effects, all the ambient instrumental pieces were made with pedal/lap steel only. Goodbye to Language is quite a remarkable work of art. One of the best progmetal works we’ve heard in a long time comes to us on LP The Human Paradox by Montreal’s Fractal Cypher; very nicely done!

La Chicane collaborator, the man who apparently plays every instrument except drums, Dany Bédar, a JUNO nominee, releases country tinged album Le meilleur de moi. He’s from Val-d’Or, QC. Manitoban platinum recording artist Daniel Lavoie returns with his 23rd album Mes longs voyages impressing us with tantalizing originals and handsomifying covers with his gruff vocal style. The music is just beautiful decked with puffs of nostalgic jazz and quiet rhythms. There are not too many female rappers, but thankfully Quebec City’s Marie-Chantale Mercure, known as McM, launches her debut album Militante, and it is one of the best hip hop albums of 2016. Montreal’s Sébastien Lacombe releases quite a good singer-songwriter album in which he kneads in various world music flavours; it is called Nous serons des milliers.

Progressive folk expert Catherine Durand of Montreal takes our breath away with hauntingly gorgeous album La pluie entre nous. Wistful singer-songwriter tunes are crafted expertly on Returning Current from Toronto duo Snowblink. Niagara Falls country swashbuckler Tim Hicks whips out a new batch of revved up tunes on his third album Shake These Walls; it debuted in the iTunes Top 10 upon release. Exalt is a four-man metal outfit from Kitchener, getting the distorted guitars splitting rocks on album The Shape You Took Before the Ache.

New Brunswick’s Annie Blanchard, a Star Academy finalist, gifts us with an album of covers showcasing her beautiful vocals. The songs are done in mainly a heartland style and include “The Rose”, “If You Could Read My Mind”, and album title track “Those Were the Days”. Toronto JUNO winning alternative rock band July Talk wants to Touch us with its new album; Tanya Tagaq guest stars and the album currently finds itself in the iTunes Top 10 along with Hicks’. Edmonton is shining thanks to recording artist Jesse & The Dandelions and alternative pop/rock work True Blue. Canadian artists, including Natasha St-Pier, Mario Pelchat, and Cindy Daniel, band together to make a tribute album to Roger Whittaker – Mon pays bleu. Another various artist album, though more on the R&B side than country, is Future Hits 2016 with tracks from Karl Wolf, Lukay, and more.

Teen Beamer Wigley of Penticton, BC is a new country artist and quite a prodigy judging by the quality of his EP Meteorite. Another EP worth checking out is Songs by Calgary raised wiL presenting welcome atmospheric alt rock. On a side note, Cœur de Pirate has teamed up with French artists Arthur H and Marc Lavoine for LP Les souliers rouges inspired by Michael Powell’s film The Red Shoes.

Annie Blanchard Unseals 2014 with Her Third Album

Annie BlanchardSinger-songwriter Annie Blanchard is from New Brunswick and became a finalist in Montréal’s Star Académie in 2005 after working as a hairstylist. Her interpretation of “Évangéline” was awarded the Félix Award by ADISQ for Song of the Year. Annie toured with Mario Pelchat in 2007 and has worked with legend Renée Martel among others. She presents a style of pretty Acadian heartland music with accents of country. Blanchard gives us the first album of 2014 from a major artist, and it is simply gorgeous. Infectious sing-along track “Retrouver l’horizon” with its spicy guitar work is currently being offered as a free download by iTunes. The album contains 11 tracks—10 French and 1 English. She has set the bar high for the reminder of albums due out this year. It’s a good beginning.  iTunes

Star Académie

What Canadian Idol was to English Canada, Star Académie was to French Canada. Although based in Québec, contestants could be from anywhere in Canada so long as they could sing in French. Auditions, however, were normally run only in Quebec, Ontario, and New Brunswick. As with Canadian Idol, Star Academie began in 2003. Young people competed for the title of best singer.

Interestingly, in France the show was called by the English name Star Academy. Politics in Quebec demanded a title in French. Star Académie, however, is not grammatically correct; it should be Académie des stars.

Star Academie was hosted by chat show personality Julie Snyder. After the auditions, fourteen people were selected to compete (seven of each gender). The judges and public voted for the singers after seeing their performances. The singer with the highest votes was safe; the others were put on the line.

Like other idol shows, Star Academie drew criticism for profiteering. Production mega-corporation Quebecor heavily promoted the show to bring in large profits. As a result, artistic integrity turned into a celebrity-making machine. Voters were charged a dollar per vote.

One of the more positive aspects of the show was that it was attended by many high-profile guest performers including Lady Gaga, Bryan Adams, Céline Dion, Roger Hodgson (of Supertramp), Samantha Fox, Isabelle Boulay, Daniel Lavoie, Lara Fabian, Marjo, Beau Dommage, Roch Voisine, Gino Vannelli, Natasha St-Pier, Michel Rivard, Claude Léveillée, Daniel Boucher, and Paul Piché.

After the 2005, season, the show went on a four-year hiatus but returned again in 2009.

Many of the contestants, who did not win, released albums. Generally-speaking the contestants of Star Academy had more successful careers than those on Canadian Idol. Marie-Élaine Thibert, who did not win, has released three albums. Her debut went 3x platinum in Canada and her other two went platinum. She won the Felix for Female Artist of the Year twice. Her single “Toi l’inoubliable” was certified 6x platinum. Whereas no Canadian Idol singers won Juno awards, some of the Star Academie contestants have won Felix awards.

The Winners

2003: Wilfred Le Bouthillier from Tracadie–Sheila, NB
• Album Wilfred Le Bouthillier (self-titled) 2x platinum

2004: Stéphanie Lapointe from Brossard, QC

2005: Marc-André Fortin from Hébertville, QC

2009: Maxime Landry, Saint-Gédéon-de-Beauce, Quebec
• Album Vox Pop 2x platinum
• Song “Cache-cache” Felix Song of the Year Award
• 2010 Male Artist of the Year Felix Award

2012: Jean-Marc Couture from Val d’Amour, NB

Notable Contestants

Marie-Élaine Thibert, 2003 Season
• Single “Toi l’inoubliable” 6x Platinum
• Album Marie-Elaine Thibert (self-titled) 3x Platinum
• Album Comme Ça Platinum
• Album Un Jour Noël Platinum
• 2004 and 2005 Female Artist of the Year Felix Awards

Annie Villeneuve, 2003 Season
• Album Quand Je Ferme Les Yeux Platinum

Marie-Mai (Bouchard) , 2003 Season
• Album Version 3.0 Platinum
• 2010 Female Artist of the Year Felix Award

Annie Blanchard, 2005 Season
• Song “Évangéline” Felix Song of the Year Award