Glee Cast – “Up Up Up” (Givers cover) [Listen]
You’re gonna find a way, find a way to be
You’re gonna get yourself aligned with your own mind
You’re gonna get it free

This is just the most joyful song. I’ve known of this track by Givers for a while now and was pleased to see it covered on Glee. Dianna Agron and Kevin McHale are delightful singing it and I love the scene in which it was used. Dianna is a big inspiration for me with everything she is doing with her website, You, Me & Charlie, which I absolutely love. This song is simple but its message is profound. It’s a current reminder for me to let go, be free, and remember, “With no doubt, it’s in everything.”

Dinner Belles – “‘Til the Dawn” [Listen]
And I would gladly step aside, if I only could
Pick up all the pieces of my heart

Dinner Belles are a hometown super group – formed in 2009, I can’t believe I’m only just giving them a proper listen now. Lead singer Brad Germain has been in just about every Hamilton band you’ve ever heard of (well, not quite, but he’s in a ton of bands!) and I saw Terra Lightfoot play some of her solo material back in December; I love her voice. I’m not usually drawn to country music, but Dinner Belles are more than just that; they have an irresistible, rich, warm sound that evokes a summer night and you can just picture the band sitting around and jamming, audience or not, just for the joy of it. But of course, they have a huge fan base, and now I know why! We love themes on our Tour and I think we need to kick back, country-style, in a saloon, or a barn. Barn party, anyone? As the first track off their album West Simcoe County, this song jumped out at me right away. It makes me want to kick up my heels when that chorus kicks in!

Dark Mean – “Happy Banjo” [Listen]
I woke up here alone
I feel so happy, alone

I was introduced to Dark Mean on the St. Patrick’s Day extravaganza that was Threshold Studios’ grand opening. Another Hamilton band that really should have been on my radar prior to the Tour, they were the ideal soundtrack to St. Patty’s. I find this song so uplifting and joyful – fitting for my spring Playlist. The instrumentation is unlike any I’ve heard from other local bands. Their official bio describes their music as, “whimsical while monumental, traveling between overt classical pop to dream-like ambiance,” and I couldn’t describe them any better than that if I tried; this song epitomizes it all. I look forward to seeing them live again.

Ascot Royals – “Do It All Again” [Listen]
Still I make up my mind
But still I take too much time
I know that with some rest I will be on my feet again

Collectively, Ascots are one of our favourite Hamilton bands. We have yet to feature them properly as part of our Tour, but we’ve seen them play live a bunch of times prior to the Tour and always have such a blast at their energetic live shows. I’m so excited to hear they have a new album coming out and the songs they’ve released on their site so far showcase a new sound for the band, and I’m really feeling it. As noted, we’re quite smitten over British accents, so that’s an added bonus with a couple of the members. Again going with my uplifting theme, this song does it for me too; the chorus is another reminder that things will work out ok in the end, despite my frustrations at times. I can’t wait to see these new songs played live and be reunited with these fellas!

You Can’t Win, Charlie Brown – “I’ve Been Lost” [Listen]
Don’t be alarmed, you’ll be fine
Feel it and hold it tight

I first spotted this Portuguese band on MTV Canada during an episode of Sharlene Chiu’s show VS. I was drawn to the band name, being a fan of the classic character Charlie Brown (and the name Charlie holding particular significance for me), but found I really dug their music (they have sparked comparisons to Bon Iver). I had been looking into more of their music but then sort of forgot about them. Carly shared with me (because she knows me so well) an amusing post by CBC Radio 3’s Dave Shumka, who speculated about bands performing at South by Southwest, based solely on their band names. After giggling throughout that entire blog post, I was prompted to listen to YCWCB some more. And here we are. That’s a very roundabout explanation of why I chose that song, but you know we love our full circles.

Childish Gambino – “Heartbeat” [Listen]
I wanted you to know
That I am ready to go

My Playlist needed a banger. Bam. This is it. This beat reminds me of MSTRKRFT and it grabbed me right away, along with the feisty lyrics about the complicated throes of a relationship. Even though I have yet to really get into Community, I’m really into Donald Glover; every time I see him interviewed, I like everything he has to say. This track also inspires moves that make me want to break out the glow sticks.

Florence and the Machine – “No Light, No Light [Listen]
A revelation in the light of day
You can’t choose what stays and what fades away

Flo never fails to get me to centred and snap me back into gear. Lungs will forever go down as one of my favourite albums of all time, but of course she blows everyone else out of the water yet again with Ceremonials. She is otherworldly; I love everything about her. The word “epic” is completely overused in today’s lexicon, but her music is epic, grand, sweeping – each song stands on its own as a colossal, sensory, visceral force; you can feel and see the sound. There is no one like her.

New Hands – “This I’ve Heard” [Listen]
You can shed your tears but I won’t cry
A new local band on my radar, New Hands are ones to watch. Spence Newell’s vocals struck me immediately when I heard this song and I instantly thought of Joy Division; turns out my musical references were on point with that one, but they have such a unique sound that is difficult to pin down. New Hands are another band that Michael Keire has been working with at Threshold, which I just visited. Speaking of Playlists, the guys have been posting themed Playlists on their Tumblr, like we do. Tumblr and Playlists? I took this as a sign that we would get along well – and that we did! I checked them out this month at Casbah and was happy to finally meet them. I look forward to hanging with them again!

New Hands. Photo by Sonia Cacoilo.

Drake ft. Rihanna – “Take Care” [Listen]
When you’re ready, just say you’re ready
When all the baggage just ain’t as heavy
And the party’s over, just don’t forget me
We’ll change the pace and we’ll just go slow

I’ve been grooving to this one for a minute – who could resist Drizzy? I love the smooth flow of this song and always like hearing Drake sing as well as rap. I don’t even know what to say about this one except that it’s just so… smooth. I’m feeling it. He’s doing Canada proud.

Donovan Woods – “Lawren Harris” [Listen]
I’m not saying he’s gifted, I’m saying he’s damn good
I’m not saying he’s gifted, but most people would

I had such a time trying to choose a song from one of my favourite albums of the moment, Donovan Woods’ The Widowmaker. Then I had such a time trying to choose one lyric from any particular song! I got to meet the Sarnia-born, Toronto-based singer-songwriter at Homegrown Hamilton in March. With Kirby and Benjamin Francis Leftwich also on the bill, it was easily one of my favourite shows I’ve seen so far on the Tour. I can’t get over Donovan’s music; he is an incredible songwriter, and this song was one of the first that grabbed me when I listened to the album, before even seeing him live. I wouldn’t hesitate to see him play live again.

Illitry – “Roadtrip” [Listen]
It’s been a long year
I have a knack for picking these Tour-related song titles. We’ve definitely been on quite the road trip this past year, and in some ways, given all that we’ve seen and done, it does feel like “it’s been a long year.” I was introduced to Illitry when the Hamilton duo opened for Rich Aucoin at Casbah last month (one of my favourite shows to date) and loved what I heard. I love the floating, dreamy quality to this song and the beat that kicks in. I can just imagine taking a road trip to this song, wherever that may be. And in mine, it remains my local road trip around this lovely city, and at the risk of getting deep, my inward road trip as I continue on my own personal journey.

– Kristin

Kristin Archer is the creator of I Heart Hamilton (, where she has blogged about experiences around her hometown since 2011, growing a social media presence along the way. Encouraging locals to “be a tourist in your own city,” she promotes arts and culture across her various social media platforms, blog, and weekly radio show on 93.3 CFMU.

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