Album Reviews

Compact DISCovery

Carole Pope.jpg

Jaimie Vernon

Carole Pope

Up until the late ‘70s Canadian female artists were represented by Middle of the Road sweetness-and-light or Country cross-overs like Anne Murray and Carroll Baker; most were phenomenal vocalists, but not artistic trailblazers.

Then punk kicked at the darkness until it bled razorblades and women became empowered enough to lead from the crotch. Several rallied to be Queen of the Outrage like Michaele Jordana from The Poles, The B-Girls, and The Curse.

But it took Carole Pope (fronting the band she co-founded with Kevan Staples called Rough Trade) to marry subterfuge with commerce and create the groundwork for sexual revolution and equality in an industry dominated by the good ole boys.  Hell, King-of-the-Canadian Playboys Greg Godovitz of Goddo was so intimidated by her he wrote her a song.

And as the next wave came and went, Jane Siberry, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Dalbello, Pope took no quarter. A relentless string of hits through the ‘80s has left her views on sex, religion and the body politic unrivaled in the mainstream [yeah, I’m pointing at you Madonna and Lady GaGa]. 

Even with Rough Trade long gone, Pope has continued pushing her own envelopes through the last two decades, including a warts-and-all autobiography. So here we are six years after her last ambient/trance/urban/rock solo effort, ‘Transcend’, and it can be said that she has not capitulated.

Compact DISCovery


Jaimie Vernon


A remastered edition of The Diodes’ third studio album “Action/Reaction” has been in the works since 2000. But rather than just tossing it onto the market and hoping the world’s collective memory would fuel quick sales, the band and its primary archivist/manager Ralph Alfonso set about rebuilding the franchise first.

The key was reminding the public what they’d forgotten about the Diodes. Firstly, they were the first Canadian punk act signed to a major label (CBS) and to that end Alfonso pressured the label’s corporate descendents to re-issue the band’s first two albums as a 2-for-1 CD as a means to gauge interest.

Compact DISCovery


Jaimie Vernon

Resonance Road


Compact DISCovery


Jaimie Vernon

The Room Lights Up

Following 9/11 I predicted a shift in musical focus from disposable mindless pop to the tried and true introspective singer-songwriter genre that had all but disappeared in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It’s taken a decade for that musical shift to translate at street level. It’s wonderful to see single source blues, folk and acoustic roots music return in full force. 

I had the pleasure of catching a few tunes by Borins at the Free Times Café last year and was captivated by his story telling and stage craft. He’s an engaging singer who tilts toward the sun, giving uplifting arrangements to all his original material even if the subject matter isn’t necessarily happy. To his credit, he has waited to release his songs on CD over long stretches, patiently crafting original tracks and nurturing them in a live setting. With more than 300 shows to his credit in the last four years (in the Pacific Rim, South America and North America), his songs are suitably road tested.

Compact DISCovery


Nine At The Time

Anglophones are painfully unaware of the huge culture gap that exists in this country. We live in our little urbane bubbles and listen to the music that is piped into our insulated worlds via America and, occasionally, through the watered down Anglo-CanCon equivalent. Rarely do we get to hear what’s happening in the Francophone universe. Fortunately, new talents like Chris Giannini, Jonathan Roy and Daniel Casavant slip across the imaginary cultural border and remind us why we all need to work harder at musical détente.  

Casavant’s Nine At The Time is a cross-section of his finest songwriting skill-sets which he’s used to great success in The Billboard Magazine World Song Contest, The Mountain Stage Newsong Contest 2008, The UK Songwriting Contest 2009 and Mike Pinder’s 2009 Songwars.

The album is book-ended by variations on a very tasty instrumental acoustic guitar theme; the abbreviated In Between and the lengthier Petit Brompton respectively.  This is folk guitar virtuosity at its finest.  Sandwiched in between these passages is a beef stew of styles and flavours.

Tasseomancy: Ulalume


Out Of This Spark

Ok, here’s a genuine WTF moment. The Lightman twins have never made a secret of their obsessions with all things Goth and gauzy and gloomish. But at least as Ghost Bees, they could buzz at a melodic clip and somehow the vibe never got as downbeat as this miseryfest.

Renaming the act Tasseomancy seem to have given the ladies license to get down and wallow in Dirgeland and ‘self-indulgent’ doesn’t begin to cover it. But whatever. So let’s go take this thing on its own terms.

It owns no variety; plodding between grievous and forlorn, despair and melancholy with nary a relief in sight. It owns no standout track, even Heavy Sleep isn’t as heavy as you’d think. It owns no clarity of vision and this is reflected in the murky production.

It owns oblique lyrics of menace aplenty and Ashkelon and The Darkness Of Things deliver on their promise but after all the buildup, they’d have done well to drop in a tale of dark bloodlust in a rural environment. Just for a touch of the warm’n’fuzzies.

It also owns a handful of impressive vocals riffs, within the dronified context, and the Lightmans’ commitment to the material can’t be faulted. The album’s titled after an Edgar Allen Poe poem that probes with searing eyes at the mysterious death of a beautiful woman. If only they’d taken the poem to heart and thrown some mystery in the mix, as the one thing a project such as this shouldn’t be seen as is predictable.

Hennie Bekker: Spectrum

Hennie Bekker Spectrum CD Cover.jpg


This anthology album offers fourteen wonderfully inspirational and diverse tracks from eleven of Hennie Bekker’s most memorable albums. It is rewarding in so many ways and delightful to travel for a time with the genius of instrumental music that is Hennie Bekker, an award-winning, multi-platinum-selling musician, master composer and arranger.

A classically trained pianist, Bekker was raised in Zambia and one finds the symphonic, haunting and captivating African rhythms throughout his work. In 1987 he immigrated to Canada, producing a string of progressive and popular hits thereafter. In 1997 ‘Astroplance’ won a Juno Award for Best Dance Recording. He is a master of innovative musical technology.

If you decide, as you should, to take this journey, you will find yourself in a Spectrum of music. It highlights a variety of soundscapes from inspiring (Spring Rain) mysterious (Temba), progressive (Moving On), evocative (Awakings), romantic (Summer Breeze), African (Amani), emotive (Mirage), introspective (Reverie), meditative (Spa) to ethereal (Dreaming) and compassionate (Essence of Romance).  Each track is a gentle and beautiful improvisation with an emphasis on pause and tranquility. Sublime.

The Toronto-based Bekker usually works with a core group of musicians from that city which includes guitarist Greg Kavanagh, drummer Bob DiSalle and keyboardist Rob Gusevs, all of whom appear on the album.

Feist: Metals


Arts & Crafts Productions

Much has been made of what a sharp changeup this is for Feist but really, she didn't have much of a choice. Just a little past the whimsical ingénue thing so wave goodbye to 1-2-3-4 and with the smell of BSS bridges burning, nothing to do but sharp left with the rubber peeling. All the way out of town.

Which is pretty much how she lays it our on the stately and album-definitive The Circle Married the Line ("I'll head out to horizon lines/ Get some clarity oceanside"). The back to nature theme underlies the opus like good loam from which springs a richly personal narrative that can explode in lines  like Cicadas and Gulls  ‘The land and the sea/ Are distant from me/ I'm in the sky."

Ok so far it’s reading like small-town girl hits bigtown fame and scares herself back to the land. Except when Feist flies back to the land she lands in Paris, France to craft songs that could have sprung from Paris, Ontario.

Girl’s also on the run from a flamed out relationship, a component which imparts a decided edge to the cosy and settled vibe centre stage.It likely accounts for the pared down production in which the familiar lip-gloss veneer is stripped off in favour of accents and texturisers.

Compact DISCovery

Carolyn Fe.jpg

Original Sin

Compact DISCovery


Jaimie Vernon

I’ve Failed You

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