Blame Canada

A sampling of musical poutines

Blame Canada

Oh, Canada. You've been ignored for so many years, made fun of, picked on, blamed for bad fashion and worse beer. But these days, you're looking pretty good. Plenty of folks are talking about picking up and moving there, to the safe haven of your snowy, heaving bosom. And you can't blame them. Despite months of oppressive winter, the Great White North has been popping out more than cheap prescription drugs. There's some great music in them there hills. With the praise that's been handed with trembling hands to bands like Arcade Fire, Unicorns, and Broken Social Scene, Canada isn't just known for Anne Murray anymore.

While Montreal may become, according to the jittery tongues of the media, "the next Brooklyn," let's hold down the urge to gag at that statement and understand that Canada has always been home to eccentric, artsy folk who are driven into extended bouts of creative hibernation and rebellion by the fact that it's winter nine months a year. This year's SXSW offers a boatload of Canuck talent, from acoustic strummery to experimental drudgery.

Most notably, there's more metal, not necessarily the first thing you think of when someone mentions Canada, though it has its exports (Voivod, Anvil, and don't forget Cryptopsy). In the past few years, American groups like Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge have carved out a niche for bands that like to be technically precise, but also loud and fast. Toronto fivepiece Cursed, equal parts loud and fast, has recently dropped their second album, Two, and it couldn't be better timing. Riffing like Black Flag as much as Black Sabbath, Cursed wraps death metal in speed-fueled vocals and throws it out with the thrash.

Ontario's the End writes songs that sound like calculus problems on its latest release, Within Dividia, conquering both prog rock and instrumental melodies. Brandishing brutal noise at odds with intricate guitar work, Thine Eyes Bleed, yet another quintet from Toronto, applies similar pressure to your eardrums and frontal lobe with its upcoming release, In the Wake of Separation.

Rocking a more free-form style, Vice Records faves Death From Above 1979, a guitar-and-drum duo from Toronto, put out one of last year's most bizarre albums. You're a Woman, I'm a Machine was noisy, distorted sludge that was actually catchy and danceable. Vancouver's Raking Bombs and the WPP put their own twist on the noise rock freak-out genre, with one foot in jazzy skronk and the other in some rainbow-colored disco death wish.

Whoa there, let's simmer down a bit. Here's the pretty stuff, like Montreal's the High Dials, formerly known as the Datsuns until that other band from New Zealand showed up, and they had to change their name. Their most recent album, A New Devotion, brims with Lucy-in-the-sky lyrics and Sixties beach jangle.

"What's happening here is something very different," says High Dials bassist Rishi Dhir of the Montreal explosion. "We've got an enormous amount of talent coming from Montreal, and the best part is there isn't really a 'Montreal sound.' I mean, look at all the bands: the Dears, Stills, Arcade Fire, Godspeed, Sam Roberts ... the list goes on. The only similarity between the bands is that they've had a poutine (a Montreal delicacy) at one point in their lives."

The aforementioned Dears follow suit on its most recent, No Cities Left, combining the Smiths with Serge Gainsbourg, courtesy of the golden pipes of singer Murray Lightburn. The threepiece Vancouver trio the Be Good Tanyas harkens back to the days of God-fearing Southern blues on their latest album, Chinatown. One of last year's best SXSW shows came courtesy of Toronto's Broken Social Scene, and this year two Broken Social Scene offshoots – Apostle of Hustle and Stars – are back for more. Stars' Set Yourself on Fire distills the somberness of a gray winter day into tracks about heartbreak and more heartbreak. BSS guitarist Andrew Whiteman is Apostle of Hustle, and his debut Folkloric Feel is gossamer music for a wine-drunk hangover.

Montreal's all-girl fivepiece Pony Up! makes adorable pop out of catchy riffs and sugar-spun lyrics. Their demo caught the ear of Aussie singer Ben Lee, which led to a signing with Dim Mak Records, and a recent self-titled album.

"Right now every indie kid in Montreal is freaking out about all the exposure our scene has been getting," remarks Pony Up! bassist Lisa Smith. "It seems like everyone is secretly happy about it, but also worried that it will be spoiled by outside interest."

Two Canadian acts that had journalists fumbling through their rhyming dictionary in the last few years both represent Vancouver – land of legal weed and The X-Files. Tegan & Sara's latest release, So Jealous, had the indie rock cabal absolutely twitterpating; a queer pop-folk twin-sister duo? Oh, it was too much! Jealous eschewed the labels and went straight for the jugular with sharp pop hooks. And then there's Hot Hot Heat, whose 2002 full-length Make Up the Breakdown had white kids everywhere braving the dance floor to reveal their New Wave addiction and penchant for asymmetrical hair cuts. A new LP titled Elevator drops in April.

Whew. This is only a tiny sampling of the buffet of acts heading this way. Canada, you may be a mystery to the rest of the world, but once the ice melts, we'll await the deluge and try to forget that whole Loverboy thing ever happened. end story

Canada @ SXSW

Old Reliable (Edmonton AB); Wed., TBA, Exodus

The Swiftys (Edmonton AB); Sat., 10pm, Opal Divine's Freehouse

Whitey Houston (Edmonton AB); Wed., 9pm, Whisky Bar

The Be Good Tanyas (Vancouver BC); Sat., 1am, Fox & Hound

The Black Halos (Vancouver BC); Sat., 12mid, Emo's Jr.

Hot Hot Heat (Victoria BC); Thu., 12mid, La Zona Rosa

Josh Martinez & Sleep Are the Chicharones (Vancouver BC); Fri., 1am, Zero Degrees

No Luck Club (Vancouver BC); Fri., 8:45pm, Zero Degrees

Po' Girl (Vancouver BC); Sat., 9pm, Fox & Hound

Radiogram (Vancouver BC); Wed., TBA, Exodus

Raking Bombs (Vancouver BC); Fri., 11pm, Lava Lounge Patio

Run Chico Run (Victoria BC); Thu., 12mid, Sake on Sixth

The Salteens (Vancouver BC); Thu., 1am, Sake on Sixth

Leeroy Stagger (Victoria BC); Thu., 11pm, Sake on Sixth

Kinnie Starr (Vancouver BC); Sat., 12mid, Fox & Hound

Tegan & Sara (Vancouver BC); Thu., 1am, Eternal

The High Dials
The High Dials

3 Inches of Blood (Vancouver BC); Sat., 8pm, Back Room

The WPP (Vancouver BC); Thu., 10pm, Chuggin' Monkey

Comeback Kid (Winnepeg MB); Sat., 9pm, Bigsby's

The Duhks (Winnipeg MB); Thu., 8pm, Antone's

Mood Ruff (Winnipeg MB); Sat., 8pm, Caribbean Lights

Novillero (Winnipeg MB); Sat., 9pm, Latitude 30

The Telepathic Butterflies (Winnipeg MB); Sat., 11pm, Soho Lounge

The Wailin' Jennys (Winnipeg MB); Wed., 10pm, BD Riley's

The Waking Eyes (Winnipeg MB); Sat., 1am, Momos

Jill Barber (Halifax NS); Wed., 1am, Lounge

Buck 65 (Halifax NS); Sat., TBA, Emo's Main

The Heavy Blinkers (Halifax NS); Thu., 1am, Latitude 30

Matt Mays & El Torpedo (Dartmouth NS); Sat., 9pm, Momos

The Trews (Antigonish NS); Sat., 12mid, Momos

Apostle of Hustle (Toronto ON); Sat., 8pm, Momos

Bedouin Soundclash (Kingston ON); Thu., 9pm, Emo's Annex

The Black Maria (Toronto ON); Thu., 11pm, Eternal

Aaron Booth (Toronto ON); Thu., 8pm, Sake on Sixth

Elliott Brood (Toronto ON); Wed., 9pm, Red Eyed Fly

Jim Bryson (Ottawa ON); Fri., 8pm, Tambaleo

By Divine Right (Toronto ON); Thu., 10pm, Exodus

CheerLeadr (Toronto ON); Thu., 11pm, Chuggin' Monkey

controller.controller (Toronto ON); Sat., 9pm, Eternal

Crash Kelly (Toronto ON); Sat., 10pm, Emo's Jr.

Cursed (Toronto ON); Fri., 8:50pm, Back Room

Death From Above 1979 (Toronto ON) www.deathfrom; Thu., 1am, Blender Bar @ The Ritz

Kathleen Edwards (Ottawa ON); Thu., 12mid, Caribbean Lights

Eternia (Toronto ON); Sat., 8:40pm, Caribbean Lights

Tegan & Sara
Tegan & Sara

Full White Drag (Windsor ON); Fri., 11pm, Chuggin' Monkey

Great Lake Swimmers (Toronto ON); Fri., 10pm, Maggie Mae's

Kevin Hearn & Thin Buckle (Toronto ON); Wed., 9pm, The Drink

Holy Fuck (Toronto ON); Thu., 10pm, Velvet Spade

The Illuminati (Toronto ON); Sat., 8pm, Emo's Jr.

The Ladies and Gentlemen (Toronto ON) www.theladiesand; Thu., 10pm, Sake on Sixth

Mare (Toronto ON) Fri., 8:15pm, Emo's Annex

Million Dollar Marxists (Ottawa ON); Sat., 10pm, Beerland

Money Money (Peterborough ON); Fri., 12mid, Hard Rock Cafe

The Parkas (London ON); Thu., 9pm, Sake on Sixth

Picastro (Toronto ON); Fri., 8pm, Friends

Shikasta (Toronto ON); Wed., 11pm, Whisky Bar

Thine Eyes Bleed (Toronto ON); Fri., 12:10am, Back Room

Uncut (Toronto ON) Sat., 10pm, Momos

April Verch Band (Pembroke ON); Thu., 9pm, Opal Divine's Freehouse

Nathan Wiley (Summerside PEI); Sat., 12mid, Lava Lounge Patio

The Besnard Lakes (Montreal QC); Wed., TBA, Exodus

The Dears (Montreal QC); Thu., 1am, Exodus

The High Dials (Montreal QC); Sat., 12mid, Soho Lounge

Jorane (Montreal QC); Thu., 10pm, Pecan Street Ale House

Lederhosen Lucil (Montreal QC); Fri., 12:10am, Latitude 30

Montag (Montreal QC); Sat., 9pm, Copa

Harris Newman (Montreal QC); Thu., 11pm, Blender Balcony @ the Ritz

The Nice Ones (Montreal QC); Wed., TBA, Exodus

Pony Up! (Montreal QC); Sat., 12mid, Velvet Spade

Priestess (Montreal QC) Sat., 11pm, Momos

Stars (Montreal QC); Sat., 11pm, Blender Bar @ the Ritz

The World Provider (Montreal QC); Fri., 8:50pm, Latitude 30

Kyle Riabko (Saskatoon SK); Thu., 11pm, Hard Rock Cafe

Boy (Whitehorse YT); Wed., TBA, Exodus

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Audra Schroeder
SXSW Interactive Conference Quick Cuts
The Signal & the Noise
Statistician Nate Silver on more data, more problems

March 15, 2013

SXSW Film Reviews: 'Kiss of the Damned'
Daily Reviews and Interviews

March 15, 2013

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle