The Emsee – “Pity Party” [Listen]
See inside my brain
I disguise the pain
Making excuses like the climate’s changed

After a lengthy hiatus, Hamilton rapper The Emsee returns with a brand new single. The Emsee, a.k.a. Mathew Barber, first got started in 2006 when he turned one of his poems into his first song. The artist took off from there, releasing three full-length albums Reality Check (2009), The Life I Love (2010), and Empty Promises (2013). In 2012, The Emsee repped Hamilton on a national level, as a finalist on Canada’s Got Talent. Now, he is celebrating his return to music. “Pity Party” is described as “a self-produced dark anthem that truly exemplifies the changes that have occurred in his life. With an effortless delivery, The Emsee touches on topics from personal grief and regret to philosophy and pop culture without breaking a sweat. It’s clear that time only makes him sharper and perhaps the best is yet to come.” Welcome back, The Emsee! Watch the music video for the track.

The Emsee

3-R – “Carbon Print” [Listen]
Life’s just a game
But who’s to blame

So much to discover from Hamilton’s underground hip hop scene. 3-R comes through with a new single, “Carbon Print.” It’s the latest track since his EP Retraced Steps, just released this spring. As his bio states, the artist is a “Small time artist from a dirt pile of a city.” You can hear that grittiness in every track.

3-R – “Carbon Print”

The Dirty Nil – “Damage Control” [Listen]
If you wanna know what’s on my mind
I’ll tell you anytime
Beware the things you wanna feel
‘Cause that don’t mean they’re real

How epic would it be to see yourself as an animated character? The Dirty Nil find out as they are digitized by Greg Doble for their new music video, “Damage Control.” Let’s green light this series, because I want to see more adventures from Luke, Kyle, and Ross! This album cycle for Fuck Art certainly hasn’t been the average for the band, who have such a killer live show, but the current limitations have not slowed them down. They’ve hosted super fun virtual shows, and released awesome merch and exclusive content through their ‘Nillionaires Club’ on Patreon.

The Dirty Nil – “Damage Control.” Animation by Greg Doble.

Astral Witch – “Rune” [Listen]
I tried to get away, left with nothing to say
Tried to figure it out, left with nothing but doubt
Too late to change, left feeling so strange
But I will survive

Astral Witch is a 3-piece doom band from Hamilton. Their self-titled debut album is available now (on sweet green vinyl, too). It was mixed and mastered by Sean Pearson at Boxcar Sound Recording, here in Hamilton. Until we can get back to a face-melting live show, as the band says: “buy a CD and pretend we’re live in your living room.” Crank this up!

Astral Witch

The Ruddy Ruckus – “Hold On My Love” [Listen]
When day after day turns to week after week
And month after month turns to years
There’s something that I have to get off my chest
I can’t hold it back oh my dear

Hamilton garage rockers The Ruddy Ruckus drop a new tune for us. The project has evolved from a singer-songwriter to full band sound. Produced by Luke Bentham of The Dirty Nil, “Hold On My Love” is described as “baked in a certain brand of folky nostalgia that revisits more innocent times. As the message of the song is to hunker down and wait out the storms that life throws at us, there is a certain romanticism in the idea that things were better or easier in the past.” But don’t let the “folky nostalgia” descriptor fool you, the song packs a pop punk punch!

The Ruddy Ruckus

Devin Bateson – “Lil’ Stars” [Listen]
Hamilton-based beatmaker, experimental hip hop artist, and visual artist Devin Bateson dropped a new collection of beats on his birthday this month. Most of the beats on Blorf were created in 2018, and the project evolved over time, including the addition of the plasticine character we now see on the album’s cover (and a potential run of small batch hot sauce in the future!). A limited run of tapes are available – get one now on Bandcamp (it comes with a digital download, but that physical copy is awesome for the collection!). Listen to my recent interview with Devin about the making of the album on 93.3 CFMU.

Devin Bateson

Isabella Chiarini – “Another Love Song” [Listen]
Would you break down and run back to me?
Hoping your guilt sets you free?
Born and raised in Hamilton, 17-year-old Isabella Chiarini is a dynamic new talent on the scene. Isabella has been honing her skills, through vocal lessons at Studio E in Hamilton, and also traveling to Nashville for more training. With her songwriting, the young artist wishes to inspire the young women of her generation to love and believe in themselves. I love hearing the next generation of local music! 

Isabella Chiarini

Remember Whales – “runaway” [Listen]
I had to keep on moving
There is no fooling
No disguise

Canadian indie band Remember Whales operate out of Halifax and Toronto (I hear there is a Hamilton connection in the mix as well!). In 2020, they released their first full-length album, when i’m awake, and cite influences CHVRCHES, Clairo, and Caribou. This year, they bring us the split single “runaway” and “wake you up,” a hint at what their new album will sound like. The band says: “Lyrically, these are songs made for the open road, dealing with themes of escape and reclaiming freedom, and are perfect listening for an aimless drive with the dial turned up loud.” Their intriguing, dark, synthwave vibe pairs well with their mysterious aesthetic.

Remember Whales

Father Christmas – “Infinite Time” [Listen]
I’ll wait til you call
I’ll wait til then
Jump in before you fall
And down again

Local psych, groove-pop duo Father Christmas bring more of their psychedelic mystique to a brand new single, titled “Infinite Time.” It’s their second release this year, and they’ve nicely carved out their signature style. They say this song is about new beginnings: “It’s a song to reflect on past experiences and carry forth a resurgence of those feelings into the future. Even with all the time in the world, it’s hard to fully express how you feel about someone and it can take a while to open yourself up fully to that vulnerability.” In these times, especially, it is trippy to reflect on the concept of time. This is just the track to soundtrack those thoughts. Look out for the band’s EP to follow.

Father Christmas. Photo by Alexander Zen.

The Ferns – “It’s Creepy” [Listen]
Misstep, barely catch your breath
See your life laid out
Feel a sharp pain, but something in the brain
Tells you to calm down
Your life is profound

Speaking of the concept of time, this track muses on our little lives as well. Hamilton duo The Ferns are back with a peppy, upbeat new album called Beets. The band hints at more tracks to come, with a deluxe version of the record to be released in June.

The Ferns

STACEY – “Strange (But I Like It)” [Listen]
Well all I know
Is that I am home when I get there
On this road
You know when you know
You know when you find it
One year ago, STACEY’s single “Far Away” was on my May 2020 Playlist. A song that was actually written before the pandemic, it proved to be eerily fitting, and it’s still so relatable, a year later. Now, we get the Toronto artist’s dreamy, psychedelic debut LP, Saturn Return, in its entirety. STACEY has brilliantly honed her signature songwriting, musicality, and style for many years now, and it’s so lovely to see this project come to life, after first discovering her many years ago during an intimate set of hers at Casbah Lounge. Watch the colourful music video for the track!


Justin Ross – “Next Year” [Listen]
Don’t say that you’re sorry
Don’t say that you care
After sharing his self-titled debut solo album in 2020, Hamilton musician Justin Ross released a new EP, A Couple Of Songs, this spring. You may be familiar with Justin as the front-person of The Bandicoots, always a highlight of mine throughout the years in the local scene. Justin now brings his signature vocals, retro style, and toe-tapping melodies to these solo tracks.

Justin Ross

Scott Orr – “Know U” [Listen]
I think I should call you
Singer-songwriter and founder of Hamilton-based record label Other Songs, Scott Orr, shares the first single from his new album, due out this fall. I love hearing the evolution of the musician’s work over the past decade, from lo-fi, acoustic gems, to more layers and sounds added in his more recent work. “Know U” features great collaborations including vocals from Anna Horvath, Gareth Inkster on piano, drums by Granny Smith, strings by Kelly Bennett, and on Adylson Martins on clarinet. Check out Scott’s beautiful acoustic rendition as well.

Scott Orr. Photo by James Baturin.

James Alphonse – “What You Really Want” [Listen]
You don’t have to lose yourself
To get far

Hamilton singer-songwriter James Alphonse’s latest single is described as a “response to the naysayers he faced when starting out in his career. The message for fellow creatives is to keep a positive outlook and focus on the fans. There is freedom in being your true self.” Check out James’ series of chats with fellow creatives on Instagram Live as he connects and asks them what they really want!

James Alphonse

Will Gillespie – “Harder And Harder” [Listen]
It’s getting harder and harder
To keep my head above water
This Hamiltonian singer-songwriter shares a new music video for the song “Harder And Harder” from his latest album, Change of Perspective. Fun fact: the video was filmed on location at the La Salle Park Marina in Burlington, overlooking Hamilton, the same location where the album’s cover was taken a year earlier (featuring those sweet swans 🦢). Will says “Harder And Harder” is “a folk-rock anthem about finding yourself in a surreal situation, personal struggle and sometimes finding a way to accept things beyond your control.”

Will Gillespie

The Redhill Valleys – “Finish Line” [Listen]
You know you’ve got permission
The key to my ignition

You can always count on local country rock band The Redhill Valleys to deliver a foot-stomping good time. They really lean into their rock side with this new single, “Finish Line.” Front member and bassist Chelsea McWilliams says: “It felt very rock and roll in the sense that the female perspective, when it comes to desire and sexuality, is oftentimes a very taboo topic to write about. This song is our own anthem that uplifts female sexuality in a powerful, playful and confident way. It’s really about a woman taking charge of her own desire and attraction, and isn’t afraid to call the shots and demand satisfaction.” Watch the super fun music video for the track. You can also catch the band in an episode of the brand new series This Is The Thing, streaming on Bell Fibe TV1.

The Redhill Valleys

Athanase – “Shoreline” [Listen]
Down by the shoreline
She waits
Hamilton-based country-folk rockers Athanase shared a new single with fans this past long weekend. A jam to kick back to as the temperature rises and we gear up for the summer season. Stay tuned for their upcoming EP, and music video to come!


Back Road Bourbon – “Whiskey & Wine” [Listen]
Let’s take the long road for the scenic ride
We’ll find a spot right on the sea side

We may not be able to shake it at a show just yet, but you can have a little backyard dance party on your own to this one. Many recognizable Hamilton musicians come together to form country/folk band Back Road Bourbon. Formed in 2019, the band was able to hunker down last year to hone their sound and finish their self-titled debut EP. The band says, “Our goal as musicians is to create a lively, inclusive experience. Around here, everybody is welcome.” Back Road Bourbon hosted a series of driveway concerts locally last year, and hope to do that again when we are able to.

Back Road Bourbon

Brandon Agnew – “Bulletproof” [Listen]
Virginia Woolf don’t mess around, baby!
Locally-based musician Brandon Agnew shares new track, “Bulletproof,” from his album Mave’s Variety. The album showcases his blend of rootsy, bluesy, rocky Canadiana music, and Brandon just celebrated its release with an online bash. He says “Bulletproof” is “about bad-ass women like Virginia Woolf and Jane Jacobs demanding space.” Watch the music video for the track.

Brandon Agnew
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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