Some of our favourite singles and EPs of the month, plus our picks for Bandcamp Friday
Today is the last Bandcamp Friday of the year (and maybe for awhile?), and we’re back with a new roundup of music from Toronto artists.
It’s a mix of bigger names and hidden gems, blasts from the past and not-quite-holiday music. Since Bandcamp is giving all revenue to artists today, we’ll also point out that some albums we previewed earlier are now available to buy (all well worth it): Jennifer Castle, Badge Époque Ensemble, Lee Paradise and more.
Read and listen on for some favourite singles and EPs released over the last month. We end off with a few virtual concerts. Stay tuned for a full list of online holiday shows coming soon.
The 2019 Polaris Prize winner produced this minimal, lilting beat herself, with some help from Mighty Prynce. It lets her voice take the lead, which is where the rapper is at her best. Mighty is a straight shooter, always spitting truths. Atlantic is her exploration of the corrupting forces of wealth and capitalist greed. A reminder that money isn’t neutral and it’s far from pure.
The holiday music season has taken a topsy-turvy direction befitting of 2020. First, we get a song showing sympathy for the Grinch, then this new U.S. Girls song that recasts Santa as a Christmas villain. A fantastic and fun anti-Christmas song co-written by Meg Remy and Rich Morel, Santa Stay Home points out the empty consumerism of this time of year and its environmental impact, while also reframing this quarantine holiday as a good thing: a time to slow down, reflect and get to know yourself.
Part of folk-rock outfit Birds of Bellwoods, this is Kintaro’s debut solo single from an upcoming project. It’s a song about heartbreak that takes on new meaning when you realize Kintaro is singing about the loss of his father. He’s built a world outside of reality – a lush landscape of 80s production, electric bass and layered vocals to contemplate his grief.
With an assist from Amaal, alt-R&B singer Joël’s ode to the woman who holds him down soars to new heights. Together they make perfect R&B: slick, smooth, pleading and sensual. The original song is from his album Grunge Gospel, a compilation of two separate EPs released earlier this year.
Local rapper DillanPonders has been on a roll with big singles. Following two songs with up-and-coming singer/songwriters Allan Rayman and Ruby Waters, today he flies solo. Over production from BVB that combines hard trap beats and a retro psychedelic instrumental, he’s both boastful and vulnerable, flexing as king of the town while also fitting in some lines about his parents’ divorce. His upcoming album, BECAUSE WE’RE ALIVE, comes out next week, December 11, and has a loaded feature list: Witch Prophet, Lemin, Dom Dias, Bijan Amir, Bad Child and more.
A song that we first debuted in 2018 this week gets a major remix from Philip Larsen, who’s done remixes for artists like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. He gives it a dance sheen worthy of those big pop artists without abandoning the roots and soul at the heart of Kuda’s music. She chose to revisit it, she tells NOW, because the song is a sonic resistance to colonization and speaks to 2020’s collective reckoning around anti-Black racism. Train is purposefully malleable, so it fits the new style well.
Quarter-Life Crisis is the latest collaborative project from producer Ryan Hemsworth. The debut EP, out today, includes a different singer on every track. A nice place to dip in is You & Me, a delicate song with plucky guitar sung by Claud, a New York-based artist who is signed to Phoebe Bridgers’s label. A song about a relationship that exists more in your head than real life, it gets you right in the feels.
After a fiery run as a duo with producer Dom Dias, former Sound of Toronto rapper Just John has a new solo EP. It’s just three songs and just over 10 minutes, but it’s a bit more dynamic than his duo project’s gut-punch intensity: some rap-rock flavour, a bit of punk, some almost folk-rock. The whole thing, out on Warner today, comes with a horror-inspired music video you can watch below.
With their second release of the year after 2020 The Album, DijahSB proves once again they have endless intention. It’s a mix of relatability, clever rhymes and infectious Kaytranada-esque bounce and flow, especially in the middle with the relationship-fretting title track That’s Alright! featuring Clairmont the Second. A snack while we wait for what DijahSB has planned for next year.
Well here’s something to make us all feel old. Josh McIntyre, now of Prince Innocence and solo project Prince Josh, first got our attention with his lo-fi garage rock/post-punk project Little Girls. He even appeared as a young man on the cover of NOW’s 2009 music issue. Now, all that music is re-released on this Bandcamp Friday anthology. Yes, it instantly takes me back to a Myspace-era sound that was trendy for a minute and no longer is, and right back to some fuzzy nights at Sneaky Dee’s and the Silver Dollar. But also, I can still hear those buried hooks and remember why we thought Josh was a great songwriter, which he still is.
December 11: Ralph, free at the Horseshoe. Tune in via National Arts Centre.
December 11: Cybertronic Spree live from Velvet Underground. $15. Tickets here.
December 11: Nyssa live at Lee’s Palace. $15. Tickets here.
December 18: Gordon Lightfoot’s first-ever livestream concert at the El Mocambo. $40-$60 (USD). More info here.