Monday September 12, 2022

Don't Forget My Name

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.

FemBots: Transfigurations

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I was delighted to discover the new album from Toronto's FemBots, but I'll admit its presence leaves me somewhat baffled. I don't know how it evaded my notice until last Friday. Transfigurations certainly didn't arrive out of the blue, and the group's spent the better part of the year teasing it in the usual ways. All of that passed me by. Given my self-appointed role as an adjunct voice in the Canadian music ecosystem, you'd think I'd be more perceptive - particularly regarding bands I've long admired. Perhaps this is the obvious consequence of quitting most social media. Maybe I just don't have my ear to the ground as I did in my youth. I refuse to acknowledge that FemBots' return is anything but a seismic event in Canadian culture, so this must be a personal failing.

FemBots were an enormously important band in my journey. 2001's Small Town Murder Scene arrived at precisely the right moment for me. Sitting in my dorm, retagging MP3s, I'd often concoct fantasy genres to try and taxonomize my obsessions. FemBots felt contemporaneous to the Three Gut era and that first landmark Constantines record. It fit the mood of whatever tangent I was on between Left and Leaving and Reconstruction Site. They were one of several similarly amorphous folk-influenced indie rock acts I shoehorned into the Punknews coverage of the early 2000s (to everyone's annoyance). FemBots were undisputably a stepping stone on the path to whatever Some Party is today.

This new 12-song set, arriving nearly 14 years after 2008's Calling Out, brings back a familiar cast. The band's core remains the duo of David MacKinnon and Brian Poirier, who serve dual roles as both primary players and co-producers. They're joined here by a pair of earlier collaborators, with Guelph mainstay Nathan Lawr (Royal City, Minotaurs) returning on percussion and Greg Smith of The Weakerthans again picking up the low-end. The band recorded at MacKinnon's Junkshop studio over two weekends spanning November 2019 and February 2020, with Andy Magoffin later mastering at The House Of Miracles. The album credits fewer guests than were typical on past outings, except for Sunparlour Players' Andrew Penner, who delivers a monologue on the track "Cry Like a Love Song."

You can now find the complete Transfigurations record on Bandcamp or your preferred streaming platform. Not that I reported them at the time, but FemBots issued five videos over the summer to accompany songs from the record, the latest arriving a few weeks ago to visualize "Don't Forget My Name."

Spirit Desire: Summer Songs

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In the works for over two and a half years, the new album from Toronto punk/emo/indie combo Spirit Desire finally sees the light of day this week. The five-piece previewed the forthcoming set in the waning days of August with a two-song EP appropriately titled Summer Songs. The collection features the frenetic (if absurdly named) "The Sweater Song, Part 2: Even Sweatier" backed with the melodic sing-along "Loveliness (Bug Song)." I'd wager the A-side is perhaps one of the more thrillingly vibrant tracks to land in my inbox in recent memory. Don't sleep on this.

While we await details on the full-length, Summer Songs is available in a few physical formats. In the immediate, you can pick one up as a micro-run of hand-dubbed tapes with Risograph printed J-cards, with a similarly limited batch of lathe-cut 7" records due in October through Personal Touch Vinyl. Both formats are limited to just 30 copies and available through Bandcamp.

Spirit Desire features Sam Grace on vocals, Kai Lumbang on drums and vocals, Michelle Ferrer on guitar, Ken Wilson on bass, and Jon Iñaki on the omnichord. Everyone has a part in the group's infectious communal backing vocals (heard on "Loveliness," in particular). Oh, and an omnichord, if you're unfamiliar, is a portable electronic instrument developed by Suzuki in the early 80s (sometimes branded as a Q-chord). Spirit Desire recorded their new material in a few sessions, working with Dean Snowball at Dexter's Blab before the pandemic and later convening with Em Damaschin at the Lincoln County Social Club in 2021.

Weird Nightmare / Ancient Shapes: "I Think You Know" / "Bird With an Iron Head"

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Fresh from the release of The Outfit's ambitious rock opera La Luna, Daniel Romano's revisiting the decidedly simpler pleasures of his power-pop side-project Ancient Shapes. The band returns this fall with a new lineup, a slate of Ontario shows, and a recently unveiled split with Alex Edkins' solo vehicle Weird Nightmare. That set features the latter's "I Think You Know" and a trio of new Shapes tunes. It arrived last week on 7" through the venerable Sub Pop Singles Club.

The latest incarnation of Ancient Shapes notably diverges from recent lineups of The Outfit, with Daniel, brother/drummer Ian Romano, and bassist Roddy Rosetti now joined by Justis Krar (SIDEMAN, early incarnations of Single Mothers) and reunited with Vee Bell (TV Freaks). Krar's a recurring character in this newsletter, but in recent years that's more often due to his found-footage video production outfit IMMV Productions.

Edkins is well-known as the guitarist/vocalist of Toronto noise-punk titans METZ. He issued Weird Nightmare's delightfully poppy, pandemic-bred debut on Sub Pop back in May. On the collaboration with Danny's crew, he commented:

"Daniel has been one of my favorite writers/performers for many years now and his work with Ancient Shapes and the Outfit are a constant source of joy. I'm super excited to be sharing this record with him."

You can see the Shapes single "Bird With an Iron Head" visualized now in a video animated by Romano.

Look for both bands on tour together in November, playing Ottawa's Dominion Tavern on the 14th, followed by shows on November 17 at Hamilton's Casbah, November 18 at Lee's Palace in Toronto, and November 19 at Warehouse in St. Catharines. The Hamilton and Niagara stops also feature the mighty Anxious Pleasers.

Ancient Shapes last issued A Flower That Wouldn't Bloom in 2019 through You've Changed Records.

METZ: "Come On Down" (ft. Joe Talbot)

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Speaking of METZ, the band issued a new digital single this past week, boasting a collaboration with Joe Talbot of the acclaimed British punk act IDLES. Alex Edkins shared:

"'Come On Down' was originally recorded during the Atlas Vending sessions but never fully finished. During the pandemic I really gravitated towards the idea of collaboration as a way to fill the void left by the loss of live music. I reached out to friends from far and wide in order to get that feeling of community that gigs provide. Joe Talbot (IDLES) is a longtime friend who METZ has shared the stage with many, many times, and this song was a very natural and fun way to catch up with him and do something positive with our time off the road."

The song arrived on Bandcamp paired with a download of "Heaven's Gate," a 2019-era recording written for the soundtrack of the Cyberpunk 2077 video game. Arturo Baston directed the "Come On Down" video, available to check out on YouTube.

Atlas Vending, METZ' fourth proper full-length, arrived on Royal Mountain Records and Sub Pop in the fall of 2020.

Diamondtown: Hey

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Dartmouth's chilled-out supergroup Diamondtown recently issued Hey, a four-song digital EP. Released with little fanfare, the set showcases the folk/shoegaze act's first new material since their self-titled 2021 LP.

Diamondtown features KC Spidle on vocals and guitar, Evan Cardwell on lead guitar, Kate O'Neill on keys and percussion, Chris Thompson on bass, and Meg Yoshida drumming. Cardwell, O'Neill, and Thomson all sing backing vocals as well.

The members' tangled history revolves around Spidle and Cardwell's earlier work as the duo Husband & Knife, from which Diamondtown ultimately evolved. Spidle also plays alongside Meg Yoshida in the Halifax gloom-pop heroes Dog Day (she's also played in recent years with Century Egg and Shoulder Season). Chris Thompson boasts the legendary Eric's Trip on his resume, along with years of solo recordings as Moon Socket (some of them featuring Kate O'Neill). He's also recently appeared as the drummer of Spidle's garage trio Gemstones.

The Diamondtown LP arrived in October of 2021 through Label Obscrua.

Prism Shores: "Acrobat"

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Montreal jangle-pop act Prism Shores recently unveiled "Acrobat," the second single from their forthcoming LP Inside My Diving Bell. The track, accompanied by an animated video from Allie Brown, arrived through a premiere at Cups N Cakes.

Prism Shores recorded with Charles Austin (Outtacontroller, Future Girls, Souvenir) and Franc Lopes (Walrus, Century Egg) at Ocean Floor Recording in Halifax. The prolific Jay Arner mixed the record on the opposite coast, with Some Party pal Micah Brown (Pillea) mastering in Montreal. Prism Shores features vocalist/guitarist Jack MacKenzie, bassist Ben Goss (also of PEI punks Antibodies), guitarist Nathan Cann, and drummer Luke Pound (Power Party). This new record follows the band's 2017 EP Youth In Abstract. Look for it on September 23.

Private Hell: Eulogy

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Karl St-Pierre's most visible as a third of Montreal Oi! act Force Majeure and as the present-day bassist for 90s-era punks La Gachette. Flying under the radar and mired in the pandemic, he debuted Private Hell, a decidedly calmer outlet for alt-rock and new wave sounds. That band's unfortunately no more, calling it quits with a slate of recordings dubbed Eulogy. Karl notes:

"Private Hell is done. There are many reasons behind this decision but ultimately, the long and short of it is, this project and these songs are part of a time and place in my life that is now past. The context in which this started is diametrically opposed to how things are now, be it in my personal life or generally speaking in the world. With that in mind, investing time and energy into this and asking the same of my bandmates, when all of us have other projects and things going on, just doesn't feel right or fair. I've poured a lot of myself into this and I am happy with what has been achieved. I would rather finish on a better note by ending it now instead of stagnate, become complacent and let it watch slowly fade into irrelevancy."

Private Hell played just a handful of shows during the pandemic, appearing as a quartet with St-Pierre backed by guitarist Antoine, bassist Dany, and drummer Marc-Oliver. St-Pierre concludes:

"This is going to be the last release, recorded the same way I started off in late March 2020, which is by myself in my living room. Consider it the official bookend for what has been a very draining but rewarding endeavour."

Bonnie Trash: "Perfect Moment (A Beautiful Reunion)"

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Guelph drone-rock duo Bonnie Trash recently shared another new preview of Malocchio, their new LP due October 28 through Hand Drawn Dracula. You can see the dissonant "Perfect Moment (A Beautiful Reunion)" visualized in a video from Sam Maloney of the Toronto psych-rockers Kali Horse. The band shared the following statement, referencing the mystical aspects of the Italian diaspora that forms the core of their songwriting:

"How do you see yourself dying? How do others see you dying? How does it feel to be left to die, when there's nothing else you can do, waiting for that 'perfect' moment of one last euphoria: a beautiful reunion. This song is a genuflection to all of the nonni who passed during the pandemic and could not be held."

Bonnie Trash features guitarist Emmalia and drummer/vocalist Sarafina Bortolon-Vettor. The sisters recorded with Josh Korody co-producing at Candle Recording Studio in Toronto. The nine-song Malocchio follows up on the band's 2017 EP, Ezzelini's Dead.

Single Mothers: "Nausea"

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Ontario's Single Mothers recently shared "Nausea," the latest single from their upcoming album Everything You Need. Lead vocalist/songwriter Drew Thomson refrained from issuing a public statement on the track, leaving the hooky mid-tempo diatribe to speak for itself. It arrived through an artful (and extremely widescreen) video from director Mike Adhihetty (Chastity, Ellis).

The new album lands on October 28 through Dine Alone Records. This latest incarnation of the long-running, London-bred punk act features Thomson backed by Peter Landi and Daniel Ormsby. While it follows the band's 2018's LP Through a Wall, Drew's spent the better part of the pandemic issuing dozens of home recordings under an ever-shifting list of stage names, including The Drew Thomson Foundation, No Idea Head, SM WorseWorld, and SM Worldwide.

Ian Daniel Kehoe: "J'Taime Amen"

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Director Colin Medley recently shared an evocative black and white video for Ian Daniel Kehoe's "J'Taime Amen," the latest single from the Toronto artist's new Tin Angel LP Yes Very So.

The nine-song full-length arrived this past July, showcasing a rapidly maturing synth-pop sound awash in 80s influences. This latest work follows up on a trio of genre-twisting EPs issued in 2020 (Disco Body Buzz, Charging the Stone, and Rock & Roll Illusion). It's a lifetime away now, but I'd be remiss not to mention that a young Ian Daniel Kehoe was once the guitarist for Welland punks Attack In Black.

Fucked Up: "Oberon"

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Colin Medley was also behind the camera for the new video from Fucked Up, adding a visual layer to the sludgy opening song of the Oberon EP. That set arrives October 7 through Tankcrimes, previously described by the visionary hardcore band as:

"...an exploration of our primordial origins as musicians. We have this murky dank filth deep inside of and can shy away no longer. Born from 90s mixtapes filled with Noothgrush, Crossed Out, His Hero Is Gone, Corrupted, Kiss it Goodbye, Man is the Bastard, it still pounds in us like a jack hammer even after the patches have faded."

This record features longtime bandmates Damian Abraham on vocals, Mike Haliechuk and Josh Zucker on guitar, Sandy Miranda on bass, and Jonah Falco drumming. It's one of several upcoming releases from the group, including a newly announced 7" single "Huge New Her" (backed with "I Don't Want to Look"). That set's available September 23 as a physical-exclusive release.

Fucked Up, released the ambitious Dose Your Dreams double-LP in 2018, followed by the Year of the Horse entry in their Zodiac single series. The past few months have seen a flurry of activity celebrating the 10th anniversary of the acclaimed David Comes to Life album, including a deluxe reissue of that record and the related b-sides collection Do All Words Can Do.

Hexoffender: Into The Grave

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The gnarly Hamilton thrash-punks Hexoffender returned recently with a new two-song single. The hard-driving "Into The Grave" comes backed by "This Hell," available now at Bandcamp or on 7" vinyl through the German label Dying Victims. Hexoffender recorded at Schoolhouse Studios in Dundas, Ontario, with Brandon Scully mixing and mastering.

Grade School: Grade School

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Kingfisher Bluez is readying a new 7" from the North Vancouver indie-pop act Grade School, a two-song single led by a jangling anthem also dubbed "Grade School." The b-side features "Goin' Good!," a track featuring an appearance by Sam of Vancouver indie act thecember. The new set, available to stream at Bandcamp, follows up on the band's 2021 EP Keep You Sane.

Chris Page: My Turn At The Wheel EP

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Ottawa-area garage vet Chris Page recently shared My Turn At The Wheel, a new EP that revisits his Saturday night/Sunday morning strategy. Like earlier editions in the series, he's offering a new single as both a fully electric rocker and a more subtle, stripped-down arrangement. Page composed this track as an acoustic demo in the winter of 2021, with its louder counterpart tracked this past summer. You can find the set at Bandcamp.

In addition to these multi-faceted singles, Page recently issued Those Aren't Stars Above Your Head, an acoustic reworking of Camp Radio's 2006 self-titled LP. That collection arrived in May.

With Leila Younis, Chris plays these days in the duo Expanda Fuzz. Before forming Camp Radio in the early 2000s (with bassist David Draves and drummer Scott Estee Terry), he played in the 90s-era Glengarry, Ontario pop-punk group The Stand GT.

Silvertone Hills: "Stubborn Lovers"

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Hamilton rock act Silvertone Hills has a hooky new single out dubbed "Stubborn Lovers," an earnest alt-rock number with a massive chorus that feels fully radio-ready (at least for some bygone 90s era when such radio existed). The group recorded with Cambridge, Ontario producer Zach Gerber (Walk off the Earth, USS), with plans for a debut LP in 2023. The track arrives alongside a video by Lightning House Media.

Silvertone Hills features Liam O'Sullivan on vocals, backed by guitarist Andrew Billone, bassist Mike Park, guitarist Nick Slagter, and drummer Alex Bishop. The new tune follows the band's 2020 singles "Reaction" and "Upside Down."

Les Shirley: "Nothing Compares"

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Montreal power trio Les Shirley recently shared "Nothing Compares," the second single from their upcoming album More is More. You can hear it at Bandcamp alongside the group's earlier summer single, "Random Call."

The new set, due October 28, follows up on the band's well-received 2021 LP Forever Is Now. Les Shirley features guitarist/vocalist Raphaëlle Chouinard, Sara Dion on bass, and Lisandre Bourdages on drums. Dion and Bourdages also serve in the bombastic punk quartet NOBRO. The trio recorded with Ryan Battistuzzi (Yesterday's Ring, Les Mains Sales) at the Stuzzio in May.

The Holy Gasp: "In Amsterdam"

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It's been a few years since we've heard from Benjamin Hackman's theatric indie orchestra The Holy Gasp. The project recently resurfaced with "In Amsterdam," the emotionally-fraught lead single from a record due in 2023 through Roar Records. The track arrived alongside a video from director Pedja Milosavljevic featuring Hackman and Conrad Coates - a work that (in both audio and visual forms) pulls on narrative threads woven on the Toronto band's 2018 LP The Love Songs of Oedipus Rex. Here the artist's surrogate continues to grapple with his father's death, framed as a conversation with a therapist. Hackman comments:

"In my dreams, as in my waking life, I, like those who have lost fathers before me, am seeking fathers inside myself, and erecting role models anywhere role models can be erected."

The work, co-produced by Hackman and Anthony William Wallace, features what the artist bills as an "exceedingly large orchestra" - one conducted by Maestro Robert W. Stevenson at Revolution Recording. In addition to Hackman, you'll hear nearly 30 players on this piece.

Lee Paradise: "Cement" (ft Scott Hardware)

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Dan Lee's "cyborg-funk" project Lee Paradise returns in the fall with a guest-packed collaborative LP. Our first taste of Lee Paradise & Co. arrived last week with the single "Cement," featuring Scott Harwood's avant-pop guise Scott Hardware. Harwood revealed in a press release:

"'Cement' is a sort of short story about an imperfect friendship. It touches on lots of hard-to-admit emotions that can arise in relationships as people get older and life gets harder. Cement as a substance is rough. It'll scrape you if you fall on it, but at the same time, it's solid and permanent. That's what the harder side of friendships can feel like at times - bitter, jealous, unkind - but solid nonetheless in a world that changes around us and our own inner worlds changing. I can admit I was having a rough couple of months when I wrote it. It's a snapshot of a bad mood, essentially."

Lee concurred, adding:

"To paraphrase Scott, this song is about the trials and evolution of friendships, reflected against the inner battle of living in a changing city."

The new album arrives October 28 through Telephone Explosion and features a massive cast of Toronto regulars, most of whom should be familiar to Some Party readers. These include Carlyn Bezic (Jane Inc, Ice Cream), Jonathan Pappo (WHIMM, Context, NA, Ducks Ltd.), Isla Craig, Victoria Cheong (New Chance), Jay Anderson (Badge Époque Ensemble, Lammping), Daniel Woodhead (Moon King), and Charise Aragoza and Lukas Cheung (Mother Tongues).

Lee Paradise & Co. arrives as the follow-up to The Fink, issued in December 2020. Outside of his solo endeavours, Lee's played in the Toronto art-rock group Hooded Fang and the electronic psych-pop act Phèdre.

The Burning Hell: "Empty World"

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In its short lifespan, The Burning Hell's Garbage Island has quickly become a favourite. It's an album perfectly timed to forever entangle itself in the mental mess of my pandemic anxieties. That album's post-apocalyptic theme takes centre stage in "Empty World," a track now celebrated in a new video from Luke Wolley of Look Woolly Films. You can find it on YouTube today.

This song features the band's core of Mathias Kom, Ariel Sharratt, and Jake Nicoll, backed by bassist Jud Haynes. Mara Pellerin, Krista Power, and Polaris shortlister Kelly McMichael appear on backing vocals. Garbage Island arrived earlier this summer through BB*Island in Europe and You've Changed Records in North America.

This fall, Kom and Toby Goodshank of The Moldy Peaches are issuing a collaborative LP dubbed Miller Time, an entire album of Roger Miller covers due October 14 from BB*Island. You can hear their take on "Dang Me" at Bandcamp and read up on the project there. Kom shares:

"Many years ago I did a short tour with Toby through some small, strange places in Spain and southern France. Of course, it was a treat to hear Toby Goodshank songs every night, but he also occasionally covered songs like 'My Uncle Used to Love Me But She Died' or 'Tom Green County Fair,' and as a fellow Roger Miller enthusiast I've been wanting to collaborate on a project like this with Toby for ages. I guess it took the pandemic to give us both the time. We did this all rather casually and slowly, sending bits of songs back and forth to each other down the special information superhighway that links NYC and Prince Edward Island..."

PUP: PUP Unravels Live In Front Of Everyone They Know

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Toronto punk heroes PUP have a new live EP in the works, due October 12. PUP Unravels Live In Front Of Everyone They Know captures the band playing the Toronto venue History on May 14 and 15 of this year, part of their post-pandemic return to the road. You can now hear their performances of "Matilda" and "Robot Writes a Love Song" at Bandcamp. The band reflected on the shows in a short statement, commenting:

"Those two shows were pretty unreal. It was wild to play these songs in front of all of our families and friends and enemies and people we went to elementary school with and the guy who used to sell me weed at the Wendy's Drivethru."

The quartet issued THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND in April through their Little Dipper imprint. PUP features vocalist/guitarist Stefan Babcock, guitarist Steve Sladkowski, bassist Nestor Chumak, and drummer Zack Mykula.

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