Arts

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UZU

Yamantaka//Sonic Titan | Paper Bag Records

Following up on their Polaris Music Prize shortlisted debut album YT//ST, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan return with their highly anticipated sophomore effort UZU.

UZU is better described as an event rather than an album and it’s almost impossible to stop listening once it starts playing.  The songs bleed together like a cohesive storyline rather than a collection of songs. The sounds on UZU include psych-rock, operatic vocals, hazy atmospheric backdrops, tribal percussion, and heavy riffage. Match these elements with a killer live show and it’s easy to see how this band is marking new territory in the Canadian alternative music landscape.

Look for this album to not only return to the Polaris shortlist in 2014, but to also top many best-of lists by year’s end.  Having released a couple tracks before the official album drop—“One” and “Wildflower”—this Montreal and Toronto-based group has been getting plenty of air time on the University of Ottawa radio station CHUO 89.1 FM and campus stations across the country. Catch them live at Babylon on Nov. 7.

—Kevin Gascoigne

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Skydiggers

She Comes Into the Room | Latent Recordings

Truth be told, I have a pretty big soft spot for Skydiggers. The group is celebrating 25 years in the business and I am old enough to remember the start of their career. “I Will Give You Everything” from their debut self-titled album in 1990 still remains as powerful now as it did back then.

So how do you celebrate a milestone like 25 years?  How about releasing four quality albums in 2013, one for each season.  With She Comes Into the Room, Toronto’s Skydiggers have teamed up with eight female vocalists to re-imagine various songs from their back catalogue. Included on this album are Jessy Bell Smith, Angela Desveaux, Damhnait Doyle, Ivy Mairi, Alejandra Ribera, Oh Susanna, Saidah Baba Talibah, and Margo Timmins.

This album doesn’t reinvent the wheel of roots music, but it does provide a solid blend of songs that sounds fresh and relevant. Along with the new vocalists, the instrumentation is different from the originals, while “Weak Little Heart” is a previously unreleased track.  Personal favourites include “This New Country” featuring Desveaux and “Feel You Closer” featuring Mairi.

Look for the fourth and final instalment of Skydiggers’ silver anniversary albums, Good King, to come out by the end of 2013.

—Kevin Gascoigne

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PUP

PUP | Royal Mountain Records

Hot damn!  This fall has seen another wave of tremendous rock-pop and punk-noise bands coming forth and crushing our ears with ferocity.  Toronto’s The Flatliners, Montreal’s Solids, and Hamilton’s TV Freaks have all released stellar albums to help form this wave.  Now we can throw this Toronto four-piece into the mix.

This self-titled effort is PUP’s first full release and it has been gathering steam for a while now.  Two singles, “Reservoir” and “Lionheart,” were released in late summer and Stereogum highlighted PUP as a band to watch as August drew to a close.  A month before officially releasing the album, the band put out an explosive video for “Reservoir” that captures both the lyrics’ darker undertones and their dynamic musicality to a tee.  Other favourites on the album include “Mabu” with its edgy rhythm, sing-a-long “Dark Days,” and the anthem “Backs Against the Wall.”

The album has an organic feel to it as the majority was recorded live off the floor.  Lead singer Stefan Babcock has gone on the record saying he is happy with how the album sounds like a live show—imperfections and all.  As a listener, it is refreshing to hear a raw and natural sounding rock album.

—Kevin Gascoigne