November 1, 2007
BEST OF TORONTO: FUCKED UP - BEST LIVE BAND
Best indie band
TOKYO POLICE CLUB
If you're looking for frantic, revved-up indie rock, there's nothing better than Tokyo Police Club. In just two years, this foursome has gone from obscure club act to Rolling Stone-approved rock 'n' rollers – and they haven't even released a full-length yet. Jumping from Paper Bag to Saddle Creek this year was a wise move. Now the world can find out why we can't get enough of these guys.
Best Latin artist
Telmary Diaz came from Cuba and, in a blink, built a following here on the strength of her undeniable (multi-)talent. The poetic rhymer, singer and jazz composer spits substance in fluid Spanish with her smouldering Latin orchestra. No wonder she made an impact this year that sent aftershocks from Lula Lounge to Harbourfront.
Best music media personality
Born in Calgary, raised in Saudi Arabia, India and BC, this poli-sci major and former model graduated from Ryerson and immediately kicked in the TV media door. After a year on HGTV, the nation's music station proved a much better fit. A broadcasting natural, Simone is one of the sharpest hosts MuchNews has ever had.
Best dance club
CIRCA 126 John, 416-979-9346
You could argue that it's way too early to bestow this prize on Peter Gatien's sensory-overload temple. But it's already clear there's nothing else like it. Good sound, creative lighting and a clear vision – everything a nightclub should be and much more.
Best hiphop artist
Years ago, Abdominal emerged from Toronto's stomach with DJ Fase (his sometime producer and crucial part of his live show) and took the town by tornado. His wit and whirlwind skills elevated him to the world stage through the 00s. Escape From The Pigeon Hole, his fiery 2007 solo album, cemented his best hiphopper status.
Best female singer
The fabulous indie release Start To Move earned Shepherd a jazz Juno nom, and the forward-looking young stylist nearly upstaged Diana Krall. Demand for shows in the UK and Japan is increasing, and judging by the way Shepherd outsings funky soul chanteuse Nicole Willis on Willis's own If This Ain't Love, Toronto's best-kept jazz secret is about to blow up globally.
The jazz piano legend may be 82 years young, but even today nobody can touch this giant. He's the best. Deal with it. Best punk band BRUTAL KNIGHTS These hairy, gut-jiggling, boyfriend-stealing, crowd-soaking rock 'n' roll ignoroids not only put on one helluva entertaining spectacle, but they also combine just the right amount of sick slapstick humour and fuck-you attitude to take the best punk band title.
Best electronic artist
Their remix of Justice's summer anthem, D.A.N.C.E., was picked for the official remix EP (out of a few trillion unofficial remixes), and they're rocking some of the biggest festivals and clubs around the world when they're not in the studio working on the follow-up to 2006's The Looks.
Best live band
With the live music experience becoming more about watching someone hover over a MacBook, local shit-starters Fucked Up seem like a dying breed. Singer Pink Eye prefers his shows dangerous, unpredictable and discomforting, like a fight, which is maybe why FU look so proudly damaged after each loudly nihilistic body-harming performance.
Best male singer
In the tradition of Glenn Lewis and k-os, this rising Toronto vocalist evokes memories of one of those rugged Jodeci boys in their prime while inspiring faith that the T.Dot's new school of rhythm and blues singers can pick up where D'Angelo fell off.
Best acoustic guitarist
Though he's calling La Belle Province home these days, tireless musical fighter Bruce Cockburn still feels like Toronto property. His fingerpicking mastery, best displayed on his lauded instrumental Speechless and more recent Life Short Call Now, continues to prove you don't need volume to make some noise.
Best electric guitarist
Alex Lifeson still shreds arenas around the globe on a regular basis with prog godfathers Rush. Although he claims to have written most of the material for this year's well-received Snakes & Arrows on acoustic, his signature high-voltage intricacies were ubiquitous on the final product.
While many know him as the thunderous low end from defunct power trio Illuminati, Sewell now lurks with high-octane punk 'n' roll waste cases Drunkula. Check his collection of obscure vintage axes and the way he can rip hot bass fills without a pick. Obviously a graduate of the Lemmy Kilmister School of Bloody Fingers.
The Bulgarian brains behind pop upstarts Major Maker is also working keyboard detail these days with Thom D'Arcy's Small Sins outfit, tours regularly with Emily Haines's Soft Skeleton and is practically a piano prodigy. He completed a classical performance degree at U of T at age 20.
Best string player/arranger
People move to Toronto every year, but arguably no one has had a greater impact on our music scene than Paul Aucoin. Since moving from the East Coast a few years ago, the shaggy-haired player has produced and played with Cuff the Duke, the Fembots, the Old Soul and the list goes on. Don't forget his brilliant arranging skills, on full display in his indie orchestra the Hylozoists.
Best talent deserving wider recognition
So far, only the fortunate few have heard Ayah's golden pipes ring out with confidence and passion. Hearing her Mary J. Blige-worthy survivor anthem In My Lifetime will make you a true believer. Somebody, please invest in this Toronto treasure.
Best indie label
MAGNIFICENT 7 RECORDS
Starting up a record label is already ludicrous, so you have to be completely mad to launch an operation that releases only 7-inch vinyl, right? Well, DJ Davy Love (he of the highly touted Blow Up dance parties) may be crazy, but his series of tough-rockin' singles by the Mark Inside, Easy Targets, Action Makes and Lipstick Machine – and off-the-hook release parties to go with them – has provided a welcome dose of excitement.
Best club booker
CRAIG LASKEY and JEFF COHEN
Getting the Horseshoe and Lee's their fair share of just about every band worth seeing that comes through Toronto is no small beans. With their Against the Grain booking company, Laskey and Cohen are why a shop like the 'Shoe is known as a prime venue for the latest musical discoveries as well as a hub for hot local talent.
Best hiphop producer
Screwface-to-Gotham City emigrant Marco Polo journeyed to the promised land, creating certified bangers for dozens of golden-era East coast MCs and landing on the resurrected Rawkus Records. He raised production standards with his Port Authority LP. Not to mention Kool G. Rap, Kardinal, Buckshot, O.C., Masta Ace, and the list goes ono.
Best blues artist
RAOUL & THE BIG TIME
The slickly dressed four-piece led by former Train 48 lead Raoul Bhaneja has done increasingly well for itself in recent years with an eclectic and learned combination of "Toronto, Chicago and Hollywood blues" and a list of influences that reads like a blues nerd's wet dream. No cheeseball stuff here, just a seriously credible homage to the classic school.
Best club DJ
Unlike many of his indie dance competitors, Nav has been playing long enough to bring some actual technique to the decks as well as the kind of record collection that comes from rocking clubs with dusty jazz discs for years and running a record shop.
It took Diplo's inclusion of his bootleg remix of Rihanna's Umbrella on the Pitchfork DJ mix to bring him to most of T.O.'s attention, and that's brought the ears of the rest of the world as well. Blog-house that could easily end up rocking the big rooms.
Best event promoter
They consistently bring in the top talent from the edgier end of dance music along with artists who are just breaking out, and their profile has shot up even higher due to their involvement with much-hyped nightclub Circa in what seems to be a perfect fit.
Best breakout artist
An accidental recording of a mic check ended up being a fluke underground hit, and that's led to successful tours and a considerable amount of fawning press and Internet buzz. Their debut full-length album is due this winter.
Best live venue
HORSESHOE TAVERN 368 Queen West, 416-598-4753
If you've lasted since 1947, you're doing something right. And the Horseshoe is an institution for good reason. It's a great stage to play on and a great room to hear a band in. Sure, there are bigger, flashier places, but do the Rolling Stones play surprise gigs there?
A music supervisor for films by day and rhythmic heartbeat of garage rockers Shitt Hottt by night, self-taught drummer Higgins may seem an unusual choice for top timekeeper. But anyone who's seen her maniacally attack a kit Keith Moon-style will know this deceptively sweet-looking gal is a primo pounder who packs a devastating wallop.
Best steel guitarist
Although he earned his considerable steel guitar rep with Wilco and Freakwater, Egan is now best known as Blue Rodeo's fifth Beatle, who speaks softly and twangs with enormous taste and creativity. Other pedal- and lap-steel players may be flashier, but none can match Egan's superb support work as the consummate team player.
Best jazz artist
Originally from Nyiregyhaza, Hungary, gifted jazz pianist Robi Botos has been turning heads ever since he hit town in 1998, combining formidible chops with great sensitivity and palpable passion. There's good reason why he won the solo piano competition at the 2004 Montreux Jazz Festival and walked away with the keyboardist of the year trophy at the 2007 National Jazz Awards. This Botos boy's definitely got it.
He keeps a low profile, so no one really knows much about what happens at Rooster Studios, Kerr's home recording hideaway. But now and then one of his mysterious productions appears – like Claire Jenkins's wonderful Crow's Nest disc – leaving everyone wondering, "How did he do that?" Simple, just dangle microphones in strange places all over the living room to record the band playing through all their songs while tape rolls in the basement. You just need a magician like Kerr to make it work.
A wonderfully giving sideman and soulful soloist with a full, rich tone on the tenor, MacDonald has appeared on over 30 CDs and recorded more than 40 of his own compositions. Yet his immense talents have been largely overlooked in Toronto because he spends more of his time in classrooms teaching at the university level than in clubs. Nevertheless, he's one of the finest jazz saxophonists this country has ever produced, and local recognition is long overdue. Here's a start.
Born in Trinidad and known in Toronto and beyond for shows that get blood boiling, Nick "Brownman" Ali is the best trumpeter (that includes the electric trumpet and flügelhorn, too) in town. Also a composer, arranger and session player, Ali was born with no need to sleep – it's how he can lead not one but four bangin' bands.
Best R&B artist
This worldly singer shook the city's soul with a glowing voice, powerful show and brilliant songwriting. Seeming to appear magically from nowhere (she actually came from BC), Ibrahim busted into our hiphop scene, toured nationally with Tumi & the Volume and dropped uplifting music at a prolific rate. And she's just getting warmed up.
Best reggae/ calypso artist
Kardinal is careful about who he keeps in his circle, and Lindo P is a prized member of the rap star's Black Jays fam for good reason. There's his intense work ethic – see all the mixtape releases and shows Lindo's name and toasts are associated with. From dropping tracks about reggae beefs to rocking parties with Brendan Canning, Lindo P is the hottest reggae artist in the 'Dot.
Best university radio program
CIUT's SUGAR FOOT STOMP
Sandwiched into a heady and hugely eclectic program schedule, Sugar Foot Stomp (Thursday from 5 to 6 pm) stands out as a musical breather, with host Colin Bray delving back to the four-on-the-floor bliss of classic jazz from the 20s and 30s, while sometimes getting a tad more contemporary. Either way, Bray's knowledge of the music is enlightening, as are all the hidden gems you're bound to discover.
RED BULL MUSIC ACADEMY
Once the Red Bull Music Academy was in full swing, the fest was omnipresent. As part of its globetrotting music school for budding musicians and producers, this year RBMA crammed venues with shows by DJ Premier, Arthur Baker, A-Trak, Kid Sister and M.I.A. and commissioned locally based work by photog Jamel Shabazz.
Best punk band
These hairy, gut-jiggling, boyfriend-stealing, crowd-soaking rock ’n’ roll ignoroids not only put on one helluva entertaining spectacle, but they also combine just the right amount of sick slapstick humour and fuck-you attitude to take the best punk band title.
NOW | NOVEMBER 1 - 7, 2007 | VOL. 27 NO. 9
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