No Doubt – “Settle Down” [Listen]
But you can see it in my eyes
You can read it on my lips
I’m trying to get a hold on this
And I really mean it this time
And you know it’s such a trip
Don’t get me started
I’m trying to get a hold on this

I was just about to post my Playlist when No Doubt hit with this summer smash comeback! Perfect timing. No Doubt were my favourite band for years, and as I tweeted when I first watched the new video, my Gwen Stefani obsession has been reignited. She is still the coolest. My fandom really started during the Return of Saturn era, and I distinctly remember racing to the record store on December 11th, 2001, to grab my copy of the much-anticipated Rock Steady. I have a freakishly good memory like that. Of course, I continued right through to Gwen’s two solo records, which now I’m feeling like I need to revisit. This track gives me a surge of confidence – is it too soon to call it my song of the summer? It’s in the running, no doubt.

Diamond Rings – “I’m Just Me” [Listen]
Now I’m growing older
I’m getting bolder
Confident in my own skin

This glam-pop Toronto artist caught my attention in 2010 with “Something Else,” with his striking deep vocals, a beat that instantly gets stuck in your head, and relatable lyrics. Combined with some amazing rainbow eye makeup, I became a fan. Also known as John O, the multi-instrumentalist is back with this confident declaration of self and about growing up, and it’s just as irresistible as ever. I know he would be a blast live – unfortunately, I just missed his DJ set here at The Brain recently!

Olly Murs – “Dance With Me Tonight” [Listen]
When I saw you there
Sittin’ all alone in the dark acting like you didn’t have a care
I knew right then, that you’d be mine
And we’d be dancing the whole damn night

The times I do tune into Much Music, during the hours when I know videos are being played, I usually spot a new tune and I still come across new acts that way. This Motown-inspired diddy by the smooth singer Olly Murs, who was a runner up on U.K.’s The X-Factor, caught my attention right away. We do love our Brits, and we’ve been riding this new wave of the British invasion. This song was on repeat recently while I was sitting outside, blogging away, and dancing in my seat. Hopefully I didn’t annoy the neighbours. I just can’t sit still when I hear it!

Frank Ocean – “Sweet Life” [Listen]
Why see the world when you’ve got the beach
Now this is a good summertime slow jam. I had heard his name and knew he was attached to Odd Future, but I didn’t delve into Frank Ocean’s tunes until his incredibly honest and heartfelt post on his Tumblr made the rounds. I was moved by it without even knowing much about the artist. Digging into his music, (getting my fill of “Swim Good”, which is still on repeat) I was excited to hear his first full length album, Channel Orange, which he released early, to the world’s delight. From his haunting performance of “Bad Religion” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and my initial impression upon that first spin, it’s clear Mr. Ocean is something very special.

Bahamas – “Ok Alright I’m Alive” [Listen]
I know we had it before
But it went away
Where in the world did it go?
I’m happy here on my own
And that’s fine with you
You were never steady or slow

I don’t know why I’m only just discovering this Toronto-based artist now, but I’m grateful for the discovery. Listening to his tunes, I think summer, so he is fitting to feature for July. There is a sweetness to Afie Jurvanen’s voice and his memorable melodies; perfect to listen to on a summer’s day. Bahamas will be playing in Hamilton in August!

The Dirty Nil – “Cinnamon” [Listen]
You can be pissed off if you want to
This feisty Dundas trio were featured on my last Playlist, but after dropping their summer mixtape, I couldn’t resist including them again. Their grungy sound has completely grown on me from my first listen and I finally got to see them live when I caught them at Dr. Disc’s Raise the Roof concert series, in celebration of the record store’s birthday. Their live show is just what I expected – they are a wild bunch! I also stumbled upon this little gem – an acoustic version of the tune filmed at last year’s NXNE.

The Dirty Nil. Photo from The Dirty Nil’s Facebook page.

Kate Nash – “Under-Estimate the Girl” [Listen]
Everybody play-playing so safe
No one wanna mess, mess with the rules

Kate Nash is one of my favourite artists. She made a splash last month when she released this riot grrrl-infused song that was written and recorded in less than 24 hours. I really, really, want to like it, and it’s growing on me. I like the instrumentation; I’m just iffy on the vocals. Fans were all abuzz, some liking the new sound, some wishing for the “old Kate Nash” to come back. Kate addressed the reaction on her blog, and it was very well put. We can’t expect anyone to stay the same; she is evolving just as we are all. That being said, the magic of her debut album Made of Bricks will always be my absolute favourite. The punk rock influence got stronger with My Best Friend Is You, so it seemed like the natural direction for the musician to go. I admire all that Kate does to empower young women and am excited to see where she will go creatively. Seeing her live in November 2010 is still one of my all-time favourite concerts.

Ben Somer – “Lies in July” [Listen]
And I’d quit it all for you
But I know you’d never ask me to
We got love but things just ain’t that easy

This Dundas-born singer-songwriter has been on my radar for a couple of years now and became a friend when I first visited Boxcar Sound Recording Studio, which he co-owns. We’ve found incredible singer-songwriters on our journey through the City, and Ben is one of the top, for me. His intricate lyrics and the unique quality of his voice impress me every time, and when he plays, he always commands the room with his quiet demeanor and razor-sharp wit. In keeping with my July Playlist, this song was an easy choice off his sophomore album, The Last One, which I just picked up when I saw him play at a recent Folk’d Up Friday show. A new album is in the works at Boxcar, and if his newer songs, “Big City Slang,” “Heroes and Villains,” and “These Boards and Nails” are any indication, the album is shaping up to be even better than his last one (no pun intended!) and I can’t wait to hear it.

Emma-Lee – “Not Coming By” [Listen]
What’s it like to have all that control?
I don’t know
You’re not coming by

I first heard this one via Radio 3, and loved it right away, being struck by Emma-Lee’s powerful voice. I later realized the connection that the Toronto artist is friends with Gavin Slate, a new friend I met on our Tour and one of my favourite singer-songwriters. Emma-Lee is a country-pop singer with a whole lot of soul and this song just grabs me; the rhythm has such a good groove. The emotion of her belting out, “you’re not coming by” at the end really resonates and I can just imagine how great she would be live.

Donovan Woods – “Put On Cologne” [Listen]
All your letters, deeply in my core
Telling me to go and see if there was anything more

This is Donovan’s second appearance on one of my Playlists, and I nearly included this track last time, but opted for a song off The Widowmaker, which has remained on regular rotation since I first saw him live in March. I’ve listened to it so much, that I feel as if I’ve seen him live more times than I have! It was such a treat to be able to see Donovan play again this month, again at Homegrown, with another favourite of mine, Robyn Dell’Unto. This song is off his follow up, Don’t Get Too Grand, and I don’t know what it is about Donovan, but I’m always able to connect to his lyrics, even without knowing what the songs mean for him. He is my favourite singer-songwriter I’ve come across during the Tour. I was particularly excited to hear this one live, after watching the video from the Great Heart Festival. I love how Donovan translates it into the live version, stretching out the song a bit.

Stella Ella Ola – “Proud Mother Stomp” [Listen]
Still I’m sure that once you made your mother proud
I stumbled upon this band when they started following me on Twitter, and I was pleased to see Stella Ella Ola consists of two members of Hollerado, one my favourites. They just put out an EP of 4 songs, free for download, and if you love the playful tunes of Hollerado, you’ll be into these guys too and their fun, surf/garage rock sound. They had me right away by naming one of their songs “Peter Sellers,” and I love the twangy guitar and foot-stompin’ groove of this one. Being in a band should always be this fun. I look forward to seeing them play live – come to Hamilton, guys! And can we please play Stella Ella Ola, when you do?

– 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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