2021 in review: from Cardin to Céline, Quebec’s music scene rolled with the beats

Osheaga wasn’t the only Montreal music festival that found a way to survive, or just happen, in some way, this year.

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When Charlotte Cardin took the stage at Osheaga Get Together in October, it was as if all the waiting, false starts, cancellations and missed chances of 2021 instantly vanished.

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The Québec singer-songwriter has been poised for international stardom since she appeared on the reality show La Voix in 2013. And make no mistake: she has been a star in Quebec for a while now.

Imagine that a pandemic-delayed, socially estranged, and completely Canadian Canadian consolation edition of Montreal’s biggest rock festival would be the location for his release party, but it was that kind of year.

And so a crowd of around 7,000 people, separated into an Orwellian grid of fenced sections with 500 each, offered the former model with Amy Winehouse’s pipes a hero’s welcome as she sampled tunes on her world-ready path. . full-length debut, Phoenix. It’s not a household name outside of Quebec yet, but it’s on the way.

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Osheaga wasn’t the only Montreal music festival that found a way to survive, or just happen, in some way, this year. From the Montreal International Jazz Festival and Les Francos de Montréal to POP Montreal, Mutek and Nuits d’Afrique, rolling with the hits (and ever-changing public health regulations) was the name of the game. Canadian acts took the limelight when music returned to the stage, in one form or another.

Making the most of a challenging situation was also the motto of Béatrice Martin, better known as Coeur de pirate. In January, the singer-songwriter bought Dare to Care Records, with which she has signed her entire career, becoming the president and artistic director of the independent music label, and allowing the company, renamed Bravo Musique, to turn the page on the inappropriate sexual conduct. Accusations that had shaken him to the core the year before.

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In March, Coeur de pirate underwent surgery on his vocal cords. Forbidden to speak for two weeks after leaving the hospital, she wrote the 10 compositions that make up her solo piano album Perseides, released at the end of April. Then in October, she released her second album of the year, Impossible à aimer, which found her singing her heart out as if nothing had happened.

Martha Wainwright returned in the summer with Love Will Be Reborn, a collection of 11 heartwarming songs produced by longtime family friend Pierre Marchand, while Brother Rufus appeared in November with Rufus Wainwright and Amsterdam Sinfonietta Live, with a fun mix of originals and covers.

Montreal producer and DJ Kaytranada won two Grammy Awards in March and became the first black artist to win the trophy for best dance / electronic album since the category was created in 2004.
Montreal producer and DJ Kaytranada won two Grammy Awards in March and became the first black artist to win the trophy for best dance / electronic album since the category was created in 2004. Photo of KEVIN MAZUR. /The Recording Academy / AFP via Getty Images

Arcade Fire runs these days, with New Orleans-based leaders Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, but a new album has been in the works for a while. Meanwhile, two Arcade Fire-related albums saw the light of day in the spring. Bell Orchester’s long-awaited and somewhat danceable third album, House Music, was released in March, followed by violinist Sarah Neufeld’s third solo album, Detritus, in May. Bell Orchester (which includes Neufeld and Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Parry) closed the year performing with the Orchester Symphonique de Montréal in November.

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Speaking of an orchestra of sorts, Montreal’s legendary post-rock act Godspeed You! Black Emperor emerged in April with the timely pre-apocalypse soundtrack G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!

And speaking of real orchestras, in January the OSM introduced its new musical director, Venezuelan Rafael Payare, who overcame a COVID-19 attack in the summer, and then launched the ensemble’s new season in September.

In January, I interviewed OSM’s acting bassist Brandyn Lewis, the only black musician currently performing with the orchestra. FACE High School and the McGill alumnus called the opportunity “a dream come true.” This summer he co-founded Ensemble Obiora, which bills itself as “Canada’s first classical ensemble comprised primarily of musicians of diverse cultural backgrounds.”

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On the electronic side, DJ and producer Ouri went two for two: She teamed up with singer-songwriter Helena Deland as Hildegard, who released a dreamy techno self-titled album in June, then released her even more mind-blowing solo album, Frame of to Fauna in October.

OSM interim double bass player Brandyn Lewis co-founded Ensemble Obiora, which bills itself as
OSM acting bassist Brandyn Lewis co-founded Ensemble Obiora, which bills itself as “Canada’s first classical ensemble comprised primarily of musicians of diverse cultural backgrounds.” Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

Montreal producer and DJ Kaytranada won two Grammys in March, for best dance / electronic album (Bubba), becoming the first black artist to win the award since it was created in 2004, and best dance recording, at 10% with Kali Uchis. He was also nominated for best new artist.

Classical composer Luna Pearl Woolf’s Fire and Flood album was also nominated for a Grammy, for best classical compendium. Although he did not win, Woolf called the occasion “one of my happiest days.”

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In November, the musical director of the Orchester Métropolitain, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, was nominated for three 2022 Grammy Awards for works with the Metropolitan Opera, the Philadelphia Orchestra and vocalist Joyce DiDonato. Former Montrealer Allison Russell earned three nominations for her solo debut, Outside Child, including Best American Album.

Two Montréal residents were vying for this year’s Polaris Music Award for Best Canadian Album: Dominique Fils-Aimé for Three Little Words, with overtones of soul and jazz, the third installment of his inspired trilogy that traces the history of black music; and alternative pop singer-songwriter Klô Pelgag for her lush 2020 album Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs. The award went to a former Montreal rapper, Cadence Weapon, for Parallel World.

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However, Pelgag did not have time to be disappointed. It was cleaned up at ADISQ ceremonies in the fall, garnering 13 Felix trophies out of 16 nominations, including six in art categories, equating to a record six awards in such categories set by Céline Dion in 1985.

What was Céline doing this year? The global superstar was scheduled to launch her new show in Las Vegas in November, until “unforeseen medical symptoms” forced her to postpone it.

Et alors, to Céline and to the entire Quebec music scene, I wish a speedy and full recovery in 2022.

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