Samways - Phantom Handshakes - PACKS

Samways - The Wind of Death.

Don’t let the title fool you... The folk music forecast just got brighter and livelier with the release of “The Wind of Death” from Canadian acoustic quartet, Samways.

The second single to drop ahead of the group’s forthcoming debut album, the song juxtaposes   a muscular, driving rhythm and sunny vocal harmonies with the moving poem, “The Wind of Death.” Written by Canadian poet and journalist Ethelwyn Wetherald well over a century ago, the poem touches on the tenuous and reflective last moments of someone’s life.

The wind of death, that softly blows
The last warm petal from the rose
The last dry leaf from off the tree
Tonight, has come to breathe on me

Respectively all known and loved Toronto-based artists in their own rights, lead songwriter, guitarist and composer Nathan Hiltz — and the vocal trio of Shannon Butcher, Jessica Lalonde and Melissa Lauren — have combined their formidable talents to form the creative core of Samways.

As they succinctly put it, they create and perform “acoustic music with lyrics drawn from early Canadian poetry.” What kinds of acoustic music and poetry? Original folk inspired jazz and the 19th and early 20th century works of famed Canadian poets such as Bliss Carman, Susannah Moodie, E.J. Pratt, Agnes Maule Machar and of course, Ethelwyn Wetherald.

The music for “The Wind of Death'' also comes from a mash-up of different worlds… The song answers a question: What would it sound like if Sonny Greenwich joined the Gordon Lightfoot band? Greenwich, an arch top jazz guitarist from Montréal with a psychedelic, Coltrane-influenced style, and Canadian folk legend Lightfoot, are both big inspirations for Hiltz.

While in his twenties, Hiltz was a jazz purist working at Toronto’s Ring Music, and Lightfoot used to come around to the shop. “I absolutely knew who [Lightfoot] was but had no idea what he sounded like,” Hiltz explains. “All I remember is this badass who parked his big, old-man Cadillac in the no parking zone out front of the store. “He came in and said ‘I’m Gordon Lightfoot. I’m here to pick up my guitar’.”

Those moments stuck with Hiltz and years later, as his musical tastes opened up, he devoured Lightfoot’s entire discography, citing his beautiful music as a driving force in the creation of Samways. Unlike the group’s first single “Untrodden Ways,” “The Wind of Death” is more akin to Lightfoot’s “Summer Side of Life” than “Long River.” Now, replace Lightfoot with three powerful female singers and you have Samways’ signature and fully-satisfying sound.


Phantom Handshakes - Skin.

NYC-based dream-pop duo Phantom Handshakes are sharing their new album, No More Summer Songs, on all DSPs followed by a Bandcamp release on April 30th via Z Tapes.

No More Summer Songs is a collection of songs exploring themes of memory, nostalgia and the visceral feeling of when summer gives way to autumn. If Phantom Handshakes' debut release, Be Estranged was their summer album, this is their end-of-summer album.

The album expands on the lo-fi, DIY approach they took with Be Estranged. The songs on the album are less concerned with following a standard structure and more interested in a mood. For the duo, creating these songs was a cathartic outlet to help us get through these long months in lockdown.

No More Summer Songs was written, recorded and mixed entirely by Phantom Handshakes at their respective homes in New York City and mastered by Carl Saff at Saff Mastering in Chicago.


PACKS - Two Hands.

PACKS debut LP Take The Cake, is due out on Fire Talk Records (Dehd, Patio, Mamalarky) and Royal Mountain Records (Wild Pink, Alvvays, Mac DeMarco) on May 21st, and significant excitement has been building around the Toronto band since they announced the album in early March. The album has seen two singles so far in "Silvertongue" and "New TV," which have been the subject of some high praise! This week the band are sharing a third single from the LP, the sneakily infectious "Two Hands".

Memorably invoking a "Simpson's sunset" in its opening lyric, the track delivers a hazy jangle that forms the perfect frame for PACKS leader Madeline Link's laid back melodic acrobatics, and the accompanying video, which Link directed herself, reflects the song's springtime feeling.

PACKS was initially a solo songwriting project of Madeline Link that she pursued between gigs as a set dresser for commercials, the band is now a four piece, composed of Shane Hooper (drums), Noah O’Neil (bass), and Dexter Nash (lead guitar). Together they turn Link’s melodically adventurous and introspective songs into the purest and brightest kind of indie rock. Anchored by Link’s voice, which brings such an easy charm to her songs that it’s easy to miss her keen ear for acrobatic vocal lines, the band’s debut is a collection of songs that marry the loose but incisive jangle of early Pavement with the barbed sweetness of Sebadoh and the wide-eyed wonder of the first Shins LP.

Written in two different settings, between the city limits of Toronto where Link was living in 2019, and the Ottawa suburbs where she was quarantined with her parents in the spring 2020, both remain complementary emblems of self-reflection and wry observation of the mundanity of daily life.