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New Music 2013 

Oh my gosh! What cuties! Softly cradle these newborn bands and treasure every minute. Sure, they’ll keep you up at night with their wailing, but watching those first steps are just so precious.

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Following up December's self-titled demo, Halifax/Newfoundland noise-punk band Bricks has been working on a new split-tape with local d-beat pals, Sleight. Anticipating the release this summer, Bricks will also hit Montreal and Ottawa with its raw hardcore like a sushi special. "One of our best shows so far was total chaos in a six-foot basement," says vocalist Jono Whittle. Bricks is just starting to get its stage legs. Sometimes, hardcore punk clashes with a venue or audience. For a band like Bricks, "weird basement punk shows can be way better." With Ian Langille, Chris Wilson and Cody Googoo, Whittle finds writing lyrics "as difficult as ever," he says. "I have to wait for a real rainy day to even think about the sorts of lyrics that fit the music." Maybe a sludge-wrath bloodbath bludgeoning earth would inspire him. As expected, the eight super-tight tracks on the demo have been making the rounds and getting positive reviews. Bricks is fresh and seems to be on a roll. "Both here and back home in Newfoundland, everyone has good things to say, which is really encouraging," says Whittle. --AY

click to enlarge DAVE HUNG
  • Dave Hung

The Everywheres
On first listen, you might think The Everywheres were a front for smuggling Frank Black demos, Mike O'Neill reel-to-reels and slowed down bootlegs of The Kinks, but that's just a coincidence. The new band of former Spooky Camper, Samuel Hill, is a contemporary venture. "I just want to write whatever comes out, whatever feels honest for me, and it seems lately that everything is honest," says Hill, who saddled up a band to the play songs that he wrote and recorded for the debut EP Slow Friends. It was released in March on San Francisco's Father/Daughter Records, even though The Everywheres are still fresh out of the (golden) gate. "The band is all relatively new to their instruments," says Hill. "It's everyone's first band except mine, but time after time, they hold me together! Curtis [Rothney] has only been playing drums for a year, and Shannon [MacDonald] wants to dive right in on bass and get to the heart. Playing live is becoming completely different from the record. Incredible, beautiful, naive vibes." With a twelve-inch record release later this month, The Everywheres are here. --AY

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Listening to the Grump demo is nearly an exercise in frustration. It's over entirely too soon. Roughly, it lasts just long enough to intensely wash one sinkful of dirty dishes---an atmospheric soundscape it is not. Heavily influenced by 1980s hardcore punk, Grump (Marshall Brush, Cody Googoo, Luke Mumford, Ian Langille) stays close to the root of what's good and doesn't mess with perfection. No frills, just music. "Somebody in my class called another student a grump and for some reason I had this vision of a band with an ugly sound and ugly artwork and thought it was a great name, so we made it happen," says Langille. But ugly is in the ear of the beholder, and Grump's brief five-song demo has the enviable effect of leaving the listener begging for more. Unfortunately, the temporal nature of hardcore in Halifax makes no such guarantees. The band members have full dance cards with other projects, and have an interest in more demos and live shows, but are playing it fast and loose. "For now," says Langille, "We're just taking it as it comes." --Stephanie Johns

click to enlarge PHIL HIGDON
  • Phil Higdon

Heaven For Real
Between Mark Grundy's quirkiest poetics, Scott Grundy's guitar sandwiches and Nathan Doucet (the drummer king), I can't even hide how much I love Heaven for Real's grooves. "I want to make unpredictable music," says Mark Grundy. "Maybe that means we'll never be hitting it? Or we'll always be hitting it? Either way, I'm pretty excited about it." By "it," Mark probably means the celestial allure of the debut EP Wanton, which attracted a ton of praise from the coolest music blogs in Canada. Adding Doucet has made the Grundy twins better collaborators, they say, departing from their earlier holy trinity, Quaker Parents. "Quaker Parents is a punk band for my non-punk songs. Heaven For Real is a non-punk band that I use to write and release my punk songs. We always try to work together," Mark says. This chill combo will do the summer festival circuit and put out a Craft Single soon. H4R has also recorded something of a full-length at Echo Chamber, with a surprise release date. Mostly, Heaven for Real is the most delicious of dishes: surf-rock stir-fry with jilt-pop noodles (no MSG!) at Scott's fave, The Silver Dragon. Given a choice, Mark orders spring rolls. --Adria Young

Night Surf
If you've ever been night surfing you know it can be dangerous, exciting and dramatic. Not quite as dangerous---but certainly as dramatic---is Night Surf. What started as a bedroom recording project between Shawn McNally and Palmer Jamieson honouring the grand tradition of ambient instrumental music, turned into a new beast this year. The first live incarnation of the band---with the help of Dexter Outhit and Jeff Pineau ---brought the band out of the bedroom and into the barroom. It wasn't a transition made overnight, though. When McNally and Palmer decided to perform live, there was somewhat of an identity crisis. A short-lived name change reinforced their desire to keep things close to their roots. "We were unsure about using Night Surf where Night Surf was already something on its own," says Jamieson. "In the last week we realized that this is the current incarnation of the original Night Surf project, just with drums, bass and more vocals." Catch a wave on their upcoming release this fall. --SJ

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Kirsten Olivia
A recent NSCC music arts program graduate, Kirsten Olivia's golden pipes are in hot demand. Singing backups on Erin Costelo's We Can Get Over (and touring with her this summer), collaborating with Shauntay Grant, Kayo, Quake, Asia & Nugruv and throwing in her hat into this year's Halifax Jazz Festival's Galaxie Rising Star Competition, Olivia's venturing out from behind the backup mic and onto centre stage. An upcoming fall EP will showcase her soulful R&B, influenced by such heavyweights as Erykah, India and Whitney, Olivia's honey-smooth voice packs enough of a punch to give her listeners goosebumps. The African Nova Scotian Music Association agreed, awarding her Best Emerging Artist during March's ANSMA awards ceremony where she performed with R&B diva Divine Brown (and held her own). Thankfully, it looks like she's planning on sticking around for awhile. "I find that a lot of artists run to Toronto, NY, LA and Nashville too early expecting a saviour to discover them, but I've noticed that Nova Scotia is sort of an incubator for talent. It's not too fast-paced so young musicians are able to grow and learn at a more steady pace as apposed to being thrown into the industry prematurely," says Olivia. "Ever since I started this journey I can't imagine myself doing anything else. There's really no feeling like the one you get when you do what you know you were made for." --SJ

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Organ Magic
Jesse Mitchell and Magnus von Tiesenhausen's energetic dance party that is Organ Magic has some refreshingly political roots. Drawn together by a mutual love of art and electronics, Organ Magic brings a host of fun influences to the dance floor---Chicago house, minimal techno, "bad cop dramas," synth and sample music---but the pair think beyond parties and bullshit. Frustrated by the lack of alternative, free and all ages spaces, especially for those making music outside of the rock 'n' roll genre, they hope to continue a larger discussion when not under the strobe lights. "The Halifax music scene right now is a serious white boys' club. We obviously don't have the answers to this, but it's important for real actual conversation to happen about this, it's oppressive and boring," says von Tiesenhausen. "It's time to admit we're a racist, sexist city, and it's also time for us to be proactive, engaged and committed to move away from that." Amen, Organ Magic. Look for a cassette coming soon on noise label Snapped In Half. --SJ

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Last fall PANOS performed with the 70-piece Halifax Music Co-op orchestra in their Inventions series. We imagine it was quite a spectacle---PANOS' discordant rhythms and sounds buttressed by a mellifluous, lush spectrum of tight orchestral arrangements. Don't be mistaken, though: PANOS can provide a concert hall's-worth of musical density all on its own. PANOS is Panos Giannoulis on vocals and guitar, Andrew Jackson on trombone, Patrick Edmonds on bass and Doug Scurfield keeping the beat. Giannoulis himself is a familiar face about town, having gotten his start playing bass in The Porcelain Gods (who later became Their Majesties). PANOS is currently working on a new record and Giannoulis says he's working on trying to get to Europe next year to play some shows. On paper PANOS' sound lies within the twin realms of pop and rock, but with a preference for the atonal and a proclivity for jerky, sometimes harmonic feedback, PANOS is inventive and intuitive. "I have a hard time trying to label myself," Giannoulis says. "I find reading really inspiring, and that helped me out more than a few times when I was working on lyrics." --Michaela Cavanagh

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Natasha Peach
Dartmouth's Natasha Peach takes her cues from folk-rock pals Ria Mae and Krista Davis, who nudge her in the right directions. The mellow songstress has felt nothing but welcome so far. "I'm so grateful to be a part of the music scene here in Halifax," Peach says. "We have something very special and unique, and everyone is always so willing to share their knowledge. What really motivates me are the people in my world who I see working hard and getting results." Peach released her first EP, Worth the Wait, in May after a few postponements. She learned that it's better not to rush things because great products take time. Working with Charles Austin, Peach followed his lead for the record and she's glad she did. "It was his idea to give listeners a 'real' experience of what I sound like live, to sit in my living room or a bar and hear me play," she says. "I really liked that idea so some of the songs are just me and my piano, with guitar or John Spearns on cello. It seemed very natural and pure."--AY

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I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that not everybody could get away with remixing Coldplay's "Yellow". PINEO can. PINEO is Mitchell Pineo, a DJ and producer who says he's been making music since he can remember. "Everything has flowed really naturally from joining the middle school band, starting my own band to making music solo and DJing," he says. Pineo says his style is summed up pretty well with "electro pop house whatever," adding that he feels an affinity with Calvin Harris' music and recording style. "When I heard that Calvin Harris made his first solo record completely by himself in his parents' home in the Scottish countryside I knew I wanted to write music by myself," he says. "As opposed to what I had been doing which was mostly just lyrics or drum parts." Gaining some major cred this past year, in April PINEO launched a weekly residency at Pacifico called Vice Nite with DJ JR Loeb. With the rest of his time, Pineo is working on creating fresh stuff. "Writing new material that really excites me is my biggest focus, as well as booking shows further and further away from home...JR Loeb and Dex Shea booked our first mini-tour and we had such an amazing time we're already focusing on doing another one that's bigger and better," he says. --MC

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Psychic Fair
Psychic Fair: you can't find 'em on the internet. What you can find? Lots of links to spiritual science conferences---"hypnosis, predictions, energy work, and more!" However, as those psychics most certainly know, just because it's not on the internet it doesn't mean it's not real. Au contraire! Psychic Fair the band features the very real talents of Charles Austin on guitar, Cliff Gibb on drums, Andrew Glencross on bass and Josh Salter on "sugary vocals." In this incarnation, Psychic Fair played its first show in December at the Khyber's No Reason For The Season IV. Before that, four of Psychic Fair's members played in another band---The Lodge. "I loved The Lodge," Salter says, "so it was rad to get to sing for a band I already knew wrote great tunage." Salter describes their style as "polytonal glam jams" and cites influences like Deerhunter and Slayer. All five members have other projects going on simultaneously, but Salter says this group just wants to keep pumping out better songs. "Our conception of what we're doing is maybe a little more structurally relaxed...I like this band because there is some room to improv or be spontaneous within the songs." --MC

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The Reference Desk
"If there can be a super-group of inability, that's what this band is," says Kristina Parlee (The Maynards, Homo Duplex), usually on bass but now on drums. With Andrew Glencross (Buck 65, Psychic Fair, Neuseiland) usually on keys but now on guitar, The Reference Desk also features Meg Yoshida on bass, usually on drums with Bad Vibrations. No rules at this library. "We got together about a year ago to start hashing out some two-piece jams," says Parlee. "We wanted to keep things simple and spare to accommodate our lack of technique, and because we like that style. Andrew has a tendency toward harmonic complexity in his song writing too, so a stark garage sound kept things from getting too twee." The Desk released Norwich Cave EP in January, have an upcoming split with two-piece Beached Out and a gig soon at Gus' Pub (June 21).--AY

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The Saffrons
Who can we thank for The Saffrons? Lo-fi as it comes, swirly, honest with influences ranging from Burzum to Bardo Pond. All you need to know is that it sounds like three kids with good record collections jamming on psychedelia in the garage. After moving into a shared home together, one can only imagine Kayla Stevens, Bijoux Wilcox and Daniel Long stuck a poster of a wizard on the wall, screwed in the blacklight and rolled up their sleeves. Instead of spending all their pot allowances on a slick recording studio, The Saffrons embraced the ups and downs of home recording, creating a few tracks to wander through the woods to on December's chilled out three-song EP Marijuana Centerfold and last month's When Patricia Was Out. What's next, you ask? "We're working on a split tape with this guy Gravy," says Wilcox. Don't ever change, Saffrons. --SJ

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Harley Alexander's band, Sheepman, snuggles up to a new-wave drone underneath a soft pop duvet. On Halifax's Poncho Records, Sheepman released In the Heat, written, mixed and mastered by Alexander himself. With Charlotte Wilson on sax and Jordan Murphy on drums, Sheepman began as a personal solo experiment. "At first, I was focused on control and my own personal interests," he says. "However, by the end of the recording I realized that being responsible for every note was a burden. After the process was finished, I realized how important collaborations are for growth as a musician." As a new artist, Alexander finds self-promotion a challenge. "It's hard to not feel like a narcissist." But it gets easier, and the artistic struggle is well-suited by the namesake: an abstract character from a Haruki Murakami novel. --AY

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JR Smith
Jonathan (JR) Smith, 21, has been described as a drumming phenomenon. From North Preston in Dartmouth, he's been playing the kit since he was four and booking shows since he was 13. He trained at Humber College in Toronto and at St. FX. He plays his own showcase at the Halifax Jazz Festival in July. "I wouldn't say I'm a jazz musician, strictly. Everything is a feeling, I play what I feel," he says of his improvisational style. "I like funk, R&B. I didn't even consider myself a professional when I was playing gigs at 14. Music is music and everyone plays at different levels. It's all about the approach." His favourite drummers are his contemporaries ---friends he met at Humber including Larnell Lewis, Mark Kelso and Adrian Bent (Drake's drummer). "They all play a part in what I do." While he appreciates the reception to his work, "I'm not a big-headed person," he says, "I have certain goals. I always want to do better and do people proud, but I'm doing this for me." He's been working on a debut album with his sister, Amy Smith, which should be released sometime in August. --AY

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Thrillah Kane
It's not so easy to slot Daniel "Thrillah" Kane into the new music category, considering that he started making music when he was only 10. But despite an early start in the game, 2012 was a big one for the Dartmouth-based rapper. If you hadn't heard of him from his Thrillville mixtape released in February, you likely saw his name on countless local releases, usually with a "Feat." in front of it. Collaborating with artists like Cam Smith, Jay Mayne, A'drian Scott, and most recently, a dubstep inspired single, "BLKOUT", by Matty Boh. Kane's voice is fluid, but there's an obvious nod to the classics whether he's rapping over dubstep or trap. "My main influences are Lil Wayne, Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G.," says Kane. "The fans I have and people that support me motivate me to do the music I do." Kane's upcoming Thrillville2 features a lot of the same folks he's supported---Smith, Mayne, Scott, Earl B, Alfie, Pimpbull, Quake Matthews. Kane has his eyes on the prize for 2013, with this new release, due out in July, he wants to reach a bigger audience and hopefully gain some industry accolades that have, up until now, proved elusive. Catch him Friday, June 14 at Mexicali Rosa's. --SJ

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Brothers Justin and Jordan Murphy are like baking soda and vinegar. Their airy psychedelic band Walrus overflows with recorded output. In just a little over a year their first two EPs were released quietly online, and Montreal label Jeunesse Cosmique released them both as cassettes. A "makeshift" band turned into a six-member tribe---the bros Murphy, Justin Crowe, Justin McGrath, Adam Gravelle and Adam Ledrew. With multiple tours and releases, the list of accomplishments from this young band rivals that of seasoned vets. And the inspiration doesn't stray far from tried and tested musicians either. "I would say that all of us enjoy older music more than newer bands," says Justin. "On the road we're generally listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Beatles or some T. Rex." Look forward to Maritime dates, an upcoming split tape, their first LP and a split 7inch. "It's important to like the music that you're making," says Jordan. "Because if you wouldn't listen to it for your own pleasure then there's no point in making it." --SJ

click to enlarge Caroline Merce
  • Caroline Merce

You're going to want to turn up your hearing aids for this: The WAYO's sound is equal parts smooth and swinging, it's dream-like with flashes---or sometimes an unrelenting wall---of aggressive groove. With Charlotte Wilson on vocals, Mike Fong on guitar, George Kingston on the skins and Oliver Nicol on guitar, keys and bass alongside Gray Rowan, The WAYO is young for being so polished, having been playing together for only a year. Currently recording an album and booking shows, their ethos is simple: "The WAYO represents, in a way, a response to the advantages and shortcomings of DJ culture. The DJ will often use the best samples they can find online or on old records, allowing them to crossover several styles and genre in one performance...we try to piece together all of the music we've independently discovered." It doesn't mean they're not flexible, though. "One of us might find an obscure African funk record that we'll all listen to continuously until the grooves are ingrained in our playing. The next week it might be Brazilian psychedelic jazz or some '80s electronic punk." --MC

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  • Angela Gzowski

DJ Gwen West
DJ Gwen West is straight-up from the pages of Vogue and Vibe. High-energy and high fashion, West has been rocking Bodywork at Gus' Pub (with DJ Swayback aka Katie MacKay) on select Thursdays. Last Halloween, she opened for Montreal's DJ Lunice at The New Palace. Since then, she's been working on her skills to start producing her own jams. Originally from Ottawa, West made Halifax her homebase for world travels the last few years. "I've worked in the US, Europe and Latin America, which really influenced the kind of music I listen to," she says. "I like to play sexy music, deep house, R&B, lots of bass. I love sounds from the UK. I love rap. I really want to see people dancing, getting close and letting go." For the next Bodywork on June 20, West brings another house-party-style dance-party. "I find that people love hearing something that is familiar," she says, "Especially if they can sing along, it creates an amazing energy, like a track that samples Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey. Or a song that has an incredible build and drop and everyone can just go crazy." --AY

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