The Weeknd  Photo: Billboard
The Weeknd Photo: Billboard

Music News Digest, April 2, 2018

It has become a tradition in modern R&B and hip-hop to release albums or mixtapes with no advance notice. The Weeknd continued that tradition last Thursday, at midnight with a surprise 21-minute EP. Entitled My Dear Melancholy, this is his first project since 2016's chart-topping Starboy. Unsurprisingly, the six-song mixtape quickly reached the No. 1 spot on the iTunes chart hours after its release.

Washington Post critic Sonia Rao noted that "as the name suggests, My Dear Melancholy, marks a return to The Weeknd’s gloomy mood, which longtime listeners will recognize from his acclaimed 2011 mixtape House of Balloons." The Guardian's critic, Alex Petridis, gave it a 3 of 5 stars review, writing that "it features ghostly and gorgeous production but lyrics that are suffocatingly solipsistic."

 – Special guests at the April 14 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony,  at Cleveland's Public Auditorium, include: Mary J Blige presenting for Nina Simone, Andra Day performing for Nina Simone, Brittany Howard presenting for Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Ann Wilson presenting for The Moody Blues, Brandon Flowers presenting for The Cars, and Howard Stern presenting for Bon Jovi. HBO screens the show screens on May 5.

 – Canadian hard rock band Three Days Grace has made chart history, matching Van Halen's two-decade stronghold of topping the US Billboard Mainstream Rocks Songs Chart with their 13th #1 explosive single, “The Mountain.” The track featured on Outsider is TDG's sixth full-length album and fifth consecutive charting Top 40 debut on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart.

 – Applications are open until May 11 for acts to join the CIMA-presented Canada House event at Reeperbahn 2018. The fest runs  Sept. 19-22, with a pre-event in Berlin Sept. 18. Apply here

 – Montreal turntablist/producer Kid Koala (aka Eric San) has announced the Floor Kids Original Video Game Soundtrack is set for release on April 27 through Arts & Crafts. The album features 42 tracks and 71 minutes of original instrumental hip-hop and break music from the award-winning video game Floor Kids. Kid Koala’s soundtrack for the game recently earned Best Game Audio at Indie Prize.

– Time is running out for artists and writers to exercise their termination rights under US copyright law: The 1976 Act provides for the termination of copyright transfers – but authors need to act within a limited timeframe. Creators are entitled to reclaim their copyrights regardless of any contract stating otherwise after certain time periods. Therefore, even if an author, artist, musician, photographer or songwriter signed a contract which purports to transfer all rights in a work for perpetuity, the Copyright Act provides that the author of the work can terminate that grant and demand that the rights revert. Authors and creators are now entitled to terminate their contractual transfers and demand back control of their copyrights; authors can end their book publishing contracts, songwriters can demand the return of their musical compositions from music publishers and recording artists and record producers can demand the return of their sound recordings from the record companies. More details here.

– Toronto-based Iranian composer Sina Bathaie was nominated and honoured for his World Beat Album, Ray of Hope, at the 16th Annual Independent Music Awards, staged March 31 at NYC’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Unable to attend due to the presidential travel ban on citizens from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, Bathie sent a message in absentia. Below, a taste of his Persian fusion, entitled Light As A Feather, recorded live at Toronto’s Burdock last year.

– Disgraced Tour de France road racing cyclist Lance Armstrong has his 8200-square-foot Austin, Texas home on the market for US$7.5M. The nearly half-acre lot contains a swimming pool with fountains and a cabana with a bathroom and kitchenette.

Graham Lear, the longtime time drummer for Gino Vannelli and Santana, performs with Ed Pranskus (Thundermug) and the Hall of Fame Lizards at Soundcheck for Success at London, ON’s Music Hall on April 14. Garth Richardson, Terry McManus and Music Canada EVP Amy Terrill, pitch in as speaker participants in the day-long expo hosted by radio veteran Greg Simpson. Joining them is Gemini-winning Rheostatic Dave Bidini and Flying Colours’ Matt Smallwood who will provide insights on how to go about funding projects.

Chatelaine magazine has a topical feature bound to draw flammable reaction: The Cult of Hedley: Why Jacob Hoggard’s Diehard Female Fans Are Sticking By Him No Matter What

The Mahones have announced plans to release four albums this year. The first from the shamrock-punk outfit is a new studio album titled Love+Death+Redemption, due for release on May 18th. This will be followed by an Unplugged record, an LP of Irish folk song and finally a punk rock covers LP, due in December. All will be issued under the band's own Whiskey Devil Records label.

­– Film & TV composer and electro-pop sensation Steph Copeland births her new band at the Rivoli next Tuesday, April 10. Below, Steph covers “Break It To Me Gently,” a big hit for Brenda Lee and subsequently covered by a galaxy of artists including Juice Newton, Bobby Rydell, and Québécois singer Michèle Richard.

Berklee College of Music in Boston officially opened the application process for their first online master’s degree programs. Interested students can visit the Berklee Online website now to start the application process. The inaugural class will begin in September.

– A new ‘Music Videos’ section is now available in the Apple Music App that includes region-specific Canadian highlights. To find the sector, navigate to the ‘browse’ tab in the app.

Music Against Animal Cruelty (MAAC), a non-profit initiative working in aid of global wildlife conservation, has been launched by Canadian DJ/producer Art Department AKA Jonny White, Pulse Global CEO, Wade Cawood and conservationist Jack Baucher.

– Montreal duo Young Galaxy is gearing up to release its first fully independent album Down Time (produced by Dan Lissvik) on April 6. According to a press release, the set “stories the band's shift to complete independence and is a meditation on the current climate of isolation, corruption, and despair, written with a sense of reinvention in mind after stepping away from the music industry and taking control over their career. Below, a video for the lead track entitled “Frontier.”

Ry Cooder has released the title track from his first new solo release in six years, The Prodigal Son, set for release by Fantasy Records on May 11.  Here’s a live version of the title track.

– The full schedule for the April 27-29 Saskatchewan Country Music Awards has been posted. The shindig takes place at the Prince Albert Inn in Prince Albert.

– SOCAN supports the Music Heals iPod Pharmacy program which re-purposes good-as-new iPods to assist music therapists. Music Heals has donated more than $1M to a wide range of programs across Canada in the past five years. You can assist by dropping off your used iPod, until April 13, at the SOCAN Toronto office, or any Long & McQuade location in Canada.

 – Toronto jazz guitarist/composer Michael Occhipinti will reprise material from his acclaimed project Creation Dream: Songs of Bruce Cockburn with three upcoming Ontario performances. A twist is that Elizabeth Shepherd will add vocals to the material, while Michael's brother Roberto will perform on bass, with Davide Direnzo on drums. The concerts are April 8 at the Jazz Room in Waterloo, April 9 at The Rex Jazz Bar in Toronto, and an April 10 on Jazz FM's Live to Air show includes Bernie Finkelstein who will share stories and his decades managing Bruce Cockburn.

–Toronto synth-pop artist Bossie, born Anne Douris, releases her debut album, Not Pictured, April 27 on Culvert Music. The project launches with a May 5 show at Toronto's Baby G. Bossie opens for Born Ruffians at Lee's Palace in T.O. on April 7. Here's her new single.

 – Free-wheeling Toronto ensemble Lemon Bucket Orkestra recently performed in New Zealand, taking the WOMAD Festival in New Plymouth by storm. Local music scribe Joseph Cederwall wrote that LBO "is basically a mobile marching band and they made full use of this for their encore. The band jumped off the Brooklands stage and paraded into the middle of the crowd without missing a beat. There they proceeded to bash out a mashup of classic 90’s dance tunes such as Reel 2 Real’s "I Like To Move It' and that techno classic hit 'Sandstorm." See for yourself here.

 – Toronto-based independent record label Telephone Explosion turns 10 this year and will celebrate with an anniversary party at Lee's Palace on June 8. The lineup comprises most of the roster – Odonis Odonis, Freak Heat Waves, New Fries, Andre Ethier, and Teenager. Source: NOW

  – 21-year-old Manitoba hip-hop artist Phre$h Prince earned a boost when his current single “Arise” was added to the noted "6ixBuzzTv" Spotify playlist, the hottest playlist out of Toronto right now (it is Drake-approved). Check the track out here

.RIP

Dan "Hack" Preszcator, bassist of '80s Ontario rock band UIC, passed away at age 56 on March 30 after a battle with an auto-immune disorder.

He joined UIC in 1983, remaining with the garage rockers until they folded in 1995. He later joined UIC singer/guitarist Fred Robinson in The Chickens.

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