New Releases: Matthew Good, Tenille Arts, and More!

We have new albums this week from 3 JUNO winners and an additional 4 nominees, one multiplatinum artist, one platinum, and one gold. At the bottom of this post find a listing of 17 LPs and 6 EPs/mini albums for your enjoyment. We wish to highlight a few of these.

For those who like to get jiggy wid it, Orangeville, ON EDM duo DVBBS presents full-length album Blood of My Blood. The lads landed a JUNO nomination and struck platinum with previous single “Tsunami” which also went all the way to #1 on the British charts. The album is a bit more urban flavoured for those who dig it.

Toronto’s Carol Welsman has yet to win a JUNO for her exquisite vocal jazz, scoring six nominations over the years. Her new album is entitled For You. Find her interpretations of such classics as “Close to You” and “My Funny Valentine”.

Rock man Matt Mays of Dartmouth, NS is back with an album that is selling well, Once Upon a Hell of a Time. In 2014, Matt’s album Coyote won the JUNO for Rock Album of the Year.

Toronto’s very popular Tenille Arts introduces her debut LP, Rebel Child. There are many emerging country artists, and she is leading most with her energetic delivery and splendid vocals.

Multiplatinum 4-time (2 as a soloist) JUNO winner Matthew Good of Coquitlam, BC gives us his latest effort which is Something Like a Storm. It leads the week’s releases at iTunes (currently #4). Matthew likes to craft rock with a hint of new wave.

Alternative folk comes by way of Toronto’s Skydiggers. The band won a JUNO for Most Promising Group of the Year way back in 1993. It’s good the outfit is still making music. The latest work of art is Warmth of the Sun.

Drummondville, QC’s Andy St-Louis (female) contributes a delightful 4-track EP of beautiful adult contemporary tunes worth checking out; Chez Moi is doing quite well on the Musique fracophone charts.

Finally, something of a treat, St. John’s Kim Stockwood joins jazz pianist Bill King with an easy listening EP, Sometimes the Moon. It feels like watching a classy old-time movie. Very nicely done. Kim was nominated for a JUNO in 1996 (Best New Solo Artist).

A number of new singles and music videos are out this week as well. We’d like to highlight “Darts in the Dark” from multiplatinum group MAGIC! The band has gone for a little more of an electronic sound on this, and it sounds nifty.

One of the best songs of the year off one of the best albums gets a music video. We’re talking about “Moonlight Shadow” off album Young Mopes from British Columbia’s Louise Burns. View it below, and find underneath a listing of some of the week’s Canadian artist LPs and EPs.

TITLE ARTIST GENRE AWARDS
Adieu Veracruz Cherry Cherie Alt Rock  
L’alphabet des animaux Natasha St-Pier Children’s 1JN; G
Blood of My Blood DVBBS EDM 1JN; P
Break Andre Bisson  Blues  
Le demon normal Oktoplut Metal  
For You Carol Welsman Jazz 6JN
Morose Les Poules à Colin Folk  
Nothing Else Matters ViVA Trio EL  
Nouveau depart! Jacques & Geneviève AC  
Once Upon a Hell of a Time Matt Mays Rock 1JW
Rebel Child Tenille Arts Country  
Rever plus fort Thierry Bruyere Alt Rock  
Rivers Mark Martyre S-S  
Sanza Soul Laetitia Zonzambé World  
Shame Tough Age Alt Rock  
Something Like a Storm Matthew Good Rock 4JW; 2xP
Warmth of the Sun Skydiggers Alt Folk 1JW
Chez moi (EP) Andy St-Louis AC  
Downtown Kids (EP) David James Country  
Etre social (EP) Émilie Landry AC  
Low Light (EP) Lydia Persaud S-S  
Sometimes the Moon (EP) Kim Stockwood EL 1JN
Yugen (EP) Gazoline Alt  

KEY:
JN – Juno Nominations
JW – Juno Wins
G – Gold (highest certification on a recording)
P – Platinum (highest certification on a recording)
2xP – Double Platinum (highest certification on a recording)
EL – Easy Listening
AC – Adult Contemporary
S-S – Singer-Songwriter

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Louise Burns Asks, “Who’s the Madman?”

Canadian recording artist Louise Burns has proven through three albums thus far that she is an ace when it comes to songwriting, singing, and musicianship. Her latest new wave leaning album Young Mopes is one of the finest works of the year to date, and we now have a music video for opening track, “Who’s the Madman.” The MV stars a vampire and plays with the concept that real life is often stranger than what we see on TV. Album Young Mopes follows 2013’s Midnight Mass and the 2011 Polaris Prize-nominated Mellow Drama.  iTunes

Louise Burns in Top Form on Young Mopes

louise-burns-young-mopesSigned to Madonna’s Maverick label when she was just 15, Louise Burns of Cranbrook, BC co-founded all-female, JUNO-nominated rock group Lillix serving as its bass player. 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, Louise recently released her third solo record Young Mopes. Her 2011 jangle-pop debut album as a soloist earned a Polaris nomination. The new record is introspective, guitar-oriented new wave with some strokes of synth, New Orderesque high-pitched bass pulses, tight drumming, and includes a cover of the Blue Nile’s “Downtown Lights”. Track “Strange Weather” sees Burns master the country-inspired genre complete with lap steel. The tunes are deliciously shadowy, and Burns’ bright vocals and energetic delivery give it a sunny glaze. Young Mopes embodies the spirit of an old soul with a teenage heart. It is yet another ace for one of Canada’s most underrated talents, Louise Burns. Catch her on tour in March and April supporting The Zolas.  iTunes

Selected New Releases February 3, 2017

collage-copy

We kick off this week’s releases with Almanach from Cap-Chat, QC’s Patrice Michaud. It debuted at #3 in the iTunes chart and is essentially a pop album with some rock and singer-songwriter flavours in the mix. It’s a nifty little album.

For blues-rock lovers, Matt Minglewood is the man. The native of Glace Bay, NS releases the fine work, Fly Like Desperados.

Edmonton’s Peter Sagar, recording under the moniker Homeshake, contributes alternative disc Fresh Air. He is now based in Montreal.

Ottawa’s Her Harbour may oscillate between soloist Gabrielle Giguere and a band but new album Go Gently into the Night settles on a relaxed, sparsely arranged folk album.

Big Wreck needs no introduction. The acclaimed rock band debuts at #2 on iTunes with Grace Street.

How about giving Montreal gridlock a dose of grit rock from local band Le Trouble. But be careful. The new album may lead to Making Matters Worse.

How about that JUNO Award winner Rose Cousins? The Halifax folk artist is back with a very good album as usual—Natural Conclusion.

Kitchener-Waterloo group Courage My Love launches album Synesthesia which should impress fans of Crystalyne and Hedley.

Last but not least is our favourite album of 2017 to date: Young Mopes from Cranbrook, BC’s Louise Burns. It’s guitar-oriented new wave with some synth touches and reminds us that she stands as one of Canada’s most gifted recording artists. A wonderful album.

2017: The Year of the Automat and More

automat-1

Automat will be releasing its second LP on January 27, 2017, entitled Pandora. While the Quebec City band’s first album in 2012 was a pop-rock affair, Pandora shifts more into pure pop territory. With catchy melodies, pleasant vocals, and very addictive beats, it is already one of the standout releases of the year. The group has opened for Carly Rae Jepsen and had one of its songs selected by the Canadian Olympic Committee for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

austra-rejected-album-cover

Other confirmed album releases in early 2017 are works from The Katherines, USSAustra (see a rejected album cover pictured above), Japandroids, Alejandra Ribera, Le Trouble, Courage My Love, Louise Burns, Big Wreck, Mother Mother, Joel Plaskett & Bill Plaskett, and Nelly Furtado. Arcade Fire, Kiesza, Voivod, and Shania Twain are rumoured to be releasing new albums or at least new music in 2017. On Christmas Day, thanking her fans for supporting her during her two-year battle with Lyme disease, Avril Lavigne stated in a message that she intends to release a new album in 2017.

avril-2017-album

Earlier in December, Automat released a gorgeous music video for track “Mea Culpa” off the Pandora album. It has lots of amazing landscape shots filmed in Iceland. We have embedded the MV below.

The Pharaoh Wants to Come Home from The Underside

ysp lucas louise copy

Abbotsford, BC’s You Say Party has released an official music video for “Underside” off its self-titled album that came out in early 2016. Inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s classic movie Princess Mononoke, we watch a little one journeying through vast terrain, 4,000 km around Japan to be precise. This is pretty amazing.  iTunes

Lucas DiPasquale, originally from Markham, ON, has received some radio spins for music off his EP Post-Secondary. He is a very talented young chap who likes to bring some reggae vibes into pop music. Below is the MV for track “Come Home” with some nice summery urban shots.  iTunes

We are keeping our fingers crossed for a new album from Cranbrook, BC’s Louise Burns in a little while. She did drop … not names, not bombs, but a new 2-song single in March. The Bangles taught us how to walk like an Egyptian. Chris Tucker taught us how to fight like an Egyptian. But it is Louise Burns who shows us how to rock … like a pharaoh.  iTunes

Canadian Music Blog’s Top 20 Song Faves of 2013: #10 to #1

Canadian Recording Artists

(See Part 1 – Songs #20 to #11 – which also includes eligibility rules and our selection process HERE.)

#10. “Love Ocean” by Wanting

Wanting - Love OceanSome of our favourite tunes are Allophone ones, and this incredible composition is performed in Mandarin Chinese, one of our favourite languages for music. While many artists throw together sounds and then try to create a melody to support them, British Columbia’s Wanting constructs music that surrounds and elevates a perfect melody. We prefer the latter. If we could, we would detach our ears and let them sink to the depths of the ocean of Wanting’s music, where they would stay for eternity. Check out the beautiful music video as well.

#9. “The Lodger” by Louise Burns

Louise Burns - The LodgerWhen we play Louise Burns’ music, we see shadows fall and omens open their eyes. It’s all about switch and glide. Louise is a both a very talented songwriter and a solid singer as she proves on her latest album, The Midnight Mass. Track “The Lodger” opens with a delicious pounce of drums and keys which pause as she delivers her opening address to launch this wicked tune of slow-burning glory. The bass flickers as peals of something lunge forward. All these pathways of spook lead to a chorus which cruises like a swamp thing with an itchy foot.

#8. “Daylight Colours” by Gold & Youth

Gold and Youth - Daylight ColoursVancouver and Toronto have married and given birth to this electronic rock band that released its first album, Beyond Wilderness, in 2013. We concur with others that their live performances are worth their weight in gold. After providing additional vocals for them, the aforementioned Louise Burns joined the group as a permanent member, and we love especially the tracks that feature the male-female vocal combo and sophisticated guitar work. Besides the band’s previously released singles, the playful “Daylight Colours” impressed us most.

#7. “Breathing Underwater” by Metric

Metric - Breathing UnderwaterThis was the most successful single from JUNO-winning 2012 album Synthetica. It made the Hot 100 in December 2012 for one week and then remained dormant. After a CHR summer remix version was released, the song resurfaced on the charts in June 2013, eventually peaking at #22. Emily’s voice is a given, but we just love how it breaks out into its electro-rocking chorus. This is one of those songs that grows on you. After several listens, its brilliance finally grabs hold, seizes and possesses, and pulls you into the sea. No scuba gear required.

#6. “Here’s to Never Growing Up” by Avril Lavigne

Avril Lavigne - Here's to Never Growing UpAfter debuting on US DJ Ryan Seacrest’s radio show, this became a platinum single heralding a comeback for Avril Lavigne this year, and it succeeded in sales better than radio airplay, as broadcasters seemed to wait until her collaboration with husband Chad Kroeger before giving the dynamite singer and songwriter some spins. The energetic song perfectly encapsulates a celebration of youth and effectively responds to those who show them contempt. Its music video features Avril dressing in the fashion style from her skater days.

#5. “Vacances de 87” by Le Couleur

Le Couleur - Vacances de 87Featuring French Horn Rebellion, this requisite staple of the dance club gets the bongos sounding, the cymbals tinkling, the beat pounding, and most importantly the bass funking. It fires up the synths, begins tickling the guitars, pairs the American boy with a Canadian girl, and alternates between plain male Anglo and sultry female Franco vocals. What could serve as a more addictive treat? We absolutely adore how the song’s grand finale provides that extra bass hook. We named Le Couleur’s Voyage Love as the year’s best EP, and this is its finest track.

#4. “I Was a Fool” by Tegan and Sara

Tegan and Sara I Was a FoolThis serene, breezy Top 20 hit and gold single was the second released from Heartthrob, our favourite album of 2013. It sizzles and swaggers its way back to a retro 80s new wave vibe. “I Was a Fool” opens with piano, provides a solid backbeat, is delivered with the sweetest of vocals, and burns into the grooviest of choruses in natural stereo sound from the duo. We are convinced that Calgary’s Tegan and Sara are the coolest twin sisters on the planet, and they have made all of our year-end albums, music videos, and songs lists.

#3. “Cover Me” by Jonas & the Massive Attraction

Jonas and the Massive Attraction - Cover MeLive Out Loud was one of our favourite albums of 2013, a rock tour de force containing both harder and softer delights. As far as track “Cover Me” goes, “Wow!” is all we can say. This killer tune should have been a massive hit, as it is simply a progressive pop/rock masterpiece both musically and lyrically. It makes the heart feel as if it is soaring through dense material, backed with invigorating power and restorative juices, a feel-good anthem with a wall of sound that is rich, intricate, and plentiful. Jonas Tomalty is for sure one of Canada’s finest rock vocalists.

#2. “This Is What It Feels Like” Featuring Trevor Guthrie

This Is What It Feels Like - Armin Van Buuren ft Trevor GuthrieGrowing up in North Vancouver District, Trevor became lead singer of soulDecision which scored massive hits “Faded” and “Ooh It’s Kinda Crazy” circa Y2K. After the group disbanded, he hooked up with Dutch EDM master Armin van Buuren and wrote and sings this song about his neighbour who had a brain tumour. Making it up to #6 on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100, it was certified double platinum and finished the year as its 19th biggest hit. It is one of the most uplifting tracks we have ever heard, striking the sky with towering elation.

Canadian Music Blog’s 2013 Song of the Year

Putting things into perspective, we listened to several thousand songs by Canadian artists released through 2013—all songs on all albums, EPs, as well as individual singles. We listened to everything from the most popular Top 40 hits to the most obscure indie tunes. And of all these songs, the one we loved most was this one from an emerging artist in Canada’s second westernmost province. This is a female solo artist who, in 2012, won the Virgin Radio Star contest in Edmonton, and was flown out to Vancouver to record (thus far) three singles. The first of these bubbled under the Billboard Canadian Hot 100. The second of these was featured in TV series Beauty and the Beast. The third of these is our selection for 2013’s Song of the Year, a track she created with the Milk Music team of Mike James (Kelly Rowland, Kreesha Turner), Davey Badiuk (Dragonette), and vanguard BC indie artist Stef Lang.

This is a jewel of songwriting and expert production, an intelligent dance track filled with complex percussion, bright keyboards, and a galvanizing chorus. But what makes it so exquisite, what pushes it past the magic of Metric, the allure of Avril Lavigne, the appeal of Tegan & Sara, and even the ecstasy of the Armin van Buuren produced masterwork is the voice, a voice which is so uniquely gorgeous, so soulfully spicy, and so very, very charming. The Canadian Music Blog declares “All For You” by Lexi Strate as 2013’s Song of the Year.

Lexi Strate - All For You - Canadian Song of the Year 2013

Canadian Music Blog’s Top 15 Album Faves of 2013

PREAMBLE

It is rare to find an honest year-end album list. There are vested interests 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, 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. We also wonder why any list of domestic albums which excludes Francophone releases calls itself Canadian. 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 several hundred of the Canadian albums that were released in 2013. If the album held our attention throughout, and we found ourselves enjoying song after song, we shortlisted it (11% of the albums made the list). At the end of the year, we listened to the shortlisted albums several times and ranked them. Below is a roll of the top 15 albums from that list, our 15 favourite Canadian albums of 2013.

#15. Golden Age by Phèdre

Phedre - Golden AgePhèdre is an offshoot of Toronto’s Hooded Fang. Legend has it that Daniel Lee and April Aliermo entered an attic of an unknown location over three summer nights. What they found lurking within must have been profound, for the results present cutting edge material, the vibrations of which seem capable of transmuting copper into gold. Golden Age is a celebration of experimental (think Grimes, Bjork, Moev) and very catchy electronica. The vocals, intentionally at times slightly off-key and delivered in a spirit of boredom, add an extra dimension. In fact, the entire package seems to have been borne by the winds of a tesseract. Phèdre reminds us of music’s great potential to excite, and they have succeeded in tapping into a gold mine unleashing the magic sparklers of all things weird and wonderful.

#14. En love majeur by France d’Amour

France d'Amour - En love majeurGrowing up just north of Montréal, France D’Amour took up the guitar and piano. Since her breakthrough in 1993, she has scored eight hit singles that made the CKOI year-end Top 50. Two of her albums have gone gold, and she has received two JUNO nominations. In 1998, out of admiration for Vancouver’s The Odds, she called up their guitarist Steven Drake and they ended up collaborating. En love majeur is France’s tenth album, an exceptionally rich production of gorgeous and intimate adult contemporary confections, dipped at times in heartland folk, blues, and jazz, and delivered by one of the sweetest voices in the country. The diversity of instruments played, complex instrumentation, and sunny style provide an even backbone of grandeur to such a heart-soothing voice.

#13. Fusée by Ariane Brunet

Ariane Brunet - FuseeKirkland is a residential community of about 20,000 on the island of Montréal, and it is where recording artist Ariane Brunet was born. With childhood piano and singing lessons underway, she won contests and awards, took up the guitar, and studied jazz. Her first album appeared in 2010 for which she was nominated for the Newcomer of the Year ADISQ Félix award in 2011. Brunet released her second album Fusée in 2013. It contains an assortment of delicacies like beautiful adult contemporary “Le temps de vivre”, the rousing “Vertige”, melancholy “Mon plus beau naufrage”, and funky “L’évidence”. Lead single, “Bagatelle” rocketed its way up into the iTunes Francophone Top 10. The music is soft, graceful, and smartly decked with strings.

#12. Echogenetic by Front Line Assembly

Front Line Assembly - EchogeneticAustrian-born Bill Leeb, who settled in Kitimat, BC when he was 13, was attracted to industrial music (i.e. electronic metal) and joined the Vancouver band Skinny Puppy playing bass synth. He left the band a year later to launch his own projects, the best-known of these being Delerium which enshrined a more moonlit new age electronica. On the dark side of the moon, Leeb created Front Line Assembly as a more aggressive venture. After some 26 years of FLA releases, appeared Echogenetic in 2013. FLA sheds its off-and-on use of guitars over the years for a pure, all-synth brand of spook. Menacing, mangled vocals, brick-smashing electronic bass, razor-sharp percussion, and an ethereal orchestra of synthesizers punch craters in the floor and blast the listener up to cast-iron clouds of emotion and dream.

#11. Mitan by Tire le Coyote

Tire le Coyote - MitanSophomore work Mitan from Tire le Coyote, or Benoit Pinette, sounds like a dark but vibrant spaghetti western soundtrack that could add some panache to films scored by Ennio Morricone. It even opens with the haunting peal of a harmonica and slow-motion strum with deliberately beefed-up reverb. It builds from a hot dusty tumbleweed bouncing around and shutter flapping in a vacated ranch house into an ensemble of determined instruments each doing its bit on a bandstand where the townsfolk sit listening in a transfixed state. Pinette’s twangy delivery of beautiful French poetry adds to the delight as does the odd pouncing of sad piano. Tire le Coyote has more tricks up his musical sleeve than a card shark in a poker saloon.

#10. Avril Lavigne by Avril Lavigne

Avril Lavigne - Avril LavigneTapping into the spirit of rock and roll, Avril Lavigne’s 5th studio album opens with a revved up stick-it-to-the-man piece of battling bearsharks with band-saw guitars and world salvation. Party pop anthem “Here’s to Never Growing Up” follows, a nostalgic celebration of youth. Ghostly irony swings forth on a piano string in the hygienic, breakup-themed “Let Me Go”, a duet with husband Chad Kroeger of the world’s finest and most successful grunge band, Nickelback. A decadent and delicious collaboration with goth growler Marilyn Manson precedes homage to Japanese cartoon icon Hello Kitty which receives the electropunk treatment it deserves. The album closes with a pair of slow songs reminding us that Avril Lavigne can do it all and remains one of the world’s most talented superstars.

#9. The Midnight Mass by Louise Burns

Louise Burns - The Midnight MassLouise Burns’ newest album reminds us of Siouxsie and the Banshees with some added synth textures. Most importantly, it effectively showcases her songwriting genius. “Emeralds Shatter” unseals the album with a cinematic, nighttime opening followed by twangy, Twin Peaks’ bass, jamboree percussion, and heightened vocal reverb. The sweeping, melodic “Ruby” follows. A driving beat opens “San Andreas” where matter-of-fact, ominous storytelling bursts into an irresistible, perfectly-constructed chorus. A rocking chair on a hot, dusty porch at a country home comes to mind with spaghetti western influenced “He’s My Woman”. “Jasper’s” determined beat breeds addiction, while “Heaven” glides gracefully, leading up to the slow burning glory of “The Lodger”.

#8. Oothèque by Oothèque

OothequeFrancis Mineau, the drummer of JUNO winning progressive rock band Malajube, released this album under the moniker Oothèque. Through these colourful tracks, you will hear ever so subtly the sweeping synths of The Cure, the theatrical rock of Prism, the perky new wave guitars of the Go-Go’s, and even the alternative thrashes of The Smashing Pumpkins. Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau is on the prowl bouncing around playfully as the opening bass-carried tune would suggest. The jazzy laid-back electro ballad “Secrétaire” yields to a sparkling power burst in its chorus, and “Spiegelbild” tips its toque to post punk sensibilities and dials up the party hotline, “Ligne ouverte,” which takes us to the funky fun of “Lycanthrope”. Going downtown, things get harder, faster, and alas we discover the whole time, we have been strolling through the shimmering thoroughfares of Kuala Lumpur.

#7. Escapology by Maylee Todd

Maylee Todd - EscapologyMaylee is from Toronto and released her debut LP in 2010, an experimental dabbling in a switchboard of styles. Fusing the organic with the electronic, kneading in elements of 70s boogie, funk, bossa nova, and soul, she has honed her craft and channelled a torrent of mastery into her sophomore record. While a number of artists have attempted to recreate both the style and essence of yesterday’s grooves, Maylee has not only nailed it, she has actually managed to improve upon it. An overlooked key indicator to an album’s genius is when reviewers each cite a different track as their favourite. And this is what has happened here. The irresistible “Baby’s Got It” and “Hieroglyphics” were released as singles. The songwriting, instrumentation, production, and singing are all first rate. Maylee Todd is the real deal, folks.

#6. Loved Me Back to Life by Céline Dion

Celine Dion - Loved Me Back to LifeLike all superstars who manage to continue their success, the most successful Canadian recording artist of all-time is able to keep up with the changing trends in musical style while never losing her foothold on the foundation of her persona. We are quite amazed at the quality of this work, the year’s best-selling album at quadruple platinum sales. The vocal excellence is a given (check out “Breakaway”) but here Celine pulls off a surprisingly masterful handling of genuine modern pop music while at the same time never losing sight of her AC roots, and she gives the R&B tracks a more classy treatment than what we are accustomed to these days. Simply put, Loved Me Back to Life is Celine’s finest album of the new millennium.

#5. Live Out Loud by Jonas & the Massive Attraction

Jonas and the Massive Attraction - Live Out LoudAs the album opens, it is as if a massive boulder was launched from a catapult knocking the moon out of orbit. “Ultimate Low” is such a power-packed jam, it’ll have every muscle in your body convulsing involuntarily with its soaring, sky scratching chorus. “Riot” makes effective use of back and forth vocals, not to mention its chugging guitars and menacing drums. “Cover Me” contains some killer keyboards hoisting us into the 5th dimension. You know those days when you sleep through your alarm and have five minutes to get ready for work? Put on “Breathing” and you’ll accomplish it in four. Power ballad “Good Life” will inject you with such elation, you’ll be dancing on a tightrope … in a pair of skates. “Too Young to Be Broken” has the group getting creative with fresh sounds and an addictive beat to boot. All in all, Live Out Loud is one of the best rock releases of 2013.

#4. The Hurry and the Harm by City and Colour

City and Colour - The Hurry and the HarmMelancholy, dreamy, melodic, vocals as soft as flannel, poetic lyrics bold enough to be felt-markered onto Bristol board, and music so inspired it would distract Gretzky in the middle of a breakaway is City and Colour’s 2013 gold-certified, chart-topping album. Teaming up again with producer Alex Newport, The Hurry and the Harm was recorded in Nashville, USA. Though you will be swept away by the warm, ambient music on this disc, if you pause to listen in on (or read) the lyrics you will find subjects of internet trolls and online gossip, a big thumbs down to the US State of California, and grief over leaving the band Alexisonfire.

#3. Schizophrène by Anik Jean

Anik Jean - SchizophreneAnik Jean is without a doubt Canada’s Joan Jett. She simply rocks. The album opener rolls in like a cartwheel of demons and sets up a disc packed full of grinding guitars, exciting rock drumming, and piano pouncing. “Minable” places Anik’s voice atop an iron pedestal circumambulated by the echo of a yowling guitar. “À la vie, à la mort” is a larger-than-life rock anthem and “Liste noir” soars as if the band is playing atop a junkyard pile of rusted, wheel-deprived cars without a care in the world. The album’s lone English tune “Bad Bad Girl” is the hardest rock piece offered. “Tu es mon enfer” presents some of the spicy alternative rock of Placebo. Schizophrène ends with a ballad, capping off a great masterpiece, which stands dangerously close to being overlooked by a populace fixed on male-bonding rock bands and female dance-pop soloists.

#2. Forêt by Forêt

Foret - ForetClassically trained vocalist Émilie Laforest and guitarist Joseph Marchand, formerly associates of Karkwa, Pierre Lapointe, and Ariane Moffatt, let loose one of the finest albums of 2013, a pop mélancolico-romantique Félix-nominated tour de force with contributions made by several high-profile musicians. Creative beauty, songwriting prowess, and masterful instrumentation abound on this masterpiece. Emilie’s delicate, haunting vocals blended with music of mystery and charm imbues listeners with magic power. We are transported into a dream in which omens soothe, allure warns, and everything is not what it appears. Plants dance, animals talk, and pebbles cast themselves into brooms sweeping away all tangled twigs and mud traps from the forest floor.

Canadian Music Blog’s 2013 Album of the Year

Certified gold by the end of the year, spawning three hit singles to date, one of which went platinum, this album was praised by both indie lovers and pop enthusiasts as well as fellow professional musicians including British band Keane. But this is not the reason we chose it as the year’s best album. We selected it simply because the music is oh, so very, very good. It was a slow and steady climb before this act, who grew up beneath the shadow of the Saddledome, reached the playing field of the elite, as this is their seventh studio album. Leaving behind the blackboard scratching squeaks of acoustic guitars as a folk duo, they wove expert songwriting into a masterpiece of smoothly produced, electronic pop with a subtle 80s alternative vibe. And there is a twist. They express the emotion, be it bubbly or swaggering, through the music rather than their vocals which are usually delivered with Vulcan cool, not to mention natural stereo sound given that they are … identical twin sisters. From start to finish the tracks on the disc are consistently infectious. The Canadian Music Blog declares Heartthrob by Tegan and Sara as 2013’s Album of the Year.

Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob - Canadian Album of the Year 2013

Burning the Midnight Oil Listening to Louise Burns at The Midnight Mass

Louise Burns - The Midnight MassOur story begins in Cranbrook, a city of 20,000 in southeastern BC. With a highly effective hockey program, the city has churned out some notable NHL players, like Steve Yzerman. But like all Canadian cities, hockey was only half of the equation to sell out its arenas. Cranbrook was in need of a local rock band. While in high school, the Duo-Tang wielding Evin sisters with Louise Burns and Sierra Hills came to the rescue forming Tigerlily in 1997. This all-girl group displayed enough talent to be signed by Madonna’s Maverick Records, and they changed their name to Lillix. Not only did they enjoy success across the country, but internationally, most notably in Japan. In 2004, the band received a pair of JUNO nominations.

Louise BurnsHere we are concerned with the band’s bass player, Louise Burns, who eventually went solo. In 2011, this incredibly talented singer-songwriter released her debut album, Mellow Drama, infused with fuzzy, tambourine-jingling, head-bobbing pop. With such delicious tracks like “Drop Names Not Bombs” and the beautiful, electro beat capped “Ocean Grey”, the album was long listed for the Polaris Prize. Louise’s captivating voice was compared to Stevie Nicks’ and Chrissie Hynde’s. While enjoying a solo career, Burns joined the new Vancouver-based electronic rock band Gold & Youth who released their dazzling debut album, Beyond Wilderness, earlier this year.

Louise Burns1And now, Louise has dropped her sophomore solo album, The Midnight Mass. In her own words, on this work, she wanted to create music that was “coherent and cinematic and beautiful and dark” like the products of John Foxx, the British electronic rock pioneer she admires greatly. Burns’ new album reminds us of Siouxsie and the Banshees with some added synth textures. Most importantly, it effectively showcases her songwriting genius. The lead single, “Emeralds Shatter” was launched back in April. It unseals the album with its cinematic, nighttime opening followed by twangy, Twin Peaks bass, jamboree percussion, and heightened vocal reverb. The sweeping, melodic “Ruby” follows, the album’s new single. A driving beat opens “San Andreas” where matter-of-fact, ominous storytelling bursts into an irresistible, perfectly-constructed chorus. A rocking chair on a hot, dusty porch at a country home comes to mind with spaghetti western influenced “He’s My Woman”. “Jasper’s” determined beat breeds addiction, while “Heaven” glides gracefully, leading up to the slow burning glory of “The Lodger”. The album concludes with a dark wave cover of the Gun Club’s “Mother of Earth”.

The Midnight Mass was produced by Colin Stewart (Dan Mangan, A. C. Newman) and the Raveonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner. We’ll be burning the midnight oil listening to this gem for a long time.

The Midnight Mass on iTunes     Louise Burns’ Website