Hamilton's Poor Angus makes CBC Searchlight top 16

The votes are in: Hamilton's Poor Angus have made it to the top 16 of the CBC Music Searchlight competition.
Poor Angus, from left: Joel Guenther, DJ Moons, Ross Griffiths, Brian LeBlanc and Andrew Bryan. (Photo courtesy: Chris Zizzo)

The votes are in: Hamilton's Poor Angus have made it to the top 16 of the CBC Music Searchlight competition.

But here's where things get interesting — now your hometown boys are facing off with Montreal-based indie pop/folk band Motel Raphael. While the first few rounds of the Searchlight competition focused on an overall voting pool, this round breaks it down in playoff brackets.

"We're well aware of the magnitude of the task, but we can't focus on that," said Poor Angus' Brian LeBlanc. "They're a great band — but we're proud of our music as well."

The two bands couldn't be more different. Poor Angus' Something I Can't See is a lilting, Celtic-style ballad, bolstered by lush instrumentation like LeBlanc's mandolin alongside tin whistle, violin and a somber, sparse bass line. The song was written by lead vocalist Joel Guenther, who joined the band about a year ago.

"Joel is a very private person, but his music is incredibly revealing," LeBlanc said. "He writes great songs, and then we interpret them. We wanted the tune to be a really mellow trip."

Motel Raphael's Ghosts, by contrast, is a much more upbeat affair, lead by female fronted harmonies and punctuated by deft horn lines. Both songs have strong production values, so personal preference will likely be the deciding factor for votes, LeBlanc says.

"Now, people are more interested in the music over voting for popularity."

That said, LeBlanc is acutely aware of the population hurdle Poor Angus is facing — according to the 2011 census, Montreal has a population of almost 1.6 million people, while Hamilton has just under 520,000. That's a lot more potential voters.

"There's some pretty big demographic differences," LeBlanc said.

While the competition is still going, the guys from Poor Angus are cluing up their third album. Tracking just finished, and now the mixes are being sent off for mastering. The band has two albums under its belt — both 2007's self-titled album and 2009's Prime Cuts won Hamilton music awards for folk/traditional album of the year.

Their forthcoming record is the first to feature Guenther, and the band has stepped closer into a "mainstream" sound, LeBlanc says.

"The instrumentation is the same, but the approach has changed."

To vote for Poor Angus in the CBC Searchlight competition, head over to the voting page. The polls for the first tournament round close Sunday, Mar. 24, 2013 at midnight ET.