· by administrateur

Over the past few weeks, our most active record reviewers have had the task of choosing their 5 favorite recordings of 2023, and here they are. This selection is unique and quite different of all you can find on the web or through traditional medias.

PAN M 360 does not rate albums. PAN M 360 rejects any hierarchy of musical styles. PAN M 360 explores the broadest spectrum of music. PAN M 360 is not a generational platform, we welcome music lovers from all ages. PAN M 360 values extreme eclecticism. PAN M 360 is a family of some 30 humble (despite their knowledge) and passionate music experts of all cultures, languages, generations and styles: Franco & Anglos Québécois, Canadians from the ROC and First Nations, Europeans, Africans and South Asians living together. And we intend to diversify our extended family even further.

The only order of our TOP 100 is the alphabetical order of our first names: Alain Brunet, Alexandre Villemaire, Ann Pill, CCJ Gabriel, Claude André, Elena Mandolini, Elsa Fortant, Frédéric Cardin, Guillaume Laberge, Jacob Langlois-Pelletier, Laurent Bellemare, Louise Jaunet, Lyle Hendricks, Michel Labrecque, Patrice Caron, Réjean Beaucage, Salima Bouaraour, Stephan Boissonneault, Théo Reinhardt, Varun Swarup.


Noname – Sundial (AWAL)

Another precious stone chiseled in Chicago, Sundial is the second studio album by the very gifted thirty-year-old American, Noname, after Room 25 released in 2018—not to mention the mixtape Telefone in 2016. Eryn Allen Kane, Jay Electronica, Common, Billy Woods, and Ayoni participate. A dozen beatmakers are dedicated to it, including the brilliant Saba. Subtle and evocative in her previous opuses, the poet and rapper’s words are more scathing, more hyper-realistic, less sweet than bitter. The commitment of this black woman capable of exploring her ambivalences and paradoxes (which explains this 5-year discographic silence), perfectly aware of all the issues of her life as an artist in America, goes well with her poetic inclinations aimed at the micro and macro of human existence in the Windy City. Solid groovy jazzy soul frames support the message, very good musicians and very good sampling gracefully make the flow soar. (Alain Brunet)

BIG|BRAVE – Nature Morte (Thrill Jockey)
(Post-metal, Ambient metal)

BIG|BRAVE, a trio made up of guitarist and singer Robin Wattie, guitarist Mathieu Ball and drummer Tasy Hudson, signed one of the most powerful bills to come from Montreal this year. Nature Morte is an album of extreme ambiances: deep incantations flown over by drones prone to the most violent guitaristic saturations and the heaviest hammerings, but also melodies calmed at the end of an eruption. The approach is based on robust and minimalist frameworks, very simple rhythmically and harmonically. All the complexity is found in the textures, the lava flows, and the halos of fire. Robin Wattie’s voice is certainly inhabited by wild spirits but also by subtle spirits that flesh out its perception. The connections with Chelsea Wolfe and Kristin Hayter (Lingua Ignota) are very tempting, but no, we will not go any further because there are so many spaces of freedom to conquer in this territory conducive to a heavy trance. (Alain Brunet)

Planet Giza – Ready When You Are (Independent)

Planet Giza achieves the ideal balance between beatmaking, flow, and quality singing, unique arrangements, very cool comments on existence, intimate relationships, the behaviour of others, on the career that is beginning, all of it coated with brilliant humour. There is a real depth here in the creative work, there is also this swag, this flexibility of the best hip-hop/R&B artists, there are these references to the best who preceded them. We think of the best boom bap of the 90s, with jazzy or Latin inflections, to the most recent from the West Coast such as Kendrick or Tyler, the Creator. There is this R&B approach more sought after than all the Daniel Ceasar and The Weeknd of Canadian production. We are not surprised that artists of such quality have joined forces with Mick Jenkins ( “Think Of Me” ), Kaytranada ( “Sometimes” ), Saba ( “WYD” ), Femdot ( “Northern Playalistic” ), among other distinguished guests. This shows the underground credibility already achieved by these artists whose long emergence will very soon be part of the past. (Alain Brunet)

Andre 3000 – New Blue Sun (Epic Records)
(Ambient, Electronic, Soul-Jazz)

When I learned that André Benjamin, the famous André 3000 of the excellent band Outkast, was doing new-age after a far too long lull (17 years!), I pouted. Oh yeah?! The mountain gives birth to a mouse. And I procrastinated before discovering this probable Lipton soup mix to give a hint of flavour to the floating bath. I finally dipped my toes in, and here’s the verdict, a little late in the day. This album is certainly ambient and soaring, built on a minimum of harmonic variations spread out over modular synthesizers, matched by percussion and wooden flute melodies or an electronic kid’s patent tailor-made for the soloist. But … it’s fucking good! These compositions will appeal to all fans of musical mantras, six out of 10 of which range in length from 10 minutes 15 seconds to 17 minutes 11 seconds. In the tradition of Jon Hassell’s ambient jazz and the saxophonist prayers of the late Pharoah Sanders, we never tire of meditating on these soul-jazz-inspired motifs, reminiscent of oriental maqams or Indian ragas designed to purify the mind. (Alain Brunet)

Sofia Kourtesis – Madres (Ninja Tune)
(Cumbia, Electronic, Tech-House)

DJ, producer, and songwriter, Peruvian (and adopted Berliner) Sofia Kourtesis invites us to take to the Nazca lines and climb aboard. Very high! The most discerning dancefloor fans have known her for some time, and she even came to Piknic Electronik in the fall of 2022, without making any waves. Next time will be quite different. Tech-house foundations, krautrock flavors, a resolutely Latina identity, cumbia, reggaeton, or Afro-Peruvian identity, not to mention a pretty psychedelic nod to Manu Chao (and his famous hit “Primavera”) and a seductive ambient parenthesis, there are so many powders of a powerful explosive for all activities requiring any kick of the butt. The album’s main hit, “Si Te Portas Bonito,” is a bomb, a sure-fire hit at all parties and road trips, and the 10 tracks on this excellent album show no conceptual weakness. We can deduce that this thirty-something brilliant woman has acquired artistic maturity in her career as a nightclubber to build a sound that is both very pop and very original. (Alain Brunet)

Aho Ssan – Rhizomes (Other People)

(Electro-acoustic, Instrumental hip-hop)

Rhizomes, an album by French composer Aho Ssan, evokes the rhizomatic thinking of the co-authors of an essay of the same name, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, and also of the West Indian Édouard Glissant who evolved the concept in his literary work. Rhizomatic thinking refers to a structure constantly evolving, in all horizontal directions, and devoid of levels, and this is very much the case in this brilliant recording. Artists of all origins were invited to participate, including the American-Chilean Nicolas Jaar, who appreciated well beyond those keen on fundamental research in music. Of African origin, Aho Ssan is one of the rare known figures in electroacoustics, a field generally occupied by white Westerners. Aho Ssan’s research leads us elsewhere—his hip-hop and electro culture are distinct, he knowingly takes evocative elements to deconstruct them and create a territory conducive to electroacoustic exploration. Rhizomes we can vaguely recall the works of Ben Frost, Arca, or Oneothrix Point Never, but we are indeed in the domain of Aho Ssan. (Alain Brunet)

Thomas Adès: Dante (Nonesuch Records)
(Contemporary Classical)

For his first ballet, the British composer of Syrian origin, Thomas Adès, drew his inspiration from the story of Dante Alghieri’s Divine Comedy. A transcendental journey from the depths of Hell to the summit of Paradise via Purgatory, the work exhibited in three parts presents a complex allegory where Adès brings historical, mythological figures and characters from Dante’s time into musical material. of great richness reminiscent of Liszt, Stravinsky, Ravel and even Bernstein. After crossing a brassy soundscape with a frantic pace, the two protagonists, Dante and Virgil, emerge from Gehenna on an island to be greeted by a pre-recorded Sephardic hymn, which will accompany them in their ascent of Mount Purgatory. A river piece, the third part describes the cosmic journey that Dante, accompanied this time by Béatrice Portinari, his muse representing faith, undertakes towards the Empyrean, Paradise, through changing musical layers which conclude with the appearance of an angelic choir. (Alexandre Villemaire)

Arion Baroque Orchestra, Mathieu Lussier – The King’s Suppers (ATMA Classique)
(classical / baroque)

In a collaboration with the Baroque Music Center of Versailles, this new album by Arion—which includes the program of their eponymous concert nominated for the 2021-2022 Opus Prize— transports us to the courts of Louis XIV and Louis XV, of Versailles in Fontainebleau in the splendour of the royal festivities and the music which accompanied them. In the spotlight are Michel-Richard Delalande, André Cardinal Destouches François-Colin de Blamont, Jean-Philippe Rameau, and François Francoeur, composers who held various official functions at the court of France with an assemblage of works taken from collections of suites dances, opera-ballet or comedy-ballet of these. Festive musical features, worldly cheerfulness, peaceful and majestic tunes constitute the musical material that the superintendent of music at Arion, Mathieu Lussier, captures and renders perfectly with all the spirit and vivacity of the time, giving the necessary depth to this repertoire: a treat of fine musical cuisine, with tunes that stick to our ears and that we can consume without moderation. (Alexandre Villemaire)

Francis Choinière, Orchestre FILMharmonique

Phonèmes La musique de François Dompierre

(GFN Classiques)

(classique moderne / musique de film)

Young conductor Francis Choinière and the Orchestre FILMharmonique have recorded a tribute to the music of our cinema and to one of its most emblematic composers, François Dompierre. In a survey of Dompierre’s film repertoire, the maestro and his excellent orchestra offer us a project in the form of an intergenerational encounter “that can only enrich us” according to the almost octogenarian composer, who signs seven contemplative pieces here. We are easily carried away by the gentle, lyrical melancholy theme of mon amie Max (1994), the airy, luminous string elegy from Portes tournantes (1988) and the dynamic musical tableau traversing the universe of La Passion d’Augustine (2015), the latest Quebec film production for which Dompierre composed the music. Beyond Choinière’s great technical skills and mastery of nuances and melodic lines, this is a devilishly beautiful encounter between two musicians who vibrate with a beautiful musicality.

(Alexandre Villemaire)

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo, Kazuki Yamada – Berlioz·Saint-Saëns·Ravel (Erato)

(chant lyrique, musique romantique)

With her new album, Quebec contralto, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, comes to paint, at the pinnacle of her voice, among the most beautiful canvases of the vocal repertoire of French romanticism with Les Nuits d’été by Hector Berlioz, Les Mélodies persanes by Camille Saint- Saëns and Shéhérazade by Maurice Ravel. Each cycle is a long poetic story through which the composers tell of melancholy, love, travel, and the Other, both imaginary and distant. The musical exoticism presented there from various angles of expression, mainly in the cycles of Ravel and Saint-Saëns, rubs shoulders with the theme of love: at the same time young, incandescent, and full of sadness of “Summer Nights” by Berlioz. The melodies are rendered with intensity and expressive nuances by Lemieux who bites into each poetic universe with vigor, sensitivity, and earthy excitement supported dynamically and intelligently by the Monte-Carlo Orchestra under the direction of conductor Kazuki Yamada. (Alexandre Villemaire)

AVE: Australian Vocal Ensemble – Tumbling Like Stars (ABC Classic)
(Contemporary Classical)

A shower of stars fell to the land below. A project led and imagined for a long time by soprano Katie Noonan, the Australian Vocal Ensemble (AVÉ) presents four of Australia’s finest soloists with, in addition to Noonan, mezzo-soprano Fiona Campbell, tenor Andrew Goodwin and bass-baritone Andrew O’Connor. For its first album, the ensemble highlights composers and composers native to the state of Queensland in an assembly of original commissioned pieces highlighting the texts of Australian national poet David Malouf. Each of the pieces opens a window towards different musical universes, ostensibly tonal, but full of contrasts with varied stylistic treatments where the text and the melody each have their importance without supplanting or erasing the other. The only stylistic exception to the content of the album, the Bach chorale Drum so lasst uns immerda (Cantata BWV 115) is nevertheless imbued with the unique mark of AVÉ by being presented both in the original German language, but also in a translation into three Aboriginal languages (Gubbi Gubbi, Gadigal and Noongar): a gesture which is not insignificant and which fits with the desire to highlight the presence and importance of first peoples in the music of Australia. (Alexandre Villemaire)

Jockstrap – I<3UQTINVU (Rough Trade)
(Alternative, Experimental, Glitch)

Jockstrap’s new album is 31 minutes of unbridled chaos. The “remix” album by the British electro-pop duo is almost unrecognizable from their 2022 album I Love You Jennifer B. Georgia Ellery is the vocalist and strings player with Taylor Skye as the producer of the crudely named group.  On I<3UQTINVU, (I love you cutie I envy you), Taylor Skye had a full year to make their debut album as weird and distorted as possible—and he took full advantage of the time. It’s almost a disservice to call this a remix album. The album stands alone as an independent project. It’s a little treasure hunt trying to figure out the origin of each renamed track entirely different than the original. This album is more than just a morsel to tide Jockstrap fans over until their next album. It’s a completely new creation. If I<3UQTINVU, is evidence of the direction the duo is going, the next album is just going to get weirder. Whether you like it or not. (Ann Pill)

Duff Thompson – Shadow People (Mashed Potato Records)
(Folk, Garage, Pop, Rock N’ Roll)

Duff Thompson’s second album Shadow People expands from his folk roots to a more garage sound while maintaining the integrity of the first album. Without suffering from any sophomore album blues symptoms this record from Duff Thompson’s label, Mashed Potato Records, builds off the groundwork of his 2020 album Haywire. The standout tracks on the album are “Just Like Me” and “Shapeshifter” but all ten songs work together beautifully. Mashed Potato co-founder Steph Green, Kyle Taylor, and Mat Davidson make up the backing band including the pump organ, pedal steel, and bass clarinet. It still has the authenticity and emotion, but “Shadow People” is more complex and grittier. The album is an analog masterpiece. (Ann Pill)

Nora Kelly Band – Rodeo Clown (Mint Records)

(Country, Satire Folk)

Nora Kelly Band’s first full-length album, Rodeo Clown is the perfect mix of honest and ridiculous. From the former punk band, Dishpit, Montreal-based Nora Kelly Band’s album on Mint Records this year falls somewhere within the realm of alternative country without losing the punk swagger. There are gorgeous folky tunes with “Rosewell” and “Catch a Bone” and catchy hoe-down classics with “Mmm-Delicious” and “Rodeo Clown.” With lyrics like, “I always tip my waiter, but I’ve never tipped a cow,” and “I can rob a Dollarama, Never worked a plough,” “Horse Girl” is by far the most fun track on the delightful album. It starts off so unbelievably strong and calms down but doesn’t lose you. The genre shift seems to be in search of authenticity not against it. (Ann Pill)

Twin Temple – God Is Dead
(Doo-Wop, Rock N’ Roll)

The self-proclaimed satanic doo-wop duo, Twin Temple have the sexy twang of early rock and roll with the added sparkle of worshipping the devil. Their second studio album God is Dead, from the husband-and-wife duo, Zachary and Alexandra James’ own label Pentagrammaton Records is as groovy as it is weird. Tracks like “Be a slut” and “Let’s have a Satanic Orgy” shouldn’t sound like 50s rock and roll but somehow it works perfectly. Though it’s not as ground-breaking as their 2018 self-titled album it’s just a blessing there are 10 more satanic doo-wop songs out there. (Ann Pill)

Kvelertak – Endling (Rise Records)
(Heavy Metal, Hard Rock)

The fifth album from Norwegian rock band, Kvelertak is their most upbeat and energetic album to date. Even if you have no idea what they’re saying this album induces the listener with the desire to dance and run fast. It sounds like something in between Andrew W K and Eagles of Death Metal made metal music. This is the perfect album for the people in your life who think they don’t like metal music. Perhaps their least specific album to date it is certainly the most listenable. This first nicely with the rest of their music with their usual meaty riffs and classic metal drumming but a little lighter and not in a bad way. (Ann Pill)

Pink Tape – Lil Uzi Vert (Generation Now/ Atlantic)
(Alternative Hip-Hop, Trap, Rap Rock)

I was never the biggest fan of Lil Uzi Vert, aside from his few bops and features that are impossible to avoid on social media. That being said, Uzi won me over with Pink Tape. I appreciate artists who are willing to push the boundaries of genre and test themselves vocally and sonically, especially Hip-Hop artists or rappers. I know Uzi’s always been at the forefront of creativity and genre-bending in Hip-Hop, but this album is all over the place. It should be noted that there are like 10,000 producers who contributed to Pink Tape, so I’m not going to single anybody out, but overall, the beats, mixing, and mastering will all be on point. Almost every song is a slap. “Aye” featuring Travis Scott goes way too hard. The verses, hook, and beat sample are just insane. Has to be said that Pink Tape has some certified bangers. (CCJ Gabriel )

Pink Tape – Lil Uzi Vert

Nas – Magic 2 (Mass Appeal)

The infallible Nas released his sixteenth studio album this summer and delivered a much-needed breath of fresh air to the Hip-Hop genre. Magic 2 debuted at number ten on the Billboard 200, serves as a sequel to Magic, and is Nas’ fifth consecutive album produced by Hit-Boy. In true Nas fashion, the features are very limited with 50 Cent being on the main album and 21 Savage on the bonus track. The production on Magic 2 is consistent throughout and Nas has the rare ability to stay ahead of the curve, rapping over modern beats while still staying true to his OG style. This is a feat that most artists from his era try but cannot do as effectively as Nas. The beats are all old-school at their core and are sonically consistent throughout. This project sounds like one piece of art being presented as a whole, as opposed to the commonly thrown-together pile of different genres most artists present as “rap” today. (CCJ Gabriel)

Slowthai – Ugly (Method, Interscope)
(Hip-Hop, Grime)

Ugly, an acronym for “U Gotta Love Yourself,” is only slowthai’s third studio album, and boy does it deliver. Personally, reviewing this project was my first time listening to slowthai, and now I’m a fan who finds myself seeking out his previous work. UGLY sees slowthai add punk rock elements to his typically more hip-hop sound, which was received well by both fans and critics. Sonically, the production, the unique and infused vibes, the passionate and emotional vocals, nothing is subpar. slowthai has seemingly mastered the ability of making music that is very real and emotional, but still lighthearted and fun. Although UGLY is a bold and courageous effort, the album is still grounded and relatable. Every track just feels so raw and real, and it’s as though the listener is a part of slowthai’s journey, which is why he has such a deep connection with his fans. (CCJ Gabriel)

Scaring The Hoes – JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown (AWAL, Peggy)
(Hip-Hop, Alternative Hip-Hop, Afro-swing, R&B/Soul)

As soon as you turn this joint on, “Lean Beef Patty,” hits your ears, and you’re not sure if you accidentally hit a button on your keyboard or something, but its uniqueness draws you in. I never thought I would find myself head-nodding along with glitch noises and the sound of tap fast forwarding, but here we are. JPEGMAFIA deserves flowers for the production of this entire project. He managed to take obscure and almost faulty live sounds and pair them up with instruments and vocals in a way that is so appealing. The titular song of the album, “Scaring the Hoes” might be one of the greatest beats I’ve ever heard in my life on a fundamental level. At times throughout this project, it can be hard to understand what each emcee, and especially Danny Brown, is saying under the sounds of crackles and distortion and other cool effects, but at no point does it take away from any of the music. (CCJ Gabriel)

Travis Scott – UTOPIA (Cactus Jack, Epic)
(Hip-Hop, Rap)

UTOPIA is sonically Travis Scott’s unique sound through and through, meaning tons of epic mid-song beat flips, with just a sprinkle of 2020’s Hip-Hop influence. A good example of Travis stepping somewhat out of his comfort zone is the song “MODERN JAM” featuring Teezo Touchdown. It’s a fun fusion of an old-school dancehall track mixed with Travis Scott’s trippy and wavy sounds. Another track that should be highlighted is “K-POP” featuring two of the biggest superstars in the world, Bad Bunny and The Weeknd. “K-POP” leans into the Latin dance sound a lot of DJs and Hip-Hop artists play with these days, which makes for the perfect summertime slap. UTOPIA also features a ton of well-known and iconic artists like 21 Savage, Young Thug, Kid Cudi, Westside Gunn, Future, SZA, Yung Lean, and even comedian Dave Chappelle makes an appearance. Lastly, the song placement is perfect and UTOPIA plays like a proper album front to back. (CCJ Gabriel)

Benjamin Biolay – À l’auditorium – Romance Musique (Universal)
(Francophone Music, Pop)

Both a crooner and pop goldsmith, the Biolay in a suit offers an interesting cover of Sinatra’s “It Was A Very Good Year,” which becomes very successful, and even surprising, rereading of “Comment est ta Pain,” the big hit of the year 2020. Which was not a given. Phew! Confident, the fifty-year-old distills an outlet version of “À l’origine” punctuated by a feverish and angry voice, while “La Superbe,” which already had an orchestral dimension, reaches its full ecstatic potential. It all ends with the twilight “La Route.” Biolay remains, in the pure Gainsbourg tradition, a high-flying lyricist with an undeniable sense of narrative. Under the direction of Belgian conductor and composer Dirk Brossé, the Lyon National Symphony Orchestra and Biolay were able to find the right tone to marry symphonic majesty to a work that already had these versions in its DNA. (Claude Andre)

Zaho de Sagazan – La symphonie des éclairs (Disparate, Virgin Records)
(French Indie, Synthpop)

Not satisfied with having offered us the best French album of 2023, which will undoubtedly be dedicated to the Victoires this year, the young (23 years old) and charismatic Zaho de Sagazan was able to impose her innovative personality thanks to a tasty juxtaposition of old sounds 70s & 80s (analog and modular synths), a textual anchoring in the great French song Brel or Barbara style and an exceptional diction which makes the words crack like whips. She also gave us our greatest musical thrill of the year with her cover all in Vienna lace, on the album Simply Sheller dedicated to the work of the latter. When sublime and catchy melancholy rubs shoulders with madness as an antidote. To discover. (Claude Andre)

Keith Kouna – Métastases (Duprince)
(Franophone Rock)

It’s already 10 years since Keith Kouna won the Socan Song Prize for his piece Batiscan. And six years since this tender celestial tramp had not offered us a new album before Métastases. Never mind, the former leader of the punk band Les Goules offers on this project, co-produced by Alexandre Martel, around twenty titles which unravel in all directions the fragments of his influences which range from Renaud to Bérus in passing. by Tom Waits, the alterno nineties and… Renée Martel, to whom he dedicates a very beautiful country ballad Aux Quatre vents. Here is an offbeat and inspired work where Ricet Barrier would have fun with Sid Vicious while chatting about Henry Miller under the thunderous laughter of Charles Trenet on acid. Inspiring, explosive, destabilizing, but touching. (Claude Andre)

Mickey 3D – Nous étions des humains (Parlophone)
(Franophone Rock)

More than two decades passed, interspersed with albums and separations/reunions, before the Loire band came back to us in good shape with Nous étions des humains in 2023. A seventh album where we still find the little “offended from the inside” side. If the style does not seem to change so much on a musical level, although it is more pop than in the past like Émilie danced and her side tinkered with in a room with makeshift contraptions, Mickaël Furnon’s pen has retained its candy taste bittersweet and its playful second-degree lucidity (“Social networks”). It will come as no surprise that the band promoted itself with another offbeat and slightly provocative title: “Don’t buy my record,” which takes a critical look at the spirit of the times. This is a most satisfying album for connoisseurs and a window into playful and catchy cynicism for others. (Claude Andre)

The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds (Polydor Records)
(Blues Rock, Rock n’ Roll)

“I would rather be dead than singing ‘Satisfaction’ at 45,” Mick Jagger, was quoted saying in his 30s. Nearly 50 years later, the legendary singer who paved the way for Jim Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, and Iggy Pop returns in force for a 31st album, in the company of six-string buccaneer Keith Richards and faithful Ronnie Wood on bass, while the ghost of Charlie Watts provides metronomy on two pieces. Although we don’t reach the summit of Exile on Main St. this is undoubtedly one of the most coherent and typically Stones albums since Some Girls (1978). In short, the rock grandpas, who notably invited Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder, are still capable of kicking ass! Just for the hope they give us in the face of shrinking time, that is immense. And imagine when the music is exhilarating. (Claude Andre)

Les Barocudas – Basata Parlare (ATMA Classique)
(Classical, Baroque)

The trio Les Barocudas (Marie Nadeau-Tremblay, Tristan Best, and Nathan Mondry, joined by several other excellent baroque musicians) has the mission of offering a virtuoso baroque repertoire in a renewed way. This album dedicated to Italian works of the 17th century includes works by Castello Legrenzi, Grillo, and several others. These composers were considered innovative at the time, and it’s easy to see why. Baroque musical conventions are very present, but the interpretation given to these pieces is like a breath of fresh air. We have a lot of fun listening to this album, and we discover just as much. The tracks flow together harmoniously and offer a wide variety of ambiance and sound textures. All of the works offered are instrumental, but the recorder and the violin interact, even sing, with great virtuosity. There are also complex and virtuoso improvisations that are judiciously integrated into the proposed repertoire. (Elena Mandolini)

Élisabeth Pion – Femmes de légende (ATMA Classique)

For her first album, pianist Élisabeth Pion offers us a selection of entirely French solo piano pieces … or almost! In this album, we find equal compositions by men and women from the turn of the 20th century in France: Mel Bonis, Lili Boulanger, Claude Debussy, and Henri Dutilleux. Pion also allows himself a small departure from his temporal and geographical constraints by integrating into the playlist a work by the British composer Thomas Adès as well as one of his compositions.
Élisabeth Pion’s playing is sensitive, deep, and fair. The pieces selected for this album are complex, sometimes disturbing, and the nuanced interpretation given by the young pianist does them complete justice. The fun and passion can definitely be heard in the recording. There we happily rediscover well-known pieces of the piano repertoire and become acquainted with new works that we will want to listen to again and again. (Elena Mandolini)

Thierry Larose – Sprint! (Bravo musique)
(Francophone Synthpop)

In this highly anticipated second career opus from the Quebec singer-songwriter, we find songs with rich lyrics and memorable melodies. From the outset, we hear all the work put into writing the lyrics: references to literature, painting, pop culture, and even his previous album, Cantalou. Each of the album’s ten tracks presents itself as a small story set to music, in which Larose’s poetry can unfold freely. Musically, we find a nice diversity of styles, going from folk rock to more pop tracks and acoustic ballads. The balance between the songs is very successful: the more contemplative melodies sit alongside danceable and energetic tracks. This variety proves that Larose has more than one string to his bow and that he knows how to hit the target every time. The many accolades awarded to this album this year are fully deserved. (Elena Mandolini)

Hozier – Unreal Unearth (Columbia Records, Sony Music)
(Alternative, Pop, Folk)

For his third career album, Irish singer-songwriter Hozier goes a little outside of the sounds he had previously accustomed his fans to. Here we find a rather rock atmosphere, with more powerful melodic lines on the guitar and especially a marked use of the drums. This transition towards music with more pop sounds is not a bad thing, on the contrary, it is very successful. This renewed aesthetic rubs shoulders with songs that have made Hozier’s reputation: acoustic, melancholic and disturbing folk melodies, referencing Irish traditions, stories from Greek mythology and numerous literary works. We find Hozier’s magnificent pen and we enjoy decoding the meanings of the words. Each song is linked together judiciously and we never tire of listening to them again and again. (Elena Mandolini)

Mustard Service – Variety Pack (ONErpm)
(Alternative Indie)

Mustard Service is an indie band based in Miami. For their third album, released earlier this year, we are offered a set of playful songs on a very amusing concept (when they were released, each single was illustrated by a small individual-sized cereal box, hence the title Variety Pack). The surf rock and indie influences that made the group’s reputation are once again present on this album. We appreciate the dynamic and always solid bass lines at Mustard Service, and the light vocal harmonies. Variety Pack is an alloy of dance songs and ballads, tackling the themes of long evenings of partying, and love (sometimes disappointing), all with a lot of humour. The title of the album illustrates very well the fact that there is something for everyone. Above all, the musical quality and energy are constant from the beginning to the end of the opus. (Elena Mandolini)

CucaRafa – The Art Of Music (Independent)
(House, Groove-Techno)

In recent years, we have seen a strong comeback of hardcore and neo-trance techno, which is flooding parties and social networks. On the sidelines of this movement, hard groove, a style of techno popular at the end of the 1990s, is also making a comeback – albeit more discreetly. Among the artists participating in this revival, CucaRafa, a Portuguese DJ and producer. His compositions tick all the boxes: very energetic rhythms, pronounced and powerful percussive elements (in which he distils Latin influences), funky and dynamic bass lines adding a layer of complexity to the rhythm and obviously, an inimitable groove! A perfect meeting of past and present, propelling hard groove to the forefront. (Elsa Fortant)

Isabel Soto, MPHS – Nueva Era – NYXII
(Electronic, Techno)

Producers and DJs, Isabel Soto and MPHS bring with them a breath of fresh air to the Montreal techno scene by (re)popularizing hypnotic and mental techno – already well established in certain local scenes in their countries of origin, namely Venezuela and Colombia. Respectively residents of the Montreal collectives Arder and LaNorth, they do much more than cross paths behind the decks. The two composers joined forces for the production of Nueva Era, a four-track split EP released on NYXII, the label founded by Isabel Soto almost a year ago. The excellent combination of their own styles makes listening to the EP fluid and gives it a lot of coherence. Through their compositions, Isabel Soto and MPHS seem to dialogue and tell us a story that we hope to have the continuation of one day…(Elsa Fortant)

Mndsgn – Snaxxx (Stones Throw Records)
(Experimental, Electronic)

At the heart of Mndsgn’s sound is a meticulous approach to production, marked by dreamy synths, complex rhythms and a penchant for manipulating samples in a way that is both nostalgic and innovative. Its ethereal beats transport listeners to a realm where time seems to bend and reshape itself. His latest album, Snaxxx, is close to a concept album: 16 tracks, all less than 3 minutes long, follow one another, and can be listened to like a handful of snacks. Something light, pleasant and that we would happily listen to. Tasty! (Elsa Fortant)

Rebecca Delle Piane – Keen-Edged (KEY Vinyl)

Three years ago, I already spoke to you about the maturity of the productions of the “young shoot” Rebecca Delle Piane, 21 years old at the time. It was on the occasion of the release of her EP Lode (2020), on Symbolism, the label of the renowned Ben Sims. A pandemic and three years later, it is clear that the producer has continued to deliver music of very high quality, both in her compositions and these DJ sets; whether on vinyl or three turntables. Not surprisingly, she also became the protégé of veteran Freddy K, a fellow Italian based in Germany and founder of the KEY Vinyl label. It is therefore on this label that she releases, on black album, Keen-edged, a well-felt four-track, which explores “horroresque” sounds and expresses a fair balance between minimalism and complexity. Special mention to the opening track, “Creatures of the night,” which exploits a melodic ambiguity characteristic of hypnotic techno. (Elsa Fortant)

JMSN – Soft Spot (White Room Records)

Ah, JMSN! Rooted in the rich traditions of R&B and soul, JMSN’s style transcends conventional boundaries by incorporating electronic elements and experimental production techniques. Christian Berishaj, born in Detroit, is distinguished by an impressive vocal range (his high notes!) and introspective lyrics. His compositions are often imbued with melancholy. With Whatever Makes U Happy (2017) and Velvet (2018), JMSN explored funk and rock aesthetics. His latest album, of as good quality as the previous ones, experiments with the codes of gospel, blues and grassroots. JMSN defies categorization and does it with taste. (Elsa Fortant)

Isabelle Faust – Solo (Harmonia Mundi)

If at first thought the repertoire for unaccompanied solo violin may seem uninviting to you, don’t let this prejudice fool you. The music presented here is masterfully beautiful and rich in noble, poignant melodies and emotions. If the absolute masterpiece of the genre is Bach’s cycle of Sonatas and Partitas, BWV 1001-1006, the treasures revealed by Isabelle Faust in this album, aptly named Solo, are no less deserving. A Fantasia by Matteis and a Sonata by Pisendel, which Bach would not have disdained to have in his own catalogue, are highlights of the album in terms of discoveries. Other pieces, by Guillemain (a pupil of Jean-Marie Leclair) and Vilsmayr, although lighter, are still rich enough in detail to appeal to the most demanding of purists. And then there is that exceptional monument, surpassed only by Bach (and even then): Biber’s Passacaglia from his remarkable cycle of Rosary Sonatas. A single, simple instrument, but such magnificence. It’s crazy, but that’s what real, great music is all about. (Frédéric Cardin)

Babe, Terror – Technojoyg (Independent)
(Avant-Garde, Electronic)

Claudio Katz Szynkier, aka Babe, Terror, is an avant-garde electro composer based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. A genius unknown to the general public, but a shining star in the firmament of today’s music. As proof, his album Horizogon received the title of one of the best Global Albums of 2020 according to The Guardian, and the previous one, Fadechase Marathon , was named Best Electronic Album of 2018 by Bandcamp. Technojoyg is his most recent opus, barely out of the studio, and it’s probably his best to date. It is the most abundant, the most fragmented (but coherent), the most rooted in the perspective of 21st century music, with its stimulating holistic fusion of electro and symphonic, high and low art, sensory and the intellectual. (Frédéric Cardin)

Kronos Quartet/Ghost Train Orchestra – The Music of Moondog (Cantaloupe Music)
(Alternative, Classical)

In my top 5 of the most influential 20th-century scholarly composers from “unconventional” backgrounds and genres, there’s certainly Ennio Morricone, Frank Zappa and Moodog (aka Louis Hardin, or vice-versa). While the first two have achieved a degree of recognition from the contemporary establishment, Moondog has yet to be formalized as such. And yet, this creator who was also blind, who wrote vertical scores on cardboard sheets in Braille, and who was incredibly prolific (over 400 works), adored by a whole underground musical fauna, still remains scorned by the academic world. A huge mistake. Listen to this joyful Songs and Symphoniques – The Music of Moondog by the Ghost Train Orchestra assisted by the very “legit” Kronos Quartet and you’ll be won over. Unless you’re irredeemably purist and uptight, you’ll discover and accept the fact that Moondog is such an unclassifiable composer, so vibrant with luminous good humour, so simple and naive in his discreet and appealing sophistication, so fiercely authentic. (Frédéric Cardin)

Ruiqi Wang – Subduing the Silence (Orchard of Pomegranates)
(Adult Contemporary, Vocal Music)

The nature of the Chinese-born Montrealer’s music being what it is, that is to say, more contemporary writing than purely improvised jazz, the thematic, harmonic and even melodic skeleton changes little, even if autonomous spaces are left here and there. A thoughtful blend of some improvisation, lots of contemporary writing, traditional Chinese song and learned references to Ligeti, Pauline Oliveros or Meredith Monk, and even Evans and Strayhorn, make Subduing the Silence an impressive first opus for an artist in her early twenties. The potential for development is immense, and we might even sense that the young singer-songwriter could be a kind of Chinese answer to Korea’s Youn Sun-Nah and Japan’s Hiromi (in terms of eclectic avant-garde, even post-modernism). Time will tell. Now that her studies at McGill are over, Ruiqi has begun training in composition at the Berne Academy of the Arts in Switzerland. There’s no doubt that she’ll be back with even more explosive and accomplished material before long. And, of course, we hope she’ll be back here to share her new ideas with us. (Frédéric Cardin)

Weinberg – Dawn – Symphonie No. 12 (CHANDOS)
(Classical Modern)

Mieczysław Weinberg’s musical debt to Dmitri Shostakovich is immense. For music lovers who love the latter, the music of the former is an absolute must. The same kind of sonic universe, the same plunge, more often than not, into dramatic outpourings of hyper-romantic character, but clothed in modern harmonies and melodies propelled by purposeful rhythms and often screaming with action and intensity. This album bears powerful witness to Weinberg’s attachment to this aesthetic, while also demonstrating the composer’s ability to transcend his spiritual master. Symphony No. 12 Op. 114 “In memoriam Dmitri Shostakovich”, as its title suggests, is Weinberg’s tribute to Shostakovich. But it is also, ironically, one of the symphonies – at least up to this point in Weinberg’s career – in which he departs furthest from the style of his mentor and friend. The work opens with grating harmonies, which rub against each other with a rough edge. A few woodwind passages recall the dreamier episodes of Shostakovich’s 10th, then the orchestra becomes tense, nervous, and anguished. (Frédéric Cardin)

Tyler, The Creator – Call Me If You Get Lost: The Estate Sale (Columbia)
(Rap, Hip-Hop)

After a fairly quiet 2022 for Tyler, The Creator, he didn’t wait too long to make his presence felt in 2023 by releasing CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST: The Real Estate last March, the deluxe version of his hit album of the same name, released in 2021. The Real Estate offers eight new sounds, each as fresh as the next and each helping to strengthen the initial work. Just like on CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, Tyler combines pop-rap ballads with other more aggressive sounds, without forgetting the passages where he spits rhyme after rhyme accompanied by a repetitive soul instrumental. This combination of different sounds that come together to form a very cohesive project is an art that Tyler has mastered over the years. The Real Estate wonderfully brings a decorated chapter in Tyler’s career to a close. (Guillaume Laberge)

Daniel Caesar – Never Enough (Republic Records)

Four years after his last project CASE STUDY 01, Daniel Caesar returned in force in 2023 with NEVER ENOUGH released in April. His new album is an improvement on all fronts of CASE STUDY 01, especially in terms of writing and song structure. This album unequivocally contains the catchiest R&B tracks of 2023. The honeyed and very controlled voice of the Canadian singer mixed with rather soft melodies gives rise to memorable ballads which have been replayed on loop in my head throughout the year. One of Caesar’s great strengths is writing captivating choruses and on NEVER ENOUGH, this talent is highlighted even more, notably on the songs “Always”, “Let Me Go” and “Homiesexual”. Thanks to its consistency as well as its warmth, NEVER ENOUGH was undoubtedly one of the most notable albums of this year. (Guillaume Laberge)

The Alchemist – Flying High (ALC)
(Hip-Hop, UK Rap)

Legendary producer The Alchemist has had a pretty busy 2023, working on several different projects, all hitting big. On the other hand, it is his Flying High EP released at the end of June that stands out from the others. Accompanied by a lineup of MCs who can be compared to the Avengers of underground rap such as Earl Sweatshirt, Boldy James, MIKE, and Larry June (to name a few), the Californian beatmaker makes the task of his soldiers easier by concocting songs that complement each of his colleagues very well. The production stands out from other projects released in the genre this year, in particular, thanks to quite adventurous, perfectly placed samples. We are even treated to a rare verse from The Alchemist, who raps at the end of the last song “Midnight Oil” using a cadence resembling that of his long-time colleague Roc Marciano. Flying High proves to be a gem, not only in the American underground rap scene but also in The Alchemist’s extensive catalog. (Guillaume Laberge)

Sufjan Stevens – Javelin (Asthmatic Kitty Records)
(Indie Folk)

Over the years, Sufjan Stevens has made us smile, (mostly) made us cry, no matter the emotion felt, he made us feel alive. His latest opus Javelin does not deviate from this feeling. Dedicated by the author to his late partner Evans Richardson, who died last April, Javelin is poignant from the start. The album, containing ten songs, never stops being captivating for a single second. Stevens can be heard reprising his classic folk sound as a nostalgic songwriter, accompanied by grandiose instrumentations, all adding a lot of life to the songs. We are also treated to some very touching pieces such as the excellent “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?,” the astonishing “Genuflecting Ghost” and the epic “Shit Talk,” the last lasting more than eight minutes. Even after more than 20 years after his first album, Stevens continues to renew himself with Javelin, which represents one of the best releases of his career. (Guillaume Laberge)

billy woods, Kenny Segal – Maps (Backwoodz Studioz)
(Rap, Hip-Hop)

New York rapper Billy Woods, a regular on end-of-year lists, joined forces with Californian producer Kenny Segal in 2023 to offer the unique and surprising Maps. Maps is a very unique experience that may seem difficult to decipher at first listen, since Woods’ particular cadence might turn off some hip hop fans. Yet when you’re used to the way he raps, his ability to travel between different tempos is more of a strength than a weakness. Segal understood this too, throwing him various instrumentals, some more experimental, others more relaxed, to which Woods responded on every occasion. Segal takes Woods’ normally rather eccentric universe and expands it to different extremes resulting in an ambitious project that continues to reinvent itself and which is easy to pick up on different subtleties with each listen. Maps is among the top publications of this year thanks to its versatility as well as its complexity. (Guillaume Laberge)

Greg BeaudinTiamat, Mon Amour  (Disques 7ième Ciel) 

(Franophone Rap)

Greg Beaudin has been part of the rap landscape in Quebec for quite some time, notably as a member of the legendary group Dead Obies and the Brown Family. In June 2022, the rapper began his solo adventure with Woah là!, a collaboration with Eman. For his first project, “Snail Kid” was greatly inspired by mythology; Tiamat, the Mesopotamian goddess of primordial waters is a central theme of the album. To achieve such an assertive and coherent project, Beaudin worked for almost five years, and we can feel it with the high quality of the different pieces. Composed of 13 songs, the album slaloms between rap, jazz and R&B. Tiamat, mon amour enjoys complex musical arrangements overflowing with subtleties, one of its strong points. Where he excels the most is when he escapes the codes of hip-hop and ventures off the beaten track. The song Pas toi encore with Les Louanges is the perfect example and is one of the best Quebec R&B titles of the year. (Jacob Langlois-Pelletier)

Zach Bryan – Zach Bryan (Belting Bronco Records)
(Country, Alt-country)

A little over a year after charming millions of listeners with American Heartbreak, Zach Bryan returned with his homonymous album, a more folk and rock proposition. The essence of country is still very present; we’re talking more about a musical evolution than a change of direction. Guitar in hand, the American singer-songwriter transports us into an introspective story, right at the heart of his insecurities. He also remembers his past in the American naval forces by starting “Overtime,” one of the project’s flagship tracks, with the first notes of his country’s national anthem. Bryan’s lyrics are sincere and feel like listening to the words of a long-time friend. In this project, the 27-year-old artist can count on the contribution of various collaborators including The Lumineers and Kacey Musgraves on the nostalgic “I Remember Everything.” Zach Bryan is simply at the top of his game. (Jacob Langlois-Pelletier)

Jorja Smith – falling or flying (FAMM)
(R&B/ Soul)

Last April, British singer Jorja Smith piqued my curiosity with the release of Try Me, the first taste of her album. From the first listen, the orchestral instrumental as well as the vocal abilities of the woman who became known to the general public alongside Drake in 2017 impressed me and I impatiently awaited the release of falling or flying. With her new album, the singer-songwriter certainly did not disappoint and offered her most personal narrative to date. Across the project’s 16 tracks, Smith reflects on his relationship with fame and his past in recent years. On several occasions, she swaps classic R&B for different styles like house and pop. The rhythmic changes between pieces allow him to shine in different facets, demonstrating his immense talent in the process. We feel that real artistic work has been done by the 26-year-old artist to broaden his horizons and bring his most recent offering to life. (Jacob Langlois-Pelletier)

Hamza – Sincèrement (Just Woke Up)
(Franophone Rap, Trap)

With Sincèrement, Hamza has undoubtedly solidified his place among the French-speaking rap elite. As usual, the Belgian rapper arrives with his autotuned voice and his honeyed flow on mainly trap and R&B productions. In this opus, the “SauceGod” reconnects with his character as an eternal lover, to the great pleasure of his listeners. Hamza counts on distinguished guests, notably the Nigerian star CKay and the American Offset. The melodies and choruses are catchy, making us forget that the themes covered are somewhat redundant. The Belgian’s recipe is a winner and Sincèrement is yet another proof. (Jacob Langlois-Pelletier)

Dodheimsgard – Black Medium Current (Peaceville Records) (Black Metal)

After a completely mad and twisted A Umbra Omega, Dødheimsgard emerges from the shadows with an album of unprecedented melancholy. The black sheep of Norwegian black metal has now released four albums exactly eight years apart, in an almost prophetic calendar sequence! While we might have expected an onslaught of dissonant riffs and dizzying blast beats, from the very first notes we’re treated instead to melodic passages much more traditional for the genre. Later on, however, the album indulges in a highly uninhibited stylistic exercise, shifting from 1980s funk to doom metal. Synthesizers are used in profusion, as is lead singer, Vicotnik’s, clear voice. The latter has never sung so much in a Dødheimsgard album, taking over from Aldrahn who had accustomed us to uncontrollable madness on the previous opus. One thing is certain, the compositions are sculpted down to the smallest detail, and the experimentation is evident in the creative mixing and layering of sound. Less extreme than in the past, Dødheimsgard nevertheless continues to thwart expectations and expand the scope of its unique vision. (Laurent Bellemare)

Miserere Luminis – Ordalie (Independent)
(Black Metal)

Fourteen years after their first collective effort, Gris and Sombres Forêts join forces once again to release an album that stands out from the rest of the Quebec black metal scene. Ordalie delivers sophisticated arrangements, subtle and technical instrumental playing, but above all, the atmosphere of desolation that charmed audiences in 2009. Very few of the rhythmic choices seem deliberately borrowed from the black metal canon, which has the refreshing effect of subverting the heavier sections with a percussive attack that’s more nuanced than brutal. Bowed tremolo on the guitar, arpeggios drowned in delay, extended instrumentation, gradual rises in intensity, depth in the arrangements, creative mixing: it’s all there! The Miserere Luminis sound is clearly recognizable. Most of the album’s melodic and harmonic content comes from the minor keys, making the atmosphere oscillate perceptibly between nostalgia, sadness and despair. The vocals are more varied, though still more visceral than technical. Screams with defined pitches complement the saturated screams, whose fractures and imperfections are clearly audible. (Laurent Bellemare)

Afterbirth – In But Not Of (Willowtip Records)
(Technical Death Metal)

Experimental death metal from another planet, but still recorded live in an old-school studio. That’s what Afterbirth offer with In But Not Of, their third album. The stars seem well aligned for this New York unit, reinvented ten years ago after shy beginnings in 1993. During In But Not Of, we appreciate the expression of the strong desire for experimentation that rages in the modern death metal scene, a musical subgenre where technical possibilities are constantly being pushed back. However, these are old hands behind the amplifiers and percussion. The musical language they’ve made their own comes from the mid-1990s, when the Suffocation, Internal Bleeding and Pyrexia of this world were defining what was to become brutal death metal. The tracks evolve to reveal a variety of musical densities and ideas, some of the textures are even more reminiscent of post-rock than death metal. There’s an undeniable progressive side to this album, whose composition is highly ambitious and not always aggressive, not without sometimes recalling the hushed sound of prog classics. (Laurent Bellemare)

Raja Kirik – Phantasmagoria of Jathilan
(Experimental, Alternative, Electronic)

If it’s not intuitive to imagine a mix of high-strung EDM, new instrumental sounds and traditional Southeast Asian influences, Indonesian duo Raja Kirik skilfully explores the issue on their latest opus Phantasmagoria of Jathilan. The Javanese experimental music scene is brimming with unsuspected talent.In particular, the city of Yogyakarta has produced many highly original artists over the years. Electronic artist Yennu Ariendra and invented instrument maker Johanes Santoso Pribadi are rising figures in this unique cultural milieu. Together, they create a fast-paced music that blends the oldest connotations with the most recent digital sounds. Against a backdrop almost always lined with a rapid pulse, the strange sounds of Pribadi’s instruments, made from recycled materials, pound and enrich the rhythm. The rather long pieces develop like trance rituals, featuring vocals, various samples and drum-and-bass-style rhythmic explosions.The esoteric aspect evoked here refers to a conscious Jathilan influence, a Hindu-Buddhist ritual dance once used in Java to protect oneself from oppressors. This theme inspires the very genesis of Raja Kirik. (Laurent Bellemare)

Sarah Pagé – Voda (Backward Music)
(Experimental, Ambient, Contemporary)

Sarah Pagé refreshes her sonic exploration of water almost ten years after the original production, a collaborative work with Russian choreographer Nika Stein in 2014. Offering a rich, expansive sound universe, Voda almost makes us forget that its composer is first and foremost a harpist. Indeed, the plucked strings are augmented by electronic processing, as well as passages of bowed strings and various water percussion instruments, such as a waterphone and bowls of water. Totaling nearly an hour, the album features several moments of rhythmic weightlessness, where the sparseness of the notes and their panning in stereophonic space create an atmosphere both mysterious and soothing. Such is the case with “Vers les abîmes”, which opens the album, followed by “Rousalka”, where a Slavic text spoken in an anguished sprechgesang pierces through the instrumental experimentation. Having crossed this musical arc, the listener can then fully appreciate the references to water, for it is indeed in waves of intensity that Sarah Pagé has structured Voda. (Laurent Bellemare)

Holy Tongue – Deliverance and Spiritual Warfare  (Amidah Records)
(Experimental, Dub)

Coming out of the “Cavern” from dance-punk band Liquid Liquid during a paranoiac rise of “Kundalini” from post-punk band 23 Skidoo, Holy Tongue is a studio project formed in 2018 out of London’s avant-garde scene. Following a trilogy of critically acclaimed EPs, “Deliverance and Spiritual Warfare” brings together the sought-after drummer and percussionist Valentina Magaletti (Nicolas Jaar, The Oscillation, Tomaga, Vanishing Twin), the techno-schaman Al Wootton (Deadboy) and Japanese bassist Susumu Mukai (Vanishing Twin) with special guest performances from the legendary Steve Beresford on prepared piano, Abraham Parker and David Wootton on brass. Constructed around their appreciation for cathartic improvisations and experiments from the On-U Sounds label (Dub Syndicate, African Head Charge), the tracks celebrate the crossover of genres and range from Andalusian Catholic marching to obscure dub, jazz, post-punk, mystical percussion and techno. This debut album is the band’s most elaborate work, and shows their ambitions to develop innovative approaches that combat the challenges of a curse. Building strong partnerships really does help fight the threat. (Louise Jaunet)

Föllakzoid – V (Sacred Bones Records)

(Alternative, Techno, Trance)

Derived from the German word “Feuerzeug,” Föllakzoid has been building a kind of response to the intuition of the kosmische bands of the 70s and the artists of the trance scene from the Berlin raves of the 90s (The Visions of Shiva, Cosmic Baby). Unlike their previous albums, which were produced in a single take, their latest record was made in a month from over 70 distinct recordings of guitars, bass, drums, synths, and vocals. Without any restrictions or guidelines, producer Atom™, who wasn’t present at the time of the recording, then reorganized everything into four sequences. The result of this collaborative sonic exploration recreates a pulsating transcendental journey of a young researcher seeking a supernatural realm, by attempting to retrace enigmatic moments of dissolved perceptions, where the vision of a dark matter particle altered their imagination. With a futuristic approach towards inner transmutation, V is a unique minimalist experience that tells a complex story about a cosmic energy that inhabits the human body. “We are the dream of the machine and as the bio technology rises, that distinction will no longer apply”, writes Domingæ. Kraftwerk had it right then. “Wir sind die Roboter.” (Louise Jaunet)

Trees Speak – Mind Maze (Soul Jazz)

(Post-Punk, Psych)

Trees Speak are a musical duo based in Tucson, Arizona, composed of Daniel Martin Diaz and Damian Diaz. The band’s sound is characterized by a combination of surrealist art, krautrock motoric-beat rhythms, angular New York post-punk attitude, 1960s spy soundtracks, psych, jazz, and 1970s synthesizers. The name Trees Speak reflects their interest in the concept of using technologies to store information and data in trees and plants, with the idea that trees communicate collectively. As with all their previous releases, Mind Maze is influenced by desert landscapes, creating a unique, captivating, experimental, and innovative sound. To fully understand this new album, create in your mind a misty labyrinth of distorting mirrors filled with the excitement of a film noir in which the victim, the murderer, and the detective are the same but do not know each other. If each one says the exact opposite, it is because they are right. You might say that this is a paradox. That is exactly what Trees Speak is talking about, as there is no more classical achievement of surrealism than the ensemble of a machine and the human being standing before it. (Louise Jaunet)

N NAO – L’eau et les r​ê​ves (Mothland)
(Experimental, Folk, Dream Pop)

Since the release of L’eau et les rêves last spring, N NAO has received genuine recognition from the public and the industry thanks to her ritualized, enchanting, almost mystical performances, even earning herself a place on the prestigious long list of the Polaris Prize. Based on an artistic and symbolic ritual that has been happening naturally for millions of years, the album is an ambitious cross-disciplinary and collaborative work, whose subject matter gradually comes to light through documentary research on freshwater. Blending krautrock rhythms, free jazz spontaneity, psychedelic folk improvisation, dream pop effects, and field recordings captured in action, the album as a whole, with its rare authenticity, is an invitation to get lost at the top of a mountain during a daydream, and to come to life next to a source of fresh water that makes life more permeable to unconscious changes. From the subconscious melodies composed on guitar, a gentle vulnerability emerges in her voice, revealing the intimate thoughts of a precious light that fell into the water. Once you take the risk of finding yourself, you discover that love is what transcends death. (Louise Jaunet)

Ivan The Tolerable – Under Magnetic Mountain (Library of The Occult)

(Alternative, Experimental, Kosmische)

With more than 24 hours of music produced over the last ten years, Oli Heffernan might be one of the most prolific and best-kept secret left-field artists of the Yorkshire region. For this restless, impatient, autodidact alchemist, who admits to making music to stop himself from going mad (while not even remembering half of his releases), quantity surprisingly equals quality and his 47th album is here to prove it. From “Opening Bell” to “Closing Bell”, Heffernan creates a thrilling and magnetic sonic kaleidoscope of free jazz that delves deep into his kosmische kingdom. Each listen will make you increasingly appreciate this psychedelic jam until you won’t stop playing the 37-minute long trip on a loop. Try to uncover the hidden teachings of the afro-futurist cosmonaut Sun Ra, of the antitotalitarian novel “Darkness at Noon” or of the unsung heroine of electronic music Delia Derbyshire. These references make this album an “educational recording from the Ivan the Tolerable sound laboratory” and illuminate the mysterious concept of exchanging ideas across the four dimensions of spacetime. If Great Leaders die, sound ideas, however, don’t. (Louise Jaunet)

Puma Blue – Holy Waters (Blue Flowers Music)

(R&B/Soul, Jazz, Indie)

Puma Blue’s Holy Waters is a well-titled album. The project churns and swirls, a dusky haze of midnight blue and thick, sedating fog that draws us ever deeper into a devastatingly beautiful sonic world. At times anesthetizing and peaceful, at others frenetic and ferocious, Holy Waters marks a completely new chapter of growth in Allen’s aesthetic sensibilities. Poetry is king on Holy Waters, with haunting imagery and blossoming metaphor that offers up new insights on every listen. Allen covers ample thematic ground here, though much of it centres around grief, mourning, and the jagged twists and turns of being hopelessly, boundlessly in love. Vast and expansive, there’s a distinctly new sensation on the new album that shows us the true possibilities of Puma Blue—not only as a musician, but as a curator of taste and style across multiple visual, written, and sonic mediums. (Lyle Hendriks)

Slow Pulp — Yard (ANTI)

(Alternative, Bedroom Pop)

While Slow Pulp has always delivered on heartwrenching, heavy alt-rock that leaves you ready to cry while also ready to destroy a venue, there’s a soft new scent shrouding the jagged edges of this Wisconsin-bred four-piece on Yard. Slow Pulp’s appeal lies in the incredible rawness and vulnerability delivered by lead vocalist Emily Massey. Her perfectly imperfect vocal technique is nothing short of masterful, artfully breaking her voice in tight tandem with lyrics so deeply personal you almost feel embarrassed hearing them. With mournful harmonica solos, slide guitar, and some of the most imperceptible but direly necessary synth I’ve ever heard, this album reaches out and flirts with ideas from old-school folk and country—like we’re growing up and learning to love dad’s record collection. All the while, one foot stays firmly planted in the sultry shoegaze sounds that make Slow Pulp so irresistible, and make Yard one of my albums of the year. (Lyle Hendriks)

King Krule — Space Heavy (Matador Records)

(Jazz Fusion, Post-Punk, Indie)

Few indie-alternative artists today can say they’ve grown alongside their audience like King Krule has. Each time he reinvents himself—from the glistening, semi-ambient dreamscape of The Ooz (2017) to the raucous yet stunning experimentation on Man Alive! (2020)—we’re shown another side of Archie Marshall’s impossibly multifaceted abilities. On Space Heavy, we hear an older, wiser King Krule. If you’ve ever felt like you’re still that same angry teen in a grown-up body, you’ll identify with this smattering of vivid, visceral tracks immediately. Each song on here has the expert craftsmanship we’ve come to expect from King Krule, weaving together countless sonic threads of sampling, instrumentation, and vocals into impossibly lavish tapestries that draw us in, hands bound and hearts open. Faded splendour runs amok on Space Heavy—a complicated web of joy and despair, so lovingly enmeshed and entangled, that we’ve ended up with King Krule’s best work yet. (Lyle Hendriks)

100 gecs — 10,000 gecs (Atlantic, Dogshow Records)

(Hyperpop, Experimental Pop)

For those already familiar with the way of the gec, parts of 10,000 gecs will feel like a natural evolution for the duo. There’s “Dumbest Girl Alive,” with its busted-up basslines paired with emo, punk-inspired guitars and a classically angsty vocal line. “Hollywood Baby” is another clear elevation of 100 gecs’ original formula—a true ear-worm guitar riff combined with whiny lyrics that harken back to something like The All-American Rejects. But just as you think you’re getting a grip, the mysterious, shapeshifting sound of 100 gecs wriggles from your grasp in the form of “Frog on the Floor.” A childish, semi-ska-inspired chord progression, a borderline un-produced vocal chorus, and gratuitous use of ribbiting samples all come together to punish us for our arrogance—the hubris to assume we could ever comprehend 100 gecs’ aesthetic choices. Not content to ride the hyperpop wave of their own creation, 100 gecs has once again struck out into the unknown, the unpopular, and the unusual. (Lyle Hendriks)

Mac Wetha – Mac Wetha & Friends 2 (Dirty Hit)

(Alternative Pop, Hip-Hiphop, Indie)

Mac Wetha & Friends 2 completely delivers on its title’s promise—friends getting together and simply having fun making music. But it’s not all sunbathing with the homies. The opening track, “Play Pretend (ft. spill tab)” begins with a gentle guitar riff and dreamy vocals, but is suddenly shifted with a heavy drum beat and electric guitar that brings the song to life, then doubles down again in an emotional, garage-punk crescendo. The album gets into gear, like some frantic machine spinning to life before our eyes. Take your pick; it’s somehow all here. Laid-back jams for summer days. Woozy grooves oozing sex and intimacy. Bleak, futuristic, synthy post-punk. Mac Wetha gives us fresh ideas, irresistible textures, and the simultaneous, conflicting duality of joy and fear that weighs on every young person in the world today. (Lyle Hendriks)

Paul Simon – Seven Psalms (Owls Records)

(Folk, Acoustic)

Paul Simon is one of the most influential American songwriters of his generation. Following the great success of Simon & Garfunkel, his solo career has explored a wide range of musical universes, notably South African, while at the same time carving out an intimate, brilliant and very special poetic universe. Seven Psalms is his fifteenth and latest opus. Paul Simon himself said so. Like the vast majority of his previous albums, it is a remarkable terminus. Paul Simon is stripped bare here: his voice, his acoustic guitars, accompanied by a few discreet but inventive bells and keyboards. You can hear a little flute, vibraphone and strings. His wife, singer Edie Brickell, appears twice, along with a British Voces8 choir. This album is a meditation on life and death, which is just around the corner. At eighty-two, Paul Simon speaks of the “great migration”, forgiveness, love and the “trail of volcanoes”. “No one can die of too much love”, says this man who has lived through many dark periods despite his great popular success. (Michel Labrecque)

Širom – The Liquified Throne of Simplicity (Tak:til)

(Experimental, Jazz Improv, Jazz Fusion)

A confession: this record was released at the end of 2022, but was really discovered in 2023. A Slovenian trio, completely out of the ordinary, that has had an impact on me all year long. Alt-folk music that’s completely original The Liquified Throne of Simplicity is the fourth album by Sirom, formed by Ana Kravanja, Iztok Koren and Sao Kutin, all from the alternative scene in Slovenia, the Switzerland of Eastern Europe. A complex journey that takes you from Central Europe to the Balkans, via Africa, Bali and the Middle East. At times, you might think you’re listening to Jon Hassell or John Cale’s flayed viola from the Velvet Underground. But these are only acoustic instruments, whose sound is transformed by “acoustic resonators”. The band even invents some instruments, using banjo, lute, lira, ocarina, guembiri and a host of others. There’s also Ana Kravanja’s lovely voice. I was astounded and thrilled by this group, who offer us long, complex but touching pieces. This record was apparently inspired by long ballads in the Slovenian countryside and mountains during the pandemic. (Michel Labrecque)

This Is The Kit – Careful Of Your Keepers (Rough Trade)

(Alternative, Indie Folk, Indie Jazz)

I discovered This Is The Kit in 2017, with Moonshine Freeze, her fourth album. Since then, This Is The Kit has always found itself in my personal lists of the twenty best annual albums, which I send to my friends, when the following albums have been released. I also listened to the previous three with happiness. This is The Kit is above all the band of the Brit Kate Stables, who lives in Paris, plays the mandolin and sings with a crystalline and convincing voice. Careful Of Your Keepers is the sixth offering from the Art-Folk, Antifolk, Pop Folk group. Jazz Folk. Choose your label. The other musicians are Rozi Plain (bass vocals) who herself has a solo career to follow, Neil Smith (guitar), Jamie Whitby-Coles (drums). Added is a brass section and some discreet electro effects. That’s all. But it’s impeccable sonic alchemy. Kate Staples has fun changing producers with each album. John Parish, PJ Harvey’s producer took charge of the first; Aaron Dressner of The National took care of the third. This time, it’s Gruff Rhys, leader of the iconoclastic group Super Furry Animals, who brilliantly performs Careful Of Your Keepers. (Michel Labrecque)

Lucas Santanna – O Paraiso (No Format!)
(World, Funk, Folk)

Brazilian Lucas Santanna continues his distinctive musical path with his ninth album, O Paraiso. This album is, in my opinion, his best. “We want paradise on earth,” proclaims the musician, an ecologist at heart, who warns businessman Elon Musk that the future lies on our planet, and not in space. All this is bathed in tropical, soothing, sophisticated folk, to be listened to under a starry sky or in front of a fireplace. Or in a bath. As I write this, Lucas Santanna has received good news from Brazilian President Lula Da Silva: destruction of the Amazon rainforest has been reduced substantially over the past year, the left-wing politician told COP 28 to Dubai. Rare good news in these strange times. O Paraiso is Lucas Santanna’s first opus recorded in France, with a group of excellent French musicians. There is even a piece sung in French, Biosphere, which asks greedy businessmen, “who are the savages, who are the civilized? (Michel Labrecque)

Dominique Fils-Aimé – Our Roots Run Deep (Ensoul Records)
(R&B/ Soul)

Our Roots Run Deep is the fourth album from the prolific Afro-Montreal singer and songwriter. It is also the first opus of a trilogy, which follows the first trilogy, consisting of the discs Nameless (2018), Stay Tuned (2019) and Three Little Words (2021). Dominique Fils-Aimé loves to challenge the current music industry, based on immediacy. It’s complicated, but she likes it a lot. Dominique loves numbers. While the first trilogy focused on Afro-American roots, this second trilogy will focus more on her personal roots and life experience. This first volume is very convincing. It’s a real work of art. With fairly simple but subtle instrumentation (double bass, percussion, trumpet, keyboards), Dominique Fils-Aimé multiplies the vocal scores and harmonies, almost endlessly, in collaboration with his producer, Jacques Roy. Percussive voices, angelic voices, painful voices, evanescent voices, which respond to each other, which contradict each other, which merge and reproduce. (Michel Labrecque)

Population II – Électrons Libres du Québec (Bonsound)
(Post-Punk, Progressive Rock, Art rock)

The 2nd album and it’s still wah! Even more, more collected while being even more “fuckin’ space”!. Best band in Quebec at the moment? Maybe. (Patrice Caron)

Primal Horde – Blood River (Independent)
(Death Metal, Sludge Metal)

Small sprain, published at the end of 2022 and discovered in 2023. Death/Sludge Metal which picks up everything on his passage, scraping the rock with a portcullis of knives forged with the teeth of Satan. It’s guttural, bloody and very entertaining. (Patrice Caron)

Seum – Double Double (Electric Spark Records & Riff Merchant Records)

(Doom Metal, Stoner Rock)

Stoner rock/punk/metal, not classic, a little crooked, a little dirty, and the right attitude to that we do not immediately classify them as “ah no, not another stoner band.” (Patrice Caron)

Enfants Sauvages – Arythmie (Self-Released)

(Rock N’ Roll, Punk)

The pure incarnation of what a rock’n’roll band should be, Enfants Sauvages offer here a second salvo of punches in the face that feel good. With a frontwoman who gives the impression that Amyl from the Sniffers is actually calm, one of the best guitarists in the genre, and a rhythm section pressed into the carpet, the combination is perfect and thus faith in the future of rock ‘n’ roll. (Patrice Caron)

Luger – Revelation of the Sacred Skull (Heavy Psych Sound Records)

(Heavy Metal, Glam, Psych)

Delving everywhere into the roots of hard rock and metal, Luger plays with the clichés of the genre to reinterpret them with humour without pushing the note of the joke. The love of this music is obvious and it is done seriously while not taking it too seriously. Make rock ‘n’ roll fun again. (Patrice Caron)

Hugo Blouin: Sport national (Multiple Chord Music / Believe)

(Experimental Jazz, Vocal Jazz)

It is in the path opened by René Lussier in “Le Trésor de la langue” that double bassist and composer Hugo Blouin embarked in 2018 with a project that is astonishing to say the least: “Charbonneau or values in a good place”. He then used transplants from the archives of the Charbonneau Commission, a parade of amnesiacs whose testimonies, aided by editing, become veritable Dada poems. The first volume of the work received the Lucien “Jazz Album of the Year” at the Gala Alternatif de la Musique Indépendante du Québec (GAMIQ, 2018) and the Opus “Jazz Concert of the Year” at the awards ceremony from the Conseil québécois de la musique in 2019. Hugo Blouin does it again with Sport national, which, as its title clearly indicates, is dedicated to documenting the fascinating world of hockey, “from Maurice Richard to Marie-Philip Poulin”. It’s funny, virtuoso and it pays a beautiful tribute to Lussier’s pioneering work. (Réjean Beaucage)

Wadada Leo Smith and Orange Wave Electric: Fire Illuminations (Kabell Records)

(Experimental Jazz)

It is on his own label, Kabell Records, that trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith launches “Fire Illuminations” and the soloist places himself in the middle of a very high-end ensemble, similar to the one he had on the album ” Najwa” (2017); three guitarists (Nels Cline, Brandon Ross and Lamar Smith), two bassists (Bill Laswell and Melvin Gibbs), a percussionist (Mauro Refosco), a drummer (Pheeroan akLaff) and sound designer Hardedge. Only Refosco, who is a member of the New York group Forro in the Dark, is a newcomer alongside the trumpeter. All these beautiful people come together on two pieces, the longest (nearly 16 minutes each), and the best: Ntozake which opens the album, and Tony Williams, a tribute (it is not the first) which the trumpeter to the legendary drummer of Miles Davis (still, we are closer here to the era “On the Corner”, or “Live-Evil”, recorded with Jack DeJohnette, than to “Daughters of Kilimanjaro”, recorded with Williams ). These two pieces with the whole ensemble are groovy as can be, heavy (thank you Mr. Laswell) and form superb vehicles for the solos of the three guitarists and Smith. (Réjean Beaucage)

Joseph Branciforte & Theo Bleckmann: LP2 (Greyfade)

(Experimental, Ambient)

The singer Theo Bleckmann, who, among others, was among the collaborators of Meredith Monk, and the musician Joseph Branciforte, who produced recordings by Marc Ribot or the JACK Quartet, released LP1 in 2019; here is the rest (the first piece of the disc was also the “soundcheck” of this first collaboration). We are in a delicate area, and it is not always easy to determine what is voice or electronics. Beyond the recording of improvisations, this time, the duo has given itself the right to manipulate the recorded material, which results in a more dense sound universe, filled with glitches, and more complex compositions. elaborated. Some of the pieces are simple loops of barely a minute, which add a little air between the landscapes evoked by the longer ones. Very successful.(Réjean Beaucage)

David Therrien Brongo: Confluence (Ravello Records)
(Francophone Contemporary, Percussion)

It was in May 2023 that percussionist David Therrien Brongo gave his doctoral recital at the Schulich School of Music. He performed “Laisser surgir” (2022) by Patrick Giguère and the “Cinq pièces pour percussions” (1980) by Claude Vivier. In both cases, works for metal instruments. In the case of Giguère, various gongs are struck in meditative mode, without pressing anything, letting the resonances intersect. At Vivier, the inspiration is Balinese, like the instruments (the percussionist actually bought the original instruments from David Kent, who created the piece in Toronto in 1982). Added to the program is a piece by Pierre Béluse, a pioneer of percussion in our country. His piece “Espace” (1988) also explores the changing colors of metal. Finally, “Trakadie” (1970) for percussion and fixed sounds, by Micheline Coulombe Saint-Marcoux. It is the first work of its kind written in Quebec, and it is also a great success; an abundant sound universe. (Réjean Beaucage)

Lina Allemano: Canons (Lumo Records)

(Experimental, Free Jazz)

A sixteenth album for the prolific Canadian trumpeter, and on her own label, which celebrates its 20th anniversary. Between composition and improvisation, Allemano deconstructs the concept of the canon, solo (superb 3 Trumpet Canon), in pairs, threes or fours. Some pieces happily incorporate electronics into structures that can become quite abstract (see the four pieces from his BLOOP project, a duo with tinkerer Mike Smith). We find cellist Peggy Lee on Bobby’s Canon, an almost bucolic trio where the trumpeter also joins clarinetist Brodie West, a long-time accomplice. A varied program, which finds a nice balance between areas of exploration and melodic breathing, as in Twinkle Tones, with guitarist Tim Posgate, double bassist Rob Clutton and Ryan Driver on analog synthesizer. Finally, it can serve as a business card and make you want to explore her catalog. (Réjean Beaucage)

Peder Mannerfelt – The Benefits of Living in a Hole (Peder Mannerfelt Prod.)
(Techno, Deconstructed Club)

The most prolific producer of contemporary techno releases —again— a new album on the high-end London label, Voam. Peder Mannerfelt oscillates on compositions where sounds are unstructured, decomposed, passed and ironed under filters and other effects, without ever losing the thread of associating them with rapid and syncopated rhythms. Discerning ears will perfectly hear the in-depth work and sharp finesse of each sound modulation to obtain these 4 exceptional titles. Artists like Pariah, Blawan, and Rhyw develop an intellectualizing approach to electro-techno to push it beyond its limits and make it excel as music of thoughtful, high-quality composition. Peder Mannerfelt and Voam are sure values! (Salima Bouaraour)

Sami Galbi – Dakchi Hani (Les Disques Bongo Joe)
(Electro / Synth / Châabi / Raï)

Raï, chaâbi, electro bassy, analog synthesizer, touch of guitar under effects and darija: the title Dakchi Hani by Sami Galbi is a favorite beyond measure. Inspired by popular North African music, this Swiss-Moroccan artist modulates a striking and effective style as desired. Indeed, its title is catchy, fresh, joyful and festive. And yet, it addresses a tragic theme: romantic breakup. Interweaving British bass music and US hip hop, his singing in popular Arabic dialect succeeds in bringing traditional Arab music styles like chaâbi from the 1940s up to date.

(Salima Bouaraour)

Faravaz – Mullah (Independent)
(Iranian Pop, Electro, Hip Hop)

Woman. Life. Freedom. Women. Life. Freedom. From Tehran to Berlin, Faravaz, an independent queer artist, feminist and activist, puts her art at the service of the fight against the oppression of women in Iran. Known in Germany for being more of a jazz club singer and a theater performer, she delivers here an electro-clash track. In less than 3 minutes, Faravaz challenges the mullahs, as it has rarely been thought possible to do. Through her vocal phrasing, halfway between hip hop and pop, she chants ultra-provocative lyrics to challenge more than ever this religious authority which has repressed the Iranian people for decades. His video clip, exposing queer bodies, denounces all violence against his peers: oppression, the death penalty, misogyny and the absolute control of bodies as well as sexuality in both the private and public sphere.

(Salima Bouaraour)

Sho Madjozi – Chalé (Epic Records)
(South-African Rap, Afro-Electro)

Maya Christinah Xichavo Wegerif, known under the nickname Sho Madjozi, is an explosively talented multidisciplinary artist! In her texts, choreographies and clips, she highlights the Tsonga culture, linked to the peoples located between the south of Mozambique and the north of South Africa.
Her musical catalog, rich and varied, as well as her notoriety, allow him to tour regularly in Africa but also in Europe or North America. Here, she rages with her title Chalé. Producer Tboy Daflame has concocted, once again (incredible success of the John Cena title in 2019), a hit bomb. A catchy rhythm combining South African percussion and round electro-bassy sounds where Sho Madjozi lays down his intoxicating voice. His flow, fast and incisive, is simply exceptional. Her unique style and sparkling energy make Chalé a pure gem.

(Salima Bouaraour)

Enes Cinpolat – Geliyo Geliyo
(electro / synth / oriental / turkish folk)

Geliyo Geliyo is a perfectly orchestrated condensation of Turkish folklore with an orientalizing electro synth touch. Enes Cinpolat may be a complete unknown to theWestern world, but he’s a veritable muse in and around Anatolia. He travels the length and breadth of Turkey performing at village festivals, weddings, group dinners and more. Following in the footsteps ofSyrian cameraman Omar Souleyman, Enes Cinpolat’s video clip reached almost 2 million views in less than a month!

(Salima Bouaraour)

Atsuko Chiba – Water It Feels Like It’s Growing (Mothland)
(Experimental, Progressive Rock, Psych Rock)

Much like a frenzied trip on psychedelics, on Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing, just when you think you understand a song’s shape, it suddenly splits into a droney and hypnotic whirl. Atsuko Chiba will offer a haunting guitar trill or synth flourish halfway through a track like “Seeds” before bursting into an orchestral interlude with a string section of violins and cello. The third full-length from the Montreal experimental prog rock group is a concoction of unexpected ingredients, revealing a new melody or hidden rhythm with each listen. It’s a vicious cycle that offers little reprieve, but Atsuko Chiba manages to make the onslaught feel alive with possibilities. (Stephan Boissonneault)

TEKE::TEKE – Hagata (Kill Rock Stars)

(Eleki, Psych Rock, Alternative, Surf)

Montreal’s seven-headed Japanese psych-rock hydra has reclaimed its unique sonic status once again with Hagata. The sophomore album contains elements of Japanese folk, Brazilian surf rock, and a whirlwind of other psychedelic influences, pulling the listener into a chaotic storm. It’s impossible to talk about the “best” moments on Hagata because there are so many; the calming horns on “Onaji Heya,” the dueling acoustic rhythm and electric lead guitars on “Me No Haya” on the shortened, the whimsical nature of “Doppelganger,” the hypnotic flutes on “Yurei Zanmai,” (a song that briefly morphs into one of the heaviest tracks we’ve heard all year). No other band sounds like TEKE::TEKE, period.  (Stephan Boissonneault)

Yves Tumor – Praise a Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds) (Warp Records)

(R&B/Soul, Shoegaze, Alternative)

The hazy cadence of vocalist Sean Bowie (Yves Tumor) is sometimes a bit Bloc Party or Gorillaz, but it’s the mutating instrumentation on Praise a Lord … that keeps your attention. Yves Tumor’s sound is like a shapeshifting mass, a darkened collapsing star that jumps from the sounds of earworm proto-punk basslines to the current R&B hip hop world, to the obscure shoegaze minor-keyed guitar world of My Bloody Valentine.  Though the slower numbers are still good and interesting, they do drop off in intensity, but perhaps purposefully so, because that’s only two tracks of the 12. And then “Ebony Eye” bursts out with its organ-synth phrase and dark orchestral disco chorus — easily one of the best album closers I’ve heard in recent memory. This will be a hard one to follow up, but I have no doubt Yves Tumor is happy to oblige.  (Stephan Boissonneault)

John Cale – Mercy (Double Six)

(Experimental, Goth Rock, Post-Punk)

At 81 years old, John Cale is still able to surprise himself and his listeners, and Mercy, his 17th album may be one of his most experimental and hallucinogenic albums yet. No one expected a new album from the Velvet Underground alumni, but damn does this one deliver. At times it’s shimmery and wet with neon-tinged paint, others it’s a crepuscular mass that dabbles in goth rock, hip hop, and every form of the word “art.” On Mercy, John Cale, acting as the mad composer, also collaborates with some of the newer upcoming artists who have had him to thank for their shifting sounds; Sylvan Esso, Weyes Blood, Laurel Halo, and Fat White Family. Stacked up against Cale’s own career and any other albums coming from stalwart artists in the experimental/out-there genres, Mercy will continue to shine as a dim star. Hopefully, this isn’t his Blackstar but if he did decide to retire and retreat, Mercy would be a fantastic send-off.  (Stephan Boissonneault)

Slowdive – everything is alive (Dead Oceans)
(Shoegaze, Dream Pop)

Despite the group breaking up twice and taking huge gaps of time between albums, Slowdive knows exactly what to deliver for their fans— a sprawling shoegaze sound they are partly responsible for popularizing. But no one really does it as well as Slowdive. When they are on, they’re on and nothing else matters. The vocal harmonies between Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell are nostalgic and beyond gorgeous. At times, everything is alive, sounds like something from the Souvlaki or Pygmalion eras of the band, but is so expansive and multi-layered that it feels like a piece of pure alchemy. A step up from the self-titled album we got six years ago, everything is alive is a pure experimental fire that was fortunately recorded.  (Stephan Boissonneault)

Caroline Polachek – Desire, I Want To Turn Into You

(Art Pop)

Caroline Polachek is perhaps the most surprising pop artist of recent years. Her album Desire, I Want To Turn Into You took a while to open up to me. When I first listened to it when it came out in February, I didn’t see what I wanted…but I was looking at it wrong. When I came back to it, I discovered my favorite album of the year. The American singer-songwriter and producer handles pop in a calculated, resolutely modern way. With an alchemist’s precision, she instills colors, textures, tastes, smells and auras. The result is a sensory experience that overflows on all sides. Each song is different, a world in itself with its own images and symbols. Polachek is advancing in an increasingly uncharted indie groove, and she’s got all the makings of a pop star: the voice, the mystery, the theatricality, the ambition… Plus the poetry! It’s vibrant, it’s colorful, it’s rejuvenating. And it’s overflowing. Every time I go back, I notice something, I discover something. It’s all worth it. (Theo Reinhardt)

Laurel Halo – Atlas (Awe)

(Experimental, Ambient, Electronic)

Laurel Anne Chartow, aka Laurel Halo, takes a leap into the void with this album, and thankfully, she lands with a bang. It’s an assembly of ten completely enveloping ambient tracks, fashioned from orchestral elements and electronic shenanigans. Halo, a multi-instrumentalist, teams up with several guests to create something that sounds as if it came from the depths of the sea. Atlas is a mystifying cloud of atmosphere, a wondrous, magical ocean that summons us to its revelatory depths. Waves and currents of ambient, minimalism, jazz and classical music are combined. The result is a weightless composition of delicate, ravishing beauty. As I listen, my mind is always drawn to the image of a jellyfish: the peace, the extraterrestrial aspect, the undulatory movement. Atlas is a composition that breathes a similar rhythm. An opaque, enveloping sound, but detailed down to the minutest detail. It’s an astonishing layer that adapts to the depth of our listening. Dive in! (Theo Reinhardt)

OZmotic & Fennesz – Senzatempo (Touch Music)

(Drone, Electronic, Ambient)

Senzatempo sees Italian multidisciplinary duo OZmotic join forces with iconic Austrian electronic composer and guitarist Christian Fennesz. Together, they seek to “give musical form to a surreal calm, but also to magical and uncertain emotional states”. As well as achieving this goal, the album has a very distinctive sound signature. Recurrently, a landslide of high and low frequencies, at the extremes of our range, passes over the rest of the composition, like rolling grass in a western. It settles over the oceans of sound, the clouds with their clear edges, and operates in that gray area between the organic and the synthetic. The whole album, in fact, unfolds on this tension. Griching impulses, bird sounds, warm winds and waves rub up against each other one moment and harmonize the next. All the while, we dream, return and dream again, amidst a landscape that captures our sensibilities, conscious or otherwise. (Theo Reinhardt)

Jessie Ware – That! Feels Good! (EMI)
(UK R&B/Soul)

Jessie Ware is the English R&B singer who emerged in the 2010s and has become a true pop star since her 2020 album What’s Your Pleasure. This year, she continues her pop momentum focused on pleasure and liberation with That! Feels Good! Dancing, singing and even bigger than the previous album, That! Feels Good! is, as the title suggests, here to make you feel good. I have a weakness for well-realized, intelligent pop that shows no signs of laziness. And this album hits the nail on the head. Jessie Ware leads a 40-minute party of ecstasy, sensuality, emancipation and tenderness, from which you can’t leave without being charmed. This album knows how to speak to us, and how to keep us coming back for more. No wonder it made the shortlist for the prestigious Mercury Prize. (Theo Reinhardt)

Arielle Soucy – Il n’y a rien que je ne suis pas (Bonbonbon)

(Francophone Folk, Indie Folk)

Emerging Montreal singer-songwriter Arielle Soucy hasn’t missed a trick with this one. On Il n’y a rien que je ne suis pas, she opens the doors to a slightly whimsical folk sanctuary, where reality is paradoxical. There’s a mix of the serious and the wonderful, a little friendship in one ear and love in the other. Arielle Soucy’s most impressive talent is probably her ability to color beyond the lines. She unearths new compositions, sings staircase melodies, writes phrases that don’t quite fit into their rhythmic box. The effect is sometimes dizzyingly magical. The album’s themes delve into the contradictions of reality, the paradoxes of identity, and attempt to make the little things big. Between the tiles on the floor, the flowers on the path, the little cat at our feet, the sheets that stick, this magnetic album works its force and gently draws us in. (Theo Reinhardt)

Corinne Bailey Rae – Black Rainbows (Thirty Tigers)
(Contemporary R&B, Garage Rock, Jazz)

Black Rainbows marks a daring departure for this already accomplished British singer-songwriter. At its core it is a sprawling work of rebellious art-pop marked by diligent craftsmanship and a daring spirit. Rae weaves together a patchwork of sounds from a vast landscape spanning rock, jazz, pop, and electronic genres. Each track exudes a tangible rebellious spirit, challenging norms and beckoning listeners to join Rae in questioning the established order. With Black Rainbows, Rae appears to adopt a workflow reminiscent of artists like Björk and Thom Yorke, treating the studio as both an instrument and an extension of her own voice. While the album may not introduce groundbreaking elements, it exudes a sense of liberation and is profoundly shaped by Rae’s lived experience as a black woman. At times, comparisons to Thundercat and Flying Lotus seem fitting, while other moments evoke parallels to Joni Mitchell and Sonic Youth. At the very least you ought to be intrigued by this curious and masterwork. (Varun Swarup)

Brad Mehldau – Your Mother Should Know (Nonesuch, United States, Jazz)
(Jazz Piano)

Brad Mehldau takes on the timeless catalogue of The Beatles in his latest album, Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays the Beatles. With his unmatched musical fluency and profound mastery of the piano, this beloved repertoire is given the Mehldau treatment, each Beatles hit serving as the basis for truly soul-stirring excursions. This album speaks to Mehldau’s maturity as a pianist. The decorated jazz pianist, now in his 50’s, approaches the repertoire here with the grace of a master, treading a fine line between honouring the source material and really making the songs his own. Mehldau handpicks a diverse selection from the Beatles’ vast catalogue, though he seems to have a taste for most of their post-Rubber Soul era work, and imbues them with his signature jazz, blues, gospel, and baroque flavours. Your Mother Should Know is not only a testament to Mehldau’s remarkable musical talent but also a celebration of the enduring legacy of The Beatles. It serves as a reminder of the band’s profound influence on popular music and showcases their songs’ enduring appeal across genres and generations. Mehldau’s interpretation breathes new life into these classic tunes, making them accessible to jazz enthusiasts and Beatles fans alike. (Varun Swarup)

Pedro Martins – Rádio Mistério (Heartcore)

(Indie, Jazz Fusion, Cumbia)

With Rádio Mistério, the Brazilian virtuoso extends his reach with an exciting and personal collection of songs that make for great progressive jazz-pop. Leaning more into the role of a singer-songwriter, Martins arrives at a sound that is his own whilst paying tribute to rock and pop influences as much as jazz masters of the past. The spectre of Clube da Esquina looms large in Martins’ blend of jazz harmonies, Brazilian rhythms, and Beatles-esque melodies, though now imbued with contemporary flourishes from hip-hop, modern jazz, etc. His vocals are filled with a warm, soulful quality that adds an intimate and personal touch to the music, with lyrics in Portuguese that delve into themes of introspection, love, and the mysteries of life. The production elements are perfectly congruent with the lo-fi 80’s aesthetic. The songs cover nice ground too, with a well-curated setlist that boasts some stellar guest performances. It’s clear Martins has made something special here, a work that is complex yet accessible, one should hope he continues in this direction. (Varun Swarup)

Tristan Leslay – Nobody’s Might Ship (Self-Release)


Nobody’s Might Ship heralds the first release from this talented young multi-instrumentalist from Montreal. Keen on keeping the flame of progressive rock à la Harmonium and Gentle Giant alive, Tristan has crafted a unique and compelling document that is bristling with studio experimentation, unconventional chords, odd time signatures, and extended microtonal vocal harmonies on par with Jacob Collier himself. Still, despite its many intricacies, it is ultimately a fun voyage of self-discovery, filled with moments of psychedelia and genuine virtuosity as Tristan uses his lead guitar as much as he does his own voice. This record should have you scratching your head in the best of ways, and gradually with each listen, the songs start to make sense and unfold like petals of a flower. A very promising start from the young artist who has not only written and recorded most of the parts himself, but has self-produced it as well.  So do yourselves a favour and step aboard Nobody’s Might Ship. (Varun Swarup)

Oracle Sisters – Hydranism (22TWENTY)
(Alternative, Indie, Dream Pop)

The Paris-based trio of Lewis Lazar, Christopher Willatt and Julia Johansen, together conjure up a sepia-tinted indie folk sound that is wistful, whimsical, poignant, and playful, all at once. They may as well be called Wes Anderson, the band. Certainly, their debut album, Hydranism, plays much like stepping into one of Anderson’s vividly crafted cinemascapes. And really the best part of Oracle Sisters is that the substance is there to match the style. Drawing from the cafe jazz of the 1950s, the baroque psychedelia of the 1960s, the folk ballads of the 1970s, and the dreamy synth-pop of the 1980s, their music embodies a rich timelessness that doesn’t feel stagnant. Their arrangements are drenched in warm, analog tones, at the heart of which are acoustic guitars, a bass, a dusty upright, a dry-sounding drum set, and a tape machine – lending an authentic touch to their compositions. It is nice to hear each member of the band exchange vocal duties, and Christopher, who seems to sing most of the lead, has a Dylan-esque voice well suited to this style. Each of the eleven songs effortlessly blend together, creating a seamless narrative that feels like a collection of mini-musical vignettes, each with its own distinct personality. For fans of Oracle Sisters already, this release was much anticipated, and the band delivered with poise and a light touch. (Varun Swarup)

Latest 360 Content

Yannick Nézet-Séguin / Orchestre métropolitain – Sibelius 2 et 5

Yannick Nézet-Séguin / Orchestre métropolitain – Sibelius 2 et 5

Exponential Ensemble – Matters of Time

Exponential Ensemble – Matters of Time

The tranquil and (too) discreet music of Missy Mazzoli

The tranquil and (too) discreet music of Missy Mazzoli

Burna Boy almost fills two Bell Centres: Nigeria on our doorstep!

Burna Boy almost fills two Bell Centres: Nigeria on our doorstep!

“In the Half-Light” – Barbara Hannigan with Orchestre symphonique de Montréal

“In the Half-Light” – Barbara Hannigan with Orchestre symphonique de Montréal

Lucile Boulanger/Simon Pierre/Olivier Fortin – The Golden Hour

Lucile Boulanger/Simon Pierre/Olivier Fortin – The Golden Hour

Repsublica VON TAZTIKA – Pensee Sale

Repsublica VON TAZTIKA – Pensee Sale

Single of the Day: “Tu Loges” – Alcalyne

Single of the Day: “Tu Loges” – Alcalyne

Will Régnier – Traces

Will Régnier – Traces

Kevin Chen, or the challenges of an 18-year-old virtuoso

Kevin Chen, or the challenges of an 18-year-old virtuoso

Monica Freire – Ilhada

Monica Freire – Ilhada

Laetitia Sadier – Rooting for Love

Laetitia Sadier – Rooting for Love

Friday night at OM: spectacular violin and Fairy sand tales

Friday night at OM: spectacular violin and Fairy sand tales

8th annual ViU concert | The Different Avenues of the Next Generation

8th annual ViU concert | The Different Avenues of the Next Generation

Game ON!: the FILMharmonic conducted by a pioneer of symphonic music for video games

Game ON!: the FILMharmonic conducted by a pioneer of symphonic music for video games

OPCM: Wallis Giunta becomes Carmen

OPCM: Wallis Giunta becomes Carmen

Frank Peter Zimmermann/Bamberger Symphoniker, dir. Jakub Hrůša – Stravinsky / Bartók / Martinů

Frank Peter Zimmermann/Bamberger Symphoniker, dir. Jakub Hrůša – Stravinsky / Bartók / Martinů

Susie Arioli – Embraceable

Susie Arioli – Embraceable

Orchestre classique de Montréal, dir. : Alain Trudel/Suzanne Taffot/Brandon Coleman – David Bontemps : La Flambeau

Orchestre classique de Montréal, dir. : Alain Trudel/Suzanne Taffot/Brandon Coleman – David Bontemps : La Flambeau

Chromeo – Adult Contemporary

Chromeo – Adult Contemporary

Little Simz – Drop 7

Little Simz – Drop 7

Barbara Hannigan, La voix… superhuman!

Barbara Hannigan, La voix… superhuman!

Subscribe to our newsletter