Back in November when I interviewed Tess Parks, the Toronto based singer tipped me off to some exciting talents in her home town. Since then I’ve managed to discover a couple more bands from that neck of the woods myself and it appears that Toronto is forging itself a reputation as one of the most vibrant music cities on the planet.
I’m not remotely claiming to be any kind of authority on Toronto bands and I’m aware that I’m only scratching the surface here but thought I’d briefly mention some acts that have impressed me in recent months.
Tonight at the Bovine Sex Club, that’s right, the Bovine Sex Club, Poppy Seed & the Love Explosion play a show to celebrate the release of their second album, Beyond the Seventh Sun, which is without doubt worth seeking out, especially if you’re a fan of dreamy pop flavoured psych.
The band is led by vocalist, songwriter and guitarist Steven Bromstein, who is something of a Toronto scene veteran, performing and promoting gigs since the first half of the 90s – he was responsible for setting up the legendary Sedated Sundays residency at El Mocambo Tavern – a club best known for a surprise show by The Rolling Stones which made headlines for the attendance of then Prime Minister Trudeau’s wife, Margaret back in 1977 when that sort of thing was very much frowned upon.
Beyond the Seventh Sun, like its predecessor, Days Dream of You, has been a long time coming, recorded over a decade long series of separate recording sessions which have involved a transient assortment of collaborators such as Eddie Kalwa of Rain Parade and Glenn Milchem from local favourites Blue Rodeo.
Pulsing and mesmerizing, Bales of Pot kicks off proceedings nicely and I do like Steve’s gentle but assured vocal style – and the funky clavichord sound. The eight songs that follow on don’t stray too far from the template of this track’s hypnotic space-rock groove, which is no bad thing.
If I hadn’t mislaid my reporter’s notebook, references such as The Beta Band and Spacemen 3 might have been scribbled down as I listened and I would likely have noted a trace of several early 80s Liverpool bands such as Teardrop Explodes and The Icicle Works (well I have now anyway) and on tracks like Look at You and The Spell, the rippling guitar definitely recalls Will Sergeant of Echo and the Bunnymen.
Beyond the Seventh Sun is one of those albums that you can easily play once then happily play again straight afterwards and from it, here’s the radiant and more than a little trippy In The Real:
Talking of trippy, the peculiarly named Ostrich Tuning – as the band use the D ‘Ostrich Tuning’ developed by Lou Reed for his early song Do the Ostrich apparently – obviously share a love for psychedelia but with a slightly skewed shoegazing feel, what they call psychgazedelic.
They released their last album, In Her Highest Moon, the very same week as my favourite album of 2013, My Bloody Valentines’ m b v, came out and comparisons have made between the two bands, although I reckon they sound more like Slowdive than MBV – a more experimental Slowdive with a little Spacemen 3 (again) and Velvet Underground thrown in for good measure.
Like Beyond the Seventh Sun, it’s a collection of songs without anything remotely resembling a failure and one that keeps getting better with each subsequent play.
Droney and sometimes almost disorientating, this track, Oakville to the End of the Line, has a weird but rather wonderful despondency:
Of course not all Toronto bands have a dreamy psych/shoegaze influenced sound, indeed the word that maybe best describes Toronto’s scene is diversity.
Rap superstar Drake is a native of the city, as are heavy metal legends Anvil – and if you have never seen the documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil, you should, even, if like me, you’re not a fan of the music. Somewhere in between there’s the likes of Caribou, Crystal Castles, Deadmau5, Broken Social Scene, Feist and Fucked Up along with highly rated newer acts like Fresh Snow, Odonis Odonis and The BB Guns.
The BB Guns, according to Tess Parks are ‘like a modern day sexy sixties girl band’ and I wouldn’t argue with that assessment although I should maybe point out that the band does contain a couple of guys. Think Kenicke meets The Shangri-Las as a quick reference point.
Last year they released their Baby I Hate You EP, four feelgood, bouncy toe-tappers with fizzy, ravishing riffs and great choruses chock-full with honeyed harmonies.
They recently supported 60s soul artist Gino Washington (not to be confused with Geno! Geno! Geno! Geno! Washington) at the famous Horseshoe Tavern and you can bet your bottom dollar, Canadian or otherwise, that the night must have been a whole lot of fun.
This is Pennie Lane from the EP:
Finally, tomorrow night I’m off to see a Toronto based act myself as The New Mendicants take to the stage at the Arches in Glasgow as part of Celtic Connections 2014.
The band consists of an American, Joe Pernice (Pernice Brothers) and a Scot, Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) who are both married to Canadians – the reasons behind their relocations to Ontario – along with The Sadies’ drummer Mike Belitsky, who is actually Canadian but hails from Halifax, Nova Scotia originally.
Hence the title of the post.
Poppy Seed & the Love Explosion:
The BB Guns:
The New Mendicants: