Five Canadian Acts To Watch

Artists Breaking Across Borders


Cold Specks is the stage name of the unassuming songstress who also goes by Al Spx. With a robust, bluesy voice that will stop listeners dead in their tracks, Spx was shortlisted for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize for her album "I Predict Expulsion," which was released last May on Arts & Crafts in Canada and Mute in the United States and Europe. Nominated for breakthrough artist of the year at the Juno Awards in April, her songs are rooted in gospel and goth. Her latest single, "When the City Lights Dim," arrived March 5, and she'll tour the United States with Jim James April 17-May 15.



Signed to Wax Records, 19-year-old pop singer Reid had success with her debut single, "Alone Again," from her 2011 debut album, "The Game." The song--which uses lyrics from Heart's "Alone" and features rapper P. Reign-went double--platinum in Canada (160,000 units), and the video has racked up 12.7 million YouTube views. In the United Kingdom, the track debuted at No. 2 on iTunes, and the song went top five at pop radio in such countries as Germany, Poland, Belgium and Holland. Her follow-up single, "The Game," featuring Snoop Dogg, went gold (40,000 units) in Canada. Reid is working on her sophomore album, due this spring, with such writers and producers as Billy Steinberg and Max Martin.



Arty, inventive and a gem among girls trying too hard to be hip, Clair Boucher (aka Grimes) is turning her music technology geekiness into synth-pop confections, offering varied sonic flavors. Released on 4AD/Arbutus, her 2012 album Visions was praised by the New York Times as "one of the most impressive albums of the year." The video for single "Oblivion" has more than 5 million YouTube views, and clips for the tracks "Genesis" and "Vanessa"--both of which Grimes directed-have 7.3 million and 4 million views, respectively. She's touring Asia through March, then plays both weekends of Coachella.



Singer/guitarist Charles is a unique talent--soulful, quirky, jazzy and experimental. The stepsister of Julian Lennon performed more than 100 shows last year in North America and Europe. Her album "Break the Balance" was released in Germany, Switzerland and Austria in November on Make My Day Records, making the pages of Germany's Rolling Stone and Elle magazines, among other media. In Canada, the album is distributed by Outside Music. Charles returns to Germany for another tour in April, hitting Switzerland, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States throughout the rest of the year.



Indie rock duo Japandroids--comprising Brian King (guitar, vocals) and David Prowse (drums, vocals)-is used to praise, but it's only going to get bigger, louder and wider. Its 2009 debut, "Post-Nothing," on Polyvinyl, landed on the year-end lists of NME, Spin, Pitchfork and others. Japandroids released "Celebration Rock" last May in Canada (June, internationally), earning a nine out of 10 rating from Spin and appearing on Rolling Stone's top 50 albums of 2012. The band will tour the United Kingdom and Europe March 21-April 6 before heading to Coachella, Sasquatch and other U.S. festivals into June.