We finally got around to checking out the latest release by Ottawa’s own Worn Robot, called Worn Robot 3.
The 19-track album, their third, starts with the first track “More Than You Know” sounding reminiscent of the brooding darkness of Elliot Smith but then quickly shift to more of an industrial and heavy sound in the second song, “Astral Leaf.” Then just as you get used to the change of pace, the next track is right back to those sombre acoustic sounds for a few tracks.
The fifth song, “Glitch in the Shell,” revs up the intensity again with its instrumental industrial edge, taking the listener to a completely different place. The harsh breaks between songs and the changes of pace becomes a noticeable pattern throughout the album. The experimental pieces that appear every couple songs gives the impression of an alter-ego creeping out of everyone once and while, taking some risks and pushing the limits of his thoughts and sound. It really keeps listeners on their toes, and I am very intrigued to see how this plays out live.
A song that really stuck out after a couple of listens, through, was “How Many More Times” with its acoustic-grunge feel to the chord progressions and the sound of fingers sliding between chords. The first slide gave me chills. The song also really flows well into the next instrumental, which is heavier and a little more rocking but still grunge-laden in sound. You really don’t hear enough instrumentals in that style.
Worn Robot 3 was definitely influenced by grunge but there is also those aforementioned industrial elements and even some modern hardcore that breaks through. I encourage you to carve out some time in your busy schedule and actually sit down and take in this album from start to finish. This album is an experience, not just ambiance.
We’ve been chomping at the bits to share Shadowhand‘s debut LP Through the Fog with the world, and that day is finally here. The Ottawa band is releasing the album through Record Centre Records, and it will be available in vinyl format and online. We’re also very excited to present the album release party this Saturday, March 10th, at St. Alban’s Church along with The Heavy Medicine Band and Merganzer.
Through the Fog is a nine-track effort, rolling through the peaceful lulls and buoyant peaks throughout. It is, more than anything, a warm album, and full of rich and robust tones. The allure of Brandon Allan Walsh’s bass lines is undeniable, as they sink deep into the listener and carry the songs from start to finish. Jamieson Mackay and Matthew Corbiere have a chemistry on guitar that elevates their clean, reverb-laden tones. Sean Tansey’s subtle and rolling drums stay in the background for much of the album, but occasionally the barrage of percussion crashes forth like waves breaking against a shore.
Their dreamy and unhurried approach gently takes us for a journey through the unknown. Even in the eight-and-a-half minute long “Light of Afternoon” the band begins at a languid pace and builds up the energy that climaxes around the 5 minute and 30 second mark, and then pulls back with an ambient and daydream-like conclusion. Jamieson’s soft, raspy voice melds seamlessly with the instrumentals, and fans of Destroyer and The War on Drugs will undoubtedly fall into his vocal style with ease.
Shadowhand recorded Through The Fog at a home near Ladysmith, Quebec in two sessions in fall 2016 and winter 2017. It was largely recorded live off-the-floor, and engineered by artist and producer Arturo Portocarrero, with some sporadic overdub sessions in Ottawa. Mixing was done by band member Brandon Allan Walsh and mastered by Philip Shaw Bova, with beautiful album art done by Haley Wolk.
Listen to the album below, and be sure to come out to see them at the album release party at St. Alban’s Church this Saturday, March 1oth. Doors at 7:30 pm. Physical tickets available at Compact Music, The Record Centre, and Irene’s Pub, and online tickets can be purchased here.
Valois have released their new album We’re All In This Together But You, which is their follow up to 2015’s Love Dies But You Won’t. Valois is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and producer Charles Hoppner, and has been ongoing since 2012.
We’re All In This Together But You builds off of Valois’ recognizable stripped-down synth-pop sound, and is informed by influences like Prince and Of Montreal. Their sound is rounded out with the addition of full live band containing singer Shannon Murray and drummer Don Rankin since 2015. While the key aspects of Valois’ dark, experimental minimalism still provide the skeletal framework for the album, there is a distinct movement towards brighter and more upbeat compositions. The arrangements contain melodic flourishes and layered instrumentation that transport us back to and era when VHS and The Sony Walkman ruled all.
“The synthesizer’s an amazing instrument,” explains Hoppner. “You can design the actual sound, and generally a lot of my favourite music—David Bowie’s Low, Kanye West’s albums from Graduation onwards, Prince, Of Montreal—is pretty synth-heavy but always with a more human edge. I listened to a lot of industrial and post punk when I was younger and also hung out at Soybomb in Toronto a lot where I’d be exposed to different hardcore and post-hardcore bands every night. That might have a less obvious effect musically but the attitude, political engagement and musical power have stuck with me.”
“I think that more recently, hearing Thanya Iyer and Fet.Nat and Bowie’s Blackstar really take jazz into new spaces really pushed my songwriting into a space that had a more rounded, jazzy feel in parts. At the same time I’ve always loved really aggressive, abstract guitar playing – Adrian Belew, Neil Young, etc. – and I think the humanity of a really emotional solo on an instrument that you can bend and slur the tone at will really creates an awesome contrast with synth-heavy music – and that’s the appeal of a lot of post-punk to me like Wire and PIL – there’s synths but it’s not synth-pop.”
Hoppner’s unrefined and raw vocals are half the charm of this band, as he seeks to build narratives and weave stories with his lyricism rather than trying to perfect his pitch. There are echoes of Morrissey in his songwriting, and the lyrical literalism he employs is simultaneously melancholy, subversive, poetic, and refreshing. This is exemplified many times throughout, but you don’t need to look further than the first line of the opening track “Easy To Love” to get a sense of what I’m talking about: “I’m easy to love, but hard to keep loving / You’re in my heart, but my head is too troubling”
“Lately, I really enjoy approaching music from a standpoint of writing upbeat, catchy pop tunes that have a much darker more subversive edge once you start peeling back the layers,” Hoppner explain. “That’s why I love glam—it’s like literally applying makeup to songs to hide and smooth over aspects of the truth in a way that makes the whole truth come into sharper, more dramatic relief. I was really determined to write about the world around me more—like how Heartsparkle is about the barriers a lot of women I know face in the art world—but these circumstances kept forcing the songs to become more insular and I think that is better.
“Glitter started as a pretty generic pro-genderqueer song inspired by the weekend I saw and met PWR BTTM (and basically had a minor breakdown from feeling inferior) but when Ben was outed as an abuser it became much more of a personal and oppositional thing—about identity, self acceptance, with just a passing nod to how much I regretted spending any emotional energy on that band. A lot of the songs evolved in that way and became more personal while still referencing what’s going on in the world—I don’t think it’s possible to separate the personal and political in 2018. It was a very cathartic record to make and I let myself take creative risks I wouldn’t have let myself do five years ago.”
The incorporation of female vocal parts and harmonies on the album add another dimension to it. Shannon Murray’s part in “Heartsparkle” is short but potent: “Here I go every move is on display / Just undress me weigh my sins / Here I go I’m the object for your gaze / Judge my everything but I don’t fear you.” Felicity DeCarle of Sparklesaurus also makes an appearance on the album, helping Hoppner to work on melodies and lyrics on “The River.”
“Sparklesaurus is my favourite Ottawa band and Felicity is a songwriter who I really, really admire,” says Hoppner. “She’s the rare type of composer who never leaves any loose ends in her music—every Sparklesaurus song is fully formed and perfectly structured for emotional impact. And she is a really fantastic lyricist.”
Music lovers who listen closely to lyrics and dissect them will appreciate this album just as much as someone who wants to let loose and have a dance party. There is a lot to this album, even in only eight tracks. We’re All In This Together But You is worthy of some deep exploration, and is an album that should be set on “repeat.”
Valois is set to release We’re All In This Together But You at LIVE! on Elgin February 25th, and the event will also incorporate comedy and burlesque in addition to the music. Advanced tickets are available for $8 here, and there will be some for sale at the door. Be sure to stream the album below.
Jon Creeden and the Flying Hellfish are back at it, this time with a power-packed full length LP for us to chew on. Jon Creeden has put down his acoustic guitar for now, and teamed up with his three buds to put together a new 10-track album called Stall. We’re also excited to premiere the first track,”Anxious,”off the album below, as well as present the album release party at House of TARG on April 6th along with The Creeps (!), Finderskeeps (!!), and Joe Vickers (!!!).
For those of us familiar with Jon’s music, some of these songs will be very familiar. Whether he played them in a damp basement, in a church at OXW, or one of the many venues in town, Creeden has compiled 10 of his best songs written lately for Stall. Not only that, but the sheer intensity and vigour of these songs translate perfectly from the acoustic versions, and if there’s one guy in town that knows how to write a hell of a catchy punk rock song, it’s Jon Creeden. His band mates add to the fullness of the sound, and while Creeden’s relentless guitar is the backbone, the rest of the guys are the icing on top of the cake.
Newer tracks like “Way Home” have layers of intricate instrumentation in them, and flourishes of guitar that ring out along with thunderous percussion. Songs that we’ve heard live a few times before, such as “Nailbiter,”One Coast to Another,” and “Stall” are refined and tuned to the ear’s content, and sound better than ever.
If there is one fault to find in Creeden (and there aren’t many), it’s that he hasn’t released a damn LP since Beards in 2013… the humanity! Although, in fairness, he’s released some incredible splits with The Flying Hellfish over the past few years which helped to tide us over until something longer came out. Thankfully, that wait is over.
The songs are crafted through the filter of emotion that Creeden so naturally taps into. He reaches deeper than ever to write lyrics that hit the listener right in the gut, and phrased to accentuate the powerful guitar riffs and booming bass lines which carry his words. The album finishes with a bang, as the band brings in some crowd vocals during “Coffee Shops” along with an irresistibly catchy hook in “Sensible Underpants.”
Stall will be put out in digital and physical formats (including vinyl) on April 6th, but the pre-order for it starts on February 13th. Just in time for Valentine’s Day… just saying.
It’s been just a little while since we had some fresh material from Ottawa’s own Shadowhand, and we’re excited to premiere their sultry new track “Split.” The song is the third single off Shadowhand’s debut LP Through The Fog, which will be released on March 10 at St. Alban’s Church.
“Split” is an exciting taste of things to come as we wait patiently for Through the Fog to come out. The band’s airy and restrained approach should not be mistaken for lethargy. Rather, they convey moodiness in a way that is not altogether gloomy, enthralling the listener with subtle flourishes and a wide open sound. It may be sombre, but there is a light that burns and shimmers as Shadowhand wades through the darkness.
Shadowhand’s lyrically rich songs are ever-evolving, and vocalist/guitarist Jamieson Mackay leads the charge for this groups ascension. Over the past few years, his growth as a musician comes both on stage and in the studio, and his songwriting and comfort level seem to have reached new levels. He is propped up by the brilliance of the band around him, which features the stage-hardened talents of Matt Corbiere, Brandon Walsh, and Sean Tansey.
The band will be releasing the full LP on March 10 at our Showbox Concert Series event at St. Alban’s Church. Joining them on stage will be The Heavy Medicine Band and Merganzer, which should make for an altogether dreamy night of local music (event here). They will also be playing Megaphono this Saturday, Feb 10 at Pressed.
The release will be followed by a tour of Southern Ontario and Montreal. The full tour dates are:
Ottawa’s Casa Lagarto has released their brand new EP called Shed It, a six-song trip that features thick grooves and atmospheric textures throughout.
The band is comprised of well-established Ottawa musicians Jason Barkhouse (guitar/vocals), Arturo Portocarrero (drums/vocals), Travis Kinnear (bass/vocals), Jonny Yuma (guitar/vocals), and Grant McNeill (guitar), some of whom are members of The Yips (RIP), Lost to the River, and Fire Antlers.
Casa Lagarto is the reincarnation of sorts—it was an old stomping rockabilly project that Jonny, Grant, Travis, and their pal Phil Horne had called Chero Chavo, which was active from 2013-2015. With an expanded and altered lineup, the band’s sound evolved in 2015 to become Casa Lagarto (the name being a nod to Jim Morrison and author Carlos Castaneda). With Casa’s new members Arturo and Jason coming from different styles and musical backgrounds, the group quickly rounded out its sound as a whole. To date, they’ve had plenty of action live, having shared the stage with such acts as Del Bel, Saxsyndrum, Bob Log III, Twin Peaks, Bloodshot Bill, to name a few.
Shed It truly sounds like it was written in a shack in the desert. There’s a looseness to the whole thing that makes the album easy to sink into, slowly taking the listener deeper and deeper like quicksand. The album is rich with reverb and jangly guitar tones, deep and groovy bass lines, and Arturo’s lax and unobtrusive drum rhythms resonating throughout. Jonny’s hollow strumming and deep, simmering vocals bring another dimension to Shed It, though, completing the spooky yet captivating aesthetic of the band.
According to the band, the album’s name refers to shedding the skin you’re in, or shedding the skin you’ve been. It’s a cunning reflection on the good, bad an ugly from the past, the masks we often wear throughout our lives—and a desire to burn old bridges in hopes of charting new paths towards healthier self-understanding.
Casa Lagarto might fall somewhere between Dirty Beaches and Timber Timbre with respect to their musical approach. They create atmospheric and cinematic soundscapes, building and maintaining a subtle tension throughout Shed It. The song “Desoronto,” for example, feels like the prelude to a pistol duel in a classic Western. The washed out and weary track “El Dorado” burns slowly, with instrumentation and lyrics that create dark imagery and places the listener directly into “the valley of the shadow.”
The group has already released videos for their songs “Lights Out” and “Scarecrow” (produced by Black Lab Studio), and are pleased to share a brand new one for “Deseronto” (above), which was shot and produced by Santiago Trugeda. Even more, they’re already heading back into the studio in March 2018 to start recording tunes for their next album, and concert-goers can forward to them hitting the road in the near future.
‘Shed It’ is an exclusively digital release which you can listen for free at their Bandcamp page or stream on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Dezer, and all streaming sites. You can also enjoy the stream below.
Galapagos play a style of gritty indie rock that evoke elements of 90s alternative, turn of the millennium emo and garage rock mixing vulnerable lyrics, jagged guitars and layered melodies.
Since the release of their debut EP Potential Space in June 2017, the band has finalized their lineup with the additions of Gerardo Mantecon (bass) and Jamie Orser (drums) joining up with founding members Matthew Wood and Adam Ferris, both on guitar. Orser brings technical training and a prog rock background to the band, while Mantecon has been very involved in heavy metal and punk for years. But the most important thing they brought is stability, as the band played their first show as this iteration in August 2017 and quickly got to writing new music and recording.
“It really allowed us to focus on the music including allowing Matthew to play with more textures and sounds with his guitar playing,” said Ferris about finalizing the lineup. “We also wanted to follow up the debut fairly quickly due to the fact it wasn’t a true reflection of where we are at presently as a full unit. We feel that each individual member really contributed to and influenced the sound of this new EP.”
The five-song EP shows a band that has grown and evolved in such a short time, both in members but also in song writing and prose. The songs mostly focus on the process of moving forward rather than looking back, though there are clearly sad moments and darkness on Even This Glow. “[The EP] touches on all aspects of healing including finding hope in a new light,” said Ferris.
While each song name is only one word—which I really like—they are far from simplistic and do truly convey pain and hope all at once through the honest and heartfelt lyrics, and the beautiful layering of sound achieved by the quartet. I was hooked from the very start as the guitar and Ferris’ voice seemingly dance hand in hand, strum in strum, in the lead track “Wall,” really unifying the music and the vocals.
The track that really stands out is “Jersey” with it’s catchy riffs and vocals that take me back to my yesteryears of classic pop-punk and emo breakup songs, except that as the track progresses it really shifts to a much more mature forward looking song. It also sounds like one of those songs that will be even better live, with people rushing the front to sing along beating their chests.
Mountain Eyes has just released his debut full-length album aptly titled The Beginning to the world. It is the project of Ottawa native Steven Gravelle, a musician whose “earthly folk” sound is turning heads.
The Beginning is an impressive feat for a relatively new artist on the scene. It feels relaxed the whole way through, and Gravelle comes off as a songwriting veteran with a deep catalogue. The 10-track album is carefully constructed, and each track moves in and out from one another gracefully. At no point is there disjointedness or rigidity—the common thread is harmony and flow, which binds everything together.
The songs are existential in nature, asking questions about our place in the world and exploring the connections between each other. They are emotional compositions, keeping the listener engaged, but also reflective. The pensive nature of Gravelle’s songwriting is what makes his entire approach work so well, and it coalesces beautifully with The Beginning‘s wide open sound, soft reverb, delicate instrumentation.
It is impossible not to hear bits and pieces of David Bazan, Bon Iver, and Destroyer in Mountain Eyes’ music, as he incorporates electronic instrumental and vocal aspects into parts of his tracks. While this contrast might seem as though it wouldn’t work, it does… and really well. It’s the perfect soundtrack for gazing at the stars on a clear summer night, or keeping your feet warm by the fire on a chilly winter evening in our cold city. Gravelle offers his hand to listeners wandering through the dreamscape he creates. At times it is flush with warmth and beautiful imagery, but there are also haunting moments that will leave the listener with goosebumps.
The Beginning was recorded at Shoebox Recording Studio, a cozy spot that many great artists in town have chosen to work with on albums. Stream The Beginning through Spotify and Apple Music now, and watch the video for “Dreaming” below.
Ottawa-area rockers Elementals are at it again, and they’re pulling no punches. The group have just released their follow-up to their acclaimed 2015 debut I’m Not Here, I’m Not Real, and it’s a real banger. Mother Nature and Her Bipolar Tendencies is a seven-track onslaught of fuzzy guitar riffs, booming bass lines, and percussive thunder, and it’ll leave you wanting more.
So here’s the story. These guys were getting ready to record the album in Chesterville, and two weeks before their bassist parted ways with the band. I’ve known these guys for a few years now, and they’ve always been really tight, so one can imagine how difficult it was for them to wade through the mess and confusion right before hitting the studio. Guitarist and vocalist Cody Smith and drummer Jamie Speck persevered, and rallied the troops to keep on schedule and get the tracks recorded.
“Mother Nature and Her Bipolar Tendencies was supposed to be a happy experience — a five day getaway to the country to record what we felt were the best songs we’ve written to date,” they explain in a Facebook post in December of last year. “But true to its title, the universe had other plans for us. But one thing remained the same — we believed in these songs. We needed to record them, if not for anybody else, for ourselves. We went in the studio as a two-piece and what followed was almost therapeutic.”
“It made us tighter not only as a band, but as friends too. Moving forward we picked up two new members so that we could play the songs live as they were meant to be.”
The two new members weren’t present during the recording sessions, but Sheehan Jordan (Tenenbaums/Duck Toys) and Duncan Reitböck (Django Fett) officially joined the band afterwards and were, without a doubt, the perfect fit for the job. It’s a beautiful thing to see great musicians come together on a project, and their decision to add these guys to the lineup pretty much guaranteed that audiences would feel the full force of Elementals live.
Mother Nature and Her Bipolar Tendencies clocks in at 32 minutes long, but it doesn’t feel like 32 minutes. But I’ve listened to it three times today, so maybe that’s why. The album explodes off the starting line with “Medicine,” which for my money is the best song they’ve ever written…yet. It’s a long one at over five minutes, but about half way through they break it down and the bass and guitar go off on a tangential onslaught. It feels like Fugazi meets Pavement, or something.
While a lot of the album is heavier, grungy rock and roll which we all know and love, there are a lot of moments that slow it down. There are a lot of emotions here, and Cody delivers his lyrics strained through raspy vocals in a way that makes you feel what he’s feeling. Not many singers can convey that emotion, especially in a recording. Both “Angel Static” and “Beautiful Day” start with a clean guitar, and build to a crescendo and taking the listener for a full ride. There’s no rushing these songs, either. They are fully conceptualized and thought out, and in doing so the band is able to tell the stories much more effectively.
“24” is the lighter-hearted track on the record, a sort of reconciliation for a lot of the anger on other tracks. It’s what “Here Comes Your Man” is on Doolittle by The Pixies. Because, why not?
I hope that we can be cool / yes I hope that we can be cool / so farewell, so long / be good
“The Feeding Hour” cranks the throttle one last time, and then the record ends on a more peaceful note with the appropriately-titled “Adieu.” The whole thing is a great example of a band staying true to themselves and their roots, but not staying stuck in a mould and writing the same songs as before. It takes time to write albums like this one, and the range of emotions and experiences come across clearly.
We’ll be keeping an ear out for any new shows they announce in the spring, but in the meantime we’ve included the full album stream below for you to check out. Mother Nature and Her Bipolar Tendencies can be purchased on Bandcamp digitally, and the vinyl is available at record store around town. You can also stream it on Spotify and Apple music. Enjoy!
Sills & Smith chose the first day of the first month of 2018 to release their much-anticipated sixth studio album called Maps — Burned or Lost. The duo, which is composed of Ottawa singer-songwriters Jeremy Sills and Frank Smith, have spent the last few years getting together material for the new album, which spans an impressive 70 minutes over fourteen tracks.
This album’s strengths are many, but the two key pieces that stand out are its grandiosity and its breadth in sound and styles. Deciding on a fourteen-track record is rather unusual by today’s standards, particularly in the streaming economy that craves instant gratification. The first thing I thought when I saw that it was going to be such a long listen was “uh oh,” only because I’ve heard records before that have a lot of filler, which doesn’t tend to add much to the concept as a whole. Some bands try to cram as much as they can in to one album, because it is, after all, cheaper and less work to record a bunch of songs you’ve written in one go.
But that’s not the case here. Sills & Smith are veterans, and they knew what they were doing from the start of this process. Once the listener warms up with an excellent trio of opening tracks—”On the Edge,” “Kings,” and “A Freight Train”— one gets the sense that this album is meant to be listened to slowly. Why rush? They really slow things down on “Maps”,”Waves,” and “No Measuring,” and once again this song grouping transports the listener into a certain somber mood, encouraging us to really listen closely and use our imaginations to discern the detailed imagery embedded in their lyrics. The album carries on at this pace, with the exception of the groovy and upbeat song “Miss Us,” as Sills & Smith take us on a journey down their river, leisurely floating along until we near the end.
Upon listening to the whole record, it becomes apparent that Sills & Smith really explore their musical influences. Their self-described experimentation with “pastoral folk, trippy indie rock, and progressive rock” only touches on the surface of the substance on Maps—Burned or Lost. The album’s foundations are built on Canadiana folk music, with Sills’ guitar work that is sometimes rugged, twangy and blues-driven, while at other times reverb-laden and melodic. The two work off each other wonderfully, working in tandem to provide a full and rich sound the whole way through. We can also thank the one and only Phillip Victor Bova (who also plays bass, keyboards, strings, and Hammond organ on the album) for helping achieve the desired result, as the textured soundscapes allow the listener to drift away in the stories being told.
Sills & Smith offer us a great start to 2018 here in Ottawa, with an album that is sure to please listeners of all sorts of musical tastes. So sit back, relax, and push play below.
Maps — Burned or Lost is available on Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and CD Baby. The digipak CD edition (designed by Grace Smith) will be sold online and in select box stores by mid-January.