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Five days multiplied by 116 bands equals one pair of well-worn earplugs and infinite loads of fun. But first, some tips on wisely dividing your HPX time.

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Apostle of HustleAndrew Whiteman, an integral member of the Broken Social Scene collective, taps into the solo-terrain bandwagon with Apostle of Hustle. The trio present themselves at the Marquee on October 18.

"I'm a follower, not really a leader," says Whiteman, calling from Toronto. "But really, Broken Social Scene is all about the sweets. We're all rhythm and beats. If Broken Social Scene is Laura Secord, Apostle of Hustle is sugar cane."

Their latest Arts & Crafts release, National Anthem of Nowhere, is an intensely rhythmic response to Western culture. Whiteman began the project, joined by Julian Brown on bass and keys, and Dean Stone on drums, after spending two months in Cuba. Since their 2004 Folkloric Feel debut, the Latin-tinged outfit continues to push borders, break down barriers and expand their musical horizons.

Rock star by night, bookworm by day, Whiteman finds language and literature—Ezra Pound, Anne Carson and Sappho are on his shelves—to be most awe-inspiring, a sentiment he shares with his neighbour, ex-pat Nova Scotian Buck 65. "He lives down my street," says Whiteman. "Basically we bump into one another now and then. First time I met him he said, "I'm a big ass book nerd.' And that was our common ground." (SWC)

Friday, October 18 at The Marquee, 12:15am, $15 adv/$19 door.

Baby EagleBaby Eagle's flying in from his southern Ontario coop, leaving his flock of Constantines behind. When the lonely bird finds himself in Halifax on October 18, his friends Shotgun Jimmie and Construction and Deconstruction are burrowing in to warm things up.

Steven Lambke, AKA Baby Eagle, has paid his indie-rock dues, playing guitar in Constantines for over six years. In 2006 he ventured off on his own, made a self-titled debut as a side project during their down time. He recently released the follow-up No Blues, featuring appearances by The Weakerthans' John K. Sampson, Julie Doiron, Shotgun & Jaybird and Christine Fellows.

No Blues was recorded in Shotgun Jimmie's farmhouse last winter. Lambke arrived on Christmas Eve, the boys played a few games of darts, mucked around, then quickly got to work recording the 12-track collection. "Jim had just moved in a couple of months before," Lambke says. "He didn't have much furniture. He was just a guy living alone in a big old house in the marsh. We recorded over the next week or so, it was a bunch of dudes who didn't want to go home for Christmas." (SWC)

Thursday, October 18 at Ginger's, 12am, $7.

Shotgun JimmieGoing by The Onlys, Shotgun Jimmie (AKA Jim Kilpatrick) knows splendid isolation and how to translate its indulgences to audiences in gorgeous melody, imaginative lyrical wandering and balanced melancholy and joy.

Coming down from Dawson City and settling in Sackville, New Brunswick, many will know the artist from Shotgun & Jaybird. But solo Shotgun first showed up in 1998. When contrasting J&S and solo Jimmie, he says, "The largest difference I'd say is that this one is all over the place. We got a pillow party dance hit, a dorky pop jazz song about breakfast, and a few songs that fit into a new genre that I'm pioneering called "marshland windy indie ranch rock.'"

Kilpatrick used The Onlys to set himself right after last year's hard touring, drinking and smoking with J&S. He quit smoking, "started going to bed earlier, eating more fruits and vegetables" and listening to the latest Bill Callahan album. "I pretty much didn't leave the farm for anything other than groceries or to go to work while I was making the record. At first I was living by myself out here on sixty acres of Tantramar marsh. It was the middle of February and half the time there was too much snow to get down the driveway anyways." (SF)

Thursday, October 18 at Ginger's, 11:15pm, $7.

Shapes and SizesWhen a Canadian band wins the love of an American pop star, Canadians are sure to follow suit. As disappointing as it is for a brilliant Canadian band to need such external validation, you get the distinct feeling that Shapes and Sizes could have done it on their own—maybe it just would have taken a little longer. Shapes and Sizes' Caila Thompson-Hannant, Rory Seydel, Jon Crellin and Nathan Gage made such an impression on Sufjan Stevens, they became the first Canadian band to release a record on his label, Asthmatic Kitty.

The band recently transplanted into Montreal's rich indie rock loam from the fresh air of Victoria, and have won over hardened critics with 2007's Split Lips, Winning Hips, A Shiner.

The album defines a lot of the same melodic ideas explored in their self-titled debut, but with a greater focus.

Finding fans in math rock nerds and bookish indie rockers, Shapes and Sizes manage to win points both for technicality and sensitivity. With Thompson-Hannant's voice leading the way with strength that can morph into a whisper, they are a perfect pop band that is clearly having a really good time. (SJ)

Thursday, October 18 at Gus' Pub, 12:00am, $8.

Small SinsSmall Sins is the product of Thomas D'Arcy's frustrations with operating in the pseudo-democracy of a traditional band.

After he left The Carnations in 2004, he recorded a bedroom record of dream-like pop songs on his own. Then known as The Ladies and Gentlemen, the record quickly caught fire in Canada and D'Arcy found himself leading a five-piece band on tours across the country.

"It was always just supposed to be a studio project," he says, on the phone from Toronto. "I work so much more efficiently alone."

D'Arcy quickly found the hushed whisper of his synthesizer-based tunes rather boring to replicate live as the band developed a much harder rock edge for their shows.

Small Sins released their second record Mood Swings and the separate eight-song The Mellow EP at the end of September. Although D'Arcy says he tried to make the record sound more like the live show, Kevin "The Clapper" Hilliard is one element of Small Sins that cannot be captured on tape. His manic hand claps and sporadic synthesizer blips make him Flavor Flav to D'Arcy's Chuck D.

"He's the number one cheerleader," says D'Arcy. "He still doesn't know how to use his gear." (IG)

Thursday, October 18 at Hell's Kitchen, 12:15, $6.

Their MajestiesThe young princes of power-pop, Their Majesties, are busy with school or work or both. Send us an email. A message will be sent to you.

The quality quintet was also subject to rumours of a break-up. "Who told you that?" queries Andrew Erskine (vocals/guitar/keys). "Come on, it's the natural tendency of the media to exaggerate; anything for a juicy story, right? The actual truth is that Niall"—that would be Niall Skinner, the band's original drummer—"contracted the West Nile virus (what are the odds?) and was forced to step down."

Indeed, the ubiquitous red-bearded and bespectacled beat-keeper is now listed as a member on the band's MySpace page. And what of Skinner? "He now works at a butcher's shop; he cuts a mean steak," Erskine reports.

Earlier this year, these future kings ventured to Toronto, the land where tales are truly tall. There they played a fabled residency (a month of weekly shows) at the Drake Hotel. Hopefully those Queen West hipsters showed due respect because, all joshing aside, this is a great band with, hopefully, a new record on the way. "We're going to record a genre-defining album—four sides of hits. We might include the odd filler here and there; just to show that we're not infallible." (SF)

Thursday, October 18 at The Attic, 11pm, $5.

Attack in BlackAttack in Black's transition from hardcore act into a more ambitious rock band with punk roots was completed with the release of their second record Marriage this summer. Revealing influences like Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young garnered the Welland, Ontario, quartet a fair bit of attention, including the August cover of Exclaim! and now their video for "Young Leaves" is on the MuchMusic Countdown.

Marriage is by no means a dumbing down or softening of the band's previous work. The Weakerthans are the easiest starting point for comparison, but it's far from fair for either group. The lyrics are coughed out and aim straight for the gut. A casual listen doesn't reveal the intricacies of the album, but subsequent spins will reveal a depth of songwriting few bands achieve in their career, let alone on their sophomore record. Opening track boasts a saxophone solo Clarence Clemens would be proud of, while the title track's climatic build should sway any naysayer. As a testament to the quality of the new record, the band was still warmly embraced by an enthusiastic audience when Attack in Black opened for Alexisonfire and Cancer Bats this summer, two bands not exactly known for subtlety. (IG)

Friday, October 19 at The Pavilion, 9:15pm, $12, all ages.

Melissa McClellandToronto's avant-guarde songstress Melissa McClelland has added a few plot twists, allegories and some promiscuity to Hans Christian Anderson's popular Danish fairy tale, Thumbelina. She strolls into town for a ravenous retelling, hitting the stage at Ginger's Tavern on October 19.

"I didn't go into the studio with a concept for Thumbelina's One Night Stand," says McClelland. "But when I was thinking over the images and titles, a theme presented itself—it was like a dark fairytale."

McClelland is awe-struck by the every day, even though her lyrical repertoire may tumble through ancient myths, she also finds herself among boozy nights (and mornings), bittersweet resentments, broken hearts and newfound love.

The subject of inspiration hits close to home, as she is married to musical reservoir Luke Doucet. The duo have clocked in just over a year of matrimony. "We do spend chunks of time a part, but it's good, then we miss one another," she says. "He's in Europe right now, so we've been exchanging these desperate emails."

Not only did her multi-talented beau produce, record and play on Thumbelina's One Night Stand, in her third release, Sarah McLachlan and Blue Rodeo's Greg Keelor also make guest appearances. (SWC)

Friday, October 19 at Ginger's, 12:30am, $8 adv/$10 door.

The Two-Minute MiraclesLondon's The Two-Minute Miracles write, play and sing infectious pop rock and alt-country songs, and not the "listen to it 10 times and you might remember it" infectious. More like, "holy crap I've got to hear that again" infectious. Remember the first time you heard "Karate Man" by The Super Friendz? It's just like that.

The group began as a bedroom session that Andy Magoffin wrote and recorded in 1995. Now a quintet, The Two-Minute Miracles released their fourth record, Volume IV: The Lions of Love, this month on weewerk. Their first album in four years, singer/guitarist Magoffin, drummer Aaron Curtis and pianist Michael Christoff are joined by new bass player Greg Smith and guitarist Justin Nace.

Magoffin actually runs a studio called House of Miracles in London where he's recorded artists like The Hidden Cameras, Constantines and Cuff the Duke, to name a few. He also seems quite fond of his pet rat, Otis, who can be seen in many photos with Magoffin. It's not sure if Otis was found hanging out in the studio, or if he gets along with the squirrels that Magoffin claims live in the rafters. All that is clear is that this band rocks. (IG)

Friday, October 19 at The Attic, 1am, $7 adv/$9 door.

WilWil will put the emphasis on the pop in this year's Halifax Pop Explosion. The Calgary artist makes a big, major-chord pop sound on his album By December, so his live show no doubt fills the room, and then some.

There's something of the Irish singer-songwriter in this young guy. Think David Gray or Glen Hansard (of The Frames), who sings and plays as the male lead in the Irish "musical" Once. Like those artists, Wil isn't afraid to let his passion show, which he does on "Big Life," "Wedding Dress" and "December" especially, and not hide it behind a stance or posture. The guy writes songs from the heart—dramatic tunes where word and sound perfectly match.

Produced by Trina Shoemaker (Sheryl Crow, Blue Rodeo), the sound here is clean, bright and multifaceted. It nods to country, Americana, heartland rock, but is it a cross between Wilco and Arcade Fire, as the sticker on the album's wrapping suggests? Not at all.

The Wilco reference is completely lost. As for the Arcade Fire part, Wil uses horns, strings and there's a bigness to the sound. He's doing something completely different, with less pretence perhaps. It'll be interesting to see how Wil fits in with the indie-rock soundscape of the old Pop Explosion. (SF)

Friday, October 19 at Hell's Kitchen, 12:15am, $8.

ZoobombsA welcome antidote to the popular shoe-gazing glumness we frequently find posing as rock music; Tokyo's Zoobombs happily send everyone back to rock'n'roll high school.

Finding a tenuous balance between funk, classic rock and rap elements, vocalist and guitarist Don Matsuo, bassist Moostop, keyboardist Matta and their new drummer Kim aren't going down without a fight. They shamelessly wear their allegiance to the Rolling Stones on their sleeves—with album titles such as Bomb You Live (fittingly recorded at El Mocambo) and Let it Bomb—but interpret this devotion in unique ways.

Their latest album, 2007's Bear's Banquet: Live From Deep Night in Toronto, shows off their unstoppable live energy, dispelling any notion that, 14 years later, the band might want to slow down and take it easy. The group's whopping 12 albums go a long way to ensure that their garage-funk hybrid will secure them a place in the rock and roll canon, like the bands they most admire. And variety is clearly the spice of life for the band, as elements of reggae or house music manage to creep their way into their recordings. The Zoobombs don't care much for consistency. What they do care about is soul. (SJ)

Friday, October 19 at The Seahorse, 12:45am, $8. Saturday October 19 at The Seahorse, 4:30pm, $6, all ages.

Buried InsideWhen most people talk about our dark overloads in Ottawa, they may not be talking about Buried Inside, but they should be. Canada's most melodic, yet apocalyptic, metalcore band set out to destroy the popular notion of time with 2005's "concept album" Chronoclast, released on Relapse Records. Buried Inside, made up of Andrew Tweedy (guitar and vocals), Emmanuel Sayer (guitar), Nick Shaw (vocals), Mike Godbout (drums) and Steve Martin (bass, vocals) have been together 10 years. That's 10 years of heaviness; punctuated by the occasional gong or sample.

They are a literary band—the lyrics that are included with Chronoclast proving as challenging a read as any university take-home exam on philosophy. But honestly, it's hard to believe anyone gets any reading done with all that noise going on. To say they are a loud band would be an understatement; when one first hears Buried Inside live, one gets the distinct feeling that we are all doomed (in a good way). This is a show not to be missed. Kiss your loved ones like you may never see them again and, for the love of God, bring your earplugs. (SJ)

Saturday, October 20 at the Khyber, 9pm, $7, all ages.

Miracle FortressTry to imagine Phil Spector and Brian Wilson as indie rockers, alone in their bedrooms recording little pop masterpieces on their four-tracks and you'll probably end up with an image fairly close to Miracle Fortress.

Miracle Fortress is the sometimes musical outlet for Montreal transplant Graham Van Pelt. Originally from Stratford, Ontario, Van Pelt moved to Montreal in 2004 and immediately immersed himself in the local arts community. He founded the alternative venue space Electric Tractor and formed the band Think About Life who subsequently opened for Art Brut and Wolf Parade.

Never one to sit idle, Van Pelt released the five-track EP Watery Grave in 2005 and released Miracle Fortress's debut Five Roses this past May on Secret City Records. He also managed to build his own studio in 2006 called Friendship Cove where he recorded the album. While on tour he employs the skills of Jessie Stein, Jordan Robson-Cramer and Adam Waito to help interpret his songs. If the YouTube footage from Pop Montreal is any indication, the group will be a formidable presence at their Marquee appearance opening for a reformed Eric's Trip. (IG)

Saturday, October 20 at The Marquee, 12:15am, $14adv/$18 door.

Mother MotherVancouver's Mother Mother is somewhat enigmatic, as the fiery band can't seem to be pegged by even the most tailored critics, industry-folks, publicists or fans. They've been filed under both "weird and wonderful," "new-wave and avant-pop," "blues and funk," but nothing suits them more than fucking stupefying.

Last Gang Records re-released their self-titled debut, with a few tweaks and song changes here and there, under the appropriately titled Touch Up. With their spit-polished 13-track catalogue, the quintet of melody-driven matriarchs is bound for The Marquee. They are one of the top promising acts on this year's Pop Explosion family tree.

"We have such a connection with Tracy Bonham," says singer Ryan Guldemond, his voice thick with sarcasm. "Really it's one of my goals to outshine Tracy. I'm only kidding, I've actually never even heard that '90s song "Mother Mother.'"

Guldemond might be a touch facetious with regards to their moniker, considering his sister Molly is a fellow band-mate (along with college chum Debra-Jean Creelman on vocals, Jeremy Page on bass and Kenton Loewen on drums), but even he finds it difficult not to make the maternal parallels.

"Yeah, it's all for my mom, the whole band. It's for her." (SWC)

Saturday, October 20 at the Marquee, 10:45pm, $14 adv/$18 door.

Sole & the Skyrider Band Hailing from Flagstaff, Arizona—how often do you hear that?—Sole brings the Skyrider band northward, way north, to the 15th anniversary edition of the Halifax Pop Explosion. His visit doesn't come from as far afield as you might think. Haltown, after all, has produced its fair share of underground hip hop: the real abstract shit.

So the night-closing set by Sole & the Skyrider Band will no doubt be remembered fondly by many in this city, who look back with love at the early days of Buck 65, Josh Martinez and the like. Those attuned to the American underground sounds of Mike Ladd (and all his Anticon iterations), Anti-Pop Consortium and Aesop Rock will want to catch Sole & the Skyrider Band.

For those less familiar but curious about this subgenre, all elements—rhymes, beats and other instrumentation—seem to move initially at odds with one another, but stay with a track because there's a payoff in that you hear how it all fits and flows. You hear the musicality.

While Sole delivers his existential raps in slower time than say Josh Martinez, pay close attention to Bud Berning (AKA Skyrider). An electronic musician and dub specialist, Skyrider recruited the other two musicians (John Wagner and William Ryan Fitch) to build on his beats. (SF)

Saturday, October 20 at The Attic, 1:45am, $10.

Venues and Local Shows
It’s always fun to root for the home team, especially when they sound this freakin’ good.

The Attic, 1741 GraftonChurch of St. David, 1537 BrunswickThe Cunard Centre, 961 Marginal Ginger’s Tavern, 1662 BarringtonGus’ Pub, 2605 AgricolaHell’s Kitchen, 2037 GottingenThe Khyber, 1588 Barrington The Marquee Club, 2037 GottingenThe Pavilion, 5816 CogwellThe Seahorse, 1665 ArgyleSt. Matthew’s Church, 1479 BarringtonTribeca, 1588 Granville

ThursdayAthalias, She’s No Angel, In this Style at The Pavilion, $8.Pamela Under Water at The Seahorse, $8.The Memories Attack, The First-Aid Kit at Gus’ Pub, $8.

FridayIn-Flight Safety, Dog Day, Brent Randall & His Pinecones at the Marquee, $12 adv/$14 door.The Museum Pieces at Hell’s Kitchen, $8.Windom Earle at The Seahorse, $8.Great Plains, Play Guitar at Gus’ Pub, $5.Matt Mays & El Torpedo, Glory and the Skyhawks, Celebrity iPod Battle at The Cunard Centre, $25.

SaturdayJoel Plaskett, David Myles at St. Matthew’s Church, $25 adv/$29 door.The Got to Get Got, Rich Aucoin at Hell’s Kitchen, $8.Tacktishion, Ghettosocks, Y Rush at The Attic, $10.Dammien Alexander at Ginger’s, $7.Jordan Croucher, J-Bru, Chad Hatcher, Mic Boyd at The Pavilion, $8. VKNGS, Die Brucke at the Khyber, $7.


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