In the early days of May, the Toronto summer festival circuit kicks off with Canadian Music Week. From May 2-8, over 1000 bands will play 60+ venues throughout 7 days, making CMW one of the largest festivals in the country. Besides the headliners, there are tons of great acts to check out. Here’s a list of 10 bands to discover at CMW 2016:
1. Little Boxer
Fresh of the release of their second EP Volume II, Toronto alt-rock band Little Boxer brings a mix of raspy vocals and energetic rhythm guitar. Although their most recent work has branched into distorted guitars and wailing vocals, their roots in folk-rock are prevalent in their guitar rhythms and lyrical story-telling. They’re fun, they’re loud, and they’re full of energy. Get ready to dance.
2. The Howll
Another band that has been tearing up the Toronto music scene in the last couple of years, The Howll showcase soulful female vocals on top of slick blues leads. The back-and-forth between singer Lindsay Coleman’s raw, powerful voice and lead guitarist Andrew Eaton’s groovy guitar fills seems effortless in its modern homage to loud, distorted blues. With a tight rhythm section made up of John Pynn’s pounding drums and Doug Norman’s smooth bass lines, they’re sure to have you on your feet for their entire set. Check out their tune “Baby Don’t” here:
Dream-pop trio Caveboy, making the trip from Montreal, creates fast-paced electronic pop songs with layers of vocal harmonies and synths. With an upbeat take on traditional dream-pop, this all-female band strikes chords of nostalgia while also feeling modern and exciting. Michelle Bensimon’s lead vocals blend with the back-up vocals of Isabelle Banos and Lana Cooney perfectly, and their driving rhythms and drumbeats make it impossible not to dance or sway along. The result is three musicians in complete harmony with each other and their audience.
4. Dilly Dally
With an extensive North American tour this summer that includes a few stops on the festival circuit, female-fronted Toronto band Dilly Dally are on the verge of exploding. Inspired by the likes of grunge rockers such as Kurt Cobain and the Pixies, Dilly Dally blends Katie Monks’ blaring vocals with Liz Ball’s vivid lead guitar licks to create an atmosphere of the optimistic angst of young adulthood. The pounding drums and rhythms of Jimmy Tony and Benjamin Reinhartz are perfect for their short, punchy songs, whether you want to sit back and groove or hit the dance floor. With a dedicated crowd of grunge-starved head-bangers and groove-rock enthusiasts, Dilly Dally is a must-see act. Here’s a sample of their live show:
6. Ella Fence
Coming all the way to Toronto from Gold Coast, Australia, Ella Fence creates an epic ambience with her soulful vocals. Her incredible singing voice will appeal to fans of other dramatic female singer-songwriters such as Florence Welch, Lana Del Ray, and Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir (from Of Monsters and Men). Fence’s song writing combines folk storytelling elements with grand ideas of life and relationships, immersing the listener in an atmosphere that feels both simple and complex, but captivating nonetheless.
7. Jake Morley
UK singer-songwriter Jake Morley is best known for his unique lap-tapping style of guitar playing. With a soulful voice and natural storytelling ability, Morley’s albums and live shows feel like a collective musical journey. Not only are his lyrics inspiring and emotional, but his delivery is simply mesmerizing. Morley’s smooth finger-picked rhythms and percussive guitar playing is truly a thing of wonder – something you have to experience live. Check it out:
8. Kill J
Making the trek from Copenhagen, Denmark, alt-pop artist Kill J (Julie Aagaard) unites eclectic pop sounds with her captivating voice. Featuring a combination of slow electronic beats and sharp melodies, you’re sure to get lost in her music while being mesmerized by her vocal and lyrical talents. Her impressive vocal range and self-confidence in a live setting is one that commands attention – something you definitely don’t want to miss.
8. Matt Blais
Hailing from Calgary, Alberta, Matt Blais gives new meaning to modern blues and rock. From shredding blues guitar riffs to howling vocals and harmonica solos, his music reflects everything that riff-based blues was built on. While combining classic tropes of other genres – especially folk and soul – Blais’ live show is a furious compilation of energy and charisma. That’s not to say he is without a soft side. With the same guitar prowess, his folk-rock acoustic songs can capture the heart and minds of an audience. Check it out here:
9. For Esme
One of the most underrated electro-pop bands in the Canadian music scene, Toronto natives For Esme combine soothing vocals and introspective lyrics with upbeat dance music. Singer Martha Meredith’s voice rises above a haze of keyboard and bass, complemented by the piercing distorted guitar solos that add an extra touch of rock n’ roll to their songs. With a killer light show and dazzling rhythms, For Esme will be the perfect set to relax and lose yourself in the music. Check out a live recording of their song “YOU” here:
10. Mura Masa
With a myriad of influences ranging from modern hip-hop, electronic music like Hudson Mohawke and James Blake to classic American folk, UK artist Mura Masa (Alex Crossan) showcases the versatility that electronic music offers when it isn’t bound by any specific genre. At just 20 years old, Mura Masa creates beats inspired by the best modern and classic artists, resulting in a unique act that crosses genres seamlessly and is sure to impress. Touring with R&B vocalist NAO, the duo combines soulful vocals with mesmerizing electronic beats and even Crossan’s piano skills. No matter how they play this show, it’s sure to please anyone with a variety of modern musical tastes. To get a sense of Mura Masa’s versatility, check out their latest EP:
One of the best things about a festival like CMW is hopping from venue to venue and catching acts you’ve never heard before, and the 4 AM last-call at a lot of venues doesn’t hurt either. Wristbands offer almost unlimited access to shows for just $75 until May 3rd. For more information, check out the CMW website here. And make sure to follow Shoeclack because we might have a surprise for you on the CMW … #CONTEST