Sunday April 5, 2020

Poison Holiday

Last Friday, the Edmonton punk group Real Sickies made good on their promise and unleashed Quarantined, a full-length written, recorded, and mixed in the seven days prior (and without the socially distancing band members leaving their respective homes). The final product clocks in at 10 tracks, with all proceeds from digital sales destined for the WHO's COVID-19 Response Fund. You can snag a copy now at Bandcamp.

The group last released Out of Space, their debut for Montreal's long-running Stomp Records, in 2019. A supporting tour alongside the Real McKenzies was iced when the pandemic broke.

Real Sickies are a pop-punk group in the grand tradition of Teenage Head and the Ramones, Vocalist Ben Disaster, well-known for his This Is Pop radio show on CJSR, is backed in the Sickies by bassist Alex Mckie, guitarist Evan Hughes, organist Eric Budd, and drummer Rob Lawless.

Listen: Real Sickies - Quarantined @ Bandcamp

When Hamilton's Matt Ellis went into isolation, he did the only reasonable thing and jury-rigged an impromptu recording studio in the bathroom of his family home. The first recordings from this setup have arrived as a four-song EP of snotty, low-fi punk songs titled High Risk Assurance. You can listen to the set, lead by the "Havana Affair" riffing "Poison Holiday," below.

In better times, you can see Ellis on stage fronting both the Hamilton psych-punks Flesh Rag and the Toronto punk outfit PlasticHeads. Flesh Rag last released Inside Your Mind in 2018 on Schizophrenic and Loose Lips Records. PlasticHeads released their first full-length Nowhere To Run last year on Ugly Pop.

Ellis also plays in the modern incarnation of the veteran Burlington punk group The Vapids. Sneak back to last week's newsletter for the full details on two recently-released Vapids-adjacent recording projects, both of which benefit the hard-hit Italian Red Cross in their COVID-19 fight.

Listen: Matt Ellis - High Risk Assurance @ Bandcamp

Last week Ottawa-area singer/songwriter Chris Page shared a new demo titled "Intersteller Basement Dweller," which come to think of it perfectly describes the past three weeks of my life. Page commented:

"As many of you know, my new solo LP Decide To Stay and Swim Again was due to release early April. I've decided to put that on hold for now, as I had a few fun things planned that can't go forward given the current crisis. We'll reschedule those, hopefully soon...

In the meantime, I'm going to start releasing some demos I've been working on. "Interstellar Basement Dweller" is the first song from that list. You can download or stream it for FREE, I just ask that you please consider donating to your local food bank if you can. So many people are being laid off, losing their jobs and may be turning to our food banks for support during this crisis."

Page points to the Ottawa Food Bank and the Parkdale Food Centre in that regard. A video of Chris performing the track from his own voluntary confinement can be found on YouTube as well.

Along with his solo ventures, Page plays these days as part of the duo Expanda Fuzz. That band last released Cotton Candy Jet Engine in 2018. He's also for his time recording as part of Camp Radio and before that as a member of the 90s pop-punk group The Stand GT.

Listen: Chris Page - "Interstellar Basement Dweller" @ Bandcamp

Everyone seems to be coping with our newfound solitude in their own creative ways (while I, somehow, still can't get this newsletter out on time). Elsewhere in Ottawa, Cory Levesque assembled the first volume in a songwriting project dubbed Alone, Together. Levesque commented on the work:

"The idea was that while we are apart we can still try and share. People sent me their writings and I put music to it. Please make sure to read everything and click on the individual tracks for lyrics and links if there are some."

The first volume, which you can find now at Bandcamp, features five rock songs in a variety of styles built atop writings credited to Lucas Kwasny-Doucette, Stuck Out Here's Ivan Rivers, Colette Klassen, Karissa OMG, and the singularly named Frank.

Alongside his solo work, Levesque plays as one of Jon Creeden's mighty Flying Hellfish.

Listen: Cory Levesque - Alone, Together Vol.1 @ Bandcamp

A few days ago Calgary guitar-pop act Feel Alright broke their silence with a new two-song single. The big summer hooks of "In Your Eyes" paired with the wistful notes of "Coming True," mark the band's first studio material since their 2018 Pleasence full-length In Bad Faith. The group's lineup for these recordings featured Craig Fahner backed by Brady Kirchner, Joey Mooney, and Dallin Ursenbach.

Now located in Toronto, Fahner was last seen fronting the power-pop trio Motorists alongside Jesse Locke of Tough Age and Matt Learoyd. That group released a six-song EP titled From the Wreckage just about a week before everything went sideways on us. You can probably still snag one from Planet of the Tapes,

Listen: Feel Alright - "Coming True" / "In Your Eyes" @ Bandcamp

Denholm Whale, the Toronto concert promoter and founding member of the provocative industrial/electronic act Odonis Odonis, recently shared his first pair of quarantine demos as Scratch. You can check "Gun Club" and "Sis" online at Bandcamp now.

Odonis Odonis last released the Felte EP Reaction in 2019, preceded by the full-length No Pop in 2017. Whale books both The Garrison and The Baby G, which are venues you may remember from back in the days when we could safely congregate.

Listen: Scratch - March 2020 @ Bandcamp

With the quirky post-punk dance-pop of "(Don't Break My) Devotion," it's safe to say that Jade Hairpins has firmly established themselves as a starkly distinct entity from Fucked Up. The synthpop group is the new vehicle for Jonah Falco and Mike Haliechuk of the renowned Toronto hardcore band, performing here with the UK's Tamsin M Leach and Jack Goldstein rounding out their quartet. The band's releasing a 10-song full-length on Merge Records this May. Look for Harmony Avenue on the 29th.

"(Don't Break My) Devotion" follows the record's first single and video, "J Terrapin." The new full-length is Jade Hairpins' first release following the two-song 12" single that served as their debut.

Watch: Jade Hairpins - "(Don't Break My) Devotion" @ YouTube

I'm grateful that the new Bruce Peninsula record made it to me in time for the lockdown. If you're still waiting for your copy, you can now stream another track online ahead of the album's April 17 release date. The Neil Haverty-lead "Whistle" marks a welcome return to the distinctive folk-gospel sound the Toronto group established more than a decade ago. It's streaming now at Bandcamp alongside the stellar Misha Bower-fronted lead single, "Make a Sound."

The 10-track No Earthly Sound is the band's third full-length, following 2011's Open Flames. Bruce Peninsula's lineup for this record included vocalist Misha Bower, vocalist/guitarists Neil Haverty and Matt Cully, drums and percussion from Steve McKay and Robin Buckley, bass from Mike Smith, Andrew Barker on lap steel and electric guitar, and Leon Taheny on drums and synth. The band's rotating choir of backing vocalists includes contributions from Ivy Mairi, Kari Peddle, Isla Craig, Martha Farquhar-McDonnell, Daniela Gesundheit, and Tamara Lindeman.

Listen: Bruce Peninsula - "Whistle" @ Bandcamp

Montreal rock'n'roll quartet Pale Lips has a new video online for "The Kids," the second single from last year's unabashedly fun After Dark LP. The feel-good clip, riffing on the opening scene to the movie Footloose, comes on the heels of their earlier video for "You're a Doll."

After Dark follows up on Pale Lips' 2016 album Wanna Be Bad, and their 2017 EP Should've Known Better. The group, who emerged in 2014, features guitarist Ilona Szabo, bassist Jamie Radu, drummer Lynn Poulin, and vocalist Jackie Blenkarn. The new album arrived last winter on God's Candy in Canada, Alien Snatch! in Europe, Waterslide in Japan, and Spaghetty Town in the States.

Watch: Pale Lips - "The Kids" @ YouTube

Toronto psych-dance trio DOOMSQUAD recently unveiled the second collection of songs in their "sketchbook series" Spandrels, following the first volume from 2017. The trio commented:

"Spandrels are the pleasant byproduct of a design or creation. In architecture, spandrels are the small triangular gaps between round archways and the rectangular frames into which they're built. In biology, the term applies to secondary byproducts of evolutionary adaptations.

These pieces were all made during the same writing and composition period that resulted in the songs from our last album, Let Yourself Be Seen. In the winter of 2018, while we were artists-in-residence at the Banff Centre, we were fortunate enough to have access to an amazing collection of rare and classical instruments. From the vistas of our rocky mountain studio, we were able to experiment with different microphones and live effects processing of these acoustic instruments. As such, a feedback loop of creative intuition was created as we responded to their sonic qualities and the effects being produced, which in turn influenced the way we played them. We knew that these musical meanderings weren't going to evolve into songs for the new album, which made it even more liberating to work outside of the constraints imposed by composition. This collection of musical ideas all capture stream-of-consciousness improvised performances that represent the thought-processes and creative intuitions that were later channelled into the songs on Let Yourself Be Seen. Thanks for listening."

Let Your Self Be Seen was released in the spring of 2019 on Royal Mountain Records and Bella Union. DOOMSQUAD features the siblings Allie, Jaclyn, and Trevor Blumas.

Listen: DOOMSQUAD - Spandrels Vol 2 @ Bandcamp

St. John's screamo/skramz group Gossamer is shooting for a June 15 release for their upcoming EP Everything That Meant Anything Has Lost All Meaning. While that may feel like an eternity given our current news cycle, you can thankfully preview the scathing "Bloodshed, And All That It Implies" now at Bandcamp.

Everything... was recorded by Liam Ryan and features artwork by Lo Siento's Pepa Chan. Micah Brown (Conditioner, BBQT, NYON) mixed and mastered the four-song set.

Listen: Gossamer - "Bloodshed, And All That It Implies" @ Bandcamp

Edmonton's grungy garage-rock act Dead Friends continues to roll out new songs like clockwork, their latest leaning a little bit country (all things being relative). You can find "Wells" streaming below. It follows the decidedly less twangy "Molly" and "Joy" in previewing the band's upcoming full-length, which is due in May from Wallflower Records.

Dead Friends features guitarist/vocalist Jesse Ladd, guitarist/organist Callum Harvey, bassist Carter Mackie, and drummer Ellen Reade.

Listen: Dead Friends - "Wells" @ Bandcamp

Riffy Saskatoon garage-punk act Soul Mates is back with a two-song EP titled Not Found. The band recorded the set with Mike Lefebvre at the Sweat Shoppe in the summer of 2018, with Winnipeg's Craig Boychuk mixing and mastering the tunes last February. You can snag them online now at Bandcamp or on cassette from Deathstryke Publishing.

Soul Mates is a four-piece featuring vocalist Tyler Baptist, Jeshaiah David on guitar, Patrick Eaton on bass, and drummer Colin McGuirk McNeil. The new single follows 2018's Lost.

Listen: Soul Mates - Not Found @ Bandcamp

I was going to comment that Hamilton's B.A. Johnston is perhaps better suited for the couch-bound idleness of quarantine life than the rest of us, but given his typically relentless tour schedule, I'm now worried the downtime may very well kill him. In fact, he doesn't even bother to get off the floor for his quarantine jam, a track he predicts may very well age horribly. You can find a clip shared to Twitter below.

The low-brow showman recently released The Skid Is Hot Tonight on Winnipeg's Transistor 66.

Watch: B.A. Johnston's "new jam which may age horribly" @ Twitter

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