Sunday July 26, 2020

Fantasy Baseball At The End Of The World

I take some solace in the revelation that, like the rest of us, John K. Samson's resorted to doomscrolling his way through the terrible news that arrives seemingly on the hour in the Trump era. It's somewhat comforting to know that things have gone so awry that even our most heralded artists, unofficial poet laureates included, have fallen into the same helpless morass as the rest of us. We're all in it together, hitting F5 until the dawn comes. To keep our heads, we try to distract ourselves with anything but the ongoing heartbeat of a multi-pronged catastrophe over which we have little control. For me, that means binging 90s Star Trek episodes from a cell phone. It seems that frontman of The Weakerthans has found some shelter in fantasy sports.

"Fantasy Baseball at the End of the World" may sound sombre, but it simmers with anger and frustration in a way that rarely shows in Samson's post-Propagandhi career. You can find the single, seemingly a one-off, at Bandcamp or through a video now running at YouTube. The tune follows "Millennium for All," a protest song released earlier in the year promoting wider access to Winnipeg's Millennium Library.

Samson last released the full-length Winter Wheat in 2016 on the Epitaph imprint ANTI-. His partner Christine Fellows issued Roses on the Vine in 2018 on the couple's Vivat Virtute label. The last proper Weakerthans album, in case you've forgotten, was 2007's Reunion Tour.

Watch: John K. Samson - "Fantasy Baseball At The End Of The World" @ YouTube

Toronto's cutsleeve finally has some music online, with the alt-rock band sharing their 90s-flavoured single "Durian Eyes" through a new isolation-recorded video. The track's part of the quintet's upcoming debut EP The Parts We Could Not Abandon, due August 21.

cutsleeve came together following a call-out during 2017's Invisible Footprints Art Installation for queer POC femmes interested in forming a rock band. That art exhibit celebrated the history of Toronto's East and South-East Asian LGBTQ+ community. A year later, the group's current line-up solidified with a performance at the Queer Asian Youth Pride Stage. Last year Alberta artist Vivek Shraya awarded cutsleeve the inaugural VS. Arts Grant, with Shraya stating as part of the announcement:

"What drew me to cutsleeve was the combination of their earnest, 90s nostalgia sound with their overt politics.. As a mid-career artist, I can often feel cynical about the industry and music itself, and cutsleeve reminds me of the potential for music to not only express a range of undesirable emotions, but also to build community."

In a post to Facebook the band commented upon the release of the single:

"Our debut single, 'Durian Eyes,' is available to stream everywhere now! it is about navigating our racialized identity as queer East Asians in what is currently known as "Canada." Often people have certain expectations and associations when it comes to being East Asian, and we are stuck in this liminal space of not being enough or trying to hold onto what we have in our cultural identities without being stereotyped and fetishized."

In addition to the new video, check out an interview with the group conducted by JONCRO's Daniel G. Wilson, part of the online programming from this year's Festival Lingua Franca festival. cutsleeve features guitarist Hannah Winters, bassist Hillary Fong, vocalist/keyboardist Chanel Fu, guitarist/vocalist Amanda Wong, and drummer Lian McMillan.

Watch: cutsleeve - "Durian Eyes" @ YouTube

Which Way Am I?, the fourth full-length from Toronto's Tough Age, arrives August 7. Last week the trio released a third preview of the record, a scrappy Penny Clark-voiced track dubbed "Penny Current Suppression Ring." The song plays with the band's ongoing public love affair with New Zealand indie-pop, making an overt request to the beloved Flying Nun label in the song's chorus. In an interview with Post-Trash, Clark reveals that you shouldn't read their plea for a record deal at face value:

"This song is about the futility of making music with a material goal in mind. Flying Nun is just a stand in for any external benchmark of 'success.'"

Guitarist Jarrett Samson elaborates in the piece:

"For me, the "Penny Current Suppression Ring" is this spurious idea that there are forces holding us back from success, keeping the character of Penny that exists in this 'in her place', while also acting as transferable commentary on my own obsessions and limitations I place on my own ideas of what constitutes succeeding!"

The group ties a bow around the whole notion by providing Post-Trash with a playlist of their favourite Dunedin sound cuts. A video for the track, animated by Ginette Lapalme of Toronto's Wowee Zonk collective, is available on YouTube as well.

"Penny Current Suppression Ring" follows "Repose" and "My Life's a Joke & I'm Throwing it Away" in previewing the 11-song record. Which Way Am I? comes to us through the band's longtime home of Mint Records, following 2017's Shame. Tough Age features bassist/vocalist Penny Clark, drummer Jesse Locke, and guitarist/vocalist Jarrett Evan Samson. The group recorded these new songs at Montreal's Bottle Garden Studio, once again working with producer Peter Woodford (Moss Lime, Deliluh, Bleu Nuit).

Watch: Tough Age - "Penny Current Suppression Ring" @ YouTube

Industrial Priest Overcoats, the askew-punk solo project from Secwépemc artist TJ Felix, recently released "Trauma, Trauma, Traumatized." It's the second single from the Vancouver-based project's upcoming LP Transformer Story. The song follows "The Covenant House Kidz Reunion" from June.

When it arrives, Transformer Story will follow 2019's full-length The Years Barely Left a Trace. Earlier this year TJ's wonderfully weird and nervously frantic punk group Bedwetters Anonymous released the EP Framed.

Listen: Industrial Priest Overcoats - "Trauma, Trauma, Traumatized" @ Bandcamp

Toronto alt-country group Westelaken has a new LP due on August 21, titled The Golden Days are Hard. The record's first single, "The Pool of Blood," recently surfaced online with an accompanying video. The band describes the clip, shot, directed, and edited by Devin Shears, as "kind of psychedelic merging of Myst and The Blair Witch Project."

Guitarist/vocalist Jordan Seccareccia commented on the piece:

"The Pool of Blood is a painting from William Degouve de Nuncques that has always kind of haunted me. There's the sort of matter-of-fact presentation of the titular pool with its naturalistic posture and muted colouring. Despite the eeriness of the setting, I think there's still something inviting about it. For whatever reason it brings me back to driving through Perth county with Hendrina or biking to London to see Rachel or drinking Coca Cola out of the back of a truck in Exeter where I can smell cowshit on a gentle breeze and carbonated syrup fizzes on my tongue.

This song is a general sort of ekphrasis that conjures up that sensation. Inviting but eerie. Surreal and real. Comfort, discomfort. The two paths indicate that the pool sits in a real space. Somewhere accessible where you can wander to and from. The pool sits at their intersection with a confessional booth on the other side, like you can walk the path but no matter how you leave it has to be different from how you came.

The lyrics take specific moments and images and wrap them in an impressionistic landscape, kind an inverse of the way the painting does. There are some songs on this album that are dialled all the way toward literalism and others that are dialled all the way toward abstraction; this narrator can't hold a firm grasp on either. The music oscillates between a gentle country guitar line with piano interplay and moments of discordant noise. Those mixups of terror with understanding and musical delicacy with atonal noise are qualities that we really strove to imbue the song's parent album with. Sometimes that's a contrast between songs; here and elsewhere, it's a contrast within the song."

"The Pool of Blood" features Seccareccia on guitar and vocals, Alex Baigent on electric and upright bass, Rob McLay on drums, and Lucas Temor on piano. Paul Vroom recorded, mixed, and mastered the song at The Pharmacy in Toronto. Westelaken last released a self-titled LP in 2018, followed by a split with the low-fi group Hobby earlier this year.

Watch: Westelaken - "The Pool of Blood" @ YouTube

The enigmatic Montreal singer/songwriter Yves Jarvis recently revealed his next album, an LP titled Sundry Rock Song Stock. The set arrives digitally on September 25, with a vinyl edition following on November 13 from Flemish Eye in Canada and ANTI- elsewhere.

In the press release, the home-recording savant looked back at his catalogue through the lens of colour theory, ascribing 2017's Good Will Come To You a "morning yellow optimism" while considering 2019's The Same But By Different Means a "midnight blue contemplation." Sundry Rock Song Stock finds the artist going green. He elaborates:

"I experienced a musical breakthrough with that bright, easy sound of my last two albums. It felt good to make at the time, but it counters my essence. People think I'm calm, but I'm very not calm, and I'm happy to elaborate on it now. This album came together exceptionally easy in reaction to that nighttime shit. This green is epitomized. This album is reduced."

The announcement came alongside the release of the single "For Props," along with a lyric video. It follows the earlier shared "Victim" from June. You can find it below.

Yves Jarvis is the latest stage name for Jean-Sebastian Audet. He previously recorded as Un Blonde.

Watch: Yves Jarvis - "For Props" @ YouTube

This week the Toronto no-wave act New Fries shared "Lily," their latest preview of the forthcoming LP Is The Idea Of Us. The glitchy, hypnotic track arrived alongside a pulsing, and appropriately surreal, video by Oliver Husain. In a statement carried by Indie88, the group commented:

"Lilydale, New York is a caged community inhabited almost exclusively by mediums – those who communicate with the spirit world. It is a community of liars and people with special spiritual gifts. People across North America travel here to connect with the deceased. Anni spent many summers in Lilydale as a kid - her grandfather was a medium."

The 13-song Is The Idea Of Us finds New Fries reconfigured as an economic three-piece, with vocalist Anni Spadafora now playing bass, Tim Fagan moving to guitar, and drummer Jenny Gitman playing from a pared-down three-piece kit. The group recorded with Carl Didur of the Toronto psych duo Zacht Automaat producing. The LP arrives on August 7 from Telephone Explosion, following 2017's More 10".

Watch: New Fries - "Lily" @ YouTube

Toronto two-piece melodic punk group Found Objects recently returned with a seven-song set titled Below The Dirt. The group recorded at Boxcar Sound in Hamilton, following up on their 2018 EP Now That You're Gone. You can check the set out now at Bandcamp, with all proceeds raised from the record due for Native Women In The Arts.

Found Objects features singer/guitarist Jono Hunter (!ATTENTION!/Downers) and drummer Izzy Ehrlich (Pretty Boy).

Listen: Found Objects - Below The Dirt @ Bandcamp

Toronto rock group Dead Broke re-emerged last week with a two-song single, featuring "Druids" backed by "Sludgehammer." The band recorded the EP with Crispin Day (Shad, Jeremie Albino) at Taurus Recording and the Cabin in Toronto. Andy Magoffin (Constantines, Two Minute Miracles) mastered the set at House of Miracles.

Speaking to Exclaim, frontman Mike Bright commented:

"For years, Toronto has been experiencing a widening socioeconomic divide. With pockets of unfathomable wealth and pockets of deep poverty existing on opposite corners of the same intersection, it has become impossible to ignore. We wanted to shine a light on these extremes in the music video for 'Druids' — a song that's about having symbols of hope torn away from you. The song chases feelings of desperation, shaky faith, addiction, growing mistrust of the systems that we exist within, and the sense of having to wait for help. These are feelings that I think everyone can relate to right now."

Originally coming together in Oakville, Dead Broke last released the Nice Words EP in 2017. The quartet features siblings Mike and Rachel Bright on vocals/guitar and bass respectively, with drummer Evan Saunders (also of Burner), and lead guitarist Zack Carlan.

Watch: Dead Broke - "Druids" @ YouTube

East Coast institution Joel Plaskett has a new video online for "Collusion," a track from his recent quadruple album 44. The clip compiles Super 8 footage shot on Cape Breton Island by Plaskett and photographers Matt Williams and Ingram Barss. The footage, shot in September of 2019, reveals the process that resulted in the album's cover art.

The material compiled into 44 comes from several studio sessions conducted across North America. "Collusion," in particular, resulted from a stint in Memphis, TN last April. Plaskett commented, "It was first take live off the floor into one microphone and the song seemed like a fitting way to start the album set."

44 arrived earlier this year from Pheromone Recordings. It follows 2015's The Park Avenue Sobriety Test, Joel and Bill Plaskett's 2017 father-song record Solidarity, and the recent reunion of Plaskett's 90s alt-rock group Thrush Hermit.

Watch: Joel Plaskett - "Collusion" @ YouTube

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