Music News Digest, July 31, 2017

Nominees for the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards have been announced. Kendrick Lamar leads the pack with eight nominations, followed by Katy Perry and The Weeknd, with five apiece.

Abel Tesfaye's nods are for Video of the Year, Artist of the Year, Best Direction, Best Editing, and Best Art Direction. Joining him in the Video of the Year category is Alessia Cara, for “Scars To Your Beautiful.” The latter song also earns Cara a nomination in the Best Fight Against the system category, while her collaboration with Zedd, "Stay," is up for Best Dance. Also nominated in that category is Major Lazer ft. Justin Bieber and MØ, for “Cold Water.” Cara's fellow young Canadian star Shawn Mendes appears in the Best Pop category for "Treat You Better."

The Awards are held at the Forum in Inglewood, California, on August 27.

Feist's recent album Pleasure may not have exactly set the charts ablaze, but it certainly confirmed her status as a critics' darling. It made the shortlist of this year's Polaris Music Prize, and she has just scored positive notices from English scribes for her recent three night stand at London's Shepherds Bush Empire ( a 2,000 capacity soft-seat venue), her first UK shows in over five years.

The Telegraph's James Hall gave her July 27 show a five-star review, observing that "the new songs may be skeletal on record but live they were beautifully fleshed out by her band, their atmospherics enriched and – where applicable – their uplifting qualities magnified tenfold. "

The Guardian's Caroline Sullivan gave that same show a four (out of five) stars review. "Brought to flaming life on stage with her band, Pleasure’s bare-bones peaks and valleys become splenetic blues-rock and luminous ballads that recall her indie-folk past," wrote Sullivan.

 The 2017 Canada Games have just begun in Winnipeg, and they feature many free concerts at The Forks' festival site, running until August 12. 

Each province and territory gets its own spotlight, with host province Manitoba presenting an Aug. 7 bill that features William Prince,  Sierra Noble, Royal Canoe, Fred Penner,  New Meanies, Ray St. Germain, and a special performance from Crash Test Dummies with the WSO. 

Other Canadian stars participating in the Games include Buffy Sainte-Marie, Serena Ryder, Tanya Tagaq, Jenn Grant, Matt Andersen, Skydiggers, Alex Cuba, Natalie MacMaster, Brett Kissel, Bobby Bazini, Loverboy, The Sheepdogs, and Alan Doyle. More info here

 Shania Twain's first album in fifteen years, Now, will be released on Sept. 29 via Universal Music Canada, and a video for the new single, "Life’s About to Get Good," has just come out. In a press release, Twain explains the tune's theme: "You can’t have the good without the bad. And that’s what the song ended up being about... I’m not in the mood to write a ‘feeling-sorry-for-myself’ song."

With over 75 million albums sold worldwide and Canadian sales topping 5 million, Twain remains the top-selling female country artist of all time. On Sept. 10, she plays the Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park festival, in London, England, part of a bill that includes Blondie, Emeli Sandé, James Blunt, Rick Astley, Stereophonics, and Take That.

— Hiphop veteran Belly made headlines when his recent Canada Day appearance at Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square drew criticisms over his profanity. He refused to apologise, telling Complex that “tens of thousands of people came through to that performance. The video shows everyone came and had great time, I’d rather focus on that."

He's now moving on with a new single, “P.O.P.” or the ‘Power of Pussy,” produced by Ben Billions. (Source: Hiphop Canada)

— Seminal Los Angeles punk band X played Toronto's Danforth Music Hall last night, a stop on its 40th anniversary tour. The gig attracted plenty of local music industry luminati, as we spotted Warner Music's Steve Kane, Radio Starmaker's Jerry Leibowitz, Collective Concerts' Craig Laskey, Jeff Rogers, and Dan Winkley (DW Recordings). Musicians spied included Ian Blurton, Teddy Fury, and Gord Cumming. During X's show, co-vocalist Exene Cervenka gave shout-outs to Vancouver punk peers D.O.A. and The Subhumans plus Toronto punk/garage veterans U.I.C., who delivered a crowd-pleasing opening set.

— Melodic indie popsters Stars have just released “Fluorescent Light,” the third single from an upcoming album, There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light, that will be released in October, 2017 via Last Gang Records/eOne. Hyping the tune in a press release, the band state "it's a Stars song, but with Peter Katis producing it. So, it's spaghetti with tomato sauce, but Mario Batali cooked it. So, eat it." Stars will playing at Hamilton's Festival of Friends (a free event) on Aug. 6.

— Those interested in the intersection of storytelling and songwriting should note that the Dunedin, ON, Literary Festival will include a ticketed event on Sept. 9 featuring award-winning author Nino Ricci and folk-rockers Great Lake Swimmers. The evening will include readings by Ricci, performances by Tony Dekker and GLS, and a conversation to discuss inspiration, influences, writing, and music. 

— The Iranian-born, Toronto-based Sina Bathaie is a composer and santur player with a fresh take on Persian contemporary music. A new album, Ray of Hope, will be released on Windcatcher Records on Oct. 13, preceded by the single "Rebirth." For a taste of what to expect, here's a recent track.

RIP

D.L. (Doris Leon) Menard, a noted Cajun musician, died July 27, age 85. He is best known for his classic hit “La Porte en Arrière (The Back Door)." Termed the best-selling Cajun song ever, it sold over a half million copies in 1962 alone, and was later covered by Kate and Anna McGarrigle. Twice a Grammy nominee, he was also well-known as a craftsman of handmade ash-wood chairs. In 2009, he was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. Menard was termed “The Cajun Hank Williams.”

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