The third round of official South by Southwest 2012 showcasing artists was announced last week, adding another 400 bands to the roster for what’s become, in the somewhat modest words of SXSW organizers, “one of the largest, most influential, and most anticipated music events of the year.”
Along with that third round announcement came a long list of Canadian indie favorites; combined with the first and second round announcements, there is now a sizable contingent of our northern brethren coming to Austin to rock out in mid-March of 2012.
Here’s a list of some of the Canadian indie bands you simply must see, some of the Canadian bands you should see, and some of the acts with which I’m less familiar.
SXSW 2012: Canadian indie acts you must see
This Hamilton, Ontario band has been garnering lots of attention since the release of their second full-length album, Michigan Left, in October. The latest single, “Kiss Cam”, rocketed to the top of the R3-30, CBC Radio 3’s countdown of the week’s top Canadian indie tracks. The song “John Lennon” is a good example of their lyrical style, which for some reason always gives me a hard-to-place Motown vibe.
- Cuff the Duke
Fronted by Wayne Petti, this Oshawa, Ontario alt-country band recently released Morning Comes in Canada—it’s slated for a U.S. release in February 2012—and has been playing to sold-out crowds across Canada. Don’t be fooled by the alt-country stigma, though: their latest album is less twangy, cloying lines about guns and pickup trucks than it is “some of the most infectious pop and upbeat rock the band has crafted yet,” says Paper Bag Records.
- Dan Mangan
The 28-year old Dan Mangan has been touring to support his new album, Oh Fortune, which was released in September. Performing recently in Austin, Mangan thrilled a packed club with a forceful collection of new and classic tracks, including his undeniably cute and profusely popular “Robots“. With themes ranging from growing old to government treatment of war veterans, Mangan makes music that’s at once introspective and exuberant.
- Great Lake Swimmers
With singer-songwriter Tony Dekker at the helm, Great Lake Swimmers consistently puts out melodic folk rock songs that seem to me the perfect embodiment of a Canadian autumn. Reviewing 2007’s release Ongiara, the New York Times wrote, “You can hear every word, every syllable, and the melodies are just right. As I listened to it, it seemed as if it came to me like air, like breathing.”
- Imaginary Cities
Bursting onto the Canadian scene earlier this year with their debut album Temporary Resident, Imaginary Cities brings together Rusty Matyas and Marti Sarbit, a “soulful duo that writes urban rock tunes,” says Canada’s National Post. They’ve got a sound “both funky and familiar—as if Janis Joplin cut an album with the Counting Crows.”
- Leif Vollebekk
The soft guitar stylings and gentle voice of Leif Vollebekk are tied, in my mind, to street-corner performances and intimate coffeehouse gatherings—and SXSW is known for just such opportunities. With lyrics that can worm their way into the hardest of hearts, Vollebekk’s beautiful brand of indie folk-pop will warm your soul even if March in Austin proves cooler than expected. His 2010 album Inland produced “Northernmost Eva Maria” and a slew of other expertly crafted gems.
- Library Voices
After this summer’s release of Summer of Lust, Library Voices has surged to new heights in the charts. Their style of quirky indie pop relies on obscure literary references and fanciful formulations, and the group engages topics personal, political, and cultural—as evidenced by their wildly addictive single, “Generation Handclap“. Don’t miss out on this Regina, Saskatchewan group.
After ten years of crafting songs as a band, the smooth voice of Emily Haines sent Metric into the mainstream of American alt rock radio with the single “Gimme Sympathy” from 2009’s Fantasies. They’re now national arena-rock tour veterans. Haines revealed to SPIN that a new album is set to debut in Spring 2012, so look to hear some to-be-released new music at Metric’s SXSW shows—and arrive early!
From Montreal, Parlovr (for the uninitiated, that’s “parlor”) is best described by the Montreal Mirror as a “trio of self-professed ‘sloppy’ rockers [who] carve out a kind of pop art brut, a beautiful mess of raw (but never ridiculous) emotion and rough (but never unintelligible) textures, with bold, tender melodies standing tall from end to end.”
- Said The Whale
It doesn’t look to be official yet, but Tyler Bancroft of Said The Whale has told me that the band will make an appearance at SXSW for their second year in a row. Said The Whale’s live shows radiate positive energy and seem designed for singalong. Their latest EP, New Brighton, was just released last month, and their single “Lines” has left nearly every other Canadian indie song in the dust on the R3-30; it seems that Said The Whale is close to their goal of winning America. Aside from The Weakerthans, there is no better Canadian indie band currently touring. A must-see.
If you can listen to their song “Elevator Love Letter” and not fall madly, passionately in love with Montreal’s Stars, you might want to reexamine your supposed humanity. Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan’s beautiful vocals make for songs dripping with sentiment, charm, and understated elegance. With an extensive catalog and their own varied histories and solo projects, don’t expect to hear the same set twice at SXSW.
- Young Galaxy
Stephen Ramsay, Catherine McCandless, and Stephen Kamp make up Young Galaxy, a Vancouver-based group whose latest album, Shapeshifting, is an end-to-end trove of dreamy indie pop-rock laced with ribbons of synth and reverb. The band’s releases are a study in transitions; speaking of their latest album, which is markedly different from their earlier efforts, McCandless says, “To be the same people, at different coordinates: that feels very natural to me. It’s baldly honest of where we’re at.” Except to hear some musical diversity at their SXSW shows.
- Yukon Blonde
These four guys put on a great live show recently at Lambert’s and will be coming back through Austin in March for SXSW. The Kelowna, B.C. indie rock band recently put out their Fire/Water EP and will be releasing a new album in the spring so, like Metric, look for some new material to surface in their SXSW performances.
A Toronto-based outfit, Zeus creates oftentimes-cute low-fi indie rock and serves as the backing band for fellow Canadian artist Jason Collett. The band, which maintains an active touring schedule that takes them throughout Canada and various parts of the States, has said to expect a new full-length sometime in “early 2012″. We’ll no doubt hear all about it at SXSW.
SXSW 2012: Canadian indie acts you should see
- Elephant Stone
- The Evaporators
- Krista Muir
- Molly Rankin
- Royal Canoe
- Shout Out Out Out
SXSW 2012: Canadian acts with which I’m less familiar
- The Abramson Singers
- Ariane Moffatt
- Delhi 2 Dublin
- The Extremities
- Half Moon Run
- Institutional Prostitution
- Jef Barbara
- Jordan Cook
- New Look
- Nü Sensae
- Pow Wows
- Sonic Avenues
- Uncle Bad Touch