Friday Playlist: NXNE artists to check out and a blast from the past

North By North East (NXNE) kicks off today in Toronto (with music starting on the 18). Since this marks the festival’s 20th year, we pay tribute to this well-loved Canadian music and arts festival by handpicking 14 great tracks for you by artists performing at NXNE this month along with alumni who’ve graced the stages of years past and left a memorable mark on festival-goers’ hearts.

Sam Cash & The Romantic Dogs – “Marquee Lights”
He’s been described as a modern and young Elvis Costello, Sam Cash and his Torontonian buds are a must-see this year. Their soft rock ‘n’ roll style is easy to get into and their shows are always a delight with their charismatic stage presence. The tune “Marquee Lights” shows off Cash’s powerful vocals for which you can hear the passion in every word he sings—you know he’s feeling it.

Mo Kenney – “Sucker”
Still in her 20s, this Haligonian songstress has already evolved into a musical sensation with a fanbase and portfolio of well-crafted songs that sound like someone well-beyond her years. “Sucker” is a sweet folky love song that’s a good addition to any summer soundtrack.

St. Vincent – “Digital Witness”
American baroque-pop artist St. Vincent is another must-see act this year. An added bonus, her show at Yonge-Dundas Square is free. “Digital Witness” gives witness to this songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s innumerable talents.

Alvvays – “Archie, Marry Me”
Fronted by lead-singer Molly Rankin (yes, daughter of the late John Morris of Canada’s well-loved folk music group The Rankin Family), this jangle-pop quartet will surely get you on your feet and dancing to their fun hit “Archie, Marry Me”. Believe me, it’s such a fun tune, you may want to marry it.

Army Girls – “Twice”
This sugar-pop duo (Carmen Elle of Diana on vox/guitar and Andy Smith on drums) have been a hit at past NXNE, drawing large crowds with a fanbase growing in numbers. NXNE loves them so much that they put them on this year’s lineup as well, so to honour that take a listen to to their tune “Twice”.

The Beaches – “Little Pieces”
The Beaches will surely bring on the heat with their energetic shows that will make you wanna crowd-surf. So grab an ice cold beer and get ready for this rock show. “Little Pieces” delivers all of this and more.

The Wayo – “Stay”
Smooth, R‘n’B infused jazz is how I’d describe the Wayo’s style. Based out of Halifax, this up-and-coming quartet delivers tunes you can sit back and relax to. “Stay” shows off singer Charlotte Day Wilson’s soft vocals and lovely textured sounds coming from percussion, keyboards, guitars and back-up vocals. You’ll never want to leave once you start listening to them.

Ryan Hemsworth X Lana Del Rey – “Summertime Sadness (Remix)”
Producer Ryan Hemsworth has only been on the scene since 2010 but he’s already a mega musical sensation. His remix of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” delivers a fresh new face to Del Rey’s hot tune and it gives you a good taste of Hemsworth’s chill style. You’ll see why he won this year’s Juno Award for Electronic Album of the Year.

Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting On You)”
Get up and dance because Maryland’s synthpop group Future Islands is in this year’s lineup. You may recall their performance on David Letterman when lead vocalist Samuel T. Herring showed off his slick dance moves that got everyone around the world trying to imitate his unique style. “Seasons” is the hit that you can sing and dance along with.

And as this playlist is in tribute to NXNE’s long-running 20 years, we’ve ended it on a few songs by past NXNE performers we all know and love.

Feist – “How Come You Never Go There”
Broken Social Scene – “Sweetest Kill”
Fucked Up – “Year Of The Tiger”
Cults – “You Know What I Mean”
Coeur De Pirate – “Adieu”

Photo of Alvvays: supplied/Norman Wong