Now, didn’t I tell you we’d be back in flash? The Canadian goodness continues to arrive, an exotic salve for all our little-islander woes, so here we are again with our regular column devoted to the best new music from Canada. Aaron Goldstein’s awesome Espanola record managed to fast-track straight to a full review, hence its omission here but his countrymen and women have provided plenty more to satisfy our Maple Leaf cravings, so, read on and feast your ears on the musical crème de la crème …Canadienne.
Some years ago, one of the first things I wanted to review for RGM was Catherine MacLellan’s wonderful 2014 album The Raven’s Sun. I failed to write a single word about it of course because every time I spun the album I was so bewitched I couldn’t begin to find the language to describe its haunting, acoustic beauty. So, in an attempt to make very belated amends, I bring you news of her upcoming record, Coyote, which is due on 9th October. Living in rural P.E.I. and having spent the last four years making a record, a stage show and a documentary all in tribute to her late father Gene MacLellan, Catherine now returns to her own music and has put out two new tracks ahead of the album’s release. These are ‘Out Of Time’ and ‘Waiting On My Love’. The neat fingerpicking and soft-beaten drums of the latter is up there with the mastery of folk titans Kate Wolf and Nanci Griffith, while the former has the gentlest of country shuffles. The purity of MacLellan’s close and resigned vocal strikes me dumb once more - listen for yourself and I don’t doubt you’ll be similarly wordless.
Over in Toronto we find the gently anarchic three-piece Altered By Mom, whose quirky, toe-tapping and downright poptastic single ‘Hear That Sound’ could almost be Ben Folds fronting The Wannadies. The track is taken from their forthcoming album Trapped In An MP3, which follows their 2016 debut EP, Body Feels Weird. Band members Devon Lougheed, Gina Kennedy and Jamieson Williams say that their “big shiny tunes are an exploration of analog love in a digital era” and we say we’re not sure why but we can’t stop dancing. The record promises to be a very interesting listen.
Shuffling to West Toronto, we run into acoustic singer-songwriter Mike Riley and his smooth, intimate single, ‘Drug Dealer’, taken from the especially fine Divorce EP, the title of which - I guess - tells you some of what you need to know. Riley’s close-as-a-whisper vocal is his ace in the hand and the classy, light-touch production here provides the perfect backdrop to the desperate, reflective themes Riley explores. The song’s chorus of “If you’re gonna lie to get something / Then lie to get something you need” is just a glimpse at Riley’s wry way with a lyric, which is runs throughout the EP, particularly in the easy pop catchiness of ‘Marriage’, which represents some sonic hope among the desperation before segueing into the darkness of the title track.
For something a little more urgent, the charging guitars and pounding drums of Kasador offer a very different perspective on late-night anxieties with their new single ‘High Rise’. The band have been honing their craft since forming in 2016 and ‘High Rise’ finds the chaps in full stride, brandishing their own energetic take on a modern melodic rock sound. The song follows on from the more languid ‘Brood And Bloom’ single, which is the title track of the band’s upcoming full-length debut. Kasador are pretty busy with shows all over Canada this summer - let’s hope they can make it over the water and see us sometime in the near future.
And last - but by no means least - I give you the folk-pop partnership that is In The City; made up of singer-songwriter Ashley Jane and multi-instrumentalist Timon Wientzek. Their arresting piano-led single ‘Every Single Day’ packs an emotional punch, having been written after the unexpected death of Jane’s mother last year. It captures an enduring sense of loss and pain in a way that is universally applicable but without compromising any of its sincerity. The song also showcases the duo’s evident chemistry - particularly in the haunting, octaved vocal - and is among other delights on offer as part of their current EP, MaryAnn.
So now we must bid you farewell until next time. Thank you, Maple Leaf readers, for joining us for another roundup. While using some of the above to lull you to sleep at the end of a hard day you can rest easy in the knowledge that, here at RGM, we’re always collecting new nuggets of Canadian treasure to share with you and we will be back with even more, faster than you can say Saskatchewanian
The Maple Leaf is a Rich Barnard production for Red Guitar Music.