Northern neighbors

Ontario musicians worth listening to  
By IAN SANDS  |  November 28, 2006


Jonas Bonnetta
Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, is full of promising, undiscovered acts. This month, three notable discs dropped from our neighbors to the north, two of which are self-released. The fourth, by the D’Urbervilles, was released earlier this year, also without the help of a label.

Jonas Bonnetta, “French Toast” (MP3)
Matthew of I Heart Music recently went apeshit over this Peterborough singer-songwriter’s new Farewell to Harmony, spouting ludicrous lines like “This is the perfect album for anyone who wishes . . . Nick Drake was a little less precious . . . for anyone who wishes that Jeff Buckley hadn’t always tried to show off his vocal abilities.” This track is a perfectly pleasant acoustic number, gently strummed and chock full of nuggets like “We ate French toast for breakfast for 17 days in a row/She could use cinnamon so sparingly and make her specialty teas to go.” It’s just not quite the musical second coming St. Matthew would have you believe.

Sarah Hallman,“Shovel” (MP3)
Hallman’s a big deal up in Ottawa these days, having appeared on at least two on-line lists dedicated to that city’s best and brightest. And when it came time to record her latest album for Busted Flat, a number of respected resident musicians came out to help including Arcade Fire drummer Jeremy Gara. On this track, it’s easy to see what all the fuss is about: she has a gorgeous voice, and she’s not content to waste it singing crappy piano ballads. Toward the end of “Shovel,” she lets her hair down, skittering her vocals over the line “Just because it isn’t here doesn’t mean it’s not there” because, well, she can.

Jetplanes of Abraham, “Not Tonight” 
Only recently assembled, Jetplanes of Abraham are already being touted as Ottawa’s answer to Toronto’s Broken Social Scene. And “Not Tonight” has the makings of a big fat indie-rock hit, with its insistent please-dance-to-me backbeat, an anthemic chorus you can hoist your drink to, and punchy horns. I actually laughed the first time I heard the punch line to the chorus (“Tomorrow you’ll be famous . . . the ladies they’ll be screaming your name”). Hate to ruin the surprise . . . let’s just say that the star in question isn’t quite as suave as he thinks he is.

The D’Urbervilles, “We’re Blowing Up” (WMA)
With a chorus as killer as “Oh my dear valued one/Can we drink from your success/In hopes that we become/Images of your excess,” this deserves to be blowing up somewhere. Singer John O’Regan doesn’t have variety-show pipes of Jetplanes’ Rick Devereux. But add a great groove to those lyrics and, well, that’s gotta count for something.

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