Uncharted - 2016

UNCHARTED: 12 Canadian artists we’re excited for in 2016

Shadowy R&B, queer punk, an electro-punk favourite reinventing herself, and more to look forward to this year.

- Jan 7, 2016
UNCHARTED is Chart Attack's showcase of independent Canadian artists we think you should hear.

2015 was a huge year for Canadian music, but we can only rest on those laurels for so long. In the spirit of looking forward, rather than back, we've gathered a list of 12 artists we're excited about for the coming year. We gathered this using the same philosophy we do when choosing artists for UNCHARTED: acts we believe are doing something vital and deserve your attention.

We've mostly opted away from bands we've already covered similarly, only including more established acts if they're beginning a new project or forging together into a new one. That said, definitely look out for the new record by Nap Eyes, River Tiber is still a young producer we think you should watch, and, if Owen Pallett & Tanya Tagaq make good on their word to record an album together then that will obviously be amazing.

Below, in no particular order, 12 more recommendations, from shadowy about-to-break R&B to warm fuzzy queer punk, and why we think you should be paying attention. For many more "best new bands" recommendations, from Whitehorse to Winnipeg, check out PERSONAL VIEWS. And if you have your own recommendations, come share them with us here.

Alice Glass

alice glass

Who: The former enfant terrible of electro-punk had a very public breakup with her former Crystal Castles bandmate Ethan Kath that made him look like the winner of the passive aggressive Olympics and her look like a saint in comparison. A saint in goth fashion heaven, which is definitely a place.

What they sound like: Crystal Castles' sound was beginning to sound a bit stale, so the fact that Kath is trying to replicate Glass' vocals with a soundalike singer and hoping no one looks up their Myspace page in the Wayback Machine doesn't bode well for the new version of CC. "Stillbirth," the solo debut from Glass, meanwhile, shows her taking the digital noise we know her by and forging into more personal and more overtly political directions.

Why it's going to be a big year: You can feel how revitalized she is. And after she spent 2015 reinventing herself, this is bound to be the year she starts to release music and, hopefully, start touring. - Richard Trapunski



Who: Despite the shroud of mystery surrounding him, there's a few things we know about dvsn: he's from Toronto, he's got loose ties to OVO, and he's poised for a breakout 2016.

What they sound like: Smooth, soulful, falsetto-stroked R&B over some truly stellar production.

Why it's going to be a big year: Back in October, "Hotline Bling" producer Nineteen85 premiered dvsn's track "The Line" during his OVO Sound Radio guest mix. Since then, three more songs have been steadily released: "With Me," "Too Deep," and "Hallucinations," each adding to the excitement surrounding his music. What's most exciting, though, is that it's just getting started. 2016 is going to be the make-it-or-break-it. - Adam Pugsley


She-Devils bands to watch 2016

Who: Upstart tandem team Audrey Ann and Kyle Jukka from Montreal.

What they sound like: You know how Donny & Marie were a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll? Well, in the band's own words, She-Devils are a little bit '90s TV and a little bit '50s glamour. Think Nancy Sinatra over .gif-sized loops of warped surf vinyl.

She-Devils - COME

Why it's going to be a big year: A tour in support of Majical Cloudz on the tail of a massive endorsement from Grimes, all just ahead of their debut EP out January 15. - Chris Hampton

Darlene Shrugg

darlene shrugg

Photo by: Joe Strutt, Mechanical Forest Sound

Who: Slim Twig, U.S. Girls, Ice Cream and all-star drummer Simone TB (Fake Palms, The Highest Order) have joined forces to basically unite the Toronto east end in one band.

What they sound like: All the tropes of classic rock, taken apart and put back together. It's a little like the excellent stoner-psych exercise of Slim Twig's last album Thank You For Stickin' With Twig, but both more firepower and more conceptual heft.

Why it's going to be a big year: It's a supergroup, so everyone has their own shit going on, and the iron was hot for all of them in 2015, so Darlene Shrugg is only an occasional concern. But when they get together onstage it's a force to reckon with: the very macho tropes of '60s and '70s, harnessed and perverted by a band of outsider weirdos that happens to be four-fifths female. - Richard Trapunski

Roy Wood$


Who: The newest, youngest member of OVO, fresh off the release of his debut EP, EXIS. 

What they sound like: Hip-hop? No, wait, R&B. It's hard to say exactly. The atmospheric, hard hitting production on EXIS coupled with his unique vocal style creates a mood suitable for those late-night drives around the city.

Why it's going to be a big year: Now that he's got the support of OVO behind him, his debut EP under his belt, and an enthusiastic fanbase, it seems as though the only direction for Roy is up. He'll be looking to capitalize in 2016. Let's see what he's got to offer. - Adam Pugsley


Vallens bands to watch 2016

Who: Toronto-based songwriter Robyn Phillips formerly of Fill Spectre and The Holiday Crowd.

What they sound like: According to Vallens' Facebook page: "meme-gaze, goth-gaze, gaze-gaze, dark-gaze, idk-gaze." Maybe called ethereal wave once upon a time. The spiritual kin of Portishead, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Soft Cell, New Order and Low.

Why it's going to be a big year: Vallens' debut full-length, recorded with Psychic TV's Jeff Berner and Josh Korody (Beliefs, WISH, Nailbiter), is due out Spring 2016 on Hand Drawn Dracula. They've already become a go-to support band for, like, every good show in Toronto, so this is probably the year they'll move up on the bill. - Chris Hampton



Who: BloodPop a.k.a. BLOOD a.k.a Blood Diamonds a.k.a. Michael Tucker is an L.A.-based, Kansas-born, Vancouver-bred superproducer. He made "Go" with Grimes. He made "Sorry" with Skrillex and Justin Bieber.

What they sound like: BloodPop is the future. And, turn on the radio, the future is now.

Why it's going to be a big year: In the last two years, the 24-year-old has worked with Grimes, Bieber, Skrillex, Madonna, Tinashe, HANA, Pia Mia, and DJ Dahi (producer of Drake's "Worst Behaviour" and Kendrick's "Money Trees"), even Superman couldn't stop that meteor. - Chris Hampton


Germaphobes Bands to watch 2016

Who: Childhood pals Neil Rankin and Paul Erlichman (both of defunct Toronto band Gay) on an expedition to explore "the more outré fringes of pop music."

What they sound like: In the email that introduced me to Germaphobes, Tom Avis wrote: "Big dorky pop music for dorks." That sounds about right. Pocket protector rock. Like, I would imagine Rankin and Erlichman are intimately familiar with the Talking Heads, Devo, Oingo Boingo, SparksRoxy MusicXTC, and discrete mathematics.

Why it's going to be a big year: Pleasence Records released the band's debut EP Magic Eye at the end of the year and it rules harder than, oh, let's say, the Dungeons & Dragons The Temple of Elemental Evil module (which, if you're familiar with Dungeon magazine, is ranked among the greatest of all time). - Chris Hampton



Who: Lucy Niles and Josée Caron, a queer punk duo from Sackville, New Brunswick that is the sonic equivalent of that warm fuzzy feeling you get in a mosh pit full of likeminded friends and not a single aggro dude.

What they sound like: The dream of the '90s is alive in New Brunswick. Specifically, the dream of earnest, unpretentious, likeable slacker rock that leaves you with a big goofy smile on your face. Songs about smoking hash and Ellen Page that will leave you humming for days.

Partner - Hot Knives (Official Video)

Why it's going to be a big year: They got the coveted Ellen Page bump and they've got an EP coming out on You've Changed Records. As fun as they are on record, they're sure to be even more so live. So we'll be checking them out at Wavelength 16 in February. - Richard Trapunski

New Fries

new fries

Who: They're a band from Toronto in the mid-2010's, but if you weren't paying attention you could easily mistake them for one of the pioneering punk bands in the late-'70s/early-'80s New York art scene.

What they sound like: The band is a mix of seasoned musicians and newbies, an old No Wave shortcut to semi-structured spontaneity and almost-chaos. Maybe that's how Anni Spadafora achieves that mesmerizing trick where it seems like the scrapes and yelps are coaxed out of her by the music, and not the other way around. It's a live show unlike much else in Toronto and it gets better every time I see it.

Why it's going to be a big year: They've released a few bite sized chunks of music over the last couple of years on Pleasence Records and they're due for their debut LP. We're hoping it's soon. But if it's not, I hope they keep playing in the meantime. - Richard Trapunski



Who: Vincent, David, Simon and Steven. They’re from Montreal, therefore have the best access to prime Canadian delicacies.

What they sound like: That dream you had when you were in a good emo band, but better. It’s like a menacing storm of teddy bears falling from the sky that chase you down, but it turns out they just want a hug. The best parts of Tiny Moving Parts and Runaway Brother.

"F'real for Real" by Gulfer (official video)

Why it's going to be a big year: After releasing What Gives last summer, signing with Topshelf Records, and a new record likely to come this year, all signs are pointing to Gulfer consuming your ears and dinner. - Ryan Parker

Witch Prophet

witch prophet ayo leilani

Who: Ayo Leilani is a co-founder of the queer-friendly Afrofuturist Toronto collective 88 Days of Fortune and a member of Above Top Secret. Witch Prophet is her new solo(ish) recording project.

What they sound like: What's a synonym for "cool"? Witch Prophet's incredible Stas THEE Boss-featuring "Architect of Heartbreak" very narrowly missed our Best Canadian Songs of 2015 list. It's one of just a couple songs floating around, but the silky smooth, moody R&B vibe (what melancholy might look like past a pair of dark sunglasses) is so addictive we've been waiting impatiently for another taste ever since we premiered it.

Why it's going to be a big year: We corresponded with Leilani at the end of last year and she sounded poised, not just about her own music, but about 88 Days of Fortune as a whole. It could be a big year for both. Look out for bizZarh, who just released their first video. - Richard Trapunski

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