Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Best video of the year?

It's late, but these videos by prolific Guelphenite Mitch Fillion are simply remarkable. I want to copy the style of all them.

Here we have the equally prolific Olenka & the Autumn Lovers, a breakout band of 2009 and one of my favourites. Here's a new song.

OLENKA AND THE AUTUMN LOVERS - No Coins from Mitch Fillion on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Parler vous la musique excellent?

Another winner at the Bucky's was Coeur de Pirate, an obviously French band who took home the prestigious "Best Reason to Learn French" award. Indeed. I went to see them with an incredible line-up at NXNE. But, of course, the place was sold out.

I waited in line for an hour but once Jian Ghomeshi arrived and walked straight in, I had enough.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Best lyrics ever: "Through and through and through"?

This track just won best lyrics at CBC Radio 3's Bucky Awards. I don't think they're amazing, but Plaskett is one of my favourite Canadian musicians right now, and he has been since I heard his live performance podcast on Radio 3.

If you rent that Joshua Jackson movie, you can see him there, too.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Grateful Dead and Animal Collective

What can I say? After a crazy album got released, these boys stepped up and put one of the most amazing EPs I've ever heard, which you can hear on MySpace. It's the first ever Grateful Dead!

This particular song is one of my favourites from an old album. Quite personal but so strange, so you can't tell it's just an emo song in disguise.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Who likes guys that are handsome!

One of the greatest lyricists and voices I've heard, Handsome Dan is significantly handsomer than most musicians I know, and quite the musician too.

He used to be called Dan the Boy, but after growing up and becoming handsome, he changed his name to reflect his new handsome appearance, which was less boyish. He also added some of the best musicians in town, like two of the best guitarists, a great drummer, a hip bassist and even an Korg organist. The result?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Next BEST

I blog a lot about indie bands in London because so many of them are so amazing. The scene here is thriving right now, no doubt.

Part of that scene is the Whipping Wind, a mysterious group with not much information anywhere. No pics, no bios, no MySpace wall to write on. Apparently it's all about the music, and what kind of music is it.

Great Scott! It's the Great Bloomers

I saw these dudes at Call the Office tonight opening for Olenka & the Autumn Lovers. They're a loud group using the kind of genre splicing that's quite popular today, especially hopping from rock to folk mid-song, tempo-changing and using extreme pop to make the toe tap while grounding it in favourable aesthetics like plaid.

It's basically part of the "legit" pop music scene right now where bands are popular because they make catchy songs and work very hard to counter their own poppiness with the appearance of legitimacy. I like it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The end? PSSH!

Jian Gomeshi loves music and hosts Q on CBC Radio. He even manages Lights. When he's not doing any of this, he's apparently making documentaries about the death of print, radio and TV. In their stead? The Internet! Scary!

Actually, he shows a lot of bloggers and cool Internet folks using the 'net to make money and careers for themselves. They argue that traditional information distributors, like TV, are outdated and "shaking in their boots." The blogosphere has the ability to call out traditional journalists, they tell us, and right the wrongs of so many years of slanted mainstream media.

On the other side, some argue that mainstream media is a central component of media these days and that independent or amateur media are more like leeches than killers — annoying sucklers that can be burned away if need be.

The reality is more middle of the road. What the End tries to do is show us how mainstream media and non-traditional media have to interact. As mainstream media continues to dip their toe in non-traditional media realms — like hosting their own blogs, making their own wikis, or building their own social networks — the effectiveness and exclusiveness of social and online media will continue to fall.

Behind all of these interactions are business people with capitalism in one hand and a hatchet in the other. Moving online is perfectly profitable, and increasingly moreso. What's more important is how the consumer culture is changing. People are more atomized and individualized. Give me the definition, not the dictionary; give me the article, not the newspaper.

The multifaceted nature of online media is more adept at tackling the depth and scope of real news and can integrate new media over time. Historically, traditional media are slow to integrate new media into the fold, but after so many years they can slowly catch up, build momentum and fully integrate into the new media world.

Sweet as in sugary, not sultry

This took me all over the freaking map. At first I thought death metal with the tap drums. Then the guitar reminded me of a Bright Eyes folk tune. The vocals are very indie, which is a good thing these days.

This is the third easy listening tune I've done in this experiment, but it's the most contemporary sounding I think. It has a fun momentum that builds like a 2-year-old on a sugar rush — intense, but playfully so. Enjoy with a candy bar.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Drive me wild!

Thanks, Becky, for submitting this song. Compared to the other tunes I've reviewed so far in this experiment, this ranks more closely to XX than Britney (not surprisingly).

I've honestly never heard of this dude, but he's got a sweet enough voice and invokes a little bit of the early 2000 pop. He might even make it big on some adult contemporary radio stations because he's asking ladies to "drive me wild" so sweetly, and with a nice slide guitar bridge.

Monday, November 23, 2009

XX, not XXX

This cute little song was suggested by "anonymous." Well, whoever you are, this song would fit well in a Zack Braff movie or in the really sad parts in Juno.

Possibly a little too mellow for most of my moods, the guy-girl sing-song is enough to soothe me right now after a long day of excruciating work.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I review Britney Spear's song "3"

This is the first in my experiment to listen to other readers music. First up: Britney Spears' "3".

Possibly the worst song I've ever heard, this incomprehensible, polished, glossy turd somehow takes three minutes to finish, though you've heard everything the song offers in the first 10 seconds.

Possibly the funniest part comes when the bridge arrives, the synths turns down, and an acoustic guitar starts playing for Britney's more emotional moment. But given that the song was made clubs or girls nights or "prees" (which, I'm told, are "pre-drinks" before going to the bars), I probably felt more emotion and satisfaction during my morning trip to the shitter.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Using Metrics

This is a band that I knew about years ago, saw them open for Death From Above and Billy Talent at the Dirty Denim in Guelph.

Shortly afterwards, they blew up and became worldwide stars (at least some think so). The latest album is pretty awesome, but they're almost too popular. That's what they said about being nominated for the Polaris: too popular for Polaris, too indie for the Junos.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Acorn and it's not Obama

They played at LOLA this year, and probably some time before. Kind of experimental and a little strange, but in good indie ways, the Acorn are a lovely little troupe.

Drums in this tune are cool. They remind me of Pick a Piper, at least at the start.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I discovered this band many years ago during a expedition through the Canadian wilderness, aka a car ride to the cottage. Always epic, kitschy and fun, Supertramp was a pop sensation and worth all of your precious attention.

This song is real nice. Thoughts?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Take the Listen! Listen! Listen! quiz to win prizes

I want to know what the hell you people listen to. Comment below and answer this quiz.......:

Send it my way and I'll look it up and write a mini-blog about it. I'm sure you're just dying to know my opinions on the latest top 40 tune or some obscure Scarborough indie pop outfit your little sister just looooves.

Please send them to me right now.

Your prize: having your submission honoured on this prestigious blog and read by millions of avid readers.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nintendo rock for babies from the '80s

This blog post was supposed to be about You Say Party! We Say Die!, poppy dancey little group from out East who hit the Black Shire stage next Monday. (Be there!)

But when I got to listening to YSP!WSD!'s new album, I remembered Crystal Castles, a Nintendo-y little Ontarian duo with madly affected vocals (to the point of incoherence) and a lot blips and bleeps.

This song launches the album and sends you on a visceral journey through strange, unprecedented and wildly energizing pop songs.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Really weird — and a nice post-Halloween listen

This band's best quality is that they're so weird. Ghost Bees are this chick duo from Halifax with flawless harmonies and busy plucking guitars. You've probably never heard anything like it. Their singing is very direct, like speaking, but is very spotty and a little crass. It's all over the place.

This single is fitting for Halloween. It's heavy with mood, like background music to folklore. I can't stick a finger to the structure and all of this is enough to grab your attention.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

No sexy innuendo for the ladies, just "sweet words"

I've been listening to Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection a lot lately. I think modern audiences can really appreciate this kind of music, made between '59 and '71, since in many ways it was the early danceable black pop.

Close cousins of R&B and funk, early motown songs were influenced by popular "romance" music of the day. While men worked around sexual codes, women were mostly restricted to more "ladylike" lyrics about love. And their songs were often written by men, such as "Beechwood."

This song gets its name from a now-dead phone number system used in the States and fits all the standard tropes. But of course there's a certain oomph to everything, an attitude that makes everything so much cooler than, say, the Carpenter's cover of this song on their back-to-our-roots album Made in America.

Robots need love too

Pick your fav Canadian band for the Bucky's, cbcR3's highest honour! Don't know who to nominate? Don't worry, just scroll through my blog posts and pick at random (just avoid the already-famous Americans).

On the R3 boards, people are nominating Fucked Up and Metric. Why? They already have their recognition and Polaris nominations. It would be a TRAVESTY to edge out bands like Timber Timbre because more famous groups get more votes. These awards are for lesser-knowns.

But since it's a public nomination and voting process, it looks like it'll be a situation worse than the Polaris prizes this year.

So give some attention to Dan Mangan. This song is a funny one, but his album is well-rounded and nicely done. A mature effort not necessarily shown in this song.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Halloween gift for all my Listeners!

Download my most-raved-about CD EVER — for free! My first blog post was about Timber Timbre, an eerie acoustic spook-folk group that captured my heart and tortured it gently with acoustic strings all summer long.

I just found out Arts & Crafts, the Hippest Label Ever (I hear), is giving the album away in celebration of Halloween! Only until Oct 31st, which is very soon.

So run over here my little noodles, and knock your noggin against this aural kiss:

That I have to convince anybody to download this album, which I paid hefty $$$ for, is madness. This large font/picture is somewhat an insult to this amazing band, because everyone should want to have such great music in their collection, if not only for Halloween.

If you're reading this and don't yet own this album on your computer, let me promise you one more time that, at the very least, you'll enjoy it on Halloween. Your, like, total girlfriends will totally be like omfg amaaanda wtf is this ish? And you can be like I got it off listenX3 isn't it amaze? Do it up!
For those who don't know, I'm in a blogging class with mostly girls who, I presume, mostly hate this blog because there's not enough Lady Gaga or confessions about my personal life.

So many bands with "Whale" in the name

Oh, Said the Whale. I think they got this name from a Dr. Seuss book. Hmm...
Well, on Radio3 they were talking about bands with then name "Whale" in them and interviewed Whale Tooth, a Toronto popsome group whose latest song will be featured on everyone's favourite teenage drama Degrassi. Here's their MySpace page with some songs.

Apparently there are TONS of bands with "whale" in the name, including:
Or, The Whale
Pilot Whale 
Pink Dead Whale
Prints of Whales
Said the Whale
Sail a Whale
Selfish Whales
Simien the Whale
Sleep Whale 
Tommy and the Whale
Vulture Whale
The Whale/Fiat Lux
The Whale and the Wave

But I think this is just indicative of the bigger dilemma: animal band names! Serisouly I don't think you're really cool unless there's an animal hanging out inside your band name. A Horse and His Boy? C'mon! I think A Horse and His Pony would be even hipper.

Superstardom, anorexia and Karen Carpenter's amazing purity

I hope you like the new blog look. That's a self-portrait I drew, then needed a place for it. So here it is. And he's saying "Uh, because I just like it?" which is pretty much my motto when it comes to loving music. This song is an amazing example.

Soon I'll get back to my CBCR3, indie, new-music vibe, but lately it's been all about the old favourites.

The Carpenters are this manufactured, disrespected pop group from the early '70s who signaled a return to a purer sound, away from loud (but not so hard) rock and into the leave+peace era. At least that's how my Mom describes them.

To me, they're this gem of inanity, the simpleton soul music only sung so sweetly. Karen and her brother Richard Carpenter were snatched up by record execs and, yes, manipulated into an image of, well, Christianity — a return to American Values that was so desperately sought by U.S. conservatives of the day. So much so that Nixon invited the pair to sing at the Whitehouse. I think Nixon played piano for them.

These days, I think it's fair to revisit the Carpenters and remove them from that "inauthentic" context. "Rainy Days and Mondays" is the song to experiment with. It shows what so many people loved about Karen: her dashing, blue vibrato that, in retrospect, speaks volumes about her tormented life. She of course suffered from anorexia and died after overdosing on laxatives.

So it goes.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Earnest indie folk from out west

When Slow Down, Molasses came through London last year, they were kind enough to be our first-ever live recording. We wanted to do a Blogotheque style one-shot live song, and that's what we got:

This song, "Feathers," sounds particularly, well, honest. Sure, that's an emotional description, but I can feel their down-home earnesty in the group singing and the always wholesome banjo, trombone and light percussion. It's like they're a family on a front porch overlooking a wheat field. Or maybe I just think that because I have this romantic view of the Canadian West.

In this version, they didn't have any drum gear avail so the drummer pulled together some wooden bowls and medicine bottles as shakers. He was also one of the nicest guys ever and was so happy to be in London and touring and playing music. You can hear it can't you?

Friday, October 23, 2009

UWO fashion photographer spots hotties

The Gazette has a fashion blog where they take pictures of fashionable people around campus. Did you know about this?

Check out the blog called "Fashion on Campus" at westerngazette.ca

You will come and hear this band right now

they have been called an ethereal experience of sight and sound, the most breathtaking musical experimentation to come out of the forest city in over 30 years. they opened london's biggest music festival this year. you must hear this band.

they are, of course, a horse and his boy.

since i started this blog i've had their self-title debut listed as my favourite album and i've been reluctant to drop it from the sidebar. it's like nothing i've heard before. strong, full of soul and gleefully experimental.

try this song out. "home" is a heavier, poundier version of the distinct ahahb sound. another newer song has an r&b style bass rhythm. it's hard to pin these guys down.

ur blog's okay but LISTEN x 3 is the greatest blog of all time!

I'm sorry, but Kanye West's College Dropout is among my top 5 rap albums of all time. It came on during an iPod shuffle moment and I was like, oh yeah, Kanye! Oh yes, the autocrat of audacity, the pimp of gettin' paid.

Dropout is Kanye trying to prove himself. After producing "H to the izzo" for Jigga, Kanye set to prove his skills as a rapper, too. He freestyled for Jay-Z and quickly became a heavy-hitter in the Roccafella circles. This album was his high-gloss shot at the big time and he delivered.

"Jesus Walks" has unreal gravitas. Considering Talib Kweli was a hot commodity round this time, when he drops in on "Get Em High" with his slick licks you've gotta give a nod to Kan-Yeezy for working with the greatest of the time. (Look at what happened to Lil' Wayne for the past, um, two-three years.)

But it's "The New Workout Plan" that takes the chocolate cake. I remember hearing this song at a party like 8 years ago and I couldn't believe this kind of music came from something so shiney-sounding as a Roc disc.

and finally, my apologies to shawn clarke.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cheerleading video

Attention Girls:

The Gazette just released this video about the Mustang Cheerleaders! omfg, I know! So like totally check it out because you'll love it!

Now, for everyone else, I produced this video for the Gazette as part of our growing presence online. All in all I think it's pretty good. Interesting editing. Music-wise, there's lots of free, unlicensed rap beats used to give it a MTV Cribs kind of feel. Thoughts?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I've been invited to guest blog on a Toronto blog!

After I invited the wonderful Shawn Clarke to guest blog here, he returned the favour and asked me to send a blog his way to Birds Too Tired To Fly. So I nervously chose William Shatner's (yes, Kirk from Star Trek) amazing spoken-word album Has Been. I was nervous because you never know who's going to get it or not. I get it, and love it.

Read it here!!!

Also, since I seem to have a lot of free time lately, I wrote a review of Orchestra London for Beat Magazine. I decided to not ignore my youth, but embrace it, and think about why young people should care about classical music.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I was interviewed on 94.9

Listen to my awkward interview on 94.9 FM if you dare. I was interviewed on CHRW today about work I do for the Open House Arts Collective and other things I do (see my bio sidebar).

If you ever wanted to know who this weirdo is or why he's always late and tired, listen here. Just skip the enviro ad.

And while you're at it, a clip from my second appearance on CHRW today talking about the arrest.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Oh! Canada - Vol. 5 (Canadian music compilation from the UK)

The UK music blog The Line of Best Fit has a segment called Oh! Canada, where they highlight some great Canadian indie bands and give them some more exposure in the UK. I just found out they want to include two musicians I've blogged about in the past — Olenka & the Autumn Lovers and A Horse & His Boy — on their next compilation.

This compilation, the fifth in the series, is a fancy little number with some of the sweetest indie tunes I've heard assembled in one spot —and it's all free.

Filled to the brim with 20 tracks, the comp includes less known bands like the Burning Hell and Octoberman along with even lesser known gems like Language-Arts and 21 Tandem Repeats. (They've also got Tragically Hip in there because you can't say it's Canadian without them, apparently.)

What's mostly slow-listening indieness is appropriately interjected by Duplex! (exclamation mark inclusive), a little experimental troupe with enough reverbed singing to qualify for an indie moniker. Kind of like Matt and Kim in their chantalong verses, but a little more mature with time signatures you can't pin down, it's a certain standout.

Otherwise you'll get your fill of sweet indie darlings who sing awkwardly about this and that. What a nice little album.

And why the hell don't you download it? Free great music, highly recommended. Just do it.

Track listing:
1. 21 Tandem Repeats – On Frozen Pond
2. Metal Kites – Schoolyard
3. Aaron Read – Forest Falcon
4. Language-Arts – Cavity
5. Grassmarket – Endless Summer
6. Ox – Burnout
7. York Redoubt – I Said Slightly
8. Duplex! – Alive
9. Milks & Rectangles – Slander Debunked
10. Great Bloomers – The Young Ones Slept
11. Dirty Beaches – Low Rider (Demo)
12. Carolyn Mark & N.Q. Arbuckle – All Time Low
13. Octoberman – Run From Safety
14. Analog Bell Service – There She Goes
15. Makeout Videotape – Heat Wave
16. Construction & Destruction – Balaenoptera Borealis
17. Owl – Airport
18. Yukon Blonde – Streets
19. The Burning Hell – The Things That People Make, Part 2
20. The Tragically Hip – Coffee Girl

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ohbijou - Beacons

My life was pathetic before Ohbijou, a band so endlessly promoted on CBC Radio 3 as the Next Big Thing, they are the mythical indie saviours of Canada's cutesy pop scene. But I didn't give it a chance.

Well, FML, I learned a lesson. Tonight I discovered the incredible skill this band has when they played at Aeolian Hall. It's not just that it's fun, infectious, lush and savoury (like sweet pie filling, ex.), but that they're polished beyond reason, practiced beyond practicality, and celebrate their own performance in such pomp and go-lucky happiness you can't help but swoon for each and every one of these little fancy pant musicians.

Oh my Lord.

"Black Ice" is the peak embodiment of modern indie pop. I tried to describe this music as thick. It's layered and heavy, with a bunch going on, but simply so — it's not Wall Of Sound jarring, it's deep and warm like a bubble bath. And just as soothing. The singer reigns in her vocals, tames her voicebox like unbroken stallions, because when she lets them loose rainbows shoot gushingly from her mouth and wrap around your brain, telling you life will be alright after all.

I just want to crawl inside this music and live there forever.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Where does blogging fit in a world outfoxed?

This is a response to the movie Outfoxed. It is for class. I think I say a few interesting (and unexpected?) things about Fox News and its place in contemporary media. I have a pretty accepting view of salacious media. I think, generally, news media needs to become more relevant to people and their lives. Divisive politics in news media is its tradition and my favourite period is the abolitionist press and political newspapers of yore. Just what I think.

Outfoxed is of course a slanted liberal documentary committed as much to the “fair and balanced” doctrine as its subject. It’s interesting to judge the documentary on the same terms as Fox News: both are biased news sources presenting usually one side of an issue, using interview subjects that are friendly to the cause, and with little regard for what is the ultimate truth. The difference lies in reception.

Biased news sources are not abhorrent in and of themselves. Journalism’s strongest and proudest era was its partisan press, where abolitionist interests (for one) funded their own politically biased newspapers for political end. The difference was the audience’s understanding of these texts. At the time, newspaper subscribers chose publications that agreed with their sensibilities. Editorials made absolutely clear what the political leanings were. There was no misleading commitment to the kind of “pure objectivity” that defines modern journalism.

Today, Fox News’ famous slogan, “Fair and Balanced,” is its biggest criticism. If it were an admittedly partisan press, Fox News could feasibly exist in the modern news media landscape. Instead, it misleads its audience about the motivations behind its reporting.

Blogging experiences the same problems. Without a mandated commitment to either partisanism or objectivity, bloggers must make clear what kind of product they intend to produce. While most of our class blogs are trifling personal accounts, real political blogs carry tremendous weight in the modern media landscape by presenting personal or partisan analysis of mainstream news reports. The degree to which these reporters are misleading anyone is ultimately up to the readers.

Bob Dylan - Before the Flood

Dylan's had a lot of ups and downs in his career. Before the Flood was recorded during an arguable drought for Dylan and The Band, who took to the road in 1974 with a live album planned. They professionally recorded the tracks over several concerts in the US and the result is a frantic, energetic rocking Dylan without the string-filled gypsiness of 1976's Desire.

Recordings like this are rare in the Dylan canon. Those beforehand are timid and folksy, those afterward are grunty, raspy and gypsy (and then Christian). Here, it's all frantic energy captured live, and what I absolute love about this album is its energy.

In "Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I Go Mine)" — a hit in the 2000s when it was remixed for the radio — Dylan is belting out the end of each verse, practically yelling the entire album for the duration. There's an air of urgency to his voice, like he's trying to be heard by an audience quickly becoming disinterested in Dylan's allure. I'd mark this album as a triumph at the start of Dylan's fall. After Blood on the Tracks and the admirable Desire, Dylan would succumb to Christian influences that would wreck later efforts like '79s Slow Train Coming.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Lil' Wayne - A Milli

My proud indie friends will have to forgive me because I love rap music.

Just like the girl at the Rock Show said, people are pretty judgmental about good and bad genres. Even good and bad music within genres, like Canadian "head rap" versus American gangsta rap. I just like what I like.

"A Milli" is an amazing example. Looping and sampling over a tappity-tap-tap faux snare drum beat, Wayne talks about his money and stuff. Is it emotionally moving? No. But it's energizing and skillfully written. It's from "Tha Carter III," a pretty okay record that exploded on the charts and made Wayne some decent dough after years of releasing free mix tapes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bahamas - Pink Strat

Dear girls,

You are going to love the Bahamas. It's a band — well, it's mostly one guy — who makes the sweetest music ever. Sung quietly and smootly by Afie Jurvanen with an almost comically endearing quality, this is music about love. Period.

His latest album is a simply-made love letter to someone, probably his wife or guitar. I saw him play a backyard show in London and his guitar skills were remarkable if understated.

But what was even more satisfying was his stage presence. He's got this dry, silly sarcasm that comes through as much in the record as it does in person. Songs like "Hockey Teeth" would be completely ridiculous if his humour didn't set the stage for this kind of unusual, honest songwriting.

With an average song length of about two minutes, the album flies by faster than you'd like. It closes with two of its strongest. The final "Whole, Wide, World" chronicles a love story (no kidding) between two lovers who can't find each other. The second last tune, "Till the Morning," is only two minutes long but the guitar work and throaty soprano singing accomplishes so much with so little. Sometimes you can say more in a sentence than you can in a novel. The Bahamas does that. Listen listen listen to this tune.

Monday, October 5, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER: Shawn Clarke talks "Lovely Allen" by Holy Fuck

Welcome music bloggers of the world! I'm introducing a new feature that invites my favourite music bloggers to contribute right here on listen!listen!listen! Let's give a big welcome to Toronto's Shawn Clarke!

Shawn is a musician residing in Toronto with an interest in the arts and city culture. He has created and writes for his blog Birds Too Tired To Fly, which celebrates Toronto and the talented individuals who live in and around.

Take it away Shawn!

I listened to this song three times in a row today.   It gets me pumped for a run.  I use to make out with a girl to this song.  It's so epic, it's kinda the most perfect (and exceptionally cheesy) make-out song ever.  I've seen Holy Fuck on several different occasions, and each one was life altering.  Seeing this song performed at Wrong Bar in Toronto was amazing.  When they got to the build half way through the song, the whole room erupted... exploded!  I began to dance like a fool.... and at LOLA (the London Arts festival) I got to watch them perform it from back stage!  I got so close, I could have played the ride cymbal.

Anyways, this is a song you do something exhilarating to.  For me, going for a run and making out is fine.  Maybe you like to jump off of bridges... cue this song up first.  Maybe you like wrastlin' big jungle cats... try pumping this through the circus tent stereo system, you'll be a better person for it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Olenka & the Autumn Lovers (self-titled)

London legend Olenka Krakus and the tribe of musicians making up the Autumn Lovers are possibly the best thing to come out of London. Ever.

I'm a little biased: I work closely with Krakus and her bandmates. But I was a big advocate of Krakus before I knew her so well. Proof? Check out this wall post from 2007. Yes, almost two years ago.

Krakus' music is emotional and intensely lyrical. An English PhD student, Krakus' songs sound wise beyond their years, touching on as many Eastern European themes as Canadian ones. Her self-titled album is more eclectic than the co-released Papillionette, which is folkier and friendlier.

I've sat in on some practices and it's remarkable to watch Krakus compose her songs. She'll meticulously dissect instrumental breaks with the violinist and cellist, working for hours on a one-minute piece

As of late, the group's moved in a more electric indie-rock direction as the roster solidified with a drummer and electric guitarist. But since none of these new songs are recorded it's hard to communicate how much they've grown. You'll just have to see them in concert sometime soon.

This song, "Northern Lights," is a powerful, brooding ballad that builds boisterously from its meager acoustic beginnings. Krakus' haunting vocals waver carefully around whispy, gypsy-like instrumentation that grows almost infectuously to a repetitive climax before resolving somehow chillingly. It's a standout song on the self-titled and gets even more oomph when performed live, re-orchestrated by the band to include electric guitar and drums.  

Related links:

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours

This album is unstoppable. Hitting the charts #1 worldwide in 1977 with "Go Your Own Way," Rumours captures that soothing, groovy Fleetwood Mac sound all around. Richmond Row still celebrates this album on a weekly basis and it remains the tenth-best selling album of all time. And for good reason.

Hip and snappy, Rumours was written during a tumultuous period during Mac's history. In-fighting caused a stir between members, thus the album's namesake.

What I miss about this era of music is its innocence. Songs like "Don't Stop" are so openly optimistic and poppy with almost an irreverent happiness and momentum to the singing, structure and instrumentation. Other songs like "Everywhere" and "Betty Davis Eyes" hint at that trademark '80s sound that's around the corner -- highly reverbed backup singing and plucky, tinny guitar riffs.

While "The Chain" is a definite standout in songwriting and lyrics, my personal favourite is "Never Going Back." The only plucky acoustic song -- and impressively so -- this song seems very contemporary, like came out of a modern day folk collab from Saskatchewan. Very minimalist and short, it'll only take two minutes to take you through this Fleetwood Mac experience. So do it, and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Carla Bruni - Quelqu'un M'a Dit

This album reminds me of girls, of slow dancing, of warm nights in the winter. Seriously, it's got a deep place in my heart. And it's beautiful.

Carla is now the wife of France's president. Former model turned musician, Carla certainly doesn't write these songs, but damn if she can't sing them.

Acoustically driven, always soft and soothing, Carla's voice is pure and smooth like a 500-thread bedsheet in a fancy French five-star hotel. It reminds me of a lullaby, only if the person singing it wasn't your mother but a former supermodel and you weren't at all related. It's like chocolate, only spelled without the e.

"Le Plus Beau Du Quartier" uses almost no instrumentation for most of it, relying on Carla's lush sexy vocals to carry the tune to its blissful conclusion. I don't know what she's singing and I don't care. Skillfully arranged and at great expense, the album is a professional, shiny piece of work that must be appreciated in a warm house with someone special.

First and last lame post from me. But my class is full of girls and they'll probably like it, if they make it this far.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Howlin' Wolf - The Real Folk Blues

I'll admit it... I didn't know about Howlin' Wolf until I picked up a random $9.99 greatest hits CD and saw his howlin face on the cover. For some, Howlin' Wolf is blues bread-and-butter, a go-to song man of the '60s. For me he was a new taste of a powerful blues sound I've known, but never been immersed in.

The album opens with Killing Floor, a version recorded as a single in 1964. His voice is dirty and powerful, a traditional black sound that exploded around this time and changed how white music sounded. Before this, popular music included "Who's That Puppy in the Window?", romance ballads and crooning standards. Who needs it?

The "Real Folk Blues" series includes all the greats like John Lee Hooker and Memphis Slim, and this rendition includes what's surely the best of Wolf. I don't know his other stuff except the random Grooveshark search, but the dazzling piano and guitar work behind Wolf's incredible scowl makes it a must-have album for anyone interested in the real folk blues.

One thing I like about this genre is how the lyrics are simple while being, often, entirely sexual. Take this song about a "sugar mama" who gives Wolf sugar for his tea at night. Oh that's right. "You know they're bragging about your good sugar, mama!" he barks. "You know they're bragging all over town. Yeah that's granulated sugar!"

No kidding! Amazing. Listen.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Plants and Animals - Parc Avenue

The band wrote this album in a studio loft in Montreal. The street? You guessed it, Parc Avenue. It quickly earned attention from the Canadian music scene and was soon nominated for a Polaris Prize among some of my favourite bands of all time, including Caribou and Basia Bulat. They didn't win.

But! -- the album is astounding. There's definitely that Montreal sound in there, similar to Arcade Fire in instrumentation across the board, with various strings, piano, and a touch of spicy indie vocalizations from Warren Spicer (see what I did there... spicey?). Arcade's Sarah Neufeld offered string compositions for the album and it shows.

Spicer's songs are manifested around the earnesty of any good young man. "Bye bye bye," he sings during the album's catchiest song, which was also a free iTunes download that you missed at the end of August. "It's very easy to do. We never needed to."

Another standout is "Feedback in the Field." The seemingly endless affected guitar solo for the second half evokes grunge-funk spaceout solos of the 70s. I can practically see Johnny Depp in some drug movie overdosing while Sienna Miller stares out of a window balcony. What do you see?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunparlour Players - Wave North

This was one of the first bands I discovered from CBC Radio 3 and I was really excited about it. Their single, "Battle of '77, " seemed like a strange enough tune to make for an interesting album. I also started hearing about their existence through the festival tour grapevine and on the internet, so I knew they were popular enough for me to dip into.

The album is pretty consistent with "Battle of '77," its grating vocals permeating throughout, and not much wandering away from the standard pop song structure. Over time, Andrew Penner's voice does become a bit too grating, either because his voice is at times too strained or because the words aren't particularly moving. Even "Battle of '77" has pretty literal lyrics as Penner asks "What was underneath the road? I guess no body knows. What was underneath the farms to make them fight, to bare their arms?" It feels like something important because the Players do the Arcade Fire thing with the guitar, piano and drums being somehow constantly building to the expected epic finale.

On tracks like "North" the songs can't rest on the virtues of momentum earned in "Battle," so it just kind of falls flat. I guess that's why the same structure is pretty much used the whole time, so songs like "Nuclear" can build enough to remain interesting despite the lyrics.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

Before I bought this album, I was hearing about it all over town. In record stores, at shows, at school, at work -- everyone was talking about it. With good reason. It's a record I need to listen to a few more times before I have a perfect idea of how great it is. But it's pretty great.

Fitting what sounds like the familial/collective mentality of groups like Broken Social Scene, the Projectors are a tribe of instrumentalists and vocalists, apparent best by the differences between tracks. The first, "Cannibal Resource," uses what I'll call "retro vocalizing" from tribe elder Dave Longstreth, with its verses holding just guitar and drum rhythms. They keep things interesting with backup oos and ahhs from the girls in the band.

Skip forward to track five to find an acoustic, female-sung ballad "Two Doves." The melodies in all songs leap this way and that. This is ultimately Bitte Orca's greatest virtue -- its variety. And I'm banking on it to develop into a deeply rooted favourite after another few listens.

Here's a favourite track: "No Intention." Loaded with hand claps and noodling guitar, it will start your toe-a-tappin', so go on and listen.

The Decemberists - Picaresque

My first experience with the Decemberists was during a guitar solo competition between guitarist Chris Funk and Stephen Colbert. I found Funk's solo to be unusually underwhelming, anti-climactic and kind of boring. When I heard Picaresque, I thought it was unusually underwhelming, anti-climactic and kind of boring. Go figure.

The album opens with momentous pomp in "The Infanta," which is about camels, princesses and a palanquin. Right away I noticed the similarities to Neutral Milk Hotel. The more you consider it, singer Colin Meloy's abrasive, raw vocals mimic Jeff Magnum's signature plain-stated style. Compare "Airplane Over the Sea" with "On the Bus Mall." Even the Decemberists' "Eli, the Barrow Boy" could have been written while they listened to "Two-Headed Boy." Who knows.

But the comparisons end acoustically because the Decemberists can't evoke the kind of emotion and authenticity that's a given with Neutral Milk. Instead they seem to mash together an eclectic mix of whatever instruments are around and ham together a very dry and emotionless album.

But I do like the late-90s pop rock sound of "16 Military Wives," even if it's feels a little heavy-handed lyrically.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Timber Timbre - Demon Host

This year's Polaris Music Prize had several travesties (like playing it safe with the nominees and risky with the winner... slow clap, Polaris, you're still legit) but none were more painful than when Timber Timbre didn't make the short list. Just after the list was announced, Timber Timbre was on the cover of Exclaim with the headline "Band of the Year." Fact.

This is spook folk at its finest. It's music that sprouts from the rich loam of lush forests where few have cared to meander. You can feel the earthiness in tunes like "Lay Down in the Tall Grass" where synthesized keys drone behind Taylor Kirk's affected vocals while the protagonist stalks from shrouded surroundings.

But it's songs like "Demon Host" that show why Timber Timbre is indeed Band of the Year and destined for fame larger than a single Polaris Prize could reap. Creepy and brooding, it's the catchiest spook folk pop song I've ever heard, with oo-oo-oos tied around the choruses so snuggly yet eerily, they could be either a bow or a noose.

When I saw them at the Arts & Crafts showcase during NXNE, they didn't play "Demon Host." The crowd went into a frenzy after the set, crying for an encore, but the rigid NXNE schedule didn't allow it. At least there's this fancy video to watch over and over again.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Death Cab for Cutie - Transatlanticism

My first obsession with Death Cab came from Plans, the album following Transatlanticism. I remember seeing Transatlanticism at HMV when I was in high school but I wasn't as enlightened to music then and the name seemed too strange.

What I loved about Plans is painted all over Trans. The wispy, alto vocals about being sad sometimes, happy sometimes, in all kinds of seasons is found here -- just like you can find it all Death Cab and most of the Postal Service. The textured melancholy Death Cab eventually creates on Plans has a minimalistic counterpoint on Trans with songs like "Passenger Seat" becoming far less climactic and sparser than the equivalent Plans follow-up "Different Names for the Same Thing."

If Death Cab learned anything from Trans it was to amp up the amplification, experimentation and rise-and-fall song structure that elevates their follow-up to ethereal heights. But Trans is a startling, moving album all its own. So have a listen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

VIDEO: Interview with Final Fantasy

While at LOLA fest in London this weekend, I took a break from my booth with the Open House Arts Collective to interview Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy. One of my favourite bands, Owen was happy to talk to us about his new tour, his new album, and his old EPs. I also had a chance to film his entire set from the stage, which I'll be posting in its entirety soon.

Check out the interview and let me know what you think by, you know, leaving a comment.