A New Wave from Western Canada

It’s your loss if you only think of Western Canada for its wide range of rare birds and provincial parks. With a musical culture that brought to the forefront names like Nelly Furtado - we know you still have her CD somewhere - Kid Koala, and The New Pornographers, this part of the country is now getting even more attention for its recent surge of alternative music.

By Marie-Ève Venne

British Columbia born Mac DeMarco is the perfect poster boy for this new wave of rock, which is at the foreground of his musical universe. He is to music what the kitsch movement is to art: an alien that has just the right amount of genius to make it big. With a good old school hippie vibe, the singer plays with his goofy character and delivers funky baselines and relaxed melodies. His lyrics could almost pass for naive, if it weren’t for his more mature songs, like “Without Me” from his new album Another One. What makes DeMarco’s music so distinct is its unique mix of sensitive elements and manic pop accents. You don’t really know what you are listening to; you simply know that you can’t stop listening.

In this same strange universe, Edmonton native Calvin Love can pass for DeMarco’s more introverted musical brother. But the comparison ends there. Both may play hip baselines, but Love pays tribute to his name with crooner-esque vocals and a more polished studio sound. He has an awkward way of singing, as though in a permanent state of sickly shyness, but he delivers his experimental pop with such honesty that you’ll want to forgive him for the few weaknesses in his songs. The overall imperfection of Love’s music is what makes it so charming.

Flirting with indie-pop, you will find - also from Edmonton - the duo behind Purity Ring. Many have commented on the “singularity” of their music, but this does not do justice to their particular brand of electro, which is distinguished by vocal loops and a strong intensity in their compositions. Their sound has even been described as “creepy and alluring” by Rolling Stone magazine; this is only strengthened by their dazzling synthesizer effects and sensual lyrics. The formula has worked so well for them that many have tried to copy their style over the past two years. Luckily for them - and for us - Purity Ring’s magnetic music cannot be duplicated.

Western Canada’s many summer music festivals are evidence of the location’s importance in the music scene. This year, Pemberton Festival headliners were pretty impressive, with big names such as Kendrick Lamar, Beirut, and Weezer. For its part, Squamish Valley Festival brought to its festivalgoers thrilling performances by Drake, The Kills, and other big players. In fact, many die-hard music fans prefer going to these festivals instead of attending the over-crowded - and overly hipsterish - Coachella and Lollapalooza.

With its thriving musical culture, Western Canada is no longer a place to snub.