This being McCombs’ second short album this year, it’s clear that he’s having a streak of inspiration. His first album, Wit’s End, could be considered “the breakup,” while this album would be the “starting back up again” phase. Basically, McCombs managed to create two albums out of the same moment in his life. Like the title indicates, these songs take a lighter, more humourous perspective on a sad situation. Sincerity and honesty seep through each song without feeling overbearing. The same goes for the music, which is a nice fit with the lyrics. In other words, the theme of the album strikes a happy medium. However, while listening to the record, you can’t help but notice that everything sounds the same, like it’s been blended together too much. Some might appreciate that quality in an artist, but it imbues a bit of listener fatigue.
Trial track: “Mystery Mail”
– Dominique Daoust
This year is turning out to be a big one for Tom Waits. First, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March; second, he just released his most complete album since 1999’s Mule Variations. Surrounding himself with a great cast of musiciansâ€•including members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, legendary blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite and the infamous Keith Richards of The Rolling Stonesâ€•Waits delivers a collection of songs that give a thorough overview of the many sides to his personality. From the heartbreak balladry of “Last Leaf,” to the mad carnival barker of “Hell Broke Luce,” and the old world waltz of “New Year’s Eve,” Waits delivers something distinct on each track. Bad As Me proves that Waits has not lost any of the fire that has kept him going for the past four decades. How many Hall of Famers can say that?
Trial track: “Chicago”
– Paul Brown
Also known as Montrealer BÃ©atrice Martin, CÅ“ur de Pirate is back with her sophomore album after her 2008 self-titled debut. The album was produced by fellow Montrealer Howard Bilerman, who has produced for The Dears, Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade, just to name a few. This time around, Martin has stepped away from her soft, piano-driven melodies and has replaced them with infectious pop tunes. However, she is still singing of those simple matters of the heart, as indicated in the album title Blonde, which is also a francophone term for girlfriend. Inspired by Quebec pop music from the ‘60s, she brings us 12 tracks that tell the story of when she was someone’s ‘blonde,’ including a duet with Sam Roberts entitled “Loin d’ici” (or “Far from here” in English). Fans of CÅ“ur de Pirate fear not, you can still catch her old sound on ballads like “Cap diamant” and “Les amours dÃ©vouÃ©es.” It’s the perfect album for a spare lazy Sunday afternoon.
Trial track: “Verseau”
– Chloe Deneumoustier
By the time So was released in 1986, Peter Gabriel had already fronted legendary prog-rock group Genesis for over a decade, along with having released no less than four successful solo albums. Yet So was to be Gabriel’s most triumphant achievement, spawning three Top 20 hits including “Big Time,” “Sledgehammer,” and “In Your Eyes.” This last track, a reverb-laden love ballad, would go on to be featured in the 1989 film “Say Anythingâ€¦” creating a whole generation of love-sick boyfriends playing boom boxes below bedroom windows. Produced by Canadian Daniel Lanois, who has also worked with U2 and Brian Eno, So is one of those albums that can simultaneously sound incredibly dated but still be taken seriously by fans and critics alike. A synth-heavy, world music mishmash, So treads the fine-line between sappy and overly serious. Along with the head-bop worthy “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time,” So also features a touching duet with Kate Bush and the subtly beautiful “Mercy Street,” for those who want a little more “Solsbury Hill” in their lives.
Title track: “In Your Eyes”
– Cora Ballou