Sunday July 19, 2020

Touching Glass

Toronto's Teenanger returns this fall with their sixth full-length, an eight-song set titled Good Time. The record, which follows up 2017's Teenager, arrives October 2 on the band's longtime home of Telephone Explosion. By all indications, the album continues the quartet's fascinating transition from their scrappy garage-punk roots to today's burnt-out new-wave weirdness. "Touching Glass," the record's first single, certainly makes that case, carrying forward Teenager's weary sentiment that the world's changed, and probably not for the better.

Bassist Melissa Ball, who sings lead on the track, commented in a press release:

"I was thinking about John Carpenter's 1988 classic They Live (starring Roddy Piper) before I wrote these lyrics so I guess I had that plot in the back of my mind. It's pretty straight forward lyrically and partly about the fear of mind control and my frustrations with being tethered to/tired with my phone."

The song arrived alongside a hand-drawn animated visualizer by Dr. Cool (Freak Heat Waves, Lungbutter).

Teenanger recorded this set at Studio Z, the group's storied basement studio that's become a pay-what-you-can workspace for the Toronto indie music scene (it's notably where the recent Scott Hardware record came together). Their sessions were beset by environmental hurdles of all sorts, with Z plagued by floods, mould, vermin, and a CO2 leak. The group recorded with the celebrated post-rock producer Sandro Perri working the boards.

Together for more than a decade, Teenanger still features the band's original lineup of drummer Steve Sidoli, bassist Melissa Bell, guitarist Jon Schouten, and vocalist Chris Swimmings.

Watch: Teenanger - "Touching Glass" @ YouTube

I'm overlapping my weeks here, but this newsletter's already embarrassingly late, so all bets are off.

Earlier this week, news broke that the Toronto noise-punk institution METZ would deliver a new full-length in 2020. The band announced Atlas Vending on Tuesday, their fourth LP and the follow-up to 2017's Strange Peace. The announcement came alongside a cinematic, if somewhat unsettling, video for the lead single, "A Boat To Drown In." Speaking on the tune, a more melodic outing than you may expect from the oft blown-out group, frontman Alex Edkins commented:

"['A Boat to Drown In' is] about leaving a bad situation behind. About overcoming obstacles that once held you back, rising above, and looking to a better future. The title refers to immersing yourself fully into what you love and using it as a sanctuary from negativity and a catalyst for change."

Video director Tony Wolski added:

"The song has a beautiful, crushing numbness to it that we wanted to mirror in the visual. So we chose to romanticize our main character's descent into her delusions of love and togetherness. At a time when everyone's simultaneously coping with some sort of isolation, a story about loneliness—and the mania that comes with it—seems appropriate to tell."

Atlas Vending arrives on October 9 from Royal Mountain Records and Sub Pop. Ben Greenberg (Uniform) go-produced the album with the band, with Seth Manchester (Daughters, Lingua Ignota, The Body) engineering and mixing at Pawtucket's Machines with Magnets.

METZ features guitarist/vocalist Alex Edkins, bassist Chris Slorach, and drummer Hayden Menzies. In between Strange Peace and this record, the group released a b-sides and rarities collection on Sub Pop titled Automat.

Watch: METZ - "A Boat To Drown In" @ YouTube

Vancouver's vintage hardcore purists Chain Whip have a new set of demos online. These eight songs shed some light on the band's writing since their 2019 debut, with each speedy track positively crackling with pent-up quarantine frustrations. The group commented:

"Well. 2020 eh? What a year. It's rough and likely irresponsible to release in its current state but we're bored. We figure everyone else is too. We're looking forward to getting these out in better, more cohesive versions for a release in the future but for now: Here's the COVID-19 Demonstration."

Chain Whip features Josh Nickel of Fashionism on vocals, Joel Butler of Nervous Talk, The Moby Dicks, and Corner Boys on guitar, Brett Thompson of Stress Eating on bass, and Patrick Bertrand of Corner Boys on drums. Nickel and Bertrand respectively run the Neon Taste and Hosehead labels. Chain Whip recorded these tracks with Patrick McEachnie engineering.

Chain Whip's 2019 debut, 14 Lashes, recently saw a European release through Drunken Sailor Records. A tape of their 2020 demos is due soon from Slow Death Records.

Listen: Chain Whip - Demo 2020 @ Bandcamp

Sore Spots is a brand new punk trio operating out of Halifax, featuring vocals and guitar from Future Girls' Matty Grace, backed on bass and drums by Brent Geikie and Jason Wilson of the riffy garage rock group The Holy Snappers. The group made their debut with a wonderfully noisy three-song EP titled Goodnight Forever. Grace recorded the set just a few weeks ago, with Will Killingsworth mixing and mastering at Dead Air Studios.

The set's the latest salvo in a prolific period of isolation material from Grace. In recent months she's released several selections of folk-punk styled solo material, along with a pair of EPs as the snotty Modern Cynics.

Listen: Sore Spots - Goodnight Forever @ Bandcamp

Grace, both as herself and Modern Cynics, appears on a new compilation credited to Martha Stewart's Prison Cell. The freely available set, collected as Bedroom Demos Compilation in the Time of the Covid 19 Pandemic, features new material from several Moncton and Halifax area punk groups. That lineup includes Billy Viral, BabyLand, Moose Boys, DogsnotGods, Emily Ratface, TJ Calbot, Colton Young, Outtacontroller, Richie Bourbon, Bread Tabs, Designosaur, and Hugs'n'Kisses.

I'm in love with this set, not just for the cool tunes (Designosaur's "Cold Shoulder" is a power-pop hit in some 90s alternate-reality) but also for the introduction to so many wonderfully odd, scrappy little punk groups I'd not have accessed otherwise. Look, I even linked them all for you.

Listen: Designosaur - "Cold Shoulder" @ Bandcamp

On the topic of scrappy and weird, here's a new Ramones-inspired tune from a Regina project dubbed The Blood Of Keith Richards. You can hear the band's first single, "James Brown Celebrity Hot Tub Party" below. It's our first taste of an upcoming seven-song set due from the Saskatchewan label Fixed Frequency.

The Blood Of Keith Richards is the brainchild of Russ Purdy, drummer of the pop-punk outfit Ripper and the Jesses. That band last released Velociraptor Of Love in 2019.

Listen: The Blood Of Keith Richards - "James Brown Celebrity Hot Tub Party" @ Bandcamp

After taking a well-deserved month off, Welland's Daniel Romano returns with yet another full-length release, this time performing in the trio Alias Ensemble. A Splendour Of Heart features Romano and frequent collaborator Dave Nardi backing the Ottawa Valley singer/songwriter Kelly Sloan on a haunting and soulful collection of country-folk tunes.

In case you've forgotten: Danny took to quarantine like a man possessed, releasing such a wealth of material since the pandemic broke that it's become a challenge to keep track of it all. His most recent, from the last week of May, was the solo full-length Dandelion. Before that came Spider Bite, a brisk punk record with Constantines' Steven Lambke on vocals, a high-concept front-to-back cover of Bob Dylan's Infidels, and a 23-minute prog single dubbed "Forever Love's Fool." Over March and April, Romano released the LPs Content To Point The Way and "Visions Of The Higher Dream", along with the EP Super Pollen (a collaboration with members of Fucked Up).

Kelly Sloan last released the covers set Impressions in 2017, following her 2016 LP Big Deal.

Listen: Alias Ensemble - A Splendour Of Heart @ Bandcamp

Last week the Toronto folk-rock outfit Chladny returned with a new single and video titled "Can you See It On My Face," a track composed by former WLMRT member Ryan Hage. The recording features Hage with Evan Chladny, Westelaken's Alex Baigent, Luge members Cam Fraser and Tobias Hart, and Stephen Pitman of Tallies/Only God Forgives. Sam Willows recorded the track, which comes alive via marionette in a surreal video from the B.A. Art collective. I'm a little surprised at how wistful this puppetry's made me for a time when we could see bands in a bar. I'd settle for puppets in a bar at this point.

Sales of the track at Bandcamp support Sundance Harvest, a food-justice focused urban farm in Toronto. Chladny last released The Finch Flyer in 2019.

Watch: Chladny - "Can you See It On My Face" @ YouTube

Welland rock group Canyon Carvers recently unearthed All Of This, a 2016 collaboration with Julia Allen of the Toronto dream-pop act For Keeps. The set, recorded in the summer of that year, features three sunny, Blondie-influenced tunes written and sung by Allen. The tracks feature instrumental backing Canyon Carvers' Riley Simpson, with production by the band's Nick Giammarco. The songs are up for sale now on Bandcamp, with all funds generated due to Black Women In Motion.

With roots in the same scene that produced Attack In Black and their offshoots, Canyon Carvers last released the "Good For You" single in 2015, having issued the full-length Aside and Beside the year before. For Keeps put out the Somedays album in 2018.

Listen: Julia Allen and Canyon Carvers - All Of This @ Bandcamp

Adam Mowery, lead vocalist of Saint John rock group Papal Visit, dropped a surprise solo record last week. Horseshoe Canyon is the artist's first effort under his name in 7 years, following 2013's EP Local Bands. The 8-song set features a selection of stripped-down pop-rock numbers that manage to sink in more than a few hooks despite their understated production. Mowery's distinctive vocals go a long way to that end.

Papal Visit's gearing up for a fall release of their next LP. Due on Monopolized Records, the currently unnamed record will follow their 2017 album Garden Grove and 2019's live set Prepare For Your Reversal. Over the past few months the band's previewed the work with the singles "Where To They Swim?" and "Destroy The Hive."

Listen: Adam Mowery - Horseshoe Canyon @ Bandcamp

Let It Beek, is a fantastic collaboration pairing singer/songwriter Dave Schoonderbeek with Toronto's long-running By Divine Right. It also just happens to be sitting on my turntable as I edit this edition. A video showcasing the album track "The Pacer" recently arrived online, directed by Ben Srokosz. You can find it below.

Schoonderbeek played in the early-2000s Oshawa indie rock group Another Blue Door (they released a solitary full-length, Haulers, way back in 2004). This new record features him on a compellingly varied and often sombre set of folk-rock songs, backed by BDR's core trio of José Contreras, Alysha Haugen, and Geordie Dynes. The group recorded this set at Slaughterhouse 754 in 2016 with Glen Gummerson.

Watch Dave Schoonderbeek with/avec By Divine Right - "The Pacer" @ YouTube

The Toronto trio Laurie's reliably stuck to their single-a-month rollout for 2020. Their sixth, an angular post-punk tune dubbed "Echo Chamber," is now available. It follows the Depeche Mode-flavoured "Ghosts" from the last go-around. All proceeds from the single are due for causes supporting marginalized communities in Toronto.

Laurie features Trent Bristow on guitar and synth, bassist Fabian Kearns, and drummer Jessica Maxwell. The trio last released a 5-song EP titled Group Dynamics in 2019.

Listen: Laurie - "Echo Chamber" @ Bandcamp

Assiniboia, Saskatchewan's Vaudeville Remedy continues to shift from quirky punk/blues to something closer in spirit to 90s alternative. That transition continues on "Lou Reed," the band's new single for Fixed Frequency and the first preview of their next full-length. The group, featuring guitarist/vocalist Shea Drouin, bassist Ben Potratz, and vocalist/drummer Colin Marit, last released an EP titled Let Go Of The Illusion That It Could Have Been Any Different in the spring of 2019.

Listen: Vaudeville Remedy - "Lou Reed" @ Bandcamp

The wildly varied genre explorations of Mississauga's JONCRO continue this week with the singles "Blink" and "Venus In Virgo," songs that Daniel G. Wilson described as "a krautrock inspired 4-track experiment." The songs follow a recent spoken word set titled Thoughts From the Lion's Den, and "Bunununus Riddim," a remix-ready dubplate. Outside of quarantine, JONCRO 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 - "Blink"/"Venus In Vertigo" @ Bandcamp

Ottawa alt-country artist Jonathan Becker has a new single online titled "Nothing Feels Right." Recorded in the summer of 2019 in Mexico City, it features Becker on guitar and vocals with Donovan Bullen accompanying on bass, drums, and backing vocals. The material's among the first to surface from the smoky-voiced Becker since the 2018 release of his Sober Dawn record, then backed by The North Fields.

Listen: Jonathan Becker - "Nothing Feels Right" @ Bandcamp

While your mind's on the nation's capital, note that the third volume of the Ottawa isolation project Itty Bitty Little Ditty is now online. This time out, the revolving cast of contributors recorded cover songs in three minutes or less (with the added challenge of crafting the "polar opposite" version of the source material). This set features contributions from Jim Bryson, Expanda Fuzz, Chris Cook, and Patrick Shanks, among others. You can find the set, and its two predecessors, on Bandcamp now.

Listen: Itty Bitty Little Dittie V3 (under cover) @ Bandcamp

In recent newsletters, I've wondered when Toronto glam-pop artist Nyssa would finally collect the string of accomplished singles she's released over the past year. Look no further than August 21, when the singer/songwriter's official debut LP Girls Like Me arrives. The 10-song set brings together tracks like the recent "Bye Bye Jubilee" and "Antibodies" with the earlier shared "I Don't Wanna Live On The Moon (Without U)," "Hey Jackie," and "#1Girl."

In a press release Nyssa commented:

"Girls Like Me is an album about freedom. We all look to stories and fictions for clues on how to navigate our messy lives. I seek to write anthems for all our rebellions. I aim to shed light on new pathways. Non-men lack the power to wander freely. I wrote these songs to fill this wandering void. Hitchhikers. Outlaws. Killers. Rebels. Bad boys. Renegade heirs. Players. Lovers. I want to embody each of these. As a woman. An androgyne. A pansexual pagan.

Girls Like Me is a practice in double-entendre—in title and in play, in composition and performance. I am a hybrid artist. I don't believe in genre-constraints. These songs all fall somewhere between folk and pop, country and electronic, punk and soul, dance-pop and power balladry, but that's not what defines them. I consider the realm of popular music as one vast land--I believe in continuously connecting and following the through-lines. Each musical moment is informed by another, and as such, each of the songs on Girls Like Me is purposefully in dialog with its past."

The album features collaborations from U.S. Girls' Meg Remy, Zack Burgess (Kremlin, Gardenworld), Matthew Aldred (Modern Superstitions, Michael Rault), Carlyn Bezic (Ice Cream, Darlene Shrugg), Jay Anderson (Badge Époque Ensemble), Matt McClaren (Maylee Todd, Biblical), and Andy Scott. Nyssa's last release was 2018's Champion of Love EP.

Listen: Nyssa - "Bye Bye Jubilee" @ Bandcamp

Finally, this past week saw the passing of Ken Chinn, better known as SNFU frontman Mr. Chi Pig. The iconic Edmonton musician passed on July 16 at the age of 57. In the days since the punk community in Canada and abroad paid tribute to the vastly influential performer and songwriter in countless ways. It would be a disservice even to attempt to summarize all of it here, so I won't.

Chi's worsening health didn't come as a surprise, and the artist made a point of recording one final song for release upon his death. That track, titled "Cement Mixer (to all my beautiful friends)," arrived online earlier this week. The acoustic tune closes with Chinn speaking, "Goodbye, to all my beautiful friends. I'm going to miss you guys."

The remaining members of SNFU commented:

"Mr Chi Pig wanted to give all his friends and fans one last gift the day his soul took flight. Enjoy."

The photo that accompanies the song's presence on YouTube, shot by Cat Ashbee, fittingly captures Chi during his final public performance.

Listen: SNFU - "Cement Mixer (to all my beautiful friends)" @ YouTube

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