Album Review: The Albertans – New Age

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The Albertans
The Albertans
New Age
By Jessica Lewis

The key behind the Albertans is the pairing of pleasant, sunny tunes to bold, dark lyrics. Though their stories are a bit vague, it’s clear that there are usually some passive-aggressive frustrations, such as in “Megan”: “why won’t you text me back, what does this mean for now?” and “People Don’t Go”: “I’m fine, yeah, hollow and dry.” It gets into that mindset of all smiles on the outside but gloomy thoughts behind the eyes, and let’s face it, that can be easily identifiable. Besides that though, this Vancouver, BC, by way of Brooklyn, NY and back to Vancouver again five-piece are simply quirky and you want to get to know them further. “The Wake” is a gorgeously airy track mentioning suicide, “May” and “Mellow” both aim to slow things down, and “Jackpot” and “Furniture” are bouncy and imaginative, about family. New Age is a brightly tinted view of the buzzing band. (Ernest Jennings)

Interview: Austra’s Katie Stelmanis shows off opera training with electro-goth sound

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austra interview

From goth and witch house to New Wave and electronic pop, Austra‘s lead singer Katie Stelmanis isn’t sure what genre her Toronto-based band falls into.

“Honestly, I don’t even know what to call it,” Stelmanis tells Spinner. “It’s pop music. It’s electronic music. You can say whatever you want. It’s not like I hate it if people call it witch house, it’s just I feel witch house is a small genre that isn’t going to take over the world or anything — it’s not like grunge. I think it’s just a convenient place where my music fits in right now.

“It’s funny because I have been making music with the same aesthetic for a long time — the music that I was making three years ago, people still claimed it to be goth.”

Stelmanis was a trained choir and opera singer before she released her solo album ‘Join Us’ and subsequently formed Austra — who will release their debut album, ‘Feel It Break,’ this week via Paper Bag Records/Domino — so some of those vocal styles and moods have found their way into her work.


Interview: Tokyo Police Club’s Graham Wright wrestles his past

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graham wright tokyo police club shirts vs skins

For Tokyo Police Club keyboardist Graham Wright’s debut solo album, ‘Shirts vs. Skins,’ the match at hand seems to be between the musician’s past and present.

The forthcoming album is full of songs written two years ago, in a time when Wright went through an intense break-up and a lull at home after a long Tokyo Police Club tour. Getting this material out now means Wright has to revisit that unpleasant mindset.

“I was in a really specific place,” he tells Spinner. “Even the songs that don’t have anything to do with that, I can still find that in there. It’s kind of weird now because I don’t necessarily identify with the same things, it’s changed a bit. It’s going to be interesting performing the songs and trying to get back into that head space.

“It’s real and was something that happened, and that’s what I like about records, they document a real thing. That’s what’s important to me about these songs even though they aren’t necessarily current for me. It’s time travel, really.”


Interview: Austra’s Katie Stelmanis on being a gay indie artist and Beth Ditto groupie

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We all have a musician we admire, usually because there’s a personal connection to them and their music. For Katie Stelmanis, a lesbian and the lead singer of Canadian electronic band Austra, it’s Gossip‘s Beth Ditto, also a gay artist, and her positive message concerning queer identity.

“I literally cried when I saw her,” Stelmanis tells Spinner. “She’s so strong.”

Though a 2009 gig in Toronto marked the first time she saw Ditto at the reins of Gossip, Stelmanis actually met the vivacious frontwoman five years earlier after a gig with her former band Galaxy.

“I was a total groupie,” says Stelmanis. “She was just so sweet. She was so nice and positive, thanked us and made us feel really good about it, which was so exciting to us 20 year olds — I love her!”


Interview: The Wilderness of Manitoba Battle America’s “Musical ADD”

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the wilderness of manitoba interview

Toronto’s Wilderness of Manitoba have already sunk their teeth into the Canadian and UK markets, but with the American release of their debut album, ‘When You Left the Fire,’ this week, they’re shifting their gaze towards the States and good old lady lucky.

“I’m not worried because I don’t really control these things,” vocalist-guitarist Will Whitwham tells Spinner. “The only thing I can control is playing well, and if we don’t play well then we’re screwing up for everybody. That’s the only thing we can really do.”

That said, Whitwham suspects breaking into the US market will be more grueling than building a presence at home or in the UK.

“Europeans are more patient and the US is musical ADD,” he says. “…It’s hard not to feel that way when you’re bombarded in the US.”


Album Review: Rival Boys – Mutual Feelings of Love

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rival boys mutual feelings of love review

Rival Boys
Mutual Feelings of Love
By Jessica Lewis

The power that’s behind Rival Boys is actually a girl. With a controlled voice that has a knack for leaping and bounding, Lee Rose charges through the album, leading brother Graeme and Sam Sholdice. It only falters when she tries to slow down, but expectations to keep up that pace are always weighty. Strength lays in the seedy electric darkness of “Mutual Feelings,” the chorus of “Mean Home,” wailing, melodic opener “Movement” and the rioting of “Fine Lines.” The Toronto, ON trio have hit upon a sound that works for them and can grow into something big, but this album will be the stepping stone. While those abovementioned songs are great, in the bigger picture the album has moments that feel quite long and drawn out, and the same sort of style for most of the tune can feel repetitive. But Rival Boys are fierce and on the right path. (Independent)

Album Review: The Details – Lost Art

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details lost art album review
The Details

Lost Art
By Jessica Lewis

Combining sleepy alternative rock with some country twang, Lost Art‘s Canadiana is like an introduction to prairie land for those of us who aren’t there. This Winnipeg, MB four-piece bring us 11 songs on this LP, with two of them from their The Original Mark EP, which was released last November as a teaser following their first album in 2007. This time, the Details actually eschewed legendary manager of the Runaways Kim Fowley and Hollywood fame (after meeting him at a past SXSW) and went with Stephen Carroll (of the Weakerthans) and the National’s engineer, Brandon Reid, as producers. The result is soothing and clean, but each song tumbles into the next, forming a blanket. Once in a while there’s a different guitar solo or paired melodies. The most notable achievement on this album is the storytelling, such as on the melancholy but settled “Weightless in the Dark.” (Parliament of Trees)

Watch Nightbox’s new video for “Pyramid”


The lads of Nightbox premiered their official music video for “Pyramid” via this week’s episode of The Wedge on Much Music. Now we have it via YouTube. Just in time for the weekend, as this is that cute dancey party track you’ve been waiting for. Watch the five-piece revel in colour and imagination at an old, abandoned house and in a field (it looks cooler than how I’ve described, honestly).

Pyramid can be heard on the band’s debut EP and as a single, downloaded for free.

The band will open for the Radio Dept at the Horseshoe on Sunday.

Check out music from The Wilderness, Brazilian Money and Rattail

Today, we’re getting a sparkling dose of new wave, low-fi bedroom experimentation and off-kilter indie pop.

the wildernessThe Wilderness

I’ve been aware of this Toronto band for a while, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to put some verb into the sedentary thought bubble. I’m particularly keen on their single, “Realpolitik,” off their November-released album .272. It is hollow, electric and explosive. “Dancing’s all I can do lately, I’m so tired of everything,” is an easily identifiable line, and yet so blissfully ironic. The Wilderness are part glam, part new wave and part gritty electro rock. There’s definitely a little bit of something in there for numerous different kinds of listeners. Sometimes the instrumentation gets much more action than the vocals, which leaves the vocalist in this state of floating with some upwards static movement. .272 is like those neon lights you see at night through the car window as you blaze down the street, adding detail to a world that can otherwise be drab. You can stream the album on the band’s BandCamp page. Here’s a plus: see them at the Great Hall this Saturday with The Ruby Spirit, Bella Clava and more for the Band of Heroes comic book launch.

brazilian moneyBrazilian Money

While I may only have a certain amount of appreciation for bedroom low-fi pop, that means whatever does break through the barriers is impressive to me. Enter Alberta’s Garrett Johnson, aka Brazilian Money. Johnson actually recorded the album This is Not a Dream while feeling isolated from fun in Kelowna, BC. The product is a bit goofy, what with song titles like “Give Up That Dog” and “Bianca, Make Out With Yr Boyfriend!” Johnson is total funk and soul, from his high-pitched belts to the sassy looped guitar. It’s all covered in glitter and marked with post-its of reminders to go to the beach or pick up some party favours. There’s plenty to take in on this album, from warped noises to wide eyes. It’s quirk that I plan to keep around for the summertime. Stream the album on the BandCamp page.


Though the name doesn’t really conjure up the best image, Rattail is a promising new sound to my ears. This Toronto band has recently released four songs re-worked, which you can stream on their BandCamp page. Opener “I Swim” is a fluid, tribal electro daze, “George Tronic” is a slow, subtly distorted ballad with some really neat lyrics (“I share my eyes with you in hopes that my hands can be free, cross my bones and hope to die for you”), “ByeBye” takes things a bit more experimental with samples of funny vocal techniques and strings and “The Heat” has some nice melodies. Rattail has this weird underwater pioneer texture to them that I dig, it’s odd and adventurous but it feels smooth and comforting at the same time.

Check out new music from Rain Over St. Ambrose, Reversing Falls and Sports

Pack your week with some gritty guitars and satisfied gloomy skies with songs from Rain Over St. Ambrose, Reversing Falls and Sports. Then tell me that you feel at least a little more oomph in your steps.

Rain Over St Ambrose CoverRain Over St. Ambrose

“DG Gold Paint” is off their debut self-titled April-released EP. Packing crunchy Canadiana into three songs, this Yarmouth five-piece may have risen from the ashes of the unfortunate passing of singer Cory’s father (the band name is a testament to that), but they could work their way into a future with clearer skies. The single utilizes some classic rock patterns with the guitar, keyboard and drums and paired with Cory’s vocals, they remind me of The Hold Steady. Download the EP here.

mp3 download: Rain Over St. Ambrose – “DG Gold Paint”

reversing falls little goodbye doom beachReversing Falls

Here’s an edgy ear worm for you, straight from Montreal. Guitars power through to a trembling tempo and Tyler Crawford’s vocals go back and forth, solidifying the hooks. Part of a teaser EP with the darker song “Doom Beach,” it shows a promising future for the LP that is to come. The EP was produced by Mark Lawson (Arcade Fire, Timber Timbre, The Unicorns). Download the EP and previous material at their BandCamp.

mp3 download: Reversing Falls – “Little Goodbye”

sports bandSports

This Toronto band has been working their way up to this full-length release with a much steadier pace as of late. The album, which you can download for free (or name your price), is full of energy, whether it be dark or light. My favourite track as of now is “Light,” which has this great bass hook line and thick, ghostly vocal structures. It’s one of the darker songs, and it feels good. The band will officially release the album on June 7 at the Horseshoe Tavern.

mp3 download: Sports – “Light”