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Tough Age, Waiting Here

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Being predictable isn’t a negative, especially when you consistently create catchy pop hooks and delicate melodies the way that Tough Age does. I’ve lost track of how many studio albums the Vancouver-based trio has put out over the years, but I recognize their trademark jangle-punk sound the second I hear it. Waiting Here marks bassist Lauren Smithy’s return to the fold alongside stalwart guitarist and vocalist Jarrett Evan Samson and drummer Jesse Locke, and they’re as tight and tender as any line-up in the band’s history. “Time & Again” and “Paradise by Another Name” (featuring Smithy on lead vox) are my current faves, but you’d be hard-pressed to single out any one track on this top-to-bottom pleaser. • Jim Di Gioia

Indoor Voices, IVIVIV

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While to my ears, everything Shoegaze is fairly formulaically derivative of progenitors (Cocteau Twins mixed especially with Ride, in this case), Indoor Voices‘ brand new release faithfully and adeptly carries out the formula of blooming guitars and mechanically driving drums bubbling around mushy, melancholic, mostly-indecipherable vocals. Flourishes of Philip Glass-like flutes and ski-jump bends form whirlpools and gentle lifts and falls on the trip. It’s a no-brainer to put the album on repeat and drift through the day, into the night, into the day… to feel like you’re continually transitioning imperceptibly from dusk to dawn. • Brian Gross

Crossed Wires, Rain

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Somehow it has been seven years since Halifax pop-punkers Crossed Wires released their second EP False Spring. (Nearly 10 years since their self-titled debut!) But like the spring rain, Crossed Wires has returned. “Rain” – the first cut from their forthcoming EP Ellipsis – is teaming with the gale-force guitar fuzz that Crossed Wires has conjured so brilliantly for almost a decade. And while “Rain” is packed with vibrant pop hooks, it also offers a precise description of how depression (like a storm) can trap you inside. • Laura Stanley


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Livers, Soon

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While the most recent two-song EP by Guelph’s Livers (Danny Webster) undeniably contains his most ear-wormy piece (the title song “Soon”, beautifully produced, and probably a minute too long for the pop-ish song it is), it was interesting to dive into earlier releases to see how we got here. A round of bloody, heart-stained sleeves for everyone in the imaginary (and empty, anyway) bar where Livers plays from a dark corner. The stand out (from songs reaching back to 2017) was late-2022’s “Folks,” where, to me, Livers’ confessional self-immolation gives off just the right glow. • Brian Gross

Witch Victim, Teeth Protection

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Calgary’s Witch Victim use a hilariously chaotic mix of Bandcamp tags on their two track EP Teeth Protection including “krautrock,” “postpunk,” and “Justin Bieber.” But sorry poptismist, the band leans heavily on the former descriptors to create languid, post-punk and reverb-heavy jams. Witch Victim cast a heady spell. • Laura Stanley

The Realmwalkers, Today I Carried A Soul

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As a counsellor well-versed in counter-transference (which seems like an ick click-bait start… “I’m a counsellor, and…”), I was worried when I saw this song title. The band name gave me metaphysical wiggle room to persist. We start with a close-mic and loose, sparse acoustic guitar, devoid of pretence or modulation. A pleasing array of acoustic instruments (along with a a deftly played electric guitar… forward and backward) are melded in, all supporting earnest (but in a culturally-derived, rather than cloying personal manner) lead vocal from Tara Mhic Coinnigh with back-up from Corrie Martindill. The feel is kind of like Holly Near playing a Grateful Dead concert at a garden party. Today I Carried A Soul is the first and only release from a seasoned collection of souls (from Owen Sound/Guelph). I couldn’t help but imagine the experience that must be spilling into this composition. Comfort… nourishment. • Brian Gross

Valery Vaughn, gris

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Montreal-based francophone duo Valery Vaughn put so much feeling and soul into their album gris. They meld indie rock sensibilities with grunge, emo, and punk rock while retaining an experimental vibe all their own as they walk the fine line between dreaminess and urgency, reality and fantasy, and hope and despair. On each song, the duo creates a unique atmosphere from the stormy yet hopeful “thünder” to the upbeat and supremely danceable “gris II (sexxmania)” to the introspective instrumental track “interlude des étoiles”. Valery Vaughn creates a depth of sound and emotion on gris that wraps around your heart and is guaranteed to give you goosebumps. • Em Moore

Semen Priest, Ghostrider 2022 (Pride 2023 EP)

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I had to listen to this EP of remixes because… the band name, of course. It can feel a little dicey, though, even considering the music is made for Pride month with the suggestion to donate to local 2SLGBTQ+ organizations instead of paying for a download. The idea to mash up and interpolate seminal (did I just say that?) works from The Stooges, Suicide, and Patti Smith is clever… and it works. The literal synthesis of the songs gives them a shiny update, and a reason to revisit the originals. There’s something unnerving, though, thinking of the strident and surprising 70s alternative community out of which these songs arose, juxtaposed with the all-too-predictable mainstream bashing that’s going on for political gain these days (to which this rework is clearly a response). • Brian Gross

SAN, ARCMAPS

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SAN‘s recently-released visual album, ARCMAPS seemingly touches on just about every ethical dilemma in which we find ourselves submerged as we make our way from the tectonic disruptions of 2020 toward a rapidly-approaching and radically different internal, interpersonal, and global landscape. The sheer volume of thematic targets (from climate change to isolation to virtual reality) initially hit me a bit frustratingly… like everything rushing by at the same time. I wished it would follow through on something… make a statement, take a stand. While walking my dog, I realized the longing I experienced when exposing myself to ARCMAPS was not just familiar to my mind… it pretty well represented my mind. So bombarded with equal parts good and bad, exciting and ominous of so many developments that seem to all be taking on a life of their own… even if they are unquestionably emerging from our/my human endeavours. • Brian Gross

Banner image that reads "ICYMI" which is short for "in case you missed it"Time is an illusion and a lot of great music is always being released and so we gathered some standout releases from 2022 that deserve a little more attention.

Pursuit Grooves, 100 Seams

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Producer and sound artist Vanese Smith (Pursuit Grooves) pays tribute to her grandmother on her latest collage-like electronic album 100 Seams. Released in the spring, Smith wrote the record in 2022, the year her grandmother (who had a career as a seamstress) would have turned 100 years old. Stitching together spoken word poetry with groovy beats, Smith creates a vivid portrait of her grandmother who Smith says made an “an indelible impression” on her. The vibrancy and stories within 100 Seams will make an impression on you too. • Laura Stanley

Paul Chin, And Under Heaven We Are All Made of Water

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And Under Heaven We Are All Made of Water is part-electronica, part-club-bangers, part-ambient, part-r&b, part-so-many-more-descriptors-that-it’s-probably-easier-if-you-listen-to-the-record. The sparklingly expansive sounding record from Paul Chin, a self-described “explorer of music,” finds the producer and DJ contemplating the post-pandemic club scene and dreaming “of the club as having become a sacred space for those of us longing for new ways to process the tension and complexity of our newfound reality.” • Laura Stanley