28 July 2010

12 Canadian Bands - #12 Gentleman Reg

Now that I’m living in Canada, I feel an obligation to help get the word out to readers in other countries (particularly that large music-buying population just south of here) about the fine music of  the Great White North. Mostly this is motivated by the simple fact that there are some really cool bands up here most readers have never heard of, but in part its due to Canada’s perpetual “USA’s kid brother” status. We’re the perpetual bridesmaid on the world stage, which really isn’t that bad a place to be all things considered, but always leaves us wanting a bit more attention.

That we felt like the underdogs even when we were hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics Hockey competition should tell you everything you need to know about what an overachiever complex we’ve developed. We were genuinely surprised when we actually won. Which, to any non-Canadian, is amusing.

Yes, it says “Best of 2009” up there. Yes, I’m well aware that it’s late July 2010. Some months ago I started to feel overwhelmed by the task I’d set upon myself, to listen fairly and digest as much of the good music out there as possible and duly report it. What you can’t see (yet) is how much effort was put in before I drowned in it. Beside me are piles of notes on over 100 artists and albums that have made it to the “worth mentioning” phase, and I’m still discovering stuff I wasn’t aware of.

Gathering it all together, ranking and rating and writing about it all was biting off more than I could chew, I realised. Must ... break it down ... into ... manageable ... chunks, I gasped like William Shatner reading a management manual. It was that or be absolutely paralyzed by sensory overload and do nothing till two weeks before I have to start work on the best of 2010.

So here’s where we’ll start, since it’s my year-end review and I get to pick: we’ll do profiles and samples of a dozen Canadian bands I found worthwhile enough that I didn’t want them not to get mentioned, but hard to actually rank into “the best, the next best” and so on. At this stage, I’ll be happy if you just spend a few minutes checking them out on iTunes. So it’s not even in a precise order, though I will be going roughly from good to great.

After that, we’ll start doing roundups of bands and artists grouped however I like (like my previous posts on Best Live Album and Best Sampler).

We begin with Gentleman Reg, aka Reg Vermue. He’s an odd-looking bird, blond to the point of albino, with a girly voice ill-befitting a man with a louder beard than larnyx. As for the sound, picture Elliot Smith and Moby trying to record studious folk-indie in a suitably lo-fi apartment, but the building is full of seniors and, being Canadian, they don’t want to sing too loud or rock very hard lest they disturb anyone.

Still, it’s gentle indie-pop that sometimes flies over, but never lands on, the states of 70s mellow-rock like that James Taylor dreck or that awful band America. With his soft and high-pitched pipes you might (and should) worry that his 2009 album Jet Black won’t end well, but his hooks (crafted under the tutelage of his long spell with The Hidden Cameras) always manage to save the day and rescue the record from being a Seals and Crofts sort of affair, though it’s pretty clear this kid listened to lots of 70s AM radio.

Here’s a song from the album for you to check out; the album is a bit more varied but never really rises into actual rock. A decent album for rainy days and breakups.

“We’re in a Thunderstorm” by Gentleman Reg

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