Sunday April 26, 2020

Dark Spots

Some isolations are going to be more musically fruitful than others, just by nature of who's stuck in the house together. Luckily for us, Chance Hutchison of the garage-punks PRIORS and Jackie Blenkarn of the feel-good rock'n'roll quartet Pale Lips just happen to be husband and wife. The couple tells me they've been recording "pretty much nonstop," and those tunes are now starting to surface online. Billed as Chance & Jackie, the duo's posted two tracks with accompanying videos to YouTube, with the promise of more to come.

The act debuted with "Dark Spots" earlier this month, a tune that strikes a neat balance between PRIORS' buzzing DEVO-core tendencies and the Pale Lips' throwback boogie. That tune was quickly followed by "Get Loose," which appeared as part of Slovenly's Slovenly on the STOP video series. Both tracks are delightfully stir crazy, mixing just the right amount of playfulness with some sinister undertones that feel just right for the moment. Each video makes ample use of the couple's Montreal home, and while the recurring setting is, of course, practical (and responsible), it underscores how active a character our dwellings become when they're inescapable.

PRIORS last released New Pleasure, their sophomore full-length, paired with a quick follow-up EP titled Call For You. Both arrived on Slovenly. The group had been prepping their next LP before the pandemic hit. Chance, who was known for Sonic Avenues before PRIORS came together, also recently shared a set of home recordings under the name Cosmic Club.

Pale Lips released After Dark in 2019 on a host of labels (God's Candy in Canada, Alien Snatch!, Waterslide, and Spaghetty Town elsewhere). The group recently shared a video for that record's second single, "The Kids."

Watch: Chance & Jackie - "Dark Spots" @ YouTube

Watch: Chance & Jackie - "Get Loose" @ YouTube

Daniel Romano's unearthed a second quarantine record from his archives, and you could even call this one the product of a bonafide super-group. Super Pollen features Danny in one of his punkier modes, backed by his brother Ian Romano along with Jonah Falco and Mike Haliechuk of the epic Fucked Up. The EP features six songs, with longtime Romano contributor Kenneth Roy Meehan mixing and Jon Drew mastering. You can snag the set on Bandcamp (or better yet, wait until Friday when the music marketplace will again be waving it's revenue share to support the artists).

This isn't the first time the twisting narrative of Welland's Attack In Black's crossed with the Toronto hardcore world, as Ian Romano played with Falco as part of Career Suicide during the Machine Response era. Danny was no help placing Super Pollen into that timeline, claiming "I have no idea when any of it was recorded, and I definitely don't remember doing it."

A week or so into self-quarantine, Danny released a 10-song alt-country record titled "Visions Of The Higher Dream". Before that, his live band The Outfit saw their US tour supporting the new live album "Okay Wow" cancelled. That record's out on vinyl now from You've Changed. Before this most recent round of touring, Danny's last proper full-length (whatever that means these days) was 2018's Finally Free.

Haliechuk and Falco have been all over the news these past few weeks with simultaneous releases landing from their side projects Jade Hairpins and Masterpiece Machine. The former's a synthpop act who've been building up to the May release of their Harmony Avenue full-length. The latter's an industrial trio featuring vocals from Riley Gale of the Dallas thrash titans Power Trip. The Fucked Up mothership last released Dose Your Dreams in 2018.

Listen: Daniel Romano - Super Pollen @ Bandcamp

Adrian Teacher of Vancouver's beloved Apollo Ghosts spent the last few weeks of quarantine writing a love letter to his hometown. Local Delivery Only features Teacher covering 35 groups with Vancouver roots, from high profile exports like Japandroids and The New Pornographers to hyperconnected indie scene supporting players like Jay Arner, Chris-a-riffic, and Mr. Merlot. In the set you'll find Teacher's takes on favourites from Woolworm, Gal Gracen, Dead Soft, Tough Age, and Jock Tears among others.

The recordings primarily feature Teacher recording in isolation. While he assembled most of the songs in their entirety, modern-day Ghosts members Amanda P. and Robbie N. still manage to dial in to contribute vocals and bass to a handful of tracks. Until the 30th, the band's donating $1 each time the album's downloaded to the DTES Response Fund, which supports COVID-19 rapid response efforts for people at risk in Vancouver's downtown eastside.

The set follows Living Memory, a deeply personal, piano-driven work from Teacher written to grapple with both his father's Alzheimer's and the death of BC's cedar forests. It was the first new work released under the Apollo Ghosts name since 2012's Landmark.

Listen: Apollo Ghosts - Local Delivery Only @ Bandcamp

Telephone Explosion's gearing up for the May 8 release of the self-titled debut from Pantayo, a Toronto five-piece creating contemporary sounds from the musical traditions of the Southern Philippines. The ensemble specializes in the kulintang (a percussive instrument laid out as a series of brass gongs) while incorporating modern synths and kick drums to create a sound that's compelling and unique. The label recently released "V V V (They Lie)," the record's second single. You can check it out below.

In a statement the band commented on the song, drawing a food analogy to its composition:

"We wrote 'V V V (They Lie)' in a day. We were having bubble tea at that time and the song just came together intuitively. The composition of the song was a lot like a cup of bubble tea. We added 2 cups of blended percussion as the base, then some analog synth tapioca pearls to keep the texture interesting and fun, and finally topped it off with a few tablespoons of fresh tropical vocal fruits for some added sweetness."

Pantayo worked in the studio with Yamantaka // Sonic Titan's Alaska B producing. They recorded their eight-song full-length in Toronto between 2016 and 2019, with lyrics that reflect upon the group's identities both as members of a diaspora but also the queer community.

Listen: Pantayo - "V V V (They Lie)" @ SoundCloud

Toronto punk luminaries PUP have a new single out. I'm not entirely sure if "Anaphylaxis" comes from the Morbid Stuff sessions or if it represents a true bout of follow-up songwriting, but it's undoubtedly more put together than your typical quarantine recording. Here's what the band's Stefan Babcock had to say about the tune in a press release:

"I got the idea for the song when I was at my partner's cottage and her cousin got stung by a bee and his whole head started to swell up. His wife, although she was concerned, also thought it was pretty hilarious and started making fun of him even as they were headed to the hospital. He ended up being totally fine, but it was just funny to watch him freaking out and her just lighting him up at the same time. It reminded me of all the times I've started panicking for whatever reason and was convinced I was dying and the world was ending and no one would take me seriously. In retrospect, I always find those overreactions pretty funny. So we wrote a goofy song about being a hypochondriac and tried to make our guitars sound like bees at the beginning of it."

The track arrives alongside a claymation video by Callum Scott-Dyson. It follows a recent home-recording from Babcock dubbed "Waiting For Something to Happen," which surfaced on YouTube earlier in April.

PUP last released Morbid Stuff in 2019 on Rise Records in the States and the band's Little Dipper imprint in Canada. The album, the group's third, landed them land on the Polaris Music Prize short list.

Watch: PUP - "Anaphylaxis" @ YouTube

Toronto power-pop act Pretty Matty recently released a killer little punk tune on a split with the Nashville duo Sad Baxter. That song, titled "Why Not Be Something That You Are?", is featured in a new video from directors Ema Walters and Warren Goodwin. In it, you'll find Matty Morand and PONY's Sam Bielanski cast as detectives investigating a murder (with Matty, or at least a doppelganger, also playing the victim and the perpetrator).

The Sad Baxter split arrived in early March from Head 2 Wall Records. The 45 follows a recent solo set that Matty Morand recorded with Ian Shelton of the Seattle power-violence outfit Regional Justice Center. Before that, 2019 saw the release of Pretty Matty's self-titled debut on Get Better Records.

Watch: Pretty Matty - "Why Not Be Something That You Are?" @ YouTube

Montreal art-punks Lungbutter revisited last year's Honey LP this week with a new video for the single "Veneer." Jordan Minkoff (Quaker Parents, Freak Heat Waves, Faith Healer) crafted the surreal animated piece. Constellation Records commented on the clip, which you can find now on YouTube:

"The song opens with over three minutes of stinging guitar squall that soundtracks an alien desert landscape, filled with mutant creatures, visited by spinning objects, leading to surreal cataclysms of portentous birthings and transformations, as the song crashes into full gear just before the four-minute mark. Perfect song for a video – and a perfect video for it."

Honey arrived in May of last year from Constellation. A supporting tour of the United Kingdom and continental Europe, the band's first trip abroad, was recently scrapped due to the pandemic. Lungbutter features vocalist Ky Brooks, drummer Joni Sadler, and guitarist Kaity Zozula.

Watch: Lungbutter - "Veneer" @ YouTube

Devin Friesen's atmospheric recording project Bitter Fictions returns this week with a new 40-minute six-song album titled Eloquent & Despairing. The record, recorded over the past month, continues Friesen's exploration of guitar-based drone music and experimental soundscapes. It's also a quick follow-up to the Distants EP released in March. When that earlier set arrived, the musician commented on his ambitions for an accelerated pace this year:

"My plan this year is to release something digitally every month or so, so as to both thin out my archives and publish new works more promptly without going broke making physical editions of everything. For much of the past decade I have been playing and recording compulsively for my own needs and amusement, a constant workbook. my hope is that releasing material in this way will help me move on from old recordings that I want available but never released for some reason or another, as well as be more current in sharing this bitter fictions thing I do."

These two releases follow the November single Fall Into Snow and before that the Walker album from May of 2019. These collections are all available via Friesen's Montreal-based Shaking Box label.

Listen: Bitter Fictions - Eloquent & Despairing @ Bandcamp

Flatliners frontman Chris Cresswell spent some of his time in isolation recording a thematically-apt set of cover songs. His new solo EP The Inside Man features peaceful acoustic renditions of classics like "So Lonely" by the Police, Fugazi's "Waiting Room," and Descendents' "Nothing With You." The seven-song collection's available on Bandcamp now.

The material follows a few recent solo singles from Cresswell, who's been showing off a new maturity in tracks like "Gather My Thoughts" and "To The Wind." Chris last went solo with his 2014 contribution to Joey Cape's One Week Records project. The Flatliners last released the LP Inviting Light and the follow-up EP Mass Candescence, both on Dine Alone Records.

Listen: Chris Cresswell - The Inside Man @ Bandcamp

A final preview of the debut Oswald Park record recently ran at Ottawa Showbox. You can stream the pop-rock band's personal and slow-burning "December Snow," which dropped alongside a feature interview by the venerable website's Eric Scharf. Oswald Park's the new project from Jordy Bell, known until now as the drummer for Crusades and The Creeps. In the interview, Bell comments on the tune:

"This song might actually have been one of the early demo ideas I had, but something about the mood and the laid back style of it really struck me. I love 90's indie rock, and specifically 90's Canadian indie rock, so the feel of this song made me nostalgic for that. I had completed the entire song—guitars, bass, drums etc., but almost bailed on it several times because I just couldn't get lyrics finished. I scrapped and re-wrote them half a dozen times. It may have been the first song I chose, but it was the last one on the record to be completed."

Oswald Park arrives with an EP this Friday titled A Prescription Year. Bell recorded these seven songs in Richmond, Ontario, with production assistance from Scott McCash (a.k.a. Crusades' Skottie Lobotomy) and Statues' Rob Seaton. A physical release is due later in the year on Italy's I Buy Records, to be distributed in North America by Mom's Basement.

Listen: Oswald Park - "December Show" @ Bandcamp

Edmonton's punishing Creeping Chill released a self-titled EP last week through Half Rabid Records. The four-song cassette marks the hardcore band's proper debut, following a set of demos released a year ago. The quartet recorded these d-beat influenced tracks at Public Lunch Studios in February with Liam Wolstenholme engineering and mixing. Will Killingsworth mastered at Dead Air Studios.

Creeping Chill features vocalist Aaron Clarke, guitarist Ryan LK, bassist Jordan Decker, and drummer Brandon Vermette. The group features members of the YEG punk groups Bleach and Demise.

Listen: Creeping Chill - Creeping Chill @ Bandcamp

Hamilton, Ontario hardcore act Sick of Shit has an eight-song self-titled full-length online. These tracks incorporate the entirety of the group's earlier Shit Sandwich EP, recorded at Boxcar Studios with Sean Pearson (Flesh Rag, Uncontrollable Urge). You can check it out now at Bandcamp or snag a limited cassette release from the band.

Listen: Sick of Shit - Sick of Shit @ Bandcamp

Ottawa's indie/electronic duo Paragon Cause has a new full-length in the wild titled What We Started. The set continues the band's working relationship with producer Sune Rose Wagner of the internationally renowned Danish rock group The Raveonettes. The 11-song set features Michelle Opthof on vocals and synth with Jay Bonaparte on both guitar and bass. Wagner's been an active participant in the group, both serving as their studio drummer but also contributing backing vocals and other instrumentation to the record. Paragon Cause recorded this latest set at Ottawa's Neko Studios.

You can find a video for the single "Lost Cause" online at YouTube now. The group commented on the piece, which periodically interrupts their performance with vintage news clips to drive home their social message:

"This intense yet dance-able song is about the cycle of violence and what it will take to get those who commit these acts the same or equal punishment as those who live with the scars of domestic violence and sexual assault. This is an anthem for anyone who wants justice."

With COVID-19 derailing the band's original release plans, the duo's instead organized an online release event for this coming Saturday. On May 2, the duo will take over the social accounts of the Ottawa Showbox to stream a live performance. You can find details at Facebook and dig into a full precursor interview at ottawashowbox.com.

Watch: Paragon Cause - "Lost Cause" @ YouTube

C.R. Gillespie, the bassist of the Toronto noise-punk band Greys, is releasing a new collection of ambient soundscapes titled Concentration Patterns. The hypnotic, 75-minute set arrives as a double LP through Hidden Harmony Recordings, packaged alongside a set of instructions to help listeners tap into the music's purported therapeutic properties. Here's an excerpt from those notes:

"Exploring an enveloping spectrum of tonal space, the intention and pseudo-theory of Concentration Patterns is that of aural therapy, meant to assist in the practice of meditation, mindfulness, and the development of healthy sleep cycles. When played at a comfortable volume (~ 70dB) with possible utilization of indirect listening to exaggerate the low frequency spectrum (fig.1), the listener may disassociate from their surroundings into the synthetic headspace of the extended piece. While listening, allow your body to ingest the hum of these simple and relatively affordable machines.

The unavoidable breakup of the whole within the vinyl format gives the unique opportunity to accentuate the listening experience by suggesting the pairing of pure sine tones, their frequency values indicated above, giving a tonal fulcrum to each side. This concept, sometimes described as binaural beats therapy, posits that concentrated listening to slightly-varying stereo frequencies can lead to decreased anxiety and 'increased quality of life'. Conversely, vibroacoustic therapy, alleging that specific low-frequencies may positively resonate within the body's deep tissue, faces far more apathetic criticism; yet I would be remiss in discouraging this passing consideration during enjoyment of Concentration Patterns."

If you want to give that "binaural beats therapy" thing a shot, C.R.'s linked to an online sine tone generator that you can experiment with.

Greys last released Age Hasn't Spoiled You, their third full length, in 2019 on Carpark Records. C.R. Gillespie issued a cassette release in 2019 titled Tlön.

Listen: C.R. Gillespie - Concentration Patterns @ Bandcamp

Jenn Nucum is a Toronto-based Filipina-Canadian singer-songwriter. Her music's billed as following "the slow, steady, and introspective pace of navigating life as a queer woman of colour in the diaspora." Nucum recently released a moving new single titled "Snakebite," a track that builds to a captivating swell and just happens to include a number of Some Party regulars as supporting players. The set features Nucum on guitar and vocals backed by By Divine Right's José Miguel Contreras on synth and Jesse Locke of Tough Age on drums. Lavender Bruisers' Kritty Uranowski co-produces the song with Nucum, while Contreras serves as the studio engineer. You can check it out below.

The new track follows the March-released "Better Optimist" single, with both songs following Nucum's 2018 Borrowing Feelings EP.

Toronto pop-punk combo Knifey has a new video online for "Ask You," the group's catchy first single from their sophomore full-length Sleepwalker. The band commented on the tune in a statement:

"'Ask You' was inspired by the love for a supportive partner. This song is about the gratitude we should all feel for the people that make us better, but also the insecurity that appreciation can bring when we look back at our own lives and ask if we are worthy of that love."

Shawn Kosmo (PONY, Twist, Tommy and the Commies) directed the clip. Knifey recorded "Ask You" with Nixon Boyd (Hollerado, Anyway Gang, Little Junior) at Banquet Sound. The new record doesn't have a published release date yet, but whenever it arrives, it'll follow the quartet's 2017 debut Bleached.

Watch: Knifey - "Ask You" @ YouTube

In a surprise announcement, this weekend Guelph's Out Of Sound Records releases Former Firsts, the second in a series of collaborative EPs bringing together the eclectic Nova Scotian duo Construction & Destruction and Steven Lambke of the Constantines. The set features three new songs co-authored by Lambke, Colleen Collins, and Dave Trenaman, whom this time out worked with Adam Sturgeon of WHOOP-Szo in the studio.

You can peek at a short teaser below, but the real show's booked for Friday, May 1, at 7:00 PM EST. If you tune in to Instagram that evening look out for a live performance streaming from Construction & Destruction's home-base of Port Greville, Nova Scotia.

The EP will be available this weekend from Out Of Sound, arriving both as a digital download and a limited cassette. The collaboration follows the trio's 2018 set, and the first edition in this series, Revolution C.

Construction & Destruction's last full-length was 2017's Noli Timere (although both members also played that year as part of the electronic group Delta Blip). Steven Lambke released Dark Blue in 2019 through You've Changed Records.

Watch: Construction & Destruction & Steven Lambke - Former Firsts teaser @ YouTube

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