Laurent Saulnier listens to a lot of music.
“Soundcloud and Bandcamp are my best friends,” he confesses. He also goes out most nights of the week to hear live shows. As head of programming for the Montreal International Jazz Festival, it’s his job to discover emerging new talent.
“Part of our mission is to promote the Montreal music scene, not just for the international press, but for the people of Montreal as well,” he says.
The Québécois capital boasts a lively local music scene, with a surprisingly varied range of groups. But for all their diversity, the groups on Saulnier’s radar do have one thing in common: a readiness to mix and match musical categories to come up with a sound that’s fresh. Here, we introduce 5 acts who made a splash at this year’s festival.
Bears of Legend
This group is helping to define “nouveau folk” as a sound that’s lush and layered. With some combination of accordion, cello, piano and mandolin played on any given song by the seven-member ensemble, Bears of Legend turns pop tracks into orchestra-scale arrangements. Fans of progressive rock, folk, or classical music will all find something to add to their playlists.
Milk & Bone
This female pop duo was recently anointed Band of the Week in a UK publication. Saulnier says, “there is a nice buzz around them, not just in Montreal.” Although they sing in English, Milk & Bone have a French electro-lounge sensibility reminiscent of acts like Télépopmusik and Daft Punk.
Taking their cues from from R&B and hip hop, this girl duo comes to music from the urban end of the musical spectrum. Their sound blends bass and beats with gliding vocals. Move over, Beyonce: Heart Streets is aiming for pop-diva territory!
Every Wednesday at Montreal jazz club Dièse Onze, The Brooks provide a dose of soul therapy with their vintage funk and soul grooves. This seven-piece band with horns and strings also mixes it up old-school on their album Adult Entertainment. Fans of James Brown, prepare to shake your groove thang.
The Urban Science collective is not so much a musical group as it is a hip hop and soul jam session held on Thursday nights at clubs around the city. Each set is organized around variations on a theme. Members of the house band improvise alongside the evening’s guest rappers, MCs or beatboxers for an all-night dance party.