With over 600 bands packing more than 40 venues during the three-day club crawl that is Canadian Music Week, trying to figure out which acts are actually worth your while can be a giant headache.
Remember, you have a good chance of catching most locals any other week of the year, and, as expected with a festival this size, many of the touring bands are just plain lame.
We've sorted through the massive schedule and flagged the coolest non-T.O. pop threats on the verge of breaking out - make sure you check 'em out now before they blow up big. Confused about navigating CMW? Check out www.cmw.net for info on tickets, festival wristbands and more detailed schedule information.
at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, March 8), 9 pm
WHO Classically-trained 20-year-old Tallahassee talent whose dreamy piano-based songs more closely resemble the intense sonic contortions of Emily Haines than the theatrical cabaret of Sarah Slean.
WHY The girl can actually sing. Her phrasing and dynamic nuances are impeccable, and her voice is gauzy but avoids the cloying girly coo and contrived vocal acrobatics endemic to so many femme keyboard-smashers. Driving bass lines, electric guitars and judicious electronic accents add texture and complexity to her mercurial art pop.
BUZZ FACTOR Medium. Though her name still elicits a "Huh?," McNelis is the second signing (after Torq Campbell's Memphis project) to the Good Fences label, which may be Montreal's answer to Arts & Crafts. Plus, her disc was co-produced by Stars' Chris Seligman and Drew Malamud, who's worked with Metric, Stars and the Dears.
at the Mod Club (722 College), tonight (Thursday, March 8), 8:15 pm
WHO One of the newest additions to the vanguard of hyperverbal, stark Swedish indie folk.
WHY Hyvonen's songs are impressively understated beasts, often built around an airy skeleton of simple acoustic strumming or basic piano chords and a blank-canvas vocal. The minimalist arrangements draw attention to her knife-edged lyrics, which paint teen/20-something anomie in sharp images of New Order and eating disorders or Rilke and hard cocks.
BUZZ FACTOR High. Reputable indie Secretly Canadian's late 2006 reissue of her Until Death Comes disc (originally released the previous year on the Concretes' Licking Fingers label) secured her status as a singer/songwriter to watch in North America, and touring with Jens Lekman and José González (crown princes of Swede heart-on-my-sleeve pop) upped the ante.
at Hard Rock Live (279 Yonge), tonight (Thursday, March 8), 10:30 pm, and Sneaky Dee's (431 College), Friday (March 9), 11 pm
WHO Sweetly shambling, sporadically shouty Norwegian indie pop ensemble with a penchant for bright colours and wild animals.
WHY Cuz they're goddamned fun and their songs are jangly, effervescent bliss that refuse to get too complicated. Think the Grates, with thicker accents.
BUZZ FACTOR Medium-low. They haven't been around all that long (frontwoman Monica Johansen started the band as a solo experiment less than two years ago) and aren't terribly well-known outside Norway. But UK sunshine-pop quartet the Magic Numbers are already fans, and chances are this CMW slot will bring them necessary North American exposure.
THE BESNARD LAKES
at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Friday (March 9), 11 pm
WHO At their core, Montreal couple Olga Goreas and Jace Lasek, who's also known for his production skills as the man behind Breakglass Studio. Live, the psych-skewed duo expand into a shimmery, guitar-charged collective.
WHY YOU'LL LIKE THEM They combine the heart-surging epics of Floydian freakouts with gorgeous harmonies and the painstaking detail of indie dream pop, while their nods to the shameless cheese of Journey and Boston prevent you from feeling as though the Besnards take themselves too seriously.
BUZZ FACTOR Super-high. Between Lasek's name-droppy studio credits, the band's tendency to deliver stratospheric space-rock jams live and the fact that ...Are The Dark Horse is netting (well-deserved) raves pretty much everywhere, this could be the Besnards' year to shine.
at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), Saturday (March 10), 12:30 am
WHO Brighton, England's finest 21st-century answer to Spector-style girl groups.
WHY Seriously, who doesn't like Motown girl groups? Have you no soul? Plus, they also have super-campy outfits.
BUZZ FACTOR To the max. It's high time for a girl group revival, and the Concretes primed the pump (so to speak) with their pastel-coloured Diana Ross tributes. The Pipettes already have high-profile tours under their belt. All that's left is for North America to catch up to the UK.