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Searchlight 2018: 12 underground, left-field picks worth a listen

Ian Steaman

As we wait patiently for our celebrity judges' decision on who will win Searchlight 2018, it gives us a chance to look back at the musicians who submitted in all categories and genres from every province and territory in Canada.

From the more than 2,000 submissions we received, just a fraction of those artists were selected by our CBC judges and public vote to proceed to the top 100 round. And from that national top 100 list, the top 10 — again selected by public voting and our CBC judging panel — was announced last week.

But with so much talent in Searchlight, we think it's a shame not to share with you more of the music we loved and thought was incredible — but maybe too underground or left of centre for Searchlight. Check out 12 of those standouts below.

Artist: 3-Card
Location: Toronto
Song: "Chemistry"

This Ugandan-born, Toronto-based rapper combines the emo lyricism of Drake or Logic with the musicality of Chance the Rapper.

Artist: Calcedon
Location: Hamilton
Song: "Cherry Trees"

Violinist/vocalist Brielle Goheen's haunting vocals top a minimalist but layered fully live electronic musical soundscape created by her 5 member band.

Artist: MSTG
Location: Montreal
Song: "Insomnia"

Besides being a songwriter, MSTG is an avid filmmaker, which makes total sense when you listen to her cinematic, trip-hop-flavoured music.

Artist: Pretty Filthy
Location: Vancouver
Song: "Dance Yr. Life Awayy_"

This is what our judges said about "Dance Yr. Life Awayy_," by Vancouver act Pretty Filthy: "Ariel Pink-style fuzzy, funky underground dance rock" and "very unique." Sounds about right to us!

Artist: Sasha Laine
Location: Newmarket, Ont.
Song: "Running Away"

Sasha Laine claims to have been inspired to sing by Whitney Houston and Céline Dion, but the sleek production sheen of her single "Running Away" is in line with the electronic soul of artists like Jhene Aiko, which has climbed from internet underground to de facto sound of 21st-century pop music.

Artist: Shanika Maria
Location: Toronto
Song: "Childish Games"

This delicate but powerfully affecting song put us in the mind of what it might sound like if James Blake produced a Florence Welch record.

Artist: Sheenah Ko
Location: Montreal
Song: "We Can Be Free"

The shimmering electronic synths and beats on this track — from Sheenah Ko's debut solo album, Free — are a change of pace from the music she usually plays as keyboardist for the Besnard Lakes and touring in bands with Kevin Hearn (Barenaked Ladies), Thor Harris (of Swans) and others.

Artist: Sparklesaurus
Location: Ottawa/Gatineau
Song: "So Right"

If you combined Sparklesaurus' musical inspirations of Chrissie Hynde, Stevie Nicks, 13th Floor Elevators and Melodie's Echo Chamber, the on-trend indie-psych sound of "So Right" feels like pretty much what you would end up with.

Artist: Spouse
Location: Vancouver
Song: "Pigsty"

Does Spouse's "Pigsty" remind you of Sonic Youth-esqu '90s underground rock like it does for us?

Artist: Sunglaciers
Location: Calgary
Song: "Rescue Mission"

"Rescue Mission" is a track from this Calgary indie-rock band's new EP, Twin Evil Twin, which was recorded and co-produced by Chris Dadge (Lab Coast, Chad VanGaalen, Alvvays).

Artist: tokiomi
Location: Vancouver
Song: "Wallace and a Mermaid"

This Tokyo-born, Vancouver-based electronic artist's music is inspired by Japan and the landscapes of British Columbia, the two main places where tokiomi splits his time.

Artist: TOVI
Location: Red Deer, Alta.
Song: "89 San Francisco"

Who knew such noirish, melancholic pop music powered by big hip-hop drums could come out of Red Deer?

Want to hear what did make the top 10 for Searchlight? Check out the finalists here. The winner of Searchlight 2018 will be announced on q on CBC Radio One on Monday, March 19, at 11 a.m. (11:30 a.m. NL).

More to explore:

Searchlight 2018: the top ten finalists

Check out the 1st round standouts from Searchlight 2018

12 Searchlight standouts from our 2018 Top 100 round

Searchlight 2018: meet the judges

Searchlight 2018: the prizes