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.
New Swears are pretty fresh off their latest LP called …and the Magic of Horses, released through Dine Alone Records earlier this year to much acclaim. But it appears like they’re bursting at the seams to keep putting out music, as they are showing no signs of slowing down.
For those who are familiar with New Swears’ music videos, this one fits right in. There’s snow. There’s nudity. There’s gratuitous violence. There’s animal costumes. You know, all the regular ingredients. The video features Nick Nofun, the former drummer of the band, going on a wild chase along with an unknown rabbit creature and eventually falling into a pit. Where does that pit lead, you ask? Well, you’ll just have to watch and see for yourself.
The band will be playing a huge New Year’s Eve party at The 27 Club, aptly titled New Swears Eve. Formal dress encouraged, tickets are $3o adv and $35 at the door. Doors at 9 pm.
Watch the video for “Illuminati Knights” below, and support the causes by purchasing the tracks here.
Ottawa’s New Swears are better known for their catchy garage rock and crazy partying on and off the stage than for helping out their community, but this holiday season the boys are giving back and it isn’t even court-ordered!
New Swears have just released two previously unheard songs called “Illuminati Knights” and “Happy Birthday” on their bandcamp website with all proceeds going to local organizations For Pivot’s Sake and Girls + Skate 613. Both of these worthy causes seek to provide access to skateboarding opportunities for the youth of Ottawa through product donations, mentorship, program enrollments, and more. Have a listen to the track below and help support these two great initatives that do a lot in the nation’s capital.
And if that wasn’t enough, staff from the local skateboard shop Birling will be hosting a raffle at the New Swears New Years Eve bash taking place at the 27 Club on December 31. Birling co-owner Adam Wawrzynczak says the raffle will have “juicy prizes” and of course all proceeds will be going to For Pivot’s Sake and Girls + Skate 613. “This charitable aspect of a New Years Eve party is sure to warm your heart and may even soften the blow of a violent hangover to take you into 2018,” added Adam.
Two cool tracks for two great causes and even more giving as you ring in the new year. Well done New Swears.
Local Francophone hip-hop artist Squerl Noir recently dropped a new video for his track “Calypso.”
The black and white video is centered on Squerl Noir as he raps his way through the track focused on duality and introspection within the chaos of the world. Directed by Antoine Simard-Legault of Lonely Fire Productions, who has worked with other local artists like Flying Hórses, the video features some very cool camera work shifting and blurring Squerl Noir’s faces around as he repeats the lines about drowning in the chaos. It really amplifies the message.
There is also a nice subtle touch of water overlay during certain sections of the video which I can only assume is a homage to Calypso, who in Greek mythology was a nymph who captured the Greek hero Odysseus for many years and is often represented by the sea.
Check out the video for “Calypso” below and keep your ears peeled for Squerl Noir’s next single due to be released in early 2018.
We’re thrilled to premiere a new video by Ottawa experimental psych-rock group Casa Lagarto for their track “Lights Out.”
“Lights Out” was previously released in January 2017 as a demo, however the polished version heard in the video will appear on their upcoming debut album which they have called Shed It, and will be exclusively released digitally on January 19th. Although the 3-track demo EP is all the band has released publicly since their inception in 2015, they’ve played live regularly in town and often taken an experimental approach to their performances. Casa Lagarto describe themselves as “some kind of experimental desert rock n roll. They are influenced by the sun, the sand, and the lizard,” and their music feels like the soundtrack to a Hunter S. Thompson novel.
The band members are familiar musicians in the music scene here in Ottawa, featuring the talented lineup of Travis Kinnear (Fire Antlers), Arturo Portocarrero (Lost To The River), Grant McNeil (Tropical Country), Jason Barkhouse, and Jonny Yuma (The Yips). The video itself tells a story comprised of three separate car advertisements from the mid-1900’s and was produced by band member Jason Barkhouse. Barkhouse runs Black Lab Studio in town and has recently been more active in production/post-production of creative content and music videos for band like Del Bel (see that video here).
Casa Lagarto will be playing with Montreal’s Bloodshot Bill and Chris Landry and the Seasick Mommas at House of Targ this Thursday, December 7th, so be sure to get out there and catch the band live. Doors at 8 p.m. and tickets are $10. Check out the video for “Lights Out” below.
It’s been almost two years since violinist-extraordinaire Mika Posen released her debut solo record under the new moniker Merganzer. Before that, she had studied violin with the National Arts Centre Orchestra’s David Thies-Thompson and gone on to tour with renowned acts such as Timber Timbre, as well as contribute her violin skills to the works of Forest City Lovers, Feist, Basia Bulat and Evening Hymns. Having grown up in Ottawa, Posen left the capital at 18 and lived in cities such as Toronto and Berlin until her return to her hometown after more than a decade.
These experiences, along with a Master’s degree in ethnomusicology from York, have provided Posen with disparate experiences from which to draw influences for her solo project. Merganzer is undoubtedly an extension of Posen, and the music we’ve heard so far—particularly off of the 2015 debut LP Mirror Maze—is eccentric, contemplative, and exploratory. The soundscapes are varied, as the listener is pulled between layers of mesmerizing beats, beautiful vocal melodies, enchanting string arrangements—like soaring gracefully through cavernous depths and over towering mountain peaks.
Merganzer has put out a new video of an unreleased track called “Cloud Cover,” which is exciting for those of us who have been chomping at the bit for more. It comes just in time for her upcoming performance December 1st at Mirror Mountain Film Festival (co-presented by Ottawa Showbox) along with Montreal media artist Sonya Stefan. The event is called Passé Composé, and will be a collaborative live performance based on the theme of transformation.
“The video was directed by Nick Dolinski (who lived in Ottawa up until a year or two ago) and shot by Ottawa media artist Tim Smith,” explains Posen. “We made it this past July on the roof of our Toronto apartment building right before we moved back to Ottawa. For Tim and I, it represents a final farewell to that big crazy city.”
We’re excited to present the first look at Nightshades‘ new video for “Double Vision,” which appears on the recent self-titled album released on November 15th.
The album is somewhat of a departure from their previous EPs, slowing things down and simplifying the song structures while maintaining the sludgy and gritty elements that many of us know and love. While the tempo has slowed a bit, lead vocalist and guitarist Mallory Giles chose to hone her songwriting skills and focus on lyrics and melody over speed and complexity of instrumentation.
“After the ‘Wendy EP’ we wanted to take some time to write a full record. Things came together pretty slow,” she explains. “I had a huge writers block last winter and it was scary. I thought ‘well that’s it. I guess that’s over’.”
“I was grabbing at straws, trying to find inspiration and I ended up borrowing a bass off a friend. I started fiddling around with it and it became this cool new way of looking at music. I wrote a few of the songs off this new album on that bass and transferred it to guitar. Just playing with power chords and slowing things down, developing less complicated structures. Just taking it easy, and focusing on melody and story.”
“I think that’s kind of where we were all at. Just growing up, and chilling things out. And once Dean joined the band, his style of bass playing was pretty relaxed, and we were into it. We still have some heavy songs that Geoff wrote, and I don’t think we’ll ever not be a heavier band, but things are less rushed now. I think I was kind of hiding behind speed before because I wasn’t very good at my instrument. Playing really super fast felt easier and less scary. Now that I’ve developed as a guitarist, and we’ve grown tighter as a band, we can take a step back and just like..go slower. It’s funny, cause we’re still pretty fast, just not as insane as we used to be.
Nightshades channel the fuzzy sounds of 90’s alternative bands such as The Breeders and Sonic Youth, bringing with them punchy and distorted tracks that draw listeners in. Any fans of Kim Deal-era Pixies will surely fall effortlessly into Nightshades as their new self-titled album maintains a fun and upbeat aesthetic throughout, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. However, the songs seem more carefully crafted and it’s obvious that the band took time to put this one together.
Another thing that doesn’t take itself to seriously is the video for “Double Vision.” Directed by filmmaker Rob Bennett, the concept sees Giles going on some terrible first dates which take psychedelic turns.
“On those dates I would see like figments of my imagination like masked unicorns and masked characters and they would try trip me out while I was out with these guys,” Giles says. “IOn the day of the shoot, we were sticking to the plan, but we ended up having fun and trying different shots of us dancing and stuff, and me lip synching… It turned into this whole other thing that we all found really fun, funny, and great. It feels like a real rock n’ roll music video now. Not too serious. Not too much sense made. The original concept was actually pretty dark. I think it’d be cool to write a play or a short out of it one day.”
“Working with Rob was easy. He had killer gear, was a total pro, and had some really great on-the-fly ideas too. Rob is a musical mastermind in his own right and knows a ton about rock n’ roll. So making a rock video with him was effortless.”
Nightshades are set to released their new album on cassette this Saturday at The Rainbow, along with Montreal art punks Smokes, Ottawa heavy-hitters Bonnie Doon, and up-and-comers Slow Dawn. Tickets are $7 and doors at 9 pm, 19+ only. Check out the new video for “Double Vision” below, and stream to the new album online here.