During the 2000s decade, various music critics around the world started to use the expression “Sound of Montreal” to describe alternative or indie bands that were emerging from the second biggest French city in the world. They were referring to the obvious Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, The Stills, or Godspeed you! Black Emperor!, among others. Taking a good part of the attention of the Montreal music scene, there were nonetheless always an amazing local scene here, whether it’s with indie or more genre specific bands that have been rocking Montreal for decades. Just to enlighten all the musical talent there is in this magnificent city, I have selected 11 bands that, in my opinion, deserve your attention. Considering the number of bands, styles, and scenes in Montreal, there is no way this is a best-of or must-listen list; this is simply a couple of suggestions in the alternative and post-everything scene here. Most of them are still active, some are on hiatus, but they are all worth checking out.
Appalaches took over the Montreal post-rock scene with the release of their debut album, Mòn, in 2014. Drawing inspiration from the epic and cinematic sound of post-rock giants, the four boys managed to put together a tour-de-force of instrumentation, feeling, and energy. Describing themselves as “We are Appalaches, we are loud!”, the instruments beautifully respond one to another and the hauntingly beautiful guitar takes the place of the lead vocal more than often. Don’t read any more of my silly words and just get this album ASAP; an essential post-rock release.
Atsuka Chiba is an unclassifiable, hyperactive, and overall weird band that plays experimental music that draws influences from psychedelic, post-rock, progressive rock, and probably a bunch more stuff with one or more prefixes. There is no frontman; everybody sings and rocks at the same times, doing whatever they want (check out this transition between Qvox and Chameleon Skin on Jinn, their last effort). Their record Jinn is pure magic, and their enthusiasm is contagious from the first to the last song. Their reputation already has transcended our great city so you might want to get into them quick if you don’t want to be out of date!
In only two years, Big Brave already managed to release an EP and a full album, tour across France, UK and The Netherlands, and rock the ears of everybody who ever cared to stop and listen to their awesome music. Sharing band members from time to time with Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, Robin Wattie’s hypnotic voice is really what stands out with this band. Their noisy, experimental, and post-everything sounds just match perfectly with her awesome singing. With their exhilarating live performances, they immediately drew the attention of the fans and critics in Montreal. The release of Feral Verdure in 2014 brought them to continue to explore musical possibility without any boundaries whatsoever.
Formed in 2002, Destroyalldreamers is a post-rock band influenced by their city mate of Godspeed You! Black Emperor!/Fly Pan Am, combined with a noisy/loud sound reminding us of the classic 90s shoegaze band. With the release of À Coeur Léger Sommeil Sanglant in 2004 and I Wish I was all flame in 2007, they established themselves as a core member of the Montreal post-rock scene with a sound that is both melodic, disturbing, and powerful. The vocals are put aside in favor of non-stop, entertaining drumming, spaced out melodic guitar, and furious bass lines. Since their hiatus in 2009, they have been involved in various projects, thisquietarmy being the most interesting. Today, these two albums that can be considered as classics of the post-rock scene and they can be regarded as one of the best post-rock bands to ever emerge out of Montreal.
DYE BY THE SWORD
It took not even a year for Dye by the Sword to come out with 2 albums of exceptional quality in 2015. First, All of them witches, in January 2015, that I am very glad to have stopped to when I was browsing on Bandcamp (I must say the Montreal Expos baseball cap on the cover got my attention). It was quickly followed by Lanterns some 11 months later as a full length; a record that really blew me away. In only 5 songs, they manage to condense a broad range of influences, emotions, and sounds. Both albums transcend the traditional sound of post-rock with slowcore or noisy elements. It’s somewhat spectacular to realize that everybody alternates instruments in the band depending on the song. This is surely one of the great reasons why their music is so diverse, constantly evolving, and unique. Let’s just hope they keep on the pace of production for their next release and we can get something in 2016!
Echo Beach is an ambient solo project of Julie Matson that combines electronic, shoegaze, and drone influences. Originally from Vancouver, Matson sure delivers with a weird sound that is both therapeutic and hypnotic to the listener. Fortune, her last album release in 2015, has 5 songs, or 65 minutes of effect driven sound that reminds us a little bit of the softer sound that Tim Hecker can get. This is by all means an amazing artist of ambient music that is going to be on your regular playlist as soon as you lend your ears.
Gulfer is a math-rock/emo band that has been around for a couple of years now, and they’re full of energy and a punk atmosphere. They already released a bunch of stuff, including What Gives earlier in 2015 and splits with bands like Del Paxton or Fago.Sepia. They also have toured across North America and Europe and shared the stage with bands like TTNG, Giraffes?Giraffes! or Tiny Moving Parts. Their hybrid sound can be characterized by a mix of sweet guitar tapping and raw emo vocals with an energy and a contagious enthusiasm that made you love them instantly, whether it’s live or on record. Ping kong, taken from their split with the great Fago.Sepia, is an essential song in their discography full of little gems. Do not miss them!
Loud, greasy, and crystal clear are probably the 3 words I would use to describe Luther Higgs’s stoner rock/ heavy metal sound with a distinct post-rock touch. They already have an impressive music catalogue, including a massive self-titled LP 2 years ago that helped forge a sound of their own and transpire the vibe and energy of our great city. It’s somewhere between Russian Circles, Slint or Mogwai, but they are in a unique place thanks to their loudness and intensity that blows everything off when they’re playing live. If you want to listen to the band that rocks the hardest on this list, you found it!
For a little over than 2 years, Near Grey have been jamming their mixture of drone and post-metal in Montreal that resulted in the released 3 LP’s! With a grand total of 10 songs clocking at 2 hours and 15 minutes in total, you can guess that the guys in Near Grey have a bias for 10+ minutes songs! However, they don’t choose longer songs for the sake of it, they rather develop their entire sound around time and length. Instead of building a song over and over in intensity like most (and too many) post-rock bands, they take the listener where he didn’t expect it to go (whether with ambient or doom passages) and progress in their own way while ambient and heavy parts alternate. They are unfortunately on hiatus since last May, but all of their amazing albums are available as name your price on bandcamp.
Riverbeds is an alternative band that plays a mixture of post-rock, emo and post-hardcore. They have been making their way into the local scene for more than 5 years now, thanks to the release of two EP’s of high quality, both in terms of production and musicianship. They have a unique talent to put in opposition layered/delayed guitars and soft melodic vocals with furious rhythm and drumming; all wrapped in an extremely entertaining sound . We sense some influences here and there, but more than anything, we sense a band that has found its unique place, transcending bands or genre. Always More, the last song of the EP they released earlier this year, is by any means not to be missed.
Worrying is the first word that comes to mind when I think of the great St. Petersbourg; not only because their LP cover definitely evokes disturbance and their official band picture is pretty damn serious, but because each and every song on their amazing last effort 28 degrés keep us on the edge. The electronic elements of Perdition, the sound experimentations of Aux dernières neiges, the drone loudness of the self-titled song, we sense that a story is being told through the instruments, one of the greatest quality any instrumental band can have. Great musicians, great band, and amazing album.