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)
For an Ottawa band that has only been around for the better part of two years, PINE has already experienced some major success. Not only has the band toured extensively in the US and Canada, in March of this year the band also announced that they were being signed to No Sleep Records. No Sleep is an independent label based out of Huntington Beach, California, known for having harboured such acts as Balance and Composure, La Dispute, The Wonder Years, Touché Amoré, and many more. Needless to say, being signed to a label such as No Sleep Records is a tremendous feat for a young band from the humble capital of Canada.
PINE is on the verge of releasing their first EP 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 “Viable” and “(Un)rest,” which can be steamed below, are raw and untethered pieces that use intricate instrumentation and emotive lyricism to create a powerful experience for listeners. I caught up with guitarist Holden Egan to talk about PINE’s new direction and their new album Pillow Talk.
PINE will be releasing their EP Pillow Talk at House of TARG on Saturday, June 10 along with guests Safe To Say, Heavy Hearts, and Kamen. The physical album will be available in limited edition pink vinyl. Advanced tickets are $10 and can be purchased at Vertigo Records. Doors at 9pm. Presented by Spectrasonic.
Interview with Holden Egan of PINE
The band announced the signing to No Sleep Records a few months back. How does it feel to be part of that family?
It feels awesome. Ever since I knew of No Sleep Records, Topshelf Records, and Run For Cover Records, and the bands associated with them, I’ve always wanted to be on one of those labels. It feels really good to be at this stage.
The single “Viable” is an emotionally jolting song that grabs listeners right away. Can you talk about how that track came to be?
It’s a funny story with that song! Our drummer Joey had written a song a few years before he was in the band, and when him and I moved in together we started pre-production on a few songs and he pulled that one out. I thought, “Woah, that actually works pretty well with some riffs I have.” So I worked on it, dissected it, and spun it backwards, added some riffs and jammed on it a few times. We recorded it in my bedroom and ultimately we had to leave that place because our roommate at the time didn’t want us to do music anymore. We toured with that song when we did our split with Dead Leaves, and we had a different lineup then so the song sounded a lot different, too.
So when we went to record it for this EP, Cory Bergeron (who mixed and mastered it) had a few great ideas on how to spice it up and bring it to the next level for this album. He made it a drum and bass intro and it kicked in with everything.
Having heard that song, what can listeners expect when diving into Pillow Talk as a whole? Are there some themes that resonate throughout?
The theme revolves around the struggles being in relationships when you’re younger. Cory and Darlene are both in touring bands, and the song “(Un)rest” is a song about dealing with being in a relationship and alone, away from your loved ones. It’s hard, especially when touring in the US where texting is expensive.
Your sound obviously has some roots in emo and post-rock of the 2000’s. In your mind, what attracts you to making music like this?
I think it has to do with our appreciation for soundscapes and production. When we’re touring, we’re always sitting and dissecting songs together and talk about why they’re good. We try and write music that takes little aspects like that and translate it in our own way the way we like. For example, I like a lot of post-rock and shoegaze. But our guitar player listens to a lot of singer-songwriter and progressive stuff. Our drummer listens to Mac DeMarco and the Chili Peppers, and Darlene listens to bands like Lydia and Sufjan Stevens. There’s a lot of diversity in the EP’s tracks. We’re not confined to just one sound, we incorporate different things into each song. We even have an acoustic song at the end, because we all like acoustic tracks with piano, cello and additional instrumentation. We all get off on that stuff.
If there were one band you could share the stage with, who would it be?
Slowdive, hands down. I would love to play with them. I’d probably cry if I found out that was a possibility.
PINE has toured quite a bit over the last few years. Is there some place that is on your dream list to visit?
This has always been a dream for me since I was like 15. Brixton Academy in London, England, is a venue I would love to play. I mean it’s kind of unrealistic at this point because it’s like a 5000 cap venue, but it’s a dream. But I’d love to play there. A place that’s a little more realistic to play is probably Manhattan. I’ve visited there a few times and I love New York City. I’d love to bring our music there and be able to say we played there, it’s on the bucket list for sure.
What can new listeners who attend the EP release at House of Targ on June 10 expect from PINE’s live performance?
I hope that they get the feel of the soundscapes we’re aiming for live. When we go to shows, we’re always paying attention to the tones. We’re all gear nerds and own lots of pedals. We’re really going for a wall of sound, and we’re not trying to make you happy but we’re also not trying to bum you out either. It’s moody, we want people to stand there and get lost in the music. It’s sort of like cinematic experiences. Slowdive uses their music to capture a cinematic moment or mood, and I guess it’s kind of emo in that way since we’re trying make you feel stuff. I’ve been in a hardcore band before and there’s a lot of aggression at shows. But I feel like our music is a bit different. We’re trying to make people feel something, and feeling soothing in some way.
Ottawa’s grunge and emo revivalist PINE recently released a great new video and 7 inch split.
First let’s start with the amazing 90s nostalgia that the video for “Waste” conjures up. The music is a great slow build which grows finally topping out with a big rocking finish. On top of all that the video features yellow, green and blue colour overlays of the band performing. I love it. So simple, yet psychedelic, beautiful and it really works having the lead singer or lead instrument of the moment at the forefront. As the song works its way to the climax the fades and overlays become more and more chaotic really driving home and complementing the more aggressive vocals.
The band also released a 7inch split (on really cool looking vinyl I may add) with Dead Leaves from Cleveland, Ohio via Take This To Heart Records. The release features 2 tracks from each band, “Waste” and “Lopri” by PINE and “I’m Sorry, Darling” and “Recycled Air,” by Dead Leaves. This split is a must listen to for fans of bands like Brand New and Balance and Composure. Check out the split below.
Who are the members of PINE and what are your respective instruments?
Darlene Deschamps on vocals, Christina-Leigh on vocals/keys/acoustic, Will Lepine on bass, Holden Egan leads, Tsnitch Nickel on leads, and Paul Dzioba on drums.
Tell us about your debut EP, you bury me.
Who’d you record with?
Cory Bergeron out of Pebble Studios in Ottawa, Ontario.
How was the songwriting process?
Well each song was written in completely different times of the year, they actually go oldest to newest on the EP. Songwriting together is wonderful, actually.
Where did the name PINE come from?
We were looking for a name for like 3-4 days, and we wrote a billion down. We actually live near a cemetery called Pinecrest and it came to mind, and the alternate meaning (which is a verb) was very relevant to Christina and I at that time.
Granted, alternative indie music is not my usual jam – but with you guys I can actually get into it.
What are your influences that you incorporated into you bury me?
Honestly, everyone in the band has completely different influences and we never really talked about what we wanted to sound like. It just kind of came together. I’d say its just a bunch of post rock, emo, and shoegaze influences mashed into one.
What are the messages behind the tracks “letters”, “father//layla” and “sound”?
“letters” is literally 4 letters to 4 people, the song was originally called letters to ghosts. its about letting go of the ones you love who have let you down, while still holding on to that love.
As for “father//layla”, it was originally an intro/outro song for our acoustic sets.Both were written using the topic “Men we know who lived in a forest”.
“father” is about how a man chose to live in the cold in return to afford drugs and leave his daughter unaware of where he was. “layla” is about a girl who had deep feelings for a guy who never let her have quite enough, and then he left to go backpacking outwest unexpectedly.
“sound” is a lot of mixed feelings. Loving someone but not wanting to see them because it is painful, to wanting to travel. to a clever chorus that kind of entails what you think that person is doing as they listen to the song, and to a silent sorry.
PINE has an upcoming show on February 6th at Leaky B’s LaVa Lounge.
What can we expect with this show?
You can expect us having some drinks and hopefully crying on stage. On a lighter note, lots of friendship and great bands that you should come and check out!
We have no physical copies, but we have many places where you can download it online. Free or pay what you can.
Any shout outs to promoters, fans, radio, etc.?
Huge shout out to Spectrasonic for having us on the Balance and Composure show, a pretty big shout out to The Diamond Mine Agency for the upcoming shows and the biggest shout out to everyone who has shared, contributed, or gave us support as of late.
ALSO, a big shout out to Kanye (our bassist Will has a crush).
Stream, donate and download you bury me on bandcamp here!
Ottawa indie six-piece PINE just released their emotionally-charged debut EP, you bury me.
The three-song debut leans towards the more emo side of the indie spectrum led by the beautiful soft voices of Darlene Deschamps and Christina Leigh. This is no surprise considering the band’s name PINE derives from the verb, to pine. Pining is defined as “to suffer a mental and physical decline, especially because of a broken heart” and “miss and long for the return of.” you bury me brings the listeners through a quick but diverse journey from yearning and sadness to desire and love.
PINE has a nice full sound as the guitars, bass and drums meld graciously with the keys and the two different vocalists. The second song, “father//layla” is a truly beautiful yet gut-wrenching song. The first half of the song is a daughter singing her love for her father, a champion of the cold. The verse ends with “love you till the end, love you until you’re frozen, love you until we’re underground. cause daddy, you’re always stronger to me.” Next up is a father hoping he could be closer with his distant daughter, “You told me you admired my patience, well I’ve waited for you for years. And I’ve only felt you in bits and pieces. Let me feel you as a whole. Let me see what you have hiding in your soul.” This is a very different kind of love song, father to daughter sang by a woman, but it tugs at your heartstrings nonetheless.
you bury me is a very strong first release from this new local act playing a style which is not very common in the capital. Have a listen to the EP below and if you enjoy, go check out PINE opening for Balance and Composure at Ritual on January 15. If you miss them then, don’t fret as they are touring most of February with stops in London, Hamilton, Toronto, Brampton, Cornwall, Montreal, Quebec City and the closing out their tour in Ottawa on the 24th.