Brendan Canning

Brendan Canning

Draper Street is arguably the most out-of-place, out-of-time roadway in Toronto. Located deep in the city's downtown core, a stone's throw—or more like a javelin toss—away from the shore of Lake Ontario, it's a one-block street of preserved Victorian-era row-houses that's managed to maintain its intimate, classy character despite the relentless assault of modernity surrounding it.

It's the street that Brendan Canning has called home for 20 years, first as a couch-surfer, then as a long-time tenant, and now as a homeowner. In that time, circumstances have changed dramatically for both the street and its most visible resident. Where it was once tucked between grim industrial warehouses (that doubled as after-hours boozecans where Brendan regularly spun records), today Draper is encircled by countless condo towers, studio-loft office conversions, ad agencies, and the sort of hip restaurants packed with Instagramming diners taking snaps of their grilled-octopus entrees. And where Brendan first arrived on Draper as the bass player for '90s post-grunge hopefuls hHead, his career has since blossomed dramatically— while he established himself as both a ringer for myriad Toronto alt-rock outfits and an in-demand soul/funk/house DJ, he became best known for co-founding Toronto all-star indie-rock collective Broken Social Scene in 2001.

If BSS was famously born in partner Kevin Drew's basement, Draper Street is where the band, its friends, and family congregated after the work was done, with Brendan often setting up his decks in the living room to soundtrack after-hours kitchen parties that spilled out into the backyard and onto the street. (The front-cover sketch of Brendan's 2008 solo album, Something For All of Us, commemorates the 'hood's all-welcoming, community vibe; its producers—Ryan Kondrat and John la Manga—are actually his next door neighbours.) But as Broken Social Scene's international touring commitments increased exponentially—and as the band's notoriously unstable nature prompted all manner of break-up rumours and last-show-ever announcements—Draper Street came to represent less of an all-night party haunt (or a place for touring-musician peers to crash) and more of a quiet refuge for Brendan, a place of calm amid the ever-swirling BSS storm.

Friends who turn up at Draper Street will often find Brendan lazing on the sofa, most likely barefoot, picking out melodies on an acoustic guitar or letting his fingers guide him into free-form reveries on the piano. For his new solo album, Brendan puts you right there in the living room with him, inviting you to zone out on the floor in a blissful half-conscious state, and forget about the time of day and where you need to be. The album's title doubles as a mission statement: You Gots 2 Chill. It's a directive that's easy to dismiss as hippie-jive hokum… that is, until you realize you've rushed off to work without eating breakfast again, you forgot to call mom on her birthday, and your most meaningful personal relationship is with your smartphone.

Now, of course, the thought of a barefoot, messy-haired, sometimes bearded musician strumming away on an acoustic guitar can conjure all sorts of images, most them involving incense and patchouli. But, rest assured, You Gots 2 Chill is not some hacky-sackin' soundtrack. Despite its deliberately hushed tones, this music is, in its own unassuming way, just as psychedelic, richly textured, and far-reaching as Broken Social Scene's most out-there epics. The opening instrumental fanfare, "Post Fahey," is but the first indication of its exploratory intent, with a titular and stylistic nod to the improvised acoustic-guitar odysseys of freak-folk pioneer John Fahey. From there, You Gots 2 Chill forges a balance of softly whispered melodies and heady atmosphere that belongs to a storied lineage of understated experimentalism, from the foggy pastorales of Nick Drake (see: the river-wading drift of "Never Go to the Races") and misty-mountain rusticity of Led Zeppelin III (as heard in the Page-turning string bends of "Plugged In") to the modernist soft-rock of The Sea and Cake (check the bossa nova'ed beauty "However Long") and the hallucinogenic folk phantasmagoria of Animal Collective's Sung Tongs (conjured in the hypnotic pulse of "Makes You Motor").

Though it's technically the second release to bear Brendan's name on the cover, You Gots 2 Chill feels more like a true solo effort than the stylistically varied, guest-list-stacked Something For All of Us. Not only was it recorded without the assistance of Broken Social Scene (or its umbrella organization, Arts & Crafts), You Gots 2 Chill bears Brendan's literal fingerprints: he drew the cover art himself, and has launched his own independent label—named, natch, Draper Street Records—to release it (in partnership with L.A.-based music company SQE). And it doesn't get much more DIY than recording tracks onto your voicemail: The comforting, dust-covered interludes "Long Live Land Lines" and "Once a Lighthouse" will make you glad he pressed 9 to save those messages—for one, the latter track serves as the foundation for the splendorous album standout "Lighthouse Returns." However, Brendan's autonomous approach here still allows some room for collaboration—heeding the album title's advice, he takes a break from lead vocal duties on the mid-album reprieve "Bullied Days" and cedes the mic to guest Daniela Gesundheit of Snowblink.

Even with Broken Social Scene on indefinite hiatus, it's been an especially busy year for Brendan Canning: he recently revived his long-dormant, pre-BSS indie-pop project Cookie Duster; he composed the soundtrack to Paul Schrader's upcoming Lindsay Lohan spectacle, The Canyons (written by Bret Easton Ellis); and he's currently working on an ambitious interactive video-game/film project based on a premise that involves director David Cronenberg selling his intellectural property to a biotech lab. So, in light of all this activity, You Gots 2 Chill is as much of a soul-soothing siesta for Brendan as it is for you, providing the clearest, most personal portrait to date of an artist who's spent much of his two-decade career making other people sound better. Back in the '60s, some acoustic-guitar slinging boho from Minnesota extolled the virtues of bringing it all back home—with You Gots 2 Chill, Brendan Canning updates that maxim to 21st-century standards, by offering outsiders with a glimpse of the quiet life on Draper Street that you just can't get from Google Street View.

Holly Miranda

On a trip intended to jumpstart the creative process for new material, Holly Miranda reflects, “I had a dream that I was going to rent a house in Joshua Tree and go write by myself for a month. I’d never been there before, but I woke up the next day and booked the first house I found and left a few days later. It was about getting away from the chatter of Los Angeles and reconnecting with myself and nature. I had a bit of writer’s block after the last record, I wasn’t having fun anymore and I really needed to get back the core of why I started making music 17 years ago.” she says.

Whatever it was Miranda needed from her time in desert, she seems to have found it. On her self-titled sophomore release Miranda nods at her singer-songwriter roots but also pushes herself in new directions. She co-produced the album with Florent Barbier, and tracks like “Desert Call” and “Everlasting,” show off straightforward songwriting, soulful delivery and a lighters-in-the-air orchestration that places Miranda alongside the pantheon of songwriters who can make heartache sound beautiful. After half of her life spent on stage or in a recording studio—with her former rock band The Jealous Girlfriends and more recently as a solo artist— Miranda is still experimenting and diving for deeper truths.

“This is the most honest thing I’ve ever made; it’s very raw and is a contrast to what I’ve done in the past,” she says. After writing in Joshua Tree, she headed to Brooklyn, New York in the winter of 2012 to record most of the album, enlisting the help of bandmates Timmy Mislock, Maria Eisen and David Jack Daniels, while taking turns herself on piano, drums, guitar and bass. “There’s a Motown vibe to some of the songs” she notes of the recordings. “I wanted it to feel like the band was playing the songs live. There’s also a few that are more electronic and ethereal,” like the song “Come On.” She recorded that track in Los Angeles with David Andrew Sitek, producer of her 2010 release The Magicians Private Library.

Outside of recording, Miranda’s kept plenty busy. She recently toured the globe playing guitar for Karen O in support of her solo debut Crush Songs, she toured Spain for the annual Voces Femininas festival and is currently working on a graphic novel with Portland based artist Catherine Lazar Odell.

“I can’t remember a time I wasn’t singing. When I was little my older sisters used to make me lay on the floorboard of the car if I was going to sing, because my voice was so loud they said it felt like it was ‘inside of their heads.’ I’ll never stop making music. It’s the best therapy I’ve found.”

Listening to her new record, one certainly hopes she never stops.

Dinosaur Bones

Late last year Toronto's critically acclaimed indie-rock band, Dinosaur Bones decamped to Texas to work on their second full-length album, Shaky Dream which will be released on August 6, 2013 via Dine Alone Records. Teaming up with the production lead of John Congelton (St. Vincent, The Walkmen, Explosions In The Sky) the band found themselves immersed in a study of sound; in some cases, challenging and peeling back layers of their songs and taking them in directions they hadn't contemplated before. The quintet was moved, literally and figuratively from their comfort zone and the resulting 10 new tracks are thematically steeped in self-reflection, yearning for honest communication and filled with a blend of dark pop, bombastic hooks, and flourishing rhythmic drone.



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