UNCHARTED: 2013 in Review: Catching up with ten of our favourite musical discoveries

Phedre, Speedy Ortiz, White Poppy, Fiver, and more look back at 2013 and forward to 2014.

- Dec 20, 2013

Uncharted is our weekly showcase of independent artists we think you should hear. To sum up 2013, we catch up with ten of our favourite discoveries and ask them to reflect on their year and look forward to the next one.


Listen, we love the Beyoncés, Kanyes and Arcade Fires as much as you do, but what gets our fingers typing is digging up the weirdo pop musicians, DIY punk bands and forward-thinking electro-colonists crammed into squats and loft spaces and giving them a platform to go long and in-depth in interviews in ways a short magazine arts profile can't. To celebrate the end of 2013, we're taking a brief break from looking forward and catching back up with some of our favourite discoveries from the year of music.

We sent each artist a trio of simple questions and let them take it in any direction they wanted to. Some, like Speedy Ortiz and Broken Deer, took it in an even more enthusiastic direction than we would have thought. Have a listen to their music, and see what they have planned for the next year. Needless to say, we're excited for each and every one of them.


Phédre

Daniel Lee and April Aliermo are both restless spirits. The all-star duo released a pair of records in 2013, one from their longer-standing indie rock outfit Hooded Fang, and the other from their experimental future pop guise Phédre. So it makes sense that they’re more interested in looking forward than reminiscing (our interview with the pair before the release of Phédre’s sophomore LP Golden Age should tell you plenty about their three-months-ago mindset). Here, they give us a few highlights of their year (they both loved the debut album from Run The Jewels and its “heavy beats that make you feel royal”), but more importantly tell us what’s next.

What was your most memorable musical moment of 2013: writing, listening, performing, whatever?

There's been a few. Watching the Toronto music scene thrive like crazy - the Long Winter series is an endeavour that we really respect, in that it brings so many different people together. Playing really fun shows in Europe. Eating schnitzel.

Can you sum up your year in 10 words or less?

Jeez, what the heck are we doing with our lyfe?

What are you looking forward to in 2014? Any big musical or life plans?

Yea! We started working on ETERNA. Its got a lot of live instruments on it, that we're recording in April's living room. We're gonna drop it on tape with a colouring book. We're hoping that two of our fave comic book artists, Patrick Kyle & Michael Deforge, will do it, but we haven't asked them yet. If they reject us, we'll just do it ourselves or something.

We were also going to drop a dance floor hit, but there's no point now, since Beyoncé recently just did everything we were going to do.

Also gonna take up yogatic jogswimming on horseback.


Blue Hawaii

Raphaelle Standell-Preston used to indulge different sides of her musical psyche in her two projects, BRAIDS and Blue Hawaii. 2013 was the year that they started to merge into one dreamy, electronic drift. We spoke to her and her BH (and life) partner Alex Cowan in early 2013 about being a romantically-entwined band and their burgeoning Montreal weird pop scene (apparently the cause of some anxiety). Now, we catch up with the pair over email to reflect.

What was your most memorable musical moment of 2013?

DJing sketchy little parties with Corin from Purity Ring on our spring tour. Very fun packing a little basement somewhere and having raph yell at the crowd for a bit over some beats...

Can you sum up your year in 10 words or less?

Crazy town with those ups and downs

What are you looking forward to in 2014?

So far the thing planned is a few one-off dates in Asia & Mexico in the deep winter. Couldn't ask for anything better.


Teenanger

In 2013, Toronto garage punks Teenanger gave us a piece of sage, if counter-intuitive wisdom in their Singles Dont $ell LP (Sure, singles are probably the bestselling product for boldfaced names, but that shit sure don't work for indie bands). Last we chatted, the conversation hung on Al Pacino playing Phil Spector, favourite Ramones songs, and punching Donald Trump in his stupid face. Drummer Steve Sidoli was kind enough to look back over the year and mark a few highs and lows (like "watching all of the band money blow away in a windstorm").

What was your most memorable musical moment of 2013?

I think for me, it would have to be a band practice we had in early October. Our schedule was intense in that we were touring every weekend and also preparing the Ramones cover set for Death to T.O. III. With all that going on, we still managed to set aside one night to start writing new material. I went into the jam a bit skeptical that we'd be able to come up with anything worthwhile, just because the band atmosphere was a bit "burnt out." We left a few hours later with four new songs that were crazy good and close to being complete. The whole process was effortless and it was one of those reaffirming moments which, sometimes as a musician, you really need.

Can you sum up your year in 10 words or less?

2013: How we stopped worrying and learned to love the LARP.

What do you have planned for 2014?

The plan for Teenanger in 2014 is the same as it’s always been for us. Work hard. Push our limits. Get on the road as much as possible. Release new material. Try not to kill each other. Limit the ingestion of foods that may cause the van to get stinky. Personally, I'd like to learn how to sing falsetto. I think that is the key to fame and/or fortune.


Fiver

If the world was a just place, critics would be talking about “the year of Simone Schmidt” instead of “the year of Pharrell.” Following the indefinite hiatus of One Hundred Dollars, the rootsy Toronto singer/songwriter released two new 2013 records with two different outfits, Fiver and The Highest Order. Both could fit comfortably on any year-end list. Her beautifully evocative lyrics words enough, but she gave us a whole lot more in our wide-spanning interview: professional wrestling, the dangerous narrative of the “cancer survivor” and why indie rock artists are afraid to get political. We caught up with her again for a few highlights of the year.

Undertaker - "Lost The Plot" by Fiver

What was your most memorable musical moment of 2013?

Kristina from Saffron Sect playing flute like I never heard anyone play. It's also my most recent musical moment, since it happened last week at the Horseshoe.

Can you sum up your year in 10 words or less?

Put out two records, got two nephews, raised my bed.

What are you looking forward to in 2014?

I don't have huge plans, no. Just keep writing, making music, try to figure out how to keep living in Toronto, or move out of here.


Broken Deer

Surrounded by the sharp quiet of the South Shore in Nova Scotia, Broken Deer's Lindsay Dobbin articulated on Unseen World the magical and imperceptible changes that happen within both the natural world and our own bodies, a churning and ever-changing ambience that's only partially within our knowable realms. Our conversation was enlightening, and her plans for the new year promised further deep connections with herself and the world around her.

What was your most memorable musical moment of 2013?

I can't narrow it down to one thing, as it was a very memorable and productive year, so here's a list of 13 for 2013 in (sort of) chronological order:

1) Receiving a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to study shamanic drumming.

2) Improvising music with Double Vision Quest (Evan Cardwell) and JFM for a group of improvising dancers at Halifax's DANspace in March, and then improvising music with them for a group of plants at Halifax's Common Roots Urban Farm in June.

3) Self-releasing Polaraura on cassette wrapped in birch bark, and Heather Rappard's sublime video for "My Heart is in the Highlands."

4) Building a traditional frame drum out of deer hide.

5) OBEY Convention IV. Performing in it and witnessing it.

6) Spending a lot of time listening to and swimming in the ocean.

7) Getting swimmer's ear for the first time as a result, but composing a deep listening song that healed it.

8) Self-releasing the album Unseen World as a zine of dreams, and Cheryl Hann's out-there video for "Saddest Song in Outer Space."

9) Sharing the stage with friend and collaborator Evan Cardwell (Double Vision Quest) at Saint Matthew's Church for my performance in the Halifax Pop Explosion, and James Gauvreau's whale projections in that space.

10) Being surrounded by and collaborating with kindred spirits, and seeing my friends grow in their creative work.

11) Becoming more and more comfortable performing.

12) Discovering new sonic directions (see 7).

13) Developing a strong, clear, creative vision.

Can you sum up your year in 10 words or less?

Grounding, moving, dreaming, healing, listening, connecting, creating, swimming, exploring.

What do you have planned for 2014?

I have a new video coming out early in the new year for a song from my latest album, Unseen World. It features a lot of whales, and is made by the incredibly talented James Gauvreau. I will also be playing a select few, special shows while I work on writing and recording a new album and continuing my drumming studies. I also have some collaborations with like-minded souls (musicians, dancers, visual artists) and a Yukon expedition planned. The rest is open!


TV Freaks

Hamilton brat punks TV Freaks released their sophomore, Two, on Schizophrenic Records early last fall. It was one of our favourite Canadian releases of 2013 period. When we interviewed the Freaks, we talked about tattoo shop playlists, Golden Horseshoe bands, and how having tomato seeds stuck to your converses is pretty punk. Bassist Kev Bell, good dude that he is, gave us a quick review of the year that was in camp Freaks.

What was your most memorable musical moment of 2013?

For me it was our record release party at Happy Hourz in Hamilton. Way too many great people in that room, even if we played for too long and butchered some Misfits covers at the end.

Can you sum up your year in 10 words or less?

Who cares we're just a punk band lets par-ty (is party 2 words?)

What do you have planned for 2014?

A whole bunch of 7"s we're just finishing up now are set to come out this year along with some long overdue U.S. and abroad touring. And shit, maybe we'll get busy on a new LP by the time the year's up.


Nicholas Krgovich

We hadn't heard of Nicholas Krgovich before Who Cares? Which in a way is the best introduction to the singer/songwriter, who spends the whole album pondering what it's like for someone so prolific to still be house-sitting for his aunt. So we snagged him for an interview. Whether he minds what happens next year or not, we're hoping it'll involve more great music.

What was your most memorable musical moment of 2013?

Maybe it was last night? I was at the release party for the 7 Days of Funk album by Dam-Funk and Snoopzilla in L.A.  The entire show was riddled with technical problems, which led to things like Flea doing a completely inaudible bass solo, Snoop confusedly trying to reboot an old beat up iBook, Bootsy Collins being the consummate professional leading the crowd in sing-alongs. This on the heels of sets by Prophet, Egyptian Lover, Steve Arrington. Living legends playing out some sort of Kaufman-like prank. Insane and amazing.

Can you sum up your year in 10 words or less?

Zen nihilism.

What do you have planned for 2014? 

I have a record called On Sunset coming out in late winter. Gonna spend some time woodshedding at my aunt and uncle's cabin over the next couple months. Get in some more L.A. time in the spring. Maybe go on tour?  Follow my heart.


White Poppy

“Ambient pop” is Crystal Dorval's favourite way of describing her sound, and it fits. We were instantly hooked from the first glimpse of her latest self-titled record, and she told us about how she hope her shoegaze-filtered drones - soothing yet fearsome, like a bonfire - will be a wellspring for others facing the same crises she dealt with. 2014 promises to be more rigorous for her career than ever, and as she prepares herself, the excitement pours through our emails.

What was your most memorable musical moment of 2013?

The most memorable moments of 2013 were definitely releasing my first LP, and going on my first solo tour. These are things I have wanted to do for a while.

Can you sum up your year in 10 words or less?

Exciting. Rewarding. Stressful. Funny. Sad. Confusing. Courageous. Adventurous. Thankful. Triumphant.

What do you have planned for 2014?

It looks like I will be travelling a lot in 2014, which I am really excited about. I am going to Europe for the first time in March to do a tour. I will also being touring the east coast in the Spring and might be going to Asia! Between that, I will be working on myself at my new home. I just moved out of the city and relocated to a farm in the country on Vancouver Island. I plan to rediscover myself, my way of creating, and my way of life while I am here.


Prince Nifty

It's been a long journey for Matt Smith to get his Prince Nifty project from freewheeling experimentation to Pity Slash Love's more cohesive structures charged with the same boundless energy. A few months after our conversation, Matt looked to what 2014 held for an underground musician.

What was your most memorable musical moment of 2013?

I’m not sure there was a clear standout. But there was a composite experience at the Heartland fest this year in Lausanne that was very special. Diamanda Galas really shook me up. Her vision is so full and disciplined and expressive. Also Eyvind Kang and Jessica Kenney were a wonder. Their performance moved me to tears.

Just last week with some old friends we had a ‘day of close listening and self reflection’ where Miles Davis’s Water Babies, more specifically, Wayne Shorter’s compositions on Water Babies had me reeling. Philip Glass’s Music with Changing Parts sounded like the music of a shaman.

Also, perhaps my favourite recording of them all, Deep Rain Forest: Music of the Ituri Pygmies is a listening experience so rich ideas its almost funny – and just as quickly as something has taken your breath away, it stops and performers laugh or just let it fade. It seems like this music just goes on forever and these singers, or likembe players, just pick it up and run with it for a bit and let it roll off into eternity again. There is something about this recording – its spacial quality – which is really exquisite and quite engulfing. The crickets and the thunderstorms and the beautiful outdoor acoustic space they are in are in no way extraneous to the music; it's equal parts John Cage and Folkways. Anyways, long story short, it was a really great listen.

Can you sum up your year in 10 words or less?

There’s a proper home for fear. Keep it there.

What do you have planned for 2014?

For 2014 I have a bunch of plans. I’m hoping to reissue Pity Slash Love and I’m working away on this long from choral piece. Also I’ve got about a record worth of this uptempo weirdo dance stuff and a bunch of these soul type tunes I’ve been working on. In short, I hope its really busy with music. Owen Pallett’s got a new record in the can so we’re going to start touring that in the Spring I think. It will be so nice to be playing on the regular.


Speedy Ortiz

Standing at the end of 2013, it's easy to make a comment like: Northampton, MA's Speedy Ortiz was one of the year's breakout indie acts. Their debut Major Arcana has found its way onto near every critics year-end list, and rightfully so. But back when we caught up with Speedy, they were just readying the record that would launch 'em. We talked on indie rock poet laureates, haunted nazi castles, and comic books. Singer Sadie Dupuis tells us that if she has a New Year's resolution, it's "to stop feeding the trolls on Twitter. But also, I want to feed more trolls on Twitter." The whole Speedy crew was game to think back on their rather meteoric — even if they won't out and out admit it — 2013.

Speedy Ortiz "No Below"

What was your most memorable musical moment of 2013, writing,
performing, listening, whatever?

Matt: I didn't play the first two shows of our tour with The Breeders (Steve of Ovlov did a world cup job filling in!) so I could finish my four-year tenure teaching music at The Well School and run my last holiday concert. Concerts have a generally informal atmosphere, and parents seated at long tables with pizza and beverages watch their 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th graders perform. The Happy Jawbone Family Band was in attendance and provided an accompaniment for "Martian Santa" with the 6th grade class.

My 8th graders called intermission and a group of my private lessons students got on stage to say speeches in my honour. I had no idea it was coming and couldn't help but get choked up. The whole theatre gave me a standing ovation and it was magic much like the end of Mr. Holland's Opus in its grandiosity. Mr. Holland is kind of a jerk, though, and was certainly lame, so I wouldn't like to think of myself in that way.

Musically speaking, I've been working with some of these kids since before they could play an instrument, so what they were doing was amazing. The energy in the room was frenetic and they took it up many more notches. Some personal highlights were "Shipping Up To Boston," "I Zimbra," "Man in the Mirror." It's time to jump in the deep end of rock music and try it full time, but I'm really going to miss those kids.

Darl: Although the entire Supercrawl Hamilton Festival was one of the most memorable musical moments of my life, Yo La Tengo's performance was the best concert I had attended in years. They've been one of my favorite bands since I began playing music, but this was my first time seeing them. They played a mix of old and new, which was refreshing to see at a festival. "Cherry Chapstick" was some off-the-chain, out-of-this-world, this-can't-be-real stuff. After they performed, Matt and I got to talk to Georgia, who was a treat. I wish they played "Sugarcube," but I guess I'll just have to see them again.

Mike: Yeah YLT didn't play "Sugarcube," but they did play "Autumn Sweater" and they closed with "Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind" and I was all like "GOD DAMN." Although, my choice for "musical moment" would probably be seeing Kanye at Governor's Ball about a week before Yeezus leaked, so it was my first time hearing "I Am a God" and "On Sight." I might not have gotten into that album as quickly without the context of seeing him perform the songs in such an exciting atmosphere.

Sadie: Drake video with the old guys.

Can you sum up your year in 10 words or less?

Matt: How is it that we got to open for Breeders?

Mike: Givin' no fucks.

Darl: Big Mess is the best mess.

Sadie: I can't believe I ate the whole thing.

What do you have planned for 2014, in music and in life?

Sadie: I'll be finishing up an MFA in Creative Writing, which means I need to write a book by the end of the semester. I'll be doing most of that writing and editing off campus and from a tour van, since we'll be pretty constantly on the road. We're doing an all-ages tour from Massachusetts to Florida and back with our friends Grass is Green in January. Then in February we've got a European tour with Joanna Gruesome supporting on U.K. dates. Most of March is a U.S. tour with Pile and Big Ups, and then at the end of the month we join Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks for a West Coast tour through mid-April. And then I have to go home and defend my thesis to get my degree. Yeesh.

Matt: All of the above (band stuff).

Mike: In addition to everything Sadie wrote, I am (we are) hoping to catch any reunion shows from Failure, Self and The Sound of Animals Fighting!

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