5 to See at NXNE 2014: Vol. 3

by Steven Spoerl

With the 20th anniversary of NXNE set to take place in a month (the music leg runs from the 18th to the 22nd, though there are film, comedy, and interactive legs before that), it’s time to kick the pre-fest coverage into high gear. After all, there’s a lot to cover considering how extensively packed this year’s lineup is. While Heartbreaking Bravery does its best to place an emphasis on the bands currently engrossed in the DIY circuit, it’s good to remember that most major acts started on the same foot. Which is why in this volume of the 5 to See series, both emerging and established artists will be covered. It’d be downright cruel not to shine a spotlight on someone as artistically creative as, say, St. Vincent. With all of that out of the way (and kept in mind), here are five acts absolutely worth catching next month in Toronto.

1.  Spoon

What to Know: There are few bands out there who have managed to define their identity the way Spoon has. As influential as they’ve become, it’s still difficult to find good bands that sound even remotely like them. It’s not something that should come as too much of a surprise, though, it was a fairly singular style to begin with. If anything, structurally, the band leans closer to classic jazz than anything in the modern canon. All nerve, razor-sharp precision, and erratic blasts, they’ve earned their level of celebrity. They’re worth celebrating for being one of the bands that went against the grain and won. Boasting a remarkably consistent discography (they’ve yet to make anything that comes even close to approaching blandness) and an impressive live show, this is an act that’ll be tough to afford to miss.

What to Watch:

2. Mutual Benefit

What to Know: Jordan Lee’s outfit has now earned itself places on two Watch This installments (Vol. 19 and Vol. 25), earned itself well-deserved raves with last year’s gorgeous Love’s Crushing Diamond, and become an unlikely success story that it’s easy to feel good about. Expect this to be one of the most well-attended (and most haunting) sets of NXNE. One look at the video below should be enough to sell just about anyone.

What to Watch:

3. Spiritualized

What to Know: Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space is a tranquil masterpiece. Seeing any one of those songs played live may be just the come-down that’s needed after a day of running between one venue and the other, trying to frantically catch every band possible. It’ll likely be another instance of a set that feels removed from the chaos that surrounds it- and that’s always worth something. For a transcendental quietude, look no further.

What to Watch:

4. Eagulls

What to Know: Eagulls’ self-titled effort from earlier this year has proven to be one of the better records of recent memory and their were countless reports of their live show from SXSW that fell way closer to completely enamored than not. A band that’s very much on the up, their set will undoubtedly draw a pretty strong (and frenzied) crowd. They’ll be a must-stop destination for people looking to get their adrenaline pumping to avoid the risk of exhaustion. It’s hard to imagine that people are sleeping on this.

What to Watch:

5. St. Vincent

What to Know: For once, the collective music industry’s crush on an artist seems completely justified. Annie Clark’s project grows defiantly weirder as it progresses, running the danger of maxing out the art-pop genre and perfecting it once and for all.St. Vincent is currently 2014’s most acclaimed major release and she’s accentuating more weirdness than ever post-David Byrne collaboration. Anyone who champions the filthiest and most disgusting guitar tones and manages to throw as much sludge as possible at what would otherwise be conventionally beautiful pop songs is more than worth anyone’s time. Her set will be a can’t-miss appointment.  

What to Watch: