Take me to the Riot: The Soundtrack to Love and Revolution in the 21st Century

Categorized into a number of unlikely genres by critics: “Canadian post-rock,” the “Canadian Invasion,” “baroque pop,”……. whatever you want to call it (I call it fucking awesome), a number of bands and artists from Toronto and Montreal are putting out extraordinarily good music that’s got both the heart to feel what’s important in life and the balls to confront a failing system—a pretty potent mix if you ask me….

This all seems to have begun with the musical phenomenon known as Broken Social Scene, a 19 member musical collective out of Toronto (though not all 19 members always play with the band). I used to think BSS was a little noisy, abstract and hard to listen to, but then I saw them perform Kevin Drew’s Spirit If…. live last month in Bristol, and was blown away. It’s amazing how sometimes seeing a band live puts you suddenly on the right wavelength and their music has a new resonance after that…the chaotic moments have become rich with meaning, and these make the uncluttered melodies all the sweeter when they come. You can download three great live tracks from Austin’s KVRX sessions here.

Many members and friends of BSS have gone on to form their own bands and musical careers, including Emily Haines, frontwoman of Metric as well as Feist who has recently broken into the mainstream. Most of these bands are found on the Arts and Crafts label, which is more than just a record company, as you’ll discover if you poke around their website. Arts and Crafts is home to a plethora of great and innovative new bands such as the Constantines, Young Galaxy, The Stills, and Apostle of Hustle.

My favourite band, however (and I’m getting butterflies-in-the-stomach- tingles-up-and-down-the-spine just typing this…) is STARS, made up of Torquil Campbell, the quirky, irreverent, loveable (and definitely outspoken) co-lead singer of the band along with Amy Millan, whose voice drips with honey and seduces as it implores. Their interactions on stage and in their studio albums are without doubt some of the finest duets ever recorded. STARS includes Chris Seligman, Pat McGee, and Evan Cranley (Cranley and Millan are also part of the Broken Social Scene). Stars is not just a band that records songs- through their music they have woven a world of romance and revolt- a dynamic and inviting movement that isn’t afraid to be vulnerable (the Smiths after all are one of their biggest influences). In fact I don’t think I’ve been so in love with a band since I clutched desperately to one of Morrissey’s thrown gladiola after one of his shows in San Francisco when I was sixteen.

After a sold-out UK fall tour, Stars returns to this green and pleasant land for a second go this winter, coming to the Koko in London on January 29th and the floating Thekla nightclub in Bristol on January 30th. Also, Young Galaxy play the Thekla on Dec. 4th. You can get tickets for these shows at the Bristol Ticket Shop in Broadmead or online here. I suggest you (as they say) book early to avoid disappointment.

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