Readers' Best: Albums, Concerts, Books & Docs

A couple of weeks ago we asked Cam Carpenter to send an email to a mixed list of FYI readers to find out what musical highlights across various media thrilled them in 2019.

Readers' Best: Albums, Concerts, Books & Docs

By Cam Carpenter

A couple of weeks ago we asked Cam Carpenter to send an email to a mixed list of FYI readers to find out what musical highlights across various media thrilled them in 2019. The responses are varied and often illuminating. We thank them and Cam for participating and hope our readers will enjoy the lists as much as we did in receiving them. Please note that the sequencing order is purely random.

Alan Cross -  A Journal of Musical Things

Well, this is fun:

1. Album of the year: Dogrel -  Fontaines DC

2. Song of the year:  Fear Inoculum - Tool


3. Show of the year: Tool, Scotiabank Arena

4. Book of the year: Spotify Teardown: Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music

5. Music film/doc of the year: Yesterday


Mike Campbell - Booker - The Carleton - Halifax

1. Album of the year:  Bones UK - Bones UK

2. Song of the year:  Salvation - Adam Baldwin

3. Show of the year: Alejandro Escovedo & The Halifax All Stars - at The Carleton, August 31st, during the Halifax Urban Folk Festival

4. Book of the year:  Horror Stories - Liz Phair

5. Music Doc of the year: Clive Davis - The Music Of Our Lives


Cam Gillespie - Northern Lights Festival Boreal

1. Album of the year: GUV I & II - Young Guv

2. Song of the year: Roll With Me - Young Guv

3. Show of the year: Descendents @ Matty Fest

4. Music Film of the year: The Black Godfather


Joanne Smale - Planet3 Communications

1. Album of the year:  Nose to the Rhinestone - The Handsome Devils 

2. Song of the year:   Sahara - Sina Bathie

3. Show of the year: Bruce Cockburn, Bone On Bone tour with band, Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Amphitheatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake 


4. Book of the year:  Niagara: A History of the Falls -  Pierre Berton 

5. Music film/doc of the year:  Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band 


Eric Alper - Publicist

1. Albums of the year:   Heard It In A Past Life - Maggie Rogers / U.F.O.F - Big Thief/  Sunshine Rock - Bob Mould / All Mirrors - Angel Olsen 

2. Song of the year:  Bad Guy, (duh) - Billie Eilish

3. Book of the year:   Tie between The Awesome Music Project Canada: Songs of Hope and Happiness, a beautifully illustrated tribute to the music that comforts us, moves us and lifts our spirits - and The Flyer Vault: not only a fascinating look at past music history, it truly tells the story of the city through concert and gig flyers.

4. Music film/doc of the year:    I loved Yesterday, Blinded By The Light, and Rocketman - all up there with the best music films I’ve ever seen. Watching them all in theatres brought me back to the time I saw American Hot Wax as a kid: The music, the storyline, and popcorn.


Sandy Graham - CEO/Editor Cashbox Canada Magazine/Cashbox Radio

1. Album of the year: Myles Goodwyn and Friends of the Blues


2. Song of the year:  Shakes (Falling In Love) -  The Magnettes

3. Show of the year:  Eric Andersen @ Hugh's Room

4. Book of the year:   Good Lovin'; My Life as a Rascal -  Gene Cornish

5. Music film/doc of the year: Once We Were Brothers:  Robbie Robertson and the Band


Brendan McCarney - Double Denim Management

1. Album of the year:  The Skid Is Hot Tonight - BA Johnston

2. Song of the year: Gerry - WHOOP-Szo

3. Show of the year: Man Man @ Lee's Palace 


Aerin Fogel - Founder and Artistic Director of Venus Fest


1. Album of the year:  FED UP  -  Ice Cream

2. Song of the year: Alone In The Universe  -  Tei Shi

3. Show of the year:  Russian Doll

4. Book of the year:  Holy Wild  -  Gwen Benaway

5. Music film/doc of the year:  Homecoming 


Doug Elliott - Program Director 94.9 The Rock

1. Album of the year:  War on Everything - Glorious Sons

2. Song of the year:  S.O.S (Sawed-off Shotgun) - Glorious Sons

3. Show of the year:  Craig Venn & Lucky’s Unsilent Night with Headstones and Finger 11 or Tool @ Scotiabank Arena


Louis Calabro  - Founder/Director Prism Prize and VP Programming & Awards - Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television

1. Album of the year: 1000 gecs - 100 gecs (Dog Show Records)

2. Song of the year:  Rapture - Koffee


Dan Hand - Inside Pocket 

1. Album of the year: thank u, next - Ariana Grande

2. Song of the year:  idc - ren

3. Show of the year: Tie: American Football @ The Opera House or Bad Religion @ The Phoenix, Toronto

4. Book of the year:  My Thoughts Exactly  - Lily Allen

5. Music film/doc of the year: Shangri-La 


Karen Bliss - Billboard

1. Album of the year:  When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We All Go? - Billie Eilish

2. Song of the year:   Someone You Loved - Lewis Capaldi

3. Show of the year:  The Waterboys at Danforth Music Hall and The Wedding Band at Cosmo Music, Toronto

4. Book of the year:   Catch and Kill: Lies Spies and A Conspiracy To Protect Predators - Ronan Farrow

5. Music film/doc of the year: Blinded By The Light


Ken Kelley - FYI Contributor / Freelance Writer / Drummer - Monoxides

1. Album of the year:  Help Us Stranger - The Raconteurs


2. Song of the year:  Phantom - Sebadoh

3. Show of the year:  Ian Blurton's Future Now @ Le Caveau, Moncton, NB

4. Book of the year:  Let's Go (So We Can Get Back) -  Jeff Tweedy - Released in 2018, but I only read it this year!


Keith Sharp - Music Express

1. Album of the year:  Lover - Taylor Swift 

2. Song of the year:  Old Town Road - Lil Nas X

3. Show of the year:  Corey Hart/Glass Tiger/A Flock Of Seagulls - Budweiser Amphitheatre, Toronto

4. Book of the year:  Me - Elton John

5. Music film/doc of the year:  Blinded By The Light


Kerry Doole - FYI Music News

1. Album of the year:  Carrying On - Kacy & Clayton

2. Song of the year:  Don't Know How To Keep Loving You - Julia Jacklin

3. Show of the year: Robert Gordon and Chris Spedding - This Ain't Hollywood, Hamilton

4. Book of the year:  Why You Should Know About Lhasa de Sela -  Fred Goodman

5. Music film/doc of the year:  Linda Ronstadt- The Sound Of My Voice


"Parkside" Mike Renaud - Management Consultant - Slaight Music


1. Album of the year: Master Volume (Deluxe Edition) - The Dirty Nil

2. Song of the year:   Hoss - The Beelays

3. Show Of The year:  ELO at Scotiabank, Toronto

4. Book of the year:  Making Spaces Safer - Shawna Potter

5. Music Film/Doc:  Echo In The Canyon


Melanie Kaye - Melanie Kaye PR

1. Album of the year:  Too Old To Die - Bracket (Fat Wreck Chords)

2. Song of the year:  Bottom Of The Well- United Snakes on Little Rocket Records 

3. Show of the year:  Punk In Drublic Festival in Vancouver 

4. Book of the year: Face It  - Debbie Harry

5. Music film/doc of the year:  Echo in The Canyon


Rob Oakie - Music PEI 

1. Album of the year:  Yours To Break - The East Pointers 

2. Song of the year:  The Tempest  - Catherine MacLellan

3. Show of the year: Paper Lions Super Show, Confederation Centre of the Arts, Charlottetown, Oct 19 

4. Book of the year:  Leon Russell - In His Own Words

5. Music film/doc of the year:  David Crosby, Remember My Name


Jason Schneider - Jason Schneider Media

1. Album of the year:   Ghosteen - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

2. Song of the year:   Sing Along - Sturgill Simpson 

3. Show of the year:  Jerry Leger & The Situation -- Lee's Palace, Toronto, Nov. 28 

4. Book of the year:  Hard To Handle: The Life and Death of the Black Crowes - Steve Gorman (with Steven Hyden) 

5. Music film/doc of the year:  [Tie] Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story / Ken Burns Country Music


 Rebecca Webster - CMRRA

1. Album of the year: Norman Fucking Rockwell - Lana Del Rey

I was never a fan of Lana Del Rey. I didn't get the appeal at all and I got in multiple fights with my Dad about it over the years as he was a massive fan. So, that's why it's hard for me to admit that Norman Fucking Rockwell is my album of the year.

From the first line "goddamn manchild," I was provoked, in a very good way. It felt like being led down a garden path into something bigger. Beyond that hook, the whole album delivers a journey; it's not always overburdened with layers, it strips back here and there enough to appreciate the simplicity of a voice and a great song, and it adds instrumentation and dreaminess when it needs to be anchored.

Mostly it strikes a chord with its right-expletive-now lyrics and sun-drenched production that can only be described as ultimate 2019. 

2. Song of the year:   Can't Believe The Way We Flow - James Blake 

This song is a love song for the ages! It's romantic and surprising and blurry and non-linear - effectively, as all the things being in love should be ...and James' stunning soaring vocals and laid back style is perfect.

** Honourable mention to Nilüfer Yanya and her incredibly textured song Miss Universe, which caused me to go see her at her first Toronto show at the Horseshoe.

*** Honourable mention to Tim Baker's Dance. This song is sparse, yet uplifting - and ever so sexy. I need nothing more from a song! "I wanna dance with you/ that's all I want to do / I wanna see your body move."

3. Show of the year: Nick Cave.  As Nick's longtime Canadian music publicist (now former, as I closed my PR company this year,) I'm not sure I'm allowed to nominate his University of Toronto Convocation Hall show where the focus was Nick, live, answering unvetted questions from his fans - but I'm writing it down anyway. He punctuated these question-and-answer interludes with solo piano versions of his songs. The experience was a memorable dose of humanity that won't soon be forgotten .  


Mark Tara - Producer & Host Rainbow Country - CIUT

1. Album of the year: Originals - Prince -   I Can ONLY Love It.

2. Song of the year:  Higher Love - Whitney Houston - Ear Candy.

3. Show of the year:  Watchmen - No Words.

4. Book of the year:  Awesome Music Project Canada  - Exploring the HEALING Power of Music.

5.. Music film/doc of the year:  Judy - Renée Zellweger IS Judy Garland.


Liz Scott - Artistic Director - Mariposa Folk Festival

1. Album of the year:  New Ways - Leif Vollebekk,

2. Song of the year:  East October - John Moreland,

3. Show of the year:  Sheila E., Calgary Folk Music Festival

4. Book of the year:  The Awesome Music Project Canada: Songs of Hope and Happiness  -  Terry Stuart & Rob Carli

5. Music film/doc of the year: Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation


Mar Sellars - Mar On Music

1. Album of the year:  Dizzy Spells - Patience

2. Song of the year: Going Right For Ryan -  Creatures 

3. Show of the year: SOAK, Moroccan Lounge LA

4. Book of the year:  n/a, I only read old books ;)

5. Music film/doc of the year:  Blinded By the Light


Jheanelle Henry - Artist Manager/A&R @Jarjour Co.

1. Album of the year:  Ugh, those feels again - Snoh Aalegra -  /  13th Floor - Haviah Mighty

2. Song of the year:   Dysfunctional - Kaytranada /  Cyanide - Daniel Caesar, /  Mannequin Challenge - Young Thug

3. Book of the year:  A song for you -  My Life with Whitney Houston 

4. Music film/doc of the year:  Beyoncé, Homecoming 


Andrew Karis - ACTRA-RACS

1. Album of the year:  1000 gecs - 100 gecs:  Recommended by a friend earlier in the year and the disruption grew on me with every listen.  /    13th Floor – Haviah Mighty:  Maybe an obvious choice, but it’s so damn good!  

2. Song of the year:  Bad Guy – Billie Eilish:  The best kind of earworm.

3. Music film/doc of the year:  Hip Hop Evolution (season 3):  Every season keeps getting better. /   Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened: I’m a sucker for a Ja Rule-based Greek tragedy.


Jay Sparrow - Musician

1. Album of the year:  Money -  Baby Drayton -  

The Canadian music industry is a fickle lover. It has broken my heart many times over as I’ve watched such great talents overlooked over the years. I hope that this time is not the case. Money is only four songs deep,  but contains the weight of entire careers. It is simple. Honest. Stark. There is nothing extraneous. Every moment is special and nurtured. Rarely does a piece of art with this depth also take up the same space as cool. It may be blasphemous, but I’d put the song The Bunny & The Snake in the same conversation with Neil Young’s Old Man. So what I'm saying is... pay attention Canada, you’re missing the point. 


Ron Kitchener - RGK Entertainment/Open Road Recordings

1. Album of the year:  Heard it in A Past Life -  Maggie Rogers

2. Song of the year: Sing Along - Sturgill Simpson   

3. Show of the year:  The Struts, Music & Peace - Berlin Germany March 3rd , 400-seat club

4. Book of the year:  Heavy Tales - Jon Zazula

5. Music film/doc of the year:  Ken Burns Country Music on PBS, Episode 1


Cameron Carpenter

1. Album of the year:  Norman Fucking Rockwell! - Lana Del Rey

2. Song of the year:   I'll Still Have Me - Cyn

3. Show of the year:  Dave Bookman Tribute Show at The Horseshoe Tavern which featured performances by Blue Rodeo, Sloan. Billy Talent, July Talk, The Beaches, Broken Social Scene, Stephen Stanley, Danny Greaves, The Rheostatics and more. 

4. Book of the year: Then It Fell Apart - Moby

5. Music film/doc of the year: FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened


Vivian Barclay - GM - Warner Chappell Music Canada

1. Album of the year:  Twenties - Bren Joy (Just a whole vibe)

2. Song of the year:  Feel - TOBi -  (also a vibe)

3. Show of the year:  Jacob Banks - Danforth Music Hall

4. Book of the year:   Talking to Strangers - Malcolm Gladwell

5. Music film/doc of the year:  Devil's Pie - D’Angelo


Richard Flohil 

1. Album of the year:   Tie:  October in the Railroad Earth - Tom Russell (Frontera Records) /  Confessions - Sarah Jane Scouten (Light Organ)

2. Song of the year:   You are the Medicine - Sarah Jane Scouten (watch?v=m6q-5FzKtp0)  

3. Show of the year:   Corin Raymond - Lula Lounge, toronto - CD Record release

4. Book of the year:  Dick Waterman: A Life in Blues  -  Tammy L. Turner (University of Mississippi Press)

5. Music film/doc of the year:  If You Could Read My Mind  - Gordon Lightfoot  


Jill Snell - Road Angel Entertainment 

I have a habit of listening to more old music than new music; perhaps because time is precious. When I have some listening time that is not background sound while triple tasking, I choose things I know and love that will feel like a treat that I’ve earned after a long day. 

Luckily, from excellent multi-parent guidance ;),  our kids all have eclectic and remarkably great taste in music: from punk to modern/indie rock, Americana to country. My eldest gives me a solid education in rap and R&B. So, to me, the album, song, movie, or book of the year should be about YOUR year, not the year on the calendar. It should be music or film that created lasting memories, conjured up important memories, or just made you feel great, sad or angry:  something measurably impactful.

As you can see, I have a hard time ordering from a menu without making modifications :)

1. Albums of the year: Golden Hour -   Kacey Musgraves  (2018)
This whole album (no track skipping) has seen more very loud road trip hours in my car than any other this past year.
Something More Than Free - Jason Isbell  (2015)
This vinyl has seen probably the most "in-house" turntable time in 2019 . 

2. Songs of the year: 
1. Love Is a Wild Thing -  Kacey Musgraves (2018)
2. Fool For Waiting -  Dan Mangan (2018)
3. The Good Ones -  Tebey and Marie Mai (2019!)  - Yes, this is my client's song, but I'm not being  self-serving. If you go back to my reasons for choosing music that made an impact, then this is a big one. This song created or enriched so many amazing relationships in my life this year. It brought old friends (Paul Jessop/Danick Dupelle) and new friends (Raphael, Lisa, Sascha, and Celine Mazzucco, Denis Desro, Marie Mai, David Lafleche) together and brought dear friends and co-workers closer together (Diane Lang, Tebey). It's a friggin’ amazing song!

3. Show of the year: 
Kacey Musgraves at Danforth Music Hall - full stop.
(OK, seeing The Jayhawks for the 6th time at The Horseshoe in November was pretty darned awesome.)

4. Book of the year: 
I spent most of the year reading Game of Thrones' 5-book series. I will also admit to the guilty pleasure of having the very pleasing voice of Davina Porter put me to sleep most nights  - on purpose - while reading the Outlander Series (Diana Gabaldon) in her surprising variety of Scottish and English accents!  Can’t say I really have a “book of the year,” though.

5. Music film/doc of the year: 
Echo In The Canyon (Andrew Slater)
This is my music, my fave era. I loved everything about this film.: I’d love to see another version of this film set 5-10 years later, which would pretty much capture all of my most cherished artists: Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Lowell George, JD Souther, Glenn Frey, Chris Hillman, Byrds/Burritos, Gram Parsons, Rickie Lee Jones, Warren Zevon, etc.  


Sarah Burke - SiriusXM Canada

Over the next few weeks, you’ll hear us counting down the biggest Canadian Country songs on CBC Country (SXM 171), the biggest Canadian Indie & Alternative songs on The Verge (SXM 173), and the biggest Americana / roots songs of the year over on North Americana (SXM 359).

One thing I have to mention is my biggest personal music moment of the year:  back in April, I went North for Nunavut Music Week for an incredible four days in Iqaluit hosted by Aakuluk Music.  There was a group of programmers, agents, label professionals, and media that all wanted to bring a little bit of industry to a beautiful place on earth that has trouble interacting with the rest of the industry due to location alone. My eyes were opened to the geographical battle it takes to release music and tour when you’re from a community like this.  There are incredible artists and art not being heard the way artists in other locations are, and I’m doing my best to work with Indigenous artists to change that. If you’re not familiar, look up Aasiva, Riit, The Jerry Cans, Josh Q and the Trade Offs, fxckmr, and Kelly Fraser - some amazing artists I got so spend time with up North.

As for Album and Song of the year, they both come from the same place for me.  My favourite record of the year is from The Bros. Landreth, titled 87.  Not only is this album about the year Joey and Dave became brothers, but it’s also the year I was born! This record has become a constant. Joey and Dave explore love and substance abuse among other subjects. The infectious groove of Got To Be You has been stuck in my head ALL YEAR! That’s my favourite song of the year, hands down. 

My favourite concert was early in the year: I saw Kacey Musgraves in January at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto. It literally brought tears to my eyes.  Golden Hour is a 2018 release, but seeing the songs come alive for the first time was special. She’s had a banner year and I loved watching her journey from being almost avoided by commercial radio to being embraced by it. Backstreet Boys in July at Scotiabank Arena was incredible too, as I relived my childhood,  singing every word to every song. I really enjoyed club shows from PUP, The Dirty Nil, The Distillers and Jeremie Albino, too. Finally, the Secret Path production at Roy Thomson Hall in honour of Gord Downie’s memory was a special evening this past October. It featured so much Canadian talent, including William Prince, Sarah Harmer, Whitehorse and members of Broken Social Scene. 

While I didn’t get to read as much as I would have liked to this year - and have some tough decisions ahead packing for a little vacation (how many books is too many books?!) - I really enjoyed the perspective that Virginia Grohl brought to the music industry in her release this year called From Cradle to Stage: Stories from the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars. I’ve been a huge Dave Grohl / Nirvana / Foo Fighters fan for so long and it was amazing to go behind the scenes of his childhood. it was also amazing to learn about what all these mothers of musicians had in common while raising the Adam Levines and Dr. Dres of the world.  I was lucky enough to interview her about it here too:

I’ve still got a long list of music docs and films to get to over the holidays, starting with Elton John’s Rocketman. Ask me about my favourite music film in a few weeks!  Happy New Year! 

Celine Dion
Courtesy Photo

Celine Dion


Celine Dion Battled Extreme Muscle Spasms From Stiff-Person Syndrome With Dangerously High Doses of Valium: ‘It Could Have Been Fatal’

The singer opened up about her decade-long struggle with the rare neurological disorder in Tuesday night's (June 11) primetime NBC special.

Celine Dion was so desperate to alleviate the pain from severe muscle spasms during her secret, nearly two-decade-long battle with the rare neurological and autoimmune disease Stiff-Person Syndrome that she took near-lethal doses of Valium in search of relief. In her one-hour primetime NBC special on Tuesday night (June 11), Dion said she took up to 90 milligrams of the medication used to treat anxiety, seizures and muscle spasms, an amount that is more than twice the recommended daily dose.

“I did not know, honestly, that it could kill me. I would take, for example before a performance, 20 milligrams of Valium, and then just walking from my dressing room to backstage — it was gone,” Dion said of the instant pain relief the medication offered at levels, however that “could have been fatal” if she’d continued at that pace. “At one point, the thing is, that my body got used to it at 20 and 30 and 40 [milligrams] until it went up. And I needed that. It was relaxing my whole body. For two weeks, for a month, the show would go on… but then you get used to [and] it doesn’t work anymore.”

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