by Elena Gritzan
Despite everything working against it – the unfortunate cold temperature turn, the coincidence with essay season for students, and it being a Tuesday night – I would definitely consider my first Canadian Music Week night a success. Due to the sheer number of bands invading the city from near and far, there is bound to be something for everybody to enjoy, even in the relatively slim scheduling of the first day of the festival. For this someone, that something was Toronto electro-pop band Parallels. The pleasant surprise was how enjoyable the rest of the bands were last night at the Rivoli.
Hamilton’s Illitry played subtly spacey dreamscapes from behind a light-up sign displaying their band name. Most interesting was their use of electronics: short bursts of crescendoing distortion created interestingly unexpected phrase breaks, especially at the transition between songs. The meat of each song, though, was filled with indie pop sensibilities. Soft vocals, driving drum beats, and smooth, layered choruses. My ear may have preferred the sparser and stranger transitions between songs, but the sweetly delivered pop sections were certainly very accessible.
The C’mons took the night in a more rock-oriented direction. The first song opened with alternating pitch staccatos on guitar before launching into a full double-guitared sound upon the eruption of the chorus. They have a bit of a taste for the dramatic, drawing out their bridges and using quick build-ups of volume and sudden changes in tempo. Sometimes they seem to be trying to be an epic rock band, but they keep you on your toes: instead of a screeching guitar solo, you get a wail on the E string of a violin.
I will readily admit that generally guitar chord-based indie rock does not do anything for me, but The C’mons threw in enough subtleties with pauses, suddenly shifting textures, and isolated guitar melodies to hold my attention.
While Lyon were setting up on stage, I had an immediate reaction of “I’m going to really like this.” Unfortunately I lost that feeling as the set went on, despite some beautiful moments and buckets of charm. Said beautiful moment was a simply arranged lullabye, with only vocals and sustained chords from keyboards and guitar. The charm came from whimsical touches from an electric violin and general synth sweetness. So, yes, Lyon should have been everything I am looking for in a band, but somehow something was just missing for me live. Turns out their free EP is rather lovely, though, so venture on over to their Soundcloud.
The Indecent brought a change of pace in a more bass-oriented grungy turn. It turns out that they are quite successful, having signed to Warner Bros. (I blame my lack of knowledge of them on their American citizenship). Sure, they have their attention grabbing features: the band includes triplets! They were born in ’94! But their music warranted notice by itself. Singer Emily Brout has a blasé alto that weaves well with the bass guitar that dominates their songs.
The highlight of the night, though, was certainly Parallels. Their synthpop heads towards perfection when they hit their stride, with Holly Dodson’s incredible voice standing out over the catchy synth and tight drumming (cow bell included!). Their dedication 80s decadence comes out fully in their cover of Gowan’s “Moonlight Desires”, epic synth line, soaring vocals and all. (I promised myself I would stop writing about my confusion as to why people don’t really dance at shows in Toronto – but, really, why don’t people dance?? I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt since it was Tuesday, festival attendees, but you had better step it up as the week goes on.)
Here’s hoping that the rest of the week is filled with more synth-y perfection (I’m looking at you, Silent Shout showcase!) and new music discovery.