Tuesday June 21, 2022

Eating the Screen

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.

Man Made Hill: "Eating the Screen"

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Hamilton madman Randall Gagne returns this summer in the guise of his "existential disco" curiosity Man Made Hill - readying the 10-song full-length Mirage Repair for a vinyl release on Orange Milk Records. The record marks a significant shift in the act's methodology - as after nearly 20 home-recorded albums, this is a professional studio production helmed by engineer Jeremy Greenspan (Junior Boys/Jessy Lanza). That collaboration has its unlikely roots in a construction project, as revealed in the Bandcamp liner notes:

"What started as a gentleman's agreement between Randy and Jeremy - Studio time in exchange for manual labour in the building of Greenspan's Hamilton recording studio [Barton Building] - turned into a lengthy collaboration, and a year-and-a-half long odyssey into this experimental pop record. While toiling away through the hardships of the construction process and the early days of the pandemic, Randy and Jeremy bonded over a love of Soft-rock, Synth-Pop, and Sleazy films."

The set features a guest appearance by Montreal avant-garde legend Corpusse (John Ashton) on the song "Less Than Garbage," as well as contributions by Charlie Murray and Sebastian Butt - Gagne's bandmates in the experimental Still Boys. I'm hopelessly out of my comfort zone when trying to parse Gagne's deeply eclectic influences - so I'll shamelessly defer to the globe-spanning names compelling dropped in the press release:

"Stylistically it combines a reverence for 80's Japanese Experimental pop, specifically the breadth of experimental production on Tomoko Aran's 'Fuyü-Kükan = 浮遊空間' (1983) and Miharu Koshi's 'Tutu' (1983), with a love of Italian soundtrack music like Marcello Giombini's 'Le Notti Erotiche Dei Morti Viventi,' or Riz Ortolani's 'La Ragazza Dal Pigiama Giallo.' Warped, but tender synth pop intoxicated by Reality's swamp. Sewage Funk and ethereal mood music, As if Prince and Tangerine Dream collaborated on a lost funky soundtrack to a late 80's Stephen King adapted TV movie."

Sewage funk is one hell of a name for a genre. Look for the album on July 15. Until then, you can find the first single, "Eating The Screen," showcased on YouTube with a suitably surreal video from Strange Process (Ducks Ltd., Zoon). The new record follows up on 2020's Mass Wasting.

The OBGMs: "Same"

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Last week celebrated Toronto punk trio The OBGMs issued a new single to kick off their June co-headlining tour with Montreal's NOBRO. The hard-hitting "Same" arrives as the band's first new material since their Polaris shortlisted 2020 full-length The Ends. The track again finds the group working with producer Dave Schiffman (PUP, The Bronx) and comes with a video directed by guitarist/vocalist Densil McFarlane (with an assist from Austin Nops of The Effens). You can see it now on YouTube.

The tour, one of several the Toronto group has lined up for the year, comes on the heels of their appearance in The Onyx Experience, a live concert film and art installation celebrating Black Canadian rock'n'roll. You can see the full movie, which also features SATE and Fefe Dobson, playing via CBC Music on YouTube or through the GEM app. Andrew Hamilton directed and edited the movie and is currently crowdfunding to recoup production costs.

The Ends landed in 2020 via Black Box. The OGBMs feature McFarlane backed by bassist Joseph Brosnan and drummer Colanthony Humphrey.

Needle Crafts: Grad School Twitter

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I field quite a few press releases in a given week, but I'm always thrilled to see a reader reach out and let me know what's cool in their corner of the country. Pop-punk act Needle Crafts, operating out of St. John's and Mount Pearl Newfoundland, is one of those suggestions. The quartet issued an angsty three-song EP dubbed Grad School Twitter earlier this month, timed to land alongside their recent appearance at the Lawnya Vawnya festival.

Vocalist Elsa Simms delivers rapid-fire, 90s-throwback vocals on tracks like the riffy album opener "Slit my Wrists with a Cricut Explore." She's backed by some rather muscular instrumentals courtesy of guitarist Brandon Coaker, bassist Brandon Parsley, and drummer Stephen Spencer. Needle Crafts are a riot. You can check them out at Bandcamp now.

Tunnel Vision: 2022

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That same recommendation to check out Needle Crafts also tipped me to the St. John's hardcore group Tunnel Vision. The quartet issued a scathing five-song set in early June, recorded with Kris Hamlyn of The Devoters and mixed by Luke Mumford (Booji Boys, Gemstones). This thing absolutely cooks - check out "Liquid Gel" for that classic combination of breakneck vocals with a massive, sludgy breakdown. Tunnel Vision features Becky, Catherine, Pepa, and Walt.

Young Guv: "Nervous Around U"

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Ben Cook's GUV IV, the fourth in a prolific run of similarly-packaged full-lengths, arrives this week through Run For Cover and Hand Drawn Dracula. The latest preview takes a bit of a left turn from the sun-soaked power pop that's come to define the series, with "Nervous Around U" delivering a brisk burst of 80's-styled electropop instead. It exemplifies the increasingly diverse directions explored in this latest volume and lands alongside a video from director Pat Salway.

When he isn't writing timeless pop songs with Young Guv, Cook's known as the frontman of the bruising Toronto hardcore group No Warning. He also formerly appeared as a guitarist with hardcore innovators Fucked Up. The eponymous GUV series kicked off in 2019, with the material for this latest pair of albums largely written in Taos, New Mexico, where the band waited out the pandemic.

Badge Époque Ensemble: "Zodiac" (ft James Baley)

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Max 'Twig' Turnbull's experimental funk collective, the Badge Époque Ensemble, has a new full-length queued up for a September 9 release on Telephone Explosion. Clouds of Joy arrives as the label's 100th release, and it's also notable in that it finds Turnbull stepping away from his usual place behind the keyboard to serve as a full-fledged band director - writing, arranging and producing with the instrumentals left solely to his collaborators. That group includes drummer Jay Anderson, bassist Gio Rosati, flautist Alia O'Brien, saxophonist Karen Ng, percussionist Ed Squires, and guitarist Chris Bezant, with jazz pianist Edwin de Goeij newly joining the group to take Twig's place on keys. That should be a familiar list of names if you've frequented this newsletter, given that it includes members of Jane Inc, Young Guv, US Girls, The Weather Station, and other lauded Toronto exports.

The album's nine compositions fall into three categories, split evenly between instrumentals, choral arrangements, and songs backed by distinct vocalists. The record's first preview, "Zodiac," showcases the pipes of Toronto R&B artist James Baley, with other installments showcasing Dorothea Paas - both past collaborators with the Ensemble. The vocal arrangements, overseen by Paas, feature Robin Dann (Bernice), Alex Samaras (Tryal), Alanna Stuart (Bonjay). "Zodiac" lands alongside a brilliantly clever documentary-style video from director Colin Medley, which I strongly encourage you to check out on YouTube. It's just a delight.

Clouds of Joy arrives as the group's third full-length (and fifth overall release) for Telephone Explosion in the last five years. It follows last year's Scroll, a related collection of Turnbull compositions issued as Badge Epoch. That record, a double LP, saw a career-spanning collection of songs cut up and remixed by the Toronto sound artist Andrew Zukerman (aka Fleshtone Aura).

Pastel Blank: "Fences"

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Victoria art-rock act Pastel Blank recently issued a nearly-self-titled EP, launching the seven-song Pastel Blanc alongside the standout single "Fences." In a press release, guitarist/vocalist Angus Watt revealed:

"'Fences' is a strawman song. I wanted to write about proud fence-sitters who mask indecision as an intellectual and moral virtue. I pulled a few examples from various conversations, but to be honest, this song is also quite self-critical. I wanted to poke fun at this type of person, and parts of myself. Though ultimately, I think the song is more 'fun' than 'poke.'"

While earlier previews of the album showcased the band's love of a good psychedelic groove, "Fences" find Watt's vocals wound so tightly they spit through the chorus with a forceful snap. That contrast is all the more striking given how content the band seems to lean back and meander through lo-fi, AM radio funk.

Pastel Blank recorded with David Parry (of Vancouver Island mainstays Loving and Jons), who co-produced with the band's Oliver Hollingshead. The record finds Watt on guitar, vocals, and organ, with Hollingshead on percussion, playing alongside bassist Dougie Bedell. The album also features appearances on select songs from Jordan Clairmont on keys, Maxwell Stover playing sax and flute, and Dexter Hodgins on violin.

Jerkswitch: "King Of Shit"

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The irreverent Montreal punk act Jerkswitch resurfaced last week with "King of Shit," a hooky new tune that marches along at a satisfying clip between shout-along choruses. It's the quartet's first single since the ska-punk styled "Poking the Blind" a year ago and likely heralds a follow-up to their 2019 Thousand Islands LP BUFO. Speaking to the Colorado Punk Rock Army, longtime online supporters of the band, singer/guitarist EJ Lang commented:

"'King Of Shit' is a poison apple. It is a song about accepting that the attraction I have to self-destruction is a part of who I am and that the pain it inevitably inflicts somehow soothes me."

You can find a playful video celebrating the track on YouTube (the costumes and smirking hijinks feel straight out of 1998). It's gleefully unserious in a way that few things are these days.

Jerkswitch features Lang on vocals and guitar, with guitarist/vocalist Will, bassist/vocalist Pat, and drummer Gab. The band was born from the ashes of the similarly trashy Montreal punk act The SkudFux.

Hyaenas: "Little Trophy"

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Vancouver rock group Hyaenas recently emerged with "Little Trophy," a slick and mature debut single that sets the band's queer feminist agenda in no uncertain terms. The group revealed the personal history behind the track at Bandcamp:

"'Little Trophy' is a call out against the sexual objectification of women. The song was partially inspired by a previous long distance relationship Sophie had (she was doing all the heavy lifting to make everything happen while the other was sitting back and reaping the benefits (fun trips & getting laid)), and partially inspired by unwanted sexual advances, judgements, or discriminations that almost every single woman has experienced."

Hyaenas feature vocalist/guitarist Sophie Heppell, bassist Jessie Robertson, drummer Jen Foster, and Luvia Petersen on synth. The group's working with producers Elisa Pangsaeng (Said The Whale, Yukon Blonde) and Jesse Gander (Wares, Woolworm, Necking) on their debut EP. Look for it later this year.

Safety Gear: Self Titled

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Red Deer's High End Denim Records have paired up with local pop-punk/post-hardcore act Safety Gear, issuing their newly minted self-titled EP. You can pick up the two-song digital set, featuring "Ernie" and "Horseshoes," at Bandcamp. In a statement, the group commented on the A-side:

"Ernie came from Safety Gear wanting to write something a little bit harder and faster. It was a slight departure from what the boys would normally write so it felt new and fresh. The name comes from a scene in a Harry Potter film where a talking head yells 'Take it away Ern, 'the idea being that the subject of the song is trying to escape the thoughts of a failed relationship and move on to bigger and better things."

Safety Gear got together in Red Deer back in 2018.

La Gachette: Pils Sessions

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Veteran Montreal punk group La Gachette recently descended on Gatineau to participate in the Pils Sessions. The band recorded four tracks over a two-day stint in May at the NOMANSLAND Studio, including a cover of "Ville Morte" by the classic French Oi! band Warrior Kids. Performing as a four-piece and together for more than 20 years, La Gachette features vocalist/guitarist Erik, guitarist Guillaume, bassist Karl, and drummer Scott. As usual, Chany Pilote engineered the performance, with Dizz Hupé documenting the visit.

La Gachette's just the latest Quebec punk act to appear on the scene-documenting Pils sessions, following recent appearances by Peroxide, Unwanted Noise, Solitüde, Fractured, Dysruptive, Ad Vitam, and Collapsed, among others.

Nora Kelly Band: "Change My Mind"

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Nora Kelly's eponymous alt-country solo project continues to blaze trails on an entirely different wavelength from her post-punk trio Dishpit. The Montreal artist's latest single, "Change My Mind," arrived last week alongside a self-produced video. In a press release, Kelly commented on the track:

"The lyrics might sound like a familiar, pinning love song, however, when I wrote it, I was actually trying to write from the perspective of my very close friend who was in a toxic, long term relationship. I was single at the time and filled with horror whenever she would vent about her boyfriend. It seemed like she wanted to leave, but even more than that she didn't want to be alone. She was always hoping he would do something to 'change her mind', to justify her staying.

I filmed the music video on a recent trip to Arizona for my cousin's wedding. After the festivities, my parents and I rented a car and drove around New Mexico for a few days. I've always been in love with the desert, and I shot everything I could. Being from Canada, nothing feels more magical than the desert. Along the way I would get my dad to hold the camera while I lip-synched along, embarrassing us all many times. My mom also makes several cameos in the video with her iPad."

The song provides another glimpse of her upcoming full-length, due later this year. That record features Kelly on vocals and guitar, backed by Ethan Soil (Fleece/DISHPIT) on drums, Vader Ryderwood (Treasure Eyes) on bass, Rachel Silverstein on keys, and Michael Feurstack on pedal steel. Pietro Amato (The Luyas, Bell Orchestre) mixed the album.

Dishpit's Steve Albini-recorded debut landed in 2021.

Harkness: "Ciao To The Beauty"

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Toronto psych-pop artist Harkness returned last week with "Ciao To The Beauty," the quirky title track to their upcoming sophomore full-length. The visually distinctive artist, known for adorning what looks like gear out of a 60s sci-fi flick, commented on the track in a press release:

"Many years ago, I went on a solo trip to Brazil to holiday and visit my uncle who lived there at the time. The gorgeous environment and the open, joyful character of the people had a profound effect on me as did the fantastic local music that seemed to always be playing in the open air. I would stroll aimlessly for hours finding cool percussion instruments to buy while soaking up what felt like so much explosive energy all around me. One of the peak moments was my visit to Falls de Iguazu (famous for being in the film 'The Mission') where hundreds of waterfalls can be seen, heard and felt to your very core. It was there that 'Ciao To The Beauty' was born.

Of course, seeing and feeling something so wonderous not only makes one feel alive in an exhilarating way but also emphasizes the sad fact that we aren't taking good enough care of our world environmentally speaking. It's plain to see that the race for the prize that so many of us are chasing is wreaking havoc on Eden-like places such as Brazil and its rain forests. The song celebrates beauty and hints at the question 'Why do we feel the need for an abundance of possessions and assets in order to find happiness.'? It suggests that all we could ever want is ours if we just stop to embrace what is already right in front of us."

On par with Harkness' early work, this is a busy piece that packs a ton of instrumentation into a short runtime. With a near-orchestra of accompanying wind instruments and countless percussive flourishes, there's a lot to take in. Look for Harkness' new LP, the follow-up to 2021's The Occasion, sometime in early 2023.

Nouveaux: "Odesa Steps "

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This week also sees the release of the self-titled debut from the Vancouver synth-pop act Nouveaux. That set features "Odesa Steps," a song that's taken on a whole other layer of meaning given recent events. The band commented on this:

"Though the lyrics of Odesa Steps focus on the Katyn Massacre and Soviet war crimes of the past century, we feel it is necessary to draw attention to the current war and its horrific impact on Ukraine and the City of Odesa. Nouveaux encourages listeners to donate to charities of their choice to assist people facing the horrors of the current war in Ukraine. Any proceeds made by the band directly through the single will be donated to Ukrainian relief funds.

The title of the song is a reference to Sergei Eisenstein film Battleship Potemkin and is intended as an observation of how liberatory ideologies can become deadly."

You can pick up the song at Bandcamp and see it visualized in a new video from director Waye Moreheart.

Nouveaux plays as a trio featuring Spectres principle Brian Gustavson, former Spectre Nathan Szilagyi, and lead vocalist Michelle Smolnicki. Last winter, they recorded with Jason Corbett of ACTORS at Jacknife Sound. The new album arrives this Friday through the Doomed to Extinction imprint Castra Records in North America and Sabotage Records in Europe.

Handheld: "Leaving Candyland"

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Their new record may be out, but I completely neglected to mention the last pre-release single from Kitchener punk group Handheld. Given its singular focus on the work of the late, great John Candy, that's an oversight I can't let stand. Earlier this month, the group shared a clip showcasing "Leaving Candyland," a track from their Canadiana-steeped new LP A Canadian Tragedy. The band commented:

"We wanted to pay tribute to the great human that was John Candy and honour his life in a unique way. We picked 6 of our all time favourite John Candy roles which included: Barf from Spaceballs, Gus from Home Alone, Chet from The Great Outdoors, Del from Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Yosh of The Schmengie Brothers (SCTV) and Uncle Buck from you guessed it... Uncle Buck. Then for each character we shot an homage to our favourite scenes, sprinkled in some punk rock flavorings and what you get is one hell of a good time. This video is definitely big in Sheboygan."

You can find the video on YouTube. A Canadian Tragedy arrived a few weeks ago via Thousand Islands Records. First assembled in 1998, Handheld put out a half dozen releases in their original incarnation, last issuing a self-titled full-length in 2008. They reformed in 2018.

closetjudas: subaltern

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Manitoba's closetjudas take some impressive detours on subaltern, a heady, 12-song home-recorded set of stylistically varied rock songs. The album arrived this past May in two forms, a paired-down edition with just the music (subtitled (un)classified) and a hefty 21-track version that packs in reflective spoken word pieces that delve into the social and psychological underpinnings of the lyrics. Whichever path you choose, it's a dense listen from songwriter Mike Powell, a Mississauga native now based near Winnipeg. There's a sonic through-line to these songs from 90s grunge, giving the album a slightly sinister, nocturnal vibe - distinctively moody and preoccupied with big-picture concepts. You can find both versions on Bandcamp now.

Powell unpacked the project on a recent episode of the Witchpolice Radio podcast, speaking to host Sam Thompson. You can find that discussion streaming now.

The Burning Hell: "The Last Normal Day"

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The Burning Hell's Garbage Island arrives this Friday, but before you set out to map its lyrical inlets and outcroppings, give some consideration to "The Last Normal Day." The album's final preview track landed last week, relishing in the final moments before disaster strikes and the world changes. I call that March of 2020. "It's a song about endings, and how mundane they so often are," the band revealed in a short statement.

The PEI-based group recorded the song in St. John's, Newfoundland at Studio J, with bassist Jake Nicoll mixing in his pandemic keep-busy project (described as "a solar-powered mobile studio built into a 1970s camper"). The track features Ariel Sharratt on synth, vocals, and a killer tenor sax solo, Mathias Kom on guitar and vocals, Darren Browne on bass, and Jake Nicoll on percussion, flute, and organ. Mara Pellerin, Krista Power, and newly Polaris long-listed Kelly McMichael sing backing vocals.

Garbage Island arrives this week through BB*Island in Europe and You've Changed Records in North America. The set follows the beloved group's 2017 album Revival Beach and their 2020's labour-focused Never Work (the latter billed as a solo project by Ariel and Mathias).

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