Uncharted 2014 year in review

UNCHARTED: Looking back on 2014 with Ought, Greys, Lydia Ainsworth and more

Some of our best-loved upstarts put their year under the microscope.

- Dec 22, 2014
UNCHARTED is our ongoing showcase of independent Canadian artists we think you should know. To sum up 2014, we catch up with six of our favourite discoveries and ask them to reflect on the year that was — and what's ahead, too.

New music is our lifeblood. Sure, we like thinking about Taylor's move from Spotify or finding out who the Pixies listen to, but it's the whole practice of shining a light on rising acts that really gets our jollies off. To help put 2014 in the ground, we made a short questionnaire and mailed it out to a few of our favourites, who were kind enough — somewhere between latke dinners and cups of nog — to play along.

Greys tells us about what might just be the best burrito on the West Coast, Monomyth stumbles upon Van Gogh, and Slim Twig tips us off to some excellent Italian library music. Everyone's wary about police brutality, some are inspired by the responses to it, some are cynical, and there's a metric fuckton of good music readied for 2015.


Greys

uncharted - greys

It's been a banner year for Buzz Records, and the success of Greys is a giant piece of that story. In 2014, the Toronto-based post-hardcore act released their debut LP, toured Europe with Death From Above 1979, signed to Carpark Records, and played basically every nook and cranny in North America (sometimes, twice!).

We last chatted when If Anything was still just a dot out on the horizon and the Carpark deal was something singer Shehzaad Jiwani could only hint at. Big things happen when you put in the mileage — and it certainly doesn't hurt when you rip as they do.

Read UNCHARTED: Toronto’s Greys do “loud rock,” but not like those other assholes

Greys "Use Your Delusion"

Why was 2014 the best year ever?

We spent about a third of the year on the road and released our first album, which is a pretty big milestone in itself. We got to go to Europe for the first time, opening for a band we grew up listening to, which was crazy. We got to see all of our friends on our label, Buzz, do really well for themselves. There was never a dull moment this year, it seemed. Oh, and we got to eat at Rancho Bravo in Seattle like five times, and that place rules.

Why was 2014 the worst year ever?

There seemed to be a lot of heinous things happening in the world this year that I honestly thought we were above doing as a species, but I guess not. I don't really need to get into any of it.

What was your most memorable moment of the year?

Playing to 30-40 people in Prague and seeing a bunch of people who didn't speak English singing the words to our songs. That was surreal. Oh, and the burritos at Rancho Bravo. Seriously, so good.

What was your favourite discovery of the year?

Serial, the podcast, is wonderful and riveting.

What are you looking forward to in the next year?

Taking a break! Writing some new songs and working on other projects is a really alluring prospect right now. At least until the snow melts, and then we're back on the road forever. I am really looking forward to albums by Beliefs, HSY, Odonis Odonis, Viet Cong, METZ, Speedy Ortiz, The Beverleys, The Dirty Nil, KEN Mode and Fresh Snow. I have had the privilege of hearing a bunch of these already and can already say they're gonna be my favourite albums of the year.

Sum up your year with one YouTube video.

Wendy's Training Video Chili Can Be Served With Cheese

Monomyth

Monomyth - Uncharted

You could say that the Haligonian four-piece belong to that supernatural thrum of pop music that's emanated from the sacred soil of the Nova Scotian capital for time immemorial, but that kinda undermines how, at their very best, they're more indebted to shoegaze and noise rock than to Sloan. In 2014, Monomyth introduced themselves widely and with verve, to us and to the world, on their well-received full-length, Saturnalia Regalia!, and a tour on both sides of the border in support. They were only short on words here, we imagine, because they're super busy trying to capture, on some recording format, all of those spirited, ancient ideas flying out from their heads.

Read UNCHARTED: Halifax’s Monomyth aren’t trying to revive anything

Why was 2014 the best year ever?

Got to put out a record, hang with rad bands and tour the US for the first time. Plus The Best Show is back.

Why was 2014 the worst year ever?

Police state keeps rolling onwards.

What was your most memorable moment of the year?

Trying to take in the MoMA in under two hours and noticing I was in front of Starry Night as the gallery staff kicked everyone out. That or the Pop Montreal Craft Singles showcase.

What was your favourite discovery of the year?

Toss up between Airbnb and Gong.

What are you looking forward to in the next year?

Recording a new record and heading South.

Sum up your year with one YouTube video.

MTV School Dance Colonie Central High School

Ought

Ought - Uncharted

With their debut full-length, More Than Any Other Day, the Montreal-based post-punk quartet emerged as masters. Singer and guitarist Tim Beeler is a rambling poet in the mode of David Thomas or David Byrne, someone who can see the future when they close their eyes and tries  — excitedly, frantically — to tell it to you. Ought has the audacity to riff on done-to-death classics like The Velvet Underground, and the facility to sew those allusions into contemporary modes to speak across music history and tell new stories. Not only did they tour internationally and craft an album that's on any year-end list worth its salt, they topped the year off with a 30-minute EP. Theirs is a voice we need plenty more of.

We spoke to them this year about forming their band amidst the 2012 Quebec student protest, the empowerment of mass unrest, and the politics of  “Ahhh!?!?”

Read UNCHARTED: Ought make art from not knowing

Ought - "New Calm, Pt. 2" (Official Music Video)

Why was 2014 the best year ever?

At least from our biased Twitter, there’s a seemingly renewed consciousness and desire to action over institutional racism and violence.

Why was 2014 the worst year ever?

This renewed consciousness, if it’s real, is due to stuff that’s been going on for hundreds of years becoming too fucking over-the-top heartbreaking and constant to completely ignore as per usual.

What was your most memorable moment of the year?

The first show we played after our album was streaming online (but not yet released) really sticks out to me. It was in Kingston, Ontario, at The Artel. We played with a really excellent band called Warmer, and we were so so surprised that anyone had heard our record.

What was your favourite discovery of the year?

I finally watched Six Feet Under, and while I’m clearly late to the game I can’t think of another TV show that’s hit me so hard.
Alex G’s older stuff has been killing me recently, too. Production like a warm blanket, tender hooks. They seem really nice, too! We played a show with them in Manchester, but didn't get to hang for very long, as we had to immediately load out of the room to make space for "Double Drop Tuesday"...

What are you looking forward to in the next year?

Writing some goddamn new songs.

Sum up your year with one YouTube video.

Hilarious Man Falls Asleep in Uncomfortable Position on Tube

Lydia Ainsworth

Lydia Ainsworth - Uncharted

2014 was the year we met Lydia Ainsworth, whose Right From Real was like a rare gem that had finally been exposed to the light, having been crystallizing in the dark over a couple thousand years. When we spoke to Ainsworth back in September during Pop Montreal, her album had yet to be released, but already we were starting to see a glimmer of the minimal synthpop she had in store.

At the time we talked about intuition, understanding strings by being bad at cello, and Norman McLaren. Then, we followed her to CMJ. Now, months of reflection later, Ainsworth was kind enough to look back over her big year with us, though from the sounds of it, she’s already focused on what’s next.

Read UNCHARTED: How Lydia Ainsworth discovered her sound at the back of the orchestra

Lydia Ainsworth | Malachite

Why was 2014 the best year ever?

New friends.

Why was 2014 the worst year ever?

All negatives have a positive.

What was your most memorable moment of the year?

Playing my song "Moonstone" at Baby's All Right for CMJ. The audience knew the words to the gem stone section of the song and recited it with me.

What was your favourite discovery of the year?

The Celtic idea of shapeshifting / legend of The Children of Lir.

What are you looking forward to in the next year?

Touring Europe for the first time in February and writing and recording new songs.

Sum up your year with one YouTube video.

HELLO, I'M SHELLEY DUVALL !

Slim Twig

Uncharted - Slim Twig

Slim Twig certainly isn't a new act — he's been a presence in Canadian music for the better part of a decade — but 2014 marks the year he entered a higher orbit. His orchestral pop masterpiece, A Hound At The Hem, which was previously co-released by Pleasence Records and his and Meg Remy's Calico Corp., was dusted off and treated to a reissue by DFA Records — a bit of primer before they present his next full-length. When we caught up, the conversation centred on second chances and, boy, aren't we glad he got another spin.

Read UNCHARTED: Slim Twig on making outsider art in a conservative industry

Slim Twig "Maintain The Charade" (Official Video)

Why was 2014 the best year ever?

I don't know about "best ever," but pretty decent. I've had a very productive 2014, the fruits of which will make their way to eardrums in 2015. Having an album on an American label makes all the difference for a Canadian kid! Sad, but true.

Why was 2014 the worst year ever?

A very porous memory precludes me from proclaiming any one year as "best" or "worst"... I will say that I am having a very hard time coming up with 10 records that came out this year to compose a year end list of favourites out of. First year in memory where that's been an issue, something must be up. Outside of musical concerns, I think someone more politically intelligent really could make a case for 2014 being an absolutely terrible year.

What was your most memorable moment of the year?

I told you my memory is shit.

What was your favourite discovery of the year?

While I have been aware of them for a long while before this year, listening to a lot of Royal Trux this year was a real revelation. Teisco's "Tuscan Castle & Country Seat" is really something as well. Oh, and Ray Johnson.

What are you looking forward to in the next year?

Detonating a Nuclear album.

Sum up your year with one YouTube video.

No thanks.

Weaves

Weaves - Uncharted

Another important member of the Buzz dynasty — Weaves demonstrate how ill-defined a term like "pop music" really is. They steal (and "steal" is the right word, Weaves' Morgan Waters says) from noisemakers as far flung as Aaliyah and Suicide, but the product that results couldn't be described as anything other than pop. "The whole idea of saying 'I’m punk,' and listening to one genre of music is so outdated," he told us last we talked, "The more you can steal from everywhere, the more interesting your music’s going to be." If that's the band's MO, steal away! Their self-titled EP was one of the most exciting Canadian releases of the year; we can only pray for a longer playing act of their particularly artful larceny.

Read UNCHARTED: Meet Weaves, Toronto’s weird pop future

Weaves - Motorcycle [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

Why was 2014 the best year ever?

Because everyone got so good at having opinions on the Internet! I didn't know I was friends with so many social activists!

Why was 2014 the worst year ever?

Chickengunya.

What was your most memorable moment of the year?

Hitting a major third in a song set in a minor key. Unbelievable!

What was your favourite discovery of the year?

Cameron Carpenter.

What are you looking forward to in the next year?

Recording an album with Weaves and fingers crossed, getting in the SOCAN magazine.

Sum up your year with one YouTube video.

Well, I might as well advertise. We just finished shooting season two of my web series. Here's episode 1.

The Amazing Gayl Pile Episode 1

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