2011 Juno Awards: (EMI)
This year’s Juno award nominees album comes with the subtitle Celebrating 40 Years Of The Juno Awards, and there has been a coffee table book co-released so that fans of Great White North music can look back on past years.
This edition of nominees is a particularly strong one with 19 tracks with an hour plus of music where the disc starts off with Arcade Fire who surprised a lot of people with its big Grammy Awards last month.
In fact, this 2011 edition is loaded with Canadian music that has taken the world by storm with newer acts such as Drake, Justin Bieber, Broken Social Scene and the aforementioned Arcade Fire as well as very established acts like k.d. lang, Sarah McLachlan, Michael Buble and Neil Young.
This disc also features some noise miesters in Three Days Grace, Down With Webster and Hail The Villain.
It seems obvious that Arcade Fire will scoop the best album and best artist categories but the dark horse would have to be Hedley who have enjoyed a whopping five hits from their album conveniently titled Perfect.
A solid compilation.
Colin James: The Best Of, Take It From The Top (EMI)
Colin James has changed labels to the mighty EMI and to celebrate this a superb and lengthy 17-track Best Of has been released.
Moreover, this collection gathers James’ hits and highlight songs from past labels who co-operated on this anthology so that a complete picture of James’ blues rock and pop can be fully appreciated. However, there are no songs from his three Little Big Band projects and that makes perfect sense in that the material on those discs are best appreciated in their own side project glory.
Anyway, there are solid songs including Five Long Years, Just Came Back, Voodoo Thing and Keep On Loving Me Baby. James offers a couple of new tunes with a sharp cover of Buddy Miles’ Them Changes and a new original A Man’s Gotta Be A Stone.
James provides cool notes and insights to each song making this a must own for the big Colin James fan.
Cake: Showroom Of Compassion (Upbeat
This is Cake’s sixth album but more importantly it is only their first album in over six years.
You would have thought that such a long lay over between albums would have hurt the band’s profile and sales but such is not the case. The California-based Cake’s new album, Showroom Of Compassion, made its debut at No.1 in the USA Billboard charts (and No. 15 in Canada’s album charts) with the contemporary rock single Sick Of You.
Cake are an oddball band hailed by many who like eccentric rock such as Weezer and Beck. Lead singer John McCrea has an off-kilter dead pan delivery where some have labeled his music as uber ironic. However I am not sure I am hearing much irony, especially on the straight forward lyrics to their hit Sick Of You that doesn’t get much beyond the song title thematically.
But there is lots of non sequitur, surreal lyrics here where it is just best to go along with the band’s weird groove and let the lyrics head off in their own direction.
I am not a huge fan of oddball indie-rock but I found Showroom Of Compassion quite beguiling. Check out the cool cowbell dance rock of Mustache Man, the Byrds-like faux country rock of Bound Away and the ersatz Mersey hooks of Got To Move (where I kept trying to sing the Mindbenders nugget Groovy Kind Of Love in a mash up mental mix).
All of these songs are nicely spiced up by horn man Vincent DiFiore who adds to the laid back but eccentric vibes.
Finally uber green earth fans will want to know that this disc was recorded using solar energy, the paper cardboard liner is 100 per cent recycled and the inks used to colour the graphics are pure plant dyes.
A quirky but rewarding listen.
The Strokes: Angles (RCA)
A 10-song album that clocks in at barely more than a half hour would not seem to be a particularly significant release, but The Strokes have been hugely popular since their debut 11 years ago, titled Is This It (a question one might have for Angles).
The band was the most prized, must-have ticket at the last SXSW festival and this new album, released only yesterday, will generate lots of attention.
I found this disc to be a little disappointing. The sound is more retro than expected with several songs sounding like late ’70s early ’80s new wave with angular guitars and rhythms.
The Strokes have scored yet another hit with the stripped down, perky pop rock of Under Cover Of Darkness but I am not sure the band will score another hit off this mini album/maxi EP.
My fave track is the closing, Life Is Simple In The Moonlight, where The Strokes equally channel The Kinks with Brazilian jazz pop of Gilberto Gil & Jobim.
A short hit and miss affair.