The Pick: Army Girls and PS I Love You, a pair of fierce two-piece acts at this year’s Canadian Music Week

The Pick: Army Girls and PS I Love You, a pair of fierce two-piece acts at this year’s Canadian Music Week

Carmen Elle and Andy Smith of Army Girls; Paul Saulnier and Benjamin Nelson of PS I Love You 

From The White Stripes to The Black Keys, there’s something about a two-piece rock ’n’ roll band that’s both more intimate but also more primal than larger outfits. Back in 2009, the surging noise pop of Vancouver’s Japandroids—guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse—stole the show at Canadian Music Week. At this year’s festival, which runs from today until Saturday, two white hot Ontarian duos packing only a guitar and a drum kit—Army Girls and PS I Love You—are poised to do the same.

Hailing from Toronto, singer and guitarist Carmen Elle and her drummer Andy Smith inject a riotous romanticism into their propulsive indie rock as Army Girls. Songs like “The Power” and “Here It Comes” straddle the line between Tegan and Sara’s bruised folk ballads and Rough Trade’s sensual punk rock (both those songs are off last year’s excellent EP Close To The Bone, released on Blocks Recordings Club with the aid of producer Ben Cook from Fucked Up). Live, Elle is a committed and intense performer—indeed, she’s admitted to playing shows mid panic-attack. You truly can’t take your eyes off her.

PS I Love You heads in a more virtuosic if muddier direction. After being nominated for the Polaris long-list for their 2010 debut Meet Me At the Muster Station, the Kingston two-piece—comprised of vocalist and guitarist Paul Saulnier and drummer Benjamin Nelson—returned this year with the equally epic Death Dreams. Ripping out pastoral jams on his signature double axe, Saulnier is a staggering guitar player who also knows how to write with self-deprecation (“Future Dontcare” is a lighters-up lament with a chorus that repeats, “I wish this summer was like last summer”). Live, the band’s Dinosaur Jr.–inflected garage rock inspires both head banging and heavy make outs—surely a good way to make it through CMW.

The details: Army Girls plays Hand Drawn Dracula’s label showcase. March 22. 10:30 p.m. $10. Parts & Labour, 1566 Queen St. W. PS I Love You plays on the Windish Agency’s bill. March 23. 10 p.m. $18.75. Lee’s Palace, 529 Bloor St. W. Five-day festival wristband $75. cmw.net

(Images: Army Girls, Katie Sadie; PS I Love You, Paper Bag Records)