Sunday July 5, 2020

Burn It All

High energy Toronto punk outfit The OBGMs recently shared the second single from their upcoming record. "Not Again" follows the June-released "Cash" in previewing the group's forthcoming LP for Black Box. It arrived alongside a raucous performance video by Phillip Stirling. You can check it out below.

Fascinated by the band's aggressive online promotion of the album, I reached out to guitarist/vocalist Densil McFarlane to dig into The OBGMs' sound and mindset. It seems clear that one could trace the lineage of "Not Again" back to The Bronx and The Hives in the heyday of the early 2000s rock revival. It's not much of a stretch to draw lines from there back to 90s garage-punk legends like the New Bomb Turks. Denz casts a wide net when considering the group's forebearers on this record:

"We don't draw inspiration from any band in particular; however, the similarities lie in being unapologetically and unabashedly real as loudly as possible. We love sonically and visually loud things, but we also need it to be uniquely us. As music lovers and students of punk/rock/grunge, we have definitely listened to Bad Brains, Nirvana, The Vines, White Stripes — but we also listen to Prince, NERD, George Clinton. If you trace the timeless bands in history, you'll notice they had a sound/image that could not be ignored."

That refusal to be ignored has been readily apparent, with the band's social media presence spitting fire to promote these songs. McFarlane certainly hasn't hesitated from naming and shaming establishment publications from Canada's small pond music press to demand better representation for BIPOC rock artists. Given the current cultural backdrop, and their visibility as a predominantly Black punk band in a genre often considered homogeneous, I asked if the moment demanded that they step up. Was their current level of promotional intensity always in the cards, or is it a reaction?

"Fire was always the plan. I've been so angry and insecure because we are continuously unheard/unnoticed. We are fighting for our lives and I just want to scream. The best way I can do that is in the booth. This cultural moment has allowed us to amplify this message and apply it to representation in music. It has also allowed us time to reflect and look for ways we can uplift other BIPOC bands using our platform. This isn't a moment for us. This isn't a black square for us. We are here. We want seats at the table, or we will burn it down. And we still may."

What strikes me about both "Not Again" and "Cash" is the unconstrained rock'n'roll swagger The OBGMs project. While a few contemporary artists play with that imagery (Toronto's Danko Jones have worn it like a badge for years), that level of boisterous confidence feels rare. It may be our collective emo hangover, but it still feels like most modern rock bands would rather retreat into irony and self-deprecation than be seen waving their banner. So where's that energy coming from?

"The energy is that I just don't care anymore. I'm free.

Kanye West. Kanye West came into the hip-hop game knowing that, in his heart, he was the best. Whether people agreed or not was irrelevant. He actively got the message out, delivered quality products and more people bought in. Music is a deeply personal thing and all artists face some form of anxiety or insecurity releasing their art to the world. I just don't want to build my house on my insecurities. I want to build my house on what I truly know — whether people agree or not. YOU HAVEN'T HEARD A BAND THAT CAN DO WHAT WE DO ON A RECORD. Put some respect on it. We are literally bending and breaking genres. The louder I explain this, the more we deliver, the more people will be paying attention."

"Not Again" and "Cash" mark the group's first new material in three years. Having parted ways with their keyboardist, the OBGMs now play as a trio comprised of McFarlane, bassist Joseph Brosnan, and drummer Colanthony Humphrey.

The OBGMs, short for The oOoh Baby Gimme Mores, recorded this new material with the Grammy and JUNO Award-winning producer Dave Schiffman (PUP, The Bronx, Anti-Flag). The band's upcoming LP, which follows their 2017 self-titled debut, arrives in October from Black Box.

Watch: The OBGMs - "Not Again" @ YouTube

Siksika Nation punk quartet No More Moments recently shared the first single from their next EP, Mill Grove High. "Burn It All" delivers a blast of frantic hardcore and SoCal-influenced skate punk. It's one of five tracks to appear on the EP, the Calgary band's first release in four years. The group recorded with Ian Dillon of Canadian Vinyl co-producing and mixing, with mastering provided by Daggermouth's Stu Mckillop.

No More Moments features vocalist Quarthon Bear Chief, guitarist Brandyn Darko, drummer/vocalist Carlin Black Rabbit, and bassist Cory White. The group last released the album Still Going in 2016 on Transistor 66.

Listen: No More Moments - "Burn It All" @ Bandcamp

The cult-favourite Halifax "gloom-pop" group Dog Day returns this summer with their first new full-length in seven years. Present arrives on August 14, featuring a lineup that finds the husband and wife core of guitarist/vocalist Seth Smith and bassist/vocalist Nancy Urich backed by original Dog Day drummer KC Spindle (Diamondtown) and keyboardist Megumi Yoshida (Bad Vibrations, Not You). You can preview the 13-song record now with the wistful debut single, "Hell On Earth."

This new record marks the band's fifth overall full-length, following 2013's Fade Out. In the years since that album Smith and Ulrich have been working in film, notably writing, directing, and scoring the acclaimed 2017 horror film The Crescent. A sci-fi follow-up, titled Tin Can, is currently in post-production. Present, produced and mixed by Smith, is expected via the band's fundog label.

Listen: Dog Day - "Hell On Earth" @ Bandcamp

Just a week after announcing their fourth full length, and debuting "Repose," the record's decidedly chill first single, Toronto trio Tough Age have yet another preview of Which Way Am I? online. Last week the band premiered a video for the cheerily titled "My Life's a Joke & I'm Throwing it Away" in a feature at Paste. The audio came paired with an animated clip by visual artist Ginette Lapalme (part of the Toronto illustrator collective Wowee Zonk).

In a statement to the magazine, guitarist/vocalist Jarrett Evan Samson commented:

"'My Life's A Joke and I'm Throwing It Away' was a clear round-down of 'I hate myself and I wanna die,'— a half-measure of sorts, a commitment to dramatics. The song itself is actually about the hand-off of this life and lifestyle: come the second verse I have given, either by direct transference or horrible influence, my life to another and now they get to experience everything firsthand before unfortunately probably arriving at the same place I did. I may reappear later to offer empty condolences but the song isn't about me anymore, it's about the next band who hopefully will be able to avoid replicating the failings, consolation prizes and self-doubt I have saddled myself with. Also, I think it's funny."

The 11-song Which Way Am I? arrives on August 7 through the band's longtime home of Mint Records. The band, comprised of bassist/vocalist Penny Clark, drummer Jesse Locke, and guitarist/vocalist Jarrett Evan Samson, recorded at Montreal's Bottle Garden Studio, once again working with producer Peter Woodford (Moss Lime, Deliluh, Bleu Nuit). Vancouver indie-pop artist Jay Arner mastered the set. Hit up last week's edition of Some Party for more on the new record.

Watch: Tough Age - "My Life's a Joke & I'm Throwing it Away" @ YouTube

Toronto glam-pop powerhouse Nyssa recently turned 30 and celebrated the milestone with a new single. "Bye Bye Jubilee," described as a protest song, is the latest in an ongoing series of confident one-off tracks from the artist. Nyssa last released "Antibodies" in April, and before that, the songs "I Don't Wanna Live On The Moon (Without U)," "Hey Jackie," and "#1Girl." While these tracks have yet to be collected, the material all comes in the wake of 2018's Champion of Love EP.

"Bye Bye Jubilee" features guitar, bass, drum, and keyboard performed by Zack Burgess (Gardenworld, Kremlin). Nyssa's pledged all proceeds raised by the song to RAVEN Trust and Black Women In Motion.

Listen: Nyssa - "Bye Bye Jubilee" @ Bandcamp

Toronto's Maryam Said, who plays by the stage name Poolblood, recently shared a gorgeous remix of "I'm Sorry," the centrepiece single from their 2019 Accidental Popstar EP Yummy. This version of the tune features cello and vocals from Mauno's Eliza Niemi, along with guitar, piano, percussion, and vocals from Toronto singer/songwriter Louie Short.

Proceeds raised from the track are due for the NABL Black & Indigenous 2SLGBTQ Fund, FoodShare Toronto, and the AIR Collective Occupation Fund.

Listen: Poolblood - "I'm Sorry" (ft. Louie Short and Eliza Niemi) @ Bandcamp

Hamilton's Matt Ellis has unveiled the fourth and final installment in his series of isolation songs. Like the earlier volumes, this EP's both awash in straight-up Ramones worship and raising money for a good cause. Proceeds from the set, titled Never Was, Is And Never Shall Be, are due for the De dwa da dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre. This series began in April with High Risk Assurance, followed in May by Stays Home, and most recently Halfway to Insanity in June. As I understand it, these songs originate from a makeshift studio erected in the bathroom of Ellis' home in Hamilton. His family's not yet released a statement on whether this has been a huge pain in the ass or not, but I've got a hunch.

Matt Ellis is the frontman of both Hamilton's proto-punk revivalists 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.

Listen: Matt Ellis - Never Was, Is And Never Shall Be @ Bandcamp

Haligonian singer/songwriter Matty Grace is back with a new EP, this time under her name as opposed to her isolation-bred Modern Cynics label. Frayed features three new folk-punk styled tunes with Grace on vocals and guitar, written and recorded over the past month. You can find it on Bandcamp.

In March, Grace released Rumination Year, a six-song album produced by Surrender's Dave Williams. It arrived just a few weeks after Beneath The Bridges, a four-song split cassette with the Dartmouth rock trio Designosaur. Over the first few months of COVID isolation, two EP arrived from Grace as the punk outfit Modern Cynics, all featuring songs with no more than 12 different words.

Matty Grace is a veteran of several Halifax-based punk and hardcore groups, a list that includes the Fat Stupids, Weekend Dads, Outtacontroller, and Cutie, among others. She currently fronts the group Future Girls.

Listen: Matty Grace - Frayed @ Bandcamp

Toronto power-pop act Pretty Matty has a quarantine side-project online, a hardcore offshoot shared under the abbreviation PM. The set features Matty Morand and drummer Mat Stewart (of Windsor's Nefidovs and Reliever) performing on three brash new tracks. You can find their demo at Bandcamp, with all proceeds going to Black Lives Matter Toronto and the Homeless Black Trans Women Fund.

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

Listen: PM - Demo 2020 @ Bandcamp

Low-fi rockabilly kingpin Bloodshot Bill's curated a digital collection of rarities under the title Tattle Tale - Vol.1. The set features songs previously featured on several European 7" releases between 2005 and 2013, with several of the tracks now available digitally for the first time. You can find the set at Bandcamp.

Bill last released the LP Get Loose Or Get Lost in April on Memphis' legendary Goner Records. Earlier this year, the prolific Montreal musician put out the Spit on My Rubber EP with Rochester's Televisionaries, along with EP for Ghost Highway Recordings titled The Out Of This World Sounds of Bloodshot Bill Vol.2.

Listen: Bloodshot Bill - Tattle Tale - Vol. 1 @ Bandcamp

London folk/sludge rockers WHOOP-Szo recently revisited their Polaris long-listed Warrior Down with a slate of remixes. That set's now paired with a handful of prototypical incarnations of the album's tracks. The early versions come with extensive online liner notes from guitarist/vocalist Adam Sturgeon. He comments:

"Warrior Down was a long time coming. Maybe you've heard us say that before? It's true, though. We've done a lot of fun projects over the years, and made it a goal to see as much of Canada as we possibly could before branching out into new and unknown places. Us and our old diesel vehicles. In many ways Warrior Down is the culmination of this work brought about by years of touring.

There's a lot to learn in this so-called country. Many stories to be told. Most stories haven't been told at all, and certainly not by the people who should be telling them. WHOOP-Szo has always been the vehicle for me to reach out into the depths of my awareness and shine a light on those hints of truth. I didn't get to know much about that truth growing up and can't much speak for them now, but I sure as fuck try... Truthfully you can't do anything for community until you do it for yourself. So Warrior Down is really and brutally about coming to terms with my own identity, and doing so through the vessel of my family, my own experience, and from many far-reaching places not currently covered by the Canadian lexicon; if anything romanticized. Over time, we've found a story or two to tell. All by putting in the miles."

The five early versions are now available digitally and on a limited run on cassette, with the remix set dubbed on the flip side. You can find details, along with song-by-song breakdowns by Sturgeon, at Bandcamp. Warrior Down arrived last November from You've Changed Records.

Listen: WHOOP-Szo - Warrior Down - early versions @ Bandcamp

Toronto multi-instrumentalist Matthew "Doc" Dunn dropped two new sets of music last week. The first, titled KIM, comes from the duo of Dunn and his longtime The Cosmic Range collaborator, saxophonist Andy Haas (John Zorn, Martha & The Muffins). Dunn commented that KIM finds them playing "[definitely] in the skronk/free/spiritual zone."

The duo recorded with David Millar in a single day session at Dunn's home studio. Jeff McMurrich (Jennifer Castle, Bry Webb) mixed the set, with mastering by Matt Valentine. The 8-song album's extensive liner notes, written by Jesse Locke of Tough Age, give some context to the set. In it, he sets the stage:

"Prior to their work with US Girls on 2018's In A Poem Unlimited, Dunn and Haas first joined forces as members of the infamous free-jazz ensemble ZZ Sharrock, while their recorded output dates back to the 2012 quintet album, Ask The Oracle. On KIM, Haas unleashes a tempest of electronically mutated saxophone and the high-pitched tones of the piri (Korean oboe) while Dunn provides a foundation of clattering percussion with the cosmic organ vamps that have become his calling card. Dedicated to Korean reed player Kim Seok-Sul and inspired by his recordings of traditional Shamanist ritual music, Dunn and Haas's entrancing instrumentals cast a playful yet powerful spell of their own."

Listen: Dunn/Haas - KIM @ Bandcamp

Furthermore, Dunn also shared Dance Works I: SWIM, an experimental piece recorded this past February. Presented as a single unbroken track spanning a half-hour, the song's identified as "an aquatic ballet for six dancers." If you're fortunate enough to be isolated somewhere with a pool this summer, take note. The work features Dunn on every instrument, with Asher Gould-Murtagh engineering in the studio. You can find the ethereal track below.

In May, Dunn released the debut from Stonegrass, an acid-fried psych duo with Jay Anderson. His last proper solo album was 2019's Upper Canada Blues in 2019.

Listen: Matthew "Doc" Dunn - Dance Works I: SWIM @ Bandcamp

Mississauga's JONCRO continues to release material weekly and across multiple genres. Last week brought a spoken word set titled Thoughts From the Lion's Den, and a dubplate just ripe for remixes titled "Bunununus Riddim." You can find both at Bandcamp.

JONCRO lead Daniel G. Wilson's dabbled these past few weeks in hardcore ("Degenerates"), ska-punk ("Wheel An Tun"), and with an assortment of isolation-recorded noise-pop tunes ("Violet Hair" and "Wise River"). In normal times the group plays as a trio with Wilson backed by bassist Kieran Christie and drummer Matthew Mikuljan. The group's last proper release was the Twa EP in February.

Listen: JONCRO - "Bunununus Riddim" @ Bandcamp

Single Mothers' Drew Thomson continued to build on his impressive catalogue of pandemic material with a new 10-song set as SM Worldwide. The collection's a result of a song-a-day writing exercise Thomson embarked upon throughout June. Like the preceding Pig EP, it pairs band's acerbic punk snarl with industrial, post-punk, and electronic backdrops.

As Single Mothers or SM Worldwide, Thomson's released several recent singles and EPs, including "I'm Wrong," "Turbulence," and a spoken word styled set as No Idea Head. A fully remixed and remastered version of the band's 2018 Through a Wall LP arrived just in time for the world to grind to a halt.

Listen: SM Worldwide - Bubble @ Bandcamp

On the flip side of the coin, The Drew Thomson Foundation also has a new EP online. Unplugged & Live Off The Floor features acoustic renditions of a small selection of Thomson's pop-rock output, backed by Mike Riley on piano. The duo recorded the set at Toronto's Lincoln County Social Club, noting "a few wrong notes - but it's us."

The Foundation is the amiable Dr. Jekyll to Single Mothers' thrashing Mr. Hyde. Earlier on in the pandemic, Drew released a massive 37-song trove of demos and outtakes under the project's name dubbed Bedroom Door.

Listen: The Drew Thomson Foundation - Unplugged & Live Off The Floor @ Bandcamp

Single Mothers guitarist / Foundation drummer Peter Landi also brought something new to the table last week. "IOU" marks the Toronto musician's second new track of the year, following "High" in March. The muscular alt-rock tune features Ross Miller of The Dirty Nil on bass. You can check it out at Bandcamp.

Listen: Peter Landi - "IOU" @ Bandcamp

Ottawa synth-pop duo Surrender recently shared a set of remixes, with several artists giving fresh spins to songs from the band's recent LP Disappear. These include new productions from French synthwave producer Ends 84, Australia's Martiln, Norway's Cold Mailman and London's Friday Night Firefight. You can preview the set now at Bandcamp.

Surrender surfaced last year from the ashes of the heretic-punk group Crusades and the fantasy metal trio Black Tower. It features Dave Williams on lead vocals and Scott McCash (Skottie Lobotomy) on keys, guitars, drums, and vocals.

Listen: Surrender - Disappear (The Remixes) @ Bandcamp

That "I Want to Drink in a Bar," The Burning Hell's ode to quarantine frustration, shared a similar title to the B.A. Johnston classic "I Want to Drink in a Bar Filled with Aliens" clearly wasn't lost on the bands. Both tracks, along with BA's recent isolation ode "Supreme Self-Quarantine," are to be collected on a split 7" from the Brighton label Love Thy Neighbour. Available July 24 on "snot-green vinyl," proceeds from the set will support shuttered grassroots music venues in both the UK and Canada.

Mathias Kom and Ariel Sharratt of The Burning Hell recently released the full-length Never Work on BB*Island. Johnston put out The Skid Is Hot Tonight in 2019 on Transistor 66, with the follow-up, Werewolves of London, Ontario, currently in the works.

Listen: The Burning Hell / B.A. Johnston - Split @ Bandcamp

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