UNCHARTED is Chart Attack's showcase of independent Canadian artists we think you should hear. This week, 12 Canadian artists we think will take 2017 and make it theirs.
As is our tradition, once we've fully teased out our favourite songs and music videos of the year we resolve to stop looking back and start looking forwards. In our attempt to leave the flaming garbage pail that is 2016 as far behind as possible, we've put together our picks for the Canadian acts we think are going to make big noise in 2017. 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.
An outlaw country singer living in Texas, a jangle-pop band with the ultimate jangle-pop co-sign, an obscure rapper/producer whose first show is at Coachella, a CanPop elder remaking herself as a sultry-cool crooner, a Halifax experimenter playing in about 12 different projects — they're all well worth your listen and they're all included down below.
That said, don't forget to check out our UNCHARTED look forward from last year; some of our picks, like Alice Glass, Darlene Shrugg and Partner, are still sitting on their debut LPs for 2017, but when they drop they're going to drop hard. And for more bands to watch from music scenes all over Canada, here's Personal Views.
Check out our picks below and let us know what we've missed.
Who: Vancouver trio The Courtneys have developed a devoted fan base with songs about slacker life and ’80s heartthrobs. They’re the only band in the world that can claim to have toured with Tegan and Sara while also including a member of noise-punk lifers Shearing Pinx.
What they sound like: Guitarist Courtney Loove, bassist Sydney Koke, and drummer/lead singer Jen Twynne Payne blast out endlessly catchy jangle-pop. Stated influences include New Zealand bands like The Clean and Look Blue Go Purple with the garage-rock propulsion of Australia’s Eddy Current Supression Ring.
Why it's going to be a big year: With the most fitting match imaginable for their inspirations from down under, The Courtneys have become the first Canadian band signed to New Zealand’s legendary Flying Nun Records. Their second self-titled album will be released in February and has been teased with the daydreamy single “Silver Velvet.” A globetrotting tour will surely follow. – Jesse Locke
Who: We've played this game before. Mysterious rapper/producer from Toronto comes from obscurity and almost immediately gets major Soundcloud plays, endorsements from celebfluencers like Kylie Jenner, and prime collaborations with the likes of Metro Boomin. All the while you're asking "where did this guy come from?" Because that's exactly what he wants you to be asking.
What he sounds like: A lot like you'd expect someone with that profile to sound like: hazy production, slow, narcotic sing-rap boasts, and sly references to who he's affiliated with. Sound familiar? Yeah, he's in The Weeknd's XO crew.
Why it's going to be a big year: Nav just announced his first show ever... at Coachella. - Richard Trapunski
Who: Vancouver guitar/drum bros Brian King and David Prowse laid low since their 2012 album Celebration Rock activated the nostalgic pleasure centres of guitar-starved indie fans everywhere. "Where's Japandroids?" became a common refrain.
What they sound like: Celebration Rock is essentially a genre in and of itself (something akin to Bryan Adams with way more distortion). They've promised some updates to their no-frills sound — acoustic guitars, synths, you know the drill — but that's not why people are missing Japandroids. They just want to unleash the regrettable tattoos they have hidden under their dress shirts and remind themselves of that summer they bought their first real six string.
Why it's going to be a big year: Their new album Near To The Wild Heart Of Life comes out January 27 on Arts & Crafts, and if you listen really hard you can already hear the "whoa-ohs" wafting out the windows of all the nearest Mustangs. - Richard Trapunski
What they sound like: Genesis calls it "fetish rap" — hyper-sexual lines rhymed with impossible chill over 100% synthetica, like PC Music making trap. All packaged with an art school kid's attention to #aesthetic.
Why it's going to be a big year: Genesis was teasing the follow-up to 2015's World Vision for at least half of last year. In a recent interview, she said it's already supposed to be out, but the label said: "Let's make it bigger." Look for it in February, roughly the same time she's slated to play Iceland's Sónar Reykjavík. – Chris Hampton
Photo by: Ryan Parker, from EXPOSURES: Sled Island
Who: Formed in Victoria before moving to Montreal, supercharged post-punk quartet Fountain might be the best band in Canada. The songs from their self-released cassettes become even more feverishly exciting in live performances. A late 2016 tour with Toronto’s New Fries saw Fountain flip a whole new set of lids.
What they sound like: Frenetically paced instrumental interplay with vocals shouted/sung in unison and more spiky hooks hammered in than Hellraiser’s Pinhead. If your record collection includes Wire, Gang of Four, or The Homosexuals, Fountain should be your new favourite band.
Why it's going to be a big year: Fountain recently recorded their debut LP at Seattle producer Ian Kurtis Christ’s Office Space. Bottling the intensity of their stage show, it was captured completely live. The as-yet untitled album is slated for release in the near future with plans to tour extensively. – Jesse Locke
Who: Saskatoon’s Samantha Renner, Joanna Graves, and Brianna Whitmore are the original trio behind The Avulsions. Now joined by multi-instrumentalist/producer Josh Rohs, their riveting live sets have made them one of the most hotly tipped bands in Western Canada.
What they sound like: With a recorded output as sparse as their gothic deathrock, The Avulsions’ describe the sentiments behind their sound as “extremes of panic, fear, collapse, the struggle between hope and futility.” Morbid vocals are fleshed out with Sonic Youth-style guitar clang, pounding rhythms, and spectral synths.
Why it's going to be a big year: The Avulsions’ debut album sharpens the focus on their songs (sometimes stretching to 12 minutes) while bringing them down darker and stranger corridors than ever before. It’s currently planned for release in the fall with a preceding summer tour. – Jesse Locke
Who: Saskatoon two-piece from Janice Weber and Kalon Beaudry that was basically everyone's #1 favourite when we last took a closer look at the scene. Evolved from beloved dream pop act the The Foggy Notions.
What they sound like: "If John Maus was influenced by the Cult instead of baroque..." according to their bio. A gazey, ethereal, and analogue take on the gothy English alt-rock of the mid to late '80s.
Why it's going to be a big year: 2016's 8-song debut was a standout, but the band calls their forthcoming EP, Precipice, slated for release in February, their "most ambitious yet." "Expect more synth and more reverb," we're told. – Chris Hampton
Who: This PEI-born neotraditional country singer is such a throwback to classic Texas outlaw sounds that she went ahead and moved full time to Austin. Her upcoming album, out January 27 on Canadian label Six Shooter (also home to Tanya Tagaq), fittingly, is called South Texas Suite.
What she sounds like: Her band includes players who've done time with Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. That should give you a pretty good idea, if you also sprinkle in some Patsy Cline and some honky tonk. Her first single from the new album "My Boots" shows off a singer who's living out of time — whiskey not champagne, boots not heels, a tonne of hot picking — which is not a bad place for a 2017 country singer to be.
Why it's going to be a big year: She's getting ready to tour Canada and is strengthening her hold on Austin. Nashville couldn't be far behind. - Richard Trapunski
Who: Montreal-via-Toronto’s Alexandra Mackenzie creates experimental electronic pop and mind-warping visual art. Her work is fused together in a multidisciplinary zone refracting issues of human rights, community, and environmental devastation.
What she sounds like: The shuddering beats and alien synths of Petra Glynt’s productions radiate into a neon supernova with her jaw-dropping operatic vocals. If you’re beaming up for the first time, start with the video for 2013’s “Sour Paradise.”
Why it's going to be a big year: Petra Glynt’s long-anticipated album This Trip will be released alongside a touring art exhibition of paintings and animations. In her words, it will serve as “the visual world that houses the music.” – Jesse Locke
Who: While the term “genre agnostic” has become commonplace, Nick Dourado brings a joyous yet deadly serious reverence to all musical forms. This hyper-prolific status quo challenger is based in Halifax but takes his sonic explorations far beyond.
What he sounds like: Dourado’s projects range from avant-pop (Special Costello, Century Egg) to jazz (XXVII), the double-drum free-improv insanity of Eddy and the hip-hop sound collage mixtapes of his solo project Budi.
Why it's going to be a big year: In 2017, Dourado promises the new Century Egg EP River God (“pop-punk at the library”), a Special Costello album (“arena-rock opera”), three Budi mixtapes, Eddy’s latest “smashup”, and a pair of albums from XXVII (one saxophone trio with Montreal’s James Goddard and another with renowned percussionist Jerry Granelli). – Jesse Locke
Photo by: M. Cardin
Who: A spiky post-punk trio (with blood ties to Women and their signature Calgary glower) when we first met them, Blanka is now a Montreal-based dark wave duo comprised of Christian Conner and Bryce Cloghesy.
What they sound like: 2015's Yasuda was a masterclass in the dark arts — kraut, industrial, minimalism — but the Maxim remix album featuring Matt Loveridge and She-Devils points towards the group's future: dancier, diving deeper into the circuitry. When I saw them play CMW this past spring, they'd nearly transformed into an EBM group.
Why it's going to be a big year: When they teased their debut full-length titled Fall In Love at the end of 2016, Conner wrote that he was so hyped with what they've put together that he's are seriously "a-ok with dying after this album is done." Hopefully, not before they tour Europe in March 2017 to support. Fall In Love is fully recorded, we're told, and in the process of being mixed by Braids' Taylor Smith. It'll be out come springtime. – Chris Hampton
Who: Are you ready for Nelly Furtado's full ascension into cool kid status? The CanPop lifer has recently re-emerged as a collaborator of artists like Dev Hynes and Kaytranada and her next album is produced by John Congleton who's worked with artists like St. Vincent and Angel Olsen. She's keeping the right company. Her newest single even debuted on The Fader.
What she sounds like: The first taste of The Ride, out in March, falls somewhere between early bohemian Nelly and Loose Nelly — the kind of sophistipop that dominates year end lists now that pop and R&B singers are our best auteurs. You could slot it between Blood Orange and Solange on a playlist and that would be a great playlist.
Why it's going to be a big year: Nelly Furtado looks ready to complete her Robyn-esque transformation. We're ready for it too. - Richard Trapunski