Where’s the Jam? Joanna Barker, Micah Brown, and Brad Pretty Pick Their Stand-out Song from 1 Local and 1 Non-local album

This month's albums were new releases from BA Johnson and Scott Royle

Where's NonHamilton Ontario’s B.A. Johnson tours so relentlessly there’s a bed in his van, and he’s no stranger to playing St. John’s pubs. His latest album was longlisted for the 2015 Polaris Music Prize, and is full of simple, funny songs with sentiments as sincere as “I’ve got a shitty cat,” and “You’re like an Ikea hot dog, I can’t say no, I can’t say no.”

Joanna’s Pick: “Ikea Hotdog”

Dump Bear broke my heart. I can’t believe he wrote a song about Darth Vader working at a BK. Or about Wheels from Degrassi. Old & Lame is perfect. The backing vocals & instrumentation choices throughout this album are killing me they are so great. But Ikea Hotdog is my jam. It’s my new personal anthem. Every sentiment rings true to me. I love BA long time.

Micah’s Pick: “The Commute”

Maybe one of the least goofball songs on this record, but I think those who’d shrug BA should fire this one on before tackling the entire album. The charm is undeniable, and it’s a hilarious representation of the Canadian condition. I like the acoustic driven songs the most on this album, and the instrumentation here is just solid, simple production. “We all get the hockey teams we deserve, is what I’m starting to believe.

Brad’s Pick: “Fort McMurray”

Sometimes the best art is the art you relate to. B.A. Johnston’s direct nature might be off-putting to some, but I’d be lying if I conveyed anything but complete adoration for it. His minute and a half “Fort McMurray” succinctly describes a reality for many small town Newfoundlanders, one where turnaround contracts lead to fox racing emblazoned, gas-guzzling, hundred thousand dollar rigs and weeks wasted while wired on blow. The charming simplicity of the song underlies a striking and sad truth; this is something that hits close to home. It doesn’t need long-strung metaphors and veiled meaning to have an impact; “Gonna make a lot of dough, gonna put it up my nose” isn’t a line from anything resembling high art. The bare production allows the jaded jester to plainly showcase a sad reality without being weighed down by studio constraints, and this approach lends to a clarity, conscience, and cohesiveness that much more ambitious art may lack.

Where's Scott RoyleHot on the heels of his March release – Sweat Shop Crop Top – Royle released this three-song EP in which every song sounds nothing like another, showcasing his genre-jumping versatility as a songwriter.

Joanna’s Pick: “Heartbreak Blue”

A song that has me dancing to the word “heartbreak”, a sing-a-long chorus, a tasty guitar lick and Luke Power on keys? Jam. I want to dance to this song live this summer. Give us a show, Scott!

Micah’s Pick “Piss Poor”

“Piss Poor” is great for so many reasons. A collection of wicked vocal performances and layers, and a super raw composition. Spooky sounds, really emotive. The kind of song that should make everyone feel something. Warning: the least rock and roll of the three.

Brad’s Pick: “Indian Marigolds”

There’s a subdued intensity that pervades “Indian Marigolds.” It might come from Mr. Royle’s earnest delivery, which shifts between a poised cry and a wistful falsetto. It might be the rough guitars and quaint piano flourishes. It might be the spooky whispered harmonies. It might be the organ, high in Len O’Neill’s mix, that provides a congruous macabre mood throughout. The song sounds like a slow dance number for people who couldn’t find a dance partner. Its got heart, even if it’s a broken one.

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