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!
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.
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.
Gatineau’s Outside I’m a Giant is set to release their much-anticipated debut album in Wakefield, QC, on Saturday night. The ambient folk trio was founded in early 2016 by Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist, Jérémi Pierre Caron, and have made their presence in the Canadian music scene known by their inclusion on bills at CityFolk Festival, Black Sheep Inn, the legendary Horseshoe Tavern, and venues scattered along the east coast while on tour.
Their debut record, Point Comfort, is the culmination of many of these early band experiences. Their hard work over the past two years has led them to the Black Sheep’s stage once again, this time celebrating the release of the spectacular 12-track effort. Its influences are likely numerous, but it is impossible to listen to Point Comfort without hearing—and feeling— the brooding, simmering echoes of Leonard Cohen embedded in their work. While Caron’s songwriting takes a more direct approach, the contemplative storytelling and enthralling musicianship ooze from this record in a similar way to Cohen’s body of work. One may simply find themselves sitting in silence in the moments after the record finishes, ruminating.
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. It 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.
If you’ve never had the chance to catch Outside I’m a Giant live, there’s no better place to see them than the Black Sheep Inn tonight in Wakefield. Ticket information can be found here, and at $10 each, it’s a steal.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—one of the most rewarding parts of this job is discovering new artists making music in town. That is certainly the case with the young and aspiring singer-songwriter named Christine Jakel, who I crossed paths with at Bar Robo last year when she played with her other project, Grace Note. Her talents are immediately impactful, and draw listeners in like a tractor beam through the headphones or on stage. As someone with a degree in classical voice from the University of Ottawa and lifelong piano training at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Christine’s kind and modest demeanour struck me as endearing given the sheer level of skill and experience contained within her. Thus, I took a mental note and made sure to keep an eye on her music-related ventures.
Fast forward a year or so, and Jakel announces that she’s releasing a solo EP called Satellite Moons, once again at Bar Robo, on September 30. It came as no surprise, and it seemed to only be a matter of time before she explored her solo songwriting in a formal studio setting. While I’ve only heard a couple songs off of the upcoming EP, my initial impression is that she has a musical “sense” about her that is well beyond her years. The songs weave between genres and influences, as certain polarizing elements of jazz and folk are somehow drawn together and melded with one another in her songs.
Her vocal prowess is put on full display, as Jakel seamlessly reaches the highs and lows of her octave—and everything in between—with laser-sharp precision. The rest of Satellite Moons is sure to contain more treats for us to hear. In the years to come, Ottawa should prepare itself for Jakel’s inclusion into a group of local women such as Kathleen Edwards, Catriona Sturton, and Lynne Hanson, just to name a few, who have consistently shown that they are a force to be reckoned with in the Ottawa valley and beyond.
I caught up with Jakel this week in advance of the Satellite Moons EP Release, which takes place at Bar Robo on Saturday, September 30th at 8 pm. She will be joined by Mike Giamberardino (drums), Szymon Szańczuk (bass), Dean Watson (electric guitar), and Charlotte Esme Frank (harmonies) on stage, along with opening acts Grace Marr and David daCosta. Tickets are $13, and include a download code for the album. Find more information here.
Interview with Christine Jakel
Can you talk a bit about how has music been a part of your life growing up?
Both my parents took it upon themselves to expose me to music growing up. My dad has been obsessed with jazz ever since I can remember and used to play jazz guitar in his spare time. There are some artists whose CD’s are deeply ingrained into my system from having listened to them so often: George Benson, Chet Baker, Diana Krall, Miles Davis and Oscar Peterson, to name a few. I’ve probably heard Autumn leaves thousands of times because my dad used to practice it relentlessly. He was also the one who introduced me to Joni Mitchell, now my main source of inspiration for songwriting. Her song Big Yellow Taxi was the reason I started playing guitar. Wondering Where the Lions are by Bruce Cockburn was the next song I learned. He was another artist that I heard a lot of growing up because of my dad. My mom was the one who made sure I was taking classical piano lessons starting at a young age and shortly after we moved to Ottawa, she enrolled me in an arts high school (De La Salle) where I chose the voice program and subsequently became actively involved in its various vocal ensembles, while being trained as both chorist and a soloist.
You explore many sounds and themes in your music. What is most important aspect you focus on when composing a song?
For me songwriting always begins with lyrics and melody. The song craft and the overall message of the song are as important to me as the music itself. This is also what I listen for in other artists’ music. I find that I am most drawn to songs that are cleverly thought out but also genuine and direct. This is what I aim for when composing my songs. Overall atmosphere, chords and instrumental riffs come are there to enhance those elements.
What was the Shot in the Dark experience like for you? Can you describe it for those who may not know?
It felt great to be a part of something that I knew was contributing to the local music scene in a positive way. Not only did I get one of my own songs recorded and filmed for the first time, but I had the chance to hear and meet so many talented local artists that I never would have discovered otherwise. In a way it acted as a spring board for me as a newly emerging musician because it led to more opportunities for shows and collaborations.
The performance itself was unlike anything I have ever done before and I don’t think it’s one I’ll be forgetting anytime soon. When I came on, Dean made the call to remove all amplification and to bring the audience close in around me, so there was zero background noise and I could feel everyone watching and listening to me intently. It was terrifying in the best way (I don’t think I’ve ever felt so exposed), and I couldn’t be happier with the result! (video available below)
What reaction or emotion do you hope to evoke from those listening to the new EP, Satellite Moons, for the first time?
I hope that anyone listening finds something they can relate to in my songs and feel moved or inspired by even if it’s just in a small way. I also hope to send an empowering message to other women out there who may feel intimidated or out of place taking up space or making themselves heard in the music scene. From what I’ve seen, the industry could really use more female representation. Knowing this reality is partly what fuels my work. Furthermore, I would love for people to perceive the depth in my songs and to hear beyond something that’s “cute” or “pretty.” Those are two words that I’ve been called my whole life, that bother me when they are used in a belittling way (whether intentionally or not), and that I’d like to break free from at least in the context of my music. This is why I’ve made sure to include some angry songs on the record.
Do you have a memorable concert experience that you can recount that perhaps influenced your music?
This past March I had the opportunity of seeing The Staves play live at the Bronson Centre. I was floored by how polished their performance was and by the wide range of soundscapes they managed to create using their voices and various instrumental skills. What I particularly like about them is that they stray from the traditional lead-singer vs. band setup. Each member plays an equal part in the singing and the balance between their voices shifts from one song from the next in fascinating ways. Their sound is very much contingent upon them gelling as a team. For me, the experience of hearing them opened doors to new realms of possibility when arranging music, which made me want to go home and write songs immediately.
Is there one venue or city that is on your bucket list to play? Why?
I am open to the possibilities of where my music might take me. Playing music is what makes me happy. Whether it’s in a noisy bar or the NAC or at an intimate gathering, I am grateful for any opportunity to share my work, the more unexpected the better! Short term, however, I do currently have my sights set on Megaphono. I have so many good memories from attending the festival as an audience member and it seems like something I’d like to experience and be a part of, hopefully as a performer this year.
What’s the next step for you musically?
In the next year I am hoping to gain regular instruction at guitar and to lock in a few more hours of practice per week than I usually do. Everything I know so far, I taught myself, besides the odd trick I picked up from my dad and my uncle, and there is so much I have yet to learn about the instrument. This would give me a whole lot more to work with when writing songs, which I intend to continue doing as much as possible. My goal is to have enough songs written by next summer to be able to start on an album. I already have a few on the go.
Ottawa’s pop-punkers The Superlative recently put out a new song “Where We Left Off,” their first release in a year.
Fans of The Superlative’s past music will quickly find themselves rocking out again with the new track. You can certainly tell of some musical growth, but the biggest progress seems to be lyrically with the new music being a little more serious in nature.
We caught Kiel Burwell (Guitars/Vocals) to chat about what the band has been up to, their new song and whats next.
Interview with The Superlative
So it has been a little over a year since we got new music from you guys. What have you been up to?
We have been working hard on new music, stage performance (lights show, etc…), and playing as many shows as we can this past spring and summer. A few notable ones were opening for Hedley to over 20,000 people at an international fireworks festival. And also getting nods from Sublime With Rome and their management. We have been trying to build the band up and up as we do every year. And like every year, there were ups and downs.
What is the story/inspiration behind the new track “Where We Left Off”?
Where we left off is a lyrical collaboration between our singer Charles and myself (as is usually the case). The song is centered around the idea of how everything in modern society makes us so in a rush that we forget where we’re at sometimes and it in turn affects everything around us in so many negative ways. The song is basically about taking your time and working at things, and how slow and steady can win the race.
The whole collection of songs for this series will (for the most part) be about how modern upgrades in in our society being a blessing, but also how lazy, dumb and selfish it’s making a huge portion of society. How everyone’s attention span seems to be shrinking more and more each day.
In the past you have generally released an album at a time not just a single like this. What is your plan with Harmful Distractions?
We make music for ourselves first and foremost. That’s not to say we don’t want to adapt to modern ways that people listen to, purchase and share music. We see a lot of bands just putting out single songs that have no plan of being a full album at the end, and that’s cool, but also kind of sucks… We aren’t the first band to try something like this, but we definitely feel we have some unique aspects to what we are trying to do.
Majority of the time the guys and I listen to full albums, but sometimes we like a mix for while we are working, hanging out with friends and more… So we can see where music lovers are adapting to playlists and the convenience (but not artist payout) of streaming services. So we figure over the course of the year, if we release songs here and there for people to pick up on and see if they like each of them, it will give them more time to grow fond of each song… Hopefully enough to buy a physical record we will release at the end of the HARMFUL DISTRACTIONS series.
We also want to make a statement to people to love your smartphones, laptops, tablets, VR systems and more, but step the hell outside sometimes and leave them behind. Go do something that disconnects you from society for a few days or a week. Revert back to the way it was in the days when you couldn’t just shoot your friends a text to see where they were. Go out and explore your neighbourhood and see if you can find their bikes in a friends yard to know where they are at… you might realize what it’s like to be an independent thinking, attentive, human being…
You guys have developed a reputation of making some pretty hilarious music videos. Should we expect videos for these tracks?
Hahaha. We just shot a video for the song that will follow this one in about three weeks time. We invested in audio/video gear and are doing all that by ourselves now too. We love making goofy videos and being dorks for sure… However after the success of our last video (getting onto Exclaim, Blank TV and Alternative Press), it was a serious theme about suicide prevention, we kind of realized that maybe constantly making funny videos isn’t the best idea if we are trying to be taken seriously. I will hint that the next video will show how close we are as friends (no we aren’t naked…get that out of your head), and the brotherhood we have built with each other through the power of music and art. We want to make a video for “Where We Left Off,” but the idea we have is something we have to do some research on and maybe we can pull it off. We love our friends that do work for us, but we are very DIY if no one has noticed.
What is next for the band and when can locals get a chance to hear some of this new music live?
We have a few shows coming up in the fall and winter around Ontario and Quebec. Otherwise we will continue to work with our good pal Mike Poisson at Mike Poisson Recordings on the rest of the material for this song series. More new merchandise design, spring and fall show booking/festival applications, the usual band building necessities. We are really starting to see a lot of activity from fans all over the place and it’s pretty surreal, so we are talking to management and booking agent options and seeing what’s right for us.
We currently have 2 songs fully ready to release and are in the studio throughout October to do more. One of those songs is “Where We Left Off,” so there’s one left in the chamber. The entire record is written, we are just perfectionists and choose to take our time writing and recording everything, so we can have what we feel is the best product in the end.
The cool air has arrived in Ottawa, and brings with it the whispers of autumn. What better way to celebrate the harvest and changing of the leaves than a new album from Ottawa heavy-hitting folk rockers Jack Pine & The Fire? The group’s new record Left To Our Own Devices will be released this weekend, and I got a sneak peek into the nine-track effort.
Ottawa native Jack Pine (a.k.a. singer/songwriter/producer Gareth Auden-Hole) grew up in the city, but admits that his heart belongs to the northern wild. It’s appropriate that the band’s name comes from the recognizable ragged tree that was made famous by Canadian artist Tom Thompson. The band’s music continually maintains a strong connection with the wilderness, with subjects such as rushing rivers, sleeping under the stars, solitude, and the metaphorical lone wolf scattered throughout. The new album genuinely feels like it could have been conjured up and recorded in a cabin 500 kilometers away somewhere in northern Ontario.
Left To Our Own Devices incorporates the band’s trademark americana-folk inspired sound dipped in Ottawa valley twang. More than any of their previous records (which I also enjoyed thoroughly), Devices offers a more complete picture of who this band is and what they have to offer. There’s a tug-of-war between the past and present on this record, as it recalls the great folk songwriters of days gone by while offering a modern take to listeners—one that could draw them in and keep them close while Jack Pine’s story is told (probably around a campfire).
The warm sounds of Martin Newman’s upright bass provide a tender, yet sturdy backbone for the album’s more restrained tracks such as “The Run Down” and “Lone Wolf,” but his fancy finger-work is also unleashed in tracks like “Seven Generations.” Mike Essoudry’s percussion brings forth the foot-stomping element that we all know and love, and is sure to have fans clapping along to fun songs like “Credit River” during live performances. Stuart Rutherford’s twangy resonator is truly enveloping, and recalls the distant bluegrass influences that surely helped inform their music, blending seamlessly with the fiddles and guitars.
All in all, Left To Our Own Devices is a great accomplishment. It contains inspired musicianship and instrumentation, captivating themes and songwriting, and has mountains and valleys of energy that elucidate how dynamic this band really is. Jack Pine and The Fire have shown, once again, that they are masters of their domain and that they’re more than just a gritty folk-rock band with strings.
Be sure to catch Jack Pine & the Fire at Irene’s Pub this Friday, as they get set to release ‘Left To Our Own Devices’ to the world in full. Tickets are $15 adv/door and can be purchased at Irene’s Pub, Compact Music, The Record Centre, and their PledgeMusic Store here.