Arts funding for music in Canada means that there is a very healthy scene for up-and-coming acts. Lots of these artists reach out across the water and we’re always pleased to find their little musical messages-in-bottles washing up on the beaches of RGM Island. There’s something new and exciting there almost every day, little gems glinting on the sand as we walk the dogs along the shore. Sadly, we’re so busy writing daft metaphors we don’t have time to cover everything we’d like to in depth, so we’ve assembled a little roundup of the very best Canadian things that have come to our attention in the last couple of weeks. Keep your eyes and ears on the names and remember you (probably) heard about them first at Red Guitar.
Claude Munson’s new LP The Silence Came After has been atop my listen-to list since its release on May 18th. It’s a beautiful eight-song affair which showcases his soaring Paul Simonesque vocal and his considerable skills as a songwriter. Some of the songs (‘Sweet Love’, ‘Cold Man’) are intimate and barely dressed, with just guitar and light-touch atmospherics while others (‘Love Comes Knocking’, ‘Broken Stairs’) have drums, bounce and splash… and ‘hit single’ written all over them. Elsewhere, there are refreshing nods to ‘80s new wave (see the synths and Johnny Marr-style guitars of current single ‘Broken Stairs’) but everything is tied together by that unmistakable voice and those refreshing, wide-open arrangements.
If you’re after some serious musical palate-cleansing then a journey into Jamison Isaak’s world might be just what you need. His new EP - imaginatively titled EP2 - showcases his immersive piano-based instrumentals. If you dabble in a little Philip Glass when no-one is looking (hey, don’t we all?) and like the idea of gently looping Sigur Ros and The Penguin Café Orchestra through a sampler then the resultant euphoria of single ‘Us’ will appeal. It’s a thing of meditative beauty for which it is definitely worth taking a little trip out of the RGM comfort zone.
In total contrast and with guitars fully amped, Ontario’s Basement Revolver have released the soaring single ‘Baby’ ahead of their new album Heavy Eyes which is due for a UK release later this summer. It is an unashamedly noisy, slow-paced song of a faltering relationship and vocalist/guitarist Chrisy Hurn’s plaintive delivery put me very much in mind of Sarah Jepp (whose two LPs from the late ‘90s everyone should own).
Running Red Lights:
Toronto-based Running Red Lights, fronted by Scarlett Flynn and Kevin Howley, are gearing up for their second full-length album I Am You later this year and if the current single ‘Songs of Blue’ is anything to go by, it’s going to be pretty awesome. ‘Songs of Blue’ is inspired by nights spent heartbroken and bawling to a soundtrack of Joni Mitchell records (it’s nowhere near as depressing as that makes it sound, mind you). Its catchy refrain of “me and a case of you/whiskey and water get me through” crowns a little nugget of pop gold. Contrasting with the band’s earlier work, this homage to Ms Mitchell is sprinkled with all the beats, handclaps and finger clicks of an RnB summer smash, which could just be what makes it work so well. That, along with the killer line “tell me it don’t f**k you up when you hear California”. They’ll need a radio edit because, if there’s any justice, this song will be huge. Watch this space for a full review of I Am You very soon.
Also very handy at penning a hitworthy indie anthem or two are Written Years, hailing from Vancouver. “Superficial Feeling” is the second single from their forthcoming album and is produced by Ryan Worsley of Said The Whale fame. In their words “it’s a corrupt little 2 a.m. love song about finding yourself in this strange world.” We say the song is equal parts indie cool and shimmering ‘80s pop. Its youthful energy is irresistibly infectious and we dare you to disagree.
Finally, on the more intimate side of things we find Wes Allen, who releases his debut EP Funny Thing on June 22nd. The single ‘Ask Me Now’ has been filling my ears for the last couple of weeks and has an artful but light-handed production courtesy of Chester Hansen, with its gently bouncing pizzicato strings and dreamy vibes rubbing up perfectly against a jittering beat. The song is as immersive as Duncan Sheik at his peak and as inventive as Arto Lindsay at his least bonkers. ‘Ask Me Now’ is a delightful masterclass in how to dress a broody, downbeat sentiment a little differently.
Keep ‘em coming, Canada and maybe we can make this a regular RGM column.
The Maple Leaf Roundup #1 by Rich Barnard.