- Rose Cousins - We Have Made a Spark (Old Farm Pony) Absolutely brilliant set from East Coast singer-songwriter Rose Cousins who recorded this disc in Boston with a large cast of collaborators. She gets compared to just about everybody who has made a roots record in the last half century but few do things as singular or soulful as this.
Cousins is more country than Joni Mitchell but she has that same kind of sublime connection with her audience. This may be what a young Joni would sound like if she had Neil Young's record collection and had a dobro player in her band. There's a true artistry in everything Cousins does. A spring tour of North America included Bowen Island and Gibsons gigs in March to go along with dates in New York, Chicago, L.A., etc.
Cousins' album, like most included here, is on the 40-album Long List for the Polaris Music Prize for best Canadian album. Hopefully We Have Made a Spark will make the cut to the 10-album Short List on July 17 with a final winner announced on Sept. 24. No longplay, released between June 1, 2011 and May 31, 2012, deserves it more. For the rest of the albums in contention for the Polaris prize go to polarismusicprize.ca
- François Houle 5+1 - Genera (Songlines Recordings) Houle's new album doesn't qualify for Polaris this year as it was released after the May 31 close but Genera should certainly be a heavy contender next year.
Houle built his new ensemble of stellar musicians along the same lines as the New Art Jazz Ensemble, an L.A. free jazz band from the '60s which featured clarinetist John Carter working in tandem with cornetist Bobby Bradford.
Among the compositions we get two versions of "Le concombre de Chicoutimi" Houle's homage to Montreal Canadiens' goalie Georges Vezina originally performed at Vancouver's 2010 Cultural Olympiad.
- Sissy - March of the Humans (Four O'Clock Sun Recordings) Toronto duo (Johanne Williams and David Trusz) have put together a very subtle electronica album that filters everything through a seamless mix. A shame this gem didn't make it on to the Polaris Long List.
- A Tribe Called Red - A Tribe Called Red Electric Pow Wow - Aboriginal DJ and Native urban culture - create their own sound scene mashing up various club styles. Get a free download of the album at www.electricpowwow. com.
- Cold Specks - I Predict a Graceful Expulsion (Mute Records) Debut album, recorded with PJ Harvey collaborator Rob Ellis, accentuates a raw folk blues power.
- Bahamas - Barchords (Brushfire Records) Laidback expert songcraft from former Feist guitarist Afie Jurvanen.
- The Slakadeliqs - The Other Side of Tomorrow (Independent) Slakah the Beatchild does a Lautréamont and switches up things completely on The Other Side of Tomorrow. The tracks, featuring his buddies Ebrahim, Tingsek and Justin Nozuka, are all influenced by '60s and '70s era music with the recording keeping the vibe all the way through.
- John K. Samson - Provincial (Epitaph) The Weakerthans' frontman does a great sales job for Manitoba tourism. No mention of black flies anywhere in these tracks.
- Marie-Pierre Arthur - Aux alentours (Bonsound) Stellar album of new material from Québécois singer/ songwriter.
- Cadence Weapon - Hope in Dirt City (Upper Class Recordings) Great set from Edmonton's former poet laureate Cadence Weapon (Rollie Pemberton).