Toronto's Pacer was among the bands showcased recently in Exclaim!'s Class of 2019 concert series. To mark the occasion the three-piece rock band unleashed "Bangers," the band's second digital single following the "Piledriver" / "Lose" pair they debuted with. Like "Piledriver" before it, this is a midtempo melodic punk tune full of big, crowd-pleasing hooks, with a bit of Replacements grit and a hint of that wistful sentiment that the Menzingers do so well. You don't want to make too many predictions only a couple of songs into a band's career, but this flavour of feel-good punk anthem can take a band pretty far these days. Skip to the last story in today's edition for proof.
Pacer's fronted by vocalist/guitarist Shawn Kosmo, with bassist Dan Pearce and drummer Evan Matthews rounding out the group. If you've been paying attention (or, say, were writing a weekly newsletter on this scene), you should recognize Kosmo from the credits of recent music videos for Ontario punk groups like PONY, Tommy and the Commies, and Billy Moon.
A few days ago I complained to no-one-in-particular on Twitter about the Ottawa Explosion sized hole in my schedule. I've treated that event as something of a guiding light for this newsletter, and given its retirement I've been feeling a little rudderless. I must have been slacking over the holidays though, as I overlooked the first round of bands confirmed for Sitting On The Outside. Not only does this other Ottawa punk festival feature many OXW alumni, but it's taking place at around the same time (maybe a week earlier than you'd have expected the Explosion). It all lines up rather nicely.
Now in its third year, Sitting On The Outside will run from June 6 to 9 at venues to be announced. The first slate of confirmed players includes both The New Calling (the latest group from Ian Manhire of The White Wires) and New Vogue (from the Sonic Avenues/PRIORS family of garage weirdos). The event will also feature Montreal's hardcore acts CELL and GAZM, Toronto punks Scorpio Rising, local peace punk group Dogma, OXW vets DOXX, and the newly-formed locals Bug Bites. A few of the electronic acts appearing include Toronto's Mykhaylo and Monreal's Rivalled Envy. S.O.T.O. will also see some American bands make the journey north, including New York anarcho-punks Flower, Philly's Mint, and Massachusettes speed-metal group Tortured Skull.
These are early days, and there's no word yet on tickets or further details, but the initial S.O.T.O. lineup is certainly giving me hope that I'll not have to abandon one of my favourite summer road trips.
Speaking of PRIORS, the smoke's barely cleared from band's recent full-length and they've already announced the follow-up. The Montreal garage-punk act is now set to release the Call For You EP on February 8 via Slovenly. The three-song set will feature the title track (which you can preview below) along with the new tunes "Destroyer" and "Swelter." Look for this as a 7", with some a red pressing limited to 150 available in the pre-order. Both PRIORS and their bastard alien siblings in New Vogue released some of my favourite punk records of 2018, so I fully endorse this prolific streak.
PRIORS features Chance Hutchison, Drew Demers, Seb Godin, Alan Hildebrandt, and Stuart Buckley, members who've (currently or formally) played in Sonic Avenues, New Vogue, the Steve Adamyk Band, and The Famines.
On the topic of The Famines, the Montreal art-punk duo is set to hit a milestone. The group has scheduled what will be their 250th show on January 25 in Waterloo, Ontario. They'll be performing a house show at Euclid alongside London's up-and-coming power-pop act Isölation Party and KW goofball punk act Katy Perry Double Feature. The next day the band will hit Hamilton for an in-store show at Into The Abyss featuring the TV Freaks-adjacent Uncontrollable Urge and Back Teeth (the new no wave band from Allie L Torrance of Young Wife).
The Famines are touring in support of their recent singles collection, appropriately named The Complete Collected Singles 2014-2017. It features the five non-album tracks the band released in those years, recorded for assorted Psychic Handshake releases and through the band's Pentagon Black compilations. As with recent Famines projects, this one's available as a 15x23" double-sided newsprint poster with download codes.
Last week Mint Records live-streamed the signing of Vancouver's well-regarded punk group Necking. The band, which features vocalist Hannah Kay, bassist Sonya Rez, guitarist Nada Hayek, and drummer Melissa Kuipers, has a single release to their name so far, the 2017 EP Meditation Tape. Mint hasn't announced what Necking will put out next, but that should give you plenty of time to catch up on that EP if you missed it the first time around. Necking recently played the label's annual holiday show, the only non-Mint band (at the time) on the bill.
While we're on the west coast, check in with Swim Team. The art-punk trio released their second LP last week, titled V. The 10-song set of angular experiments is the latest from vocalist/bassist Dorothy Neufeld, percussionist Murat Ayfer, and guitarist Nick Short. V's a record that might be hard to gauge from a single song, as it can shift from serene to dissonant without much warning (pay attention to the last 20 seconds or so of the song "Garden"). In a statement carried by Exclaim, the band commented:
"V was written and self-recorded over a period of a year and a half, during which the album existed in a state of flux, as the music morphed and changed throughout the recording process. Each song represents merely a snapshot in time. Lyrical and musical themes involved operating within a changing framework of being finished and unfinished, and the vulnerability that results."
The trip recorded and mixed V independently, with mastering by Jordan Koop (The Courtneys, Dumb). The new release follows 2016's Out of the Flood full-length and the group's debut 2015 EP Freedom/Constraint.
Last week saw the self-titled debut release from upbeat Toronto dream-pop quartet Tallies, a 10-song set. The band features Sarah Cogan on vocals, guitar and synths, guitarist Dylan Frankland, bassist Stephen Pitman, and drummer Cian O’Neill. The record arrived from Hand Drawn Dracula on this side of the border, with Kanine handling the release in the States, and Fear of Missing Out / Memphis Industries carrying it in Europe. The album was recorded at Candle Recording with Beliefs' Josh Korody and the band's Dylan Frankland producing. This is a great sounding record, with surf and shoegaze elements jangling beneath Cogan's smokey vocal performance.
The group has a record release show scheduled for February 1 at the Drake Hotel in Toronto, with support from Sahara and Carmen Elle.
Toronto three-piece garage-rock group Wine Lips are also slated to play one of those Exclaim! Class of 2019 gigs, a January 26 show at the Horseshoe fronted by Royal Mountain act Little Junior. In the lead-up to the event, the publication premiered the band's new video for "Shark Eyes." The track's the first new single from the group in the wake of their 2017 self-titled debut.
Vocalist/guitarist Cam Hilborn explained the title:
"Shark Eyes is a term we use for when people get black out drunk... When they have had so much to drink that they are staring right through you, we call that getting Shark Eyed."
Wine Lips features Hilborn with drummer Aurora Evans and bassist Bryan Coffey. There's no word yet on which future release "Shark Eyes" may land.
Toronto underground rock label Art of the Uncarved Block premiered a new video from PAX last week at Post-Trash. The song "Dry Ur Eyes" appears on the Ouch full-length, which is set to arrive on cassette on January 25 from the label. PAX is a solo project from Triples' Madeline Link, featuring the performer accompanied by a 12-string guitar and Casio SK-1. The label compares her esoteric sound to "the otherworldly crooning and vocal samplings in the stylings of early Beck."
PAX, as a full band, will celebrate the release with a January 25 show at the Owls Club in Toronto. The show will feature support from the Baby Band and Seamus Patterson.
Speaking of Art of the Uncarved Block, the label recently published a video recap of their past year in the form of a Shareholders Report. The clip features label-heads Peter and Rob Johnson sardonically reenvisioning their little enterprise as a heartless multinational monster. It looks like the runner-up slot they hit in that recent NOW Magazine poll really fucked them up.
The brothers Johnson, when not revelling in corporate greed, play in the low-fi indie-rock band Low Sun.
Toronto's alt-rock quartet Parks At Night ushered in the new year with a three-song EP, titled Horticulture. On this release, the band features vocals from Amelia Goodlet, with guitarist Mikko Canini, bassist Ryan Phillips, and drummer Sean Dignan. The group recorded the new tracks with James Paul at the Rogue Music Lab. Horticulture follows up the group's 2016 EP Bright Red.
Last Spring I shared some music from GINNY, the new alt-country project from Lesley Marshall of Ottawa sludge-surf-punk group Bonnie Doon. Over the holidays the group released a full-length cassette, put out under the title GINNY Band. Here's what she Marshall to say about it and the folks involved:
"Recorded in the basement of our rehearsal space at 320 Blake in preparation for our third sold-out show in Ottawa for 2018, we decided to get our lo-fi expert Patric Egan (Pippa, Age of Aquarius, F*cked Corpse) to record our last session before 2019. This is the first time new band members were recorded to tape including epic vinyl DJ Jas Nasty on the theremini, the double drumming styles of pro-percussionist Ben Deinstadt (Shoeblog, Catriona Sturton Band, John Cockburn Band) and Matt Munro (Ethnotechnique) and a little vintage Orca air organ for extra effect. Only a couple tracks have vocal over-dubs and you can really hear that theremin raging like an old steel guitar adding undeniable eerieness to this already haunting project. This short album also features tracks never released by GINNY including a heart-breaking live tune 'TGTBT / Too Good Too Be True', 'Do & Say', and 'Once Knew a Man'."
Toronto hardcore institution Cancer Bats unveiled a new single for the new year, titled "Inside Out." The track was recorded during the same sessions that produced their recent full-length The Spark That Moves. The single will be available as a 7" on the band's upcoming UK tour with Scotland's Bleed From Within.
The band released a video for the song, filmed and edited by Sid Tang. It features live footage shot worldwide from recent tours. You can check it out below. The Spark That Moves was Cancer Bats' 6th full-length record. It arrived last April on New Damage.
Toronto punk heroes PUP stealthily announced their third full-length this past week, sharing news of the record via an advertisement in the recently distributed second volume of their fanzine. The group's next album will be titled Morbid Stuff and is due on April 5. The ad features the caption "There. Now you vultures can stop hassling us for the release date."
The zine also included a flexi-disc featuring a new song titled "Kids." Best I can tell you can't hear it online at this time, at least not officially.
PUP recorded for their third LP at Toronto's Union Sound Company last spring with producers Dave Schiffman (Thrice, The Bronx) and Darren McGill. They last released The Dream Is Over on Royal Mountain Records in 2016, garnering them a SOCAN Songwriting Prize, a Polaris shortlist spot, and a fanbase that I'd not hesitate to label as rabid.