A look at some of the #newnewbrunswickmusic we’ve been playing on repeat so far this year.
The clubs may be closed and festivals cancelled but new music continues to arrive. Among the endless live stream concerts and conversations happening on social media, several New Brunswick musicians and bands have already made 2020 a year to remember, for all the right reasons.
In hopes of keeping you up to date with #newnewbrunswickmusic (<—follow this hashtag BTW), we’ve put together a list of ten songs released so far in 2020 that have helped us stave off the doom and gloom of our COVID reality.
Many of these artists have been forced to cancel performances and tours booked in support of these releases so if you like what you hear, consider purchasing a copy of these songs or albums. #teamwork
Song: Mourning Dove
Artist: Jon McKiel
Album: Bobby Joe Hope
The opening track off Jon McKiel’s new album is the perfect setup for his latest collection of songs, Bobby Joe Hope, released last month on You’ve Changed Records. The song begins with an extended introduction, repeatedly teasing the listener as to when the lyrics will begin. It’s an interesting way to build tension without building on the melody. A four-beat phrase played sixteen times with minor variations establishes the tone for McKiel’s latest project by introducing the wealth of new sounds above the multilayered approach McKiel and his friend Jay Crocker took to create this album. Lots of surprises on this one.
Song: Apropos of Nothing
Artist: Ryan Hillier
Album: No Excuses
The lead single from Ryan Hillier’s forthcoming album is one of the finest pop/rock songs to come of the province in quite some time. It’s a perfect pairing of voice, lyrics and instrumentation masterfully arranged to suit the abilities of all players involved. Everything is in the right place. To make his latest album (releasing May 27), Hillier teamed up with The Divorcees as his backing band and producer Chris Colepaugh on the board. Apropos of Nothing is a fine introduction to this incredible team of veteran New Brunswick musicians and a big hint towards what’s to come.
Song: My Favourite Morning
Album: My Favourite Morning
The first new music for Subtle in nearly two years proved that good things do in fact come to those who wait. Simply put, Subtle play stripped down songs about heartbreak. While their songs don’t often reach a narrative climax, Subtle’s strength comes from, yes, the subtleties that happen between lyrics and music. My Favourite Morning is a perfect example of this. A slow, musical build from the band highlights the narrative tension communicated through the song’s lyrics. This orchestrated approach highlights a greater sense of composition than a quick first listen may reveal. Drew, we’re sorry your friend doesn’t want to hangout with you but also happy about it because, well, we got a great song out of it. And hey, even if things were different, it’s not like you could hangout now anyway.
Song: The Swing
Album: Vol. 1
The Swing is one of eight tracks on Vol. 1, the debut album by Nebullama. There’s a lot of variety on this record but this song is something all its own. Using an otherwise simple and time-tested melodic structure, Nebullama takes this song’s mashup of disco and 80’s broken heart balladry and gives it a new rhythmic energy by dropping one beat from the second measure of every four bar phrase. Stick a 1,2,3 where a 1,2,3,4 would naturally occur and bam, you got yourself a hook that’s as rewarding to figure out as it is to listen to. Added bonus, if none of this makes sense to you, no problem – the song still swings.
Song: Not Blessed Just Lucky
Artist: Brent Mason
Sometimes you just want to enjoy something relaxing, with little to no effort required. Brent Mason’s new album offers a lot of that kind of comfort and Not Blessed Just Lucky is a fine example. An elder statesman of Saint John music, Mason has spent a lifetime honing his craft in bars, at open mic nights, playing House concerts and eventually performing on festival stages. He’s done it all. To some, he’s a singer songwriter with a serious folk lean and to others, he’s a genre defying musician who’s not afraid of taking risks and exploring outside the box. Not Blessed Just Lucky could be our provincial anthem if such a thing existed.
Song: Broken Plate
Artist: Tooth & The Fang
Album: Songs from the Broadview Wind Tunnel
Geoff Smith is on his way to becoming a really strong lyricist. Still in his 20s, he’s already penning songs that provide an incredibly relatable interpretation of human emotion. He doesn’t appear to be chasing any specific songwriter’s sound or lyrical approach as much as he is just sharing the world as he sees it. He’s a poet and obviously a keen observer. Maybe it’s the deep sincerity in his voice or his wise-beyond-his-years ability to capture the raw emotion of a simple interaction. Whatever the case may be, if Broken Plate doesn’t stir something deep inside of you, you may already be dead.
Song: River Song (Bare Mix)
Artist: Wangled Teb
Album: Cross-Cultural Residency
When we wrote about Wangled Teb’s latest album back in March, the depth of each arrangement stood out as the most significant quality of this latest batch of recordings. As an artist, Wangled Teb’s Indigo Poirier is continuously evolving, drawing upon new influences and introducing new sounds and production techniques into each new release, furthering her importance as both a New Brunswick performer and composer. River Song (Bare Mix) blends field recordings and engaging counterpoint melodies with the controlled chaos of breakbeat percussion into a five minute journey that, like all of Poirier’s work, moves forward without ever looking back.
Song: Income Tax
Artist: P’tit Belliveau
Album: Greatest Hits Vol. 1
Song of the year? It should be. Why has it taken this long for someone to sum up the enjoy and excitement of an income tax return into a four minute earworm? Skillfully employing the primitive sounds of 80s-era pop music as a backdrop for an all too relatable narrative told in effortless chiac, Belliveau could very well be penning the folk music of a future New Brunswick.
Song: Where Do They Swim?
Artist: Papal Visit
Album: Where Do They Swim? (single)
Papal Visit reminds us of better days to come with Where Do They Swim?, their first new single for 2020. Inspired by the dreamy nostalgia a long overdue trip home can often generate as well as the idea that every community has its favourite swimming hole, Adam Mowery, Pierre Cormier and their fellow collaborators have penned a perfect summer anthem, even if we have to swim 10 feet apart from one another once the weather warms.
Song: Brand New Sound
Artist: Impulse Items
Album: Impulse Items
While there is certainly nothing ‘brand new’ about punk rock and the city of Moncton (the city has long been ground-zero for NB punk), the debut EP from Impulse Items serves to inject a serious shot of adrenaline into the province’s music community. With its switchblade speed, razor shape melody and overdriven vocals, Brand New Sound is just that. It’s nice to know we can always turn to Moncton for something fast, catchy and fun.
Cover image photo credits: L-R: Tracey Richard (Nebullama) – photo: Jacques Cormier | Jon McKiel – photo: uncredited c/o You’ve Changed Records | Geoffery Smith (Tooth & The Fang) – photo: Matt Carter