The acts to check out on the opening night of CMW 2012.
What should you see tonight at Canadian Music Week? Here are a few ideas.
The music of Melodic Yoza, a former Torontonian living in New York, is like an easy-listening, low-commitment version of dancehall—in the good way. Part of a genre he calls reggae-soul-hop, Melodic’s super-chill sounds are well-matched to a March week that feels more like June. As the winner of the people’s choice award at last summer’s Irie Music Festival, he clearly has the ability to put on a good show. Plus, he’s got one of those songs where he praises marijuana’s qualities as if he’s referring to a woman named Mary Jane. That is seriously one of our favourite categories of music.
Go if: You want the sunshine of August—but inside, at night, and five months early.
The Seoul-based band 3rd Line Butterfly plays as part of CMW’s Wednesday night K-Pop showcase, and their lead singer, Nahm SangAh, sounds like a Korean Cat Power backed by an early-2000s Sonic Youth. In other words, the quartet’s sound, with its layers of gentle reverb and moody guitars, harkens back to the “it’s all boy bands on the radio so let’s just do the exact opposite of everything” days of indie rock’s not-so-distant past, and in all the right ways. Maybe ill-billed in a lineup that (somewhat misleadingly) implies an emphasis on bubblegum jams, the fresh-from-SXSW band will be worth seeing. And it’s refreshing to know that, after over a decade together, the band is finally getting the overseas exposure it so rightly deserves.
Go if: You’re jonesing for a Korean indie time warp.
There are many reasons to go see this recently revived pop-punk outfit from the early aughties—in fact, there are a “Hundred Million” reasons (forgive us, that was too easy). Reunions are what music festivals are all about, after all—so if you’re going to go all out for CMW this year, then Greig Nori and the American Psychos has got to be on your list, even if your skater shoes are covered in dust and your frosted tips have grown out. This is a “Brand New Low” we’d like to experience again.
Go if: You’ve always wondered what happened to power pop.
Just to be straight up right off the top, we don’t have much of an opinion on The Danger Bees, a not-bad, sad-sack pop band from Toronto. The real draw here is Kid Twist, a rap battler extraordinaire who is inexplicably playing alongside the gentle popsters. Twist rose to Internet fame through a YouTube video in which he battles Los Angeles–based Dumbfoundead, taking the win after 15 minutes of fairly offensive, racially charged freestyle rhymes. (Considering it’s a medium built on making the other guy feel bad, rap battles aren’t exactly known for being culturally sensitive.) Wikipedia says Twist graduated from York University’s creative writing program and is famous for his pouffy-front hairstyle. We say: he may look like a huge nerd, but this nerd kills it on the mic. (And, if you miss the show Wednesday, they’re playing again at C’est What on Saturday.)
Go if: You want to see a dope MC surrounded by mopey, sad dudes.
Punk is not dead; it’s alive, well, and hiding in South Korea. Yellow Monsters, a K-punk trio made up of members from Korean aggro bands Delispice, GumX, and My Aunt Mary, is a Seoul-based supergroup of sorts whose throbbing basslines evoke the comfort of a well-worn jean jacket—which is to say, while their sound is nothing unexpected or avant-garde, but it has badassery that feels just right. Like their fellow CMW Korea Night performers 3rd Line Butterfly, the trio recently played SXSW in Austin, Texas. Their second album, Riot!, released last summer, was nominated for last year’s Best Rock Album at the Korean Music Awards, and landed on a couple of Korean rock top-ten lists for 2011. Now we have our own chance to decide whether or not to believe the overseas hype.
Go if: It’s been awhile since you’ve sacrificed a Chuck Taylor to the mosh pit.
Let’s face it—nobody wants to be judged based on their actions as a 15-year-old. Louise Burns especially doesn’t. She spent her teen years hopping from recording studio to industry exec office to large-scale shows with her band, Lillix (yup, Lillix). As much as other girls her age idolized that kind of life, by age 20 Burns was alienated and cynical about her career, so she quit the band and “found herself” through a kind of delayed adolescence. Now, she presents a more mature side in her debut solo album, Mellow Drama, filled with ’50s-sounding pop tunes that got it longlisted for the 2011 Polaris Prize.
Go if: You want to see a darker, cooler, Canadian version of Zooey Deschanel.
Formed in Hamilton in 1996, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings play the type of tunes that are best accompanied by a bottle of whiskey and a drive around in the back of a pick-up truck with a mangy mutt—but that much is probably evident from their name. Armed with a lethal concoction of folk, country, and rock, the Kings have covered songs by greats like Bruce Cockburn and Johnny Cash, while also blazing through their own original material.
Among other distinguishing features, the Kings are maybe the only band to have won a Juno and been included on George W. Bush’s personal playlist. They arrive at CMW with their latest album, Kings and Queens, which was released last June and features such legendary “queens” as Roseanne Cash, Holly Cole, and Emmylou Harris.
Go if: You don’t own a pick-up truck or a mutt but you have a handy flask that can be easily concealed.
Under the tutelage of Canadian rock royalty Sloan, Will Currie and the Country French have begun to carve out a path all their own. Blasting out of Waterloo with tight musicianship, soaring melodies, and a generous dash of lyrical whimsy, the band seems poised to become the next great rock export of the Great White North. Their songs provide the perfect upbeat piano-driven accompaniment to joyously splashing through puddles of rain on a warm spring day.
Touring behind Awake! You Sleepers—their first full-length, which was released last fall under the prestigious File Under: Music umbrella—Currie packs the stage at CMW with a Country French that will include a full brass section. And if one of their live performances in 2007 was enough to convince Jay Ferguson to sign them to his Murderecords label, confident that they were the best live band he had seen that year, they must put on a pretty decent show.
Go if: You own any of Sloan’s albums and/or are a brass-section enthusiast.