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Canada has always been a hotbed for talented musicians and bands. From Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, and Joni Mitchell to Arcade Fire, Feist, and Broken Social Scene, our musical exports have always been a point of pride. But I’m not sure there has been a period of time such as now, in which top 40 radio has been so completely dominated by Canadian Musicians. Throughout the winter, it was impossible to visit any country outside of Canada and not hear a song from Drake, The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, or Shawn Mendes. With Montreal, Q.C. churning on as an experimental and avant-garde musical front, Vancouver, B.C. asserting itself as an electronic music hub, Hamilton, O.N. emerging as a legitimate and discussion-worthy music, and Toronto, ON in the midst of redefining itself as an R&B and Top 40 hits factory, there is a lot to listen to and cover in contemporary Canadian music. Here is our list of ten Canadian bands that you may not have heard of.
We were brainstorming this list and realized our list had quite a few amazing musicians from the Montreal label, Arbutus Records. The label is noted for super acts such as Grimes and Majical Cloudz but Montreal by way of Calgary band, Braids, should be more well known and were nominated for the 2015 Polaris Prize for their amazing album, Deep In The Iris. Other label mates TOPS and romantic crooner, Sean Nicholas Savage are also incredible acts in their own right.
Drake is assembling some of Toronto’s best young musicians on his label, OVO Sound. The only issue is, in true Drake fashion, he’s playing it cool and not putting a huge budget into the promotion of his roster. With that being said, wunderkind, Roy Woods, is sure to be the next, well, Drake. While DVSN, PARTYNEXTDOOR, and Majid Jordan are all due for major come-ups. If you’re not already aware of the OVO roster, it’s high time you familiarize yourself.
Toronto native Allan Rayman has a sound all his own on his most recent album, Hotel Allan. His music is difficult to categorize as he smoothly and effortlessly moves from a whiskey-soaked country voice to a soulful R&B crooner; a perfect choice to throw on if you’re hosting a party and having trouble reading the room.
By no means a small undiscovered band, but still not receiving the acclaim they likely warrant, Canadian Pop band Alvvays, makes jangly pop with strong melodies and catchy hooks. Put their self-titled album on during a road-trip this summer and join the rest of us who are anxiously awaiting their next release.
Vancouver-based Dada Plan is weird in the right kind of way. Their songs harken Brian Eno and dabble in experimental pop, hip-hop, and jazz. Most of their songs feature lyrics about end-times and technological takeover and are sung atop sax solos, drum machines, and well…just listen.
Often called Canada’s answer to Frank Ocean, critics shouldn’t be so quick to pigeon-hole and categorise Toronto musician, Daniel Caesar. At 21 years of age and owning one of the best voices I’ve ever heard, I’m certain you’re going to be hearing more of his name. This singer-songwriter has mastered that perfect mix of atmosphere, lyricism, and electronic R&B that you can listen to in any environment at any time.
Spiritual blues, poppy melodies and hooks, jazz percussion, and that smoky and ambient voice that’s impossible to deny. Charlotte Day Wilson‘s swaying vocals and incredible songwriting evoke a Sunday morning melancholy that you don’t want to fade.
I don’t know much about the Toronto-based musician, Ralph. I know that her real name is Raffa Weyman, she makes disco-soul-synth-pop, and that I get a text message every couple of months from a friend who’s seen her live and is in awe and shambles trying to find more information and music from her.
Jessy Lanza is a Canadian electronic songwriter, producer, and vocalist from Hamilton, Ontario. In a review of her debut album, Pull My Hair Back, she was described by The Guardian as “the latest and possibly greatest of the new ethereal soul girls.” We’ll concur.
You might already know of Jazz Cartier from his performances at some of Canada’s bigger music festivals last summer, but he’s primed to explode. Often labelled as a “post-Drake” rapper, Jazz’s style of hip-hop is difficult to pin down. Born in Toronto but moving to the United States, Barbados, and Kuwait before a return to Toronto, he often credits his sound to the influence of regional music he was exposed to while growing up in these varying locales.
Honourable Mentions: White Lung, The Darcys, Lids, Tory Lanez, Dilly Dally, U.S. Girls, Harrison, Shy Kids, The Weather Station, Evening Hymns