Exclaim!'s New Faves: Canadian Artists You Need to Hear in September 2020
Published Sep 03, 2020Between You Say Party's XXXX, Ron Sexsmith's self-titled album and Big Sugar's Hemi-Vision, lots of Canadian artists are using this rather quiet summer for the music industry as a good opportunity to look back and reissue some classic, decades-old music.
For other artists, this is a time to try out some new sounds with fresh projects. From Toronto guitar-slingers to BC country rule-breakers to Prairie R&B crooners, these are the Canadian artists you need to hear right now.
For fans of: Bright Eyes, the National
Sameer Cash was once the Springsteenian bandleader of Sam Cash & the Romantic Dogs, but he's taken a more downtempo turn for This City, out September 11 via Postwar Records. Set to a slow-burning backdrop of symphonic rock, Cash sings about gentrification and isolation with pained subtlety, as if Toronto were slowly squeezing the life out of him during every take.
For fans of: Nick Drake, Tiny Ruins, Julie Byrne
Toronto's Decoration Day make songs that are remarkably soothing. On their second release, Makeshift Future (due September 18), the chamber folk band soften fear's sharp edges with gentle instrumentals. Across the album's 10 tracks, Decoration Day ferment with anxious thoughts but they do so while cradling you in calming tones and so, by the record's end, you feel renewed.
For fans of: Sean Nicholas Savage, Mk.gee, Prince
Diamond Café is the danceable, '80s-influenced solo project of multi-instrumentalist Tristan Thompson (no, not the athlete). Funk guitar and synth pads provide the matrix from which Thompson's expressive vocals shine at the fore. Recent contributions include an appearance on rapper GASHI's new LP, 1984, alongside collaborators like Pink Sweat$, Njomza and Sting.
For fans of: Frank Ocean, Daniel Caesar, Sampha
Winnipeg's Sebastian Gaskin has been keeping busy, most recently releasing silky smooth new single "Snakehold." Thanks to his earnest, soulful vocals and mix of R&B, hip-hop and funk sounds, he's been building momentum over the past few years, opening for Common and Buffy Sainte-Marie, plus earning a Western Canadian Music Award nomination for 2020 R&B Artist of the Year.
For fans of: Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill, VanJess
With over eight years of spoken word poetry writing and performance under her belt, Liz Clarke has more recently turned her pad and pen to writing rhymes as HTBSLE (pronounced "hitta-baseelay"). This year's "unmixed" tape, The Humanities, found the Ottawa-via-Toronto artist showcasing her fully-formed technique in confident, soulful fashion — a stylistic approach to beats and bars furthered on new single "Velvet."
R. McClure & Tall Shadows
For fans of: Faye Webster, Molly Burch, Orville Peck
On Bandcamp, R. McClure & Tall Shadows use the tag "cow-gaze" to label "Never Love Me Again," the first single from their self-titled album that's due on September 13 via Factotum CO. It's the perfect summary of not only the single's playful fusion of smoggy shoegaze and country twang but also the record's overall sound. Led by Shimmering Stars' Rory McClure, R. McClure & Tall Shadows' songs will even put country music skeptics into a trance.
For fans of: Fury, Turning Point, Mental
2018's Changes EP brought Mil-Spec to ears and eyes beyond Toronto's corners, leading to the band supporting Have Heart's reunion shows and performing at international music festivals. On debut album World House, due September 25 on Lockin' Out Records, the band return to the traditional core their label has put out for decades while channelling Changes' songwriting depth and the reflective emotional transparency that puts Mil-Spec above their peers.
For fans of: Jinjer, Gojira, Meshuggah
Formed by married duo and former iwrestledabearonce members Mike Stringer and Courtney LaPlante in 2017, Spiritbox sound like they are trying to cram the entire metal spectrum into a single song. LaPlante sings like an angel and screams like a demon on tracks like "Holy Roller," "Rule of Nines" and "Blessed Be." If the massive reception to these new songs is anything to go by, Spiritbox will be at the forefront of Canadian metal in the coming decade.
Listen to tracks from these and other New Faves in our Spotify playlist.