Sunday March 15, 2020

Survival

Edmonton indie-rock act Wares recently shared the scathing title track to Survival, the band's sophomore full-length and their upcoming debut for Mint Records. In a statement vocalist/guitarist Cassia Hardy spoke about the song's inception and the incident fuelling her ire at the time:

"On May 30, 2019, Alberta's Conservative Premier, Jason Kenney, repealed Alberta's Carbon Tax. A celebratory press event scheduled at a gas station had to be cancelled, due to thick smoke from a 1,300 square kilometre wildfire in Treaty 8. I wrote the lyrics to this song in one sitting that afternoon, a spastic pressure release after days of tense, hazy twilight.

The personal work and healing explored on this album culminates in community, uniting in love, rage, and hope for a better life. Our only way to survive is by leveraging our collective power, dismantling the 1%, and recognizing Indigenous sovereignty across Turtle Island."

Presuming we can still gather in public at the time, the group will celebrate the record with a show on its release date, April 24, at The Aviary in Edmonton. The event also lists pop-punk outfit Feed Dogs and art-punks Fitness on the bill.

Survival features Cassia J. Hardy backed by 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 Silhouette EP.

Listen: Wares - "Survival" @ Bandcamp

London, Ontario post-punk trio Nervousmen recently shared a new four-song EP titled Other Favourites. The group recorded one of these tracks ("Town") with Red Arms' Roberto Lorusso in November of 2018 at 11th Hour Studios. The other three were tracked at the Sugar Shack by Kyle Ashbourne (WHOOP-Szo) in February of 2019. "Town" in particular has this sinister math-punk vibe that's not too far off of something you'd hear on a Hot Snakes record.

Nervousmen features guitarist/vocalist Steve Bennett, bassist Nick Beard, and drummer Sean Murphy. The new set follows the group's 2017 EP Vexatious. Bennett's also a member of the aforementioned Red Arms, who released the killer Critical State LP late last year.

Listen: Nervousmen - Other Favourites @ Bandcamp

Welland's enigmatic Daniel Romano is nothing if not restless, releasing material with a prolific rapidity that implies he must spend an incredible amount of time writing and recording in isolation. That he's now in the midst of a self-imposed coronavirus quarantine must suit him just fine in that respect. To help the rest of us get through these surreal times, he's released a new full-length, albeit one with limited availability of just 14 days.

You can snag the 10-song alt-country set "Visions Of The Higher Dream" now on Bandcamp, but move quickly. The record follows his latest full-length Finally Free, which arrived in 2018 from You've Changed and New West Records. This feels like a curious piece of music to release on a whim, as it's rather lushly orchestrated. It certainly doesn't sound like some tossed-off set of demos, but if anyone had fully a realized LP just sitting around in a drawer, Daniel Romano would be that person.

Romano was already slated to release an LP this month, a live set from his touring band The Outfit. The US tour supporting it's already sidelined due to COVID-19 (it's likely what landed Danny in quarantine in the first place). Titled "Okay Wow", the 15-track LP features songs recorded live in Scandanavia by the band's longtime collaborator Kenneth Roy Meehan. The LP arrives from You've Changed on March 27. It follows last year's A Flower That Wouldn't Bloom, Romano's third LP from his punk group Ancient Shapes.

Listen: Daniel Romano - "Visions Of The Higher Dream" @ Bandcamp

Haligonian singer/songwriter Matty Grace is in the midst of a short Maritime tour with Dartmouth's high-test trio Designosaur. The bands put together a limited four-song split cassette to take on the road, titled Beneath The Bridges. Grace's side features the original "Diagnosis" and a cover of "Completely Broken" by Richmond, Virginia's Sundials. Designosaur contributes "Bore Me" and a cover of Attack In Black's "Hunger of the Young."

Grace has played in several Halifax-based punk and hardcore groups over the years, a list that includes the Fat Stupids, Weekend Dads, Outtacontroller, and Cutie. Her main band Future Girls last released the full-length Motivation Problems in 2018, with a solo set titled Rumination Year due later this year. Designosaur features bassist/vocalist Rebecca Dalley, guitarist/vocalist AJ Boutilier, and drummer Sean Parsons. They last released the Drive EP in 2019.

I do believe some flippant 2017 edition of this very newsletter made fun of Designosaur's name, and in retrospect, I feel bad about that.

Listen: Matty Grace / Designosaur - Beneath the Bridges @ Bandcamp

Pink Dreams, the new full-length from Hamilton's Sweet Dave is out in the wild now, courtesy of Yeah Right Records. To celebrate the release, Dave shared a video for "The Real World," a trippy kaleidoscope created by Justis Krar's IMMV Productions.

This record is David O'Connor's second solo effort, following 2017's Mental Jails (released as Sweet Dave and The Shallow Graves). O'Connor is perhaps better known as the frontman of the garage-punk group TV Freaks and a tattoo artist at Hamilton's Trophy Tattoo. TV Freaks has a follow-up to their 2015 Deranged Records LP Bad Luck Charms due later this year.

Watch: Sweet Dave - "The Real World" @ YouTube

Rawls Royce is a four-piece with members based in Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo. The band's gearing up to release their third EP, Llarold, on April 3. If you find yourself shouting along with the big, cathartic punk anthems from the likes of PUP, Against Me!, and Jeff Rosenstock, you'll find a lot to love on these four tracks. You can check out the record's raucous first single "Elon (Take Me Home)" below. It's a dynamic (and danceable) rallying cry that snidely tackles, in the band's words, "the late-capitalist narrative that techno-oligarchy can save us from climate change and isolation."

The band first released Anarchy, State, and Fruitopia in 2016, following it with And So On in early 2018. They recorded Llarold at the Watershed in London, Ontario with Eric Altomonte (Isölation Party) engineering and mixing. Tesseract's Alec "Acle" Kahney mastered the set. In the press release the group commented on the album and their overall approach:

"We're proud of this one, folks (mostly of the album art, which features Cam and Cindy's lovely english bulldog Llarold in a bowtie). Notably, we finally got Johnny to play the quintessential punk beat, we dunk and dance on Elon Musky, and we have TWO whole time signature changes. There is some growth in the songwriting, but, don't worry - there are still lots of whoas, and every song is more or less written to be yelled in drunken unison at a pub or in a dingy basement.

With a vague leftist vision and no drive for commerciality, we wear our heart on our sleeves. Our music is political, but doesn't shy away from reminding listeners how close they are to dying in a beer covered sweater. It's punk rock for people who know their lives are going to be worse than their parents and just want to hold on to what they had. It's a band about getting drunk on Sunday night and holding yourself together for work Monday morning. Rawls Royce is a big mess."

Rawls Royce features Mitch McGowan on guitar and vocals, Kyle Heibein on vocals and bass, Will Roelofs on vocals and guitar, and Johnny Caldwell on the drums.

Listen: Rawls Royce - "Elon (Take Me Home)" @ Bandcamp

With Nap Eyes' Snapshot of a Beginner on the horizon, the pensive Halifax indie rockers shared what's likely to be the final preview of the record before we get to hear it in full. Vocalist/guitarist Nigel Chapman commented on the new track, titled "Mystery Calling," in a press release:

"This is another improvised-origin song. On one level it's basically a description of my homebody ways, and it's also about the way our mundane routines can seem to pull us away from what I'm referring to as 'Mystery' in the song — that is, away from the discovery and creation that seem to be more valuable and important activities in themselves, despite being deemed superficially 'non-practical.' Now, this irritation and sense of being drawn away from what's important is probably mostly illusory. This is because the cosmic mystery is probably accessible even in the midst of the most boring and stressful busywork. At the same time, as any good procrastinator should know, there is quite a lot of good that comes from letting the mind ignore apparently pressing worldly activities in order to let it roam, explore, discover and create."

The video for the meditative tune, from director Antoine Lahaie, layers some Blade Runner styled tech-noir visuals atop those sentiments.

Nap Eyes has, like most touring bands, cut their planned public appearances short in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group cancelled the remainder of their tour supporting Destroyer and has postponed their headlining North American shows in support of Snapshot.

The new record will be the indie rock quartet's fourth, following-up on 2018's I'm Bad Now. It arrives March 27 with Royal Mountain, Jagjaguwar, and Paradise of Bachelors. Nap Eyes feature Nigel Chapman alongside drummer Seamus Dalton, bassist Josh Salter, and guitarist Brad Loughead.

Watch: Nap Eyes - "Mystery Calling" @ YouTube

Lethbridge, Alberta garage rocker J Blissette has a new single out titled "Mouths to Feed." The singer/songwriter, otherwise known as Jackson Tiefenbach, commented on Facebook:

"New single out now, it's about how individualism will destroy your heart and your soul, and the only way we're gonna get through this is by working together. I recorded it last summer with the incredibly talented Chris Dadge. It won't be on a record and sounds nothing like the album I'm making. I'm still very proud of it and it was the first time I ever played a real keyboard part on a recording so that's cool. Hope y'all are doing ok out there"

Blissette plays everything on the record, except for some saxophone by David Laing and drums from Chris Dadge. The track follows a pair of one-off digital singles from 2019, as well as the 2018 Pleasence Records full-length Until I Go Blind.

J Blissette - "Mouths to Feed" @ Bandcamp

The experimental Saint John trio Usse recently shared a two-song split with the Gatineau-based electronic duo H. de Heutz. Titled Rags of Declaration, the music is available via a code attached to one of 200 hand-numbered paper releases, with proceeds to be donated to the Mohawks of Tyendinaga (who've been protesting in solidarity with Wet 'suwet' en). The bands bill the split as a response to the 2019 Canadian federal election, with Usse contributing "Indoctrinaires" and H. de Heutz sharing "Postfix (Post-Pre Fix)." The latter was inspired by the song "Ectomorphine," one of two tracks released by the Arizona new wave duo Pre Fix back in 1981 on Subterranean Records. Copies of the split are available from either band or through the Extra Final label.

On this recording, Usse featured Jud Crandall, Emily Saab, and Sebastian Fleet. H. de Heutz is the pairing of Nathan Medema and Olivier Fairfield. Usse last released Flowers For S in June of 2019.

Listen: Usse / H. de Heutz - Rags Of Declaration @ Bandcamp

Eliza Niemi, bassist and co-vocalist of the now-defunct Halifax indie rock group Mauno, has a new video online featuring the solo track "Glass." It's one of four songs to appear on an upcoming EP of the same name, due April 17 from Vain Mina Records. Niemi premiered "Glass" last week on Cups N Cakes, as showcased in a video by Ali Vanderkruyk. The intimate track features Matthew Cardinal (nêhiyawak) on synths and drummer Evan Cartwright (Tasseomancy, US Girls). Niemi commented in the article:

"Glass is about feeling like myself for the first time in a long time, and how that can be oddly lonely (but not really in a sad way). Or rather, it's equal parts sad and happy. I wanted to evoke some sort of resolve. Not the resolve of finally being happy but the resolve of finally accepting that I'm sad and not letting that be a horrible thing. Letting it be a beautiful and inspiring thing."

Mauno last released Really Well in August on Tin Angel Records, with their final missive arriving just recently as a Flemish Eye split with Saskatoon's The Avulsions.

Watch: Eliza Niemi - "Glass" @ YouTube

Toronto alt-pop group The Fern Tips were among the support acts playing Dave Schoonderbeek's release show for his new collaboration with By Divine Right, but that gig, like so many this month, has been sidelined by the virus. While they may not be taking the stage any time soon, the group's still sharing a new track, their first since 2017's "Dream Girl." You can stream "Watch Out" now at Bandcamp.

Fern Tips features lead vocals and guitar from Heather Mazhar, lead guitar from Anna Mernieks, Gillian Stone on bass, Alli Devenish on keys and Jess Luckett providing additional vocals. The group recorded this track with Peter Hudson.

Fern Tips - "Watch Out" @ Bandcamp

Similarly, the Toronto pop-punk quartet Wordplay recently lost a high profile gig supporting Fat Wreck group The Bombpops. They've likewise shared a new single, titled "8.5." The band recorded it at The Music Farm in London with Ryan Izzard.

"8.4" follows last May's Short EP. Wordplay features vocals and guitar from Kris Rose, guitarist Cameron Kennedy, bassist Dan Gonzalez, and drummer Bill Morton.

Listen: Wordplay - "8.5" @ Bandcamp

Niagara-on-the-Lake's Heavy Hearts have a new single out titled "Safe Bet," their second recent track following January's "Vexed." It's part of a slate of new material, heralding the emo-influenced alt-rock group's follow-up to their 2018 New Damage release Cut Too Deep. The band recorded this one with Cory Bergeron at Pebble Studios in Ottawa. They commented that "Safe Bet" is, lyrically, "the closest thing we've ever had to a 'love song.'"

Heavy Hearts features vocalist/guitarist Justin Glatt, bassist Jamie Gorman, guitarist Riley Jensen, percussionist Joey Demers, and drummer JJ Sorensen.

Listen: Heavy Hearts - "Safe Bet" @ YouTube

London, Ontario's Single Mothers recently announced a deluxe edition of their 2018 Through A Wall full-length, due April 3 from Dine Alone Records. The set features the original's audio remixed and remastered, with a bonus track added. Vocalist Drew Thomson commented on the redux:

"I love alternate takes, alternate mixes. Some of my favourite songs are versions that weren't on the original record. I thought Through A Wall would be a perfect record to revisit and tweak and give a new personality."

You can stream the new incarnations of the songs "Marathon" And "24/7" online now. A US tour, booked alongside the punk band PEARS, has been thrown into question due to pandemic. Their run through California has been cancelled outright, with the remainder of the dates still up in the air.

This lines up with a slate of bad luck for Thomson, as his pop-rock solo vehicle The Drew Thomson Foundation was robbed at the start of the month in Texas. Through A Wall was also up for "Metal/Hard Music Album of the Year" at the Junos, but that event was cancelled last week due to the COVID crisis.

Listen: Single Mothers - "Marathon" @ YouTube

Toronto post-punk group Laurie has another new single online, the second track from a slate of new music planned for 2020. "Champagne Problems" follows February's single "Call It A Day." 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 - "Champagne Problems" @ Bandcamp

Cam Steacy's low-fi post-punk outfit Organ Eyes never seems to seek much promotional attention, often regularly releasing new music online without much of a peep otherwise. This time out, the Ottawa-based project has an 11-song full-length out, titled Matinee Marmalade. The set features Steacy on guitar, bass, vocals, and synth, with Ben Deinstadt on percussion.

The new album follows February's "12e" single and a pair of full-length releases from 2019 (Plumb Last and Handles on Bricks).

Listen: Organ Eyes - Matinee Marmalade @ Bandcamp

Toronto skatepunk group Debt Cemetary has a new track online titled "When Life Gives You Dilemmas, You Make Dilemmonade." It's the third song released from the band in as many months, following "Stolen Pens Write Faster" in February and "Kindasortamaybe" in January. The songs are all due later this year on a Thousand Islands Records EP titled Dig It Yourself. This track features guitar, bass, and vocals from bandleader Davey Knight, with drums from Kevin Gallant.

Listen: Debt Cemetary - "When Life Gives You Dilemmas, You Make Dilemmonade" @ Bandcamp

Last September, Guelph-based folk singer/songwriter Innes Wilson secretly released a punk album online "as a joke." He recently shared the link, sarcastically remiss that "I got absolutely no interest or college radio play from it." It didn't get any newsletter attention at the time, either. The project materialized as a four-song EP, with the band billed as Baloney Mulroney and credited to a trio of Mulroney-surnamed players. You can make up for the oversight by checking it out below.

Wilson last released The Heart That Holds This Up in August of 2019 on Out of Sound Records. It was recorded with Halifax-based producer Adam Warren (Glory Glory, Pretty Normal, The Drug Rugs). Before that, Wilson released a 2018 EP titled Seaview, which featured backing from members of WHOOP-Szo.

Listen: Baloney Mulroney - Baloney Mulroney @ Bandcamp

Last week saw the death of Genesis P-Orridge, founding member of the British experimental bands Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. The musician had been battling leukemia for the past few years. After the news broke, tributes began rolling in from across the music world, with Constantines guitarist and solo artist Steven Lambke sharing a cover he'd previously recorded of Psychic TV's 1982 track "Just Drifting." Lambke commented:

"Smile at this simple world. Caress me with your simple love. Surround me. Comfort me with your simple love. Nothing is simple. Everything flawed. Too much echo. Just enough rain. I recorded this version of Just Drifting under a tin roof, late at night, during a rain storm, at The Sointula Art Shed in September of 2018. RIP Genesis P-Orridge."

Steven Lambke recently released the full-length Dark Blue through You've Changed Records.

Listen: Steven Lambke - "Just Drifting" @ SoundCloud

COVID-19 and the festival circuit

The COVID-19 situation has, of course, had massive, crippling, and fastly moving implications on life worldwide, the Canadian independent music world included. What's struck me the most is the speed at which the impact's shifted from day-to-day, even hour-to-hour. Exclaim's dutifully attempting to track the impact in the country, but here are a few that have shaken up my calendar.

One of the first significant events in my mental calendar to pull the plug was Guelph's final Kazoo festival. The organizers stated, in part:

"We are absolutely heartbroken to share this news but in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we are unable to move ahead with Kazoo! Fest 2020 in April. This was an incredibly difficult decision for us. Over the years, we have taken pride in our DIY commitment to making things happen under any circumstances, but this rapidly escalating situation calls for drastic measures to ensure the health and safety of everyone in our community.

We are working out next steps and planning to reschedule the festival for the fall. Our main priority right now is ensuring the safety of the artists, audiences, staff, and volunteers who make up the Kazoo! community. We plan to refund all individual event tickets in the coming week. We will be contacting all Crony Pass holders to see if you would like to hold onto your festival passes for now or take a refund. Please be patient with us, as it will take some time to sort out the specifics of this unprecedented situation."

The 10th anniversary of the Montreal punk gathering Pouzza Fest falls a month later on the Victoria Day weekend. As of March 12 (which in this news cycle feels distant) the organizers were still holding out hope:

"The safety of our attendees, bands and general public is our top priority. Pouzza Fest will comply with all guidelines being set out by the government and health agencies. We will continue to monitor the situation and will keep ticket holders up to date as often as possible. For the moment, Pouzza Fest has no cancellation in its lineup and our team is working to ensure sanitary security in the event."

Mothland's Distortion Psych Fest falls even earlier, planned for May 8 to 10 in Montreal. They're holding their cards close for the time being:

"In light of recent COVID-19 developments, DISTORSION would like to extend their deepest sympathies to all those around the world being affected by the outbreak. Though uncertainty clouds what the future holds, we announce the programming of our event planned for May, 2020 in hopes that all the efforts towards resolving this issue will yield results and society can again thrive, stronger than ever."

Even festivals that fall later in the summer are grappling with this same uncertainty, with lineup announcements and travel planning (for both performers and attendees) all dependent on how the next days and weeks pan out. Sackville, New Brunswick's SappyFest, the event I personally hang my year on, remained nothing if not optimistic. Curator Steven Lambke put forth a statement that read, in part:

"Dearest and Sappiest friends, these are strange times. So many of our community are already feeling the impacts and hardships of the global pandemic. There is a lot of fear and uncertainty about the future. We send you all of our love and our hope and our friendship.

Sappyfest has always felt like an improbable, or even impossible gathering. We have come together year after year in a celebration of art, music, and community. We have come together to listen, to talk, to dance, to be joyful and wild and kind. We have come together in a community of mutual support, witnessing, volunteering, creativity and collaboration. I have learned so much from seeing this happen year after year. It has changed my thoughts on what is possible. I'm so happy to have those examples to draw strength from now. Check in with each other. Ask each other how you can help. Support each other.

We are, at this point, continuing with Sappyfest 15 planning with optimism and gusto and with full hearts. It is our hope that all of our mutual commitments to social distancing and self-isolating now will allow us to come together again this summer. We miss you! And can't wait to see you again, on the main street of nowhere, here in the heart of the heart of the heart, in the cauldron of Swamp Magic."

Friday, March 20 on Bandcamp

When I share links to digital music in this newsletter, my preference has always been to link to pages on Bandcamp,0 if I have the option. Of all the imperfect means of sharing music online, that's felt the least predatory, the less cooly algorithmic. The company's response to the COVID-19 crisis is quite reassuring in that regard. This Friday (March 20), for 24 hours, the company is waiving its revenue share of online music sales and giving 100% of the money raised directly to the artists. Co-founder and CEO Ethan Diamond commented in a statement:

"To raise even more awareness around the pandemic's impact on musicians everywhere, we're waiving our revenue share on sales this Friday, March 20 (from midnight to midnight Pacific Time), and rallying the Bandcamp community to put much needed money directly into artists' pockets.

For many artists, a single day of boosted sales can mean the difference between being able to pay rent or not. Still, we consider this just a starting point. Musicians will continue to feel the effects of lost touring income for many months to come, so we're also sharing some ideas below on how fans can support the artists they love and how artists can give fans new, creative ways to provide support.

It may sound simple, but the best way to help artists is with your direct financial support, and we hope you'll join us on Friday and through the coming months as we work to support artists in this challenging time."

I hope you'll join me this Friday in dropping a few spare dollars towards some deserving independent artists who don't have many other options. If you're looking for a few recommendations from my end, I happen to know of a newsletter...

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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!