“Hold My Fire” is a single off Gold and Marrow‘s debut album Forever. This acoustic version keeps away from the pop version on the album, accentuating clean guitar matched to Shannon Rose’s beautiful voice and heartfelt lyrics. The video is shot in Rose & Steven James’ living room by Ottawa Indie Hotspot‘s Christina Speziale.
Their website has now billed Gold and Marrow as just the duo of Rose and James, instead of the full band that was their previous incarnation. They also proclaim their romantic relationship very matter-of-factly. It’s refreshing to see a duo/couple “come out” in a way that just honestly says that there wouldn’t be music without there being an us.
Together, they play their hopeful track with the symbiosis of a steady partnership. Their musical efforts have been blooming for a while and are now bearing fruit in these earnest pieces of indie folk.
An aide-mémoire to watch for more to come from Rolf Klausener’s The Acorn was The Pink Ghosts & Blankets EP rerelease on Kelp Records for the label’s 20th anniversary last year. Since 2012 there’s been mention of a new album in the works, and although Klausener’s latest efforts have focused on the flourishing Arboretum Festival and his dance-dream band Silkken Laumann, it seems like 2015 will be the year of Vieux Loup.
“Influence” elaborates on electronica with guitar evocative of older tracks. The sound of the vocals here is more contemporary than in “Erster Tag” from The Pink Ghosts but still just as musing and harmonious. The upbeat drums are entrancing, keeping blood pressure high. The song is absorbing on its own but made enthralling by the slow motion of the video.
Shot by Travis Boisvenue, the video features local sculptor Marisa Gallemit on her day-to-day. She works her craft, spends time with her son at Pressed Café, keeps the bar at the Manx, and runs into friends Rémi Thériault & members of Silkken Laumann along the way. Klausener is an understated presence in the second half of the video, Gallemit being the focus here.
The smiles and deadpan looks that figure in any hard worker’s quotidian find a balance here.
Toronto ‘outlaw country’ group New Country Rehab are making their way to Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield, QC, for a double header this weekend, and we’re giving away a pair of tickets each night.
The band was formed in 2009 and are signed on Ottawa’s own Kelp Records. Although their name might suggest that their country roots run deep, their music reflects a broad range of influences from folk to hard-hitting rock and roll. New Country Rehab blends intimate storytelling with infectious instrumentation and songwriting that appeals to more than just your average country music audience. Their latest release, 2013’s Ghosts of Your Charms, has received international acclaim, and was just named one of the top bands in Contemporary Canadiana by The Bluegrass Situation.
One can only imagine how perfectly this band will fit in at the legendary Blacksheep Inn. They are well-oiled and ready to show their best having just come off a US tour recently.
How to Enter
Email music [at] ottawashowbox.com or tweet at us (@ottawashowbox) which kind of motel the band named one of their songs on Ghosts of Your Charms.
(Clue: it may be a little more extravagant than the average Joe can afford)
What you could win
One of two pairs of tickets to either Friday or Saturday night’s show, along with a copy of New Country Rehab’s debut album! We will announce the winner mid-afternoon day-of. May the force be with you.
It was the summer of 2000. I frequented the Second Cup on the corner of Bank and Somerset, as it was a favourite coffee joint, and still is. However, anyone visiting during that time got a bit of a treat while getting java. You got a preview of Paperjack’s sophomore (and final) album, 2001’s The Effort I’ll Never Get Back. My memory is foggy, but one or two of the guys worked there. Anyhow, over the store’s PA system, a rough mix without vocals would be frequently playing, simply because the dudes who worked there were in the band and they naturally wanted to show off their latest creation.
If that says anything, The Effort I’ll Never Get Back had a fairly long gestation period – recorded in scraps at various studios and put together meticulously. When the goods finally dropped, courtesy of Kelp Records, one thing was clear, and is even much clearer in retrospect: this was a band giving its all. In 2014, listening to the album again, it’s apparent about how much of a concept album this is about being in a band, knowing full well that this might be the group’s last shot at the big time –whatever that big time was. Their hearts were on their sleeve and they poured whatever finances they had into the project. Indeed, the photo on the insert of the disc coyly is shot from the inside of a vehicle – a homage to Double Nickels On the Dime? – as the driver is passing by a Scotiabank branch on the 417 as he reaches for the radio controls.
My first encounter with Paperjack, sort of, wasn’t a positive one. In the mid-90s, I was writing music reviews for the Ottawa Citizen’s High Priority page for teenagers (back when the paper tried to cater to a young audience) and I said something in a review about the latest Furnaceface album being overproduced. Ben Wilson, who would become the frontman for Paperjack and was, at the time, a graduate of Glebe Collegiate, wrote a letter to the page on June 26, 1995, telling me that “Furnaceface’s release is not a ‘mess’. Rather, it’s a display of what the band can achieve musically. After all, who wants a CD that does not give a full picture of the band’s abilities?”
Little did I know at the time that Paperjack, so named after a book by local fantasy writer Charles de Lint, would become one of my favourite bands, after seeing them perform at Carleton University, where the band members were studying, and buying their 1997 disc Ross, which only hinted at the promise of the group. I think I eventually realized that Wilson, the singer/guitarist, was the dude who wrote to me in High Priority (I have a long memory), and we talked about it and buried the hatchet.
But Wilson’s words reverberate with me as I write this piece. Clearly, The Effort I’ll Never Get Back is indeed a full display of what the band could achieve musically. It paints a full picture of the band’s abilities, a shot at going completely for broke. And, yes, it’s a record about being in a group. Opening song “You Guys Are Awesome” is about the other bands that peppered the scene: “Did you have a good time? / Did you have fun? / You guys are awesome / Did you have space? / To pack in the van? / You guys are awesome.”
Later on, on the haunting “Let’s Be Super-Nice to Each Other”, Wilson, who channels Stephen Malkmus, sings, “I never kissed a musician until I kissed Sarah,” who becomes a “sister” when he joins, presumably, the musician’s union. “All of these plans / And working for the man / With all my sisters and brothers.” So, yes, The Effort I’ll Never Get Back is about the trials and tribulations of being in a group with the foreshadowing that this could be it, this is one shot at reaching glory and the need and reliance on other people to help attain that.
But what makes The Effort I’ll Never Get Back a special album is that it is a human album. The vaguely post-rock instrumental “Cloak & Dagger” is notable in that it includes a very noticeable flub that stops the song briefly. For all that the disc is about doing your best and trying to reach out to as many people as possible, it is also an acknowledgement that perhaps your best isn’t all you’ve got, and, indeed, this might just be pessimistically the effort you’ll truly never get back.
However, even though the record is certainly meaty and gives you grist for the mill in what it takes to be a successful band, the record is, in a word, fun. It flat rocks out gleefully. This is embarrassing, but, to this day, I’ve been known to practice air guitar to “F* Off” in the company of my cat in the downtown Ottawa apartment I share. Congratulations, Paperjack. I think you’re the only local band I’ve done that to.
Aside from that song, The Effort I’ll Never Get Back is studded with gems. “Break Things” is a nod to Replacements-style alt-punk. “Blist”, which was something of the “single” from the album, considering that it showed up on a compilation from Fine Records of Ottawa acts, also hums with vital energy. “Nod of Satisfaction” has a melancholic riff that slithers into your cranium and never lets go. And “Stranger Means Danger” is a strum of a song that also makes a memorable mark with its acoustic and electric guitars stabbing at each other with a remarkable melody.
What’s more, though, this LP also shows off the musician’s musicianship. “Grain of Salt” is notable for its polyrhythmic drum pattern that makes the tune sound somehow foreign, as though it gestated in a dark continent. “The Alpine Swiss” is a slacker of a song that, yes, recalls Pavement, but a version of Pavement that wasn’t interested in sloppiness or playing as though they’d spent too much time at the beer taps. “Master Card” – another nod to the debt these guys went into to make this record? – chugs and churns with the guitars pointing a counter-attack to the rhythm section.
All in all, The Effort I’ll Never Get Back is among the very finest records that this city has given birth to. And, truthfully, Paperjack never really got the respect they deserved. I recall seeing the band play at an outdoor festival in Confederation Park sometime after the album’s release, and the outfit was in the middle of playing “Blist”, I believe, before they got the power pulled on them mid-song – they’d gone over their allocated time limit, no matter how good of a time those in the audience were having, forcing the group to quietly leave the stage with a meek “thanks.” Typical Ottawa bureaucracy at work.
Although Paperjack is no longer, remnants of the band still linger. Wilson works at a job in the federal government as a speechwriter, and I believe he has a family. He and Brennan Pilkington have formed a “hypnotic space folk” band called Orienteers that have been active in Ottawa since 2008. The other guys? Who knows? Still, if I ever need a fond memory of a seemingly simpler time, a time before 9/11, a time before the war on terror, and a time before the Great Recession (which has impacted writers like me), The Effort I’ll Never Get Back is what I turn to.
In that letter to High Priority, Wilson concluded, “Critics of anything tend to say too much – try just paying attention and respecting things for what they are.” I couldn’t come up with a better statement to describe Paperjack’s final album. Just pay attention and respect it, because, when all is said and done, it still holds up as a damn fine statement of the very best that the Ottawa music scene has had to offer. It’s durable and an excellent effort that rewards the listener, even if Paperjack never truly got the accolades that they so clearly and dearly deserved. A “Nod of Satisfaction”, indeed.
Zachary Houle is the Canadian Music Editor for PopMatters.com, a Chicago-based webzine that attracts 1.3 million unique visitors globally each month. He also reviews books for bookwookie.ca. In addition to his music and book writing, he has had freelance journalism published in SPIN, the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and Canadian Business. He also dabbles in fiction and poetry, and his work here has been published in literary magazines in Canada, the US and the UK. He was a recipient for an emerging artist grant from the City of Ottawa, and was nominated for a US Pushcart Prize for his work.
It makes all the sense in the world for an Ottawa concert to begin at the pulpit of a late 19th century Anglican church and culminate with a fight in the depths of the Dominion Tavern.
Ottawa-based independent record label KELP celebrated its 20th anniversary on May 31st with a brimming sold out concert at St. Alban’s Anglican Church in Sandy Hill. Eleven bands and individual artists from across the label’s roster performed, including the Hilotrons, Jim Bryson, Andy Swan, and The Acorn.
As a newcomer to the live music scene in Ottawa, I was mostly excited to see so many local performers in one night. By the time things got nasty at the Dom however, the collaborative spirit of KELP 20 had proved to be much more than just another show to see on a Saturday night.
Miche Jetté of moody Flecton Big Sky kicked off the evening, building the intimacy with an initially meek audience. Dropping an obligatory mention of beards and razors, Jetté’s confessional lyrics set the tone by announcing, “I’m in the house of the Lord but I’m dripping with sin.” Stray murmurs on the sacrilege of rock concerts in churches from the guy with his dirty feet splayed on the pew beside me made for a timely segue into Jetté’s “The Devil Is On My Trail.”
Local singer-songwriter Andy Swan ushered in a growing audience with odes to Jesus and starfucking. Banditas followed, rumbling in with a raunchy set of punk, and an assailing cry of “fuck all you warlords” on their crowd-favourite single “Tubular Balls.” By the time Chris Page performed a punchy set of alt-folk, the halls of St. Alban’s were resonating with a solid roster that spoke to both KELP’s small-town Maritime-influenced character, and the filthy DIY attitude that roots the label firmly in Ottawa.
Jonas Bonnetta of Toronto’s Evening Hymns made impressive use of improvised beatboxing by a young man known only as Ian. Looping samples captured right there during his performance, Bonnetta gracefully improvised against technical difficulties and retained the emotional delicacy of his album Spectral Dusk.
Jim Bryson playing at St. Alban’s Church in Ottawa. Photo: Ming Wu
More dancing and imbibing was wrought upon the church by Andrew Vincent, while Jim Bryson successfully hypnotized a particularly gleeful dancer in a red shirt into childlike abandon. Bryson’s country roots were referenced with an homage to Stittsville and a political retaliation against old people (within the same breath), but the energy was quickly recaptured by Ottawa favourites The Acorn, who kicked off their set with a new song.
In the most stunning moment of the KELP 20 concert, The Acorn’s “Darcy” hovered over a hushed audience with angelic harmonics in a poetic reflection of the concert’s venue. Building to climax in the characteristic slow rise similarly heard in related Ottawa outfit Silkken Laumann, The Acorn transitioned into a feisty set by the Recoilers. With the interruption of a midnight curfew, the KELP congregation proceeded to march to the Dominion Tavern.
The Acorn playing at St. Alban’s Church in Ottawa. Photo: Ming Wu
At Ottawa’s mangiest watering hole, the psychosynth garage-funk of the Hilotrons couldn’t be more fitting. “Too many people being nothing,” moaned Mike Dubue over the slur of booze, startled regulars and sullen bartenders.
With enough sobriety to reflect on the transition from St. Alban’s to the Dom, I saw how KELP embodies the kind of DIY ideology that Ottawa has built from bare bones, and that certainly deserves celebration. It was inspiring to see the openhearted intersection of venues, people, and genre influences from garage pandemonium to rhythms of funk, and a heroic dose of synth. KELP’s 20th anniversary demands an immense appreciation for the individuals who have dedicated their lives to building the musical community and identity of our city, despite the ready-made indulgence of nearby Montréal and Toronto.
By the time Rhume took the stage, whiskey had become the main act, the night blurred into anchors under strangers’ eyes, the dance floor was possessed, and whoever that guy with the mic was had doused himself with whatever booze was at hand. Overall a great night for KELP Records, with many more to come!
Ottawa Showbox and Dan Rascal went to visit the very talented Jim Bryson in his home studio to chat with him about Kelp and film him playing. Watch Bryson play “Firewatch” off Where the Bungalows Roam, the first album he released with Kelp.
A couple of Ottawa’s best are releasing new albums within the next week. Hilotrons (Kelp Records) and The Steve Adamyk Band (Dirtnap Records) are offering up new material and kicking off 2013 with full force. Hilotrons’ At Least There’s Commotion contains a bit of everything, melding different themes, sounds and styles in the final product. Personally, I’ve listened to the album streamon the CBC websitea couple times over and love it. Having taken some time off Hilotrons’ releases for five years, Michael Dubue hasn’t missed a step with this album. An excerpt from a recent CBC feature explains:
Beneath its edgy, pop exterior, there’s quite a melancholy aspect to this record. It seems like a collection of love songs, or at least an album full of songs about dynamics between men and women.
“Almost,” Dubue clarifies. “Some of them might seem like it’s all between lovers but there’s a bunch that are between friends and family. The narrative of the record is from the point of view of someone who suffers borderline personality disorder and also from the perspective of their friends and family.”
The Steve Adamyk Band is also set to release a 12-track full-length appropriately titled Third. The band has made some great strides since forming in 2010, and overcame a bit of adversity with changes in the band. The album won’t disappoint anyone who likes the dirty, garagy, pop-punk with lots of drive – it is a great listen from start to finish. Even though a lot of the tracks are shorter in length, songs like “Eyes” (my fav) and “Not a Witness” will have you moving involuntarily to great tunes, one after the other. The song “Katacombs” was premiered on SPIN last month, and was referred to by them as a “White-knuckle pop-punk gem”. Let’s be honest, there isn’t a bad song on this album so take a few good listens. Having seen these dudes absolutely tear up Arboretum Music+Arts Festival last September really had me thinking, “Holy shit – there really are awesomely loud and talented bands that live in Ottawa”.