Written by Devon Acuña and Rebecca
We all know that not working and sitting around is something musicians are great at and so it's no surprise Edmonton's online music scene has been active as all hell since the beginning of Alberta's quarantine. However, it has also been a hard time for musicians who tend to rely on playing shows for a feeling of fulfillment in their chosen vocation - if not always the money to support themselves. Here at the Absurd Collective we have also been struggling a little bit with how to move forward in the absence of live shows, specifically how we can continue to make a contribution to our arts scene, and how we can use this opportunity to expand the mission of the collective. One way we've decided to go about this is something we've been wanting to do for a while, which is releasing more online content and writing through our website. What better style of content creation than a Buzzfeed-style listicle? Maybe a regular series of them?
So, since we can't set up shows, here's an attempt at a little community actualization and maybe a way to help out the local scene while it figures out what being a musician looks like in 2020. In no particular order, here's 16 songs and projects that have been released by Edmonton-based musicians since the quarantine started. Enjoy!
1. Dead Friends - Shirley
"Shirley is a blend of western, psych, and garage influences coming together into a simultaneously relaxing and anxiety-inducing death trip". Dead Friends has quickly become one of Edmonton's most noteworthy up-and-coming bands and the release of this new project in April solidified them as a staple in Edmonton's music scene. Definitely necessary quarantine listening when it comes to exploring Edmonton's art scene, or if you're missing the relaxing/anxiety-inducing death trip that is going to local shows. Fun fact: I'm pretty sure they played their first show as a band in my garage.
2. Pleasebenice - Skeletons
The newest track by walking good vibe and experimental hip-hop artist Pleasebenice, who produced, rapped on, mixed, and mastered the track all by their self. About the track, Pleasebenice writes "the song is about me confronting the loss of my aunt; her death being a skeleton that was in my closet. It’s the first single from my upcoming album 'I Love You' that’s expected to release July of this year. I’m dropping a single + visualizer a month until it comes out."
3. Tinydesk - Unanswered Questions and Answers Open to Interpretation
Available on Bandcamp.
"Tiny Desk is found in between fuzzy textures and cascading twinkly sounds. As the independent music project of interdisciplinary artist, Simone A. Medina Polo, Tiny Desk often depicted a vulnerable space, like gazes sinking deep into ceiling tiles in a quiet summer night captivated in a range from lo-fi distorted sounds to bedroom pop ballads." Released at the end of April, Tinydesk credits her cat, Ugly, as a co-producer on the project. She writes that "'unanswered questions and answers open to interpretation' is the first thoroughly recorded album by Tiny Desk. The album was recorded over the course of April 2020 (during the first full month of quarantine isolation), and it comprised of songs written over the course of 2019 and 2020. The songs provided different aspects of Tiny Desk's songwriting, with each song as an evolving and developing sound."
4. Alliance White - HOT! feat. Rai & Trendi
This track was released at the beginning of May by three of Edmonton's heavy hitters in rap. All three have individually made themselves comfortable room in the hip-hop scene and have been actively collaborating and working in the city. The track is hard hitting and a good vibe that has rightly been prominent on my Instagram feed for a couple of days. Local rapper, photgrapher, clothing designer, and collaborator on this track Rai said about the track that "working together with artists you look up to is a crazy feeling! I feel like it has really pushed me out of my comfort zone and brought the best outta me. I can guarantee you'll be seeing more out of us!"
5. Charles Pickard - Responsibility
You might know Charles through his multiple collaborations with the Absurd Collective, or being the frontman of the very good band Laundry Week, or playing in Cypress, or any of the other things I'm sure he gets up to. You might also have never heard him play a solo set, which would kinda suck cause he's good at those. Good news, though, is that here's a solo song by him that you can check out and maybe get a little bit of that vibe right there at home.
6. Conye Twitty - Soul Searching feat. PHlLY
Available on Soundcloud.
Big local Conye Twitty gets one of his many good beats together and sends it to other big local and cool guy PHlLY who puts down his beat pad for however long it takes to get these dulcet and rhythmic vocals all over this thing and then they just tie it all together and put it right on Soundcloud.
7. Pictures of a Neighbourhood - Winter Friends
Pictures of a Neighbourhood took the over-done and tired love song, put the thing down, flipped it, and reversed it. Winter Friends addresses the challenges and fulfillment that come from platonic relationships, a topic which is has long been neglected! "I am often frustrated in friendships when I feel like our culture doesn't provide us with adequate tools to make them better. The idea of trying to ask for commitment from a friend, or to simply address very minor issues in the relationship, feels so far outside of what is comfortable in the context of our culture sometimes. I wanted to write a song that could be shared between friends in the same way as a romantic love song, a song that expresses a sense of longing within friendship and opens a door for communication."
8. Caylie G - Here's To Us
Available on Spotify
You only need three rhyming words to describe Caylie G's music: Soft! Pop! Bops! Caylie is another one of those MacEwan BMusic crazies and we're happy to see that the school semester left her inspired rather than burnt out. "I wanted to capture the feeling of summer in a song. There's something about blasting music with the windows down that feels like magic and that's what this song is about."
9. YUNG HOSS KOTU - Deathwish
Available on Soundcloud.
Deathwish is the newest project by Edmonton's YUNG HOSS KOTU, dropped at the beginning of May. "Deathwish is the most difficult thing I’ve ever put together", he says about the project. "It deals with loss, depression, heartbreak and a bit of my worldview. I think it’s my most important project and my most actualized project." YUNG HOSS KOTU's sound on Deathwish is trippy and smooth but doesn't lack hard-hitting lyrics that are delivered passionately. In describing the project, he writes "I hope people take it for what it is, and not what a project like this should be in their opinion."
10. Mylia - Good at Pretending
Available on Spotify If you're looking for some dreamy pop to quench your quarantine heartache Mylia's debut EP has got you covered like those sweatpants you've been sporting all month. Mylia told us that "Good at Pretending walks [listeners] through my whole thought process before, after and during [my recent] breakup. I’ll always cherish it as a piece of my youth."
11. Wares - Survival
Now, no capital city release listicle would be complete without Edmonton's sweetheart Wares. To call Survival honest would be an understatement. Wares doesn't shy away from difficult topics such as trauma, abuse, and depression. There's a lot to be learned from this album, and the lack of goings on in our city gives you ample time to dive deep into this new release.
12. Mattchu - Piece of Mind feat. Dirty Dev
Mattchu is a local producer, drummer, singer, peacemaker, member of Guests: the Band, and claimant to a number of other cool things. This track, featuring Dirty Dev's vocals, is an ode to Edmonton in the standard grimy fashion. It's probably not his track that shout's out 105th street the most times but it's probably close. What a goon. Overall though, Mattchu's production is intense and clean and the whole thing comes together quite well and we're all fairly stoked on it as far as I can tell.
13. Sean Davis Newton - Nobody Lives There
Available on Bandcamp, and soon on streaming services.
Sean Davis Newton is a songwriter and producer currently attending Macewan Unvisersity for Recording and Production. They work mostly in indie-rock, psych, and folk idioms with experimental techniques applied whenever appropriate. Sean's songs "use our unique political and natural geography in Western Canada to explore relationships, solitude, and how we connect with the past." Sean records and produces all of their own work as well as for a number of other indie bands in the city. On the Bandcamp page for the project, Sean writes "'Nobody Lives There is a three-song EP that uses personification of the natural world to talk about decay, both in our relationships and our communities. The songs were written to reflect some rules that I have tried to follow in my songwriting after the Trace Italian LP we released in 2019; write about things you can see and touch; when you can choose between a complicated path and a simple path, choose the simple one. Click through to the Bandcamp page where Sean gives a brief description of the meaning behind the songs on the project as well as how the title came from an interview he conducted.
14. The Carcinotwins - Gatsby
Available on Soundcloud
The Carcinotwins are a duo comprised of Matilda Laus and Dana Clementine. This song was written by the pair a couple of years ago and was the catalyst for the creation of The Carcinotwins. With Dana on guitar and vocals, the song also features Elissa Moores on trumpet and the lovely Dan Blade on bass. In the description for the song, Dana writes "I was going to perform this on my senior recital which was unfortunately cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic. I'm glad I at least get to share a part of my hard work with you."
15. Skrt.jpg - Bubbles feat. Gabe Hinz
A trippy, feel good, summery track by Skrt.jpg featuring vocals by Gabe Hinz of Chilzlife fame. As the resident DJ for Chilzlife's recurring event Dienasty, the two have worked closely together before, but Skrt.jpg says this is the one of the first collaborations that the pair has actually dropped together. As far as trippy, new-wave hip-hop goes, this is a necessary listen for fans of Edmonton hip-hop.
16. The Absurd Collective - In The Now (vol. 1)
Will be available on Soundcloud and Youtube.
This list was only supposed to be for projects that have already come out, but I decided to bend the rules a little bit for this one since they're our own arbitrary rules. Over the course of the shutdown, big local Sperniee and other members of the Absurd Collective have been working on compiling what is meant to be the first of a number of compilation albums that bring together Edmonton artists working in the hip-hop community to collaborate in groups on one-off singles that will all be released under the same album. Aside from staying busy during quarantine, the intention is to foster community and collaboration with artists that those involved might not have gotten around to working with, ideally removing any barriers that exist with regards to collaborating and releasing music so that the artists involved in the project can simply enjoy the process of working together in their shared art form. Also, us over here at the Absurd Collective can ideally snag a little clout off these hard working artists. Volume one - set to release sometime soon - will include production from Pleasebenice, PHlLY, & Shmubu, and will feature vocals from the above as well Kazmega, Dirty Dev, Jazz Waters, Chazzy Boo, Indycysive, and YUNG HOSS KOTU.
That's our article, thanks for reading, and thanks for engaging with the artists we featured! For more Absurd content you can go to our website and find more writing on our blog, or follow us on Soundcloud, Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube. If you're planning on releasing new music soon and would like to be featured in the next of our Buzzfeed-style listicles, we're planning on doing a lot more so please feel free to reach out!