Monday, March 31, 2008

Oh memories...

Sometimes public transportation is a bit like a twilight zone. Ok, most of the time. Like today, for instance, I caught myself staring at a man wearing white slacks. WHITE SLACKS! I also saw high-waisted, wide-legged leather pants, which should not be something that happens. Ever.

I realize now that I seem to have been paying special attention to pants. Which is kind of strange and I’m going to make a conscious effort to stop – maybe look people in the face. But riding the streetcar means you also get stuck beside people that are listening to their iPod just a tad too loud. And whilst the sound of too-loud, second hand BonJovi can motivate one to relinquish a coveted seated spot, sometimes, you land next to someone who is listening to something sweet that you haven’t heard in a long time. And it just brings you back.

I am a big fan of nostalgia. And with this said, I ask: Remember Rusty??? I do. They were Canadian, they were good, and the lead-singer was sorta hot in a homeless kinda way. They made it big in 1995 with their first full-length Fluke, with catchy grunge-rock songs and controversial videos. Their second album (aptly named Sophomoric) was released in 1997 and brought us Empty Cell, which was debatably their biggest hit. Sadly, the band underwent some troubles and broke up in 1998 after the release of Out of Their Heads. It’s disappointing, but hey, fame is fleeting.

I’ve had this “Remember Rusty?” conversation before, so to all of you who were unsure, I wish to provide you with all the tools necessary to properly recall this band. Here is the video for Misogyny and a few old tunes that you will hopefully inspire someone else to go hunt down – just play them extra loud next time you sit on the bus (please wear normal pants).

Rusty - California

Rusty - Empty Cell

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Orillia Opry is gorgeous.

So this is the band’s description as found on Orillia Opry's label's website: Daniel Noble is from a small town rich with red brick buildings. Emma Baxter is from a valley on an island in the sea. Together they sing like crazy birds descended into the city from an opera house in a forest in the sky...

Say what?

However, once you’ve given them a spin, this strange description makes complete sense. No kidding.

This kind of artsy imagery used to describe the band is not difficult to conjure up once you’ve heard what this duet is capable of creating. Lighthouse for Stragglers’ Eyes is Orillia Opry’s second album. It’s whimsical and earthy, light and intense, and kinda... woodsy?

Hailing from Montreal (no, they’re not from Orillia, but I bet you were chuckling at your own dad joke), Orillia Opry delivers an eclectic mix of sounds and instruments, from pianos to creaking chairs, even a frontalini (thanks for nothing, Wikipedia). There’s a little bit of Neil Young, and a lot of harmonies.

It’s also nice to see that Ships at Night label mates are there to help each other out: this album was produced by Plants and Animals' Warren Spicer. With this little number and all the attention P&A have been getting, it’s easy to predict a big year for this small label.

But enough of my rambling. Have a listen and make up your own crazy description. These are my top picks off Lighthouse:

Orillia Opry – I Lied
Orillia Opry – Shadow Shadow

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Why? because.

a good friend introduced me to Why?’s Elephant Eyelash about a year ago. a perfectly orchestrated outrageous collection of sounds, lyrics, and instruments. the piano always pretty, the vocals not as much, but a seemingly perfect fit nonetheless, plenty of guitar, and a very very very very eclectic mix other miscellaneous "instruments" as far as I can tell.

this band defies genre, so I’m not even going to attempt classification. (although itunes seems to think it’s hip-pop, which if nothing else, is fun to say.) the new album Alopecia is an admirable follow up to Elephant Eyelash. i honestly struggle to convey the sound of this band. rap maybe, with bells? twinkle bells. twinkle bell rap? doesn’t sound quite right. so i’m going to stick to fantastic disregard for conventions of music and sound. "The Vowels Part 2" rolls you into the album in a nonchalent sort of way, fading into the fantastic rest, tapping out with a distorted building of noise and words in "Exegesis." the song "Sky For Shoeing Horses Under” has my heart. solid intermittent chords and simple heavy drums anchor the two and a half minutes of suspended chimes and monotone almost instrumental vocals. similarly the hollow percussion of the “Fall Of Mister Fifths,” combined with organ echoes enough to give the album cohesion, but not enough to pin down anything. i would post the whole album if i could, but i can't, so track it down please.

my descriptions cannot do this band justice. give them a listen. if nothing else, your ears will learn something new.

Rubber Traits - Why?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Fire in my belly...

Sometimes you stumble upon something that you just want to share with everyone. Maybe it’s a sweet restaurant, or a great movie or maybe even a fantastic new flavour of toothpaste. It doesn’t matter – you just want to tell all your friends. Liam Finn has just been added to that category in my books. Note that I am not trying to group him with my new Colgate MaxFresh (although I really really like it as well).

I have a plethora of favourite artists and musicians, but only a few true loves. Close to the top is Elliott Smith, whom I could listen to for years on end. And since I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for new material (at the peril of ending up in the same state he’s now in), I’ve resolved to simply continue to seek out musicians that give me the same feeling in my stomach. I put on Liam’s I’ll Be Lightning and the first song I listened to was Fire in Your Belly (aw, pun!) I immediately stopped whatever I was doing and just stood there, spellbound. No jokes, I'm really excited about this one.

From Melbourne, Australia, Liam is the 24-year old son of musician Neil Finn of Crowded House, an outfit that has always garnered many Beatles comparisons. And because people loooove drawing parallels, I’ll Be Lightning has also been compared to Neil’s work and to that of The Beatles. If you really want to explore that similarity, I recommend you turn to the I Am Sam Soundtrack to hear a Finn father-and-son duet rendition of Two of Us (awww).

But focusing now on Liam's first solo effort, I'll be Lightning is completely impressive. Songs like Gather to the Chapel and Wide Awake On The Voyage Home are ridiculously melodic and delicate, with breezy harmonized vocals. Lullaby is an a capella masterpiece and includes one of my favourite lines of the album: “night is just the day breathing in”. Better To Be is one of the more upbeat tracks and was a good choice to kick off the record. Dude has a great voice, but the whole deal is solid – heck, the man even plays the theremin!

Liam Finn is currently touring the States with Canada’s The Most Serene Republic and Miracle Fortress until the end of March, and then with Eddie Vedder until the end of April. Unfortunately for us, no Canadian stops have been scheduled.

Here are a few tracks for your listening pleasure.

Liam Finn - Fire in Your Belly
Liam Finn - Wide Awake On The Voyage Home

Friday, March 14, 2008

Gowns are more than just clothes

The other day, while browsing Stereogum, I stumbled upon a lovely little band called Gowns. Raw and intensely emotional, their sound reminds me of a few of Akron/Family's calmer, lower key songs. I suppose they could be lumped into the freak-folk category, but they're an easier listen than most artists of this genre (see: Danielson). Their songs incorporate acoustic guitar, a capella harmonies/lyrics, and lots of piano feedback. Right down my alley.

Anyways, here’s a bit more about the band. Originally composed of 3 people (lead singer/guitarist Erika Anderson, drummer Corey Fogel, and synth man Ezra Buchla), Gowns recently added drummer Jacob Huele and bassist Aaron Davis to their ensemble. Although the group originally formed in 2004, they only just released their first full-length album, Red State,in 2007. Recorded in homes, basements, and rooms between Los Angeles and South Dakota, it chronicles the life of the band in flyover zones.

Let me go over a few of the standout tracks on Red State. Rope is almost a whisper of a song, and captures the thoughts of someone whose world is falling apart. White Like Heaven gives you a pessimistic punch in the heart, with lyrics like "I saw thirty seconds turn into 10,000 years, and it was horrible" detailing the darker side of life. Another favourite, Clawless, is a hauntingly beautiful a capella track which begins with a single voice then transitions into a series of harmonies.

This band doesn't even need instruments.

A few tracks for your listening enjoyment:
Gowns- Rope (Demo)
Gowns- Feathers

& more on their myspace

They know they’re right

I was checking out the SXSW line-up the other day, cursing the US for being so big and Texas for being so far. And greasy. Actually, there are plenty more very valid reasons why I’m not at this “superbowl of music”. Like, uh, work. So to feel better, I was listening to some of the showcased bands when I came across Bo Pepper.

This British quartet is composed of Nick Cartwheel on the guitar, Will E. Nailor on bass, Jonny Dangerous (like that’s really your name) on the drums and a mysterious female vocalist labelled simply “singer”. Actually my sleuthing helped me discover that this elusive “singer” is in fact Alexis Strum, a 28 year-old singer -songwriter from Chingford, Essex with her own solo stuff going on.

All in all, Bo Pepper is a little bit Metric, a little bit Yeah Yeah Yeahs... very much following a vein of ladies fronting all-man rock ensembles. It’s danceable and fun, albeit sometimes a little vapid in the lyrics department (I could do you like no other, I could be your girl. I could make you beg and suffer, I should be your girl... ok, Ashlee Simpson).

But that’s all forgiven once you see their kitschy stop-motion animation video for Blinkandyou’llmissit! And any band that uses a sock puppet as their main promotional tool gets my respect.

Buses is a fantastic track and has been picked up by XFM DJ Eddy Temple Morris to appear on the album, "UK: ONE the New Music Collection- Coca-Cola Soundwave”. For Kicks is also really fun, layering hand clapping (always a good time) with an energetic beat and playful guitar strumming, the kind of song The Strokes would be jealous they didn’t release first.

Check this out if you’re not convinced:

I have a thing for Pete Doherty.

For some reason, his dirty, strung-out, drug-puppy look is just... hot. I totally get you Kate Moss. Well, no, not at all, but the Pete stuff, I dig.

This is not an album review, or any kind of relevant post, really, but I am home from work because i am sick, I have a fever, and my effing stove decided to electrocute me. So please bear with my rant.

Anyhoo, I read an article about old Petey a while ago, and the guy is seriously effed.

The journalist is with him over the span of a few days, and during interviews Pete goes on and on about how good he feels and how rehab has made him so much better, lalala... Then bam, a picture of him surfaces in the tabloids of him shooting up 3 days earlier. Ooopsies.

Hey, but it’s ok, he just turned 28, which apparently (to him) disqualifies him from going the way of the famous 27-drug-glamour-drama rockstar demise. Sorry Heath, you just chose the wrong craft.

So what I am getting at is: Babyshambles – Shotter’s Nation. Listen to it.

Lost Art of Murder just popped up on my play list, and it’s an amazing track. It’s about the gambles he takes in life, and pulling his act together. Either that or he’s playing a really intense board game (Trouble, maybe?).

Babyshambles - Lost Art of Murder

Monday, March 10, 2008

Welcome to Toronto!

So, so tired.

One of the (many) perks of relocating to the big city was that I would get to go to as many shows as my little heart desired. You know, at least once a week or so, I thought. Little did I know, my first week here would coincide with Canadian Music Week. Phew. Even with my “i-work-early-and-it’s-a-new-job-so-i’m-going-to-be-a-grandma” attitude, I still managed to catch about a dozen bands in the span of four days.

To summarize this event, CMW presents 500 artists spread out across 40 venues, starting on Wednesday up to Sunday. Yes. Needless to say, Monday was brutal – I showed up to work late with a nasty cold. I think I ate 4 oranges at my desk today. The big ones. But I digress.

Some CMW highs:

Karkwa – This Québécois band blows me away every time. Even the people around me who had no idea what the band was singing about were completely entranced. With a new album due out April 1st, their set mixed old songs with some amazing new material. Please give them a listen, I promise they are lovely.

The Acorn – Amazing set at the Horseshoe, made us Ottawaiians proud. Ottawans? Ottawanians? (According to my spellcheck, it’s Ottomans. Obviously.) Still haven’t figured out what a “morning-after burrito” is, but this topic seemed to preoccupy the band quite a bit. Doesn’t Ottawa prefer morning-after shawarma?

White Cowbell Oklahoma – Probably the most terrifying live show I have EVER seen. Big burly bearded boys (men, in fact, but I wanted to complete the alliteration) and sweaty, heavy rock. There were half naked ladies wearing devil horns dancing on the speakers, pyrotechnics (still at the Horseshoe) and a CHAINSAW. Yes – they sawed a Tweetie Bird piñata in two and then used the power tool to project toilet paper into the audience.

Some CMW lows:

Your wrist band does NOT guarantee you access. And this lovely week also turned out to be one of the biggest snow storms of the year. READ: lots of waiting outside in the cold cold snow. And being turned away from the RZA show on Sunday night. Jerks.

Special mention goes out to Ottawa’s Fucked Corpse, who we stumbled upon while trying to find shelter from the cold. They were randomly playing at the XPACE gallery on my street, so we stopped in for a few Grolsch and some sweet art. They weren’t part of CMW, but I think they should have been.

Next time.