Manitoba has a storied musical history: Neil Young lived here for a while, The Guess Who cut their teeth in our bars, and The Weakerthans are synonymous with Winnipeg. But there are a lot of records from our backyard that aren’t as well known, and deserve to be.
If you can’t find these online or brand new anywhere, scour thrift store used bins and the “Just In” section at Music Trader. They’re worth the search.
The Pets – Love and War (2000)
Steinbach, maybe best known for its car dealerships, isn’t necessarily the kind of well you’d expect a sprawling psychedelic opus to spring from. But Love and War, released at the turn of the millennium, is exactly that.
Featuring members who would go on to form The Waking Eyes, and Royal Canoe, The Pets holed up for seven months recording the CD-R on their computer. The result was a massive pop epic inspired by The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and Apples In Stereo, among others. The album is seamless, moving through heavily layered soundscapes, ‘60s harmonies, and experimental sound collage.
One of the album’s standouts is the Matt Peters penned “Wind Blows Through Your Hair,” one of the sweetest love songs to come out of the province.
Transistor Sound & Lighting Co. – S/T (1998)
Transistor Sound & Lighting Co.’s self-titled album is a lo-fi gem, filled with jangly guitars, catchy choruses and pop freak-outs. It earned them a touring spot with Toronto power-pop band By Divine Right in 1998 and a minor hit with the bombastic “Anyways/Mayonnaise.”
The record fluctuates between a wide range of sounds, each tune vibrating with a totally different attitude than the last. It’s a musical grab bag, at times resembling a version of Eric’s Trip injected with a healthy dose of high-energy and hookier melodies. An affinity for strange effects keeps any of the slow songs from even getting near boring, and Jay Churko’s nasal vocals are immediate and expressive.
The shimmery background and sparse acoustic guitar on “Fake Away,” the album’s melancholy closer, eases the listener out of the frenzy of the rest of the songs.
(If you’re having trouble find it, go bother Jay at Music Trader for a copy).
Right Through – The Sun Hot (2009)
Right Through was the love child of Cole Woods (Cannon Bros.) and Jesse Hill (Slow Dancers). Rounded out by Alan and Rob Gardiner (Greg MacPherson, Departures), their only album is an emotional, guitar-heavy ride, with most songs coming in over the four-minute mark.
Influenced by ‘80s and ‘90s indie rock like Slint and Silkworm, the guitars are nuanced and sharp, but somehow find a way to seem loose and natural at the same time. Hill and Woods are both skilled and original guitarists, and the way they play off of each other is impressive. Rob Gardiner is one of the best drummers in Winnipeg right now, and his early work here shows why.
The band was finished shortly after they released The Sun Hot. Unfortunately, because three of the four members were underage for most of their live career, their reach was hindered by being unable to play in bars.
The guitar solo on the title track is truly stunning. And gloriously long.
Matt Williams is a writer and musician with a decent fantasy football team. Follow him on Twitter @WaterInHell .
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