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10 artists to watch in 2016

Editorial Staff

This is the time of year when we usually feel the need to wrap things up (both literally and figuratively), but while we were working on our best-of-everything lists it made us wonder: what should we be looking forward to in the year ahead?

Which artists will be releasing new material? Embarking on world tours? Who will our new favourite artist be in 2016?

From rising pop sensations to buzzed-about bands to prize-winning pianists, we take a look at 10 Canadian artists worth keeping an eye on in 2016.

Andy Shauf

Andy Shauf had a notable year in 2015, releasing The Bearer of Bad News in the U.S. to critical acclaim and signing to indie powerhouse labels Arts & Crafts in Canada and Anti- in the U.S. It seems, though, that 2016 has even more in store for the Regina singer-songwriter. His next release, expected early in the year, is a concept album called The Party, written from the different perspectives of people attending said social gathering. He has already shared a jaunty tune about infidelity from the album, called “Jenny Come Home,” and if it’s any indication of how The Party will sound, we can look forward to hearing songs that are more poppy and upbeat than his previous efforts, but thankfully, just as affecting. — Andrea Gin

Ria Mae

In the last year, Halifax’s Ria Mae went from emptying her bank account in order to pay for radio play to being signed to Sony, managed by Nettwerk’s Terry McBride and having her radio hit, “Clothes Off,” mixed by five-time Grammy winner Serban Ghenea (who also mixed Taylor Swift’s 1989). Mae’s first major label release — which she has partially worked on with rapper Classified — was supposed to be out last summer and has since been pushed to 2016. It all means Mae’s going to have one hell of a new year, too. — Holly Gordon


Kaytranada first bent a few ears after posting his lush, ambient remixes of '90s R&B tracks to his Soundcloud page. That doesn't necessarily differentiate him from a ton of other new producers, but his reverential retooling of Janet Jackson's "If" was arguably superior to the original version. Consequently, 2015 found the Montreal native tiding us over with a slew of free downloadable internet loosies and booking a number of production gigs for about-to-blow artists (like Vic Mensa, Mick Jenkins). With a deal from Adele's U.K. label, XL Recordings, in his back pocket, logic dictates that Kaytranada will be in the same position himself, capitalizing on his rapid ascent as 2016 unfolds. — Del Cowie

The Dirty Nil

For the past couple of years, we've been keeping our eyes on the Dirty Nil, a ferocious, gravel-throated punk rock 'n' roll three-piece out of Dundas, Ont. (a town previously known musically for the comparatively mellow beats of Caribou). After touring North America relentlessly on the strength of a litter of well-received EPs and singles, the Dirty Nil has signed with Toronto powerhouse label Dine Alone Records, and is now poised to bust out in a big way in 2016 with the release of its debut album, Higher Power, on Feb. 26. The record was mixed by John Goodmanson (Sleater-Kinney, Death Cab For Cutie, Unwound), and is an 11-song blast of pure energy. The band makes its U.K. debut in January. — Grant Lawrence


Winnipeg’s IsKwé certainly has the qualities of a star in the making. Her vocals are confident and soulful in a way that belies her age, she knows her way around a dance jam and, perhaps most importantly, she is willing to speak up. Her 2015 single “Nobody Knows” was one of the most devastating songs released this year: a powerful anthem inspired by the more than 1,100 murdered or missing indigenous women in Canada. Hopefully 2016 will see her release a new full-length album that furthers her exploration of the personal and political. Until then, we will be waiting with baited breath. — AG

Alessia Cara

With Alessia Cara's first single, "Here," the singer established herself immediately, both musically and lyrically, as a vital new voice. The texture is warm and rich and the words are all kinds of fire: candid, confident and real, she communicates with beats and unabashed honesty, and it's incredibly refreshing. With a headlining tour in support of her debut album, Know-It-All, 2016 will be all kinds of magic for the 19-year-old Bramptonite. — Andrea Warner

Vogue Dots

Both Ryan Hemsworth and Rich Aucoin chose fellow hometowners Vogue Dots as a band to watch at this year’s Halifax Pop Explosion, but don’t just take their word for it: listen to the single “Way With Silence” and you’ll be swirling to an all-encompassing synth-pop beat all on your own. Made up of Halifax-based New Brunswick natives Tynan Dunfield and Babette Hayward, Vogue Dots released two EPs, Mauka and Toska, in 2014, and we’re hoping for something fuller in length in 2016. Based on their dreamy Pop Explosion set, there’s a lot of magic to expect. — HG


Powerful voices, refined beats and a wild cleverness that separates the soul/rap duo into their own domain, Bizzarh’s Dollar Paris and Charlie Champ are co-rulers of the Island of Misfit Musicians. The tracks on their Soundcloud are packed dense with loose, sexy grooves and so much agency, it seems almost impossible that not everybody knows their names yet. Dollar Paris and Charlie Champ are ready. Don't keep them waiting. — AW

Charles Richard-Hamelin

In October, 26-year-old Montreal pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin won second prize at the 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition. He also won the prize for best performance of a Chopin sonata, bringing his prize winnings to approximately $52,000. In January, Richard-Hamelin will tour Japan with the Warsaw Philharmonic and the five other prize winners, kicking off a year that is sure to fill up with international concert dates. Until you get your chance to see him play, check out his excellent new all-Chopin album. — Robert Rowat

Johnny Orlando

Johnny Orlando is a fresh-faced, mature-beyond-his-years 12-year-old musical sensation from Toronto who quite simply is getting hard to ignore: he has more than 430,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, where he has become famous for posting his covers of hits like the Weeknd's "I Can't Feel My Face,” and on Instagram, he has more than 230,000 followers who love his every move with tens of thousands of likes for every photo. Those are some serious social media numbers, a.k.a. an audience, for which most musicians would kill. And what about the music? Think earnest, mainstream pop. If Orlando can successfully navigate puberty, he could be the next Bieber. — GL

Is there an artist you think we should look out for in the coming year? Let us know in the comments below.