It's the last week of December, the time when music fans get more than their fill of best-of lists and top 100 countdowns. We shouldn't just be celebrating the past year's music, though; we also should be looking ahead to what we can expect to hear in 2017. Which artists are rumoured to be toiling away in studios? Who is way overdue for a new album? What are we going to be listening to next?
From Nelly Furtado to Jessie Reyez to Arcade Fire, here are 10 Canadian albums we think everyone will be talking about in 2017.
Album: Near to the Wild Heart of Life
Release date: Jan. 27
This past October, when Japandroids made the announcement that they were returning from their self-imposed five-year exile, one couldn’t help but wonder if it might be too late. Had their fans forgotten about them? Had music moved on? It only took one listen to the lead single and title track from their upcoming album to lay those fears to rest. “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” did its job perfectly: it reminded us of why we love the band while making us excited about where they are about to go. Rock as a genre may be on the wane, but Japandroids are not going to let it go down without a fight.
— Andrea Gin
Artist: Rose Cousins
Album: Natural Conclusion
Release date: Feb. 3
"I don't know if I have what it takes/ to be chosen." The trepidation in Rose Cousin's lyrics on the opening track of her upcoming full-length, Natural Conclusion, is a false lure, as the Halifax-via-P.E.I. singer-songwriter confidently returns, sounding like she's found what she needed to continue forward from 2012’s We Have Made a Spark. Cousins worked with Grammy Award-winning producer Joe Henry (Solomon Burke, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott) for Natural Conclusion, recording the album in Toronto with the talents of many, including pianist Aaron Davis (Holly Cole, Jane Siberry), guitarist Gord Tough (Kathleen Edwards, Sarah Harmer) and Hey Rosetta!’s Kinley Dowling on violin/viola. The result is a full, raw album, with Cousins's voice ringing beautifully clear through piano ballads ("Like Trees") and country twangers ("Chains"). It's a much welcome sound for a contemplative 2017.
— Holly Gordon
Artist: The Courtneys
Album: The Courtneys II
Release date: Feb. 17
Vancouver band the Courtneys’ upcoming album, The Courtneys II, is just the beacon of sunshine to look forward to in what can otherwise be a drab first few months of the year. The band’s beaming pop-rock melodies are what summer anthems are made of, as evidenced on lead single “Silver Velvet,” an ode to lovesick long-distance relationships. It’s an undoubtedly fun listen, made by people who are clearly having a blast piecing together a patchwork of familiar '90s alt-rock sounds.
— Melody Lau
Artist: Kae Sun
Album: Canary EP
Release date: February 2017
Kae Sun has been taking his time to follow up 2013's Afriyie, but it doesn't mean he has been putting his feet up. In fact, the Ghanaian-Canadian singer-songwriter, born Kwaku Darko-Mensah Jnr, released the four-song EP Oceans Apart in 2015, which was part of a multimedia exhibition and short film that toured across Germany, inspired by Kae Sun’s own experiences in that country. His forthcoming material looks to be similarly ambitious, with the title track from his upcoming February 2017 release lyrically taking on the air of a cinematic murder mystery. With his genre-mashing blend of folk, pop and R&B, Kae Sun is set to continue to deliver his creative endeavours on his own terms.
— Del Cowie
Artist: Jenn Grant
Release date: March 3
It sounds like Jenn Grant is stepping into the new year with a fresh slate: "I feel like I am a completely different artist from when I began performing," the Nova Scotia singer-songwriter explained in a recent press release. "I don't feel like I really heard my own voice until recently."
Come March 3, Grant will share that fresh slate with fans in the form of Paradise, her sixth solo album, a project carefully planned over the course of a year in her home studio shared with husband and producer Daniel Ledwell. Together they experimented with new sounds, some of which are on display in the striking lead single "Galaxies." Listen as Grant's familiar, lilting voice soars over layers of keys and percussion and a whole constellation of instruments to bring you what she describes as the aural equivalent to star-gazing — the perfect kind of reflective sentiment to draw you into a new year.
— Emma Godmere
Artist: Nelly Furtado
Album: The Ride
Release date: March 31
Nelly Furtado began gradually easing herself back into the public spotlight last year with a cassette-only Dev Hynes collaboration ("Hadron Collider"). Now, in keeping with her pacing of the slow-build comeback ahead of the delivery of her new album The Ride, due March 31, Furtado's latest single "Pipe Dreams" gradually ratchets up the intensity, building off a skeletally simple arrangement to a gospel-tinged, organ-fuelled climax with the refrain, "If I can't really know you/ I'd rather walk on." With her newer material eschewing bombast in favour of layered, low-key craft it looks like Furtado is poised for a triumphant return. — DC
Artist: Jessie Reyez
Release date: spring 2017
Jessie Reyez seemed to come out of nowhere in 2016. To be exact, Reyez is an artist born and raised in Toronto and of Colombian heritage. With one emotionally raw single "Figures," unsigned Toronto-based artist Reyez put the music world on notice of her raspy voice and uncompromising songwriting talent. After paying her dues as a featured singer on tracks with artists like Kanye West collaborator King Louie and Mississauga, Ont., MC Junia-T, the Toronto singer's debut EP is due in early 2017. Reyez, an alumni of Toronto arts incubator the Remix Project, said in a recent interview on BBC Radio that her passionate drive and motivation is the differentiator between herself and more polished artists. It’s this unadorned approach that ensures it would be foolish to bet against hearing much more about acoustic guitar-wielding Reyez soon. — DC
Release date: spring/summer 2017
If you’re looking for sweet melodies and dreamy, synth-laden pop, Sorrey’s got your number. P.E.I.’s Emilee Sorrey started her last-namesake band in 2014 as a solo project, and the band came together in 2015 to release the EP Thick as Thieves with Colin Buchanan in summer of that year, grabbing a Music PEI Award and an East Coast Music Award nomination in early 2016. But there’s probably little chance you’ve seen Sorrey if you live outside the Maritimes — the dream-pop band has mainly done shows in P.E.I. and Nova Scotia so far. Good news, though: in early December, Sorrey was cutting vocals on tracks for her band’s debut full-length. We don’t know much yet, but we do know that Sorrey’s summer breeze of a voice has us dreaming of that full-length — and a full tour? — some time in 2017. — HG
Artist: Arcade Fire
Release date: TBD
In July, Arcade Fire bassist Tim Kingsbury told CBC Music that a new album was in the works and to expect a release “some time next year.” Though vague, that got us really excited to hear a followup to 2013’s Reflektor. The band has begun road testing new material at its shows, and the new songs have been reported to sound like “dynamic, danceable rock.” Again, vague, but alas few details exist about this record. What we do know is that, in the interim, various band members have branched off to work on their own music including Kingsbury, Sarah Neufeld, Will Butler and Jeremy Gara. With those projects ranging from folk-rock to instrumental and drone, it’ll be interesting to see if and how those sounds and experiences can factor into the future of Arcade Fire. — ML
Artist: Alice Glass
Release date: TBD
In 2014, Crystal Castles’ Ethan Kath and Alice Glass parted ways, with the former citing “professional and personal” reasons for this change. Those vague details unfolded in the ensuing years and months and Glass has since opened up, calling her time in the band “deeply miserable.” While Glass dropped a dynamic single called “Stillbirth” in 2015, fans are still waiting for her debut solo album (Crystal Castles went on to release an album in 2016 called Amnesty (I)). But hopefully 2017 will be the year we finally get to hear the return of Glass’s integral, outspoken voice. — ML
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