Photograph by Giulia Mazza

Hailing from the burgeoning music scene in Calgary, Alberta, Women’s 2008 self-titled debut impressively harmonized tunes the likes of the Velvet Underground, Pavement, and the Zombies on a boombox like outback wilderness to deliver a well-received album. Recorded with fellow Calgary native Chad VanGaalen, its lo-fi quality was in part cultivated by an interesting blend of recording spaces, apparently ranging from a crawlspace to a culvert. Patrick Flegel, Matt Flegel, Chris Reimer, and Michael Wallace have returned with much of the same bravado to hammer out their second album, Public Strain, out September 28 on Flemish Eye. While their first album smashed nostalgic good vibrations with a ravaging brashness, Public Strain takes a few steps away from this juxtaposition, focusing on a heavier, darker sound.

Women often shift tempo to create dynamic highs and lows within individual songs. ‘China Steps’ opens with urgency then mellows into a gentle close. ‘Drag Open’ delivers similarly; a crash of guitars burst out of the gate and trot to the finish. Contrasting these more aggressive moments are the softer ‘Penal Colony’ and the minimalist ‘Bells’, which blends an electronic sea with distant operatic church bells. The Beach Boys vibe from the debut is not lost on Public Strain, as evidenced by ‘Eyesore’, a smooth tapestry of 1960s Venice Beach with a Canadian roughness, a trend appearing in several young bands.

Those unfamiliar with Women’s style may have to listen with patience as the harsher guitars often overpower the vocals, requiring several replays to catch the lyrics. While Public Strain is more cohesive than Women, the album as a whole will still be difficult for the average radio listener to appreciate. Nevertheless, it is a solid round two for the group and will be perking a few ears very soon.

Women – China Steps
Women – Eyesore

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— , August 15, 2010    Comments Off on Women: Public Strain

Handsome Furs

A couple of weeks ago, the Polaris Music Prize announced its  long list of nominees for 2009. Each year the prize is awarded to the best Canadian album chosen by a jury of a hundred-odd music writers, editors and bloggers from all over the country. Any album produced in Canada within the last year by a Canadian band is eligible for nomination. How it goes is that jury members select their five favourite albums, and the top forty make the Polaris long list. A few weeks later, after the albums on the long list have been played repeatedly and agonized over, the Jury selects their top ten for the Polaris short list. This year the short list will be announced on July 7 and the grand prize, an amazing $20,000, will be awarded on September 21.

The Polaris Music Prize was started a mere three years ago in 2006. The very first winner of the prize was Final Fantasy for his album He Poos Clouds. Since then the contest has served to assist numerous Canadian artists by promoting their albums and giving a massive boost to its winners. In 2007, Patrick Watson won for his album Close to Paradise and in 2009 Caribou won for Andorra. Other giants have been included in the Polaris short list for their remarkable releases, including Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Feist, Miracle Fortress, the New Pornographers, Sarah Harmer, the Weakerthans, and the list goes on and on.

This year’s long list features a ton of amazing Canadian talent. Many bands are fresh members of the music scene and many are well-established veterans. The Arkells, Beast, and Coeur de Pirate have all been nominated for debut albums, whereas Metric, The Stills, Martha Wainwright and Leonard Cohen are all recognized for their ongoing work. Patrick Watson is back with another album after his big win two years ago, as are Wolf Parade, Junior Boys, Joel Plaskett and Chad VanGaalen who also all made the short list in 2007. Finally, Ca Va Cool favourites Japandroids, Handsome Furs, and Pink Mountaintops made this year’s long list, much to Ca Va pride.

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— , July 1, 2009    27 Comments