14 Toronto musicians and promoters pick their best bets for fall music

METZ, Cold Specks, Owen Pallett, Dan Burke and more tell us what albums and concerts they can't wait for


Alanna Stuart

Stuart is one half of Bonjay, who recently released Ingenue, the first taste of the duo’s upcoming album, Lush Life. She’s also heading to Jamaica soon, she says, to complete Volume 1 of a dancehall covers EP of her musical heroes.

Venus Fest – Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas East), September 30

My musical heroes have always been female. The vocal techniques I’ve experimented with, the personal styles I’ve tried on, the career trajectories I’ve aspired to emulate – they’ve always been female-identified artists. They are my natural obsession. A few acts stand out for particular reasons:

The Highest Order – Bonjay played with Simone Schmidt’s old band $100. Her voice reminds me of the Christian folk music my mother played on Sundays, deep and soulful and true.

Lido Pimienta – My vocal coach recently told me, “I feel like there’s a monster waiting to come out.” When I see Lido play, I feel closer to unleashing my inner monster. Her total lack of inhibition always inspires courage in me. Plus, her drummer is so tight!

Phèdre – I heard they have a surprise up their sleeve. Let me in!

Bizzarh – X Avant, Tranzac (292 Brunswick), October 14

Bonjay did some recordings for our album Lush Life at Egyptrixx’s studio. At the time, he was demo-ing these suburban teens and asked if I’d like to meet them. Bizzarh arrived, maybe 15 years old, looking full-on bashment with bleach-blonde wigs on – in the studio. They were so sweet and were fans of Bonjay. I felt honoured that the next generation of cool felt inspired by us. Then I heard their voices and was taken aback by how confident they sounded. This show is a chance to hear what they’ve become.

The Constantines – Horseshoe (370 Queen West), December 15 and 16

This one’s looking waaay ahead, but I’ll be waiting for this show all autumn long! After my pop/R&B days as a kid, I discovered Toronto’s indie community and it felt like home. 

I remember going to see the Dears and arriving early enough to catch the opener: the Constantines. I was in the front row, sitting on the sub-bass, sweat covering me. It felt like the evangelism I witnessed at my Pentecostal church.

I want to feel that way again.

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Aerin Fogel 

Fogel is the singer/songwriter behind Queen of Swords, whose self-titled debut came out on September 15. She’s also the founder of Venus Fest, which goes down September 30 at Daniels Spectrum.

Weaves, Wide Open (Buzz) – October 6

Weaves have come up through a lot of hard work, genuine talent and stage presence. Somehow that remains a rare find, and the singles that I’ve heard off their sophomore LP show a refined sound that will surely solidify the foundation of a long career. Really looking forward to this one. 

Zola Jesus, Okovi (Sacred Bones) – September 8

There’s something powerful about listening to an artist’s records over the whole arc of their career, in real time as they are released, rather than all at once when you discover someone. It’s like being a part of their personal growth. Okovi is surely the most concise expression of Zola Jesus’s sound, a record where you can feel the intelligence, maturity, and emotional depth of the last few years since Taiga.  

Maylee Todd, Acts Of Love (Do Right! Music) – November 3

I always look forward to new work from Maylee Todd because she comes at art from every angle. She has been pushing the boundaries of Toronto music and feminism long before that came into awareness for many people, like a true leader, and I’m excited to see where she pushes it next. 

TOPS, J. Ellise Barbara – Mod Club (722 College), October 2

Huge bill. TOPS are incredible but I’m especially looking forward to J. Ellise Barbara and her effortless talent. 

Paramore, Best Coast – Massey Hall (178 Victoria), October 13

I probably don’t need to explain why a Paramore show is exciting.

U.S. Girls – Tranzac (292 Brunswick), October 27 & 28

U.S. Girls can easily fill a big venue so my heart overflows a little to see Meg Remy doing two nights at the beloved Tranzac instead. I can already feel the beautiful atmosphere. 

No Warning

Ben Cook

Cook plays in a lot of projects, including Fucked Up, Young Guv and reunited hardcore band No Warning, whose new album Torture Culture is out October 13 on Bad Actors/Last Gang.

Red Death, Formidable Darkness (Triple B) – December 8

Find me in the pit or side stage with a Backwoods.

Antwon, Sunnyvale Gardens – October 6

T Daddy never disappoints. A truly special soul to get on the mic, always ahead of the curve, never giving a fuck. He punk, he rap, he soul. Lots of love for Twon in Toronto.

No Warning, Torture Culture (Bad Actors/Last Gang) – October 13 

This is our album we made and we worked hard on it. It’s on the list, so sue me.

L.O.T.I.O.N., Trapped Under Ice, Gazm – Not Dead Yet, various venues, October 12-15

NDY always a vibe. We are lucky to have it.

Billy Bragg – Horseshoe (370 Queen West), September 26-28

My mom used to play his tapes growing up. I’d always wonder what this British man was moaning about, and tell her to turn it off so I could listen to Snow. Now I like It though. I’m gonna bring my mom to this show.

Metz

Alex Edkins

Edkins is the singer and guitarist of METZ, whose just-released Strange Peace (Royal Mountain/Sub Pop) was one of the albums we were most looking forward to this fall. 

Hüsker Dü, Savage Young Dü (Numero Group) – November 10

R.I.P. Grant Hart. 4 LPs and a book from one of my all-time favourite bands, highlighting their early material.

Darlene Shrugg (Upset the Rhythm) – October 27

Powerhouse local band comprised of some of Toronto’s most ambitious and best dressed musicians. It’s bound to rule. 

Hot Snakes, TBA (Sup Pop) – 2018

John Reis and Rick Froberg are back with a new ripper coming on Sub Pop. Rejoice! 

Anything Telephone Explosion records puts out.

From New Fries to Bruce Haack these guys are on a roll. Great people with great taste. 

Cindy Lee –  Baby G (1608 Dundas West), September 28 and with Fake Palms at the Smiling Buddha (961 College), October 14 

Haunting ballads from the same mouth that brought you Public Strain. 

Not Dead Yet – various venues, October 12-15

Toronto’s most exciting music festival. Multiple venues, tons of bands covering every type of underground, punk, hardcore music. 

Cadence Weapon

Coey Kerr

Cadence Weapon

Cadence Weapon is a rapper and writer who recently moved to Toronto from Montreal (via Edmonton). He’s settling in and preparing to drop a new self-titled album.

Gucci Mane, Mr. Davis (GUWOP/Atlantic) – October 13

Gucci Mane is one of my all-time favourite artists and he’s had a string of great releases since he got out of jail last year. The single I Get The Bag features a killer verse by Takeoff from Migos.

Giant Hand, Old Cosmos – October 13

Lovely songs about life and death by local singer-songwriter Kirk Ramsay. His album release is October 19 at Smiling Buddha.

Destroyer, Ken (Merge) – October 20

I’m a total Destroyer stan. I geeked out when I got the chance to perform An Actor’s Revenge on stage with him and Owen Pallett years ago in Austin. If Tinseltown Swimming in Blood is any indication, the whole record should be incredible.

Thundercat – Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth), September 27

Drunk is by far my most played album of 2017. It touches on so many genres and vibes but the music is somehow still singularly Thundercat. I missed him the first time around touring this album so this is a must-see.

Kelela –  Velvet Underground (508 Queen West), November 9

Kelela is one of the most compelling musicians in the world to me. She combines that kind of incredible R&B voice you don’t really hear anymore with such cutting edge, eclectic production. The Arca-produced LMK is one of my favourite songs this year.

Anything happening at Less Bar (834 Bloor West)

The new venue run by Carmen Elle is a very exciting, vital and totally necessary development for this city. More spaces with a focus on female-identifying, queer, trans and POC artists are sorely needed.

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Carmen Elle

Elle is the booker/manager of the brand new Less Bar and lead singer of DIANA. She also tells us she’s working on an album about empathy for an undisclosed new project.

Björk, Utopia (One Little Indian) – November 2017

She’s been a huge influence of mine since childhood. Her recent work is more overtly personal than her older stuff, which adds a layer of pathos to her innovative body of work.

Bonjay, Lush Life (Future Classic) – date TBA

I am so looking forward to this album. Alanna is an incredible singer, writer and performer. I know they took their time with this album, which means I’ll listen and appreciate even harder.

U.S. Girls – Tranzac (292 Brunswick), October 27 & 28

I know they have some new material coming out as well, and I’ve never seen them perform live. I’ve watched performances online and I can’t wait to experience it.

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Matt King

King plays in psych rock trio Absolutely Free. We’re patiently waiting for this band to release one of their projects in the works: an EP they recorded in May, an album they recorded in August and a soundtrack for the movie Two Cares Due None (which he says is just waiting for artwork).

Petra Glynt, This Trip (Vibe Over Method) – October 27

Petra Glynt is Montreal artist/musician, Alexandra Mackenzie. Her lo-fi sample-based percussive music shimmers with colour (think Morris Louis paintings) and is capped with towering vocals. 

Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Joseph Shabason – Monarch Tavern (12 Clinton), October 17 

Best known for being a member of Krautrock touchstones Harmonia and Cluster, Roedelius spent the 45 years since then creating both beautiful and challenging contemporary classical music, with a Brian Eno collaboration along the way.

Joseph Shabason (Diana, Destroyer) just released his first solo new age jazz album, Aytche, on Western Vinyl in September. With a backing band, he is playing some live shows around town with his saxophone that sounds like a Duran Duran sax solo slowed down to oblivion.

U.S. Girls – Tranzac (292 Brunswick), October 27 & 28 

Two nights at the Tranzac feels like such a gift to bestow upon the city that U.S Girls calls home. This will (I think) be the first time Meg Remy is performing live in Toronto backed by the space-jazz big band The Cosmic Range. There will definitely be new music from her upcoming album, also recorded with the band (no release date yet), but hopefully she includes a couple of songs from her last album, the incredible sample-based pop vortex, Half Free.

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Samuel Engelking

Jarrett Martineau

Martineau is the co-founder of Indigenous music platform and record label Revolutions Per Minute and performance series RPM Live, and the host and producer of Indigenous new music series Reclaimed on CBC Radio. He wrote a NOW cover story on Indigenous music’s next wave.

Kelela, Take Me Apart (Warp) – October 6

If Frontline and LMK are any indication of where this record is headed, then I’m here for it. With heavyweights like Arca and Yeezy on production, this is shimmering, soulful, dark R&B vibes for shifting, subterranean seasons. 

Nick Ferrio, Soothsayer (BB Island) – September 29

Nick’s a folk and rock musician from Peterborough who I know most recently from his gentle guitar work supporting Anishinaabe artist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, but his upcoming solo album is a bright, rockin’ mix of summery and melodic pop that puts a big grin on my face the whole way through. 

Kamasi Washington, Harmony Of Difference (Young Turks) – September 29 performing at the Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth), November 16

Kamasi isn’t on some weird throwback mission to make jazz relevant again. He’s charting new territory that’s evolving out of the epic foundation he’s been building for a minute. This upcoming EP promises more virtuosic, spiritual sounds from a new master of formless form. 

One of my top, if not my favourite, shows in Toronto last year, Kamasi returns to cast us into a frenzied, furiously ecstatic state of celebration, communion and spirit-raising kinship. The word transcendent comes close, but not quite.

Flying Lotus – Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth), November 10

John and Alice Coltrane’s grand-nephew is already tired of playing basic DJ gigs and hide-behind-the-laptop electronic antics, so why not tour with a new show that literally adds an entire dimension. FlyLo in 3D at the Danforth is all the recommendation I need. 

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Owen Pallett.

Owen Pallett

Pallett is a solo performer as well as a sometimes member of Arcade Fire and a string arranger for what feels like every act that’s ever used strings. He’s recently moved back to Toronto from Montreal.

Joseph Shabason – Tranzac (292 Brunswick), September 29

I’m extremely excited about Joseph Shabason’s album release for Aytche at Tranzac. Joseph wrote me a couple years back asking “how do you think Jon Hassell makes his trumpet sound the way he does?” Since then he’s developed an amazing sound of his own, and I’m a big fan.

X Avant XII – 918 Bathurst and Tranzac (292 Brunswick), October 11-15

Avrha is playing [Tranzac on October 14] and they’re one of my favourite acts in this city.

Kazuki Koga, Ylang Ylang, Joni Void and Sages – The Brandscape (1136 Dupont), October 14

That’s a solid friggin’ bill.

Diamanda Galás – Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth), November 26

Everybody should go to that.

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Cozmic Cat

Cozmic Cat (aka Paula Burrows) is known for DJing all over town, holding down residencies at spots like Drake 150 and for the much-loved queer women’s party Cherry Bomb with Denise Benson, which is celebrating its 10 year anniversary. Cozmic Cat just dropped her debut full-length LP #CozmicLove on her own Jupiter Productions label, which showcases her love of deep and classic house music. 

Princess Nokia, 1992 Deluxe (Rough Trade) – September 8

I have been rinsing Tomboy and I think she is awesome.

Honey Dijon, The Best Of Both Worlds (Classic Music Company) – October 13

With guests like Seven Davis Jr., Nomi Ruiz and Joi Cardwell, I can’t wait.

Cold Specks, Fool’s Paradise (Arts & Crafts) – September 22

It’s more mellow than what I usually like but her voice is so beautiful.

Dan Burke

Tanja-Tiziana

Dan Burke

Burke is a concert promoter and local hero. Formerly the full-time booker at the Silver Dollar (which is now closed indefinitely), he can now be found at the Horseshoe, the Monarch or wherever else he can put three or four good bands on stage. Here are a couple of shows (not his) that are on his radar.

The Nude Party – Smiling Buddha (961 College), October 11

Everyone who’s seen these guys are raving about them: the latest wave of U.S. garage rock.

U.S. Girls – Tranzac (292 Brunswick), October 27 & 28

I’m a big fan of Meg Remy and her husband, Max (aka Slim Twig), so this covers both the fall show and album fave lists.

Witch Prophet

Tanja-Tiziana

Witch Prophet in her home studio.

Witch Prophet

Ayo Leilani is the singer/songwriter behind this vibey R&B/hip-hop act and also plays in Above Top Secret. She’s readying her debut LP The Golden Octave, and her collective 88 Days of Fortune just released their new mixtape Cosmic Melanin featuring Mas Aya, Lido Pimienta, SassyBlack and more. They’ll be throwing a Cosmic Melanin show at Nuit Blanche.

Yasmine, No Squad In The Wild (88 Days of Fortune) – TBA

This is the debut solo LP of Yasmine, an 88 Days of Fortune collective member, Scarborough native, also part of the duo NeverLand Gang. No Squad In The Wild is hardcore rap at its finest. Yasmine’s talent and flow is undeniable. Once this album drops everyone will agree: she’s a winner. 

Maylee Todd, Acts Of Love (Do Right! Music) – November 3

She’s a fantastic multitalented producer and singer/songwriter. Her music invokes memories of the best mushroom trip ever. 

Louis Calabro

Louis Calabro

Calabro founded the Prism Prize, an annual award for the best Canadian music video of the year. He’s also a director at the Canadian Screen Awards and is one of the Goin’ Steady DJs, who are behind the popular Chronologic party. 

Prince Innocence, Blue Star – TBA

Toronto duo Talvi Faustmann and Josh McIntyre are the best band in the city and have been experimenting with new directions in sleek R&B since before that was Toronto’s thing. Both are extremely knowledgeable musicians/producers with a taste in music that ranges from Brazilian Tropicália to future bass. Their sound has been described as shimmering synth pop and “cold-eyed soul” – whatever that means. I am looking forward to this release. 

Kamaiyah, Don’t Ever Get It Twisted – TBA 

Oakland emcee Kamaiyah made the best rap album of 2016 with A Good Night in the GhettoWe have probably played all of the tracks from that record at Chronologic, and each one has something different to offer.  When she connects with big names like YG, DJ Mustard or Drizzy, there is not much happening that’s heavier than this. 

Chromatics, Dear Tommy (Echo Park Records)  TBA

Chromatics have been one of my favourite bands for years now and keep popping up between albums with spots on fashion runways for Chanel, and most recently providing music for the sequel of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Legend has it that producer Johnny Jewel destroyed every digital and vinyl/CD copy of Dear Tommy after he almost died in Hawaii. He re-recorded it and by his admission says “nothing changed except it is better.”  

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Cold Specks

Cold Specks’ powerful new album, Fool’s Paradise, came out September 22 on Arts & Crafts and was one of our picks for our own Fall Music Preview. Now, Ladan Hussein, the singer/songwriter behind the project, tells us which albums she’s looking forward to.

Kelela, Take Me Apart (Warp) – October 6

Her voice and melodies are divine and utterly infectious. I could listen to her for eternity and never get tired.

LA Timpa – TBA

I had the pleasure of being in and around the studio while he created this masterpiece at Easy Life studio. LA Timpa is the most intriguing musician in Toronto. Y’all remember his name.

Puffy L’z, Take No L’z – TBA

I suspect he’s about to drop something really special. It’s interesting how successful someone like Puffy is amongst Toronto’s youth and diaspora communities abroad. Mainstream publications in this city need to start listening to the kids. 

This story is part of NOW’s Fall Music Preview. 

richardt@nowtoronto.com | @trapunski

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