Canadian Music Week 2017: the best of the fest so far

Japanese Breakfast, Charlotte Day Wilson, Amelia Curran, Tim Darcy and Nyssa are among the early stand-outs at this year's CMW


TOBI at Velvet Underground, Tuesday, April 18, Rating: NNN


“Ya’ll rocking with us so far?” TOBi asked that same question between almost every song during his set on Tuesday night between swigs of Sapporo. For some artists, constantly checking in with the audience reads as uncertainty, but given TOBi and his three-piece band knocked every song out of the park, it felt more like he was just making sure we were able to keep up. His music was heavily melodic but unpredictable, living somewhere between R&B, soul and blues, complete with tasteful guitar solos courtesy of Ejji Smith. MICHAEL RANCIC

TASSEOMANCY at the Garrison, Wednesday, April 19. Rating: NNN


On Tasseomancy’s latest record, Do Easy, Toronto twin sisters Romy and Sari Lightman create beguiling baroque folk pop rife with lush synths and hypnotic vocal harmonies. But it proved challenging for the band to recreate the album’s dreamy atmosphere for their CMW set. The crowd was chatty from the get-go and music from the Garrison’s front room bled into the quieter songs. The show’s best, if fleeting, moments were when Romy and Sari joined vocal forces, like on the spellbinding Claudine and the album’s title track. The jazzy sax solos throughout definitely helped, too. SAMANTHA EDWARDS

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Carla Gillis

FAITH HEALER at the Monarch Tavern, Wednesday, April 19. Rating: NNN


It feels special to be in the room when a band plays songs live for the first time. It’s also a risk on the band’s part. At the first of two Faith Healer shows, Jessica Jalbert’s bandmates stared at her hesitantly for most of the set, watching for song-change cues. It led to a tentative performance, but Jalbert’s assured voice was the glue that held everything together, and the songs on offer, especially Light Of Love, stacked with musical tangents, have us excited about the Edmonton band’s forthcoming record. The jury’s still out as to whether Renny Wilson’s wanky guitar leads detracted or added to the breezy tunes. CARLA GILLIS

CAVEBOY at the Silver Dollar, Wednesday, April 19, Rating: NN


There’s a certain kind of professionalism that you can expect from many of the bands playing CMW.  Most are, or are trying to be, career musicians. They’re proficient in their instruments, their sets are tight, they have a strong presence on stage.  Montreal’s Caveboy were all of these things, and yet their electro-pop songs didn’t connect. Vocalist Michelle Bensimon has a tremendous voice and the band performed with powerful drive, but the performance came off as way too safe and polished – though that didn’t stop the packed Dollar from dancing to every song. MR

AMELIA CURRAN at the Phoenix, Thursday, April 20. Rating: NNNN


Amelia Curran is a seasoned pro on stage. The Juno-award winning, St. John’s-based singer/songwriter played a short and sweet set that ranged from rollicking tunes punctuated by electric guitar solos (courtesy of Peter Kesper of opening band NQ Arbuckle) to intimate folk songs during which Curran’s velvety smooth voice cooed over intricate finger picking. She was just as comfortable performing heart-on-her-sleeve ballads as she was boisterous feminist anthems. And although she was followed by headliners Tanya Tagaq and Whitehorse, a good portion of the audience seemed like loyal Curran fans, as they hollered and danced along at every chance they got. SE

JAPANESE BREAKFAST at the Silver Dollar, Thursday, April 20. Rating: NNNN


Japanese Breakfast came to town bearing gifts: a set full of previously unheard songs and news of a forthcoming sophomore LP. (“The label told us not to say anything, but fuck them!”) Debut-album standouts Everybody Wants To Love You, In Heaven and The Woman That Loves You appeared early, but otherwise it was all new stuff, which the band seemed excited to dig into. The set was warmly received even though the room was just about half-full it was as though the band and crowd were both pacing themselves a little, aware that it was still only Thursday. MARK STREETER

CHARLOTTE DAY WILSON at Mod Club, Thursday, April 20. Rating: NNNN


Charlotte Day Wilson established herself as a reliable source for chill and vibey soul ballads on last year’s CDW EP. While her studio productions are full of subtleties, the Toronto singer/songwriter’s Mod Club show (the second in a two-night stand) was all about her voice. She sang with a understated power and clarity, though a slightly off sound mix did not always do her justice. Backed by a drummer and keyboardist, Wilson played a lot of dreamy new material, including a heavily rhythmic song with a strident siren-like noise. The songs often took us on a journey, but never felt ponderous or indulgent. The attentive audience frequently hushed to near silence, especially when she played another new one solo for the encore. KEVIN RITCHIE

SEBADOH at the Horseshoe, Thursday, April 20, 11pm. Rating: NNN


It’s hard to think of a better band to play 4/20 than reunited lo-fi heroes Sebadoh, whose Lou Barlow once cracked the code to indie rock: music made by hardcore kids who started smoking pot and realized things sounded better slow. That stoned punk vibe was well on display at the Horseshoe as the trio battled all sorts of technical difficulties with their scruffy 90s charm. They basically just shrugged it off. Barlow and Jason Loewenstein traded off on bass and guitar, alternating melodic nuggets with unhinged lo-fi crunch. If it was perfect, it wouldn’t have been Sebadoh. RICHARD TRAPUNSKI

NYSSA at the Costume Factory, Thursday, April 20, Rating: NNNN


No one has a voice or presence like Nyssa. Against a glammy, shimmering backing track, she performed solo in a leather outfit that reflected the red and blue lights pointed at the stage, giving her a neon outline. Her big voice was equally matched by her big, hooky choruses that sounded excessive to the point of being raw. An unexpected but totally awesome cover of I Hate You by Monks sealed the deal, sounding like Chrissie Hynde holding Martin Rev at knifepoint. MR

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Carla Gillis

BEYRIES at Supermarket, Thursday, April 20. Rating: NNN


For someone who has only been performing for a year, Beyries has incredible composure. Barely two songs into her post-industry-party set, mic feedback grew so piercing that the Montreal singer/songwriter was forced to stop and plug her ears. (The audience did, too.) Instead of complaining or being awkward about that – or the incessant chatter – she laughed, said hello and then left her piano to try her luck at the guitar station. Her songs are stark and emotive, about aloneness and regrets, and she embodies them fully. A formidable accompanist added note-perfect harmonies, energizing percussion and a steady, amiable presence. CG

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Sarah Greene

TIM DARCY at the Baby G, Thursday, April 20. Rating: NNNN


Tim Darcy’s midnight showcase had the snug air of CMW done right: everyone in attendance seemed to be friends or in each other’s projects. Going on after Montreal’s The Luyas, the Ought frontman took the stage with Charlotte Cornfield (who played earlier) on drums and Rachel Cardiello on bass and droney, Velvet Undergroundesque viola. After touring his Saturday Night album with Cornfield and Cardiello – who picked up bass for the tour – Darcy’s stately solo project seems to have become a second band for the Montrealer. The set included new song Sledgehammer Rose, which was an apt description of the music: ornate and delicate, but also a bit heavy. SARAH GREENE

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