Sunday August 23, 2020

Green Tartan Beret

Out on the East Coast, solo punk act TJ Cabot continues to record crunchy Ramones-styled tunes supporting the noble, if perhaps obscure, cause of Boularderie Island independence. Given the surreal year we're grinding through, I choose to take that notion entirely at face value and free of sarcasm. The Dick Charles EP features seven songs, basement-recorded to the internal mic in a laptop, with the low-fi production values giving the material a bit of a gnarly Spits vibe (always a good thing).

The new set follows two previous quarantine releases from Cabot, a set of demos credited to TJ Cabot & Thee Artificial Rejects, and the new wave styled "Overcompensation" single. The latter was a collaboration with the Moncton synthwave artist Sonic Hz.

Before fully committing their artistic talents to liberate the good people of Millville, TJ went by the name Tyler Boutilier and played in Nova Scotian punk groups Teenage Hurricanes and Dunce Club, not to mention with Moncton's Phone Jerks, The Beaten Hearts, and Nerve Button.

Listen: TJ Cabot - Dick Charles @ Bandcamp

Montreal emo-revivalists Gulfer have signed with Royal Mountain and Topshelf Records to release their third LP, a 13 song self-titled album due October 16. The news came alongside a video for the new single "Forget (Friendly)," directed by Dominic Fontaine and Jean-François Dubé. Vocalist/guitarist Joseph Therriault commented on the song in a press release, stating:

"'Forget (Friendly)' is about how you deal with developing a crush on someone in the context of a monogamous partnership (especially if it's reciprocated). There are so many things we can't control. The song has no lesson - I'm just as clueless about this as when I wrote the lyrics."

The new record follows the band's 2018 LP Dog Bless and showcases their evolving slant on emo, peppered with punk, grunge, and math-rock elements. Over the quarantine period Gulfer shared a pair of archival releases: the early singles compilation Anthology in May and a Live in Japan concert recording in June.

Gulfer features guitarist/vocalists Vincent Ford and Joe Therriault, bassist David Mitchell, and drummer Julien Daoust.

Watch: Gulfer - "Forget (Friendly)" @ YouTube

A recent Bandcamp Daily article by Michael Rancic spotlights PEI punk bands, showcasing ten of the province's contemporary groups. While a few of these acts have gained some notoriety in Canadian punk circles outside the Maritimes, there are quite a few bands in the list that were certainly new to me (like the quirky DEVO-inspired FSHKLL and the snotty boneheads of Faceplant).

One revelation from Rancic's list was the existence of the glitchy Remote Control, a Charlottetown duo featuring Warsh bassist Rosanna Kressin on vocals, backed by Ben Goss of Antibodies on guitar (and everything else). The five-song REMO VOL. #1 EP surfaced in July, with the pair at times seemingly in outright conflict with an ever-accelerating drum machine (check out "Judgement In The Barracks" in that regard).

Listen: Remote Control - REMO VOL. #1 @ Bandcamp

Trois-Rivières quintet Post-Rough recently shared a video for their goth-influenced single "Police." Described by the band as a "dronish-post-punk hymn," it's a marked departure from the group's early up-tempo material. The single appears on the band's recent four-song EP Vous êtes un personnage de roman. British artist Will Morrison directed the clip.

This band recorded at Studio Pantouf in Saint-Élie-de-Caxton with engineering from Louis-Philippe Cantin (Perséide) and Pierre Brouillette Hamelin (Rorqual). Simon Provencher (Victime, Palissade) mixed the set, with mastering from JP Villemure (Fuudge, Bleu Nuit).

Pre-COVID, Post-Rough had plans to release the record in July as part of the Trois-Rivières music festival FestiVoix, but with that gathering understandably sidelined the material's emerging online now. Post-Rough features guitarist/vocalist Bastien Mortimer, guitarist Alexis Vaillant-Gamache, bassist Tommy Dupuis, Olivier Durand on synth, and drummer Pierre-Olivier Lessard.

Watch: Post-Rough - "Police" @ YouTube

Vancouver power-pop trio Brutal Poodle has a new 7" out featuring the single "Night Creeps" and b-side "Wash." It arrived earlier this month from Kingfisher Bluez. The release is the second to spring from summer 2018 recording sessions with Joshua Wells (Lightning Dust, Destroyer) at the Balloon Factory (the first, "Crowd Control" b/w "Low Tide," arrived in May of last year). Bassist/vocalist Karmin Poirier spoke about the A-side:

"We had a really good time reworking 'Night Creeps' as we recorded it with Josh. The falling guitar with the funky chorus time signature, the synth textures, and the abrupt start all add to an uneasy feeling under the surface, while the poppy song itself rides in the forefront."

On "Wash," she revealed:

"I was kind of on a Husker Du kick when we were working on this song. I think it has a pretty frenetic vibe to it, it feels like it could go off the rails at any moment but we all just push through it. It adapts well to the energy of our live shows, not that those are a thing at the moment."

The group's planning to record their debut full-length with Jesse Gander at Rain City Recorders in September. Brutal Poodle features Karmin Poirier with guitarist/vocalist John Johnston and drummer Dustin Bromley. Members of the group had previously played in SBDC, Jock Tears, and Slow Learners.

Listen: Brutal Poodle - Night Creeps @ Bandcamp

Toronto garage rockers Bad River have a new video out showcasing the slow-burning title track to their late-2019 EP, Petrol Head. The band shot the clip with director Brendan George Ko in March, right before the lockdown kicked in. It features a man dressed as a cockroach on something of a lonely search for meaning - a search amongst the kitsch and casinos of my hometown of Niagara Falls. I'll support anything that highlights the seedy magic realism of this strange town. I wish they'd shown how they walked this costume through Fallsview Casino security, though.

Petrol Head was the grunge-influenced band's follow up to 2017's Clean Air EP. Bad River recorded at London, Ontario's Sugar Shack (WHOOP-Szo, Chastity) with mastering performed at Toronto's Lacquer Channel by Noah Mintz (Constantines, Broken Social Scene).

Bad River features guitarist/vocalist Thomas Huhtala, bassist Scott Hempstead, and drummer Nathan Heuvingh.

Watch: Bad River - "Petrol Head" @ YouTube

In June, the dynamic Quebec City punk group Dogo Suicide shared their self-titled full-length. The discography-styled collection features 13 songs, collecting the material from February's Douvres EP and the group's 2018 debut Direction Nord-Sud, along with three newly recorded tracks.

These recordings feature the band's core of guitarist/vocalist Nicolas Côté and bassist Emmanuel Canadian backed on various tracks by drummers Richard-William Turcotte and Jesse Bédard.

Listen: Dogo Suicide - Dogo Suicide @ Bandcamp

Halifax garage-rockers Shoulder Season have a video online for "Clean Lines," a concise, jangling single that instantly hooked me back in January. Songwriter Mel Sturk previously commented on the song's lyrics:

"when you're in an airplane, going between places and people you love, sometimes the things you see from 35,000 feet make you think about not just the places, but how the 'soft' cultures of those places is reflected in the land formations below. Also, agriculture is cool."

The band took those sentiments literally in the clip, pairing cell phone footage from airplane windows with clips of the members' quarantine gardens. The lockdown that's restricted most of us from travelling (and curtailed the band's touring plans) adds a whole other layer of meaning to that contrasting imagery.

Based in Dartmouth, Shoulder Season features Karen Foster, Mel Sturk, Kristina Parlee, and Erica Butler. The quartet has roots in several past groups, with members serving time with Halifax acts The Stolen Minks, The Maynards, and Smaller Hearts, as well as Ottawa's The Johnnies.

Watch: Shoulder Season - "Clean Lines" @ YouTube

Saskatchewan label Fixed Frequency recently shared Gold Plated Trash, the seven-song debut from Regina's The Blood Of Keith Richards. The set features a collection of raw-throated Ramones worship crafted by Russ Purdy, drummer of the pop-punk outfit Ripper and the Jesses. While the Purdy rarely takes his foot off the gas, I'm a more than a little fascinated by "Miley Cyrus' Weed Stash," the spacey noise-wall that closes the album.

Ripper and the Jesses last released Velociraptor Of Love in 2019. Purdy recorded, mixed, and mastered these tracks entirely solo.

Listen: The Blood of Keith Richards - Gold Plated Trash @ Bandcamp

I am entirely on board with The Golden Days are Hard, the thrillingly chaotic new LP from Toronto alt-country weirdos Westelaken. The band celebrated the album's launch with a new video for the song 'Mercy, "milk-of-human-kindness".' Guitarist Jordan Seccareccia spoke about the clip in an Exclaim feature, delving into the band's collaboration with director (and former WLMRT member) Ryan Al-Hage of Thank You So Much:

"We gave Ryan the album and asked if he wanted to pick a song to turn into a video, and when he picked this one I think it made us all excited and relieved that this bizarre thing seemed to work for someone. We filmed it at Ontario Place, where it almost feels like you're walking around in ancient ruins. It turned out pretty fun and silly in a way that compliments the sort of unhinged nature of the song. It has a cameo from our friend Dave [Eatock of Commuted]. We were attacked by a dog. You can also hear Paul having a lot of fun in the mix."

Westelaken features Alex Baigent on vocals, bass, and synth, Rob McLay on percussion and backing vocals, Jordan Seccareccia on guitar, and Lucas Temor on piano and banjo. Paul Vroom recorded, mixed, and mastered the band's new material last fall at The Pharmacy in Toronto.

Listen: Westelaken - 'Mercy, "milk-of-human-kindness"' @ YouTube

Last week, I shared the first new single from Toronto's Feels Fine, and they're already back with a second cut. The group, heavily influenced by midwestern emo of the late 90s, is gearing up to release Grip on August 29. This week's preview is titled "Imagine," and follows "Washed Out Blue" from the last go-around. You can check it out now on Bandcamp.

Feels Fine has teamed up with Art of the Uncarved Block for this record. It follows up their At Home EP from 2018.

Listen: Feels Fine - "Imagine" @ Bandcamp

Quebec often seems like it's operating in a slightly parallel universe to the rest of the country, and understandably so. That's never felt so acutely surreal to me as it has this summer, with the province loosening restrictions on live events while the rest of the country remains in stasis. I'm not even sure if I'm envious, given that we're still in the middle of this thing, but I'm certainly wistful. While POP Montreal just announced that they'd be hosting a slate of events with an in-person audience, the real shocker for me is the news that FME is going ahead next week.

The Festival de musique émergente en Abitibi-Témiscamingue takes place yearly in Rouyn-Noranda. Over nearly two decades has forged a reputation as one of the country's most sonically diverse and artistically relevant gatherings, as well as a premier industry networking event. Remoteness certainly plays a part in that mystique, and when I was privileged enough to attend a few years back, I absolutely felt that. Unlike most live music events in 2020, FME was never formally cancelled, a fact that's become something of a source of fascination amongst my Ontario-shackled peers over the summer. This year's FME forges ahead from September 3 to 5 as a smaller-scale event, but it still brings twenty acts north to the copper mining town.

With international travel curtailed, FME's drawing almost exclusively on Quebec-based acts for its 18th year, with performances planned from a handful of artists who are no strangers to this newsletter (Zen Bamboo, NOBRO, Corridor, and Fuudge among them). The event broke down the lineup in a press-release

"Particular consideration has been given to groups whose career strategies have been gravely affected by the pandemic: Aliocha's new album; Laurence Hélie's English-language project Mirabelle; the prolific Rosie Valland; the up-and-coming act Anachnid; promising rock band Zen Bamboo; female punk project NOBRO; and the psych-rock duo Les Deuxluxes, who launched an album at the beginning of the year. We will also be treated to premieres including the prelaunch of a new project by Carla Blanc (of Dear Criminals fame); Meggie Lennon; Jonathan Personne; and Gus Englehorn. We welcome with great interest the promising hip-hop project Backxwash, shortlisted for the Polaris Prize. And we must not forget favourites from years past, including Maude Audet, Les Louanges, Corridor, Les Shirley, FUUDGE, Jesse Mac Cormack , and We Are Wolves. For his part, Gab Bouchard will roam the streets and alleys of the city with his revue Au pays des pick-up. The Bleu Jeans Bleu will also visit Abitibi-Témiscamingue for the first time to unveil their new project. Clay and Friends will offer their vibrant, traditional family show Agnico Eagle, and Neoclassical group Flore Laurentienne will showcase a rare mix of strings and synthesizers. On the hip-hop side, we welcome Lary Kidd, KNLO, Brown Family, and Eman."

You can find the full schedule online if you're curious to see how they're pulling this off.

Musical programming aside, FME's approach to operating during the pandemic bears some examination. Venues will open at limited capacities, with many artists performing their sets twice to keep crowd sizes down. Many events are outdoors, with stages on the shores of Lakes Osisko and Flavrian. Every concert requires an online reservation to maintain capacity (and presumably build a list for contract tracing), with no passport-style tickets available this year. Mandatory masking, social distancing markers, and strident disinfection efforts are all de rigueur at this point. Even in less-fraught times FME's emphasized outdoor art installations, which should work to their advantage them this September when juggling the crowds.

On July 27, Quebec increased the maximum size of public gatherings to 250 people at indoor or outdoor public events, a significant jump from the previous limit of 50 (private gatherings remain capped at 10). Festivals were prohibited until August 31.

Listen: Fuudge - "Sacer Facere" @ Bandcamp

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