Les traductions pour les articles avant l’automne 2013 ne sont pas disponibles pour le moment.

Acceptance into one’s local music community is an important component in the career of any singer-songwriter. To be equally embraced by two communities is a major bonus, one for which Rose Cousins is deeply grateful.

The P.E.I-raised, Halifax-based Cousins is a key member of the folk/roots scenes in both Halifax and Boston. Her American connection is vividly showcased on her compelling new album, We Have Made A Spark. Her third full-length CD, it was recorded at Boston studio Q Division, produced by Bostonian Zachariah Hickman, and features a large cast of area musicians and backing singers.
Cousins has set down roots within the Boston scene over the past decade. “The people there have really lit a spark with what they’ve taught me,” she says. She traces her interest in that scene back to the late ‘90s. “I was learning how to play guitar and I was really attracted to the singer-songwriter style. I was listening to people like Deb Talan, Kris Delmhorst and John Gorka, and it seemed like everyone was filtering through the Boston area. I was hungry to connect with the places and people I was listening to, and every summer I’d look for a folk festival there to go to as my vacation.”

“I don‘t think the details are important. I think the emotion in the song is important.”

A turning point came in 2002, when Cousins played an open mic night at legendary Boston folk haunt Club Passim. That led to an invitation to perform at the Cutting Edge of Campfire benefit festival, termed by Cousins “the beginning of my becoming part of that community.”

Fittingly, her Boston CD launch for We Have Made A Spark came via a performance at Club Passim in February. “Almost everybody who plays on the album was there, and it was just amazing,” recalls Cousins. The fact that she’s recently been playing U.S. dates opening for Gorka further indicates the peer respect she’s earned there.

The eloquence of her songwriting and purity of her voice have long made Cousins a favourite on the Maritime circuit. She’s won PEI Music and Music Nova Scotia Awards, a 2008 East Coast Music Award (ECMA) for Female Solo Recording of the Year (for her album If You Were For Me), and, in 2011, ECMAs for Female Solo Recording (The Send Off) and SOCAN-sponsored Songwriter of the Year.

Cousins has been delighted to witness the success of East Coast comrades like Jill Barber, Catherine MacLellan, David Myles, Meaghan Smith, and Old Man Luedecke. “All the Atlantic regions have such an amazing variety and high level of talent. I feel I’m part of this very cool graduating class,” she says. “We all started at similar times, plugging away and meeting each other. Now everyone is doing it full-time and finding success with it.”

A signature of Cousins’ style is the unflinching honesty of her lyrics. Emotion is the real spark behind her writing, she explains. “I’m spurred by an emotion I’m feeling, ” she says. “It may be a notion I haven’t quite figured out and the writing of the song may help me do that, or it may be a pure emotion that’s harder to talk about than write about. In order to write I need to feel the thing I’m writing.”

We Have Made A Spark has been termed a “breakup” album, but Cousins disputes that characterization. “It’s not a breakup record, in the standard sense of the fact that I may have been with one person and broken up with them, ” she says. “That’s just not the case. I’m into my ‘30s now and there are chunks of time when you’re wrestling with certain things. There comes a point where you assess patterns you have, and people in your life, and things you are telling yourself, and you have to check in on those things. See what serves you and what no longer serves you. I think the record has a lot of that. It’s not about one particular person. It’s about the part of me that has to let go. I don‘t think the details are important. I think the emotion in the song is important.”

She acknowledges that she’s drawn to darker themes in her writing. “I guess I look at sadness and introspection as a little more interesting, ” she says. “There are more unexplored caves, nooks and crannies, with things hiding in them. It feels more complicated when you feel sad than when you feel joyful, and that attracts me to it. That doesn’t mean I’m a miserable person.”

Carving out time for writing is an increasing challenge, given her hectic touring schedule. “There’s not a lot of uninterrupted down time when I’m on the road,” she says, and mentions an annual retreat she’ll be taking in June. “I’ve done it for the past two years, and I’m so excited for that. No phones, no computers, just a lake and woods. That is the best time to figure out what I’m actually thinking and feeling.”


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FM Le Sieur est un cas spécial dans le domaine des compositeurs de musiques de film. Introduit à notre oreille par le biais d’un groupe pop dans les années 80 (Tango Tango, gagnant de L’Empire des futures stars en 1989), François-Maurice (d’où le FM) est devenu, de fil en aiguille, l’un des compositeurs de films les plus prolifiques et recherchés au Québec. Il cumule une bonne douzaine de trames sonores de longs métrages, parmi lesquels tous les films d’Alain Desrochers, de La Bouteille à Gerry. On retrouve aussi dans cette liste Nuit de noces, Mambo Italiano, De père en flic et Le Sens de l’humour, tous des succès au box-office québécois.

FM Le Sieur a également apposé sa touche personnelle sur une dizaine de téléséries, parmi lesquelles C.A., Musée Éden, Nos étés et Music Hall, Les sœurs Elliot, Les Bougon, Charlie Jade, une coproduction internationale tournée en Afrique du Sud, et Being Human, adaptation américaine de la populaire série de la BBC. En tout, le compositeur cumule pas moins de trois Prix Gémeaux et neuf nominations aux Prix Génie, Jutra et Gémeaux.

Lorsqu’on évoque sa période pop pré-cinématographique, FM Le Sieur a le réflexe de l’autodérision : « Tango Tango, tout le monde haïssait ça , je ne sais pas pourquoi, s’exclame-t-il en riant. Maintenant il y a plein de petits bands qui font de la pop, mais dans ce temps-là c’était ben sérieux la musique, on aurait dit que c’était mal vu de faire des trucs plus légers. Mais avant même qu’on commence à monter le répertoire de Tango Tango, j’avais fait de la musique pour les premiers courts métrages étudiants d’Alain Desrochers à Concordia, vers 1986. J’y ai rencontré Erik Canuel, et par la suite [les futurs réalisateurs] André Turpin, Podz et Pierre Gill. Ce qui fait que lorsque l’aventure Tango Tango s’est terminée, j’avais déjà entamé une carrière de compositeur dans le domaine de la publicité, mais toujours dans le but d’en arriver au cinéma. »

« j’avais déjà entamé une carrière de compositeur dans le domaine de la publicité, mais toujours dans le but d’en arriver au cinéma. »

Celui qui se décrit comme un boulimique de cinéma et qui achète parfois les trames sonores avant de voir les films, peut citer autant Ennio Morricone que Maurice Jarre ou Philip Glass (dont la classe de maitre, à laquelle il a assisté lors de son court passage à l’Université McGill, l’a convaincu qu’il pouvait se débrouiller seul). Malgré tout, il ne s’en cache pas, il est issu de la musique rock et pop et croit que c’est ce qui l’a aidé à se démarquer : « Ça m’a permis d’utiliser mes influences au moment où a débuté cette vague de métissage de la technologie aux orchestrations classiques, à la manière de Danny Elfman (compositeur quasi attitré du cinéaste Tim Burton). »

« Mon but c’est de faire ce qu’il y a de mieux pour le film, pas d’imposer ma signature, » précise FM lorsqu’on lui demande comment on arrive à se forger un style particulier tout en composant pour des œuvres cinématographiques ou télévisuelles aussi diversifiées. « Il faut être caméléon, traduire ce que le réalisateur entend pour son film. C’est lui le capitaine du navire. Et les gens qui connaissent ça vont remarquer un style qui s’en dégage. Mais les réalisateurs ne cherchent pas des compositeurs qui ont une signature sonore, ils cherchent des compositeurs qui seront capables de faire matcher parfaitement de la musique avec leurs images. La sensibilité au cinéma est plus importante que la signature sonore. »

Justement, parlant de sensibilité, partant de la prémisse que la quête des acteurs et actrices est d’être le plus possible dans la vérité des émotions, comment sent-on que la composition musicale est en adéquation parfaite avec l’aspect dramatique à l’écran? « Je le sens, tout simplement, répond FM instinctivement. Des fois quand je réécoute ce que je viens de faire, si je n’aime pas ça, j’ai comme un inconfort viscéral, il y a quelque chose qui ne marche pas. C’est un signe que je suis soit en train de me battre avec le dialogue, soit ça ne commence pas à la bonne place ou que c’est trop chargé, ou encore que ça manque de oumpf… C’est vraiment un feeling qui ne ment pas. Mais c’est sûr que si au départ la magie dramatique n’opère pas à l’écran, ça rend mon travail encore plus complexe. »

L’homme compose en général seul dans son studio maison, improvisant les partitions au clavier ou à la guitare en faisant défiler les images. Un copiste, un orchestrateur et des musiciens parmi les plus chevronnés (souvent de l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal) ajouteront leur expertise dans le processus. Pour celui qui n’a jamais complété sa formation académique, cette collaboration constante avec des musiciens bourrés de diplôme a été intimidante pendant longtemps. « C’est un vieux complexe que j’ai développé à force de travailler avec des violonistes qui jouent depuis l’âge de neuf ans. Et un jour il y en a un qui m’a dit : “FM, nous autres on est là pour jouer, si toi tu n’étais pas là, on n’aurait rien à jouer.” Je n’ai donc plus de complexes avec ça. Il y a des choses qui s’apprennent, mais mettre de la musique sur des images, tu l’as ou tu ne l’as pas. » Et, de toute évidence, FM Le Sieur possède remarquablement bien ce don!


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Les traductions pour les articles avant l’automne 2013 ne sont pas disponibles pour le moment.

“Changing the game” and “takin’ it to the next level” are both well-worn clichés in hip-hop and R&B. Everyone in these competitive genres, it seems, feels like they’re bringing something new to the table. That’s another empty cliché. Since the ’90s, both forms of music have received some criticism for abandoning creativity and churning out the same old, same old.

Enter Toronto’s The Weeknd (a.k.a. Abel Tesfaye), one of a handful of artists who’s helping restore widespread faith and critical respect in both genres.

A prodigious talent, the 20-something artist has already done something unheard of in music: in the space of nine months last year, he released three albums, House Of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence, and posted them online, where they could be downloaded for free, just as if they were mixtapes. House of Balloons reportedly racked up more than 200,000 downloads in the first three weeks, and Thursday caused website servers to intermittently crash – but not before a reported 180,000 downloads on the first day. Echoes of Silence also caused a server crash. And he’s hit these heights with a unique new sound unlike anything else on the scene, often with disturbing music and lyrics.

The Weeknd has also done it with almost no public appearances, not a single media interview, and no record label of any kind. He’s played exactly four live performances: two in Toronto, and one each in Guelph, Ont., and London, Ont. Although he is part of the Toronto-based production / management / musical / business collective known as OVO XO – the home of Drake – his meteoric rise has really been fuelled by his music.

That, and a perfect storm of events. Following the release of House of Balloons, The Weeknd received a well-timed tweet by his OVO XO colleague Drake. Then he was name-checked by Jay-Z and Adele, and the mainstream started to take notice. The Weeknd landed on the coveted Polaris Prize shortlist for 2011 – a first for a free download. (Though he declined to perform at the Polaris gala.) He received raves fThis,” was used in HBO’s ad campaign for Entourage. He’s since done remixes by request for Florence and the Machine and Lady Gaga, and guest vocals on Drake’s Take Care. The Weeknd will play a prime slot at the prestigious indie music festival Coachella in April, his first official U.S. appearance, alongside the likes of Radiohead, The Black Keys and Dr. Dre.

The New York Times even dispatched a reporter to cover The Weeknd’s concert in Guelph last October. “He sang outrageously well, over woozy, narcotized rock by his stellar band,” Jon Caramanica raved in his review. “On record his voice can be otherworldly, but he delivered it here with force… ‘The Birds Part One’ and ‘The Birds Part Two’ were gut punches, the Weeknd at his most bruising.”

The acclaim is rooted in the singular quality of The Weeknd’s words and music. Darkly sensual and cinematic, The Weeknd’s sound is one of the most hypnotic you’ll hear these days. His plaintive falsetto perfectly complements the lush, spacey atmospherics of his songs, featuring moody synth washes, crisp beats and eclectic samples. His frail voice is the perfect vehicle for self-examining lyrics that hint at what a vulnerable young man he might be. He’s certainly capable of writing introspective, confessional and self-pitying songs.

But, as with hip-hop/R&B artists Tyler the Creator and Frank Ocean, of the U.S.-based Odd Futures collective, his work can also be intense and unsettling. The imagery is often debauched, nihilistic, narcotic, and darkly sexual. In the song “Initiation,” he uses drink and drugs to coerce an unwilling woman into group sex. Then there’s the lyrics to “Outside”: “Make yourself at home / Because baby when I’m finished with you / You won’t want to go outside.”

His twitter tweets speak for themselves. “I tapped into the darkest and the most shaded part of my mind for your entertainment,” he tweeted last Nov. 4. A few days earlier, he sent this out: “By simply surrounding yourself with ugliness, darkness and evil can you really understand and appreciate real beauty.” And there’s also this: “But my lung’s so muddy, i love the way it tastes… drink it til i’m ugly baby fuck me when i’m faded.”

There’s a lyric on record that captures The Weeknd’s essence and the idea that he’s the sort of game-changing jolt that hip-hop and R&B need: “I’m going to give you what you feign / I’m the drug in your veins / Just fight through your pain / He’s what you want / I’m what you need.”
But how long he can continue to inhabit the persona he’s created remains to be seen.


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