Alan Cross’ weekly music picks: Taking a walk on the obscure side

Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace performs onstage at Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre on October 15, 2016 in Abbotsford, BC. Andrew Chin/Getty Images

While labels work at setting up superstar releases for later in the year, the first quarter continues to be a time for music lovers to explore material from new and exciting bands.

But every once in a while, an old friend surfaces in the mix.

Here are my music picks for the week.

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1. Our Lady Peace, Somethingness Vol. 2

I’ve been living with tracks from Our Lady Peace’s new EP (the second half of a project first launched last summer) for about a month now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this is some of OLP’s strongest material in years. This new music arrives a week before the band heads out on a month-long cross-Canada tour with Matt Good, beginning in St. John’s.

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2. FRIGS, Basic Behavior

Toronto’s Arts & Crafts label believes that FRIGS (all caps, please) is one of the company’s brightest hopes. Singer Bria Salmena may remind you of PJ Harvey’s vocal calisthenics, veering from quiet and whispery to something loud and growly.  If you hold any affection for psych-rock or Sonic Youth, you’ll find much to enjoy here.

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3. Grounders, Coffee & Jam

Grounders have been with us since 2010, delivering some interesting (and sometimes unusual) music through a couple of releases that evoke everything from Devo to The Cars to Kraftwerk to New Order. When I first heard the second single from the Toronto five-piece, I thought it was something new from Matt Johnson and The The. If you’re familiar with Matt’s work, you’ll hear it immediately. It shares a title with one of The The’s most famous songs.

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4. C0ndu!t, Running Up That Hill (Single)

More CanCon. This band (pronounced “Conduit”) has been following a Nine Inch Nails trajectory since the late ’90s, but has yet to break through to a wider audience. Leader Brian Hogue had mused about covering this Kate Bush song for a while, and he’s finally nailed the performance. I’m sure Ms. Bush will approve.

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5. Screaming Females, All at Once

Streaming was made for checking out bands like this. Screaming Females, a trio from New Jersey, has been a going concern since 2005 with seven studio albums and more than 1,000 gigs. Led by singer and guitarist Marissa Paternoster (and yes, she sometimes screams), they’ve become indie darlings for those who remember the glory days of Dinosaur Jr. or the Pixies. The new record was produced by Matt Bayles, known for his work with Pearl Jam and Mastodon.

This week’s undiscovered gem: The Lovely Eggs

This husband-and-wife duo from Lancaster, England, is a lo-fi psych-pop band who have a thing about, well, eggs. Past releases have included I Like Birds But I Like Other Animals Too and an EP entitled Fried Egg CD. This year brings a full album called This is Eggland on their own label, Egg Records. C’mon, you gotta be at least a little bit curious, right?

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London Calling: Whyte Horses

Little is known about this Manchester band that, up until recently, didn’t even officially exist because they were originally conceived as an “imaginary band” with no physical presence. That backfired when the group’s first album caught fire among the UK indie cognoscenti. The new album, Empty Words, is heralded by this pop gem.

Throwback Thursday: Jane’s Addiction, Just Because

Jane’s Addiction was AWOL during the ’90s, allowing 13 years to pass between their Ritual de lo Habitual album and Strays, a 2003 comeback record produced by Canadian Bob Ezrin. He’d been working with Jane’s singer Perry Farrell on his other band, Porno for Pyros, when they got to talking about resurrecting the old band. The results were mixed, but this song from the resulting Strays album reminded a lot of people of why Jane’s Addiction was so important to the rise of alt-rock. Oh, and Superstar, another song from the album, was eventually turned into the theme song for the HBO bro series, Entourage.

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Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.

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