The band has been making waves in the nation’s capital since forming in 1998 and their latest releases sees them return to their pop-punk and Ramone-style jams. As a born and raised Ottawan, I have had the luxury of seeing and hearing the Riptides for years. It is great to have the first full length Riptides album in nearly a decade as they had focused on releasing a bunch of splits over the past few years with bands such as The Dwarves, The Apers, and The Connections.
The 18-track album only features two songs over 3 minutes in length, as it focuses on quick catchy tracks leaving you wanting more. One of my highlights of the album are the great local references such as “hanging out at Brewer Park” and “going to Barbarellas’s after dark.” I always find it very special when I can connect to the location or a person a band is singing about, especially after years spent signing songs about other towns other than your own. That local touch always strikes a chord is the very best way.
One of the perfect examples that the band hasn’t lost touch with it’s pop-punk roots after all these years are the back-to-back tracks of “Homing Missile” and “Happy Ever After.” The first is full of analogies and about being locked in on love as the title suggests, and the second is all about lost love and how there will be no happy ever after in his life due to breaking up. You can’t get much more pop punk than trying to secure love and being destroyed after losing it. What is great is even after doing it for nearly 20 years, The Riptides do not come off gimmicky or fake, just true veterans of the scene.
My favourite track might have to be “Someone Just Like You” which has almost every element I love to see in a song. It features claps, duet vocals, a relatable story of attraction out at a show, catchy chorus and then on top of that they make a guitar sound like they are joined by some brass on the track. Just love it.
Ottawa’s Saint Clare recently released their first music video and it is a ghastly venture to the beat of the lead single “Closer to the Devil” off of their upcoming EPIII.
The video begins beneath the full moon with the brass ensemble setting the stage for the dancing good time that is a Saint Clare song. As the vocals and other instruments join in, the song takes a sombre turn as the darkness works its way in… getting closer to Beelzebub.
The video flows between the band rocking out in an empty room beneath the hew of purple lights to scenes of lead singer and guitarist Matt Saint Clare being chased by a solemn veiled figure in the woods, somewhat similar to the Blair Witch Project. After a face melting solo brings Saint Clare to his knees wrapping up the song, the video pans back to the wood where he finds himself trapped face to face with the figure, only to find out he has been running from himself.
You can watch the video below and catch Saint Clare this Saturday at the House of TARG on the second day of the super groovy and awesome Surf and Turf Festival.
Masks. Clouds of smoke. Decked-out pickup trucks. Skulls. These are all reasons to love Ottawa surf-punk queens Bonnie Doon.
But there’s so much more to them than that. Their brand of fuzzed-out, bass-heavy sludge-rock is meant to captivate audiences and shock the senses. Their energy, weirdness, and overall “we do whatever the fuck we want” attitudes are what really define this group as something special.
Bonnie Doon’s latest album Dooner Nooner (released on Record Store Records) is an acid trip through and through, and will take you from heavier face-punching tracks like the opener “Haunted Life,” to wild lo-fi experiments like the closer “B-Hole.” Their latest video for “Now or Neverish,” which premiered on Clash Music this week, is probably unlike any you’ve ever seen—and it comes just in time for Halloween. Take a dash of classic surf rock, a pinch of doom, and a swig of spiked punch, and that’s what “Now or Neverish” feels like spinning on the turntable. But, you need to see it to believe it.
Watch the new video for “Now or Neverish” by Bonnie Doon below. Produced by MAVN.Stream and purchase Dooner Nooner here. Be sure to catch Bonnie Doon live at House of Targ on October 10, along with Weaves and Organ Eyes. Ticket info here.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—one of the most rewarding parts of this job is discovering new artists making music in town. That is certainly the case with the young and aspiring singer-songwriter named Christine Jakel, who I crossed paths with at Bar Robo last year when she played with her other project, Grace Note. Her talents are immediately impactful, and draw listeners in like a tractor beam through the headphones or on stage. As someone with a degree in classical voice from the University of Ottawa and lifelong piano training at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Christine’s kind and modest demeanour struck me as endearing given the sheer level of skill and experience contained within her. Thus, I took a mental note and made sure to keep an eye on her music-related ventures.
Fast forward a year or so, and Jakel announces that she’s releasing a solo EP called Satellite Moons, once again at Bar Robo, on September 30. It came as no surprise, and it seemed to only be a matter of time before she explored her solo songwriting in a formal studio setting. While I’ve only heard a couple songs off of the upcoming EP, my initial impression is that she has a musical “sense” about her that is well beyond her years. The songs weave between genres and influences, as certain polarizing elements of jazz and folk are somehow drawn together and melded with one another in her songs.
Her vocal prowess is put on full display, as Jakel seamlessly reaches the highs and lows of her octave—and everything in between—with laser-sharp precision. The rest of Satellite Moons is sure to contain more treats for us to hear. In the years to come, Ottawa should prepare itself for Jakel’s inclusion into a group of local women such as Kathleen Edwards, Catriona Sturton, and Lynne Hanson, just to name a few, who have consistently shown that they are a force to be reckoned with in the Ottawa valley and beyond.
I caught up with Jakel this week in advance of the Satellite Moons EP Release, which takes place at Bar Robo on Saturday, September 30th at 8 pm. She will be joined by Mike Giamberardino (drums), Szymon Szańczuk (bass), Dean Watson (electric guitar), and Charlotte Esme Frank (harmonies) on stage, along with opening acts Grace Marr and David daCosta. Tickets are $13, and include a download code for the album. Find more information here.
Interview with Christine Jakel
Can you talk a bit about how has music been a part of your life growing up?
Both my parents took it upon themselves to expose me to music growing up. My dad has been obsessed with jazz ever since I can remember and used to play jazz guitar in his spare time. There are some artists whose CD’s are deeply ingrained into my system from having listened to them so often: George Benson, Chet Baker, Diana Krall, Miles Davis and Oscar Peterson, to name a few. I’ve probably heard Autumn leaves thousands of times because my dad used to practice it relentlessly. He was also the one who introduced me to Joni Mitchell, now my main source of inspiration for songwriting. Her song Big Yellow Taxi was the reason I started playing guitar. Wondering Where the Lions are by Bruce Cockburn was the next song I learned. He was another artist that I heard a lot of growing up because of my dad. My mom was the one who made sure I was taking classical piano lessons starting at a young age and shortly after we moved to Ottawa, she enrolled me in an arts high school (De La Salle) where I chose the voice program and subsequently became actively involved in its various vocal ensembles, while being trained as both chorist and a soloist.
You explore many sounds and themes in your music. What is most important aspect you focus on when composing a song?
For me songwriting always begins with lyrics and melody. The song craft and the overall message of the song are as important to me as the music itself. This is also what I listen for in other artists’ music. I find that I am most drawn to songs that are cleverly thought out but also genuine and direct. This is what I aim for when composing my songs. Overall atmosphere, chords and instrumental riffs come are there to enhance those elements.
What was the Shot in the Dark experience like for you? Can you describe it for those who may not know?
It felt great to be a part of something that I knew was contributing to the local music scene in a positive way. Not only did I get one of my own songs recorded and filmed for the first time, but I had the chance to hear and meet so many talented local artists that I never would have discovered otherwise. In a way it acted as a spring board for me as a newly emerging musician because it led to more opportunities for shows and collaborations.
The performance itself was unlike anything I have ever done before and I don’t think it’s one I’ll be forgetting anytime soon. When I came on, Dean made the call to remove all amplification and to bring the audience close in around me, so there was zero background noise and I could feel everyone watching and listening to me intently. It was terrifying in the best way (I don’t think I’ve ever felt so exposed), and I couldn’t be happier with the result! (video available below)
What reaction or emotion do you hope to evoke from those listening to the new EP, Satellite Moons, for the first time?
I hope that anyone listening finds something they can relate to in my songs and feel moved or inspired by even if it’s just in a small way. I also hope to send an empowering message to other women out there who may feel intimidated or out of place taking up space or making themselves heard in the music scene. From what I’ve seen, the industry could really use more female representation. Knowing this reality is partly what fuels my work. Furthermore, I would love for people to perceive the depth in my songs and to hear beyond something that’s “cute” or “pretty.” Those are two words that I’ve been called my whole life, that bother me when they are used in a belittling way (whether intentionally or not), and that I’d like to break free from at least in the context of my music. This is why I’ve made sure to include some angry songs on the record.
Do you have a memorable concert experience that you can recount that perhaps influenced your music?
This past March I had the opportunity of seeing The Staves play live at the Bronson Centre. I was floored by how polished their performance was and by the wide range of soundscapes they managed to create using their voices and various instrumental skills. What I particularly like about them is that they stray from the traditional lead-singer vs. band setup. Each member plays an equal part in the singing and the balance between their voices shifts from one song from the next in fascinating ways. Their sound is very much contingent upon them gelling as a team. For me, the experience of hearing them opened doors to new realms of possibility when arranging music, which made me want to go home and write songs immediately.
Is there one venue or city that is on your bucket list to play? Why?
I am open to the possibilities of where my music might take me. Playing music is what makes me happy. Whether it’s in a noisy bar or the NAC or at an intimate gathering, I am grateful for any opportunity to share my work, the more unexpected the better! Short term, however, I do currently have my sights set on Megaphono. I have so many good memories from attending the festival as an audience member and it seems like something I’d like to experience and be a part of, hopefully as a performer this year.
What’s the next step for you musically?
In the next year I am hoping to gain regular instruction at guitar and to lock in a few more hours of practice per week than I usually do. Everything I know so far, I taught myself, besides the odd trick I picked up from my dad and my uncle, and there is so much I have yet to learn about the instrument. This would give me a whole lot more to work with when writing songs, which I intend to continue doing as much as possible. My goal is to have enough songs written by next summer to be able to start on an album. I already have a few on the go.
Lyric videos have been immensely popular since the launch of YouTube. Often they are made by fans and simply feature the lyrics scrolling across the screen almost like karaoke, some going a little further to contain images along with the words. Dead Weights just took it to a new level with their video for “Stuck in My Head.” The video does feature the lyrics that are written on a black board in what looks like a classroom.
What makes it truly special is that the band invited several talented local artists and friends with very different style to draw two or three at a time on the blackboard really elevating the lyrics. The artists are: Jordan Seal, Kendall Valerio, Vance McBride, Cory Levesque, Yafa Jarrar, Pascale Arpin, Kieran McKinnon, and Liam Sheehan. Band members also jump in from time to time. To ensure they can fit all of this within the time constraints of their song, they speed up the video which makes the drawing unfold like magic before our eyes… drawing with chalk in hyper-speed!
The video peaks while the band sings the refrain “Try and keep an open heart” over and over at the end and you have eight people drawing at the same time creating one big beautiful mural with a great message.
The cool air has arrived in Ottawa, and brings with it the whispers of autumn. What better way to celebrate the harvest and changing of the leaves than a new album from Ottawa heavy-hitting folk rockers Jack Pine & The Fire? The group’s new record Left To Our Own Devices will be released this weekend, and I got a sneak peek into the nine-track effort.
Ottawa native Jack Pine (a.k.a. singer/songwriter/producer Gareth Auden-Hole) grew up in the city, but admits that his heart belongs to the northern wild. It’s appropriate that the band’s name comes from the recognizable ragged tree that was made famous by Canadian artist Tom Thompson. The band’s music continually maintains a strong connection with the wilderness, with subjects such as rushing rivers, sleeping under the stars, solitude, and the metaphorical lone wolf scattered throughout. The new album genuinely feels like it could have been conjured up and recorded in a cabin 500 kilometers away somewhere in northern Ontario.
Left To Our Own Devices incorporates the band’s trademark americana-folk inspired sound dipped in Ottawa valley twang. More than any of their previous records (which I also enjoyed thoroughly), Devices offers a more complete picture of who this band is and what they have to offer. There’s a tug-of-war between the past and present on this record, as it recalls the great folk songwriters of days gone by while offering a modern take to listeners—one that could draw them in and keep them close while Jack Pine’s story is told (probably around a campfire).
The warm sounds of Martin Newman’s upright bass provide a tender, yet sturdy backbone for the album’s more restrained tracks such as “The Run Down” and “Lone Wolf,” but his fancy finger-work is also unleashed in tracks like “Seven Generations.” Mike Essoudry’s percussion brings forth the foot-stomping element that we all know and love, and is sure to have fans clapping along to fun songs like “Credit River” during live performances. Stuart Rutherford’s twangy resonator is truly enveloping, and recalls the distant bluegrass influences that surely helped inform their music, blending seamlessly with the fiddles and guitars.
All in all, Left To Our Own Devices is a great accomplishment. It contains inspired musicianship and instrumentation, captivating themes and songwriting, and has mountains and valleys of energy that elucidate how dynamic this band really is. Jack Pine and The Fire have shown, once again, that they are masters of their domain and that they’re more than just a gritty folk-rock band with strings.
Be sure to catch Jack Pine & the Fire at Irene’s Pub this Friday, as they get set to release ‘Left To Our Own Devices’ to the world in full. Tickets are $15 adv/door and can be purchased at Irene’s Pub, Compact Music, The Record Centre, and their PledgeMusic Store here.
Earlier this summer, Ottawa’s party-punks released their third album, And the Magic of Horses, keeping alive their streak of putting out an album every two years since their debut in 2013.
We are a little late to the party on this one, but it has been a hectic summer here. The boys in New Swears signed on with Dine Alone Records in late 2016, setting the stage for more new music and a lot of touring.
And the Magic of Horses is another fun-filled record featuring tons of sing along and clapping moments, with sprinkles of mosh-inducing build ups, group harmonies, and fun riffs to carry you through the summer. The opening track “Dance With the Devil” sets the stage for the whole album, as it has a little bit of everything mentioned above. It doesn’t take much to see how they could spice it up even more and have some fun with it live.
This album goes well beyond their usual focus on all-day partying and raucous—but don’t worry, there’s still plenty of that, it’s just not the focal point of every track. The band explores more existential subjects like life, death, friendship, screwing up, and legacy. It is great progress to witness, and what is even better is how they have done it without losing their edge and fun which they have become synonymous with. I’m sure having Paul “Yogi” Granger record the album certainly didn’t hurt at all either.
I am a big fan of the closing track “Walkin’ to Rockin'” which is a great little slow burning track about their love for playing music together and rocking out. They sing “I don’t want to see another daylight unless I’m playing rock n roll, telling jokes and twisting it up, hanging with the boys on the open road.” They want to keep playing music and walk right into rock n’ roll’s warm embrace, and so do we.
Have a listen to And the Magic of Horses for yourself below and witness the evolution of New Swears.
Ottawa pop-punk group Dead Weights have just released their second full-length album, Mountain Arresting. It’s been a few years since we’ve heard new material from these guys, and we’ve been waiting impatiently ever since hearing a few of the tracks live earlier this year.
Mountain Arresting is a big step forward for Dead Weights, and clearly the product of a lot of work. The band strikes a balance of heavier guitar and bass parts with melodic flourishes, all woven together with rough and grumbling vocals of Jonathan Becker and Steve McCrimmon. Their signature sound comes through loud and clear on this record, as they tightened up their instrumentation even more and obviously had some chemistry in the studio. It doesn’t hurt that Dead Weights have been playing together for years, with lots of shows under their belts in recent memory.
Fans of bands like Latterman, Off With Their Heads, and Direct Hit! will feel right at home with this record, although it’s appeal is vast. Those who enjoy no-bullshit punk rock with some grit will fall into Mountain Arresting with ease. Their goal isn’t to play faster, louder, and harder than everyone else—their style and approach is intentional, and it grasps the listener tightly without losing meaning or using studio tricks as a facade of perfection. What you see is what you get with Dead Weights, and anyone who has seen them live can attest to this.
It was nice of them to put lyrics up on their site, because sometimes it’s hard to hear the words since it sounds like Becker just smoked three packs of cigarettes before the recording session. But hey, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The higher register howling of McCrimmon on tracks like “House is Not a Home” offers an appealing contrast to Becker’s whiskey-soaked rumbles. And the cherry on top? Hooks of gold, yearning for crowd vocals. You might catch yourself blasting these tracks and screaming some of the irresistible group vocal parts, only to realize that you are the only one in the room.
A stand-out aspect of the Mountain Arresting are the well-crafted lyrics, words about the everyday lives we live, social injustices, and growing up and getting by in a world that’s not always fair. Earnest words in these difficult times we live in is a breath of fresh air, offering perspective about the harsh conditions around us. But there’s a sense of hope in the songs, a sense that we’re all in this together and that all is not lost. Things are fucked up, but we can help each other and pick each other up. A little empathy and compassion go a long way, and while many of the songs discuss life’s difficulties and injustices, there is an overarching sense of humanity on this album.
It is obvious that a lot of effort was not only put into writing each song, but also composing a full album with no filler to speak of. The album itself is short and punchy, and although I was left wanting more, I still felt completely satisfied when I finished listening. Dead Weights have a lot to offer, and Mountain Arresting is a tremendous achievement.
Find ‘Mountain Arresting’ on Spotify, Apple Music, and bandcamp (stream below). Be sure to catch Dead Weights live on October 17th at House of Targ along with Montreal legends The NILS and Steve Adamyk Band. Follow event link here for more details.
Ottawa has a new rock band, Galapagos, and they dropped a debut EP earlier this June.
The four-song release, Potential Space, starts off on fire with the song “Bike.” It kicks off the album with a flare for classic emo from the late 90s and early 2000s with a indie and garage flare connecting it back to the current day. Lead singer and guitarist Adam Ferris (also know as one half of the band Waxing Moon) described their sound as… “Think Ryan Adams meets Treble Charger smothered in American Football.”
Galapagos began as a folk duo that played a few shows in the spring of 2016. After starting up again last fall as a trio with a drummer, they wrote a whole batch of new songs. The EP is kind of a long time in the making explained Ferris “after some successful shows this past spring, we decided to record an EP. Due to creative and professional differences, we parted ways with our former drummer during the original recording sessions. The final version of Potential Space was recorded on the afternoon of May 20th, 2017 with Cameron Steacy (Organ Eyes) both playing drums and recording the EP.”
You can hear some of their folk beginnings in the second song “What I Deserve,” but you can also hear Steacy’s influence throughout the EP, especially on “Again” combined with the band’s vision to really make it a fuller sound. Steacy has recorded, mixed, and mastered other Ottawa artists such as The Yips, Bonnie Doon and Fire Antlers.
Potential Space is a great starting point for a band that has already seen several members change over and has grown from two-piece to four. I really enjoy how much diversity they fit into a four song release and see much potential in all the different avenues for the sound to continue to grow. I also really look forward to catching them live as I think the emotions and honesty would translate very well in an intimate setting.
Check out Potential Space below and also keep your eyes peeled for Galapagos in August as they play August 19th at Café Dekcuf with Sweet Rocket and BINOS and August 24th at Pressed with Basement Revolver.
Galapagos also participated in the Shot In The Dark Sessions, be sure to check out their live video session for the song “Bike” coming out online July 24.
Ottawa’s one and only butt rock band (self-described) Mushy Gushy just released their second EP called More Butter, which also happens to have “butt” in the name…
What is butt rock, you may ask. Well, Mushy Gushy’s sound can best be described as a good blend of experimental garage pop with the occasional hint of surf rock. It makes for some good time rock that makes you smile, bob your head, and maybe even sway your hips. It’s perfect for those hot summer days on the way to the beach, but also excellent for those warm summer evenings on a patio or at a cottage.
The experimental side of things is very present from the get go in the opening track “Around the Bend” from the effects on the vocals, the reverb on the guitar, the well placed whammy bars and the smattering of sound effects subtly lingering in the background.
My favourite track on More Butter is track three, “Schemestress.” This pop number is very catchy both musically and lyrically. Lines like this “I could move mountain babe I’m just going to need some time / I could guess what you’re thinking but I can’t read your mind” are simple but greatly crafted and very relatable feelings to many of us, I’m sure. That is often what really makes a song. It is not always about complicated progressions and incredible prose—sometimes the best medicine is music you can just put on and sing along with while you relate to what the writer was feeling at the time.
Now go put some toast in the toaster, boil some corn on the cob, and pop some popcorn because all the the butter you need is on this album, which can be streamed below.
Be sure to catch Mushy Gushy on the Claridge Homes Stage at Ottawa Bluesfest starting at 4 pm on Saturday July 15th. More information on passes here.