The best Toronto music of the month: Witch Prophet, Charlotte Day Wilson and more

Bandcamp is donating its sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund for Juneteenth, and we have suggestions of what to grab


Last year, we called Bandcamp Friday – the monthly initiative in which the online music retailer waives its share of sales to give it to artists – the new Record Store Day. This month, the two have intersected. One of the new Record Store Day Drops (when RSD releases exclusive records to indie shops) coincided with the reopening of “non-essential” retailers last week, which meant big lineups at Toronto record stores. But there are still some records left at stores like Sonic Boom and Rotate This!, so keep an eye on websites or get a mask on and get out there to your favourite store.

As for online music, today is Bandcamp’s second Juneteenth fundraiser. In honour of the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, the website is donating their share of sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund until 3 am ET tonight. There’s lots to recommend – like Paul Chin’s Full Spectrum Deluxe, which is an unexpected hit with the BTS Army, or NOW favourites like DijahSB, the OBGMS and Mustafa who recently made the Polaris Prize longlist. Give them all a search on Bandcamp. And, take a listen below to some of our favourite music of the month from Toronto artists – on Bandcamp and elsewhere.

Witch Prophet: Leilani

Witch Prophet is releasing a deluxe edition of her 2020 Polaris Prize-nominated album D.N.A. Activation, and it includes this new beauty. Sung in English and Tigrinya, it’s infused with influences from her Ethiopian and Eritrean ancestral roots and named for her angel name (and also stage name). “Leilani is a message from an angel about learning to forgive oneself,” she says. “It’s a message about understanding that in life there are no ‘mistakes.’ Everything that happens makes you the person you are.” The song’s vibey trip-hop beat, smooth vocals and dreamily far-off horns (it’s produced by her wife Sun Sun) make it the perfect song to play on repeat on a dreamy day.

Myst Milano: Great Dane

After building their profile in activism and party scenes (on and offline), Myst Milano is back with a new track – their first on experimental electronic label Halocline Trance, which will release their album this summer. Produced and rapped by Milano, it’s low-key but it goes hard. It’s a song that hits like an announcement: “big tall bitch, great dane let ’em know.”

New Chance: Earth House (Turning)

Victoria Cheong, aka New Chance, emerges from pandemic winter with a beautiful piano-led dance track that foregrounds her evocative vocal arrangements. Cheong has sung background for Jennifer Castle and Chandra (whose new label with fellow bandmate Jesse Locke, We Are Time, is releasing her upcoming record, Real Time) and this lead single taps into a pop vocal style but diverts it into a dreamy, atmospheric cushion for her clear-eyed, spoken-word lyrics.

Charlotte Day Wilson: Keep Moving

The second single from Wilson’s upcoming debut LP, Alpha, feels perfectly slated for the moment we’re in now. As we start to emerge after months of isolation, on the tail end of a global health crisis, the simple reminder to keep moving is comforting. Wilson is singing about letting go of a relationship that is no longer “meant to be,” but when the chorus plays, it’s a collective moment to release and relinquish what’s no longer working or is keeping us trapped. It’s refreshing to hear the juxtaposition of her soulfully melancholy voice with the sultry, dancey production. The music video, co-directed by Wilson and Kevan Funk, features a voguing section from Tynomi Banks and Dre Govender that plays up the sensual pull of the song’s production. 

Liza: Done Is Done

By the time you get to the final track of this six-song EP, Liza has taken you on a journey through the high highs and low lows of a whirlwind romance. Her warm voice is inflected with excitement, aching longing and defiant disinterest as she works her way through the experience of a breakup. Following in the steps of neo-soul and R&B artists that have come before her, she’s openly candid and not afraid of leaning deep into vulnerability. The sparse production lets Liza’s songwriting shine – the most compelling thing about this project is how lived in all the songs feel. Once she reaches the titular song, Done Is Done, she sounds so free.

Emmanuel Jal: Kuar (Olof Dreijer Remix)

After 11 years, the Olof Dreijer remix of international hip-hop star Emmanuel Jal’s Kuar is finally available digitally via a reissue on Berlin label Innervisions. The Knife producer amps up the Toronto-based Sudanese artist’s rollicking political anthem, transforming it into an effusive underground club banger. It originally came out around the time Jal was sharing high-profile concert stages with the likes of Amy Winehouse, so this re-release is a great reminder of the malleability of his sturdy, hypnotic vocals.

Badge Epoch: Galactic Whip

Telephone Explosion Records is joining Bandcamp in their Juneteenth fundraiser and also donating 100 per cent of their sales today to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. They’ve had a lot of good releases lately from artists like André Ethier, Dorothea Paas and Lee Paradise, so give their Bandcamp page a look and listen. We’ll give the nod here to Badge Epoch, the sort-of new project from musical free spirit Max Turnbull. Formerly known as Slim Twig, he started the sprawling psych-prog Badge Époque Ensemble a couple of years ago, but this fuses those funky-lush instrumentals with his love of out-there hip-hop production from artists like J Dilla. This is the first single from the upcoming 90-minute Scroll, which he calls a “journal album.”

Lu Kala: Love Shit

This song is a little bit earlier, but it’s found new life on TikTok after Lu Kala posted a brief clip with the caption “me being extremely vulnerable.” It’s been embraced as a self-love pop anthem and raved about all over the place, including a big co-sign from SZA. Lu Kala’s song No Smoke was also just announced as a finalist for the SOCAN Songwriting Prize (a strong list that also includes DijahSB, Sydanie, Jonah Yano, Clairmont The Second and more). She’s an infectious pop songwriter and powerhouse performer, and it seems like only a matter of time now before the world catches on.

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