11 Montreal bands to watch in 2014
by Greg Bouchard
December 11, 2013
2014 marks an especially important year in Montreal music: it’s the tenth anniversary of Arcade Fire’s Funeral, the album that brought the city’s music scene into the limelight and earned it the then-meaningful “next Seattle” title. Of course, anyone who was there at the time already knew that Montreal had one of the most vibrant independent music scenes in North America (see: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, The Dears, The Unicorns) and that Arcade Fire was only the tip of the iceberg. Look at what has happened since: Wolf Parade, Plants & Animals, The Besnard Lakes, SUUNS, Young Galaxy, tUnE-yArDs, Grimes, Braids, Blue Hawaii, No Joy, Doldrums, Mozart’s Sister, Purity Ring, d’Eon, Majical Cloudz, Sean Nicholas Savage, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, Folly & The Hunter, Groenland, Half Moon Run—the list goes on and on.
The scene never slowed down after its mid-2000s boom, but only got bigger and better, to the point where there are more great artists working in Montreal than ever before. The list below features eleven bands who are poised to do big things in 2014. Many of them only have an EP to their name and plan on releasing a debut LP in the new year, while others are on the verge of dropping sophomore albums that should propel them to the next level. Either way, these are the bands (in alphabetical order) who should be making headlines before long.
A K U A
Akua Carson is a solo R&B artist who takes on the triple duty of singing, writing, and performing her material. It’s more than an astonishing feat—her music is damn good, and she has one of the smoothest and most expressive voices in the game. Big names have taken note—currently she’s touring the world in Solange’s backing band, and her cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compare 2 U” was recently featured on the Okayplayer and Rookie Mag websites. The spellbinding music video for her song “Gravity” saw her swimming through the Florida Everglades in a mermaid suit, while her debut EP, One’s Company, offers a brief glimpse of what’s to come. Right now she’s writing new music and scouting producers for an LP. Check out AUX’s interview with AKUA from the September issue of AUX Magazine right here.
Everything about CTZNSHP has a perfect cinematic quality to it. They’re three impeccably-dressed lads playing soaringly melodic songs about lost romances and last calls through layers of loud and hazy guitar. Lead singer Jesse LeGallais belts out every word like he’s fighting to win back the love of his life. With anthems like “Heartbreak Kids,” “Swan Dive,” and “On A Roll” under their belts, 2014 will see them recording new music at the legendary Breakglass Studios with producer Jace Lasek.
Emilie & Ogden
The name Emilie & Ogden refers to singer/instrumentalist Emilie Khan and her harp. One listen to her beautiful (and painfully short) debut EP reveals why her instrument is part of the band—she doesn’t just play the harp, she brings it to life. With her voice winding around every sonic turn and pluck of the strings, Emilie spins songs so catchy that it’s easy to overlook their immense complexity. She plans on spending this February recording a full-length album that should appear in the fall of 2014, but in the meantime, do anything you can to catch her at the next available show or festival.
The jazzy soft-rock revival movement has been going strong for a while now (see: Feist, Iron & Wine, Destroyer), but most of these artists take their pop chops and apply them to a foreign genre. Emma Frank shines by doing the opposite, working with a genuine grounding in jazz. Her debut EP, For Being Apart, is a reminder that the traditional acoustic jazz quartet can offer more elasticity and warmth than all the electronic production in the world. Then there’s Frank’s voice, combining the expressiveness of Carole King with the technical ability of any great jazz singer. It’s a voice that should appear on the radio for years to come.
Holobody is a loose collective of musicians revolving around the brother-sister duo of Luke Loseth and Sea Oleena. The two have worked together for years, with Loseth recording Sea Oleena’s well-received first LP, but here they have reached a new level of song craftsmanship. Loseth is one of the most talented young producers in Canada and his knack for pulling pop music out of abstract sonic textures recalls another sprawling group with a couple core members—Broken Social Scene. Holobody are the kind of band that never stop recording or writing and we’ll no doubt see more releases in 2014. For now, their MTL EP contains enough to tide us over.
If Fleetwood Mac had teamed up with Cyndi Lauper to write nothing but songs for ’80s movie montages, they would have been MORI. The trio of Ohara Hale (formerly of The Hoof and the Heel), Alex Cooper (Parlovr), and Martin Horn (Cotton Mouth), are masters of retro synths and drum machines, but in a way that feels completely fresh—–and fun. Just listen to “Look Who’s Got the Gun Now,” where a cliché love-war line like “I gave you ecstasy” is followed by “you gave me MDMA” and try not to smile. MORI are in the process of writing and recording songs and throw a new one on their Bandcamp page every now again. Watch closely, and hope a full album appears before long.
With a critically-acclaimed album and a few years of experience under their belts, the dark dream pop band Receivers are ready to reach for the stars with their forthcoming sophomore LP. The preview tracks absolutely slay: “Ships and Lanterns” is a cascading song of light and hope, and “Devotional” builds like a rocket ship blasting off in slow motion. Right now they’re in the studio tweaking songs for the new album and the grand release is set for early 2014.
Like Receivers, Sunfields already have an album to their name – in this case, the impeccable rock/alt-country LP, Palace. Rarely is there a band that pays such careful attention to the basics—song craft, instrument tone, and hooks. In short, Sunfields are serious, and it’s no wonder they’ve spent four years producing another album. Plenty of bands list heavy-hitters like The Beatles and Neil Young as influences, but Sunfields have actually done their homework, and their music stands up next to the giants. Expect big things when their new album drops next year.
The musical duo of Aleks Schürmer and Tyr Jami, with artist Zuzu Knew, fuse symphonic and electronic styles into joyful pop in a way that’s both timeless and utterly original. Jami can conjure what sounds like a whole symphony on her cello, while her vocals bounce over every musical turn like Björk. Schürmer—on theremin, keys, and electronics—lifts their songs to a different level, while Knew demonstrates that style and substance need not be separate. Always active in Montreal’s underground, late-night music community, Syngja have an EP and some yet-to-be-announced artistic projects planned for the new year.
On top of having the best pun band name going, Technical Kidman write some of the most intense future-pop in the city. Their songs are percussive and hypnotizing, like tribal chants from outer space, and their visual aesthetic propels them from musicians to genuine artists. The four blistering songs on their debut EP offer only a small glimpse into their world. Now they’re almost finished recording a full-length LP and the world should expect earthquakes and fire upon its release.