Compelling Canadian singer/songwriter Kathleen Edwards grabbed our attention almost 10 years ago with her remarkable debut album “Failer” and hasn’t let go since. If you didn’t think she could top 2008’s stellar “Asking for Flowers,” you’re wrong. “Voyageur,” co-produced by Edwards and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), is her most immediately commercial disc and her most daring. Opener “Empty Threat” has “hit single” written all over it, whereas “Chameleon/Comedian” is decidedly more experimental. Edwards brings on the tears with “A Soft Place to Land,” “House Full of Empty Rooms,” “Pink Champagne” and “For the Record” (featuring Norah Jones). But she wisely includes upbeat numbers such as “Sidecar” and “Change the Sheets.”
You may recognize Kathryn Calder’s name from her work with the Canadian acts New Pornographers and Immaculate Machine. But her solo albums, including 2010’s “Are You My Mother?” are equally worthy of attention. The aptly titled “Bright and Vivid” not only lives up to the promise of her debut album, but exceeds it. Calder is nothing if not versatile, and she proves it from the start on the beautiful “One Two Three,” followed by irresistible dance number “Who Are You?” and the Neko Case-like “Turn a Light On.” And those are just the first three songs. Equally bright and vivid are “Walking In My Sleep,” “Right Book,” “City of Sounds” and the extraordinary “Five More Years.”
Like Calder, John K. Sam- son is known first for his association with bands. In Samson’s case, the bands are Propagandhi and The Weak- erthans. His solo debut “Provincial” doesn’t veer all that far from what he did with The Weakerthans. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable listen, easy on the ears while unafraid to challenge the listener to think about what he’s saying on “Heart of the Continent,” “When I Write My Master’s Thesis,” “Longitudinal Centre” and “Taps Reversed.”
“Chances,” the opening track of the domestic version of Canadian chanteuse Jill Barber’s “Mischievous Moon,” was co-written by Barber and Ron Sexsmith. It’s a musical invitation to take a chance on the artist and the disc, both of which prove to be worth it. From her up-do and eyeliner on the retro- looking album cover, you know exactly what you’re being promised and it’s a promise kept, particularly on songs such “Chances,” “Never Quit Loving You,” “Oh My My,” “Old Flame,” “A Wish Under My Pillow” and “All My Dreams.”
Individually, husband and wife Luke Doucet and Melis- sa McClelland have established solo music careers. As Whitehorse, they pool their talents. It turns out to be a productive pairing, particularly on standouts such as “Emerald Isle,” “Broken,” “Night Owls” and their cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire.”
On her full-length major-label debut “Visions,” Grimes (aka Claire Boucher), sounds like she’s ready to give tUnE- yArDs, not to mention Ellie Goulding, a run for their money. As indecipherable as Cocteau Twins, with magnetic beats that aim for your head and limbs equally, Grimes practically dares you to sit still. It’s as if a fleet of DJs from outer space arrived at your favorite dance club. Madonna wishes she were this innovative. As the Borg so eloquently put it, resistance is futile.
Many of the above-mentioned artists owe queer singer/songwriter Jane Siberry a debt of gratitude for the musical path she paved for them, beginning more than 30 years ago. Since the beginning of her recording career, Siberry has filled her recordings with both traditional and experimental songs, finding a way to make it all sound effortlessly cohesive. In later years, she definitely moved in a more unusual direction, as is evident on “Meshach Dreams Back,” the third part of her Three Queens Trilogy. An example of how she weaves it all together can be heard when Siberry performs a rendition of her marvelous song “Love Is Everything” on this mainly spoken-word effort.