The Rites and Ritual of Traitrs

traitrsToronto has an exciting new post-punk duo that effectively licks the champions of mediocrity. Rites and Ritual is the new album from Traitrs, one whose penned verses explore the dark gallows and shambled stone shacks of witch trials, youth cults, and burnt offerings. Musically, the duo presents a sound that echoes The Chameleons UK and composition on par with The Spoons. The post-punk cold wave, with atmospheric guitars, boldly sashays itself in with a great wall of sound that will fill your spine with a delicious cacophony of shivers. Rites and Ritual packs an impressive bite and is a welcome addition to the best works of 2016. We have embedded the MV for opening track “Witch Trial” below.  iTunes

Advertisements

Drake Has the Coolest Album Cover of 2016

Canadian actor turned rapper Drake has … uncovered the album cover … for his upcoming LP Views, and it’s pretty breathtaking. We have never seen such a hi-res close up view of the CN Tower’s main pod, and certainly not with a cool dude sitting so casually on its roof! Yes, that little dot is Drake up there.

Toronto’s CN Tower was built between 1973 and 1976. It became the world’s tallest self-supporting structure beating out Russia’s Ostankino Tower, a title it held until surpassed in height by both the Burj Khalifa and Canton Tower in 2010. While now outdone by a few structures in the Orient, the CN Tower still holds the title for the western hemisphere. A feverish phallic competition by various nations in breaking records for tallest building or structure has significantly increased in frequency in the new millennium.

Views is expected out Friday, April 29 and is Drake’s fifth (not including his collaborative work with Future). It will contain his recently released singles “Pop Style” “One Dance”. The latter is a variation of “Do You Mind” by Crazy Cousinz featuring British singer Kyla and became Drake’s first #1 hit in the UK as the main artist. Before you hit the plagiarism alert button, note that Kyla is listed in the writing credits of “One Dance”, so it’s all cool.

We have embedded a hi-res copy of Drake’s Views album cover below (click to enlarge).

Drake - Views from the 6

Pan Am Is Headlining West

2015_Pan_American_Games_logo_svgWhen it came to Vancouver hosting the Olympics, the closing ceremony saw only Canadian recording artists handling the entertainment portion: Michael Buble, Avril Lavigne, Simple Plan, and Hedley, among others. When London, UK hosted, the entertainment featured British stars. Those seem to be the rules. The host country shows the world what it’s made of. Toronto has broken those rules. It has been announced that two American rappers will be headlining the closing ceremony of the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, and many are disappointed. The only Canadian announced to be performing is Serena Ryder who will attempt to get some verses in edgewise while sandwiched in between Kanye’s West’s family unfriendly expletives-packed, lecherous lyrics and his fellow American rapper Pitbull. To make matters worse, the mayor of Toronto shot himself in the foot by stating incorrectly that West is from Toronto. A petition is in circulation and this afternoon was up to 22,000 in favour of cancelling West’s performance at the games. It is unlikely that it will succeed.

In terms of charting singles and per capita album sales, Kanye West has seen significantly less success in Canada than in the United States. West (and Pitbull) no doubt have a number of fans in Canada but the voices of dissent are expressing the inappropriateness of the selection wanting instead to see Canadian stars (especially those from Ontario or even better Toronto itself). Last year, many Canadians were put off by an American band headlining the Grey Cup. The Pan Am Games website has not stated whether or not recording stars from any of the other 39 participating countries (Mexico, Brazil, Trinidad, Jamaica, etc.) will be performing.

We’ll Never Get Enough of Eva Avila!

eva avila - never get enoughFabulous singer Eva Avila recently finished off a 10-week stint of performances at the InterContinental Hotel on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong overlooking the avenue of stars, and in the bay, the classy Chinese junks with their characteristic batwing sails. The Canadian Idol winner from the Gatineau scored #1 hit “Meant to Fly” (double platinum, composers: Chantal Kreviazuk, Raine Maida, and Gaby Moreno) plus three charting singles on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100. Her debut 2006 album Somewhere Else was certified gold. In 2007, Avila received a JUNO nomination for New Artist of the Year. The beautiful songstress now has over 100,000 followers on Twitter.

2015 pan amEva is releasing new music. An EP is out entitled Never Get Enough which contains some of her recent singles. It houses five songs plus Franco versions of two of them for a total of seven tracks. “Never Get Enough” has been distributed to CHR and Hot AC radio by eOne Music Canada. The EP is available on iTunes. Proving she’s a tried and true trooper, besides Anglo and Franco, she has polished her Spanish speaking skills (her father’s roots lie in Peru) and voices the Spanish language version of the official theme song for the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, “Unidos Somo Mas,” which you can grab here.

Toronto’s Eh440 Turns Up the A Cappella Element

Eh440 - Turn Me UpEh440 is a five-member a cappella group from Toronto that formed in 2012. Debut album Turn Me Up has just been released. The group consists of Janet Turner, Stacey Kay, Luke Stapleton (aka Human Record), Mike Celia, and Joe Oliva. The group’s first gig was a performance before 20,000 people: the national anthem, Valentine’s Day 2012 at a Toronto Raptors basketball game. While many a cappella groups simply perform covers, Eh440’s album contains only one (Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”); ten tracks on the album are original compositions. The omnipresent Serena Ryder is a guest on one of them. Embedded below is freshly launched music video for “Died on the Table” a 100% a cappella recording featuring not a single musical instrument.  iTunes 

BADBADNOTGOOD’s III Is … Good

badbadnotgood-iiiBADBADNOTGOOD, sometimes called BBNG, is a fusion jazz trio from Toronto deservedly being raved about internationally. As the title of the new album suggests, III is the group’s 3rd long play offering. This is the first album of entirely original compositions which are instrumental, cinematic, jazzy electronic jewels with big boom beats. We think Hollywood … Bollywood … Canadian cinema needs to create a new feature film from scratch for the express purpose of using this album as a soundtrack. Then again, the music is so captivating, viewers would likely leave the theatre wondering what happened in the film. SoundCloud for “Can’t Leave the Night” embedded below.  iTunes

Don’t Kill the MAGIC!

MAGIC - Don't Kill the MagicToronto’s MAGIC! has followed up international smash reggae-pop hit “Rude” with a second single. An album is apparently on the way. “Rude,” now at platinum, has peaked at #7 on the Canadian Hot 100, and it reached #2 in our Commonwealth cousins Australia and New Zealand. MAGIC! is also featured in song “Cut Me Deep” on Colombian singer Shakira’s latest album. The band’s new single is “Don’t Kill the Magic,” and it comes with a music video that has lots of lights.  iTunes

2013 MuchMusic Video Awards Announce Nominees

Lauren Liz Phoebe

Billy Talent in a Sherman tank, Katy Perry in an ice cream truck, Marianas Trench in a hot tub, Simple Plan in a pink limo, the MuchMusic Video Awards (MMVAs) are known for their over-the-top red carpet arrivals. Held in a metropolis that, of 2.6 million capable citizens, chose Rob Ford as its leader, this outdoor spectacle will have crowds lining Toronto’s Queen Street West and the MuchMusic parking lot. South Korean gentleman rapper Psy will serve as co-host and performances will include United States pop princess Demi Lovato. It all happens on June 16. 

Nominees for selected categories lie below. Some of the categories are open to public voting. For a full list, visit the official website – LINK. 

VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Classified ft. David Myles – “Inner Ninja”
Drake – “Started from the Bottom”
Marianas Trench – “Desperate Measures”
Serena Ryder – “Stompa”
The Weeknd – “Wicked Games”

INTERNATIONAL VIDEO OF THE YEAR BY A CANADIAN
Justin Bieber ft. Big Sean – “As Long As You Love Me”
Carly Rae Jepsen – “This Kiss”
Avril Lavigne – “Here’s to Never Growing Up”
Tegan and Sara – “Closer”
Walk Off the Earth – “Red Hands”

ROCK/ALTERNATIVE VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Bill Talent – “Surprise Surprise”
Matt Mays – “Take It On Faith”
Metric – “Youth Without Youth”
Serena Ryder – “Stompa”
The Sheepdogs – “Feeling Good”

POP VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Shawn Desman – “Too Young to Care”
Down with Webster – “One in a Million”
Hedley – “Kiss You Inside Out”
Marianas Trench – “Desperate Measures”
Kardinal Offishall ft. Karl Wolf – “Turn It Up”

DANCE VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Anjulie – “You and I”
Deadmau5 ft. Chris James – “The Veldt”
Dragonette – “Live in this City”
Grimes – “Genesis”
Mia Martina – “Heartbreaker”

Early 80s’ Semi-Major Acts

M+M (a.k.a. Martha and the Muffins)

Martha and the Muffins formed in Toronto in 1977 and recorded their first album in 1980 which spawned the chart-topping, Juno-winning new wave classic “Echo Beach“, which broke into the Top 10 in Britain and was shunned in the U.S. The band’s longer name was shorted a few years later to simply M+M and they enjoyed three more Top 30 hits in Canada: “Women Around the World at Work” (1981), “Black Stations / White Stations” (1984), and “Song in My Head” (1986). At the core of the band was song-writing duo Martha Johnson and Mark Gane. The band deserves credit in giving rise to the “Queen Street West” scene that later produced The Parachute Club, Blue Rodeo, and the Cowboy Junkies.

The Parachute Club

Following in M+M’s footsteps was another new wave Toronto outfit—The Parachute Club who debuted in 1982 with Juno Award winning Top 10 hit “Rise Up“. The group’s founding members were lead singer Lorraine Segato and percussionist Billy Bryans who specialized in Caribbean rhythms. Its songs centered on sexual politics. “At the Feet of the Moon” was the band’s second major hit, followed by the more poppy “Love is Fire” featuring guest vocalist John Oates of Hall & Oates. After only three albums, the group disbanded.

Martine Saint-Clair

Martine is both a singer and a lyricist, performing cover songs of Gino Vannelli and Jean-Pierre Ferland when she was 15. Luc Plamondon offered her the role of Crystal in the rock opera Starmania in Montréal in 1980, and she won a Félix Award for discovery of the year in 1981. Martine released her debut album the following year. Her sophomore effort, Il y a de l’amour dans l’air, was nominated at the Félix Awards for pop album of the year in 1985 and three of its songs were nominated for song of the year.

Her third LP in 1986, Ce soir l’amour est dans tes yeux, sold over 100,000 copies, and St-Clair won Félix awards for pop song, best-selling single, pop LP and female performer of the year. The English-dominated Juno Awards could not resist giving her work nods in with nominations for Female Vocalist of the Year and Best-Selling Single “L’amour Est Dans Tes Yeux“. She also engaged in several collaborations, one of which was the English song “Closer Together” with new wave group The Box.

Toronto

Toronto performed a harder brand of rock and was formed in the city of the same name when singer Holly (Annie) Woods met guitarist Brian Allen. They released their first album in 1980 and “Even the Score” made some headway locally. The band’s big breakthrough came with their grammatically incorrect 1982 song, “Your Daddy Don’t Know” off their third LP. Hits “Start Tellin’ the Truth”, “Girls Night Out”, and “New Romance” followed.

In an interesting bit of trivia, the band wrote but did not record the song “What About Love” which became an international hit for Heart in 1985.

New Wave and Electronic Rock (1980-84)

In the early 80s, dance music became less popular in the English-speaking world. It was to be reborn several years later. Punk rock whose appeal was confined for the most part to the United Kingdom morphed into new wave. The synthesizer, Bob Moog’s 1963 invention, had made appearances in rock throughout the 70s, but a number of British artists began experimenting with using the synthesizer as the lead and sometimes only instrument. This new electronic rock helped spawn a second British Invasion. Arguably, with acts like Images in Vogue, Strange Advance, Rational Youth, Blue Peter, Moev, The Spoons, and Rough Trade, Canada was more keen on developing synthesizer-driven pop than the United States. The most popular new wave act was perhaps Vancouver-based The Payola$.

With the new styles in music, radio was friendlier to some artists than to others. The so-called underground music scene became exceptionally popular as did college radio which picked up the slack. In order to help promote and recognize more experimental music, the CASBY awards were established in 1981 to honour excellence in independent or “alternative” music and artists.

Guitar-oriented new wave group Corbeau was somewhat successful in Québec. When it disbanded in 1984, female singer Marjo embarked on a solo career. Québec never grew tired of dance music. With the new interest in synthesizers, electronics were added to the genre care of acts like Trans X and the hugely successful Men Without Hats. English Canada experimented with dancier new wave and came up with male/female combo outfits like The Parachute Club and Martha and the Muffins, which later became known as M+M.

After new wave, the second most popular genre in the early 80s, which did not receive as much radio airplay, was heavy metal. A few artists in Canada dabbled in this, like Helix, Toronto, and Chilliwack spin-off The Headpins, and some combined electronics with hard rock, like Aldo Nova and supergroup Loverboy.

Curiously, a backlash against this new-fangled music emerged in parallel. A number of groups performing more traditional blues rose to prominence, the most notable of which were The Powder Blues Band, Doug and the Slugs, and a cappella group The Nylons. Medicine Hat (Alberta) risqué country band Showdown debuted in 1980 and Montréal fusion-jazz outfit UZEB in 1981. Scottish import Eric Robertson, a composer, pianist and organist scored a multi-platinum album entitled Magic Melodies.

A number of acts did not deviate from straight-forward pop: The Kings, Teenage Head, Straight Lines, Sheriff, and Red Rider (whom we’ll feature later in conjunction with front man Tom Cochrane’s solo career). But it was primarily the solo artists who performed mainstream pop and a few of them were to become the biggest names in Canadian music history.

Diane Tell (who also performed with aforementioned UZEB), Véronique Béliveau, and Martine Saint-Clair made headways in French Canada. René‘s little sister Nathalie Simard became a child star in the early 80s. In 1983, Céline Dion emerged and blew everyone in the province away. We’ll talk about her later when she achieved international superstardom.

In English Canada, debuts from women were notably absent during this period. For the men, however, it was a very different story. From Montréal, an English singer who liked to wear sunglasses at night released a sleeper hit album in 1983. No one knew just how popular he was to become by the middle of the decade. His name was Corey Hart. An ex-Sweeney Todd Vancouverite singer got some attention with his “Let Me Take You Dancing” in 1979. But, frustrated with his lack of big success, he teamed up with songwriter Jim Vallance, changed his singing style from smooth to gravelly, and released Cuts Like a Knife in early 1983. For Bryan Adams all hell broke loose, and he captivated the nation eventually becoming the most successful Canadian artist of all-time. The biggest male name in French songs was perhaps Manitoba-born Daniel Lavoie. Although he started out in the 70s, his popularity skyrocketed in the early 80s, and he garnered a few Félix Awards. In 1998, he teamed up with two other singers and released the third best-selling single of all time in France.

The best-selling albums during the period were those from Anne Murray, Loverboy, Ginette Reno, and the aforementioned Eric Robertson. Another big-seller was the novelty comedy record Bob & Doug McKenzie‘s Great White North responsible for a couple of hit songs, including the Geddy Lee (Rush) led “Take Off”.

It is also worth noting that, outside of Québec, which had a very productive year, significant Canadian music was practically non-existent in 1984. Sherry Kean scored a Top 20 hit with “I Want You Back” and Italy-born Zappacosta became known in some circles with his debut release. But no Canadian song made the weekly Top 10 in the RPM charts throughout the entire year. Furthermore, no Canadian song made the year-end CHUM chart, and the Juno Awards were delayed. What happened in 1985, however, was to more than make up for it.

With the ever-increasing popularity of music videos, Canada launched a national channel called MuchMusic at the end of August in 1984. Although criticized for focussing too much on music from and that appealed to Torontonians (where the station was based), and showcasing too much American-style black and Spanish music, it enabled a number of Canadian artists to gain exposure and make breakthroughs. Two years later, a French language version was aired called MusiquePlus.

MuchMusic was also criticized for airing too many movies, game and reality shows when most people tuned in to see the MVs. The channel responded to all the criticism by launching MuchMoreMusic in 1998 which played more MVs and music that appealed more to adult Canadians.

Eventually, MuchMusic replaced CBC’s Good Rockin’ Tonite which was broadcast from Vancouver.

Coming up, we’ll provide a list of significant Canadian songs in the early 80s, followed by a special feature on Bob & Doug McKenzie’s The Great White North album, and then mini-profiles on semi-major acts Martha and the Muffins, The Parachute Club, Martine St-Clair, and Toronto, and finally individual profiles on major artists Men Without Hats, The Payola$, Loverboy, Diane Tell, Véronique Béliveau, Corey Hart, Daniel Lavoie, and Bryan Adams.