Beguiling and otherworldly, on their third LP The Siren’s Song, Kacy & Clayton have emerged as the next major ambassadors of Saskatchewan music. Anchored by some sterling-solid country backing that ranges from honky-tonk to folk and everywhere in-between, the instant payoff is in the sheer power of the vocals, a literal prairie storm of harmony backed by a hammer of emotional duress. Though the entirety of album is a musical sashay, the duo’s strongest moments are when the canny instrumental flourishes take a backseat, and let the vocals shine – check the ghostly gospel of the album’s brilliant title track, or the dirge-like country-stomp weeper “A Certain Kind of Memory”.
Regina’s The Steves have distilled the essence of punk rock and pooped out a six-song EP that shimmies with pure unbridled joy. Jammed with urgent melodies and deliriously rapid spitfire vocal takes, the four-piece are similarly careful that their arrangements never skimp on the FUN. There is plenty of ‘60s grit-garage worship, particularly within the fretboard heroics of “Saddle Song”, but it’s the vocals of singer Piper Burns that bring the party – check out the breakneck throttle singalong single of the year “When You Come Home” and dare not to dance.
Taking the diamond-rough edges of their debut EP, Chunder Buffet’s sound has grown far more immense and calculating. Encapsulated by moody feedback-drenched leads and raw production, Cesspool is a petri packed with a disorienting spew of punk riffs and red-hot noise. The immediate stand-out tracks are “Slush Stomp” and “Temporary” – two tracks that showcase the group’s ability to pen a Kill Rock Stars-perfect anthem. But the dynamics show far more depth when vocalist Cassandra Lavoie alternates between singing and seering – an effect that pushes the catharsis into tense melodic charisma.
Caves – Young Adult Contemporary
Combining jangle pop with swaying and pedal theatrics, Caves have crafted a laid-back album that ooze understated confidence and instant likeability. Crafting a consistent sound throughout, the group sound is anchored with chime-toned guitar lines that skip lithely between toe-step tap percussion and the drone intones of vocalist Peter Grier’s laidback lyrics. But despite Young Adult Contemporary (hopefully a library reference?) clocking in at a lean six songs, the real payoff is in the tiny nuances of the songwriting, of which there are plenty. There’s the warble trail off of the vocals on “Deep Beige”, the off-kilter croon stomp of “Love Mooch” and the highly satisfying mid-song static-noise collapse during “Better”. Also, how sensual is that saxophone at the beginning of “New Ageist”? Swoon-worthy!
The Karpinka Brothers – Talk is Cheap
A joyous-listen, the Karpinka Brothers’ fourth LP is packed with folk-pop hits that are classically-Karpinka. Though there are a few standout tracks, such as the album’s first song Sad Sad Songs, that explore a new and deeper sound, the K-Bros remain refreshingly positive and a pleasure to dance along to. Talk Is Cheap was one of my most played albums on Spotify in 2017 and my favourite track What Would I Do Without You was the first song my wife and I danced to at our wedding. This album is special to me, just as The Karpinka Brothers have a special place in the hearts of so many Saskatonians.
A wordless journey into a tension-filled sound that never fails to be celebratory. Having dropped mid-year, respectfulchild’s debut album 在找 ::searching:: is one of those brilliant surprises that leaves an indelible imprint that never really fades. With a firm grasp on both dynamics and soundscapes, the sounds of a looped violin and an array of otherworldly effects help knit together an ethereal world where even whispered nuances possess immense power amidst the swaths of sweet melody and the gurgle of background noise.
The molasses-bite of a BBQ-slathered burger. The heart spark palpitation of romance illuminated by a movie screen. The lithe bounce of a horsehair dance floor. Scenes that could have been torn from the pages of a fictional kissy book forgotten at the beach set the tone for Surf Manitou, the latest album of The Garrys. Paying tribute to the venerable landmark Danceland, along with various other restaurants, bars and drive-in movie theatres of the resort village of Manitou Beach, Saskatchewan, the majority of the album retains the groups down-tempo pace and surf laden nuances. Some of the best moments are those that creepy-crawl – dig the harsh-hush intonations of “Graveyard Curve” – the group’s superhuman powers lie in conjuring pitch-perfect lyrical harmonies, as evidenced on the album’s climax “Danceland (Come With Me)”. Surf Manitou is a lite ride of nostalgia worship set amidst a distant roil of melodic vocal spindrift and the ebb and swell of guitar lines that ride the crest of soda pop percussion.
Who doesn’t love breakfast? And dogs? Forget about it. On the latest LP by Regina’s Surf Dads, the group taps into a plethora of populist notions, combining frenetic punk-inspired rhythms with coarse-yet-complex howling. Though the album occasionally borders on sameness, relying too heavily on brute, muscular delivery amidst a tablespoon of melody, the overall feeling is one of cohesiveness. And the album is at its most rewarding when the band occasionally mixes it up – check out the blasting hipshake fun of “Thin Walls”. Who knew that a combination of gritty guitars mixed with a fistful of pumping anthems would make for an inspirational listen?
On their debut release, Ancient Pig take up residency on a split cassette alongside Waitress. While the difference between the two groups is wholly palpable, the diversity makes the package as a whole more compelling. Ancient Pig’s psych-gore attack seems to occupy that nebulous zone between gritty groove-fuzz meandering and the wild abandon of prickle-dirt punk. Check out the harmonica explosion mid-track during “Mean Mr. Moon Ghost”. On the flipside, Waitress deliver a short-albeit-intimidating collection of songs that combine lush vocal melodies with icy, pulsating drum beats. Overlapping synth-pop overtones with dance cadence, the dreamy vibes are a sweet counterpoint to their brash-guitar-revving neighbours.
Owners – lo.finance
Amidst a smattering of warped scuzz-hooks and tense melancholia, the latest EP by Owners sees the Saskatoon group cooking up a charming blend of low-rent basement melody and hypnotic energy. While the percussion tends to come across as sparse behind the group’s fuzzy guitar charge, the scorched pop pay-offs are brilliantly meandering and muffled enough to produce a sweet spot of dynamic-rich harmonies amidst feedback squalls.
Radiation Flowers – Summer Loop
Opening with volleys of guitar noise before exploding into a menace of pounding backbeat and warped murk-pop vocal harmonies, The Radiation Flowers come out with all guns firing on their latest LP, Summer Loop. And for the most part, the group manages to keep the intensity burning, playing the long game with a booming psychedelic sound that is consistently languid yet never sags for lack of energy or effort. Though the vocals keep a consistently soft presence throughout – though there is a noticeable shift in dynamics in songs such as “Dancing in Flames” – the overall effect is one of dusky texture, making for a pleasant listen through and through.
Surf Dads vs The Low Joy Ceiling – Split EP
We’ve already mentioned Surf Dads, but let’s talk about Low Joy Ceiling for a moment. Where the previous group mashes distorto-guitars and breakneck beats, LJC revel in slowing down their bleeding-amp attack to a So-Cal crawl. Cheeky East Bay-isms abound, the group’s gnarled sounds is a refreshing, albeit familiar, take on pre-grunge punk – a sound that changed everything for a generation of musicians and continues to inspire today.