Operators featuring Meredith Graves.
Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew.
Calgary creative singer-songwriter. Chad VanGaalen.
Halifax new/old wave rockers Nap Eyes.
Montreal’s psychedelic indie rockers Besnard Lakes.
Wayne Petti of Cuff the Duke.
The list reads like the lineup for WayHome Music Festival in Barrie or the world-renowned Osheaga in Montreal. Instead, the aforementioned names represent half of the artists on Calgary-based Treeline Recordings‘ inaugural record release, Taking It To Heart, Volume One. How the label’s founder Ryan Montemurro chose this impressive list of Canadian artists is unknown. Convincing them to provide material for his compilation, however, likely was the easy part since 100% of net proceeds from the sale of the album will be donated to the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada.
The compilation features new, previously unreleased, and some re-worked songs. While some may shrug at the idea of hearing music that was set aside, Taking It To Heart isn’t your ordinary compilation. Like the cause, it was done with great care and thought by Montemurro and the participating artists, and, consequently, the album is filled with gems not to mention hidden gems.
Two of the songs on the LP have been reworked, beginning with Operators‘ scintillating tune, “Shape of Things to Come”, which features Meredith Graves of Perfect Pussy. The song still has its vibrant synth work, but it is given an edgier makeover. The Trapper Remix of Calgary-based Woodpigeon‘s “Devastating” is awesome and arguably the best track on the compilation. The stark percussion and guitar work are haunting while Mark Hamilton’s vocals are beautifully creepy.Several artists shared previously-released material, although most were in the form of singles or b-sides.
We Are Wolves, whose new album drops Friday, shared “Feed Them”, which is surprisingly melodic, yet retains the Montreal post-punk band’s gritty and dark foundation. Broken Social Scene‘s Kevin Drew offered the delicate instrumental “Alberta”, which does sound like the grand expanses of the prairie province. Wayne Petti provided “Knife Fight Night Life“, a song he recorded a few years ago but has been heard by very few until now. The song demonstrates a different side of the Cuff the Duke frontman, who dials down the volume and offers a warm alt-folk single. It is reminiscent of Tony Dekker’s solo efforts, where there is an unexpected intimacy in the song.
There are a handful of new songs on the album. “Delicious Plants” is trademark Chad VanGaalen – whimsical, oft-kilter, and full of fantasy. The only criticism is that at just over one minute it is way too short. This could be, however, the basis of a new track. Halifax upstarts Nap Eyes, who earlier this year released their excellent debut LP, Thought Rock Fish Scale, strip things way back and offer a ’70s, Velvet Underground-esque single with “The Rooks”.
The rest of the compilation is dedicated to smaller acts trying to make their mark on the Canadian music scene. Calgary-based producer Melted Mirror offers an ’80s gloomy, new wave with “Hungry Shades”, which is outstanding. Twee-punk duo Pre Nup‘s “Mickey Mouse Stuff” offers the compilation some much-needed change of pace with a fuzzy, fun single that offers a critique about the silly things people worry about. Winnipeg’s Duotang provide another, more uptempo with their emo-mixed-art-rock number, “Reactionaries”. This song is a blast, as one could simultaneously jump around and do a jig.
The biggest surprise on the album may be indie-folk band SAVK. Their single, “Racing Slicks”, echoes The Great Lake Swimmers – a quiet ballad with beautiful arrangements and an engaging storyline. Noah’s Arkweld, the project of hHead co-founder Noah Mintz, is another great (re-)discovery. “Save Me From Myself” is pretty awesome. This folk-rocker has a Neil Young vibe, particularly in the honest, no-nonsense lyrics.
The compilation comes to an end with none other than The Besnard Lakes, the awfully underappreciated psych-rock band from Montreal. Their new album, A Coliseum Complex Museum, was a majestic, spatial affair. They shared, however, a life rendition of a song from their terrific 2013 LP, Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO. “46 Satires” is an ideal introduction to people who have yet to be exposed to the quintet. The song is lush and breathtaking. It is full of fantasy, but also a brilliant piece of cinema that lets you escape momentarily while offering hope for the impossible. The track, as such, is the perfect finale to this meaningful compilation supporting one of the most important causes.
A second compilation is already in the works. We are already starting a list of artists who we think will be on it.
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