NAT YORSKI – Montreal
At one stage of the Rio Olympics, some outstanding women had won all 12 Canadian medals. Sure, the guys are catching up now, and good on them, but those Canuck ladies have been killing it. If you, like me, are a Canadian thinking to yourself, “Man, I love watching badass lady folk compete in the Olympics. I should totally use my girl-power inspired patriotism to expand my knowledge of our nation’s musical repertoire while simultaneously pumping myself up for more sports,” then this playlist is definitely for you.
In an attempt to showcase some newer, and perhaps relatively lesser known Canadian talent, I’ve chosen mostly queens who’ve been more predominant only within the last few years. Sit back and enjoy some great homegrown talent.
Metric – “The Shade”
I know that I just said I’d only be including ladies who’ve had their start in the last few years and that this Toronto based indie-rock band has been making music since the late 90s. I am also aware that this is a band comprised of four people only one of whom is female, but I can’t make a playlist of kick-ass Canadian ladies without mentioning one of our most talented representatives: Emily Haines. Metric have somehow perfectly straddled a fine line between headbanging punk rock and electro dance music. Her vocal performance is almost riot grrrl lite and she is so authentic when it comes to her down-to-earth lyrical songwriting abilities. She’s also been involved with the supergroup Broken Social Scene involving numerous members from the Toronto indie scene.
Tasha the Amazon – “My Level”
Pft! Move over Drake! Here is what Toronto-based hip-hop sounds like. German/Jamaican Natasha Shummannis an incredible rapper and producer, though you might not expect her sound from a girl who was raised in Kitchener, Ontario with roots in piano. That being said, it’s a healthy mix of minimalist deep, dark and grimy beats paired with an energetic lyricism and delivery that makes her worth listening to. On a side note, this week she released her newest music video Picasso Leaning.
Jocelyn Alice – “Jackpot”
Jocelyn Alice is a Calgary-based performer with an absolutely stunning voice. Though “Jackpot” is a solo effort, she is also part of a duet appropriately called “Jocelyn and Lisa”. In truth, the only reason I chose to feature Alice over her musical partner is because “Jackpot” is generally a catchier tune, and because she got her start from the show PopStars. For those that don’t know or remember, this was the television show that inspired the Idol franchise, originating in New Zealand before making its way across the world. It was incredibly awkward and the editing made it seem like it was supposed to be matched with a telethon but here’s another fun fact: it is also where Nicole Sherzinger from the Pussycat Dolls got her start.
Buffy Sainte-Marie – “Starwalker”
Again, Buffy Sainte-Marie is not a recent artist on the scene. On the contrary, she has been making music since the 60s, but was nominated for [another] Juno (Canadian Grammy) award this past year, so she’s relevant. Born in Saskatchewan, and of Cree descent, she has been representing that aboriginal community for years, from Sesame Street appearances and even winning an Academy Award with her husband for writing “Up Where We Belong”. At 75, she is still making music and is able to marry a very strong traditional sound with rock and roll.
Partner – “The ‘Ellen’ Page”
I kind of imagine that if Tegan and Sara came out of the 90s alt rock scene, they would sound like Partner. This grungy lesbian duo are from British Columbia and are super charming with a great sense of humour, having gone so far as to write a song to “clear shit up” called “We’re Gay (But Not Together)”.
Rie Mae – “Ooh Love (Neon Dreams Remix)”
Ria Mae has been making music her entire life, but before writing her captivating pop/folk/rock tunes she was studying construction management in Halifax. Within the last five years, she’s released two albums and a handful of singles that caught the attention of Canadian hip-hop producer Classified, thus giving her sound that much more danceability.
Alice Glass – “Stillbirth”
If you want to talk about awkwardly passive-aggressive breakups, look no further than Crystal Castles. Back in 2005, Ethan Kath and Alice Glass began collaborating and making some experimental electronic music under the name Crystal Castles. Then, in 2014, after three albums and seemingly minimal drama, Glass announced via Facebook that “for a multitude of reasons both professional and personal” she couldn’t stay with the band and “although this is the end of the band, I hope my fans will embrace me as a solo artist.” This declaration was followed almost immediately by the band’s manager responding that Crystal Castles would continue to exist without her. Since her departure, Glass has been replaced and has had a public feud with Kath. Glass released “Stillbirth” in July 2015 for domestic abuse awareness, and then donated all the proceeds of the song’s earnings to the organization RAINN. Though she has only released one solo song, it’s important to note how she changed the sound and performance of electronic music.
You Say Party – “Underside”
You Say Party (Formerly, You Say Party, We Say Die!) just celebrated their 10 year anniversary and released their fourth album this past February. Any proof needed that this dance-punk band is authentic can be found in their origin story. Being a bike gang that couldn’t ride in the cold winter months of British Columbia, they created their band in a basement and started to have a “play anytime, anywhere” policy. After their drummer suffered a brain hemorrhage on stage at a Vancouver performance, they had a brief hiatus and dropped the “We Say Die!” from the end of the band name. Almost predictably, their newest album is a bit darker and has a ghostlike quality as front woman Nicky Ninkovic’s voice seems almost ethereal.
Milk & Bone – “Pressure”
I promise that I don’t mean to make this list primarily twosomes but I need to represent Montreal outside of the obvious Regine Chassagne or Grimes. Milk & Bone are another relatively new synth-pop band with fresh music that, though catchy and hypnotic, still has a bit of an ambient touch to it.
And now that they’ve started contributing to the medal tally, a quick shoutout to the guys…
JP Hoe – “Learn To Let You Go”
Winnipeg-based JP Hoe is a quiet talent when it comes to the Canadian indie-folk scene. His anthemic and theatrically romantic songs are as sincere as they are relatable. Finally, after a five-year hiatus, he released his latest album last summer. It’s taken a full year for it to pick up steam, but he’s finally creating a buzz with ”Beautifully Crazy”. (Fun Fact: That cello player on the left is my cousin).
Nat Yorski is the effervescent and unapologetic female voice of The Coost. With her love of music and her second love of telling people what’s what, she spends most of her time playing with puppets and signing karaoke to her dog.