Grayowl Point is a blog focused on the Canadian music scene at large. Their mission is to spread the word about good music. Their team is based in Toronto, they turn an eye to all Canadian provinces and territories.
The end of the road has come. To be honest, I never thought any project I started would ever last this long.
When I first started Grayowl Point, I had just finished high school and wasn’t yet old enough to go into bars and see the bands I was writing about. I still remember interviewing Menno Versteeg of Hollerado outside the Piston during CMW many years ago because I wasn’t able to go in and do so. I had no idea how to get a blog noticed; for example, having a publicly known email address was something I did not think of right away.
Once I started discovering all the music Canada had to offer, I had to get help, and Laura has been a steady hand in everything for as long as she’s been a part of Grayowl. I owe an endless debt to her especially over the last few years, when I was teaching in South Korea and was not operating in Eastern Standard Time anymore.
Which is all a long way of saying this is the end of Grayowl Point. Though it’s ending, I’m incredibly proud of all we’ve been able to accomplish over these nine years. I hope we’ll be remembered, at least a little bit, for giving a voice to a number of diverse acts from across the gigantic country of Canada. I’ve met so many amazing musicians over the years and seen a countless number of shows I will never forget.
I’m also acutely aware that with the end of this blog, the number of publications writing exclusively about Canadian music has gotten even smaller. There are still a few out there, though! Please go give your attention to our dear friends at Dominionated and Ride the Tempo; they’re still keeping Canadian music alive. We’re with them in spirit.
And now, some thank-yous beyond what I’ve mentioned above:
Thank you to every person who was written anything for Grayowl in the past, be it in a regular writer role or as a guest;
Thank you to the musicians that have sent us an email to let us know about their music and agreed to talk to us for interviews;
Thank you to anyone who read the blog and maybe discovered a new favourite band as a result.
And thank you for reading this. It’s been a pleasure to have had Grayowl Point around for so long.
Little Kid steadily churn out records. When I spoke with Kenny Boothby last year, he told me, “I just want to make a bunch of albums. I want to have 10, that’d be cool.”
As their catalogue grows, Little Kid’s sound is expanding to a richer palette. Their fifth release SUN MILK, which came out last year, had lengthy, harsher tracks and signaled a shift away from the band’s introverted lo-fi folk sound of their earlier releases. The rockier, post-country vibe of their latest, Might As Well With My Soul, is a nice development for an evolving band who continually produce beguiling recordings.
“Love Minus Seven / No Livin,” whose guitar melody sounds like Weezer’s “Undone,” and “In The Red” are some of Little Kid’s more gritty tunes and are both punctuated with whiny guitar din. Elsewhere, Little Kid live at an unhurried and gentler pace. “Receiver” is a long distance phone call. It’s multi-layers fill this space with a weighty haze – the “something I couldn’t name,” as Boothby calls it – while the combo of Paul Vroom (bass) and Brodie Germain’s (drums) tender craftsmanship sounds particularly nice here. “Your Orange and Blues” is another strong ballad centred on Boothby’s words of heartbreak and disappointment: “You are impossible,” he sings and then delivers two quick pounds of piano chords like two exclamation points.
In June, when Boothby sent me Might As Well With My Soul, I immediately abandoned whatever I was doing at that moment to press play. Boothby’s voice – nasally and often hushed depending on the song – quickly enveloped me. He slips in between the cracks made by the plodding piano and guitar of the opening track “The Only Light,” much like the light might through the cracks of the blind.
And then, suddenly, the next track, “Two Invitations” begins. I loved it from beat one. It’s a song about getting invited to a friend’s wedding. Except it’s a friend who you share with an ex who will also be attending. And so really it’s a song about navigating social landmines at weddings. In the song’s chorus, Boothby and Megan Lunn, a new addition to Little Kid, sing, in a bright, catchy melody: “you were sweating through your dress, you said: “why do people get married in July?”” At the time of this initial listen, I was in the throws of mentally preparing to attend a friend’s wedding in July and so I couldn’t help but smile and nod my head. “Two Invitations” became a go-to song for me in July and continues to be one of my favourite songs from the year.
I saw a comment on a photo that Little Kid posted on Instagram recently that made me laugh out loud. Somebody asked them “Why aren’t you bigger[?]” to which Little Kid bluntly replied, “we don’t have any money and our songs are long”.
Please buck your chaotic listening habits for a spell and dig into Little Kid. They are worth it.
Top Tracks: “Two Invitations”; “Your Orange and Blues”
It’s rhyming, it’s understanding beats, it’s rhythm, it’s timing, it’s being able to just rap in different environments, gigging, staying at it. Developing tenacity…
His previous album showcased all of these skills and more. Rapplicable Skills showed off skilled wordsmith-ery, all while paying tribute to old-school hip-hop. It was, as always, a community effort. Rhyme Your Business is a nice continuation of what makes Wordburglar so insanely fun to listen to (true story: a friend of mine, an inspiring rapper, told me Wordburglar is so good that it almost made him quit rapping altogether).
If Rapplicable Skills was about learning, Rhyme Your Business is about Wordburglar in his element. He invents several words in song titles: “Versonality” and “Verbserker.” He devotes an entire song to explaining the process of and looking nostalgically at renting videos. He and Esoteric have an entire rap about Damage Control, the Marvel Comics group that cleans up after superheroics; he and Mega Ran rap about modifying video games. If you’ve ever been a fan of Wordburglar, these topics won’t come as a surprise to you, but what will is how many eye-opening lines he can fit in one song.
Perhaps no song is a better indicator of this talent than “Mic Heckla,” a hilarious three-and-a-half-minute track that manages to use almost every single rapper (and others) as put-downs, from “Ice Cuba Gooding Jr,., a bad actor” to “Hamburger Bun B.” In the introductory track “Versonality,” he puts forth the most brilliant punchline: “Like Michelle Wolf, I got mad correspondence.” Think about that one for a second.
If you’re generally obsessed with retro stuff (Wordburglar uses the term “retronaut”), you’ll really enjoy the aforementioned “Rental Patient,” which shouts out a number of mostly defunct video stores across Canada; or the fun you can have playing video games the way you want on “Input Blitz.”
When he’s not rapping about something nerdy, his more general songs are a good indication of his ethos. On “Make Fun Not Bore,” he makes fun of his own style and youthful look while also saying that being angry on rap songs is not his style. The self-conscious posse cut “The 2nd Last Song” (with verses from Chokeules, Jesse Dangerously, More Or Les, Savilion, Timbuktu and Touch) muses on putting the best song second-last on an album. Naturally, it is the second-last song on the album.
I don’t want to give away too many of the great lines on this album, so just go check it out already!
Top Tracks: “Mic Heckla”; “Verbserker”; “Input Blitz”
Sophia is a central theme in hellenistic religion meaning knowledge and skill, so it’s fitting that the concept becomes the namesake of Teenage Wedding’s second album — a collection of songs with a sound developed on the wisdom and learning brought by their first.
The Victoria DIY staple once again brandishes unique guitar hooks and Pavement-esque vocals among unpolished production that evokes a frenetic sense of live performance. The growth that is found on this sophomore release speaks strongly of poetic depth: a sense of unity found in outside texts (along with religious sources, the band cites science fiction and Jungian psychology). “Wow! Signal” requests dancing with a happy bass line and bouncing rhythm. Semi-wary lyrics proclaim, “a message of hope from above / to those so sad and terrified / sent to use through hydrogen / a disinhibiting stimuli.”
“Disinhibiting Stimuli” is the name of the third track on The Sophia of Teenage Wedding, which repeats a verse from “Lilith” decrying that sex is knowledge and, more than that, a way out of the complicated physical world. All of these inter-album references lead to a cyclical sense of a bigger picture, something alive in the songwriting that invites deeper exploration. The heavy hum of bass on “Mary” soaks into “St. Maria”, which revels in an off-kilter melody that becomes addictive. Complexity exists unpolished for Teenage Wedding.
The Sophia of Teenage Wedding launched the band’s tour from coast to coast, and they have since been busy playing shows and sharing their active tunes around Victoria. Always active, always learning, Teenage Wedding will push onwards. Keep your eyes on the scene.
Just two years ago, Cobourg-based duo cleopatrick were playing covers of Grammy-nominated band Highly Suspect, a group whose own start came from covering songs from generations past. A Youtube video of one of these covers (which at the time was sitting at a respectable 70 views) was my entry to the band in 2016, and from there I discovered their original music. Today, they have already opened for Highly Suspect in Chicago, have an international tour scheduled, and their biggest single “Hometown” is on course to break 10 million plays on Spotify. With only one formal EP under their belt, and a cluster of singles that have solidified their garage-turned-house-party-rock sound, such a rapid rise to prominence has been a rare sight in today’s rock environment, and the band shows no signs of slowing down.
“Youth” is the last single being released from what was originally an EP. Why did you decide to switch the release format?
We recorded an EP’s worth of music in the first two weeks of July 2017, but we eventually decided to release them all as singles. It gives each track more room to breathe, and overall just shows more respect to each song since they’re not all released at once.
cleopatrick - "youth" (official audio) - YouTube
You recently announced that you’re opening for the band Highly Suspect. How crazy is it to go from covering their songs to actually opening for them less than a year later?
Yeah, that’s been unbelievable man. We pretty much started off as a Highly Suspect cover band, and in our live shows we would play like 2 of our own songs and then cover a few of their songs. It feels so surreal to be opening for them.
How did that come about?
So when we first signed with our North American agent, he asked us for some bands that we could relate to or we had similarities to, and one of the bands we mentioned was Highly Suspect. A couple months later, our darling manager Vanessa called us and told us she had big news. She was being really cryptic but the news was that we were going to be opening for Highly Suspect. It’s a word that we’ve been using all the time recently, but it’s just so surreal.
What’s the story behind “Hometown”, the song that really put you guys on the map? It started from Spotify’s Allison Hagendorf hitting you guys up, right?
It’s a funny story actually. So after we recorded “Hometown,” I made a bunch of fake accounts and started linking it on online forums and stuff. And I used one of them to e-mail Alli to pretty much say “Hey check this cool band out!”. 20 minutes later, we were on the “New Noise” playlist.
Changing gears a little bit, you guys have mentioned before that hip-hop has taken over the cultural zeitgeist and that rock has sort of been neglected by today’s generation. Do you see this changing at all?
We once heard someone describe the music industry as a boat that sways back and forth from one side to the other. Rock is definitely in a weird place right now, and it might come back again, but ever since the grunge era ended, it hasn’t really been the same.
So does being labelled as a “rock band” carry a certain connotation with it?
Yeah we’re not really fans of being labelled that, but of course people like to categorize things. We’re just 2 guys with a guitar and a drum set, and we wanna make music that people like. We get compared to bands like The Black Keys a lot, and although they’re a sweet band, we just hate the comparisons because we want to do our own thing, you know?
For sure. Are there certain elements of hip-hop that you try to incorporate in your music too? Or do you try to stick to a more traditional rock philosophy?
Well I feel like our release format was heavily inspired by what a lot of rappers are doing today. Some fans actually like the single-format a lot more than dropping an album or EP once every few years.
Do you think you’re going to stick to this format for future projects or are you interested in doing a long-form one?
That’s pretty far in the future, so we haven’t really decided yet, but we’re definitely interested in making an album at some point. It’s sort of a time capsule of a band’s feelings and hopes at the time when it was written.
The reflexive answer to when somebody asks how you are is “fine.” Even when your brain feels like it’s on fire, the polite thing to do is to be cordial – nobody cares about your shit, you think.
But there are people in your life that do care and when they ask how you’re doing, you can be completely honest and god, what a relief that is. With how honest Thanks for Asking is, Fine, a quartet from Nanaimo, BC, make you feel like you’re one of their best friends. On their debut release, the band, under the lyrics of Max Pittet, speak openly about struggles with depression and anxiety all while weighed down by the heavy expectations that growing up can have.
To open their six track EP, Fine stomp through their teenage years with angry sounding guitar chords and angular additional squeaks. With each repetition of the song’s lone verse, the realization that a lot of the same teenage issues roll over into early adulthood dawns on Pittet and the band and this annoyance heats up. By the following track “Don’t Be Dead,” they embrace being alive and then in “Love Puke,” love is in the air and it’s overwhelmingly joyful and terrifying: “I’m afraid of pretty things, her soft and sweet voice plays in my head, and in my bed I cry.”
On the flip side of their EP, love has turned rancid. It’s unplanned, short lived, and causes pain on “Peas and Carrots” and then on closer “Gravity,” Pittet creates space for herself in an effort to make a relationship healthier but the outcome is undetermined. Snuggled in between those two tracks is “Trauma & Depression,” one of my favourite songs from 2018. It’s a punky pop track with a melody that’s instantly grabbing. Pittet delivers her words (“I want control,” she begs) in a way that feels like she’s sliding down a wall for a momentary rest. It’s a breathtakingly vivid expression of frustration from a band you’ll probably be hearing a lot more from.
Top Tracks: “Twenty Three”; “Trauma and Depression”
At this point, to say a band is “world-weary” would be a huge cliché. It would be even more cliché to say that we have a society have grown a lot more weary in the last few years.
Dog is Blue are dealing with weariness. I mean, you don’t call your album Dead and Gone if you’re not planning on dealing with some grimmer subjects. But what’s lovely about this album is that Paul Watson and Laura Heaney acknowledge the ennui and obstacles we face in life but choose to see a silver lining. Even a song that sounds at first like total surrender is actually about finding strength somewhere else.
It’s been a very, very long time since Dog is Blue released their full-length Tortoise, but the long gap has not dulled the rough-and-tumble folk-rock-pop sound that makes this duo so endearing. The band occasionally sells its own line of fuzz pedals, so naturally the guitar work in here is really fun, like the driving notes of “Flightless Birds” or the gentle picking of the title track.
The duo also packs a lot of words into these 11 songs. Some choice lines like “Here we go again, it’s that annual sense of effervescence” or “This is the niche you carved, full of paycheques and pleasantries” give a sense of Watson and Heaney’s playfulness. The two play seamlessly off each other vocally and instrumentally; together they’re more than the sum of their parts.
As mentioned, throughout you’ll see the two lifting themselves out of the doldrums. “It’s OK” has Watson and Heaney acknowledging that nothing in life is really going well, but they really don’t need anything but each other. Where the quiet “Little Dragon Slayer” has Watson wondering where his promised riches and adventure are, “Button Song” acts like an antidote to the song. Watson is talking to a child as he describes a number of buttons that can do things like revive a dead hamster or prevent heart attacks, but then advises the kid to “Dig your own dirt and push your own daisies.” We can take the easy way out or carve our own paths.
From the instrumental “Kalamazoo” onward, the songs get much more supportive. Ironically, “Feel Good Hit” starts with minor chords, but Watson eventually repeats “We could all use a helping hand.” There’s a great sense of childlike wonder in the blazing “Young Pup” and “Got Nothing” tells a story of kids who try to be cool but fail perpetually.
Finally, the title track acts like a thesis for the album. Watson describes the repetitive process of waking up each morning and going to your job, but Watson and Heaney find more meaning in our day-to-day lives. We will all die eventually, but it’s not something to be scared of. “Every gust of wind on the lawn takes a couple wilted leaves from the tree” is a fantastic metaphor for finding a silver lining to ugliness.
Burlington’s Dakota Mill spends a lot of time searching on AGES — the latest EP from the project that began as a form of self exploration. If finding the self was the destination in mind for Dakota Mill, AGES provides a perfect example of the journey being more significant. Cliches are often borne from some truth, after all.
The searching stretches out: from the grasping towards something good but just out of reach on “Old Souls” to the desire to concretize what cannot be seen on “Pass Of Time”. The album concludes with “Home”, detailing the universal search for a safe place to exist, particularly after a signifiant life change. Bradon Dougherty is the primary songwriter and performer on the project, and his lyrics often tend to the darker side, pushing into needs and desires. The music, on the other hand, floats with pop sensibility, skyrocketing with catchy hooks and big choruses.
Crisp production, layers of sound, and the occasional sing-along repetition will strike a chord with alternative rock fans (“The Note” evokes Cage the Elephant vocal forwardness), while the careful songwriting earns its place with the indie-folk tag the album has taken on. In the case of “Up Against the Wall”, this juxtaposition finds strength by avoiding the loneliness of the single-voice self-exploration songwriting, but in other moments it feels like the pop hooks detract from the weight of the meaning: the singalong chorus of “Old Souls” feels familiar compared to the complexity of the song’s optimism.
Dakota Mill’s AGES is an introspective project with no shortage of fun to it. You can imagine it blasting through a party, playing in the background while hanging out with a couple of friends, or having a moment with the lyrics by yourself. And if AGES is part of the journey, I hope, perhaps selfishly, that the destination isn’t too close.
MYTH’s “The Woman In Me” is part-spoken word poetry, part-rap track that’s a goosebumps inducing spectacle. On the near eight minute long title track from her demo EP, MYTH lives and flourishes despite struggling with mental health issues and encourages listeners – particularly women – to rise up and to make your mark: “grab the pen, you have a story to tell.”
Helena Deland – “Claudion”
In the spring Helena Deland released From the Series of Songs “Altogether Unaccompanied” Vol. I & Vol. II and in October Vol. III & Vol. IV will come our way. On “Claudion,” from Vol. IV, Deland leaves behind the gritty guitar-pop vibe of her previous instalments for a shadowy electro-pop one. It’s a velvety tune about the love and support your friends give you: “I can look after you but, girl, you should look after yourself ,” croons Deland.
The Marphoi Project feat. Alaskan Tapes – “Tiny Sprout”
The Marphoi Project (William Lilla) has teamed up with ambient artist Alaskan Tapes (Brady Kendall) to craft “a placid track about gardening.” “Tiny Sprout” moves purposely with the softs plucks of an acoustic guitar and douses you with a calm haze that quells your busy mind and also encourages you to stay in the moment.
Elk Noises – one not two
Elk Noises’ – Jared Winberg & Rachel Kingstone – one not two offers us just a morsel of what the Toronto duo are about. On the first of the two improvised piano tracks, “One Not Two,” Winberg coasts from major to minor chords as if one moment the sun is out and the next a cloud has covered it from sight. A snicker and shuffle is heard (Kingstone) and “b not a” comes in. With a few additional background noises, this track is a continuation of Winberg’s movements which builds to some harsher chord striking. These Elk Noises are curious indeed.
Alex Mason – “Salt and the Sea”
“I wrote these songs in the wake of losing my father and thus far they’re more personal that anything I’ve written to date, which resulted in recording them as live and raw as possible,” Alex Mason tells us about his new EP Salt and the Sea. On the EP’s title track, this emotional rawness fills up the otherwise sparse track. Vocally, Mason sounds like he’s ripping out his emotions for poignant results.
ouri – “Escape”
Montreal-based electronic artist Ouri is getting set to release her EP We Share Our Blood at the end of the month – a release we are pumped for – but for now, dive headfirst into “Escape.” It’s an intricate and broody tune that’s dipped in the “blue haze” that Ouri is desperately trying to shrug off.
Giselle Parker – “Summerlove”
Giselle Parker’s “Summerlove” is a quirky pop track about falling in puppy-love with somebody over summer vacation. This charming song recounts the summer of 1998 and all the hand touching, thrift store shopping, and movie going fun that came before school had to (unfortunately) start. This song will likely take you on a trip down memory lane.
The anxiety in the air is palpable – ’tis the season to go back to school! Usually one of the earliest assignments was to write about what you did in the summer: “I went to camp,” “I didn’t leave the house,” “I worked as a lifeguard and realized that I never want children.”
If the Halifax band Esme & The Dishrags were given this assignment, they would simply need to hand in their One Big Demo. The trio (Amery Sandford, Jonny May, and Heather Grant) existed for 3 weeks this summer and crafted these 5 original lo-fi pop songs and a cover of Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up The Sun” for obvious reasons (that song is a jam).
The EP’s pop is a combo of punk and doo-wop. Opener “Agave” is a scrappy pop-punk ode to the resilient agave plant in Halifax which bloomed this summer – a rare sight since agave plants only flower once in their 25 year lifecycle. “Bloody Knuckles” is also, appropriately, a scrappy tune with a wobbly guitar line to match the unsteady legs of the victim of the person who has bloody knuckles.
“Esme and Dishrag” is another sweet ode but this time to two cats – you can even hear them meowing at the end of the track. It begins with a slow and tender pace but then the cats run off to play and the tempo speeds up to a playful trot all while the band proclaim their love for their band’s namesake cats.
“Unhelpful Angel” starts off with an exchange between Oz and Willow from Buffy The Vampire Slayer because duh, it’s a song about Angel from Buffy. I’m also very happy to say that in my review of The Garrys’ 2017 release Surf Manitou – another warped doo-wop record – I talked about Buffy. Perhaps a new genre classification could come out of this called something like “post-buffy.” As “Unhelpful Angel” progresses, the trio get riled up and roll their eyes at Angel’s (and all those who act similarly) moodiness and mysteriousness that is just downright annoying and unhelpful.
Like summer break, Esme and the Dishrags may be over (for now) but their demo will resonate even when the days turn cold.