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City, Music

Winter Gloves: Will Debut Album Unify Montreal?

Posted by Olivier / September 8, 2008

The two solitudes are evident in Montreal’s music scene. There exists, on one pole, the largely anglophone fan base for Arcade Fire and their heir apparents in the indie rock scene, most of which are unaware of the thriving francophone Quebec music industry. On the other pole, many in the francophone majority of Montreal are unaware that the Arcade Fire even exist, let alone that they are an international sensation. But there are also many in Montreal bridging this gap, and Winter Gloves belongs on that list.

To be fair, many artists have ignored the superficial barriers of language in forging musical connections in Montreal. Patrick Watson comes to mind as an example of an artist who collaborates with francophones and anglophones alike, creating a distinctly Montreal sound in the process. And Arcade Fire themselves are a band of famously mixed backgrounds, including francophone Quebecoise Régine Chassagne. But the real question is not whether francophone and anglophone artists are willing to collaborate, which they clearly are, but whether the two linguistic fanbases can merge. Can there be a linguistically-unified Montreal rock scene?

Winter Gloves may be a step in the right direction. The band consists entirely of francophone Quebecers, yet their lyrics are in English. Some may see this as a capitulation to commercial pressures requiring English lyrics for international market appeal, but after seeing them perform at their CD Launch party at Club Lambi, the language of the vocals seemed a fitting musical choice.

Choosing to sing in French or English is not so different than choosing between two instruments, or two different keys: it does not have to be a commercial or political decision, but rather can be a musical one. A singer’s voice sounds different in English than in French, and each can be used to fit a different musical style.

In this case, Winter Gloves has made the right choice- their brand of upbeat indie rock is augmented by wailing vocals reminiscent of a poor man’s Coldplay or Patrick Watson. Their debut album, “About A Girl”, out Sept. 9th, is an enjoyable if not unremarkable listen, though their live show is considerably better. After a national tour, they’ll be playing La Tulipe for Pop Montreal on Oct. 1st. Pop Montreal itself has always been at the forefront of unifying Montreal’s two solitudes, and as such is a fitting venue for Winter Glove’s hopefully representative approach to music in Montreal. If Winter Gloves and bands like it can transcend linguistic barriers, and anglophone musicians can return the favour for francophone listeners, imagine what kind of beautiful music Montreal could produce.

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Pierre Phaneuf / September 8, 2008 at 10:25 am
Odd, I didn't notice this separation for Arcade Fire, having bought their second album at a Virgin store in Toulouse, France, for example (and I was a francophone in Montreal for their first one).

But in any case, I'm looking forward to checking out Winter Gloves, as I tend to enjoy artists what that line, where I can't help but think "Montreal" when I hear them. Jean Leloup/Leclerc comes to mind as another one of those, albeit from the francophone side.
Jer / September 8, 2008 at 12:12 pm
Yeah. I wonder how separate the two sides of the fence are. There are a ton of acts now with franco and anglo members. There are french bands singing in english and english bands singing in french. Then there's a whole whack of experimental and instrumental post-rock which is neither french nor english. Still, this is how the montreal's music gets described by the press, critics etc.

You ask whether there can be a linguistically unified montreal music scene. Because of how much we (here I mean the press, critics and other people who talk about the idea of scene) rely on the differences we set up between franco and anglo, I don't know if it's possible. In fact, that tension is so much a part of how we describe music in MTL, I'm not sure we'd even want that.
G / September 8, 2008 at 05:22 pm
I don't get it...

Should all Francos & Anglos thereby also love the same music? You're starting to sound like some kind of cultural dic(k)tator.

I find it more curious, however, that Francophones from Quebec would sing English from a financial perspective, as I believe that it would substantially decrease their likelihood of attaining a music action grant. Perhaps they've conducted a sophisticated cost/benefit analysis that proved that a band of their genre is more likely to make more money by singing in English (because of the bigger Anglo market) than they would in French (smaller Franco market + music action grant).

Or maybe the band isn't trying to be explicitly nor consciously political or economic and they are just attempting to express themselves as artists. What a novel idea.
Sara / September 9, 2008 at 09:54 am
Can it also unifie 450 and 514 ?
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