Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Newton Rush.

Originally, this paragraph started with “not to hate on Jack Johnson, but...” But then I decided that hey, I do hate Jack Johnson. Well, hate is a strong word, but I find him incredibly boring. Not to mention that Bubble Toes sounds like a gross disease, not an endearing romantic term.

So when I was offered free tickets to the Newton Faulkner show last night, I was really torn, because:

a) I wanted to sleep.

b) Someone told me he was like a cooler Jack Johnson, and that doesn’t up the ante too much for me.

But I went, because I like my friends and I enjoy free things. Am I ever glad.

Yes, Newton Faulkner is someone your mom would like. The songs are safe and radio-friendly, but man can that guy keep a crowd happy.

If you’ve seen August Rush (the music movie with Felicity and a creepy homeless Robin Williams), Newton Faulkner makes you think that maybe the guitar prodigy kid grew up and developed a British accent. Oh, and acquired some serious ginger dreadlocks too.

On stage, you realize that most if not all the sounds that you hear in his songs are produced by Faulkner alone, with intricate guitar handling and a bit of help from some fancy pedals. It’s incredible to watch him, and you forget that the percussion comes from his rhythmic tapping on the guitar body rather than an accompanying band. He played a version of Teardrop that put Jose Gonzalez’s cover to shame aaaand played his own songs impersonating other bands – the man does a perfect Caleb Followill impersonation. Well, a Kings of Leon impersonating Newton Faulkner impersonation, rather. I know.

He had the crowd singing and clapping, and I even caught myself staring at the stage open-mouthed with my head tilted in admiration. Oops. But the highlight of the night was his rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, which he breezed through, alone with his guitar.

So yes, I am a fan, and no, I will never use the name Newton Faulkner in conjunction with Mr. Johnson’s. Leagues apart, I tell you.

Here’s a sample.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Musical chairs.

I know I shamelessly use this blog to talk about my day, and I’m sorry. Well, I’m not genuinely sorry – it’s entertaining for me, and if you don’t like it, you can always stop reading. Deal?

Despite the frustration of the public transit strike, this weekend was an amazing one involving lovely out-of-town visitors and lots of random events. And between wandering through Kensington market and watching Planet Earth, I managed to catch two great shows.

Friday night brought us to the elMo where Nevado Records was putting on a showcase. We came in a bit late for Elephant, but what we heard sounded pretty cool. You can check them out here. The real draw was Fox Jaws, a band from Barrie whose sound is kind of like an ageless soul-country-rock hybrid. While the performance was great, it truly was vocalist Carleigh Aikins who stole the show. A cute brunette with pixie hair, she looked almost shy as she took the stage. But when she started belting (there is no better word) the songs into the microphone, the audience simultaneously turned to look at each other, nodding approvingly. Don’t get me wrong, the whole outfit is incredibly talented and their synergy (everyone’s favourite word) is phenomenal. Keep an eye on these guys.

Saturday involved a LOT of walking, incredibly random bar hopping (party at a backpackers’ hostel?) followed by the narrations of Sir David Attinborough (if you have no idea what I am talking about, do yourself a favour and click here).

Sunday sealed the weekend with a magical note, with a birthday brunch to which we contributed Nelly Frittatas (arguably the worst pun ever). After an afternoon of lawn bowling and mimosas, we went to Soundscapes for a Born Ruffians in-store concert. While their mellow set list was perfect for our overtired mood, the store acoustics were sort of reminiscent of blaring the radio in a car with cheap speakers. Plus it was super hot. But if you’ve never seen this band live, you’re missing out – they have so much fun performing, it’s really refreshing. Below are a few songs from their latest album, Red, Yellow and Blue.

This week: Over the Top festival! More to come!


Born Ruffians – Kurt Vonnegut

Born Ruffians – Hedonistic Me

Saturday, April 26, 2008

bring on the new kid revival.

i have previously posted praise for the post-break-up project (only if it’s good.) for my next act, i will simultaneously write about a side-project and the wonder of covers. i know, you’re impressed.

provoking this outburst is my current obsession with Marc Bianchi’s xoxo Panda. you are probably more acquainted with Bianchi’s effortless spoken-style vocals in Her Space Holiday. dropping the electronics and picking up every instrument he could find, he compiled a departure album titled “The New Kid Revival.” less a bunch of songs, more a collection of stories. the optimism contained in this album would be annoying if it wasn’t so fantastically simple. the words and messages, miles from didactic, are entirely unassuming. i love when an album is an album, and this definitely qualifies. there are rounds and repetition in the lyrics which i appreciate as vocal instrumentation. even more brilliantly, is that the song titles echo one another.

tracks of mention are as follows: all of them.

“The New Kid Revival,” opens a little Voxtrot-esque, and melodies along with clapping filled out with strings and lyrically making no excuses for what the rest of the album will sound like.

a title that makes my ironic little heart laugh almost every time I read it, “The Truth Hurts, So This Should Be Painless,” begins with the melody of a music-box. it fades into a plodding bassline accompanied by some harmonic banjo on the chorus. who doesn’t like banjo… p.s. i think Bianchi may have an obsession with shallow graves, as he makes one mention of two that i have noticed on this album.

according to itunes, i’ve listened to “Sleepy Tigers,” the most. which is understandable since the song proves tambourines are back (with a lively vengeance). i’m also a fan of the the side of xylo. the lyrics are cute, in a non-vom sort of way: “oh i like you so very much, so much in fact i’m going to switch it up”

my favourite song: “My Crooked Crown” is an acoustic track with a bit of xylophone. the lyrics are in the form of a letter, written to me. at least i feel it was written for me, it’s one of those songs my soul fell for long before i heard it. it’s pretty, it tells my life story, and its signed xoxo.

“The Day in Review,” has the most hidden gems word-wise. “even the best ideas fade,” and “our books are filled with failed plots and not the endings that we want. so write out, write out your words.” i rest my case. oh, plus there’s whistling and a harmonica, what more could you ask for…

“The Year in Review,” echoes “The Day in Review,” or vice versa. i don’t think it really matters. strings fill it up, and “ if time is measured in memories don’t set your clock to misery.” words to live by.

the jury’s out on whether this is an actual side project, since Her Space Holiday have announced their upcoming fall release “xoxo, Panda and the New Kid Revival” with the tracklisting identical to xoxo Panda’s “The New Kid Revival.” Their MySpace Blog explanation does little for clarification. if you figure it out, let me know. until then, i’ll be listening to the album in ignorance of the technicalities of the artist’s chosen title.

oh, and as for the wonder of covers, xoxo Panda’s MySpace conatins a cover of Wolf Parade’s “I’ll Believe in Anything.” i really, don’t want to compare it to the original, which is also fantastic. i will say i think the cover fits perfectly with TNKR album, its just different, which is how I feel the best covers should be. it’s a happy addition to my music collection. another cover worth checking out is Howie Beck of The Strokes “Reptilia,” j’adore.

signed, xoxo panda.

The Truth Hurts So This Should Be Painless - xoxo Panda/HSH

The New Kid Revival - xoxo Panda/HSH

I'll Believe in Anything - xoxo Panda/HSH

I'll Believe in Anything - Wolf Parade

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


It’s been a crazy crazy day. Someone mailed a real cow heart to our office today, packaged in a pretty box and complete with a threatening letter (how thoughtful). How that got through Canada Post is really beyond me. Then we discovered that some of our merchandise has Bisphenol A in it, which was a bad scene. Aaaand this crazy man who calls our toll-free line everyday somehow got through to my personal line and has decided that we are to be friends. Oh, and I also keep losing parts of a report I've been working on because my computer repeatedly crashes (see, it’s kind of a normal job!)

Upon arriving home, I set out to go on a very long run to clear my head of all this craziness. I ran the same path I usually do, but today it was such a mood booster! The sun was intense, and all over the park were children flying kites with their dads and little girls clumsily flirting with douchie-looking emo kids. I ran past old couples walking their dogs (fat beagles are my new favourite) and little boys mercilessly soaking eachother with water guns. Needless to say, I am now quite joyful and thought I would propagate the happiness.

To accomplish this, I have decided to share this Cut Copy song that always makes me smile. There not much too it lyrically, but it’s such an upbeat little song...

I will have more on this band after their show on May 9th, when they'll play with the Black Kids at the Phoenix. You can expect a detailed posting and more songs then. Um, and I apologize if this post makes you wanna barf.


Cut Copy - Feel The Love

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Music Lover’s Guide to Being Green(er).

Today my office sent all of us to a presentation on global warming to help develop our sense of corporate social responsibility (read: free muffins and coffee). The speaker was Jean Lemire, this amazing biologist and documentary filmmaker who spent a year in Antarctica measuring the effects of climate change. His advice and anecdotes were accompanied by a string of breathtaking photos and a sneak peek at his new movie, called The Last Continent (Le dernier continent).

Lemire’s tale of glacial adventures was spectacular, but also quite dramatic. He shockingly revealed that their coldest night was only -15 degrees Celsius, (though I’m going to guess that this does not include the wind-chill factor...) and that the water only froze during one winter month, an abnormality. From there, he detailed the alarming impact of these occurrences on local wildlife and on our societies, with a segueway into our role in this matter. Lemire praised the power of requesting and influencing change, however small the scale.

I left the presentation with a serious longing for a chinstrap penguin of my very own (omigod, they look like little Ali Gs!). But most importantly, I gained a greater awareness of my environmental footprint and inspiration to take action. NOW, to make this post relevant to the context, I will provide you with a few tips on how YOU, as a music fan, can help the environment.

I present to you the Music Lover’s Guide to Being Green:

  1. Buy music online as much as possible. Sure, it’s nice to have a great big record collection you can display, but when you think of the production costs, the associated pollution, the packaging, the shipping... it’s just not worth it!
  2. If given the option, opt for concert tickets that are sent to you electronically. You’re eventually going to have to print them, but you can do that on scrap paper. This means there’s no envelope, fancy printing and transportation required.
  3. Talk to the bands! Don’t underestimate the power of your opinions. If you think they print too many unnecessary posters, flyers, stickers or other crap, tell them!
  4. If you are a band, please don’t print too many unnecessary posters, flyers, stickers or other crap. At least use recycled materials if you have to.
  5. Steal posters! We just theoretically took away your ticket stubs and your liner notes... If you absolutely want a memento of a concert or band, just take the poster off venue walls or phone poles. It’s eventually going to be garbage otherwise.
  6. Remember mixed CDs? (Aw, did you make one lately? Cute.) If you have botched CDs, old mixes or even albums that you want to get rid of, recycle them instead of throwing them in the garbage. Make art, string them together to make a curtain, stack’em shiny side up and stick some flowers in the middle. No?
  7. If you’re going to buy an album that’s not super recent, check out used record stores first. Not only will you get a sweeter deal, but you’re also Reusing something annnnd Reducing the amount of nasty plastic packaging (score, two out of the three Rs)
  8. Add to this list! There are a hundred other things, but being aware is the first step.
Oh. And turn down the effing Eurobeats blaring from your earphones if you're going anywhere in public. Noise pollution is also very real.


Monday, April 14, 2008


This is one of those posts that I’ve spent days thinking about – a review of Karkwa’s latest album, Le volume du vent. I was so excited that I hunted this album down on the very day it came out. And for those of you who have ever tried to find French music in Toronto, it’s no simple task. Meaning that the victorious moment when I finally got my hands on it might have been accompanied by an embarrassing little dance (apologies to the startled HMV employee who witnessed it).

As I’ve mentioned before in the CMW post, Karkwa is a French band from Montreal, one of my favourites. Often dubbed the “French Radiohead”, their brand of rock is truly innovative on the Quebec scene. While their success is relatively new, these guys have been around for a decade. Le volume du vent is their third album and probably their most epic and complex, although each album has had its charm. And if they’re going to maintain the Radiohead comparison, they’re going to have to keep going with constant reinvention. And “pay-what-you-want” type album sales would also be cool, please and thank you.

What to expect: intricate instrumental layering accompanied by lead singer Louis-Jean Cormier’s incredibly versatile vocal stylings. Though I must mention that unlike Thom Yorke, Cormier actually enunciates. Le compteur, a collaboration with Patrick Watson, mixes distant piano, rolling drums and crescendo vocals to give the song a stormy quality, if that even makes sense. Échapper au sort lingers with an amazing drawn-out bridge and a chilling message (see video below), while Le frimas is a short interlude mixing glockenspiel, vibraphone and piano to produce an eerie movie-score type feel. The whole package also mixes in social commentary and smart lyrics, though understanding the message is not that essential to the enjoyment of this album (a note to all of you who are francophonically challenged).

Point being, they are fantastic, please have a taste and go seek out Le volume du vent.

If you're hooked and interested in some of their older stuff, try going here, or even here.

xo, g3.

Karkwa - Oublie pas
Karkwa - Combien

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Islands everywhere!

I was very excited to see today that Islands have released another song off of their upcoming album, Arm's Way. The new song, Creeper, is the third track the group has leaked this year; The Arm popped up on the interweb around the end of January, and Arm's Way was released about two weeks ago. Trying to piece this album together, I feel like I'm collecting buttons . "Look ma! I found track three!"

Anyways, this album promises to be a good one. Creeper has an awesome, top-of-the-world beat to it and it's the kind of song you would listen to while strutting down the street on a bright sunny day. It does, however, have hints of a darker tone (which makes you question the innocence of those Islands kids). The Arm is more reminiscent of Islands' work from their debut album. If you listen closely enough, you can hear a few unicorns in the distance. See what I just did there?

Islands will be touring this month in the U.S. No word yet on Canadian shows.

In the meantime, here are a few treats:
Islands- Creeper
Islands- The Arm

(Links courtesy of stereogum)