This new Top 5 feature has been a long time coming. COVID-19 has hit us all in unexpected ways and introduced us to our personal limits. Between the regular working job and trying to be a teacher to homeschool the kids, listening to all local record releases has proven to be too much.
However, there’s been too many great albums that have seen the light of day during this confinement, like flowers growing through concrete, and it would be a shame not to present them to you. Below is our special Spring 2020 edition of the 5 albums You Must Listen to! Make sure you also check our Spotify playlist with all the songs featured in this article (link at the bottom)!
Naya Ali | Godspeed: Baptism (Prelude)
There has been a nice buzz around Naya Ali since the release of her first EP Higher Self a little over a year ago. The Montreal rapper is now back with a new full length album titled Godspeed to be released in two parts. We’re first treated with Baptism (Prelude) and it’s killer! If the title track is more in the vein of her first EP, the rest of the record has been infused with a healthy dose of pop and melody. But don’t you worry, you still get Ali’s distinctive raw vocals and great flow.
“You ain’t never heard of one like me / I’ve been slow-slow cooking up my heat / This fire-fire kinda feels amazing / Free ’cause I found my way”, she sings in Get it Right, the appropriately titled first single from the record (see the video below). She does indeed get it right as proven by the recent success of the album on the College Radio Hip-Hop charts (reaching #1 in Canada and #4 in the US).
A personal favorite is G.O.A.T. Talk, sparkled with rapid-fire delivery and airy back vocals. The song recreates the soundtrack of a perfect night out and brings you back to that exact moment in the middle of the night where everything slows down and you feel invincible.
Other songs that will keep you addicted to this record includes Quick Flip (feat. Chase.wav), the dancing For Yuh and Paid in Full (Intro) which is a lot more than a simple intro and could have turned easily into a longer track given that the melody is so good. It definitely leaves you wanting for more, much like the whole record. Clocking in at 23 minutes, the album goes by at lightning (god)speed and much like a theme park’s thrill ride, as soon as it’s over, you’ll be like “fuck, that was cool. I need it again!!!”
Naya Ali. Remember that name. One of her leitmotiv is to remind you that Ali means “elevated”. With this Baptism, her game has definitely been elevated. Can’t wait for the second chapter.
Godspeed: Baptism (prelude) is available on streaming platforms and Ali’s bandcamp.
Must. Listen. To.: G.O.A.T. Talk, Get it Right, Quick Flip, Paid in Full (intro), Foy Yuh.
Tomás Jensen | Les rêves sont faits (Folk|Pop|Reggae)
In a time where artists openly question the purpose of putting out a LP and try to shorten their output with an EP or one song at the time, Tomás Jensen went the opposite way with Les rêves sont faits: 18 songs and nearly an hour of music.
It’s not a concept album, but it’s as close as it gets to being one: multiple mood shifts (slow to upbeat) and music genres (from pop to reggae to folk) as well as small interludes linking all songs together. On top of it all he sings in French, English and Spanish. It’s unique and epic.
Favorites include Warrior with its massive choir (what a great idea to blend this type of choir melody with a slower « folk » song!), the upbeat Je chante pour ta mère (a love letter to all mothers) and Le Fil which is an obvious tip of the hat to Jean Leloup.
The most powerful lyrics comes from the reggae Aujourd’hui, a painful reminder that all of the previous incarnations of change symbols failed to change anything that is wrong with the world: « S’il y avait un Noir / À la Maison-Blanche / Ce serait bien différent / C’est ce qu’on se disait avant / S’il y avait une femme / À Downing Street / Ce serait bien différent / C’est ce qu’on se disait avant / Si on avait un jeune / Comme premier ministre / Ce serait bien différent / C’est ce qu’on se disait avant». Saddly fitting especially in these turbulent times. The song is not completely dark though and Jensen stills sees hope looking at the activism of his daughters.
Les rêves sont faits is available on streaming platforms and Jensen’s bandcamp!
Must. Listen. To.: Warrior, Je chante pour ta mère, Aujourd’hui, Longue longue longue, Le fil.
Catherine Major | Carte Mère (Soft E-Pop)
What can we say that hasn’t been said already about Catherine Major‘s new record, the wonderful and somewhat unexpected Carte Mère? A lot of people call it unexpected, but is it really? The use of synths throughout the album is clearly a departure from Major’s usual arrangements on the classical piano but the shift to an electronic soundscape fits the current underlying Québec scene where artists are popping up many incredible electro-pop records. In that sense, Carte Mère is the record we needed, without even knowing it.
Catherine Major swims so effortlessly in this style that you wonder why she’s not been doing it from the get go. She paints a mystical vibe on the album, almost sacred. Maybe we’re influenced by the album artwork, but the synths melodies on songs like La Bouteille (watch the video below) and L’espace occupé, are meant to be listened to at night, when its dark. The later one even channeling chilly vibes reminiscent of Enigma‘s darker tracks. Then again, the mood fits the lyrics, Jeff Moran (lyricist and Catherine’s life partner) once again topping himself with impactful poetry about alcoholism and secularism.
Two infectious pop gems also make their way into our brains like earworms (La Panique and Moi non plus). Don’t be surprised if you hear them on mainstream radio!
Carte Mère is available on digital platforms and on Major’s bandcamp. You can also catch Catherine Major in one of her online concerts via her Facebook page.
Must. Listen. To.: La Bouteille, L’espace occupé, La Panique, Ma soeur, Claustrophobe.
Sandra Le Couteur | Les Cormorans (Seaside Country/Folk/Pop)
The Acadian singer Sandra Le Couteur is back with a fourth album, Les Cormorans. The album features Éric Goulet at the production helm and a number of singer-songwriter who wrote custom-made songs for Le Couteur (Luc de Larochellière, Wilfred LeBouthiller, Gilles Bélanger, Vivane Audet and many more), which are anchored in Le Couteur’s origins growing up on Miscou Island.
Let’s not kid ourselves, you can have the best songwriters in the world, if the singer doesn’t cut it, the song won’t be good. But Sandra Le Couteur is not your average singer. There’s something unique in her voice that commands respect. Throughout the album, her mature voice with its subtle tremolo will give you goosebumps as the seaside imagery flows in your mind. The most powerful of them all being the poignant Le détroit de Cabot, about a captain’s wife’s torment waiting/praying for his husband to come back from his sea trip. No….I…I swear I didn’t cry…
Even though the album features many different songwriters, it feels coherent. Gentle guitars, violin and bass are the backbone of the record, giving the spotlight to Le Couteur’s powerful voice. Other highlights include Miscou, where Luc de Larochellière’s songwriting and melody style are easily recognizable (if you love his album Un toi dans ma tête, you will instantly love this song) and the upbeat Presqu’une histoire, again de Larochellière penned song. The album ends with two covers, Je pars à l’autre bout du monde and Rue du Moulin d’Étienne, a hidden treasure from songwriter Renaud Jeune/Erwens that Sandra makes hers.
As the country is still confined for the summer, why not go a long seaside road trip? Les Cormorans will make your perfect soundtrack.
Les Cormorans is available on digital platforms and here!
Must. Listen. To.: Le détroit de Cabot, Presqu’une histoire, Rue du Moulin d’Étienne, Ivresse, Miscou.
ILAM | Néné (Afro Pop Rock)
ILAM has been making waves on the local scene these past years having been awarded public’s favorite award on Montreal showcases and being chosen as Radio-Canada’s World Music Revelation. It’s hard to put a label on ILAM’s music has it’s inspired by many different musical styles, a crossbreed of reggae, afro-blues, pop, rock and folk. Néné is his second full-length record.
A firm believer that music can transcend language barriers, ILAM sings in Fula, Wolof, French and English. As most of the songs are sung in these Senegal languages, we obviously only get a portion of the picture, but ILAM’s strength lies in his ability to craft catchy melodies and communicate his passion. It’s probably at its peak on the song Sénégal on which ILAM delivers a fiery vocal performance and on Laram which features Sénégal’s superstar Baaba Maal.
Another important guest on Néné is Yann Perreau who shares the mic on the festive Danse la vie. A sure bet to light up your next pool party.
Néné is available on digital platforms and on ILAM’s bandcamp!
Must. Listen. To.: Sénégal, Laram, Danser la vie, Dùfén, Justice.
Francophone and Francophile, trying to bring 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.