YES IN MY BACKYARD: WINNIPEG
By: Kaelen Bell | Art by: Laura Stanley (Clockwise from top left: Dana Waldie, Anthony OKS by Graham Wiebe, Hut Hut, Vagina Witchcraft by Jess Mann, Julien’s Daughter, Virgo Rising, Warming, Tired Cossack)
Winnipeg understands extremes; too cold until it’s too hot, too quiet until it’s too loud. Squeezing under frost-caked doorframes and crawling up from sweltering basements, the music that the city incubates covers every degree of that unstoppable pendulum, from skull-crushing metal to nocturnal art-rock and everything between and beyond.
It’s a city that knows isolation better than most, which means it also recognises the necessity of community like few others—for the wide breadth of disparate sounds that the city offers, there’s a nucleus of togetherness at the core. And after a year that sent us inside our homes and inside ourselves, Winnipeg feels like it’s finally emerging again—as winter returns, there are few better ways to stay warm than huddled at the foot of a stage.
The city’s sound has only gotten wilder in its dormancy; there’s a sense of urgency and inventiveness to the music being played, with a whole crop of new artists who’ve honed their voices in the past year’s quietude.
Though it was released at the beginning of autumn, Anthony Sannie’s latest release as Anthony OKS—the lush In the Garden EP—feels like a capsule of summer. With richly drawn, knocking production and Sannie’s sharp-eyed lyricism, it recalls the heat, hedonism, and hardship of a season that found us all redrawing lines both socially and personally. He’s an emerging key-player in Winnipeg’s hip-hop scene, and his music is some of the city’s warmest and most human.
Tired Cossack’s Stephen Halas understands the worth of knowing—where you’re from, where you’re going, where you wanna be. His alt-country-infused post-punk is steeped in Ukrainian folklore and a palpable sense of longing; whether it’s for the homeland, a lost love, or some unseen place around the corner, his music is constantly reaching for something beyond itself. His most recent release is the chugging single “Pea Roll Along,” which sounds a bit like alternate-universe Ukrainian Joy Division performing in the bed of a pickup. If that description doesn’t make it clear, it’s very good, adding some wide-open-sky optimism to a genre known for its macabre self-seriousness.
Brady Allard, Warming’s primary songwriter, hasn’t released anything new in a hot minute, but his band’s return to the stage has marked a distinct confidence shift—tighter, bigger, and dancier. Warming’s punky, twisted take on ’80s-indebted synthpop feels more urgent than before, and more than ready to face whatever’s coming ’round the bend next.
No other band rages quite like Vagina Witchcraft, because no other band has Kayla Fernandes at the helm. The poet, activist, and doom-metal world-destroyer illuminates the four-piece’s pitch-black tides of sound with a vengeful fury, a demand to be heard that pierces even the most floor-shaking riffs. In a city rife with police misconduct and racialized social inequity, the band’s self-titled debut album is an unrelenting document of retribution, an onslaught of doom-metal sludge that finds hope in devastation and points the way to a new kind of world.
Julien’s Daughter seem destined for something big—maybe it’s world domination, or maybe it’s just one perfect, untouchable pop song. They seem capable of both, possessing a confidence and immediate musical chemistry that belies the fact that the four-piece met on Kijiji and local music message boards. Their debut EP, The Static That Carries Over, is glittery, airtight, guitar pop, equal parts grit and sheen. Though they’ve just started, they already feel too big for the stages they stalk, and new single “The Dealer’s Hand” is already pushing their sound to new, dance-indebted places.
Virgo Rising’s music sounds every bit as celestial as their name would suggest—prickly, math-rock guitars and warbling violin careen like meteorites while Emily Sinclair’s lyrics find the universal drama in everyday minutiae. They’re another electrifying new addition to Adam Fuhr’s House of Wonders label, and their brand of darkly intelligent, deeply felt music already feels like the small label’s calling card.
Dana Waldie is all about the slow burn. The French-speaking artist makes the kind of lush, patient pop that could feel at home in any place, in any decade. Inspired by 1960s Yé-yé but woven with the synthetic textures of modern pop, her music lives on the line between the unfamiliar and the brand new. Her newest single, “Que toi,” feels like an artist coming fully into their voice—there’s little else like it in the city.
Deeply inspired by the Dismemberment Plan’s caustic, anthemic art-rock, Hut Hut are guitar-pop experimenters in the truest sense—they are the sound of shattered beakers and boiling serums, the music of a mad scientist let loose in the studio. Frontman Matt Klachefsky’s helium-pitch voice is not for the faint of heart, but he tempers his sideways impulses with a knack for memorable, crystalline harmony and an unrelenting sense of momentum—good luck getting “Hey Strangers” out of your head anytime soon.