Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Toronto's New Class of Soul: Listen to Daniel Caesar's EP 'Pilgrim's Paradise'

Something has been happening in Toronto for awhile now. The city is slowly becoming less musically known for its indie-rock community which, for the most part, is relatively self-contained, and more for the up-and-coming class of soul stars who are either a household name by now (The Weeknd) or emerging with some of the most impressive solo work and international collaborations this city has seen in some time. 

Some say it's thanks to Drake that all of this is happening, and there's no doubt the young rap and R&B players gained some confidence from his global championing. But, what this group is doing, this fearless flavour of soul that they're producing together in creative, incestuous music communities, is now so plentiful it's overflowing at the city's seams. They need a name, really - because they're not OVO, but they could end up comparable.

One of those artists is Daniel Caesar - a 20 year-old singer-songwriter rolling with the likes of Toronto producers Frank Dukes and River Tiber, dropping short, emotive bodies of work that affirm his status as one of the ones to watch in the soul-folk space. Just a few weeks ago, Caesar released his second EP, Pilgrim's Paradise - a powerful seven-song release that includes six originals (ranging from impassioned soul to Frank Ocean-esque hip-hop collabs) and "Streetcars," a Toronto-spun cover of Kanye West's "Streetlights." 

After one listen to this EP, there's no doubt that Caesar could be one of the most important R&B storytellers in Toronto right now. And with the nurturing and support of his crew, his community - it's safe to say they'll see to it that we hear plenty more from him (and the rest of them) soon.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Best New Track: "So Long" - Leon Bridges

Leon Bridges has undoubtedly been one of the biggest breakout stars of the year, thanks to his exceptional debut album album Coming Home, sold out tour, recent collaboration with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and soundtrack contribution to the new Will Smith film Concussion, titled " So Long."

The latter is my favourite side of Bridges. There's no doubt his uppity, '60s soul revivalist approach is outstanding, but it's the deep, guitar-driven hymnals like "So Long" (and Coming Home single "River") that take my breath away, time and again.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Missy Elliott Is Back: Watch The Crazy Video For "WTF"

Anyone close to me knows that I love Nicki Minaj oh-so-much and consider her the best female rapper of all-time. No question.

But there was one key pioneer before her, one whose similarly genius rhymes (as well as squeaks, yelps and other oddities), boss bitch attitude and unexpected genre melding paved the way for there to even be a Nicki Minaj. Missy Elliott, a close second, if not tie, for the best female rapper ever, boldly carved that space for any young woman attempting to infiltrate the tough, male-dominated (understatement of the century) rap game.

And, thank goodness for all of us, Missy is back with a new video after seven years. This morning, Elliott dropped the futuristic-meets-dancehall single "WTF (Where They From)," featuring longtime collaborator Pharrell - and it's pure fire. You might have heard snippets of the frantic banger earlier this fall when ESPN started using it in NBA promos, but here, in all of its full-form glory, "WTF" and its wildly choreographed visuals are things for the books.

"WTF" marks Elliott's first solo single since 2012, although the two Timbaland-produced singles from that year never made it onto an album. So really, this is the first solo Missy in a decade (!), since The Cookbook

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Listen to "LA" - Ty Dolla $ign ft. Kendrick Lamar, Brandy & James Fauntleroy

This isn't the first variation of "LA" that we've heard, but it looks like it will be the final. Set to appear as the opener to Ty Dolla $ign's hyped new album Free TC which drops this Friday (after three years in the making) - this slowed-down, star-studded spin is all sorts of nice.

That soulful piano and bass are fitting intros to "LA"'s groovy multi-tracked vocals - which includes a raspy verse from Kendrick (natch, on any track about the City of Angels) and harmonies from OG songbird Brandy and James Fauntleroy. For all of your late night needs and reflections, trust that this druggy R&B ode does the trick.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Best New Album: Grimes - "Art Angels"

Ever since 27 year-old Claire Boucher, better known as Grimes, stepped on to the indie scene in 2010, her presence has been a sort of heroic, double-middle-finger to the music industry's conventions. Or, just every convention a woman faces.

Her first three experimental electro-pop albums, challenging visuals, decision to scrap a whole collection of work and ever-present criticism of industry confines are just a few of the things that have hurled the awesomely unusual Montreal artist to the forefront of the alt-pop brigade and kept her there, against plenty of odds, all the way through to her brand new, already-acclaimed fourth album, Art Angels.

Dropped last week via 4AD, Art Angels is deservedly being hailed as Boucher's best work yet. An even stronger double-finger to the industry, her relationships, perceptions of her - Art Angels is accessibly bold in its song-to-song array and the process behind it.  Wholly conceptualized and produced by Boucher, Art Angels is, for the most part, beautifully voiced, auspicious pop that could sonically exist on Top 40 charts. But, what makes it so inspiring is how the brazen lyrical sentiments and woman behind them (i.e. the furthest thing from what we've historically coined a pop star, or construction of male-led teams), are likely the reasons they won't make it there. But, whether Grimes' feminist contributions ever live in the big mainstream or not, she'll undoubtedly continue to redefine music in more ways than we can even predict, and that's more than enough.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Best New Track: Matt Corby's "Monday"

Swoon. Australian singer-songwriter Matt Corby is back - with a single that's made up entirely of sounds produced by his own body and voice - and it's beautiful.

On his new single "Monday," a spine-tingling gospel that comes after nearly two years of recording and scrapping material that he didn't like, Corby's souful croon slinks around the choral harmonies and clap beat in a way you knew he was capable of, but wouldn't have heard on his previous four EPs. 

On releasing this new single and his debut LP, due out in 2016 on Elektra Records, Corby says, “It took me a year and a half to clear my head of everything that happened, accept my failures, reboot and have the balls to do it again.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Listen to Half Moon Run's "I Can't Figure Out What's Going On"

I strongly believe that Half Moon Run are one of the most underrated bands. Not Canadian bands - just bands, in general.

The Montreal indie-rockers recently released a lovely follow-up to their debut album, Dark Eyes, which swaps out most of their earlier melancholic balladry for 13 sun-streaked, borderline alt-Americana songs, appropriately inspired by a California road trip. Considering the band has admitted their certified gold debut and exhaustive touring led to trying times in their personal lives, even in their soul searching, these reflective new songs often come across as nothing short of heartwarming.

On the upbeat second track "I Can't Figure Out What's Going On," the repetitive, glimmering guitar and string section (which appears throughout most of the album) slowly build to a jaunty place that lays the foundation for frontman Devon Portielje's bluesiest vocals yet.

Have a listen, and pick up Sun Leads Me On (via Indica Records) today.