Pop is something Canada does really, really well. Maybe it seems like I’m reaching for another pop post, but I’m actually not.
During my teenagerdom, my sleeves were tagged with the scrawlings of east coast powerpop bands. These groups were my version of social salvation in those typical disjointed times. Where music acts as a good guidance counsellor you actually like. It was simple music, but it’s this type of music that commonly makes one understand its power and communitizing qualities. From grades 9-12, I was socially in limbo – not fully down with the super cool A-list basketball players, but also too cool for other “lesser” cliques. So I ended up where many other social intermediaries settled – Student Council. Later in high school I found people that loved this music as much as I did, even though it was in an ironic way. So we started a shitty band. And I belooonged ! I found that place to be exclusive and superior and cool. It felt right and it still does.
My older brother had a large impact on me in high school period, and an even greater impact on what I listened to. He was high school A-list, and I still felt like it was important to climb the list ladder. So I listened.
It primarily came down to THE Halifax Pop Explosion of the 90s, the clear flagwavers of the movement being Sloan. I still think they were truly great.
Sloan – Take The Bench
Sloan didn’t care about how close the Beatles were to their respective chests – it was undeniable, very witty, thought out, fun pop music. Then the “second tier” of bands followed in the promenade, and it was my chance to really impress people with slightly obscure band names. I was 17 and I felt like a young Cameron Crowe. Thrush Hermit, Local Rabbits, Super Friendz, Flashing Lights, Eric’s Trip, and The Inbreds. Really bands like Sloan and Thrush came down to revived Beatles and The Who, where Eric’s Trip and Local Rabbits followed a modern influence of American 90s indie like Pavement and Sonic Youth. Growing up on the Beatles, I already leaned towards certain sounds, but I was thirsty for it all. More importantly, after thinking Pearl Jam was the be all throughout my earlier days, I was encouraged that great pop rock music could be more feminine than grunge, and that’s even without the out-of-control Chris Cornell hair.
And now we jump to the 00s. Luckily, we still have great reasons to celebrate straightforward pop music from the east coast. They destroy the rest of Canada in this department right now, so I present Exhibits A thru infinity.
Mardeen – Kids
Mardeen – Pretty Smart
I still don’t know why this band isn’t at least a national household name. Their debut record Read Less Minds is just unabashed fun. Every song is a winner, I’ve said this many times. Unassuming, fun energy, and brings back the wit and the subtle swagger of east coast rock. The pre-chorus starting at (0:56) of “Kids” is exactly what people should want in a pre-chorus – drenched in hook but with the knowledge that something epic may just punt your whole body after the turn.
Two Hours Traffic – Nighthawks
This is what irks me – no disrespect to Two Hours Traffic, but they don’t deserve what they got. If Mardeen was given their chances, boy oh boy. This is their only song that I’ve really enjoyed, and even then I really only want to stick around for the first verse and the first chorus. The first line is perfect, too.
In Flight Safety – I Could Love You More
I’ve had a soft spot for In Flight for many years. Their first record was one of those records that I wish I wrote. I was simultaneously jealous and enamoured. A great mix of Sigur Ros atmospherics with homey lyrics and folk aesthetics. Singer John Mullane feels like a kindred spirit, and from the handful of times we’ve chatted, I think I’m right. Compassionate, aware, and good dollops of romanticism. It’s also a bit crazy that as their influences have changed, mine have changed in the exact same way. From an obsession with reverb ala Sigur Ros to a slightly embarrassing fondness for cheesy Britpop to a more controlled love of darkish, sentimental, well-revealed rock like The National. This band does not fit into the aloof and apathetic hipster cool mold, and that’s why I like them. It always comes back to the cheese, man. They’ve had blips of popularity, but they still are quietly creating beautiful pop music.
Wintersleep – Migration
Wintersleep brings in grungier, folkier, and darker elements to Halifax pop/rock. They remain as one of my favourite Canadian bands.