BeatRoute Magazine is a monthly arts and entertainment paper with a predominant focus on music – local, independent or otherwise. The paper started in June 2004 and continues to provide a healthy dose of perversity while exercising rock ‘n’ roll ethics.
Born Ruffians Uncle, Duke & the Chief Paper Bag Records Born Ruffians are one of many indie rock bands that bubbled up in the mid-2000s. Hailing from small-town, Toronto-adjacent Midland, Ontario, the group draws heavy inspiration from bands like Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire. The band went through a bit of a change a few years ago with their 2013 album Birthmarks when they parted ways with their original drummer Steve Hamelin and added a second guitarist. It led to a cleaner sound, one that was a little less rough around the edges. With their fifth studio album Uncle, Duke & The Chief, Hamelin returns and the band shifts back to their grittier sound, recording as a trio. Born Ruffians seem to produce their best material when that frantic nature comes out in their songwriting. Moments on Uncle, Duke & The Chief sound like drunken eulogizing, with lead vocalist Luke Lalonde rapidly shifting from desperate yelps to singalong celebratory anthemic shouting. Catchy choruses, jubilant guitars and an intense earnestness all shine through on the band’s new output, something that’s been lacking from the band’s output since their debut in 2008. The album’s songwriting is strong, strong enough to buoy it above the ocean of albums out there like it. • Cole Parker Cecil Frena The Gridlock Hovercraft/Kissability Cecil Frena has been around for a while. The mastermind behind Edmonton weird pop acts Gobble Gobble and Born Gold, he’s also worked with other lauded acts from that scene like Purity Ring, Grimes and Chairlift. The Gridlock is his debut under his birth name, his first full release since 2013 and a noticeable shift towards a different sound. A lot of care is placed into the sonics of the record. Layered synths and vocals, wildly varied guitars, and Frena’s experience with glitchy pop music is channeled into furious growls of feedback and noise that feel so, so good. “Nerves Grow Rust” and “All of My Heroes” open the album with some great synth-singed pop rock before you hear the chugging of a car engine, a count, and a stellar drum fill that leads you into the hardcore track “Unknow Yourself.” The Gridlock feels like an artist deconstructing his identity, musical and otherwise, and letting us watch as he pulls the pieces back together, with lyrical content to match. A bank robber speaks aloud the existential crisis brought on by L.A. property prices, Frena reluctantly confesses love, and asserts that dancing on an airplane might treat some of his nihilistic woes. The Gridlock is a horribly fun rebirth of an artist who’s still actively finding the best version of themselves. • Cole Parker Sidney Gish No Dogs Allowed Independent Boston’s Sidney Gish is a distinctly 2018 kind of songwriter. The 20 year-old has quietly been developing a voice for absurdist, meme-asmusic songs through YouTube and BandCamp since 2015, but No Dogs Allowed, her sophomore album, is an internet breakthrough. Like Clairo, early Frankie Cosmos or Car Seat Headrest, Gish’s career exists almost solely on the internet, but gone are the days that would be a knock. With its MS Paint cover aesthetic, No Dogs Allowed is deceptively clever bedroom pop that puts Gish’s neuroses front and center. On standout track “Sin Triangle,” Gish’s lyricism and deft skill of self-roasting is on full display. “Two-faced bitches never lie / And therefore I never lie,” she sings overtop a laptop lounge rock joint that feels effortlessly cool. Every nook and cranny of No Dogs Allowed is filled with earworms and it’s not hard to fall in love with it. • Jamie McNamara The Go! Team SEMICIRCLE Memphis Industries The Go! Team has made some seriously bombastic music over the years, but has always maintained a level of obscurity that keeps any of their tracks from being too sugary to rock out to. From bubblegum pop, to grimy hip-hop, to indie rock, it’s always been big melodies for people who abhor contemporary pop production. SEMICIRCLE is no exception, a huge record full of compelling vocal melodies, driving rhythms and badass instrumental arrangements. The downside is that the whole record sounds like it’s being performed from the bottom of a well. This production style, which pushes the vocals back in the mix and compressed much of the instrumentation to a similar level, creates an almost marching band like listening experience. Every instrument sounds like it’s in the same room, possibly a high school gymnasium. It’s impressive that a band that has at moments been a rock ensemble can still sound like themselves with so many horns, xylophones and flutes, but the fuzzy production keeps any of the real bangers on the record, like the single “Semicircle Song,” from being that successful. The most effective tracks on the record are the more contained ones, especially the tracks that let Ninja stand out with her gorgeous vocal performance like “Plans Are Like a Dream U Organize.” It’s hard not to smile your way through SEMICIRCLE, it’s just so much fun, but it doesn’t necessarily reward close listening. • Liam Prost Scallops Hotel Sovereign nose of (y)our arrogant face Ruby Yacht As Scallops Hotel, Wisconsin rapper and producer Milo creates tranquil atmospheres like an alchemist who found the philosopher’s stone. He knows when to let the beat rise and bubble before splashing in his conversational flow, which is reminiscent of Earl Sweatshirt in style and skill. Sovereign nose of (y)our arrogant face is the second entry in a trilogy that began last year with Over The Carnage Rose A Voice Prophetic. The production is minimal and piano-heavy, meshing perfectly with Milo’s poetic and often hilarious versus touching on topics like socioeconomic shifts and Mortal Kombat references. Fittingly, on “Rank, Title, Pressures,” Scallops Hotel mentions Mugen, a character from the stylish and hip-hop-inspired anime Samurai Champloo, which used to air on Adult Swim. The network is known for its impeccable music between shows, favouring sounds on the Flying Lotus spectrum. In this sense, the 25 year-old rapper is embracing the influences of his youth as Scallops Hotel, carrying the fluttering torch to enlighten a new generation. Whether his next release is labelled as Scallops Hotel or Milo, Rory Ferreira proves time and time again he can turn his old influences into modern gold. • Paul McAleer The Sumner Brothers To Elliot – In Remembrance Of Wolf Independent Through a career notable for sonic twists, Vancouver’s Sumner Brothers follow up the dark, energetic tone of their 2015 release, The Hell In Your Mind, with the reflective and gentle To Elliot – In Remembrance Of Wolf. The album is a collection of instrumentally spare covers by a who’s who of roots songwriters, including Billy Joe Shaver, Warren Zevon, and Bruce Springsteen. Brothers Bob and Brian Sumner keep the arrangements light and tight to the originals on To Elliot. Brian’s plaintive drawl on Springsteen’s “The Ghost Of Tom Joad” and Zevon’s “Carmelita,” allows the melody and lyrics to shine through – the latter getting a relaxed electric guitar and subtle female harmony to go along with the mellow cantina vibe. Bob’s baritone is haunting on his take of The Tragically Hip’s classic album cut “Scared,” and on Jolie Holland’s “Damn Shame.” For those aware of Zachary Lucky or Colter Wall, Bob’s timbre will sound immediately familiar, its tenderness belied by a gruff, aged tone, the kind of vocal people often call that of “an old soul.” The Sumner Brothers are one of Western Canada’s best underground roots acts, and their taste in quality songs is evident on To Elliot – In Remembrance Of Wolf. It’s easy enough to play covers everyone has heard. But when an artist digs a little deeper and shows their audience something farther removed from expectation, the listener gets to experience a piece of the artist’s inspiration. • Mike Dunn Tune-Yards I can feel you creep into my private life 4AD It’s abrupt how little abruptness there is in 42 | FEBRUARY 2018 • BEATROUTE
the latest release from Tune-Yards. The rhythmic attack and staccato catch-and-release structure of the weird-pop outfits previous releases were career defining. I can feel you creep into my private life brings enormous simplicity to the rhythms, but the off-kilter melodies and nasally delivery from frontwoman Merrill Garbus become even more prescient to the project as a result. Most tracks are anchored by simple four-beats and structured like electronic music, specifically techno, but occasionally even features droplike movements that echo dance music. This is most notable in the singles like “Look at Your Hands.” Other tracks feature a more deliberate instrumental build up that resembles LCD Soundsystem. The effectiveness of the record is mostly due to the shear textural variety, combined with the huge personality of Garbus’ voice and lyrics. Garbus writes a lot about her social position on the record, both in her vulnerability as a woman in the public eye, which is echoed in the title of the record (and is spoken aloud several times during the record), and also in her self-consciousness about her white privilege. This is spoken to most directly in the first-person-sung “Colonizer.” Garbus’ own political self-awareness is a testament to the tonal variety that has defined her career. Tune-Yards routinely uses ethnically tinged instrumentation, but no song or even musical movement is distinctly drawn from any particular culture to even consider it appropriative. I can feel you creep into my private life is a weird, woke, and ultimately wonderful piece of work. • Liam Prost Typhoon Offerings Roll Call Records With the release of Offerings, Portland– based Typhoon once again attracts listeners to delve into the emotion and passion of front man Kyle Morton. Offerings is the fourth studio album for the band and the sound differs significantly from White Lighter, the last studio album by indie symphonic collective. A much more distorted and frantic sound, Offerings fails to capture the listener’s full attention throughout and seems disjointed in the story it is meant to tell. The albums structure seems off, starting with “Wake,” a frantic song that is off-putting to the listener. However, it is followed by “Rorschach,” which for fans of Typhoon will be a welcome return to form. The album ends with the nearly 13-minute epic “Sleep” which draws comparisons to the 2009 release of Hospice by Brooklyn-based band The Antlers. This epic is the strongest song on the album and showcases Morton’s storytelling as well as the larger orchestral quality that is Typhoon. • Andrew Bardsley U.S. Girls In A Poem Unlimited 4AD Often described as idiosyncratic, Meg Remy of U.S. Girls has now made a decade of creative work and used fuel from her 2016 Juno Nomination for Alternative Album of the Year to build an inquisitive, well-produced and bizarre portrait of a disenchanted yet disarming reality in In a Poem Unlimited. Never without hook and never without it’s draws from pop to magnet listeners in, Remy twists expectation on itself to create completely danceable and somewhat perplexing disco-loaded schemes. Remy’s blunt use of repetition, computerized undertones, and sometimes breathy, sometimes undulating pitched vocals, never quite suit the traditional confines of pop and add to an inner richness that frames something illusive. Remy uses quaking siren-like guitar and saxophone lines that are catchy and captivating; breathing a modern air into their reverb and fully capitalizing on their strength in songs like “Velvet For Sale” and “Rage of Plastics.” What Remy does excessively well, it seems, is splice discordant, no-wave reactionary elements with more reliable basics of pop and disco. The album elaborates but doesn’t overcomplicate some intoxicating boogie while keeping with real emotion. Including a short clip of her decimated voice stating the obvious, Remy follows this with the most harmonious and easy going, alpha wave infused “Rosebud,” and curtails this immediately with the wailing “Incidental Boogie” ¬— opened up by words on abandonment. The groove never lets up, and Remy’s natural lean towards reinterpretation and repetition is exploited in great combination with varying rhythms and constantly engaging material. Closing with “Time,” Remy picks up some massive speed for her final piece. “There is no time” she repeats as she delves into over seven minutes of guitar and sax solos. She eases in and out but never slows down, and things quickly get jumbled together, layers pile onto a solid groove. The instruments seemingly improvise their own end while the albums’ many elements ring on and shake it off. • Arielle Lessard BEATROUTE • FEBRUARY 2018 | 43