Slummin’ in the Sled

Words: Jeremy Curry

sled island

It’s only a few weeks away! Sled Island, one of the biggest and most interesting music festivals in western Canada, is coming back at the tail end of June. There are over 200 bands this year, as well as comedians, visual art, and film. This can be a little overwhelming at times, and usually pretty hard to navigate. It’s tough to pick between multiple stellar acts playing in different venues at the same time. Sometimes, the one you want to see will have a massive line-up or be completely sold out. Sure, that’s a bummer, but there are always alternatives, and some of them can surprise you and become your favorite show of the whole damn festival. I have some recommendations, but you don’t have to listen to me! There are so many great acts playing, and this list doesn’t even scrape the surface.

Gold

Gold

Gold are a fantastic local band that come correct when it’s time to play some hazy, lazy, spaced-out pop gems. They’ll make you feel cozy and warm through all of the dark days. Remember when indie-rock bands were described as “tropical” a few years ago? Gold could have been thrown into that category, but they sound more like hot chocolate/warm blanket tunes to me. These jams are real head-nodders. Nod in approval, or just follow the grooves. You’ll get a decent neck exercise, and feel great afterwards! Positive musical therapy.

Colin Stetson

Colin Stetson

Colin Stetson has played sax in some popular bands like Bon Iver and Arcade Fire, but that’s far from what he honks out in his solo work. His circular breathing is truly a unique sound. Without any effects or pre-recorded loops, he blows insane grooves, drones and bizarre tones. His beautiful, wild compositions will have you scratching your head wondering how he created those sounds. His recent collaboration with fellow sax master Mats Gustafsson is one of the most brutal, insane, and amazing records of the year.

Superchunk

Superchunk

This is an easy pick because Superchunk is one of this year’s headliners, as well as one of the most popular acts. But if you don’t know about them, they’ve been kicking out the slacker jams for almost 25 years. Singer Mac McCaughan and bassist Laura Ballance even started Merge Records, which is a powerhouse of independent releases including albums by some band called Arcade Fire. The ‘Chunk have some of the catchiest, tightest, indie pop/rock jams around. Their songs will get stuck in your head, and you’ll want to keep them in there for a while.

Jay Arner

Jay Arner

Some friends tipped me off about this cool dude from Vancouver. As soon as I heard a single song, I was hooked. I played that song over and over on my computer until I decided that if I didn’t stop, I’d get sick of it. I turned it off and waited a month to play it again. The Jay Arner addiction is a tough one to beat, but I doubt it has any terrible side effects. This man is a pop-song wizard, and everybody should go and see him cast spells of wicked hooks and fuzzed-out guitar jams. It’ll be worth it.

Pete Swanson

Pete Swanson

Tim Hecker curated some of the acts at this year’s festival, and one of the artists he decided to bring along is Pete Swanson. This is an amazing choice. Swanson makes some of the harshest electronic music in the world. The beats are heavy and industrial, and computer bleeping tones can wobble in and out without any notice. It sounds like the destruction of a factory building Robocops, or a dusty dub album playing at the wrong speed, with a messed up needle skipping over grooves. The tones can get pretty brutal, but that’s all part of the fun.

Shearing Pinx

Shearing Pinx

Shearing Pinx are a spastic, noisy rock and roll trio. They’ve played Calgary numerous times, sometimes at more noise-centric shows. They have more of a punk vibe, and the fact that they’re hard to pin down genre-wise makes them even more interesting. The vocals are reminiscent of a guy yelling at you to get something done, while the guitars are akin to scribbling on the wall of your parents’ freshly painted house. Feedback squeals are not uncommon. I’ve heard the term “face-melter” describe a lot of rock music, but I think this band truly deserves the title.

Ryan Hemsworth

Ryan Hemsworth

Going to see a DJ while a slew of bands with guitars and drums and stuff are playing doesn’t sound that appealing, but Ryan Hemsworth is a different breed. This kid mixes rap and R&B with old Super Nintendo music, and totally gets away with it. He does this Danny Brown x Donkey Kong remix that is better than most of the rap productions I’ve heard this year. He’s created a lot of great mixes for various music sites in the last couple of years, along with a recent free EP that sounds fantastic. This one’s going to make you exhausted from dancing like a complete maniac, so drink a lot of water.

Good things 2012

Words: Jeremy Curry

Since I usually regret something on my “Best Of” list, I would rather just mention that these were some good things I enjoyed at the time. I am sure they aren’t the best, as I know I will find something better that was released this year, many years down the road.

Jim O’Rourke, Oren Ambarchi and Keiji Haino – Live at SuperDeluxe Tokyo

These guys are regulars on my lists, only because I consider them masters of their craft. I usually end up enjoying everything they churn out. Seeing them live was not only a highlight of my year, but of my life. It was very loud, intense, and a quite a surreal experience. Being able to see three of my favourite musicians playing together on a single stage was pretty amazing. It was also my last day in Tokyo, which made for a great goodbye party for myself. They were loud, abrasive, screeching, wailing, flailing and squonking to my heart’s delight. I don’t know if I will ever see a show quite like that again.

Blur – 21 Box Set

Blur - 21 Box Set

Blur have been one of my favourite bands since I was in junior high. These guys were always pushing the envelope of what they could make, and would scrap everything they became famous for to start fresh. I liked that. “Song 2” was popular everywhere when it was released, and became a beer ad / jock anthem. After that, they released the album 13, which was mostly sad ballads. They have never stuck to one sound, and always strayed from getting pigeonholed into one specific genre. This box set is a really great hunk of every full-length release they have ever put out, as well as b-sides, rarities and live tracks. It’s a nice trip down memory lane, and the chance to listen to all of these unreleased tracks was a nice addition.

Patrice and Friends

A couple of his albums were released last year, but in 2012, Patrice and Friends (a.k.a. Grime producer Slackk) dropped another banger into my lap called Cherry Sorbet. It’s a nice mix of footwork, boogie, soul, R&B and funk jams moving at such a fast pace that you’re sure to be tuckered out on the dancefloor pretty quick. All of his albums are a lot of fun, but I would suggest starting with Cashmere Sheets. So many great beats pumping at you on that one.

Lone – Galaxy Garden

This might be my favorite electronic album of the year. It starts off with some wild jungle jams and keeps flowing from there. It’s a very playful but busy and intelligent album, which also contains some of my favorite tracks to bust out at the club, such as “Spirals” which samples Anneka’s vocals into what sounds like a classic Orbital track. I haven’t heard another release like it this year, and that is refreshing.

R. Stevie Moore

R. Stevie Moore

I found out about this man through The Wire and discovered his exhaustingly massive output of releases. I’ve heard a bunch of them, but haven’t even scratched the surface. His album with Ariel Pink is completely bonkers, but is also a match made in space. Those guys were meant to record together. There is a documentary about R. Stevie Moore on YouTube, and although it’s kind of boring, watching his recording process is fascinating and would also drive me completely insane. He is a master of pop music, and producing massive quantities of it.

Ryan Hemsworth

Ryan Hemsworth

I found out about Ryan Hemsworth through FACT Magazine, where he contributed one of the year’s best mixes. Playfully mixing up rap artists like Danny Brown with the Donkey Kong and Chrono Trigger soundtracks is a genius move. The beats get pretty hazy, but the drum samples push forward and keep you moving. I have a bunch of his mixes on heavy rotation at my house, as he compiled them online and gave them all away for free. I think he would be a great guy to see live, if you want to get some exercise by dancing your heart out.

Other notable albums of 2012:

O’Rourke / Ambarchi /Haino – Imikuzushi
Sir Richard Bishop – Intermezzo
Six Organs of Admittance – Ascent
Andy Stott – Luxury Problems
Mark Fell – Sentielle Objectif Actualite
Anenon – Inner Hue
BEAK> – BEAK>>
Jason Lescalleet – Songs About Nothing
Josephine Foster – Blood Rushing
Raglani – Real Colors of the Physical World
KTL – V
Stephen O’Malley & Steve Noble – St. Francis Duo
Chris Reimer – The Chad Tape
Fenn O’Berg – In Hell
Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes
Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
El-P – Cancer 4 Cure
Rangda – Formerly Extinct