For brevity, I'll refer to this past Friday's event on Bandcamp.com, in which the music website waived their revenue share once again, as Bandcamp Friday. I don't think that's the official branding. Regardless of its name, the event brought in nearly $4.3 million for artists and of course a flood of cool new releases to talk about here...
The cult Toronto no-wave act New Fries return this summer with a new full-length on Telephone Explosion. The group's releasing the 13-song Is The Idea Of Us on August 7, a stretch of over three and a half years from their last record, the celebrated 10" EP More. The group previewed the set with the single "Ploce," which arrived alongside an animated video from Amy Lockhart. New Fries commented on their much-heralded lateral approach to songwriting in a press release:
"New Fries has never been interested in being a band. What we mean is a spirit of abandoning ideas of what songs should be, how they should be performed, and by whom. We've never been interested in the tradition of songwriting—though we're interested in musical elements like repetition, space, and dynamics. We have wanted our music to make people dance but have also wanted to produce the feeling of that being taken away from a room. We often work around these sorts of energy transfers (whether or not we name them this way). This space to make music in has felt wild and free. We have also contradicted ourselves. We are also always changing."
In the year following More, New Fries parted ways with keyboardist Ryan Carley, reconfiguring as a three-piece with the remaining members swapping instruments. This current incarnation of the group finds vocalist Anni Spadafora moving to bass, trading places with Tim Fagan (who's also now manning a sampler on stage), meanwhile drummer Jenny Gitman's paired back her drum kit to three pieces. The group recorded Is The Idea Of Us with Carl Didur of the Toronto psych duo Zacht Automaat serving as producer.
If you had any doubt of the band's commitment to forgoing the usual structures, they've generically titled no less than six songs on the record "Genre" to hammer that point home.
I try not to position this newsletter an overt Daniel Romano fan club, I really do, but this pandemic hasn't had a week without something new from the Welland singer/songwriter.
Last week Danny released Content To Point The Way, a 10-song collection credited to his touring band The Outfit. The set was recorded just a week before release, with Kenneth Roy Meehan mixing. This version of The Outfit, who all collaborated remotely while in quarantine, featured Dave Nardi, J.R., Roddy Rosetti, Mark Lalama, Aaron Goldstein (Espanola), and, of course, Danny's steadfast brother Ian Romano drumming. The set marks a confident return to the authentic country stylings of Danny's earlier solo records, like 2013's Come Cry With Me or 2015's If I've Only One Time Askin'.
This album follows a flood of new material from Romano over the past few months. Running backwards down the calendar, you'll first find the Super Pollen EP (Danny and Ian joined by Fucked Up's Jonah Falco and Mike Haliechuk). That was just a week ago. Before that, the full-length "Visions Of The Higher Dream" started his isolation run. Just prior to the shutdown, The Outfit was on the road supporting the newly released You've Changed live set "Okay Wow". A Flower That Wouldn't Bloom, the third record from Ancient Shapes (The Outfit reconstituted as a punk group) arrived in late 2019, and before that came, oh, let's say three solo LPs in 2018. Content to point the way, as it is.
...and lest anyone accuse him of wasting time, just a few days ago Danny also released a book of 100 love poems titled At Last There Is No End. You can find that and everything above at Bandcamp.
On May 22, Stomp Records debuts the first LP from Montreal melodic punk quartet Les Mains Sales. The group's lead by Fred Jacques of The Sainte Catherines and Yesterday's Ring and features several players from that family of bands. He's backed here by guitarist Ryan Battistuzzi (Colin Moore band, Fontarabie, Yesterday's Ring, Miracles, The Bottle), bassist Dan Cesare (Oakhearts, Powernap), and drummer Rich Bouthillier (The Sainte Catherines, Yesterday's Ring, Rudy Caya). The ten-song set, produced by Battistuzzi, features lyrics that dwell heavily on the physical and emotional toll of a major car accident Jacques suffered in 2015.
You can preview the record now with the single "Personne."
Charlottetown's scuzzy, low-fi punk group Antibodies released an EP on Bandcamp Friday to raise money for the Cooper Institute. The band's taking part in the initiative PEI Musicians for Migrant Worker Relief, an effort focused on COVID-19's effect on migrant farmworkers who are so far ineligible for financial support from the Canadian government. You can pick up the set at Bandcamp now and follow through on that link to Facebook to learn more about the initiative. Every day in May, they'll feature an island artist sharing a brand new track, with all funds collected from digital sales earmarked for donation.
Antibodies are also gearing up for a vinyl collection of their most recent material from Drunken Sailor Records. On May 29 the UK label's releasing LP 2019 + LP 2018, a 20 song record combining the band's two plainly named full-lengths as a single release. These songs were remastered for vinyl by Will Killingsworth of Orchid and Bucket Full of Teeth. You can check the new versions out now at Bandcamp now.
Hamilton garage-punk mainstays TV Freaks recently released Scraps Vol. 1, a "hastily assembled" collection of rarities, b-sides, and demo recordings. The 13-song set features audio dating back to 2013, including material workshopped for the band's sophomore LP Two, and its 2015 Deranged Records follow-up Bad Luck Charms. Of particular curiosity is the set's final track, a cover of Simply Saucer's "Illegal Bodies" featuring that band's frontman, Edgar Breau. TV Freaks commented:
"Craig from Schizophrenic had introduced us to Edgar Breau from Simply Saucer and convinced us to work on a record together. After exchanging a few emails, we asked Edgar to come down to a rehearsal at Bachelor's Paradise on December 9 2014. Here we ran through 'Illegal Bodies' a couple times together, smoked a joint, and then laid this take down live off the floor. Dave did the vocals a few days later. To date, this is the only document of this would-be Saucer Freaks record. Hopefully we'll get our shit together one day to pull it off (sorry Craig!)."
More Saucer Freaks, please. A rough mix of this track appeared as part of a digital compilation released alongside Jesse Locke's book Heavy Metalloid Music: The Story of Simply Saucer. The songs collected on Scraps were all given a remix by Kenneth Roy Meehan.
Acclaimed Toronto hardcore unit Fucked Up shared two new releases for Bandcamp Friday. The first was Rivoli, a live set recorded at the venue of the same name back in 2014, during the tour supporting Glass Boys. The 16 song performance was recorded from the soundboards and mixed by the band's Jonah Falco, with Daniel Husayn mastering.
The band also unveiled the audio for the sixth volume in their ongoing mixtape series. Like the earlier editions, which date back to 2015, this tape features a mix of interviews, rarities, and a smattering of songs from other bands. Mixtape 6, which doesn't yet have a physical release, includes covers of Blitz, the Ramones, Alanis Morrissette, and the Grateful Dead, among others. There's a preview of Year of the Horse, the next entry Fucked Up's Zodiac series, in the mix as well. Each side of the future cassette's also peppered with interview clips culled from recent episodes of Damian Abraham's Turned Out A Punk and Vish Khanna's Kreative Kontrol podcasts. You can snag the audio at Bandcamp, while it lasts.
Fucked Up last released the expansive Dose Your Dreams album in 2018. These past few months have seen a flurry of activity from the Jonah Falco and Mike Haliechuk, with new releases arriving from their side-projects Jade Hairpins and Masterpiece Machine.
That Fucked Up mixtape includes a song from the well-respected (if slightly lower profile) Toronto hardcore group S.H.I.T.. That band also participated in Bandcamp Friday, releasing a live recording from March 4, 2020, recorded in Athens, Greece. Proceeds from the sales of the set are due to be donated to the Greek band Chain Cult, who had their first North American tour kneecapped by the pandemic. Here's the story:
"On March 4, S.H.I.T. played Idryma 2.14 in Athens. A lot of punks in Athens worked to make that happen. Among them were the members of Chain Cult. I had spent months working with them before this, planning their first North American tour. Gear had been sent, merch had been printed, flights had been bought.
A week and one day later, we were back in Toronto and all flights had been banned from Europe to the US As our collective new reality set in, the tour was amongst the casualties. They were supposed to play Toronto, tonight. April 30.
S.H.I.T. will also produce tapes of the show, titled Συναυλία στο ίδρυμα 2.14, for release on the La Vida Es En Mus label. In late February, the band released two new digital singles, "Hidden In Eternity" and "Eraser III." The songs marked their first follow-ups to 2018's What Do You Stand For? LP.
Saint John rock group Papal Visit recently revealed "Where To They Swim?", a slow-burning tune that serves as the first single from their upcoming full-length. The band's in the process of pairing down nearly 30 newly recorded songs into manageable tracklist, with a series of two-song singles planned to give the cut B-sides a home. This first salvo pairs "Swim" with "Optical Illusion Part II," a track you can pick up on Bandcamp. The A-side's available as a video, below.
In an interview with Grid City Magazine, vocalist Adam Mowery commented on the song:
"It's basically a summer celebration song. I'm always up for a swim wherever I go. That's a big part of summer in the Maritimes. This song was also inspired by a trip home to Saint John the summer before last. It was one of those great visits where you just find yourself running into people constantly, some you haven't seen in years."
Mowery formed Papal Visit after moving to Halifax as a way to stay connected with the Saint John music scene he came up in. Working remotely with Pierre Cormier and a revolving group of New Brunswick musicians, he's put out a wealth of material over the past few years, most recently the 2019 live album Prepare For Your Reversal. The new record, which doesn't yet have a name, will be the band's first LP since 2017's Garden Grove. Papal Visit's current line-up features Mowery on vocals and Cormier playing bass along with guitarist Jason Ogden, guitarist Chris Braydon, and drummer Geoffrey Smith.
The Burning Hell's had a busy quarantine, keeping active not only with the promotion of Ariel Sharratt and Mathias Kom's new record of duets, but through several hours of their "high-quality television show" Everything Will Probably Be OK. In addition, and just in time for Bandcamp Friday, Kom shared a new one-off track voicing some eminently relatable isolation frustrations. The single "I Want to Drink in a Bar" is wistful for the days when we could crowd into an establishment for a pint without fear of causing or catching a medical emergency. The band plans to make the song available for purchase only on the upcoming days on which Bandcamp waives its revenue share (June 5 and July 3 are up next), with all money raised to be donated to support COVID-19 shuttered music venues.
Arial and Mathias, under their given names and not billed as "The Burning Hell," recently released Never Work on BB*Island. It's a collection of gig-economy labour songs and protest-folk for the age of Amazon.
Last week Dirty Nil drummer Kyle Fisher stepped out from behind the kit to unveil his first solo track. As part of a side-project dubbed Instrument Of Death, he shared the distortion-drenched, shouted-word punk tune "First Time Caller, Long Time Listener." The song features Fisher on vocals and bass, with Nil bassist Ross Miller backing him on drums.
The Nil last released Master Volume, their sophomore LP for Dine Alone Records, in 2019. It was nominated for Rock Album of the Year award at the Juno Awards that never happened, the outcome of which remains in limbo.
Hamilton's Matt Ellis recently released his second home-recorded EP of the isolation stretch. Stays Home, like the preceding High Risk Assurance, features four snotty, Ramones-indebted punk tunes recorded in the bathroom of his family home. Sales of the EP, which arrived for Bandcamp Friday, were collected for Keeping Six, a community-based harm-reduction organization looking out for drug users in Hamilton. The organization's distributed food, clean needles, hygienic supplies, and more during the pandemic.
You may recognize Ellis as the frontman of 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 as well.
Montreal's spazzy New Vogue shared a "forgotten" demo last week titled "New Eyes." It's the band's first new recording to surface following their contributions to Under The Circumstances, the first Some Party cassette comp that arrived with the New Year. You can find the new tune on Bandcamp now. The long-awaited first LP from the group's expected sometime later this year.
New Vogue is a blown-out DEVO-core side-project from Max Desharnais of Montreal's PRIORS and Sonic Avenues. Outside of my silly little tape, the band last released a self-titled EP in 2018, along with a 7" single featuring the songs "Birdcage" and "Space Junk."
The wildly experimental Saint John trio Usse recently issued a single, 30-minute track titled Capitalist Brain Party no .2. The piece features seven players, including the aforementioned Pierre Cormier of Papal Visit, Colleen Collins of Construction & Destruction, Jennifer Nason (a.k.a. Juniper), and Andrew MacKelvie of New Hermitage. They join the regular Usse players of Jud Crandall, Emily Saab, and Sebastian Fleet on the lengthy song. In a statement the band commented:
"CAPITALIST BRAIN PARTY no. 2 is a manufactured album length improvisation, built by seven players on the foundation of a field recording of pummeling rain on a structure. Given the task of responding to what preceded and constructing space for what follows, each player laid sheet upon sheet of sound sequentially in isolation. Arranged as a 'double quartet', in a playful nod to Ornette Coleman's 'Free Jazz', occupation of this space is rendered with minimal interference, beyond simply placing the isolated players in this virtual space. First takes were encouraged, and preparation was limited to steeling oneself to stay the course once playing had begun.
Just as in a live improvisation, empathy, imagination and accommodation were paramount, seeking to discover the togetherness of a collective organism, in spite of that which separates us. While the COVID pandemic very much set the stage for this experiment, the true watershed of our social fabric, revealing itself today as much as any time, is the unequal, non-neutral construct of capitalism. CAPITALIST BRAIN PARTY no. 2 recognizes and stands in defiance of this cruel house in which we are made to live, work and struggle."
This track's one of several recent releases from the group, including April's cover of "The Future" (Prince's contribution to the '89 Batman flick), and the Rags of Destruction split with the Gatineau electronic duo H. de Heutz.
Hamilton rock group Shade recently unveiled their debut LP, a 10-song set of crunchy alt-rock throwbacks titled Combat Rave. The group draws upon early-90s grunge and Britpop influence in equal measure, sounds they showcase on the record's first single "Morningmaker." The band worked with producers Leon Taheny (Fucked Up, Bruce Peninsula) and Josh Korody (The Dirty Nil, Dilly Dally) on the album.
Bandcamp's good deed has had the secondary benefit of pulling some really cool archival material out of the closets of the nation's musicians. This week the Lethbridge, Alberta punk group The Moby Dicks, who called it quits in 2011, issued their Complete Dicksography in one convenient package. At the end of their run, the often-irreverent trio featured bassist Paul Lawton (later of Ketamines and Century Palm), guitarist Evan Van Reekum (of Fist City and later the Sled Island festival), and drummer/vocalist Joel Butler (who went on to play in Nervous Talk, Corner Boys, and currently Chain Whip). At times the band also included contributions from Ryan Grieve, Emily Deimert, and Little Johnny.
The Moby Dicks notably issued a collaborative 45 in 2011 that featured the group backing the skid-showman B.A. Johnston. Those tracks are also included here. Much of The Moby Dicks' material came out via the Mammoth Cave Recording Co..
Toronto's Friend Ship Committee has a pair of new compilations online, dubbed Friend Ship From Home. The sets feature new music from a diverse assortment of Ontario bands and solo artists, drawing from the low-fi punk and psych-adjacent undergrounds, in particular. The latest volume, which arrived May 1, features music from Chladny, Roy, Bonnie Trash, Robbie Brake, and Dart Mouth, among others. While I'm not entirely familiar with the line-up here, this is absolutely the kind of release I'll be mining for newsletter fodder well into the future. To pull a name at random, check out the buzzing synth-punk of The Fucking Astronauts' "The Man From an Unknown Time," it appears on the second volume.
The Friend Ship Committee organized 2019's Friend Ship cruise, a show hosted on a boat in Lake Ontario that featured the likes of Hot Garbage and WLMRT. A 2020 event is, of course, not likely at this point.
Niagara-on-the-Lake emo-revivalists Heavy Hearts have a June 5 release date for Room With a View, their sophomore full-length. The band's new single from the work is "Out Of Reach," a track that marries some slick post-rock instrumentals into the group's sound. You can check it out now at Bandcamp. Heavy Hearts recorded the track at Ottawa's Pebble Studios with Cory Bergeron producing.
"Out Of Reach" is the third recent track shared from the band, with "Vexed" and "Safe Bet" also due for the upcoming record. Room With a View follows up on the group's 2018 New Damage single Cut Too Deep, and before that the On a Chain EP. Heavy Hearts features vocalist/guitarist Justin Glatt, bassist Jamie Gorman, guitarist Riley Jensen, percussionist Joey Demers, and drummer JJ Sorensen.
Montreal's Mickey Dagger, the post-punk/goth moniker of EBM producer Taylor "Hoodlum" Stevenson, has a new 10-song set online dubbed Watch For The Sign (Fold It). The technoir-styled album features songs recorded between 2011 and 2018, with a pair of remixes assembled in 2020. The new set follows 2019's Street Survival EP.
Earlier in the year, Stevenson debuted a four-piece deathrock group dubbed Young Blades, sharing a demo on Bandcamp of which I'm quite fond. That band featured members of Droids, Fractured, and Warcrusher among their ranks. Both it and the new Mickey Dagger record are available on YouTube now.
Hamilton's Back Teeth used Bandcamp Friday to raise money for the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society. The no-wave unit, a project of Allie L. Torrance, released a three-song EP titled Live At Boxcar, recorded on March 1, 2019 at Boxcar Sound Recording. Torrance had this to say about the release:
"People Who Use Drugs are not only experiencing a singular global health crisis (COVID-19), they are also continuing to experience the ongoing overdose crisis, which in recent weeks has seen a rising of overdoses at levels not seen since 2016. Individuals who are being told to self-isolate are doing so in a climate that tells them that their needs are unimportant, and they continue to be largely ignored in a crisis response. People are being pushed to use drugs alone, or to be ticketed for simply existing without homes or access to their communities. Now, more than ever, it is time to rise-up against criminal systems and moralistic views about drug use in our communities.
Providing a safe supply of drugs to people who use them is NOT a radical idea. In fact, it is happening, and people who have the power to prescribe need ACT NOW. In the wake of COVID-19 it is time for people to wake up and see that the disparities that the people who are marginalized within our communities experience, are not an individual 'problem'. Rather, it is the systems which punish those who exist outside of a capitalistic driven ideology and world view that is the problem. People Who Use Drugs are people and they are members of our communities, they have value, they are smart, they are loving, they are kind, they deserve access to choice, to dignity, and to life."
Two of the songs here originate from Garbage Head, an EP Back Teeth released in the winter of 2018. Videos of the performances are online as well ("Gardens," "Garbage Head," "Beaches"). At this show, Back Teeth featured Torrance backed by bassist Brad Germain and drummer Evelyn Charlotte Joe.
D.O.A.'s Joey Shithead, or perhaps more appropriately in this context, the respectable Burnaby city councillor Joe Keithley, recently wrote and recorded a spirt-boosting song celebrating frontline workers and his city's resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. A video for "We're All In this Together" features the punk legend, accompanied by Burnaby mayor Mike Hurley, performing the track (at an appropriate 2 meters apart) in the city's Deer Lake Park. In a statement Keithley commented on the track:
"Writing this song was just natural as I saw the growing effort by our fellow Canadians to keep as many folks as possible safe throughout the pandemic. It's my way of thanking and expressing my admiration for the nurses, doctors and all the front line workers. They are the best!"
D.O.A. released a new album, their 18th, on March 15 via Sudden Death Records. The lyrical content of Treason is, suffice to say, a few shades more confrontational than this tune.
These are trying times, but there are bright spots if you pay attention. I'm not sure who needs this, but here's Sam Bielanski of the Toronto bubblegum-punk act PONY playing a perfect cover of "Somebody Kill Me Please." If that title doesn't ring a bell, then you'll surely remember it as the song a mulleted Adam Sandler belted, post-breakdown, in the 1997 comedy The Wedding Singer.
The track follows PONY's 2019 single "Limerence," which marked Sam's long-awaited return following 2017's Do You EP. Bielanski's performed recently as part of the power-pop group Pretty Matty, with that band's principle, Matty Morand, credited with recording and mixing this track.