Canadian Music Week 2016: The best of the fest so far

Yuna, Wild Nothing, Adria Kain, Mutoid Man, Bob Mould and Laura Stevenson are among the early highlights of this year's CMW


YUNA at the Mod Club, Thursday, May 5. Rating: NNNN


Hailing from Malaysia and now based in Los Angeles, Yuna is a star in the making. Or rather she’s already a star, depending on who you ask. The alt-soul pop singer – whose latest single, Crush, features Usher and is a Billboard chart hit – completely wooed a packed Mod Club, where it seemed like every second person was singing along to her silky smooth vocals. With a full backing band, Yuna played a mix of old and new songs, transitioning with ease from dance-pop queen to acoustic romantic chanteuse. After calling out the Malaysians in the audience, she sang a short a cappella song in Malay, which will surely be one of the most beautiful, quieter moments of CMW. SE

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Matt Williams

MUTOID MAN at the Opera House, Tuesday, May 3. Rating: NNNN


That Mutoid Man’s musicianship dazzled was no surprise. New album Bleeder will make your jaw drop. Less expected was the metallic hardcore trio’s entertainment chops. Singer/guitarist Steve Brodsky, of Cave In fame, was all charm and smarm at the Opera House, singing a cappella to us between numbers, doing choreographed middle-finger fuck-yous with bassist Nick Cageao, all while Converge drummer Ben Koller decimated his kit, which he got up from between every song. How do they keep up the energy? The Red Bull can Koller smacked across the stage with his drumstick near the set’s end offered a clue. CARLA GILLIS @carlagillis

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Matt Williams

LAURA STEVENSON at the Drake Underground, Tuesday, May 3. Rating: NNNN


In front of a half-full but fully rapt crowd at the Drake, Laura Stevenson blasted a rollicking, emotional set of rootsy rock ’n’ roll. Pulling from her last three records, the New York singer/songwriter deftly switched from delicate, folky tunes (Renée) to full-on 90s-inspired guitar pop (Torch Song) and a sweet ’n’ ferocious cover of The Replacements’ Alex Chilton. She pulled out a thrashy ending for 2011’s Master Of Art, yell-singing “have a wonderful night!” MATT WILLIAMS @MattGeeWilliams

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Matt Williams

ADRIA KAIN at the Rivoli, Tuesday, May 3. Rating: NNNN


The Remix Project showcase was running way behind schedule, but that was fine because it gave us a chance to hear strong sets from rapper JellyTooFly and neo-soul singer Leila Day, before headliner Adria Kain took the stage. Kain displayed her usual charismatic stage presence, but her vocals have become much stronger over the last year. Definitely a Toronto R&B singer to watch out for. BENJAMIN BOLES @benjaminboles


PONY at Silver Dollar, Wednesday, May 4. Rating: NNN


Earlier this year, I called Pony one of the city’s best up-and-coming indie rock bands – and their ridiculously fun set at the Silver Dollar reminded me why. The quartet brought a decidedly heavy tone (think Best Coast goes pop-punk) to their garage-pop ditties, but it didn’t distract from lead singer Sam Bielanski’s bouncy vocals. The highlight of the set was Don’t Go, off last year’s EP Crushed, on which Pony’s three-part harmonies and jangly guitars fused together to create a sound that was both gritty and sweet. SAMANTHA EDWARDS @SamEdwardsTO


BOB MOULD and FAKE PALMS at the Horseshoe, Wednesday, May 4. Rating: NNNN


It was hard to move or breathe in a crushed Horseshoe for night two of Bob Mould. Those stuck at the back couldn’t always feel the might of Mould’s rafter-raising, punky, power pop, though songs, particularly ones from his new Patch The Sky album and by his former bands Sugar and Hüsker Dü, still hit hard and his singing was in top form. Locals Fake Palms held their own in the opening spot, their duelling-guitar jangle and tight-as-jeggings rhythm section winning them some new and, in many cases, older fans. CG


WILD NOTHING at the Opera House, Thursday, May 5. Rating: NNNN


Even though Wild Nothing had to compete with the Raptors game playing in the background (there was a small contingent in the audience who were facing the TVs above the bar, rather than the stage), the Virgina indie rockers nonetheless proved that dream-pop can be just as compelling as basketball play-offs. A lot of their set consisted of material off this year’s Life Of Pause, but they were at their best when playing songs from their 2010 debut, Gemini. Tatum’s aching falsetto made Summer Holiday sound as if it could have been from a 1980s John Hughes movie, while the hazy guitars of Live In Dreams felt even more grand at the Opera House. SE

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Matt Williams

PARTNER at Silver Dollar, Thursday, May 5. Rating: NNNN


On the second go of a three-night stand at the Silver Dollar, Sackville duo Partner offered up their signature DIY, off-the-cuff indie rock. But oh lord, it was so much more than that: singer/guitarist Josée Caron sang deliriously sugary vocal hooks and melted faces with her ridiculously impressive, overdriven six-string solos. J Mascis, king of 90s guitar wizardry, could take a lesson in badass-ery from the bespectacled Maritimer. MW

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Matt Williams

FAKE TEARS at the Central, Thursday, May 5. Rating: NNN


There were only a handful of people at the Central to catch Vancouver synth-pop duo Fake Tears, but the low turnout didn’t appear to rattle Larissa Loyva and Elisha May Rembold. Their live show consisted of them playing a pair of mini-keyboards over backing tracks, but the real focus was on their unique ethereal harmonies, which sounded more otherworldly than their synthesizer washes. BB


NO JOY at Velvet Underground, Thursday, May 5. Rating: NNN


Montreal’s No Joy originally made a name for themselves with a wall-of-guitars shoegazer grunge approach, and much of their Velvet Underground set stuck to that formula. However, it was the more eclectic new material that really stood out, at times reminiscent of a lo-fi punk take on glam rock. They seem to be in a period of transition, and we’re curious where they end up next. BB

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