The Pack A.D. This is a band that makes music that is so un-Canadian, if someone told me they were from Canada and I didn’t know, I’d be sure that someone was mixed up, or lying. When bands from other countries without American history make Americana or blues music, especially two girls, it comes across as phony or gimmicky, which the Pack A.D. actually manages to avoid due to the quality of their music and the earnestness at which its presented (which is probably the most Canadian thing about their sound). The girls are Becky Black and Maya Miller from British Columbia, and they can WAIL. Drums and vocals and bluesy guitar – they’ve covered all the bases… except well,… bass. And while they may be touching on a particularly American style of music and they’re not American, it never stopped Zeppelin or Clapton, did it? What’s great about the Pack A.D. is they’re resisting a box of nationalism and the expectations imposed on Canadian music by that box. There aren’t a lot of Canadians that sing balls-out Jack White-style blues/garage rock. And here are two girls that are Joan Jetting it up in said-style. Oh, Canada… pick up ‘Funeral Mixtape’ and ‘Tintype’… both albums are stell.
Bif Naked – The Promise. Ms. Naked is up and about once again, overcoming her cancer and treatments, and I’m SO glad. Bif Naked has been something of a hero and influence on me for a long, long time (don’t sound so surprised, I’m serious). She was one of the first “real artists” that I actually fell in love with after the super bubblegum-pop craze of the early 2000’s and late 90’s cooled off for me. I got ‘I Bificus’ and the self-titled and ‘Purge’ and I was hardcore about all of them. I also love her poetry and her feminism and how badass she is, and looks. Anyway, when I heard of her cancer, I was upset, but luckily, she came out with ‘The Promise’. It’s quite a bit more commercial than her other albums and a lot more straight-up and less of a rock show. But it’s gorgeous and shows a side that is polished and stronger than her previous ones. She’s still rocking (holy shit — “Sick” — YEAH, BABY!) but with new perspectives on life because of her disease. There’s big rock moments, little acoustic moments, metal headbanger moments, and it kind of functions as a ‘best of’, except instead of a “what I learned on the road” perspective, it’s more “what I learned in treatment”. So she’s still a mega-hero of mine, and I’m glad she kicked cancer’s fucking bitch ass. I knew she would. Come on, look at her.
Rah Rah. One time, I saw an interview with Sarah Mclachlan about Joni Mitchell, and she said something about how shocking it was, and exciting, to hear the word ‘Canada’ in “A Case of You”. Similarly, hearing ‘Regina, Saskatchewan’ in “Duet for Emmylou and the Grievous Angel” is kind of a shock. Because I’m pretty sure only a very small percentage of songs contain province or Canadian city names at all, let alone Regina, Saskatchewan. Like the Pack A.D., the song is kind of Americana/alt-country in an American tradition, but its Can-Con makes it kind of schizophrenic in a great way. Because we in Canada embrace even schizophrenics, and we can treat them for free. Rah Rah’s other tunes are just as poignant and well-produced and I expect great things from them. We in Alberta have Rural Alberta Advantage, and Sask has Rah Rah. A+, especially since I didn’t know there were cool people in Saskatchewan. Just kidding.
Great Lake Swimmers. A lot of people know about Great Lake Swimmers, but for those who don’t, it’s seriously your loss. They’re pretty major players in the Canadian music landscape and for very good reasons, including that they’re fucking amazing and a lot of their songs have made me cry semi-real tears. Take “I Will Never See the Sun” for example. It’s kind of rambling and lo-fi and reminds me of rainy cabin lakeside days, or the rare moments of poignancy I had while working at the Jasper Information Centre in my first two university summers. Plus it namedrops Toronto streets so anyone familiar with TO can have their “OMG they said ‘Spadina’!” moment. Another GLS great is “To Leave it Behind”. It’s a sparse acoustic-y song that says a lot about life’s length and memories and loves, and it’s one of the most purely beautiful songs I know. Their latest release, ‘Lost Channels’ is quite a bit more produced than earlier releases, but it is GREAT.
Land of Talk. I saw Land of Talk when they opened for Raine Maida in spring 2008 (which was one of my worst-ever concerts, FYI). I ended up liking Land of Talk way more than Maida, and I had a hetero crush on the lead singer, because of her pixie cut and brown converses and angelic voice. If that description doesn’t sell you, what will? Well, their music probably should. It’s dreamy indie pop that posseses a strong and innocent kind of sensibility. “Some Are Lakes” is my favourite Land of Talk song. It’s incredibly beautiful vocally and has a catchy hook and a simple straight-up pop/rock arrangement. I give Land of Talk the big thumbs up and so should you. Montreal produces some of Canada’s finest bands, and Land of Talk is right there with them.
Happy Canada Day-listening!