Posts Tagged ‘ Canrock

Hottest Bands in Canada

I was recently asked by Matthew over at I(Heart)Music to contribute to the blog’s annual “Hottest Bands in Canada” poll. It was a really fun exercise and I can’t thank Matthew enough for allowing me to participate.You can see the results here.

As I’m sure is the case with everyone involved, not all of my picks made it onto the final list of 33 artists. And while I believe every artist on the list is worthy of inclusion, I wouldn’t necessarily agree with the order in which they came in (as is the nature of lists). I think that a lot of my reservations about certain artists’ placement comes down to how each individual critic chose to define “Hottest Band.” My definition and my top ten (with justification) are below.

My Definition:

In my eyes, the “Hottest Bands in Canada” refers to the groups with the most forward momentum. So I’ve purposely ignored, larger, better-known acts that put out good or even great albums this year. So you won’t find Broken Social Scene or Stars on this list – as great as their albums were, those groups tend to have a pretty stable audience and their detractors are unlikely to be swayed. Instead, I’ve chosen ten artists who have created enough momentum in the last 12 months to (hopefully) break them to a larger audience in 2011. Many have only an EP or some digital tracks to their name. But do to the groundwork they laid in 2010, that should all change.

Hottest Bands

10 – White Lung: Of all the bands to come out of Vancouver’s Emergency Room venue and recording studio, White Lung posses the rare combination of musicianship and songwriting chops with an uncompromising attitude that coalesced on their debut album It’s the Evil this summer. Their success proves that the Vancouver scene that birthed them is more than a wall of arty-noise.
9 – Apollo Ghosts: No band delivered a record that was as much scrappy fun as Apollo Ghosts’ excellent sophomore album Mount Benson. The Vancouver trio, led by Adrian Teacher, were able to find a through line between all of this country’s indie sub-genres to craft a hooky concept album about their hometown of Nanaimo without an ounce of pretension. That they’ve already followed the record with a sweet three-way split cassette ensures that we’ll be hearing much more from this cuddly three-piece.
8 – Eamon McGrath: At 21, this Edmontonian ex-pat (he moved to Toronto in the spring) has more records under his belt than most bands have in a lifetime. His latest, Peacemaker effortlessly blends Bruce Springsteen’s working class-everyman aesthetic with the DIY ethos he learned in Edmonton’s punk-rock underground. Showing no sign of slowing down either his touring or recording schedule there’s little doubt we’ll be hearing much more from McGrath in the next 12 months.
7 – Hollerado: Could Hollerado be Canada’s best bar band? It would seem so. While treading in the same small-town no-bullshit rock as a litany of other innocuous groups in this country, Hollerado have managed to climb to the top of the heap by putting new creative twists on old tropes. Their songs are catchy with big-choruses, perfect for singing along with after a few frothy beverages. But coupled with an innate sense of self-promotion – DIY videos, tours to countries better known groups generally ignore – Hollerado have established themselves as an entity all their own. After touring the same record for the last two years, the time is ripe for their next effort. How could they possibly disappoint?
6 – Rich Aucoin: If you’ve seen one of Rich’s numerous DIY-stage shows, then you’ll understand why there was enormous anticipation for his debut album – which he claims features contributions from over 500 different Canadian artists – to drop this year. That the record was postponed until 2011 and we were left with only a four-track EP should bring that anticipation to a fever pitch by the time Public Publication finally drops.
5 – Metz: Still relative unknowns outside of their native Ontario, this trio who expertly smash elements of hard-core, metal, grunge and noise-rock into a pummeling wall of sound have more and more local journalists and fans frothing at the mouth with each all-too short 7-inch they drop. A promised full-length (any time guys) should bring them the national respect they deserve.
4 – Memoryhouse: Like many of the bands on this list, Memoryhouse have managed to make some major waves with very little material. In this case, the Guelph duo of Evan Abeele and Denise Nouvion have managed to get influential U.S. based blogs like Pitchfork and Gorillavsbear frothing at the mouth through a series of remixes, seven-inches and their excellent Years EP. And really, who can blame them? In the over-saturated glo-fi/chill-wave scene Memoryhouse manage to stand out with their hazy, shoe-gaze dream-pop and vocals that harken back to the 90s lackadaisical hey-day. What’s not to love?
3 – Bonjay: With Thunderheist over and done, the door’s wide open for a new pair of rump-shaking party starters in this country, something that Toronto duo Bonjay do with ease. No band pairs Euro-dance beats with dancehall and dub-reggae bass lines so well (or at all) with singer Alanna holding it all down with her powerful pipes. With only a handful of tracks and some remixes to their names, these guys have nowhere to go but up.
1 & 2 – PS I Love You/Diamond Rings: You’d be hard pressed to find two bands on this list more sonically diverse than Toronto’s Diamond Rings and Kingston rockers PS I Love You. But the two groups are so intrinsically linked it’s impossible to talk about one without the other coming up. After releasing a split 7-inch together last August, both bands have enjoyed a slow build in anticipation and hype leading up to the release of their debut albums this fall. Few bands were able to unite both fans and critics both at home and down South the way these two bands have.

Record Review: Yukon Blonde – “Yukon Blonde”

This review originally appeared at

Playing the influence game is always fun, but sometimes it can get in the way of a damn good record. That’s exactly what we’ve got here in Kelowna, B.C. rockers Yukon Blonde‘s debut — a damn good record. So let’s skip the Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac comparisons and move right along.

This quartet were formerly known as Alphababy, and easily synthesize their influences into great ’70s rock tunes, coming across like the Great White North version of Drive-By Truckers.

Producer Shawn Cole focused on the sunny pop side of their sound, which belies the band’s visceral power as live performers. But it was a smart decision, as the cleaner sound really showcases Yukon Blonde’s three-part vocal harmonies on tracks like “Wind Blows” and “Kumiko Song.” Meanwhile, tunes like “Babies Don’t Like Blue Anymore” are typical of the light, fun attitude the group apply to their music.

The soundtrack to your summer starts here.

Hot Hot Heat’s Steve Bays discusses “Future Breeds”

This interview originally appeared at

Hot Hot Heat are finally ready to release Future Breeds, their fourth studio album, and first disc since splitting with Sire Records.

Frontman Steve Bays has described the long-awaited release as a “pretty complicated party album,” which they spent a great deal of time shopping to labels.

CHARTattack caught up with Bays to talk about new bassist Parker Bossley, recording random people from the street, the “spazzy” and “dancey” new album and the awesomeness of Ryan Dahle.

Your current European tour is your first in quite a while.
We’ve been off of touring for the most part for two years.

Is this the first tour with new bass player Parker Bossley?
Yeah, it is. We’ve done a bunch of one-off shows here and there in Vancouver. But this is the first actual full-on tour with him. It’s pretty cool. It’s just been a really good tour to break him in on. The fans have been… well, there are fans period.

And you just played one of the Olympics-related gigs out in Surrey.
We weren’t really sure if that was going to be cool or what, but it ended up being a few thousand people and probably the most absurdly violent crowd. Just a crazy mosh pit, which is really weird for the Olympics.

It was probably my favourite show that we’ve done in Vancouver in a long time. They put so much production value into it. There were jumbotrons and plasma screens and people outside of the tents watching it on T.V. It was insane. At this point, I just like playing anything that’s different.

So when will the new record be out?
June 1 is what we’re telling people now.

Are you able to divulge any of the label information?
Our manager said we can’t talk about it until we’ve actually signed it. You know, ink to paper.

We were on Sire and we weren’t that stoked on the direction we were heading musically. I wanted to build my own studio and write a ton of songs and make it the way we heard it. I spent a year learning how to record and we made an album the way we wanted to make it, but we didn’t want to look for a label until the record was done. I wanted whoever was going to sign us to sign us on our new sound rather than our old one.

The main thing that I never really like was that there was so much emphasis placed on the radio aspect. And I love hearing our songs on the radio, but I just thought there were so many songs that were not given attention that were just as good if not better. I don’t mind radio, but I want a label that’s going to push us as a band and push the album and it not be so radio-oriented.

[Since this interview, it’s been revealed that  Dina Alone Records will put out Future Breeds – Ed.]

As great as “Bandages” was, I always thought that there were other songs on Make Up The Breakdown that would have made equally great singles.
Yeah, it wouldn’t have been my first choice, either. And that’s why we knew we needed to make the record before we talked to any labels. That’s why it’s taken so long to come out.

Can you describe the band’s “new sound?”
Somebody that heard it in Germany yesterday said it sounds like it was made by a band who is on a lot of drugs, but I was flattered. Finally a nice review.

Are the tracks you have the videos for at your website indicative of the new sound?
Sort of. Every song’s different. Those two just happened to be the first two we had finished mixes of. I wouldn’t say those are the flagship tracks. Production-wise, it’s kind of in that vein. There’s a lot of weird ideas and time signatures.

It’s definitely made for musicians and music fans. I don’t expect it to necessarily go over super-well with everyone. But I expect that people that listen to a lot of music and are a bit more critical will get where we’re coming from. It’s a bunch of guys in a room with a bunch of fun toys.

There was this one kid on the street busking and I heard him jamming along in the same key as one of the songs I was working on. We just ran down and got him. I recorded him soloing over this one song and I cut it together for eight hours. And there’s a raging sax solo. There’s a lot of weird moments like that.

How did Ryan Dahle get involved?
He heard the first six demos we were working on and was stoked that I wanted to record it myself. He had connections to all studios that would be willing to record it for nearly nothing. But I was like, “Nope. I want to record it in this office building and I want to do it myself.”

He joined in because he was just so curious about it and he ended up mixing the whole record. I think we spent eight months mixing it. He and I were total nerds for getting the perfect sound. I’m a super-nerd for old microphones and old amps.

Will he be going out on tour with you as well?
He’s on this run with us right now. It’s been awesome. He’s a great guitar player. It’s nice to have another layer. He plays a little bit of keyboards, too.

Is he going to be playing with you at Canadian Music Week?
Possibly yes, possibly no. It’s kind of right down to the wire right now because we’re going to drive out there in a van and it’s a matter if we’ll have enough room.

From Vancouver?
We want to use our own amps. I don’t like doing the back line thing if I can avoid it. I’d rather use our drums and a bunch of old amps from the ’60s and ’70s than brand new ones. I don’t like new amps.

Do you have a tour lined up around the CMW gig??
I think there’s four other shows. But we’ve just been hermits for two years. We’re just excited to play again. This tour’s just been like heaven. And we didn’t really know what to put on the record. We almost have a whole other record other than the one that finished.

Having been gone for so long were at all worried that people would have forgotten or moved on from the band?
Yeah, totally. We’re like that every tour — do people even remember us? But then every tour there seems to be a different generation of kids that seem to get into it. I see all my friends as jaded aging indie rockers. But I forget that every year there’s new kids getting into music and discovering the band.

Since we’ve been together 11 years, there seems to be like a consistent turnout to the shows. We’re still an indie band at heart. I assume with every album that this is the one that doesn’t make sense to anyone. But every record seems to garner more appreciation for the band.

I think you’ve changed it up with each record. You could have been ghettoized with the whole dance-punk thing but you very gracefully moved on.
We get praised and criticized, from both angles. By the time Make Up The Breakdown came out we were starting to get over the whole concept of dance-punk and it feels like it’s still going on right now. Sometimes I think it’s good to not overthink it.

Our new record is kind of spazzy, but pretty dancy and it’s extremely melodic. I think it’s a bit more sophisticated to keep us challenged. We wanted it to sound like something that’s never come out before, but we didn’t want to shoot ourselves in the foot and be alienating. Our goal was to make it a party album. But it’s a pretty complicated party album.

Record Review: Still Life Still – "Girls Come Too"

This review originally appeared at

Alright, let’s get this outta the way. Still Life Still sound like Broken Social Scene — a lot like them. That they’re both signed to the BSS-run Arts & Crafts and Kevin Drew co-produced the band’s debut record isn’t going to help the comparisons, either.

But outright dismissing the group denies the chance to listen to some great tunes. Drew was always concerned with bucking expectations, burying some of BSS’s catchiest material under layers of dense reverb and feedback or slowing would-be hits to a crawl.

Still Life Still, though, are freed from these expectations, allowing them to explore the pop potential of all their post-millennial influences. The slow building “Kid” is an excellent example, focusing on groove and melody over atmospherics.

Still Life Still might not be the most original sounding band, but Girls Come Too is certainly worth your time.

Record Review: Bahamas – "Pink Strat"

Bahamas is the musical pseudonym for Alfie Jurvanen, a Toronto musician who’s spent the past couple of years playing piano and guitar with Feist’s band. He’s also made appearances, live and on record, with a bevy of Toronto’s heaviest hitting indie bands including Great Lake Swimmers, Zeus and Hayden.

The latter of those collaborators seems to be the closest thing to Jurvanen’s own musical adventures on display on this, his debut album.

Feist and Zeus reciprocate in the studio, as does head Golden Dog Dave Azzolini. But their help is heard more in the back rather than the foreground on Pink Strat, as Jurvanen eschews what could have easily been a Toronto all-star rave up in lieu of a more subdued album that puts him at centre stage.

This review originally appeared at

Canrock 80s – Slow – "Have Not Been the Same"

Holy shnikes, look what I just found on youtube. Okay, it’s not the usual, embarassing “oh God I remember them!” entry. More like a “wholly shit this is rad!” one. This is the original promo clip for Vancouver proto-grunge group Slow‘s “Have Not Been the Same.” These guys were contemporaries of Green River and as you can probably tell from listening to the tune, they shared more than just a little in sonic similarities. 

The tune is from their “Against the Glass” EP which now goes for about $75 when you can find a copy. These guys played a show at the Plaza of Nations during Expo 86 but a riot quickly broke out and the crowd stormed the BCTV onsite stage. Though they signed a US record deal, they never released an LP. Instead they morphed into Circle C, then Copyright, a rather proggy mid-90s canrock act who are a lot more fitting to the usual Canrock 90s entries. Interestingly enough, this song provided the title for an excellent book about Canadian rock music. 

Record Review: Reverie Sound Revue – "S/T"

Reverie Sound Revue are the brainchild of pinch-singing Broken Social Scenester Lisa Lobsinger.

Originally formed in Calgary, the band balance the grooves and dense sonics of the Toronto collective with the more melodic hooks of their Western counterparts in New Pornographers — try and imagine “7/4 (Shoreline)” covered by Stereolab and you’re getting close to the group’s vibe.

Unfortunately, they chose to hang their entire debut on that vibe — on the first few tracks it works but wears out its welcome over the course of an entire 11-song record. That’s not to say there aren’t good songs to be found, there’s just too much of “the same but not as good” in between.

Reverie Sound Revue might have a great record in them, this just isn’t it.

This review originally appeared at

Record Review: The Evaporators/Andrew W.K. – "A Wild Pear"

A Wild Pear is the new split seven-inch single by Nardwuar-fronted garage rockers The Evaporators and hard-partying motivational speaker Andrew W.K.

The EP is littered with references to the obscure past. The title is a play on A Wild Pair, the title of the 1968 split album between The Guess Who and The Staccatos (who eventually became the Five Man Electrical Band).

The Evaporators side features an original cut and a cover of The Hou-Lops “Oh Non.” Meanwhile, W.K. pays tribute to our country by knocking off covers of The Leather Uppers “Don’t Sell Hot Dogs Tonight” and Subhumans classic “Oh Canaduh.”

Like much of The Evaporators output, the circus around the music is more interesting than the actual music. But the band are always improving and this release is no different.

W.K.’s half, on the other hand, reveals a new, stripped down sound from his over-the-top albums. It better suits the source material and acts as the perfect foil to The Evaporators’ sound.

This review originally appeared at

Record Review: The British Columbians – "The British Columbians"

This three-piece, who hail from disparate suburbs of Vancouver, rock hard in grand Can-rock traditions — think Big Sugar or that first Big Wreck album.

Songwriter and lead vocalist Girard Knox adopts twang to his voice that perfectly suits the band’s country-blues rock that’s heavy on the slide guitar and the bottom end.

Live, the band operates as a quartet that emphasizes the bar band rock elements of their sound like second cut “Hoodoo.” But this sells them short. As capable as they are of throwing themselves into a wall of guitar wails, it’s tracks like opener “Bye Bye Marie” and the stunning “In The Leaves” that show the band’s full breadth of songwriting.

That Knox and drummer Dave Moran produced this debut themselves hints that this is barely the tip of the band’s ambitions.

This review originally appeared at

Incoming: Great Bloomers – "This Ain't You (Live @ TARA)"

Via Exclaim’s Click Hear

up-Photo1GreatBloomersA great song from a great album by a great band gets that much greater thanks to this live version from the second instalment of the Audio Recording Academy’s Secret Sessions.

Great Bloomers debut is a stark contrast to the EP they released two years ago. Where that was a visceral, ramshackle affair, Speak of Trouble asks listeners to look inward lyrically and sonically. “This Ain’t You” is a prime example of this approach, showing through two characters that no matter how deep you might bury your feelings, they’ll always rise to the top for all to see. The slightly more laid back nature of this semi-acoustic live take is well suited to the beautifully effortless voice of main Bloomer Lowell Sostomi. His pitch perfect rendition is just as emotionally fuelled as its studio counterpart.

Listen to the track here.

Related Post:

Record Review: Great Bloomers – “Speak of Trouble”