Oh! Canada returns for a 29th Edition to shine a light on some of the fantastic releases coming out of Canada in recent months.
Having been away for quite some time this is a bumper crop, taking in 25 amazing new tracks that you can download free (expired), or stream via Spotify.
It is now over 20 years since beloved East Coaster’s Eric’s Trip disbanded. Since then Julie Doiron has released 10 critically acclaimed records, collaborated with the likes of Herman Dune, The Wooden Stars (with whom she won a Juno) and Okkervil River.
For a few years now she has been playing shows with The Wrong Guys, made up of Mike Peters and Jay Schwarzer of Cancer Bats and Eamon McGrath. ‘Love and Leaving’ was the first song they wrote together, and is an indication of what is to follow- pounding rhythms and McGrath’s wailing guitars are given a sweetness by Doiron’s vocal, while she clearly relishes the return to her garage rock roots.
Josée Caron and Lucy Niles, collectively Partner, have built quite the reputation for themselves over the last few years with their mixture of power pop riffs, wailing guitar solos (often delivered from atop their home-made solo step, using Caron’s double neck guitar) and slacker pop sensibility, all melded into a killer live show.
A series of videos for non-album singles ‘The ‘Ellen’ Page’ and ‘Personal Weekend’ grew their reputation further and now, finally, In Search Of Lost Time, their debut, has arrived. It’s a record full of short sharp pop-rock gold that more than lives up to the early singles.
Halifax’s Sleepless Nights returned after a six year hiatus with the Keith Hamilton EP in September. 'You’ll Find Love’ is a hyper-charged rocker- that simultaneously channels the party aesthetic and rumbling rhythm section of Andrew WK and blends it with gang vocal choruses.
Casper Skulls Mercy Works will see release on 3rd November on Toronto’s Buzz Records. While their debut singles and EPs were raw and heavy, the two tracks released so far take the bands earlier energy and passion but amps up the melodic content.
The Paul Simon referencing ‘You Can Call Me Allocator’s spoken word versus call to mind the likes of Vancouver’s Peace or early 2000 stalwarts Ikara Colt, while the lilting ‘Lingua Franca’ melds buzzing guitars with pensive drums and swooning strings.
Hailing from Abbotsford, BC, Blessed released their second EP on Vancouver’s esteemed Kingfisher Bluez label earlier this year. Over four songs and 26 minutes the band explore duelling guitar lines, off-centre instrumentals and movements, changing from chaotic to blissful and everything in between at the flick of a switch. Recorded over seven days at Rain City Studio, the tracks were honed after months touring, during which the band played alongside the likes of The Courtney’s, Fucked Up and Preoccupations amongst others.
Canada’s finest amateur rap-battling storytellers follow up Public Library with Revival Beach. This time Mathias Kom and his compatriots Ariel Sharratt and Darren Browne take on the idea of the apocalypse, and all the ways it might happen. Those familiar with The Burning Hell needn’t worry however, as it turns out their solution to the forthcoming end of the world is to take it on with bass clarinet, bouzuki, and ample amounts of Canadian Wine.
Sanity Band is the project of Victoria’s Logan Holmes. Recorded at home between 2015-1016 and released on tape in May, at times Deluxe 85 is so laid back its horizontal- indeed at one point Holmes asks permission to lie down. There is a gentle, crunchy melancholy to the album that is exemplified on 'Cult Babies'.
If their tape cover is to believed, Victoria’s Glum love nothing more than drinking out of coconuts and pineapples. In order to help finance this kind of extravagant beverage consumption, they put out an EP/Tape in February this year. In their own words “a real nice cassette that sounds real good on red tapes” the tracks decry their hometown on YYJ (“bored in my bedroom”) while Destroyed is a fuzzy wonder. Crisp in all the right places, it’s perfect autumnal listening.
At Work On Several Things first saw release last year, but has since been re-released by French label Field Mates. Following up from Serfs Of Today, the album sees the Victoria band delve further into the realms of woozy psychedelia that used to come out of the Elephant 6 collective. Those who loved the early days of Of Montreal, or Olivia Tremor Control will find plenty to love here.
Now seven years into their existence, The Barr Brothers decided to change up their methodology on latest album Queens of the Breakers. While previously Brad Barr had crafted the songs and then taken them to his brother Andrew and harpist Sarah Page, this time they developed the songs together. This time they flipped the script.
The album's title track, was the guiding light for the whole project. Barr has stated they recorded an acoustic version then dubbed a full band on top. As time wore on the band second guessed themselves, attempting various different takes, before reverting to the original version. In doing so they captured a band at ease with itself, and the recording has an easy going lightness.
Having spent much of his time since the release of his last solo record The Forgettable Truth touring as a member of The Luyas and beginning work on a new Bell Orchestre album, Montrealer Michael Feuerstack has just completed work on a new solo outing, the fourth under his own name, and eleventh including his work under the Snailhouse monicker. In that time he has continued to hone his singular songwriting skills, becoming one of the leading ‘singer-songers’ in Canada in the process. ‘Where Are You Now?’ is the first track to be released from the as yet untitled new album, due for release next year.
Aron D’Alesio stepped away from his former band Young Rival to deliver his debut self titled release for Paper Bag Records. Recorded, written and engineered by D’Alessio himself, the record harks back to early rock n’ roll, no more so than on ‘Diamond Ring’, a reverb drenched slow dance full of Beach Boys harmonies and mellow regret.
Halifax’s Mauno are currently on the road supporting Chad Vangaalen across Europe. It seems like the perfect partnership- at their best, both acts produce melody lines with the power to stick in your head for days. On Tuning, Mauno have produced a set of deceptively intricate songs, some urgent and immediate, others sparse and beautiful.
Peach Pyramid is the brainchild of Jen Severtson. Channelling UK Jangle Pop and adding in some BC sunshine their album, Repeating Myself was released in late September by Oscar Street Records, the new label from The New Pornographer’s Kathryn Calder.
More British Columbia natives, this time from New Westminster. Stuttering beats from Jeremiah Ackermann’s kit and subtle guitars from Patrick Farrugia frame the brooding beauty of Alea Rae Clark’s vocals, creating an urgent, forceful take on New Wave.
While the album, The Light In You Has Left was released late last year, we thought this track deserved to be heard here as we look forward to the next album.
Cascade Falls is the solo project of Devin Miller, also the frontman of Vancouver’s Reef Shark. His debut album Clouds Change, Nostalgia Stays The Same was released in May through Kathryn Calder’s Oscar Street Records. While the spoken intro suggests some urgency, the hazy piano-led ‘Eyes Might Wonder’ is a sprawling, evolving thing of beauty, Miller’s gentle croon calling to mind the cosmic balladeering of early Midlake or John Grant.
Edmonton’s Faith Healer followed up their debut Cosmic Troubles with Try;-) in September. For her second album Jessica Jalbert joined forces with Renny Wilson, stockpiled a collection of AM radio classics from bargain bins and classic pop and channelled it into classic sounding melodies.
Although she sings of being forced to let go, and not being able to take more, Montreal’s Beyries seems anything but downtrodden. Rather there is a grit and determination shining through the stark, minimal folk on offer here, a quality that pervades her debut album Landing.
Having overcome cancer in her late twenties, and following the passing of her mother, she retired, exhausted to a cabin and recorded her first song. That track, ‘Soldier’, appears on the album, which was 6 years in the making. Her record label, Bonsound agreed to release it after hearing just one song, and it’s easy to hear why. Since the release of the record earlier this year she has performed her debut show, opening for Martha Wainwright, and opened for k.d. Lang in September.
Back in 2011 we were entranced by Kirk Ramsey’s debut EP Starting as People, recorded in Ottawa with The Acorn’s Rolf Klausener and Pat Johnson. Just over six years later, and having relocated to Toronto, Ramsey has finally followed up with an album, Old Cosmos.
Describing his sound as outsider folk meets drone-gospel, Ramsey unfurls years of exploration of cursed love and physical illness, into 10 soulful confessions. Having developed the tracks over the years, they were transformed again in the studio, where he was joined once again by Klausener and Johnson.
This time Klausener shared production duties with with Jonas Bonetta of Evening Hymns. All three join forces on the record, while ‘Key On A String’ also features Paul Lowman of Cuff The Duke, who just happened to pop by with a fiddle, turning a fast paced stomper into what Ramsey now describes as a “mad scientist stoner ballad”.
Mappe Of’s debut album A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone is the perfect accompaniment for the change of season, as autumn slides slowly into winter. Inspired by winter-longing and the frozen Canadian landscape, Nimbin’s gentle but precise guitar picking cuts through the chill in the air, while layers of other instruments build around, creating a warm, atmospheric whole.
There’s an almost hymnal quality to the heavily reverbed vocals, which are both wistfully melancholy and comfortably familiar.
Saltland is the solo project of cellist Rebecca (Esmerine, Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial and The Mile End Ladies String Auxiliary amongst others). Earlier this year she released her second album A Common Truth via Constellation records, which combines her uncompromising and distinctive playing with her environmental activism (she is an active campaigner for environmental issues as well as being the founder of Junglekeepers, a rainforest conservation charity).
The record is built around Foon’s distinctive vocal, which hovers above looped piano and cello (both treated and untreated), expanding, stretching and evolving meditatively. Elsewhere on the record she is joined by Warren Ellis (Dirty Three) and Jace Lasek (Besnard Lakes), and the mood is decidedly more ominous.
At the heart of it all, however, it is the the unrelenting focus in Foon’s approach that makes this one of the most stunning and understatedly beautiful records of the year.
Leif Vollebekk’s Polaris shortlisted album Twin Solitude saw the Montreal singer-songwriter shift direction somewhat - for the most part abandoning the acoustic guitar that had featured prominently in previous records and focusing on Wurlitzer and Rhodes electric pianos. Downtempo but not down, lovelorn but not weary, the gentle keys and sparse instrumental accompaniment (a brushed snare here, an acoustic bass there) frame Vollebekk’s storytelling and restless spirit.
As ever, the vastness of geography looms large on Vollebekk’s mind, with years of life on the road feeding into tales of ‘Vancouver Time’, of the Land of the Living Skies and ‘Big Sky Country’ (phrases that appear on the numberplate of Saskatchewan and Montana respectively) and an admission of never having been to Michigan (which will no doubt play well next time he finds himself in Detroit), the later even riffing on Led Zepplin’s ‘Ramble On’.
This month sees Vollebekk on the road again playing shows across Europe and the UK.
Originally released in 2016, Un Blonde’s Good Will Come To You was re-released by Calgary’s Flemish Eye (Women/Chad VanGaalen/ Braids) earlier this autumn. The product of Montreal’s Jean-Sebastian Audet (originally a Calgarian), the album is a 21 track journey through Audet’s ever shifting sound-world.
Found sounds, gentle strumming, gospel coos, and gentle guitar lines fuse creating a woozy equilibrium. Metronomic riffs give way to multi-part harmonies, transcendent drones or meditative funk jams. What could be an overwhelming kaleidoscopic journey is tightly controlled by Audet, with a warmness and positivity that fully justifies the album’s title.
Joni Void is the latest incarnation of the artist formally known as Johnny Ripper, a Montrealer by way of Lille, France. Having built his name in online communities including soundcloud and bandcamp, self releasing numerous records and productions since 2011. While Early recordings combined piano and field sounds, later work began to reflect an interest in micro-sampling and beat making.
His musical practice has now removed any playing at all, relying entirely upon found sounds, cutting them up and rearranging them to create his works. The title of his album, Selfless, released by Constellation earlier this year, reflects this practice of taking himself out of the music making process entirely.
Dan Misha Goldman’s Champions Of The Afterworld is a combination of 5 songs and 5 ambient pieces that flow together. The record was created over the course of two years between touring with his band Snowblink, and acting as arranger to Canadian astronaut turned musician Chris Hadfield.
For this project Goldman invited the Penderecki String Quartet to provide the strings, as well as other members of the Toronto scene to contribute. Goldman describes the record as “narcotic buoyancy for unnerving times.” ‘Hollywood, Jerusalem’ finds Goldman’s baritone complimented by Snowblink colleague Daniella Gesundheit, adding a sweet counterpoint to the brooding string scrapes and twinkling electronics.
Our thanks to all the artists involved for agreeing to be part of Oh! Canda, and to Rolf Klausener for this edition's cover image.