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Eight Canadian indie artists to watch for

The beauty of independent music is there's no need to conform to commercial demands. That doesn't mean the artists don't want to make money, but this is a chance for the artist to create something uniquely representative of themselves before the mainstream media catches onto their music, and the big industry players come calling.

Behold eight Canadian artists so varied, that there is something for everyone. Each a virtuoso in their own respective realms, inviting you to discover for yourself.

The Oooh Baby Gimme Mores: Sweet-looking boys saunter on stage like they're about to sing Carlton's version of It's Not Unusual, when instead they pounce like rabid wolves. Frenetic machine-gun drumbeats, grinding guitar, and primal screams jolt you to attention. Once your heart resumes beating, their vibrant brand of thrash-punk rock is liberating. In fact, when the folks at Budweiser went hunting for awesome unknowns, the OBGM's talent and energetic presence won them the spotlight of the Epic Concert campaign. They earned a series of surprise gigs like the opening set at NXNE in Toronto, and Bud's Made in America festival, sharing the stage with the likes of Jay-Z and Kanye West. The band released their self-titled debut album on Sept.12.

Piper Hayes: Toronto-based singer-songwriter doesn't subscribe to a definable category. Some say she's folk, maybe soul, but almost everyone agrees that her true genre is LIVE. Piper's playful performance-style is filled with creative story-telling marked by vocal and melodic whimsy. She's not just a musician, but a musical character, which is probably why her last album was named ‘Live In NYC’. Haye's debut studio album, Ain’t Nothin’ Like... dropped earlier this month, and her first single, Love Song, is catchy and demonstrates that approachable charm her fans have come to expect.

Kiran Ahluwalia: The story goes that Kiran was a successful trader in Toronto's financial district when one day, while having lunch outside, a taxi driver pulled up and said "You look lost, can I help?". In fact, the question itself may have been just the help she needed. It spurred her decision to leave the security of Bay street and dedicate herself to music, and her fans are thankful. I call it Bollywood-Jazz-rock, but it's really a profound cross-breed of the exotic and familiar that has to be experienced to be understood. And with the support of her guitarist/arranger husband Rez Abbasi, Ahluwalia has earned two JUNOs, two CFMAs, and prospects of more awards to come. Her newest album, Sanata: Stillness, launches on October 3rd, but you can enjoy her first single, Hayat, right now.

Spoila Ranks: Adding a little international "flava", this respected artist has been around as long as the distinguished lineage of Reggae "Ranks" (Shabba, Cutty, Nardo, etc.) and has shared the stage with the likes of Beenie Man, Mr. Vegas, Professor Nuts, and many others. "Spoila alert!" Not only is he continuously dedicated to making great music, but he also lends his support to numerous artists in his community through Spoila Ranks Radio. With a long repertoire of superlative tunes, he's earned the respect of his peers and the love of his fans. I included. Jah bless.

Petunia & The Vipers: He's called Petunia in tribute to a former flame who endowed him with the moniker while she also taught him to play. Behind Petunia's extraordinary songwriting, the Vipers have received nothing but the highest praise from critics. Though their roots seem based in Country and Bluegrass, they completely defy classification drawing from diametrically diverse sources with limitless creativity and outstanding musicianship. That may be the reason they maintain "Indie" status, but it hasn't stopped fans from finding them. They have toured the UK twice, in addition to playing huge festivals like; Folk Alliance 2012, BreakOut West 2013 and SXSW 2014. Petunia's songs have appeared in film and on TV, and Petunia’s new record “Inside of You” was released in May 2014.

Kiki Rowe: This 19 year-old Canadian R&B singer-songwriter has all of the ingredients for a bright future. Her ethereal and emotive tone, coupled with youthfully-themed lyrics, give her a sound that is seductive and timely. An accomplished pianist, Rowe fuses elements of hip-hop, soul, and electronica to create what I like to call the "groove-du-jour" for 2015. Her self-titled debut, which drops in October, contains eight of her own compositions plus a bonus track. For some, that's an album, but for Rowe, who is constantly writing, it's a "mini album".  The lead single “Be Alright” recently premiered on Pop Justice, where she was compared to Jessie Ware and Tiaan.

Hilotrons: The brainchild of pop-auteur Mike Dubue, Hilotrons have been around for over a decade in various incarnations, and have shared the spotlight with huge indie acts like The Constantines and Arcade Fire. Their fourth LP, At Least There's Commotion speaks volumes about Dubue's songwriting, but fans swear by their live performances. Never at rest, their next album is set to launch in early 2015.

Shad: While attending University in 2005, Shad won a radio talent competition and parlayed it into a critically acclaimed debut album. Since then, he's earned the attention of the nation's music critics and an extensive fan-following that almost disqualifies him from this list. But I make the rules here, and since everybody's talking about him, I nominate Shad as Canada's new rap ambassador for intelligence, lyrical-dexterity and musical diversity. Just the right blend of Hip-hop bravado and wry humour. He's Stylin'. For those who already knew, that's good, but for those who didn't know, now ya know. Start Googlin'.

Follow Mike Benhaim on Facebook or on Twitter @TheMetroList

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