Another year come and gone, and many of us are chomping at the bits while we anxiously wait for 2016 to finally come to a close. Yes, it’s been a rough year in the world of music. But it’s not all bad news, guys. 2016 heralded some brilliant albums, some of which were made right here in Ottawa. Below are our choices for top local albums of 2016.
Two Jar Grind – S.T.
From the very first second of the first track “Here’s To All I Never Had” you can’t help but draw parallels to early acoustic Against Me! thanks to shouting vocals bursting with simple honesty. I say this gushingly of a band I have fallen in love with where all three sing and features a guitarist, accordion player and percussionist rocking a washboard. Yes, a freaking washboard!As I listened to the songs on the six song debut, I really felt like I was sitting down with the band as they worked their way through figuring out their place in the world, their priorities and their ambitions. You instantly feel a friendship forming with them.
At first, I perceived it as merely a piece of cake, but as I cut into it I saw something else – something much more substantial. The Ottawa-based group’s EP Winter Sucks begins with a thin slice of melodically frosted pop punk guitar, which is joined at full force by the hurried, driving pound of the rhythm section. Immediately the head nods, the sun shines and we are in a place that we have been to before. But then, of course, comes the opening line, as vocalist Brittany Neron asks, “why don’t you smile?”. The album’s first cut, ‘”Cat Call”, should become a permanent installation on the streets of Ottawa, so next time when some seedy bastard passes unsolicited comment on a woman’s appearance, she can point towards one of the mounted speakers before telling him to fuck off. It is a frustrated and poignant reply to this kind of street harassment, told with wit and a sneer; a refreshing burst of personal commentary that carries with it great social significance. This is exactly the kind of voice we need to hear in punk today.
The album, for which the duo play all the instruments and do all the vocals, was inspired by an abandoned island in the Rideau Lakes… With the combination of mystery and ghost stories at its foundation, Goodnight Boy’s 15-song self-titled album is one to be listened to from start to finish. It is a work of grunge and lo-fi rock rooted in folk principals of story telling and spirited emotion. Having seen them play many of the songs live before to hearing the recording, I have had the amazing luxury to witness a band truly growing up.
Ottawa’s most prolific pop-punker Steve Adamyk has done it again with an excellent 13-song album with all the energy, “wo-ohs”, and power-pop perfection we have come to expect from Adamyk and his band. This certainly isn’t a Paul Simon album… Just like their live performances, this album doesn’t really ever slow or give you a moment to relax, with most songs coming in at under two minutes. And just because it is pop-punk, power-pop, or garage… or whatever you’d call it – don’t think all these songs are love songs or about partying. Songs like the angry “Die Dead Forever” and the dark “False Teeth” show Adamyk’s depth beyond the prototypical sound of the genre. Fret not though, there are still super catchy tracks like “Carry On” and great rocking tracks like “Swallow You Whole” that will win you over right away and make you want to sing a long.
Ottawa born and raised, Métis singer-songwriter Amanda Rheaume released a wonderful album this year full of loss and grieving which she perfectly balanced with hope. The first single off Rheaume’s fourth album, Holding Patterns, is “Red Dress,” where Rheaume honours the over 1,180 murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada. The song was co-written by Jim Bryson and features Canadian great Chantal Kreviazuk on vocals. The album as a whole is a wonderful step forward for the very talented singer-songwriter and dare I say it a move to being a little more radio-friendly in all the right ways.
A Tribe Called Red – We Are The Halluci Nation
Indigenous DJ trio A Tribe Called Red returned with an immense 15-track masterpiece on We Are the Halluci Nation, taking traditional rhythms and beats of pow wow and transforming them into the powerful backbone of electronic- and dubstep-inspired anthems. This album is global; the Halluci Nation extends beyond political borders. It delves head-on into the ongoing impact of colonialism with poignant interludes by author Joseph Boyden. With appearances by acclaimed throat singer Tanya Tagaq, as well as Yassin Bey (a.k.a. Mos Def), Lido Pimienta, and more, ATCR has created the most crucial album of the year, one that all Canadians need to hear.
Excerpt taken from Matias’ piece in Mixtape Magazine’s Best of 2016 issue, found here.
Telecomo – Promo Only EP
While this band is new, its members boast impressive resumes. Telecomo is a three-piece garage rock group consisting of lead vocalist and guitarist Adam Saikaley (Ceremony/Hilotrons), bassist Gary Franks (Roberta Bondar/Ceremony), and drummer Pat Johnson (The Acorn/Silkken Laumann). Their debut Promo Only EP is one that Ottawa was primed and ready for, and people ate it up – hook, line, and sinker. This punchy four-track EP is everything you’d want from a garage album – it is unpretentious, simple, and extremely fun and satisfying to listen to. Its lo-fi aesthetic induces nostalgic episodes in those who remember the sounds of rock and roll gone by. I stand beside what I said in my initial review – “The Detroit garage rock gods of the 80’s would surely open their scuffed, wrought iron gates for Telecomo”.
Saint Clare are a hidden gem here in Ottawa. No one sounds quite like them, and they’re only getting better. Matthew Saint Clare’s distinctive voice leads the charge as each song on the album builds on the last, and we’re left with a mountain. The band has come into their own on this record, and they exude confidence in their songwriting and execution. Whether it’s the explosive horns section, enchanting lyricism, or unmistakable chemistry and sound, one thing is for sure – Saint Clare isn’t going anywhere. Keep your ears open for these guys in 2017.
Full article found here.
Sleepy and the Noise – Altitudes EP
On their debut release, Sleepy & the Noise’s sound is full and raw, but not overdone or aggressive. Those partial to Pavement or Dinosaur Jr. will be able to sink into Sleepy and the Noise’s sound right away, as they take us on a fun ride that is not only short and punchy, but also contains several moments of cunning lyricism and undaunted instrumentals. […] My favourite track, if I had to choose, would be the song “Mountains & Valleys,” one that elucidates Pasiak’s word-smithing abilities and strong use of metaphors and imagery in his songwriting. Moreover, some irresistible guitar tones and backup vocals by Fitzpatrick makes it one that you won’t be able to resist having on repeat.
Slack Bridges is all about combining different visions, influences, and styles and turning them into a unique cohesive sound. EP1 is the product of countless meetings and band practices hashing out exactly what that sound would be. Barr describes the approach as “destroy to create” – someone brings a small song idea to the table, and the band jams and builds on that idea as a group. It normally gets taken in five or six directions before they settle on a final idea.
EP1 is a groove-laden, intricately layered onslaught of soulful jams that are clearly the product of time, effort, and a lot of chemistry. Each track off the 4-song EP offers a display of each member’s strengths, at times allowing Barr’s bass lines and Selody’s ardent sax to take the lead it tracks like “Lion City” or Ward’s irresistible keys to reel us in on “All For You.” Gilmour’s deep and dynamic vocals tie it all together, offering daring melodies and smooth, seamless transitions between notes in the same vein as Leon Bridges.
Last year, A Tribe Called Red put out one of 2013’s best electronic album Nation 2 Nation which has since won them a Juno for Best Breakthrough Group. They just dropped a new video for their track “Sisters,” featuring contemporary Powwow Drum group Northern Voice, where a group of girls from a (presumably) far off town hear about ATCR’s monthly Electric Pow Wow party happening in Ottawa and decide to make the trip. Why not make it fun? They have good times getting dressed up, dancing in a convenience store, and drive through a beautiful Canadian countryside celebrating the fact that they’re going to see the group live. The final portion of the video is the ladies actually in the club, which happens to be their home base of Babylon on Bank Street. ATCR is on stage with a packed house, and you can also see Robbie of Fall Down Gallery doing some live art. A great song deserves a great video!
Here’s what ATCR said about the video’s inspiration:
For the “Sisters” video, we wanted to show that Native Americans are like everyone else, regular contemporary people who are connected, fashion conscious and going to the club on weekends. Starring Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, “Sisters” shows three aboriginal girlfriends going on a road trip to our monthly party Electric Pow Wow in Ottawa, one of the only all indigenous parties in North America. We wanted the simplicity of the story to enhance this message and shines a light on this all-Native crew. The song is taken from our latest album Nation II Nation and exclusively uses the female vocals of powwow group Northern Voice. This is also groundbreaking as female powwow backvocals haven’t been put at the forefront like this ever before.
The DJ trio from Ottawa are making some of the greatest electronic in the world right now, and we at Showbox are super proud of them. Check out the video for “Sisters” below.
If there’s one thing that The Black Sheep Inn is really good at, it’s throwing a hell of a party. Well, this Saturday will be no exception as some of Ottawa’s premier DJs in the scene get set to man the decks and create absolute chaos. The DJs include:
Ottawa’s pow wow step innovators A Tribe Called Red are going to be on the bill for this year’s Mad Decent Black Party. After a hugely successful year in 2012, ATCR has once again jumped on board with Mad Decent, Diplo’s Philly/L.A.-based record label, to play at the “World’s Biggest Block Party”.
Diplo, who is a world-renowned DJ and dancehall producer himself, has been instrumental in bridging traditional music with modern-day beats. Mad Decent has helped to make Brazilian baile funk and Angolan kuduro a little more mainstream, bringing a new sound and style of beats to clubs all over the world. It’s no surprise that Diplo is fascinated with ATCR, themselves having garnered critical acclaim across North America for their work. They recently released a track with Das Racist called “Indians from All Directions”, and they also made a Scion Sessions mixtape called Ever Sickin celebration of their 2012 appearance at Block Party (definitely worth a listen).
ATCR will play alongside other great acts such as Baauer, Clockwork, Danny Brown, Dillon Francis, Diplo, DJ Sliink, ETC! ETC!, Flosstradamus, Grandtheft, Keys N Krates, Lunice, Major Lazer, Matt & Kim, Nadastrom, Paul Devro, RL Grime, Rockie Fresh, Skream, The Partysquad, Torro Torro, Zeds Dead and more. It isn’t exactly clear yet which dates they’ll be on, but let’s hope lots of people get to check them out. While the Block Party won’t be making its way to Ottawa, it will be stopping in Toronto July 26th.