Northerly musicians you need to know
I'm going to Canada. When? I don't know, but some day I'll see my favorite band, Our Lady Peace, perform in their hometown of Toronto. In fact, I want to see as many Canadian artists as possible. They just seem so good up there. And they are. A lot of cheesy big-name artists (Céline Dion, Nickelback, Barenaked Ladies) and influential indie acts (Arcade Fire, The New Pornographers, Broken Social Scene) have come from the land of the maple leaf, and there's still more talent to be discovered by us non-Canadian music fans—the problem is finding it.
Much to my luck, a real-life Canadian and music lover crashed at my apartment this past weekend after road tripping across America in a Toyota 4Runner (long story). Ray, a punky Toronto native turned New Yorker, happily traded me info on a few of her favorite artists for the use of my futon (a meager rental fee). Adding to the list are a few Canadian bands that I—a music lover not from Canada—enjoy.
Tegan and Sara
This sisterly duo from Calgary is far from unknown here in the states—Tegan and Sara have played sold-out shows from Seattle to New York. Punkish, folkish spunkiness dominates their sound and style. As Ray says, "They're righteous babes!"
Hawksley's folk-rock favors whimsical and ridiculous lyrics, Ray says. One viewing of his video for "Jealous of Your Cigarette" confirms her description. Ray insists he must be seen live—the problem is this Toronto-based artist won't play the States. Hawsley Workman: On tour in Canada and Europe only. Got your passport?
Another singer/songwriter from Toronto, Hayden dabbles in all things melancholy and woeful. His latest album, Elk Lake Serenade, is less depressing than his earlier work, Ray says, but still beautiful and heartfelt. And he's got kick-ass hair.
Shout Out Out Out Out
Sorry computers, you are no longer necessary to make electrodance music. Shout Out Out Out Out from Edmonton, Alberta, have taken the usual idea of a dance band and crushed it under their collective Converses. The band is comprised of two drummers, two bass players, a guitarist and a utility guy (who plays the keyboard, cow bell, guitars, tambourine and whatever else is required to get the groove moving). Incredible on CD, unbelievable on stage.
I'm going to abstain from using this band's name in some clichéd pun that will just induce vomiting. Holy Fuck deserves more than bad puns. Another electronica band breaking the "just push play" mold, these boys from Toronto make musical mosaics from the sounds of traditional rock instruments and a table full of synthesizers.
Sub Pop records is skilled at picking great musicians out of a sea of wannabes and Wolf Parade is their latest catch. Teetering on the verge of annoying and genius, Wolf Parade's power-pop rock is driven by ecstatic energy. I expect to see quite a bit more about these Montrealians stateside real soon.
All right! I like dance music. Sue me. MSTRKRAFT will soon be leaving their hometown of Toronto to bring Japan, Germany and Australia their smooth house grooves. I think they should add the Alibi's rumpus room to their tour schedule. With some decent lighting, it would make a sick dance space. Until then, it's a party of one at my desk.
I stumbled upon a video of Owen Pallett (the member of Final Fantasy) playing "Song Song Song" on the interweb while researching these Canadian bands and I was stunned. Owen plays the violin into a sampler and loops piece together to create an entire song, utilizing the versatility of his instrument. He might not become a breakout hit here in the good ol' U.S. of A., but his music is worth a visit and a tip of the hat.