Heather Valley – “Great Violence” [Listen]
There are so few
Who lead by their example
I won’t forget you
And how you chose to be gentle
Hamilton-based singer-songwriter Heather Valley shares “Great Violence,” the first single from her upcoming EP, Eternal Rest, due out in early 2022. The song was released in celebration of Heather’s performance at TakeRoot Festival in the Netherlands, the premiere Americana/Roots Festival in Europe, which also kicked off Heather’s first European tour. Heather shares: “This song explores the concept of loss. When I wrote it, I was thinking about how people are often only able to relate and empathize with others by reference to their own experience. Even when a person is open and sensitive, their emotional conception of loss is as deep as the losses they have experienced, and they may not realize it.” The acoustic guitar and vocals were recorded live in one take. Renowned steel player Mike Brenner and multi-instrumentalist Thomas McKay contributed pedal steel and wurlitzer respectively, and Nimal Agalawatte added upright bass and mixed and mastered the track at Four String Audio in Hamilton.
Bianca Bernardi – “Throwin’ Dust” [Listen]
I know that I will never be the same
But I need you like I need a bullet to my brain
Soulful singer-songwriter with a country flair, Bianca Bernardi is a standout vocalist in our local music scene. Having caught her live sets more than once, Bianca’s vocals and songs have always left a memorable mark. Pressing play on her latest single, “Throwin’ Dust,” I was really excited to hear that it was a song I have enjoyed seeing performed live. The studio version is just as impactful. Check out the music video for the song.
Matt Paxton – “Let’s Rock N’ Roll Again” [Listen]
You’ve got stars around your head
Singer-songwriter Matt Paxton has been a staple in the Hamilton music scene for over a decade. In that time, Matt has created an impressive repertoire of folk rock and alt-country tunes (five albums, plus more singles and EPs) and has played shows all over Canada. The traveling troubadour has shared a new single, “Let’s Rock N’ Roll Again,” produced by Aaron Goldstein, and featuring Carleigh Aikins on backing vocals. Expect more to come, as Matt is recording a new record in Toronto with Aaron Goldstein.
Jasmyn – “Find The Light” [Listen]
Let me get up again
And find the light
So, so excited to hear new music from Jasmyn Burke! Jasmyn’s previous project, Weaves, was always a big favourite of mine in the Canadian music scene. Jasmyn’s musicianship and vibes are unmatched! This new project, under her own name, is being released with ANTI- Records (sister label to Epitaph Records) and Royal Mountain Records in Canada. What began by demoing at home during lockdown, expanded to recording in LA. Jasmyn shared on her website: “This song was loosely written during the Fall of 2020. The world was feeling pretty heavy, and I felt myself wanting to write music that created a mood of happiness and space to grow. It feels like we’re living in this sort of in-between space, where life is altering. I wanted to explore finding comfort and hopefulness through uncomfortable change. I feel like I have grown and changed as a person over the last few years and wanted to write songs that created a sense of confidence and well-being.” Check out the music video for the track, which was produced and directed by DANUTA (Leah and Peter of July Talk). Dream team! You will also spot a familiar Hamilton location.
King Park – “Everett” [Listen]
But now I’m stuck beneath this canvas of leaves
The paths unclear and the way’s unseen
King Park is a gritty, indie rock band from Hamilton that has been steadily honing their sound for the past few years. Following 2017’s debut EP, The Light I Can’t See, they have been taking their time, releasing great singles which are now part of their best collection yet – new full-length album, Everett. The band shares about the title track: “This song is the raw, honest expression of realizing everything doesn’t fit together perfectly snug like I was led to believe. It tells the story of coming of age, and a loss of innocence, when the rigorous set of black and white lines faded away, and I was forced to re-evaluate.”
Water Bear – “Moonlit Road” [Listen]
Heart needs mending
My life’s been thrown
The road is bending
Do you feel alright
Not knowing where it goes
Hamilton band Water Bear are fairly new on my radar, but the alternative rock band has been plugging away in the local scene for the past few years (their Live at the Artbar release dates back to 2017 – ah, Artword Artbar! It is missed!). From the beginning, the band has collaborated with fellow Hamilton musicians on the project, from Evelyn Charlotte Joe to Mike Trebilcock. Lyrically, they also approach their songwriting in a collective manner, and say they “delve into deeply personal but equally universal themes like addiction, grief, and personal autonomy.”
Rexford Drive – “Get Back (To You On That)” [Listen]
Am I really good enough
Do I really have the stuff
For the life I want to live
Is that even who I want to be
Indie rockers from Hamilton, Rexford Drive, share their first single, “Get Back (To You On That),” and it has been a long time in the making. The friends first started jamming at the age of 12, and began playing shows once in high school. In 2018, they won a battle of the bands competition, landing them a slot at Supercrawl. All of that experience honing their sound has led up to this solid debut, which they recorded, produced, and mixed themselves.
Steve Neville – “The waiting room” [Listen]
When I’m waiting with you
Feels like nothing’s holding us back
I first became acquainted with Steve Neville as he was a founding member of one of my favourite Canadian acts over the years, The Balconies. This year, Steve was tragically diagnosed with leukemia, forcing him to be hospitalized. He fought for his life in ICU, went through chemotherapy, and received a stem cell transplant. Steve shared that while fighting cancer in the hospital, he began writing, and that music really helped him to get through it. Look out for Steve’s full LP to come. In the meantime, along with “The waiting room,” you can also find his track “summer hair,” and pre-order the limited edition 7″ vinyl. All album proceeds go to charity.
Major Neutral – “Outerspace” [Listen]
It’s an illusion to me now
Major Neutral is an under-the-radar local project that deserves your attention. A collaboration between members of band Pineapple Girls and Ronson, the musicians stealthily dropped an EP 2019. The four tracks on Less Talk are all such solid indie rock jams. The spacey, floating guitar riff in “Outerspace” is so damn catchy. I know a lot of you will really dig this release. Take it for a spin!
Joys – “Safe In My Arms” [Listen]
Don’t let them take me away
I promise that I’ll always be there
Hamilton band Joys made a splash this year with their debut single, “Gloria.” The post-punk, new wave trio have come at their artistry with a clear point of view and style from the start, and it’s making them a really exciting project to watch. They say that the band is a culmination of two years in search of exactly what the band name suggests, joy! They recount that they landed on the band’s sound and identity while writing and recording these first two singles.
Loviet – “Picture” [Listen]
They don’t care if I really say anything
Don’t think I should really think into it
One of my faves in the Canadian music scene over the past couple of years has been Toronto artist (originally from Nova Scotia), Loviet. She did not disappoint with her 2020 EP, Everyone Knows the Thrill When It’s Over. Following single, “Dullshine,” was also on high rotation for me, and it led the way for her debut full-length album, 777, out now. About the record, she describes: “Each song is like its own ride but it’s all from the same theme park. I’m really excited about where they will go, and what’s next from here.” Catch Loviet alongside Texas King on December 16 at Bridgeworks.
Mohamed – “Never There” [Listen]
I totally wanna be the one who make you understand me
I totally wanna build a future yet you didn’t plan it
This is my favourite track yet from Hamilton-based artist Mohamed. I first connected with Mohamed through this work with Hamilton Youth Poets, and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I feel fortunate to have met so many talented artists who started with HYP, and it has been awesome to watch them all continue to create. The next generation of Hamilton’s music scene is an exciting one to watch!
Ryan Sykes – “Speechless” feat. Jason Chung [Listen]
I can’t escape
Tell me, was I just another heart to break?
Hamilton R&B/pop artist Ryan Sykes just shared a brand new track, “Speechless.” He collaborated with longtime friend Jason Chung to bring to life a story around “comfort, self discovery and temporary heartbreak.” Ryan adds, “There is a light at the end of the tunnel, you just have to find it.” Check out the accompanying music video.
MYLA – “Unrequited Love” [Listen]
And I don’t wanna
Say what I think
Would you be scared if I thought that this was the real thing?
MYLA is the new project from celebrated Hamilton-based vocalist Jennifer Budd. She shares her second single under the new moniker, “Unrequited Love.” It’s another beautiful track that showcases the new direction her music is taking – moving more deeply into R&B, while still maintaining her signature vocal prowess at front and centre. She describes the song as being “about feeling led on by someone who sees you as ‘just a friend.’ The love you have is not mutual, and yet not discouraged.”
shn shn – “divine” [Listen]
Reminisce about old times
Situations that weren’t right
Now all I have are blessings
It was very exciting to hear shn shn, the new project from Shanika Maria, who made a name for herself in the Hamilton scene with her previous singer-songwriter/band project which spanned multiple genres. With shn shn, she now showcases her skills as an electronic producer as well. Her EP, e.strange.d, is an ambient, dreamy listen, which she describes as “about being untethered and the full gamut of emotions that encompasses (the strangeness, liberation and the fear of the unknown).”
TOMPA – “Lets Take This Inside” [Listen]
Tell me you’re feeling the pressure
Maybe I’m out of my mind
I don’t do well in this weather
Please let’s take it back inside
TOMPA is an accomplished producer, songwriter, and classically trained instrumentalist with over 20+ years experience on violin, double bass, cello, guitar, bass, piano, and synth. He is also a global touring musician with Silverstein. Currently residing in Hamilton, TOMPA shared his own debut project this year, delivering a series of EPs – 01, 02, 03, 04, and – you guessed it – concluding with 05. There is so much to explore and dive into with his musical universe – TOMPA reveals that each EP has a coordinating music video, with each one connected to one another and telling a full story (with Easter Eggs hidden throughout).
Allegories – “Pray” [Listen]
Can’t you see that my heart is breaking in two
So stoked for the return of Allegories! The duo began creating their blend of experimental electro-pop in 2014, and if you’re like me, you caught one of their performances or DJ sets around town. That’s taking me back to the Baltimore House days (RIP 🥀). Allegories are back with a brand new banger. The duo says “every composition is created from moments of spontaneity, and trying to stay true to the state that you’re in whenever you’re recording.” Jeremy Greenspan (of Junior Boys) takes on mastering duties, and the track was more than worth the wait.