Over the years, I’ve found one of the best ways to know a city’s best-kept secrets is to talk to its artists. I recently connected with one of Montreal’s rising stars—award-winning filmmaker and musician Daniel Isaiah, who's signed, appropriately, with music label Secret City Records.
Released last month, his first solo album, High Twilight, is getting beaucoup praise from serious sources (American Songwriter called his music “stunning”) who find his songs—part French chanson, part Dixieland, with a dash of Leonard Cohen—hard to resist. Daniel sings in English and in French. Take a listen to these two tracks from his new album. If there's such a thing as catchy melancholia, he's nailed it.
High Twilight, Track 9: Mélissa
High Twilight, Track 7: Candlemaker Row
Here are Daniel Isaiah's favorite spots and hidden corners in his hometown of Montreal:
* Murray Hill is a handsome park with a clock tower at the top of the hill. It feels eternal. It's where I played as a kid, and it's also where the Westmount girls picnic and suntan.
* Patati Patata has the best tofu burger in the city and is the only perfectly democratic institution I know of.
* Duluth Street is romantic Montreal. A relative told me that my great grandfather Fischel Schachter, a cobbler, had a shop on Duluth, where he'd sit at his workbench all day, hammering away at shoes, a row of nails clenched between his teeth.
* Mount Royal Cemetery is built into the north slope of Mount Royal. It has fruit trees, Japanese lilacs, and the saddest epitaph I've ever seen chiseled into one of the tombstones.
* Cinéma du Parc is where I fell in love with movies. I also always fall in love with whoever happens to be working at the candy stand. Doesn't matter who. It's a charged area.
And don't be surprised if you hear Daniel while ordering your iced coffees—Starbucks is featuring High Twilight all this week. I predict we'll soon be hearing more about Daniel Isaiah.
Adrien Glover is the online deputy editor at Travel + Leisure.