New Releases: St. Patrick’s Day 2017 – Part 2/2

David Letterman bandleader and sidekick Paul Shaffer claims to front … the world’s most dangerous band. Paul is from Thunder Bay and has helped break a number of Canadian acts south of the border thanks to his influential position on the late-night chat show. On his new album, Paul brings in vocalists as diverse as Shaggy, Darius Rucker, and Bill Murray to deliver a wholesome banquet of adult contemporary with flashy musicianship.

Quite possibly the most eclectic album of the year belongs to The Cousins (Toronto), a duo of Barenaked Ladies’ Kevin Hearn and actor/comedian Harland Williams. And, yes, they are real life cousins. There are all kinds of flavours on Rattlesnake Love, from Utah cliff-dangling westerns to booming electronica, the common thread here being the delicious tongue-in-cheek lyrics. The title-track should succeed in etching a wily grin on your face. Jacques Jacobus of Clare, Nova Scotia’s Radio Radio completes solo project Le retour de Jacobus which is, as one would expect, a super fun hip hop masala.

Michel Robidoux has been an important behind-the-scenes figure in the Canadian music scene over the years. There is no way to do it justice by summarizing things here, but we will take a stab at it. In 1967, Michel Robidoux met Robert Charlebois and joined the troupe of L’Osstidcho. He then composed some of the most famous songs of the 70s, putting into music the lyrics of Luc Plamondon, Claude Gauthier and others. He lent his talents to shape the music of Jean-Pierre Ferland. He co-produced Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man album. Modern recording artist Pierre Lapointe decided to spearhead a project to honour Michel. Album Robidoux premier boasts a roster of front-ranking artists covering his songs presented in a more-or-less adult contemporary style.

After that weighty subject, we need to take a breather, and why not do so by heading over to Room 29. That’s where Chilly Gonzales cooked up some jazzy new tunes with Jarvis Cocker, lead singer of former British band Pulp. Moving to Waterloo, we can take a look at country artist Scotty James and his new record Streets which is a very pleasant disc, the fruit after the labour of a number of single releases.

Heading on up to Sherbrooke, we take in the sights of the hometown of platinum recording artist Vincent Vallières. His latest folky singer-songwriter album is Le temps des vivants, and it is the best-selling Canadian artist album at iTunes as of this writing. Need we say more? Finally, there is an EP this week. Til the Goin’ Gets Gone is the latest from acclaimed roots country artist Lindi Ortega (Toronto). All her discs are winners, and this one keeps things at a perfect score.

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Vincent Vallières’ New MV for “Lili”

Vincent Vallieres - Fabriquer l'aubeSherbrooke’s Vincent Vallières is up for five ADISQ Felix Awards this year including male artist of the year, song, and pop album of the year for stellar LP Fabriquer l’aube. He has released a music video for “Lili” which appears to be the most popular track off the album. We have embedded the MV below which features some youthful busking on keys, the humiliation of getting picked last for soccer, and some heartbreak. Vince is doing quite well. His 2009 album Le monde tourne fort has received platinum certification from Music Canada.  iTunes

Vincent Vallières’ Fabriquer l’aube

Vincent Vallieres - Fabriquer l'aubeSherbrooke’s dapper folk-rock singer-songwriter and family man (that’s his daughter on the cover), Vincent Vallières, having won multiple ADISQ Félix awards and achieved platinum status, continues on his sixth album, Fabriquer l’aube, to present us with his down-to-earth, young man next door persona. This comfort food of musical style, with sweet poetry and intentionally half-whispered vocals, takes us on short journeys aboard a pretty paddlewheel craft as we step foot on islands of varied terrain. Some are grounded with soft grass where we want to lie down and enjoy the sunshine. Others are laid with pebbles where we feel roused with the crunching under our feet. Some islands contain nothing but cliffs of rock where we sit with our legs dangling and admire the view. This fine work is currently sitting at #5 on the iTunes Canada album chart.

Fabriquer l’aube on iTunes     Vincent Vallières’ Website

Established Artists Whose Popularity Intensified in 2011

There were a number of established artists we have not yet profiled whose popularity continued to grow in 2011. Marc Dupré was awarded the Félix for pop-rock album of the year thanks to his Entre deux mondes. Ricky J is a popular dj/rapper from Montréal. His single “Whatta Night” was certified gold in December. Pop pianist Pierre La Pointe released a new album this year called Seul au piano which peaked at #2 on the Canadian albums chart. Hamilton’s The Arkells, who won the JUNO for group of the year in 2010, released their second LP this year, Michigan Left, and it made it to #5 on the albums chart. Below, in reverse alphabetical order, are mini-profiles on some of the bigger names whose success continued to burgeon in 2011.

Vincent Vallières

The popularity of this native of Sherbrooke, Québec just keeps on growing. After coming in second place at a 1996 regional talent show in his hometown, he released his debut album way back in 1999, when he was 21, but his first Félix-nominated songs came off his fourth LP, Le repère tranquille, released in 2006. Le monde tourne fort came next, in 2009, and its “En attendant le soleil” was nominated; however, at the Félix gala in October, 2011, it was “On va s’aimer encore” that won the coveted award for song of the year as well as music video of the year. In December, the album was certified platinum.

Fred Pellerin

Fred is from the quaint little town of Saint Élie de Caxton, in the lake-dotted foothills of the Laurentian Mountains. As a folksinger, he tells intriguing stories and first released an album with his brother Nicolas in 2007. His first release as a soloist came in 2009 and was titled Silence. It was massively successful, going platinum. It was nominated for four Félix awards and won two including Folk Album of the Year. His second release followed in 2011. C’est un monde went gold only a month after it was released, an impressive accomplishment for a Francophone album in Canada. It was nominated for Francophone Album of the Year at the 2012 JUNOs. In 2014, Fred released album Plus tard qu’on pense.

Nadja

If you search the net with this, you may find references to a Canadian doom metal band. The Nadja that we are talking about could not be farther away from such pursuits. She is an R&B singer (reminiscent of soul music from the 50s and 60s) from Saint-Félicien, Québec, and already has two gold albums under her belt. While studying accounting in Montréal, she sang in piano bars around the city and was soon invited to join a group. This led to a deal performing at a five-star hotel in Taiwan. She left for 3 months and ended up staying for 6 years. Her reputation grew through Asia and she performed for a number of dignitaries. In 2005, she returned home and toured throughout Canada. She attracted the attention of famous singer Mario Pelchat who signed her with his label. She released her debut self-titled album in 2009. “Hound Dog” was a hit on the adult contemporary charts and the album went gold. This year, she released two albums: Everything’s Going My Way and Christmas album Noël which was certified gold in December.

Carly Rae Jepsen

The Mission, B.C. native finished in third spot on the 5th season of television reality series Canadian Idol. She struck a deal with Fontana/Maple Music and released her debut album in 2008, Tug of War. The album spawned two top 40 gold singles: the reggae-styled “Bucket” and the title-track. She received two JUNO nominations. 604 Records in Vancouver signed her next, and she wrote the song “Call Me Maybe”.  At the end of 2011, the song was picked up by mainstream radio and began climbing up the charts. In 2012, it topped the charts and became the best-selling domestic Canadian single in history.  Carly was signed by Justin Bieber’s management team. The song was released internationally, topping the charts around the world and became the best-selling song of the year on iTunes.  Carly’s EP Curiosity was released on Valentine’s Day 2012.  Hits “Curiosity” and “Good Time” with Owl City followed. The latter topped the Billboard Hot 100 and Carly released LP, Kiss.  Jepsen won 3 JUNO awards in 2013 wherein “Call Me Maybe” was named Song of the Year and Kiss Album of the Year. Critically acclaimed album Emotion with gold single “I Really Like You” came out in 2015.

Dragonette

This Toronto synth-pop outfit consists of singer-songwriter Martina Sorbara, drummer Joel Stouffer, and bassist Dan Kurtz. The latter was responsible for producing Feist’s first (independent) album. Feeling that Canada was not the best place to launch their careers, they relocated to electronic-dance friendly Britain to record their debut album in 2007. While there, they backed up New Order, Basement Jaxx, and the Sugarbabes. Dragonette scored its own Top 30 hit in 2009 called “Pick up the Phone”. “Hello”, on which they collaborated with France’s electronic music disc jockey and producer Martin Solveig, finished the year 2011 as the 11th biggest song of the year in Canada and received the highest certification for a digital downloadable single—double platinum. “Hello” stayed on the charts for over 40 weeks.  In 2012, their biggest hit was “Let It Go” which peaked at #23 on the weekly chart and was the 73rd biggest song of the year.

Richard Desjardins

Richard has been around a long time. He was born in 1948 in Rouyn, QC. In addition to his music career, he has directed several films and has also scored music for cinematic productions and documentaries. He debuted musically in 1981 in conjunction with the group Abbittibbi. His albums have sold well, 1990’s Tu m’aimes-tu being his first platinum-certified disc. 1998’s Boom Boom went gold. And, in 2011, his L’existoire was a gold album. Desjardins is an environmental activist especially in terms of speaking out against overactive deforestation.

Coeur de Pirate

One of the Francophone performers to make some inroads into English Canada is Béatrice Martin who operates under the stage name Cœur de Pirate. She has been playing piano since she was 3. Her (self-titled) debut came out in 2009, was certified platinum, and was nominated for Francophone Album of the Year at the JUNOs. As she became a big name in Europe, she won the Félix for Québec artist having the most success outside the province. Her second album, Blonde, was released in 2011, debuting at #5 on the albums chart. Her work was acknowledged by the CBC’s Q radio show who named it as the 12th best album of 2011, a notch ahead of Adele’s 21. It was nominated for Francophone Album of the Year at the 2012 JUNOs. Coeur de Pirate released biliingual album Roses in 2015 and made the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time with single “Carry On”/”Oublie Moi”.

City and Colour

City and Colour is not a band but an individual from St. Catharines, ON named Dallas Green, Dallas being a city and Green being a colour. He was previously the lead singer of the band Alexisonfire and now plays a style of melodic indie rock. His released his first album, Sometimes, under his moniker in 2005. Both it and his second album were certified platinum. In 2011, Little Hell, was his third and went platinum in early 2012. He has not yet fared as well in the singles department; however, his song “Waiting” peaked at #32 on the weekly singles chart in early 2008. In 2014 Dallas teamed with American artist Pink in duo You + Me and released a folk album. Album If I Should Go Before You reached #1 in 2015.

George Canyon

George is one of the more popular Canadian country artists. He grew up in Nova Scotia but relocated to High River, Alberta. He held many interesting jobs to support his dream of becoming a professional singer. He worked as a law enforcement officer and a slaughterhouse beef inspector. Ironwolf was his first album, released in 1996. 2004’s One Good Friend, his third, secured his breakthrough, going gold and winning Country Recording of the Year at the JUNOs. His followup release, Somebody Wrote Love, reaped the same award. His second gold album came out in 2011, Better Be Home Soon.

Polarizing Genres (2003-2006)

As mainstream pop and rock was being taken over by contestants of Canadian Idol and Star Academie, artists who signed with record labels directly began to produce music that was on the fringes—either ultra-soft or ultra-hard. This resulted in a polarization of music. On the soft side was David Foster-produced jazz-singing virtuoso Michael Bublé, the biggest new star to arise in the middle of the decade. Folky Ariane Moffatt, Mes Aïeux, and Gregory Charles were other stars on the mellow side of the spectrum. On the hard side were grungy Nickelback copycat bands like Simple Plan, Billy Talent, and Three Days Grace. Heavily-tattooed Canadian Idol contestant, Jacob Hoggard, who finished 3rd in the second season, became the lead singer of grunge outfit Hedley. The only prominent artist, outside of the talent shows, to stand in the comfortable middle was Ontario’s Fefe Dobson.

2003

Across the river from Quebec City, pianist-guitarist, singer-songwriter, Juno and Felix award winner Ariane Moffatt hit the airwaves. Her 2002 debut release, Aquanaute, was certified platinum due in large part to the hits “Pointe de Mire” and “Poussière d’ange”. Five of her singles were to be nominated for the Felix Song of the Year award, “Je veux tout” winning such a prize at the 2008 gala. The album on which the song appeared, Tous les Sans won the Juno for Francophone Album of the Year. Another female voice emerged this year, coming from Toronto’s former suburb of Scarborough. She was a beautiful model of mixed English, French, Aboriginal, and Jamaican ancestry. The singer-songwriter scored her first of three Top 10 hits, “Bye Bye Boyfriend”, her debut , self-titled, album attaining platinum sales. Her name was Fefe Dobson. Andrée Watters, from the northeastern Quebec City borough of Charlesbourg, released her first of three Felix song of the year nominees, “Si exceptionnel”. She won the Felix for best rock album of the year. Sadly, her brother Patrick was killed in a 2007 helicopter crash near Fort McMurray, AB, while combatting a forest fire.

The most significant male artist to debut this year was a multi-talented Vaughan, ON native with Portuguese roots named Shawn Desman. His “Shook” made it to #3 on the charts. His 2005 album Back for More won the Juno for best R&B release. Besides singing, he plays the piano, produces, dances, and does choreography.

From Mississauga, ON, high school band Pezz transformed itself into Billy Talent, signing with Warner Music. Sales of their first (self-titled) heavy metal release under the major label, reached triple platinum status and won the Juno for album of the year. Their song “Try Honesty” was nominated for a song of the year Juno.

Outside the country, the biggest Canadian hits this year were Avril Lavigne’s gorgeous power ballad “I’m with You”, Shania Twain’s soothing “Forever and For Always”, and Nickelback’s grungy “Someday”. Within the country, Celine Dion revamped Cyndi Lauper’s “I Drove All Night” (originally written for Roy Orbison) and topped the charts. Canadian Idol winner Ryan Malcolm’s “Something More” was also a #1 hit. Despite being a French song, “Meme Les Anges” made it to #2 on the charts due to Audrey De Montigny’s high-profile exposure on Canadian Idol. Celine Dion’s “Tout l’or des hommes” was as successful. Nicola Ciccone’s beautiful “J’t’aime tout court” was song of the year in French Canada and Nelly Furtado’s fusion piece “Powerless” in English Canada.

There were three albums released this year that sold half a million copies: Sarah McLachlan’s Afterglow, Nickelback’s The Long Road, and the compilation Star Academie (featuring songs sung by the various contestants of the show).

2004

First and foremost this year was Vancouver’s Michael Bublé. He debuted last year with his self-titled album, and, thanks to the blockbuster film Spider-Man, he scored his first big hit in 2004. Buble was discovered by David Foster while singing at the wedding of Caroline Mulroney, daughter of the former Prime Minister. Initially Foster was reluctant to sign him because he was unsure how the market would react to Michael’s brand of music—traditional pop and big band jazz. With the support of Paul Anka, David eventually agreed. It turned out to be a wise decision because Buble’s albums have sold 35 million copies worldwide.

In Britain, a Canadian artist scored three Top 10 hits. But in his own country, he was not as noticed. The Canadian music industry, in the interests of commercialism, has tagged along with its southern neighbours and become a blacks-and-whites only club, largely closing its doors to recording artists of Asian descent, who represent a much greater population in the country than those with African roots. Because of this racialism, artists of any and every visible minority, in order to flourish, have, rather than creating a style of rock music they can call their own, reverted to adopting African American styles of R&B and rap. This was true of Indian-Albertan Raghav. (He did sneak in some Indian-style rhythms).

Rap-R&B singer Jérôme Philippe scored a Felix-nominated song, “Pour le ghetto”. Kevin Brereton, known as k-os, grew up in Toronto and delivered the beautifully-arranged Juno song of the year, “Crabbuckit”, somewhat of an alternative reggae piece. He has managed two platinum albums and a couple of Top 20 hits.

Several new bands hit the airwaves this year, most of them dabbling in various combinations of grunge, punk, and metal. The most successful of all of them was 8-time Juno nominee, Montreal quintet Simple Plan. Recording since 2002, they enjoyed their first big hit this year, “Perfect” (not to be confused with Hedley’s song of the same name). Oddly, the lead singer Pierre Bouvier has chosen to sing with an American rather than Canadian accent. The band’s second album, Still Not Getting Any, went 4x Platinum, making it the third most successful Canadian album released this year (after Shania Twain’s Greatest Hits and Avriil Lavigne’s Under My Skin).

Drummondville, Quebec’s Les Trois Accords paid homage to Saskatchewan in their Felix-nominated song. After releasing a platinum album, they scored a couple more hits through the decade. Finger Eleven, from Burlington, ON, gave the world the international acoustic guitar hit “One Thing”. Besides Avril Lavigne, the band was the only Canadian act to appear on the U.S. Billboard year-end chart. The Scott Anderson-led group scored an even bigger hit in 2007—the grungy “Paralyzer”.

Toronto’s independent punk label Underground Operations signed Closet Monster and Hostage Life who churned out the hits “We Re-Built This City” and “Sing for the Enemy” respectively. The Trews, originally from Antigonish, NS, enjoyed a Juno-nominated song, “Not Ready to Go”. Winnipeg’s The Waking Eyes had the Top 10 hit, “Watch Your Money”.

Uruguayan-Swiss Quebecer, Carole Facal, after dabbling with snowboarding in B.C., teamed up with Dorianne Fabreg to form the duo DobaCaracol, complete with dreadlocks. Later, as a soloist, Facal, under the stage name, Caracol, scored the hit “Le Mépris”. Montréal’s Marie-Chantal Toupin came out with the power-ballad “Naître” and enjoyed two platinum albums in the decade.

Three bands broke up in the new millennium and members formed a new outfit in St. Catharines called Alexisonfire. A platinum album released this year helped them garner the Juno for New Group of the Year in 2005. At the end of the decade, member Dallas Green announced his departure. He went solo under the name City and Colour. 

Big hits this year from previously profiled artists included two top fives from Avril Lavigne: the rock masterpiece “My Happy Ending” and her first Top 5 hit at home: “Don’t Tell Me”. “A prophet knows no honour in her own country?” Although her singles did better elsewhere, her albums sold better at home than abroad. Canadian Idol winner Kalan Porter had the #1 “Awake in a Dream” which became the best-selling single of all time in Canada (8x Platinum). Star Academie’s Marie Elanie Thibert had the second best-selling single of all-time, “Toi L’inoubliable”. Shania Twain’s “Party for Two” fittingly made it to #2. The Felix song of the year was “Les Étoiles filantes” by Les Cowboys Fringants.

2005

One of the biggest international hits of the decade came out this year from a Vernon, BC lad named Daniel Powter. He was bullied as a child for studying the violin (since when is there something wrong with the violin?). He switched to piano but struggled with dyslexia. “Bad Day” was released first in the U.K. where it made it to #2. At home, it was a Top 10 hit. But in 2006 the song not only made it to #1, it was the biggest song of the year in the United States. “Voyager vers toi” was a hit in Quebec for Marc Dupré. Hamilton’s Tomi Swick scored a radio hit called “A Night Like This” which helped him win the Juno for New Artist of the Year in 2006.

Third-place finalist of Canadian Idol, Jacob Hoggard, formed the successful Abbotsford, BC rock band Hedley who enjoyed six Top 10 hits through the decade, two double-platinum albums, and, until now, 15 Juno nominations. From the same city as Les Trois Accords, folk band Kaïn scored subsequent hits “Embarque ma belle” and “Mexico”. Ska band Bedouin Soundclash won the Juno for best new group and “When the Night Feels My Song” was nominated for best song. In 2007, they scored the Top 10 hit “Walls Fall Down”.

Brandon, Manitoba’s country singer Amanda Stott crossed over onto the pop charts with the #1 hit song, “Paper Rain”.

There were not too many hit songs this year from Canadian artists. The only other big hit, besides those mentioned above, was chart-topping “Alive” from Canadian Idol winner Melissa O’Neil who incidentally (and refreshingly) is half Chinese. Star Academie contestant Annie Blanchard won the Felix song of the year award with “Évangéline” and Michael Buble’s “Home” won the equivalent Juno award.

Hit albums this year were Nickelback’s All the Right Reasons (7x Platinum), Michael Bublé’s album of the year Juno winner It’s Time, and Céline Dion’s On ne change pas.

2006

Nickelback’s lead singer Chad Kroeger started his own record label called 604 Records. It signed the Vancouver band Marianas Trench whose song “Say Anything” was a #3 hit. The Adam Gontier-fronted outfit Three Days Grace from Norwood, ON recorded the double-platinum Juno-nominated album One-X but did not manage any big hit singles. Speaking of double-platinum albums, Mes Aïeux achieved one and also won the Felix song of the year for folk hit “Dégénérations”. They have been named Group of the Year three times at the Felix galas. Combining male-female lead vocals, pop group Alfa Rococo enjoyed a few big hits in Québec, including “Les Jours de pluie” this year. Stabilo, a rock band from Maple Ridge, BC, scored the raio hit “Flawed Design”. Montreal’s alternative rock band Mobile won a Juno for New Group of the Year in 2007 thanks to their debut album released this year, Tomorrow Starts Today.

Sherbrooke, Quebec’s Vincent Vallières had been around since 1999 but began scoring some hits, like “Je pars à pied”. Retired hockey player Étienne Drapeau turned to singing and enjoyed the hit “Je l’ai jamais dit à personne”. Montreal’s Gregory Charles, of Trinidadian origin, had a very popular debut album, the triple-platinum I Think of You. Dumas’ “Au gré des saisons” was popular this year.

Exotic Indian-Irish-Italian beauty Cindy Daniel had a very big hit, “Sous une pluie d’étoiles” and Egypt-born Chantal Chamandy had the platinum-selling hit single “Feels Like Love”.

Nelly Furtado scored three Top 10 international hits this year and two more next year with her 5x Platinum album Loose which won the album of the year Juno. Her song “Promiscuous” was named song of the year. Canadian Idol winner Eva Avila topped the charts performing in American R&B style for her song “Meant to Fly”. Nickelback scored three big hits this year.

Coming up are mini-profiles on semi-major artists Billy Talent, Gregory Charles, Fefe Dobson, Marie-Élaine Thibert, Finger Eleven, Shawn Desman, Mes Aïeux, and Marianas Trench. Following that will be features on major artists Michael Bublé, Hedley, Simple Plan, Raghav, and Ariane Moffatt.

     Copyright 2011 by the Canadian Music Blog