Following the releases of Peter Sagar, a listener could almost construct some kind of chronological crash-course in the musical development of this generation’s contemporary guitar-music, or at least a very specific slice of it. From the head banging, grunge-inflected Pavement pounding of Outdoor Miners (in which Peter contributed bass lines and arguably some of that band’s catchiest vocal hooks), to the postapocalyptic, introspective croonerism of Sans AIDS–Peter’s solo project until moving to Montreal (where people actually know French)–his projects do represent, in their own way, some of the prevailing approaches and tendencies that everyone of this ilk is taking–and he’s usually fairly close to the forefront with all of it. What struck me most about this Homeshake business is how damn close sounding it is compared to anything in the Sans AIDS catalogue, and in that sense, it’s an indicator of another shift in the generational dialogue. Guitars formerly encrusted in barnacles of distortion and gallons of reverb are now plugged directly into the recording apparatus, clean and smooth, the more rubbery the better (“Don’t Try”); vocals that were once shrouded behind Pollardian fuzz and delay are now clean, hushed, and naked-sounding (“Northern Man”). The harsh edges of lo-fi production have been converted to the use of a quainter, more modest sound, in emulation of some kind of mature bedroom-recording aesthetic. Musically, too, echoes of grunge are all but eradicated under a sheen of smooth grooves, reaching even further in the past, beyond the agitation of the 00’s and 90’s to the relaxation of some imaginary vision of the world before we were born, a world when the bass was for laying grooves and the lead guitar was for bending notes (“Sally” and “Moon Woman”).
Of course, everything I’ve said so far could perhaps be said of perennial Sagar-cohort Mac Demarco and his shift away from Makeout Videotape, or Renny Wilson/Travis Bretzer and the Subatomics. In all cases, the split is obviously not as clean as I’ve made it out to be, and they are all the inheritors of the last two decades. Peter certainly still leans more towards the garage-rock of his past and less on the drugged-up-disco feel that he’s starting to lean into. Perhaps the opener “Haters” proves the point best: as a leftover from the last days of Sans AIDS, re-recorded to fit the current batch, it serves as a nice little bridge between the two worlds. Ultimately though, this tape is a just a really nice way to spend 25 minutes.
I thought that I hadn’t listened to enough music this year to justify a list, or at least not enough current music, or at least not enough current Canadian music, or at least not enough current Canadian music that was on this blog. Despite myself, I dug into a lot of great stuff this year.
Links to original reviews will be hyperlinked.
What follows is not in any order whatsoever.
The Betrayers – Treat Me Mean EP
Travis Bretzer – Making Love
Renny Wilson – Sugarglider
Wand – Mt. St. Helen’s
Tyler Butler – Violence
Jon Mick – Beard Milk
Mac Demarco – Rock and Roll Night Club
Expwy – Bag of Waters
COUSINS – The Palm at the End of the Mind
Freak Heat Waves – s/t
Feral Children – SunSon
Brenna Lowrie – The Body Electric
Knots – White River, White Lies
Jesse Northey and Doug Hoyer – Signs of Life (single)
will scott – …recordings
The Cable-knits – Twins
Nick Everett – Rocky Top
Field + Stream – s/t
Michael Rault – Whirlpool
Catgut – Fightpicker
Help – A Viper in the Mind
I can’ t believe we didn’t get to this sooner–shame on us. Our blogular founding father C. Joeseph Gurba released several months ago what might be his crowning achievement thus far. At any rate, it has become a personal favourite of my own, and I only realized it had been forgotten on this blog when I was compiling my 2012 Favourites list. This project had been lurking in Joe’s subconscious for a while it seems, and now, a few months later, it really feels like the culmination of his great passions: philosophy, poetry, and beats. Even as The Joe, Joe was pushing his rap to its high-art, poetical boundaries, but always with a sheen of pop hooks and mischievous swagger. As Help, Joe is playing a character in a way he never has before–a fully realized persona, and a conduit for every ounce of desperation and uncertainty that’s been in his brain. A Viper in the Mind can be an exhausting listen sometimes, but something this ambitious, pursued to such depths, deserves as much energy, passion and soulcraft as Joe has put into this, his masterpiece.
Disclosure of Bias: everyone here at Argue Job loves Jon Mick, and will love him no matter what. However, all bias aside, I can honestly say that he was, is, and will be the funniest man in Edmonton–in fact, he’s way too funny to still be here, so we’re pretty damn lucky. Judging by Beard Milk (with amazing cover art by Jill Stanton), he’s getting consistently better and better. The pacing is getting smoother and the delivery is more confident. More importantly, though, I feel that Jon is–because I love cliches–really coming into his own as an artist. He’s really getting comfortable in his own voice–and what a delightfully filthy voice it is. The balance is almost perfectly struck between off-the-cuff irreverence, lightning quick “sketches”, carefully developed narratives, hilariously harsh judgements towards his fellow man, and glimpses at his own life, skewed and magnified into unfairly (towards himself) pathetic proportions. I’ve heard this album a few times already, but when I listen to this, it still makes me laugh out loud in public. Mission accomplished, Jonny.
Serial grinner Travis Sargent returns, this time with a cadre of cohorts who, from the cacophonous variety of their individual instruments and the unruly nonchalance of their collective demeanor, allow The Betrayers to expand from a bedroom recording solo nom-de-plume into a full-patch rock n’roll outfit, like a Biker gang asserting itself in a new territory. The opening title track hums along at breakneck brevity, pairing an irresistible melody to playfully masochistic lyrics while the clutter of guitars and organs threaten to explode out of the speaker. “Call Me When You’re Blue” offers a solid wave of summertime joy, punctuated by chant-along shouts, while the closing number, “Rise”, plods along resolutely like a downbeat pop dirge. If this gang can pack this much garage rock relish into an EP, I’d love to see what they could do with a full 12 inches.