The December / January period is historically quiet in terms of record releases, so we’ve combined our monthly feature for these two months. What this time of the year lacked in quantity, sure didn’t lack in quality. So without further ado, here’s our December / January 5 albums You Must Listen to!
Various Artists – Zoo 4 (Punk|Pop|Rock)
In what has become a yearly tradition at the Slam Disques label, a fourth Zoo covers compilation (Zoo 4) has been released around Christmas season. Rules are simple, acts signed to the label have to perform a cover of their choice, as long as they do so in French. Given musical orientation of the label, these compilations end up being hardened versions of Classics mainly from the Quebec scene, but also international pop classics translated to French.
I must admit, I’m a big fan of these type of releases (even if results are often uneven) as covers are interesting when they go away from the original version. Think of Therion, a Swedish metal band, who released Les Fleurs du Mal, an album of metal covers of French pop songs from the 60-70’s. If this is something that makes you salivate, then this project is for you!
Much like last year, Slater & Fils steal the show, this time performing a hard rocking version of Beau Dommage’s Le Géant Beaupré. As good as the original is, Slater & Fils succeed in enhancing the song with a real rocking bass and energetic trumpet, which works particularly well in this setting. Another highlight comes from Kamikazi who covers Loud’s mega hit Toutes les femmes savent danser. Again, the pop rock arrangements suits this song perfectly and guitarist-singer Nick Gagnon delivers a solid performance throughout.
Other highlights include Les Shirley’s covering Ma vie a l’heure (Les Respectables) while Capitaine Révolte go big with À travers l’univers (The Beatles’ Across the Universe). You’ll also find label employees Slam Chicks delivering a fun punk rocking version of Gabrielle Destroismaisons’ Et Cetera. All of them very different sounding, all them as successful.
Now I’m already eager to hear Zoo 5. Is it Christmas yet?? Zoo 4 is available on streaming platforms and for purchase on Bandcamp here!
Must. Listen. To.: Le Géant Beaupré, Toutes les femmes savent danser, Ma vie à l’heure, Et Cetera, Rythmes mystiques.
Le Diable à 5 | Debout (Trad)
Winter times in Québec are synonymous with trad music, especially during the holidays. Major acts within the Trad scene are few and mainstream radio will often go back to the same timeless classic. Here and there, a new band might emerge and bring back some needed vitality to the repertoire. Le Diable à 5 is one of those bands.
Formed by five multi-instrumentalists, they propose a perfect blend between their own original songs and some older ones learned via the oral lore. Both type of songs flow seamlessly on their new album Debout! Through it all, the love for catchy melodies, which is often a make-or-break affair for the « chansons à répondre » (traditional Québec spin on call and response songs). Flawless songwriting and interpretation can be found on tracks like Bien Déçus (about Desjardins drifting away from its founder’s original vision and inspired by too many closures of regional ATMs) and Rire aux éclats with its original harmony and vocal overlays.
With trad music, there comes a time when you think you’ve heard all of the old songs before, in one version or another. Le Diable à 5 however managed to unearth one I never heard before, Si vous voulez que je chante, with funny lyrics about someone requiring alcohol in order to make him sing. Musicianship is top-notch on all the tracks and are also showcased on the instrumental Suite Pluvieuse.
One very solid trad album. Everything old is new again! Available on streaming platforms and for purchase on the band’s website here!
Must. Listen. To.: Bien Déçus, Yvan Dubois, Si vous voulez que je chante, Le curé de Riponne, Rire aux éclats.
Natalie Choquette | Colores (Various World|Pop)
At first, Jano Lapin was created to share our passion about fine arts. As such, I’m not sure there ever was a more fitting record to be featured on our monthly top 5. Colores, which means colors in Spanish, is named after Natalie Choquette‘s desire to sing about various paintings that have inspired her throughout her life, from works by Michelangelo to Katsushika Hokusai. Much like each painter is different from one another, their associated song are as diversified. The album will therefore take you to a musical trip around the world, going from airy and relaxing Japanese ambience to Mexican Ranchera. Natalie also adapts her singing in the process and sings in French, English, Spanish and Italian.
The songs have been composed mainly by famous composer and producer Osvaldo Montes as well as Natalie’s daughter, Florence K., among others. Colores is also a family project as Choquette invited all her daughters (each respected singers in their own right) to sing on the record.
I’m particularly fond of Alba, a bit reminiscent of Sarah Brightman‘s operatic pop, Colores and Cumbres, which would sit well in a Cirque du Soleil best of (René Dupéré era) and Aquarelle, an epic piano-driven tribute to Marc-Aurèle Fortin.
At Jano Lapin, we love all music genres. What a treat when one record can combine so many different styles as successfully! It’s nothing short of impressive. Colores is available on streaming platforms and for purchase on bandcamp here.
Must. Listen. To.: Alba, Cumbres, Colores, Fujiyama, Aquarelle.
Paradise | Paradise (Heavy|Rock)
Crisp guitars. Heavy thumping bass and pounding drums. Perfect raspy vocals. Do I really need to say more? Fans of melodic heavy rock, there’s a new sheriff in town!
After a 15 years hiatus, Paradise is back with a vengeance and have delivered one powerful record. There’s few bands on the local scene that can play heavy rock of such quality. From the opening riff of Straight from Hell and all through the record, the band proves masterfully that with the right dosage of melody and hard riffs, sky is truly the limit. I could go into details of my favorite tracks but this one is really a perfect case where I should just let the music do the talking.
So, who do you wanna be: an angel or a devil? Hit play on the video below, buckle up and be ready to be taken straight through Hell with Paradise!
Available on vinyl via the band’s webshop!
Must. Listen. To.: Who do you wanna be?, Straight from hell, Long gone, Hitting on all sixes, Freedom in exile.
Raccoon City | Gentil pour un noir (Rap)
Raccoon City, a.k.a. Raccoon, a.k.a. RaccCity is a young rapper, who’s made a name for himself in rap-battles (WordUP!). He’s issuing his first full-length record with a cringeworthy title, Gentil pour un noir.
Even though the lyrics to the title track are home to other inappropriate comments he’s heard throughout his life, don’t expect a resentful record. This is done with a tongue-in-cheek rather than to fuel race related rivalry. Musically, look forward to a varied record, from Trap to R&B influenced hip-hop. The beatmaking found on Gentil pour un noir, often shared with Ethan Hababou is remarkable and never dull. Trotter dans la tête probably features the finest one. You would have a winner only listening to the instrumental version of it. Add the sensual lyrics on top of it and you get one instant classic.
Other noteworthy tracks include Comparer with its catchy chorus, the quickfire Cachets and album closer Saut à la perche that should please anyone (like us) who fell in love with Laurence Nerbonne’s Feu. A rap record wouldn’t be complete without guests. This one makes no exception as Arnô, Freddy Gruesome and Houdini come and share the spotlight with Raccoon City.
Gentil pour un noir is available on streaming platforms.
Must. Listen. To.: Gentil pour un noir, Saut à la perche, Comparer, Trotter dans la tête , Cachets.
CPA (although he doesn’t want people to know about it — oops!). Francophone and Francophile, he has a dream of bringing Québec’s two solitudes together through cultural exchanges. Improv Actor for 15 years. Music lover, from New Age to Death Metal and everything in between.