The Dirty Nil – “Blunt Force Concussion” [Listen]
Trust me
If I’m feeling blue
Trust me
I’m thinking about you

Despite the pandemic, The Dirty Nil had a pretty killer year in 2020, dishing out tons of content to keep fans satiated until we can get back to live shows. They embarked on a super fun virtual tour, released great new music videos, and had a hilarious promo run for “Doom Boy” featuring celebrity cameos. This all led up to the band dropping their third full length album Fuck Art on New Years Eve (Dine Alone Records). Too soon to call it, but I know this will rank high on my year-end Best Of list. It’s already proving to be my 2021 soundtrack. Watch the music video for this single! If you want even more from the band, check out their Patreon page.

The Dirty Nil. Photo by Stephanie Montani.

Chastity – “Losing A Whole Year” (Third Eye Blind cover) [Listen]
And now I realize that you never heard
One goddamned word I ever said

I love finding good additions to the quarantine playlist. It’s especially fun to make previously released songs fit the current vibe. Which makes it a genius move for Chastity to put his own spin on Third Eye Blind’s “Losing A Whole Year.” Brandon Williams shares: “Although Third Eye Blind released this song in 1997, it was somehow 2020’s theme song. It was rough for every single person I know… maybe it’s best that we all forget it, and just lose the whole year.” This single follows last year’s powerful anthem “Drain the Bloodbath,” which I’m still frequently spinning. Watch out for a new Chastity album to come this year.

Chastity. Photo by Jules Noel.

The Effens – “Pavement Age” [Listen]
And you seem to be saying that you know what’s next
But you’re predicting the future you’re gonna regret

Toronto-based band The Effens are a fun new addition to Hamilton’s Hidden Pony Records & Management roster. They start the year off with a fiery new tune, accurately displaying their “hyper-strange post-grunge and glam pop” musical sensibilities. The band says of this new single: “We’d like you to feel unafraid while asking yourself difficult questions about what makes someone a ‘good’ person and how morality is really defined.”

The Effens

Loviet – “Dullshine” [Listen]
Why am I so nervous
What the fuck just happened
The world’s completely lost it
So baby let’s hold on to nothing

I first caught wind of Toronto-based pop rock artist Loviet under the moniker Natalie Lynn when she played Mills Hardware in 2019. Later that summer, I was at Budweiser Stage to see my favourite artist of all time, Florence + the Machine. Over in the River Bar before the show, there was Loviet! I can hear Haim, The 1975, and Muna all in the mix as influences. So up my alley. Loviet released the great EP Everyone Knows The Thrill When It’s Over in 2020, and ended the year strong with this brand new single, making it one of my winter jams – and I needed it!

Loviet. Photo by Stephanie Montani.

The Barettas – “Touché” [Listen]
I walked the plank
And then I sank to the bottom of the sea

The Barettas are back! I have good memories of seeing this band a bunch on the local scene when they formed back in 2008. They are back with a fiery new tune which they say “was inspired by skipping to the Hamilton bar, Che.” Ah, memories! Look out for a new full length album, All Is Fair In Love And Rock & Roll, on January 29, which the band describes as “full of pump you up, getting ready to go out, running in the woods music.”

The Barettas

Back Teeth – “Pink Depression” [Listen]
Back Teeth starts the year with a stellar new single, “Pink Depression.” The grungy new tune features Allie L Torrance on guitar and vocals with bandmate Evelyn Charlotte Joe on drums and mixing. Last year the band gave us Live At Boxcar, composed of tracks from their 2018 EP Garbage Head. Looking forward to hearing more from this project!

Back Teeth

Zoon – “Vibrant Colours” [Listen]
It happens every year – I start off in a mad scramble to catch up on any releases I may have missed the previous year, along with all the brand new tunes! Such is the case with Hamilton-based musician Zoon, whose album I’m so glad to dive into now. The artist released his debut Bleached Wavves (on Paper Bag Records) in mid-2020. Lots of great press swiftly followed, and deservedly so. In the Ojibway language, the word Zoongide’ewin means “bravery, courage, the Bear Spirit,” and it’s with that strength that musician Daniel Monkman approaches his music, which has been has been dubbed “‘moccasin-gaze,’ a tongue-in-cheek nickname for the amalgamation of his shoegaze influences with traditional First Nations music.” 


Patricia Lorran – “I Can’t Release You” [Listen]
Didn’t mean to stay away
I was searching for a sign
Another lovely edition to Hamilton’s singer-songwriter scene comes new music from contemporary pop/indie artist Patricia Lorran. The musician has been an active performer in the local scene for the past 20 years, having performed classical piano at music festivals and competitions, being trained in the Royal Conservatory Of Music, and dabbling in many different genres. She also studied Jazz Vocals at Mohawk College and Songwriting at the Berklee College of Music. Patricia releases a heartfelt new single which introduces a new chapter for the artist. Stay tuned for Patricia’s debut album to come this year.

Patricia Lorran

Gareth Inkster – “Thank You'” [Listen]
I won’t say goodbye
I’ll just say thank you
A gorgeous start to the year from Gareth Inkster, who brings us a pair of singles – the brand new “Thank You” and a reworked version of his previously released song “Vermillion.” The first lines of “Thank You” got me right through the heart immediately; a delicate reminder to be grateful for every interaction and experience. The song continues in this intimate way and then beautifully builds with the wish, “May you be forever blessed.” Gareth also recently started up a Patreon page, a great way to support and hear more music!

Gareth Inkster. Photo by James David.

Garrett Vandenberg – “The Suburbs” (Arcade Fire cover) [Listen]
Sometimes I can’t believe it
I’m moving past the feeling again

Based in Paris, Ontario, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and singer-songwriter Garrett Vandenberg has been playing music professionally since he was 10 years old. With tons of experience in that time, Garrett records and produces indie artists, teaches music, composes original theme and background music, and also releases his own stuff. Last spring, Garrett showcased his music sensibility with the release of a collection of a covers, Run For Cover! Hearing cover songs is always a fun way to get to know an artist, and I really enjoy the song selections here.

Garrett Vandenberg

Emma Rush – “Air varié de Vive Henri IV” (Julia Piston) [Listen]
Award-winning classical guitarist Emma Rush recently released her third solo album, Wake The Sigh. With this release, the Hamilton artist set out to bring to light a range of relatively unknown female-written guitar compositions from the 19th century. Emma spent a couple of years researching these classical composers in order to put together this album. It was recorded here in Hamilton and produced by Kirk Starkey.

Emma Rush

Ryan Sykes – “What I Want” [Listen]
Diamonds shining on me like a chandelier
Another new talent on my radar, the soulful pop/R&B sounds of Ryan Sykes. The young artist, born and raised in Hamilton, got his start honing his talents in high school and has already released several really strong singles so far. Watch for his debut album to come!

Ryan Sykes. Photo by Hilary Gauld Camilleri.

Smoothie Lou – “Way Up” ft. TR4TH [Listen]
I’m sick and tired of depression
Fucking every day up
Local emcee Smoothie Lou released two albums in 2020, and he’s not slowing down this year. He just dropped his latest EP Songs I Made When I Was Sad, Vol 1, which hints at even more to come. Once again the artist gets honest with his lyrics, all backed by some stellar beats that will have you shaking up your energy and keeping things moving.

Smoothie Lou. Photo by Brody @becausedesignmatters.

Flowzus – “Do What I’ve Done” [Listen]
And I’m still standing here today
Everything thrown at me, I’ve overcome
Singer, rapper and producer Flowzus has had a busy run of releasing music over the past few years. The local musician released four albums in just over a year before taking a break from the studio to hone his production and find new musicians to work with. In 2020, Flowzus started the year with the upbeat single “C’est La Vie,” which captures the attitude “keep your head up, invest in your own, and eventually the talent will speak for itself.” He ended 2020 with a new album Runnin On Diesel. Watch out for a deluxe version to come.


Hoss Bowman ft. LTtheMonk – “RUN UP” [Listen]
If you ain’t talkin’ money
Why you talkin’ to me?

It’s fire every time Hamilton emcees Hoss Bowman and LTtheMonk hit the stage together. Until we can see that in action once more, crank up this new collaboration. It’s impossible not to feel hyped up when you hear this one!

Hoss Bowman. Photo by Derek Russell.

Sweet Jake – “Drivin'” [Listen]
Driving myself so fucking mad
Thinking all the things I left unsaid

Sweet Jake introduces himself with new solo material to kick off the year. You may be familiar with the musician already from other bands he is part of, Athanase and In My Coma. With his own tunes, Jake cites John Mayer, Ewan Currie, and The Tragically Hip among his influences. With his debut single, Jake describes the story as being about “a breakup forced by the move from the middle of nowhere to the big city.” The track was produced by Andrew Billone of Silvertone Hills and also features Dan Gurman on pedal-steel.

Sweet Jake. Photo by Stephanie Montani.

Robins Avenue – “Home” [Listen]
Push pull then break away
For a change of scenery
You may recognize the musicians who make up the band Robins Avenue from different projects in the local music. As a brand new band, they pool tons of professional experience together to create catchy groove-based, Canadiana roots rock with great harmonies. Their debut EP Small Pieces, Big Picture is an awesome introduction.

Robins Avenue

Steve Strongman – “Tired Of Talkin'” [Listen]
One thing for sure
You’re one of a kind
Award-winning blues guitarist and singer-songwriter Steve Strongman shares a reissue of his 2019 album Tired Of Talkin’. The Hamilton musician recently joined forces with Linus Entertainment in a multi-faceted deal that will globally represent his music publishing catalog and the distribution of his sound recording catalog, as well as future recordings and songwriting. Through that deal brings a new life to Tired of Talkin’, presenting it to a global audience. Steve also has a new album in the works!

Steve Strongman
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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