The Best New Music of 2016: These nine Sask. artists make music magic muchly

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2016raeburn

Raeburn – Wessi Pessi

It’s been a slow-burning five years for Maxwell Raeburn Warner. The drummer of art rock vandals Pandas in Japan, Warner has quietly been busying himself outside of his time behind the kit. Collecting ideas, songs, and found sounds across the world, Warner has dumped the contents of his heart and hard drive on to Wessi Pessi. Despite being written over an expanded period of time, the majority of the 14 song collection, penned and performed exclusively by Warner, seem to spring from somewhere hopeful – it wouldn’t be a stretch to call this LP “jubilantly understated.”

Whether it’s the instrumental burble of “Take Time” or the irreverent plodding hum of “Moonlights”, the album retains a decidedly no-fi basement sound, but Warner thankfully keeps his experimental flourishes balanced with solid pop-isms. Some tracks, such as the bass-fuzz cloaked “The Outsider”, bear more than a striking resemblance to Warner’s previous work with Pandas. But while the album occasionally leans into nonsense noise reverie, Wessi Pessi achieves greater heights when Warner steps up his sweetness. Inspired in part by his mother, one of the stand out tracks is “I Can’t Wait to Love You,” which combines cloying bunny hop dance steps into a modern day picturesque ode of unusual sensitivity and relaxing disarray. In other words, sunshine love songs that you don’t necessarily need to unpack. /CM

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Megan Nash with Bears in Hazenmore – “Wait”

While Bears in Hazenmore represent the latest crop of Regina’s rising stars, Megan Nash’s long-trusted golden voice capably delivers bruised ballads that are akin to the most devastating of swoons. And on “Wait” the Saskatchewan singer gives one of her most incendiary performances, with verses that are half rasp, half swing and all romance. A collaboration born in the prairies and taken across Canada, word on the street is that the cadre will be hitting the studio soon to record some new material. YES, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. /CM

2016dirtywounds

Dirty Wounds – self-titled

Taking cues from their namesake, Dirty Wounds craft intricate guitar breakdowns and pummelling rhythms and drag them through several layers of muck, sludge, grime and distorto fuzz. That said, the group never manages to stray too far from their melodic anchor. As evidenced on EP opener “Ancestors”, in just under two-minutes-and-a-half, Dirty Wounds manage songwriting that evokes grim fist-pumpers emerging from dual vocals that battle throughout while guitar lines weaves and crash. Lots of cool ideas and flourishes here – would love to these explored within the bloody battlefield of the full-length LP arena. /CM

2016ursa

Ursa – “Prism System”

Bare and beautiful, Lenore Maier has captured the elegance of her live performances with her debut cassette Prism System. Faint heartbeat rhythms thump along to programmed synths in the gentlest way, and lulls the listener not to sleep, but to some otherworldly level of curiosity and wonder and pinacoidal shapes. Make sure to pick up that full-length cassette. /AS

2016susan

Susan – “Happen, Too!”

While this year’s Halloween is still (somewhat) freshly buried and forgotten, the dead are still coming back to life. Weirdo-rockers Susan have emerged from their tomb somewhat inexplicably with a new single that picks up where they left off a year ago, a split cassette tape entitled “Skid Fiction”, which paired them alongside local buddy band The Moas. Their staple ping-ponging guitars and punctuated bass lines keep up a steady pace, and a mountain of synths and carnival organs plop here and there, creating a short and frenetic freakout. In case they go back to where they came from (the dead, not Prince Albert; or is that the same thing?), rest in peace, sweet angels. On the other hand, rumours abound that they may still be sitting on a few more unreleased songs… /AS

2016elizamarydoyle

Eliza Mary Doyle – It Ain’t What It Seems

Packing a fiery wallop coming straight from the rough-hewn leather-skinned heart of a lovelorn banjo comes Eliza Mary Doyle’s It Ain’t What It Seems. Self-described as a “tornado of emotional synchronicity,” the album contains exactly all the elements you would expect from a prairies indie folk platter. Musically, the album rides somewhere between those plaintive plucked notes of soft-core folk and the bootslap strut of bluegrass. But Doyle’s voice resonates with a sly elusiveness, even when she is belting out lyrics that detail the pitfalls of endless travel and lonesome reflection – like maybe she knows that there’s more to heartache than just feeling like a sack of soggy kleenex. /CM

2016autopilot

Autopilot – Hurricane EP

Exploding in jubilance, Autopilot return with two new resplendent songs that soar and swell in perfect pop rock fashion. Like aural carpenters, they’ve sanded down the rough and aggressive edges of their scrappy indie rock a la Modest Mouse and Pinback and have created something so smooth, romantic and refined that you could run your preacher’s hands across it with nary a sliver. Marlon Harder’s voice continues to be one of Saskatoon’s most unique, and his penchant for writing catchy hooks hasn’t let up yet. If these two songs are an indication, Autopilot are about to drop an album that most people wish they’d written for themselves. /AS

2016extroverts

Extroverts – Supple

Carrying the distinction as one of Regina, Saskatchewan’s first punk bands, The Extroverts dropped their first full-length album roughly 35 years after releasing their debut 7” EP. And, strangely enough, time has done little to dilute the energy and piss and vinegar the four-piece originally captured on their “Living in Poverty” and “Political Animals” 7” in a Pike Lake studio. Now, almost 30 years later, the group manages to sound energetic and ultimately familiar for anyone who has followed punk throughout its infancy. Songs like “Negative Soul” rail against the evils of disco – a genre that’s probably due for a resurgence any day now, right? Musically there are plenty of caustic bubblegum hooks that will mess up your teeth a la punk pre-dental plan era. /CM

2016munson

Chad Munson – Soft Metals

While putting in time playing guitar with local groups such as Golden Smoke and the Moas, Chad Munson has similarly been recording solo and collaborative electronic compositions as far back as 1998, and seemingly it’s all built up to Soft Metals. A tremendous, near-hour long release of dreary drone, the notes on this two-song release harmonize and falter while dissonance transforms into feedback. Meanwhile, tiny bits of percussion tries peeping through, but only barely. For drone lovers and fans of the formless apocalypse, Soft Metals is the endless bliss you’ve been waiting for. /AS