Since the first notes of Andrew Vincent’s “Canadian Dream” struck up on the first edition of Oh! Canada back in June 2009, Oh! Canada has been dedicated to showcasing the very best new music Canada has had to offer.
Over the last 10 years we’ve tried to unearth new talent, wherever we may find it, then bring it to you in the form of a downloadable and streamable playlist. It feels fitting therefore that the last edition of our first decade would welcome some familiar faces as well as a few brand new acts. This compilation also brings us to the 1000th featured track on Oh! Canada, and it seems only right that it should come from Adrian Teacher and Apollo Ghosts, who over the years, and through many guises, has been the most featured artist on Oh! Canada.
A massive thank you to everyone who has supported Oh! Canada through the years. A big thanks as well to Michael Feuerstack, who having appeared many times on the compilations, also provides the artwork for this edition.
Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada returns in December, and Oh! Canada will return in a new format early in 2020.
Download Oh! Canada 35 here (for one month only) or stream below.
On "The Surprise Knock", New Pornographer Carl Newman continues his mission for the perfect Ba Ba Ba (as explained to us in his 9 Songs back in September). The track, like the album it’s taken from In The Morse Code Of Break Lights draws from every era of the bands career - building on a rolling, almost Glam stomp that calls back to Mass Romantic or Electric Version, a pure power-pop rush of a chorus, calling back to ….basically all of the records, the swirling synths of Whiteout Conditions and of course those Ba Ba Ba’s that first started appearing in force on Brill Bruisers. It’s a euphoric rampage of a song that encapsulates all that is, and always has been great about The New Pornographers.
Micah Erenberg is a story-teller, a dreamer, and insatiably curious. Growing up in very rural Manitoba, he first picked up a guitar aged 9, set about forming bands and touring until around the age of 20, when he split off to do his own thing. 2016’s Poor Mic’s Toe gave a glimpse into a musical mind that touched on old time country, Elephant 6 psych pop and classic singer songwriting.
Intricate, lush and textured, Love Is Gonna Find You makes good on that early promise and then some. The woozy harmonies and storytelling are still firmly in place, but writ larger than before. Album opener, “Do it For Love” feels like an instant classic, its swooning strings and powerful positivity somehow coming across like Elliott Smith or Jonathan Donahue fronting The Polyphonic Spree. Elsewhere, there’s hushed introspection, the delicate “”Bored”, while title track “Love Is Gonna Find You” comes across like Neil Young covering Daniel Johnston’s near-namesake song about True Love.
In these troubled and anxious times, sometimes we need to be told everything is going to be ok. With this remarkably accomplished record, Erenberg does just that.
Artur Dyjecinski has spent the time since The Valley of Yessirree recording what he terms “an insane amount of music” to be released (hopefully) sometime in 2020. Over time, these songs have taken on an identity of their own, something Dyjecinski has been able to give them in the guise of Late King Daisy. Earlier this year, they got their first outlet, in the shape of the brooding “Hippopotaman”. On the track Dyjecinski’s sonorous voice hovers over swooping steel guitars, fluttering saxophone and ominous choirs.
Having played shows in London with the likes of Chance McCoy of Old Crow Medicine Show and Erin Rae in recent months, Late King Daisy will return next year with more shows and hopeful much more music.
Paper Beat Scissors 3rd studio album Parallel Line was released in September. The album finds Tim Crabtree, a relocated Brit who now calls Montreal home, quietly building on his previous sonic explorations into the pinnacle of his work to date. As ever built around Crabtree’s distinctive vocals, the album is full of lush chamber arrangements, rich textures and rhythms, executed in increasingly intricate and subtle ways.
Speaking to Atwood Magazine, Crabtree laid out the story of "All It Was" : “[It] is about coming out the other side after being really blindly caught up in something you’d given over a huge sense of importance to…That sense of just emerging out of the fog of something you thought was huge and significant, but then, kind of, the curtain gets pulled back on the Wizard of Oz and there’s just this ordinary man there. There’s a sense of disillusionment there in the song, but also a sense of relief, of re-finding the ground.”
Toronto's Scott Hardware returns with the follow up to 2016’s Mutual Repeat Infinity. Recorded live off the floor the record feels as raw as the emotions contained within it. Hardware's resigned croon is the bruised centrepiece, switching from croon to falsetto to spoken utterances calling to mind early 90s r'n'b breaks and ocassional moments of Yorke’ian Drama. If the previous record found Hardware at the club, “Bound Together” deals with the fallout in the days and weeks after, spiralling from embarrassment to desperation and beyond. A desperate plea to make amends.
Underpinned by heavy drums from Simone TB, burbling electronic fizzes, upright piano and swirling keys it possesses a woozy, regretful beauty that collapses in on itself by the tracks end.
Toronto's Bart have returned to continue the sonic exploration the began on their debut Holowmew. Fusing classic rock songwriting, multi-voice harmonies and proggy Jazz elements. Taut riffage, swooning strings and shifting time signatures are very much the order of the day on the new record - with each track twisting, contorting, and wandering through multiple musical avenues before returning to the core. It's at times a dizzying experience but one that invites the listener in, rather than losing them at the first turn.
"Today" is a case in point - starting with close harmonies and picked guitar, at the halfway mark it explodes into angular, attacking guitars and free saxophone (provided by Destroyer/Diana's Joseph Shabason) There can't be many artists capable of invoking both Crosby, Stills and Nash, Dianogah and TNT-era Tortoise at the same time, but Bart more than pull it off here.
For Laurel Sprengelmeyer aka Little Scream, distance gives perspective. Born in the USA but relocated to and ensconced within Montreal's music community, she returned to tour Trump's US with her last record, 2016’s Cult Following. Much of what she saw on the road feeds this album, non more so than the opening "Dear Leader" in which she sings of "a boot stepping on the face of everything I've ever loved" and issues a stark warning "when the waters rise, it'll be you Miami”.
Musically there's a distinct hint of the 80s-chiming synths and clean guitars ride the cool bass-lines. It's no coincidence there is a track on the album called “Disco Ball”. “Still Life” combines this with distinct Fleetwood Mac flavours thrown in for good measure. The track started life as an idea from friend and regular collaborator Mike Feuerstack, who Sprengelmeyer thanks in the liner notes for allowing her to "raise our song child in a home schooled kind of way”.
Montreal’s Legal Vertigo released their debut album Tragic Future Film Star in earlier November. The album's title track however had been around for far longer that, although you may not have been able to find it -mostly because the band copied it onto thrift store cassette albums in place of tracks of the same length, which they then sold at shows, predominantly at scene hub Brasserie Beaubien, where Mr. Legal Vertigo (aka musician/producer Andrew Woods) is a regular.
Woods, who produced this years Operators album Radiant Dawn in the studio around the corner from said venue, can also be regularly seen on stage with Basia Bulat (who is also one of the many people who make up the mass ranks of the Legal Vertigo project). In a recent interview with Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade/Operators) Woods describes Legal Vertigo as more of a production company, an outlet for music, poetry, short stories, and videos, all drawing back to an obsession with the sights and sounds of the late 80s and early 90s. There’s a seriousness to the record, but tempered by a playfulness- vocal namechecks and sounds are thrown in not with irony but with love. This is bourne out by “At The Brasserie”, essentially a love story to the scene where it all started and the characters you can find there.
Quaker Parents is the project of brothers Mark and J Scott Grundy, who came out of the Halifax scene of the early 2010s, through groups including A History Of, Gamma Gamma Rays, Heaven For Real and Monomyth. Described by the pair on their bandcamp as a "song wormhole project", over the last ten years they have put out a series of lo-fi tapes, one off singles, EPs and ideas. This year saw the release of second album proper Our Drawing Club on cassette. With only the album's closing track clocking in at more than three and a half minutes, it's packed with a series of beautifully simple ideas that are allowed to run all over the musical map- thin jangling guitars one minute, bontempi beats, echoes and broken loops merging into spiraling highlife guitars the next, each idea held together by Grundy's sweet and warm vocals.
Grundy has always had a way with a title and a lyric, and "Manuscript of Low Blows" is just on of those. Perhaps one of the most straight ahead tracks on the record it brings together everything the brothers do so well together. With laid-back, fluid guitar lines hovering over swinging drums, the band may have you believe they are slackers, but the sheer number of ideas contained within the record suggests they are anything but.
When Montreal's Alexandra levy, AKA Ada Lea released her debut album ..what we say in private in July this year we deservedly named it our album if the week. Clocking in at a little over 35 minutes it explores the aftermath of a relationship gone wrong. Much of the content for the record came out of a journal kept for 180 days after the breakup. Unsurprisingly the result is a record that is at times vulnerable, chaotic , at ease but ultimately hopeful.
Mercury, the album's opening track sets the scene perfectly. Allowing the song to take it's own form structurally it develops in its own way, changing pacing, style and mood, dynamically going through grief, anger, sweetness , chaos before reaching fuzzily defiant resolution and release.
Originally hailing from Charlottetown, PEI , the members of Kiwi Jr all made their way over time to Toronto. There's no hometown reminiscing here however-rather the influence of their new home town is writ large; the realities of moving to a big city and all it brings, and of the transition from adulthood to responsible grownup-ism in a place that doesn't care if you stay or go.
“Instead of being introspective, these songs are looking outward,” Jeremy explains. "This album is about the people we meet and things that happen to make up ourdays and weeks. It’s less about trying to express ourselves — it’s more interpreting the outside world.”
Rickenbakers ring out thanks to Brian Murphy (also of fellow PEI transplants ALVVAYS), group vocals yelp and the ten tracks rattle along at pace, full of the kind of references you might expect from a band whose singer once played in a band called Boxer The Horse (with Andrew Woods of Legal Vertigo). “Leslie” itself is a two minute murder mystery wrapped around a chiming guitar hook. Debut album Football Money gets a UK release in early 2020.
You know a band have a great live show when you start hearing reports that they were getting called for encores midway through a hometown show. With shows that can turn into a sea of writhing, moshing chaos Necking are such a band.
Debut album Cut Your Teeth captures a taste of the live experience, whistling past at breakneck speed, packing 9 songs into a frantic 22 minutes. Built on the pulverising rhythm section of Sonya R's bass and Melissa Kuipers drums, Nada Hayek's angular, writhing guitar lines twist, distort and spark while vocalist Hannah Karren's voice is riotously indignant. "Still Exist" stridently extols the value of self-worth in difficult times.
Founded by Anishinaabe-Canadian community leader Adam Sturgeon, and Kirsten Kurvink Palm, Whoop-Szo have spent the best part of the last ten years honing their sound on stage and on record, developing an almost telepathic groove, using their platform to address issues of colonial legacy and life in Canada’s Indigenous communities, in word, music and film. By incorporating Anishinaabe teachings and words into their art, the band reclaim elements of culture that was forcefully and deliberately and systematically stripped away from its people over centuries.
The concept of identity, and community runs throughout new album Warrior Down. “6.1 - 6.2” refers to the concept of Indian Status in the Indian Act, which set out criteria for legal recognition of Aboriginal Identity, “Cut Your Hair” details Sturgeon’s grandfathers experience in the Residential School System (his grandfather is the soldier whose image graces the album cover), while the utterly devastating “Gerry" is the true story of Sturgeon’s reclusive cousin Gerry, who was shot and killed by an RCMP officer in his own home in Holdfast, Saskatchewan. The track, with it’s pounding drums, sludgy guitars and repeated chorus of “warrior down in Saskatchewan Town” gives the album it’s title.
Amaruq, which translates as wolf in Inuktituk, as well as being the name of the school that Sturgeon and Palm worked at in Nunavik, opens the album with a headlong charge and sky-scrapingly large guitar lines. The track is dedicated to Larry Tamusai and all the other young people who have suffered, are suffering” and will suffer the effects of inadequate mental health resources in Indigenous communities across Turtle Island”
With Warrior Down, Whoop-Szo have crafted one of the years heaviest records, both from a musical perspective and in terms of the subject matter. Meshing DIY Punk Psychedelia and sludge-rock with Community, the record is a no holds barred calling out of injustices, both historical and current. Whether you choose to engage with and interrogate the albums contents or simply “Go inside, put on a record …drift into the couch” this is a record that both demands and deserves to be heard: a devastating and powerful record for each and every one of its 35 minutes.
Earlier this year Vancouver’s most fantastically named power-punk trio Brutal Poodle released a brand new 7” through the ever prolific Kingfisher Bluez. Featuring members of Jock Tears, Slow Learners and SBDC, the single was recorded by Joshua Wells of Destroyer/ Lightning Dust. "Crowd Control" is a helter-skelter sugar rush of a track, covered in glorious layers of fuzz, rumbling bass lines and a pretty sweet rip of a solo for good measure. Following on from 2017’s Long Time No See EP we can only hope the band find time for a follow up some time in 2020.
Toronto’s Possum have a great time in the studio. You can tell this much from a minute spent with the squealing guitars, rolling drums and heavy riffage contained within Space Grade Assembly. The spun out sonic adventure of album opener "The Hills" feels a little like White Denim jamming out to early Black Sabbath, before taking a profoundly krautrocky turn at the end, while "I Am The Tiger"’s reverb drenched vocals compliment the crashing garage-rock riffs before giving way to an almighty wail of a phased guitar solo. Elsewhere there’s surfy pop,and spaced out jams but the record is at its best when it lets it all hang out, settles into a grove and just lets rip.
Blessed returned this year with their first full length album, Salt. From the first low rumble of the slack bass, reverbed and heavily processed vocal declaration there's a sense of sinister foreboding. These are the sounds of dark damp corners, of doom and anxiety it suggests. Then just as suddenly, a twinkly guitar line breaks through momentarily. Chugging drums fight back, almost beating down the moment of light before synths and a soaring, raising vocal breaks through. All within the first few minutes of the record's start.
There's tension here threatening to pull the songs apart, as well as between the tracks themselves, all kept in tight check by the band's meticulously controlled musicianship. Salt is packed full of these struggles for dominance, clean guitar lines and shimmering cymbols constantly pushing upwards against more mechanical, machine like hum, pummeling industrial gloom, or strident post punk twitch. It's these moments, as on "Thought" when the time signatures flip on a dime and the clean lines cut through and let the light in that the record truly comes into its own.
15 years after the release of their last album N’écoutez Pas, Montreal’s avant-rock quartet Fly Pan Am released a new album C’est Ça via Constellation. All four members had been actively engaged in other projects over the years, including Pas Chic Chic, Feu Thérèse, Avec Le Soleil Sortant De Sa Bouche and Panopticon Eyelids amongst others, with all of those elements feeding in to the new record, creating an enhanced, and complimentary sonic pallette. Above all there’s a real sense of urgency and restlessness to the record, a desire to scratch a sonic itch in ways the band hasn’t done together for some time.
The rampaging "Distance Dealer" picks up the direction that the band were heading in all those years ago and pushes it that little bit further: churning motorik beats, get layered with electronic noise interventions, driving bass and widescreen guitars nod to Husker Du and MBV respectively, collapsing in on itself with electronic burbles before eventually picking up the beat again and driving forward full tilt to the finish. Sonically adventurous, it’s a pretty clear indication that this reunion is as far away from a nostalgia trip as it’s possible to get.
Formerly of Victoria, but now calling Montreal home, Fountain released their latest album Laughing Through Traffic earlier this year. The record found the band continuing to push their spiraling and freaked out take on post punk further and further from its point of origin, the tightly wound self titled album they released almost 5 years ago.
As the years have passed, theband have shifted from a start/stop dynamic to something more like start/stop/stutter/collapse and do something else entirely. Vocals hiccup and shreik, noise swirls appear from nowhere, all laced with a dry sense of humour delivered in a Svenonius like drawl. The twisting riff of “Cataclysmic Fusion” might be the easiest way in to the album, but ultimately we couldn’t look past a track “Detonation Level Raw”, if only for the lyric "I'm an art deco gecko/ all I drink is prosecco…that’s not healthy”.
Free Jazz, Punk, trip-hop and Franglais beat-poetry crash into each other at full force on FET. NAT’s Le Mal, which was short listed for this years Polaris Prize. Ten years in to their career the Hull, Quebec natives are as ellusive ever. Stuttering drums rub up against elastic bass lines, twisted samples, skronking sax and schoolyard chants on "Patio Monday". In lesser hands the mixture could be chaotic, but not one beat here is unintentional, with drummer Olivier Fairfield (Last Ex/Timber Timbre/ Andy Shauf) extraordinarily sharp and deliberate playing holding all the elements together.
Jagged, bold and constantly shifting, the first half of the album is played live with electric instruments, while the second half takes those original ideas and provides a MIDI interpretation or refraction of the original. It all makes for a consuming, occasionally confusing and ultimately rewarding album. File under: uneasy listening.
There's a certain pressure that comes with being the first *whatever* to sign to a legendary label. In this case, Corridor are the first Francophone act to sign to Sub Pop records. It doesn’t seem to have effected the Montreal band one iota however. Apparently almost within hours of signing their deal the band headed to the studio to record what became their third album Junior. Jam packed with duelling jangling guitar lines that swirl round the band's hazy vocals and nailed down rhythm section there's a joyful exuberance to their work, non more so than on the album's lead off track Topographe.
Having waited seven years between impossible spaces and last year's In Another Life, it may come as something of a surprise to find a new album from Sandro Perri under his own name.
While In Another Life explored the ideas of the infinite song (“Everybody's Paris", on which Perri handed vocal duties to Andre Ethier and Dan Bejar), Soft Landing seems to pick up where that albums title track left off. Perri acts as the expert song constructor with his co-conspirators layering sounds into a constantly evolving and immersive musical meditation: barely plucked arpeggios, organ swells, wind chimes and synth swooshes combine and build, while Perri’s hushed voice repeats “Time (you got me, you got me)”, seemingly imbuing the phrase with equal parts relief and regret.
“Wrong About The Rain” has a similarly mantra like quality, but represents one of the more straightforward tracks in Perri's recent catalogue. Built on the churning interplay between the 70s funk clavinet and drumkit, Perri's always languid and ornate guitarl ines spiral while his vocal hangs, dream-like and yearning, above. It's another addition to an already exemplary catalogue.
Over the last ten years Adrian Teacher has released some of our favourite records, be it as Apollo Ghosts, Adrian Teacher and The Subs, COOL TV , Arbutus or as part of Sunrise Social or Masterchef. Over the years his music has been the most featured on Oh! Canada and it seems only fitting that his track would end the first ten years of the compilation, and mark the 1000th featured track.
Western Red Cedar is taken from Living Memory, an album which finds Teacher reviving the Apollo Ghosts moniker. It couldn't be further from the sprightly, lyrical jangle-punk riot that has gone before however. Rather, this record is, in effect, a solo minimalist ambient record, recorded predominantly on a Spinet piano acquired from Craigslist. The record is profoundly moving, and subtley devotional.
In a statement on the record Teacher explains it is an album about loss, kinship and memory: ”During repeated and prolonged drought, cedar trees begin to die from the top down. In a sense, my father is dying the same way. He has Alzheimer’s disease.
I’m a settler here, and cedar trees are not part of my kinship networks. But for the people indigenous to this part of the world, the unnatural death of cedar trees are diminishing their kinship networks.
My personal tragedy – the slow, inexorable dimming of my father – is being reproduced, repeated, amplified as the effects of climate change destroy the kinship relationships that indigenous people have with plants and animals. Climate change is another facet of colonialism.
Even though cedar trees are not my kin, I still feel despair because they’re dying. I see them everywhere now, when I’m out hiking or just walking around my neighborhood. This album is my attempt to manipulate the grief and despair I feel about climate change. If I can give it a form, maybe I can understand it. Maybe I can feel that grief, listen to it, set it aside briefly, and then try to take action.
Many of the songs are expressions of some of my most vivid memories of my father. If I can give those memories form, maybe I can relive them, engage with them, set them aside, and then appreciate the time with my father still left to me. Maybe, when my memory also fades, I can at least listen to the songs for a reminder of my memories of him.”