Toronto musicians to watch in 2018: indie edition

By our slippery definition, the genre includes everything from synth ballads to sunny psych rock to lo-fi R&B gong punk. Here are six bands to keep an eye on


FRIGS

FRIGS are a band built for lists like these – the kind of band that makes you want to shake someone and say pay attention. The four-piece have been gearing up slowly for a few years, releasing a darker and heavier first effort as Dirty Frigs and an EP in 2016 under their shortened moniker, but their debut album, Basic Behaviour, dropping February 23 on Arts & Crafts, is the one that will get the secret out. Guitars scrape viscerally and plod ominously while lead singer Bria Salmena – whose immense talent is immediately apparent when you see her live – alternates between a haunting croon and a grungy wail. It feels like they’ve finally honed the sound to fit their songs of lust, jealousy, power and distraction – a controlled burn rather than an all-out scorch.

FRIGS launch their new album at the Garrison (1197 Dundas West) on April 7. See listing.

Pantayo

Pantayo formed in 2012 to explore Kulintang, a traditional form of rhythmic gong music that emerged out of Indigenous communities in the southern Philippines. After collaborating with Yamantaka // Sonic Titan on the soundtrack to the video game Severed in 2016, the Canadian-Filipina group decided to incorporate more diasporic pop influences. They aim to break apart the notion “that cultural gong music is something to ‘preserve’ and CanCon is something only played by cis white men,” says the band’s Kat Estacio. Their debut album, which is being produced by Alaska B (of YT // ST), is “something like lo-fi gong punk celestial R&B,” she says. Various knobbed gongs form a hypnotic rhythmic backbone as synths, bass, MIDI gong sounds, real and electronic drums and three vocalists cascade overtop. Seeing them play, it all somehow makes perfect sense. 

Jaunt

For the last few years, the “Toronto Sound” has been shorthand for chilly OVO-inspired beats and vocals that blur R&B and hip-hop. But a new generation of emerging artists is slowly changing the definition into something warmer and gentler. Jaunt are part of an interconnected group of musicians that includes Daniel Caesar, River Tiber, BADBADNOTGOOD and Charlotte Day Wilson (two of four Jaunt members play in Wilson’s band) who meld pop, soul, jazz, R&B and indie rock. Their upcoming EP blends even more influences than their Usher- and Alicia Keys-referencing 2016 release, Chat, intersecting male and female vocals with funky Prince synths, quietly virtuosic percussion and the occasional guitar solo. 

Brenda

California has Thee Oh Sees. Australia has King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. And now Toronto has Brenda. Like those bands, the four-piece deep-fry garage and psych hooks into long and mesmerizing Krautrock grooves. Guitars shimmer and crunch, and punk-inflected vocals sail through it all like a long lost cousin of Ty Segall. The sun-drenched songs are equally suited to drinking PBR at Trinity Bellwoods and crowdsurfing at any number of local venues that no longer exist. The four-piece plan to follow up last year’s energetic Creeper EP with a release later this year.

Rapport

Rapport were born out of a Metallica cover but sound more like Madonna, the Bangles or Cyndi Lauper. When Grounders asked their drummer, Kurt Marble (also known for his own glam-garage solo project), and Maddy Wilde (formerly of Moon King and Spiral Beach) to record a song for their Family Feast project, recruiting their friends to cover Metallica’s St. Anger in full, the duo transformed the chugging, anxiety-obsessed The Unnamed Feeling into a peppy 80s synth ballad with hooks for days. That should give you a sense of where they’re going now that they’ve made the band official and recruited Mike Pereira (of Most People) – “sad/fun” music that doesn’t take itself too seriously. 

Rapport plays Saturday, January 27 at Handlebar (159 Augusta). See listing.

Badge Époque

With his 2015 Slim Twig swan song, Thank You For Stickin’ With Twig, it seems Maximilian Turnbull has gotten riff rock out of his system, or at least channeled it into the rock supergroup Darlene Shrugg. He’s abandoned lyrics, pop structure and the name Slim Twig altogether and is now recording primarily instrumental music as Badge Époque. A rotating list of collaborators include Biblical drummer Jay Anderson, sax- man Andy Haas, the filthy flute of Blood Ceremony’s Alia O’Brien and other local weirdos. The sound is more in line with the Cosmic Range (which Turnbull plays in and who backs his wife, Meg Remy, on her outstanding forthcoming U.S. Girls album, In A Poem Unlimited) than Slim Twig: jazzy and groovy, funky and expressive without the need for words. Turnbull says he’s working on “something like three separate albums’ worth of music” under the moniker but has no formal release plans yet. 

Catch a glimpse of Badge Époque on Saturday (January 20) at the Burdock (1184 Bloor West). See listing.

richardt@nowtoronto.com | @trapunski

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