2014 Rokkies: highlighting Rokline’s Favorite New or Emerging indie artists of 2014 |
It is difficult and perhaps even irrelevent to pick winners when it comes to artistic endeavors, after all, unlike a sporting event music is a subjective and personal experience for the listener, that which can only be judged on a level of individual interpretation.
That being said, the facetiously named ROKKY AWARDS is an annual selection of Favorite Indie Music Achievements from the past year, with an emphasis on the independent/unsigned artist whose eager devotion to artistic expression often outshines that of their more famous contemporaries. This year-end review is essentially comprised of Artists we’ve been featuring throughout the year, and while it’s simply not possible to have listened to every bit of music released in 2014, I like to think the following selections cover a broad range of styles consistent with an ongoing pursuit of musical discovery, rather than simply a reflection of my personal preferences.
The criteria for selecting ROKLINE’S Favorite New or Emerging Artist is that they be Canadian, have released an EP, LP, or multiple singles during the past year (2014), and are still relatively new. Last year’s recipients included Vancouver singer-songwriter & guitarist Joyce Island, Hamilton solo artist Amber Edgar (long awaited debut album soon to be released), Edmonton duo Two Bears North, Toronto’s masters of soul-rock The Honeyrunners, and Newfoundland alt-rockers Young Manics … [See All]
So without further ado …
FAVORITE NEW OR EMERGING ARTIST (Top 20)
- DARK MEAN – Hamilton, ON | Independent
There are certain musical artists of the roots-rock vein who come to mind when I listen to DARK MEAN, those with an innate skill in rendering surrealistic and introspective songs that can tug at the heart and mind and capture peoples’ attention from early on in their careers, albums such as Whiskeytown‘s Strangers Almanac, Wilco‘s Being There, and even Steve Earle‘s Exit 0. There’s an edgy, soul-baring, organically-rich americana vibe that penetrates the musical consciousness of a wide swath of music fans, a cross section of folk, punk, rock and pop, which at it’s core evokes and implies a sense of deeply rooted, unfiltered passion.
This prog-folk, alt-rock trio from Hamilton, Ontario isn’t exactly new, let’s just say they’re emerging gradually, like a slow simmer. They had a whirlwind debut with their self-titled LP back in 2011, a period they’ve described as more attention than ever anticipated, garnering favourable reviews across the spectrum of worldwide publications and catching the attention of several major labels, managers, publishers and film directors like Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) … But in contradictory fashion the three close friends seem shy, unassuming, reserved, almost self-effacing, effectively hibernating since the unexpected initial success and stark realization they just may have something here, content to tap into their collective creative genius and grow as artists at their own pace. Read our Q&A session with Dark Mean.
- MOON – Halifax, NS | Bruised Tongue Records
“Formed in 2012 by music workers Stephanie Johns (drums, singing), Andrew Neville (guitars, singing) and Noel Macdonald (guitars, singing), soon after added members Graeme Stewart (guitars, synthesizer) and Jaime Forsythe (flute). Moon weaves psychedelia, post punk, and pop together, all set to the heartbeat of the motorik …” A masterstroke of alternative indie-pop, and perhaps the album I’ve listened to the most this year. If you’re not instantly won over by the truly organic and whimsical magic of these quirky sonic explorers, than you’re simply dead inside.
- THE NEW WILD – Winnipeg, MB | Independent
Sean and Daniel Guezen harmonize and rhapsodize about pharmaceutical companies, lost dogs, childbirth, and knife fights. The modern jungle of the city and the relationships within it. A new, wild attitude toward being a two-piece that makes music more colourful than that of its obvious Black and White predecessors … Having only recently discovered the indie-outlaw blues-rock of these two Winnipeg brothers, I feel their debut EP only further legitimizes the often overlooked prairie city as one of this country’s nost vibrant indie music scenes … as evidenced by this list!
- THE HOURS – Winnipeg, MB | Independent
A refreshing dream pop chandelier, the slow unfolding solitude inside the summer bathing chords, the warm shoegaze hanging veil … Enchanting, psychedelic dreampop from a Winnipeg quintet whose meager few singles have been enough to warrant some of the most fervent anticipation for a debut record, on my part anyways … and presuming they release a debut album. Here’s Hoping!
- KINGS OF LOWERTOWN – Pembroke, ON | Independent
This enigmatic dirt-blues project is like a badass grunge version of Ray Lamontagne and The Pariah Dogs. This is heavy, blues-driven alternative rock served up like a swampy amalgamation of ZZ Top, Robert Johnson and Tom Waits, and this innovative collaboration between songwriter Mike Mackey and producer-engineer-musician Jordon Zadorozny (Blinker The Star) is reaping some exciting musical dividends, the kind that leave me pining for more and scouring the internet to get the lowdown and the what’s what. There’s a dark and melancholic tone, even a dirge-like quality to many of the songs, soulfully rendered on three short EPs in three years: Kings of Lowertown – 2012, 60 More Miles – 2013, and Mississippi Flood – 2014.
- Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk – Calgary, AB | Independent
The band’s star has risen considerably as a result of CBC SEARCHLIGHT, the 2 month-long national contest dubbed the Hunt for Canada’s Best New Artist, including critical acclaim and international accolades for the debut album ‘Over Land and Sea’, and I most certainly concur. Lauren Mann and conpany were also Finalists in Alberta’s Peak Performance Project.
- PORT JUVEE – Calgary, AB | Independent
In their short time, PORT JUVEE have toured extensively with their first EP, BLEACHERS, and performed at Sled Island, Canadian Music Week, and Calgary’s X-Fest with Death From Above 1979, Weezer, Hollerado, and Passion Pit. Their debut EP REVENGE was produced by Justin Gerrish (Vampire Weekend, The Strokes, Weezer) … Read More
- THE HONEYRUNNERS – Toronto, ON | Independent
The Honeyrunners are a modern consequence of music alchemy – rock & roll with the raw soul of a Motown band and the brashness of 90’s punk … Okay, what can I say, these guys were also on Rokline’s 2013 list of favorite Emerging Artists, and their follow-up EP just confirms that these rock & soul titans possess some mighty groove chops, perhaps unrivalled in Canada’s indie-rock realm. Funk Yeah! And may the Groove Be With You …
- LINT – Toronto, ON | Independent
extraordinary alternative punk rock … ’nuff said.
- THE TOURIST COMPANY – Vancouver, BC | Independent
They’ve been said to sound like worlds colliding, marrying the heart of storytelling folk alongside indie rock’s driving sonic qualities with an element of hip-hop’s groove. Experimental Folk-rock, Launched in 2013 | CBC Searchlight Regional Champion in 2014, 3rd Place in BC Peak Performance Project 2014 … Read More
- DIAMOND MIND – Edmonton, AB | Independent
This Edmonton foursome describe their music as Fountain Pop, but it’s so much more than that. In fact, this is the rare occasion when I’m at a loss to compare them to anyone or anything, other than to suggest they evoke some fond memories of the seminal alt-rock scene in the U.K., circa 1985. The sonically sparse, wonderfully nuanced, alluring aural atmospheres on the debut EP Fake Tape reveal a penchant for cobbling together a unique blend of alternative electro-pop and guitar-rock, each song rife with notes-between-the-notes and an intriguing air of unpredictability that speaks to signature craftsmanship void of imitation, and a suitably surreal-like lead vocal to make each dreamy melody all the more captivating.
- MARVELOUS MARK – Toronto, ON | Burger Records
Debut EP for Marvelous Mark, aka Mark Fosco, Toronto indie music veteran formerly of The Marvelous Darlings, Roommates, and Rad Habits. Like a millennial alt-rock version of Buddy Holly, gritty Power Pop resplendent with elements of Big Star, Nirvana and Superdrag … Artist Website
- TRACER FLARE – Montreal | Independent
Montreal indie prog-pop artists Tracer Flare recently released what many reviewers are calling the band’s most accomplished album so far, and while I was instantly enamored with the previous EP’s Among Us and Black Box I tend to agree that they’ve managed to surpass their U2-like charm of simmering guitar licks and signature soaring vocals with a more fleshed out, denser blanket of sound that never threatens to submerse or dilute the band’s flair for dynamics-enriched melodic magic, rather reinforcing and emboldening it’s power. Read our Article.
- BILLY MOON – Hamilton, ON | Independent
Pure-of-heart, free-spirited guitar-rock, descended from a sophisticated indie pedigree tracing back to 90’s alt-heroes The Inbreds, Thrush Hermit, Superfriendz, and The Pixies … Rok Article and Interview w/ Billy Moon
- NAYSA – Winnipeg, MB | Independent
Founded in 2013 by songwriter, guitarist & vocalist Reverend Davey Todd III, NAYSA appears to have cohered quickly into a naturally collaborative entity, already yielding two substantive EP’s inviting varied comparisons to some iconic 90’s alt-rock bands, such as the Pixies, Eric’s Trip, Pavement, and Weezer. But however you hear it, they surely embody the indie/alt-rock spirit and relative blueprint in terms of their sound and style … Read our Article
- THE GOOD IN EVERYONE – Vancouver, BC | Independent
Weaving sonic backdrops to intimate unremarked events that are the stuff of West Coast life .. the songs on their debut EP speak for themselves. Intricate yet accessible, hard-driving yet layered and poetic … an emotional, compelling taste of what’s to come. Read More
- LISA LEBLANC – Rosaireville, NB | Bonsound
With the release of her platinum-selling debut record in 2012, and a relentless tour throughout Canada, France, Belgium and Switzerland, singer-songwritter Lisa LeBlanc had a brilliant launch to her career. Her irresistible charm lies in her unique self-described “folk-trash” style, and her mini-album Highways, Heartaches and Time Well Wasted is further proof of her amazing creativity .. Read More
- INDIGO JOSEPH – Regina, SK | Independent
The band Indigo Joseph strive to play music the same way they approach life; as a colourful journey where the imperfections and diversity make the ride all the more amazing. The Regina, SK bilingual four-piece bring to life everyday stories of nostalgia, pain and love through captivating sonic colours, all while borrowing from many genres … Read More
- STELLA ELLA OLA – Toronto, ON | Royal Mountain Records
Sing-happy, hook-heavy power pop. What Stella Ella Ola’s songs lack in length, they make up in fun. See More
- ALTERED BY MOM – Vancouver, BC | Independent
Born inside the incomparable musical mind of Devon Lougheed (beekeeper, Hey Ocean!), ALTERED BY MOM will stir the heart of those nostalgic for the heyday of Sloan, Limblifter, Matthew Good, and Thrush Hermit; undeniable pop hooks, unstoppable earworms, and irresistible head-bobbing stadium-sized anthems. Read More
I omitted Vancouver trio The Written Years from this list as they’d already been bestowed with Favorite Album of 2014 honours, but naturally their stellar self-titled debut album ranks them high on our list of Artists To Follow ……
THE WRITTEN YEARS – Vancouver, BC | Independent
Also omitted from this list, while still having made our Top 20 Albums of 2014 is hometown favorite NAPALMPOM whose debut LP ‘The Unconditional Love Of Napalmpom’ put them firmly on Rokline’s radar. If pure-of-heart rock and roll bliss is what you’re after, this band more than fits the bill, and they’re planning to take it on the road in 2015! See our Q&A session with guitarist Shawn Petsche.