Monday, November 02, 2009

Hottest Bands in Canada, 2009 edition

Rural Alberta Advantage: photo by Joe Fuda
    photo credit: Joe Fuda

As Matthew of I(Heart)Music has done over the past four years, he's again polled a selection of Canadian music writers, journalists and bloggers for their top ten hottest Canadian bands / artists of the year. I've always been happy to participate and this year's not any different. In some ways, I'm behind the curve on some of the new artists that made the top 32 - bands like The Balconies, The Wooden Sky and Bruce Peninsula who I've only had cursory listens of but am intrigued but have yet to check out live. Past favourites of mine like Ohbijou and Great Lake Swimmers didn't make it to my top 10, and not because they were not 'hot', but rather because personally I didn't end up spending much time with them, either listening to their new releases or going to see them live. My top 10 list was a very subjective one, although scrutinized with a little objectivity - in the end what made my top 10 were those bands / artists who had some sort of activity in 2009 (whether it be touring, releasing music etc...) and who musically had an impact on me. Check out the list below with the commentary for each I submitted (numbers in brackets indicate the artists' ranking in the final top 32):

01. (1) Rural Alberta Advantage (Toronto, Ontario)

They played New York City, SXSW, Toronto and all points in between. They signed to Saddle Creek. I saw them live at for the first time earlier this year during Canadian Musicfest, saw them perform a rapturous hometown CD release show at the Horseshoe Tavern, and then ended the summer seeing them at this year's Virgin Festival[who were immensely better than most of the acts that played the larger stages that day]. I was generally behind the curve latching on to them but better late than never.

MySpace: Rural Alberta Advantage

02. The Hidden Cameras (Toronto, Ontario)

Led by Mississauga-homeboy Joel Gibb, Toronto's The Hidden Cameras returned quietly with their newest album "Origin: Orphan". I had the pleasure of catching their special intimate CD release show at Goodhandy's in Toronto which only emphasized that it's one of my favourite Canadian albums this year. One will still find pleasure in the band's gay-friendly sunny pop tunes but to the provide some balance there's some darker songs and more ambitious instrumental arrangements. Maturity never sounded so good.

MySpace: The Hidden Cameras

03. (9) Metric (Toronto, Ontario)

Fuck the haters. Their most recent album "Fantasies" is a good album. Metric were always rock stars even when they were indie but bottom line they were and still are credible. "Gimme Sympathy" was one of the best singles of the year and there's something so profound about the lyric "who'd you want to be, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones". And when Ms. Haines returned to perform an acoustic version of this song at Broken Social Scene's homecoming show at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto back in July, it was heaven.

MySpace: Metric

04. (22) Gentleman Reg (Toronto, Ontario)

Reg Vermue aka Gentleman Reg played a shit load of live shows this year, and will continue to do so until the end of the year, in support of his most recent release "Jet Black". The more I listen to the samples on his MySpace, the more I wonder why I haven't yet picked up the album. Delicious, edgy pop music.

MySpace: Gentleman Reg

05. (27) Olenka and The Autumn Lovers (London, Ontario)

This London, Ontario outfit seems to be winning new fans incrementally with each live show. I continue to brag about being one of only a few people who caught their live set at C'est What during North By NorthEast back in 2008 but it seems people are now catching on to the band's charming hybrid of rootsy, acoustic, gypsy-folk. Festival-heavy participation this year for the band including NXNE, their own hometown LOLA festival, Pop Montreal and Halifax Pop Explosion as well as the self-release of their debut full-length has made it a successful and busy year for them.

MySpace: Olenka and The Autumn Lovers

06. Junior Boys (Hamilton, Ontario)

The Hamilton duo released their newest album "Begone Dull Care" continuing in the vein of past releases with another album of organic and electronic elements that intersect with the duo's solid songwriting aspect. Any year the boys release an album, they'll be hot.

MySpace: Junior Boys

07. (32) Still Life Still (East York, Ontario)

Signing to Arts & Crafts this year with the release of their debut album "Girls Come Too", Toronto's Still Life Still combine the youthful exhuberance of peers like Tokyo Police Club but with a scruffy pop sensibility that's more in line with their label brethren Broken Social Scene. BSS jr. perhaps, but there's a tune or two from Still Life Still that'd sound terrific on your next playlist[ok the old-schooler in me really wants to say mixtape, but hey who I am kidding?].

MySpace: Still Life Still

08. Hooded Fang (Toronto, Ontario)

This young Toronto outfit makes me smile with their boy-girl vocal-sung indie pop. They only have a five-song EP under their belt(released in early 2009), but 5 songs is better than none right? The band seems content playing around Toronto for now, but do check them out if they hit a town near you. Trust me - their song "Land of Giants" - the definition of pop gem.

MySpace: Hooded Fang

09. The Diableros (Toronto, Ontario)

They've been pretty quiet lately but they're slowly easing back into playing live and the band step up to professional-quality recording with the release of a new EP entitled "Old Story, Fresh Road" to tide things over until the next album. I still remember how insanely good their debut album, 2005's "You Can't Break the Strings in Our Olympic Hearts" was, and how their 2007 album "Aren't Ready for the Country", if not as intoxicating as the debut, was still quite good. The new EP's "Heavy Hands" stands as one of my favourite tracks of the year.

MySpace: The Diableros

10. Tokyo Police Club (Newmarket, Ontario)

TPC spent the year touring, playing dates at All Points West Festival(in New Jersey), the Canadian National Exhibition in TOronto, Hillside Festival in Guelph and even a l'il free summer show in my hometown of Mississauage, and they will continue to play live into November. God love 'em. Late on the wagon as I was, I finally got down to listening to their debut full-length, 2008's "Elephant Shell" and haven't looked back since.

MySpace: Tokyo Police Club

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