Welcome to Denise Benson’s new monthly round-up of Toronto talents making big moves in the weeks ahead. Here’s a look at who’s currently creating buzz, and why.
Who: Tanika Charles a.k.a. Mz. Chawlz (pictured above)
What: R&B powerhouse in the Massey Hall spotlight, with debut album to follow
Why: Supremely talented singer-songwriter and vocalist Tanika Charles has made confident strides toward centre stage since the release of her impressive debut EP, What!What?What!?, in 2010. Charles’ bang-on blend of soul, blues, R&B, hip-hop, and pop turned heads. Songs from the EP, like “SillyHappyWild,” received loads of CBC Radio play, while others caught the ears of television audiences. (“Dancing With Your Ghost” was aired in February on HBO’s Less Than Kind, while “I Am Your Woman” recently played during the fourth episode of CityTV’s new comedy series, Seed.) As revealed in a 2012 One to Watch article about Charles, the vocalist has been at work on her debut full-length, collaborating with producers including Slakah the Beatchild. The album is expected by early summer, but CBC Radio program Here and Now offered listeners a preview when it aired new song “Waiting” as the show’s Song of the Week for March 4-8. Recently named one of 15 Black Canadian Artists to Watch in 2013 by Huffington Post Canada, Charles is set to follow her November 2012 performance at Massey Hall as part of the Women’s Blues Revue with a spotlight show for the Hall’s intimate Canadian Songbook series. (You may have noticed a photo of the songstress beaming out from the Roy Thomson Hall billboard.)
Where & When: Tanika Charles performs this Wednesday, March 13, at The Rivoli (334 Queen W.). More information and $19.50 tickets are available on the Massey Hall site.
Who: Mansion and friends
What: A new month-long collaborative DJ-event series called The Foundry
Why: Over the past few years, the Mansion collective has emerged as one of this city’s most stimulating young forces in promoting electronic music artists and events. They’ve produced high-calibre parties in a wide variety of settings, from churches to warehouses, empty retail spaces and dim-sum restaurants. They’re also the driving force behind Foundry, a collaborative, month-long series of impressive and immersive events. Excitingly, a number of experienced local artists and event producers collaborated with Mansion to curate the eight different dates. This spirit of teamwork and the series’ overall programming are both inspiring, especially in a city like Toronto where we’re rich with events, but often heavily divided by genres and scenes. Foundry kicked off with L.A.’s Shlohmo on March 1 and Detroit techno legend Juan Atkins on March 2, and people I’ve spoken with who attended both events were impressed not only by the artists, but also by the quality of the Funktion One soundsystem recently fitted into host venue, The BLK BOX, below The Great Hall. Mansion’s recap videos of Foundry events give both a taste of what was experienced, and what is to come.
Where & When: Manchester DJ/producer Andy Stott brings his textured, dub-tinged techno on March 16, joined by the Box of Kittens DJs (who also curated); On March 22, the 3024 label is celebrated as co-founder Martyn plays alongside local talents Kevin McPhee, Nautiluss, and 92bpm’s Mymanhenri (curator); Belfast disco duo and bloggers Bicep spin the next night, March 23, joined by Lapelle and Members Only (curated by Evening Standard); March 29 features Detroit house and hip-hop producer Andrés on a bill with Bruce Trail and curator Colin Bergh, while the series concludes March 30 with Minneapolis’ tech wiz DVS1 and local crew How Does It Make You Feel (i.e., David Patterson, Michael Krochak, and Kevin McPhee). All shows at The BLK BOX (1087 Queen W.). Tickets $15-20, available at Soundscapes, Play de Record, Rotate This and online.
Who: Kae Sun
What: Infectious singer-songwriter and storyteller showcases new material
Why: Ghana-born, Toronto-based musician Kae Sun has consistently impressed since the release of his acclaimed debut album, Lion on a Leash, in 2009. His minimal yet highly melodic songs instantly brighten days, as the acoustic material on Kae Sun’s 2011 follow-up EP, Outside the Barcode, also demonstrated. When he released a video for newer work “Ship and the Globe” last October, Kae Sun easily raised his own bar. The song is a rare one in today’s pop music landscape: immediately infectious yet absolutely original. “Ship and the Globe” earned Kae Sun an MTV Iggy nod late last year, and increased the excitement of fans anticipating a new album. That album, Afriyie, has been produced by Kae Sun and Science!, and is expected mid-year. Kae Sun will debut many songs from it at a performance later this month. He’s also at work on a video for the song “When the Pot.”
Where & When: Kae Sun performs Thursday, March 14, at The Rivoli (334 Queen W.), with openers Ayo Leilani and Jamilah. $12 advance tickets for this Batuki Music Society presentation can be purchased online. $15 at the door.
What: The bass-heavy house producer bends beats on a beautiful new EP.
Why: Vlad Sonn, a.k.a. VLSONN, has seriously found his groove with the recent release of his four-track Hefty EP. It’s the first release of 2013 on Aufect—a Vancouver label known for blurring definitions between house, techno and bass music – and it’s a doozy. As with VLSONN’s two earlier EPs for the label, Black Sea Influence and Dronology, the music flirts with darkness and light, offering up bent beats and sweet melodies. Hefty explores the ’90s house influences found in VLSONN’s previous work and raises it one, adding more in the way of chopped-up vocal samples and twisted rhythms. This is damn good music from a man who grows with each release (and bootleg remix for that matter). Hefty may also increase his international bookings, given that it reached #23 on Beatport’s House 100 chart.
Where & When: VLSONN opens for Hotflush Recordings’ boss Scuba this Friday, March 15, at Wrongbar (1279 Queen W.). Also on the bill are Sean Roman and Bruce Trail, with $12.50 tickets available online.
What: Rising alt-pop star returns from a European tour to make local debut
Why: Though not yet be a known name in her hometowns of Calgary and Toronto, 21-year-old musician, vocalist, and video artist Lowell is a fast-rising star in much of Europe. Last year, she worked with Apparatjik, a super-group led by Swedish producer Martin Terefe, to release the stunning seven-song EP, If You Can, Solve This Jumble. Songs from it, particularly “Shake Him Off” and “The Birds,” caught fire. Lowell was soon hyped as one to watch in publications including The Guardian, Glamour and, here, in my suggestions of Toronto artists to check in 2013. More recently, this classically trained pianist and alt-pop artist—who’s frequently compared to Lykke Li—has been living and recording in London, England. She’s just wrapped up production on a debut album—produced with Terefe, Justin Broad, and Paul Herman—and toured much of Europe, including as a support act for The Raveonettes. All this, and Lowell has never performed at home. In fact, her first live performance was last summer, at Denmark’s famous Roskilde festival, where she sang in front of thousands. On March 20, Lowell performs at New York’s Rockwood Music Hall, and then does Toronto up proper.
Where & When: Lowell performs at two Canadian Music Fest shows. On March 22, she joins The Besnard Lakes and others at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor W.) where she’ll hit the stage at 9:30 p.m. Advance tickets are $16.50. And then on March 23, she joins Austra, Yacht Club, and Blood Ceremony at The Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth). $22.50 advance tickets can be found at Rotate This, Soundscapes, and Ticketmaster.