AM/FM Dreams — In the Soft Corner

Damien Lethbridge and the band have lived through multiple eras of music movements, local and national, and you hear the influence of all those genres and sounds in the songs here. A plethora of instruments are employed to create a plenitude of sounds, and like their last 9 consecutive RPM efforts, this album is one of the year’s best, and, most musically varied offerings. From rockers like the opening track, to uke and guitar ballads like “Plaster & Paint (a song that uses audio clips of plastering instructions as a metaphor for a man falling apart on the inside). Experiments in indie rock like “Cassette Tapes” shout back to Pavement’s penchant for innovation in familiar genres, while songs like “A Book of Names for Sons” is a sound all the band’s own that has crept up on their last few albums.

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Sample track:

Arn Smit – Arn Tonight! Featuring Special Guests

If the point of the RPM Challenge is having fun recording an album in February, Arn’s album is the winner. It plays out like a late night show, canned laughter and all, and musically it’s a genre tour, from blues to rap to trad to classical, as Arn-the-host introduces multiple personalities of himself: Smitty and the Arnetts, classical composer Arnold Von Schmidt, Arn & I, rapper N’Arnia, and more, including tales from Sir Aaron J. Smyth, esquire. All of its jams have local flavour by topic or title, like “Outcast Living in a Outport.” “Reasons to Stay” is an honest, stirring ballad amongst the jokes, and it sounds like an instant classic trad song. This is an entertainment piece, showing some diversity in its creator’s bag of tricks: the comedian, the storyteller, the musician with plenty of genre range.

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Here’s the opening spiel:

It Could Be Franky – Your Friends Don’t Buy It At All

It Could be Franky is new project for Land of the Lakes’ Danielle R. Hamel, and on the album’s best songs, she’s killing it in this very new territory. Her brand of modern indie-pop gold would stand up to much of what you’d hear CBC’s R3-30 pushing on you. It’s a solid pop album: fun, inventive, playful, catchy, distinct, and professionally produced. Don’t stop treading down this new path, Danielle R. Hamel. St. John’s hasn’t given us such great pop since CFA Kelly McMichael’s Renders project (also an RPM).

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Jeff Foran — Gallantry in Moderne Courtship

There’s a real Stephin Merritt thing (The Magnetic Fields) going on here and it works. Foran’s music is as old-timey as the album title implies, and his songs are made more original by being about things you haven’t heard 100 times before, like “Flowers,” whose lyrics sing, “No one names their daughters after flowers anymore. There once were Lillies and Irises galore, where are the roses and blossoms I adore?” Fancy handclapping as percussion is to be applauded here too, such as on the track “Chocolate” which proves not all love songs need to be about a person.

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Lyubov Orlova — Surf Music for Shipwrecks

Sometimes singing just gets in the way of the song and distracts from the sheer power of the music that a few people can summon. The songs on this upbeat rocking instrumental album are powerful and musically impressive: check out the basslines in track two alone, and that drummer doesn’t have a lazy bone in his body.

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Sample track: