Tag Archives: Toronto

June 6, 2017 — “In Undertow” by Alvvays

Alvvays

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “In Undertow” by Alvvays (2017, from the forthcoming album Antisocialites).

Alvvays is a jangle/noise pop band from Toronto. You probably recall that I was obsessed with their 2014 eponymous debut album. So much that I named it my #5 album of the year.

The band formed in 2011 as five members who had been friends for life. Molly Rankin (vocals/guitar) and Kerri MacLellan (keys) were best friends and next door neighbours on Cape Breton Island while Alec O’Hanley (guitar), Brian Murphy (bass) and Phillip MacIsaac (drums) grew up on Prince Edward Island and were friends since diapers. The boys were also in a band called The Danks, but I don’t know anything about that band. The press photos that I’ve seen for the new album show everyone except MacIsaac, but I’m not reading anything into that.

Everything that I’ve read about the new record suggests that it’s going to be as good or better than the first. It’s been described as an album “replete with songs about drinking, drugging, and drowning”. It’s also described as “a multipolar period piece fueled by isolation and loss”. The album has a song about getting kicked out of the Louvre and wandering around Paris with vomit on boots. There’s a song called “Lollipop (Ode to Jim)”, which was inspired by Jim Reid out of The Jesus and Mary Chain. There’s a song that’s described as reminiscent of Cocteau Twins. In other words, this is a record that I’m going to love as much or more than Alvvays.

The new album comes out September 8 via Polyvinyl Records in the US and Royal Mountain Records in Canada. So far, the only song I’ve heard is the album-opening “In Undertow”. This is that song:

“In Undertow” by Alvvays

I love the ringing buzz of what I’m told is a Farfisa. I’m not clever enough to pick one keyboard synth from another without help, but that’s what I’ve read. It’s got the formula that we all loved about “Archie, Marry Me”: fantastic pop sensibilities mixed with a healthy amount of fuzz and feedback. Unlike the first record, though, this one has Rankin’s voice much clearer and front-of-mix.

The band will play Lollapalooza in August before heading over for a UK/EU tour in the late summer. For now, you can pre-order the album via Bandcamp here. There are also loads of bundles you can order via Polyvinyl here.


May 21, 2017 — “This Time” by Land of Talk

Elizabeth Powell (Land of Talk)

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “This Time” by Land of Talk (2017, from the album Life After Youth).
Land of Talk is an indie rock band from Toronto. The only real member of the band is Elizabeth Powell, who started the band in 2006. Other members have come and gone, but this band is all about Liz Powell. Her 2008 debut Some Are Lakes was produced by Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon, and it was longlisted for the 2009 Polaris Music Prize. After that record, she developed some polyps on her vocal chords, and she considered hanging up her skates. After meeting with and receiving advice from Jace Lasek out of Besnard Lakes, she changed her style a little and released her 2010 sophomore album Cloak and Cipher, which was produced by Lasek. That album was longlisted for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize. Powell was very near the top of the mountain, and she was going on some pretty impressive tours, although they were mostly as the support act for much bigger Canadian indie bands.

I loved the first two records so much, and for a while, I simply wouldn’t shut up about Land of Talk.

After Cloak and Cipher, Powell again considered hanging up her skates, but she pressed on and wrote some new stuff. Unfortunately, she lost everything in a laptop crash. Then she decided to take a bit of a break. Then her father fell ill, and she spent a lot of time helping him recover. Then she sort of lost her passion for making music.

Several years after the release of the sophomore album, Powell came out of hibernation to play some shows last year. Then she surprised fans with a third record —Life After Youth— which came out on Friday via Saddle Creek Records.

Like the previous record, this one was recorded and produced by Jace Lasek, who also plays some guitar on the record. On tonight’s song, Lasek’s wife and Besnard Lakes bandmate Olga Goreas plays bass. In addition, there’s some backing vocals by Sharon Van Etten. On a different song, Steve Shelley out of Sonic Youth plays drums.

I haven’t listened to the album in its entirety yet, but I really love this song, and I know I’m going to love the rest of the record.

“This Time” by Land of Talk

On the first record, Powell had some rasp to her voice, which was brought on by some improper singing techniques and compounded by smoking cigarettes. Since then, she stopped smoking and learned to sing properly without straining her vocal chords. The result is a much cleaner, prettier tone without giving up too much of her signature style. In case you’re scoring along at home, this is the same thing that Bob Mould went through years ago. After years of smoking and years of scream-singing as the frontman of Hüsker Dü and doing the same in Sugar, he had to change those things before pushing on with the second round of his solo career. And he’s still doing it well into his 50s. While I could go on for pages about Bob Mould, I won’t.

On this song, I really love the bright shimmering tones in Lasek’s second guitar. Sharon Van Etten’s vocals in the chorus are fantastic. There’s also something about Powell’s lead guitar that reminds me quite a bit of early Throwing Muses. In short: there’s a lot for me to like about this song, and I know I’ll also love the rest of the album.

In June, Land of Talk will go on a limited engagement tour of North America.

You can buy Life After Youth via Bandcamp here.


February 26, 2017 — “Self-Unemployed” by The Luyas

The Luyas

The Luyas

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Self-Unemployed” by The Luyas (2017, from the album Human Voicing).

The Luyas is an experimental indie rock/krautrock quartet from Toronto. They formed in 2006, and released their debut record Faker Death the next year. They followed with Too Beautiful to Work in 2011 and Animator in 2012. It’s always pointed out, and I’ll do it again, that Luyas frontwoman Jessie Stein, with her small, soft, mildly squeaky voice, sounds VERY MUCH like the late Trish Keenan out of Broadcast. Their music is also reminiscent of stuff like Broadcast and Stereolab.

Way back before I started writing this blog, I called Too Beautiful to Work my third favourite Canadian album of 2011. The next year, over on this blog, I called Animator my fourth favourite album of 2012.

The band took a hiatus after touring with Animator, and to be honest, I didn’t think about them very often during that hiatus. Last year, they finally emerged from their hibernation with an EP called Says You, but it slipped totally under my radar. This year, I was very excited when I learned that they had a new record, which just came out on February 24. I got my ears on a copy of Human Voicing, and it’s everything that I hoped it would be. The first time I listened to the new album, I listened through crappy car stereo speakers, and I really loved it. I was really blown away by tonight’s song, which I had to play again and again and again before moving on to the album’s third song. Now that I’ve had time, I’ve also listened to it on headphones, and of course I like it a lot better that way.

It’s a gloriously noisy piece with a nice motorik beat and some interesting stuff going on in the stereo field. It’s definitely worth your while to listen to this on a quality set of headphones or earbuds. I’ve said that about every record by The Luyas, and I’m not ashamed that I’ve said it again.

I love all eight songs on the new record, but this is the one that got me the most excited. This is that song.

“Self-Unemployed” by The Luyas

It sounds a little bit like it’s been taken out of context; the way the song starts so abruptly sounds like it might be a cross-fade from the previous song. However, that’s just the way the song is. It’s meant to have that jolt. It gets a bit noisy and chaotic, and then at about 0:34, there’s another sudden jolt into the main part of the song. I absolutely love the buzzy synth and the motorik drum bit that pairs with Stein’s nifty bass part. There’s some other percussion mixed in and a lot of other stuff mixed in that almost turns into a wall of sound. It may be a tiny bit chaotic, but I adore the beautiful noise.

Just when you think it might go on for a bit longer, it comes to full stop after a chorus. Again, it’s a bit jarring, but I love it. A lot.

Just as the previous two records did, I imagine this one will finish in at least the top 10 of my year-end list. I know I never published one from 2016, but I’m definitely going to in 2017.

There’s an official video, but I really prefer this live performance video, which is considerably less noisy:

You can order the album via Bandcamp here. They have several different format options, including digital, CD, and a limited edition hot pink vinyl.


July 10, 2016 — “Baby Blue” by Soft Wounds

Soft Wounds

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Baby Blue” by Soft Wounds (2016, from the album Soft Wounds).

Soft Wounds is a dream pop/shoegaze/alt-rock quartet from Toronto. They got started in about 2014 when the four shoegaze lovers got together and started recording stuff in a Toronto basement. They recorded some demos in November 2014, and in January of this year, they released their self-titled debut album. The five songs from the demo sessions are also on the album, sandwiched between five new songs.

I had never heard the band until I got something in the mailbag the other day concerning my recent post about Slowly. As it turns out, Slowly is a side project for Charlie Berger (vocals/guitar) out of Soft Wounds. He pointed me to this album, and I like it a lot for all the same reasons. Lots of fuzz, lots of delay. It’s bright and it’s noisy. This and the Slowly project are both reminiscent of early 90s English shoegaze. Not the heavy, dark, beautifully noisy wall-of-sound stuff, but the more melodically noisy stuff like Catherine Wheel and the first two Ride records.

Before I listened to any of the Soft Wounds record, I noticed “Baby Blue” in the track listing, and I sort of hoped that today’s song was a blissfully noisy cover of the magnificent song of the same name by Badfinger. It isn’t, but it’s a terrific song nonetheless. This is that song:
“Baby Blue” by Soft Wounds

In addition to the aforementioned early 90s English shoegazers, I’m also sort of reminded of the gloriousness that was Rocketship. Minus, of course, the buzz of the organs and the outstanding coed vocal harmonies in Rocketship.

You can and should purchase a digital download of the Soft Wounds record via Bandcamp by naming your price here.


July 7, 2016 — “Melt” by Slowly

Slowly — Unfold

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Melt” by Slowly (2016, from the forthcoming album Unfold).

Slowly is a shoegaze/noise rock band from Toronto. I don’t know anything about them, but this song showed up in my Bandcamp feed, and I like it a lot. They’re saying that there’s a forthcoming album, and they’re saying that the album will be released one song at a time. The rest is up in the air. They don’t say how often new songs will be released. They don’t say how many songs will be on the finished album. They say that they don’t even know any of these things.

There’s a ton of reverb and delay, including on the vocals. It’s all washed in some metallic blue hue. Alternating darkness and bright light. We like this a lot, and if the other songs are like this, we’re going to love the album.

For now, this is all we have. “Melt” was just released via Bandcamp. This is that song:
“Melt” by Slowly

You can download the song via Bandcamp by paying what you want here.


10.02.2015 — “Attention Seeker” by Etiquette

Etiquette

If you only listen to one song and watch one accompanying video today, make it “Attention Seeker” by Etiquette (2015, from the album Reminisce).

Etiquette is a dreamy synth-pop “make-out music” band from Toronto. Although they’re a full five-piece band, what we talk about when we talk about Etiquette is the partnership of Julie Fader and Graham Walsh. Although this is a new project, both key members have been active in the Canadian indie scene for a while. They’ve also been a couple for several years.

Fader has lent her vocals to Chad VanGaalen on his Soft Airplane album, two Sarah Harmer records, Great Lake Swimmers on their Lost Channels album, and many others. She used to be in a Hamilton-based band, and in 2009, she released a solo record called Outside In. For that album, she got help from all of the aforementioned.

Walsh is a member of the electronica band Holy Fuck, whose 2007 album LP was shortlisted for the 2008 Polaris Music Prize. He’s also done production for Hannah Georgas on her 2012 self-titled record, and for Viet Cong, whose self-titled debut was shortlisted for the 2015 Polaris prize. He also worked on the 2014 debut album by Alvvays. That record was also shortlisted for the 2015 Polaris prize.

Etiquette’s debut album Reminisce was released on March 24 via the Toronto label Hand Drawn Dracula.

It’s been said that Etiquette combines the stone cold sexiness of The XX and the über-dreaminess of Beach House, with a bit of Air thrown in there. I think today’s song captures all of that.

“Attention Seeker” by Etiquette

This is indeed very sexy. They say they wanted to create some “make-out music”, and I think they’ve accomplished that.

Coincidentally, the video for the song is beautiful and powerful, a little steamy, and a lot smokey. It’s got something a little more than “making out” in it. It’s not R-rated, but it’s not safe for work, and it’s really no good if your kids are nearby. Watch to the end.

You can buy the album directly via HDD here, or through any of your normal digital retailers.

Over the last couple of years, it looks like they’ve played a couple dozen or so shows throughout Ontario, plus a couple in Montréal. Hopefully, they’ll start touring the US as well.


09.16.2015 — “Blood In The Sun” by Fresh Snow

Fresh Snow

IF you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Blood In The Sun” by Fresh Snow (2015, from the Won EP).
Fresh Snow is a post-rock/instrumental noise-rock/krautrock quartet from Toronto. I don’t know very much about them, but they’re on the wonderful little Toronto label Hand Drawn Dracula. I’ve written about that label a bunch of times, but not lately. Check out the posts I’ve written about HDD artists Vallens, and Beliefs, and Praises, as well as the post about Weeknight. That album by Weeknight was on a HDD sub-label called Artificial Records. I don’t know if Artificial is still under the HDD umbrella, or not, but that’s not important right now. That album was also my tenth favorite album of 2014.

Fresh Snow got started in 2010, and their 2013 debut album I ended up on a lot of year-end lists. They also were long-listed for the 2014 Polaris Music Prize. The band released a new EP Won last week, and it’s damm good. After being so Hopscotch-focused for the whole weekend, and taking a day off before resuming my “song of the day” posts, I’m finally, albeit slowly, catching up on the hundreds of emails that I missed over the weekend. Among those emails was one promoting this new EP.

“Blood in the Sun” by Fresh Snow

The beginning of the song, with the piano and distant feedback reminds me a bit of some songs by Mono (Japan). Specifically like something circa For My Parents At 1:03, there’s a big gear shift, and it sounds like something different. Harder, louder, faster. Mono certainly employs those kinds of mid-song sea changes, but after that 1:03 mark, this doesn’t sound like Mono. Maybe like some of the heavier Mogwai songs. I’ve seen that used as a reference marker before. Other writers have said that within one song, Fresh Snow might change from Godspeed to Mogwai to something else. It’s never a bad thing to be compared to any of those bands.

There are a couple of times in this song where there’s an absolutely crushing wave of sound. Heavy distortion, thundering drums, a huge wall of pink noise, and more. It goes like that from 1:50 to 2:14, then again from 3:01 to 3:50. In between those gloriously noisy bits is a section that’s motorik-driven. My favorite bits are those really noisy bits, and also that Mono-esque intro.

You can buy Won via HDD here in digital or vinyl format. Please note that today’s song is only available on the digital version.


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