The breakout bands and artists we tracked in Toronto in 2014 didn't all have beer sponsorships, but each impressed us by breaking new grounds through that delicate combination of dedication and talent. These bands are at different stages in their career - some touring the world, some playing every other solid bill you see in Toronto, but each had a year with accomplishments lined up around the block.
We were impressed by the continued success of Majid Jordan, Odonis Odonis, Trust, Diana, Tre Mission, Tasha the Amazon, PartyNextDoor, PUP, Fresh Snow, Cold Specks, and Boi-1da, among many, and watched the rise of acts like of Graze, Petra Glynt, Pick A Piper, Birds of Bellwoods, Ain't No Love, Doom Squad, Airplane Boys, and Zoo Owl. If the artist you've been watching with maternal eyes isn't here, keep your moaning to a minimum for now: our bands to watch list is on its way.
Here are our picks for the top 10 breakout bands and artists from Toronto in 2014.
2014 was the Year of Alvvays. Their long-awaited Chad VanGaalen-produced debut album yielded impossibly catchy singles "Marry Me, Archie" and "Adult Diversion," but the band also toured non-stop supporting with Yuck, Fucked Up, and Real Estate. They played Yonge-Dundas Square at NXNE, and not one but two sold-out shows at the Horseshoe in fall. Come 2015, Alvvays will be touring with the Decemberists and warming up the ever-prestigious Massey Hall in Toronto. If they want it, Alvvays could make 2015 their year as well. WL
The oOohh Baby Gimme Mores
The OBGM's saw their profile rise significantly in 2014 with the support of a beer-brand marketing machine (who needs a record label these days?). U.S. tour dates ensued including the Afropunk Festival in Brooklyn, and the Made In America Festival in Philadelphia where Consequence of Sound named them one of fest's top 10. Triumphant hometown dates saw them tear apart The Horseshoe, The Rivoli, Adelaide Hall and Tattoo. Their self-titled album released in September was a solid debut that proved their worth beyond the hype. PK
Julia Reich's band lo-fi scuzz pop band Bile Sister has on the tip of the tongues of promoters and record labels across the board in Toronto since the release of Faucet on Healing Power Records. Overblown (UK) named them one of 10 must-know Toronto bands, and Reich curated the new Offerings Magazine compilation and helped bring NYC punk Chandra to Toronto. The band played Southern Ontario constantly, appearing on stellar bills left and right. Catch them at Silver Dollar's Class of 2015 in January.
Since 2011, Greys have released three stellar EP's of noisey post-hardcore. But the release of 2014's full-length, If Anything earned flattering reviews from international press and hometown tastemakers alike (we're still sorry for misspelling Shehzaad Jiwani's name). Their SXSW set caught mainstream attention from Rolling Stone and the L.A. Times, and tours through the U.S. and Europe cemented them as one of Toronto's new noise-punk flag-bearers. PK
Whether she was playing fancy billings at Summerworks and the Music Gallery, performing with Tanya Tagaq at Lula Lounge, or throwing down at dance parties at Double Double Land, Lido Pimienta established herself as a key (and rare) original voice (she's not afraid to to sing "K K K Kanada" on stage) in Toronto's music landscape this year. The Colombian-born artist's politically-charged dance pop is as empowering as it is fresh and danceable, and 2014 was the year the city caught on to her magic.
2014 has been a pretty busy year for Weaves; what with celebrated performances at SXSW and CMW, a spot on CP24 Breakfast, and most importantly, the release of their self-titled debut EP on the oh-so-hip Buzz Records. Singer Jasmyn Burke's Billie Holliday-on-acid vocals coupled with Morgan Waters' skronking, Beefheart-esque guitar is squealing candy to our ears (and Rolling Stone's), and tracks like "Motorcycle" and "Buttercup" are just as suitable soundtracking the winter blues as they are in the summer sun. CG
Still-new radio station Indie88 quickly earned the nickname JulyTalk88, but it's the fact that the nu-blues band released their own beer, "July Talk Conversation" via the Mill Street Brewery, that made them a true 2014 Toronto wonder band. Peak Toronto or not, fans adored the band's raucous live performances, from TURF to beer halls to The Phoenix. 2014 will see them launching a huge international tour from the US to Europe.
When they aren't soundtracking the antics of a beefcake Jersey Shore crew, Teenanger make hook-laden, three-chord punk rock led by singer Chris Swimings' Human-Fly vocals; basically bratty music about adult problems. Their new, fourth record, E P L P , could be considered either at a runtime of just under 25 minutes, but in both cases, we're left wanting more and wondering why it took so long for this to grab our attention.
It isn't often that a figure in contemporary chamber music, or toy piano maker, makes a list like this, but beyond Doell's ties to punk ethos and indie bands like The Vulcan Dub Squad, the scene-straddling winner of the Emerging Composer Award and new associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre will be at Feast in the East one night and a composer's workshop the next. This fall he marched a group of noisy kids through the AGO as part of First Thursday, and it seemed like not a week went by without some Doell function, release, or award win.
While her name is in no way new to Toronto's music scene - she's released three albums prior, appeared on Constantines and Fucked Up recordings to name a few, and played in several outfits - this was an emergent year for folk singer-songwriter Jennifer Castle. Her 2014 album Pink City , featuring appearances by Owen Pallett, led Pitchfork to compare her to Neko Case and Joni Mitchell, while NPR found her a natural fit and the in-flux Q brought her onto CBC's airwaves this month.
Who did we miss? Let us know which bands and artists from Toronto impressed you most this year.
Contributions by Po Karim, Colin Gillespie, Wini Lo. Photo of July Talk by Matt Forsythe.
Note: While Colin Gillespie is a member of Greys, he did not contribute to their appearance on this list.
by Aubrey Jax via blogTO