Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

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Canadian indie-folk musician Andy Shauf has already released a few charming singles from his forthcoming concept album “The Neon Skyline”, including “Things I Do.” Shauf’s captivating storytelling lays out a crumbling relationship on the single, one piece of the bigger tale told across the record. “Things I Do” opens with a laid-back groove highlighted by a soft chorus of saxophones that give way to Shauf’s anecdote. “Seems like I should have known better / Than to turn my head like it didn’t matter,” he sings at the beginning. In a similar fashion to Shauf’s 2016 record, The Party .

The Neon Skyline’s structure follows a storyline that takes place over the course of a night, according to a press release: “The interconnected songs on The Neon Skyline, all written, performed, arranged and produced by Shauf, follow a simple plot: The narrator goes to his neighborhood dive, finds out his ex is back in town, and she eventually shows up.

“Things I Do” by Andy Shauf from the album ‘The Neon Skyline,’ available January 24th, 2020

The Toronto punk quartet takes a giant leap forward on their second album, crafting noise rock that’s not just aggressive, but keenly self-aware. With an album in constant conflict with itself, Outer Heaven pairs the manic energy of punk with a probing intellect that reaches beyond the genre. Vocalist-guitarist Shehzaad Jiwani described the band’s sophomore effort as an attempt “to make the noise more melodic and the melodies more dissonant.” Over the course of just 10 songs, Greys oscillate between hard and soft, anxious and acerbic, but they never sound anything less than fully engaged.

Four years ago, I probably wouldn’t have included Toronto punk band Greys as a band I like. There were experimental inklings in their two 2016 releases, Warm Shadow and Outer Heaven, but they finally threw out the rulebook on their 2019 album Age Hasn’t Spoiled You. You’ll find noise-punk, post-rock, electronic and psychedelic drone wrapped up in a beautiful and shadowy package, but it’s not without moments of accessible anthemics either (“These Things Happen,” “Arc Light”).

It’s a dense listen that draws on everything from punk, noise and psych-pop to jazz, trip-hop and industrial. They sneak in unconventional influences in a way that doesn’t seem disjointed or immediately jarring. There’s a magnetic sprawl to this album, and each musical tangent is a new, charming landscape along a picturesque, spontaneous drive to nowhere in particular. Though that’s not to say this album is directionless. The driving seven-minute centerpiece, “Aphantasia,” holds the album together and seamlessly swings like a pendulum from one idea to the next.

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Maybe it’s obtuse to include a genre-defying album like this in a genre-specific list, but if the point of punk is to push boundaries and question conventional wisdom, then Age Hasn’t Spoiled You seems like a noble inclusion. Greys traverse new frontiers, musical guile that make this album an immensely stimulating one.

Andy shauf photo credit colin medley 2

Few artists are storytellers as deft and disarmingly observational as Andy Shauf. The Toronto-based, Saskatchewan-raised musician’s songs unfold like short fiction: they’re densely layered with colorful characters and a rich emotional depth. On his new album The Neon Skyline(out January 24th via ANTI-Records), he sets a familiar scene of inviting a friend for beers on the opening title track: “I said, ‘Come to the Skyline, I’ll be washing my sins away.’ He just laughed, said ‘I’ll be late, you know how I can be.'” The LP’s 11 interconnected tracks follow a simple plot: the narrator goes to his neighborhood dive, finds out his ex is back in town, and she eventually shows up. While its overarching narrative is riveting, the real thrill of the album comes from how Shauf finds the humanity and humor in a typical night out and the ashes of a past relationship.

His last full-length 2016’s The Party was an impressive collection of ornate and affecting songs that followed different attendees of a house party. Shauf’s attention-to-detail in his writing evoked Randy Newman and his unorthodox, flowing lyrical phrasing recalled Joni Mitchell. Though that album was his breakthrough, his undeniable songwriting talent has been long evident. Raised in Bienfait, Saskatchewan, he cut his teeth in the nearby Regina music community. His 2012 LP The Bearer of Bad News documented his already-formed musical ambition and showcased Shauf’s burgeoning voice as a narrative songwriter with songs like “Hometown Hero,” “Wendell Walker,” and “My Dear Helen” feeling like standalone, self-contained worlds. In 2018, his band Foxwarren, formed over 10 years ago with childhood friends, released a self-titled album where Pitchfork recognized how “Shauf has diligently refined his storytelling during the last decade.”

The Party earned a spot on the Polaris Music Prize 2016 shortlist and launched Shauf to an appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden as well as glowing accolades from NPR, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and more. “That LP was a concept record and it really made me want to do a better album. I wanted to have a more cohesive story,” says Shauf. Where the concept of The Party revealed itself midway through the writing process, he knew the story he wanted to tell on The Neon Skyline from the start. “I kept coming back to the same situation of one guy going to a bar, which was basically exactly what I was doing at the time. These songs are fictional but it’s not too far off from where my life was,” Shauf explains.

For The Neon Skyline, Shauf chose to start each composition on guitar instead of his usual piano. He says, “I wanted to be able to sit down and play each song with just a guitar without having to rely on some sort of a clever arrangement to make it whole.” The resulting album finds its immediacy in simplicity. While the arrangements on folksy “The Moon” are unfussy and song-centered like the best Gordon Lightfoot offerings, his drive to experiment is still obvious. This is especially so on the unmoored relationship autopsy “Thirteen Hours,” which boasts an arrangement that’s both jazzy and adventurous.

Like he’s done throughout his career, Shauf wrote, performed, arranged, and produced every song on The Neon Skyline, this time at his new studio space in the west end of Toronto. Happy accidents like Shauf testing out a new spring reverb pedal led to album cuts like the woozy closer “Changer” and experimenting with tape machines forced him to simplify how he’d arrange the tracks. Over the course of a year-and-a-half, Shauf ended up with almost 50 songs all about the same night at the bar. Though paring down his massive body of work to a single album’s worth of material was a challenge for Shauf, the final tracklist is seamless and fully-formed.

As much as The Neon Skyline is about a normal night at a bar with friends and a bartender who knows exactly what you’ll order before you sit down, the album is also about the painful processing of a lost love. Lead single “Things I Do” examines the dissolution of the narrator’s past relationship. Over tense and jazz-minded instrumentation, Shauf sings, “Seems like I should have known better than to turn my head like it didn’t matter. Why do I do the things I do when I know I am losing you?” He explains, “a lot of this record is a breakup record. I haven’t had a breakup in a long time, but a lot of relationships have had one of those nights where one person shows up somewhere when they weren’t supposed to and then picks a fight with their partner.” Elsewhere, songs like “Clove Cigarette” explore the better times, honing in on a memory that “takes me back to your summer dress.”

With any album about a lost love, the key ingredient is a generosity and kindness that can only come from a writer as empathic as Shauf. On the standout personality-filled single “Try Again,” the narrator, his friends, and his ex find themselves at a new bar. The former lovers’ reunion is awkwardly funny and even sweet, as he sings, “Somewhere between drunkenness and charity, she puts her hand on the sleeve of my coat. She says ‘I’ve missed this.’ I say “I know, I’ve missed you too.” She says, ‘I was actually talking about your coat.'” It’s a charming moment on a record filled with them. Shauf’s characters are all sympathetic here, people who share countless inside jokes, shots, and life-or-death musings on things like reincarnation when the night gets hazy.

On top of heartbreak, friendship, and the mundane moments of humanity that define his songwriting, Shauf makes music that explores how easy it is to find yourself in familiar patterns and repeat the same mistakes of your past. His characters wonder, “Did this relationship end too soon? Would going to another bar cheer my friend up?” Or in the case of the foreboding “Living Room,” where a character asks herself, “How hard is it to give a shit?” the songs on The Neon Skyline ultimately take solace in accepting that life goes on and things will be okay. Shauf says, “there’s moments on the album where the characters are thinking ‘this is the end of the world.’ But there are also moments with some clarity and perspective: Nothing is the end of the world.”

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Montrealites Half Moon Run have released their third studio album, ‘A Blemish In The Great Light’, last Friday and it’s chock full of swirling indie rock riffs, at times a throwback to seventies nouveau synth, sometimes the harmonies feeling like an echo of sixties rock and roll. It’s a fresh new take and we like it. Last night they had a sold out headline show at Electric Brixton, and what a beauty it was.

Half Moon Run have returned with their third album, A Blemish In The Great Light, via Glassnote Records. Produced by Joe Chiccarelli (The Strokes, Beck, Killers) and featuring the singles Then Again and Flesh and Blood.

The word everyone comes back to when describing Montreal indie rockers Half Moon Run is “complex” (The Guardian, Exclaim, et al.) Whether they’re billed as dreamy alt-pop, bucolic alt-folk, or psychedelic indie rock, the four multi-instrumentalists – Devon Portielje (vocals, guitar, piano, percussion), Conner Molander (vocals, guitar, keyboard, piano, pedal steel, bass, harmonica), Dylan Phillips (vocals, drums, piano, keyboard), and Isaac Symonds (vocals, drums, mandolin, synth, bass) – have built their name on cerebral, acrobatic arrangements and harmonies that lilt prettily till they turn feral.

This project is funded in part by FACTOR, the Government of Canada and Canada’s private radio broadcasters.

Corridor Loser Edition LP

Corridor are a group from Montreal and their latest Sub Pop Records debut, “Junior”, was made just yesterday. The rock’n’roll band had barely inked their record deal when they surfed into studio, racing against time to make the most dazzling, immediate and inventive album of their young career: 39 minutes of darting and dodging guitars, spiraling vocal harmonies, and the complicated, goldenrod nostalgia of a Sunday mid-afternoon.

This ain’t Corridor’s first rodeo. Junior is the band’s third full-length and their third recorded with their friend, producer (and occasionally roommate) Emmanuel Ethier. However 2015’s Le Voyage Éternel and 2017’s Supermercado were made languorously, their songs taking shape across whole seasons.

This time Dominic Berthiaume (vocals/bass), Julian Perreault (guitar), Jonathan Robert (vocals/guitar/synths), and Julien Bakvis (drums) permitted themselves no such indulgence. The band were committed to releasing an album every two years, and for Junior it required a blitz. “If you want to release something this fall, we need the masters by the 10th of May,” the label had warned them. Winter was already in its last throes: on March 1, Corridor went into studio; in mid-April, Corridor came out. They had somehow created the album  Junior and it was, if we may be so bold, spectacular.

“Topographe” from the Corridor album Junior (Release Date: October 18, 2019)

Upcoming 4 song 7″ vinyl by one of the most promising indie pop bands. From Toronto (Canada) to the world through Bobo Integral Records. Enjoy!! .
The fabulously named, Ducks Unlimited, are a Toronto-based jangle-pop quartet, who’ve already shared stages with the likes of The Goon Sax, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and Weyes Blood.You’re going to immediately fall in love with this band, especially if you’re a fan of acts like the aforementioned, The Go-Betweens, The Chills and all the 80’s jangle-pop of Flying Nun and Sarah Records: they operate with that similar approach, melding hook-laden melodic guitars and these casually indifferent vocal lines.

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“A cracking slice of strummy goodness” – Brooklyn Vegan
“A jaunty slice of C86 indie-pop” – Paste Magazine

releases November 29th, 2019

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Toronto’s Aunty Social (AKA Daniela Gitto) is one of those voices. The first track off her forthcoming debut EP, “Trying”– is a gritty alt-pop tale of leaving religion behind and looking forward to a brand new day.

Deeply ingrained within this track is Gitto’s arduous story of finding her own path, after forsaking the only one she’s known all her life. “Before all of this, religion was my identity,” she shares. “It’s what I relied on, it’s what I followed. Once that was gone, I really didn’t know who I was. I felt like all this progress that I had made from six to sixteen was completely void, and then I had to muster up all the things that make me who I am.”

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Dressed up in a magnetizing production of palpitating drum kicks and lo-fi synths, “Trying” is more than just a coming-of-age story. It’s a mesmerizing vocal performance, with Gitto’s soft voice slowly building up to a swelling chorus, uninhibited and free to speak its mind. Because that is what this song truly is all about – shedding the past, with all the insecurities and fears that it harbours, and moving forward to a lighter and brighter future.

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Quickly becoming one of the year’s break-out new voices, Toronto-based songwriter Dana Gavanski has been operating in the fringes of the folk scene since her 2017 EP, Spring Demos, which came out on Fox Food Records. Now signed to Full Time Hobby, Dana looks destined for great things, yet it could all have been so different if Dana had stuck with her original plan to follow her father into the film industry. Thankfully film’s loss was music’s gain, after an ex-partner left Dana with a guitar and she began crafting the songs that would maker her name.

Late last year I had the opportunity to work with Mike Lindsay (Tunng and LUMP) in seaside Margate, England and it was a beautiful and unforgettable experience. ‘One by One’ was written as a tender embrace of the feeling of being alone in the world and moving on with it. Of the dark interiors of the mind and remembering to open the windows.

This week Dana will share her first release for Full Time Hobby in the shape of a 7″ single, “One By One”, a track described by Dana as, “a tender embrace of the feeling of being alone in the world, and moving on with it”. The track has a gorgeously wistful quality, the unwavering, stoic vocal accompanied initially by a gentle flutter of acoustic guitar, the whole track gets gradually weirder and more intriguing, as a simplistic, and unusually prominent, bass-line propels the track, while synths and backing vocals drift in and out of earshot.

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The accompanying B-side, Do You?, is an exploration of moving cities; of struggling to connect with new people and a new place in the world, set to a delightful piece of finger picked guitar and that rich, Joan Baez meets Sharon Van Etten vocal. Not content with all that, Dana also has some upcoming high-profile shows in the UK supporting Chris Cohen and Tomberlin, as well as contributing three songs to the final instalment of the, Song By Toad Split 12″ series. A songwriter as busy as she is brilliant, Dana Gavasnki won’t need any introduction for long.

Somewhere in Toronto, Canada resides a psych-tinged pop/rock duo called Maybelleen which aim to meticulously craft music that, according to them, stems from a possible encounter with “a mythical spirit they’ve bumped into, somewhere between our world and another dimension.” Madness? Yes! But it’s a rad and necessary madness. Consisting of brothers Peter Camiré and Charles Camiré, Maybelleen is following up their May 2018 EP, Neon Lights & Magic Moments, with the brand new single “Emily”, for which we happen to be debuting the music video today. Huzzah!

“Emily”, much like the majority of their output, was inspired by all things ‘80s new wave but also includes a modern rock edge. Originally from Montreal, the relocated lads are always out gigging and plan on dropping The Paris Tapes, their third EP, this spring. Speaking of the new track, the boys boasted:

“The way we work in the band is, one of us will arrive with a song idea and we’ll build something around it. In the case of ‘Emily’, it was more of a melancholic melody, and lyrically, we wanted to respect this specific atmosphere. We like to think that there’s something bigger than us out there contributing to the song haha, especially when we talk about music. We also feel like it’s a tribute to our teenage years spent in Montreal, when time wasn’t even a thing.”

Music video by Maybelleen performing Emily

La Force will be performing at SXSW 2019

Ariel Engle is a recent addition to the Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene, filling a role once held by Leslie Feist. Listen to her work as La Force, and you’ll hear one clear reason the band thought of her to fill the bill: She’s got that same smoky, haunting vibe, landing somewhere between detachment and almost discomfiting intimacy. To delve into “Lucky One” is to hang on her every lushly appointed, impeccably controlled word.

The music of La Force is nocturnal electronic pop, featuring Engle’s enchanting vocals over dynamic production.

Born out of the culmination of AroarA – her musical project with husband and Broken Social Scene bandmate Andrew Whiteman La Force is a deep reflection on the magic and dismantlement of motherhood; the never-ending tightrope walk of life, and death; and the re-discovery of self.

Her first single “You Amaze Me” layers seductive melodies over restrained electronics. A love song to Whiteman, “You Amaze Me” defines the tender but powerful essence of La Force. Shaped with Warren Spicer of Plants & Animals, and featuring members of Suuns, Patrick Watson, and Broken Social Scene, “You Amaze Me” crystallizes the reverent, spiritual tone of Engle’s musical being. Borrowing its identity from the tarot card representing Strength, La Force captures the bold creative spirit of an undeniable voice.

Her presence resounds on Broken Social Scene’s 2017 album, Hug Of Thunder, lending fluid, commanding vocals to the oblique anthem “Stay Happy” and leaving an indelible mark on the collective’s rousing performances. Stepping up to the role first helmed by the immeasurable talent of Leslie Feist, Engle brings La Force’s singularity to the familial energy of Broken Social Scene.