What is Searchlight, you ask? It’s a yearly nationwide musical throwdown put on by CBC Music, wherein bands enlist the help of their fans (and spam the beegeesus out of their friends and family on Facebook) to vote for their favourite act.
From the Searchlight homepage:
Are you Canada’s best new musical act? Are you looking for your big break?
CBC Music and CBC Radio One are looking for Canada’s best new artist, and we want your help. Searchlight is a competition that connects artists with fans in their community and across the country. Vote for your favourite bands in your region and across the country. You can vote for 10 acts per region per day, to decide which acts make it to the regional semi-finals. It’s all leading to a grand prize, including $20,000 worth of music equipment from Yamaha Music Canada, a professional recording with CBC Music, and an opening spot on a high profile music showcase.
The musicians and bands below all have a connection to Saskatoon, they’re a little bit (or a lotta bit) jazzy — and they’re personal favourites, which is how they scored spots on my highly coveted, alphabetically ordered list. Keep in mind there’s a whole lot of musical talent coming out of the provence, beyond what you see here. Feel free to check it out over at CBC Music.
Saskatoon soul man (I never get tired of saying that) is in the running with “New Love”, a tune off his 2013 album, Aanalog. It’s one of the poppier tunes on the record, but we won’t hold that against Mr. Adair. It’s a great song and features another talented Saskatoon musician, Meagan Bzowy, on soul-y backup vocals. On the whole Aanalog is one of the jazzier, funkier offerings to make the Saskatchewan Searchlight cut, so here’s hoping a lot of his fans (he’s got a lot of them) step up and vote.
With one foot in Saskatoon and the other in Regina, Absofunkinlutely regularly funks up stages across Saskatchewan and Western Canada. Their Searchlight offering is a cleverly titled, we’re-totally-not-pandering to you tune called “Darling Of The CBC”. It’s a cut off their latest album, Residential Gas Leak. Like Adair’s pick for the contest, AFL has chosen to go with a more “radio friendly” vocal-heavy tune. Make no mistake, though: these guys have instrumental chops out the wazoo and live on stage they’re not afraid to cut loose. I caught them at the Bassment this season and almost got knocked down by the waves of raw funk energy.
Friends of Foes
Alright, I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for FOF. They’re the young, hip, indie/alt rock band whose awesome sound and devilish promotional campaigns have put their songs in the ears of listeners all across the country. Their Searchlight tune is called “Mountains” and I’m wagering my lunch money that it’s going to make it far in this year’s competition. The tune has everything radio listeners want to hear: stunning vocals from 19-year-old Celeste Nicholson, catchy yet oh-so-slightly-spacey guitar work from Matt Stinn, and driving drums and bass from the rhythm section tying it all together. For a band with an average age of 21 and a quarter, they have no business sounding as tight as they do. And yet here we are. That’s some serious homegrown talent for you.
Never have I encountered a more abnormally talented bunch of young musicians than the time I caught Minor Matter play live at the Greenery in Saskatoon. I use the word abnormally because their sound — a collection of every instrument ever — will catch you completely off guard, especially when listening to recordings. The musicians of Minor Matter delve into so many different instruments and sounds that one describing them might safely approach adjectives like “orchestral”. Sure, a handful of this year’s Searchlight entrants might feature a clarinet, or an oboe, or a glockenspiel, or maybe even a bassoon. Maybe. If they’re crazy. But Minor Matter rocks all of the above on their competition tune, “Stuck In Serenity”. And by golly, the weird thing is, it works. It works live, too. If the competition was judged by combined years of effort involved in learning how to play instruments, Minor Matter would have this in the bag.
Energy, attitude, and wicked good times are the modus operandi for Misterfire, the Saskatoon-grown sometimes funky, sometimes jazzy, but always rockin’ ska quintet. Their searchlight tune “Ain’t Over Yet” struts into your ear-holes with a hip bass intro and drops right into the band’s trademark driving drum beat and ska-flavoured rhythm guitar. Frontman Ben Fortosky jumps headfirst into this (yet again) deliberately radio friendly tune, and it wouldn’t be a Misterfire joint without a rockin’ guitar solo. So there’s one of those in there, and yep, it totally rocks. These guys have been playing together as a band in one form or another for years now, and it shows. “Ain’t Over Yet” is a cut from their latest album, Darling, This Is War. You jazzier types will be pleased to know that each and every member of the band has a strong grasp on improvisation and that talent shines through, but more so on some of their other tracks. Like the rest of the bands featured in this article, their Searchlight tune errs on the side of “straight ahead” to appease the frequency modulated masses. And it works. I dare you not to tap your foot.