Oh! Canada returns to uncover some of Canada's finest new music - yours to download and stream now.
As the nights begin to draw in with the air crisper than a bag of kettle chips, as one Edmonton weatherperson phrased it, Oh! Canada returns for another edition highlighting some of the best music coming out of Canada in recent months. You can download the latest edition below (for one month only), or stream via Spotify.
From the first chiming moments of ‘I’ll Be There’, the lead track on his latest album It’s A New Day Tonight Michael Rault locks straight into an easy, soulful rock groove. Tumbling, ear-worm guitar lines run over lolloping drums and pretty harmonies meld masterfully into a memorable fuzzy goodness. The record began life following Rault’s touring in support of Charles Bradley and King Gizzard and The Wizard Lizard. These shows led to Rault crossing paths with Daptone Head Engineer Wayne Gordon who invited him into the studio to cut some tracks. Halfway through the sessions, Gordon was so enamoured with the record that he offered him a deal on Daptone’s new rock imprint Wick Records coming on board as co-producer. It’s easy to see why. This autumn sees Rault out on the road across the US with Cut Worms, before a string of European and UK Dates in November, before a west coast jaunt with Ezra Furman in December.
The number of artists who have released albums named after a lawnmower accident can likely be named on one toe. That toe belongs to Micah Erenberg of Matlock, Manitoba, and his album Poor Mic’s Toe details details the story of how he came to lose it, as well as 8 other songs full of stories, and observations driven by Erenberg’s wit and keen eye for detail. While musically joyous, coming across in places like Why? If he was produced by Animal Collective, the songs subject matter can be deceptively bleak - the brilliant but disturbing 'Call Of The North' recounts a true story of a friend who saved a woman on New Year’s Eve after an acid attack in Toronto,
Erenberg explains that ‘I Just Wanna Go To Sleep Forever’ was originally written for Erenberg’s old band Little House, before being reworked for the record. “Sometimes it feels good to feel bad and sometimes a relatable song is all you need to feel a little bit better. This one is in the category that I like to call "happy sounding sad songs", although he later admitted “I still prefer the macbook microphone recording from the day it was written…”. Work has begun on a follow up record, which will hopefully see the light of day next year.
Kacy Anderson and Clayton Linthicum are second cousins hailing from Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan. Having sung together for over a decade, they began to release records on their artist run and operated label Big White Cloud records, alongside Ryan Boldt of Deep Dark Woods, Dim=Sum and Shuyler Jansen. 2015’s Strange Country garnered critical acclaim, and was picked up by New West who promptly re-released the record in 2016. The following year it was nominated for a Juno. The record also took the band out on the road, including opening for Wilco. One thing led to another, and the pair found themselves in Chicago, in The Loft recording with Tom Schick with Jeff Tweedy on production duties. The resulting record The Siren’s Song was captured pretty much live from the floor, capturing the feeling they had honed as a four piece out on the road. The pair’s country storytelling roots are still firmly in place, drawing on the likes of Haggard and Nelson, but with an added cosmic twang. Having just got off dates with The Decemberists and Jeff Tweedy, the band have a handful of dates with Bahamas before a cross Canada tour with Deep Dark Woods.
Layten Kramer spent much of 2017 ensconced in his Victoria, BC home recording fragments of what would become the 4 track Glory EP, released earlier this year through Oscar Street Records. Expansive and haunting, The Void perfectly showcases the psychedelic-folk stylings Kramer has been honing for some years. Recruiting fellow Victorian’s and Oscar Street Records Alumni / boss Kathryn Calder (New Pornographers/Frontperson) and Jen Severtson (Peach Pyramid) as well as Olivier Clements (AIdan Knight) Kramer set out to explore how we are all affected by the harsh realities of heartbreak and mental illness: “The time we spend learning and struggling with who we are and who the people are around us often amounts to a valuable lesson,” says Kramer, “and what we find at the end of each lesson is a little bit of glory. This collection of songs is intended to highlight the incredible resilience each and every person has in my life.”
Edmonton’s The Hearts have been producing grandiose, dreamy, roots- pop over a series of albums released over the last few years. Earlier this year, the band returned with a new EP, Sunshine. The record was recorded at a time where much was in a state of flux, and reflects ideas of change and unstable times. Fittingly, the band too went through some changes during the recording, bringing aboard Alex Vissia (of Vissia) on guitar and vocals, giving a new dynamic to the songwriting. With many of the tracks for the EP being first or second takes there is a laid back, natural feel to the record, any imperfections adding to the depth and character. There’s a distinct melancholy to the shimmering ‘Modern Lies’, underpinned with a gritty sense of determination to come out the other side anew.
It would be safe to say Regina, Saskatchewan’s Nick Faye took a leap of faith with latest album Stumbling Distance. Having built a reputation locally through a series of self released albums and EPs, Faye returned with an ambitious concept album: a small town Prairie love story that becomes a victim to Canada’s vast geography. Working alongside producer Michael Wojewoda (Barenaked Ladies/ Buffy St Marie) drove Faye into a new way of working, and pushed the band in to sonic areas that they had previously shied away from. The result is a huge sounding record, layered with horns, organ and subtle electronics that lift the whole record into something beyond the usual Canadian alt-rock fare: Faye channels the minutiae of small town Prairie life but simultaneously tells a universal story.
Although based in Edmonton, Canada, the origins of Major Love lie closer to Edmonton North London. Having completed respective European tours Colleen Brown and Scenic Route To Alaska found themselves sharing a stage at The Bedroom Bar. A shared love of Harmony Guitars, Stax and sing-along choruses led them into the studio with mutual friend Jesse Northey of Jesse and the Dandelions and the record was born. Recorded straight off the floor during a heatwave, the record is imbued with an infectious energy. Brown’s voice cuts through ‘Tear It Down’s naggingly insistent riff and backwards guitars, giving way to the mantra like chorus- an ode to new beginnings.
Thirty years ago Cowboy Junkies put out a record that would become something of a blueprint for much of what has become the Americana genre: The Trinity Sessions. One only need look at the guests on the 2007 reworking of the record to see the influence the record had, with the likes of Natalie Merchant, Ryan Adams and Vic Chesnutt contributing to the revisited version. Since that release the band have never gone away, working on various records as well as their Latent Recordings label. In July this year the band released All That Reckoning, a record that wrangles with the world we find ourselves in today: a wake up call, and a call to arms. On ‘The Thing’s We Do To Each Other’, Margot Timmins intones a chilling message from history: “Fear is not so far from hate/ so if you get the folks to fear/ it only takes one small twist to kick it up a gear.” while brothers Peter and Michael, alongside Alan Anton provide perfectly subtle accompaniment bourne out of years of appreciation for each others strengths and weaknesses.
That a band stays together for over 30 years these days is remarkable. That at this stage in their career they should release a record of such power is even more so, but shouldn’t come a surprise to long term fans. Here’s to many more years of them doing it their own way.
Hamilton’s Wax Mannequin have been cutting a distinctive path through the Canadian scene over the course of seven albums released since the early 2000s. Part bar-room philosopher, part anti-folk songster he’s made a habit of covering the most serious and heavy themes with a healthy chunk of wit and whimsy. The result is a varied and shifting catalogue that has garnered a certain level of cult fandom alongside the likes of BA Johnston and The Burning Hell amongst others. Latest album Has A New Name is equal parts funny and heartbreaking - ranging from tracks about squirmy worms and the nature of basketball (which confirms that it is indeed, a good game) to heartbreaking observations on fear and loneliness. Recorded in a Hamilton industrial estate, the record grew out of impromptu sessions, and later added grand piano and even the brilliantly named twelve piece Earth Wind and Choir, who make the epic and uplifting ‘People Can Change’, a sort of halfway house between the Magnetic Fields and Up With People era Lambchop.
Rae Spoon returned last month with a new record bodiesofwater. Released 20 years to the day of their first show, the record is an exploration of the nature of water and the oceans surrounding their Vancouver Island home. As a non-binary person, Rae is no stranger to having an identity that doesn’t fit societal and legal structures. Like bodies, water is regulated and increasingly commodified, despite being fundamental to life.
For the album, Spoon recruited Laurie-Anne Torres (Folly & the Hunter, Land of Talk), and recorded with Torres, respectfulchild, and Terri Upton at The Noise Floor Recording Studio on Gabriola Island, BC. The result is an urgent, complex but ultimately hopeful set of songs that showcase Spoon’s trademark layered approach. The shimmering ‘Bioluminecent’ address a Tsunami warning in Victoria, and the similarities to the risks faced everyday of life on the road.
Toronto’s Skye Wallace has been busy since the release of 2016’s Something Wicked. A series of artist residencies as far apart as Newfoundland and Dawson City, Yukon have fed in to a new record, pencilled in for release later this year. ‘Swing Batter’ is the first track to be released from the record, and sets the tone for what is to come. Originally released on International Women’s Day the track, the track was inspired by the trial of Angelina Napolitano in 1911, a landmark case for Women’s rights in Canada, and the first instance of the battered woman defence being used in a murder trial on Canadian soil. Wallace explained to Samaritanmag that her residencies gave her access to histories of stories about women in those areas that have been hidden, and her writing has been inspired by them. “What I wanted evoke was the sense of power I felt when I read her story. I hope this is the best homage to what Angelina had to go through and what she means in the history of women’s rights.”
‘Ilinnut (For You)’ is the first release from Iqaluit rockers The Jerry Cans forthcoming album, their first since the JUNO nominated 2016 album Inuusiq/Life. Described as a message of love and a call to action, the track rumbles over Steve Rigby’s pounding drums, distorted violin and the urgent throat singing of Nancy Mike, building and soaring as the guitars fold into walls of glorious feedback. The band performed at 2018’s Juno award ceremony, their high energy performance captivating the audience both in the arena and across Canada on the telecast. As part of the show, the band bought other members of their Aakuluk Music record label, with them. Nunavut’s first, the label was founded by the Mike with the purpose to support Inuit and Indigenous musicians. “Our lives are precious and we are all important” she explains:”We sing for you and for each other, to tell you we all matter. The sounds remind me of all the good things and excitement coming from the Nunavut music scene which makes me so proud!”
Late last year Edmonton’s Wares emerged out of the gate with a joyous punk-rock rampage of a self-titled debut album. Chiming guitars, jangling riffs all underpinned by melodic bass and peppered by noise outbursts. There are plenty of moments to savour, but the records highlight is the clap-along positivity punk parcel that is ‘Keeping Me Awake’, an anthem to living for the weekend and to Cassia Hardy’s love for her art.
“The song's about my love of performing live, the exchange of energy between artist and audience. When we play it live, I usually dedicate it to the queer and trans people in the crowd, for giving me their energy and support!”
Ottawa’s Jim Bryson returned last month with the Tired Of Waiting EP, a record that captures a specific moment in time all captured over a 3 day period in his own Fixed Hinge Studio. The tracks for the EP were all written close together on a beat up $100 guitar Jim picked up in a fancy guitar shop. For the recordings Jim is joined by Jonas Bonetta (Evening Hymns), Jeremy Gara (Arcade Fire) , Philippe Charbonneau and Jamie Kronik (Scattered Clouds). With subject matters including collective hangovers, baseball meet and greets and paper plates amongst other things. The result is a delightfully fuzzy reminder of Bryson's status as a true songwriter’s songwriter, and one of Canada's best.
It’s a bold move for a Canadian singer-songwriter to use the web domain www.folkisdead.com, but then Sault St Marie’s Kalle Mattson has never been your standard singer songwriter. Since emerging with Someday The Moon Will Be Gold in 2014, Mattson has blended his distinctive voice and storytelling with textured electronics, squelchy guitars and folk influences as well as the occasional nod to the classic legacy acts. On deciding that the world didn’t need another sad folk record, Mattson took up the website handle as his motto.
While he now call’s Ottawa home, much of the record looks at growing up in Sault St Marie, a border town between Lake’s Huron and Superior. A coming of age records of sorts, the record fuses Mattson’s knack for storytelling with pop production courtesy of Colin Munroe (Drake/ Sky Ferriera). A true collaboration, the album has three different versions - the original acoustic demos, one with just synth and drum machines, and the album proper , representing the perfect fusion of the two.
Pulsing lead single ‘Kids On The Run’, complete with synth whooshes and handclaps showcases the collaboration at its finest.
Winnipeg’s Royal Canoe return early next year with Waver. Their Third studio album, the record sees the band developing the kaleidoscopic pop that has become their stock in trade further. Matt Peters distinctive delivery and the duelling drum attack and squelching electronics are still very much in play, but RAYZ signposts a new approach for the band. By recording as much as possible together, rather than allowing themselves the luxury of multi-layered building, they were able to strip each song to its core before rebuilding it. It also reveals the soulful core of the tracks, particularly in the case of RAYZ, which comes on like an early 70s deep cut, unearthed and reworked. The result of these changes in recording practice and writing is still one that fans of the band will be familiar with, but also a leaner, more direct and driven sound.
Karmen Omeasoo (AKA Hellnback) is a member of the Samson Cree Nation-Maskwacis. He was a founder of the first Native Hop Hop Supergroup War Party in the 90s and Team Rez Official. Having also featured as a vocalist on Tribe Called Red’s SUPLEX EP as well as other collaborations, he has stepped out with two solo projects #FOE: Family Over Everything and #Fourteen91. He describes the later record as an ode to overcoming the odds and finding purpose in life: providing a relatable experience for many First Nations communities and providing inspiration and motivation to a generation. Teaming up with BC’s Mob Bounce, ‘The Spirit’ made number 1 on the Indigenous Music Countdown chart in August.
Led by Shaun Brodie, Toronto’s Queer Songbook Orchestra are a 12 piece chamber pop group ensemble dedicated to exploring the Queer narrative in Pop Music. Since 2014 they have been performing on stages across Canada, bringing forward selections from the last century of popular music, bringing forward LGBTQ2S stories and songs to a wider audience. Tracks are interpreted and presented alongside personal stories connected to those tracks for the wider community. In sharing songs and stories they seek to foster deeper understanding and community. To this end, they are partnered with the Canadian Gay and Lesbian archive, who preserve each show, story and all research into a living archive.
The band’s second album Anthem and Icons features a selection of their covers, and is accompanied by a booklet detailing context, personal stories and historical information about each selection, including tracks by k.d. Lang, Joe Meek and this track by Arthur Russell amongst others.
Last month Sandro Perri released the long-awaited follow up to the acclaimed Impossible Spaces. The album In Another Life is an experiment in what Perri terms “Infinite Songwriting”. Side A presents the title track, an utterly mesmerising 24 minutes: a pulsing blend of programmed synth, piano guitar and voice that builds around, over and through a central minimal looping theme. Floating somewhere over the top, Perri’s distinctive gentle vocal intones mantra like phrases and questions. It’s a meditative marvel, and the antithesis of the non-stop consumption and now-now-now culture that we live in. “So hold a promise no bigger than two hands / Hope scaled and re-read in human / And not reduced to a list of demands / In another life.”
The flip side of the record presents another song experiment- three versions of the track “Everybody’s Paris”, all taking the same source melody but putting trust in to three different vocalists to make the track their own, first Perri himself, then The Deadly Snakes’ Andre Ethier, and finally Destroyer’s Dan Bejar. The result are three very different world views all built from the same starting point, some dark, some joyful, some thoughtful, and all inextricably linked and in harmony with each other. As with the albums title track, the song cycle unfolds, provokes and meditates on the world we live in today. It’s a deliberately slow and contemplative journey, a design for life, and a wonderful addition to Perri’s peerless discography.
Vancouver’s Jason Zumpano has long been a champion for some of Vancouver’s more abstract artists- his JAZ records label acting as a home for artists including Loscil, Hello, Blue Roses, Nick Krgovich and Sara Gold as well as his own project The Cyrillic Typewriter. For most recent album Water Over Glass, released earlier this year, Zumpano is joined by John Spiby on Saxophone and Frog Eyes’ Terri Upton on double bass. Appearing less as individual tracks and more like individual trips forming part of a longer journey, Zumpano builds a series of tones and drones with synth, e-bow and guitar, sometimes shimmering, sometimes discordant, often foreboding but always subtly shifting. There’s a stark beauty to the record, none more so on the interplay between Zumpano and Spiby on ‘The Reveller’, the bowed guitar tones and saxophone circling each other in a phased duet: subtle, comforting and, like all the best dreams, not a little unnerving.
Automatisme is the project of St-Hyacinthe, Québec based William Jourdain, who released his second album Transit through Constellation records this summer. The record is an exploration of what Jourdain terms “the architecture and landscape of supermodernity”. All of the material on the record is gathered from these spaces, some rural, including caves and forests, some urban and ex-urban spaces and more besides. These recordings are then taken, cut up and rendered as a series of probability based digital patches resulting in one of a kind iterations of the collected material: the randomness of nature and spaces, captured reworked then once again allowed to randomise to create a new, all enveloping, glitchy, ambient soundworld.