Posts Tagged ‘Toronto’

ROY

Well, when you dive into it, theres a whole lotta backstory behind Peace, Love, and Outer Space. It centers around benevolent beings descending from space to offer a gift of peace that goes terribly awry for the recipient. Governmental intervention ensues, the message of peace is lost in a skirmish with the authorities and ROY as it were is left a changed person — open to the universe, but betrayed by his own fellow man. That story is spread over the nine tracks here, but it’s linked within a gauzy haze of psych-pop that makes it a skosh less cut and dry and a whole lot less ‘cult-culture pamphlet piece” than that might sound. Canadian label Idée Fixe has a longstanding tenure with psychedelics, but they rarely reach this far into the pop waters. The record is tin-hat certified but also lovingly crafted, draped in a lush pop pedigree that falls in easily with current contemporaries like HOLY, Jacco Gardner, or Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel. Though, historically, the band most earnestly threads their psychedelic needle with the same golden yarns that tied together the lush epics of Todd Rundgren before them.

Stylistically they skip between languid waters that threaten to melt into the soil, shimmering love-addled syrup-psych, and heavier riffs that thicken the pudding enough to give this one more than just a focus on the peace and love of the title. There’s a lot of reverberating gauze, and perhaps that’s to be expected, but the band can get into a high octane bit of garage pop when they want to. Sure, its all a bit much, but that’s sorta the point. If you’re not in it for the high-concept hipswing then you might as well just exit now. With members in tow from fellow Toronto psych bands Kaleidoscope Horse, Vypers, Possum and Hot Garbage, the ranks are deep enough to make this concept land on equal footing with the musicianship. Strap in for the full ride, though, and ROY’s LP is a candy-colored careen through the fourth wall of the studio.




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Badge Époque Ensemble – “Undressed In Solitude”

Centering around the works of Maximillian “Twig” Turnbull (formerly Slim Twig), Alia O’Brien (Blood Ceremony) and a host of live players who’ve been backing U.S. Girls on the road over the past year, Canadian collective Badge Époque Ensemble creates a heady mix of jazz, psych, tropicalia and prog. The last U.S. Girl album was noted for its expansive sound and blistering live show, much of which is owed to the players here. Along with Twig, the band stretches out hitting the sweet spot of ‘70s soul-jazz under the sway of pharmaceuticals. On lead single “Undressed In Solitude” the band adds the vocals of James Baley to give the affair a midnight aura. The track stretches past the eleven-minute mark and fully embraces the boundless visions of Isaac Hayes’ unrestrained late ’60 / early ‘70s run. You just know this one is going to kill on stage. The record is out June 7th on Telephone Explosion.




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Sacred Lamp

Familiarity with Canada’s psychedelic noise conduit Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn may have come to you in quite a few ways over the last year or so. Despite having been the eye of the storm when it comes to Canada’s more experimental core, Dunn also proved that he’s got a tender tear in him as well with his solo album, Lightbourn, last year. The album saw Dunn slinking towards more traditional songforms, finding solace in Northern Lights country and flaying open his heart. While he did occasionally break out the burn on a few of this songs, the album a fairly different animal from the CD-r stock pile of an artist who’s spent time in the trenches with MV & EE, Woods and the more outre end of the psych-folk spectrum. Even more unlikely, Dunn was integral to coalescing the band that would back up Meg Remy on U.S. Girls’ In A Poem Unlimited last year, straying even further from his comfortable soil with a blend of ‘70s pop twists and jazz-scratched disco that led to one of her most invigorating albums.

He’s proved a versatile artists who can’t be underestimated, or pinned down. So naturally, his collaboration with longtime cohort Ayal Senior as Sacred Lamp is akin to none of these things. If these are your entry points to Dunn, then the duo’s eponymous LP is something more ephemeral. Built on an interplay of guitars that run between the blues ballasted acoustic and twilight divining electric runs that feel haunted by the memories of something just beyond the folds of the horizon. The record is forever chasing the feeling of peace. The LP luxuriates in the guitar, touching on moments that recall Bishop and Chasney, Basho and the collaborative combos of Steve Gunn.

Its a rose-hued gem of a record that should appeal to any fans of those respective camps or the long tendrils that tie them to several schools of fingerpicked and potent psych-folk. This one feels like it has the capacity to slip through the the most slender of cracks. I’d advise grabbing hold before it does.



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Doug Paisley

With his fourth album for No Quarter, Doug Paisley has released a quietly devastating look into getting by. Starter Home, as the title might suggest, revolves around humble family life – burrowing into the weariness, happiness, worry and wonder that’s stretched across the American landscape. From the rain-streaked Sunday strums of the title track opener to the last lilting ripple of “Shadows,” Paisley proves that he’s got a deft hand for crafting winsome country that sketches out small town life in painstaking detail. His characters can’t move beyond the meager means they intended to be temporary fixes, can’t move beyond the jobs that were supposed to drag them out of their paycheck to paycheck lives. They’ve got friends, though, and family and they recognize the small miracles that pull us each through every day with enough of a smile to forget the weight, letting a few beers stoke the will to get to tomorrow.

Paisley’s vignettes aren’t cast in gilded frames. He’s a master of restraint, giving songs just enough to make them gorgeous but not showy, like high contrast black and white photos of ’50s modular homes with worn furniture and a cigarette in each hand. There’s a sense that this album is rooted in the same kind of sorrow and sighs that might have driven Townes or Fred Neil, but also a sense that Paisley is taking his rough roads better than the brand of artists who let the world cut them too deep. Starter Home is, without a doubt, an aching record with despair hovering right around the corner. The charm is that Paisley never lets it catch him or his characters.

The firelight flicker underneath the bittersweet blues keeps each song floating on a comforting warmth. The album’s centerpiece “Drinking With A Friend” kind of sums up the album’s underlying aesthetic. Paisley’s there to buffer your bad days and buy a round. Its the aural equivalent of that ache that hangs at the center of your chest – the pang throbs until it sometimes overwhelms, but it also reminds you that you’re alive, and that in itself is ok. Within the brief nine songs of Starter Home Paisley is able to unbutton then salt the wound and sew it back up for the next day’s lacerations. Its a humble album, that nonetheless leaves a pretty sizable mark.



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East of the Valley Blues

If, somehow, you’re missing out on Astral Spirits admirable run of records of late, then its time to get acquainted fast. The Monofonus Press offshoot has been digging up some of the most essential jazz and experimental sets and locking them down in limited cassette quantities. Most of the catalog tunnels the underside of jazz’ odyssey, allowing a space for artists to expand and experiment in a comfortable setting. With little commercial expectations the releases have often yielded larger risks and intriguing results. While the catalog boasts heavy hitters like Kid Millions, Thurston Moore, Kawabata Mokoto and Joe McPhee, its often the less marquee releases that deserve some attention as well. The series marks the fourth album by Toronto siblings East of the Valley Blues and they add a gnarled dose of fingerpicked guitar to the stable.

The two tracks explore hypnotic, circular melodies scarred with fret noise and uneasy ambience. The brothers clearly take the line from Fahey and Basho, and while not necessarily paving their own way like, say, Daniel Bachman this year, they’re still working up a worthy listen within these two halves of the acoustic sphere. Both tracks bear similar titling and though the focus lays cleanly on the thirty minute, Ressemblera title track, they do some fine work on the cassette’s flip with the less meditative and more raucous, “Reassemblera”. The release poses another side to the label and one that I hope they continue to explore with more fingerpicked releases. Then again, the freeform nature is what makes Astral Spirits such a delight. Whatever’s next will surely come from outside the bounds of expectation and elevate a deserving voice.




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Doug Paisley – “Drinking With A Friend”

Its been about five years since Doug Paisley graced the speakers here, but he’s come back subtle and strong. Paisley’s pulling from the well of Townes and Guy Clark in a big way here. The song is world weary in a way that yokes the listener hard with the weight of Paisley’s years. It’s a drinking song, but not a jolly one, the kind that helps to kill the pain as quick as the whiskey. I’ve always found myself in the camp that thinks the best country songs are simple, no embellishments, no bombast, just pain and strums and a little sweet ache of steel in the back. Paisley’s hitting all the marks here and if the rest of the album follows suit, then this is going to be a hard hitter for 2018.

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First Base

For all the heavy records that roll through here, I am and will always be a sucker for a good ole fashioned power pop record. There’s something about hitting that sweet spot between bubblegum’s sundown and the heartflutter of punk before its more serious sneers took down its most fun peers. That’s the valley Toronto’s First Base occupy. The band’s second record shimmy shines their sound to a high gloss polish that’s as evident in its love for the Yellow Pills highlights of yesteryear as it is for modern contempos like Barreracudas, Gentleman Jesse, Mother’s Children or Wyatt Blair. There are shades of ennui in some of these gems, but they’re all quickly blown away by a core of chewy, hi-gloss, platform stompin’, skinny tie totin’ power pop.

It’s tempting for modern makers to tumble into the pitfalls of pop-punk, toughening the classic formula just a touch too much, tipping the fulcrum from wide-eyed earnestness and into cheeky childishness. On Not That Bad the Canadians steer wide of coming off pubescent and recapture the hip-swung brashness and heartfelt delivery of everyone who fell under the sway of Cheap Trick and Tommy Roe in equal measure. The album is a familiar splash of cool water on a hot day, refreshing as hell in a year that’s not exactly brimming with positive vibes and good time reasons to just dance it out. Maybe that’s why this one feels perfect just now. Sometimes I want something to salt the wounds so I don’t forget the pain, but just as often its nice to just scrub it all away and take a helium hit to the skull that’s frivolous fun for five or ten minutes (or you know maybe 30).





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Marvelous Mark

I have to admit, I have a soft spot for power pop that echoes the ’90s variety, sloshing through the lurid puddles of sound left behind by Matthew Sweet, Weezer and Teenage Fanclub. There are quite a few that are picking at this point in the power pop food chain, choosing to ignore the roots of the sound that tied heavily to ’60s nostalgia or ’70s sinew. Toronto’s Mark Fosco definitely has his roots in this varietal, and every heartsick note comes ringing through with a love for the big stage bittersweet riffs that permeated the sunnier side of grunge’s heyday.

The LP has rough moments, it’s chewed through with fuzz like an asbestos coating over a great deal of these tracks, but underneath the cracked woofer tone is a syrupy sweet bit of pop that definitely makes better use of the aforementioned Fanclub, Superdrag or Ash’s approach than the majority of the pop punk followers of the sound. Fosco has a knack for finding big hooks and running them through a sticky sweet bummer echo chammber that’s welling up some nostalgia for cracked case mixtapes of days past. Yes, by nature this is leaning on the crutch built from others‘ accomplishments, but I’ll be damned if he isn’t making it sound fun to cherry pick the past.




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