A sampling of musical poutines
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.
Old Reliable (Edmonton AB) www.oldreliableband.com; Wed., TBA, Exodus
Canada @ SXSW
The Swiftys (Edmonton AB) www.theswiftys.net; Sat., 10pm, Opal Divine's Freehouse
Whitey Houston (Edmonton AB) www.whiteyhouston.com; Wed., 9pm, Whisky Bar
The Be Good Tanyas (Vancouver BC) www.thebegoodtanyas.com; Sat., 1am, Fox & Hound
The Black Halos (Vancouver BC) www.blackhalos.net; Sat., 12mid, Emo's Jr.
Hot Hot Heat (Victoria BC) www.hothotheat.com; Thu., 12mid, La Zona Rosa
Josh Martinez & Sleep Are the Chicharones (Vancouver BC) www.oldominion.net; Fri., 1am, Zero Degrees
No Luck Club (Vancouver BC) www.noluckclub.com; Fri., 8:45pm, Zero Degrees
Po' Girl (Vancouver BC) www.pogirl.net; Sat., 9pm, Fox & Hound
Radiogram (Vancouver BC) www.radiogram.org; Wed., TBA, Exodus
Raking Bombs (Vancouver BC) www.rakingbombs.com; Fri., 11pm, Lava Lounge Patio
Run Chico Run (Victoria BC) www.runchicorun.com; Thu., 12mid, Sake on Sixth
The Salteens (Vancouver BC) www.salteens.com; Thu., 1am, Sake on Sixth
Leeroy Stagger (Victoria BC) www.leeroystagger.ca; Thu., 11pm, Sake on Sixth
Kinnie Starr (Vancouver BC) www.kinniestarr.com; Sat., 12mid, Fox & Hound
Tegan & Sara (Vancouver BC) www.teganandsara.com; Thu., 1am, Eternal
3 Inches of Blood (Vancouver BC) www.3inchesofblood.com; Sat., 8pm, Back Room
The WPP (Vancouver BC) www.thewpp.org; Thu., 10pm, Chuggin' Monkey
Comeback Kid (Winnepeg MB) www.comeback-kid.com; Sat., 9pm, Bigsby's
The Duhks (Winnipeg MB) www.duhks.com; Thu., 8pm, Antone's
Mood Ruff (Winnipeg MB) www.moodruff.com; Sat., 8pm, Caribbean Lights
Novillero (Winnipeg MB) www.novillero.net; Sat., 9pm, Latitude 30
The Telepathic Butterflies (Winnipeg MB) www.telepathicbutterflies.com; Sat., 11pm, Soho Lounge
The Wailin' Jennys (Winnipeg MB) www.thewailinjennys.com; Wed., 10pm, BD Riley's
The Waking Eyes (Winnipeg MB) www.thewakingeyes.com; Sat., 1am, Momos
Jill Barber (Halifax NS) www.jillbarber.com; Wed., 1am, Lounge
Buck 65 (Halifax NS) www.buck65.com; Sat., TBA, Emo's Main
The Heavy Blinkers (Halifax NS) www.heavyblinkers.com; Thu., 1am, Latitude 30
Matt Mays & El Torpedo (Dartmouth NS) www.mattmays.com; Sat., 9pm, Momos
The Trews (Antigonish NS) www.thetrewsmusic.com; Sat., 12mid, Momos
Apostle of Hustle (Toronto ON) www.arts-crafts.ca/apostleofhustle; Sat., 8pm, Momos
Bedouin Soundclash (Kingston ON) www.bedouinsoundclash.com; Thu., 9pm, Emo's Annex
The Black Maria (Toronto ON) www.theblackmaria.com; Thu., 11pm, Eternal
Aaron Booth (Toronto ON) www.aaronboothmusic.com; Thu., 8pm, Sake on Sixth
Elliott Brood (Toronto ON) www.elliottbrood.ca; Wed., 9pm, Red Eyed Fly
Jim Bryson (Ottawa ON) www.jimbryson.org; Fri., 8pm, Tambaleo
By Divine Right (Toronto ON) www.bydivineright.com; Thu., 10pm, Exodus
CheerLeadr (Toronto ON) www.cheerleader666.com; Thu., 11pm, Chuggin' Monkey
controller.controller (Toronto ON) www.controllercontroller.com; Sat., 9pm, Eternal
Crash Kelly (Toronto ON) www.crashkelly.ca; Sat., 10pm, Emo's Jr.
Cursed (Toronto ON) www.your-funeral.com/cursed; Fri., 8:50pm, Back Room
Death From Above 1979 (Toronto ON) www.deathfrom above1979.com; Thu., 1am, Blender Bar @ The Ritz
Kathleen Edwards (Ottawa ON) www.kathleenedwards.com; Thu., 12mid, Caribbean Lights
Eternia (Toronto ON) www.eternia.ca; Sat., 8:40pm, Caribbean Lights
Full White Drag (Windsor ON) www.fullwhitedrag.com; Fri., 11pm, Chuggin' Monkey
Great Lake Swimmers (Toronto ON) www.greatlakeswimmers.com; Fri., 10pm, Maggie Mae's
Kevin Hearn & Thin Buckle (Toronto ON) www.kevinhearn.com; Wed., 9pm, The Drink
Holy Fuck (Toronto ON) www.dependentmusic.com/holyfuck; Thu., 10pm, Velvet Spade
The Illuminati (Toronto ON) www.theilluminati.net; Sat., 8pm, Emo's Jr.
The Ladies and Gentlemen (Toronto ON) www.theladiesand gentlemen.net; Thu., 10pm, Sake on Sixth
Mare (Toronto ON) Fri., 8:15pm, Emo's Annex
Million Dollar Marxists (Ottawa ON) www.milliondollarmarxists.com; Sat., 10pm, Beerland
Money Money (Peterborough ON) www.wearemoneymoney.com; Fri., 12mid, Hard Rock Cafe
The Parkas (London ON) www.theparkas.com; Thu., 9pm, Sake on Sixth
Picastro (Toronto ON) www.picastro.net; Fri., 8pm, Friends
Shikasta (Toronto ON) www.shikasta.com; Wed., 11pm, Whisky Bar
Thine Eyes Bleed (Toronto ON) www.thineeyesbleed.com; Fri., 12:10am, Back Room
Uncut (Toronto ON) Sat., 10pm, Momos
April Verch Band (Pembroke ON) www.aprilverch.com; Thu., 9pm, Opal Divine's Freehouse
Nathan Wiley (Summerside PEI) www.nathanwiley.com; Sat., 12mid, Lava Lounge Patio
The Besnard Lakes (Montreal QC) www.thebesnardlakes.com; Wed., TBA, Exodus
The Dears (Montreal QC) www.thedears.org; Thu., 1am, Exodus
The High Dials (Montreal QC) www.thehighdials.com; Sat., 12mid, Soho Lounge
Jorane (Montreal QC) www.jorane.com; Thu., 10pm, Pecan Street Ale House
Lederhosen Lucil (Montreal QC) www.lederhosenlucil.com; Fri., 12:10am, Latitude 30
Montag (Montreal QC) www.montag.ca; Sat., 9pm, Copa
Harris Newman (Montreal QC) www.harrisnewman.com; Thu., 11pm, Blender Balcony @ the Ritz
The Nice Ones (Montreal QC) www.theniceones.com; Wed., TBA, Exodus
Pony Up! (Montreal QC) www.ponyup.ca; Sat., 12mid, Velvet Spade
Priestess (Montreal QC) Sat., 11pm, Momos
Stars (Montreal QC) www.arts-crafts.ca/stars; Sat., 11pm, Blender Bar @ the Ritz
The World Provider (Montreal QC) www.theworldprovider.net; Fri., 8:50pm, Latitude 30
Kyle Riabko (Saskatoon SK) www.kyleriabko.com; Thu., 11pm, Hard Rock Cafe
Boy (Whitehorse YT) www.boytheband.com; Wed., TBA, Exodus