Bog River – Hands in the Ground

It’s probably your best bet to take your hands out of the ground and get them on this album. Hands in the Ground is the first full-length release from local trio Bog River. Comprised of Carly Dow, Ben Hadaller and Dave Barchyn, the band released Lost in the Woods in 2010, a rough yet valiant five part EP recorded at Hadaller’s cabin in one day. The EP was a glimpse into the promise possesses – a passion that drives the three of them to work intensely together on a fokly sound that is not only unique but tight and arousing. This time around, the band is doing it right, having recorded this album over the course of a couple weekends while still choosing to record back at the cabin. They dabble in a wide variety of genres and instruments, from pure folk, to Dixieland and gospel on this album. James McKee of the F-Holes makes a trumpet and trombone contribution on tracks four and five, with Alex Campbell is at the piano on track five. Vocalist Carly Dow’s vocals on the album are raw, while Dave and Ben offer silkier alternatives. Hands in the Ground is muddy and simple contemporary folk, and delves into deep themes of family, love and roots. If you’re not already familiar with the band, stop by the WECC on October 13 to celebrate their album release party. (Independent, Victoria King for Stylus Magazine

Bog River – Muddy and Simple

Photo by Brendan McGuire

By Victoria King

It’s a near perfect August evening – hot without being sweltering, vanilla ice cream in a cup and conversation about music, travel and inspiration with one of the city’s newest and arguably most talented groups, Bog River.

“In the ninth grade, I had a really awesome band teacher who just made me want to go to band camp every year. He just made me love music,” Ben Hadaller of the local folk trio tells me as the four of us sit around a picnic table at Sub Zero Ice Cream. Carly Dow, lead vocalist of the group, jokes that the extent of her family’s influence in her musicality came from the occasional inebriated family member banging on a piano at parties. On her left, Dave Barchyn, former associate at a music store, explains that, “If you work at a music store long enough, you end up owning a music store.”
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White Dog – Noise Below the Wall

Photo by Cole Peters
By Taylor Burgess

For Cole Peters and Chris Jacques two years ago, it all began as an outlet to release their music but since Prairie Fire Tapes’ inception, Jacques has made seven albums under the name White Dog—some really cool and psychedelic, but most others approach horrifying parts of your brain. Since he’s going to be a performer at this year’s send + receive festival, both of his tape labels are releasing killer stuff, and his own music is taking wild turns, Jacques welcomed me up to his “East Berlin” office space which he shares with No List Records so we could discuss shit.
Mostly, I just wanted to know why his music is usually such a head-trip.
“It’s not meant to be creepy or dark or anything,” he said. It’s because of being a high school guidance councilor that he internalizes a lot of the darker side of the human nature. “I deal with people every day in their psychological needs and hear lots of crazy shit from kids and then their parents about what’s going on in their lives. My teaching has always dealt with people who are marginalized, or downtrodden, abused, and all that kinds of crazy shit. I’m a history student, so a lot of that stuff—things about rebellions and resistance come through as themes in my stuff a lot of time.”
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Hillbilly Highway – High & Lonesome Times

Sometimes when you’re cruising down the highway, some slick somebody cuts you off and burns away, leaving you in their dust.

This week, I was going to write about the Times Change(d), as beauty a rest-stop on the Hillbilly Highway as any in the free world. See, there’s a film coming out about the joint this Thursday at the Times itself, with screening and performances by Times regulars Andrew Neville & the Poor Choices and Guerrillas of Soul.

But Kent Davies beat me to it, the truck driving son of a gun. And he did a good job of it too, summing up the event and the beauty of the bar succinctly. Like an experienced vet; like a pro. Read about it on the Uniter’s blog.
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Burnt Witch Survivors Group – Support EP

rock and roll. this is dirty, distorted and extremely unslick. i can hear traces of the cows, jon spencer and a little hot snakes. uncomplicated and joyously so. this is rock and roll in its truest form. nice to see it coming from a local act. do yourself a favour track this record down and crank it out of your car stereo driving through the suburbs. then go see them, raise a bottle of standard and bask in the sounds. “party with ghosts” and “come out! get in!” are standouts. (Independent, c.frsn for Stylus Magazine

This Hisses – Surf Noir

The local trio released their debut album this summer and even with the massive amount of hype surrounding the band and this release, This Hisses deliver! Everyone has probably seen this band perform live at one point or another and therefore is surely aware of the incredible energy this act brings to the stage. Amazingly on the record this energy transitions quite well. “Lycanthrope” starts of the album nicely with a haunting howl and shredding guitar followed by the equally exciting “Bad Vacation” – the latter song by the way, has a pretty awesome back-story behind it evolving a sketchy motel in Regina. The listener is brought right back down to ground state with a couple of nicely slowed down tracks, especially the stellar “Keep What’s Good In Your Heart” which smooth things over before the listener is shot right back into a circle pit of intensity with the upbeat and catchy “Swagger” and “Silver Dagger.” My only problem with Surf Noir is that I feel like the bass is drowned out by the guitar a lot of the time, I personally love the fat bass lines captured in the live show but it seems at times on the album the guitar steals the show, not that that’s a bad thing but as a bass player I am totally biased in that respect. Oh yeah and one more fucking problem… it’s over to soon, eight beefy songs is nothing to complain about but I for one am going to need more in the near future. (Transistor 66, Scott Wolfe for Stylus Magazine

Tim Hoover – More Napkins

Known as the beloved DJ Co-op, Tim Hoover is making a new reputation for himself, if that’s possible. This tape/digi-download heads into trip-hop and post rock territory over a span of 60 minutes, which is like a total 180 considering his use of party hip-hop and indie samples for his Co-operation mashup albums. So, rather than matching Fugazi to M.I.A. (which was four whole years before Wugazi, mind you), Hoover’s flexing his melodic muscles, which are in full force, in alternation with his beat programming, which here lies somewhere between glitch and hip hop. I was actually taken aback at how much of this music is original, and the samples, used sparingly, usually add such depth to the mix. The melodies, reminiscent of Godspeed (his comparison, though an apt one) sing colourfully and even more brilliantly once they’re up against electronic beats and hip-hop samples. I have to agree that this is headphone music—but once you’re in that world with your ’buds in, every little twitch and glitch stands out, and you’re in quite for the meditative ride. (Woven//Dub Ditch Picnic, Taylor Burgess

Hillbilly Highway – Fred rides 6 Volts hard

I’ve been listening to Fred Eaglesmith’s latest, 6 Volts, since it dropped into my mailbox a couple weeks back. The songs on 6 Volts are classic Fred, tunes of murder, love lost, guns and the Road. Recorded with one mic straight to tape, the disc has the mono immediacy of old Sun records, a sound even John Mellencamp has toying with of late.

Fred’s a road dog, traveling thousands of klicks a year, playing hundreds of shows in an endless cycle that takes him into every backwater, big town and metropolis in North America, and beyond. Three tunes in particular, maybe four, off 6 Volts really hone in on the reality of an aging troubadour who can’t quit grinding it out.

“Betty Oshawa” tells the tale of a musical partnership that fell apart, eponymous Betty making it big while the narrator bags groceries in his hometown. “Johnny Cash” takes issue with Johnny-come-lately-Johnny-fans, taking the fickle listener to task for not supporting an artist while they’re alive. “Trucker Speed” ain’t necessarily about a traveling singer, but it very well could be.

“Stars” hits home hardest. Fred talks straight up about gigging non-stop, playing small towns like you’re the biggest star. Long after the lights have gone down, the protagonist sings “My hands hurt from playing my guitar / All those nights in all those bars / We played like we were stars.” Fred mentions long time bandmate Willie P. Bennett, and laments how easy it is to think the good times will never end. Playing in a band, it’s easy to feel this way.

I’ve seen Fred play a couple times now, and I’ve missed him even more by bad timing and my own traveling. I met him once, out behind the Park Theatre a couple years back. Me and my buddy Woodtick were slamming the last of our beers before heading in to catch the opening act, the Ginn Sisters. As we were rounding the corner, there’s a van with Ontario plates sitting there with the door wide open on the side. Out rolls Fred, putting his socks on.

We stopped, and I made straight for Fred, extending my hand. We chatted him up, gave him one of our CDs to “listen to if you get sick of the radio.”

“You in a band?” he asked us. We nodded. Yessir. We put out our CD ourselves, we humble bragged. “That’s the only way to do it, boys,” he said. He looked at the CD briefly, set it aside, and finished pulling his socks on. Then he looked up at us.

“Never quit, boys,” he told us, looking us both in the eye. “Never quit.”

In the songs on 6 Volts, you know Fred really means it. He ain’t quitting anytime soon. Thank something for that.

– Sheldon Birnie

White Dog Family Band – Escape the Mystery II

After semi-voluntarily taking myself through the horrifying experience of Resistance, White Dog’s last tape, this is assuredly a cheerier time, with Chris Jaax recruiting his wife and son to comprise the White Dog Family Band. The synths drone and are arguably sci-fi. The ricochets of voices get wrapped up in the lurching machine of the drone. The tape moves from one atmosphere quickly to the next—though this is all in the same galaxy—with our space pilot Magnus Jaax yelling unintelligible orders and singing what would sound like madness, if it were coming from anyone but a seven-year-old or Damo Suzuki. There’s plenty of slug and chug that battles for the rest of side A—an immense trip. Side B is filled with a number of the same samples and sounds, but rearranged—like watching this space trip over again, but from a different porthole, with the wisdom of Lee Perry chiming in. This is definitely one of Prairie Fire Tapes’ most accessible releases, if you’re ever looking to escape the all-too-usual realms of music. (Prairie Fire Tapes, Taylor Burgess

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Of Fleet Foxes’ prior material, only the sun-dappled and inspired “Mykonos” managed to hook me on first listen. Apart from that selection off of the Sun Giant EP, Fleet Foxes’ previous releases have been comprised of the type of tunes that reward multiple listens and only slowly reveal themselves in all their intricate beauty.
On Helplessness Blues, “Montezuma” with its layered vocals and gentle lope recalls “White Winter Hymnal,” but as the lyrics suggest (“so now I am older / than my mother and father / when they had their daughter / now what does that say about me?”), Robin Pecknold and company are in a more reflective place following the success of their self-titled full-length. That album blew up big and they’d be forgiven for succumbing to the sophomore slump after non-stop touring, but instead they’ve managed to tap into the same rich vein of folk and classic rock on another dozen songs that seem as if they’ve been with us for years.
“Battery Kinzie” with its magisterial percussion, and the epic eight-minute “The Shrine/An Argument” (with skronking sax!) are particular standouts, but there aren’t really any missteps to contrast those songs with. Burrow in and enjoy. (Sub Pop, Michael Elves