Sunday January 10, 2021

Oversimplification

Some Party is a newsletter sharing the latest in independent Canadian rock'n'roll, curated weekly by Adam White. Each edition explores punk, garage, psych, and otherwise uncategorizable indie rock, drawing lines from proto to post and taking some weird diversions along the way.

Modern Cynics: "Oversimplification"

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Portland's Dirt Cult Records recently announced a cassette release from Modern Cynics, a massive 18-song set from the Halifax punk unit titled Auditory Postcards. You can stream "Oversimplification," the 54-second lead track, at Bandcamp now. The tape arrives on February 15.

Modern Cynics sprouted from the lockdown boredom of Future Girls principal Matty Grace. During the tedium of 2020, she released a pair of digital EPs under the name, each delivering scattershot sets of whip-fast, paired back Ramonescore (which seems to be the drug of choice around here - you can't lose your mind if you have no brain). Crucially, these songs were restrained to about a dozen unique words. Why? Does it matter? We all did what we had to do to survive. Auditory Postcards collects and expands on that gloriously arbitrary material, although I suspect you'll still be able to blaze through it in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee.

Will Killingsworth mixed and mastered the set, which features Grace playing every instrument (not to mention recording the damn thing - social distancing and all that). Of course, Matty's a regular presence in this newsletter with credits that include the Fat Stupids, Weekend Dads, Outtacontroller, and Cutie, among others. The aspirational live incarnation of Modern Cynics will play as a four-piece, one day when we're allowed to go outside again.

J Blissette: All Things Considered, Rock Music Was A Mistake

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Last week Lethbridge, Alberta's J Blissette unveiled All Things Considered, Rock Music Was A Mistake, a new 7-song set that marks a dramatic left turn from the project's garage rock roots. Mistake finds Jackson Tiefenbach fully emersed in electronic music and the excesses of studio pop, layering his typically rapid-fire vocals under a thick layer of autotune. It's quite the shock, particularly when you consider how heavily 50s iconography and a decidedly analog vibe coloured the band's past work. The artist commented:

"[This] was a record written and recorded in 2019, intended to communicate the post-apocalyptic vibes of living in the modern day with mental illness, as filtered through learning how to use a goddamn drum machine. Somewhere between completion and release of the album, the world ended... The release is a radical departure from previous J Blissette releases, influenced by modern pop music and the fact that guitar music died in 1997

The album explores the venn diagram of 'pop punk' and 'modern pop music', with detours into jungle, noise rock, and anime themes."

The collection follows the artist's early 2020 single "Mouths to Feed" and a few years of increasingly restless short-form digital releases. So is this the new normal? Does Blissette's tiki bar aesthetic go retrofuture? Is this all because the alt-right highjacked Hawaiian shirts? Uncertain times.

In the physical realm, J Blissette last released the 2018 Pleasence Records full-length Until I Go Blind.

PRIORS: "Fox Force Five"

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Montreal garage-punks PRIORS crawled through the 2020 gauntlet with a new LP completed but kept under wraps, waiting impatiently for the world to right itself. Of course, that never happened, and in late December, the band finally threw up their arms and unleashed My Punishment On Earth, casting their third full length to the virulent winds on Belgium's Drink & Drive Records. To celebrate the vinyl's release in North America via Brain Gum, the band unveiled a video for the sinister single "Fox Force Five." It premiered last week at Punknews.

Frontman Chance Hutchison revealed how the record came together:

"I wrote the record during a year on unemployment after the company I was working for folded. I fell into heavy depression, and the only thing that was keeping me half sane was getting up every morning and writing for a few hours a day. I have about 200 songs from that year off that will likely never see the light of day, but a few of them have survived, including the ten on this record."

PRIORS recorded My Punishment On Earth with longtime producer Adrian Popovich (Tricky Woo, Mudie) at Montreal's Mountain City Studios. Harris Newman mastered the album. The new LP follows their 2018 New Pleasure LP and the Call For You EP, both of which were issued by Slovenly. During the summer lockdown, vocalist Chance and his partner Jackie Blenkarn (of the Pale Lips) released a handful of home recordings as Chance & Jackie. Guitarist Maxime Desharnais also recently issued a self-titled cassette from his DEVOcore New Vogue side-gig.

PRIORS features vocalist Chance Hutchison, drummer Drew Demers, bassist Alan Hildebrandt, and guitarists Maxime Desharnais and Sebastien Godin.

Phone Jerks: Christmas On The Floor

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Even in season, I have a hard time getting excited about Christmas music, and out of season, it's not something I'm keen to inflict on anyone - but I'll make an exception for Moncton's Phone Jerks. The raucous punk'n'roll quartet shared a two-song EP just before the holidays titled Christmas On The Floor, featuring two newly recorded tunes. The a-side showcases drummer Emily Williston buzzing on lead vocals, with guitarist Brian Lamanna taking the reins on "Let's Go" (a cover of The Reducers power-pop classic - a decidedly non-festive song in any context). You can snag both now at Bandcamp.

Phone Jerks features bassist Andrew Farrell, guitarists Brian Lamanna and Tyler Boutilier, and drummer Emily Williston. The group last released the EP Out Of The Gate in February of 2020, a 7-song set compiling material cut from the band's prior LPs (2019's 10X10 and their self-titled 2018 debut). Spokane's Resurrection Records carried that set in North America, with Germany's Wanda Records working it overseas.

Jerks guitarist Tyler Boutilier is coming off one whopper of a year, all things considered. In 2020 he released a handful of Ramones-worshipping basement recordings as TJ Cabot, cumulating in the TJ Cabot & Thee Artificial Rejects LP on Alien Snatch just a few weeks ago. Boutilier also played on the latest from the high octane Moncton group Nerve Button. That band's Volume 2 LP surfaced in the fall, also on Wanda.

The Sorels: "Spring Break"

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BUST recently premiered a new animated video from Winnipeg glam rock / bubblegum-punk trio The Sorels. The clip features "Spring Break," the a-side and title track to their upcoming EP for Canada's Reta Records and Italy's Surfin Ki. That record arrives on February 2. The Sorels worked with animator Nicholas Friesen (Greg Macpherson, Olivia Sea) on the sunny, Saturday-morning cartoon evoking clip. It's decidedly out of step with the gloomy pandemic winter we're settling into, but perhaps that's a good thing. You can check it out below.

Wares: "Violence"

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Edmonton's Wares recently shared a video for "Violence," an affecting and ethereal track from their band's recent full-length Survival. The clip, directed by bassist Matthew Gooding, compiles vintage VHS footage of Tae Kwon Do training, home movies from singer/guitarist Cassia Hardy's childhood. The resulting video, replete with tape tracking artifacts and camcorder datestamps, provides a surreal backing for the track. Hardy commented on the memories and how they informed "Violence":

"I trained at various gyms and competed in tournaments across Alberta for nearly ten years, ending around the time I started taking music more seriously. The gyms I trained at were strict, and followed a very rigid hierarchy and protocol which I grew to dislike. The lyrics use that experience as a lens to examine the pressures of performing masculinity as a closeted trans person, and the defense mechanisms one builds to survive those pressures."

The clip premiered as part of Mint Records' Ridiculously Online Xmas Party in December. The Vancouver label released Survival, Wares' dynamic sophomore album last spring.

Dany Placard: "J'ai jamais su quoi dire"

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It's been a year since Dany Placard's playful psych-rock opus J'connais rien à l'astronomie, and the Saguenay singer-songwriter's returned to the well with a sequel piece dubbed Astronomie(suite). The new set features six-songs, including the new single "J'ai jamais su quoi dire." You can find that track streaming now at Bandcamp or via a new video playing on YouTube. The new record arrives on January 29 from Simone Records.

Astronomie(suite) features several multi-instrumentalists backing Placard, including Nicolas Beaudoin, Benoit Bouchard, Jonathan Bigras, and Dave Chose in various roles. Robin Boislard-Gauthier and Julie Doiron both appear as backing vocalists.

The Weather Station: "Atlantic"

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The Weather Station recently unveiled the third single from Ignorance, the band's fast approaching LP for Fat Possum Records. singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman commented on the track, which arrived alongside a new video:

"This song is a slab of metal for me, a piece of sharpness that feels necessary. It's also a love song. This also marks the third video I've directed for my album. I wanted to capture something of the inherent mystery of the band that played this music with me, and the inherent mystery of bands in general. I think we managed to. I love to flip paradigms."

That band includes drummer Kieran Adams, guitarist Christine Bougie, bassist Ben Whiteley, Ryan Driver on the flute, Johnny Spence on piano, and Constantines' Will Kidman on additional percussion. Ignorance lands on February 5 as Lindeman's fifth album, with "Atlantic" following the earlier singles "Tried To Tell You" and "Robber." It follows up her acclaimed 2017 self-titled effort.

Kiwi Jr.: "Waiting in Line"

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Toronto jangle-pop quartet Kiwi Jr. has a second single online from their Sub Pop debut. You can preview "Waiting In Line" now through a new video from director Laura-Lynn Petrick (Matthew "Doc" Dunn, Anemone). The playful clip features the band out and about on Toronto's streets - a soft-focus, seemingly pre-pandemic version that feels nostalgically worry-free given the state of things today. Vocalist Jeremy Gaudet commented:

"We like the candid and casual approach of director Laura-Lynn's previous videos, including Weyes Blood, Jessica Pratt, Michael Rault, Twist, and she was excited by our idea to wander around downtown Toronto while it was something of a ghost-town"

"Waiting In Line" will appear on Cooler Returns on January 22. Sub Pop's carrying the record internationally, with the band's own Kiwi Club imprint handling the release in Canada. The group self-produced the record, with Holy Fuck's Graham Walsh engineering and mixing. The record follows 2018's Mint-released Football Money.

Kiwi Jr features vocalist/guitarist Jeremy Gaudet, guitarist Brian Murphy (also of Alvvays), bassist Mike Walker, and drummer Brohan Moore.

Trashed Ambulance: Leapfrog

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Red Deer punks Trashed Ambulance kicked off 2021 with a new EP. Released through Montreal's Thousand Island Records, Leapfrog features three new songs from the snotty Alberta trio. The group recorded at their local Overserved Studios, with Nick of Edmonton's Unban Jace making a guest appearance on bass.

While the new songs serve as the first proper material from the band since 2019's Shorthanded EP, the group's various offshoots and side-projects have had a busy few months. Through High End Denim Recotds, Josh Hauta and Jason (Ozone) Ezeard have played on recent releases from Burning Nickels (the Bernie Goes To College EP) and Jawsh & The Drowned Livers (the Eloquent Trash acoustic set - which revisits several Trashed Ambulance hits).

Chris Page: "Sweet Cessation"

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Ottawa's Chris Page wrapped up 2020 with one last new song, sharing the appropriately titled "Sweet Cessation" at Bandcamp. The singer-songwriter commented on the acoustic track:

"One more new song for 2020. 'Sweet Cessation' wasn't written this year, but it feels like a good one to put out into the world at this mile marker we call 'end of year.' There are some lines in this song I'm reflecting on as we optimistically press on, out of 2020 and into 2021. And I keep reminding myself that music does help. Keep looking out for each other. Check in on one another. Support your favourite small businesses. Thank our front line workers. And contribute to your local food bank if you can. We've still got a long way to go, but we will get through this."

Page recently released Decide To Stay and Swim Again, a newly recorded reimagining of his 2004 solo record Decide To Stay and Swim. Chris plays these days as part of the duo Expanda Fuzz, earlier making waves in Camp Radio and the 90s pop-punk favourites The Stand GT.

B.A. Johnston: "Buddy I Ain't Helping You Move"

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Hamilton's B.A. Johnston recently previewed another new song through an impromptu home recording on his Twitter feed. The comedic skid-troubadour shared "Buddy I Ain't Helping You Move" last week, delving into the complicated politics of pizza as compensation for hard labour. You can find the track below.

Johnston last issued The Skid Is Hot Tonight in 2019 through Transistor 66. Much of his recent online material is expected to reappear as studio recordings on the follow-up (supposedly titled Werewolves of London, Ontario). Given his typically unrelenting tour schedule, I'm suspect we're not going to see the new record until we're a little closer to normal.

In the deceptively safer summer and fall of 2020, Johnston performed a series of private, socially-distanced driveway shows in various pockets of the country. He also recently took part in a split 7" with The Burning Hell to raise funds in support of shuttered grassroots music venues.

Force Majeure: Encore Debout

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Last fall the Montreal Oi! trio Force Majeure released Encore Debout, a four-song EP. That set arrived on 7" vinyl through the local Double Turn Records and Primator Crew in Europe. The group's the latest outing from prolific guitarist/vocalist Karl St-Pierre. He's played in a whole host of street-tough punk groups, including Edmonton's Hard Pressed and England's Last Crusade. Force Majeure finds him backed by bassist Martin and drummer Scott, who bost similar ties to a tight circle of Templars-influenced Montreal Oi! groups like Béton Armé and Ultra Razzia.

Force Majeure last released a split LP with King Cans in 2019.

Empty Nesters: "Dulls"

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Eric Liao's bedroom indie rock project Empty Nesters kicks off the new year with a new single, titled "Dulls." The track follows the Ottawa artist's recent EP Homebody, a set of moody, isolation-minded material recorded during the early 2020 lockdown. The new song comes accompanied by an absolute fever dream of a video, playing now at YouTube.

Liao recently took part in the Montreal-bred Demo Fest, an online event last December that brought together over 350 artists to release new demo material on a single day. Empty Nesters contributed a 7-song set to the event titled Sweer II, which you can check out at Bandcamp. Liao joined a sizable contingent of Canadian artists taking part in the event, including mebmbers of The Thrill, Mickey Dagger, the Flying Hellfish, and Future Girls (although many played under new names). Demo Fest raised funds for the migrant justice network Solidarity Without Borders.

Badge Époque Ensemble: "Future, Past & Present"

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We're only a few months past the release of Badge Époque Ensemble's sophomore full-length, and a companion piece to Self Help is already on deck. Future, Past & Present will mark the group's fourth release for Telephone Explosion in the past few years, arriving February 5. The label had this to say about the 6-song instrumental set, which revisits some of the psych-influenced jazz/funk combo's earlier work:

"A compilation of sorts, the album collects instrumental, alternate mix versions of all BÉE songs which originally featured guest vocalists and one exclusive track, "Future, Past & Present". In practice this results in a pseudo-greatest-hits survey of the Ensemble's catalogue to-date, touching on highlights from all three releases while emphasizing the group's strength as versatile mood-conjurors. Where these songs once featured vocal heavyweights like Meg Remy, Jennifer Castle, James Baley and Dorothea Paas, they are now strung together instrumentally in a sequence which represents the purest distillation of BÉE's collective musical chemistry to date."

Lead by Maximilian 'Twig' Turnbull, the Toronto group features Jay Anderson on drums, Chris Bezant on guitar, Alia O'Brien on the Flute, percussionist Ed Squires, and Giosuè Rosati on bass, and saxophonist Karen Ng.

Nothing Special: "New Leaf"

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Oshawa pop-punk quartet Nothing Special recently returned with "New Leaf," kicking off the band's year with "themes of growth and ambition." It's the second new single from the group following "Brandi" in December. You can hear the new track at Bandcamp. The band's working towards the release of their first EP sometime before the summer of this year.

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

Sky Caught Fire: "Dead Inside"

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Niagara post-hardcore five-piece Sky Caught Fire recently shared their second single. You can preview "Dead Inside" at Bandcamp now. The song follows the band's recent debut track "Ghost In Me" (mastered by the sonically-apropos Cancer Bats guitarist Scott Middleton).

Sky Caught Fire features Craig Laro of Niagara Falls' American Hell, along with guitarist/vocalist Steve Driscoll (Harder They Fall), guitarist Matt Dolynsky (American Hell), drummer Josh Learn (Street Pharmacy), and bassist Pat Scodellaro (Black Magik).

Grey Records: Grey Matter 2

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Saskatoon's Grey Records have a new cassette compilation lined up for a February 2 release. Grey Matter 2 features 23 independent Saskatchewan artists pooling their resources to raise funds for emergency shelter The Lighthouse and Prairie Harm Reduction. You'll find contributions from Shirley & The Pyramids, The Garrys, and Regina's Snake River among the participants. You can find all the details, including a full tracklisting, at Bandcamp.

The Black Lab: 2020 Mixtape series

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Venues across the country continue to suffer, and Vancouver's collectively run, volunteer-based punk space The Black Lab is on similarly shaky ground. Three digital mixtapes have been released to help keep the Downtown Eastside space afloat. The first volume in that set notably features contributions from a wealth of Some Party regulars, including Industrial Priest Overcoats, Lié, Chain Whip, Dead Cells, SBDC, Nutrition, Bootlicker, and Bedwetters Anonymous. You can find all three tapes to purchase at Bandcamp.

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