Raspberry Jam: A year in local music

Features, Music, Off The Vine

Year-end lists tend to be soulless exercises, lacking in personality. And yet we so easily award these arbitrary rankings incredible significance when debating their “correctness” in comments sections.

This approach to music appreciation generally sucks the life out of it.

So, rather than trying to provide a comprehensive list of the year’s best, we’ve asked our contributors to pick one of their favourite locally produced songs of the year and describe why they like it.

For the sake of diversity, we’ve limited it to one song per artist.

Our hope is that you might discover something new from the wealth of excellent music created in our own backyard.

“Cop” – Blessed

If your gut response was to label Abbotsford-based Blessed as another group of three-chord punks, let me set you straight. Their self-titled 2016 debut is clean, raw and immediate without adhering to standard punk conventions. There’s something about Blessed’s melodies that are wholly original, featuring jazz-like nuances throughout the instrumentation. These nuances are most apparent on the EP’s second track “Cop.” It’s a song that doesn’t rely on atmosphere to make its case, instead building torrential powerchords and adding unpredictable guitar riffs that perfectly mirror the mood of the lyrics. Blessed’s ability to create a slowly building intensity with a tight performance makes the final chords of “Cop” read like a finished puzzle: a stunning achievement for a debut release. – T.U.

“c my bb” – gold gloom

For a duo whose releases have sometimes toed the line between ethereal and undefined, gold gloom’s latest, “c my bb,” sees the project’s sound refined into what’s possibly their best release to date. Ella Kosovic and Cara Edwards’ intertwined, slightly fuzzed vocals on urge the listener to pay attention amidst the explicitly minimalist production.

Anchored by two short verses, the simple chorus of “I need to see my baby” (a mantra whose emotionality increases with each passing) sways with a longing that threatens to overtake the measured hesitancy of Kosovic and Edwards’ delivery, folding in on itself gracefully as the track ends.

At exactly two minutes, “c my bb” is just long enough to leave us fulfilled, yet wanting more. – M.C.

“LSA” – The Hibs

The latest guise of Abbotsford’s favourite expat David Kandal is the clearest distillation of his musical identity yet. On the closing track of The Hibs’ debut EP, he wheezes a heartbreaking ode to unrequited feelings for his “favourite liquor store attendant”. It’s a dusty ballad that smirks at your heartstrings with off-kilter acoustic guitars lifted by a languid slide guitar. In the spirited bridge, Kandal wistfully hints at a boozy world of possibility, a car to drive around, some time to spend together, before eventually conceding to the status quo: “Maybe next shift.” – NU

“Illumination” – Kuri

“Illumination” is the ethereal and contemplative first track on Kuri’s new release, Human Nature. The smooth, mellow euphonium (David Dueckman) pairs with Kuri’s vocals and complementary piano to create a yearning intensity. Between verses, instrumental crescendos build a beautiful, poignant tension, then release it to the lyrics, which carry us through a questioner’s search for understanding, through her shifting experience of illumination and changing perspective. “Illumination” is a compelling entry into Human Nature, which extends the questioning and internal conflict into the next five tracks of this thoughtful collection. – K.S.

“Bell Tower” – Loans

A bell tower provides for both the widespread proliferation of necessary community sounds, as well as a vantage point from which to survey the relevant lands. Loans satisfies both functions with this number, prompting us with the appropriate audio and visual imagery to understand where Fraser Valley music has evolved. – A.L.

“The Shame” – Mikey & his Shame

Mikey and His Shame’s Thing Things was an eclectic, witty, and humorous debut that has since been followed up by *ahem*, a record which saw the punk-rock three piece simmer its sound down to a more cutting, brash iteration of the kind of material we saw in their release.

However, the tongue-in-cheek humour that was so apparent in tracks like “The Mayor” definitely carries over into the content on *ahem*. “The Shame,” *ahem*’s intro track, gives us a punchy, foot-tapping dose of punk that’s grounded in Josh Erickson’s consistently funky bass-lines, as well as Emilor Jayne’s energetic drumming.

Add onto this Mikey Power’s charming, dissatisfied, yet tongue-in-cheek howling vocals and you’ve got the makings of a punk band that’s equal parts danceable, angst-ridden, and humorous. – M.C.

“I Wait” – My Goal Is Telepathy

“I Wait”, much like the rest of My Goal Is Telepathy’s demos and EPs, is reminiscent of Bon Iver’s latest release – in that it is synth modulated. This gives the track’s vocals a well-produced sense of desperation. The play with sharp digitized vocals pulls the listener into the song in an attempt give a glimpse of the emotional dichotomy between introspective lyrics and confounding sound. This works incredibly well to create that intimate relationship between MGIT and listener. Another layer is added to the track through a strong guitar presence, providing a great complement between digital and analogue. This works surprisingly well. Ushering this song is a tender voice and warm reverb. – J.J.

“Thirsty White Sun” Villain Villain

The blessing of Abbotsford’s rock scene is also its central problem: everyone already knows each other. New bands spawn constantly, but tend only to be rearrangements of the same handful of musicians. Because of this, the music is hella tight, hella consistent, and hella the same post-hardcorish, kind of poppy, facemelting sound.

It’s a lovely sound, but I only have one face. So praise bands like Villain Villain, who also come from that handful of musicians, but use the formulae to less predictable results. Hear “Thirsty White Sun.” It’s still noisy, but develops subtly, its contrasting parts impressing without flapping like genitalia in your face. The song proves there’s no need to adhere to the common style when your audience already gets it; they’re the same people who heard the last fifty Abbotsford shows anyway. It’s a fresh sound that takes its audience seriously. – A.R.


Contributions from Martin Castro, Joe Johnson, Aaron Levy, Alex Rake, Katie Stobbart, Nick Ubels, and Tim Ubels.