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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Brett Kissel is Riding on the Airwaves

Brett Kissel - AirwavesFrom Livy Jeanne, we touch base with her Albertan counterpart, Brett Kissel. Raised on a rural cattle ranch NE of Edmonton, listening to Johnny Cash, and mastering the guitar, Brett began releasing independent albums when he was 12 years old in 2003. At 16 in 2006, he became the youngest nominee in the history of the CCMAs. Warner Music signed him in 2013 and released his first major single, “Started with a Song,” which peaked at #58 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October. He was off the races. The album of the same name spawned a total of five charting singles on the Hot 100, the most successful of which was “3,2,1” (#52). In 2014, Kissel won the JUNO for Breakthrough Artist of the Year, an award that does not come that often to country stars. Brett lent his vocals and star power to a track on the debut album of Yoan, winner of The Voice. That album currently stands as 2015’s best-seller from a Canadian.

The time has come for some new music from Brett Kissel. His new single bears the title “Airwaves”. A beautifully shot music video was recently launched. It features a red jeep, a diamond ring, dangling lights in a clearing, and of course a young couple on the path to wedded bliss. Check it out below.  iTunes

Boy in the Box Turns 30

corey hart - boy in the box1

Besides a knack for songwriting and charming vocals, his cool, clean, boyish good looks and a brooding intensity enabled Montreal’s Corey Hart to work with some big names in the business, and it was not long before Aquarius Records offered him a recording contract. He was sent to Manchester, England to write for his debut 1983 album, First Offense. “Sunglasses at Night” reached #24 on the charts, and, given the quality of the album, awareness spread mainly by word of mouth.

Due to its success, Hart was under tremendous pressure for his followup release. He had his entire life to write his first album but only a couple of years for the second. The buzz generated by the debut meant that his sophomore work had to be as good if not better if he were to capitalize on the momentum and hit the big time. Another challenge for Hart was that the Canadian singles charts were at the time dominated by British acts: Simple Minds, Tears for Fears, Wham!, and Duran Duran. The Canadian media did an excellent job of building tremendous anticipation for Corey’s new music. Heavy promotion preceded the launch of single “Never Surrender” which heralded the release of Boy in the Box on June 14, 1985, exactly 30 years ago today.

Corey Hart

As stations across the country hyped the pending airing of “Never Surrender”, we all sat with our ears glued to the radio waiting. And then we heard it. Those opening keyboard riffs made the hair at the back of our necks bristle out, and we were completely floored. Number one smash “Never Surrender” was the biggest song of the entire year 1985 and won the Song of the Year JUNO. The album’s title-track broke into the Top 10, and “Everything In My Heart” hit #1. Album Boy in the Box became only the second Canadian album in history to attain diamond sales; it sold 1 million copies in Canada.

never surrender path to number one

The Canadian Music Blog has been in touch with Jacki Andre who recently contributed a celebratory article and trivia slideshow to the Huffington Post (see it here) and comments on some of the tracks from Boy in the Box with the following words:

Thirty years later, fans continue to hold on to the song [“Never Surrender”] for support during personal crises, such as chronic and mental illness, addiction, and grief. Hart describes hearing fans’ stories about the impact of the song on their lives as “the ultimate gift” for a songwriter. Hart has provided insight to some lyrics on the album. “Everything in my Heart” was written as a love letter to his fans; “Sunny Places – Shady People” is about apartheid in South Africa; and “Boy in the Box” was inspired by DJ Steve Anthony, who signed off with, “This is Steve Anthony, your boy in the box, on 98 Hit Radio CKGM [in Montreal].”

Corey Hart made us all very proud to be Canadian.

Canada’s Klô Pelgag Wins France’s Barbara Award

Klo Pelgag Barbara Award

Singer-songwriter Klô Pelgag, who last October won the Félix Award in Quebec for Best New Artist of the Year and was a JUNO nominee this year, has been recognized by the nation of France, the world’s fifth largest music market. Fleur Pellerin, the Minister of Culture from the Government of France, presented Klô with the country’s Barbara Award (Prix Barbara) recognizing the excellence of her contribution to the world of music. While on tour in France, Klô inked a deal with Sony ATV Publishing which represents such artists as Leonard Cohen and Lana Del Rey. Klô Pelgag was born Chloé Pelletier-Gagnon in Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, a town on the Gaspé Peninsula. Her debut album L’Alchimie des monstres appeared in 2013. Track “La fièvre des fleurs” was shortlisted for the SOCAN Songwriting Prize.

Ariane Moffatt Tickles the Synths at 22h22

Ariane Moffatt - 22h2222h22 may be the best time of day to enjoy peace of mind after putting to rest jobs, household chores, errands, social and family engagements. And this reality inspired Ariane Moffatt on the title of her fifth straight Billboard Top 10 album which debuted at #4. The platinum Canadian recording artist and JUNO winner delivers a smooth synth pop sound on the album brining some nocturnal charm and soothing grooves to clear the daily clutter in the mind. Track “Debout” (see MV below) has over the past weeks topped both BDS and Soundscan Franco.  iTunes

More JUNO Performers Confirmed: Alanis, deadmau5, LIGHTS, and the SRB!

JUNOs 2015 Performers1

The JUNO Awards confirmed additional performers today. Joining Arkells, Hedley, Kiesza, MAGIC!, and Shawn Mendes at the March 15 gala in Hamilton will be double diamond alt rocker Alanis Morissette, EDM wizard deadmau5, electro pop specialist LIGHTS, and Montreal’s the Sam Roberts Band! Are we stoked yet? Holy smokes!

This year’s JUNO Fan Fare event (March 14) will be split into four signing session tables, loosely based on genre, with each attendee limited to one, allowing for more participants. Table 1 (rock) has Arkells and the Sam Roberts Band. Table 2 (pop/R&B) has Shawn Mendes, Nikki Yanofsky, JRDN, and Melanie Durrant. Table 3 (dance/electro) has Kiesza, LIGHTS, Glenn Morrison, Trevor Guthrie, and Zed’s Dead. And Table 4 (country) has Dallas Smith, Kira Isabella, MacKenzie Porter, Paul Brandt, and The Road Hammers. Tickets for Tables 2 and 3 have already sold out. You can purchase tickets here.

Ice Conduit to the 2015 JUNOs: Adult Alternative Album of the Year

Adult Alternative Album Nominees copy

As difficult as defining Alternative Music is, even harder is Adult Alternative. This is a newer category at the JUNOs, introduced in 2005. CARAS takes a stab at defining it with the following words:

“The Adult Alternative category is represented by a rich and varied tapestry of artists who may be described as singer/songwriter at their core. A submission to AA can cull from the fringe of, or merge sounds from many core genres including but not limited to Pop, Rock, Alternative, Alt. Country, Vocal Jazz, Folk/Roots/Traditional, World Music and Blues. Selections that are suited to AA rather than one of the aforementioned genres might include music that is album oriented as opposed to singles oriented, with stylings and elements that could inhibit broad-based commercial airplay, though radio and video play are not disqualifying factors. Generally music represented in this category would attract an adult listener with diverse tastes just outside the mainstream. As an example, recent JUNO Awards Adult Alternative submissions might have included artists such as Joni Mitchell, Daniel Lanois, Rufus Wainwright, Bruce Cockburn, Leonard Cohen, Kathleen Edwards, Ron Sexsmith, Blue Rodeo, Neil Young etc.”

This year’s nominees are Bahamas Is Afie by Bahamas, Compostela by Jenn Grant, The Lemon Squeeze by Jeremy Fisher, Popular Problems by Leonard Cohen, and Sleeping Operator by The Barr Brothers. All up for the award this year have been nominated in the past. Leonard Cohen is the only one to have won, 6 JUNOs in total. Cohen is also the only one to have scored certifications, the highest being double platinum for album The Future. He is certainly the front runner for the award; however, the JUNOs may decide to reward someone new in the category this year.

Ice Conduit to the 2015 JUNOs: Alternative Album of the Year Nominees

Alternative Album Nominees copy

Alternative music begs the question: alternative to what, exactly? In the 80s, we called this “underground music”, i.e. music that was too cutting edge or different to get played on the radio, save perhaps university stations. Examples would be “Living On a Ceiling” by Blancmange, “Clerk Charade” by Moev, “How Soon Is Now” by The Smiths, “I Touch Roses” by Book of Love, etc. Music that was completely different we called “experimental music” examples being perhaps Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Skinny Puppy, and Fad Gadget. These days, alternative seems to include both, making for a very broad category. It is important to remember in this context that music that is different does not necessarily mean music that is good. The JUNOs define Alternative Music with the following statement:

“Eligible albums MUST have qualities and elements that set the music outside and/or ahead of mainstream Pop/Rock and other mainstream music styles. This category may be defined as a genre of music that embraces attributes of progression and innovation in both the music and attitudes associated with it. It may embrace sub genres such as indie rock, experimental or DJ-based music, or any hybrids thereof. Some punk rock recordings that feature musical elements outside those typically found in the genre may be submitted in alternative; other types of punk rock recordings may be deemed most appropriate for submission into the rock category.”

The albums nominated this year present music not only unlike what we’re used to but different from each other as well: Alvvays’ self-titled album, Chad VanGaalen’s Shrink Dust, July Talk’s self-titled, Tanya Tagaq’s Animism, and Timber Timbre’s Hot Dreams. None of these artists has won a JUNO though all but Alvvays have been nominated in past years. None has scored a Hot 100 charting single or a gold record. There are no sales qualifications for this category. The low key entries this year provide fresh contrast from last year’s high profile winner: Arcade Fire for Reflektor and Metric for Synthetica in 2013. Chad is from Calgary, Tanya from Cambridge Bay, and the others Toronto.

Ice Conduit to the 2015 JUNOs: Country Album of the Year Nominees

Country Album Nominees copy

Eyes galore will be fixed on this category in March. Dallas Smith is enjoying strong momentum. He is the first domestic male soloist during the BDS era to see a song of his (“Wastin’ Gas”) spend multiple weeks at number one on the country charts. “Tippin’ Point”, also from album Lifted, made the Hot 100 top 40 and achieved platinum sales. The BC boy hasn’t scored a JUNO as a soloist yet but did as lead singer for now defunct band Default. Dallas may well take the award.

The JUNOs, however, might decide to provide some balance in a country radio climate that has been heavily slanted towards the men as of late. Jess Moskaluke has a bright shot at winning the award. She is the reigning CCMA female artist of the year, and her album Light Up the Night is remarkably good. Opener “Good Lovin'” was the song that rocketed her from obscurity, one of the best songs of the year in any genre. “Cheap Wine and Cigarettes” became the first gold single from a Canadian female since Shania Twain’s “Party For Two” in 2004. “Used” and “Night We Won’t Forget” follow as hit single releases. Jess leads the pack in terms of social network followers. She has 84,000 Facebook likes. We also want to see Saskatchewan in the game, and Jess is the one of the province’s brightest stars.

Ottawa’s Kira Isabella is perhaps the media favourite thanks to her stunning single “Quarterback”. She has more of a foothold in the limelight. She comes highly decorated with both CCMA and CRMA trophies on her shelf and has enjoyed four Hot 100 charting singles. Caffeine and Big Dreams is the followup to her acclaimed debut. The JUNOs may feel it is time to reward her for her tremendous efforts, ability to generate buzz, and burnishing star power.

In terms of a multi-talent, we needn’t look any further than MacKenzie Porter. The wild rose country sweetheart is an actress, singer, songwriter, and musician. She is a Billboard Hot 100 charting artist and her aura bursts at the seams with charm. MacKenzie’s self-titled album is spellbinding and includes hit singles “Never Gonna Let You” and the gorgeous “If You Ask Me To”.

Trucker country outfit The Road Hammers made a significant comeback last year. The group won a JUNO for its debut, platinum album back in 2006, announced a hiatus in 2010, but reformed and released album Wheels last year spawning the gold single, “Mud”. With the only previous JUNO win and platinum achievement for a previous album among the bunch, the band has credibility on its side, and this may be enough to attract the most votes.

For this JUNO category, there are no sales qualifications. Submissions are adjudicated in two rounds of voting. Judge votes determine the five nominees who will then appear on the online voting site sent out to all CARAS Academy Delegates whose votes will determine the winner.

The 2015 JUNO Country Album of the Year Award recipient will be announced in mid-March.

Dan Mangan Works with Blacksmiths at Club Mediterranean

Dan Mangan and Blacksmith - Club MedsBorn in Smithers, BC, raised in Vancouver, and serving as a contributing writer for an online newspaper, Dan Mangan ascended the stairs from teen band Basement Suite to two-time JUNO winning folk soloist. Since 2003 EP All At Once, Dan has recorded four full-length albums, his latest being Club Meds for which he co-credits authorship with backing band Blacksmith. Dan is currently signed to record label Arts & Crafts. Coinciding with his recently acquired fatherhood, Mangan has veered from the blossoms of baroque folk intermixed with distorted guitar electrics in previous Oh Fortune to a more consolidated and dense atmosphere in Club Meds buttressing an alternative rock sound that at times borders Radiohead territory (that’s meant as a compliment). The new energy becomes evident first with track #2, “Vessel”, which was written for motion picture Hector and the Search For Happiness starring Simon Pegg. Having gained credibility from his JUNO wins, the new album debuted at #3 on iTunes.

Get Hypnotized by Loscil’s Sea Island

Loscil - Sea IslandVancouver’s Loscil (i.e. Scott Morgan) has just released one of the greatest ambient electronic albums ever to come out of Canada, Sea Island. Its flavour is less poppier than, say, Ulrich Schnauss and more along the lines of Steve Roach with some of those atmospheric bell-like synth chimes of Vangelis. Sweeping and airy, it subdues, it captivates, and it tugs the listener into a glorious hypnotic state. Scott has been at it for quite some time both in terms of the Loscil project (a name derived from the term looping oscillator) as well as drumming for band Destroyer. On Sea Island, everything comes together, and he hits his stride. Track “Iona” alone is a world-class masterpiece of ambient electronica.  iTunes

Leela Gilday Is Interested in The Heart of the People

Leela Gilday - Heart of the PeopleLeela Gilday is a JUNO winning singer songwriter from Yellowknife. She has released her fourth album, Heart of the People. Leela is a member of the Dene nation, and her genre of choice is roots music. Her voice is lovely, and she also treats us to the occasional Aboriginal chant. Leela is not afraid to address injustices like a lack of attention by authorities to missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and she rewards us with some intriguing stories like a sled of hunters breaking down on a cold, wintry night. The new album was produced by Murray Pulver (Doc Walker). Guests include recent Polaris Prize winner Tanya Tagaq.  iTunes

Ryan Hemsworth Is Alone For the First Time

ryan hemsworth - alone for the first timeJUNO winning, Halifax bred electronic musician Ryan Hemsworth has released new album Alone For the First Time. The former student of journalism has remixed works by Grimes, Lorde, and Beyoncé. The new album is a more cohesive production than his last, the overall tone being one of winding down and coasting along with some bouncing bleeps, whirrs, and beats. The brooding, R&B inflected vocals provide a nice contrast to the electronic glitter. This is like a chemist having fun with the mixtures, and the results work.  iTunes

Flesh and Machine by 8-Time JUNO Winner Daniel Lanois

Daniel Lanois - Flesh and MachineEight-time JUNO winner Daniel Lanois from Hull, QC, though better known as a producer, has released a number of his own albums since 1989. Daniel’s production labours include albums by The Parachute Club, Martha and the Muffins (M+M), Robbie Robertson, Nash the Slash, Luba, Ron Sexsmith, and Neil Young. For international artists, credits include So by Peter Gabriel, The Joshua Tree by U2, and Yellow Moon by The Neville Brothers. Lanois’ latest album of his own work is Flesh and Machine, an experimental electronic album with acoustic and electric instruments manipulated in new ways. As a protégé of Brian Eno and one to bring ambient sounds into modern rock, this is an important disc, as it stretches beyond a genre that is no longer new into the vast expanse of the unknown.  iTunes

After the Curtain Falls, Patrick Norman Continues the Magic

Patrick Norman - Apres la tombee du rideauCanadian legend Patrick Norman, in celebration of his 45 years in music, has released his 29th album, Après la tombée du Rideau, and it’s profoundly beautiful. Although classified as country, a more accurate description would be 1970s soft rock compositional style, drenched in modern atmospherics, and sprinkled with cowboy country seasoning. Augmenting the sound are contributions by a legion of young greats like François Lafontaine, Marie-Pierre Arthur, and Marilou. Patrick is a multiplatinum artist and has been nominated twice at the JUNOs.  iTunes