With the Canadian Music Week kicking into high year again from May 6-10, many great Canadian Bands and artists are pouring into clubs all around the city of Toronto. With such high powered acts like Walk Off The Earth, City & Colour, Neko Case, Teenage Head etcetera playing this year, I decided to take a close look at Toronto bands and artists that have played in previous years that are regarded as some of the best in Canadian music that are not signed to any major label. Sorry Beliebers.
This Toronto New Wave band has had a major influence on the Toronto music scene since their first album Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? was released in 2003. Front woman, Emily Haines, attended Etobicoke School of the Arts where she met Amy Millan (future member of Stars and Broken Social Scene), and Kevin Drew (future member of Broken Social Scene). Haines is synonymous with both bands, both of which are on this list, and with Metric garnered interest from major record labels in Canada and USA. Through the years, Metric has become a staple of the Canadian music scene.
Peaches really needs little introduction, as they may be one of the most “mainstream” of the list. Born Merrill Beth Nisker, Peaches evolved into the electroshock artist she is now. With her sophomore album Teaches Of Peaches, from 2000, she was pinned onto the map of influential Toronto musicians just by the sheer shock of the tracks that laced the album. Her indie-singer roommate Feist contributed vocals for the album. There is no denying the deep influences from 1980s New Wave music scene added to the overt pro-sex postfeminist themes. And she did a song with Iggy Pop. How many artists can say that?
3. Fucked Up
Punk rock hasn’t been the same since the 70’s and 80’s scene but this Canadian band has been pushing the envelope for several years now. Their shows are always chaotic and full energy and shows those who attend that real punk energy will always be around and will always thrive underground. Fucked Up made some mainstream waves with their 2011 release “David Comes To Life” with a meta heavy punk rock opera. The track “Queen Of hearts” is showcases this Canadian band’s hard hitting and thematic melodies and rough vocals mixed with a high level of distortion. And it’s a damn good time, too. Oh, and they won the Polaris Music Prize in 2009, which is a big deal.
4. Crystal Castles
Perhaps the most obscure of the list this duo of musicians has been imbedded in the electronic music scene for a few years now. Forming in 2004 CC released their first self-titled album in 2008, to much acclaim. Their video game glitchy sound really seemed to resonate with quite a few people and the vibe that Front woman, Alice Glass, exuded on stage always makes for a chaotic and fun night. While mostly underground they broke into the mainstream charts with their collaboration with The Cure front man, Robert Smith, for “Not In Love” off their II album. They have since released III and moved to Europe but they will always be known as a premiere band to see in Canada. And when they’re in Toronto you’re in for one long night of ear deafening sound and chaotic crowd surfing.
5. Ron Sexsmith
While born in St. Catharines, Ron and his family would later move to Toronto in 1986 where he started to run the circuit of hitting up various clubs and pubs in Toronto. In 1991 Ron released his album Grand Opera Lane. While a critical success, every Canadian label subsequently rejected it. As a result, the album was released independently. Eventually on the strength of this album, and the attention garnered by the song “Speaking with the Angel,” Sexsmith earned a contract, which led to his self-titled album in 1995. The album received wider attention when Elvis Costello, for whom Sexsmith later opened, praised it. That didn’t stop Ron from making major waves with his 2002 album Cobblestone Runway.
Perhaps the most pop based band on the list, Ohbijou started as a solo project for the Brantford singer-songwriter Casey Mecija and over the years transformed into the septet ensemble it is now. Since the release of their debut album Swift Feet for Troubling Times in 2006, Ohbijou have played countless festivals across Canada. While they have been asked to join major labels, these humble musicians prefer to hit up the small clubs across North America and connect with their fans in intimate shows. That hasn’t stopped them from receiving mainstream success, for example, in 2008 they were chosen as one of three bands for the Banff Centre’s first Indie Band Residency, where they had the opportunity to spend two weeks working with some top producers and recording engineers. Their recent and third album, Metal Meets, really showcases the heart tugging and warm music that Torontonians have grew to love from them. They decided to go on hiatus in fall of 2013 but Ohbijou will always be a live band people need to experience.
7. Broken Social Scene
Their 2002 album You Forgot It In People started a serious indie revolution in Toronto with their mix of loud guitars, opaque lyrics and experimental soundscapes. These elements can sometimes be a recipe for some pretentious stuff but BSS are masters of crafting some pop music with class. BSS has made an everlasting mark not only on the Toronto indie scene but the world music scene, as well. And helped to elevate some Canadian artists into the international music scene, like Feist and Emily Haines (Metric).
Honourable mentions: Death From Above 1979, Serena Ryder, Justin Beiber
What’s your favourite Canadian band/artist? Who are you looking forward to seeing this week?