I was recently asked by Matthew over at I(Heart)Music to contribute to the blog’s annual “Hottest Bands in Canada” poll. It was a really fun exercise and I can’t thank Matthew enough for allowing me to participate.You can see the results here.
As I’m sure is the case with everyone involved, not all of my picks made it onto the final list of 33 artists. And while I believe every artist on the list is worthy of inclusion, I wouldn’t necessarily agree with the order in which they came in (as is the nature of lists). I think that a lot of my reservations about certain artists’ placement comes down to how each individual critic chose to define “Hottest Band.” My definition and my top ten (with justification) are below.
In my eyes, the “Hottest Bands in Canada” refers to the groups with the most forward momentum. So I’ve purposely ignored, larger, better-known acts that put out good or even great albums this year. So you won’t find Broken Social Scene or Stars on this list – as great as their albums were, those groups tend to have a pretty stable audience and their detractors are unlikely to be swayed. Instead, I’ve chosen ten artists who have created enough momentum in the last 12 months to (hopefully) break them to a larger audience in 2011. Many have only an EP or some digital tracks to their name. But do to the groundwork they laid in 2010, that should all change.
10 – White Lung: Of all the bands to come out of Vancouver’s Emergency Room venue and recording studio, White Lung posses the rare combination of musicianship and songwriting chops with an uncompromising attitude that coalesced on their debut album It’s the Evil this summer. Their success proves that the Vancouver scene that birthed them is more than a wall of arty-noise.
9 – Apollo Ghosts: No band delivered a record that was as much scrappy fun as Apollo Ghosts’ excellent sophomore album Mount Benson. The Vancouver trio, led by Adrian Teacher, were able to find a through line between all of this country’s indie sub-genres to craft a hooky concept album about their hometown of Nanaimo without an ounce of pretension. That they’ve already followed the record with a sweet three-way split cassette ensures that we’ll be hearing much more from this cuddly three-piece.
8 – Eamon McGrath: At 21, this Edmontonian ex-pat (he moved to Toronto in the spring) has more records under his belt than most bands have in a lifetime. His latest, Peacemaker effortlessly blends Bruce Springsteen’s working class-everyman aesthetic with the DIY ethos he learned in Edmonton’s punk-rock underground. Showing no sign of slowing down either his touring or recording schedule there’s little doubt we’ll be hearing much more from McGrath in the next 12 months.
7 – Hollerado: Could Hollerado be Canada’s best bar band? It would seem so. While treading in the same small-town no-bullshit rock as a litany of other innocuous groups in this country, Hollerado have managed to climb to the top of the heap by putting new creative twists on old tropes. Their songs are catchy with big-choruses, perfect for singing along with after a few frothy beverages. But coupled with an innate sense of self-promotion – DIY videos, tours to countries better known groups generally ignore – Hollerado have established themselves as an entity all their own. After touring the same record for the last two years, the time is ripe for their next effort. How could they possibly disappoint?
6 – Rich Aucoin: If you’ve seen one of Rich’s numerous DIY-stage shows, then you’ll understand why there was enormous anticipation for his debut album – which he claims features contributions from over 500 different Canadian artists – to drop this year. That the record was postponed until 2011 and we were left with only a four-track EP should bring that anticipation to a fever pitch by the time Public Publication finally drops.
5 – Metz: Still relative unknowns outside of their native Ontario, this trio who expertly smash elements of hard-core, metal, grunge and noise-rock into a pummeling wall of sound have more and more local journalists and fans frothing at the mouth with each all-too short 7-inch they drop. A promised full-length (any time guys) should bring them the national respect they deserve.
4 – Memoryhouse: Like many of the bands on this list, Memoryhouse have managed to make some major waves with very little material. In this case, the Guelph duo of Evan Abeele and Denise Nouvion have managed to get influential U.S. based blogs like Pitchfork and Gorillavsbear frothing at the mouth through a series of remixes, seven-inches and their excellent Years EP. And really, who can blame them? In the over-saturated glo-fi/chill-wave scene Memoryhouse manage to stand out with their hazy, shoe-gaze dream-pop and vocals that harken back to the 90s lackadaisical hey-day. What’s not to love?
3 – Bonjay: With Thunderheist over and done, the door’s wide open for a new pair of rump-shaking party starters in this country, something that Toronto duo Bonjay do with ease. No band pairs Euro-dance beats with dancehall and dub-reggae bass lines so well (or at all) with singer Alanna holding it all down with her powerful pipes. With only a handful of tracks and some remixes to their names, these guys have nowhere to go but up.
1 & 2 – PS I Love You/Diamond Rings: You’d be hard pressed to find two bands on this list more sonically diverse than Toronto’s Diamond Rings and Kingston rockers PS I Love You. But the two groups are so intrinsically linked it’s impossible to talk about one without the other coming up. After releasing a split 7-inch together last August, both bands have enjoyed a slow build in anticipation and hype leading up to the release of their debut albums this fall. Few bands were able to unite both fans and critics both at home and down South the way these two bands have.