Yes in My Backyard: Saskatoon

Photo collage by Alec Martin (L-R: Sōhka, respectfulchild, éemi, Gus Davidson)


By: Lenore Maier

Like many things in 2020, the Saskatoon music scene is undergoing a transformation. The pandemic has put a halt to many artists’ plans, but there are some who have managed to lean into the isolation, exposing previously unseen and wonderful sides of their craft. The rise of the solo project is strong. Perhaps there’s more time at home to hone your craft, or maybe it’s one final ditch effort to let it all out and leave it all on the table. Either way, there is a lot of musical rebirth and growth happening on the prairies, and Saskatonians are luckier for it. From lo-fi electronic music to bedroom folk and even franco-pop, here are 10 artists doing exciting things in Saskatoon.

Ellen Froese

Ellen Froese has come to be known as a musical staple and sense of pride in Saskatchewan for her infectious brand of singer-songwriter country-folk music. Whether solo or backed up by her incredibly fun band Hot Toddies, Ellen will always steal the show. With what can surely be presumed to be a side effect of social distancing measures, Froese has recently been experimenting with drum machines and synth tracks that are equally endearing and unexpected.

Gus Davidson

Gus Davidson, a.k.a. Angus Dickenson, has slowly but surely established himself into the Saskatoon electronic scene over the past year. His recent self-titled debut album released by Pop Quiz Records is beyond its years in feel and composition. Gus’s recent online cassette release event hosted a fantastic bill with some of the best audio and video quality you can expect from a livestream concert. 


Emilie Lebel, a.k.a. éemi, has proven herself to be one of Saskatoon’s most innovative and hard working musicians. Her infectious brand of franco-pop is simultaneously raw and polished. The honesty in éemi’s music is so tangible, it transcends beyond the language barrier. Her debut EP Honey was released as a glass jar full of Saskatchewan Kitako Lake honey. I can tell you that receiving it in my mailbox in late March at the beginning of a lockdown was very sweet, indeed.

Dylan Jules Cooper

A multi-instrumentalist who wades into more genres than most Saskatoon musicians, Dylan Cooper’s recent album Summer brings a much needed dose of fun. With a strong mix of soul-burning, R&B infused love songs and fast driving politically driven soul-rap, Summer falls somewhere between Marvin Gaye and M83. A difficult artist to pin down, Cooper’s genre-defying music will impress and surprise anyone previously familiar with his sound.


Originally hailing from Île-à-la-Crosse, Taylar Belanger a.k.a. Sōhka has been establishing herself as one of Saskatchewan’s most exciting R&B/hip-hop artists over the past year. Coming from a spoken word background, Sōhka brings a tremendous sense of strength and wisdom to her writing. Her new music video, “Protector” shines the light even brighter on the already vibrant scene of Indigenous female hip-hop artists in Saskatchewan.

Zann Foth

Zann might be one of Saskatoon’s most unassuming artists. Their talent is multilayered, impressive and humbling. Everytime I listen to or watch Zann perform, I think to myself, “Joni Mitchell would love those guitar chords and vocal lines.” Living naturally at the crux of acoustic folk and accessible jazz, Zann makes it all look so easy, akin to watching Elvis Stojko land a quadruple axel in 1991. You know an artist is good at something when they make the execution appear effortless.

Bicycle Daze

Bicycle Daze have been making a unique blend of mellow psychedelic shoegaze for the past couple of years. Word on the street is they have a new self-titled album in works, as a welcome follow-up to their 2018 single, “Upside Down”, slated for release later this year. Bicycle Daze was also behind one of Saskatoon’s coolest music events to happen in 2020: Albertfest, a socially distanced block party music festival.

Taylor Jade

Taylor Jade’s musical specialty lies in a dark and brooding sense of acoustic sedation. Her most recent release, the single “Lamb to Slaughter,” was recorded on her phone during the middle of lockdown in May 2020. More than once,  I’ve found myself listening to this track on repeat. One of her best songs, and remarkably candid.


One of Saskatoon’s most unique artists across all media, respectfulchild has been working recently in the realm of visual arts, but not before releasing a simply amazing video performance which includes them dressed up as a baroque bourgeois white-hair dancing and fanning themself to a remix of “Starships” and Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.”

June Thrasher

If you are a musician in Saskatchewan who has experienced any form of success, chances are you are heavily indebted to Kaelen Klypak in some form or another. Kaelen has long been an essential part of the province’s music scene, relentlessly advocating for local artists on behalf of SaskMusic, a non-profit that promotes and develops the artists and music industry of Saskatchewan. He’s recently jumped the fence to the dark side (from advocate to artist) unveiling his electronic project, June Thrasher. Any fans of Daft Punk and Kavinsky will thank themselves for checking it out. 

Patient Hands – There Are No Graves Here

Patient Hands
There Are No Graves Here
Saskatoon, SK
RIYL: Ernest Hood; Adrianne Lenker’s instrumentals; borscht

There Are No Graves Here maps the sounds of grief and familial bonds. Patient Hands’  Alexander Stooshinoff was in “a wretched juxtaposition” while composing the album’s hushed, field recording-punctuated, ambient pieces, grieving the end of a long term romantic relationship and caring for his ill mother. 

You can feel the emotional intensity immediately, on “Opening,” when Stooshinoff unleashes a flood of coarse synth sounds which, a few pieces later, on the brief “On Hiatus,” gets rougher and sinister sounding. Overtop the misty drone-scape of the goosebump-inducing “No Graves,” Stooshinoff speaks to us, reflecting on the day’s events and accompanying emotions. He breathes deeply and is lost in these reflections and the uncertainty of everything.

But in spite of all of this, there’s an unexpected warmth to There Are No Graves Here. Stooshinoff’s improvised acoustic guitar melodies are often coupled with the affable sounds of a family gathering: they assemble for dinner to eat borscht and talk about their day. They toast “to health!” A quiet knock on the door is heard and another family member enters the scene like a character does in a family sitcom. While the heaviness of uncertainty is always present, Stooshinoff makes clear that family – however you define it – is a constant. 

Laura Stanley

Greg Orrē – I Am In It Volume One

Greg Orrē
I Am In It Volume One
Saskatoon, SK
RIYL: The Frogs; The Mountain Goats; Regina Spektor’s “Ghost of Corporate Future”

Greg Orrē is learning acceptance and how to be present amidst the flickering piano-pop of I Am in It Volume One. “I was where I was supposed to be yesterday,” he sings over devotional keys on “Yesterday.” Orrē stays positive on “I’ve Learned (I Was a Fool)”: “What seems like the end might be the start of something fresh… Every consequence is a lesson to learn.” 

Self-improvement isn’t always easy, so it’s no surprise that the album, which features contributions from his partner Kristen Boyé, doesn’t fully sit still. Orrē’s soft sermons take unexpected turns. Garbled vocal samples intrude upon “Intro” seconds into him singing over its single keyboard line. His reflections on oneness manifest as jumbled internal monologues laid atop one another on “Do You Live Down Here? (Interlude One)” and “What Does I Am in It Mean to You? (Interlude Three).” The synth on “Will I Be Sad in Summer?” sounds like a twisted, mildly upset stomach. Despite such bends, Greg Orrē sounds like he’s finding his way towards enlightenment.

Leslie Ken Chu

The Switching Yard – Brent

The Switching Yard
Cardinal Fuzz/Little Cloud Records
Saskatoon, SK
RIYL: Spacemen 3; TV Freaks; Tonstartssbandht

Saskatoon’s Chris Laramee has been involved in a laundry list of excellent projects, from instrumental doom-rockers Shooting Guns to the organ-drenched dream-pop of the Radiation Flowers and the dubby damage of his solo outlet Wasted Cathedral. With this resume in mind, it’s easy to predict what kinds of hallucinogenic sounds you’ll hear on the latest album from the Switching Yard, yet another long-running band with Laramee counted among its members. Brent drifts from pissed-off punk gnarl (“Cardinal Strut,” “Scorched”) to echo vocal laden shoegaze (“Easy Feeling”) and druggy extendo-jams like “World of Shit” or the nearly 12-minute “Endless Fever.” Slipping in a spoken-word interlude about parasitic bugs and the classic Cheech and Chong “Dave’s Not Here” sketch gives the album a timelessness that could place it in any period since the invention of the bong.

Jesse Locke