What I Learned from Pop Montreal Bios

I think I just finished writing this year’s round of bios for the Pop Montreal programme. I always go into it with an open mind, and while this year I felt like I wasn’t seeing or hearing anything “new,” I realised that musically, we’re (the greater we, as in all of music) in a serious transition phase. The bands that I did like were ones that had good songs, but that also touched a chord, evoked something emotional, a memory, an intangible feeling. In essence, music and musicians that were inspired by something greater; not just the creation of music to satisfy some egotistical bullshit.

Of course, this is not 2004, and when writing a bio the goal is to represent the band or musician in an intriguing way. Not to be clever and smarmy – because we all know I am chock full of that – but to make people want to see the shows.

Sadly, for fellow haters, I won’t be taking this opportunity to trash the bands I thought sucked, or that were just good or even pleasantly great. This is about discovery and hope, about music that was new to me. So no offense to everyone else for my blog being so self-serving. I apologise for nothing.

I was going to print my bios, but then thought that would undercut the programme’s novelty. So instead I’ve made small comments, so you can just listen up, make your own assumptions, then read it for realz in print.

Villa Borghese (Montreal, QC) – There is something very session musician about this band, but I like the energy, the tipping of their caps to great music of the past like ELO and the new wave. There’s something very free and spirited in Villa Borghese that I find attractive.

Katie Stelmanis (Toronto, ON) – Speaking of free spirited, Katie’s music is just a giant fuck you to everything. I loved hearing her genre-mashing Kate Bush a la Trent Reznor vibes. I think part of the reason I liked this because there’s something in Katie that I see in myself…circa 15 years ago. If I actually went to shows I would go see this one.

Valleys (Montreal, QC) – I think I wrote their bio last year, too. I tried to avoid that completely but missed this one because they changed their name from something like We Are Valleys to just Valleys. Anyway, this is cool because it is really keeping the first-gen of the Montreal “scene” alive.

Josh Reichmann (Toronto, ON) – Whenever I have the knee-jerk reaction of being kind of repulsed by something, it usually means that it’s just far enough out there to feel unfamiliar. That’s what originality feels like, kids. Force yourself to get lost in Josh’s inspired, kitchen-sinky, spiritual journey.

Golden Isles (Montreal, QC) – And whilst on the subject of kids, here are some. While heavily Strokes-y, there’s nothing really wrong with that. The Strokes are so eight years ago that it’s still too soon – and, strangely, too late – to sound like them. So this is not “cool” or “indie” but simply totally fun. Burneth.

One thing I noticed was that most of the performers on the schedule this year are Canadian. There isn’t a lot of international stuff, and there is a huge amount of local bands. The best and brightest? Seriously, I wrote like 35 bios out of hundreds, so my list is just a strange and random sampling. Hardly a cultural statement.

About Natalia Yanchak

Keyboarder and singer of The Dears. Also: blogger, gardener, scifi writer, plainclothes nerd, mother.
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