Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
If you want a visceral depiction of the immigrant experience, you could watch Scarface. But wouldn’t you rather listen to Canadian Winter’s Just Wait Till February (out now on URBNET)? Instead of an irritable Cuban refugee conquering Miami’s cocaine empire, you get a soft-spoken British gent rapping about finding his footing in the gritty streets of Hamilton. Trust us: it’s a lot more riveting than it sounds.
Essentially a concept album, February chronicles emcee Kobi Annobil’s migration to the Great White North during the dead of—you saw this coming—Canadian winter. Backed by a synthy, soulful hip-hop band, he starts his narrative in an airplane above Dundas Square on “Cleared for Landing” (streaming right), recounting his decision to leave behind his life in the U.K. amid a wash of whimsical strings and horns. From there, he becomes enamoured by Toronto’s luminous skyline (“City Lights”), falls in love while taking Southern Ontario’s public transit system (“GO Bus Shorty”), suffers a bout of immigration alienation (“Northpole At Night”), and kvetches a lot about the weather.
Lush, top-shelf production by Supa83, Slow Hand Motem, and Cheese Shop Paddy make this record avant-garde enough for the indie kids, coating ’90s boom bap sensibilities in an ultra-slick, electronic sheen. Canadian Winter’s biggest draw, however, is Annobil’s down-to-earth, autobiographical flow. Much akin to Mike Skinner of The Streets, he sounds more like he’s speaking than spitting, coming off as an ordinary dude who hates his day job but needs to pay the rent somehow (which he actually raps about on “Overtime”). No guns, drugs or “ho”s here; just a bloke trying to assimilate himself into Canadian culture. Even when he does get boastful, it’s quite harmless: “Thinking it’s cute that I sound all British / So she throws me a few more Timbits.”
Don’t you just want to grab a pint with this guy? You should. Sounds like he could use the friends.