Ottawa-area rockers Elementals are at it again, and they’re pulling no punches. The group have just released their follow-up to their acclaimed 2015 debut I’m Not Here, I’m Not Real, and it’s a real banger. Mother Nature and Her Bipolar Tendencies is a seven-track onslaught of fuzzy guitar riffs, booming bass lines, and percussive thunder, and it’ll leave you wanting more.
So here’s the story. These guys were getting ready to record the album in Chesterville, and two weeks before their bassist parted ways with the band. I’ve known these guys for a few years now, and they’ve always been really tight, so one can imagine how difficult it was for them to wade through the mess and confusion right before hitting the studio. Guitarist and vocalist Cody Smith and drummer Jamie Speck persevered, and rallied the troops to keep on schedule and get the tracks recorded.
“Mother Nature and Her Bipolar Tendencies was supposed to be a happy experience — a five day getaway to the country to record what we felt were the best songs we’ve written to date,” they explain in a Facebook post in December of last year. “But true to its title, the universe had other plans for us. But one thing remained the same — we believed in these songs. We needed to record them, if not for anybody else, for ourselves. We went in the studio as a two-piece and what followed was almost therapeutic.”
“It made us tighter not only as a band, but as friends too. Moving forward we picked up two new members so that we could play the songs live as they were meant to be.”
The two new members weren’t present during the recording sessions, but Sheehan Jordan (Tenenbaums/Duck Toys) and Duncan Reitböck (Django Fett) officially joined the band afterwards and were, without a doubt, the perfect fit for the job. It’s a beautiful thing to see great musicians come together on a project, and their decision to add these guys to the lineup pretty much guaranteed that audiences would feel the full force of Elementals live.
Mother Nature and Her Bipolar Tendencies clocks in at 32 minutes long, but it doesn’t feel like 32 minutes. But I’ve listened to it three times today, so maybe that’s why. The album explodes off the starting line with “Medicine,” which for my money is the best song they’ve ever written…yet. It’s a long one at over five minutes, but about half way through they break it down and the bass and guitar go off on a tangential onslaught. It feels like Fugazi meets Pavement, or something.
While a lot of the album is heavier, grungy rock and roll which we all know and love, there are a lot of moments that slow it down. There are a lot of emotions here, and Cody delivers his lyrics strained through raspy vocals in a way that makes you feel what he’s feeling. Not many singers can convey that emotion, especially in a recording. Both “Angel Static” and “Beautiful Day” start with a clean guitar, and build to a crescendo and taking the listener for a full ride. There’s no rushing these songs, either. They are fully conceptualized and thought out, and in doing so the band is able to tell the stories much more effectively.
“24” is the lighter-hearted track on the record, a sort of reconciliation for a lot of the anger on other tracks. It’s what “Here Comes Your Man” is on Doolittle by The Pixies. Because, why not?
I hope that we can be cool / yes I hope that we can be cool / so farewell, so long / be good
“The Feeding Hour” cranks the throttle one last time, and then the record ends on a more peaceful note with the appropriately-titled “Adieu.” The whole thing is a great example of a band staying true to themselves and their roots, but not staying stuck in a mould and writing the same songs as before. It takes time to write albums like this one, and the range of emotions and experiences come across clearly.
We’ll be keeping an ear out for any new shows they announce in the spring, but in the meantime we’ve included the full album stream below for you to check out. Mother Nature and Her Bipolar Tendencies can be purchased on Bandcamp digitally, and the vinyl is available at record store around town. You can also stream it on Spotify and Apple music. Enjoy!
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.
As music writers, people like me explore our passion for music through words. It’s our way of supporting the music community and providing some much-needed coverage for artists.
In places like Toronto, there is no shortage of media outlets to target for coverage of a new album, video, or tour. However, in Ottawa, the ratio of artists-to-music media is disproportionate.
There simply is not enough coverage of music in town, even with Lynn Saxberg’s continued work at the Ottawa Citizen and newer platforms such as Ottawa Beat and Ottawa Showbox doing what they can. I thought it would be helpful to provide artists with a list of do’s and don’ts with respect to connecting with media—local or otherwise. Here are some pointers to help you have a better shot at getting covered:
Make your objective clear from the outset.
I know it’s exciting to talk about your music and get into specifics, but make sure the opening of your email or press release unequivocally states what it is you have accomplished, and what you would like from the writer or media source. That way there’s no confusion, and you cut to the chase right away.
Keep it concise.
Chances are the writer or editor has very little time and can’t read every single word in the email or press release. We want to read about your music and your band, but we don’t need a full-on history of your musical upbringing and details about your past unless it correlates directly with the work you’re doing now. Less is certainly more, and don’t weigh your corre- spondence down with unnecessary details for the recipient to wade through.
Provide supporting documents and information.
For me, a press release isn’t a must, but there needs to be a body of text that tells me what you’re looking for. More important is an up-to-date electronic press kit (EPK) that includes a bio, links to music samples, past and upcoming performances, high resolution band photos, links to past media coverage, a one sheet, and contact information. Having all of these makes writing about you a whole lot easier, and will save the writer from having to spend time digging up all this information. Plus, do you really want a 5-year old band photo with that former member you no longer speak with to be published?
Be bold in discussing your achievements, but not too aggressive.
There’s a fine line between being bold and being pushy. We want to hear about your music and milestones, but telling me that your band is “the next Radiohead” or “the best thing to happen in Canada in a long time” isn’t going to get you anywhere. A good approach is to let the music speak for itself. Be proud of what you’ve done, but let the writer make their own judgements. It’s also important to not sell yourself short, because there’s a good chance the writer is excited to hear your music!
Personalize your emails and correspondence to a specific writer or position.
If you are friends with or acquainted to the writer, it’s totally acceptable to start off the email saying something like “Hey Matias! Great seeing you at the show the other night, that was awesome.” A little anecdote or personal flare can go a long way. Writers are really good at figuring out which emails are mass produced, and which ones are tailored to them personally. The biggest faux pas for emerging artists is a “cc” or “bcc” on a mass email to writers.
Proofread your work, or have someone proofread it for you.
This might seem like an afterthought, but it really is a crucial step in the process of getting something covered. Think of it like sending in a résumé and cover letter for a job. Any mistakes and glaring errors will get caught, and cause any good writer to cringe.
Target the right people.
Make sure the website, blog, or media outlet you’re contacting writes about music like yours. Doing some research and checking out the kind of genres and content the source writes about is a good indicator of whether your music will appeal to them. For example, if you’re a local punk band that generally plays shows in basements, don’t email a Philadel- phia-based classical music blog for coverage. I know that is an extreme example, but you know what I mean. Use your time wisely by connecting with the right people.
There’s nothing wrong with checking in to see if your email has been read. In fact, it is appreciated. Sometimes emails get lost in a sea and sink to the bottom, but that doesn’t mean the writer doesn’t care. Feel free to “bump” it up to the top of the inbox again with a simple and cordial follow-up.
Don’t make a last minute request.
If you have an album release party coming up on Friday, don’t send an email to me on Tuesday and ask that I have it done before the show for promotion. Be realistic about timeframes and respect the fact that writers gener- ally have a lot on their plate. There is usually a posting schedule that keeps our lives somewhat structured and it’s hard to throw a wrench in it by adding more last minute work—and stress.
Don’t be too vague or complex in your email subject line.
This is your calling card, and your way to make a first impression. This is where you strip down the flare and fluff and just say what the email is about. I currently have 2,282 unread emails in my inbox (don’t judge) because I simply can’t get to them all. It’s like a triage system solely due to the volume of emails received. I open the ones that I immediately see and understand through the subject line, so make sure yours is one of the ones that stands out right away. e.g. [ARTIST NAME] announces new album [ALBUM NAME] – coverage inquiry
DON’T USE CAPS BECAUSE IT SOUNDS LIKE THIS WHEN READING IT.
Don’t contact writers through personal DMs if you aren’t friends with them.
Getting a “message request” from a random musician on Facebook Messenger is not a writer’s favourite thing to see come up in their notifications on their own time. Email is the best and most professional way to reach out to writers to whom you are introducing yourself and your band. Remember that writers often do what they do as a labour of love, so interrupting personal time to introduce yourself is not a great way to start a dialogue.
Don’t forget social media and streaming links in the email body or footer.
Often a writer wants to get a feel for what your band is all about. Even if you include all of these links in the EPK, it is important to make them easily accessible in the email itself, because after all, those are the links you want them to click on the most. Show me what you’ve got!
Don’t be upset if the editor or writer doesn’t get back to you right away, or at all.
This relates to the point above regarding follow-ups. I personally have three inboxes that I manage, each of which is high traffic. Be patient and persistent, but don’t become annoying with follow-ups or disgruntled. Getting upset or hot-headed about a non-reply will not only make sure you don’t get what you’re looking for—it could put you at the bottom of list for the foreseeable future. I’m not going to spend my time writing about jerks, so always be nice.
This article appears in the November edition of Ottawa Beat newsprint in the OSBX column.
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)
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.