Sunday February 16, 2020

Preferential Treatment

Edmonton indie-rock outfit Wares have signed with the mighty Mint Records. The group, led by singer/guitarist Cassia J. Hardy, will release their sophomore album Survival on the Vancouver label on April 24. You can stream the record's first single, "Surrender Into Open Arms," online now. It's a hallmark Wares song: alternating between caustic outbursts and lush, evocative soundscapes without ever losing its pop footing. In a press release Hardy commented:

"[It's] a song about consent and safe sex. After years of hard work processing trauma and thawing from self isolation, it's the profound joy of building complete trust in your partner, and in a relationship built on respect and good communication. Survival is the story of recovery as a non linear path of healing and disruption. The narrator in this song, at the midpoint of the album, finds freedom in safe, sane, and consensual love."

The record features the talents of keyboardist Jamie Mclean, bassist Matthew Gooding, and drummer Holly Greaves. The group recorded at Bikini Bottom in the summer of 2019 with Mason Pitzel. Jesse Gander (lié, Woolworm, Necking) mixed with mastering performed by Ryan Morey. The 10-song LP follows Wares' 2017 debut and the 2018's gorgeous Silhouette EP. It also comes on the heels of the band's appearance anchoring the first Some Party cassette comp Under The Circumstances (which you should own, just sayin').

In the liner notes, Wares dedicates the album to "decolonial activists, anti-fascist agitators, prairie queers fighting for community and a better life." Fuck yeah. You can hear "Surrender Into Waiting Arms" below.

Listen: Wares - "Surrender Into Waiting Arms" @ Bandcamp

Before we move south, let's check in with the Edmonton garage act Dead Friends. The quartet launched a new single last week, titled "Molly." The track layers some gravelly, cooly dispassionate vocals over a satisfying sea of surf guitar. Dead Friends features guitarist/vocalist Jesse Ladd, guitarist/organist Callum Harvey, bassist Carter Mackie, and drummer Ellen Reade. Reade's the former lead singer of the now-defunct power-pop act Brunch Club (I recently wrote about their long-lost 2017 record Another Wasted Summer).

Dead Friends recorded, mixed, mastered the new track at Royal Studios. It follows the group's self-titled 2018 full-length.

Listen: Dead Friends - "Molly" @ Bandcamp

Hamilton's Randall Gagne returns this Friday as the "existential disco" curiosity Man Made Hill. His new album, titled Mass Wasting, arrives from Toronto label Not Unlike on February 21. From all appearances, it'll serve as the true follow-up to Gagne's infectious 2018 Pleasence cassette Fingertip (Relaxed Fit, a mostly instrumental collection, arrived independently in the interim). I live for the level of overwrought metaphor packed in the label's description of this one:

"A rough collage of desperate funk swelling with the foreign and familiar, like the radiant pulse of a distant star beating in time with your own. The magma of obsession, decomposition, and geology coagulating in the richness of its oversexual viscosity. Solidifying into absurdist igneous rock under the overwhelming influence of the creeping reversal of the magnetic poles. Pure, benevolent, and perverse."

Gagne wrote and performed all instrumentation on the new record. Jackson Darby mixed and mastered the set at Personal Touch. You can preview the collection through a video for the single "Preferential Treatment."

Watch: Man Made Hill - "Preferential Treatment" @ YouTube

On March 6, the new record from Halifax power-pop act Outtacontroller arrives on the German label Alien Snatch!. It's the long-awaited follow-up to the Ramonescore group's 2017 EP No Echo. We've already previewed this set with the 2018 single "Glassy Eyes," and you can hear the track "Too Soon" below as well.

2017's No Echo was released through the Madrid-based label Jarama 45RPM Recs. You'll likely remember Outtacontroller's video for "Glassy Eyes," which cast B.A. Johnston as a talk-show host. Outtacontroller's lineup on this 10-track outing includes vocalist/guitarists Terry A'hearn and James O'Toole, bassist AJ Boutilier, and drummer Sean Parsons. The band's most recent full-length was Television Zombie, released way back in 2015 on the legendary P.Trash Records.

Listen: Outtacontroller - "Too Soon" / "Glassy Eyes" @ Bandcamp

A second single from the upcoming Spectres LP is now online. You can preview "Years of Lead" now wherever you get your streams. It follows "The Head and the Heart" in previewing Nostalgia, the slick Vancouver deathrock group's new full-length for Artoffact Records.

Nostalgia arrives March 13, following up on the post-punk group's 2016 LP Utopia and the recent Provincial Wake 7". Spectres recorded with ACTORS' Jason Corbett att his Jacknife Sound studio.

Spectres were first brought together as a studio project in Coombs, British Columbia by Brian Gustavson and Steve Hanker. Now operating from Vancouver, the group's current incarnation features Gustavson backed by drummer Mitch Allen, bassist Nathan Szilagyi, and guitarists Zach Batalden and Tyler Pilling.

Listen: Spectres - "Years of Lead" @ Bandcamp

On a similar note, Montreal's gothic EBM producer Mikey Dagger is singing in a new four-piece deathrock group dubbed Young Blades. The band features members of Droids, Fractured, and Warcrusher among their ranks. You can stream the outfit's first four songs over at Bandcamp now.

Dagger, the alter ego of Taylor "Hoodlum" Stevenson, last released a synth-heavy EP titled Street Survival in 2019.

Listen: Young Blades - Demo 2020 @ Bandcamp

Montreal aqua-themed punks Barnacle has a new track online titled "Beach Freak," which appears paired alongside their fall released tune "Evolve" as a two-song digital single at Bandcamp.

The group released a video for the track on Valentine's Day, directed by Raphaël Sandler. It features vintage footage repurposed from the media archives of the now-defunct Florida theme park Cypress Gardens.

In the liner notes for the EP Barnacle teases that an album is on the way. The band previously released a 6-song live set in April of last year titled LIVE @ the Salty Spitoon, and their debut demo recordings almost precisely one year ago.

Watch: Barnacle - "Beach Freak" @ YouTube

Ottawa psych/surf flavoured punk trio The Thrill has a new video online for "Retire," a song from their recent self-titled EP. You can find it below.

The Thrill, once known as The Shame (And once based in Vancouver), features guitarist/vocalist Mikey Power, bassist Derek Muldoon, and drummer Kieran McKinnon. The rhythm section boasts links to Ottawa bands like Creep Wave, Liquid Assets, and DOXX, among others. House of TARG co-founder Paul "Yogi" Granger recorded, mixed, and mastered the new EP.

Watch: The Thrill - "Retire" @ YouTube

Every once in awhile, my kids latch onto a song so completely that becomes the only thing they request months. As of today, that's "Bike Thief" by Montreal posi-punk trio Boids. It may as well be the national anthem as far as our household's concerned.

Boids has a new video running for "Bike Thief" at YouTube, directed by David Don't. The track appears on the band's new Stomp Records full-length Quel Drag. Gob frontman Tom Thacker produced the 11-song set. It follows their 2015 full-length Superbafrango, and you can look for it Friday.

Watch: Boids - "Bike Thief" @ YouTube

Last week Meg Remy's U.S. Girls released a video for the song "4 American Dollars," a cynical look at the lies told about social mobility and the American dream. It serves as the second single from their upcoming full-length Heavy Light. You can check it out through a new video below, directed by Remy and Emily Pelstring.

The sessions for Heavy Light involved 20 session musicians recording live at Montreal's Hotel 2 Tango studio (E Street Band saxophonist Jake Clemons among them). Remy co-wrote with Basia Bulat and Rich Morel, with percussion arranged by Ed Squires and backing vocalists conducted by Lavender Bruisers' Kritty Uranowski. Maximilian 'Twig' Turnbull (Badge Époque Ensemble), Steve Chahley, and Tony Price all collaborated on mixing the record.

Heavy Light arrives March 6 from Royal Mountain Records and 4AD. It follows U.S. Girls' Polaris shortlisted 2018 LP, In a Poem Unlimited.

Watch: U.S. Girls - "4 American Dollars" @ YouTube

Three-piece Toronto post-punk group Laurie has a new song online, heralded as the first of several singles to arrive this year. You can check out "Call It a Day" below.

The band, comprised of Trent Bristow on guitar and synth, bassist Fabian Kearns, and drummer Jessica Maxwell, last released a 5-song EP titled Group Dynamics in 2019.

Listen: Laurie - "Call It A Day" @ Bandcamp

Organ Eyes, an Ottawa-based post-punk unit lead by Cameron Steacy, has a new song online titled "12e." The track follows a pair of full-length releases that the prolific project uploaded in the last few months of 2019: Plumb Last and Handles on Bricks. You can find all of it at Bandcamp.

Listen: Organ Eyes - "12e" @ Bandcamp

Montreal's Hugo Mudie recently shared "L'exorcisme," the first preview of his new album due in the spring of 2020. The melodic, synth-driven rock song follows several recent collaborations, including a one-off single pairing Mudie with the veteran LA punk group DFL, and an appearance on the latest guest-packed Red Mass LP. The single arrived through a video directed by Louis Delisle. You can check it out below.

Hugo Mudie was the frontman of both the early-2000s punk band The Sainte Catherines and the alt-country group Yesterday's Ring. He's one of the principles behind the annual Pouzza Fest. More on that in a bit.

Watch: Mudie - "L'exorcisme" @ YouTube

First, on the topic of Red Mass, I recently premiered a video from the group at Punknews, one featuring the enigmatic King Khan!

A Montreal-based "free creative enterprise," Red Mass is a project spearheaded by Roy Vucino and Hannah Lewis. The collective recently released a guest-packed full-length titled A Hopeless Noise on the psych label Mothland. It boasts several prominent appearances from individuals from across the punk and indie spectrum, including Minutemen legend Mike Watt, Evan Dando of The Lemonheads, Rick Froberg of Hot Snakes/Drive Like Jehu, and Canadian indie star Mac DeMarco, among others.

"To Fall From Grace" features the Berlin-based Khan on vocals. Here's what the band had to say about the clip:

"The video was made by filmmaker Giuliano Bossa with the help of his brother Roberto Bossa and features musician Eddy Blake as the card dealer and magician Matt Risk as Death. I remember it was definitely supposed to invoke classic films like Ingmar Bergman's 'The Seventh Seal' and there is a definite nod to Wicker Man. The character is basically playing cards with Death."

Red Mass previously released Kilrush Drive in March of 2019, followed by the Bored single last summer. Roy Vucino's a musician, actor, and filmmaker based in Montreal. Under the stage name Choyce he played in several seminal early-2000s garage-punk groups, notably CPC Gangbangs and Les Sexareenos.

Watch: Red Mass - "To Fall From Grace" @ YouTube

King Khan, a Berlin-based garage impresario with Montreal punk roots not dissimilar to Vucino's, recently released a split 7" with the Toronto alt-country legends The Sadies. The A-side of the record features the Khan with Natalia Avelon and Mary Simich performing "Old Gunga Din," while The Sadies contribute "The Most Despicable Man Alive" to the B-side.

If you've not had a chance to hear these songs, they're playfully combative. Each artist directly references the other, by name, offering conflicting accounts of what appears to be the same LSD-fueled incident. It's a lovely little novelty, and there's less than 20 left for sale online through Khannibalism and Ernest Jenning if you're so inclined.

Listen: The Sadies / King Khan - Split @ Bandcamp

Let's finally circle back to Pouzza Fest, as the annual punk gathering's confirmed their full lineup for 2020. This being the event's 10th anniversary, the organizers sought to assemble a bit of a greatest hits collection of past performers and big-name punk headliners. So how'd they do?

This year's event features Winnipeg's Propagandhi and Sweden's Millencolin headlining, with Good Riddance, The Aggrolites, A Wilhelm Scream, Cancer Bats, The Drawves, Chixdiggit!, War On Women, Dilly Dally, and Belvedere among the top-billed performers. Pouzza always has one toe in mainline 90s skatepunk and one looking inward at the Quebec underground, and in that regard, a name to note this year is Les Marmottes Aplaties. The Montreal punk group, active from 1994 through 2004, is playing Pouzza as part of their ongoing reunion. The group signed with Dare to Care in 2018 to reissue their catalogue. They've played shows in towns throughout Quebec in the year-or-so since.

Pouzza always manages to bring a handful of beloved locals out of retirement, and this year undoubtedly follows suit. So let's crowd-source this one, newsletter people: get deep in the small text of the lineup poster and tell me who I should zero in on.

Pouzza runs May 15 through the 17th in and around downtown Montreal.

Listen: Les Marmottes Aplaties @ Bandcamp

On the subject of festivals, this will be the final year of Guelph, Ontario's venerable Kazoo. The event's 13th edition runs from April 16 to the 19th at venues around the Royal City. This year's event features a truly cross-genre and international lineup, anchored by sets from the acclaimed singer/songwriter Mount Eerie, Houston-via-NYC rapper Fat Tony, experimental Egyptian artist Nadah El Shazly, and Calgary's South Asian hip-hop duo Cartel Madras.

As with prior years, the Kazoo lineup is chock full of Some Party regulars, with Toronto-area acts like Sandro Perri, Luge, Nyssa, Ducks Unlimited, New Fries, and Westelaken all taking part. The event also features a comeback performance from the rootsy Bruce Peninsula, who've been teasing new music over the last month and look to be making a full return following a few years of inactivity. You can find all the details at kazookazoo.ca.

When organizers announced the end of Kazoo in early January, they put out a statement which read, in part:

"So why are we calling it now? As you can imagine, there are countless reasons, but the short answer is that it simply felt like the right time. When we started Kazoo! back in 2006, there wasn't a plan. At the time, Guelph's music scene needed a music platform and community like Kazoo! and a group of idealistic community-minded musicians got together to put something in motion. We had some rough ideas about what we wanted: to include artists across a range of genres and mediums, to make our cover prices affordable (PWYC if possible), to provide local and touring bands a platform, and perhaps most importantly, to focus on community-building. So we booked some bands, made a poster, and put Kazoo! #1 in the corner. The project could have lasted a few weeks or a few years maybe; we had no roadmap, and certainly no idea that Kazoo! would evolve into the thriving community it's become 14 years later.

...Now, after 14 amazing years, 2020 feels like the right time for us to step aside. Though it may feel like a hole will be left in Guelph's music scene without Kazoo! Fest, we believe that by stepping aside now, we are making space for new generations of dreamers, punks, and diverse creative thinkers to book shows, create festivals, and invent radical new ways of sharing ideas and art. The folks behind Kazoo! are not leaving, and we will remain a resource for show bookers and community organizers. We recognize that as a group we have a lot of experience and knowledge about things like grant writing, venue booking, safer spaces training, and other skills related to organizing events that we can share."

You can read the full statement at Facebook. Tickets, are you can imagine, are going to move quickly for this one.

Watch: Bruce Peninsula - "As Long As I Live" @ YouTube

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Under The Circumstances

Some Party's new Under The Circumstances compilation features new and rare songs from Tough Age, Partner, Wares, Psychic Void, and New Vogue!