Indie-powerhouse Paper Bag Records (PBR), who just recently had their ten-year anniversary, is home to some groundbreaking bands from Canada. PS I Love You and Yamantaka // Sonic Titan are two great examples of this phenomenon in Toronto. Both formed over the last six years and each have been at conquest with Canada and beyond ever since. Though extremely contrasting in style, PSILY and YT//ST both have a certain energy about them that is fresh and results in some sort of collage in musical taste.
YT//ST was on the short list for this year’s Polaris music prize (that was awarded to Feist). But, despite only being around since 2007, they’ve garnered well-founded attention with their necessarily unique sound. Though you may either be turned on or off at first sight, you’ll eventually have a listen and be lost in their curtain of sound as it draws over your ears. Self-proclaimed as “Noh-wave’”(a reference to the Nôh theatre style of Japan), they’ve quickly become a consular of experimental music unto the Canadian and international masses. Originally from Montreal, Kato Attwood and Alaska B once played in Lesbian Fight Club, which was a Montreal-based experimental/reggae/thrash band. They borrowed some of the thematic elements from the LFC, but really tried on something even more spectacular for YT//ST – with multiple members including a light operator, a projectionist, and dancers. Listening to their self-titled debut just might make you feel like a capricious little girl with wizard powers who is feared by all the other kids at the playground, or you will just sit back and enjoy the soundtrack of their unbridled imagination. Check out “A Star Over Pureland” for a diaspora of progressive rock and native-like chants. If you have a chance to see their live show, you can be sure it’s one that you won’t forget.
Possibly named after The Beatles’ song and not the contemporary romantic film, another PBR band to check out is PS I Love You. The spry and contrasting pair of Kingston natives has something borrowed, something adorable, but mostly something to say about their feelings with as much nostalgia and angst possible. It’s like Paul Saulnier (vocals/guitar/bass pedals) and Benjamin Nelson (drums) decided to jam one day and they just happened to find a sound that was better than your average garage racket. Instead of using garage rock as an excuse, PSILY sets the stage for the unexpected. With Saulnier’s thrilling guitar riffs, they slap you in the face and you step back, holding your cheek and weeping, thinking it’s so wonderful.
In 2010, the band’s debut album, Meet Me At The Muster Station received favorable reviews from Pitchfork and Exclaim and was even long-listed for a Polaris music prize in 2011. They joined forces with Diamond Rings for their shared single, “Leftovers,” and a consequent joint tour across North America in 2011, and in 2012 they released Death Dreams with PBR.
Saulnier’s voice sounds a bit like a younger Alec Ounsworth (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah) if he spent a bit more time in the garage and less on the carousel as a kid. Other than the oddly mysterious energy they exude, PSILY somehow causes you to distinctly recall yourself as kid, rigging your first fuzz pedal…high-speed classic rock riffs were just over the horizon, except you could never pull it off–you just drooled over the bored-looking kid who could. PS I Love You is the band who hasn’t quit yet, which is why they’ll continue to be a formidable and pleasant noise from Ontario unto the world.