Review – “The Jins EP” – The Jins


The idea of “garage revivalism” deposited bands like the White Stripes, Interpol, and the Strokes squarely into the post-90s musical consciousness, a refreshing reminder of the rawness and angularity of rock music after its disastrous excursion into nu-metal self-absorption. Vancouver trio the Jins – named colloquially for the flocks of pigeons roosting in the city’s Downtown Eastside – seem to have remained in the garage all this time, no revival needed. For these three stripped-down rockers, the dour seriousness of late-model grunge and tribal-tatted early-aughts rockism falls aside in favour of a fun, scuzzy, scrappy louder-and-louderness that basically takes every upbeat pop hook you can think and throws it through a cheap fuzz pedal, crashing into a drum kit at full velocity, grinning and head-banging simultaneously.


One might say that The Jins EP thus earns some Nirvana comparisons (who can forget that Cobain was a self-professed fan of twee Japanese surf-pop band Shonen Knife?), but the comparison doesn’t really stick, despite Ben Larsen’s raspy shouting timbre and Jamie Warncock’s affinity for clamorous cymbal battery – apparently it’s an all-too-familiar simile that the band have rejected in the past as well. In truth, the Jins frontman and his bandmates exude more of the energy of Julian Casablancas and co. or even early Green Day, displaying an ear for percussive, tight guitars and ragged, sneering vocal whippiness rather than going straight for grinding heavy noise, and favouring dry, sarcastic turns of wit over mumbly, nihlistic pronouncements. “Fucked Up Nite,” “I Lied” and “Call On Me” are genuinely wicked, hooky rock with a mean streak.

That being said, what keeps The Jins from being a fully enjoyable listen is not so much its rambunctious songwriting approach, but its production and mixing (or rather, apparent lack thereof.) Wholly adherent to the DIY sonic aesthetic, the album gets more than a little too drum-heavy at its more feverish pitches (such as the heavier riffs of “I Was a Boy”), with everything competing for space against the hammering cymbals. There’s too much live-off-the-floor skronk and not enough sparkle in the guitars: even the most raucous of punk and post-punk acts knew how to pin their high-gain amps to the mix to create punch and let solos rip with controlled, compressed fuzz.

In the end, The Jins is the kind of distortion-addled punk that will surely bring your heart rate up and perhaps inspire fits of Doc Marten-clad moshing. I get the sense that its appeal might translate much better in a live setting, free to crank up and rip with the aim to make as much kinetic energy as possible jump off the stage. As an EP, however, it seems constrained, trying to pack a whole lot of rock and roll into not quite organized enough of a space.


Rating: Young Hoot (Decent)

Top Tracks: “Call On Me,” “Fucked Up Nite”

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Premiere: Justin Sawicki – “Upsala Trees”

justin sawikiAs the winter weather begins to bristle us, Justin Sawicki’s new song is here to keep us warm. After taking some time off, Sawicki will be returning with a new self-titled record on Dec. 11.

Until then, enjoy “Upsala Trees,” a song that wonderfully fuses southern rock with a touch of bluegrass. Vocal harmonies and guitar open the song on a high note, and it only gets better once the full band joins in later on in the song. It’s the song equivalent of the scent of fresh evergreen trees. See what we mean below.

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Review – “Either Way” – Sure

reviewed by Jack Derricourt


Either Way by Victoria’s Sure sounds like an indie rock classic. Just the production alone makes me want to play this album over and over again. Nothing sounds high budget, but all of the hours of work and meticulous noodling of parts and arrangements is so obvious. This album sounds like everything that was good and golden about albums made in basements and apartments in the 80s.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s pop tones buzzing all over this thing. The lyrics invite some pretty sympathetic ears: songs pertaining to living in parental basements and watching too much Netflix abound, which is both extremely satisfying and slightly depressing at the same time — I’m looking at you “Melancholy and the Infinite Party.” It’s a moody record, but in the best way; little flecks of pop punk colour dissonant guitar work and really tasteful drum work.

There are lots of neat little surprises on these recordings, like the Dinosaur Jr. sounds of “Oh Yeah, Tell Me About Your Dreams,” the most straight ahead song on the record, which takes many power pop diversions on the road to verse chorus verse. Or the almost severely quiet “Probably Not,” Sure’s answer to “Definitely Maybe.”

“Pretty Much” is an interesting closer. Electric guitar and vocal only for the majority of the track, the thoughtful words the star of the show. Ennui and the death of the 90s eternal flame vibes, it’s a beautiful death. And the space left lacking drums, until the final seconds that is, is the loudest sound on the entire record.

And so it goes. Sure. Why not?

Top Track: “Melancholy and the Infinite Party”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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Audible Hoots: Astronauts, Bobby Uzoma, Pink Acid Wash & more



“I Am Gone” – RENDERS

After Kelly McMichael released the epic Josh Donaldson tribute single “Josh,” her first official RENDERS single is getting us dancing already. Drawing from the all-too-short-lived synth-pop group Rouge and with Paradise Animals’ Mark Andrade as a producer, “I Am Gone” is a slick, lush synth-jam to sway along to. McMichael’s vocals will guide you through the journey.

Michael Thomas

“Rockin’ Rolla” – Astronauts

Calgary’s Astronauts are here to funk up your life. “Rockin’ Rolla” is a mellow, chilled, smooth, and other synonyms for a cooool track. Some great bass work and an easy melody top it off.

– Laura Stanley 

“Pacific Beach” – Pink Acid Wash

You know those montages in 80s teen movies where everyone races around in a car and picks up their friends for a fun day at the beach? That’s kind of what this song feels like, though a hell of a lot more raucous. Shredding guitar makes this beach-alluding song firing on all cylinders from start to finish, and it’s even got an essentially Canadian twist. The chorus starts with “If you don’t want to go, I can leave you alone.” How polite is that?

– MT

“Idioglossia” – Bobby Uzoma

Remember last time when we freaked out about Bobby Uzoma? Well, cue encore. Uzoma’s latest track “Idioglossia” (meaning a language invented and spoken by only one person) is a lush, sprawling dream; a slow jam for the ages. As synths swells and a light electronic beat dances, Uzoma asks, with confusion and hope dripping in his voice, “have I lost my baby?” Although each repetition of the question is like a new punch in the gut, you’ll want it over and over again.  

– LS

“Lonely” & “POETRY (OF INTUITION)” – Maylee Todd

The first new music in quite a while from Maylee Todd is quintessential Maylee Todd: catchy as hell, makes you want to dance, and featuring actual dancing. Though this new music is a lot more electronic than the 60s-soul-indebted Escapology, it feels like a natural extension of Todd’s very physical music. The video is just as hypnotic as the song, featuring a dance by Minae Omi.

Just today, Todd posted another new song, “POETRY (OF INTUITION),” a more subdued, lullaby-ish number backed by a drum machine and synths. If “Lonely” was about pining for something, then “POETRY” is about having too much of something. “We’ve exhausted a conversation” is the key line, followed shortly by “It seems we just expired in every way.” It’s quite the beautiful breakup song.


“Spirit Wakes” – PTARMIGAN

Despite its ghostly title, “Spirit Wakes” is a very full song. Guitars dazzle and voices dance as PTARMIGAN charge ahead with a powerful purpose to rouse you from slumber and reinvigorate your own spirit. Watch out for their new LP in early 2016!

– LS

“Rain” – LeRiche

This Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland artist seems primed and ready for big things if this brilliant first single is anything to go by. Featuring delicate finger-picking, gorgeous string arrangements and LeRiche’s soulful vocals—not to mention real rain caught on the microphone—it’s the perfect blend of relaxing and thrilling.


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Review – “This is Everything” – futurekids

reviewed by Anna Alger

Go back in time with the music of futurekids on their new album, This is Everything. The Winnipeg band draw inspiration from 90s alternative rock, putting their own quirky twist on simple pop songs. Playing with distortion and focusing on atmosphere in their music, the band set themselves apart from “revivalist” groups.

This is Everything opens with the grungy, yet melodic “Bob Ross.” Its driving bass locks the song into a pleasant loop of fun, indie rock. Sweet and low vocal harmonies carry “Americana,” a forlorn ode to the genre. The album’s sound takes a playful turn with the casual, brash vocals on “White Girl in a Wu-Tang Shirt,” recalling a more articulate version of the spoken word rambles featured in some Pavement songs. There is an effortlessness to the sound of futurekids, but don’t be fooled – they have sharp wit akin to that of the 90s indie rockers who have clearly inspired them.

With songs like “Bounce,” futurekids linger a little too long on a sound with few dynamics. They’re capable of writing songs that are original and display their versatility, which is clear once again in the distorted kitsch of “Teen Touch.” (A choice lyric is “Got a mixtape in my heart for you – just haven’t sequenced it yet.”) One of the strongest songs on the record comes later: the attitude filled “Helen Bishop, 25.” futurekids speak of the hear and now as they bash “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” over tumbling riffs. Closer, “Inchoate (This is Everything)” is endearing, providing a gentle finish to the album.

This is Everything is somewhat of an uneven sounding record, but when futurekids hit their stride, they’re able to charm. One part off kilter rock, another driving pop, the band are developing a textured identity.

Top Tracks: “White Girl in a Wu-Tang Shirt,” “Helen Bishop, 25,” “The Diminutive”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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Review – “Late & Dawn” – Sylo Nozra

a4164203051_16reviewed by Laura Stanley

It snowed this week in Toronto. For our friends elsewhere, snow has already hit. It’s less than a month until Christmas – if that’s a holiday you choose to mark time with. It’s winter. And with the cold comes an almost desperate need to find warmth whether that’s under 3 sweaters or under another person. Thankfully, the smooth sounds of Late & Dawn from Toronto’s Sylo Nozra makes an excellent companion to both sweater weather and getting cozy with someone and a perfect remedy for the coldest of days.

Nozra weaves a thick blanket of light electronics, creamy guitar parts, and soulful r&b melodies. A DIY recording, Nozra nestles background noises like gurgling water, birds chirping, video game sound effects, city noises, in his songs allowing them to easily transition into your own life. Both “Ferris Wheel” and “Living Colours With You” not only have these additional noises but Nozra uses them to prompt the songs’ instrumentals; a keyboard rises from the trickling water and lush foundation of “Ferris Wheel” and the bird calls and what sounds like a distant hammer (unless it’s a smartly tweaked drum) at the start of “Living Colours With You” becomes part of the beat.

EP highlight “Slowly, Carefully” is a meticulously crafted downtempo track, scattered with delicately picked guitar, and quivers under Nozra’s sultry voice. In an even slower jam “Her Unspoken Love,” moves with its dancing guitar parts, subtle, throbbing synth, and chiptune-like additions; a panoply of sounds and texture that’s very satisfying. 

Warm up with Late & Dawn.

Top Track: “Slowly, Carefully”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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One-on-One with Corinna Rose

corinna rose

by Michael Thomas

If there’s one word that Corinna Rose, speaking to me from British Columbia, used over our chat more than anything, it’s the word “special.” Her musical career has seemingly been filled with special moments, from when she first musically connected with Leah Dolgoy (albeit in tragic circumstances) or even when she realized she needed to include a cover of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonely I Could Cry” on her latest EP, The Wharf.

But she didn’t really start getting into the music scene until she started attending McGill University in Montreal, when she joined a folk collective.

“I got this random Facebook message from a dude I’d never met before asking me if I wanted to join a band, because I think I’d written on my profile that I play guitar,” Rose says.

Thus began her five years as a member of the Rusty Horse Band which “performed mostly for fun” and at school fundraisers. When the band members graduated and moved away, that was the end of the band, but it was what inspired Rose to keep on making music.

Good thing, too, because Rose’s discography is beautiful as a whole. She first got Grayowl Point’s attention with her self-titled EP, and then with the full-band, full-length North East South West. It’s no accident that each recording has a slightly different sound.

Her bandmates come from McGill’s jazz program, and their unique musical points of view pushed Rose to think differently.

“The more we played together, the weirder my songs got and the more I started to scrutinize my song structure,” Rose says. “It’s not a natural process, but I’m really into trying to do things differently and make sure my songs are never in the same key and keeping things as interesting as possible.”

This latest EP is a collaboration with the aforementioned Dolgoy, whom she met after a mutual friend of theirs passed away. After the memorial service, a group of friends gathered at a friend’s house (“We were all grieving pretty intensely,” Rose says) and someone asked Rose to play “Green Mountain State.” Dolgoy joined in on the harp, and the two jammed again a few weeks later. Since then, they’ve played more than 200 shows together.

While the songwriting on The Wharf is largely Rose’s, the compositions are largely collaborative, and she trusts has only the highest praise for Dolgoy. “Everything she does is always gorgeous,” she says. She actually co-wrote the song “Wolf” after Rose hit a writing block, and the two worked together to finish it.

Rose and Dolgoy covered “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” long after Rose started covering it—in 2012 Rose was touring by VIA Rail train with Gabrielle Papillon, and because the shows required a large repertoire, Rose started playing it. Eventually, Rose and Dolgoy found themselves playing the song in Wateron Lakes, Alta. for the first time.

“Leah and I had never played it together, but the autoharp was so beautiful on it,” Rose says. “Autoharp and banjo is such a special combination and it’s not heard very often, and it works so beautifully on that song. Before we played it, we realized how special the cover was. We realized at a certain point that we needed it.”

The beauty of Rose’s music may also be a byproduct of her current city, Montreal. The city is known especially for the weirdness of its artists, so being a folk musician there is an interesting challenge.

“Everybody’s doing something weird,” she says. “It’s one of the things I appreciate the most about Montreal. It kind of forces you as a folk musician to do something different and think outside the box. It’s definitely a part of what’s really influenced my sound over the last couple of years.”

The downside, she says, is that sometimes genre groups can feel separate. But various people and groups are trying to help create tight-knit musical communities in the city—she specifically names Grumpy’s and Barfly as two venues with a scene building around them.

Early next year, Rose will begin recording a full-length she says will sound like a blend of the sounds of North East South West and The Wharf, but as she winds down the year she’s been touring in British Columbia as part of a Home Routes house-show tour.

“It’s really nice to play house concerts, it’s such an intimate type of show. Very community-based,” she says. “You kind of get a sense of these communities and go into your audience and meet these different people.”

At the time we spoke, she had just played two shows on the tour, but she was already praising this different way of doing shows.

“People have been so kind to us and really excited to have us play in their homes,” she says. “People are extra excited, so that’s cool too. It’s nice to show up somewhere and have an audience I wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.”

Whatever Rose comes up will next will undoubtedly be special too.

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