The Los Angeles based indie folk band, Lord Huron made their way from above to below freezing temperatures to join the Arkells these past few weeks to perform throughout Canada for their very first time. Lord Huron are currently touring in support of their third album, Vide Noir, released on April 20, 2018. Lord Huron shot to fame after their single, “The Night We Met,” featuring the rising folk artist, Phoebe Bridgers, appeared on the season one soundtrack of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why.
The Arkells, the alt. rock Canadian favourites hailing from Hamilton, Ontario, are currently touring across Canada on their Rally Cry Tour in support of their fifth studio album of the same name. Rally Cry was released this past fall on October 19, 2018. This performance from the Arkells in Winnipeg, MB at Bell MTS Centre marks the first time the band have been to the city in two years on the tour cycle for their fourth album, Morning Report.
The Rainy Day Apparel is the brainchild of Manitoba musician, Nathan Strange. Strange’s venture into writing and performing through this musical project started all the way back in 2002. Reset is the first collection of music released by The Rainy Day Apparel and these five songs were mixed by Jordan Wiberg in British Columbia. Wiberg has previously worked with Canadian artists Jon Bryant, Sykamore, Paul Brandt, and many others.
Reset came to fruition after Strange had a year long time issue with back pain. The eventual diagnoses was a herniation near his spine that fully pinched his sciatic nerve and eventually required surgery and months of recovery. During Strange’s time searching for a diagnosis, and well after the back surgery Strange needed, he put his focus into his music. This allowed Strange to put his heart and soul into The Rainy Day Apparel project and produced the songs that eventually became Reset.
The five song effort begins with the number “Matches.” The track touches on the burden of grief that comes from leaving or running away from someone or something and knowing you can’t return. His lyrics are saturated with this message, coming through most prominently in the lines “I was only hoping to fix what’s broken / I picked a wonderful time to run / You can’t run from your demons / But you can light a fire; and they’re no match for you.”
The theme of recovery can be heard in the words of the track “Thaw Me Out;” “Good things come to those who wait / It all seems a little too late / The glaring sun shows the damage done / It’s staying for the long run / Thaw me out.” The EP’s title track, “Reset,” follows the mindset of a bad day and wanting nothing more than to wake up in the sunshine of tomorrow. This comes through in the lines, “Start again; start again / I’m hoping for just one more day / As I wish today away.” The theme of love sends sparks from the track “Why Would I?” with the lines, “I think with my heart / I can’t get you off my mind / Why in the hell would I? / Why would I?”
During my first listen of Reset, the EP’s themes and the tone of the music, particularly the track “Thaw Me Out,” took me back to a time I was just released from the hospital in the spring of 2008. After a two week stay, which resulted in numerous tests and a failed medical procedure. The songs took me back to a cold spring morning on one of the many days I was recovering. With the warm sun peaking through the cracks of the window onto my bed, along with the fragrance of morning dew mixing with the thawing soil blowing through my cracked window adjacent to my bed.
By fusing his infectious melodies, vocal harmonies, genuine song writing, and his simple melodic guitar playing throughout the record, this EP stands out in its own right. Strange’s unique blend of country twang with a mix of folk and alt. rock adds to the greatness of the five song effort.
The stand out tracks off the EP have to be “Matches,” “Thaw Me Out,” and the EP’s title track, “Reset.” Listening to Reset, will leave you wanting more. Hopefully a full length album is in the cards for The Rainy Day Apparel to solve that desire listeners are sure to be left with.
Interpersonal, Taylor Janzen’s brand spanking new 4 track effort touches on subjects close to herself, such as mental illness, emotional abuse, and religion in her immensely open, yet signature form of confessional songwriting. Her music is most notably reminiscent of the likes of Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker but I can think of a few more artists that can be added to the list. Taylor also has a singing voice described by many to be similar to Paramore vocalist Hayley Williams.
Interpersonal opens with the first of four massive emotionally driven songs, “Stations”. “Stations,” which also happens to be the efforts lead single, is about emotional abuse. The tune features a very soft, simple, but melodic electric guitar, topped off with her distressing and defenseless tone of singing.
On one of two of the efforts only acoustic tracks, “The Waiting Room”, Taylor bears out her frustration of always sitting in waiting rooms and doctor’s offices. She’s pleading that she no longer wants to be within these enclosed spaces for various reasons while she’s seeking treatment for her mental health. “The Waiting Room” features beautiful demonstration of melodies upon her staple soft, simple, melodic solo guitar stylings.
The penultimate track, “Colourblind”, is yet another powerfully written tune by Taylor Janzen. On this song, Taylor is heard singing about the struggles of growing up and the relationship and stigma from the church regarding mental health. On stage at her album release she said briefly that “Colourblind” was the song she was most scared of putting out into the world for people to hear.
The last track on Interpersonal is the second acoustic tune, “Better Now”. Taylor on this particular song is heard urging her friends, family, and whomever else, that she is now better, but in denial that she actually isn’t. Yet another painstaking look into Taylor’s mental illness, Taylor bears it all out for the listeners again, as she has on all of, Interpersonal. Additionally at the album release show, Taylor jokingly stated that “Better Now” was written while cleaning urinals at her place of work and wanted to initially title the track something to do with such, but ultimately chose not to do so.
On the evening of August 10th, the same date as the release of Interpersonal, Taylor Janzen hosted an album release show at The Handsome Daughter, which is located in Winnipeg’s West Broadway neighbourhood. This show actually marked Taylor’s first headline show in Winnipeg, so what an awesome way to celebrate such a milestone by being able to perform all of Interpersonal in its entirety. Taylor was joined by guests Olivia Lunny and Cassidy Mann. Might I add the weather this day was a scorcher. So with very minimal, if any, air conditioning at all inside the venue resulted in a sweaty, humid environment for all in attendance. Despite the warmer temperatures and humidity within the crowded room at The Handsome Daughter, the music performed by all three talented ladies during the evening made it completely bearable to get a tad sweaty and enjoy an evening of good tunes.
Cassidy Mann. Photo by Samuel Stevens Photography.
Olivia Lunny. Photo by Samuel Stevens Photography.
Taylor Janzen. Photo by Samuel Stevens Photography.
Taylor Janzen. Photo by Samuel Stevens Photography.
Taylor’s set consisted of a couple of her older tunes off her now year old EP, Fear and Faith, that was released back in June 2017, her fan favorite song, “Dennis Quaid”, which she stated on stage was intentionally meant to be on Interpersonal, but things changed, as sometimes they do. Taylor performed the entire track list of Interpersonal out-of-order, not that it really matters what order they are performed in anyways. Taylor also performed a beautiful rendition of, while offering her unique voice to “Nineteen”, the 2008 single by Tegan and Sara, off their 2007 album, The Con. Taylor jokingly said she wanted to perform “Nineteen” because both it’s a good song and that she just recently turned nineteen herself.
I unquestionably have no qualms that Taylor Janzen will shortly be riding a wave a success from the release of Interpersonal. Rather it be recording even more new more music, performing in front of larger local or non-local crowds, or even full on touring. She just recently performed her first gig out her hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba in Los Angeles, California late last month so I can only imagine she wants to get out there and perform around the globe. Please make sure to stream Interpersonal now on your preferred streaming service, or by purchasing Interpersonal on iTunes.
Soft violin gently starts this album with the soothing hum of singer Raine Hamilton over top it. Before you can fall into the melody, the violin turns to a jagged sort of snap and the story of Night Skybegins to unfurl. As the same song, “Starlight”, carries on, the acoustic folk sound offers vibes akin to wandering through a forest, the intervention of light a hopeless wish. This album takes you through the thicket of harsh and valuable lessons Raine Hamilton came to learn during the time she spent writing it as well as a close look at what is most important to her.
Just as it seems the darkness of the first track may be overwhelming, “Lift Me Up” shines through like a warmth radiating from a soul so pure it wants nothing more than to remind you how strong and brilliant you are. This song rings soft but powerful -a theme found throughout the album- as if written by Love incarnate. It offers what a mother, a lover, or anyone who truly loves you will when it seems as though your entire world has begun burning around you. For Hamilton, she wrote these inspiring words for her former self. “If I could tell myself then what I know now,” Hamilton wrote in a brief synopsis of the song on her website, “I would say: “You are beautiful, you are strong. You are so, so good.”
Other songs worth noting include “Robin Hood” and “Everyday,” the latter being a beautiful, adventurous instrumental piece. The second to last song, “Broken Plate”, has what is among the best moments of the album. It speaks of finding wholeness and sanctity of self after a relationship has fallen apart. Hamilton sings “My heart is not your harvest/ Not yours to reap and sow/ Not even if you’re taking what you think I owe/ I owe you nothing.”
As the albums ends and the music falls away, it will take a moment for you to fully step back into the present. Slowly, you’ll again become cognizant of the traffic around you, vehicular or otherwise. This album listens the way a good book reads; with conflict, resolution, and a protagonist to inspire hope and happiness throughout. Once you’ve heard Night Sky you’ll have heard Hamilton serenade with her voice, her violin, and her guitar, each dying her sleeves with the best and most honest parts of herself for all to see.
It was shortly after 6:30 on a warm August evening that I sat down with Susto front man, Justin Osborne. Leading up to the interview, I sat in the empty lobby of Winnipeg’s Park Theatre, eavesdropping on a run through of ‘Jah Werx’ being performed in soundcheck while trying to look busy, shuffling papers and writing notes. Once the song wrapped up Osborne walked through half of a set of double doors and sat down to tell me a little about his band, Susto.
Undoubtedly the biggest contributor to the gain of popularity and success Susto has seen in the last year was being granted the opportunity to tour with The Lumineers across the United States and Canada early in 2017. When Susto first learned they would be openers for the mega band, they were in Niagara Falls, Canada, enjoying the scenery before their first Canadian show in Toronto. Drummer Marshall Hudson, who had stayed in Toronto to do graphic design work, was the first to receive the news as he was the only member with cell phone reception. It was on the way back to Toronto that one of the members who had gone to the Falls turned the data on their cell phone back on and found a message saying to contact management immediately.
Asleep in the back of the tour van at the time, singer Justin Osborne was the last to hear the news. Upon first learning the band would be travelling with the Lumineers, Osborne was, to say the least, sceptical.
“They woke me up to tell me” he said with a grin, “and I was like ‘that’s bullshit. There’s no way.’”
As they drove back toward Toronto, and a stable WiFi connection, they received more details about the tour and the truth began to sink in. The shock and disbelief read clearly on his face even as he told me the story so many months later.
What shocked the members of Susto particularly about the whole scenario was they had no idea they were even in contention for the opening gig.
“It was a complete surprise to us. But apparently [The Lumineers] were diggin’ our new record before it came out” Osborne told me reminiscently.
What had happened without any of the band member’s knowledge was the booking agent for the Lumineers had acquired Susto demo tapes as a result of working in the same office as their own booking agent.
With their new album, & I’m Fine Today, being released in January of 2017 and the tour starting the following March, the timing of the tour was perfect.
“We got to be on national television before that tour and everything” Osborne told me. “Everything was a really good PR storm.”
The fallout from this storm included a record deal in Canada before the tour even began, just for being a part of it. The wheels had begun to turn for the band that had made their first record -self titled Susto, released in 2014- in a storage unit “because that’s what [they] did for fun.”
For Justin Osborne, performing and songwriting have been passions of his since he was in high school and well into adulthood thus far. Many of the songs written for Susto were penned in his mid-twenties, beginning around the age of 22. For him, songwriting is a manner of expressive creativity that can be used to channel raw emotion with poetic coherence. Some songs, including pieces off their new album, ‘Havana Vieja’ and ‘Hard Drugs’, have even helped him to mend the fragmented personal relationships that inspired their creation.
One song story Osborne shared with me comes to mind every time I’ve heard the tune since our conversation. From the album Susto, ‘Dream Girl’ acted as a rhythmic dreamcatcher for a recurring nightmare Osborne dealt with.
“I probably had it four or five times in a month. I was waking up from one dream and then I’d think I was awake. Then I’d realize it was kind of surreal. I would be held by this giant woman who had this motherly vibe. But then she would smile at me when I looked at her and she would start eating my hands. When I wrote the song, I never had the dream again.”
Osborne described how many of his other songs are expressions of him “working shit out” in his life. However, not all are based on his problems.
“Songs like ‘Jah Werx’ and ‘Waves’, those are more like mantras,” he explained. “It’s like I was getting out how I really feel and getting to sing that and yell that every night… it revitalizes the idea. The idea of approaching life in search of peace and understanding.”
For anyone who has heard the 24 songs Susto has released, there are many songs that touch on Osborne’s “very Christian” upbringing. This upbringing followed him into adulthood where, while in college, he was confronted by a roommate who asked him, “you don’t really believe this stuff, do you?” From there, Justin tumbled down a rabbit hole of questioning what he had been raised to believe. In a band he was in prior to Susto, Osborne says he can be heard questioning parts of what was then his religion. This period of his life lead him to meeting people and seeing places that no one who had raised him to follow Christianity had ever experienced before. Eventually, these new experiences and ideas culminated in what he referred to as being a moment of rejection.
Sitting at a stop light, with no one but himself, he said aloud, “Fuck you, God.”
“I would never say that now because it’s a dumb thing to say and there’s no reason to say “fuck you” to anybody who hasn’t done anything to you.”
He went on to explain how, in that moment, he realized for the first time that nothing was going to happen to him. “A lot of it was fear. I was afraid of what if I was wrong? What if I burn in Hell for all eternity? Then, eventually, I just stopped being afraid. I have close friends and family who are religious and I have a lot of respect for people’s religious beliefs. A lot more than I did in that moment at the stop light.”
From that moment, Osborne has been able to release the resentment he once felt towards anyone who taught him the religious life he had. He’s since come to terms with his upbringing, telling me “it’s not like they were ever trying to pull one over on me. They just really believe those things.”
As of now, Osborne is on tour in Europe, alone. The budget simply isn’t there yet to allow Susto to bring along the entire band. While across the ocean, he plans to “let the songs do their thing” in these solo performances with the hope of “opening up some new ears.” Upon returning home, Osborne will return to touring with his bandmates across the United States starting in Raleigh, North Carolina on September 9th. The hope for the future is to spread the word of Susto. So long as fans are willing to come out to shows, Susto will stay out on the road. Performing thought provoking rock and roll and sharing a message of spiritual exploration and personal discovery woven into hymns for the religiously ambiguous is what this band of friends knows how to do best.