Year of the Horse
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.
Fucked Up: "Year of the Horse - Act One"
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While Fucked Up's lauded zodiac series has always lagged far behind the change in the calendar, the exhausting churn of world events bridging 2017's Year Of The Snake and the now-arriving Year of the Horse certainly makes the latest gulf feel like a long one. Since kicking off the project with 2006's Year of the Dog, the adventurous Toronto hardcore group's released eight installments, ready when they're ready with little regard to the moon's actual position. The zodiac series provides Fucked Up with a unique third track in their narrative - an expression running parallel but separate to their tentpole full-lengths and the group's unending collector's trove of short-form singles. While their albums often expose the push and pull between the various visions, the zodiacs seem unique in that everyone's on the same page. The songs are expansive by design: long-form, intricately crafted jams pushing the band's experiments with form to their limits. There's no tension between punk purism and restless genre-hopping here: this is Fucked Up freewheeling outside the bounds and expectations of their own canon. While each differs stylistically, these singles consistently find the group on a mission to embrace and exceed progressive rock excess with a hardcore toolkit. Maximalism isn't some flourish or affectation in the zodiac series; it's largely the point.
Year Of The Horse arrived last week, in part, as a download at Bandcamp. The album's split into four acts, with the nineteen-minute opener currently available for purchase digitally. Lavish liner notes, formally labelled as the libretto at every opportunity, are also online as a PDF download. A physical release date for the eventual vinyl hasn't yet been announced, nor has the band indicated which label they'll work with. It's inevitable, though, as the zodiacs have evolved over the years into lavish and sought-after physical items (I just pulled out Tankcrimes' trippy splatter-wax Year of the Snake release, and it's quite possibly the loveliest record I own).
Through their various social channels, members of Fucked Up shared several comments on the long road to Year of the Horse. Vocalist Damian Abraham commented earnestly on Twitter:
"Today Fucked Up (and friends) released part 1 of "Year of the Horse". Mike and Jonah started on it 5 years ago and, it probably still wouldn't be done if the last year hadn't unfolded the way it did. I'm proud to be a part of it.
Drummer Jonah Falco added, tongue-in-cheek:
"It's out, my friends. Side A. Self released on bandcamp. Please enjoy your journey into an alternate universe where David Axelrod is in Iron Age on tour with Luis Bonfa and they're playing a Ren Fair every night as a Crossed Out cover band"
Fucked Up mastermind Mike Haliechuk, through the band's namesake Twitter account, teased out a few additional details, noting that the available first act is merely the shortest side of the record. He warned that "some people are going to utterly lose their shit when this album codas." The band and their fanbase are clearly having a great deal of fun with this rollout. The excitement from all quarters is both endearing to witness and an excellent distraction considering everything else going on in the world.
Year of the Horse features most of Fucked Up's regular lineup, save guitarist Ben Cook. It features Abraham on vocals, Halichuk on cello, guitar, and drums, Falco on synth, piano, guitar, drums, and trumpet, bass from Sandy Miranda, and guitar from Josh Zucker. The track includes three renaissance-flavoured suites, with guest vocals in those movements from Maegan Brooks Mills, Eidolon, and Tuka Mohammed. Yoobin Ahn appears on the violin as well.
Fucked Up last released Dose Your Dreams in 2018. They followed it with a pair of live releases during the pandemic (Rivoli and Live at CBGB's). Last year Falco and Haliechuk released their debut as the synthpop group Jade Hairpins and an industrial EP as Masterpiece Machine (the latter featuring Riley Gale of the Dallas thrash act Power Trip on vocals). Year of the Horse carries a dedication to both Gale and Iron Age guitarist Wade Allison - both of whom were lost in 2020.
Listen at Bandcamp
Montreal goth quartet Scheintot doesn't yet have much online visibility, but I'm loving everything I've heard from them. The group recently shared a self-titled EP featuring five moody, low-fi songs that could have been plucked straight from the early days of post-punk. There's no sheen here, just cold grit and attitude. Fantastic.
Scheintot recorded the EP with Max Gosselin (CELL, Faze). There's a scant run of 25 cassettes available through Nova Scotia's Abattoir label - with less than 10 remaining if you want one.
Dynamic Abbotsford indie rockers Blessed recently shared their second single from iii, the quartet's first release since joining Calgary's Flemish Eye. You can view the group's Kaayla Whachell-directed video for "Centre" at YouTube now. While the multi-faceted track clocks in at nearly five minutes, it hardly feels like it, with the crash of percussion in the first 30 seconds providing one hell of an opening hook. The production on this one's rather striking, and given the mix of aggression and math-rock complexities, it certainly seems that Blessed's tapped into a bit of that Nomeansno magic.
The new material follows Blessed's debut 2019 full length, Salt, and numerically follows their 2017 EP II (not to mention a cool split with the Winnipeg noise-punks Tunic). The band self-produced iii at Vancouver's Rain City Recorders.
Blessed features Drew Riekman, Jake Holmes, Reuben Houweling, and Mitchell Trainor.
Bad Waitress: "Pre Post-Period Blues"
It's been a few years since we've heard from the Toronto punk group Bad Waitress, but the quartet's back with a wailing new single, dubbed "Pre Post-Period Blues." You can check it out below in a new self-directed video, recently premiered in the latest Ultra Mag zine.
In a press release, vocalist Kali-Ann Butala calls the track a "bloody, mucky, kaleidoscopic come down." Guitarist Katelyn Molgard, in a gloriously stream-of-consciousness statement, walks us through the song's themes in no uncertain terms:
"It's like this: you got yer friggin hormones, your cramps, you forgot to eat, but you need to take Advil, then yer like, 'bitch, now my stomach hurts!' and then you get so mad yer like 'WHYYYYY?!?' So you slam back a few and then you're way more drunk than you'd normally be so like, you say some shit to someone and then now yer yelling and THEN some dude's like 'are you on your period?' And so then you turn into a werewolf and eat everyone. Ya know?"
Bad Waitress recorded the new track with Dave Schiffman (PUP, The OBGMs). The song follows the band's 2018 Royal Mountain EP Party Bangers: Volume 1,
Vallens: "If I Don't"
Atmospheric Toronto trio Vallens returns this year with their sophomore full-length for Hand Drawn Dracula. In Era arrives March 19 as a 10-song set featuring the group's new single "If I Don't." You can preview that song, a slow-burn that builds to soaring heights, at Bandcamp or through a video from director Allison Johnston.
Vallens features vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Robyn Phillips backed by Devon Henderson on bass and synth, with Colin J Morgan drumming. The group recorded their latest material with Henderson in the producer's chair and Alex Gamble (Surrender, Fucked Up) engineering.
Phillips commented on the track, stating:
"If I had to pick one song to show to someone and say 'This is how we sound now,' I think that encapsulates it best...
It's largely about a transitional time in someone's life where they have ended an era of their life and can see the next one forming but are floating in between two things, It was written before COVID times but it weirdly feels even more apt and appropriate now."
Vallens last released the EP Dimmed in my Display in 2018. The new record follows up on their 2016 debut Consent.
Kristian North: "Fantasy"
Alt-pop crooner Kristian North is working with Montreal psych label Mothland on the release of his new full-length. Passion Play arrives April 30 on the label, and you can premiere the lead single "Fantasy" now. The singer/songwriter commented on the funky new track:
"Watching the [1970 French musical], Donkey Skin, while I hummed this song's chorus was when it all clicked. There's something to be said about reality there, but mostly it's just candy, melodrama, and fairy tales. I consider 'Fantasy' to be part of a trio of vaguely cynical love songs on this record."
The song's featured in a new video from director Phil Osbourne. The filmmaker commented on the clip:
"Kristian brought up the idea of capturing the times we are in. With the curfew in mind, we cooked up a little dystopian sci-fi style intro, a bit of dark humour which quickly transitions to a one man disco party."
North released his solo debut, The Last Rock N Roll Record, in 2018. You may fondly remember his old garage-punk group Babysitter from the early 2010s.
Partner: "Good Place To Hide (At the Time)"
Our post-classic-rock heroes Partner have a new video online for "Good Place To Hide (AT The Time)," one of the more overtly RUSH-worshipping singles from their recent LP Never Give Up. The band shot the video way back in February of 2019 with Mylou Sauvage directing. The group commented on the production in a press release:
"Please take note of the content warning, this video includes mimes (clowns). This video is the result of a collaboration between ourselves and our friend Mylou Sauvage. We were so excited when Mylou offered to direct our next music video. We knew she was a film industry professional with a lot of experience, and that she would be the perfect person to interpret our queer, melancholy prog rock song."
The Sackville-bred, Polaris-nominated band released the 10-song Never Give Up last November on You've Changed Records. The album found vocalist/guitarist Josée Caron, vocalist/bassist Lucy Niles, and drummer Simone TB recording with engineer Steve Chahley (Ice Cream, U.S. Girls).
I said some nice things about Never Give Up in my 2020 recap if you need a reminder.
Psychic Void: "City of Waste"
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Brash Windsor punks Psychic Void stormed back last week with a new two-song single, delivering "City of Waste" and "Wash It Down" through Bandcamp. Proceeds raised are due for the Welcome Centre Shelter for Women in the band's hometown.
Last year the group released the Skeleton Paradise full-length through New York's Vanilla Box Records. Psychic Void features vocalist Jesse Knight, guitarist Josh Kaiser, bassist Matty Menard, and drummer Pete Garant. Kaiser recorded, mixed, and mastered the new tunes, with Menard crafting the cover art.
Sam Coffey and The Iron Lungs: "What This City Needs"
I've been stoked on each and every single previewing the upcoming Sam Coffey and The Iron Lungs record Real One, and that streak continues with "What This City Needs." The band shared the song via a live session released through LootBag Records, the latest entry in the Toronto label's ongoing live video series (they've previously featured bands like Joncro, Wine Lips, and the above-mentioned Bad Waitress).
Frontman Sam Coffey commented on the power-pop tune at the premier at V13:
"This came out of a despondent sense I have that the city I live in hates poor people. It's never been more apparent than during the COVID-19 pandemic. There's a provincial-wide order to stay home, yet bylaw officers are tearing down encampments in parks where our neighbours are staying to ride this out. I get there are no easy answers... But how can people stay home, when they don't have a home to stay in?"
"What This City Needs" is set to appear on Real One, arriving February 19 through Dine Alone Records. The band's third record rolls in just about three years after the group's Thin Lizzy-worshipping self-titled LP. Real One features Coffey backed by Dave Tyson on keys, lead guitarist Liam Doyle, Joel "French" Desbois on rhythm guitar, bassist Richard Stanley, and drummer Connor Glen. Guests on the record (and this song in particular) include backing vocalist Siânteuse, Destroyer's Joseph Shabason on the sax, and a full string quartet arranged by Paul Erlichman of Ducks Unlimited. The Toronto-based group worked with producer Kevin Ratterman (White Reaper, Strand of Oaks, Murder By Death) on the album.
Last year the amiable Montreal punk trio Boids shared their incredibly fun Quel Drag LP. Unfortunately, the Stomp Records release arrived arm-in-arm with the pandemic, and that's certainly proved a distraction, to say the least. With that in mind, it's probably not a bad idea that they've waited this long to serve up another single. You can check out the band's new video for "Guillotine" now on YouTube. The clip features some retro animation from Allie Brown.
Boids recorded Quel Drag with Gob frontman Tom Thacker producing. It followed the band's 2015 full-length Superbafrango.
The Holdouts: For Reasons Unknown
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St. Catharines melodic punk quartet The Holdouts have a new EP in the wild titled For Reasons Unknown. The band recorded the 6-song set with Dead Tired guitarist Marco Bressette producing from his Hamilton-based Deadquarters studio.
The collection, which follows The Holdouts' early-2020 EP Cause and Effect, should be available on cassette soon through Barrie's Tarantula Tapes.
Mother Tongues: "Sexy Boy"
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Toronto psych-rock group Mother Tongues recently returned with a cover of "Sexy Boy," the 1988 single by the French electronic duo Air. The one-off comes on the heels of the band's debut EP Everything You Wanted, which arrived in 2020 through Buzz Records.
Mother Tongues features guitarists Lukas Cheung and Konrad Karczewski, bassist/vocalist Charise Aragoza (Maylee Todd), drummer Nick Kervin (Mimico), and keyboardist/vocalist Hannah Bussiere Kim (Luna Li).
The Effens: "Pavement Age"
Glam rockers The Effens have a video online featuring their recent single "Pavement Age." The clip features some high spiritual stakes, with the band noting:
"Mirroring the themes of the song, we fight off our inner demons while a metaphorical battle for our souls takes place between good and evil"
The track serves as the grungy Toronto rock group's first new material since 2019's Unsafe EP (collected last year, alongside 2018's Burn Blush, as a single self-titled LP). Vocalist Austin Nops produced the new track.
HEXOFFENDER: Undead Smut
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Sleazy Hamilton thrash group HEXOFFENDER has a self-titled demo online now. The EP features frontman Dave Gourlay backed on two tracks by Mononegatives' ever-busy frontman Robbie Brake, with JP of Bad Logics joining him on two others. You can snag the set now at Bandcamp.
Bloodshot Bill: Out Of My Head Vol. 3
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Whimsical rockabilly institution Bloodshot Bill has a third entry in his Outta My Head series online, featuring five new songs tracked by the Montreal artist in over the previous month.
These releases, timed for Bandcamp's monthly artist-friendly Friday events, follow a wealth of material churned out during the 2020 pandemic. Last year Bill brought the rarities set Tattle Tale - Vol.1, the Spit on My Rubber EP with Rochester's Televisionaries, a second Out Of This World Sounds volume for Ghost Highway Records, and the Goner Records LP Get Loose Or Get Lost.