7 Top Edmonton Bands of 2017
The biggest news in the city’s music scene this year may well have been the fall of the Needle Vinyl Tavern. Whether it returns or not is still unclear, but one thing is clear: the reasons for its demise are shocking, and will likely have an impact on the scene for many years to come – maybe forever. Perhaps more importantly, the situation showed the resolve and constitution of the music scene, with band after band deciding not to play the venue, resulting in some 60 shows being rebooked to other venues in the span of just one day. The music scene is, above all, a community, and we are all lucky to have our little part to play in it.
With that in mind, here are some of the biggest names in the Edmonton scene this year. Some of these bands are so close to making the next jump, and so deserving. And with today’s diffuse centers of musical awesomeness, is there any real reason for any of them to leave our city to get to that next level? The answer, many would argue, is no. Let’s hope they’re right.
Now a duo, featuring the many-talented Jessica Jalbert and drummer-multi-instrumentalist Renny Wilson, the project dropped an explosive debut album called Cosmic Troubles in 2015. It got the attention of the most well-heeled blogs and media across the continent, but still flew under the radar for the most part. Their first release as a duo, Try ;-), should end up catapulting the project into the upper echelon of the indie scene, with its groovtastic vibe and slick vocals.
Is their music dark, or are the topics just a little on the dark side but the fun music makes light of it. Is that on purpose? Nobody really knows, but this post-punk crew has been producing music since 2012, and earlier this year released a nine-track album titled Whiteout that included songs like Everyone’s A Stupid Dickbag, Horsefucker, and Alberta Drunk that landed them in the top tier of Edmonton talent. With twirly guitars, chaotic drumming, and crazed song ideas and lyrics, nothing about this band is ordinary, and everything about them is intriguing and interesting.
One of the newer bands making the list this year, this four-piece has released just three EPs, but has already made a large name for themselves in the local alt-rock scene. Their first foray was a five-track release in 2015 named The Same EP, followed up by a pair of releases in 2017 – an eponymous EP early in the year, and a two-track effort later in the year that featured a cover of Tragically Hip’s Grace Too. Focused almost equally on both riffs and melodies, never afraid to experiment, their journey finds all four members singing at one point or another in their journey so far, their songs sometimes sombre, sometimes pleading, and then other times soaring and reaching.
A love story turned into a band, husband and wife Jared Salte and Bethany Schumacher started this project not long after getting married in 2013. In 2015 they won the Peak Performance Project for their track Running Away, which included a $75,000 prize. They immediately set forth to put that towards recording and releasing their 2017 debut full-length, Lost In Your Head, a bevy of fun and flitty electro-alt-pop that shows they’re at the top of their game. And then, just for kicks, they ended the year with a delightful three-track Christmas EP, including their version of Good King Wenceslas. All in all, though, the Schumachers are just two really great individuals that love music and love each other, reveling in life, and it shows in their music.
Spencer Murphy formed this project after traipsing around Australia in 2014, and with their debut full-length Slow Wave being released in late spring, have spun a space for themselves in what can only be called surf-psych, with a mixture of jangly surf guitars intermixing with darker, more psych-drenched elements. The band is currently on UK’s Fierce Panda Records, after recording an earlier EP with Lincoln Parish of Cage the Elephant.
Alex Vissia, who now calls her musical project by one name, had an incredible year. Not only did she release a killer album – Place Holder – which placed her in the top tier of the city’s folk-rock spheres, but she started a music label at the same time – Hurry Hard Records, with partner Nich Davies. Her music, propelled by her incredible guitar work as much as her voice and lyrics, is at once not only folk-rock, but heavily indebted to Americana, as well as other more subtle influences, including jazz and country.
This tilt-a-whirl of musical offerings features the writing and musical stylings of local musician Cassia J. Hardy, with a varied approach that ranges from electric to reverb-drenched guitar. Her incredible voice lays across the music like both a cozy blanket and sophisticated ultrasharp matrix all at once, the music harmonious yet divisive, feeding from rock stylings across the years. Hardy is without a doubt one of the most talented musicians in the city. The many-talented wonder played guitars, synthesizers, pianos, and percussion, as well as sang, on her 2017 full-length eponymous release.