Maple syrup, hockey, and an unending kindness towards Americans making sweeping over-generalizations are just a few of the things Canada is known for. But one of its largest and most consistent exports to this day continues to be revolutionary music. From indie rock legends and staples à la Broken Social Scene, Metric, and Arcade Fire to top-charting pop and hip-hop via Drake and The Weeknd, Canada has established itself as a veritable breeding ground for some of today’s most interesting artists.
So, in celebration of the Constitution Act of 1867 that united the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick into a single dominion, we hand-picked 15 of our favorite rising Canadian acts who are poised for massive things.
Jonah Yano came out of seemingly nowhere to deliver a spellbinding series of jazz-inspired releases, all of which culminated in a six-track EP that is utterly breathtaking. The Japanese-Canadian artist is reminiscent of artists such as James Blake and Elliot Smith, with the way he has the power to imbue his softly-spoken sonic meditations with a profound emotional weight and depth. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the aforementioned nervous, which sees Yano enlisting BADBADNOTGOOD, Nono, and MONEYPHONE, to deliver a vibe quite like no other. This is indisputably an artist to watch.
Toronto is certainly not lacking when it comes to talent that excels in taking typical musical conventions and twisting them to create a mirage of sound that feels wholly unique. And you need to look no further than the dance-inducing sounds of Verzache for living proof. The project of Zach Farache, the Toronto-based artist is leading and pioneering a modern experimental acoustic sound. Taking influence from the likes of Bon Iver, James Blake, and Toro Y Moi, Verzache blends experimental and acoustic elements to create a sonic space brimming with an ineffable warmth and sense of life.
If you had any lingering questions as to whether or not punk was dead, then grandson has your answer. Emerging from Toronto, Ontario with frenetic energy and a heart-racing amalgamation of electronic and punk rock influences, grandson is so much than just an all-around exhilarating time. There is a sense of dire urgency to grandson’s anthemic music, as he touches upon some of the pertinent socio-political issues of our day. From an abhorrent lack of gun control in the US, the ongoing opioid epidemic, to political corruption, grandson’s music arrives a striking wakeup call.
Lennon Stella may have found her start covering pop icons alongside her sister Maisy on YouTube, but it is her stunning solo work that is poised to launch her to the same icon-like status as the very artists she was once covering. Releasing her debut EP, Love, me, in fall of 2018, the succinct five-track offering cemented the Oshawa-native’s future in music. Currently racking in over eight million monthly listeners on Spotify alone, Stella’s sublime pop meditations that simultaneously manage to feel larger than life yet deeply personal need to be on your radar.
Emerging from the lush and competitive soundscape of Toronto, anders stands as one of the city’s most anticipated and acclaimed newcomers. Building on the hype surrounding Toronto’s dark R&B craze, the Toronto artist is bringing his own distinctive flair to the scene to present a sound that is as infectious as it is exceptional. It is a sound and vision realized over the course of two striking EPs, 2017’s 669 and 2018’s Twos. Beyond creating otherworldly bouts of R&B, anders has emerged as a multi-talent, creating his own imprint that has seen him broaden his horizons both in the world of music and fashion.
Model-turned-singer Charlotte Cardin is easily becoming one of the most alluring voices in the world of music. The Montreal singer-songwriters blends together the worlds of jazz, electronica folk, and sultry R&B for a listening experience that never fails to draw listeners in. First coming to public attention as a contestant on the vocal competition show La Voix in 2013, Cardin has since paved out a path for herself as a serious artist demanding of the world’s attention. The singer’s critically-acclaimed debut Main Girl EP is a sonic testament to this fact, and she certainly has the live performance chops to back all of it up.
It’s rare for us to champion an artist with only one single to date, but that only goes to show what a rare talent alcordo is. We originally applauded the Toronto artist’s gift for R&B following the release of her debut single “No Good.” alcordo’s vocal talents are not only Ones To Watch approved but JMSN approved as well, having signed to his esteemed White Room Records. Beyond collaborating and touring with JMSN, alcordo has collaborated with Soulection and delivered a stunning rendition of Erykah Badu’s “Window Seat.” For a talent with such a strong and early start, only time will tell just what grand heights alcordo will aspire to.
James Blake-meets-The Weeknd in Vancouver native, Harrison Brome’s seductively melancholy take on pop-infused R&B. Inspired by the gloom of his hometown and the works of Motown and jazz greats such as Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, and Nina Simone, Brome’s music combines exquisite melody lines with deeply somber undertones. A maverick both in his creative and business endeavors, Brome dropped out of high school right before graduating to pursue music full time, a decision he does not regret. More of a lone-wolf kind of an artist, he wrote, produced, and released the majority of his music independently. His most recent release debut EP, Body High is a four-track masterpiece that showcases Brome’s profound writing abilities, gorgeous voice, and intriguingly diverse sonic palette.
Let’s get one thing straight. There’s more to the 6 than Drake. Toronto’s 88GLAM is bound to be the next big hip-hop act to majorly crossover. The rap duo comprised of Derek Wise and 88 Camino have one full-length release to their name, 88GLAM RELOADED, but it’s a living testament to the duo’s skill for delivering dark, viral-ready rap-n-b jams. Then there’s the fact that the 88GLAM has earned the attention and respect of one of Canada’s most successful acts to date, The Weeknd. Singing to The Weekend’s XO Records and already playing shows across North America, it’s only a matter of the time until The 6 adds another name to its hallowed halls of rap acts that have made it big.
Calpurnia is an indie-rock band based in Vancouver. After mastering cover songs by classics like The Beatles and a having a few basement jams, the foursome decided to really dive into their own unique sound by recording originals. Fronted by Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard, they are perhaps best known for their success as adolescents, seeing as all members range from age 15 to 17. They may be young, but Calpurnia is composed of some of the most promising young artists in the industry. Prodigious guitarist Ayla Tesler-Mabe, bassist Jack Anderson and drummer Malcolm Craig all complete the backline. Their debut EP, Scout, got a lot of buzz and not just because of their well-known frontman. It’s an easy listen and contains authentically playful energy that stems from the genuine excitement of fresh-faced musicians. Their most popular song, “City Boy” has over two-million streams on Spotify alone. Not bad at all for a first crack at releasing music.
Nigerian-Canadian artist ODIE draws inspiration from a series of global influences across genres to create music that defies boxes and boundaries. From Kid Cudi to Fela Kuti, ODIE’s diverse personal taste is apparent in his expert synthesis of elements from alternative rock, hip-hop, and Afro-Gospel beats, resulting in a sound that is wonderfully unique to him. The development of this distinct sound was accomplished through four years of refining his craft and catalogue before releasing any music into the world. In 2018 the young, yet incredibly well-versed 21-year old, released his debut album Analogue, garnering him worldwide acclaim and notoriety.
Jean-Michel Blais arrives at the intersection of the organic and synthetic. The classicists and the futurists. Part classical musician, part electronic artist, Blais creates enveloping works of sonic art. The Montreal artist’s instrumental works are intricately complex yet widely accessible. There is an ethereal beauty to the entirety of it, such as on the stunning debut album II. However, where Blais is arguably at his most fascinating is his when he’s at his most unconventional. His sophomore effort, Dans ma main, sees the classically-trained musician delving into the world of electronic music to compose works that feel out of place in time, belonging to no one particular era. Then there are his live performances, which are nothing short of mesmerizing.
Vancouver’s So Loki is easily becoming one of Canada’s most interesting rap outfits. Comprised of rapper Sam Lucia and producer Geoff Millar, the duo takes a unique avant-garde approach to the genre. Having made a name for themselves in the Vancouver scene over the last few years, so loki is poised to bring their experimental and infectious hip-hop to the world’s stage. Their full-length debut, 2017’s Shine, earned them widespread critical acclaim from some of the world’s leading tastemakers in the world of underground hip-hop–Complex, Noisey, Red Bull just to name a few. And So Loki just keeps getting better, as we bore witness to in their stunning sophomore effort, 2018’s Planet Bando.
Hailing from the Canadian metropolis of Montreal, Homeshake is the current project of singer-songwriter Peter Sagar. Sensual, honest and brilliant with wordplay, Homeshake is the ultimate chill R&B vibe. The tracks are simple and oh-so-pleasing to the ear, melting vocals together with clean guitar licks and sampled sounds. The artist’s latest, Fresh Air, features 14 sultry songs that compliment each other while standing completely on their own as well. Homeshake’s DIY sound makes the listening experience distinct and memorable. Homeshake brings sex appeal and an alternative take to R&B to the table, perfectly executing the living room aesthetic that just can’t be faked.
Toronto’s Allie X is crafting pop music with an artistic flair that just cannot be ignored. Influenced by her theatrical experimentation, all of Allie X’s efforts to date have been indelible works of pop magic that hint at a greater form of art. Take CollXtion 1 and CollXtion 2, the artist’s first two EPs in a series of works, which are actively defining what an album release looks like. Or the persona of Allie X herself, which blends a gothic and pastel aesthetic to deliver something that goes beyond just the music. Undeniably haunting and stylistically crafted, Allie X is the future of pop.