Another year in the books for music in the nation’s capital and another year of countless great releases. This list is in no way a complete and exhaustive wrap up of all this city had to offer, but simply a listing of the 17 albums and EPs that stood out and really captured our attention over the calendar year of 2017. Check them out below, have a listen, get out and support local music. We can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store!
Top 17 Local Albums of 2017
Mushy Gushy – More Butter
Released: July 7, 2017
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 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. […] 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. — Excerpt written byEric Scharf
Telecomo – For Sale
Released: June 6, 2017 (Record Centre Records)
I think the world could always use some more fun and punchy garage rock, and that is exactly what this band is offering us. The simple chord structures, unflashy vocals, and lo-fi aesthetic give Telecomo a genuine throwback feel. The Detroit garage rock gods of the 80’s would surely open their scuffed, wrought iron gates for Telecomo. — Excerpt written by Matías Muñoz
Slack Bridges – Joy of Joys
Released: November 11, 2017
[…] everything Slack Bridges has put out since their inception has met a seemingly self-imposed benchmark of production and musicianship. Their debut full-length “Joy of Joys” is no exception. The album was self-produced by the band at Swell Studios and received some esteemed TLC from Phil Bova at Bova Lab Studio, and Jason Jaknunas at Metropolitan Studio. It features a veritable roller coaster of soul (I’m not gonna say soul-er coaster), both lyrically exploring themes of struggle and searching for hope, but also exploring different aesthetics and dynamics musically. — Excerpt written by Anthony Cardozo
Heavy Medicine Band – ERSATZ ERA
Released on: April 22, 2017 (Record Centre Records)
Of all the bands making music in Ottawa—or even Canada, for that matter—the Heavy Medicine Band is pursuing a style and sound that is wholly their own. It’s phsyc-rock dipped in folk noir, driven by the profound lyricism and vocal prowess of Keturah Johnson. On their debut full-length ERSATZ ERA, the band weaves together texturized soundscapes that could be the soundtrack of a dream…or a really good trip. They build on and expand upon the foundation laid out on 2015’s Conduit EP, paving a path for listeners to get lost deep in their world. The intricate and reverb-laden instrumentation are a foundation of the album, often droning into the fringe of our imagination on tracks like “teeth” and “breath.” Johnson’s remarkable voice cannot be understated, however, and this band’s undeniable chemistry makes them one of the most exciting in town. — Matías Muñoz
Tapas – s/t
Released on: November 17, 2017
Tapas is the name of a new hip hop trio in Ottawa, but they’re anything but rookies. The group consists of two of Ottawa’s finest MC’s—G.Grand, and Hyf—along with locally-renowned producer Jeepz behind the beats. Together they are a force to be reckoned with. Their self-titled debut may very well be one of the best hip hop records to come out of the capital in the last five years. — Excerpt written by Matías Muñoz
Moonfruits – Ste-Quequepart
Released on: May 12, 2017
The husband and wife duo Moonfruits released their second full length album this year. Ste-Quequepart is a 10 song French-language folk concept album that plays like a short film soundtrack and really emphasizes the couple’s voices and lyrical content. Their beautiful and powerful voices which complement each other so well are on display from the get go in the title track. While the music and instrumentation of the album is rather simple, at times just a banjo or a guitar, you never feel like anything is missing. Much of the album is a little laid back, however my favourite song “Le Maire” picks up the pace and teleports you to a kitchen party or a campfire jam with charming clapping and great sing a long moments. Have a listen to the album Ste-Quequepart on a cold winter night, close your eyes and let Moonfruits take you away to a different place.
Galapagos – Potential Space EP
Released on: June 13, 2017
The final version of Potential Space was recorded on an afternoon in May, 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 changes and has grown from two-piece to four. I really enjoy how much diversity of sound they fit into a four song release and see much potential in all the different avenues for the sound to continue to grow. — Excerpt written by Eric Scharf
Bonnie Doon – Dooner Nooner
Released on: May 21, 2017 (Record Centre Records)
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 Centre 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.” — Excerpt written by Matías Muñoz
Dead Weights – Mountain Arresting
Released on: August 1, 2017
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. — Excerpt written by Matías Muñoz
Nightshades – s/t
Released on: November 15, 2017
Nightshades’ self-title release this year was their first full-length album. There has been some change in membership (Dean Morris joined them on bass) since their last release and also some slight change in sound. The band’s sound is a lot more mature and refined in all the best ways. They have kept true to their garage origins, but come at it a little cleaner and polished than past works. The track “Very Blue” sticks out in particular on the album as it appears to me to be the song that best encapsulates their transition from old to new Nightshades. “Very Blue” has many of the raw elements and darkness of older Nightshades while still very much being new and a step forward. Lead singer Mallory Giles’ vocals sound better than ever on this release and really shine on tracks “Wasting Time” and “Broken Bag.”
— Eric Scharf
New Swears – … and the Magic of Horses
Released on: June 23, 2017 (Dine Alone Records)
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 it is even better is how they have done it without losing their edge and fun which they have become synonymous with. — Excerpt written by Eric Scharf
Area Resident – Delano
Released on: October 13, 2017 (Record Centre Records)
Some may recognize Doug Hempstead’s voice as the dependable CBC radio traffic reporter here in Ottawa. But when he’s not on the airwaves talking about crashes and delays, he’s making music under the moniker Area Resident. The album is all Ottawa Valley, and a perfect mixture of the folk songwriting and crunchy alternative instrumentation that great artists from this area have pursued in the past. Hempstead himself is a talented multi-instrumentalist, and on stage he is the drummer lead vocalist. He is also supported by guitarists John Higney (The Flaps, Two Minute Miracles) and Paul Jensen, and bassist Kristy Nease (who also happens to be his CBC cohort). Delano draws on Hempstead’s experiences growing up in the valley outside of Pembroke and the things he’s encountered as a journalist. He expertly weaves together these anecdotes into poetic lyrics, imposing them into songs that aren’t tethered by a singular genre or stylistic direction. This album is full of life and demands to be listened to over and over again. — Matías Muñoz
Dark Plains – 00001
Released on: October 29, 2017
The Dark Plains is a band whose members have been making music for a long time, featuring ex-members of Okara and Shotmaker, who were relatively well-known acts in the 90s post-hardcore scene. While their experience extends beyond two decades, these guys are making fresh-sounds that contains elements of punk and hardcore, but the songs take their own trajectory all together. 00001 is an album that requires deep listening, and demands one’s total attention. — Matías Muñoz
Lake Urmia – Wine Time
Released on: June 16, 2017
Lake Urmia is a newer melancholic queer-pop band in town that is making serious waves, and their debut album Wine Time brings together warm tones and jangly riffs for us to grab and hold on to. The album was self-recorded by band member and vocalist Elsa Mirazei, and they also mastered it along with Chris Love of Pith and the Parenchymas. This DIY production gives the album a wonderfully imperfect quality, where the listener is given a raw and unrefined collection of beautiful (and sometimes sad) songs to ingest and mull over. The unrefined aspects of this album are what make it so easy to connect with, and Elsa’s soft vocal melodies are so naturally interwoven into the instrumental parts. Fans of Julien Baker and Frankie Cosmos will fall into the arms of Lake Urmia with ease, and we’re really excited to see what this band is going to get up to in 2018. — Matías Muñoz
Cody Coyote – Mamawi
Released on: November 1, 2017
Cody Coyote has exploded onto the hip hop scene over the last few years, and has garnered a lot of well-deserved praise for his recording and vivacious stage performances to date. The rapper is of Ojibwe/Irish decent with ancestry from Matachewan First Nation located in Northern Ontario, and has been writing music since the age of 16. Mamawi is Objiwe for “all together” in English, and the album combines extraordinary lyricism and storytelling with a range of modern hip hop and experimental beats. The album itself is centred around reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous people, togetherness, love and unity, and tackles some difficult issue involving the history of oppression and abuse of indigenous peoples that continues to this day. Not only is this album integral in today’s political conversation surrounding indigenous rights, but Cody Coyote is following the trail blazed by Ottawa’s A Tribe Called Red and his voice is one that we should all be listening to. — Matías Muñoz
Outside I’m a Giant – Point Comfort
Released on: October 7, 2017
The intricacy and scrupulous instrumentation that is woven throughout Point Comfort is made immediately apparent, and the cinematic qualities that each song contains evokes moving imagery draped over emotions. Caron’s deep, rumbling vocals compliment the storytelling and instrumentation beautifully, grasping the listener in a comforting way while guiding us through the tumultuous journey. In some ways it is reminiscent of The National’s Matt Berninger, and Caron similarly utilizes his vocal prowess in ways that indulges the eardrums without overpowering the gentle instrumental moments, or distracting from the tapestry created by the strings. — Excerpt written by Matías Muñoz
PINE – Pillow Talk EP
Released on: June 9, 2017
PINE has released their first album through No Sleep Records, an emotional five-track effort that spans genres and bring the listener into a world free of sonic boundaries. Their songs are raw and untethered pieces that use intricate instrumentation and emotive lyricism to create a powerful experience for listeners. — Excerpt written by Matías Muñoz
We’ve compiled a few albums that were either too short to meet our 4-track minimum, or didn’t quite fit into our top 17. Here are some honourable mentions worth listening to.
Her Harbour – Go Gently Into the Night
Gianna Lauren – Moving Parts (Forward/Record Centre Records)
Back in May, we celebrated our five-year anniversary with a couple of shows at The Record Centre. That was a whole lot of fun, but we’re not quite done yet. Because why stop there?
Over the past five years we’ve had the opportunity to meet countless musicians in Ottawa, go to hundreds of shows, and really dig deep into the music landscape here. These artists continue to impress us, inspire us, and keep us doing what we do. It’s been our mission and raison d’être to support these musicians through coverage of new album releases, interviews, live reviews, and much more.
We’ve put together a compilation called Five Years – Ottawa 2012-2017 which contains music that has impacted us since Showbox started in 2012. This span of five years, in our mind, was a crucial period in the Ottawa music scene. More DIY musicians than ever before came out of the woodwork and made albums, and many were released independently without labels. Some music was underground, some wasn’t.
Different types of music pervaded throughout this period, demonstrating Ottawa’s potential hub in the Canadian landscape. Our hope is that this compilation will act as a snapshot of a strong and robust local music scene in Ottawa between 2012-2017, and allow folks to have a view into the music that came out during this period. It goes between garage, punk, hip hop, folk, and
While we could have double or tripled the size of this compilation with all the incredible artists out there, we kept it modest and capped it at 51. So while this list is encompassing, it’s certainly not meant to be comprehensive by any stretch. Please enjoy a free stream and download of the Five Years – Ottawa 2012-2017 compilation below.
A huge thank you to all the artists who contribute their music to this compilation, and to Pascale Arpin for designing such a good album cover. Enjoy!
The compilation is PWYC, and any proceeds will be donated to Girls+ Rock Ottawa in memory of Jean Sebastien Belleau. A special fund in his name has been established for the maintenance, repair and preservation of their growing instrument library, made in the spirit of honouring JS’ much deserved legacy as a passionate supporter of the Ottawa music scene.
During Ottawa Explosion’s fourth day, the outdoor stage at Club SAW was rocked by the Mint Records Showcase featuring The Smugglers, NEEDLES//PINS, Tough Age and Expanda Fuzz.
The iconic Canadian garage rock band The Smugglers headlined the wonderful evening. The band from Vancouver, BC existed from 1988 – 2004, and just recently reunited for select shows in 2017. Lead singer Grant Lawrence, who many know as a host on CBC Radio 3, is wildly energetic and engaging as a frontman. He kicked off the show by saying: “Ottawa, it is so good to be back in the city that birthed The White Wires, Stand GT, Resin Scrapers, The Creeps, Million Dollar Marxists, Tokyo Sex Whale and so many more!” That was quite the tribute to the locals here, and many of the aforementioned bands had members in the audience. He continued “Since the last time you saw us in Ottawa we have had nine children and one heart attack.
They call themselves a rock n’ roll band, which they most certainly are, with hints of surf and very danceable garage (maybe those terms weren’t cool back when they were). Their sound is amazing and infectious and had people dancing and singing along non-stop. I try to make a point to not comment on a band’s attire, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the full suit and rubber boots look sported by many of the members.
The band played a high energy 12-song set featuring “Vancouver BC,” which Lawrence mentioned “was almost a hit on Much Music,” the International Smuggler Dance Competition judged by the drummer of NEEDLES//PINS and “Booze” which was dedicated to the drummer of The Gruesomes, a band from Montreal that changed Lawrence’s life, who happened to be from Ottawa. They closed with “Rock n’ Roll Was Never This Fun” and thanked us all for attending what could be one of the last Smugglers shows ever. It is bittersweet that my first Smugglers show may be my last, but I’m ecstatic that I got to see them play my favourite festival.
NEEDLES//PINS took to the stage before The Smugglers and were full of apologies from the get go. After playing their opening song “Drop It” they said “Feels so good to be back, I can’t believe we missed an Explosion I’m sorry. We will never miss another.” I sure hope the Explosion team holds them to that as I love knowing I will see this band every year. Before launching into “Best Friend” they urged us all to high-five our best friend which was a really fun moment to watch happen all around them in the packed Club SAW courtyard.
They also played a bunch of music off their new record, Good Night, Tomorrow, which hadn’t been released yet but is now available. The new tracks sounded great and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the album. Their set featured one of the cutest and most heart-warming moments of the festival. Not everyone knows that even though the band is from BC, one of their members is from the Ottawa Valley. Emmanuel Sayer (OXW organizer) noticed some of the family members, mostly older, sitting by the stage during the set and ran them over some earplugs. What a gentleman. It is always awesome to see NEEDLES//PINS perform, they are incredibly talented but also just such nice and positive people.
Tough Age, formally from Vancouver and now based in Toronto, played Ottawa Explosion again and are becoming a festival mainstay. The new-ish, stripped down three-piece (formally a bigger band) have really embraced some post-punk influences and sound with their new music, such as the song “Not That Bad.” I, and a couple of people I was chatting with, really dig it. One of the things that blows me away about this band is how the guitarist and bass player just switch instruments back and forth throughout the set. I have massive respect and am in awe of bands that can do that, it’s just wild. Member Jarrett Samson said in closing, “I’m excited to see NEEDLES//PINS and if they don’t play “Drop It” I’m going to burn this tent to the ground.” Lucky for him and all of us, NEEDLES//PINS opened with “Drop It” as mentioned and we all avoided a catastrophe.
Opening the Mint Records Showcase was local duo Expanda Fuzz. I was unfortunately running late and missed some of their set, but as always what I did hear was most excellent. Their fuzzy and drone garage style sound has this perfect slow crawling build that leaves me wanting more. In a short time as a band, they have already released a bunch of great music, but I am constantly going back to the first song I heard them play “Flavour: Zombie.” Every time I see them perform that song I get a big smile on my face and have to bob my head. I’m glad that even arriving late, I managed to catch it.
We are just so damn excited for our anniversary festivities this weekend (May 26/27) that we’re giving away a few pairs of tickets. We’ve been fortunate enough to become close with a lot of musicians in Ottawa since Showbox came on the scene in May of 2012, and we couldn’t be more stoked to have such talented friends play shows for us on Friday and Saturday at The Record Centre. We’ll be raffling off some free swag at the events from some cool businesses like Bar Robo, Beau’s All Natural Brewery, The Record Centre, and more. We’ll also be selling some limited edition Showbox merch as well, you won’t want to miss out!
Friday, May 26, will feature stellar performances by Jon Creeden, Expanda Fuzz, and one more act TBA.
The next night on Saturday, May 27, will feature intimate and mesmerizing performances by G.Grand & Hyf, Keturah Johnson, Claude Munson, and a rare comeback performance by our faves – STEAMERS. You can find more information about the artists here.
Tickets are available online now, but you also have a solid chance to win some free ones this week. Simply answer the question below and you’ll be entered to win a pair of tickets to our 5-year anniversary for you and a friend!
Ottawa’s droney post-punk outfit Expanda Fuzz has released a new video for their single “Sonic Halo.” The track appears on bandcamp along with a cover of Earth, Wind, & Fire’s “September” in the wake of founding member Maurice White’s death last year.
The track is a minimalist psychedelic trip, with rolling percussion, a fuzzy lead guitar part, and mesmerizing vocals by Niki. The video’s aesthetic is dark and ominous, taking place in a remote field at dusk and featuring characters with strange masks and costumes. The video is not as dark and creepy as their video for “Flavour: Zombie” released last year, and it also contains beautiful colours of the sunset. However, the smoke-breathing Grim Reaper-type character also leaves the viewer with chills down the spine, and it’s not the kind of figure you’d want to run into on a dark, empty farm.
Although the song is just over two minutes long, it’s great to see a video being made that perfectly suits the sound of Expanda Fuzz. This song could have easily been incorporated into season one of True Detective, or even Apocalypse Now. The video accurately reflects that kind of imaginary trip into the darkness.
Expanda Fuzz is playing JUNOfest March 31st with Dilly Dally, No Fuss, and The Dirty Nil at House of TARG. Ticket and wristband information can be found here.
Switches and Expanda Fuzz brought the garage to Bar Robo Thursday night.
Expanda Fuzz getting down and fuzzy at Bar Robo.
Local garage rock duo, Expanda Fuzz, opened the night playing songs off their new debut album Bleuetswhich they released on beautiful wax that night. Expanda Fuzz are a very interesting combination of drone and garage sound with pop lyrics that will make you swoon. This duo, equipped with a drum machine was only playing their second show ever, having first played at Ottawa Explosion. Their second track, the lead song off of Bleuets, “Flavour: Zombie” is such a great song and gets me from the first note. One half of the band is Chris Page of such bands as The Stand GT, Camp Radio and his great solo work. Page is one of the nicest people ever, I promise just talk to him and try to tell me different, and has an ageless voice that has simply become part of the capital region’s sound. They mostly played songs off of their new album, most notably “It’s Your Glow, UFO” where the other half of Expanda Fuzz, Niki Nine Doors‘ voice shines. They ended their set playing “Devil Town” by Daniel Johnston. They may be a new band, but on stage they look like they have been doing it for years.
Switches from Edmonton rocking out during their first ever show in Ottawa.
Headlining was Switches from Edmonton. “We are very excited to be here, its our first time in Ottawa and we are going to play some songs for you,” were the first words out of their mouth. This female fronted punk band with a hint of synth where a delight. I had listened to them a few time online, but Tara’s vocals live just have that extra oomph which is then complimented by both other female vocals. Switches also happened to play my favourite “15 Beers” off of their LP “i just wanna” as their second song, a new theme maybe? Take note bands playing Ottawa, hahaha. I was loving the set and didn’t think it could get much better, when all of a sudden Tara took to the mic and said, “We are going to do a Tracy Chapman cover now. Can anyone guess which one?” We all screamed “Fast Cars” and were very pleased to be right. Yes you read that correctly, everyone in attendance last night got to see a 80’s punk synth rendition of “Fast Cars.” It was a total game changer. And just for good measure after a couple more of their own great songs, they also covered Shangri-Las. You know that American pop girl group from the 1960’s, oh what a treat. Switches closed with “Push Pull” and the absolutely rocking “Spinning Out” from their new EP All My Darlings.
Switches reminded me of a female fronted version of The Sedatives with a little more bite and I say that as a massive compliment. Heck, they should play together next time they are in the same city. They have four dates left on their tour, Quebec City, Montreal, Peterborough and Toronto (more info here). I strongly urge you to go check them out then and next time they are near.