Friday December 30, 2022

Dog Walker

Some Party is a newsletter sharing the latest in independent Canadian rock'n'roll, curated more-or-less 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.

Strange Attractor: "Dog Walker"

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It's been a quiet month - which is to say I'm projecting my malaise and inaction onto the music scene and calling it a trend. It's either that or I claim I've gifted you the mercy of less email over the holidays. Take your pick.

While I could happily hibernate into the new year, I'd be remiss in my duties if I let 2022 pass without celebrating the triumphant return of Jeff Houle's Strange Attractor. The Sudbury-based punk project roared out of hiatus earlier this month with "Dog Walker," the lead single from a fast-approaching LP Good Boy Bad Boy.

The new record's the band's first since 2014's Barely Doin' Crime EP and the prior year's Back To The Cruel World full-length. The now-defunct Mammoth Cave label issued both - all now relics from the scene drawn to the Ottawa Explosion year-on-year. Good Boy Bad Boy returns with 18 tracks, a joint release between Joe Chamandy's livewire Celluloid Lunch Records, UK stalwarts Drunken Sailor, and Mexico's Discos de Muerte. The near-decade-long gap between studio efforts hasn't dulled Houle's attack. Strange Attractor continues to deliver just what it says on the tin: a compellingly weird garage racket anchored by the vocalist's nasal snarl.

News of the new LP arrived earlier in December from a chorus of garage heavyweights. Heavy Eddie Flowers of Bloomington legends the Gizmos wrote the album notes at Bandcamp, likening it both to his classic output and that of the Angry Samoans and the Reatards. Eamon Sandwith of contemporary Australian buzz-punks The Chats lends his vocals to the song "Warm Piss." The tastemaking Spanish YouTube channel Tremendo Garaje meanwhile debuted Frank Labonte's "Dog Walker" video, ratcheting up the hype for what they claim is "one of the cornerstones of garage-rock of this millennium." No pressure there.

Jeff Houle wrote, performed, and recorded the entirety of Good Boy Bad Boy, with Crypt Records' Tim Warren mastering. Look for the album through the aforementioned labels on January 13.

In recent years Jeff's performed with his bother Mitch Houle in the Sudubry power trio Tommy and the Commies. It should go without saying that they were also 2/3s of the dearly missed P.Trash power-pop legends Statues.

Jyraph: "San Evaristito"

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I repeat some version of this with every update: but I relish every opportunity to pour over a new track from Montreal's Jyraph, the post-punk solo effort of Pablo Garcia-Rejon Gaubeca. While the artist's output arrives in drips-and-drabs, it never fails to present a fascinating wall-of-sound fusion of traditional and modern elements, always keeping a toe in the artist's Mexican roots. The latest, "San Evaristito," is visualized in a snowbound video on YouTube and available for download at Bandcamp. While visiting the latter, pick up "Lo Siento (Me Vale Madres)," shared earlier in the fall to celebrate the Day of the Dead.

Gaubeca's played in several Montreal rock bands, including Palmetto and Hypocrites. Earlier this year, he surfaced as a member of garage quartet The Wesleys. They issued their debut EP, Outside Voices, in May. Jyraph's last solo full-length, El Fuego, arrived in 2018.

Dermabrasion: "Dragula"

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Toronto duo Dermabrasion celebrated the winter solstice wrapped in tradition. The goth act assumed the challenge of revitalizing one of the holiday season's hitherto untouchable classics, updating a hallowed piece of music for a new era.

(pause for comedic timing)

You can now hear their cover of Rob Zombie's sleaze-metal anthem "Dragula" at Bandcamp.

The unexpected December arrival's the first we've heard from Kat McGouran and Adam Bernhardt since their 2021 debut EP, Lunate. You may recognize the pair as the former bassist and guitarist of the Toronto snark-punks WLMRT, and this unexpected single certainly fits well with that band's nihilistic streak. If you pick the track up from Bandcamp, any funds raised are due for Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction.

Knitting: "Throwaway Year"

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Mischa Dempsey's Knitting is back with "Throwaway Year," the first single from the Montreal indie rock act since their self-titled 2021 EP. Since that debut, Knitting's solidified as a four-piece lead by Dempsey (formerly of Peterborough's Lonely Parade) and backed by guitarist Sarah Harris, bassist Piper Curtis, and drummer Andy Mulcair. The new track's the first recorded by this lineup, although it has far earlier roots. On that, Dempsey revealed:

"I wrote 'throwaway year' about the year when I was 18. It was a really rough one, I moved out of home for the first time and lost a lot of friendships and ended the year feeling it was irredeemable, and just needed to be thrown out. Fast forward to this year, I found myself thinking about this song again, in relation the pandemic and feeling like so much of my year had already been wasted, or thrown away. This song is significant because it's the first song we've arranged and recorded together as a full band - I think this brings a feeling of relief to the song, like the worst of the isolation is hopefully over, and we have each other and a sense of community again."

The song arrived accompanied by a video directed by Ryan O'Marra.

Over the past year-and-a-half, Knitting's shared the stage with artists like Julie Doiron, Nap Eyes, and Gulfer, also making appearances at POP Montreal and Calgary's Sled Island. 2023 promises the band's first US outings, with planned trips down south to SXSW, Treefort, and the New Colossus festival.

Man Made Hill: "Decades of Neglect"

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Hamilton curiosity Man Made Hill recently shared a video for "Decades of Neglect," an eerily percolating track from his summer LP Mirage Repair. The enigmatic artist, who goes by Randall Gagne in civilian circles, states the clip was "shot in solitude in the tiny hours of the morning at an undisclosed location in Planet Ontario." If you've not yet taken the plunge into Hill's oeuvre, prepare for what I've seen described as both "existential disco" and "sewage funk."

Mirage Repair arrived on vinyl in July through Orange Milk Records. The record marked a significant shift in Man Made Hill's methodology, as, after nearly 20 home-recorded albums, Gagne found himself in a professional studio. This album resulted from sessions with engineer Jeremy Greenspan (Junior Boys/Jessy Lanza) at the Barton Building. You shouldn't fret that the improved circumstances somehow dulled the lo-fi, post-industrial unease essential to Man Made Hill's sound: weirdness reins.

The set featured 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. The new record followed up on 2020's Mass Wasting.

Coy: Bury Me

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Amiable Charlottetown indie rock trio Coy recently issued Bury Me, their five-song debut EP. The collection's a long-time coming, recorded in 2019 with Bruce Rooney engineering. We first heard the pop-punk number "Say Nothing" back in 2020, issued as part of an early pandemic fundraiser for migrant workers on the Island, but it's been quiet ever since.

Coy features vocalist/guitarist Story Sheidow, bassist Jesara Sinclair, and drummer Emilee Sorrey. Story formerly appeared as half of the power violence duo Uncle, playing pretty much the polar opposite of the thoughtful and measured approach Coy takes here.

TJ Felix: 4th World Problems / "Beholden"

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I may have spent the past few weeks spinning my wheels, but whatever force keeps TJ Felix at work knows no rest. Earlier this month, the Vancouver-based, Secwépemc artist (and Bedwetters Anonymous member) issued the six-track 4th World Problems EP. It's yet another in an unrelenting march of 2022 releases. As if to punctuate that prolific run, another single, the first from yet another forthcoming album, arrived merely ten days later. You can now also stream "Beholden" at Bandcamp.

The latest audio follows November's 12-song SONGLAND set, October's 18-track The Things an Injun's Gotta Do to Survive on Stolen Land, and at least a half-dozen earlier EPs and singles shared this year alone.

Felix, formerly known as Industrial Priest Overcoats, churns out anxious weird-punk on the regular in the vein of the Urinals and DEVO. Further to their 2022 solo output, Felix also debuted the hardcore group Nasdaq in May.

Safeword: "Laser"

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Nova Scotian indie-pop outfit Safeword closed the year on the dancefloor, issuing the thumping single "Laser" earlier this month. On it, the band shared:

"'Laser' is an anthem about refusing to fade away as you get older. At first, the 'laser' in question is the kind that burns skin in an attempt to fight ageing, but as the song develops, the 'laser' becomes focused light, a way to stay illuminated even when society tells you it's time to go dark."

The group recorded at Fang (Joel Plaskett's studio in Dartmouth) with Thomas Stajcer engineering. Both "Laser" and October's "First Last Thing" follow up on the group's debut LP Currents. That album arrived in May of this year. Safeword features Shoulder Season's Karen Foster on vocals and keys, guitarist Dan Watt, bassist Greg Baller, and drummer Brian Foster.

PACKS: "Abalone"

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Madeline Link's Toronto-based slack-rock vehicle PACKS recently issued "Abalone," a stand-alone single following up on July's WOAH EP. The track landed alongside a video collecting candid tour footage, on which the artist commented:

"This one is a classic, kooky tour video to accompany a song about feeling cooped up but enticed by life's prospects. It's about knowing that you are destined for big weird pursuits of your own choosing. You just have to work through the deafening cacophony of doubts to get there."

PACKS issued the stripped-down WOAH EP in the summer through Royal Mountain and Fire Talk Records, compiling songs penned in the wake of the tours supporting 2021's Take The Cake.

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

Waterfowl: "Open Up"

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KW psych duo Waterfowl are teasing Habitat, their 10-song debut LP due February 5. You can preview the brooding first single, "Open Up," at Bandcamp. The group promises an album that satirizes "a culture of insatiable appetites," with this track, in particular, putting big tech in the crosshairs.

Waterfowl features Aaron Liang on guitar, drum, bass, and synths, with Matthew Lam tracking vocals, bass, and synth. The pair recorded the full album from their Kitchener apartment.

Rat Silo: Unfortunately...

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At the end of November, the politically charged Vancouver rock act Rat Silo issued Unfortunately..., their fifth album. The seven-song set collects their earlier singles "The World Is Going To End Tomorrow" and "Head on a Stick," along with five others. Rat Silo grafts a seasoned, hard rock edge on songwriting otherwise rooted in 80s post-punk (with a few galloping punk numbers like "You Have to Believe It" thrown in for good measure).

The quartet recorded at Vancouver's Hipposonic Studios with veteran producer, and former Skinny Puppy player, Dave "Rave" Ogilvie (the engineer behind massive hits for Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson). Rat Silo features guitarist/vocalist Jim Newton and bassist Don Binns, both from the late-80s/early-90s rock band Sons Of Freedom. They're backed here by drummer Sean Stubbs and Erkan Gencol on electronics.

The band issued The Great Northern Way, their third LP, in 2011. Following a brief hiatus, they reformed in 2016, cumulating in a 2020 LP (sharing a title with their recent single) The World Is Going to End Tomorrow.

Daveband: "Sweet Little Place on Agricola"

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Dave Archibald's throwback Halifax power-pop outlet Daveband recently issued "Sweet Little Place on Agricola," the group's second recent single following August's "Pizza Girl." Both songs originate from the same pandemic-interrupted, geographically-split sessions. The band tracked vocals, rhythm guitar, and drums in Toronto with By Divine Right's José Contreras in 2019, only to complete lead guitar and backing vocals this past summer with Alex Burris and Charles Austin in Dartmouth.

Archibald commented:

"It's about the excitement of finally finding an apartment you like. In recognition of how hard that is nowadays, and the ongoing housing crisis NS currently finds itself in, we're going to donate all proceeds that come in for this one to the Out of the Cold Community Association operating in Halifax and Dartmouth. Further, we'll match whatever comes in and donate in kind. Double giving!"

This tune finds Archibald backed by drummer Kevin MacIssac and bassist Corey Henderson. Neal Read contributes to the song's gang vocals, with Jordan Murphy adding some essential handclaps. You can hear "Sweet Little Place on Agricola" at Bandcamp.

Daveband released the full-length This Was Your Dad at 28 in the fall of 2020.

Autogramm: "Too Loud"

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Synth-heavy Vancouver/Chicago power-trio Autogramm wrapped their year with a final video from April's No Rules LP. "Too Loud" is the seventh single from the album to earn a visual treatment, and the band pulled out all the stops on the self-directed effort. The song, an ode to Chilliwack/Headpins guitarist Brian "Too Loud" McLeod, comes wrapped in an eight-minute short film. On the track itself, bassist CC Voltage commented:

"We had been talking about Canadian classic rock at rehearsal, and the band Chilliwack in particular. I had mentioned the story of their late guitar player Brian McLeod and his boat, The Grand Marnier. We did a little research and realized it had a full recording studio on board and he had an awesome 'first mate', a dog named Sailor. Sadly he passed away in 1992, but he left a legacy of amazing classic rock music for Canadians and the world."

The video features an absurd premise, with the scattered band members racing to the studio at the behest of British billionaire Richard Branson. The group found inspiration in a classic SCTV skit in which Rick Moranis, playing blue-eyed soul icon Michael McDonald, similarly races to the studio (to track backing vocals on Christopher Cross' "Ride Like the Wind," in that case). For your research purposes, here's the clip. Autogramm's version also riffs on an iconic Lance Mountain appearance in one of Powell Peralta's Bones Brigade videos. You can discover how they string skateboarding and yacht rock together on YouTube.

Autogramm's sophomore full-length arrived on Nevado Music in April. The record, which follows up 2019's What R U Waiting 4?, features guitarist/vocalist Jiffy Marx (Hard Drugs, Blood Meridian), bassist CC Voltage (Dysnea Boys, Spitfires, Black Halos), and drummer Joshua "The Silo" Wells (Black Mountain, Lightning Dust, Destroyer, Spun Out). I'll keep the band's 2023 plans close to the vest, but trust that they've lined up an ambitious year. Stay tuned.

The Sadies: Stop and Start

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At least in my circles, the trials of The Sadies have been the year's dominant Canadian music story. The tragic loss of Dallas Good in March continues to reverberate, ultimately casting the group's summer LP Colder Streams in a vastly different light and throwing their very future into question. The band's now revisiting a performance mired in that uncertainty with a short concert film titled The Sadies Stop and Start. The group premiered the 23-minute piece through Exclaim over the holidays, stating:

"'The Sadies Stop and Start' captures a moment in time. That time was uncertain and dark. Still reeling from losing Dallas, we found out that Mike needed to have emergency wrist surgery. We needed to play these songs, not knowing if we would ever have the opportunity again.

With one day's notice, documentary filmmaker Ron Mann and a stellar crew pulled together to help us capture these songs. Friends and family gathered to help out and show their support. James McKenty engineered in his mobile recording trailer, In Record Time Studio. The resulting film looked and sounded better than we could have hoped.

We are thankful to share that Mike's surgery was successful and we are back out on the road and coming to a city near you."

Colder Streams, the beloved alt-country/garage quartet's 11th studio album, arrived in July through Dine Alone and Yep Roc Records. The band recorded between 2019 and 2021 at Montreal's Skybarn, with Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry producing.

Now reduced to the trio of guitarist/vocalist Travis Good, bassist Sean Dean, and drummer Mike Belitsky, the Sadies return to the road in 2023, with dates scheduled through March in the US, UK, and Canada. They perform their annual New Year shows tonight and tomorrow at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto with guests Sally Timms and Jon Langford.

React to it at your leisure

Some Party is Adam White's misguided quest to share the latest in Canadian garage rock, punk, psych, and more. Subscribe and get it in your inbox more-or-less weekly. Your information's always kept private, and unsubscribing is easy.

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