Sunday December 13, 2020

She's My Witch

Jiffy Marx, frontman of Vancouver's new-wavey power-pop trio Autogramm, recently debuted a new solo single. The retro-styled "She's My Witch" arrived in November on the Snappy Little Numbers label, backed on the b-side by "Warning Sign." Marx recorded the songs in the fall of 2019, with studio backing from Mason Lowe, Lars Swenson, and Ryan Kraft of Seattle's Bread & Butter. The press release carefully places the sound on a spectrum "more punk than Big Star and more pop than Buzzcocks." You can decide for yourself through a new animated video showcasing "She's My Witch" below. A limited-edition 7" is available from the label now.

Marx previously played in a diverse host of BC bands, including Black Rice, Hard Drugs, Jiffy Marker, and Blood Meridian. Earlier in the pandemic, Autogramm released a mostly electronic, isolation-bred cover of the RUSH classic "Working Man" that satisfyingly reworked the well-known track for the robot wars to come. The group's proper follow-up to 2019's What R U Waiting 4? has been in the works for a while. I'd look for it in the new year as the world slowly rights itself.

Watch: Jiffy Marx - "She's My Witch" @ YouTube

My love for Montreal's New Vogue is well known - they were side one track one on the first Some Party tape, so they've sealed their place in Canadian music history. With a new release on the horizon, there's been plenty of new material to share despite my bias. A few weeks ago, the project unveiled "Safe on the Autobahn," quickly following it up with "Birdman." This is as close to mid-tempo as the typically-tweaked New Vogue gets, although it never strays far from the project's sinister DEVO-core buzz. Mastermind Max Desharnais commented on what it took to get this song right:

"This one here drove me pretty crazy because of the many different and possible ways to do this song... So I recorded it over and over until Birdman could fly through all the changes and different vibes it has. Tape out next week!"

You've likely heard Desharnais as a member of the garage-punks Sonic Avenues and PRIORS. New Vogue last released a self-titled cassette in 2018, along with a 7" single featuring the songs "Birdcage" and "Space Junk." Just last week PRIORS released My Punishment On Earth, their third LP, via the Brussels label Drink & Drive Records.

Listen: New Vogue - "Birdman" @ SoundCloud

I'm not entirely sure how to place Toronto singer/songwriter Harkness, but I suspect that's by design. The multi-instrumentalist composes lushly orchestrated psych-pop tunes, all of which are rather intricately layered yet still tight and accessible. He delivers them via a costumed persona that seems to be cut from the original Star Trek cloth as much as it evokes the garb of some 60s free-love cult. Last week saw the release of "Lure of the Pollen," the third single from Harkness' upcoming LP The Occasion.

The artist commented on the track:

"It's about magic being in the air, a magic that is impossible to resist or deny. An instinctive feeling that we can't fight even if we tried. That could easily be a sexual energy or something much deeper.

Harkness sings and plays guitar, bass, piano, and drums on the tune, which for all its nods to psychedelia seems positively restless. Harkness recorded and mixed the song at Anonymous Studios in Toronto, with The Occasion planned for a March 5 release on Windchild Records.

Listen: Harkness - "Lure of the Pollen" @ SoundCloud

Based out of Ontario's rural Vankleek Hill, the snotty punk three-piece Audio Visceral has a new demo online titled "Big Dumb Jerk." The band commented:

"The pandemic has sucked for the most part, but it did present us with an opportunity to put down some demos in preparation for recording a new album. So late in the summer we put ourselves in a big, airy barn in Alexandria, ON and laid down 13 new and previously unrecorded songs in one afternoon. In the interest of letting you know that we're not really dormant, we figured we'd share one of the demos."

Audio Visceral last released Gnu Two Ewe, an eight-song collection of recordings tracked in 2017 and 2017 with Ian Blurton. The group features guitarist/vocalist Steve Beauchesne, bassist Kevin James, and drummer Gary Doherty. Beauchesne is better known these days as the co-founder and CEO of the Beau's brewery.

Listen: Audio Visceral - "Big Dumb Jerk" @ Bandcamp

Telephone Explosion recently announced the debut LP from Jane Inc, a new pop solo project from Carlyn Bezic. This newsletter's covered Bezic's past work with some regularity: she's one half of the Toronto synthpop duo Ice Cream, plays as part of the rock outfit Darlene Shrugg, and serves as a touring member of U.S. Girls. Jane Inc finds Bezic dabbling with a sonic pallet similar to that latter act, crafting a lush synth-driven disco number on "Gem," the album's first single. The song's one of eight slated to appear on the Number One LP, arriving March 8, 2021.

Bezic started Number One from her home studio, tracking bass, guitar, synth, and vocals solo. Steve Chahley (Partner, Badge Époque Ensemble, U.S. Girls) later joined the project as a co-producer. The pair brought in additional studio instrumentation, including percussion from Evan J. Cartwright (U.S Girls, Tasseomancy), saxophone by Nick Dourado (Budi, Aquakultre), and Wurlitzer by Scott Harwood (Scott Hardware.

As Ice Cream, paired with Amanda Crist, Bezic last released Fed Up in the fall of 2019.

Listen: Jane Inc - "Jem" @ Bandcamp

Sudbury pop-punk group VCR recently shared "Move Through Me," the first single from the quartet's upcoming EP, Sunny Days Inside. I may just be going stir-crazy, but I can vividly picture the crowd shouting along with this track in a shitty bar one day — promises of better times to come.

VCR recorded this one at Sudbury's Deadpan Studios. The band, who are entirely unrelated to the Toronto weird-punk group of a few years back, features vocalist/guitarist James Quenville, guitarist Joel Genier, bassist Tony Carr, and drummer Dylan Baron.

Watch: VCR - "Move Through Me" @ YouTube

Montreal psych/punk quartet No Negative has a new video online featuring "Perverbial Grave," the opening track from the group's upcoming EP The Darkening Hour. The video, assembled by Rob Feulner, features a retro mix of analog-distressed live footage and skateboarding.

The band's new four-song EP arrives November 26 from Éditions 8888. The set features three outtakes from different periods in the band's history. "Raw Deal" is a bedroom demo circa 2015, "Proverbial Grave" originates from the sessions for 2017's Cellophane, and "Upside Down World" comes from the studio work resulting in The Last Offences (last year's Drunken Sailor-released LP). The b-side of The Darkening Hour features a five-minute reimagining of the Richard Berry standard "Louie Louie," with new lyrics and vocals from Montreal provocateur Bernardino Femminielli. This version carries the title "Mon Obsession Personelle."

Watch: No Negative - "Perverbial Grave" @ YouTube

As I understand it, the London, Ontario glam rock quartet Dong Vegan remains on something of an indefinite hiatus (although aren't we all this year). Regardless of their status, the group shared a four-song EP last week titled Rock N' Roll Boyfriend, a follow-up to their 2019 short-set You're Boring!. These are wonderfully sunny, sing-along rock songs, which make a suitable contrast for the dire season we're about to enter.

The band's lineup, pre-pandemic at least, featured the inscrutable glam aliases of Clam J.A.M, Bobo Chanel, Jacqui Vexx, and Lottie Ritz.

Listen: Dong Vegan - Rock N' Roll Boyfriend @ Bandcamp

Oshawa pop-punk quartet Nothing Special recently shared their new single "Brandi." The group debuted the track alongside a video shot by Matthew Gurassi. You can find it below. This is one of those concise little tunes that's so sweet and good-natured that it feels beautifully out of step with this grind of a year.

Nothing Special features vocalist/guitarists Dan Bell and Gabriel Higazi, with bassist James Carr and drummer Spencer Holmes.

Watch: Nothing Special - "Brandi" @ YouTube

Halifax horror-punk bruisers The Bloody Hell are back with a new single, provocatively titled "Nobody Cares About America Anymore." The politically-charged track (described by the band as "radically indifferent") marks the group's first new music since their self-titled 2018 debut. Punknews premiered the audio last week alongside a video featuring animated sequences by Mexican illustrator Necro Bunny. You can check it out below.

The band recorded "Nobody Cares" at the New Scotland Yard Studio in Dartmouth this past June. Whatever reaction The Bloody Hell may soon find in the YouTube comment section, it certainly won't be their first rodeo. The band's original clip for "Evil Everywhere," a single from their debut, was reportedly banned on the video network for graphic content.

Watch: The Bloody Hell - "Nobody Cares About America Anymore" @ YouTube

Windsor noise rock three-piece Cellos have a new record on the way, but before that lands, they're previewing their latest material through a series of live videos. The first of which features the song "Drones," shot outdoors in a Kingsville, Ontario garden this past September. You can check it out below.

Cellos are following up their 2019 split 7" with Toronto's Not Of. When their new record arrives in 2021, it'll be their first LP since 2017's The Great Leap Backward. Cellos features guitarist/vocalist Kyle Marchand, bassist Joe Rabie, and drummer David Allan.

Watch: Cellos - "Drones" @ YouTube

Last week I wrote about how much fun I was having with No Idea Head, the spoken word pandemic project of Drew Thomson (Single Mothers, The Drew Thomson Foundation). Shortly after Drew unveiled EP 2 he shared a video featuring "It's Boring." You can check it out below.

Perhaps in fealty to its title, the video primarily features Thomson standing against a series of walls (he does a little dance every once in a while). Hey - when you're stuck in a global crisis and have no cash flow, you make due. I'm not going to judge.

EP 2 is the second collection of No Idea Head tunes to debut this year.

Watch: No Idea Head - "It's Boring" @ YouTube

I'll admit I know very little about the alt-country/folk-rock group Civilians, but the Nova Scotian act hasn't said much about themselves either. Their Deindustrial Nights full-length arrived just last week, recorded in the Eastern Passage at some point earlier this year. The online breadcrumbs seem to indicate that Civilians features members of the Halifax indie rock group Rabies and the decidedly punkier Surveillance, but that's just the kind of unverified dot-connecting that gets me into trouble.

In any case, Deindustrial Nights is online now at Bandcamp and comes packed with compelling vocal-forward performances. Check it out.

Listen: Civilians - Deindustrial Nights @ Bandcamp

Big league Toronto hardcore unit Cancer Bats are readying the release of You'll Never Break Us: Separation Sessions Vol. 1, an acoustic set arriving later this week. The band recently premiered a video for "Deathsmarch to a New Acoustic Beat," a reimagining of Hail Destroyer's "Deathsmarch" featuring the Ojibway singer/songwriter Nick Sherman on lead vocals. As is the style this year, the video finds its players geographically scattered and recording remotely: drummer Mike Peters dials in from Winnipeg, bassist/guitarist Jaye Schwarzer from Toronto, guitarist Scott Middleton from Dundas, vocalist Liam Cormier from Nova Scotia, and Sherman from Thunder Bay.

Cormier commented on the clip in a statement:

"I really love how the footage balances out the heavier tone of the song and everything that's happening in the world right now. On one hand we can't be together making music, but on the other we get to also spend this time doing the things we love and being with our families we love the most. To me it really takes on a whole other element of the song and the statement Hey World You'll Never Break Us."

The EP arrives through Bandcamp on December 16, with a wider release on December 18 through Bat Skull Records in collaboration with New Damage. The set raises money for Water First, an NGO which empowers Indigenous youth to provide safe drinking water.

Cancer Bats released The Spark That Moves, their 6th full-length, in 2018.

Watch: Cancer Bats - "Deathsmarch to a New Acoustic Beat" (ft. Nick Sherman) @ YouTube

East Coast singer/songwriter Joel Plaskett recently shared a video featuring "A Benefit 4 Dreamland," the closing song from his massive 44-song, four-album project. The clip finds Plaskett and a packed group of (innocently pre-pandemic) collaborators performing live from the New Scotland Yard studio in Dartmouth. The players featured include Rose Cousins, Ana Egge, Mo Kenney, Erin Costelo, Reeny Smith, Mahalia Smith, Micah Smith, Asa Brosius, Benn Ross, Chris Pennell, Ian McGettgan, and Bob Hoag.

Plaskett released a statement on the video:

"Just over a year ago I was on the home stretch of finishing 44. This is the recording of the project's last song, "A Benefit 4 Dreamland," filmed on Sunday, November 17, 2019. It was an amazing experience recording this song live off the floor into a single microphone (Bob Hoag's old RCA 44 that he brought up from Arizona for the occasion). So many great musicians and friends in the room as you'll see when you watch."

44 arrived earlier this year from Pheromone Recordings. It follows 2015's Park Avenue Sobriety Test LP, Joel and Bill Plaskett's 2017 father-song record Solidarity, and the Thrush Hermit reunion.

Watch: Joel Plaskett - "A Benefit 4 Dreamland" @ YouTube

Toronto punk favourites PUP have a new live video online, an excerpt from their recent ticketed livestream in support of the This Place Sucks Ass EP. The band staged their show in the COVID-emptied Sneaky Dee's, with frontman Stefan Babcock taking full advantage of the setting by performing from the venue's very rock'n'roll washroom. You can find footage of "Edmonton," one of the EP's new songs, below.

Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux directed the band's performance, with Amanda Fotes and Nikolay Michaylov filming. In case you missed it, the band recently shared a similar live clip featuring "Rot" from the same show.

This Place Sucks Ass arrived in October from Little Dipper in Canada and Rise Records in the US. The EP follows the band's critically lauded 2019 LP Morbid Stuff.

Watch: PUP - "Edmonton" @ YouTube

Montreal psych label Mothland continues to preview cool new sounds from their upcoming comp. Assembled to celebrate their third anniversary, Sounds From Mothland Volume One features 15 tracks from the label's roster, with contributions from Paul Jacobs, The High Dials, Red Mass, CRABE, and You Doo Right, among others. New recordings from the dance-punk trio VICTIME and the progressive rock outfit Atsuko Chiba recently surfaced via Cult MTL. You can check out both below.

Sounds From Mothland arrives digitally this Friday, with a limited run of cassettes shipping out on December 17.

Listen: Atsuko Chiba- "I Just..." @ Bandcamp

Listen: VICTIME - "Oui merci" @ Bandcamp

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Under The Circumstances

Some Party's new Under The Circumstances compilation features new and rare songs from Tough Age, Partner, Wares, Psychic Void, and New Vogue!