Monday evening saw the 2017 Polaris Music Prize awarded in Toronto, with Lido Pimienta taking the award for her independent art-pop album La Papessa. I'm pretty proud to have voted for it, although I honestly didn't think she'd win (my money was on A Tribe Called Red, on whose record Pimienta guests). I can certainly see why she did win though. The record manages to balance any number of descriptors. It's danceable and confident yet at times vulnerable and haunting. It makes a number of both personal and political statements that reflect Pimienta's status as a woman, an Indigenous person of colour, and a single mother. What makes La Papessa so interesting is that it does all of this completely in Spanish. When listening I never felt that my inability to understand the language took away from the record's power and purpose. (there's also a fascinating discussion to be had about how this win knocks the expected French / English Canadian cultural debate on its ear).
There are some wonderful pieces about the record for you to dig into. A 2016 write-up on Bandcamp by Jesse Locke touches on Pimienta's childhood playing hardcore and metal in Columbia. Melissa Vincent wrote a pretty comprehensive introductory piece for Pitchfork as well.
I suppose I should acknowledge that there's a minor row that's arisen about criticisms Pimienta made in her acceptance speech (you can see the offending statements in this ET interview --- it's been cut from the official CBC Music footage). Consider it acknowledged, but the controversy seems overblown and ultimately an unfair distraction. If this is truly an award based on the artistic merit of the record, it seems disingenuous to derail the conversation over something that ultimately has nothing to do with it. There's a danger in getting too hung up on the Polaris event itself, as it's ultimately superfluous.
Don't forget that Godspeed You! Black Emperor didn't even bother to show up to accept their award in 2013, and once they did comment on it they were openly hostile to the gala pageantry and its corporate sponsorship. That was fine. We all lauded Godspeed's unyielding anti-everything stance because it was safely and expectedly on-brand, a known commodity. I don't feel that we need to treat Pimienta, who's well known to be outspoken herself, to a different standard. If we only acknowledged the albums of nice artists who stay well behaved and kissed the ring we wouldn't be doing a very good job.
La Papessa is an incredibly compelling Canadian album and a worthy winner of the 2017 Polaris Music Prize.
The Polaris gala also saw the debut of a new song from Toronto's Weaves. "Scream," which features guest vocals from Tanya Tagaq, was performed live at the event for the first time. A separate video for the track was also released by the band, which you can find below. "Scream" certainly finds Weaves playing in the weirder art-rock end of the spectrum, which should make you happy if you were worried their growing profile would lead them into safer territory. The last third of the song gets pretty damn intense if you ask me.
"Scream" will appear on Wide Open, the band' sophomore LP which is out October 6 on Buzz Records in Canada, Kanine in the States, and Memphis Industries overseas. You can find the Polaris performance of the song and a nice write-up of the event by Richard Trapunski at NOW Toronto
I saw Partner play last Friday in Hamilton and it was wonderful. A few days earlier the Windsor-based band joined George Stroumboulopoulos at his Toronto home to record a session for The Strombo Show (which was apparently their first radio session ever). The band performs their song-of-the-summer "Everybody Knows" and "Big Gay Hands" along with a cover of AC/DC's "Long Way To The Top." The five-piece is supporting their first full-length In Search of Lost Time, which came out earlier this month on You’ve Changed Records.
METZ' Strange Peace is now out on Royal Mountain and Sub Pop. The release came alongside a new video for the song "Cellophane," directed by Shayne Ehman, as well as an interview with Vish Khanna at Exclaim. There's something about that interview, which focuses a non-trivial portion of the word count to Steve Albini's eating habits (or lack thereof), that I find incredibly entertaining.
Royal Mountain, by the way, was among a number of labels, artists, and industry folk who spoke out this week in an open letter to Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly with regards to the future of arts funding in Canada. In particular, the signatories are looking for a dedicated visual content fund for music to replace the soon-to-end MuchFACT program. MuchFACT had previously paid out about $2 million a year for the production of Canadian music videos, but its future has been bleak since the CRTC decided that Bell Media would no longer be required to contribute to the fund.
Self-described bummer-pop band No Frills have released their first song, titled "Vegetable Tray." The band is a new project from Daniel Busheikin of Toronto's Grounders, who's joined on the upcoming record by fellow Grounder Mike Searle, Jon Pappo (Hooded Fang, WHIMM) and Matt 'Bucky' Buckberrough (Twist, Beds). In the premiere at Exclaim Busheikin reflected:
"A vegetable tray is a really funny image to me. A tray of neatly cut vegetables is this oddly agreeable staple of amiable social functions. And, as the song alludes to, vegetables are commonly used for creating horrible violent sounds for various media (squishing, ripping, snapping). So the song began by thinking about this weird consumable object, and this grotesque connection, and became a cynical and defeated reflection on social interaction. Bon appetit!"
Discordant Toronto's trio WHIMM premiered a new video at Post-Punk.com for the song "Second Sound." The clip features appearances from a number of Toronto bands (HSY, Dilly Dally, Hooded Fang, and Cindy Lee) and is said to demonstrate the Kuleshov effect, described in the premiere as "a psychological phenomenon by which viewers derive more meaning from the interaction of two sequential shots rather than a single shot in isolation." Got that? You can check it out below.
There's an entirely distracting amount of Nardwuar content floating around this week as the prolific interviewer and Canadian music historian celebrates 30 years of his radio show on Vancouver's CiTR. At some point a, supercut of all his "Doot doo" sign-offs came across my desk and I had to pause the new Godspeed record to indulge in that. Of all that content, the feature posted at The Outline is pretty cool in particular.
Wares, the Edmonton three-piece fronted by songwriter Cassia Hardy, have released a song from their upcoming self-titled full-length. I find "What You Want" to be incredibly compelling, with a big guitar hook that gets lost in some spacey noise before finding itself again. The nine-song record is due out on October 6.
London, Ontario's Single Mothers have released a new video for the song "Leash" from their recent Dine Alone-released full-length Our Pleasure. The video, which appropriately features unleashed dogs doing their thing, was produced by Hamilton's BlackLake. Single Mothers is in the midst of a North American tour with Touche Amore and Gouge Away and are set to visit the UK in November.
I'm bewildered on what to say about the trials and tribulations of Ottawa punk band Zex, but their chaotic week bears mentioning. The band suddenly found themselves with international media recognition when it came to light that a manufacturing error resulted in the A-Side of their album Uphill Battle pressed into copies of Beyoncé’s massive 2016 release Lemonade. The juxtaposition was magical and everyone had a good laugh. A few days later Zex found themselves dropped from Magic Bullet Records. The attention from the Beyoncé mix-up brought to light multiple sexual assault allegations against Zex guitarist Jo Capitalcide and the label pulled the plug. There's a war of words underway on Facebook and elsewhere from people involved in the band's circle, but to my knowledge no charges have been laid against anyone regarding these allegations. Yikes.
On a more pleasant note, it's the end of summer and what better way to wrap it up than with Spencer Burton's song of the same name. The video by Colin Medley features the former Attack In Black member frolicking with a pig and brandishing a katana, which is how everyone in Niagara traditionally marks the beginning of fall. "End of the Summer" appears on Songs Of, another Dine Alone release from earlier this year.
Thanks to Toronto's Bovine Sex Club for sponsoring Some Party this September. The iconic Queen Street West bar and live music venue has a number of shows coming up this fall, including two nights of record release shows for The Creepshow on October 6 and October 7 and an appearance by Montreal legends The Nils on October 18.