STREAM: Boyhood - "amaryllis killis"

Here's "amaryllis killis" by Boyhood, arty pop experimenters who played the Ottawa Explosion showcase at l'Esco during POP Montreal this year. It's off their latest release bits n' bobs, which starts off with what could be categorized as a few "songs" before things get a little more fragmented (not like this record begins all sheen pop or anything).

They make abstract lo-fi tunes, synthier than their fellow Bruised Tongue tape aficionados Roberta Bondar (read an interview with them here), grooving along to a drum machine for a bunch of swaying Ottawans and curious Montrealers. The guy rocking the Korg was either completely engrossed in his two-note lines or bored as hell — for the few songs I saw he never looked up to give me an idea.

Though this was the Ottawa Explosion show at POP, Boyhood were only one of two bands from the capital city (along with The Yips), the rest of the lineup being filled out with Nap Eyes and Monomyth from Halifax, Strange Attractor from Sudbury and the violent punk rock of Calgary's Hag Face (read about their show at the Craft Singles showcase here).

STREAM: Celestial Shore - "Hour Minute"

One of the most interesting bands I stumbled across this year at POP Montreal was Brooklyn-based Celestial Shore. The trio tried to jump the shark with every song, and while that might seem like exhausting listening, it created a unique (and highly-structured) framework for their guitar-driven pop songs. There was nothing stiff about their live show either, despite all the time changes and harmonies. They all looked pretty young — I think their potential won me over as much as their set did.

Here's "Hour Minute", off their record 10x.

POP Montreal: Ronnie Spector, CROSSS, TOPS, Kurvi Tasch

Ronnie Spector at the Rialto Theatre. Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo.

At the Rialto opening up for the legendary Ronnie Spector is Bloodshot Bill, making music to dance to for a room full of tables. I've never seen Bill on such a big stage, and it feels a little weird. Even he admits how absurd it is to play for a bunch if people sitting down, making his pauses extra long and telling the crowd to "shhhh" before chuckling and moving on. Somehow in a fancy theatre his act feels more like a schtick.

But all is not stuffy here at this POP / Jazz Fest collaboration, and by the bar his ferocious psychobilly is met with cheers — the rest slowly warming up to him. But whoever's doing lighting fails miserably at following Bill's impromptu stops and snorts.

When Ronnie Spector takes the stage for her "Beyond the Beehive" show, she has the crowd's full attention. This was a night about affirming her importance in the history of pop music, with Ronnie narrating her story in front of projected photos and video clips as she works through the singles.

It was an emotional trip through her relationship with deranged killer/hitmaker Phil Spector, taking us through the pain of being in an abusive relationship.

"All I knew about Phil is that he was one smooth operator," Ronnie says as she details her first encounters with a man who would go on to trap her in her own home and try to ruin her career. The instantly recognizable "Be my Baby" was played in an encore to allow for some loophole in Phil and Ronnie's divorce settlement.

At 71, Ronnie's voice still holds up and she has attitude to spare. It was an honour to hear her story, from growing up in Harlem to getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But then it's time to return to this decade at a packed Brasserie Beaubien, where there's a lazy attempt at a mosh pit while CROSSS are playing(read an interview with CROSSS here). They're channeling Sabbath heaviness as singer Andy March is joined by his current band for one of the last times, Nathan Doucet bashing the hell out of the kit. They're followed by Calgary punk four-piece Hag Face, who successfully beat all those '60s girl group songs out of my head.

At Casa Brazilian Money take a moment from their upbeat pop set to plug Monster Energy, who are sponsoring POP this year. I'm going to assume it was a joke making fun of the whole thing (they can't actually require bands to talk about an energy drink can they??), but I was mostly impressed the singer was able to take a swig of their new "blue" flavour with a smile on his face. Anyways, this non-sponsored blog post is telling you to never drink that shit, even if it's free.

The crowd's loving The Rural Alberta Advantage as they work through new stuff at Cabaret Mile End, but the band is having even more fun. Singer Nils Edenloff says it's the biggest crowd they've played to in Montreal (if you don't count opening for The Hip last summer), and it feels like everyone is singing along to their old stuff.

TOPS at Sala Rossa. Photo  by Cindy Lopez.

While it's a radio-friendly sing-along at with the RAA it's hipster prom at Sala for TOPS, the band playing cuts off their dreamy new record Picture You Staring. Their sound is part Fleetwood Mac part Twin Peaks (a comparison someone must have used before) and they own the hometown crowd, headlining the sold-out Arbutus Records showcase.

I cut out early though to catch the end of Kurvi Tasch's set back at Casa, expanding their track "Fractured Lens" with a furious jam in nine and ending the set with the title track off their new record On Firm Ground. Their sound has evolved into something creeping and reactive, drums and bass playing off Alex Nicol's twisted chords as they pull from the darker parts of new wave.

STREAM: Moss Lime - "Ice Cream Sandwiches"

 Here's the deceptively dancey "Ice Cream Sandwiches" by local trio Moss Lime, off their July First EP. The EP was recorded last week in the Bottle Garden studio by Peter Woodford from Freelove Fenner, and keeps up a dour tone throughout its minimalist groove, from the trance-like "Fish n Chips" to their 2014 take on the club hit "Calabria 2007". 

The July First EP is coming out November 4 on Fixture Records. Pre-order here.

POP Montreal: Sun Kil Moon, Year of Glad, Charlotte Cornfield, The World Provider

The World Provider. Photo Cindy Lopez

My first night of POP Montreal ended up being pretty much taken over by Sun Kil Moon, but that wasn't a bad thing. The Ukrainian Federation is packed when Mark Kozelek and his band take the stage, the venue is darkness except for a few spots of light around Sun Kil Moon. It's what Mark has asked for. Before they start, we're told that the use of cell phones is prohibited, and there are no photos allowed either.

But Mark didn't have to worry about keeping the crowd's full attention, or fear any of the outdoor festival distractions that spoiled his show last weekend in Ottawa. I'm sure the band had as much time as they wanted to do their sound, they held command over this old Outremont community hall for the night — no chance for sound bleeding from another show, for which Mark had some choice words aimed at The War on Drugs.

"I'm in a good mood tonight," says Kozelek — but adding that we better not piss him off.

I had caught a couple pretty solo songs by Toronto's Charlotte Cornfield opening up the show as people started to fill the hall. Even during the opener, a solo acoustic act, the crowd was respectful, giving their full attention (or at least it felt like it) to Charlotte. But she certainly earned our attention, ending her set with a subtle, captivating "If You Don't Pursue", backing off the mic for the final few lines, letting hew words reverberate through the hall on their own.

POP headquarters on opening day. Photo Susan Moss.

Then it was to Divan Orange for Year of Glad (read an interview with the band here), the local folk-meets-drone band that just returned to Montreal after a tour out east. The more I see these guys the more I think of jazz, singer/guitarist Alexandre Bergeron bringing cellist Justin Wright and saxophonist Dave Switchenko on to improvise over his heavily-effected guitar work and soaring falsetto.

"We're called Year of Glad. I'm just going to keep saying that," says Bergeron. There are a few truly beautiful moments in the set, including the title track off their latest record, Old Growth. It's a shame there are no drums there to hold down the rhythm though.

Back at the Ukrainian Federation Mark seems a little disappointed he has no one to complain about in the crowd. They're his disciples, maybe even extra careful after hearing about what happened in Ottawa.

They lap up his rants against Twitter, how he's so good at guitar because he doesn't have a smart phone. But the thing is, you can be an asshole if you make good music. The audience takes his playful bashing well, even when he tells us we're all brainwashed by Pitchfork.

I admit I didn't know much about Kozelek except that he was in Almost Famous, but you don't need to know a thing to enjoy his set. He plays to our hearts, even if the stage banter in between feels like little more than ego-stroking.

Singing about his mother, his girlfriend's dead dog (really, death was kind of the common theme here) the set is incredible. The band's at their best as the two guitars intertwine (well, more like Mark's paying accented by an electric guitar) and the drumming sets a subtle textured base for Mark's voice.

He plays for 90 minutes, ending the set standing on top of a chair. He gets a standing ovation when he's through.

As great as Sun Kil Moon was though, the long set means I get to l'Esco as Big Brave are loading up their gear. So it's a trip to see what's at Casa that ends my night, where The World Provider are playing to a modest crowd. They're all wearing white shirts with what looks like tin foil on them, giving me something a little more upbeat to end my Wednesday. Toronto's Malcolm Fraser works through some synth rock numbers before I call it a night.

Maybe it was all the moody singer/songwriter stuff, but The World Provider's simple pop numbers don't do much for me. Still thinking about the Sun Kil Moon set, I really just feel like I should call my mother.

Push&Shove is building a safe space at loud shows

Demi Begin and Bianca David are are putting their first shows with Push&Shove at TRH-Bar this weekend.

Two Montreal promoters are starting their new company Push&Shove in a big way this weekend, taking over TRH-Bar during POP Montreal. Co-founders Demi Bégin and Bianca David aim to create a space where everyone feels welcome to enjoy the heavy stuff.

“When we decided to start the company, we were trying to figure out a way we could stand out. It didn’t seem like there was a need for another promoter in Montreal,” laughs Demi.

“I had been going to a lot of punk shows in town, and it always seems like it was just a bunch of guys, and then a couple girls. Sometimes I would feel a little out of place. So we wanted to bringing this sort of gender balance and gender equality in our shows.”

The two are in the business of booking loud shows, and, as the name suggests aren't intimidated by how physical some crowds can get. They just want to make sure that everyone feels welcome, and that some attention is given to gender diversity onstage and in the crowd.

Demi started working for POP Montreal in 2012, learning how bands get booked while working as POP creative director Dan Seligman's assistant. She quickly missed the music biz after starting a new day job this winter.

“I had this idea of producing my own show for a while, but I was always kind of scared to do that,” says Demi, who met Bianca in Concordia's journalism department. “We had a meeting one day and we said ‘let’s just do this.’”

“I would come up with lineups in my head, so when Demi said we should actually do this, I thought yes, let’s go for it,” adds Bianca.

This weekend will see punk, rock, and hardcore at the Push&Shove shows, including locals Hiroshima ShadowsShitsuCorridor, and Harsh Reality. They're also bringing in Maine punk trio Jim Dandy.

“POP is a really great way to get visibility [...] it didn’t seem that big a deal doing three shows. It was like, that’s great, more bands! It’ll be one big party,” says Demi.

Their aim is to connect Montreal bands from different scenes, while trying to break through the kind of male domination that’s typically seen in punk and metal.

“I really think that the punk culture is supposed to be progressive, but if it’s a room full of guys moshing and you’re the only girl, it can get a little intimidating. I just want everyone to feel included in the space, no matter what the show is,” Demi says.

“I’m sure there are a lot of girls that listen to the same music that I do," says Bianca. “We just want everyone to feel like they belong there.”

Push&Shove is putting on shows on September 17, 19 and 20 at TRH-Bar as part of POP Montreal. Full lineup here.

No Aloha post two new songs for a cross-Canada tour cassette

 Local garage / power-pop four-piece No Aloha posted two new tracks last week before hitting the road.  "All Eyes" and "My Boyfriend's the Devil" start off the cassette made up of cuts off two previous EPs and a cover of "Fountain" by Montreal '80s punks The Nils. The two new tracks will eventually make it onto a record, too.

No Aloha is currently heading west, hitting every province along the way.  Catch them back in Montreal for POP, they're playing Quai des Brumes September 19.

POP Montreal announces full festival lineup

pop montreal  

POP Montreal's full lineup was posted today, coinciding with a press conference this morning and their free show tonight at Place Émilie-Gamelin with A Tribe Called Red and AroarA.

"All I wanna do is have some fun," said POP Creative Director Dan Seligman at the press conference, quoting Sheryl Crow, one of the 400+ acts playing the festival.

Montreal indie giants Stars will be playing new material at the tiny off-the-festival-circuit makeshift venue Breakglass Studios, which will be broadcast live via Sirius XM radio, as will Red Roof church shows by Adam Cohen and Jimmy Hunt. Win Butler will be hosting the "Pop vs. Jock" charity basketball game / show with special guests including Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Matt Bonner from the San Antonio Spurs.

Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire is playing with his new classical musical project at the Red Roof church, too.

Ronnie Spector (former wife to deranged killer / production wizard Phil Spector) will be performing a multimedia concert chronicling her life, opened up by psychobilly monster Bloodshot Bill. Schoolboy Q is playing l'Olympia.

There are also reams of great local bands playing (way too many to list here). Check out the full lineup on POP's website.

The POP Montreal festival is happening September 17 - 21.


The Unicorns to reunite for the last day of POP Montreal

The Unicorns are reissuing 'Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?' on Caterpillar Records August 26.

It just wouldn't have made sense to avoid a hometown show. The Unicorns, Montreal indie royalty disbanded for a decade, are playing Metropolis on September 21, the last day of POP Montreal. It was previously announced that the band will be opening up for Arcade Fire in Inglewood and Brooklyn. But this headlining spot (complete with all three members Nick Thorburn, Alden Penner and Jamie Thompson – I got that wrong in an early update of this post), "will be their ONLY show in Canada" according to a release sent out by POP this morning.

Tickets are $27 and go on sale at noon today here. The band's reissue of their 2003 LP Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?comes out August 26 via Caterpillar Records.

Here's "Rocketship", a bonus Daniel Johnston cover off the reissue.