Welcome to the first annual True North Star fake award for real music, where we celebrate some Canadian music I’ve enjoyed since I decided to create this award. First let me start by clarifying: this is not the Polaris Prize, where a bunch of music critics talk shit in gchat for months then host a gala event to which I’m never invited (jerks!).
The first annual True North Star fake award for real music is very much its own thing, embracing the same DIY spirit shared by many Canadian artists. Out of respect for their great work, I plan on donating to the charity of the award-winner’s choice using my personal credit card, and I won’t dispute the charges for an entire week.
Anyway, on to the music!
Jacques Greene – Feel Infinite
Greene has been honing his combination of UK house/garage (pronounced garridge) and R&B vocals since his first major EP release in 2010, and all that experience went into his debut album. Resting somewhere between the ambiance of a Jamie xx mix and the beats Disclosure wish they were making, Feel Infinite is an elegant and fun exploration of where the dancefloor is meeting pop music in 2017.
Curiously, Greene moved left Montreal – Canada’s electronic music mecca – to move to Toronto, where many forms of DJing are still considered witchcraft. I think this qualifies him as a trailblazer.
Project Pablo – Risk the Rip
Speaking of Montreal, Project Pablo made the move to Beaubien Ouest from Vancouver after the release of his stellar debut album in 2015, and the change of scenery appears to have emboldened his keen sense of rhythm and impeccable ear for simple, memorable melodies. Every time I play a Pablo track around people who don’t know him, they’re nodding their heads before they know it and asking me what we’re listening to. His sound is infectious, rendering listeners powerless to resist his chill vibes, and his latest EP might be his best work yet.
The highlight track is called Trash Town, which could mean his love affair with Montreal is on the wane, possibly due to all the garbage littering the potholed streets while corrupt city officials line their pockets with money meant for infrastructure upkeep and the police are… you know what? You do you, Montreal. Never change.
Marie Davidson – Adieux Au Dancefloor
Davidson’s third album positions her as a sort of francophone James Murphy, needling and prodding at the culture surrounding the dance and club music she’s been producing for years now. Speaking words over minimal techno with tongue firmly planted in cheek, Davidson displays a refreshing irreverence for the trendier European scenes like Paris and Berlin (side note: I still love you, Paris and Berlin, please let me into your cool clubs).
“I can hear you from the other continent,” Davidson teases during Good Vibes (Mocking Bird). If the other continent can’t hear her, it’s their loss.
The Courtneys – The Courtneys II
If you’re one of the many Canadians who believe music isn’t real unless there’s some sort of guitar involved, rejoice! There’s still something out there for you to enjoy in the form of Vancouver band The Courtneys, who deliver the same fun-in-the-sun lo-fi riffs and catchy choruses that we all thought went out of style a decade ago.
It’s almost impossible to separate new rock music from the nostalgia surrounding the genre’s heyday, but The Courtneys manage to keep things sounding fresh throughout their second album, which makes for a perfect road-trip listen.
Winner: Colin Stetson – All This I Do For Glory
The things Stetson does with a saxophone are unreal. He’s basically a one-man band, and he does it all with one instrument. He doesn’t even stop to breathe! I’m not sure where he sold his soul to become an otherworldly sax machine, but I would like the address if anyone has it. The first time you hear one of his tracks you might wonder who is playing drums, but that’s just him clacking the keys on the outside of his sax.
Stetson’s latest album is his most ambitious yet, playing with classical and electronic song structures and alternating between lengthy sonic journeys, uplifting interludes, and one pummelling track that sounds like it was ripped from the songbook of a metal band.
Rock on, Stetson. No one can sax like you.