In the continental 48 states, we often romanticize what life is like up in the mysterious neighbor to our north: Canada. With their peaceful lifestyle and free healthcare, it must be utopia, right? Everyone’s healthy and winning the Olympics with their athleticism, and no one ever argues with each other. Or maybe it’s just too cold to create too much of a fuss. Either way, we’ve seen an influx of Canadian musicians taking over the indie scene in the past decade, and their rise is due, at least in part, to the efforts of those who are committed to making sure the music is heard. Thanks in part due to FACTOR (The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recording), a non-profit that works closely with the Canadian government to help fund Canadian musicians, there is a lot more freedom to experiment, without the weight of high recording costs. Yet another thing to envy about Canada! And when it comes to documenting and then launching artists from the Canadian music scene, specifically in Montreal, we are hard-pressed to find someone doing it better than Arbutus Records.
"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of indie pop highlights across a selection of styles, updated every month to keep you on your dancing toes. This month, we rope in a lot of notable artists with new songs on the horizon... be it the Micachu-produced Tirzah, R&B vocalist Jessy Lanza, 18-year-old Brazilian-French producer Dream Koala, or the tried-and-true sounds of BRAIDS and Julia Holter. Also included are tracks by Foxygen member Diane Coffee and Arts & Crafts artists The Darcys.
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Jessy Lanza - "5785021"

As a hardcore lover of R&B in the '90s, I'm a fucking hard sell when it comes to the indie R&B revival that slinketh around these days. I need more than just a pretty voice; that helps, but a hook needs to catch me, and not in a shallow way, either. On "5785021", probably the best track on Jessy Lanza's upcoming release, Pull My Hair Back. Tender vocal melodies that slink and out of upper registries couple with background synths reminiscent of Art of Noise's "Moments in Love", without being actually derivative. Pull My Hair Back comes out September 10th on Hyperdub; stay tuned for a full album review.  

Tirzah

I can recall a time far, far away... back in 2009, when my musical playlist was dominated by tUnE-yArDs and Micachu and the Shapes, in their lo-fi heydays. Since then, Micachu has been back here and there in small doses -- though with nothing as earthquaking as the debut Jewellery record, I would argue. So it is with great delight that I stumbled upon the I'm Not Dancing four-track EP from Tirzah, which was produced by Micachu and features some of her distinctive drum sounds and general aural simplicity. The EP is out now on Greco-Roman. The Grant Amour-directed music video for "I'm Not Dancing" is also delightfully awkward and fitting for the album title.  
Blue Hawaii Untogether Arbutus Records (2013) Voice and space function as the two most important instruments on Untogether, a side project of Braids' Raphaelle Standell-Preston and collaborator Alexander Cowan, their debut album as Blue Hawaii. That's not to say that traditional composition -- at least in terms of electronic music -- doesn't conquer all on Untogether, but it does put the focus squarely on what is left out versus what is included. But does it accomplish enough with so little? Not exactly. Standell-Preston is obviously the star of Untogether, as her unrelenting, bellowing vocals are not only lethal in a very fundamental way, but the tricks and twists which Cowan adds to her voice make the record come alive in a powerful way. "Try To Be," one of the album's standouts, is built upon this very principle. Not only is the acoustic guitar constructed as a round; the vocals, down to specific breathes, are sampled and repeated in a beautiful array of instrumentation, destruction, and ultimately resurrection. But one gorgeous song does not an album make, and for as many beautiful moments as Blue Hawaii are able to create, there are equally disappointing ones as well.

 

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