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Breakouts and blast-offs: BeatRoute’s standout Calgary acts of 2016

Thursday 08th, December 2016 / 12:28
By Team BeatRoute

CALGARY — 2016 was full of exciting new bands, releases and breakouts. Below are just a few of the most notable highlights. If you’re unfamiliar with these acts or want to know more about what’s happening in Calgary’s music scene, get your ass out to more shows in the new year.

Bad Animal

by Brett Sandford

Photo: Unfolding Creative

Wild live performances, a string of milestones and a new record: Bad Animal has been operating in top gear for 2016. The band’s first tour, completion of their debut LP Tonight, three new music videos, appearances on local radio and a sold out release show at Broken City earned the band opportunities to support the likes of blink-182 and Mother Mother on their Calgary dates.

2016’s appropriately titled Tonight carries an attitude that overarches Bad Animal’s entire ethos. This is a band focused very much in the moment, as you can tell not only by the frantic rock and roll captured on the album and the sheer power of the live show, but also by a type of calculated underlying classiness in the sound.

To think they spent half of the year on the record makes the prospect of a wide-open 2017 all the more exciting to look out for.

Chuurch

by Paul Rodgers

Emerging from a shadow of mystery and obscurity and going on to play jaw-dropping sets at festivals across the continent like Shambhala and Sled Island, the black clad duo Chuurch arrived this year and are now spreading the gospel of the “UUnion.” Their style, dubbed “lean-bass” is a refreshingly dark and danceable amalgamation of house music. With explosive tunes like “Let Me See Them Wrists” and the vacillating wonkiness of “I Gotta Fever,” it was obvious that these guys had been hard at work in the studio before carefully calculating and ultimately unveiling themselves to the Calgary scene. Chuurch announced recently that they are uprooting themselves and relocating to Los Angeles, so be sure to keep your eye out for Calgary tour dates in the future. God only knows what sorcery they will conjure up in LA.

Corinthian

by Jamie McNamara

Photo: Jonathan Crane

Evangelos Lambrinoudis II has been soundtracking the feeling of helplessness brought on by global politics for years now, both in his work with fellow Modern Math alum Dan Solo in Sanctums, and more recently on his own as Corinthian. With the ongoing success of his cassette-oriented Deep Sea Mining Syndicate label, the long-awaited return of Sanctums with Migrant Workers, and the release of the bracing, politically-charged Eurozone Ghost, his debut album as Corinthian, 2016 was the year all of Lambrinoudis’s groundwork finally came to fruition.

Eurozone Ghost may just be the best thing Lambrinoudis has ever released: a brutalist, analog techno opus that mines the political turmoil of a failing Europe and turns it into a pounding pushback against extremism and immigration-based fear. Its nine tracks run the gamut of Berlin-inspired techno bombs, and IDM-flavoured ambient pieces that instil a unique, introspective dread.

It’s a stark reflection of our landscape, but also an outlet to thump away our hopelessness.

The Electric Revival

by Christine Leonard

Photos: Jean Anne

A band apart, The Electric Revival ain’t your typical heavy metal combo. The ensemble has already scorched vapour trails across Europe and North America with their blues-infused, hard rock anthems. Witnesses to the three-piece’s onstage exploits in 2016; including dangerously entertaining gigs at Griffest, The Palomino’s Chronada Day! smoke show, showcasing Calgary’s best at JUNOfest, a recession-buster at Distortion and a leathery coal-miner’s retreat out at The Last Chance Saloon, can readily attest to the fluid yet unfettered voltage this outfit generates in live performance. Fittingly, the Calgary-based triumvirate’s earnest labours came to fulsome fruition this year with the release of their fifth album, Magnetic North. A retrofitted juggernaut that put the metal-studded cherry on top of their 2016 victory cake, Magnetic North proffers a rocket ride to the wild side of love, life and the sweet hereafter. Painstakingly pressed upon milky white vinyl, the exciting follow-up to the band’s previous two addictive LPs, was recorded and produced using exclusively analog equipment at Canada Boy Vinyl. As sound-wizard-in-chief at Canada’s only vinyl plant, a lab-coated Dillon was even featured on an episode of the most recent season of The Amazing Race Canada. A riveting audio experience from real to reel, the album stands as a true testament to the trio’s seemingly inexhaustible musical talents and fervor for creative freedom. Take a cue from the album’s instructive single “Bury the Needle!” Baby, just turn it up and watch it go!

The Northern Beauties

by Liam Prost

Photo: Keith Skrastins

A strong showing at last year’s Peak Performance Project brought light upon the Calgarian roots act Northern Beauties. Todd Stewart sings and rocks the stanky leg, and Craig Aikman plucks the banjo and electric guitar. Their heart-on-sleeve lyricism and dual lead vocal styling is magnetic, but 2016 also featured a fair few opportunities to see them as a six-piece with some of Alberta’s finest players, including Charlie Hase on the pedal steel. They rocked Block Heater in February, JUNOfest in April, Folk Fest in July, and after an excellent performance at Alberta Showcase, you might be seeing them touring around Alberta come spring. Craig also got married this fall, so things are going well on a couple of different levels.

Numenorean

by Sarah Kitteringham

Photo: Sam Rollo

It’s been both a breakout year and a challenging one for recent Season of Mist signees Numenorean. After becoming the only Calgary-based band signed to the label (for an unusual three-album contract) following the release of their break out demo, they released the five-song, 44-minute Home. Gut-wrenching, beautiful, and buffeting, the albums focuses on themes of loss and pain through the lens of swirling, screeching, emotive black metal. It granted the relatively obscure band features all over world but did not come without condemnation over its cover art, depicting the autopsy image of a small girl, murdered by her father. A sold out show opening for Deafheaven soon followed; as did an impending American tour with Ghost Bath, which was disappointingly cancelled when the band failed to cross the border. Despite setbacks, they’ve spent the past year playing high profile shows with UADA, were able to play both Toronto and Montreal gigs with Ghost Bath, and are now working on their follow-up. Although the end of 2016 sees the band relatively quiet, the incoming year will further cement their status as a band worthy of the international stage.

BeatRoute Magazine December 2016 Alberta print edition cover.
Cover photo: Michael Grondin

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