Online Exclusive: Five Canadian Acts Burning Their Way To International Stardom
By Robert Thompson, Toronto
While artists as diverse as Michael Buble and Arcade Fire prove Canada's ongoing strength as a source of international talent, rising artists wait in the wings. Here are capsule profiles of five Canadian artists to watch.
Hometown: London, Ontario
Most recent/upcoming release: "Oh, My Darling," June 4, 2007 (Canada)
Label: Rough Trade (the United Kingdom), Hardwood Records (Canada)
Management: William Tenn Management
Conceived of as a small, personal project when it was started, Basia Bulat's debut, "Oh, My Darling," has captured the attention of many by offering a sound unique to Bulat and significantly out of step with the times. The basis of the album was recorded in Montreal as Bulat attempted to chronicle the songs she wrote while attending school in London, Ontario. The engineer of those early sessions thought the songs were too good to disappear and began searching for a label that might be interested in Bulat's quirky folk songs. It caught the ear of Rough Trade, who issued the album in early 2007, followed by a Canadian release last June. Rough Trade issued the album in the United States Feb. 5. Embedded with the spirit of 1960s folk, as well as the charm and detail of the work of Elephant 6 bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, Bulat's sound has yet to capture the mainstream. But her debut album is already hotly tipped as a leading contender for Canada's Polaris Prize.
Tokyo Police Club
Hometown: Newmarket, Ontario
Upcoming Release: "Elephant Shell," date TBA
Label: Saddle Creek (the United States); Universal Music (Canada)
Management: Team8 Management
With songs featuring aggressive hooks and angular riffs, Tokyo Police Club conjures the spirit of classic New York rock and tweak it into something fresh and new. Formed in 2005, the band signed to indie label Paper Bag Records after an ecstatically received performance at the Pop Montreal festival. That led to its debut EP, "A Lesson in Crime," which captured attention in North America and Europe, selling 37,000 copies in Canada, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It also led to wide-ranging tours through the United States on bills that included the likes of Cold War Kids and an appearance on "Late Show With David Letterman." In July 2007 at a show in Nebraska the group announced it had signed to Saddle Creek Records, which will release the band's debut album, "Elephant Shell."
State of Shock
Latest Release: "Life, Love, and Lies," June 2007
Label: Cordova Bay Records
Management: RPM Management
With its hit single "Money Honey" garnering radio play on three seemingly disparate formats in Canada, State of Shock appears poised as the hard rock successors to Canadian superstars Nickelback. It should come as no surprise then that Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger is a fan, and he invited State of Shock to open for Nickelback on a six-week tour of arenas. State of Shock's singer Cam Melnyk bonded with Kroeger, asking for post-show suggestions on how to improve the band's act. It would be hard to improve on State of Shock's knack for writing hard rock songs with catchy pop hooks. Following on the group's well-received indie debut "Guilty by Association," State of Shock's follow-up, "Life, Love and Lies," has sold 17,000 copies since its release in June 2007. The band's success in Canada has already caught the attention of several American labels and rumors of an impending deal in the U.S. abound.
Your Favourite Enemies
Latest Release: "And If I Was to Die in the Morning . . . Would I Still Be Sleeping With You," June 1, 2007
A true underground success story, Your Favourite Enemies have eschewed the traditions of the music industry. Instead of signing with a label or employing a manager, the band has used the Internet, its explosive live show and its bond with its fans to sell thousands of records without utilizing standard distribution channels. With a sound that combines elements of metal and gothic rock, and a focus on charismatic vocalists Alex Foster and Miss Isabel, Your Favourite Enemies sold nearly 40,000 copies of their EP, "And If I Was to Die in the Morning . . . Would I Still Be Sleeping With You," without the help of an independent label. Instead, the band has embraced the street team promotional concept and extensively utilized online video blogs and message boards to bring its songs to potential fans. An album, tentatively titled "Love Is a Promise," produced by Steve Thompson (Korn, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Jet) is expected in coming months.
Cuff the Duke
Hometown: Oshawa, Ontario
Latest Release: "Sidelines of the City," Oct. 23, 2007
Label: Hardwood Records
Management: William Tenn Management
With a sound that catches the country and rock nuances of bands like Wilco, along with confident, smart and occasionally gritty songwriting, Cuff the Duke has overtaken its influences on its latest album to find a space all its own. Impressive musicianship and a stunning live show honed by lengthy touring stints throughout Canada has apparently led the band to turn up its amps on its latest outing, "Sidelines of the City." While its 2005 self-titled album may have been too understated to draw the attention the band deserved, "Sidelines of the City" is much more overt, embracing soaring, crunchy guitars and wandering solos that wouldn't be out of place on a Tom Petty album, setting Cuff the Duke apart from many of its jangly contemporaries.