Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

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Canadian seven-piece Crack Cloud make an arresting spectacle. As well as playing conventionally, the four guitarists strum their guitars’ headstock, creating a high-pitched “ching” sound. Their furiously intense post-punk also takes in two keyboardists – one of whom is a tall, Canadian-Pakistani man with a beard, dyed blond hair and gold nail varnish who also plays a penny whistle.

Stage-front, founding member Zach Choy is their hypnotic, shirtless drummer. He has “laughing at the system” tattooed over his bellybutton and plays left-handed on a drum kit set up for a right-handed person. Why doesn’t he swap the kit around? “I have a hard time following the rules,” he says the next day, to much laughter, as the band mill around the house where they stayed after the gig, drinking coffee and dyeing their hair.

Onstage and off, they are unmistakable; their dense videos and screen-printed outfits have the paramilitary chic of anarchist punk collectives Crass or Chumbawamba. “We all live together and some of us are siblings,” Choy explains. “If people think we look like a cult, then we are making our mark.” But living Crack Cloud 24/7 goes deeper than clothing. “The band is our recovery programme,” keyboardist Mohammad Ali Sharar explains. “Pouring ourselves into it is a way of staying alive, or at least sober and together. So we can’t do anything by half-measures.” 

Choy was born in Canada to immigrant parents – a Welsh mother and Chinese father – but when he was 11, his dad died of leukaemia three months after diagnosis. Unable to process the grief, he started drinking, which “accelerated and escalated” into serious narcotics. “I was very unpredictable, volatile. Addiction wasn’t the issue. That was my way of avoiding the trauma.”

Sharar’s own deeply rooted issues had sent him down “deep, dark paths”. The son of Punjabi immigrants, he grew up in Red Deer, Alberta, experiencing racism and what he calls a “stunted youth in a very Islamic household, and a lot of domestic abuse and violence”. A hard line at home meant he had to choose between following the rules or living on the streets. “Fall in love with a white girl? You’re done,” he explains. “So then you have to choose love over family.”

Is that what happened? “Oh yeah,” he chuckles. “Weird traumas at a young age. Sleeping outside high school for days on end, then having to submit and think: ‘I’ll never see this person [his girlfriend] again.’” Artistic and punk communities initially seemed inclusive and welcoming, but Sharar soon felt tokenised. Choy says that if you strip away the “multicultural facades” from many DIY scenes, you are left with a lot of privilege. “We didn’t have that. We’re not art students. We’re coming from a different place.”

Thus, the pair plunged off what Sharar calls “the deep end. Every substance. Meth. Downers. We never really injected, but it was … speed, ketamine.” He ended up feeling suicidal.

Choy’s rock bottom and turning point came in his early 20s when he realised he felt too messed up to call his mother, who had always been supportive despite having her own addiction issues.

Music became “an obsession that replaces the substance abuse”, says Choy. His father’s huge record collection was still at home. After initially connecting with the fury in punk, grindcore and powerviolence, he later enjoyed the calm of Brian Eno albums. The idea that Eno, a non-musician, could facilitate musicians gave Choy the spark of the idea for Crack Cloud, and the band congregated around people who were “fundamentally about recovery and taking care of your mental health”, rather than making money.

Sharar funnelled his intense demeanour into the band’s idea of “creativity with no rules”. Guitarist Jon Varley is also moving on from addiction, while multi-instrumentalist Daniel Robertson met Choy when working in a homeless centre; he was recreating his “whole world view” after growing up a devout Christian. Although seven members have come to the UK, the Crack Cloud community now consists of 20 people. “We spend all our time working on stuff,” Sharar explains, “so anyone who spends time with us kinda gets dragged in.”

Their work in low-barrier care (care services that try to be as accessible to users as possible) and overdose prevention is as much a part of their operation as the band. Vancouver is in the midst of an opiate and fentanyl crisis; people with addiction issues migrate to the Downtown Eastside’s specially provided safe spaces for drug use. “It’s basically a shoot-up zone,” Choy says. “The appearance is terrifying but once you immerse yourself, as we do with our work, you realise it’s a very inclusive community that are dealing with their own traumas.”

“You see horrific things, but also beauty,” says Robertson, who hasn’t experienced addiction. “As an artist, that’s really inspiring.”

Crack Cloud is a recovery and survival mechanism for its members and a means of processing their experiences so that they can help others tackle similar issues. They are a fearsome live band-cum-high-functioning support network, but, says Sharar: “I don’t want to forget why I was angry. It was meaningful and it came from a real place.”

Setlist; 00:00 Post Truth 3:00 Bastard Basket 6:38 Time Unsubsidized 9:12 Graph Of Desire 10:40 More Of What 13:00 Ouster Stew 15:50 Empty Cell 19:48 Image Craft 23:48 Tunnel Vision 27:55 Drab Measure 33:23 Swish Swash Live at Moers Festival 08-06-19

Crack Cloud’s two EPs are available on a single album, Crack Cloud, out on Tin Angel.

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One of Canada’s most accomplished singer-songwriter, Ron Sexsmith has returned with new music. The single ‘You Don’t Wanna Hear It’ is the first single from his forthcoming album ‘Hermitage’, Ron’s first album since his move from his longtime home of Toronto to a more bucolic life in Stratford, Ontario. Ron partnered with producer Don Kerr to create ‘Hermitage’; the two set up in Ron’s living room to record the album, with Ron playing all the instruments except the drums. This album marks Ron’s 25th year as a recording artist.

Describing the new single Ron says, “It’s a song about someone who has their nose all out of joint about something and are not in the mood to hear the truth.”

Ron Sexsmith is one of Canada’s greatest singer songwriters.  He has collaborated with the likes of Daniel Lanois, Mitchell Froom, Ane Brun, Tchad Blake, and Bob Rock.  His songwriting appears on albums from Rod Stewart, Michael Bublé, k.d. lang, Emmylou Harris and Feist.  He has been awarded 3 Juno Awards, having been nominated 15 times including 8 nods for Songwriter of the Year.

“You Don’t Wanna Hear It” from Ron Sexsmith’s upcoming April 17th album “Hermitage”.

Wolf Parade Thin Mind review

Wolf Parade the Montreal band’s 2005 debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, became a ubiquitous indie radio staple. The band Wolf Parade – Dan Boeckner, Spencer Krug and Arlen Thompson – release ‘Thin Mind’, the group’s fifth album for Sub Pop. their heart, panache, and synthesizers on display through their next few albums, 2008’s excellent At Mount Zoomer and 2010’s Expo 86, and after a lengthy hiatus, they showed more growth on 2017′s Cry Cry Cry.

Their new album “Thin Mind” still comes as an unexpected new peak for the band this album scratches a very specific and satisfying itch for indie guitar music in 2020. Now a trio, the group has only deepened its talents and personal musical aesthetic, while their lyrical themes have taken on both a newfound maturity and optimism.

Wolf Parade seem more comfortable commenting on the world around them on Thin Mind, but they sound just as interested in having a good time making music. The songs bounce and zip with the sort of kinetic energy that’s hard to find in blogosphere success stories still making music in 2020. As can be heard on standout tracks such as “Julia Take Your Man Home” and “Forest Green,” everything sounds sharper and more direct, without being aggressive or in-your-face, as any art-pop sprawl has been replaced with glammy arena rock tendencies. The panoply of synthesizers on display across the entire project, especially on “Wandering Son” and “Against the Day,” are also a fine addition. This full turn away from being Wire disciples to New Order and Duran Duran acolytes provides a resplendent edge.  for Wolf Parade to kick off 2020 with a ten-song album bursting with mature perspectives and emotional heft, it makes even jaded assholes like me sit up and take notice.

Thin Mind is packed with straight-up fun music that overflows with a danceable sensibility, infectious melodies, and overall good vibes. The songs here find Wolf Parade openly encouraging their listeners to make a difference in the world, to work to make things better. As they put it, during the chorus of album highlight “The Static Age,” “I don’t want to live in the static age staying in a place where nothing changes. We can begin again.”

Band Members
Arlen Thompson,
Dan Boeckner,
Spencer Krug,

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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.