STREAM: Jom Comyn - 'In the Dark on 99'

In the Dark on 99 (All the Time, All the Time) captures the isolating feeling of a frigid, snow-caked Canadian winter. Being from Edmonton, it's a feeling Jom Comyn must be all too familiar with, at least enough to name an album after trudging along 99th Ave.

He invites you in from the cold with his low, soft singing and the deliberate pace of his guitar. It's dark and comforting, an electric take on folk music with sparse drumming more for accents than rhythm until album-closer "No Waves, No Water". 

In the Dark on 99 (All the Time, All the Time) is out now on  12" vinyl though Value Records. He's playing Brasserie Beaubien Oct. 18 with fellow Edmontonians Calvin Love and OJ Pimpson and locals Old Haunt.

Weird Canada is setting up a digital music distro service

First they set up physical distribution, now Weird Canada is going digital. Image by Kyle McDonald.

After launching a Canada-wide distribution service for vinyl, cassettes and CDs in February, Weird Canada has now set its sights on the brave new world of streaming.

They're partnering with the National Campus and Community Radio Association to provide streaming of new, independent Canadian music to stations across the country. The project is just starting out (and they're looking for funding), so don't expect an Wyrd-ified take on iTunes in the immediate future. But it has some pretty promising potential to take down some barriers to bands that can't put together the cash for a physical release for every project.

It would also make things way easier for campus DJs to get their hands on new independent music if there was a centralized space where new stuff was hosted.

Their physical distribution service, Wyrd Distro, gets funding from FACTOR, which Canadians can apply to for cash towards their recording projects. FACTOR gets its funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage, private Canadian broadcast corporations and donations.

Want to get involved? Email digitaldistro@weirdcanada.com.

The Polaris Shortlist (a.k.a. the Canadian party playlist)

The 10 contenders for the Polaris music prize were announced today, and it would make a damn good party playlist of Canadiana. Here's hoping the prize goes to an artist that could use the exposure (or at least not to Arcade Fire again). I'm rooting for Tanya Tagaq and Jessy Lanza. 

Here's the full list:

Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Basia Bulat - Tall Tall Shadow
Mac DeMarco - Salad Days
Drake - Nothing Was the Same
Jessy Lanza - Pull My Hair Back
Owen Pallett - In Conflict
Shad - Flying Colours
Tanya Tagaq - Animism
Timber Timbre - Hot Dreams
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan - UZU

MuchMusic is dead. Good riddance.

Anybody listening out there?

After the latest round of cuts by parent company Bell Media, there's really nothing left of MUCH (MuchMusic). But it's been years since the station's put out anything worthwhile anyway.

After buying CHUM in 2006, Bell owned two competing networks – Much and MTV Canada. For a while MTV put out the award-winning MTV Live and some genuinely entertaining news programming around, of course, reams of trash T.V. imported from their partner to the south.

At least there was some substance programmed beside the syndication. MuchMusic floundered with more content fawning over celebrities – ditching the culture reporting that gave them a niche of their own. Their claim as the genuine voice of Canadian youth became a bad joke.

Now they have virtually no original programming, with eight MUCH and MTV Canada shows cancelled as part of the planned 120 jobs cut by Bell across the company.

MuchMusic was rebranded as MUCH in 2011 and Much More Music became M3. I don't think there's a more literal example that illustrates the change in vision than that.

When the station aired their VJ search shows a decade ago, I always wanted to be one of those reporters, spreading the good word about music and the culture sustained by Canadian youth. For a good 20 years, VJs were cultural ambassadors for their own people, connecting the distant, disparate pockets of kids across this giant country.

It seemed like a fun place to work, when bands would drop by for unscripted hangs and they had dedicated shows for hip-hop and the heavy stuff. When VJs were doing their own writing, or flying live by the seat of their pants and their music expertise.

When the genius of Nardwuar was still on the station.

But that energy is long gone. No young teenager would have any reason to want to be a VJ today. And that's not entirely MuchMusic's fault – after all kids can just stand in front of their webcam and become a VJ without the T.V. station.

The cuts are being blamed on licence conditions that require half their day to be filled with music videos, which generally end up banished to overnight hours. Bell Media president Kevin Crull is quoted in The Globe & Mail saying “Kids do not watch music videos on television. You're not going to wait for somebody to program a music video when you have a million available on Vevo.”

So the business response is to end any and all original programming (except for the ubiquitous Countdown, yes Much was ahead of the curve on listicles), buying American (non-music) programming instead.

It would be sad, if the programming hadn't been so dismal for the last near-decade.

I'll end this post with a trip back to a time when the gutting of MuchMusic would have been terrible news. Far back enough that this video was definitely recorded to tape before eventually getting uploaded to YouTube. The long-defunct indie music show The New Music was probably the best thing the station ever put out, and I'd rather remember it this way.

Here's Monika Deol in 1993 with a story on the Punjabi dance music scene in Toronto.

 

Canadian government scraps "tour tax"

Last summer the Ministry of Employment etc. raised the cost of touring the country for small non-Canadian bands. If you were playing in places that weren't strictly for live music, a charge of $150 per musician/roadie for crossing the border was raised to $275 (or more) charged to each booking agent/promoter they're working with.

So spaces that weren't exclusively venues — like the bars that see newer, smaller bands pass through without the pressure of packing the place — were subject to potentially thousands of dollars in fees paid to the government.

Big festivals and large-scale tours were left untouched by this tax increase.

But the government has scrapped this costly bit of paperwork (full name Labour Market Impact Assessment), as reported by the Winnipeg Free Press. There's a petition demanding an end to the tour tax with over 140,000 signatures, which may have influenced the ministry to include it in the larger Temporary Foreign Worker reform happening now. With recent charges of abuse by companies including McDonalds and Tim Hortons, the government is dealing with much larger problems in this TFW reform.