We turn the spot­light on up-and-com­ing Van­cou­ver acts you’ll want to keep an eye—and an ear—on.

The Georgia Straight - - Contents - By John Lucas, Mike Usinger, and Kate Wil­son

There has ar­guably never been a bet­ter time to tell ev­ery­one who will lis­ten that all your favourite mu­si­cal acts hap­pen to hail from your home­town. Whether it’s left-field hip-hop duo So Loki, Juno-dar­ling dance-rock out­fit Dear Rouge, in­die-rock heroes Yukon Blonde, or glo­be­trot­ting elec­tronic two­some Bob Moses, some of the best mu­sic right now is be­ing crafted in re­hearsal spa­ces and bed­room stu­dios right here in our back­yard. (Well, okay, Bob Moses doesn’t spend much time here any­more, but we’re claim­ing them as our own any­way.) As part of Best of Van­cou­ver, our an­nual cel­e­bra­tion of all things lo­cal, we’ve picked a few up-and-com­ing acts that could very well be the next So Loki. Or Dear Rouge. Or Mother Mother. Or Said the Whale. Or Dan Mangan. Or, well, you get the idea.

HEAVY STEPS (in­die goth-pop) The band is clearly not in any hurry to pump out prod­uct—its sopho­more full-length, In­fin­ity Rope, was five years in the mak­ing—but Heavy Steps’ tim­ing is im­pec­ca­ble. The re­verb­drenched mope-rock LP is per­fect ac­com­pa­ni­ment for watch­ing au­tumn leaves fall, and come Hal­loween you’ll want to put “Blood Scrub­ber” on any playlist that also in­cludes Chelsea Wolfe and Es­ben and the Witch. GE­OR­GIA LEE JOHN­SON ( folk) In this post-ev­ery­thing age, it’s easy to be cyn­i­cal, which makes Ge­or­gia Lee John­son some­thing of a rar­ity. The singer-song­writer is earnestly plain­spo­ken, al­most to a fault, but you’ve got to ad­mire some­one who can step out on-stage and sing sim­ple, soul­bar­ing lines such as “Give me a kiss good­bye/i will try not to cry.” John­son sells the sen­ti­ment with her bell-clear vo­cals, and the lush ar­range­ments on her de­but al­bum, Wan­der­ling (courtesy of pro­ducer Jor­dan Klassen), don’t hurt a bit.

SAM TU­DOR (bed­room cham­ber folk) “Dream-hazed” is a good start­ing point for the songs of Sam Tu­dor, the Wil­liams Lake–raised singer-song­writer seem­ingly hap­pi­est when the cur­tains are drawn and the Novem­ber skies are char­coal grey. The 23-year-old’s mes­mer­iz­ingly melan­choly sopho­more al­bum, Quo­tid­ian Dream, is a study in the beauty of soli­tude, cre­at­ing a world of 3 a.m. Face­book feeds and soli­tary days in strange new apart­ments. Most im­pres­sive of all, given his de­cid­edly youth­ful age, he pulls off the dif­fi­cult task of tak­ing one’s in­flu­ences (Ra­dio­head, De­stroyer, David Lynch) and syn­the­siz­ing them into some­thing new and orig­i­nal, with gui­tar and mul­ti­lay­ered vo­cals fleshed out by ’20s-jazz horns and re­gal string swells. In an in­ter­view with the Straight ear­lier this year, Tu­dor ex­plained him­self as fol­lows: “I wanted this al­bum to son­i­cally re­flect how I was feel­ing. It was like I was liv­ing in this man­i­cured world in Van­cou­ver where things—es­pe­cially in the sum­mer—were all rosy and im­pec­ca­bly placed. I’m a film stu­dent, and I re­ally like David Lynch, so I love the idea of a per­fect Bar­biedoll world where, un­derneath, there’s this slow ooz­ing pool of sad­ness.” If Tu­dor’s al­ready this good, just wait un­til he finds his foot­ing.

TRAVIS TURNER (hip-hop) It’s any­one’s guess if Snoop Dogg is a fan of My Lit­tle Pony: Friend­ship Is Magic or Lit­tlest Pet Shop: A World of Our Own, but lo­cal ac­tor-singer-rap­per Travis Turner voices char­ac­ters on both and he got the Dog­gfa­ther’s at­ten­tion some­how. Snoop drops a char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally horny verse on Turner’s “Star Girl”, but it’s the Van­cou­verite’s own way with a melody and a clever turn of phrase that is re­ally worth your at­ten­tion.

LIEF HALL (ex­per­i­men­tal elec­tronic pop) Lief Hall’s mu­sic is far from easy lis­ten­ing. Pre­vi­ously a mem­ber of ex­per­i­men­tal noise band Myths and the abra­sive Mu­ta­tors, Hall turned heads with her vo­cal-elec­tronic al­bum Roses for Ru­ins in April this year. Her most melodic of­fer­ing—a far cry from her noise-punk ori­gins, and even fea­tur­ing an an­gelic harp at one point—the record took her on a North Amer­i­can tour, show­cas­ing her un­con­ven­tional song struc­tures and bass drones from coast to coast. BLU J (am­bi­ent slow-core) There are days—mostly in months that con­tain at least one vowel—when liv­ing in Van­cou­ver seems like a los­ing bat­tle, es­pe­cially if you’re com­mit­ted to mak­ing art for a liv­ing. It’s not like we haven’t been here be­fore, with iconic venues from Richard’s on Richards to the Luv-a-fair bull­dozed over the years to make way for con­dos. The prob­lem these days is that no one with a 604 birth cer­tifi­cate can af­ford those con­dos. Or, for that mat­ter, a “gar­den level” base­ment rental suite in Grand­view-wood­land. Give newly formed Blu J credit for catch­ing the creep­ing hor­ror that Van­cou­ver as we know it is van­ish­ing with its beau­ti­fully down­beat sin­gle and ac­com­pa­ny­ing video “Both Your Hands”. Those cur­rently on the max­i­mum al­low­able dose of Paxil might take some com­fort in lines like “I was wish­ing for my life to be over/till you de­cided to in­vite your­self over.” As for the rest of us, some­times it’s good to have sound­track mu­sic for those days when the only thing you want to do is stay in bed with the cov­ers pulled over your head, pray­ing to God this isn’t the month the ren­ovic­tion let­ter finally comes in the morn­ing mail.

IMUR (neosoul/r&b) It’s been a big year for Van­cou­ver’s best elec­tronic-soul up­starts. Af­ter drop­ping a de­but in 2017 that got mu­sic crit­ics scrib­bling, the trio clocked up a stel­lar per­for­mance at SXSW, opened for Hay­ley Kiyoko at a sold­out Vogue Theatre show, and were the talk of the Shamb­hala fes­ti­val. With new mu­sic on the way in the first week of Oc­to­ber—an EP named THIRTY33—IMUR have tight­ened up their rich pro­duc­tion, with singer Jenny Lea’s vo­cals danc­ing over full­bod­ied chords.

PERE­GRINE FALLS (in­stru­men­tal jazz) Sure, Gor­don Gr­dina and Ken­ton Loewen are Van­cou­ver mu­sic-scene stal­warts, hav­ing col­lab­o­rated on var­i­ous high-profile projects around town for the bet­ter part of two decades. But the pair’s de­but al­bum as Pere­grine Falls, which was re­leased in 2017, was an overnight suc­cess—no mean feat for an in­stru­men­tal jazz record. Gr­dina—a gui­tarist and oud player—cre­ates a fre­netic rhyth­mic in­ter­play with drum­mer Loewen, re­sult­ing in a largely im­pro­vised, toetap­ping groove that sounds some­where be­tween Led Zep­pelin and Frank Zappa. It’s lit­tle won­der the record was nom­i­nated for a Juno. DROWN IN ASHES (metal­lic hard­core) Some­times all you want out of mu­sic is cathar­tic ag­gres­sion with­out the frills. Drown in Ashes knows this, and the trio has your hookup. Fist-to-the-gut riffs? Check. Run­away-train drum­ming? Check. Voice-of-rage bel­low­ing? You’d bet­ter fuck­ing be­lieve it. Did Van­cou­ver in 2018 re­ally need its very own an­swer to Sick of It All, Mad­ball, and, uh, Fudge Tun­nel? That de­pends on your def­i­ni­tion of the word need, but when that kick-down-the-walls mood strikes—and it al­ways does— you’ll be damn glad Jay Townsend (bass and vo­cals), Valek Morke (gui­tar), and Owen Lewis (drums) are out there cre­at­ing blis­ter­ing screeds with ti­tles like “Plague of Dis­con­tent”. PEACH PIT (Trop­icália-tinted pop) It would be easy to hate Peach Pit, dou­bly so if you’d spent the past six years tak­ing or­ders at Star­bucks while wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered on Band­camp. You might re­call the quar­tet first sur­fac­ing with the EP Sweet F.A., and then promptly get­ting of­fers to play not only Bum­ber­shoot, but far-flung lo­cales like In­dia and In­done­sia. Prov­ing that the In­ter­net can some­times be an in­die artist’s best friend, the lazy-sum­mer­day bon­bon “Peach Pit” has clocked a mind-blow­ing 18 mil­lion views on Youtube to date, with com­ments-sec­tion raves in­clud­ing “This song makes me nos­tal­gic for things that i haven’t even lived yet” and “i feel like this is what a milk­shake would sound like.” Ev­i­dently of the opin­ion that karma is some­thing you can’t put a price on, the mem­bers of Peach Pit (which head­lines the Vogue on Oc­to­ber 26) are pay­ing things for­ward this fall: the band is run­ning a con­test on its Face­book page ti­tled “Take Our Van; It’s Free”. That’s right, if you’re in a band, all you have to do is fill out the form, adds some links to your mu­sic, and then ex­plain why you and your band­mates de­serve their van. And here’s a quick tip: make it more creative than “We’ve spent the past six years tak­ing or­ders at Star­bucks while wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered on Band­camp.”

Some of the Van­cou­ver mu­si­cians we’re the most ex­cited about right now in­clude (left to right) bed­room cham­ber-folk singer-song­writer Sam Tu­dor; elec­tronic-pop ex­per­i­men­tal­ist Lief Hall; and the en­dear­ingly Trop­icália-tinted Peach Pit.

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