We strive to be inclusive with all folk-roots (and other) Canadian genres of music as possible, but our coverage of music coming out of both Québec and other French-language regions across the country is often sporadic. But prompted by the fluke nature of finding an older Chic Gamine CD whilst on vacation in central VA, and more recently, catching a symphony featuring Louis Lortie as the guest pianist, these events suddenly fueled our desire to explore some recent releases from across the Francophone music spectrum.
Thierry Larose, “Baleine et moi (take 10)”
If keeping up with the English language Canadian music scene seems like an uphill battle, prepare to be completely overwhelmed when discovering Francophone talent – for just like the flowing waters of the St. Lawrence river, the emergence of fresh French language artists seemingly never ends. This Marielleville, QC artist burst onto the music scene in 2019, and within a short space of time earned his stripes with a nomination on the 2021 Polaris prize list. Releasing “Baleine et moi (take 10)” (translates to ‘Whale and me’) as half of a Double A-side single back in November, my use of the well-known causeway through Québec and into Ontario as a metaphor (purely coincidental, I might add) turns out to be an integral part of Larose’s folk-leaning tale of the world’s largest mammal swimming too far into the river. “Baleine, chante pour moi une dernière fois / L’été indien, Le Tour de l’île / Chante pour moi une dernière fois / Après, je te laisse tranquille.” Delivering his lines through some slightly nasal vocals, the similarities in both sound and poetic craftsmanship in writing strike a chord with those of Toronto’s Jerry Leger, at least for me – with one of his most poignant short conversations with the marooned whale translating to “For a moment it seemed to us / That all our lives were passing / By yours.”
SALA, “Nos secrets”
I never did think that incorporating a reference to the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon parlor game into a GDW review would be possible, but never say never, right? Hearing that Winnipeg’s Begonia is to perform here in PA next month started my own chain of events – recalling her prior time with the JUNO-Award winning band Chic Gamine, whose 2013 “Closer” album was discovered tucked away in a VA music store and promptly purchased late last year. Which brings me to Chic Gamine bandmate Ariane Jean, whose solo career (under the moniker SALA) was established in 2020, and whose latest single, “Nos secrets,” is our first featured tune today. Following her 2020 EP, SALA is gearing up to release a full-length solo album on April 14th, one that proposes to weave a gentle, unique and almost melancholic web through SALA’s openness, softness, soul and sophistication – this collection of new songs seeking to immerse the listener in trippy instrumentals that allude to the introspection of rainy afternoons and foggy mornings. SALA creates by taking sensations and moods and translating them into images, layering lush vocals on which her airy soprano can soar, and with “Nos secrets,” sports pop and soul influences to highlight the intimacy and nostalgia found at the core of this project.
Alexis Normand, “Le doigt dessus”
Hot off the press is this latest release from Saskatoon, SK singer-songwriter Alexis Normand, and not indifferent to how we discovered SALA, who came to our attention previously as part of the retro folk-pop trio Rosie and the Riveters. Produced by James Bunton, and engineered by Chris Stringer and Darren McGill, “Le doight dessus” is the first French single from her upcoming bilingual album, one inspired by her insecurities around language and her own identity as a ‘Fransaskoise.’ Alexis has always wrestled with the underlying tensions when opening up about her francophone heritage, and the skepticism often faced when anglophones assume speaking French means she must be from Québec, yet when performing in Québec, her own accent pegs her as an anglophone who speaks great French. “I couldn’t sit with a tension point long enough to write an entire song about it because living with that tension felt so normal to me,” she explains. “They were like fleeting moments of truth – like trying to catch butterflies without a net. So, I finally decided to write a song about that: the fact that it is really hard to put your finger on something that has become normal – to the point where I ignore that gut feeling telling something’s off here.”
Maude Audet, “Je danse”
As long-time fans of Canadian author Louise Penny’s ‘Armand Gamache’ mystery fiction series, we very much enjoyed “Three Pines,” the television adaptation of the series that aired on Amazon Prime in late 2022. Moreover, for those of us with an inkling for quality Québecois music too, it was not difficult to miss the inclusion of “C’est Noël, je m´en fous” in the debut episode. Picking up immediately on the soothing vocals of Montréal-based artist Maude Audet, her name was quickly circled as one to include here today, and as if fate itself intervened, with it came the timely arrival of this latest single (another teaser of music from her upcoming “II faut partir maintenant” album that arrives next month). “Je danse ce soir / J’embrasse le noir pour oublier / Que je n’ai vu que l’ivresse qui cachait tes S.O.S / Pourtant j’étais là à côté de toi / Pourtant j’étais là à côté de toi / Ho j’aimerais que tout soit comme avant / Être un oiseau qui remonte le temps.” Working with producer Mathieu Charbonneau, Maude’s press release whets the appetite by stating that “the singer-songwriter develops new sonic dimensions and pushes her own limits – decidedly 60’s, slightly more rock and meticulously orchestrated, [this] promises to be greater than ever.” We can’t wait to hear more.
The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.