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Weekend Playlist Podcast

The Newfoundland Playlist

Posted by Amie / December 29, 2010

Jake Nicoll"Hello internet!" This is not the regular Midnight Poutine podcast. As a Christmas present to all the Poutineurs and Poutineuses out there whose ears are crying out for a podcast fix to get them through the holiday season, here's a high-fat, gravy-smothered playlist (in the style of Greg's Iceland Playlist) of some of the great music that comes out of Newfoundland, the province that I still call home at Christmas. We don't do cheese curds here, but our two provinces have a lot more in common than a mutual love of fries covered in an unidentifiable brown sauce.

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Here's your Midnight Poutine Podcast:

The Gramercy Riffs - Call Me
Pathological Lovers - Sister Cities
Mark Bragg - Plans For the Boys
All Day Driver - All Day Driver
Physical Patrick - The Groovy Cafeteria Mix, Part 1
McKudo - Mullock Street Shuffle
The Mountains and the Trees - My Favourite Sweater (Happy Holidays)
Jake Nicoll - Icebergs
Hey! Rosetta - Red Song
Idlers - Wonderwar
The Subtitles - Your Parade
Physical Patrick - Groovy Cafeteria Mix, Part 2
McKudo - Moose Call

If you thought all Newfoundland music sounded like Great Big Sea or Hey! Rosetta, think again. Love both of these groups, but there are more than a few other lesser-known musical gems hiding in the province. The Atlantis Prize long-list (the Newfoundland version of the Polaris Prize) was announced earlier this fall, and the result was a tie between the Gramercy Riffs and the Pathological Lovers, two groups very much worth checking out. The Riffs were actually playing a show in St. John's with Hey! Rosetta the same day the award was announced, so they were already well on their way to success.

The Riffs have also been on the podcast before, and they play in Montreal fairly often. The band is based partly out of Toronto and partly out of Montreal (soon to be all out of Toronto, sadly) but they're all Newfoundland natives. Their album "It's Heartbreak" is what won them the Atlantis Prize, and it's also how I feel about them all being in Toronto and not Montreal. The album even landed above Stars and Deerhunter (but below Kanye West and Broken Social Scene) in The Broken Speaker's list of the best albums of 2010. Basically, they're fun, dancy pop with dreamy vocals, and will make your Christmas better.

The Riffs shared the Atlantis Prize with the Pathological Lovers. The quartet's debut album "Calling All Favours" was bound to be successful as it was fronted by local rock star Jody Richardson (who beat out Hey! Rosetta's leading man Tim Baker for the honour). The Lovers' track "Sister Cities" shows them at their best, but to get the real experience you need to see them at the Rockhouse or the Ship in downtown St. John's.

When I'm in Montreal and I say I'm from Newfoundland, usually the first thing people ask me is do I know so-and-so, the one Newfoundlander they know. They're usually embarrassed about asking because what are the odds, right? Well, the odds are pretty good as it turns out, and if I don't know the person myself, I'll know their brother, or cousin, or best friend. The same thing goes for music in the city. I knew the lead singer of the Gramercy Riffs growing up, I know half the members of Hey! Rosetta, and the Gramercy Riffs have a new drummer, but he's shared with Mark Bragg and All Day Driver. He's also shared with Hawksley Workman. Oh, and I went to school with him too.

Mark Bragg is also the cousin of my former roommate, and McKudo is a quartet of great musicians (50% of whom are percussionists) including my former percussion teacher. McKudo was also short-listed for the Atlantis. What makes them pretty amazing, though, is that their music is improvised. They recorded the CD with the goal of spending a grand total of zero dollars, and putting 100% of that amount into promoting the album. They claim to be shocked that they're making a profit on the album as it's selling well on bandcamp. I hope they continue to live in a permanent state of shock.

Did I mention that Mckudo's bass player also plays for Hey! Rosetta? It's not that the music scene is that small, really, but the good players who've been around for awhile seem to end up working with all the others.

Getting back to Mark Bragg - He's got a bit of a creepy polka feel that kind of reminds me of Toronto's The Friendly Rich. This is a fun live show too. If there's one distinctive quality of Newfoundland bands, it seems to be fun, dance-y shows.

The Idlers have been around for awhile and have a loyal local following, so it's no surprise to see them on the Atlantis Prize short-list for their album "Keep Out". The more laid-back style of their reggae-ska is a bit of a break compared to the high energy offerings of the Riffs and Mark Bragg. If you think reggae doesn't fit into Newfoundland you need to see an Idlers show to understand.

The Mountains and the Trees - I know nobody in this band. Shocking. It all made sense when I found out they weren't from St. John's. The Corner Brook-based group (an 8-hour drive away) is mainly Jon James, but it's sometimes a one-man band, sometimes 2, sometimes 3, etc.). With the help of loop pedals and/or audience participation he puts on shows of his addictive pop tunes, and he played NXNE in Toronto this past summer with some big buzz. His first full-length "I Made this For You" just came out last summer after his Spring EP "Hop, Skip, and a Jump".

Hey! Rosetta - They're still putting out new popular albums and singles such as this one ("Red Song" - not the super fun dancy stuff you're used to at live shows, but it's pretty raw and impressive), and performing for sold-out crowds everywhere. What else to say? Rock cellists can be super cool guys, and a very long weekend in an army barracks in Stephenville (not a hip, happening part of Newfoundland...) playing volleyball would have been much less entertaining without him?

Jake Nicoll is also a member of the Hunter Gatherers, but it's for his self-recorded solo album "Wild Machines" that recent Atlantis praise is all his. Only Newfoundlanders can get away with incorporating icebergs into indie rock: "The icebergs on the sea don't know what it is to be sad. When they hit shore they don't feel it. When they go nowhere they don't mind it. Even so, you say, they won't feel love, you say. They won't write songs, you say."

The Subtitles have a ton of musical talent between the four of them. They're real pros and their sound is super accessible. They'll have audiences dancing in every province.

Newfoundland is not all rock. It's true we don't grow a lot of vegetables in the pebble-y soil, but you may not know about the local DJ scene. St. John's actually brings in some big name DJs (somehow, usually for about $20 a ticket instead of the insane prices clubs ask for in bigger cities) but there's also a lot of local talent. Physical Patrick is a prime example. He's an energy sculptor; love how he uses vocals in his mixes and he's got great timing for dropping some really heavy bass just when you need it.

This is just a sampling of what's going on in the Newfoundland music scene right now, so don't think the music ends here, the same way "Cross-Canada tours" end at Halifax...The Mountains and Trees will be passing through Montreal soon, and hopefully by sending the rest of these musicians a little love (such as thoughts of enthusiastic dancing crowds...and thoughts of poutine), we can get them to venture to our gravy-soaked belle province in the near future.

Photo of Jake Nicoll from his myspace.



Cynical Girl / January 4, 2011 at 02:20 pm
Excellent playlist. Tried to download the freebie but couldn't access it. Any suggestions? (I'll be looking for the cuts on iTunes)
Greg / January 5, 2011 at 02:26 am
I saw your songs for this in the dropbox and was looking forward to hearing it. So good. T hanks for putting it together!
Uccello / February 4, 2015 at 02:34 am
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