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A cheat sheet of bands from the new Seattle -- that's right, Canada!

Wednesday, Sep 14 2005
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They love snow. They hate hype. They all play in each other's bands -- sorry, "collectives" -- in the hipster enclaves of Toronto, Montreal, and beyond. And they have kingmaker music site Pitchforkmedia.com on speed dial. They are the heralded rock bands of Canada, our neighbor to the north and the world's latest music hot spot. And because these frostbacks keep swinging through the Bay Area, you'll need this handy guide to the fastest-rising stars of the bunch:

Broken Social Scene

Last Album: The surprise (not least to the band) breakout You Forgot It in People (2002).

Known For: Jumping from post-rock instrumentals to overdriven rockers that suck the air out of your lungs -- and then right when the music gets going, the band goes back to sounding like the Sea and Cake.

How Big Are These Guys?: Pitchfork's out-of-nowhere stellar review (the site's first of many for the bands on this list) gave this Toronto posse's You Forgot It a huge boost, and hopes run high for the self-titled follow-up, even though its original title was Windsurfing Nation.

Fun Fact: Aside from the core founders, Broken Social Scene has no fixed membership but maintains ties to half the bands in Canada, like Stars, Feist, Apostles of Hustle, and more. Refer to the Web site for the group's self-started label, www.arts-crafts.ca/bss/tree.html, for the interactive family tree.

Signs of Slumping?: Album No. 3 comes out in October, and it's a winner, more unified and ferocious than You Forgot It. Even more guests -- including rapper K-OS -- piled into the studio to lend a hand on it, upgrading the band's status from "collective" to "horde."

In Their Own Words: Kevin Drew describing the new album to Pitchfork: "Raw fucking puke and love," and, "At the end of the day it's just music made by people who don't own a filtering system."

S.F. Dates: Wednesday, Nov. 9, at the Grand (www.anotherplanetent.com).

Arcade Fire

Last Album: Funeral (2004).

Known For: Writing rock anthems about dead family members.

How Big Are These Guys?: By now your mom knows this band: The quintet stole the show at Lollapalooza '05 and landed an opening slot on U2's tour. But the indie crowd has worshipped the Arcade Fire since last summer, to the point that enthusiastic fans swapped -- and Pitchfork even reviewed -- a Christmas EP that the real members didn't even play on.

Fun Fact: Singer and keyboardist Régine Chassagne's family came from Haiti, but moved to Quebec in the '60s. Her great-uncle served as an ambassador for Haiti -- and he was also a political activist who trained with Fidel Castro. Take that, M.I.A.!

Signs of Slumping?: Not really. In concert the band is as vibrant as ever. But the ballad it recorded for Six Feet Under, "Cold Wind," was a disappointingly twangy little downer -- and how do you top a debut like Funeral?

In Their Own Words: Richard Reed Parry, speaking to Prefix magazine: "People were like, 'Oh my God! How do you feel about the hype? Do you think there's a backlash now?' We were like, 'A backlash? We put out our record four days ago and you're asking whether we've noticed a backlash?'"

S.F. Dates: Sunday, Sept. 18, at the Warfield (www.bgp.com).

Wolf Parade

Last Album: Two self-released EPs.

Known For: Playing phenomenal live shows and hiring ex-members of the Arcade Fire and British Columbia's Frog Eyes.

How Big Are These Guys?: Sub Pop signed Wolf Parade and sent the act on tour with the like-sounding Modest Mouse, after which it almost broke up, blew off the label, and wouldn't take any calls for a year. But this fall the band is back. Anticipation runs high for the debut album, and Wolf Parade just grabbed the guitarist from Hot Hot Heat for its next tour, which is a little like stealing the high school quarterback's girlfriend -- when you're 25 and live in a basement.

Fun Fact: Every year, theremin, synth, and noise guy Hadji Bakura spends two months in a bug-infested part of British Columbia, planting trees.

Signs of Slumping?: Hell no. Apologies to the Queen Mary -- due out Tuesday, Sept. 27 -- trumps both of the EPs and suggests the band will live up to the hype.

In Their Own Words: Dan Boeckner, from an interview with blogger Jeremy Brendan: "We're just a bunch of drunks. We're all from Victoria. Victoria is kind of the Australia of Canada. It's a really weird isolated island community and people out there like to get fucked up."

S.F. Dates: Sunday, Sept. 18, at the Warfield, opening for the Arcade Fire.

Feist

Last Album: Let It Die (2004).

Known For: A sultry croak that makes her sound perpetually 10 seconds away from orgasm.

How Big Is She?: Leslie Feist became the scene's leading chanteuse as a solo artist and a founding affiliate of Broken Social Scene. She's now bubbling up internationally -- starting in France, her new home -- after a collaboration with Massive Attack and an invitation to tour with Bright Eyes.

Fun Fact: Feist has also performed as Bitch Lap-Lap, rapping onstage with her ex-roommate Peaches and performing with a sock puppet. Do people still talk about "art damage"?

Signs of Slumping?: From her more conventionally indie debut, 1999's Monarch (Lay Down Your Jeweled Head), to the eclectic Let It Die, Feist has proven again and again that she's more than a Norah Jones for hipsters. Anything could happen on her next disc.

In Her Own Words: From an interview with Index: "I love how Canadian girls manage to look totally hot in their enormous parkas. In Canada, it's not about fishnets and heels, or other fantasy female stuff. Canadian girls are stalwarts -- ruddy and healthy."

S.F. Dates: Wednesday, Nov. 9, at the Grand, opening for Broken Social Scene.

Pony Up?

Last Album: Pony Up? EP (2005).

Known For: Sounding like your kid sister who can't sing but started a band anyway and then got picked to open for Bloc Party.

How Big Are These Girls?: The EP has drawn some notice, mostly thanks to the hunger for all things Canadian.

Fun Fact: These four girls are older than they sound, though Ben Lee didn't know that when he first met them. Lee took them under his wing, brought them on tour, and signed them to his label; as one Pony explains in an interview with blogger Kitty Mak, "I think the reason why he was into us was that we reminded him of himself when he started -- I think Ben's exact words were that we had 'musical innocence.'"

Signs of Slumping?: Word is they've grown since their EP -- and hey, they have nowhere to go but up.

In Their Own Words: With a nod to Liz Phair, on "Matthew Modine" the girls sing: "Oh Matthew Modine, we want to be your blow job queens!" (Was Ben Lee jealous?)

S.F. Dates: None scheduled this fall.

Les Georges Leningrads

Last Album: Sur les traces de Black Eskimo (2004).

Known For: Touring with Erase Errata in costumes, looking like Cirque du Soleil members who don't wear underpants; also, piercing vocals and no-wave rhythms that have lately grown more danceable.

How Big Are These Guys?: In the freaky no-wave dance scene, they're gigantic.

Fun Fact: Their latest disc is named for their search for the Black Eskimo. As lead singer Poney told Canada's Exclaim, "He wears size 11. Poops every five miles. Maybe we will lose his trace, it doesn't matter. The journey is sunny and really beautiful. In the area where we are now, all icebergs are made from milk: manatee milk."

Signs of Slumping?: Hard to say. Don't bands like this implode before they slump?

In Their Own Words: From an interview with MaximumRocknRoll: "We hang around with kids. All of our notion is based on pleasure. When there is no more pleasure there is no more Les Georges Leningrads. It's the law."

S.F. Dates: None scheduled this fall.

The New Pornographers

Last Album: Twin Cinema (2005).

Known For: Hammering out consistent -- no, relentless -- tooth-rotting power pop with brainy, sometimes bizarre lyrics.

How Big Are These Guys?: This is just a side project for most of the members in the band, yet it's bigger than most of their full-time gigs.

Fun Fact: Neko Case and Destroyer's Dan Bejar are just two of the Canadian bright lights who swing by to help Carl Newman make each New Pornographers album. But Twin Cinema also reunites Newman with his "long-lost niece" Kathryn Calder, making this as much a Nora Ephron movie as an album.

Signs of Slumping?: Plateaued, maybe, but they'll never slump. They'd probably break up rather than settle for releasing the second-best power-pop album of the year.

In Their Own Words: Newman, explaining the band's name with one of his trademark clever double-backs: "Jimmy Swaggart said music was the new pornography. The New Pornographers are merely musicians."

S.F. Dates: Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept 27-28, at Bimbo's 365 Club (www.bimbos365club.com).

About The Author

Chris Dahlen

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