With the opening of the new National Music Centre, the upcoming 45th annual JUNO Awards, and over 150 other festivals, it’s no surprise that 2016 has been dubbed the year of music in Calgary.
The city is also home to a huge array of talented musicians — here are five who are poised to have a great year in 2016.
Folk musician Layten Kramer has been on a quite a journey and it’s one that’s well worth listening to. The Canmore, Alberta native won the Grand Prize in the Calgary Stampede’s Talent Search in 2014, which helped to fund his debut, Through The Days. Following successful tours and critical acclaim from the likes of the JUNO Awards and Ride The Tempo, the singer made the 2015 PEAK Performance Project Alberta’s Top 12. Now, Kramer is working on his first full-length and collaborating on it with JUNO Award-winning producer Colin Stewart (Dan Mangan) and other talented Canadians including Kathryn Calder (The New Pornographers) and Geoff Hillhorst (The Deep Dark Woods).
With both a sound and energy that conjures Thin Lizzy and AC/DC, Calgary-based Napalmpom has cemented themselves as a must-see live band. Their debut LP, The Unconditional Love of Napalmpom, was released in 2014 and consists of nine feverish tracks of good ‘ol rock and roll — a philosophy that even carried out to the album’s artwork, which, printed in matte black and white, was inspired by the 1970s DoodleArt movement and even came with an official DoodleArt marker set for the first 200 copies. After a split 12’’ with Public Animal (which included a cover of historic Canadian cowpunks Jr. Gone Wild), the band is working on their sophomore album — an 11 track LP titled The Core Competencies of Napalmpom, due out this year.
Charming song titles, impressive musical arrangements, and sweet vocals are what one might expect from a band named Milk Toast. And that’s precisely what one gets. The Calgary indie dreamrock band released their debut Your Band Sucks & Punk’s Dead in late 2015, with tracks like “My Boyfriend Went To New York And He Didn’t Invite Me” and “The Dirtiest Apartment In The Petite-Patrie” filled with jangly guitar and sugary harmonies that pluck on all sorts of heartstrings. Definitely one to keep your ear to the ground for.
Another 2015 PEAK Performance Project Alberta Top 12 alum to pay attention to is The Wisers. The four-piece play blue-collar guitar rock that’s been compared to The Tragically Hip and The Raconteurs, which received a lot of love on college radio airwaves in early days. Their debut album, It’s Safe I’m Not Here, was recorded at the famed Canadian Bathouse and ranges from danceable rock to by-the-fire ballads, with bluesy guitar and smokey vocals.
The lesser-known project of The Dudes’ guitarist Dan Vacon not only shows his softer side, but brings you to a warm place where life is beautiful and love is heartfelt. The lyrics are honest and gentle, exploring loss and hope, and are accompanied by a sweet, soulful, yet complex soft rock. Think summer ice creams and first heartbreaks. Dojo Workhorse released their latest album, Come To Your Senseis, in December 2015.