The fifteenth edition of POP Montreal has some pretty solid headlining acts. There’s the cool swagger rock of The Kills, the orchestral Colin Stetson, the talented and mesmerising singer-songwriter Angel Olsen—just to name some my favourite ones. As is my wont, and as is what POP Montreal strives to promote, I like to see what’s emerging.
21 September 2016
Told Slant + LVL UP + Eskimeaux + Bellows (Bar Le Ritz PDB, $13, 9 p.m., tickets here)
All four of these bands are on the up-and-up and they share a certain understated bedroom-pop, lo-fi sound. Furthermore, in a unique twist, the bands share members and you’ll find artists switching roles as they switch bands. Bellows will start things off with simple low key vocals, smart lyrics, and diverse but economic acoustic and electronic instrumentation. Eskimeaux sounds even more minimal and rawer, led by the summery voice of Gabrielle Smith. LVL UP then bring back a heavier 90s indie rock approach, with driving rhythm and wailing guitar lines. Along with Told Slant, they conjure up memories of early Modest Mouse and even Silver Jews. Nostalgia never dies at Pop Montreal!
22 September 2016
Zen Bamboo + Partner + Birds of Paradise + NOBRO + Bueller + Smokes (Divan Orange, $10, 9 p.m., tickets here)
Get to the Divan Orange if you want your Canadian rock dose, from Ontario to New Brunswick with solid Montreal representation included. First off, self described as a thunderous meltdown band, Smokes is not exactly a Slayer show. They know how to dial it down more than a few notches and let the melodies swirl around before the big head bang.
Bueller promises to be a fun pop punk show with chugging guitars and lines like “Everybody’s looking good at the beach”. They’re followed up by NOBRO, a band which I caught a few months ago at a show from which my ears are still recovering. This band has guitar licks to last for days and play at an unrelenting pace.
Then we have something on the out-there part of the spectrum as Birds of Paradise play a mix of rock, punk, garage, pop, and psych. Their album Fremont St. Experience features the track ‘A_hole’ that includes sax bleeps, clown horn, and scratching vinyls.
Sackville rock duo Partner’s bandcamp page is a bit sparse at the moment but their track ‘The “Ellen” Page’ is my favourite weekend discovery. It has a cheesy Guns N’ Roses type of guitar solo but beyond the first lines of “People say I talk like Ellen Page, I guess that makes sense since we come from the same place” there are a lot more witty lines to catch. Colour me intrigued.
Finally, Saint Lambert and francophone rock will be represented by Zen Bamboo. With an EP album cover that features a giraffe and T-rex, this is a band that doesn’t take itself too seriously despite its fine sound. Reminiscent of Malajube and Jean Leloup, track ‘Sur le corner’ has some excellent guitar work and is a peek inside the meditative heads of four young men as they roam around the streets of our city.
23 September 2016
Saxsyndrum + Jason Shay + Audible Doctor + Parallels + Mich Cota(Mademoiselle, $10 at door, 8 p.m.)
For a bit of a different vibe, head to Mademoiselle for a panoply of different electronic acts. Mich Cota do happy old school ambient and electronic experiments that sound like something straight out of a LaserDisc library. Similarly, Toronto’s Parallels ensure that synthpop à la Madonna never dies. Then there’s hometown kid Jason Shay and beat traveller Audible Doctor who provide the hip-hop sonics.
The night ends with saxsyndrum, another Montreal experimental duo. Helmed by David Switchenko and Nick Schofield, their EP SXD_EP is a well-executed mix of sax and percussion samples. Both ambient and dancey, the sub-bass and beats are sure to make for some wild personal interpretations.
24 September 2016
Devon Welsh + Commander Clark + Belave + Copcar Bonfire (Casa del Popolo, $10, 9 p.m., tickets here)
This pick is so easy it’s almost a copout. I would be there solely for Devon Welsh, the vocalist of now defunct Majical Cloudz. Even solo, he still manages to make his lyrics shine through the characteristic sparse use of keys and synths. Welsh also makes an appearance with Belave, his experimental side project with Matthew E. Duffy. Rounded out by Jane L. Kasowicz (bass) and Daniel Grey (guitar), the full band are more than a bit more exploratory and avant-garde than what Welsh is known for. The lyrics no longer take center stage (whispered and spat as they are), as all around him sounds resolve and dissolve like steam.
What’s intriguing are the bands coming up before Welsh. Tim Lafontaine’s Copcar Bonfire does slow-burning ambient music that makes me think of bonfires under aurora borealis. Yet, it’s glitchy enough at times to remind you that you’ve always got your phone for Instagram shots. Lastly, a folky singer-songwriter by the name Commander Clark make for an interesting musical non-sequitur. Yet, his story-telling is as intriguing as the rest of the selection.
POP Montreal runs from Sept 21-25.