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

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.