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.
The band may only be a couple years old, but Slack Bridges already feels like a well-seasoned veteran of the music scene here in Ottawa. Even though the band is fresh off the release of its debut full-length Joy of Joys, it has already sent shock waves throughout the capital.
This is what happens when musical masterminds from all corners of Ottawa’s music community come together to present something altogether original, breaking new ground by fusing hip hop, soul, and jazz fusion influences into tracks that burst at the seams with ear-pleasing tones. After only a few shows and the release of their first EP in 2016, Slack Bridges quickly caught the year of large-scale festival organizers as they got included on lineups at RBC Ottawa Bluesfest, TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, House of PainT, Ottawa Race Weekend. They also were the main attraction at last year’s independent festival called Bangers & Mash, a soul-focused weekend-long party co-organized by band member Garett Bass himself.
Slack Bridges performed at this year’s House of PainT Urban Art Fest this past August. Photo by Kelly Morrissey.
Joy of Joys is indeed a full album. It is a front-to-back trip that explores different soundscapes and textures, pleasing listeners with dance-inducing bangers like “In The Drought” as well as teasing us with down-tempo ballads such as “Smile.” Guitarist Chris Elms puts his dexterous guitar work on full display throughout the ten-track journey that is Joy of Joys, from providing grimy and emotive riffs that explode off the record in “Jungle” to sultry tones that seduce the listener deeper into tracks like “Apologies.”
Vocalist Matt Gilmour’s infectious deep vocal prowess is an undeniable x-factor in this band, and without detracting from the group’s talents, his voice and persona are front and centre on the record and the stage. You wouldn’t first think of him as a former member of bands in Ottawa’s punk and hardcore scenes, but his influences are many. His appreciation for R&B and hip hop rhythm come across immediately, and his unique vocal tones and style lend perfectly to the rest of the band’s impressive instrumental chemistry. Not to mention his subtle moves on stage give crowds even more to scream for (see video below—just wait for it).
All in all, Joy of Joys is the record Ottawa needs, wants, and will cherish. The band spent a lot of time and energy into crafting their identity, sound, and style—and it shows. It really feels as though they took a “why stop here?” approach to this record, and the seamless inclusion of brass parts from local visionaries Ed Lister and Julian Selody exemplifies the level of musicianship this band is operating at. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Be sure to pick up Joy of Joys on vinyl at local record shops around town now, which they recently released on November 11th at a sold-out show at The Rainbow. It is also available digitally here.
Watch their Shot in the Dark performance and stream Joy of Joys below.
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.