Saturday, December 10, 2005

Silence please

It's that time of the year -- the time when all the blog people make their lists. I promise I won't make many (this is only my second), but it seems the "Top Canadian Bands by Canadian Bloggers" list is essential in 2005. Oh fuck, no it's not... I just wanted to make a list, some of my friends said they'd participate, and this is the result.

"The Alternative List of Canadian Bands By A Few of The Other Canadian Bloggers," is put together by myself (AYF?), Jay Watts (Goldkicks), and Stuart Berman (Eye Magazine).

35. The Creeping Nobodies
Stuart -- Earlier this year, for a first date, I took a girl who hadn’t been to club gig in, like, 10 years to the Wavelength anniversary at Lee’s. The first thing she saw was an epileptic Derek Westerholm swallowing his microphone and screaming into his guitar pick-ups. She and I haven’t spoken since.

34. Ghislain Poirier
Jay -- Montreal-based hip-hop producer who's done remixes for Lady Sovereign, and worked with Beans. Fool that I was, I didn't really pay much attention to his work until recently, and now I'm snapping up everything I can find by him, and downloading everything I can't.

33. Despistado
Stuart -- Their debut album turned out to be their swan song, so the Regina-is-the-new-Seattle articles will have to wait. They coulda been contenders, or at least as good as At the Drive-In.

32. Great Lake Swimmers
Stuart -- I don’t believe in heaven, but “Song for the Angel” makes me wish I did.

31. The Two Koreas
Greg -- They are kind of like the Canadian Art Brut, except not at all. I don't know why people keep making that comparison. They're fronted by a music editor (who wrote part of this list and didn't even vote for his own band), and half their rhythm section (er... the bassist) is from Toronto's Uncut. Show highlights include Dan Burke - infamous local promoter - doing karate style kick-dancing to impress the ladies.

30. Faunts
Greg -- Shoegaze hasn't exactly made a stunning comeback, but the sound is being realized again in fresh, interesting ways. Faunts do it well, and so far without a hell of a lot of hype.

29. No Dynamics
Stuart -- The band Beyonce would front if Jay-Z was Jon Spencer in 1993.

28. Frog Eyes
Jay -- Cary Mercer has been called, at various times, a demented drunk bear, or alternately, Boris Yeltsin on a weekend bender at the dacha. Half-Birthday Party battling against Captain Beefheart.

27. Republic of Safety
Stuart -- The band Molly Ringwald would front if John Hughes had taken his cue from The Ex instead of the Psychedelic Furs.

26. Chet
Jay -- If Jeff Buckley had written more songs that sounded like that "Hallelujah" cover, instead of the random grunge-rock nonsense that I can't tolerate, he might have won the adoration of more people and not waded into that river. Ryan Beattie and his feuding half-brother Patrick are on it, though, and I'm going to go out and say that they're better than anything Buckley wrote, or could have written. Patrick's mother is writing her master's thesis on the presentation of dead children in the 19th century.

25. Silver Mt. Zion
Stuart -- Efrim Menuck’s most atypical SMZ release, Horses in the Sky, also turns out to be the best thing he’s done since Godspeed’s Lift Your Skinny Little Fists…, countering his day gig’s imposing grandeur with tender and tortured spirituals for a world with no soul.

24. The Besnard Lakes
Jay -- Jace and Olga are studio masterminds, and a married couple that don't, as per the blueprint, craft that sort of schmaltzy, heavily contrived and coy brand of indie rock that characterizes what married musicians get up to (in response to Ike & Tina's violent partnership, I assume). Nay, hallucinogenic dispatches from the dark recesses of the universe.

23. Hank
Greg -- This band has been sitting atop my playlist ever since I put their CD on repeat overnight once, like eight months ago. Short songs, so they can fit lots on a disc. Ultra-catchy pop/soul/rock with some electronic beats thrown in.

22. Holy Fuck
Jay -- I slept on this. After an allergic reaction to Brian's other project experienced at a Wintersleep show, I wasn't keen to check them out. It took me a couple of months and some serious prodding from friends before I saw them at Pop Montreal, and realized that it wasn't going to be that necessary for Faust to re-unite; but if they did, they'd have a great touring partner.

21. Destroyer
Jay -- A genius Spaniard, one-time babysitter, and (I swear) Volvo station-wagon owner. He's friends with Rodney Graham!

20. Final Fantasy
Greg -- The most annoying thing about articles on Owen Pallett (aka Final Fantasy) are the frequent Arcade Fire references (yes, he tours with them), because his own music is more than strong enough to escape their massive gravitational pull. Violin wizardry is what it is, and yeah, Final Fantasy is all about video games. And D&D.
Stuart -- Voice of an angel, mouth of a sailor, our Owen could play The Boat or Royal Albert Hall and bring both houses down just as handily. And then play us a charming song about how everyone perished in the rubble.

19. Dandi Wind
Jay -- This is usually the sort of stuff that I begin secretly loving, attempt to convert everyone else to - failing miserably - then tucking my tail between my legs and enjoying only in the confines of my room. Except, for a lot of good reasons, people ended up responding well to a duo that weds experimental/conceptual art to synth-stabs and Moroder-through-the-meat-grinder beats, as if Throbbing Gristle were as accessible as the Beatles.

18. The New Pornographers
Stuart -- The more expansive Twin Cinema may have a lower hook-per-second ratio than the first two albums, but “Sing Me Spanish Techno” and “Use It” keep their career batting average in the high .900s (thereby fulfilling this list’s quota for baseball metaphors).

Jay -- Jack Duckworth, a former member of Radio Berlin, formed this duo out of A Luna Red, and like A Luna Red, he's remained the only constant throughout a couple of line-up changes. Notable Vancouver musical history beyond the Subhumans or that band that Tommy Chong and Jimi Hendrix played in is a scarce commodity, but Jack knows his shit. He taps into and updates the early experimental and industrial sounds that were coming out of that city in the early 80s before being codified and standardized. There's something about the ahistorical nature of Vancouver that makes PRIMES' future-gazing post-apocolyptic vision work.

16. Duchess Says
Jay -- I don't know how my friends Victoria, Krzysztof, JRC and myself ended up stumbling into Casa Del Popolo last year and catching them, but it was a life-affirming moment for me. Stylistically, they've armed themselves with all the right weapons in the post-punk and new-wave arsenal that post-hardcore musicians haven't been able to find, including a mammoth Six Finger Satellite cover, and they've accomplished something far beyond referencing. I'm just incapable of explaining; I'm too awestruck.

15. Pink Mountaintops
Stuart -- The best thing about Black Mountain’s breakthrough is that it will divert more eyes (perhaps even those belonging to Chris Martin) to Steve McBean’s even more immaculately stoned satellite band. Black Mountain may bring on the boogie, but McBean’s honey-slide drawl sounds prettier in Pink, even when he’s singing about fucking mountains. (Hope he’s using protection.)

14. Love And Mathematics
Greg -- Love And Mathematics would've placed higher on this list had I been living out in Vancouver, where I could actually see them play. As it is, the few dodgy demo recordings I've heard show huge indie-pop potential; I'm betting they will be signed and touring by the time we get to write next year's list.

13. The Arcade Fire
Greg -- I keep thinking I'm sick of The Arcade Fire, but then I'll be somewhere, and hear one of their songs, and go, "oh man... this is good." Then I'll go home and listen to their record again.

12. Book of Lists
Jay -- Headed by another Radio Berlin member and an accomplished photographer (that's all they used to make in Vancouver - Jeff Wall to Rodney Graham and on - up until a couple of years ago), they contribute to a musical dialogue that never quite made it across the pond - taking up where Felt left off, and at the point when Mark and Andy of Ride stopped talking to each other.

11. The Deadly Snakes
Stuart -- Older, wiser, a little quieter and slower, but Andre Ethier and Max Dangers still corner the market on soul. And they ain’t sellin’ any.

10. Islands
Jay -- Nick and Jaimie have matured, grown leaps and bounds, and while some people might espy a certain underhanded slight when one compliments the song-writing chops and instrumentation on their soon-to-be-released album, I'm god-damn serious. Songs and the production like this are something that people haven't heard in a long-time, and certainly not in the calculated melodramatics or stale hi-hat posturing of the much-dreaded indie-rock ghetto. They also happened to be 2/3s of the Unicorns.

9. The Diableros
Greg -- They recently put on one of the best live shows I've been to this year, with an album soon to be in wide distribution through Canada; watch for them, and check the AYF? archives for previous coverage.
Stuart -- They just put out their first album last week, but man, the rookies hit it right outta the park with two outs in the ninth (while Anton Newcombe and dude from The Walkmen start a brawl in the bleachers over who gets to keep the ball).

8. Caribou
Jay -- Ronald Reagan had it all wrong on trickle-down. The theory is improperly applied to socio-economics, but works marvellously in musical circles. People know about the Silver Apples, ya know... and Dan Snaith does, and now maybe some kid in a university dorm as well.
Stuart -- He was born in Ontario, lives in the UK, but Dan Snaith’s heart belongs to the autobahn. This is Krautrock you can cuddle to.

7. Black Mountain
Jay -- Ever since I saw a grainy video of Ex-Dead Teenager, I've followed with great interest whatever project Steve McBean takes up, and it's a damn immense pleasure to see him involved in a psych-heavy band with such illustrious alumini; including Joshua Wells,
formerly of Radio Berlin and hands-down the most enjoyable drummer to watch, and Jeremy Schmidt, formerly of the Orphan and Pipedream.

6. Colourbook
Greg -- What's up with Victoria these days? Colourbook are yet another amazing young discovery without a label. Here, there are shades of Broken Social Scene in their sonic textures and song structures; the quiet chats in the background of their demo and the way in which the tunes intentionally fall apart and reform, are particularly endearing. Live instrumentation coupled with synths, loops, and hand-claps. Sounds great.

5. Constantines
Stuart -- [Stuart's top choice was Broken Social Scene, with Constantines second. He wrote both capsules together, just to be annoying.] Obvious choices, yes, but still the Toronto indie-stry’s gold/silver standard. It’s like “Stairway to Heaven” finishing No. 1 on every Q107 Best Songs of All Time countdown ever— an outcome that’s both inevitable and indisputable. But classic-rock analogies aside, these are two bands that refuse to fossilize, releasing brave new albums to suit their brave new worlds; BSS responded with chaos, the Cons with clarity. It’s Sgt. Pepper vs Beggars Banquet and everybody wins.

4. Daddy's Hands
Jay -- Dave Wanger's first group was called Moral Decay and received glowing reviews from magazines like Metal Maniacs, which lead to a bizarre and constraining contract with Earache Records, all when he was still in high school, (like) in the 80s or something. He was all set for hair-metal stardom, and then something happened, and instead he ended up writing dark, fucking that are (I SWEAR) directly responsible for the tone, timber and songwriting of groups like Frog Eyes and Wolf Parade and beyond. (Members of which played, at various times, in bands with Wanger). There's a new album already recorded, waiting for release, which will make writing music for any of his former protegés or current friends a very daunting prospect indeed.

3. The Paper Cranes
Greg -- Five friends from Victoria who completely blew me away six months ago with a series of self-funded demos. Since then, I've worked with them on recording their first release, and involved myself in the band's future plans. Yeah, I have a vested interest here, but only because The Paper Cranes really are that good. They've been compared to everyone from XTC to The Cure to The Smiths to Canadian alumni Wolf Parade and The Arcade Fire.

2. Broken Social Scene
Greg -- Still holding it together and actually moving forward after all these years. Congratulations to the BSS collective for their latest release: an album that is actually challenging and rewarding to listen to from a band who could've easily given us more of the same (because everyone wanted it).

1. Wolf Parade
Stuart -- The catchiest band that doesn’t even try to be: Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug shriek, yelp and croak their way through their circus-freaked psychedelia but still prove they were born to run.
Jay -- I've already trademarked that "Best Band in Canada" line...
Greg -- Oh look, it's someone else writing something about Wolf Parade.