My love for Canadian music began with a trip to Montréal in 1999 that happened to coincide with the Francofolies festival. My first introduction to a very vibrant music scene has stayed with me now for nearly 20 years, with an admiration that has never subsided.
As in the rest of Canada, Québec saw a number of great album releases this year, including some in English (or partly in English). If you don’t speak French (I only read it somewhat – have never mastered spoken French), I encourage you not to be intimidated – great music will be apparent, no matter whether you fully understand the words or not.
Boom Desjardins – Clandestin
Boom Desjardins came to our attention with his self-titled album back in 2004, and we were pleased to see a new release from him. His husky, bluesy vocals have always endeared him to us, and this project showcases them wonderfully. That voice, paired with banjo, gives the opening track “Paris, Quévillon” a kick that lasts throughout the album. “J’ai le droit d’pas être correct” had my toes tapping (as did most of the album). If you like blues with a country feel, this album is for you.
Daniel Bélanger – Paloma
As I’ve written elsewhere on this blog, Daniel Bélanger’s music was my entry point into Canadian music. I don’t think a week goes by where I don’t play at least one of his albums, if not more. His previous release, “Chic de ville,” was such a surprise (if you enjoy a bit of honkytonk, it’s well worth finding), so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect on this project. It reminds me of his earlier work (perhaps around the time of “Rêver mieux” or “L’Échec du matériel”), with some rhythms and sounds that are definitely 21st-century. I’ve not been able to stop listening to this since it came out.
Bronswick – Chassés-croisés
Like many albums this year, this EP from Bronswick is firmly rooted in the synth pop style of the 1980s. As I’ve said elsewhere, for some reason this second try at the 80s is much more appealing to me than the first, and the songs on this project are thoroughly enjoyable, just on the edge of experimental and never clichéd.
Charlotte Cardin – Big Boy
Charlotte Cardin’s voice is a powerful, lovely instrument – it’s difficult to say anything but ‘wow’ upon hearing her. The songs on this EP suit her singing well – not only jazzy pop songs but slower ballads as well. Dare we hope for a longer project in 2017?
Chocolat – Rencontrer Looloo
Jimmy Hunt, Chocolat’s singer, first came to our attention a few years ago with his solo work, so when I saw he was involved in this project I knew I wanted to hear it. If you’re looking for an album that fits easily into a particular genre, however, this is not that project. Partly jazz, partly hard driving rock, the album is a journey that is a bit challenging but rewards the listener in the end with a great – and unique – listening experience.
Fred Fortin – Ultramarr
This album appears on Ici Musique’s end-of-year list and with good reason – the project is full of well-crafted songs with catchy hooks that stick in the head long after the album ends. “Gratte,” with its wailing guitar and slow blues shuffle, is a highlight, while “Tapis noir” brings a country flair. I wasn’t previously familiar with Fred Fortin but will be searching out his older material.
Groenland – A Wider Space
We’ve posted elsewhere on this blog about our unabashed fandom for this group. Their 2016 release “A Wider Space” is a gorgeous, peppy, atmospheric piece of work from a very talented group of musicians. “Appalaches” landed on my favorites list from the first time we heard the CD, and “Against the Odds” quickly joined it after we heard the group live in November. Top to bottom, a terrific album.
Alex Nevsky – Nos Eldorados
“Polaroid,” the opening track of this album, immediately got my feet moving under my desk when I played this through for the first time, and I don’t think they stopped. “Le coeur assez gros,” which begins with a fantastic honkytonk piano riff and transitions effortlessly into synth pop, is terrific fun. Coeur de Pirate and Koriass also make guest appearances on the album, which is highly recommended.
Yann Perreau – Le fantastique des astres
Yann Perreau is another artist who has been on our radar for a while, since his 2009 release “Un serpent sous les fleurs” (which we highly recommend by the way). His latest album feels like a wild, uncharted, but thoroughly enjoyable ride. I had “Baby boom” cranked up at the office and was hard-pressed to keep myself from dancing; “J’aime les oiseaux” presented even more of a challenge to my normally dour office persona. One of the most enjoyable albums I’ve heard this year.
Sept jours en mai – Sept jours en mai
This project, a collaboration between several well-known musicians, offers a banquet of great tunes and gorgeous harmonies. I originally saw this CD in the HMV on Yonge Street in Toronto and now I wish I’d picked it up. “Après moi” and “Un monde sans abeilles” are particular highlights – and although iTunes labels the album as pop, it draws on country and folk influences as well.