This year was filled with great music hailing from Canada.
We tend to underrate acts hailing from the North, just because it is common for USA and European acts to prosper and leave us in the shadows. We also tend to forget how much influence Canada has on the rest of the world. I got the chance to discover a ton of new underground artists/bands from Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Brittish Columbia, and even less obvious places like Rimouski, Quebec City and Alberta amongst the rest of Canada.
The main theme this year revolved around the popular wave of post-r&b acts coming out of the woodworks. We can all blame Drake for that one, but it didn't stop other genres to prosper, including some of that good ol' indie rock, synth-pop, rap/hip-hop and alternative music that just simply couldn't go unseen or unheard of.
It wasn't easy to put this list together, it is a mix of breakthrough acts as well as established underground acts that made noise this year. In no particular order, we included singles, EPs and music video releases for your to get the best out of the list. All of these artists are available to stream on all digital platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp and Soundcloud.
This mysterious act took us by surprise back in 2015. I discovered him when no one else knew who he was, when his album was still only available as a free download on his official website. Hotel Allan took over our blog by storm, where I dissected the storyline as much as I could to paint a proper picture of who he is and what he's done to my emotions. When I discovered Allan Rayman it was like finding a goldmine and wanting to keep it all to myself, but also feeling the need to recommend it to anyone I talked to. Today, Allan Rayman has been touring all over and has officially released his album on digital platforms like Spotify and Apple Music hitting millions of streams in under a year. If you are curious enough to indulge in the alternative side of r&b, laid over an authentically produced album of epic proportion, Allan Rayman is who you should discover right now.
Originally from France, the young emerging multi-talented artist is definitely making the right moves to stand out in the Montreal music scene, notably with this debut album. I invited him to put together an exclusive mix for our Podcast series and he delivered hard. Coincidentally, he was releasing his debut album titled Trouble In Paradise around the same time, which we covered alongside his debut music video. His 12-track project is a mix between vogue-house, electronic music and showcases his talents as a stand-alone artist. A true gem, Jaymie Silk is part of the roster of Montreal-label Ghost Club Records.
If you're into slowing things down a bit, and reflecting through the music, this duo is for you. Their debut album, Textures was released independently and is currently available on all digital platforms. The 6-track project includes a collection of beautifully moody tunes as well as their highly acclaimed Neil Young cover of "Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)" – The electronic-infused production alongside the infectious vocals of each track follows through as a cohesive body of work, which sets them apart from any other artists coming out of the woodworks in Canada. They remained on our radar all throughout the fall of 2016, and I even got the chance to interview them about their thoughts on all the sudden success they've had.
I became obsessed Canadian act TOBi when we layed ears for the first time on his tune "Deeper" – it even reminded us of old-school Outkast. His latest EP FYI consists of 7 tracks, all produced by Toronto’s Nate Smith, showing TOBi’s versatility and ability to engage with his audience from start to finish. This record doesn’t necessarily co-exist with the sound coming out of Toronto right now, and we feel it’s what will set him apart and really allow him to stand out as an up and coming artist. It definitely does not sound like TOBi is a rookie when it comes to making music. His stuff is definitely next level when you compare him to any other independent artist out there. No one can fake authenticity, and this is what we hear when we play his music.
This pop/electronic band I discovered not too long ago is from Québec City. The formation of four is composed of Dragos Chiriac (Keys and Mastering), Jessy Caron (Guitar, Bass & Keys), Odile Marmet-Rochefort (Voice) and Emmanuelle Proulx (Voice). Simple and effective, they somehow remind you of the cool feel of the late 90s. Beautiful piano melodies, low fuzzy bass and the sensuality of the girls’ voices that seamlessly blend together creating Men I Trust’s unique cinematographic and picturesque sound. We sorta premiered their single "Lauren" and even posted a live version they shot in the middle of the woods.
KROY has quickly risen to the top of the best new acts to discover from Montreal. With her debut album Scavenger, currently available on all digital platforms, the sky is the limit for the emerging Alternative artist. She's known as the better half of Milk & Bone, which is why you probably think she sounds and looks familiar. Her debut album has been making the rounds of the interweb, accompanied by her introcute visuals. The 9-track project ecompasses her sultry voice layered on top of meticulously produced electronic music that will dig deep into your soul and bring out emotions you never thought you've had before. We did a little Q&A with the artist hoping to get some more insight on her entire persona as KROY and she delivered.
20 year old Montreal rapper Jason Shay litterally came out of nowhere (at least for me). His debut music video "For You" is part of his latest mixtape and features a captivating beat with the help of beautiful violin strokes from French violinist Marika. It's the type of beat that is solid from beginning to end, layered with his lyrical skills, an ability that is not necessarily easy to execute the way he did. Sort of reminiscent of old-school Kendrick Lamar, it will leave you emotionally distraught as it progresses nicely and ends leaving you wanting more. The whole entire theme revolves around timing, which is symbiotic with the vibe of each track (watch for the time cycles next to the title of each track) – We're very impressed by Alïah's contributions as well, which gives a different dynamic for the entire body of work. For a Montreal emcee on the come-up, we're truly impressed with it all.
This experimental hip-hop duo is based in Toronto, Canada. We premiered their debut single "Ape-X", off their album Spare Parts. An original take on delivering new-age hip hop through storytelling, a style we haven't heard in quite some time here in Canada. You can actually cop a physical copy of their album or lisen to it digitally: Spare Parts. This duo take their craft seriously, offering an amalgam of allegorical virus stories through their music. Their music video for the single "Viral Inflections" made us take a step back and truly appreciate the underground scene they are part of. These guys truly showcase what it is to be a musical artist doing it on their own.
We've been following the evolution of this girl duo ever since they started a long time ago. This year proved to be a very strong one for the duo as they released their debut EP titled You & I accompanied by two of their strongest music videos to date for both "Crawling South" and "Cruising With You". The girls reached a million streams on Spotify in less than a month this past summer and set a precedent in the Montreal R&B/Soul scene after their performance at the Montreal Jazz Festival. They still count as one of our faves of 2016 and will definitely be on our list come 2017. Watch out.
Toronto mysterious artist PLAZA has been on our radar for quite some time now. He makes some of the smoothest, most haunting, most completely vibe-filled tracks and we just can't get enough. I remember receiving his debut project through a private link with little to no information. It made me do a double-take as I just wanted to find out more. Fast forward a few months later, and he finally released the 6-track EP publicly and people started raving about it. He managed to build a buzz surrounding his release organically, which proves quite a lot of an independent artist in this day and age. His music revolves around smooth nu-r&b vibes with great vocal delivery and top-notch hooks that will keep you wanting more. The entire 6-track EP is linear and cohesive, offering everything you'd wish for and perfect for occasions such as a late night booty call or if your reminiscing about a loved one. If you want to hit it off with your twitter crush, link them to the EP and you'll for sure get a free pass to slide into the DMs.
Honourable mentions for 2016: