THURSDAY, OCTOBER 21
The Company House, 10pm, $10
Sisters Sari and Romy Lightman play the Pop Explosion in mid-transformation. They've already changed their band name from Ghost Bees to Tasseomancy, the title of their excellent 2008 release. The changes are going deeper, explains Sari Lightman by email: "We're focused on developing our skills as musicians, so it's more about creating a whole song rather than being so weighted on the lyrics." They're balancing heavier tones and noise elements with "rhythmic, more abstract lyrical images," writes Lightman. The duo, who've returned to live and work in Toronto, are recording new material with Taylor Kirk and Simon Trottier of Timber Timbre, who "taught us more about developing an atmosphere through sound," according to Lightman. "On one part of the record, they took a chorus of howling children and fed it through so many amps and pedals that it sounds like a menacing, dissonant wind," recalls Lightman. Change means more collaborations and expansions of arrangements. "We are trying to be looser too—and slower." –SF
Gus' Pub, 10pm, $10
Ex-Haligonian shapeshifter Chris d'Eon has taken on another musical persona since his move to Montreal last year. Having played music from noise punk to traditional Indian music, his new project d'Eon is a more danceable, R&B style of electronic pop music.
He says the new music is "kind of a roundabout." As a kid, his parents bought him a keyboard and sequencer and he experimented with making electronic music and loops, also learning theory at a young age. More recently, d'Eon spent time in northern India, living in a monastery and learning music.
"For a while, like four or five years ago, I was just playing acoustic music on my own, not really playing any shows, just learning traditional music, like Tibetan music or Arabic music, on my own," d'Eon says. A tape released last year on Divorce Records reflected that period. "When I moved to Montreal, I felt like I wanted to make something a little bit more accessible and less esoteric, that other people could listen to." He suggests the new direction might be the result of a "reverse culture shock" after returning to Canada in early 2009. d'Eon says, "I fell back in love with western pop music."
d'Eon started playing around with electronic music after moving, and has been enthusiastically playing frequent shows in Montreal. He recently worked with fellow Montreal solo electronic pop artist Grimes (also playing HPX, Friday, 10:30pm at The Foggy Goggle) on a live electronic score for the 1920 film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with keyboards, vocals and piano. His first d'Eon album, Palinopsia, comes out November 16 on LA- and New York-based label Hippos in Tanks. He's been working since January on the keyboard-based electronic songs. "It's a lot poppier than anything I've done before, like radio pop," d'Eon says. —LK
Tribeca, 10pm, $10
Thursday night will mark the first time that Writers' Strike will appear on the Pop Explosion bill, though it's really the band's third year playing it. They were known as the First Aid Kit up until late September, but fell into a small identity crisis on account of the Swedish-based doppleganger First Aid Kit who beat our local First Aid Kit to the international touring punch. "It was becoming increasingly problematic," explains frontman Darryl Smith. "People were sending us emails to be like, 'Can you get us on the guestlist to a show in Toronto?' And we had to be like, 'That's not us.'" Whatever the name, these are veteran Hali-rockers, and they know what they're doing: their latest single, "Bad Time," frantically rhythmic and even triumphant in its devotion to pop, is a perfect example of what Smith calls the band's "really solid combination of songwriting and good times." –MF
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 22
Gus' Pub, 12:30am, $10
If Rivers Cuomo produced an album of Pavement covering Beach Boys songs circa 2010, it would sound like So Cow. The Irish native Brian Kelly, who sings and plays virtually every instrument in So Cow's three albums so far, doesn't have a very refined voice, but he makes up for it with genuinely fun noise-pop tracks that sound melancholic without being really sad. "I aim to sum up something so neatly that my friend Muiris will go, 'Ah, nicely said,'" Kelly once said in an interview with Hi-Fi Popcorn. Check out "Moon Geun Young," his sparse, almost childlike ode to the Korean pop star; or "Casablanca," his droning indictment of Hollywood fantasy-worlds. He's headlining Gus' Pub on Friday during the North American leg of his latest album's spotty tour, which includes such destinations as Toledo and Milwaukee, before he's back to Ireland. Catch him while you can. –MF
Tribeca, 10:30pm, $10
The Pavilion, 7pm, $10
You learn a lot about a band during a photo shoot: who hates who, if they have a sense of humour or take themselves too seriously, is the diva 'tude prematurely busting out? When we asked Cold Warps to pose as Sloan on the cover of Twice Removed, the playful band checked egos—if there are any—at the door and rose to the occasion in a big way. Their only request? That we find a way for guitarist and songwriter Dominique Taylor, who moved to Ottawa, to be part of the photo (thanks interwebs). Taylor's absence—the quartet only performs when it's possible for them all to be together—has become part of the Cold Warps' existence.
While most bands would have called it quits by now, Cold Warps' fun, breezy garage-pop punk is thriving, with more tapes planned and a 12-inch of their first two, Endless Bummer and Cold Warps, on Noyes Records coming up in the new year. From Ottawa, Taylor writes and records in GarageBand with his guitar and a drum machine. He sends the recording to singer Paul Hammond, who writes and records demo lyrics, and then drummer Lance Purcell and bassist Ryan Allen build their parts. The system must work: Cold Warps performed new material successfully at one PEI show, without ever physically playing it together.
"We're pretty good," jokes Hammond. "The songs are simple; they come from an easy place," says Allen. "We couldn't do this if we played prog rock." –SCF
The Seahorse Tavern, 1am, $15
When you have a musical pedigree like Ian Blurton's, you can pretty much do whatever the fuck you want. As a former member of Change of Heart, Blurtonia, Bionic and producer for The Rheostatics, Tricky Woo, Amy Millan, Hot Kid and more, he played an integral part in some of your older brother's favourite Canadian albums. We are fortunate that Canada's elder statesman of rock has continued in this vein for the better part of this past decade with his ball-busting trash rock ensemble, C'mon. The song "Status Quo" off 2007's Bottled Lightning of an All-Time High is a fine example of C'mon at their best: it boasts a fatal blend of ZZ Top strut and a very nasty stoner riff. If Blurton's estimable beard, healthy rasp and guitar chops don't sell you, then perhaps his bassist will. Katie Lynn-Campbell, formerly of Nashville Pussy, is nearly 40, headbangs like an 18-year-old and makes her bass purr a story to you as she swaggers across the stage. And did we mention she does backbends? Oh yes. Backbends. –AL
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 23
The Paragon Theatre, 10pm, $18
Calgary's Ghostkeeper turns blues and folk music into rock 'n' roll. Labelmates to Chad VanGaalen and Women on Calgary's Flemish Eye, the band now plays as a five-piece, but started life as a two-piece formed of guitarist Shane Ghostkeeper and drummer Sarah Houle, who draw on their small-town northern Alberta, Métis roots. "The stories revolve around people we know up there, the characters—this sort of unique subculture in Canada of the north, trying to show some of that," says Houle. "Each town has its own way of talking, people are really influenced by speech."
It won't be the first trip to Halifax for Houle and Ghostkeeper—the couple lived here in the early 2000s when Houle studied briefly at NSCAD, before she was done in by a winter of lousy weather: "a little bit of east coast torture," she laughs. They took a Super-8 class together and recently turned their Halifax footage into their music video "Spring Fever." –LK