JUNOs in Focus: Francophone Album of the Year Nominees

2016-JUNO-Awards-logo_FINAL_gold

From the 2011 census, 22% of Canadians have the French language as their mother tongue. If it is also true that 22% of the music being made in Canada is in French, then we can rightfully ask why so little of the music nominated at the JUNOs is Franco. Does it have more to do with a lack of submissions or with bias of the judges towards Anglo music? It seems to us to be mere tokenism that one of the roughly 40 categories is devoted to Franco music: Francophone Album of the Year, and Franco works seldom get nominated in other categories. Also, note that, though a national event, performances at the JUNO Awards gala are normally all Anglophone ones.

Franglo

Canadian Anglophones have demonstrated over the years that they are more than happy to listen to and purchase music in various Allophone languages: “Gangnam Style”, “Sleepy Maggie”, “Der Kommissar”, etc. But when it comes to the other official language, the music is not embraced. It is also interesting that when an international artist uses French in a song, for example Peter Gabriel in “Games Without Frontiers”, no one raises a hand. When a Canadian artist does, watch the nasty “I can’t understand” comments pour in (and from people who are supposed to be learning French in school). Can we even understand the supposedly English lyrics American rappers dish out? But no complaints there. No complaints and no lack of radio spins when Madonna puts Spanish into “La Isla Bonita”. We think all of this is due to prejudice, and nothing would give us more pleasure than seeing it take a hike. In the immortal words of Howard Cunningham to the Fonz, however, “Prejudice is stronger than cool.”

With that off our chest, and not offered in a spirit of idle criticism but of “let’s make things better”, let us celebrate the five excellent albums nominated for Francophone Album of the Year at the 2016 JUNOs.

Ariane Moffatt, 22h22

Ariane Moffatt - 22h22From Lévis, Quebec, Ariane Moffatt previously won a JUNO in 2009 for her album Tous les sens. Her debut album in 2002, Aquanaute, was certified platinum for sales of 100,000 units. Ariane’s 22h22 won Pop Album of the Year and she won Female Artist of the Year at the ADISQ gala in Quebec last year. The JUNOs state, “Since the release of her album Aquanaute in 2002, Ariane Moffatt’s name is forever closely associated with Montréal’s francophone scene. Three years after her bilingual MA (2012), an album that blends the sensual and the organic using high quality sampling (‘Mon corps,’ ‘Hôtel amour’) and whose live tour enjoyed great success across Québec and all the way to SXSW in Austin Texas, the singer-songwriter pushes her trajectory towards 22h22, a dreamlike pop record where intimacy meets great spaces. Produced alongside long-time collaborator Jean-Phi Goncalves, 22h22 is making its way into homes and hearts since March 2015 – without a key, without breaking in.”  iTunes

Galaxie, Zulu

Galaxie - ZuluThis is the first nomination for the Saint-Félicien, Quebec rock group. In the words of the JUNO Awards, “Galaxie is a francophone rock band formed in 2002, in Montréal, by Olivier Langevin. Formerly known as Galaxie 500, the band released two albums, Galaxie 500 (2002) and Le Temps au point mort (2006). Following the release of Le Temps au Point Mort, Galaxie was nominated for the Group of the Year award in the 10th annual MIMI (Montréal International Music Initiative) awards. The band released its third album, Tigre et diesel, in 2011, which was subsequently a shortlisted nominee for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize. On February 24, 2015, Galaxie released its fourth album Zulu. The band has since then been touring across Québec. Zulu won the Felix for Alternative Album of the Year at l’ADISQ 2015 and was also nominated for Critic’s Choice Album of the Year. Galaxie also won the Felix for Group of the Year, and performed their hit song ‘Dragon’ at the ceremony. … They were also chosen to open for the Rolling Stones at their show on Les Plaines d’Abraham, in Québec City in July.”  iTunes

Jean Leloup, À Paradis City

Jean Leloup - A paradis cityWe are overjoyed that this album is also nominated for Album of the Year. Jean Leloup and À Paradis City won five awards at the ADISQ gala last year. The work was one of the best-selling albums of the year in Canada in 2015. Leloup was nominated twice for JUNOs in the past. The JUNOs write, “Jean Leclerc is a [Canadian] singer-songwriter and author from Sainte-Foy, QC. He is popularly known as Jean Leloup (which he likes to translate to John the Wolf in English), a stage name he kept using until 2006, when he temporarily changed his name to Jean Leclerc, only to resurrect his wolf character in August 2008. He is known for his colourful personality and unique musical style in the francophone rock community. In 2015, he released À Paradis City, his eighth album of original songs, now certified platinum in Canada.”  iTunes

Louis-Jean Cormier, Les grandes artères

Louis-Jean Cormier - Les grandes arteresThis album is also nominated for Recording Package of the Year. Both Karkwa, the band he fronted, as well as Cormier as a soloist have won past JUNOs. Originally from Sept-Îles, Quebec, Cormier formed band Karkwa in Montreal before releasing solo works. The JUNOs explain, “Landing in Montréal as a 17 year old to study music at CÉGEP, he befriended four musicians with whom he would go on to form Karkwa, a group who created immediate attention. Across four albums that aligned critics and crowds alike, Karkwa became a leading light of the Québec independent rock scene and the first francophone group to win the Polaris Prize for Les Chemins de Verre (2010). He also produced the debut efforts of Marie-Pierre Arthur, David Marin, Lisa LeBlanc, and filled the coach’s chair on La Voix for a season. With a voice and sensibility affirmed, his debut solo album Le Treizième Étage emerged in 2012, winning Writer/Composer of the Year, Rock Album and Critics’ Choice at that year’s Felix Awards, followed in 2015 by his second solo album; Les Grandes Artères.”  iTunes

Marie-Pierre Arthur, Si l’aurore

Marie-Pierre Arthur - Si l'auroreThis album won a Felix for Adult Contemporary Album of the Year. Marie-Pierre was nominated once before at the JUNOs in this same category. More from the JUNOs: “A bassist trained in jazz singing, she accompanied many [Canadian] artists (Ariane Moffat, Stefie Shock, Mara Tremblay) before unveiling her own musical project in 2009, with a self-titled first album coproduced with François Lafontaine and Louis-Jean Cormier. The pretty Gaspésienne mastered the art of being a frontwoman and received several [honours]: the SPACQ’s André ‘Dédé’ Fortin Award for New Songwriter of the Year, the SOCAN’s Pop Song of the Year award for ‘Pourquoi’ as well as three ADISQ nominations in 2009. Same story for her second album, Aux alentours (2012 in [Canada] and in France on the Polydor label): critics gave it rave reviews and fans couldn’t get enough. A hushed, steamy atmosphere: bodies, voices and harmonies intertwine, curl up against each other, and cast a lasting spell. Marie-Pierre Arthur completely seduces us with her third opus, Si l’aurore, which was launched on February 16, 2015, in [Canada], on the Simone Records label.”  iTunes

Advertisements

Selected New Releases 24 March 2015

new releases 24 march 2015

Kicking off this week’s Canadian releases is Evolve by Toronto R&B singer Andria Simone. With such a quality work, we hope she gets recognized as belonging to the elite singers of the genre; it’s a beautiful album. Debuting at #1 on iTunes is solo album #2 from the frontman of Polaris-prize winning Karkwa. Given that Louis-Jean Cormier‘s first album won a bunch of awards including a JUNO, followup Les grandes artères came buttressed with high anticipation. It’s a folky alternative work. Another high flyer is 3-time JUNO nominee Hayden (from Thornhill, ON) whose latest album Hey Love keeps the alternative vibrations in full flow.

We have some good garage rock with smatterings of the psychedelic thanks to Île de rêve by Montreal’s Les Marinellis. Toronto JUNO nominee Robi Botos is Movin’ Forward with his new jazz album which features some great instrumentation. Kenora, ON’s Wayne Kelso tickles the keys on Northern Calling, a fine jazz piano work. Vancouver’s The Real McKenzies soup up the Celtic punk rock on Rats in the Burlap.

New Toronto duo Etiquette delivers a brilliant debut with Reminisce. One of the members worked on LIGHTS’ Siberia album. Reminisce presents subdued, hypnotic electronica with beautiful female vocals. Halifax-based singer-songwriter Gabrielle Papillon is sure to draw some attention with her fabulous folky album The Tempest of Old. Swinging over to Ferme-Neuve, QC, Yoan has released his debut album. He was the winner of Canada’s The Voice last year. He’s a young whiz with a very handsome voice and fluently bilingual handles both official languages with ease on the self-titled LP. The style is amusing blues-country, and high-profile Albertan star Brett Kissel is featured on one of the tracks. Yoan debuted on iTunes at #3. Grab it for something really fun.

Music News, Beginning of Spring 2015

deadmau5 at JUNOs 2015

While still awaiting followup to her JUNO winning song “You and I”, we can at least enjoy some songs Oakville, ON’s Anjulie has written for others. The latest is track “In the Blue” which appears on the deluxe edition of Kelly Clarkson’s latest album, Piece By Piece. The album debuted at #4 last week.  Link

NFL American football cornerback Prince Amukamara decided to show his support for the Canadian Music Industry by swinging up north to attend the JUNO Awards! In an interview with Lauren Toyota on the red carpet, he stated that he was attending out of his love for Canadian music, especially his favourite artists Drake, Justin Bieber, and Michael Bublé. He said his wife loves Canadian artists too, including Alanis Morissette and The Weeknd. Link

The United Kingdom has unveiled its best-selling albums of the new millennium so far, and a Canadian artist is at #7: Michael Bublé for Crazy Love. His Christmas is at #28. Those are the only Canadian albums in the Top 50.  Link

Here at home, deadmau5 has scored his very first platinum single. Music Canada recently gave the certification to “Seeya”, marking sales of 80,000 units. Album 4×4=12 was also a platinum seller.  Link

Louis-Jean Cormier, creative genius and lead singer of Polaris Prize winning band Karkwa, and the man who won all those Félix awards (and a JUNO!) for his debut solo album Le treizième étage, is following up with album Les grandes artères which is due out next week! Also expected out by the end of the month are new albums from Hayden, Mia Martina, Ron Sexsmith, Dear Rouge, Alex Cuba, Three Days Grace, and more!  Link

We leave you with recently released music video from Grimes. She says that this song, “REALiTi” will not be included on her next album and that the MV is a montage of her travels through Asia.

The Voice Honours Offenbach’s “La voix que j’ai”

Various Artists - La voix que j'aiNew on the Canadian Hot 100 this week is a cover of classic Canadian rock band Offenbach’s “La voix que j’ai”. The song was performed by the four coaches of the Canadian version of international television franchise, The Voice. They are four of Canada’s top stars of today:  Isabelle Boulay, Louis-Jean Cormier, Marc Dupré, and Éric Lapointe. It is always a treat to see modern superstars perform a classic hit of yesteryear together, and, as to be expected, they have done a fabulous job. You can purchase the single on iTunes where it has topped the Franco chart. MV below.

Gold/Platinum Certifications September to November 2013

Here are the latest certifications from Music Canada. Congratulations to the artists and a big thank you to Canadians for continuing to support them by buying their music.

2013 - 09 - 27

Definitions

For both albums and digital singles current definitions are: Gold = 40,000 units sold. Platinum = 80,000 units sold. 2x Platinum = 160,000 units sold. 3x Platinum = 240,000 units sold. Etc.

Ice Conduit to the 2013 ADISQ Gala: Rock Album of the Year Nominees

Chic de ville by Daniel Bélanger

Daniel Belanger Chic de VilleThis rich blend of rockabilly and country from multiple JUNO-winning, double-platinum Daniel Bélanger made it to #2 on the Billboard Canadian Albums chart. Daniel has sold over half a million records since his debut in ’92. He provides a number of vocal styles through the album, whether it’s Roy Orbison reverb, 5th gear falsetto, letting loose, or lullabying. On this fabulous disc, Daniel masters the music of train chugging bass, Brylcreem-haired guitar playing, Hawaii 5-0 drumming, and play-it-again-Sam piano, all garnished with intricate string arrangements.

Le treizième étage by Louis-Jean Cormier

Louis-Jean Cormier - Le Treizieme EtageThis stunning piece of work is the front man of Karkwa’s first solo album, and it nabbed the JUNO for Francophone Album of the Year in April. It is melancholy, reflective, introspective, and at times psychedelic, centered on acoustic guitar with some electric jolts and electronic ambiance to make the listener feel as if he is waddling through dust on the dark side of the moon. Cormier’s singing style of half-whispered determined calm is a perfect match for the soft strums of the guitar that seem to come at you as if from the no-zone space of the thirteenth floor.

Si tel est ton désir by Jean-Marc Couture

Jean-Marc Couture - Si tel est ton desirWinner of last year’s Star Académie, New Brunswick’s Jean-Marc Couture released his debut (bilingual) album this year, the product of the songwriting and production talents of Québec’s elite including Daniel Bélanger, Michel Pagliaro, Coeur de Pirate, Éric Lapointe, Marc Dupré, and Fred St-Gelais. Jean-Marc threw a performance-based album release party at the Olympia in Montréal to an enthusiastic crowd of 2,000 strong. His vocal cords and guitar strings seem to be soul mates breaking down the barriers of time to link the classic with the contemporary on this fine work.

Du plaisir et des bombes by Keith Kouna

Keith Kouna - Du plaisir et des bombesKeith won the SOCAN Songwriting Prize this year for his folky “Batiscan” receiving the highest number of votes from the public among the five nominated works. This is his second album (his first appeared in 2008). In general, this is a harder and punkier brand of rock than on the other albums in this ADISQ category; however, there is quite a bit of variety. Keith does a pretty good job at rapping on “Pas de panique” and dishes out some creepiness on “Anna”. He cooks up a serious piano ballad, “Napalm” and gets our funny bones jiggling with the jestful “Les pouliches”.

J’aime ta grand-mère by Les Trois Accords

Les Trois Accords - J'aime ta grand-mereAlternative rock band Les Trois Accords have scored a number of big hit singles and have opened for The Rolling Stones. They have won multiple Félix awards and been nominated for a JUNO twice. The band has always emphasized art over logic adding dashes of humour and idiosyncrasy bordering on the absurd helping them to score one gold and one platinum album. J’aime ta grand-mere, their fifth LP, pays tribute to some indie and garage rock, punk, and British new wave. As well, country legend Renée Martel makes an appearance on one of the tracks.

Ice Conduit to the 2013 ADISQ Gala: Critics’ Choice Album of the Year Nominees

Chic de ville by Daniel Bélanger

Daniel Belanger Chic de VilleThis rich blend of rockabilly and country from multiple JUNO-winning, double-platinum Daniel Bélanger made it to #2 on the Billboard Canadian Albums chart. Daniel has sold over half a million records since his debut in ’92. He provides a number of vocal styles through the album, whether it’s Roy Orbison reverb, 5th gear falsetto, letting loose, or lullabying. On this fabulous disc, Daniel masters the music of train chugging bass, Brylcreem-haired guitar playing, Hawaii 5-0 drumming, and play-it-again-Sam piano, all garnished with intricate string arrangements.

Le treizième étage by Louis-Jean Cormier

Louis-Jean Cormier - Le Treizieme EtageThis stunning piece of work is the front man of Karkwa’s first solo album, and it nabbed the JUNO for Francophone Album of the Year in April. It is melancholy, reflective, introspective, and at times psychedelic, centered on acoustic guitar with some electric jolts and electronic ambiance to make the listener feel as if he is waddling through dust on the dark side of the moon. Cormier’s singing style of half-whispered determined calm is a perfect match for the soft strums of the guitar that seem to come at you as if from the no-zone space of the thirteenth floor.

Le poids des confettis by Les sœurs Boulay

Les Soeurs Boulay - Le poids des confettisMaking this year’s Polaris Prize long list, this debut LP from sisters Stéphanie and Mélanie is a masterwork of song-writing expressed in beautiful folk arrangements, simple yet effective. Although the music is as light as … confetti blowing around on the beach, the sisters in their delivery exude passion and energy which crash ashore like whitecaps on a windy day. It is this zealous singing and vigorous instrumentation which has made the duo a practically overnight sensation. What’s more, their song “Mappemonde” was a nominee for the 2013 SOCAN Songwriting Prize.

FOX by Karim Ouellet

Karim Ouellet - FoxBorn in Dakar, Senegal, Karim is currently one of the hottest new Francophone artists in the country. Off this musically and culturally rich album, “L’amour” was a charting single, scaling up to #64 on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100. The title track was also a big radio hit in Québec. Karim has been praised for both his guitar skills and soft, handsome voice. His music embodies a potpourri of styles—folk, soul, African pop, reggae, with even some electro beats thrown in—all bound together by his direct and chipper spirit. This music will put a smile on your face.

Une version améliorée de la tristesse by Peter Peter

Peter Peter - Une version améliorée de la tristesseThe indie lovers behind the Polaris Prize long-listed this jewel of synth-heavy new wave earlier in the year. Peter Peter launched his debut album in 2011 which was a more guitar-infused work. This second album will hit the spot for those who grew up spinning Rubik’s Cube and punching the colourful buttons on Simon. The album is subdued, melancholy and consistently good with enough variety to be enjoyed as a whole. The end result of all this is that Peter Peter has established his credibility as a songwriter, and we look forward to his next release.

Ice Conduit to the 2013 JUNOs: FRANCOPHONE ALBUM Nominees

2013 JUNOs Francophone Nominees

In 2012, progressive rock band Malajube took home the JUNO for Francophone Album of the Year thanks to their splendid album La Caverne. This year, five amazing works are nominated in the category. None of the artists below has ever been nominated for a JUNO award, although Cormier won one with the band Karkwa. Give each of these a listen via the provided iTunes links and let us know which one is your favourite.

Le royaume by Amylie

Amylie - Le royaumeAmylie is from Mascouche, QC which is just north of Montréal. This is her second album and her first JUNO nomination. Le royame is a work of art, a rich, energetic 60s-style jazz-pop carried by Amylie’s bright soulful voice. At times the music is curt and playful like a Henri Mancini charade, at others soulful and bluesy with pockets of dreamy sensuality appearing throughout. This album is dedicated to the springtime kingdom of flowering greenery, and like the spring, it swings out of the cold with breezes of warmth, life, and brilliance. Beautiful album.

iTunes 

Astronomie by Avec pas d’casque

Avec pas d’casque - AstronomieAvec pas d’casque is a quartet from Montréal. They released their first (independent) album in 2004 and began being nominated for Félix awards in subsequent years. They won a pair last year (2012) with the release of this highly acclaimed fourth album Astronomie. It won the Félix for Critics’ Choice album of the year and the band won for songwriters of the year. The album dazzled the folks behind the Polaris Music Prize as well. The music is dark, morose, and soothing like riding a trotting mule along the low-gravity dust fields on the dark side of the moon with the path being lit only by the stars. This is the band’s first JUNO nomination.

iTunes

Lisa Leblanc

Lisa LeBlancHaving grown up in a small village in New Brunswick called Rosaireville, with a population of only 40, Lisa LeBlanc released her debut album last year which achieved GOLD certification. The style of music, filled with delicious Acadian slang and humour, is called “folk trash” in French, a mishmash of folk, country, and rock. She delivers the tracks on banjo and guitar with gusto, charisma, and joie de vivre and has been compared to an early Janis Joplin. This album has also been nominated at the East Coast Music Awards. Lisa won the Félix award last year for Best New Artist. This is her first JUNO nomination.

iTunes

Le treizième étage by Louis-Jean Cormier

Louis-Jean Cormier - Le Treizieme EtageLouis-Jean Cormier, front man of JUNO winning indie band from Montréal, Karkwa, released this solo album last year. It is melancholy, reflective, introspective, and at times psychedelic, centered on acoustic guitar with some electric jolts and electronic ambiance. Cormier’s singing style of half-whispered determined calm is a perfect match for the soft strums of the guitar that seem to come at you as if from the no-zone space of the thirteenth floor. We named this as our 11th favourite album of 2012. This is Cormier’s first JUNO nomination as a soloist.

iTunes

Aux alentours by Marie-Pierre Arthur

Marie-Pierre Arthur - aux alentoursThis album and its author received a few Félix nominations last year. It offers a more pop-rock flavour than the above works with heavy doses of psychedelics that make you feel as if ghosts are emerging from the speakers and swimming around the room. Marie-Pierre is from Grande-Vallée, QC which is in the Gaspé region. This is her first JUNO nomination. She released her first album in 2009 and song “Pourquoi” won a SOCAN award. This is her sophomore album and has been released in France. Arthur’s style has been compared to George Harrison.

iTunes

Canadian Music Blog’s Top 15 Album Faves of 2012

Carly Rae Jepsen - CuriosityIt is rare to find an honest year-end “best” album list. There are vested interests and kickbacks involved in those published by both online and print media. Individual people tend to be biased in favour of certain genres of music, musical instruments used, or types of artists (e.g. bands over solo artists) rendering their lists narrow. Blogs tend to discriminate against albums from popular artists because they use these lists to promote the obscure ones rather than simply state a true list of their favourites.  In compiling our list, we did not care about the genre or style of music or the relative popularity of the artist. We simply listened to all 700 or so of the Canadian albums that were released in 2012. If the album held our attention throughout, and we found ourselves enjoying song after song, we shortlisted it. At the end of the year, we listened to the shortlisted albums several times and ranked them. Below is a list of the top 15 albums from the list, our 15 favourite Canadian albums of 2012.

What About EPs?

It is difficult to compare an EP to an LP as it contains only 3 to 6 songs. (An EP is considered a work that lasts a maximum length 25 minutes). We are thus not including EPs in this list. We would like to state, however, that of all Canadian EPs released in 2012, our favourite was Carly Rae Jepsen’s Curiosity.

#15. Albatross by Big Wreck

Big Wreck - AlbatrossLike any genre of music, heavy metal can be enjoyable provided the front man can actually sing and the musical composition is inspired. Ian Thornley and Big Wreck deliver on both counts in the Canadian-American hybrid band’s first album in 11 years. This album gets your heart pumping, adrenaline flowing, and energizes you enough to clear snow from a football field in Quebec City in the time it takes it to dissolve on a Vancouver street corner. The music is like a diesel-powered snowblower ploughing through the snow and transforms at times into a melodic ice-dancing Zamboni. Albatross peaked at #5 on the Billboard Albums chart, won 2 CASBY awards, and spawned two hit singles, the title track and “Wolves”. Just make sure that when you do your head-bangin’ you’ve got a toque on, eh.

#14. Two by Jesse Labelle

Jesse Labelle - TwoPacked chock-full of the passion and intensity that made Corey Hart and Zappacosta such a joy to listen to a generation ago, the second album from Toronto’s Jesse Labelle is a beautiful tribute to romance—both lyrically and musically—under the expert production of Thomas “Tawgs” Salter. The album opens gently with the gorgeous piano ballad “Won’t Let You Down” and then moves into hit single territory (“Heartbreak Coverup” had a run on the Hot 100). “One Last Night” pokes fun at the supposed end of days from the Mayan calendar. The exciting drum pounding in “Straight Lines” moved us, the captivating wall of sound on “Moment That We Stop” impressed us, feeling the music itself pleading in “Tell the World” inspired us, and the playful swagger of “Something to Feel” charmed us. Jesse lets loose on “Magic Words”, gets theatrical on “Kryptonite”, sweet on “Lifetimes”, and rocks out on album closer “Pause”. Simply put, there is not a weak track on Two.

#13. Red Magic by Beat Market

Beat Market - Red MagicFor those of you wondering whether Canada has more to offer in the realm of instrumental EDM (that’s electronic dance music) than deadmau5, look no further than this brand new duo from Montréal: Louis-Joseph Cliche and Maxime Bellavance who go by the name Beat Market. They released an EP earlier this year before launching their self-produced debut LP, Red Magic. Making ample use of analogue synthesizers, the album showcases a more complex and sophisticated sound than many of the other acts out there. And yes, this album just may make your foot start tapping annoying the sleepoholics in the apartment below you, and when you, yourself, hit the sack with these vibes in your head, dreams of hangin’ at a video game arcade in Tokyo with some bubble tea in hand may just happen. Red Magic is the perfect party album and no doubt one of the strongest releases of the year in any musical genre, a very impressive piece of work.

#12. Tell the World by Kristina Maria

Kristina Maria - Tell the WorldDo tell the world that Kristina Maria is an exceptional singer, so much so in fact that she brought Sony Music Senior Vice President Vito Luprano, a key figure behind Celine Dion’s rise to superstardom, out of retirement. After CRMA nominations, SOCAN awards, a feature on CBC’s The National, and 3 gold hit singles (“Let’s Play” was the 64th biggest song of 2011), she released her debut LP, Tell the World, which has thus far spawned an additional 2 charting singles. This fantastic dance pop album from the Ottawa native is jam-packed with instant classics from the beautiful power ballad “It’s All Games” to the bright lights and fun of “Up and Up” and the ground-shaking, sky-scraping anthem, “We Belong Together”.

#11. Le Treizieme Etage by Louis-Jean Cormier

Louis-Jean Cormier - Le Treizieme Etage“And now for something completely different,” our 11th favourite Canadian album of 2012 is the first solo release from Louis-Jean Cormier, front man of Polaris Prize winning indie band from Montréal, Karkwa. Le treizieme etage is melancholy, reflective, introspective, and at times psychedelic, centered on acoustic guitar with some electric jolts and electronic ambiance to make the listener feel as if he is waddling through dust on the dark side of the moon. Of all artists, the album reminds us, believe it or not, of Radiohead, not in sound waveforms but in the mood it elicits. Cormier’s singing style of half-whispered determined calm is a perfect match for the soft strums of the guitar that seem to come at you as if from the no-zone space of the thirteenth floor. This is a stunning piece of work.

#10. Voyageur by Kathleen Edwards

Kathleen Edwards VoyageurFive JUNO nominations for this Ottawan and counting. Like Ron Sexsmith, singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards likes to combine musical genres that do not fit into any of the radio formats of the current time. The album is a voyage to a world where folk, country, and rock collide and combine. The result is a sound that has a universal appeal. Although the album did not contribute any hit singles, it is a joy to listen to from the percolating opener “Empty Threat”, to “Change the Sheets”, which she performed on American chat show Late Night with David Letterman, to the concluding haunts of “Middle of the Road”. The album itself, her fourth, made it to #2 on the Billboard Album chart, her highest chart peak to date.

#9. Self by Stef Lang

Stef Lang - SelfAfter an EP earlier this year (Fighting Mirrors) that contained radio hit “Paper Doll”, Stef Lang, who comes from the town that invented nanaimo bars (Ladysmith, BC), reflected on what was to be her next move besides being featured in two tracks off Delerium’s album Music Box Opera. She decided not to opt for a mainstream radio style preferring to craft the kind of music that met with her own taste. The result was Self, her second LP. Talk about a true independent trooper, Stef wrote, played, recorded, engineered and produced the album all by herself. If commercial tunes are like slices of bread, Self is like a gourmet sandwich. She has taken the basic elements and created something even more wholesome and savoury. The album opens with Stef on her signature blood-stained acoustic guitar in “Brick Wall” and the music grows into a graceful current of subtle, melancholy R&B accented with some perky funk and urban rhythms, particularly in such beautiful tracks as “Castle in the Cloud”, “For a Minute There”, and “DNA”.

#8. Travelling Love by Elisapie

Elisapie - Travelling LoveHailing from the remote town of Salluit in northern Quebec, JUNO-award winning, trilingual Elisapie released her sophomore work this year, Travelling Love, a folky pop/rock effort. It opens with a tour de force pulsating electro-pop ice-breaker, “The Beat”, followed by fabulous “The Love You Gave”. The disc includes “It’s All Your Fault”, a tribute to Leonard Cohen of whom Elisapie is a huge admirer. Elisapie delivers a hauntingly gorgeous ballad about her hometown that makes you yearn to fly up there. And if the album closer fails to rouse your spirits, then you ought to get them checked by your local soul doctor. Of its many strengths, one of the biggest reasons why this is such a stunning album is that, on all levels, the music on Travelling Love is unpredictable. You anticipate things will go one way, and they take an unexpected turn to something more exciting, all carried by a sweet voice and a perfectly balanced wall of sound.

#7. MA by Ariane Moffatt

Ariane Moffatt - MAEvery album that Ariane Moffatt has released has nabbed the Felix for pop/rock album of the year, moreover one of them won a JUNO award. With several gold and platinum certifications under her belt, she decided to release a bilingual album, MA. Being a fan of Metric, she went for an electronic rock sound on this one with such sweeping electronic landscapes combined with the original beats of the likes of Utada Hikaru. But all in all it showcases the unique, creative genius of Ariane Moffatt. MA shot up to #2 on the Billboard Canadian Albums chart after lead single “Mon Corps” smoked up the charts in Quebec. CBC’s Q Radio named this as one of the 20 best albums in the world of 2012. We heartily agree.

#6. It’s Easy If You Try by Len

Len - It's Easy If You TryToronto’s Len (siblings Marc and Sharon Costanzo) is best known for its international hit “Steal My Sunshine” back in 1999 and have been called one-hit wonders. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that; Pink Floyd were one-hit wonders … well, almost (I think “Money” made the Top 40). Len received 3 JUNO nominations, one of them being for Best Alternative Album. In 2012, they released brand new album It’s Easy If You Try. This is an incredibly good pop album that is full of summertime fun; in fact, we think track “Gonna Take Some Time” easily rivals their big hit as an instant classic. This is definitely the kind of album you’d find playing at Austin Powers’ pad in swinging London. With more surprises and pop hooks than imaginable, this album is simply a blast.

#5. Bells & Whistles by Steph MacPherson

Steph Macpherson - Bells and WhistlesSteph is a Canadian whose roots lie in the land of the kiwi. Her style could perhaps be described as an added touch of Loreena McKennitt to Kathleen Edwards. This year she released her debut LP Bells & Whistles under Cordova Bay Records capturing the essence of her beautiful, crisp, clear voice over gorgeous piano and guitar melodies of both rousing joy and soothing reflection. The album commences with the title track that warns us there are such potholes along life’s journey that we could see all the way to China through the asphalt. If you finally make it past that song after hitting the replay button multiple times, you will find little gems along the way to the album concluder, “Open Book”, a breathtaking piano ballad that will leave you mesmerized.

#4. 20/20 by Saga

207763EREP_SAGA-20-20_Stecktasche_RZ.inddProgressive rock is still going strong in the Great White North, yet it is really the veterans of the genre who can’t be beat. JUNO-winning, platinum-selling Saga has continued to make records for 35 years! The sophisticated sound of classics “Wind Him Up” and “On the Loose” of yesteryear won devoted followers all the way over in Germany; in fact, 2012’s 20/20, one of the best albums the band has ever recorded, entered the charts at #13 in that country. Saga is the greatest contribution to Canadian culture that Oakville, Ontario has ever made. Ten glorious tracks of brilliant song writing, pulsating keyboards, mid-pitched reverberating electric guitars, base quakes, and theatrical vocals are everything we could ask for.

#3. TRST by Trust

Trust - TrstToronto band Austra’s Maya Postepski met Robert Alfons in 2009, and they experienced musical chemistry. They began writing songs and formed the band Trust the following year. EP Candy Walls was released in 2011 and generated enough excitement to draw the interest of Arts & Crafts Records who released the band’s debut LP in February 2012, a work entitled TRST. Their sound is dark and atmospheric, dreamy and hypnotic, sombre and intense, with sparkles of space dust from some eerie planet on a collision course with Earth. This is gothic electronic rock at its very best with synth grunts, blips, and pulses, and melodies taking on unexpected twists and turns on a joy ride to the edge of the unknown. It is the sort of record you would hear playing at a trendy clothing shop on Robson Street in Vancouver where customers with spiked hair sift through a rack of rayon shirts with metal clasps. Listening to it gives the feeling of entering a castle complete with torches and neon lights, a dungeon containing a flying saucer, and a secret chamber occupied by ghosts and a stargate.

#2. Free Dimensional by Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings - Free DimensionalDiamond Rings is a solo artist from Toronto named John O’Regan. His debut album earned him a JUNO nomination for New Artist of the Year and enabled him to open for Robyn. For his second album, he recruited producer Damian Taylor who has worked with Bjork and The Killers. For those of you who grew up in the early 80s and are pining for some new music that echoes those new wave synths of Blancmange, Simple Minds, and The Spoons, look no further than Free Dimensional. “I’m Just Me” is the first single, the music video showcasing his glittery space cadet wardrobe, square, diamond-themed shades, Bowie haircut, dry ice, green laser beams, and black lights. But his flashy stage persona and signature baritone voice is not all that is to be admired. The music on this album is a big move forward from his last work; in fact, it is so good, we found only one Canadian album released in 2012 that we liked better. Oh, yes, and we’re hoping he’ll do “Put Me On” as a duet with LIGHTS on keytar.

#1. Shut Up and Dance by Victoria Duffield

Victoria Duffield - Shut Up and Dance Album CoverAbbotsford, British Columbia’s Victoria Duffield, A+ student, actor, professional dancer, singer, and composer has more talent in her 17-year-old frame than most people accumulate in a lifetime. Single “Shut Up and Dance”, 49th biggest song of the year and platinum certified, heralded an album bearing the same name spawning an additional two Top 40 singles (so far) and includes a collaboration with Australian heartthrob Cody Simpson. The album is short: eight tracks with a run time of 28 minutes, most being co-written with hit-maker Ryan Stewart (Carly Rae Jepsen, Suzie McNeil). All tracks on this gem succeed to levels rivalling anything Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, or The Pet Shop Boys have concocted in their respective terms of reign over the airwaves. It has taken a long time for Canadian music to branch out into the dance genre, and this has finally been perfected on such a brilliant work as this. Moreover, big on melody and sophistication, it remains purified from the watering down urban, repetitive, and oversimplified styles that have saturated the market south of the border, coming at them and the rest of the world like a breath of fresh air.  We are not surprised at all that Victoria Duffield topped the Billboard Year-End Emerging Canadian Artists Chart.

As 2012 was the year that saw malicious contempt towards the young, we are pleased that our choice happens to counter this. The Canadian Music Blog is proud to declare Victoria Duffield’s Shut Up and Dance as 2012’s Album of the Year.

Louis-Jean Cormier Dazzles Us from Le Treizieme Etage

Louis-Jean Cormier, front man of Polaris Prize winning indie band from Montréal, Karkwa, has released a solo album with such inspired musical composition that it has dazzled many of those who have paused in their daily routine to give it a listen. This is not the sort of record that would spawn a hit single or two. It is melancholy, reflective, introspective, and at times psychedelic, centered on acoustic guitar with some electric jolts and electronic ambiance to make the listener feel as if he is waddling through dust on the dark side of the moon. Of all artists, the album reminds me, believe it or not, of Radiohead, not in sound waveforms but in the mood elicited. Cormier’s singing style of half-whispered determined calm is a perfect match for the soft strums of the guitar that seem to come at you as if from the no-zone space of the thirteenth floor.  Le Treizieme Etage was the 8th best-selling album in Canada last week. It is, in our humble opinion, one of the best albums of the year, a stunning piece of work.

Check it out on iTunes.