This newsletter's been around for a little less than a year, and in that time Montreal art-punk duo The Famines have released two editions of their Pentagon Black paper compilation series. The fourth volume, unveiled last week, continues the series' evolution into a "phone comp," with 19 musical acts taking part by recording new, unreleased songs live into a cell phone. The results, free of multi-tracking or conventional studio trickery, are raw and lively, presenting authentic little slices of the Canadian underground without a hint of artifice. There are few recent cultural artefacts I've come across that better parallel whatever motivates me to keep writing this letter.
Volume four, like it's immediate predecessor, is once again in the form of a conveniently 7" record-sized 6x6 postcard (earlier versions of the comp were on poster-sized newsprint, suitable for framing but a little clumsier). The band's making 500 that feature an illustration by Montreal artist Lisa Czech. Each card carries a download code to gain access to the songs on the web. The Pentagon Black series continues to challenge the line between physical and digital mediums, calling into question the fetishisation of records and the costs DIY musicians incur to feed the commercial market. At least that's where I spin off thinking about it. It's also a fucking cool batch of new songs.
This edition features Some Party regulars like BBQT, Bonnie Doon, Outtacontroller, and Fashionism. Among the 19 artists, you'll find Guelph's Steph Yates, Sackville's Klarka Weinwurm, and Special Costello from Halifax. Don't Bother, the new punk band from Paul Lawton of Century Palm, also appears with a firey takedown of the Canadian far-right publication The Rebel Media.
I've got something Pentagon Black related in the works for the next few weeks. Watch this space.
I've had a chance to listen to In Bad Faith, the new full length from guitar-pop group Feel Alright, and I'm all in. The band premiered a second new song from the record last week at BeatRoute. "Truth About Us" finds the Calgary act in a decidedly more upbeat mode than the pensive "Cool Water" from a few weeks ago.
Feel Alright's the brainchild of audio/visual artist Craig Fahner, with this new record following up 2011's Hahahahahaha LP and a smattering of short-form releases in the years since. Fahner spoke about the new track in the article, stating:
"I’ve always admired how great power pop songs can squeeze so much meaning and melody out of simple rock and roll truisms. ‘Truth About Us’ is our attempt to pack as much energy and melody and love and mystery as possible into a three-chord stomper, in the spirit of Nick Lowe and Wreckless Eric."
In Bad Faith arrives soon from Toronto's Pleasence Records. The band will perform in support of it at June's Ottawa Explosion Weekend, with a handful of Ontario dates surrounding that. Their LP release show in Toronto goes down on June 14 at the Owls Club and will feature sets from their local labelmates Goosebump, Edmonton's Wares, and Toronto's Nutrients.
Drew Thomson, the frontman of London punk band Single Mothers, has announced the release of Stay, a new solo EP in his Drew Thomson Foundation guise. Dine Alone Records, who released Single Mothers latest record, will handle this one as well. Look for it on May 11. The set engineered and co-produced by John Dinsmore (NQ Arbuckle, Great Lake Swimmers) and mixed by Alex Newport (Pissed Jeans, City And Colour).
The new material finds Thomson exploring alt-country and power-pop, quite a change from the often snide and acerbic Single Mothers. This new release follows up a set of home recordings the Foundation released last fall, titled Vol 1: Huh, it's generally pretty empty in here. Look for a proper full-length to follow.
In a video premiere for the title track at Brooklyn Vegan, Thomson commented:
"'Stay' is a plea – it’s a simple word that can unlock an incredible amount of vulnerability in the person asking it. Unfortunately by the time we have to ask someone to stay, we usually already know the answer. This song is about trying to change the inevitable, too little too late – and having to deal with it."
2017's outspoken Polaris Music Prize winner Lido Pimienta recently took part in an Audiotree North live session, recorded at Revolution Recordings in Toronto. In it, the artist performs the song "Fornicarte es un Arte" from her 2016 record La Papessa. Pimienta is currently at work on her follow up, which looks like it'll be titled Miss Columbia.
If you've got a chance to see Lido on her current slate of touring, it's a great show even if you wouldn't normally consider Spanish art-pop your thing. As a state performer, Pimienta is surprisingly funny, which I wasn't anticipating.
Guelph's enigmatic and politically uncompromising Bullshit Hardcore Band recently released a three-song set titled bullshit dub soundsystem - first rehearsal. The title really says it all, as it finds the duo creeping into Sandinista! territory with a series of wandering instrumental jams. The songs were recorded directly to a cell phone on April 11.
Toronto punk group Bad Waitress, a quartet formerly known as Nude Dogs, posted a new video for the song "Acid Brain" last week. The track comes from their latest EP *Party Bangers: Volume 1," which was just released by Royal Mountain Records.
The band described the video as "an adventure into multiple dimensions of madness, written and filmed in the aftermath of two-day acid bender."
Ottawa's raucous New Swears recently appeared in a live session for Exclaim!'s YouTube channel No Future. The publication hosted the band at Toronto's Boots & Bourbon Saloon, where they performed "Two Darts" from 2013's Funny Isn't Real, "Midnight Lovers" from 2015's Junkfood Forever, Bedtime Whatever and "Dance with the Devil" their latest record And the Magic of Horses.
That last album came out on Dine Alone in 2017. The party punk group last released the single "Illuminati Knights" in January to raise money for a pair of Ottawa-area youth charities.
Toronto noise-punk trio METZ continue to support their recent full-length Strange Peace, recently releasing an animated video for the song "Mr Plague." The clip was put together by Shayne Ehman of Thunder Bay's Cricket Cave.
Strange Peace, the band's third record, was recorded by Steve Albini and released last fall on Royal Mountain and Sub Pop Records. METZ was recently confirmed as one of the Canadian acts to appear at the Fest in Gainesville, Florida this October.
Montreal skate-punk four-piece Bussieres have released the title track to their upcoming EP Sunny Side Up. The six-song CD is set to arrive on May 15 from Thousand Island Records. The new material, which follows up the band's 2016 EP Orange Glow, was produced by the band and Vincent Côté.
Grungy Toronto post-punk group FRIGS have released a video for "Talking Pictures," a song from their recent Arts & Crafts LP Basic Behaviour. Christopher Mills directed the clip and commented on the production:
"The camera seems to be broken in a glitchy, 360 degree virtual space filled with multiple exposures of FRIGS, occasionally, and inadvertently disrupted by glitchy abstract shapes, in this dark, and moody portraiture. For me this song is like what Mazzy Star would play before a street fight. The toughness of this music evokes images of Ponyboy Curtis, with all his friends running around the perimeter of town, looking for trouble. FRIGS were a big part of the editing process on this collaboration and I was honoured by the invitation to work with this music."