Equal parts pop songwriting and technical musicianship, Arietta are impossible to pigeon-hole, finding inspiration in everything from radio pop and film scores to free jazz and math rock.


“All at once, to everyone, to everything.”

What do you do when you've outgrown your teen angst? Where do you go when you’re forced to stop being mad at the world and start living in it? What comes after “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in your existential playlist? For all the bands screaming at kids out there, who speaks to the twenty-somethings who are just as desperate for a relatable voice?

Arietta might not have the answers, but they’re asking all the same questions. On their debut album, Migration, the band doesn’t attempt to solve the problems of post-adolescence, they simply address the situation. They are not the light at the end of the tunnel but rather the hand guiding you through it, with songs conveying the confidence and the confusion, the elation and the aggression, the candour and the warmth of today’s young adults.

“Is this what I’ve become when I’m driven to begin?” muses vocalist Tyler Johnston on the record’s lead track, “Old Habits Die Young,” questioning the work-all-day/party-all-night routine followed by so many young men and women. From here on, the songs on Migration systematically assess and deconstruct life in your twenties – from the apathetic frustration of “Home Friday Midnight,” to the inspirational closer, “We Were All Invincible At One Point.”

“The city’s gonna swallow up the best of me.”

The five-piece find themselves disenfranchised even in their hometown of Toronto due to their unique sound. Equal parts pop songwriting and technical musicianship, Arietta – consisting of Johnston, guitarists Sean Ramesbottom and Brian Craig, bassist Kyle Smith, and drummer Shehzaad Jiwani – are impossible to pigeon-hole, finding inspiration in everything from radio pop and film scores to free jazz and math rock.

In a city where older cliques monopolize every viable outlet, the quintet represents a younger generation of musicians bound not by genres or scenes but by mutual appreciation of innovative music. Though the band has helped forge a community with such disparate acts as Oh No Forest Fires, I Am Committing A Sin, Lost Cities and Ulysses And The Siren, the urge to branch outside the crowded city and blaze new trails permeates much of Migration’s lyrical content.

“Let’s all get away from holding ourselves down,” proclaims Johnston on “Northearned,” a driving, piano-led rocker that is as angst-ridden as it is melodic. As the record’s title implies, the sense of exploration and escape is palpable on Migration, and the music reflects this wanderlust. The band incorporates vastly different styles – jazzy brushes on “A Prolonged Sense Of Longing,” countrified lap-steel on “It’s An Uphill Battle And It’s All Downhill From Here,” sweeping violins on “...So I’m Going Overboard On Taking My Final Bow” – yet weaves them seamlessly into a cohesive sound that is distinctly Arietta.

“Discover what we left behind.”

The diverse array of bands Arietta has played with in support of Migration speaks to their versatility as well as their universal appeal. They won over fans after opening for Saddle Creek legends Cursive, got crowds singing along while sharing the stage with Simple Plan, The Junction, Plain White T’s and The Stereos, showed off their chops with Maps And Atlases, So Many Dynamos and Tera Melos, and held their own against the hardcore intensity of Polar Bear Club, Kingdoms and Titan. Each new listener finds something different to take away from their sound, with critics writing comparisons that run the gamut from Slint and Sunny Day Real Estate to Coldplay and Malajube.

As progressive as the band may be, Arietta harkens back to a time when music was more about songwriting and musicianship than ringtones and record sales. Their wilfully experimental tendencies bring to mind the great songwriters of old, but their brazen naivety represents youth in its purest form. It isn’t the solution to our problems, but with Migration, Arietta have provided the soundtrack for us to begin answering our own questions.


Migration (LP, 2009)

Set List

Home Friday Midnight
Into The Deep
According To The Map
It's An Uphill Battle And It's All Downhill From Here
Old Habits Die Young

(Set time: 30-35 minutes)