Sunday October 6, 2019

Hockey Dad

If there are tiers to the Toronto punk world, the new single from Bike Thiefs makes a strong case that the trio deserves a slot in a higher bracket. "Hockey Dad" is packed with tricks. It's built around a driving post-punk instrumental paired with a few distinct vocal movements. The band's clearly put some thought into how to best utilize Marko Woloshyn's deadpan, half-spoken delivery, and he's given a lot to do here with some clever turns of phrase and more than a few engaging shifts in tempo. The song's greatest asset is that it's funny, or at least absurdist, while still tackling some heavy topics (addition, namely). That's a hard balance to strike, but the band never seems like they're taking the subject too lightly. It's clear that Bike Thiefs are mocking their narrator's bluster, not his underlying ailment, and it works.

Woloshyn, the band's vocalist and lead guitarist, commented on the song:

"'Hockey Dad' is about a friend dealing with drug addiction. It's heartbreaking to see how polarizing, and frankly exhausting the experience for them (and the people that surround them) can be. They vacillate between feeling like they're king shit of asshole mountain or a has-been hockey dad trying to hold on to any semblance of past success. You watch as the drugs at times gives them the confidence to spin plates and hold court in crowds of strangers. At other times you watch the crippling anxiety start to dig paranoid foxholes into the middle of their box-spring. It feels like a tired topic, but there's an opioid crisis in North America, an inordinate amount of high functioning alcoholics and people being hand-fed pharmaceuticals as a band-aid solution to an incomprehensible depression. Maybe not a new idea, but maybe that's why it's still important."

Bike Thiefs features Woloshyn alongside bassist Kris Pandierada and drummer Andrew Fasken. Beliefs' Josh Korody (The Dirty Nil, Dilly Dally) produced the track. The grammatically-challenged trio are following up their 2017 EP Lean Into It.

The band's on the road now. Look for them on tour throughout the U.S. for the next few weeks.

Listen: Bike Thiefs - "Hockey Dad" @ Bandcamp

Early last week, Vancouver's reunited Apollo Ghosts released Living Memory, and while it's technically their first full-length in seven years (and the first since their reunion), it's a far cry from the jangly, lyrically playful indie-rock the band's been known for. The instrumental Living Memory is an ambient, piano-driven work from frontman Adrian Teacher. In a statement (that you can read in full at Facebook), Teacher outlines the forces influencing the piece, drawing lines between his father's collapse into Alzheimer's, the death of BC's cedar forests (a result of climate change), and broader struggles tied up in the legacy of colonialism. In short:

"Even though cedar trees are not my kin, I still feel despair because they're dying. I see them everywhere now, when I'm out hiking or just walking around my neighborhood. This album is my attempt to manipulate the grief and despair I feel about climate change. If I can give it a form, maybe I can understand it. Maybe I can feel that grief, listen to it, set it aside briefly, and then try to take action.

Many of the songs are expressions of some of my most vivid memories of my father. If I can give those memories form, maybe I can relive them, engage with them, set them aside, and then appreciate the time with my father still left to me. Maybe, when my memory also fades, I can at least listen to the songs for a reminder of my memories of him."

Teacher recorded Living Memory over the past year, with Dave Carsell mixing the results. All proceeds raised from the sale of the album are due for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the UNIST'OT'TEN Legal Fund. A video for the track "Western Red Cedar," showcasing the trees' decline, is also now online and linked up below.

While Apollo Ghosts have technically been inactive since the release of Landmark in 2012, Teacher's continued to put out music under a variety of names in the years since. His post-Ghosts acts included COOL TV, Adrian Teacher and the Subs, and Arbutus (which is the closest in style to what you find on this record). In interviews addressing the band's recent reunion, Teacher commented that, while initially hesitant, he's since come around to embrace the Ghosts' name and legacy. That explains why an intensely personal work like this has arrived as part of the Apollo Ghosts discography (and from that perspective, our most recent touchpoint shouldn't be Landmark at all, but instead the 2018 Subs record Anxious Love).

Watch: Apollo Ghosts - "Western Red Cedar" @ YouTube

Listen: Apollo Ghosts - Living Memory @ Bandcamp

Last week the Toronto electronica group Holy Fuck detailed their next full-length, a 9-song set titled Deleter. It's due on January 16 from Last Gang.

The set includes the recently unveiled single "Luxe," which we first got our hands on in September. You'll recall it featured guest vocals from Alexis Taylor of the English synthpop group Hot Chip. Holy Fuck made the announcement alongside the release of a new animated video for "Luxe," created by Cynthia Alfonso and Óscar Raña. The band commented on the visuals in a statement:

"synesthesia is a big part of the creative process for us; deciding where to pan instruments, how to treat them in the mix, as well as the overall song writing process – you naturally connect it to the visual. It's then out of our hands the moment we ask someone else to handle artwork and videos. But that's the most interesting part... 'seeing' how someone else sees it.

For the video, Cynthia and Oscar were able to take this visual world of Deleter to the next dimension, creating a world that feels a lot like the one we lived in when we were in the studio making the record. We love how they distort mundane, industrial, inanimate objects to create something emotional and organic... something so fundamentally human. In the process of bringing things to life, they make them either playful or dangerous. Everything' off-gases.'"

Holy Fuck features Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh at the controls, backed by bassist Matt "Punchy" McQuaid and drummer Matt Schulz. They're following up 2016's full-length Congrats and the 2017 Bird Brains EP with this release. Along with Taylor, the new record features guest appearances from Angus Andrew of Brooklyn's Liars and Nicholas Allbrook of the Australian psyche duo Allbrook/Avery.

In a statement, Holy Fuck further commented on the album's themes, which address the convergence of humanity and the machines we've built:

"The robots are smarter than ever, and the algorithm knows more and more what we like as individuals, but we have to remind ourselves that there is music in the margins that can go missing and that that music is more important than ever."

Watch: Holy Fuck - Luxe (ft. Alexis Taylor) @ YouTube

Last month I missed the new single from Toronto five-piece Nutrients, but the unassuming yet groovy pop of "Such Slime" remains well-worth your attention. In the premiere at Northern Transmissions, vocalist Taylor Teeple commented on the track:

"I wanted to write a song that could be someone's favourite, go-to song to do at karaoke in an alternate universe. Or maybe an alien karaoke party on another planet. I think the ballad-like intro and the climactic bridge both lend themselves well to a drunk person singing this song at a half-empty, dimly lit karaoke night. The title also works great with this pathetic karaoke crooner, bemoaning their identity as someone who is slimy and unattractive, as they slowly descend into sadness."

The song arrived alongside a cool retro video from Isaac Roberts. Louise Short recorded "Such Slime" at Dining Room Sound last winter. The sax on the recording comes courtesy of Naomi McCarroll-Butler (not that it's her in the video, mind you, rather that's actress Bea Santos).

Nutrients are the outgrowth of a bedroom-pop project stated by Teeple while living in Montreal. Now operating out of Toronto, his band features guitarist Will Hunter, drummer Turner Wigginton, bassist Sean McKee, and keyboardist Iulia Ciobanu.

Watch: Nutrients - "Such Slime" @ YouTube

I'm admittingly pretty ignorant of Louis-Philippe Gingras' career to date, and the machine translations of Simone Records' French-language press material are providing me with little more than florid gibberish. So context or subtleties aside, I'm entirely on-board with "Barrés d'Toronto." The joyous folk-rock tune's the second single from singer-songwriter's upcoming record Tropicale Apocalypse, the third full-length from the Abitibi-bred, now Montreal-based musician. It follows the Caribbean-flavoured "Apocalypso," which premiered in August.

That the song details a road trip from FME's Rouyn-Noranda to my hometown of Niagara Falls is just icing on the cake. I'm a sucker for geography in my Cancon, local in particular. To top it off, the song features a delightfully silly steel drum bridge and a delightful children's choir. Tropicale Apocalypse is due in November.

Listen: Louis-Philippe Gingras - "Barrés d'Toronto" @ Bandcamp

Four-piece Vancouver post-punk group Champion Lawnmower has returned with a new self-titled full-length. The eight-song set arrived on Bandcamp last week without a lot of fanfare, following up the group's 2017 effort Babies. Other than that, I'm not sure what to tell you! Champion Lawnmower's quite impressively offline, at least at the moment, so my information is otherwise thin. I'm not even sure how I know about this one, to tell you the truth.

Champion Lawnmower features members of the now-defunct Vancouver punk acts Crumb and Other Jesus.

Listen: Champion Lawnmower - Champion Lawnmower @ Bandcamp

Etobicoke-based dub producer King Pong recently unveiled his seventh release as the King Pong Dub System, a two-track set titled 1/2 Hour Dub Bomb. With two long-form 15-minute epics, the Arachnidiscs release delivers pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. The new set arrives this Friday as a limited edition C30 cassette. The label boasts that the instrumental cuts thump along like "Adrian Sherwood and The Scientist and Mad Professor meet Public Image Ltd."

King Pong is the stage name of Jakob Rehlinger. He's taken part in works from Moonwood, Stargoon, Void Fill, and Tranzmit, among others.

Listen: King Pong Dub System - 1/2 Hour Dub Bomb @ Bandcamp

Calgarian rock duo Miesha & The Spanks have an anthemic new single out titled "The Girls Are O.K.." It features the band's core unit of Miesha Louie (lead vocals, guitar and bass) and Sean Hamilton (drums and percussion) backed by a chorus from the city's Girls Rock Camp. In the premiere at Aesthetic Magazine, Louie commented:

"I wrote our new single... while in my third trimester this summer, expecting twins — no idea what their gender would be. At the same time I was scheduling this year's Girls Rock Camp in Calgary.

The whole thing got me thinking about these strong, weird, cool girls that I get to work with every year and watch grow, and how if I ended up with two baby girls, I wouldn't be worried about or for them at all, because the girls from camp were already light years ahead of where I was at their age.

They're so brave and they already know they don't have to take any bullshit — something I learned much later in life. They're going to be more than okay – they're going to be great."

The new single follows the Miesha & The Spanks's 2018 full-length Girls Girls Girls.

Listen: Miesha & The Spanks - "The Girls Are O.K." @ SoundCloud

The Vancouver post-punk group ACTORS recently saw one of their singles remixed by the long-running BC synthwave artist FM Attack. "Slaves" originally appeared on 2018's Artoffact Records full length It Will Come To You. You can find the new take on your digital platform of choice.

ACTORS features guitarist/vocalist Jason Corbett backed by Shannon Hemmett on synth, bassist Jahmeel Russell (formerly of Winnipeg noise-rock act KEN mode), and drummer Adam Fink. Corbett recorded and produced the band's material front-to-back at his Jacknife Sound studio. FM Attack is the stage name of producer Shawn Ward. His most recent record was New World, a 10 song full-length released this past June.

Listen: ACTORS - "Slaves" FM Attack Remix @ YouTube

Earlier today, I premiered new music from the Montreal power-trio Bambies. The group brings together musicians from Costa Rica, France, and Quebec to find common ground in snotty, 77' style punk. Imagine The Briefs playing classic Chuck Berry riffs. Something like that. The band's high energy new single features the anthem "Red Guitar" backed by "Black Hands," available for preorder now from the upstart Reta Records on black or limited red wax. Reta's a relatively new label run by Jamie Rae of Montreal's Pale Lips. You can stream both tracks at Punknews.

"Red Guitar" / "Black Hands" was recorded in Montreal by Matt Damron, with Harris Newman mastering. Sami, Franki and Feli of Bambies recently travelled to Mexico, where the band recorded 13 new songs with Diego Mier of Mexico City psych group Build a Vista. That material is bound to show up on some future release that's yet to be announced.

Listen: Bambies - "Red Guitar" / "Black Hands" @ Punknews.org

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