Five local artists to watch in 2009

The Lytics
Domenica Michael Tinholt
Diana Pops Helen Shaw
Sights & Sounds Jess Baumung
Del Barber Mark Reimer

If you’re anything like the music critics at The Uniter, you love the fact that it’s impossible to walk two feet downtown without seeing a gig poster. If your problem isn’t deciding whether or not to go to a show, but rather, deciding which show to go to, here are five local acts you should make a priority to check out.

The Lytics

What is a lytic anyways? Aside from one of the two cycles of viral production (high school biology, anyone?), Andrew Sannie, Anthony Sannie, Mungala Londe and Gavin Kalansky are The Lytics. The group has been playing its brand of smooth hip-hop from the south end of the city since 2003. The Lytics’s beats are effortless in their flow and rhythmic in their execution, a showcase of how hip-hop should sound. What’s refreshing is that they don’t sing about stereotypical hip-hop themes like money, bitches and hos. That’s not to say they don’t sing about girls or parties, but they craft rhymes about love without being abrasive, sexist and unnecessarily profane, which allows them to appeal to a broad audience. The Lytics are a rare gem in the city and some may be surprised that they’re even from Winnipeg. They produce high-calibre hip-hop that even a 20-year-old white suburbanite from St. James who listens to Fall Out Boy can enjoy. Catch them live Monday, Feb. 16 at HiFi Club and visit


Over the past five years, Domenica have won over fans in Winnipeg and abroad with their inventive, hook-filled modern rock. 2008 was a busy year for the four-piece. After recording in Los Angeles with P.O.D.’s Marcos Curiel, the band headed to Europe, playing the Popkomm festival in Berlin and the Musexpo conference in London. Their hard work seems to be paying off, the group is currently in the process of inking major distribution deals in Australia and Germany. Their debut record, dropping spring 2009, features some of the band’s most polished work to date; the first single, “I Love My Gun,” features some slippery guitar lines and showcases Bekki Friesen’s skills as a vocalist. Alternately raw and melodic, Friesen’s pipes are the perfect counterpart to Domenica’s infectious and heavy rock. See them live Thursday, Mar. 5 at The Zoo and visit

Diana Pops

With a taste for the melancholy, Diana Pops writes piano-based pop songs in the vein of Sarah McLachlan. What really stands out is her voice, a rich alto that’s mature beyond her 22 years. After being discovered by local producer Dave Zeglinski (she babysat his kids), Pops wrote a song that was recorded by singer-songwriter Steve Bell when she was just 16. Her self-titled debut followed in March 2006, which quickly led to writing and recording opportunities in the U.S. with singer-songwriter Mat Kearney, producer John Fields (Jimmy Eat World, Switchfoot) and Grammy-award-winning producer Walter Afanasieff, known for his work with Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. This past December saw her working with Afanasieff on “the ever elusive ‘single’” (according to a MySpace blog entry), for her sophomore effort, The Touch and Go. Currently, Pops is hard at work on the disc in Nashville with producer and Winnipeg expat Adrian Bradford. Visit

Sights & Sounds

It seems Comeback Kid frontman Andrew Neufeld and his brother Joel (drummer for Sick City), are busy men these days. Formed by the brothers in 2005 alongside friends Adrian Mottram (guitar) and Matt Howes (bass), Sights & Sounds released their debut EP in 2007. So it begs the question: why start another band when you’re already semi-famous? The answer appears in the resulting product: their raw, emotional sound has quickly captured the ears of audiences across Canada and the band performs like they’ve been writing songs for ages. Neufeld’s pleading vocals lace over top haunting guitar riffs. The result is a more tame and melodic version of Comeback Kid. The band’s full-length album is expected to drop in the spring on Smallman Records and was produced by renowned metal musician and producer Devin Townshend (Lamb of God, Misery Signals). Even though Neufeld has broken ground with Comeback Kid, audiences may just be warming up to the sounds of this project as the year rolls on. See the sights and hear the sounds when they play The Royal Albert on Thursday, Feb. 26. Visit

Del Barber

Delaney Barber is your new favourite singer-songwriter – you just don’t know it yet. Over the past four years, he has toured across much of the U.S. and plans to trek across Canada as well. Barber writes songs that are at once classic and contemporary, traditional and original. Imagine if James Taylor, Iron & Wine and The Cardinals made a record together and you’re starting to get an idea of what Barber’s music is all about. Delicate folk, roots and bedroom indie songs with subtle country nuances like pedal steel and electric guitar drift atop Barber’s acoustic guitar and golden voice. The 24-year-old is currently putting the finishing touches on his new record, Where The City Ends, due out in April. Do yourself a favour and check out Barber; you won’t be disappointed. Visit


Published in Volume 63, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 12, 2009)

Related Reads