Sunday November 17, 2019

Overworked

Low-fi Halifax punk outfit The Mark Vodka Group recently shared a nine-song full-length on Bandcamp, quite matter-of-factly titled A New Record. The set follows the No Name convention established on the band's 2017 debut EP, dubbed (you guessed it) Debut EP. The band's dry sense of self-depreciation and outright aversion to any serious self-promotion carried through to the statement released alongside the album, which explains, glumly:

"this is growing digital mold on my solid state hard drive so here's something to listen to. what is there to say really. expressing feelings in words isn't really mark's bag ya know? mark should learn how to do these things as mark is getting older... but these musics are just for fun. 'shit out' as we say in the music biz. yep the big music biz. all these songs except for 'goon' are like 2 years old now but they mean the same now as they meant then - absolutely nothing."

While nothing's credited all that clearly, The Mark Vodka Group looks to be a project from Luke Mumford of Negative Rage and Genetic Angry. At least one earlier incarnation of the group featured members of the Booji Boys, Blood Beach, and Crossed Wires taking part. I'm not sure why the titular, fictionalized Vodka is so down on this work, because it's altogether pretty great and another strong statement from the vital, incestuous Haligonian garage-punk scene.

Listen: The Mark Vodka Group - A New Record @ Bandcamp

This September, the esoteric Toronto singer/songwriter Louie Short released Cherry, cherry, a 12-song full-length of alt-pop gems. Short's material runs the emotional gamut. Sometimes that results in rootsy sing-alongs, peppered with unexpected stops and tinged with an underlying darkness. A few tracks over you'll find Short building tunes that play like some unheralded 70s pop-rock classic, with the piano-driven "Beautality" leading the way.

While Short's home recordings bear some bedroom pop signifiers, twitchy electronic elements top among them, his almost unexpectedly confident vocals catapult them somewhere else. Short's R&B croon puts a cool, urbanite edge on songs like "Main Dogs" and "Baby."

That brings us to "Lil Boy Girl," which arrives this week as a single backed by a click new video from Thank You So Much. Directed by Emma Cosgrove and WLMRT's Ryan Hage, the surreal clip amplifies Short's psych tendencies and features what I can only assume is the only cathartic burning of a bath towel that you'll see this season. Sonically, Short built the track around a sly, alt-country stomp. I keep flashing back to the FemBots 2003 classic Small Town Murder Scene, which skulked around in similar shadows. Short had this to say about the song:

"Lil Boy Girl is about someone incapable of understanding someone incapable of living. They are both inadequate. In the video, Louie has a sexy time until he meets a faceless creature. Maybe they are not so different?"

Maybe. You can check out "Lil Boy Girl" below and find Cherry, cherry in full at Bandcamp.

Watch: Louie Short - "Lil Boy Girl" @ Some Party

Toronto electronic music producer Victoria Cheong has a new EP out as New Chance. Titled Hardly Working, the set follows Cheong's 2018 debut and a busy few years of collaborative work supporting Jennifer Castle, U.S. Girls, Chandra, and reggae legend Willi Williams, among others.

You can stream the set's lead single, "Overworked," at Bandcamp now. It's an appropriate title given how frequently Cheong ends up lending her vocals or production skills to some of the country's most artistically relevant touring acts. Hardly Working is available now as a four-song 45 RPM 12". A kaleidoscopic video for "Overworked," directed by Peter Rahul with choreography by Allison Peacock, can be found below.

I'll be the first to admit that this genre, in particular, is pretty far out from my comfortable wheelhouse. New Chance is so deeply connected with the Toronto indie rock world, though, that she certainly has my attention with whatever she's doing.

Watch: New Chance - "Overworked" @ YouTube

Windsor's raucous punk/psych group Psychic Void is set to release a new LP on November 29, titled Skeleton Paradise. The record, an 8-song set recorded by the band's Joshua Kaiser, will arrive from New York's Vanilla Box Records. The collection follows up 2018's Terminal Vacation, one of my favourite debuts from that year.

Earlier in the summer, Psychic Void appeared live on the University of Windsor's campus radio station CJAM. Along with the title track from Terminal Vacation, the band played the new tracks "Dirty Hands" and "Internet Human" during their visit. You can check it out below.

Look for Psychic Void to take part in a very special Some Party project to be formally announced in the coming weeks. More on that soon. In the meantime, you can check the Skeleton Paradise artwork at Facebook.

Watch: Psychic Void - CJAM Session @ YouTube

Ben Cook's released an impressive slate of videos promoting this year's sibling GUV I and GUV II LPs. Even with both albums now out in the wild, that pace doesn't seem to be slowing. Last week Young Guv, Cook's power-pop alter-ego when not making noise with Fucked Up and No Warning, shared "Luv Always." The clip, directed by Tristan C-M, finds Cook as part of a five-piece performing the jangly 60s-flavoured tune against a desert sunset.

Run For Cover Records recently released GUV I and GUV II as one massive 19-song double album, with two unreleased demos tacked on as a bonus.

Watch: Young Guv - "Luv Always" @ YouTube

Frenetic Vancouver punk act Bedwetters Anonymous released one of my favourite sets of the year back in February. R.U. EXPERIENCING DISCOMFORT (?) remains a thrillingly brisk 12-song cassette and one that Vancouver label Neon Waste rightfully felt deserved another spotlight. The label's since picked a selection of the tape's best tracks to create the similarly-named Have U Experienced Discomfort 7". Here's label-head Josh Nickel on how the project came to be:

"Bedwetters Anonymous dropped a cassette off for review at Neptoon Records awhile ago which knocked my socks off. To me, it was a more-garage Deadbeats or an updated Urinals. It is classic sounding and fresh at the same time. Not so loose to be off-the-rails but riding that simple line that only comes naturally to the best punk bands. We've had the best five tracks from that demo remastered by Jordan at Noise Floor for vinyl and are pressing 200 copies at Clampdown Record Pressing."

A three-piece, Bedwetters Anonymous features members of Industrial Priest Overcoats, Puzzlehead, and Tough Customer.

Listen: Bedwetters Anonymous - Have U Experienced Discomfort @ Bandcamp

Montreal psych-rock trio Elephant Stone has a new video online for their single "Darker Time, Darker Space," a track from their upcoming LP Hollow World. The clip features hand-drawn animation by the prolific Montreal musician and illustrator Paul Jacobs. The video went live alongside a sci-fi statement reading:

"We can't believe what is happening. We don't know what to do. Scientists reveal they have built a spaceship that can take the top candidates for continuing humanity to New Earth. We've never been there, but we have heard transmissions that suggest life exists like ours. Who are the lucky ones that get to board starship Harmonia for planet B?"

Elephant Stone last released Ship of Fools in 2016, with Hollow World due to arrive on February 14 from Elephants On Parade. Elephant Stone features Rishi Dhir on vocals, bass, and sitar alongside drummer Miles Dupire and guitarist Robbie MacArthur. When the group performs live, they fill out their sound with the help of guitarist/keyboardist Jason Kent.

Listen: Elephant Stone - "Darker Time, Darker Space" @ YouTube

A 12-track tribute to Winnipeg indie heroes The Weakerthans was recently unveiled. Titled One Great Tribute! the self-described love letter features covers contributed from a spectrum of independent musicians. A few Some Party regulars taking part include Kitchener's Wayfarer (playing "Exiles Among You"), Ottawa's Jon Creeden (doing an acoustic rendition of "Aside"), and Ivan Rivers (Ivan Raczycki of Stuck Out Here playing "Hospital Vespers"). Long-running Canadian alt-rock group Lowest Of The Low chip in as well with their take on "Pamphleteer," while Constantines frontman Bry Webb closes the set with Reunion Tour's "Bigfoot!" (amusingly, the record opens with Ted Leo's take on the same song).

The organizers of the comp previously announced that they'd be donating proceeds from the sale of the tribute to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Listen: Bry Webb - "Bigfoot!" @ Bandcamp

Ottawa four-piece power-pop group Stoby recently premiered a video for their new single "Gibberish." The clip finds the band in sunnier days, performing along the shore of the Ottawa River with a set of comically large instruments. Thanks to Ottawa Showbox for the tip.

Stoby last released a self-titled EP in March of this year. There's no word yet on what future release "Gibberish" is destined for.

Watch: Stoby - "Gibberish" @ YouTube

In the lead-up to their North American tour alongside The Dirty Nil, London, Ontario's Single Mothers shared a new single titled "Nihilist Headlights." While previously unreleased, the track dates back from the band's 2017 album Our Pleasure. In a statement, frontman Drew Thomson commented:

"I thought all the B-sides from Our Pleasure were really good. Brandon [Jagersky], Justis [Krar], Ross [Miller - current Dirty Nil bassist] and I worked so well together we ended up recording 17 songs in that session. I had it in my head I wanted a 10 song record so we had to cut some, looking back - probably didn't have to. 'Army Green' and 'Skylight' went on a 7" that accompanied the album and I kind of forgot about the rest until I was digging through a hard drive and found a folder with the others. After pulling up 'Nihilist Headlights' it brought me right back to that time and how fun it was to be writing and recording music again with my friends. I've often said I think Our Pleasure is our best record - but I think I mean more than that - it was the time and the excitement and change. I quit drinking during this record - started finding myself (however lame that sounds). I do think Our Pleasure is our best record so far - but I also think that was the best era of the band as a whole - and all the songs, even the ones that are still just on that hard drive - I'm proud to have been apart of and will always be thankful to my friends for being there and helping me through that time. I'm glad we can share this song - and move on once again"

Andrew Friesen directed the accompanying "Nihilist Headlights" video.

Single Mothers last released Through A Wall in 2018 on Dine Alone and Big Scary Monsters. Thomson also recently released a full-length with his solo pop-rock vehicle The Drew Thomson Foundation. You can find the Dirty Nil / Single Mothers tour dates over at Brooklyn Vegan.

Watch: Single Mothers - "Nihilist Headlights" @ YouTube

Halifax neo-soul group Aquakultre has a new video online featuring their single "I Doubt It." In a statement, vocalist Lance Sampson commented on the Deves Matwawana-directed clip, which premiered in concert with the clothing line Family Over Fame:

"I wanted to portray a community essence and bring it back to the roots of what North End Halifax is. Loving and caring for one another in our community, and spreading that warmth. Sometimes our community - to me anyways - feels segregated. Not by race or colour, but by groups of friends. I wanted to show that. Yeah, I'm from the ol' neighbourhood, but music has connected me with so many different groups of people and musicians, and I just wanted to keep us connected and working together."

Sampson earlier revealed that the track was inspired by Lido Pimienta's performance at the 2017 Halifax Pop Explosion. Her artwork serves as the single's cover, as well. Aquakultre, the winners of the 2018 CBC Searchlight competition, features Sampson backed by percussionist Nathan Doucet (Heaven For Real, sax/keyboard player Nick Dourado (Century Egg, Beverly Glenn-Copeland, Budi), and bassist/keyboardist Jeremy Costello (Special Costello, Beverly Glenn-Copeland). "I Doubt It" is expected to end up on the band's forthcoming full-length, Legacy.

Watch: Aquakultre - "I Doubt It" @ Facebook

Punknews recently premiered a new video from Toronto pop-punk quartet Coming Clean featuring the song "Burning Bridges." The track appeared on the upbeat band's May-released EP Dead End // Detour.

This Saturday, November 23, Coming Clean will open two shows in the city over the course of an evening. They'll be on early at the Hard Luck Bar opening for the Australian touring act With Confidence, then cutting over to Tail Of The Junction for a show with Nothing Special and a handful of area pop-punk groups. Coming Clean features vocalist/guitarist Adam Lougheed, guitarist Matthew Waller, bassist Dan Bragagnolo, and drummer Scott Lougheed.

Watch: Coming Clean - "Burning Bridges" @ YouTube

Jesse Locke and Kritty Uranowski have started a new Toronto-based music interview podcast dubbed Come For a Ride. The new show, which is expected to run weekly, kicked off by chatting with By Divine Right principal José Miguel Contreras. Contreras, who also provides the show's theme music, is currently supporting his new Headless Owl LP At The Slaughterhouse.

Jesse Locke plays in Tough Age, Motorists, Chandra, and (at times) Simply Saucer, among others. Kritty Uranowski is behind the solo Toronto alt-pop act Lavender Bruisers.

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