Title : Ripple Rock Advance Buzz : Nardwuar and pals return to their Can-punk roots
Release Date : January 20 Ever since he got a semi-regular gig on MuchMusic, Nardwuar has been in danger of becoming better known as a zany interviewer than a nutty audience-baiting punk rock singer. But our hyperactive inquisitor has been back in the studio with the Evaporators, and the result is the high-energy Ripple Rock blowout featuring salutes to Toronto punk legends the Cardboard Brains, Calgary's Hot Nasties and Vancouver's Pointed Sticks interspersed with the regular Nardly antics. The enhanced CD version - it's also coming out on vinyl and 8-track tape (!) - comes with video clips and intriguing footage of Nardwuar matching wits with Dan Quayle and Jean Chrétien.
Title: The Story Of Your Life EP (Warner)
Advance Buzz: Singer/songwriter trades sissy sensitivity for sexy, sparkling rock 'n' roll
Release date: January 27
Local upstart Matt Barber claims he's been immersing himself in classic rock and old-school reggae since last year's great Means And Ends (Paper Bag), and it shows. On his Warner debut, the singer/songwriter shows off a newly ragged edge, crafting raw tunes that trade in his sigh for a swagger. His heartfelt lyrics are still there, but Barber refuses to revel in solipsistic mopiness, beltin' like a sweaty heir to the Joel Plaskett throne. It's no surprise he tapped Halifax Pop Explosion producer Ian McGettigan (Plaskett, Superfriendz) to crank The Story Of Your Life to a level that'd make other indie rock sissies shit their pants. If you're still a fan of the weepy mush factor, check the title track, a gorgeous Byrdsish ballad that suggests Barber's mended the broken heart of Means And Ends.
Title : All Of Our Names
Advance Buzz: Winsome, bittersweet folk-rock follow-up
Release Date: March 9
The Kingston indie folk sweetheart's been touring her scrawny li'l ass off and otherwise lying low since she dropped the critically lauded You Were Here (Universal) way back in 2000. She makes a triumphant return in early March (a week later in the States) with All Of Our Names, also on Universal. The hotly anticipated album is a beautiful collection of autumnal acoustic tunes in the same vein as You Were Here, with atmospheric cello accents and gorgeously jagged, off-kilter melodies that hark back to Harmer's harder-rocking days in alt-indie outfit Weeping Tile. Lyrically, though, All Of Our Names is a cut above Harmer's breakout disc, with a new literate maturity that matches her musical smarts. Doggone good.
Title : Postonove 3
Advance buzz : São Paolo ghetto grooves bustin' outta Brazil
Release date : January 27
Paris-based DJ Gringo da Parada lives up to the promise of the first two awesome Favela Chic comps with another killer mix of thumping 70s samba-funk joints and contemporary club thrillers. The Warner-distributed Milan label's Volume 3 features classic dance-floor damage from Os Diagonais, Erlon Chaves, Raulzinho, Emiliano Santiago and Evinha alongside electrifying new beat badness by Seu Jorge, Z'Africa Brasil and Marcelo D2. The BoTECOeletro track sounds like OutKast's Hey Ya sung by a street kid choir beating rusty oil cans with lead pipes.
Title: Your Blues
Advance Buzz: Chameleon-like indie whiz kid cranks bombastic pop
Release Date: March 9
The second album for Chapel Hill indie Merge Records by BC indie darling and New Pornographers "secret member" Dan Bejar promises to be a slight swerve away from the sprawling epic chamber rock of 2002's This Night. Early word from Bejar's label tips Your Blues as a poetic mishmash of balls-out rockers and intensely quiet creepers underpinned by an unabashedly theatrical air. If Bejar's recent work with the Pornos is any indication, expect mind-bogglingly witty verbiage and a knack for pop compositions that barrel in from left field - the bell-like bridge of his Testament To Youth In Verse was a stunning highlight of the Pornographers' Electric Version.
Advance Buzz: Blue-eyed Broken Social soul
Release Date: March/April
Save for a few highlights on Broken Social Scene's universally acclaimed You Forgot It In People disc, we've heard very little from the former frontwoman of local punkers Placebo since she dropped her solo debut, Monarch, way back in 99. Since then, Feist - also a sometime member of Noah's Arkweld, Bodega and By Divine Right - reappeared as a member of Peaches' extended wacko family, contributing vocals to masturbation anthem Diddle My Skittle under the skanky alias Puta Rica/Bitch Lap Lap.
This spring sees the ex-Calgarian flying solo again, when Arts & Crafts releases her follow-up to Monarch. Word has it Feist set up shop in Berlin with Peaches main man Chili Gonzales (aka T.O.'s Jason Beck) and Renaud LeTent to create a disc inspired by "nostalgia for a time when singers crossed all styles, whether they were old-fashioned or in fashion.... The breakup and the makeup."
We don't know exactly what that means, but judging from the tracks she previewed at last June's Broken Social Scene throwdown, expect awesome sultry folk-soul oozing bluesy heartache and post-coital afterglow.
Title : Feels Like Home
Advance Buzz : Moody chanteuse invites guests and changes tempo
Release Date : February 10
Piano crooner Norah Jones is again relying on the production wisdom of Arif Mardin for the follow-up to her multi-platinum Come Away With Me, but there'll be a few new twists on the forthcoming Feels Like Home. While the album will avoid the overproduction pitfalls that weighed down her unassuming debut, Feels Like Home isn't quite as dead slow and quiet. It could be the presence of celebrity guests Dolly Parton and the Band's Garth Hudson and Levon Helm, but Jones actually gets loose and slightly funky at times, even daring to bump up the tempo a few notches when necessary. Rock on!
Advance buzz: Legendary conguero brings the Afro-Cuban jazz heat
Release date: January 20
Left Coast groove mecca Ubiquity gets 2004 off to a bangin' start with the cooking comeback of Cuban conga cappo Francisco Aguabella, who tears up the skins old-school-style on Ochimini. Backed by the firing brass front line of trumpeter Luis Eric Gonzáles,sax ophonist Justo Almario and trombonist Francisco Torres,the 85-year-old Aguabella proves he's still on top of his game on this scorching set of improvisationally rich Afro-Cuban jazz.
Also on January 20,U biquity unleashes the third instalment of its Rewind! series revamping groove classics,this time featuring Antibalas cranking Makossa-style on Willie Colon's Che Che Colo,Little Louie Vega pumping up the Chakachas' Jungle Fever jam and Breakestra's Miles Tackett locating the ska soul of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire. Nice.