A Family Affair
Don't blame Canada
Blame socialism or any other intrinsically good-natured Canadian aspect that many Americans have come to envy over these past six years of the Bush. Blame Tim Hortons and their doughy Canadian proliferation from sea to freezing sea. Blame those brutal winters trapping otherwise social peoples in border basements. The reasons are plenty, but the outcome remains the same: Canadian music, just like the True Northeners themselves, shares and shares alike. Brothers and sisters for a common cause.
Like every family, the Canadian tree blooms with all colors. Quality indie rock has replaced the roots rock in the last decade, but that rambunctious, loud, and rowdy young cousin angling for more attention is the new face of Canada: hip-hop. Edmonton's Cadence Weapon throws around beats and rhymes like a cooler Tribe, while Vancouver's Swollen Members gather old-school mass from the likes of Ghostface, Dilated Peoples, and Hieroglyphics on the trio's upcoming fourth LP, Black Magic (Battle Axe).
For every artist that shouts back to his forebears, there's a handful that pushes the envelope further. From Montreal, Buck 65 has trudged through genres for more than a decade. His 12th disc, Secret House Against the World (V2), travels even further: French duets against indie rock beats mixed with Ratatat throw-downs. Toronto (T-Dot to natives) hits with K'naan, by way of Somalia, who preaches to the United Nations with The Dusty Foot Philosopher (Sony/BMG), and K-os, who brings some Joyful Rebellion (Astralwerks) into the world.
These branches do indeed cross. While Canadian super collective and media darlings Broken Social Scene aren't officially trekking south this year, some individual Scenesters are. K-os lent his throat to "Windsurfing Nation," off last year's self-titled BSS mind-blower, and Metric's Emily Haines is a member of Kevin Drew's Social clan. Her Toronto fourpiece took the jam and made it hook with last year's addictive Live It Out (Last Gang), and Haines isn't the only BSS toe stepping away from the beast. Jason Collett follows suit with his Arts & Crafts solo outing, Idols of Exile. Scene labelmates the Most Serene Republic warmed up the cold winters with last year's Underwater Cinematographer, and while they aren't officially connected to BSS, they appreciate the value of a feel-good summer hit just as much.
What's a family without a strong-willed, beautiful matriarch or 12? The sirens of Toronto trio Magneta Lane seduce with the power of Sleater-Kinney and still manage to retain grit and growl. While Montreal indie-poppers Pony Up aren't as mature, the quartet of sisters, brothers' ex-girlfriends, and co-workers raunches it up. Younger still, Vancouver newcomers the Organ worship at the Morrissey altar. The all-girl fivepiece, fronted by Katie Sketch, is like Moz leading the Sundays. Gorgeously heartbroken. Thomas D'Arcy's Toronto quintet the Ladies & Gentlemen might not fit the womanly mold, but with last year's electro-pop debut Small Sins (Astralwerks), they sure know a thing or two about the feminine mystique.
There's just no such thing as a "normal" family. Thank God for that. Veteran Victoria quartet Frog Eyes screams for anti-psychotics on 2004's The Folded Palm (Absolutely Kosher), their fourth collection of schizophrenic, poptastic introspect. Pink Mountaintops adds to the mania in Vancouver. Julie Doiron inspects her life in New Brunswick and says Goodnight Nobody, a statement both chilling and eerie. Tony Dekker's Great Lake Swimmers pay beautiful homage to old Neil Young on the Toronto fivepiece's sophomore Bodies & Minds (Misra), not as disturbed as his fellows, but just as honest.
Out of the dark depression, the New Pornographers sing. A.C. Newman's Beatles-esque collective includes beauty Neko Case as well as newest member Kathryn Calder. Last year's third album, Twin Cinema (Matador), garnered even more attention for the Vancouver troupe, but watch out for Calder, Newman's long, lost niece. Her other band, Immaculate Machine, perfects pop songs from Victoria. Oddly reminiscent of her as-until-now-unknown uncle's muse, Ones and Zeroes (Mint) echoes three-part harmonies and simple melody.
As night falls over our cold neighbor to the north, the blood pumps to keep the limbs alive. From the grave of the Unicorns springs Islands, Nick Diamonds and J'aime Tambeur's brand-new pop outfit from Montreal. Controller.Controller grabs a strobe in Toronto to shed some light on dance-punk X-Amounts (Paper Bag) with Nirmala Basnayake fronting four hyper boys. In the running for best Festival name, You Say Party! We Say Die! Hit the Floor! (Sound Document) in Vancouver, another dose of Yeah Yeah Yeah party rock. Shout Out Out Out Out (four if you're counting) tests the waters with two drummers and four bassists thrown in with a mélange of electro-pop bells and whistles from Edmonton, Alberta. Toronto's Holy Fuck samples beats in a similar format: noisy, rhythmic, and jarring. And the fourpiece calls itself Holy Fuck. Bold.
Removing the dance from the equation, Hamilton, Ontario, experimental punk quartet Sailboats Are White spreads its insomnia with the drumless Turbo! (Let's Just Have Some Fun). Montreal's lupine-loving trio We Are Wolves takes art-punk to the next level with last year's bass-impaired Non-Stop Je Te Plie en Deux (Fat Possum), which we believe means "non-stop, I fold you into two." Check. And carving out a category all its own, ambient metal duo Nadja Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff debuts with Truth Becomes Death (Alien8), somewhere between noise and lullaby.
The Canadian family unit hasn't changed all that much, despite the unusual faces of some of its newest members. Roots still hug the earth with Vancouver's Po' Girl, former Be Good Tanya Trish Klein's Nettwerk trio; Kingston, Ontario, bluegrass queen Sarah Harmer; and gypsy jazz guitar virtuoso Duane Andrews, Newfoundland's answer to Django Reinhardt. The roots are still there, they're just buried under the leaves.
The Canadian genealogy represented at SXSW 2006: enough indie rock and pop to hop up every U.S. twentysomething from here to the Virgin Islands, singing-songwriting heart-wrenchers, and hip-hoppers who aren't concerned with what's in the trunk. And that's just a drop in the bucket. Don't be surprised to see the Canadian flag on a flight case or two, and don't fret when K-os shows up at your indie pop show. That maple leaf stands for more than socialism and doughnuts. It's all about the hockey. Oh, and family. They have to learn to keep each other warm one way or another.
The Universe Through URLs(all showcases subject to change)
Cadence Weapon (Edmonton AB) www.cadenceweapon.com; Caribbean Lights, Sat, 8:45pm
Corb Lund (Edmonton AB) www.corblund.com; Dirty Dog Bar, Sat, 10pm
Lorrie Matheson (Calgary AB) www.lorriematheson.com; Tambaleo, Thu, TBA
Shout Out Out Out Out (Edmonton AB) www.nrmlswlcmrcrds.com; Momo's, Sat, 1am
Frog Eyes (Victoria BC) www.absolutelykosher.com/frogeyes.htm; Habana Calle 6 Patio, Wed, 11:30pm
Immaculate Machine (Victoria BC) www.immaculatemachine.com; Nuno's Upstairs, Thu, 11pm
Carolyn Mark (Victoria BC) www.mintrecs.com; Nuno's Upstairs, Thu, 1am
Josh Martinez & Sleep are the Chicharones (Vancouver BC) www.joshmartinez.ca; Back Room, Thu, 10:15pm
Moka Only (Vancouver BC) www.mokaonly.com; Caribbean Lights, Sat, 11:30pm
The New Pornographers (Vancouver BC) www.thenewpornographers.com; Stubb's, Wed, TBA
Pink Mountaintops (Vancouver BC) www.thewaxmuseum.bc.ca/jwab; Emo's Annex, Sat, 8:15pm
Po' Girl (Vancouver BC) www.pogirl.net; Creekside at Capitol Place, Thu, 1am
Radiogram (Vancouver BC) www.radiogram.org; Copa, Wed, 11pm
Leeroy Stagger (Victoria BC) www.leeroystagger.ca; Creekside at Capitol Place, Wed, 12am
Swollen Members (Vancouver BC) www.swollenmembers.com; Zero Degrees, Thu, 1am
They Shoot Horses Don't They (Vancouver BC) www.theyshoothorses.org; Emo's Annex, Thu, 8pm
You Say Party! We Say Die! (Vancouver BC) www.shzine.com/yousaypartywesaydie ; Blender Balcony at the Ritz, Wed, 1am
Christine Fellows (Winnipeg MB) www.christinefellows.com; Tambaleo, Thu, TBA
Inward Eye (Winnipeg MB) www.inwardeye.com; Thu, TBA
Lindsay Jane (Winnipeg MB) www.lindsayjane.ca; Hilton 406, Wed, 10pm
Alana Levandoski (Kelwood MB) www.alanalevandoski.com; BD Riley's, Sat, 8pm
Romi Mayes (Winnipeg MB) www.romimayes.com; Momo's, Fri, TBA
Novillero (Winnipeg MB) www.novillero.net; Nuno's Upstairs, Thu, 12am
Chris Colepaugh & the Cosmic Crew (Dieppe NB) www.colepaugh.com; Tambaleo, Sat, 9pm
Julie Doiron (Moncton NB) www.juliedoiron.com; Copa, Wed, 12am
Duane Andrews (St John's NF) www.duaneandrews.ca; Elephant Room, Thu, 9pm
The Novaks (St John's NF) www.thenovaksband.com; TBA, TBA
Classified (Halifax NS) www.classifiedlive.net; Caribbean Lights, Sat, 10:10pm
Dave Gunning (Pictou Co NS) www.davegunning.com; Hilton 406, Wed, 9pm
The Heavy Blinkers (Halifax NS) heavyblinkers.com; Copa, Wed, 1am
Matt Mays & El Torpedo (Dartmouth NS) www.mattmays.com; Creekside at Capitol Place, Wed, 1am
Jimmy Rankin (Halifax NS) www.jimmyrankin.com; Cedar Street Courtyard, Wed, 12am
Gordie Sampson (Sydney NS) www.gordiesampson.com; Hilton 406, Fri, 11pm
Wintersleep (Halifax NS) www.wintersleep.com; Bourbon Rocks, Wed, 12am
The Birthday Massacre (Toronto ON) www.thebirthdaymassacre.com; Elysium, Wed, TBA
Elliott Brood (Toronto ON) www.elliottbrood.ca; 18th Floor at Capitol Place, Sat, 11pm
Jason Collett (Toronto ON) www.jasoncollett.com; Momo's, Sat, 10pm
controller.controller (Toronto ON) www.controllercontroller.com; TBA, TBA
Cuff the Duke (Toronto ON) www.cufftheduke.com; Creekside at Capitol Place, Wed, 11pm
Luke Doucet (Toronto ON) www.lukedoucet.com; 18th Floor at Capitol Place, Sat, 12am
The Golden Dogs (Thunder Bay ON) www.thegoldendogs.com; Thu, TBA
Great Lake Swimmers (Toronto ON) www.greatlakeswimmers.com; Maggie Mae's, Fri, 9pm
Sarah Harmer (Kingston ON) www.sarahharmer.com; Momo's, Fri, TBA
The Hidden Cameras (Toronto ON) www.thehiddencameras.com; Molotov Lounge, Thu, 12am
The High Dials (Montreal ON) www.thehighdials.com; Blender Bar at the Ritz, Sat, 1am
Holy Fuck (Toronto ON) www.holyfuckmusic.com; Momo's, Sat, 12am
Jacques & the Shakey Boys (Toronto ON) www.myspace.com/jacquesandtheshakeyboys ; Opal Divine's Freehouse, Sat, 9pm
K'naan (Toronto ON) www.thedustyfoot.com; Caribbean Lights, Sat, 9:30pm
K-os (Whitby ON) www.k-osmusic.com; Antone's, Wed, TBA
Leather Uppers (Toronto ON) www.theleatheruppers.com; Beerland, Thu, 12am
Magneta Lane (Toronto ON) www.paperbagrecords.com/magneta lane; Buffalo Billiards, Sat, 10pm
The Meligrove Band (Toronto ON) www.meligroveband.com; Momo's, Sat, 9pm
Metric (Toronto ON) www.ilovemetric.com; Stubb's, Fri, 11pm
Million Dollar Marxists (Ottawa ON) www.milliondollarmarxists.com; Beerland, Sat, 11pm
Moneen (Brampton ON) www.moneen.com; Momo's, Sat, 8pm
The Most Serene Republic (Toronto ON) www.themostserenerepublic.com; Spiro's, Fri, 12am
Nadja (Toronto ON) www.aidanbaker.org/nadja; Room 710, Thu, 12:30am
Pilate (Toronto ON) www.pilate.com; TBA
Sailboats Are White (Hamilton ON) www.sailboatsarewhite.indiecred.net; Bourbon Rocks, Wed, 10pm
Small Sins (Toronto ON) theladiesandgentlemen.net; The Parish, Sat, TBA
The Trews (Toronto ON) www.thetrewsmusic.com; Momo's, Wed, 11pm
Uncut (Toronto ON) www.thenewviolence.com; Elysium, Fri, 8pm
Brad Barr (Montreal QC) The Hideout, Fri, 10pm
Ray Bonneville (Montreal QC) www.raybonneville.com; Pecan St. Ale House, Sat, TBA
The Demon's Claws (Montreal QC) www.demonsclaws.com; The Jackalope, Wed, TBA
Duchess Says (Montréal QC) www.duchesssays.com; Caribbean Lights, Fri, TBA
The Hot Springs (Montréal QC) www.the-hot-springs.com; Bourbon Rocks, Wed, 11pm
Islands (Montreal QC) www.islandsareforever.com; Caribbean Lights, Fri, TBA
Kiss Me Deadly (Montreal QC) www.kmdband.com; Emo's Main Room, Wed, 8pm
Lesbians on Ecstasy (Montreal QC) www.lezziesonx.com; Elysium, Wed, TBA
Pony Up (Montreal QC) www.ponyup.ca; Blender Bar at the Ritz, Thu, 11pm
Priestess (Montreal QC) www.priestessband.com; Emo's Main Room, Sat, 9pm
Sam Roberts Band (Montreal QC) www.samrobertsband.com; Momo's, Sat, 11pm
The Stills (Montreal QC) www.thestills.net; La Zona Rosa, Sat, 10pm
Unexpect (Montreal QC) www.unexpect.com;Lava Lounge Patio, Thu, 9:30pm
We Are Wolves (Montreal QC) www.wearewolves.net; Caribbean Lights, Fri, TBA
Ultimate Power Duo (Saskatoon SK) www.myspace.com/ultimatepower duo; Spiro's, Sat, 9pm