Apollo Ghosts have been kicking around Vancouver’s independent music scene for ages, with standout record after standout record, but never quite managing to break through to the next level. Landmark continues both these trends, serving up 15 criminally underappreciated tracks of catchy, jangly, indie guitar rock.
Jumping from straight-ahead rock numbers “I’m In Love With The USA” and “Guitar Brother” to weird, experimental freakouts like “Days of Glory,” the album feels real and raw, with just enough polish to let each track’s strengths shine though without feeling plastic or overproduced.
By the time its 38-minute runtime is up, you’ll be ready to flip the record back over and start all over again.[hr]
After winning 2008’s Shindig competition, East Vancouver’s Hermetic were somewhat silent for the next four years, playing shows relentlessly but not releasing any new music. That changed this year, as the baritone guitar and drums duo of Eric Axen and Bart Newman released the Survival EP, Goodness Greatness/Murder Ballad single and LP, Civilized City.
Every track on Civilized City fits seamlessly together with angular guitar riffs meshing with syncopated beats and Axen’s vocals complementing thoughtful lyrics that touch on everything from young love to cold war politics. Occasional splashes of harmonica, synthesizer and strings add just enough diversity to the duo’s sound to keep the Civilized City engaging for its duration. The album itself is also perfectly sequenced, with each track flowing smoothly into the next, making it all but impossible not to listen to the whole thing all at once.[hr]
Attack on Memory comes from a very dark place. It’s clear that Cloud Nothings’ chief songwriter and front man Dylan Baldi was dealing with a particularly rough breakup: the album begins with the refrain, “Give up, come to, no hope, we’re through,” and doesn’t get much more cheerful from there on.
Some of the most powerful music comes from attempts to cope with loss, though, and Attack on Memory is an excellent example of this; even the album title is somewhat prophetic of Baldi’s intentions.
Blending pop-punk, grunge and mid-90s college rock, Cloud Nothings tackle the emotional minefield of heartbreak and recovery, subject matter that is immensely relatable to anyone who has loved and lost—and who among us hasn’t?[hr]
Following the tour for 2002 album Yanqui U.X.O, politically-charged, post-rock collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor announced a hiatus while their contemporaries pushed the genre further into the mainstream consciousness. The band decided to reform and begin touring again in 2010, picking up where they left off with a new record, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! late this year.
The album is full of the slow, measured build-ups and powerful, shattering climaxes the band is known for, balancing tranquility, panic, exaltation and despair to create deep, profound emotional connections through instrumental music.
Like the best of Godspeed’s catalogue, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is best described as apocalyptic, moving from tension to chaos and back into a kind a desolate serenity—maybe the Mayans were simply predicting the long-awaited return of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.[hr]
Japandroids exploded onto the international indie music scene with 2009’s Post-Nothing, but this year’s Celebration Rock shot the duo into another stratosphere altogether. Packed with catchy guitar riffs and sing-along choruses from start to finish, Celebration Rock stands as a testament to the band’s evolution as songwriters.
Where Post Nothing’s songs and lyrics were relatively simple and repetitive, Japandroids have managed to write more complex and rewarding songs and lyrics without sacrificing any of the direct emotional connection and infectious hooks that characterised their earlier work.
Documenting the fears, regrets, thrills and pleasures that inevitably accompany growing into adulthood, Celebration Rock is more than just Japandroids’ announcement that they are here to stay: it’s a declaration that despite the worst it can throw at us, life is still worth celebrating.[hr]