Friday April 19, 2024

Mental Health Day

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.

Barnacle: Such a Waste

Watch "Mental Health Day" on YouTube - Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

I thought Barnacle was dead. It was a safe assumption under the circumstances. The Montreal group emerged a few years back with a delightfully unhinged take on lo-fi punk that put a single-minded lyrical focus on the beach. That statement must be qualified, as they had no interest in the then-trendy surf-punk abstraction of sun and sand, instead embracing a SpongeBob-fixated perversion of that idea. That cartoon's bizarre second life as a million shitposting memes carries a similar energy. Over-stimulated punk made for a poor antiviral, though, and whatever momentum the band had in 2019 washed away in the pandemic waves.

Last year, Barnacle assembled the debris of their pre-COVID efforts as Old Songs, collecting material from the before times as the debut LP they never intended. The band leaned into the notion that this was a lost album, and while their comments revelled in their usual tongue-in-cheek mythology, one could easily have read it as an obit. As is increasingly the trend here, I was wrong to assume that. Barnacle lives.

The group's new album, Such a Waste, arrives this weekend. It's an eight-song set penned between 2022 and 2023. You can preview it online now and watch a decidedly uneventful video for the track "Mental Health Day." The group's celebrating the record Saturday with a release show at Montreal's Casa Del Popolo, with support from Amery (formerly Alpen Glow) and Necklace.

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Bootlicker: "Mercy Dog"

Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

Vancouver bruisers Bootlicker return this month with their sophomore LP 1000 Yard Stare. The 10-track set arrives April 26 through Neon Taste and Static Shock Records, delivering what the labels call "violent music for a vile world." The band doesn't stray far from D-Beat forebears but delivers with such lively abandon that those tried and true sounds feel evergreen.

There's plenty to be angry about these days, and the group finds no shortage of grievances to fuel these songs. Their press release likewise laments the decline of, well, everything:

"Consumption is key. War crimes in real time an arms length away, mandatory connectivity to hive mind. The common human experience is experiencing the shift. The 1000 Yard Stare is common place, no longer experienced only by soldiers and victims at the front. The front is everywhere. Colonial legacies, genocide, poisoned drug supplies and failed policy, killer cops, global warming, Neo-Liberal fallout, rising Fascism.

The Information Age in its current state is one that sees the mask of the emperor starting to slip, a power struggle with the worst players moving into prime positions for takeover and identity politics running the resistance while the working class is dismantled in front of us. The only thing to keep us satiated in an age of endless trauma experience is immediate gratification. The absurdity of all of this that we live, love, buy and die within that framework. It's cynical but it's true. So here we are."

Yikes. The new record follows up on the group's 2021 self-titled full-length. They're not publishing a personnel roster, but based on my earlier spotty reporting, the Bootlicker probably features Lewis Podlubny (Headcheese) on vocals, Athena Joan on guitar, Josh Nickel (Chain Whip) on guitar, Lucas Treadwell drumming, and bassist Mark. Whether that's still current is anyone's guess. Will Killingsworth mixed and mastered the new set.

Cindy Lee: Diamond Jubilee

Preview at YouTube - Purchase from the artist

Even at its peak, I paid little attention to Pitchfork. That's partly because I spent most of my time righteously covering far dumber bands than they cared to acknowledge, but mainly because I couldn't grasp even a quarter of what they wrote about. So, while their infamous decimal scoring system carries less emotional weight for me than most, even I sat up and noticed the rare 9.1 conferred on Cindy Lee's Diamond Jubilee.

The new album from former Women vocalist Patrick Flegel is a massive undertaking - a two-hour, 32-track opus of minimalist no-wave pop. Like past Cindy Lee efforts, the album filters 60s girl group sounds through Flegel's drag alter-ego, drifting in and out of focus through waves of reverb and lo-fi studio trickery. It was always a compelling sound but utterly immersive at this scale. I'm wary of dwelling too much on how haunting or atmospheric the album can be, as that suggests something less vibrant. In isolation, the parts making up Diamond Jubilee are often delightfully memorable and easy to enjoy. It's a beautiful feat of sequencing that those smaller moments hang ominously in a contiguous sea of AM-dial fog, but to imply the staging is the hook does a disservice to some rather immaculate songwriting.

You won't find Diamond Jubilee on any modern streaming service or pressed to wax through a big label. The audio is only officially available to download as WAV files linked from the artist's 90s throwback website ( hosted on a facsimile of the storied Geocities platform amidst a suitably nostalgic mess of pre-modern web styling). PayPal donations are encouraged but not required. The closest thing to a conventional release is a YouTube stream, but even that finds Flegel swimming upstream by presenting the work as one unbroken, ad-free track. While I appreciate the sentiment, an aggressively anti-consumerist rollout wouldn't get very far if the art's not there, but I'm confident we'll be discussing this record for years to come.

Diamond Jubilee, purported to be Cindy Lee's final record, follows up on 2019's What's Tonight to Eternity.

Hobby: Born Again (just in time for me to go)

Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

Hobby churns out twangy Americana from the decidedly un-twangy streets of Toronto, a side-project from the city's art-punk and indie rock scenes. Someone with real country bona fides may have something disparaging to say about that, but I've got no horse in that race (I've got no horse, period). While the band's earlier material sometimes winked at the mismatch, Born Again feels wonderfully comfortable with what it is. The ten-song set arrived online on April 1 and is now streaming everywhere. Hobby calls the album "a celebration of life, and death, and growth, and change," but they're in too much slacker groove to let any of those themes get too heavy.

Hobby features guitarists Stephen Pitman (Only God Forgives) and Cameron Fraser (Luge), bassist Duncan Wardlaw, and drummer Foster Medeiros. Pitman, Fraser, and Wardlaw all contribute vocals to the project. The band recorded at Cobourg, Ontario's Ganaraska Recording Co., with Jimmy Bowskill producing. The engineer also plays steel guitar, mandolin, and organ on the record. Little Kid's Paul Vroom mixed and mastered.

The new set follows Hobby's 2022 EP Dog Don't Mind and the preceding year's Weed LP.

Fucked Up: Being Annoying

Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

As I'm no longer at risk of catching shit for whatever nonsense Punknews pulls, I've mellowed my aversion to April Fools Day. Now that it's not my problem, I'm mostly content to stay offline and ignore it entirely. I'm growing old and decidedly unfun, though, so that tracks. Fucked Up's just as old, but they've still got a healthy sense of play. Their April 1 single Being Annoying admittingly isn't much of a joke outside of the six-second b-side, offering a straightforward cut of the band's hardcore snarl. It's Fucked Up's 54th 7" (not that I've counted), and billed as a successor to their 2003 breakthrough Baiting The Public. Sonic qualities aside, both records similarly split the words of the title between two tracks.

These days Fucked Up features Damian Abraham on vocals, Mike Haliechuk and Josh Zucker on guitar, Sandy Miranda on bass, and Jonah Falco drumming. Alex Gamble recorded this track at Toronto's Candle Studios. It features Jane Fair on saxophone and Damian's better half, Lauren Moses-Brettler, on backing vocals.

The new single follows November's Show Friends EP and their recent One Day full-length.

Easy Tiger: "Circle K"

Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

I've covered plenty of artists who maintain very public love affairs with the sound and vibe of the 1980s, several in this edition alone, but the latest single from Easy Tiger is a universe unto itself. "Circle K" finds the Montreal garage-pop duo embracing the decade like few others—crafting a deliberately over-engineered pop song packing in every trope from a sultry sax solo to bubbly synths. They even toss in a few whiplash sound effects to drive the point home. It's self-conscious but also, somehow, utterly fantastic.

In their online liner notes, Gabrielle La Rue shared:

"It's a light song. It's someone who goes hard on a bender and builds a very shallow relationship with a date that won't go far at all."

Sarah Dion added, "It's very 80s — we made the song that we wanted to listen to."

Easy Tiger features La Rue (Guidestones, ex-NOBRO) and Dion (Les Shirley, NOBRO). They're joined on this track by Alex McMahon on synth and Alex Dodier on that indispensable sax. The new track follows the group's 2022 EP Breakfast In Bed.

Mad Ones: What It Takes

Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

Toronto garage vets Mad Ones have a new record out through Fortune Stellar Records. What It Takes delivers ten gritty yet hooky tunes in the proud Replacements tradition - rough-hewn, world-weary, and lovably so. It's the band's fifth LP, following up on 2021's Last Forever. In a press release, vocalist/guitarist Andrew DeVillers took a self-deprecating reflection on the band's journey:

"We have experienced all the usual dumb stuff an underrated powerhouse of our stature should... slippery steel staircases that go all the way to the top... being told we should have listed 'no cats' on our rider... et cetera, but we've had the chance to tour with some of our favourite artists, had a lot of fun making records, and feel pretty lucky we still get to do this at all".

Mad Ones is a trio featuring DeVillers with vocalist/bassist Russ Fernandes and vocalist/drummer Jesse L. Bellon. The band recorded at Toronto's Canterbury Music Company and the Cambridge-based House of Miracles, working with a familiar cast of Ontario indie rock engineers including Andy Magoffin (Constantines, FemBots) and José Contreras (of By Divine Right), along with Julian Decorte and Morgan Dunbar. A pair of tracks from the album, "Drone" and "Mess," resulted from sessions at The Tragically Hip's Bathouse Studio.

The Drew Thomson Foundation: Fan Letter

Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

I saw Single Mothers dominate a festival at Brock University earlier this year. Having not seen them since well before COVID, Drew Thomson entirely rekindled my admiration for him as a performance artist. During the pandemic, he took so naturally to life as a home recording hermit that I'd detached him from that live setting. His return to the road's reduced the output of those countless side projects, but not entirely. Earlier this month, we saw a return of his pop-rock act The Drew Thomson Foundation.

The quartet recently resurfaced with the four-song Fan Letter EP. The 2021 recordings find Thomson backed by Mike Riley on guitar, Peter Landi drumming, and John Dinsmore on bass. Dinsmore, who's produced records for PUP and Talk Show Host, recorded from Toronto's Lincoln County Social Club. Thomson commented, "I write a lot of songs and they don't all mean something to me, but these ones do." He broke down the set list on Instagram, revealing:

"'Doors Open' is about that tipping point we almost all find ourselves at in one way or another, where we decide whether to throw in the towel or keep going. 'Ride The Wave' is about dealing with that manic rush which tends to come with inspiration, 'Gasoline' is about the weird little things that tie us to old love. 'The Very Best' is about trying to let go and move on"

While Drew's issued numerous short-form releases under a half-dozen names in the past few years, the last proper Foundation record, a self-titled full-length, arrived in 2019. Single Mother's last issued Bubble in 2021.

Pranatricks: Elements Of

Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

Vancouver Island singer-songwriter Pranatricks recently shared his sophomore album, the 10-song Elements Of. It's the cumulation of a slow rollout, with the artist issuing a new song every six weeks since the summer of 2023 (only a few months following his debut album Cherished).

Whereas that first album predominantly found Pranatricks performing indie folk tunes, its successor leans into textured psychedelia and mature indie rock. The songs of Elements Of take their time, wrapping the artist's pensive lyrics in slowly unfolding waves of distortion and reverb. Despite the stylistic shift, the works remain intrinsically linked and represent two-thirds of a greater whole, as the artist revealed in a press release:

"I have RECENTLY begun tracking the third album. The projects are designed to be consumed in a progression which is reflective of my writing and development as an artist. Like a triptych painting the three canvas' when viewed individually, their expression stands alone and is unique, however when viewed together they blend to make a collective grander image to be conveyed to the audience."

The third album in that sequence is currently in the works. Before that starts to trickle out, the release show for this record will take place on June 15 at the Royal Canadian Legion in Comox, BC. The event will see Pranatricks perform Elements Of entirely, backed by his new backing band Feather Shadow.

Pranatricks is the stage name of Andrew Clements, known in the late 2000s as half of the electro-funk duo Fur Bearing Animals.

Roye Trout: Roye Trout

Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

Windsor's Roye Trout has a decade of material in the wild but only recently assembled their first proper full-length. The self-titled ten-song set arrived earlier this month, presenting a heartfelt slate of power-pop with one foot in 90s alt-rock. The album finds the group performing as a quintet, with their namesake Roye Trout on vocals and guitar, backed by lead guitarist Brent Cusmanic, bassist Colin Wysman, drummer Joshua Cassidy, and Jeremy Coulter on keys. The group recorded with Brett Humber at Kingsville, Ontario's Sound Foundry Studios.

The new set arrives following 2019's Nectar EP and 2022's Our Hell split with Jesse Fellows.

Banananananana: PEEL Sessions

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Hamilton's "legendary slopcore duo" Banananananana recently shared a set they've dubbed the PEEL Sessions. It finds the eccentric synthpunk act churning through seven new songs. They commented:

"We've been sitting on these 7 golden eggs for 2 years - so crack em open, have a cheers and shake those rears..."

The set follows a relative period of quiet after a prolific 2021 run of recordings that cumulated in the BREAD collection. Banananananana features Babette laFlail on bass and vocals, with Frankie leFuque on keys, drum programming, and vocals. Both artists share guitar and "etc" credits, which is entirely evident in the they churn out.

In 2023 Banananananana appeared on a split cassette with Vancouver agitators Shearing Pinx.

Schedule 1: Crucible

Watch "Drifting" on YouTube - Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

Vancouver post-punk/garage act Schedule 1 recently issued Crucible, their first full-length. It arrived with much anticipation and, after considerable delay, a point of frustration given their positive reception to their debut EP. The band reflected this in a comment on the day of release:

"We started recording the seeds of this album way back in 2022 with [Little Red Sounds] - and we damn near finished it too - but life took over in a staggering way and we had to shift our focus to the things that were most important. Sometimes you get kicked in the proverbial teeth so hard that you gotta take a few steps in another direction. Well it has been a long and arduous journey back, but the day has finally come. We're really stoked to be here and we're ready to fucking go."

The record arrived alongside a video for the single "Drifting," directed by Sean Patrick Shaul.

The quartet recorded at Little Red Sounds with Felix Fung (Sore Points, Spectres). Adam Veenendal mastered the set. The album is available through Council Records in North America and Mendeku Diskak in Europe.

The new LP follows a self-titled EP, issued in 2022 through Dirt Cult Records. Schedule 1 showcases Grant Minor on vocals, Rob S on guitar, Alex Fraser on bass, and Mitch Schuman drumming. Some of that roster also plays in the similarly goth-influenced Dead Cells.

Girlfriends and Boyfriends: "Lovers in a Dangerous Time"

Watch on YouTube - Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

That's not all from Grant Minor's camp.

The artist's Toronto/Vancouver new wave revival act Girlfriends and Boyfriends recently issued Lost In The Noise, a retrospective collection of eight songs recorded between 2009 and 2022. The set features six originals along with covers of Duran Duran's "Careless Memories" and Bruce Cockburn's Cancon classic "Lovers in a Dangerous Time." Director Wayne Moreheart features the latter in a cinematic new video, now playing on YouTube so people can make Barenaked Ladies comments.

The new collection remixes and remasters the earlier material, none of which has previously appeared on vinyl. The most recent recordings are the title track (featuring another feat of 80s sax heroism) and the Cockburn cover. They stem from sessions with Felix Fung at Little Red Sounds.

The new album, available on vinyl through Minnesota's Midnight Mannequin Records, follows Girlfriends and Boyfriends's 2021 LP, Fallacy of Fairness.

The Wesleys: The Wesleys

Watch "A Lot to Lose" on YouTube - Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

Last week Montreal garage-pop quartet The Wesleys issued their self-titled debut LP through Little Village Records. It's a remarkably accessible and easy-to-love rock record that should satisfy those who grew up nodding along to Sloan on the radio. In a press release, vocalist/guitarist Henry Girard reflected on the nine-song set, sharing:

"I think at the end of the day the album is going to resonate with a lot of people. It's not like we're trying to market it to everybody, but there's a little something for everyone... We've recorded an album, plain and simple and did everything ourselves. I guess we're trying to do it in a way that feels very comfortable and kind of natural."

That recording process took place throughout 2023, mostly at home studios and primarily in the Montreal apartment of bassist Quentin Chisholm and drummer Pablo Garcia-Rejon Gaubeca (Jyraph). You can catch the single "A Lot to Lose" in a new animated video from artist Phil Osborne of Osborne Oddities.

The Wesleys feature Henry Girard on guitar and vocals, William D'Amours on guitar and mellotron, Quentin Chisholm on bass and vocals, and Pablo Garcia-Rejon Gaubeca on drums and vocals. The Wesleys follows up on 2022's Outside Voices EP.

The Dishrags: Four

Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

Supreme Echo continues to mine the best of early Canadian punk for their essential series of reissues. The latest in that set features BC pioneers The Dishrags, with the 13-song Four capturing the entirety of the group's 1980 output on vinyl for the first time. The remastered track list includes the three-song Death In The Family EP, the band's final output from their original run. That audio's packaged with a nine-song demo and an additional soundboard recording. The physical set includes an extensive booklet of interviews, photos, and gig posters - on par with the above-and-beyond care this label typically puts into their releases.

The Dishrags came together in Victoria in 1977 as Dee Dee and the Dishrags, a trio featuring Jade Blade, Carmen Michaud, and Dale Powers. They were one of the first all-female punk bands on the continent and certainly the most prominent from the early BC scene. They eventually relocated to Vancouver, with their original run lasting through 1980. During that stint, and as teenagers no less, they opened for both The Clash and the Ramones.

Supreme Echo last touched base with The Dishrags in 2014 with Three, a double album collection of the group's output from 1978 and 1979.

Adam Mowery: Adam Sings Buck

Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

Papal Visit frontman Adam Mowery lends his unique voice to a set of classics by country legend Buck Owens. Adam Sings Buck finds the Fredericton artist tackling five of Owens' tunes. He revealed:

"I've always been aware of Buck. 'Hee Haw' ran into the early 90's, and I was familiar with The Beatles' take on 'Act Naturally.' But it wasn't until 2005 that my friend Pierre Cormier played for me Buck Owens and His Buckeroos - In London, originally released in 1969, that I finally kinda got it. I was struck by just how rock'n'roll the supposedly Country and Western Buckeroos sounded in a live environment. As a fan of early rock, I was taken with the album immediately, and got my own copy from Taz Records in Halifax, NS after a gig with my band Adam and the Accidents in 2006.

What resonates with me most about Buck's music, aside from his incredible band, is his ability to craft simple, memorable melodies. Also, Buck could concoct short, extremely concise, songs to house these great melodies. Country and Western music was not exactly embraced in my house growing up, yet all of Buck's songs sounded oddly familiar to me. Had I heard Buck Owens music in the background my entire life, or did I somehow always know it?

That's the magic trick."

The digital EP follows up on Brick by Brick, an anthology of Mowery's solo recordings, and 2020's Horseshoe Canyon LP. Papal Visit issued their long-in-the-works, Guided By Voices-inspired Five Fathom Hole LP in 2021 through Monopolized Records, followed by the Calling For Jane single last year.

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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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