Here are a few ways to make your weekend pop at Canadian Music Week.
Screw fighting, Saturday night’s all right for music. Sunday, too.
This London, England-based quintet broke onto their home scene in 2006, but didn’t make the jump across the pond until their debut full-length album Reservoir dropped in late 2009. But they found a home with their blend of pop and folk, the adorable vocals of Amos Memon and Cathy Lucas, and a unique orchestration with an eclectic assortment of instruments. Since then, they haven’t stopped adding to their arsenal of musical tools. Their latest album Rooms Filled With Light, released last month, mixes in a heavy dose of ’80s electronica—which works much better than it sounds.
Go if: You don’t have enough musical saw in your life.
Describing music to someone can be an undeniably tricky endeavor. It’s always important to proceed with caution when trying to reduce an artist’s sound to a complex formula employing mash-ups of genres and other bands—sometimes qualifying this amalgam even further by then placing it in a quirky location—like, say, space or the rainforest. So to say that Toronto’s Bravestation are like the long-lost stepbrother of The National who happen to have been raised by the Killers in a small African village, may not entirely do the group’s rich textures any justice.
Perhaps some music simply needs to be heard, and that’s what is happening more and more for Bravestation these days. Having confounded rock critics even further by earning Peter Gabriel comparisons with their new single, “Signs of the Civilized,” they are readying their debut full-length for release later this year. If it sounds anything like their previous output, it will be both surprising and likely to blow up the super-computer that creates these hybrid genres.
Go if: You want to take your own shot at classifying the unclassifiable.
A new element in this year’s festival is a joint production between local music agency Young Lion’s Music Club, Spinner, Canadian Music Week, and Red Bull Music Academy: the Artist Select Series. Three Canadian artists were handed the Garrison and six to seven time slots, and got to program their own evening of CMW music. Shad was up first on Wednesday, followed by Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys on Friday, and Saturday ends with Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning, who will host and DJ in between sets. He’s got a doozy of a show, featuring top-notch TO talent like the Balconies, ALX, and Teenage Kicks, plus Montreal’s Uncle Bad Touch and Yardlets. Even a band from down under, Melbourne’s Husky. A guaranteed stellar evening.
Go if: You want a small peek at Brendan Canning’s iTunes library.
As part of a solid line-up at the Indies that includes Passion Pit and Rich Aucoin, Dan Mangan somehow manages to remain a standout. The singer-songwriter has been on a steady ascent since he first picked up a guitar, and specializes in the kind of lush, intimate tunes that seem only a natural by-product of his Vancouver hometown. There is an earnestness and literate quality to his evocative lyrics that cuts to the core of a myriad of complex emotions.
His rise to prominence began with 2010’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice, which was shortlisted for the Polaris Prize and released in the United States and Europe on the Toronto-based Arts & Crafts label. He has branched out his spare arrangements on his newest effort, last year’s Oh, Fortune, and the result has been an unequivocal success. As evidence, he has been nominated for Junos this year in four categories including, inexplicably, Best New Artist.
Go if: You’re feeling a little melancholy and in need of a big musical hug.
Rich Aucoin doesn’t do anything halfway. His breakout EP, 2011’s We’re All Dying to Live, is a towering, anthemic achievement that, by recording standards alone, is already day-makingly good as it is. Now imagine that it was written as the soundtrack to a film Aucoin himself edited, spliced together from dozens of others, and that the whole idea took root during a cross-Canada cycling expedition for cancer research a few years back. Oh, and that there’s something like 500 unique contributors on the record in total. No big deal.
We first saw him in his element last summer, at a bar in Halifax called Gus’s. Months later, in January, it was the Drake. No matter where it happens, a Rich Aucoin show is its own universe with its own natural laws, where energy is utterly limitless and confetti cannons are bottomless. There aren’t enough glowing adjectives for what this electro-pop phenom is doing for Canadian music.
Go if: You ever played with a parachute in gym class and totally want to again.
Saturday’s a fine night for dancing, and Toronto favourite Grahmzilla is expert in ensuring that sort of thing goes down. Known for being the music end of ill-fated local duo Thunderheist, and more recently for some sweet slow-jam mix-tapes, he can throw down electro, hip-hop, breaks, and more as if it wasn’t any kind of thing. He also does live PA and DJ performances as Nautiluss, a deep techno project signed to Montreal’s Turbo Records. So… he’s pretty sweet, I guess.
Go if: You’re fixin’ for a throw-down.
It’s a good thing we don’t go to concerts to read, because with songs like “o0Oo0O0o” and “Away Frm U,” a track list can look more like your 13-year-old sister’s text history. They’d probably be about the same thing too, since Oberhofer’s forthcoming LP Time Capsules II (March 27) revolves around frontman Brad Oberhofer’s broken heart as he moved from Tacoma to NYU and lost the girl. The lyrics are like a page from his diary, but the music is strong and Oberhofer’s voice is bold. With the band on the brink of blowing up, we’re sure Oberhofer will break his fair share of hearts along the way too.
Go if: You’ve never cried and danced at the same time before.
Known best as the producer and DJ for hip-hop pioneers A Tribe Called Quest, Ali Shaheed Muhammad has had a rocky career since the group broke up in 1998. For a while afterwards, he joined members of En Vogue and Tony! Toni! Toné! to form Lucy Pearl, which only put out one album. In 2004 he released a solo album which, while not being a smash hit or even close, showed that he’s actually not a bad MC. But for his CMW show, he’s going back to his roots—manning the decks at Cheval at an as-yet-undisclosed time. Unlike those cheesy MCs who get lazy and go on DJ tours, Ali Shaheed Muhammad is the real deal, so expect a quality DJ set, creative mixing, and some seriously sweet jams.
Go if: You are a serious nostalgic for back in the days and/or want a reason to go inside a King Street West nightclub.
The men of Tupper Ware Remix Party are superheroes. Or maybe they’re aliens. Or are they alien superheroes? Okay, so it’s hard to tell exactly what they are, but what they do is a little more transparent: incite dance parties and get bodies gyrating. Dressed in outlandish costumes befitting their nature, they create what could be the soundtrack to a lost ‘80s video game or cartoon. With pulsating drums, crunchy guitars, and dramatic synth lines, the band earns high scores without any need for vocals.
Ostensibly from a distant planet from which they have taken their name (but more than likely calling Halifax their home), the relative newcomers to Earth have self-released albums like 2007’s Sex Is A Machine That Likes To Dance and 2010’s Poised To Dominate. They possess a refreshing, tongue-in-cheek sense of humour in an industry saturated with artists that take themselves far too seriously, and would make an excellent choice for those looking to close out their fest with a bang.
Go if: You want to dance, stupid! Or, if you just want to see a man wearing an oversized parking cone on his head.