Key of A's Alberta Top 10 albums of 2016
Our annual round-up of the top musical releases in Alberta
Our Key of A Best of 2016 offers a Top 10 list in an eclectic mix of styles; from hip hop to country, folk to indie rock; soul to electronica — even a drinking song.
Nuela Charles: The Grand Hustle
When this Edmonton-based soul singer entered CBC's Searchlight contest in 2013, her song Unfortunate Love attracted a lot of attention.
It also won her the inaugural Edmonton Music Prize. Now she's back with a full-length follow-up in a style she describes as "cinematic soul."
Boreal Sons: You & Everyone
Last time Calgary's Boreal Sons released an album they were a four piece. Now — minus a guitarist — they're a trio.
They've taken that limitation as a creative challenge, reshaping their sound with more rhythm and electronics. Evan Acheson's voice is still front and centre. Often, on this album, he's singing about loss.
Arlo Maverick: Maybe Tomorrow
You might remember Arlo Maverick from his work with the Edmonton hip-hop group Politic Live.
His debut solo album tells the story of a character he calls "Soup," a promising musician struggling with loss, addiction and the search for success. Soup is troubled, but he's also tough and not afraid to look trouble right in the eye.
Rae Spoon: Armour
Rae Spoon changes genres with every album. From country to singer-songwriter; electronic dance music to storytelling and back.
The latest Rae Spoon album is full of songs about how to protect yourself, and deciding when it's time to take the armour off. The album was released on Spoon's own label, Coax Records.
Matt Patershuk: I Was So Fond of You
Patershuk's album is dedicated to his younger sister, who was killed by a drunk driver. The songs process feelings of loss, anger, regret and tenderness.
Produced in Nashville by Canadian Steve Dawson and released on his Black Hen Music label, it earned WCMA nominations for music and production.
100 mile house: Hiraeth
Denise MacKay and Peter Stone share their struggle to start a family in this heartbreakingly lovely new album.
The title "Hiraeth" is a Welsh word without direct English equivalent — it refers to a sense of longing or loss, for something you've never had, and can't quite imagine.
Evan Freeman: Luna
Calgary's Evan Freeman roared out of the gate with a big, ambitious debut album that's gotten rave reviews and earned him ardent fans and performance spots at the 2016 Calgary Folk Music Festival and this year's upcoming Block Heater Festival.
Tanika Charles: Soul Run
Charles grew up in Edmonton. Her first album tells her story of leaving a bad relationship on a farm outside of town, heading for the bright lights of Toronto and making a new life for herself centred on music.
After several years singing back-up with the likes of Bedouin Soundclash and Zaki Ibrahim, this solo debut takes her to the front of the stage with a sound she calls "one part jazz, two parts soul, equal parts control with a hint of the blues."
The Northwest Passage: A_WAKE
Moody, finely-crafted songs focused around the voice and piano of Paul van Kampen.
You may know him from his past work in bands like Beija Flor and SAVK — both with his brother Stephen leading the way. Now Paul is out front, with introspective lyrics about life, death, spirituality and morality.
Danielle French Presents: Miss Scarlett and the Madmen: Dark Love Songs
Danielle French is a songwriter and filmmaker from Calgary. All of the songs on this album are co-written with artists she met at the Holiday Music Motel, a songwriting retreat in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. — a functioning hotel complete with recording studio.
Danielle says it gave her the chance to stretch her style of singing and the content of her songs, in ways that gave her a definite creative push. The result is getting rave reviews across North America.
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