Sunday October 27, 2019

Crimson Tide

Some Party maintains an intentional blind spot for a handful of top-tier Canadian indie rock bands. It's an omission rooted in the notion that such well-established acts probably won't benefit from my attention. It's also a convenient cop-out. I lost the plot on the Arcade Fires and Broken Social Scenes of the world some time ago, and I've yet to find the motivation to catch up on what I've missed. I'm not proud of it, but there's some pinheaded part of my punk rock brain that seems to disengage with artists once they've passed a certain saturation point. It's an early-2000s mindset, pre poptimism, and certainly out of step with my online friends, all who seem to thrive on group commentary. Perhaps it goes deeper, some off-target mutation of the major label hangups that everyone else left in the 90s. I find I push myself to seek out weird local acts in place of, not in addition to, the cultural touchstones. What's worse is I apply this bias somewhat arbitrarily, and that inconsistency's more glaring here, where I'm the publication's sole author.

My relation with Dan Bejar's celebrated solo vehicle Destroyer is different. I'm an unabashed New Pornographers fan, and despite that band's stature, they've been welcome Some Party material from the get-go. The scant mentions of Destroyer in this newsletter may seem like another bullheaded omission of an established act, but it comes from somewhere else entirely: a deep sense of shame. I bow to the conventional wisdom that Dan Bejar's solo material is brilliant more often than not. I just happen to be tragically behind on it. While (I think) I've heard everything he's released to date, I've made a horrible habit of skimming Destroyer records, acknowledging they require far more of my attention that I have to give, and then shelving them indefinitely. Looking at it now, I think I've been doing this since Trouble in Dreams, which means I'm behind by over a decade at this point. Ten years! What the hell have I been doing with myself? The cerebral, high-art character of Bejar's work has, more than anything, made it easier to compartmentalize. These Destroyer records sit stacked like books on my nightstand. They deserve my time and attention, more worthy than most things, but I can never quite commit myself to the task. The books aren't going anywhere, and the fast-food content of Netflix just so much easier to laze into. I'll get to them eventually, and heck, I'm probably not mature enough to fully appreciate them anyways. What I am is tired, and I can't quite remember how Deep Space Nine ended.

While my shortcomings and insecurities don't have any particular bearing on the news of Destroyer's upcoming record, I do appreciate you allowing me to get that off my chest. I'm sorry, Mr. Bejar. Je suis désolé, Canada.

Dan Bejar's Destroyer has returned with "Crimson Tide," the deceptively upbeat first single from the upcoming Have We Met. That record, due January 31 from Dead Oceans and Merge, will be the band's thirteenth LP. It follows 2017's well-received Ken, and 2015's Poison Season before it. Given my shameful lag in tracking Destroyer's career, I'll defer to the press-release to help contextualize this one:

Have We Met, as Bejar puts it, 'came together in such a crazy way – all equal parts ecstasy and terror'. Initially conceived (but quickly ditched) as a Y2K album, Bejar was without a clear concept in mind. So he said "fuck it" and let it all rip while brainstorming at home.

Culled from years' worth of saved writing, set aside for projects "beyond music," and recorded at his kitchen table, Have We Met harkens back to Kaputt-era Bejar stringing together lyrics off hand while lounging on his couch. The resulting vocal sound exists in the sweet spot between two Destroyer worlds colliding: hints of the past, more strident Destroyer mixed in with a relaxed, new-aged Crooning one.

No re-recording. No cleaning up. The Destroyer band-orientated approach was shelved and frequent collaborator John Collins was tasked with the role of layering synth and rhythm sections over a stream-of-consciousness Bejar, as Nic Bragg added 'completely unexpected and somehow comforting' three-dimensional, shredding guitar."

A cinematic video for "Crimson Tide" arrived from directors David Galloway and David Ehrenreich. You can find it below.

Watch: Destroyer - "Crimson Tide" @ YouTube

I'm married to a Wellander, and I don't mean those new subdivisions encroaching on Pelham either. I'm talking the haggard east side of Welland: That inexplicable island of Francophone Ontario hollowed out from decades of plant closures but still stubbornly holding on. The rough and tumble landmarks of this area are the focus of the new Ancient Shapes video: the Rex, the Blue Star, the shuttered shops along King Street, the exhibition, the ghosts of the Atlas.

I shared the defiant, perhaps tongue-in-cheek "Welland 2020" video to Facebook, to which my mother-in-law, never one to comment on my music nonsense, chimed in with "hope he's right." Here's hoping.

The song appears on A Flower That Wouldn't Bloom, the third full-length from the Daniel Romano-fronted punk group. The record came out just this past week on You've Changed Records. While Danny puts together these albums more-or-less solo in the studio, the live Shapes band includes Ian Romano, David Nardi, Vee Bell, and Roddy Rosetti.

Watch: Ancient Shapes - "Welland 2020" @ YouTube

PUP's ongoing tour brought them through St. John's last week, with the popular quartet playing a show at the city's Club One. Support for that gig came from local punks Conditioner, and they made the most of the spotlight by releasing a pair of new songs to coincide with the event. The group, who last released a self-titled EP in 2017, have the new tracks "My Way Back (2 U)" and "Room For Two" online.

I'm utterly polish-averse when it comes to punk these days, so the new Conditioner jams hit just the right spot for me. There are some huge pop-punk hooks wrapped in these blown out, low-fi recordings. Micah Brown mixed and mastered these new tracks, which the band self-recorded.

Listen: Conditioner - "My Way Back (2 U)" / "Room For Two" @ Bandcamp

If that's got you in the mood for more satisfyingly shout-along low-budget punk, check the new recording from Ottawa trio The Tenenbaums. The three-piece has a new track online titled "New Year, Who's This?," the group's first studio recording since their 2015 EP We'll Always Have Milhouse. The Tenenbaums tracked this one with Matt Post of Deathsticks and the Not My Car label working the boards.

Listen: The Tenenbaums - "New year, who’s this?" @ Bandcamp

WHOOP-Szo's highly anticipated Warrior Down arrives this Friday. The final preview of the London/Guelph collective's new record came last week in the form of the intense single "Long Braided Hair." It's the third song we've heard from the grunge/folk/sludge record, and it arrived paired with a video from Steph V Yates. In a statement, guitarist/vocalist Adam Sturgeon recalled a story that inspired the track:

"Our connection to the Earth Mother is through our hair, and it is our Mother who brings us to this earth. A Braid, 3 strands, mind, body and soul... sweetgrass, hair of the earth.

I remember getting a call on the distant telephone wires from my bandmate Kirsten. She was up north. Winter was settling in hard and she was upset. That day, her students who had been out of control for some time dropped a heavy weight onto her privileged disposition. They were sleeping on and under desks and they were bouncing off the walls. They were upset, angry and unable to hide their emotions. Sometime earlier she had overheard some of the other teachers griping about how disrespectful the children were being, and how discipline was a necessary force to overcoming their challenging circumstances. How using their language was somehow related to the kids picking on each other and to speak French or English was to abide by the rules of the school. Kirsten, as she always does, slipped quietly out of the staff room without a word. When this had continued for several stressful days, perhaps weeks she asked the children "what's wrong?". They did not answer, but their eyes told another story. This continued, until finally one day they answered almost as if in unison 'We're hungry'. You see, in the months previous a desperately needed breakfast program had been cancelled. By whom, I'm not sure. By the school board? By the volunteers who were burned out and moved back home to the south?

In our communities, it is our mothers and children that have bore the weight of colonialism. That our ways of life have been diminished by a system designed against us. A $7 can of pop, a $5 chocolate bar, and $9 bag of chips. A lullaby."

Warrior Down drops Friday, November 1 on You've Changed Records. Kyle Ashbourne recorded and mixed the 10-song set at the Sugar Shack in London, ON, with additional drum tracking by Sturgeon and Nathan Lamb at the Out of Sound House. WHOOP-Szo features guitarist/vocalist Adam Sturgeon, Kirsten Kurvink Palm on guitar, synth, and vocals, bassist/keyboardist Joe Thorner, Andrew Lennox on 12-string guitar and synth, and drummer Eric Lourenco.

The new record follows 2016's EP Citizen's Ban(ne)d Radio, a 2017 split with Halifax psych group Walrus, and last year's 7" single The Dive. The WHOOP-Szo will tour behind the record throughout November, playing shows with Chastity, METZ, Motherhood, and FET.NAT, on various stops.

Watch: WHOOP-Szo - "Long Braided Hair" @ YouTube

Vancouver post-punk group Spectres has a new single out. The band's new 7" showcases two songs recorded with Felix Fung back in 2017 at New Westminster's Little Red Sounds. The release features the authentically 80s goth vibes of "Provincial Wake," backed by Smiths-flavoured "Northern Towns." It's available through Sabotage Records now, and marks the band's first new material since their 2016 LP Utopia.

Spectres have shown up in this publication a few times over the years, as the band's shared members with both Sore Points and the now-defunct Night People.

Listen: Spectres - "Provincial Wake" / "Northern Towns" @ Bandcamp

Last week the Toronto synthpop duo Ice Cream released the third single from their upcoming record Fed Up. "Dove's Cry" arrived with a video directed by the band's Carlyn Bezic, described as a "shopping fantasy, in which a liquid soap can produce self-love." The track shows off one of the album's more subdued tunes, standing in dramatic contrast to the club-ready first single "Peanut Butter" and the spaced-out "Modern Life."

Fed Up, the band's sophomore album, arrives November 15. The 8-song set follows up the group's 2016 debut Love, Ice Cream, with Tony Price co-producing the album with the band. Ice Cream features Carlyn Bezic and Amanda Crist.

Watch: Ice Cream - "Doves Cry" @ YouTube

Hand Drawn Dracula recently released Hi-Action, the new full-length from Toronto 'space-motorik' trio Mimico. The album dropped alongside a video for "Tobacco Eyes," one of six sprawling songs from the set. Directed by Christopher Mills (FRIGS, Tallies), the clip puts the band's live performance through a kaleidoscope, with a sea of visual effects washing over the 7-plus minute track.

The psych-rock trio recorded Hi-Action with Do Make Say Think's Justin Small producing. They worked on the album at the famous Bathhouse Studio and Toronto's Palace Sound. Mimico features the talents of Ben Oginz, Jeremiah Knight, and Nick Kervin.

Watch: Mimico - "Tobacco Eyes" @ YouTube

It's been an uncertain road to the first studio recording from Halifax indie-pop group The Staples, but after a period of inactivity, it's finally here. The Staples arose following the implosion of garage punk act the Fat Stupids, but the group hit a few stumbling blocks getting these recordings out. The band's first release has finally arrived as a 7-song EP titled Torn. It's worth the wait, though, as these songs are awash in cool vocal harmonies, making tracks like "Can't" and "Starry Skies" just remarkably compelling and full of character.

This recording features Matty Grace and Coleman Johnston of Future Girls, Craig Hamlin of Togan Death Grip, with Tye Springall (of The Noisy Life podcast among other projects). Grace and Hamlin both played in Fat Stupids before The Staples formed. It remains to be seen if The Staples get back on stage anytime soon, but here's hoping.

Listen: The Staples - Torn EP @ Bandcamp

Toronto jangle-pop quartet Ducks Unlimited has signed with Spanish label Bobo Integral for the release of their debut EP. Titled Get Bleak, the four-song 7" is set to arrive on November 29. That four will include the previously previewed title track (which you may recall featured Laura Hermiston of Twist) and the new single "Anhedonia." You can check that one out below.

Ducks Unlimited will play a record release show on December 5 in Toronto at The Baby G, with support from Mark Grundy's Quaker Parents and Madeline Link's PAX.

Listen: Ducks Unlimited - "Anhedonia" @ YouTube

Andrew Woods' off-kilter yacht-rock project Legal Vertigo has a new single up. "Feelin' Finite" will appear on the project's debut full-length Tragic Future Film Star on November 15. It's due from Dine Alone Records. The new track was accompanied by a video directed by fellow singer/songwriter Basia Bulat. You can check it out below.

Based in Montreal, Woods and Bulat have been collaborating on this project for a few years. The act originally performed under the name Napster Vertigo.

Watch: Legal Vertigo - "Feelin' Finite" @ YouTube

Back in September, we learned of Lost Wisdom pt. 2, a sequel to the 2008 collaboration between Moncton singer/songwriter Julie Doiron and Phil Elverum's Washinton-based Mount Eerie. A new song from the album is now online, titled "Belief pt. 2." Elverum commented on the track:

"'Belief pt. 2' is the last song on the album. It comes at the end of a meandering path through uncertainty, devotion, sad reminiscence, hopeful idealism; songs coursing over uneven terrain. This album conclusion is a flag planted, a declaration of belief in love no matter what, the culminating answer to all of the asking that came before. Eroded down by life's changes to an elemental necessity, I make an offering of a final simple gesture of love.

Julie and I recorded this song at night with the doors and windows all the way open, hoping to get the nighthawks and night air onto the recording. The other songs were recorded during the day, but this song is a night song. We tried to make our version of sacred music, under stars in the high dark cool air."

The record arrives on November 8 release on the P.W. Elverum & Sun label.

Listen: Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron - "Belief pt. 2" @ YouTube

Subscribe today and find the Some Party newsletter waiting in your inbox once a week. React to it at your leisure.