For the past few years, many have referred to Toronto as “the music city of the world.” I may be biased because I live in the city, but I have to agree. Aside from all the amazing indie and pop artists who have made a name for themselves internationally, Toronto is also home to a lot of worldly music as it’s such a diverse and cultural city. Being the music fan that I am, I’ve done my best to pay attention to the record labels my favourite artists are on. Over the past 10 years, I not only find that the majority of my favourite artists and musicians are Canadian, but that their labels are based right here in Toronto. Here’s a good guide to the homes behind some of my favourite artists…
Dine Alone Records
I have a soft spot for this record label. The soundtrack of my teenage years included many bands, one being Alexisonfire. I also interned for their in-house management company, Bedlam Music Management, for 6 months back in 2012. The label has expanded drastically in the past few years, now having offices in Los Angeles and Nashville. They are now releasing albums for international artists such as The Jezebels, Kate Nash, and James Vincent McMorrow. Aside from expanding musically, the label recently launched Dine Alone Foods. Check their website to see where you can buy their line of sauces across Canada.
Last Gang Records
Back around 2004, there was buzz of a new label in Toronto called Last Gang Records. Not long after that we all became instant fans of bands like Metric and Death From Above 1979, both of which are on the label’s roster. For the past 10 years, Last Gang has become not only a solid label, but they’re breaking the mold for other indie labels out there. There’s a variety of artists such as Chromeo, Ryan Hemsworth, Lindi Ortega and Crystal Castles, some with a huge cult following. There’s a level of badass with this label, and I’m totally into it.
Founded and run by Nick Bernal, Nevado Records has really grown into an awesome label and management company. Releasing albums for artists like Yukon Blonde, Library Voices, Tim Moxam, Emilie Mover, and Megan Bonnell, this is definitely one of my favourite labels – period. There’s some magic going on here and if you ever get the chance to see a Nevado artist perform I suggest you go.
Arts & Crafts Records
If I had to pick a record label that defined my youth, this would 100% be it. My love for Broken Social Scene was, and still is, something special. If any of their albums got you through a hard time when you were younger, or were simply the soundtracks to a good time, then I think you know what I mean. The label is home to Fucked Up, Feist, Dan Mangan, and Cold Specks, along with many others. For the past 2 years, the label has held a weekend music festival, Field Trip, which showcases many of their artists as well as other notable Canadian musicians. This label is all about good times with friends, brought together by music.
Paper Bag Records
Lastly, we have Paper Bag Records. This label has had good things going for them since the very beginning, back in 2002, helping Broken Social Scene receive their first Juno for You Forgot It In People. There’s something really sweet and genuine about Paper Bag, as they always seem to be releasing music that’s unique and memorable. The label is home to some amazing Canadian artists that you must check out: Sam Roberts Band, DIANA, Austra, Elliott BROOD, and Born Ruffians to get you started. Watch the PBR sessions here.
Aside from releasing records, it’s clear these labels are doing so much more in the Canadian music industry. Not only is music of substance being released, but each label has a presence that can easily become familiar and be loved just as much as their rosters. Check out these labels and listen to the albums they have released. If you’re in Toronto, keep your eyes out for these guys. If a record label has a tent at a music festival this summer, go to it and tell them they’re kicking ass. You may get a genuine hug or a solid high five.
What are some of your favourite Toronto-based music record labels? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.