Monday September 18, 2023

Thunder Bay

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.

I know everyone rolls their eyes when I start these mailings with an apology. This time, my friends, there's a glorious purpose. There's a higher calling. I'm also damn certain I can only play this card once.

I can finally reveal that I've had the privilege of serving on the grand jury of the Polaris Music Prize, one of 11 media folk from across Canada who had to debate this year's ten album shortlist and determine the winner of the $50,000 award. Specifically, Polaris tasked me with the opening arguments supporting The Sadies' Colder Streams, which is a greater honour than I could have ever asked for. I didn't take my mission lightly, and it became all-consuming. The greatest rock'n'roll band in the country deserved no less.

I'm a hobbyist—an amateur. I always have been. That anyone bothers to read what I write or care what I have to say has always been a mystery to me. After nearly 25 years sunk between Punknews and Some Party, this pitch felt like the climax of that effort (even if it was out of public view). I should take a bow and hang it up; there's no higher validation I can think of. That said, the defining characteristic of my "writing career" has been a total inability to recognize my expiry date, so why start now?

The Polaris Gala is tomorrow night (Tuesday, September 19) at Toronto's legendary Massey Hall. Some remarkably strong records are in contention, and the prize could end up in any number of deserving hands. However it goes, for my small part, I'm pretty fucking proud of the role I played.

Dallas Good Forever.

Bry Webb: "Thunder Bay"

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If I drop all my high-minded bullshit about supporting the Canadian arts scene, this newsletter's true nature as a Constantines fanzine should be readily apparent. It's right there in the name. I also grapple regularly with the sick cosmic coincidence that big news inevitably lands whenever I fall off my schedule. The universe likes to check my hubris, I guess. On that note, in my absence, word arrived that Cons principal Bry Webb has returned to action.

The Guelph singer/songwriter recently shared "Thunder Bay" as the first preview to a new full-length titled Run With Me. It's the first new material from Webb since 2014's Free Will. The lead single's something of an archival cut, featuring Webb backed by his 2009-era backing band The Harbourcoats. It's also notably more lively than the bulk of the artist's oft-restrained solo work (one of several uptempo tracks promised for the album). A press release reveals that while Webb's spent the last decade dedicated to supporting others through community radio (at the University of Guelph's CFRU), his own future in music was far from certain. He notes, "I lost the musical plot about five years ago and stopped playing music entirely, sold instruments and recording equipment, and committed myself to the idea that I was absolutely done."

The inertia broke earlier this year, as Webb reveals:

"In early 2023 my personal life exploded. In the process of dealing with that, I started writing music again and started recording at home. Advised that I needed to figure out how to ask for, and accept, help from other people, I sent early recordings of songs to friends from twenty-five years of music making - many folks I hadn't connected with in years - and asked if they'd contribute anything to the songs. People came through in ways that overwhelmed me to the point that I cried when I wrote out the list of players for the liner notes. I felt incredibly cared for. From Andy Magoffin, who recorded the first Constantines album in 1999, to members of the Cons, to my nieces Addy and Ella playing drums, and a doppler recording of my daughter's heartbeat, the record is a document of my creative life, and the people who made it possible to make music again."

You'll find Constantines' Will Kidman, Doug MacGregor, and Dallas Wehrle among those collaborators. Backing vocals on the record come courtesy of Jennifer Castle, Julie Doiron, Daniel Romano, and Steph Yates. Yates' group Cots also joins Webb on the road for a string of Ontario and Quebec shows in the coming weeks and months.

The 10-song Run With Me arrives November 3 through Idée Fixe. It follows Webb's 2015 Live at Massey Hall LP. Constantines issued the single "Call Me Out" in the summer of 2021, raising funds for the Unist'ot'en Camp and Black Lives Matter. It was their first new work published since 2008.

Chain Whip: "Call of the Knife"/"Heatwave"

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Vancouver's bruising Chain Whip returns October 13 with their sophomore full-length Call of the Knife, a 13-song set of 80s-styled Californian hardcore due on Drunken Sailor and Neon Taste. The news came alongside a pair of preview singles, the galloping title track and sneering "Heatwave," either of which should serve as ample reminder that Josh Nickel's manically gargled vocals remain weapons of the highest calibre. In a mailing from his label, the vocalist revealed that "Call of the Knife" describes "the fantasy of removing your own head after being diagnosed as mentally ill." He sardonically dismisses "Heatwave" as "some drivel about coloured pills, tribalism, paranoia and hate."

The album follows up on the band's 2021 EP Two Step to Hell and their 2019 debut 14 Lashes. Chain Whip features John Nickel (Fashionism, Bootlicker) on vocals, Joel Butler (Nervous Talk, The Moby Dicks) on guitar, Brett Thompson (Stress Eating) on bass, and Patrick McEachnie (Pack Rat, Corner Boys) on drums. Pat recorded these tracks, with mixing and mastering performed by Daniel Husayn (Fucked Up, Autogramm).

Rec Centre: Maxxed Out

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Alex Hudson's songwriting outlet Rec Centre recently issued their fifth album. The 11-song Maxxed Out again finds Hudson working in close concert with Vancouver mainstay Jay Arner, only this time eschewing the synthpop experiments of past records for a straightforward set of propulsive garage rock. It's an agreeable sound that shares both the earnest influence of Apollo Ghosts and perhaps Weezer in their more-innocent-than-kitchy early era. Before relocating to Toronto in 2017, Hudson played bass in Arner's namesake indie pop vehicle, while the latter reciprocated on drums in early Rec Centre outings.

This record finds the pair each tackling a handful of instruments, with Hudson singing lead. They're backed by Spencer Schoening on drums and percussion, recorded remotely amidst pandemic travel restrictions. Energy Slime's Jessica Delisle and Paola Loriggio of Weak Hands contribute backing vocals, as does Colin Dodds, who co-authored the album closer.

Rec Centre last released Pep Talk in 2021.

Feeling Figures: "Across The Line"

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Montreal lo-fi garage-pop act Feeling Figures have their debut full-length on deck for a November 20 release through Perennial Death. Migration Magic features ten new songs, including the recently unveiled single "Across The Line." It follows up on the band's self-titled 2021 EP (via Celluloid Lunch). The track arrived alongside an animated video by Matthew Thurber.

Feeling Figures materialized from the songwriting partnership of Zakary Slax and Kay Moon, which stretches back more than a decade (you may recall Slax from the Sackville, NB punks Astral Gunk). The pair share guitar and vocal duties, backed by a rhythm section of drummer Thomas Molander and bassist Joe Chamandy (both of which currently sneer at you as members of Thee Retail Simps).

A press release sheds some light on the band's concise recording process:

"Migration Magic was recorded in a flurry of live noise across two nights in December 2022. The Figs (as they are affectionately known to each other) had already recorded a full album's worth of material earlier in the year, but as the winter holidays grew near and a brief stint as openers for the nationally celebrated Ancient Shapes concluded, they knew they had something more to capture. Thomas brought his recording gear to the Studio Migration practice space and the quartet threw all their remaining material into the air. Some songs were drawn deep from the back-catalogs of Moon & Slax, others were new compositions, and 2 spontaneous covers were chosen to round out the set. The immediacy of these recordings, with their interplay of sweet melody and raw instrumentation, forged a new destiny for the group, ultimately arriving as the first Feeling Figures LP."

The Merinuks: "(She's Got) Robot Eyes"

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Hamilton garage punk trio The Merinuks recently shared "(She's Got) Robot Eyes," the first single from their forthcoming EP Lowbrow Lobotomy. The song breaks new (if bafflingly esoteric) lyrical ground by demanding the listener choose between the famously bald actors Yul Brynner and Telly Savalas. Only in punk. Whenever it arrives, the new record follows a pair of self-titled EPs from 2020. The Merinuks features bassist Donn Klus, guitarist Larry Reece, and drummer Adam "Vez" Veselisin (with all three members sharing vocal duties). They've been kicking around the Steel City since 2018.

Frank Dux: "One... Probably Closer to Two"

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Cambridge, Ontario skate-punks Frank Dux are readying their first full-length for release in 2024. From it, you can preview two new tracks: "One... Probably Closer to Two" and "Thoughts and Prayers Will Not Save You." The quartet recorded with Handheld's Pat Dietrich at The Dojo. Look for the upcoming album through Pink Lemonade Records.

Frank Dux features Shawn on bass, Kyle drumming, and guitarist/vocalists Joel and Scott. The new album follows up on 2020's Grand River Transplit, a joint release with the Cambridge pop-punk outfit Block Parent.

The Devoters: "Brass Tacks"

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St. John's power pop act The Devoters have a new single circulating dubbed "Brass Tacks," a swaggering blues rock number that previews their forthcoming EP, Ain't It Cruel. Luke Mumford (Booji Boys, Gemstones) again mixed and mastered the group's new material. The band commented:

"Every generation believes they are living in troubling times, and 'Brass Tacks' is a modern rock song that toys and twists with those tropes, buzzwords, and the current climate of paranoia and distrust that reverberates in the echo chambers of our choosing."

The Devoters features Kris Hamlyn on vocals, guitar, and keys, Needle Crafts' Brandon Coaker on guitar, Mike Coffen on bass, and Nick Giles of Conditioner drumming. While apart, their roster spreads between St. John's, Bonavista, NL, and Montreal.

Look for the new five-song Devoters EP on October 6, with a release party set for the following evening in St. John's at the Black Sheep with support from Cuerpos and Sandbag Bronco.

White Hot: NOT PUNK

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Sudbury/Ottawa rock unit White Hot recently shared their debut full-length NOT PUNK, an eight-song set of catchy, soulful indie rock tunes that - true to form - aren't particularly punk. That's okay, though, nobody insisted. In fact, White Hot imbibes in outright pop with such fearless conviction that these smoother moments feel downright revolutionary. While the group released a few singles as a trio before the pandemic, this collection marks their recorded debut as a quartet. Guitarist/vocalist Keegan McDonald (The Almighty Rhombus, Tofino) has joined the band's founding trio of guitarist/vocalist Michael Kenny, bassist/vocalist Emmett Turkington, and drummer Keith James.

You may recall that McDonald issued some accomplished solo material earlier this year as the power-pop act Softtub.

Dustbowl: Shameless/Restless

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Halifax musician Paul Atwood has a new EP as the lo-fi garage rock act Dustbowl. The six-song Shameless/Restless collects some satisfyingly crunchy material from a three-year archive of home recordings, the first songs the artist's shared since 2020's Good Things Change.

Atwood's recorded under several names over the past few years, including Comfort Decade and Yard Sailor.

NOBRO: "Where My Girls At"

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Hooky Montreal quartet NOBRO recently announced their debut full-length. Set Your Pussy Free lands on October 27 through Dine Alone Records, collecting the recent single "Let's Do Drugs" with 11 others. That includes the newly unveiled road anthem "Where My Girls At," which you can catch in a frenetic new video from Dan Esteban, Jeremy Shantz, and Jennifer Wade.

In a statement, bassist/vocalist Kathryn McCaughey commented on the propulsive track:

"It's an upbeat anthem where heartbreak takes a backseat to girl power and rock 'n' roll. Instead of wallowing in love's disappointment, you can pick up a guitar and call on your girls. This celebration of sisterhood and female empowerment is a reminder that with friends by our side, anything is possible - even starting a band on a whim."

Following suit with their attention-grabbing EPs, NOBRO again worked with producer Dave Schiffman (PUP, the OBGMs), recording live off the floor at Montreal's Mixart Studios. The band co-wrote these tracks with Thomas D'Arcy (July Talk, The Sheepdogs, Yukon Blonde). NOBRO features bassist/vocalist Kathryn McCaughey, guitarist Karolane Carbonneau, keyboardist/percussionist Lisandre Bourdage, and drummer Sarah Dion. The quartet last issued the Live Your Truth Shred Some Gnar in early 2022.

Spencer Burton: "Going Fishin'"

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Last month, country/folk artist Spencer Burton shared "Going Fishin'," the easygoing lead single from North Wind, their forthcoming album for Dine Alone Records. An accompanying video from director Mitchell Fillion features shots from Burton's rural Niagara-area farm.

On the track, the artist revealed:

"It's about getting away from it all. Sometimes it's nice to just feel a little free and do something you love. The past few years have been real hard. Times were tough and it seems that times are even becoming tougher. Most days I wake up concerned and stressed. I think a lot of people do. I could have written about this, but I wanted to write and release a song about something that made me feel good. Something that helps me take my mind off of it all. I think we all have the want and need to escape sometimes."

Burton wrote the brunt of his new record while secluded in an off-grid northern Ontario cabin, taking that material to Nashville to record again with Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Cheap Time). The solitude factors firmly in the resulting work, as the artist shared in a press release:

"It's really interesting what pleases the ear, musically, when isolated for a few weeks at a time. The only inspiration being yourself and the beauty of true untampered nature. It's a different atmosphere than what we're accustomed to. It really helped bring these songs to life... I'm not really trying to write music these days, I'm trying to write good feelings."

The new album follows up on 2021's Coyote and the 2019 children's album The Mountain Man. Burton's musical roots were in the much-loved Welland pop-punk band Attack In Black, with his early solo material released as the Grey Kingdom.

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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