Three local pieces of music to check out during quarantine
Dead Friends as we know them
Opening with a crisp, mellow-toned bass line coupled with a vintage organ scale, Shirley, the sophomore record of local alt-psych rockers Dead Friends, starts off with a tenacious bang. The opening song “Honey Darts” sounds like a more refined version of a track found on the band’s debut—full of fuzz and fury. But the second track, “Ennio’s Desert Dessert,” takes a more darkened country and western vibe, a sound that is sprinkled subtly on songs like “Campfire” and not so subtly on “Dandelion Blues,” the only acoustic track.
The gritty country vibe works for Dead Friends and offers somewhat of a TheMadcap Laughs Syd Barrett era sound. Still, the garage psych rock sounds permeate on the record with songs like “Joy.,” an angered, high-intensity beast, and “On the Mend,” with its morphine drip chorus.
Perhaps the most impressive track on Shirley is “1912,” a song that highlights the maturity and musicianship of Dead Friends in all the right ways. It’s a song that makes the listener want to desperately burst through the walls of isolation and crush a pint at the local watering hole.
Dead Friends is a band that wears its influences on its sleeve, but it never comes off as imitation. Rather it’s a form of admiration for a genre that allows the band to take some risks and discover extraordinary wonder.
It’s rather foolish to try and pigeon hole an artist like local Cassia J. Hardy, a.k.a. Wares. Known for sweat-drenched, passionate, guitar-driven shows at places like the Buckingham and slinging pints at the Empress, Wares is a name that the music scene in Edmonton has held dear since their debut with City Kids and songs like “Missed the Point” in the mid-aughts. The latest collection of songs, Survival, marks Wares signing with Mint Records and it may be the artist’s most powerful.
Experimenting with every sound in the sink, Wares presents an artistic reverence to many powerful topics in their playful, yet poignant vocals. “Tether” grabs you immediately with its convulsive instrumental that opens for Hardy’s matter-of-fact post-punk vocals. Hardy has a way of singing like they’re in the room with you, offering an intimate conversation just between each of you, but then an explosive power-pop guitar lead gracefully interrupts the moment. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it’s like honey for the ears. “Complete Control” is agitated and anxious, but leaves a glimmer of sonic hope—a song perfect for these troubling times of self-isolation.
Then comes the final and title track. It’s an important song of personal immolation and self-victory that sounds a bit like a La Dispute track, but rather than coming off as whiny and strung out, Hardy unloads some pleasing, frenetic poetry that demands a second listen.
Yes, once again Wares has dropped an album that will be talked about for quite some time.
There should be some sort of Edmonton music scene initiation that calls for a viewing of a Physical Copies show. It’s guaranteed you will leave somewhat sore, sonically-enlightened, and with a smile on your face. But until things get back to normal, these weird boys have unveiled two new singles full of danceable glory.
“High Hopes” sets the tempo with a catchy drum beat and is greeted by some droll, satirical lyrics relatable to anyone with a small computer in their pocket. The instrumentals are groovy and full of weird snappy buzzes and blips. It pairs fantastically with the song’s chorus.
Next is “Champion City,” somewhat poking fun at Edmonton’s long lost namesake, but also a eulogy for classic sports that have now been forced to go virtual. I can picture the weird boys really having fun with this one, so you should too. Buy it for a buck on bandcamp and add it to your workout or walk playlist, why dontcha?
A full album from Physical Copies is due sometime in September but until then throw these two tracks on repeat.
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