One Great Year for CanCon!
By Daniel Polowin
After a somewhat unfortunate decade, this septuagenarian Canadian icon staged a comeback in 2012 with a worldwide tour and this platinum-selling album. Cohen is at top form in this, his first album of new material in eight years. Accompanying the bluesy instrumentation and the smoky baritone vocals we’ve come to expect from Cohen are some of his most moving lyrics yet. Cohen returns to his familiar meditations on love, sex, and God but with the added poignancy of a poet in the autumn of his life.
Combining electronic, hip hop, reggae, dubstep, and dance with First Nations musical elements, this unique group, based out of Ottawa, has already been nominated for a Polaris Prize for this stellar debut album. Featuring traditional First Nations drumbeats and vocal chanting, A Tribe Called Red dub their unique style “powwow-step.”
Perhaps you’ve heard “Call Me Maybe,” the song of summer 2K12 with possibly the catchiest melody ever written. After a pivotal endorsement from fellow Canadian heartthrob Justin Bieber, this song went viral, with thousands of parody covers and lip-dub videos. While “Call Me Maybe” is the main event on this, Jepsen’s first internationally released album, it is accompanied by other solid sugary-sweet bubble-gum pop songs that suggest that Jepsen will not be a one-hit wonder.
This is lead singer of the New Pornographers Carl Newman’s third solo album and his best yet. More introspective and wistful than the power-pop of his band work, Newman’s songs on this album are some of his most affecting, with lyrics about family, home, and fatherhood. Standout tracks include “Strings,” “Hostages,” and “Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns,” featuring guest vocals from Neko Case.
Admittedly, this is not for everyone. Toronto-based trio Metz are loud, noisy, and aggressive. Playing post-hardcore sludge-punk, Metz’s debut album features screaming vocals, thundering drums, and ferocious guitar-work. But there is art in all this chaos and pop elements like vocal harmonies, tambourines, and piano riffs, evoking nineties bands like Nirvana and the Jesus Lizard. If this type of music appeals to you, we highly recommend seeing Metz live for the full punk experience.
Grimes is the vehicle of Vancouver-born, Montreal-based musician, artist, and music video director Claire Boucher. Visions is her third album and biggest commercial and critical success. With an eclectic mix of influences and styles that Grimes describes as “ADD music,” I imagine this album as the future official soundtrack of outer-space. Watch the video for one of the standout tracks off Visions below and note Grimes’ unique fashion-sense.
Ottawa-native Kathleen Edwards’ fourth studio album is produced by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (her boyfriend) and features notable guest musicians like Norah Jones, the Good Lovelies, and Megafaun. Edwards, with her beautiful and haunting voice, is a master of alt-country. Voyageur, which Edwards labels her “divorce album,” features some of her most accessible rock music to date but also some of her saddest and most cathartic songs.
The second album from this Edmonton-raised and Montreal-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is a triumph. Mixing folk, glam-rock, country, and R&B, DeMarco sings off-kilter yet simple pop songs about cigarettes and his girlfriend, accompanied by warm and inviting bedroom-recorded instrumentation. The standout track off this album is the lovely “My Kind of Woman.” Just turning 22 this year, the future looks bright for DeMarco if he continues releasing gems like 2.
This duo from Edmonton released the best electronic album in a year with tough competition; even more impressive is that it’s their debut. Standout songs include “Ungirthed,” “Lofticries,” and “Belispeak,” but the entire album is a cohesive collection of great tracks with ghost-like vocals and danceable synth beats. Though masked under heavy-production, the lyrics are excellent: literary and impressionistic yet accessible and catchy. Shrines is an impressive artistic statement from this young, up-and-coming, and unique band.
Not a great year for rockers, but Japandroids’ appropriately titled second album is redemption for true rock & roll. While missing some of the aggressive punk of their debut, Celebration Rock has similar catchy riffs over songs about partying, intoxication, and love, with more crossover appeal and pop touches. Songs like “Fire’s Highway” and “Younger Us” evoke the driving rock anthems of Bruce Springsteen, while the slower closer “Continuous Thunder” hints at a more introspective direction for this duo, showing that while Japandroids still rock hard, they are growing up.