Personal Views – The Best of 2014 From Cities Across Canada

PERSONAL VIEWS: The Best of 2014 from Cities Across Canada

People embedded in music communities across Canada choose their favourite local musical moments of the year and give the state of their scenes.

- Dec 29, 2014

The music media spotlight tends to shine brightest on Toronto and Montreal, but as the growth of festivals like SappyFest in Sackville, New Brunswick and Sled Island in Calgary can attest, there are vibrant and flourishing music scenes in cities and towns all over Canada. In the interest of shedding some light on musical communities that sometimes go overlooked we've asked musicians, journalists and other musically involved people from Halifax, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Quebec City, and more, to give us a look at the highlights of the last 12 months in the places they live. (And, if you must, head here for our favourite Toronto concerts of 2014.)

Saskatoon View

Josh Rohs (music journalist)

josh rohs

Most Memorable Live Set of the Year

Weird Canada’s Drone Day: Saskatoon Edition @ Beaumont Records

Drone Day featured literal non-stop drone sets from some fantastic locals: Chad Munson, Caves, Living Room, Jon Vaughn, Surely I Come Quickly and Grey Owl. Saskatoon’s current experimental/drone/psych scene is unstoppable.

Favorite (New) Venue 

Amigos Cantina26 years on, this place certainly isn’t new, but it’s a perennial Saskatoon favourite and the best burrito bastion north of the 49th parallel. 2014 saw Amigos play host to some of the best local and touring bands in the country.

Best New Band

Phalec Baldwin

Phalec Baldwin do ramshackle goth-pop for lofi enthusiasts - deceptively sweet songs buried under a shroud of tape hiss. It’ll make your next séance fun for the whole family!

Top Three Local Releases of 2014

Caves, Idle Worship

[Technically out in late December of last year, but I figure it’s still game!]

These guys are the crème de la crème of Saskatoon’s prosperous lofi-pop scene. Caves take some A+ ingredients - hazy ‘90s downer cassette jams, tropical noise space-pop, effect pedals & orange juice - and make a garburator smoothie. Yum.

Shooting Guns, WolfCop Soundtrack

This record is part Hawkwind in warp drive, part ‘80s horror-thriller soundtrack. Plus, there’s a country song. Also, have you seen this movie? Go see this movie.

Phalec Baldwin, Street Meat

Scott Gowen, owner of Beaumont Records put out this tape. As previously mentioned, this band is rules. Their new songs are even better. Phalec Baldwin for Prime Minister 2015, or whatever.

Halifax View

Hannah Guinan (Member of Old and Weird, Artistic Director of Khyber)


Most Memorable Live Set of the Year

Gift From God @ BSide Gallery and Event Space 

This was a performance by artist/musicians Lindsay Dobbin, Elizabeth Johnson and Kira Daube at BSide Gallery and Event Space.

Favorite (New) Venue 

Menz Bar was a shining star in 2014. They have been an active/much needed/supportive booking venue for bands/djs and for not-for-profit fundraising events.

Best New Band

Best New: Wayne World (feels so good)

Best Period: RealEyez

RealEyez " Cum N Talk To Me" In The Making !!!

Artist, not band. Thank god for RealEyez.

Top Three Local Releases of 2014

Lindsay Dobbin, Arrival - cassette

Nap Eyes, Whine of the Mystic - vinyl

ANON // artist - digital

Sackville View

Matt Tunnacliffe (President of the SappyFest Board of Directors)


Most Memorable Live Set of the Year

SappyFest 9

The Constantines - Young Lions @ Sappyfest 9

It's kind of a cheat to say "All of SappyFest 9," but after financial woes and staff turnover in 2013, this year Sackville's little home-grown festival delivered on all fronts. Cousins, COOL, Basia Bulat, Freelove Fenner and an emotional, electrifying closing set from the Constantines made it a Sappy to remember.

Favorite (New) Venue

In a small town with not many places to play, the new stage at the Thunder & Lightning Bowling Alley is a godsend. Punk rock shows at a fully-licensed, antique candlepin bowling lane? Yes please.

Best New Band

Weird Lines

Fuzzy, noisy, warm and sweet psychedelic marsh rock, Weird Lines is something of a Sackville supergroup, featuring the continuing musical evolution of our own Julie Doiron.

Top Three Local Releases of 2014

Jon McKiel, Jon McKiel 

Weird Lines, Twin Summers

The Mouthbreathers, Corrupt The Youth

Edmonton View

Jessica Jalbert (musician)


Most Memorable Live Set of the Year

Energetic Action

Energetic Action played a moving set that definitely highlighted my year in terms of shows. It was in the winter supporting the album release of another band. It felt like Can colliding with Joy Division colliding with Chrome colliding with Baudelaire or something. We lost Dave from Energetic Action shortly after and he is missed.

Favorite (New) Venue

This year a new art space called SPACE opened up downtown. It's run by musicians and lots of bands jam there, plus a consignment boutique and a main room that's a private club for art shows and music. It's an awesome loft space and a really good place to see a show.

Best New Band


Maude - I Want To Know You More

Layne L'Heureux's new project Maude just released a video for "I Want To Know You More." The song and the video both feature Caity Fisher (Tee-Tahs, Caity Fisher and the Final Frontier). It's sexy and bleak and silly, a skateboard video gone wrong mixed with a grindhouse film score. Well worth hearing and seeing!

Top Three Local Releases of 2014

Ben Disaster, Close My Eyes 7"

Switches, I Just Wanna

No Problem, We're Already Dead

Calgary View

Shawn Petsche (Sled Island Festival Manager)

Cole Hofstra captures Flood in mission

Most Memorable Live Set of the Year

Los Lobos @ Thorncliffe Community Hall

09 - Guantanamera (Guajira) - Los Lobos

David Hidalgo is one of the most under-appreciated singers, songwriters and musicians of the last 40 years in my opinion and this was pretty much the perfect Los Lobos concert. There was a healthy mix of young'ns and old folks dancing up a storm at the stage, his voice just soared and the band were jaw-droppingly good.

Favorite (New) Venue

The Golden Age Club, a working senior citizen's club, has started being used as a live music venue more and more and has the potential to become one of the best venues in Calgary. Some pesky safety regulations keep the legal capacity lower than it needs to be to really offer a revelatory show-going experience, but here's hoping there's a way to expand that capacity.

Best New Band

Viet Cong

Everyone's year-end lists this year AND next year will include Viet Cong...and for good reason. In the last year, something happened with those guys where they became as heavy and mind-melting as people had been saying they were going to be. It's great when a band can live up to expectations. Beyond that, Calgary has some incredible bands new and old right now: Fist City (!), Shaani Cage, Samantha Savage Smith, Teledrome, 36?, Feel Alright, The Von Zippers, Lab Coast, etc. x 100.

Top Three Local Releases of 2014

Night Committee, Heaven

The Mandates, Suspicion b/w Wastin' Time 7"

Viet Cong, Cassette

Vancouver View

Jay Arner (musician and producer)


Most Memorable Live Set of the Year

COOL TV @ Commodore Ballroom, October 3 and 4 

The ex-Apollo Ghosts funk outfit played two nights at the Commodore (opening for The New Pornographers) to 1000-ish people. I'm so used to seeing them in tiny art spaces and dank bars - I'm not saying there's anything wrong with dank bars, but this was a real treat. Everyone loved it.

Favourite (New) Venue

Fox Cabaret. I'm out of the loop for new venues as most of the shows I went to in 2014 weren't in Vancouver. But the Fox seems nice. The people that used to run the Waldorf renovated an old porno theatre (why not). I saw Tough Age there and it was great.

Best New Band

Pender Street Steppers

Pender Street Steppers - Openin' Up

These two have been around for a while now but in 2014 things really started cookin'. They released two excellent dance singles - "Openin' Up" and "Bubble World" - and their Mood Hut label seems poised to take over the world. They're my favourite musicians in the city and the best new band.

Top Three Local Releases of 2014

Jack J, Looking Forward To You 

Jack J - Looking Forward to You

Sinoia Caves, Beyond The Black Rainbow OST

Beyond The Black Rainbow OST / Sinoia Caves - Arboria

COOL TV, Paint

Ottawa View

Emily McQuarrie (Fryquency/Debaser co-promoter)


Most Memorable Live Set of the Year

FET.NAT with Special Costello and Craig Currie @ Mugshots, June 24 

FET.NAT are one of the most incredible bands to see live - and this set was particularly emotional. JF just screams into your soul. I did some weird maniacal cry/laughing that night.

Favorite (New) Venue

House of TARG, the only new venue of the year that I know about! Also a favorite! Pinball! Perogies! And they put out a dope monthly zine featuring reviews of classic metal albums through the eyes of a 16 year old (my fave).

Best New Band/Best Band Period

Blue Angel

Blue Angel turn my heart into grilled cheese - but I can’t remember how old they are as a band. I’m also going to see Sailor Jupiter this week, and I hear that they’re amazing. Maybe they’re my favorite band of the year.

Top Three Local Releases of 2014


Organ Eyes, Daze Pace 

Bonnie Doon, Bonnie Doon EP

Winnipeg View

Kara Passey (music journalist, visual artist, community activist)


Most Memorable Live Set of the Year

Chica Boom Boom at Foul Copse V

Walk with me - CHICA BOOM BOOM

Deep in the backwoods of Manitoba, Foul Copse has been a summer music festival for all the good kinds of heavy noise. Taking place in a literal copse, this camp away event was a highlight for many punx. I’m writing about the festival in a past tense, as this year ended with some serious turmoil. Foul Copse will most likely not continue unless there is some major damage control and the festival takes proper action to ensure they are a safer space that hold patrons accountable for acts of sexual violence and oppression.

In spite of this, Chica Boom Boom played their best set to date, and for the half hour that they owned the wooden platform that we were calling a stage, I think everyone managed to forget how miserable the weekend really was. Two of Winnipeg’s most seasoned rock musicians thrived while patrons held a tarp bursting with rainwater at bay.

Favorite (New) Venue

The Purple Room of Frame Arts Warehouse: As Winnipeg struggles to keep venues open it’s apparent that there are some obvious barriers in terms of what the city needs as compared to what is lucrative, but The Purple Room of Frame Arts Warehouse, is currently Winnipeg’s top contender for a venue who is making an effort to remove barriers to make sure everyone who attends its shows is having a good time.

While the manager of the venue, Paul Little, is new to the concept of building safer and inclusive spaces, he shows true potential for being an active listener to what his patrons needs are. From providing the space at an affordable price (shows can easily be as cheap as $5 to attend) to building a wheelchair ramp to address accessibility concerns, Paul is leaps ahead of many other venue managers in spite of being self-funded and from a DIY background.

Recently, the Purple Room has also played host to Cootie Club, Winnipeg’s new initiative to showcase musicians who are women or non-binary people. The Cooties also host community discussions and are building a model to create safer and more accountable spaces within Winnipeg’s music scene, something that Paul has publicly supported and hopes to adapt into his own event planning.

Best New Band/Best Band Period

Human Music

The first time I heard Human Music was at a show I hosted in my basement (RIP the Sad Haus). I can’t really describe this new project involving ex-members of Haunter with many words other than, “Geeze Louise.” The imagery that partners this band gives off mad Tim and Eric vibes, right down to a promotional video they made for their hot line, where you can tell them how much you love them (204-504-7375, yes it’s real).

Top Three Local Releases of 2014

Mulligrub, Canadian Classic 

Winnipeg’s response to the Crutchfield Sisters. Kelly Campbell’s lyrics drip vulnerable intimacy and her powerful voice hits your heart in a way that makes it drop to your gut. Campbell’s song writing shows influence from her folk roots and translates beautifully into melodic pop punk.

Burden, Burden 

An experimental project using a dismembered piano born from the bowels of our long lost Negative Space venue. By manipulating the strings and using different tools, the trio creates haunting noise by experimenting with tension, tuning, and resonance. Member Doreen Girard, also released the EP Lodge 318 with her doom project, Sphagnum, this year.

Mobina Galore, Cities Away

Probably Winnipeg’s most well known, female pop punk duo also recently dropped a new album!

Quebec City View

Sam Murdock (Founder of P572 Records)


Most Memorable Live Set of the Year

La St-Jean Baptiste on Les Plaines d'Abraham

A marathon of energetic and fun live sets. When you get to see Alaclair Ensemble, Koriass, VICE & V.I.STREET, Charlie Foxtrot, Ponctuation, and Beat Sexü amongst others, all in the same hour, you walk back home at 6am knowing you’ve witnessed something important.

Favorite (New) Venue

Le Pantoum: Run by youngsters inside a building that's part house, part live concert venue, a silkscreen work shop and a recording studio. They have this fantastic adolescent cheekiness and invincibility that's already legendary, may it last 10 more months or 10 more years. Shout out for the very good sound and homemade neon light show that's up to par with any bar in town.

Best (New) Band

Alaclair Ensemble

Alaclair Ensemble are the talk of the town everywhere they go. There's no other band as fun and in such top-notch physical shape than this full Jedi-like crew. They channel something that instantly makes the boys and girls go crazy.

Top Three Local Releases of 2014


The almighty genius rap collective released yet another instant classic. I have a hard time listening to them too much because I cannot get my head around how talented, playful and sharp-witted they are. The album was released for free after some intricate Deep Web searches that went on for weeks. Their master plan is so perfectly confusing and confused that it's impossible to guess what their next move might be.

Gerbia, Lâche l'école 

After Péladeau au Bûcher (Péladeau at the Stake) and Voué à l'échec (Doomed to Fail), the third release by the Beauport hardcore four-piece was supposed to be called Persister dans l'erreur (Persist in Error), but they ultimately went for the perfectly named Lâche l'école (Quit School). After opening for every cult Canadian punk band in Quebec City, playing fast and dirty old school punk, they are now becoming old and cult-like in their own right.

Stéphane Robitaille, Fuck You Mon Amour 

It took forever for these 14 bittersweet songs to finally be recorded into a full album. It was infuriating, but in the end it was well worth the wait. The words are precise and the mood is personal, soft and heartwarming. Also one of the top 5 best album names of the year.

Montreal View

Marilis Cardinal (Co-director of Arbutus Records and Founder of Cardinal PR)


Most Memorable Live Set of the Year

The Unicorns at The Forum in Inglewood

One of the first Montreal bands I listened to as a teen played their first show in 10 years and I sat alone in stadium seating feeling things.

Favorite (New) Venue

Bar Le "Ritz" P.D.B. 

Bar Le "Ritz" P.D.B. is the phoenix that rose from the ashes of Il Motore  and I'm very proud of my pal Meyer for all the hard work he's put into the venue.

Best New Band


She-Devils - Hey Boy [Montreal, July 9th, 2014]

Top Three Local Releases of 2014

Mozart's Sister, Being 

Most powerful voice in town and a truly badass babe.

Homeshake, In The Shower

A great album to listen to in and outside of the shower.


Local shredders / bad boys.

Head here for all of Chart Attack's 2014 in Review.

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