Saturday June 11, 2022

Crying in a Corn Maze

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.

Big Rig: "Crying in a Corn Maze"

Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

Vancouver indie-pop act The Courtneys occupy a lofty perch in my personal pantheon. While their catalogue remains small, the trio's lo-fi guitar rock marries the classic Dunedin sound of Flying Nun Records with the jangly, expansive jams of early post-punk bands like The Feelies and Television. I can drift away into "Lost Boys" with the same bliss I find in "Crazy Rhythms" or "Marquee Moon." As someone who spent far too long ruining their attention span in the immediate-by-design punk trenches, those rare moments of aural transcendence are hard-won and closely guarded.

While The Courtneys haven't been particularly active since the 2016 release of their sophomore album, they've popped separately up in several recent side-projects. Courtney Gavin issued a full-length in 2020 as Gum Country, a crunchy guitar-forward duo with Connor Mayer. Bassist Sydney J. Koke shares bedroom recordings through her meditative solo electronic project Slaylor Moon. 2022 now finds lead vocalist/drummer Jen Twynn Payne re-emerging with Big Rig, delivering a rootsy spin on that breezy Courtneys sound. The band's jokingly kicking around the genre descriptor "twangmo" (ie: twangy emo), and while I'm not convinced it's accurate, I can't believe I never saw it applied to The Weakerthans back in the day.

Payne commented on the group's origins in a press release issued through Exclaim:

"It all began when I rented a guitar from Long & McQuade. I wanted to write songs with a banjo on them because I was obsessed with the Alex G songs with banjo on them. I was having a real phase. I started writing songs with the three chords I knew, and then we did a Porches cover that just happened to have those same three chords. From there, Big Rig was born."

The group recorded seven songs for their first album, with Payne on guitar and vocals backed by Geoffo Reith on banjo, Woolworm's Giles Roy on bass, and Kyle (no last name provided) on drums (the group's since enlisted Jesse Locke of Tough Age in that role). Reith recorded and mixed the group at Green Autobody, with Jordan Koop mastering at The Noise Floor. Look for an appearance on the record from Moonriser's Mackenzie Bromstad on cello.

Big Rig's self-titled set's due on June 24 through Courtney Gavin's Peaceful Tapes label. You can hear the album's first single, "Crying in a Corn Maze," streaming now at Bandcamp.

Fake Palms: "Satellite"

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Hot on the heels of Dose Yourself, the full-length debut from his synth-pop trio Sauna, Toronto's Michael le Riche is readying the return of his rock band Fake Palms. The group's lined up Lemons, their third LP, for a September 16 release through Hand Drawn Dracula. You can hear the album's first single, the taut, angular "Satellite," streaming now and visualized in a video by director Justis Krar.

le Riche spoke about the album's stripped-down approach in a press release:

"This record is the most direct thing I've ever done. All the distorted guitars playing 16th-note riffs in different time signatures, washes of noise and buried vocals are basically gone. In their place, we made a record that's lean and a punch to the gut. There are still some moments where the guitars get a little tricky but, in general, we tried to be as immediate as possible. The songs are all fairly short and there are almost no extra production tricks. I was inspired by records like the Dead Boys' Young, Loud and Snotty and the Buzzcocks' Another Music in a Different Kitchen. Maybe because of what was going on in the world at the time, or maybe just as a reaction to the last Fake Palms record - which was flush with production flourishes - it just felt necessary to kick the door down instead of knocking."

The band's only constant over the years, le Riche fittingly performs the brunt of guitar, bass, and vocals on these recordings, backed by Dilly Dally's Benjamin Reinhartz on drums and percussion. Evan Lewis of Ducks Ltd. plays guitar on a half dozen songs, with early Palms member Patrick Marshall joining on another. Braeden Craig of Greys and Sauna drums on one track, while another pair features Twist's Laura Hermiston on vocals. The band recorded at Candle Recording with Josh Korody (Breeze, Beliefs) co-producing and engineering.

Fake Palms last issued Pure Mind in 2017 through Pleasence Records.

Heaven For Real: "Slow Clap"

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Following their recent EP, the Halifax-bred, Toronto-based art-rock project Heaven For Real has a new full-length lined up on Mint Records. Energy Bar lands on September 16 with ten new songs, including the lead single "Slow Clap." You can see that track visualized in a fascinatingly frantic (if not mildly horrific) new video from director Nathaniel Wilson.

Speaking on the album and the band's difficult-to-peg sound, Mark Grundy commented:

"I could see us veering in a million different directions [but] we're using guitar rock as something of a palette to draw from, dig into, a lane to drive in. This is where we're at (for now)... The record is an analysis and an ode to the broader feelings of 'potentiality' - what could be, what things will mean, where things are going; the sense of wondering, questioning, attempts at growth and self-analysis and acceptance."

Heaven For Real features twin brother songwriters Mark and J. Scott Grundy, drummer Nathan Doucet, and Cher Hann on synth. They recorded with Jonas Bonetta (Evening Hymns) at Port William Sound, with Faith Healer's René Wilson mixing. The new set follows the March-issued Sweet Rose Green Winter Desk Top Tell This Side Autumn Of The Fighter Hot In A Cool Way (a needlessly mammoth title, then and now) and 2016's Kill Your Memory LP.

Single Mothers: "Baby Bird"

Hear it on YouTube

After an endless parade of pandemic-era digital material issued under a half-dozen names, Drew Thomson's London, Ontario punk act Single Mothers looks ready to return to the physical realm with a new LP for Dine Alone Records. Everything You Need lands October 28, preceded by the crackling new single "Baby Bird."

The new record arrives as Single Mothers' first "proper" full-length since 2018's Through a Wall, although that statement doesn't capture the wealth of free-wheeling home-recordings Thomson brain dumped over the past few years (as The Drew Thomson Foundation, No Idea Head, SM WorseWorld, SM Worldwide, and probably a few others). Everything You Need is notable in that regard as it's a work penned entirely before the 2020 health crisis.

Single Mothers latest iteration Thomson backed by Peter Landi and Daniel Ormsby.

Fiver: "Song Of The Mournful Millionaire"

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Erudite alt-country artist Simone Schmidt, better known as Fiver, recently shared the first track from a new recording dubbed Soundtrack to A More Radiant Sphere: The Joe Wallace Mixtape. "Song Of The Mournful Millionaire" features lyrics written in 1950 by Canadian poet Joe Wallace. Schmidt notably dedicates the recording "to all the space exploring pervert billionaires out there."

Filmmaker Sara Wylie commissioned the song for her documentary A More Radiant Sphere, which premiered at Vancouver's DOXA Documentary Film Festival this past May. The film explores the forgotten story of Joe Wallace, a communist activist, journalist, poet, and political prisoner. Schmidt explains:

"Wallace was largely ignored by the broader Canadian literary scene (but revered in Eastern Europe and Russia) because he was a commie & also because his peers said he lacked nuance and style. Milton Acorn said it was 'usually bad, but sometimes totally inspired.' I agree. However when Sara asked me to pick 5 poems to make into song, I did find some prescient ones. Unsurprisingly, he had a knack for describing & predicting the outcomes of capitalism. Wallace wrote 'Song of The Mournful Millionaire' in 1950, the year Richard Branson was born. It was also 11 years before Yuri Gagarin went to space. When I read the poem for the first time in 2020, I was struck at how apt a roast of today's oligarch space colonists it is."

Fiver's score features Nick Dourado (Budi) on lap steel and piano, John Showman on fiddle, and Heaven For Real's Nathan Doucet on percussion. A cassette release, the collection features vocals on the A-side and instrumental versions on the flip. You can now hear the track "Drink Less Champagne" on Bandcamp as a sample of the latter. The mixtape arrives July 8 through You've Changed Records.

Last year Fiver issued the improvisational Fiver with the Atlantic School Of Spontaneous Composition, featuring many of the same personnel. Sonically the Joe Wallace Mixtape material falls a little closer to the haunting folk of 2017's Audible Songs From Rockwood.

Bonnie Trash: "Teeth"

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Guelph, Ontario drone-rock duo Bonnie Trash have signed with Hand Drawn Dracula, sharing the muscular single "Teeth" as the first preview of their forthcoming debut LP. The song arrives alongside a video directed by the band, a piece that reflects their Italian ancestry and family lore. They comment:

"We created a short film to help narrate stories our Nonna Maria told us about being haunted and followed by a curse in her hometown of San Zenone degli Ezzelini in Treviso, Italy. That short eventually became the concept of our album, which is woven into our first music video, 'Teeth.' Shot at the Apollo Cinema in Kitchener, Ontario, 'Teeth' bridges generations of being haunted - we see ourselves watching our work without understanding that we too have conjured the curse. A malocchio follows."

Bonnie Trash is a project of twin sisters Emmalia and Sarafina Bortolon-Vettor. Emmalia plays guitar on the track, with Sarafina on drums and vocals. The group recorded with Josh Korody co-producing at Candle Recording Studio in Toronto. The new set follows the band's 2017 Ezzelini's Dead EP and a few subsequent digital singles issued in 2019. Look for the group performing as a four-piece at the final Kazoo Fest in Guelph this summer. They're playing a Friday, July 15 show with Jasmyn, Matthew Cardinal, and André Ethier at the Royal City Mission.

Boyhood: "Stroke It"

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Caylie Runciman's indie-pop project Boyhood recently announced My Dread, a new full-length set for a November release (a far-out date to allow for the inevitable vinyl manufacturing delays). The new record follows up on 2018's Bad Mantras and includes the "Don't You Dare" digital single we first heard back in January. The song finds Runciman working entirely solo, not unexpected given the years of lockdowns and isolation. She's not entirely alone on the record, though, as acclaimed Toronto saxophonist Joseph Shabason (Fresh Pepper, Destroyer) appears on a pair of tracks. Mika Posen (Bruce Peninsula) plays violin on another. Outside of them, though, it's a lonely affair.

You can see the record's first single, "Stroke It," featured in a striking new video from director Monika Kraska.

Motherhood: "Tabletop"

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This week brought another preview of Winded, the upcoming LP from Fredericton art-punk trio Motherhood. You can find a video for "Tabletop" on YouTube, directed by the band and filmed in the forests of rural Penniac, New Brunswick. It's a further example of how compellingly aggressive and tightly wound the group's become since their playful prior album, driving home the new record's theme of "persevering — perhaps for no good reason."

Winded arrives June 24 via the Forward Music Group. Motherhood recorded the 10-track record with Mike Trask and Kyle Cunjak engineering at the analog studio MRC Recording in Memramcook. Cunjak and the band co-produced, with Deerhoof's Greg Saunier mixing.

Motherhood last released Dear Bongo in 2019. The trio features vocalist/guitarist Brydon Crain, keyboardist Penelope Stevens, and drummer Adam Sipkema.

Young Blades: Young Blades

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Montreal deathrock quartet Young Blades have a new self-titled EP out through Pandemix Records, a sublabel of Pils Records (the team notable for the ongoing Pils Sessions series chronicling the Quebec punk scene). Boasting four songs in the fine tradition of the Misfits and the Damned, the band recorded at Pils' NOMANSLAND studio in Gatineau with engineer Chany Pilote.

Young Blades is a side-project of Mickey Dagger, known for his gothic EBM output. The group features Dagger on vocals, backed by guitarist Pask, bassist Mojo, and drummer Stiker - members with bands like Droids, Fractured, and Warcrusher on their resumes.

Pearly Gates: "There's a Black Hole (Where Your Heart Should Be)"

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Charlottetown garage rock act Pearly Gates has a hooky psych-pop single out. "There's a Black Hole (Where Your Heart Should Be)" feels lovingly nostalgic and authentic to its 60s forebearers. In a press release, vocalist/guitarist Mark Palmer comments:

"I liked the idea of writing a song about a bad relationship I had been in with a dark lyrical theme accompanied by a sunny happy chord progression and sing-along cheerful melody... I came up with the melody for the verses while lobster fishing with my father. I put in long days on the boat doing repetitive work and spend most of the time writing songs in my head. Writing lyrics, working out the melody, and repeating it over and over in hopes of not forgetting anything by the time I get home to add the music to what I produced."

The song, produced by Ian Romano of Attack In Black and Daniel Romano's Outfit, follows the group's March single "Measures of Safety." Pearly Gates features Palmer backed by guitarist/vocalist Colin Buchanan, bassist Chris Francis, and drummer Roger Carter.

PACKS: "don't go for the goat's milk"

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Madeline Link's Toronto-based slack rock vehicle PACKS returns July 8 with a new EP for Royal Mountain and Fire Talk Records. WOAH promises a set of stripped-down recordings, capturing songs penned in the wake of the tours supporting 2021's breakthrough Take The Cake. Link commented:

"These songs began when I got back in November from our US tour with Wombo. I had lost my voice completely and it had a nice scratchiness to it as it was coming back. Someone suggested I record a whole album of songs while my voice was like that. 'father's truck' was first. It came from a fever dream I had in a dander-steeped basement in Boston."

On the EP's first preview, a downtempo lo-fi tune curiously titled "don't go for the goat's milk," she reveals:

"Sometimes I like to start my day with a little cup of cold goat's milk. This song began when my parents poured some of my goat's milk into their morning coffee and wondered what that weird flavour was. Then of course it turned into a soggy, water-logged love song."

Live PACKS performs as a four-piece, with Link backed by guitarist Dexter Nash, bassist Noah O'Neil, and drummer Shane Hooper.

The Sadies: "All The Good"

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This week The Sadies shared the final pre-release single from Colder Streams, their upcoming 11th studio album and the final LP to feature Dallas Good before his untimely death in February. You can hear "All The Good" streaming or paired with a lyric video directed by Hilotrons' Michael Dubue. That clip features artwork from bassist Sean Dean and visual effects by Arturo Brisindi (created with an LZX Memory Palace effects processor, if you want to get particular). The record arrives July 22 through Dine Alone and Yep Roc Records.

The beloved alt-country/garage quartet recorded these 11 songs between 2019 and 2021 at Montreal's Skybarn with Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry producing. Pietro Amato engineered and mixed the brunt of the record, with Dubue and Cowboy Junkies producer Peter J. Moore working on the song "You Should Be Worried." Longtime collaborator Jon Spencer and the Goods' parents, Margaret and Bruce, also appear on select tracks.

Now appearing as the trio of guitarist/vocalist Travis Good, bassist Sean Dean, and drummer Mike Belitsky, the band hits the road later this month in support of the record. They'll take the stage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival on July 8 before jetting to Europe.

These Fast Times: The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions

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The Montreal pop-punk act These Fast Times return with a dynamic new EP through Thousand Islands Records. The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions follows up on 2018's Other Side of Fear LP with six new songs. The quartet recorded with Vincent Côté (L'Affaire Pélican, Bussieres, Down Memory Lane) at Studio d'enregistrement. You can now hear the whole set at Bandcamp. It's one of those records that covers quite a bit of stylistic ground in a few short songs. The emo-adjacent acoustic opener, for example, does little to foreshadow that you're just a few minutes out from a technical skate punk ripper like "Empty Cup."

These Fast Times features vocalist/guitarist Jeffrey Vuorela, bassist/vocalist Jason Bellafontaine, guitarist Thomas Kolofsky, and drummer Ryan Kennedy.

New Chance: "To The Edge"

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Electronic music producer New Chance recently shared a video showcasing "To The Edge," a song from her 2021 LP Real Time. Award-winning animator Seth Scriver crafted the visuals for the piece as part of a wider project. He commented:

"This video was made as a dedication to Jessica Scriver, Peter's daughter and Seth's niece, who took her own life in 2013. Jessica was only 16 and had been saving up for a motorcycle at the time. RIP lil Jess!"

New Chance, also known as Victoria Cheong, shared:

"Seth's video captures the expansive freedom-seeking spirit of the song. An empty road at the edge of day beckons us toward the stars."

Scriver's debut film, Asphalt Watches, won the Best First Canadian Feature Award at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013. The nine-song Real Time arrived in July of 2021 through the Chandra band-affiliated We Are Time label. A remix album followed in November, featuring contributions from Canadian post-punk luminaries like LAL, Petra Glynt, Peleda, and Lee Paradise.

Beauts: "Paragon"

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Atmospheric Halifax indie-rock act Beauts have a new single out dubbed "Paragon," a chilled-out follow-up to their early 2020 LP Dalliance. The track arrived through the LMH Records label. Vocalist Jeff Lawton commented in a press release:

"It feels like we're settling into the idea that this band can sound like a lot of different things, as opposed to a strict style or genre, and that's been really exciting for us. I've also been trying to move away from writing about self-deprecation and self-criticism, and instead trying to look outward and write about the people around me. I'm very clearly writing about my partner here, chronicling our relationship and expressing my awe for her. Being forced to stay indoors for the past couple years has given me time to appreciate how fortunate it is to have someone in your life you love, admire, and are happy to be around all the time."

You can hear the song at Bandcamp or see it visualized in a psychedelic clip on YouTube, directed by Bryanna Chapeskie. Beauts features Jeff Lawton, Darryl Smith, Palmer Jamieson, Joel Waddell and Erik Van Lunen, joined on this track by backing vocalist Mel Stone and pianist Siobhan Martin.

Century Egg: "Little Piece of Hair"

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Halifax mandopop-rockers Century Egg recently shared a video for "Little Piece of Hair," the title track of their 2021 EP. The clip, directed by Susie Shapones of Australia's Knuckles Animation, arrives online already lauded with accolades. The video premiered as part of the St Kilda Festival in Melbourne, later winning "Best Animation Music Video" at the International Sound Video Awards in Prague and further featured at the Sommets du Cinéma d'animation in Montreal. The stop-motion animated clip features a puppet crafted by vocalist Shane Song using the traditional Japanese crochet technique, amigurumi. She comments:

"'Little Piece of Hair' is a mixed-media animated music video, incorporating stop-motion and 2D animation. It is also a passion project that represents the beautiful relationship that exists between artists. After their first successful collaboration in 2017, Century Egg and Knuckles Animation Studio continue to work together, even years and hemispheres apart."

The six-song Little Piece of Hair arrived in the spring of 2021 through the Forward Music Group, followed by the double A-side single Mirror in the fall. The latest incarnation of Century Egg features Shane Keyu Song and guitarist Robert Drisdelle backed by bassist Matty Grace (Future Girls, Cluttered) and drummer Meg Yoshida (Shoulder Season, Dog Day). The quartet recorded at Ocean Floor in Halifax with Franc Lopes.

Marlaena Moore: "Pacer"

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Edmonton singer-songwriter Marlaena Moore recently shared "Pacer," a delicate new single co-written and produced by Preoccupations' Scott Munro. The song's one of her first since 2020's well-received Pay Attention, Be Amazed! LP. Peroccupations drummer Michael Wallace handles the percussion on the track, with Munro on guitar and synth. Moore plays bass and, of course, sings lead. You can now find the pensive tune at Bandcamp or featured in a new video from director Sasha Khalimonova.

Moore recorded at The Schoolhouse in Ymir BC, Junimo Studio in Calgary, and Studio Saint Zo in Montreal. There's no word yet on the eventual home for this song, but I'd wager we'll see a follow-up to Pay Attention later this year.

Fresh Pepper: "Prep Cook In The Weeds"

Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

The past few editions of Some Party have each closed with a new track from Fresh Pepper, and I'm not sure what I'll do once the press cycle wraps as they're perfect palate cleansers. The latest leans rather explicitly into the record's culinary themes, taking the direct perspective of kitchen labour. The jazzy, relaxed tune makes expert use of both Joseph Shabason's sax and André Ethier's sly, smokey vocals.

The group's 8-song, self-titled debut arrives June 17 through Telephone Explosion. The record presents something of a supergroup of Toronto studio players, with contributions from Robin Dann, Kieran Adams, Felicity Williams, Thom Gill, and Bram Gielen (members of Bernice, The Weather Station, and Beverly Glenn-Copeland's band - not in that order). Destroyer's Dan Bejar also appears on the album, contributing to the song "Seahorse Tranquilizer."

André Ethier's known for his years fronting Toronto garage legends The Deadly Snakes. With Fresh Pepper he's following up a three-album cycle of nature-inspired folk songs that concluded last year with Further Up Island. Shabason last issued his acclaimed solo LP The Fellowship in 2021.

Sappyfest

Tickets and info at sappyfest.com

I close this week with news of the 2022 edition of Sappyfest, the Sackville music and arts festival that grew as an extension of Julie Doiron's Sappy Records. In the years before the pandemic, I mythologized Sappy from afar, long before I started the annual pilgrimage to Bridge Street. The event, its participants, and the overarching Swamp Magic ethos of Sappy have always loomed large for this publication. With the pending return to an in-person gathering for the first time since 2019, you'll forgive me if I dwell on it for the next little while. It's always a challenge covering live events here (this mailing would be nothing but lineup announcements and tour dates otherwise), but Sappy feels special for reasons that, while elusive, transcend geography.

The event takes place from July 29 through the 31st in the New Brunswick college town. This year's partial lineup features Ami Dang, Apollo Ghosts, Bird Feet, Cedric Noel, Circuit des Yeux, Jon Mckiel, Kelly McMichael, Klarka Weinwurm, OMBIIGIZI, Sook-Yin Lee (both solo and as part of Lee & Gamble Unlimited), Weary, and Wolf Castle. At the event, Lee and Gamble plan to screen their films Death and Sickness and Who Cares? with a subsequent Q&A. Amery Sandford, who we first met as the guitarist/vocalist of BBQT, is the festival's resident visual artist this year.

Andrea Vincent, Sappyfest's new creative director who formerly helmed the Dawson City Music Festival, had this to say in a press release:

"We are grateful to be making plans to reconvene in person this year, to fill our cups with music and friends, and in deep reverence of the gifts that live music and art bring. In some ways making plans has felt big, scary, and a little hesitant. But as our dear friend and former director Steve Lambke once wrote, 'to make a plan is to claim a hope for the future.' It's that hope and a vision of coming together under summer skies that propels us forward."

I need not reiterate the collective trauma of the pandemic age. It's certainly not exclusive to me, nor are we free of it, but the ability to gather again - cautiously, hopefully, fretfully - feels momentous. I can't uncouple the event from my pent-up wanderlust or my (perhaps) naive yearning for normal times. We'll all have our hard-fought moments of social reclamation over the next few years, and a return to Sappy is mine. I hope you'll indulge me when it becomes prominent in my writing these next few weeks.

Sappyfest 17

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