All Red Winter Gloves (Paper Bag Records) Three and a half stars (out of four)
Less really is more on this cracking good album from Winter Gloves, a Montreal band that knows when to quit in a way that leaves you hungering for more. Plastic Slides tells you where they're coming from: The song shows a speedy casual intensity, a punk-like drive to keep things simple, and a flair for running contrasting sounds and textures in muscular strands of counterpoint. The band gets funky in Use Your Lips, tricky in We Need New Transportation (which hops a beat every other phrase), and a bit hallucinatory in Jump, a brief buzzy rampage that wrings its own neck with a throbbing strand of electronica. In all moods, they want to make you dance, and they'll do it, too. Look for this cheerful, infectious disc on next's year Polaris Prize short list. Robert Everett-Green Winter Gloves plays Kingston's Grad Club Sept. 17; Peterborough, Ont.'s Red Dog Sept. 22; and Il Motore in Montreal on Sept. 25.
Benjamin Britten: Les Illuminations, Op. 18; Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op. 10; Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal Karina Gauvin, soprano; Les Violons du Roy,conducted by Jean-Marie Zeitouni Atma Classique Three and a half stars (out of four)
Quebec soprano Karina Gauvin has focused much of her career in 18th-century repertoire, but this disc happily proves she hasn't restricted herself to early music. Gauvin has plenty of competition in recordings of Britten's Les Illumination, from Peter Pears and Ian Bostridge to Felicity Lott, but the lustre of her voice and the eloquence of her delivery make her interpretation especially appealing. The strings of Les Violons du Roy provide shapely and emotionally direct readings with the immediacy of chamber music and a great deal of raw energy. What one misses is a certain suavity of sound that can give this piece a shimmering transcendence. Elissa Poole
Kaleidoscope Heart Sara Bareilles (Epic/ Sony) Three stars (out of four) Her whopper hit Love Song from 2007 was a ditty about not writing one of those. And now, on her follow-up album Kaleidoscope Heart, the piano woman still does not do love songs much. Bareilles, her voice pure, strong and well-governed, sings often about the aftermaths of relationships ( Gonna Get Over You). The lead single, King of Anything, where she won't bow to the will of others, is in the defiant spirit of Love Song. There's stylish retro fashions from various decades, with bouncy melodies recalling something like 10cc's The Things We Do for Love. Bareilles is known for her perky pop, but perhaps that is to change. On the wishful, emotive chug of Let the Rain, she vows to speak the truth and to one day "darken the skies." A brooding Bareilles? Let it rain, then. Brad Wheeler
Dog Weather Baby Eagle (You've Changed Records) Three and a half stars (out of four)
Why does Constantines' Steve Lambke call his rag-tag side project Baby Eagle? Because Velvet Dylan Underground wouldn't do - wouldn't do for this woodstove-warmed poet, this boot-wearer, this non-modern man whose muddy, electric freedom-blues are delivered in slack manner, yet bloom with homegrown spirit and callous-handed perception. With his third album, the New Brunswick-based phrase-turner considers life options and the small-circled world of chained dogs ( Fisherman or Fish). On the vaguely Hold Steady rock of Crooked Coin he sings "maybe out of tune and timbre, but darling don't we ramble?" By all means, ramble on, Lambke, gloriously ragged as you go. B.W.
Baby Eagle extensively tours Ontario, beginning Sept. 22.