Every year, CBC Music searches far and wide for the best in music, but especially for bright new talent. We love seeing emerging artists rise up, make noise and release a commanding debut. This year, Canada produced some incredible new talent, from a rising francophone star to this year's Polaris Music Prize winner.
Take a look below at the best new Canadian artists we discovered in 2018, and share your favourite new artists with us at @CBCMusic!
Many people heard Hubert Lenoir’s name for the first time this year. Prior to releasing his debut solo album, Darlène, the Quebec City artist played in a band called the Seasons. But it wasn’t until the rock opera epic Darlène — and Lenoir's subsequent short-list nomination for the 2018 Polaris Music Prize — that people started really paying attention. And, really, how could they not? With Lenoir’s rambunctious, unabashed voice, he loudly encourages others to speak their truth, whether that pertains to one’s politics or identity, as he discovered over the course of writing and recording Darlène. Lenoir’s glam-pop-rock persona is so wonderfully weird and anarchic and assured that it’s strange to think he’s only one record into his career, but we can’t wait to see what else he has in store for us. If his Polaris gala performance was any indication, Lenoir is not afraid to keep reaching for new heights — even if that means climbing atop a table and howling with all your might.
— Melody Lau
It’s hard to believe that this time last year, we had hardly even heard of Odie (real name Oduanyo Ekunboyejo), the 21-year-old Montreal-born, Toronto-raised musician whose debut album, Analogue, has quickly become a classic around our office. In an interview with Billboard, he described the album as his coming-of-age story, and certainly it represents a synthesis of diverse childhood influences, notably Fela Kuti, Coldplay and Kid Cudi. But you won’t hear overt references to them in Odie’s music; Analogue marks the arrival of a unique new voice and above all a concise songwriter who’s comfortable straddling R&B, Afrobeat, electro-pop and hip-hop. “North Face” is probably his most arresting track so far, a supremely tuneful millennial tale about finding love at a dead-end job.
Not surprisingly, the entertainment industry is paying attention: the 2018 Netflix comedy The After Party included “Bliss City” in its soundtrack, and Odie’s most recent single, “No Signs,” is the standout song from They Fight, a new boxing-themed documentary co-executive-produced by Common for Fox Sports.
— Robert Rowat
When Broken Social Scene made its triumphant return last year with Hug of Thunder, the group returned with an integral new member on their roster: Ariel Engle. While Engle isn’t entirely new to the scene — she was one-half of AroarA, her band with husband Andrew Whiteman, and has performed with Martha Wainwright and Feist — 2018 marked our proper introduction to Engle’s solo project, La Force. Without having to share a mic with others this time around, Engle shines in the spotlight. Her voice soars over the nine tracks that make up her impressive debut self-titled album, embodying a range of emotion from adoration to sorrow. Engle has not only proven herself to be an MVP over the years, but now we all know she’s a star in her own right. — ML
In 2018, Jeremy Dutcher won the national spotlight when he became just the second artist to be awarded the Polaris Music Prize for a debut recording. In his album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, Dutcher researched historical recordings of his ancestors singing nearly forgotten traditional songs of the Wolastoqiyik Nation. He took these melodies and gave them a unique new accompaniment in this recording that blurs genre lines between folk, pop and classical. “I do this work to honour those who have gone before,” said Dutcher while accepting the award, “and I lay the footprints for those yet to come.” Dutcher arrives on the scene with a strong musical message, and we are keen to hear more of his voice.
— Michael Morreale
Helena Deland released a series of two EPs this year titled Altogether Unaccompanied, opening us up to the powerhouse that is this Montreal singer-songwriter. “It’s a happy mix of different years and different contexts,” Deland explained to us before October’s Vol. III & IV were released, the followups to March’s Vol. 1 & II, all of which were produced by fellow Montrealer Jesse Mac Cormack. While “happy” doesn’t lend itself to the mood of the music — Deland’s lyrics often hang out in love limbo, sometimes contemplating leaving a relationship or refusing to start one that’s not worth it — having different years and contexts for Altogether Unaccompanied makes it the perfect package of singularly stunning material. Whether it’s on the dizzying synth-pop bopper “Claudion,” the hypnotic guitar line-and-voice combo of “Take it All” or the Angel Olsen-esque “Perfect Weather for a Crime,” Deland uses her four volumes to showcase that she does not subscribe to genre lines or outside expectations — and she has the chops to do it all.
— Holly Gordon
Toronto artist MorMor didn’t expect such an abrupt rise to fame, but when an associate of R&B star Daniel Caesar started passing around his song “Heaven’s Only Wishful” last year, it was clear that MorMor's time in the spotlight was coming up. And 2018 will hopefully just be the beginning. With a dreamy falsetto and an effortless psych-pop sound in tow, MorMor, who put together most of his latest EP, Heaven’s Only Wishful, on his own, has captivated music fans internationally, getting the attention of Pitchfork, NPR and the Fader. His sound doesn’t necessarily fit in with anything else that’s happening in Toronto right now, but that’s precisely why he has broken out. We’re looking forward to seeing what else MorMor does now that he’s secured this spotlight. — ML
It’s impossible to escape Loud Luxury’s hit song “Body.” The DJ duo, comprised of Andrew Fedyk and Joe Depace, released the irresistible track last year. Since then, the song has gone four times platinum, skyrocketing up the charts in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. While "Body" had an unexpected longevity, Loud Luxury didn't just rest on the success of that one track — this year the duo followed that up with the equally solid, infectious track “Love No More,” featuring Canadian R&B sensation Anders. The DJs have already earned nods in the dance world from Tiesto, Martin Garrix and Armin Van Buuren. Loud Luxury isn’t afraid to approach unpredictable collaborations and experiment, with one of the duo's most unique traits being its innovative mix of house beats with R&B flair. One thing is for sure: “Body” was just the start.
— Natasha Ramoutar
Four years ago, Toronto punk band Pup inadvertently helped create a new band. It was on the set of Pup's “Guilt Trip” music video where a pre-Stranger Things Finn Wolfhard first met fellow actor Malcolm Craig. Fast-forward a couple of years, and the two reunited for a second Pup video but decided to team up and make their own music in a band called Calpurnia, which is rounded out by members Ayla Tesler-Mabe and Jack Anderson. In between his many acting gigs, Wolfhard somehow found time this year to release an EP with Calpurnia, titled Scout, and even perform on some big stages including Osheaga and their record label Royal Mountain’s one-day festival at Raspberry Farm in Hamilton. Calpurnia’s surf-rock vibes bear little similarity to Pup’s ear-splitting punk, but it can still swerve into an electrifying guitar solo, like on “Wasting Time.” It’s a malleable sound that still needs some shaping, but the foundation has been firmly laid. Now, we don’t know what we’re more excited for: more music from Calpurnia or the next season of Stranger Things. — ML
Snotty Nose Rez Kids
B.C. hip-hop duo Snotty Nose Rez Kids formed in 2016 and released two albums in 2017, but all of those efforts truly paid off in 2018. Their fiery brand of rap, fuelled by wit and activism (both members originate from the Haisla First Nation in Northwest B.C.), found audiences throughout the country. It also earned them an Indigenous Music Award nomination, a Western Canadian Music Award nomination and a Polaris Music Prize short-list spot for their sophomore release, The Average Savage. They wear their identity with pride and confidence, and the results of that, which are found throughout their music, has clearly connected with many in their community but also outside of it, further kicking that door open for Indigenous artists to break into the mainstream and drive important conversations. And it’s full speed ahead for Snotty Nose Rez Kids as they plan on kicking off 2019 with yet another new release, so catch up on their music now before you fall behind. — ML
It all started from an all-female cypher at a 2016 International Women's Day event, and hasn't stopped since. Haviah Mighty, Lex Leosis, pHoenix Pagliacci and Keysha Freshh are the four members of the Sorority, a sisterhood out on a mission to empower and disrupt. Although each member brings their own flair, all of them deliver hard-hitting rhymes and infectious rhythms in their debut album, The Pledge. The members aren’t just sharp lyricists and incredible vocalists, but also bring the fire to live shows. The chemistry between the four members is undeniable. Between choreography, skits and ad libs, everyone gets their time to shine without overshadowing each other. There are no bad vibes in the Sorority's music, only encouragement, love and the desire to hype each other up. During their concert in Toronto, they paid tribute to the trailblazing women of Canadian hip-hop while accompanied by DJ Mel Boogie, and with special guests Michie Mee and Eternia. If the Sorority exemplifies modern-day sisterhood, then we’re ready to take the pledge. — NR