the films - ep

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Album:EP
Artist:The Films
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The Films are an Indie based group that currently resides in South Carolina.
Filter recently put out a nice little 3-song sampler to get kids ready for a
full length release.  The first track, That Kind of Day, starts off with a crunchy guitar intro, before fading into a church organ/bass verse that shows off the vocals of Michael Trent (it would be hella cool if it was Gary Trent - SHAQ OF THE MAC wot wot).  The chorus builds and adds guitar and some harmonies to hook the listener.  Fans of Jet and Phantom Planet (if they had more edge) will enjoy cut.

The single, Black Shoes, uses some hand claps, simple guitar and a driving drum/bass combination to peak your interest.  They run the gamut with instant catchiness when they drop some tambourine on your ass. Handclaps and tambourine make any song sound good.  It's like cowbell.  The band is
currently offering up the video and two demo versions of songs on their myspace site too.  Check
it out.

The last song on the EP is Come On.  This song is a bit of a riddle to me. Musically I am into it, but I don't like the lyrics whatsoever.  They are a little too "from my diary" type style. The band drops into a more Rooney type sound, and I don't think it works as well as their first two crunchy tracks on this EP.

Regardless, this debut EP should help the Films drum up some fans and if they keep writing quality songs like the first two on this EP, their full length (which should be released on Warner soon I think) will be a nice addition to any collection.


the giant drag/the like - live @ richards on richards

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Album: Live @ Richards on Richards
Artist: The Giant Drag/The Like
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I never thought I’d be going into a place called Dicks on Dicks to find some all girl action. It’s like getting run over by a Dodge car, or finding 10000 forks when all you need is a knife (or whatever semi-ironic thing Alanis sang about).

Watching the Giant Drag set up, I was interested to see how this LA-based two-piece would deliver. Front woman Annie Hardy draws constant comparisons to the Breeders, PJ Harvey and My Bloody Valentine. Along with probably being annoying, it leaves the duo with some mighty big shoes to fill. Perhaps the best description I’ve read is that she’s “like Mazzy Star stumbling home after a pub crawl.” What’s that mean? No idea, but it is a good line.”

Annie strolled to the mic, and in a surprisingly sweet voice, introduced herself. Her librarian-esque sweater completed the whole, “there is no way this is the girl I heard rocking out on the Giant Drag disc” vibe. Then she introduced the first song, “you f&ck; like my dad” and Giant Drag proceeded to rock the small crowd (that was “10 times as big as the one they played for in Toronto” – so apparently they played in someone’s closet).

The sound these guys delivered was amazing. The drums thumped and Annie’s power chords provided more than enough music, static, feedback and octave pedal mishaps to keep heads nodding. Unlike most performers, Annie keeps the crowd entertained between songs. Her cute, slightly awkward style completely clashes with her strong, powerful songs for an enjoyable mix. She enlightened the crowd by letting us know she wrote Wicked Game (Chris Isaaks) for her boyfriend when she was 8, but he stole the song, before leaving her for Margaret Cho. She pulled a Babe Ruth, and called her shot (by saying the next song was called My D*ck Sucks, and this next dance is called the running man - before breaking into the run complete with geetar). All in all, the short set was energy and humor packed, and the band left on a Constanza – with us all wanting more.

Where to start when it comes to the Like? Maybe with the fact they are the daughters of some well connected music people (A & R man Tony Berg, producer Mitchell Froom and Attractions drummer Pete Thomas)? Maybe start with the fact that after their high school graduation in 2004, they toured with Phantom Planet and Maroon 5? Maybe start with the fact these girls are making music much better than people much, much older.

I was relatively in the dark about this band. I knew they were all pretty young and they have been compared to the Pretenders and the Sundays. Needless to say, I was interested to check them out live. As they took the stage, one thing was painstakingly clear. The fact these 18-year olds were scantily clad made me a little uncomfortable. I would assume it’s only a matter of time before one of them is dating that Fez guy (he’s totally pulling a Wooderson – “I get older, they stay the same age”).

Wearing dresses and boots, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as soon as Tennessee Thomas started in on the drums, I knew this set would be high in rock quota. The girls tore through their set, with little crowd interaction – it seemed like the only thing said was several curse words from trucker mouthed lead singer Z. Berg – but the music seemed to speak for them. Rock solid drumming drove the songs, and the innovative and surprisingly advanced guitar work mixed well with Froom’s bass lines. The girls really enjoyed playing, and even pulled the no encore gimmick. Get on this train (figuratively Fez, so relax) early. It's going places.


THE PRIMERIDIAN - DA ALLNIGHTA

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Album: Da Allnighta
Artist: The Primeridian
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The Prime Meridian is a line somewhere in the UK used to calibrate the world's various time zones. The Primeridian is Chicago duo Tree & V who kick conscious, soulful hip hop from the mighty midwest. I can't be sure on what the significance of the name would be but I'll guess that as the Prime Meridian is supposed to be a central point on the globe, Primeridian is sending out their brand of thinking man's hip hop from the middle of the US. Or not, I have no idea, but I know they're worth a listen.

Primeridian sound like Zion I mixed with Asheru & Blue Black, and with a bit of Jaydee's midwestern style on the beats. Tree & V flow together so seamlessly that I honestly can't tell them apart. That could be a bit of a negative if they ever plan to launch solo careers, but it works on this album.

I believe The Primeridian also produced the majority of this album, and they've done a solid job. The beats are mainly of the programmed variety and are sort of uptempo yet mellow at the same time, if that makes any sense. The production on this album won't blow you away, but it matches the MC's flows, which makes sense as they did it themselves. It's also consistent the whole way through, which makes for a cohesive album.

Lyrically, Primeridian is like the University Of Michigan's offensive line: heavy. The album starts off with a long Malcolm X sample, and that's a good indication that you're about to get a large helping of the conscious lyrics. Tatuduhendi (Boogie Man), a song with a name that would probably keep it from ever being popular, starts off by mentioning that one of the MC's was conceived at an anti-nuclear protest and then rips the American government. This song also starts with a sample of Furious Styles from Boyz In The Hood schooling folks on how the government messes with their community. Which is awesome because it allowed me to type "Furious Styles" in this review. Social Studies Pt. 2 uses a dysfunctional family as a metaphor to describe how the government screws (literally!) the middle class.

There were only a couple songs that I had issues with. Smoke Signals has some gratuitous reaggae toasting that doesn't add much. Speaking of gratuitous, at the beginning of Smoke Signals one of the MC's mentions that all hip hop songs need a talking intro, that it's a "hip hop rule". They repeat this "rule" at the beginning of Post To Do, before they break into a love-rap song that contains almost as much French as a Buck65 song. Awesome. Well this whole talking intro thing is one of my pet peeves with current hip hop (seems especially prevalent in underground hip hop), so I hope dudes stop following this "rule". Seriously, if you have something to say, say it in the song, save the boring ad libs for your stage show.

Despite having a borderline cheesy title, Da Allnighta is a solid hip hop album. It's a mature brand of hip hop that can be hard to find these days, and I've found it gets better with repeated listens as you start to digest the lyrics. These fellows from Chicago definitely have something to say, so hear it for yourself.


MATT COSTA @ RICHARDS ON RICHARDS

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Album: Live at Richards on Richards
Artist: Matt Costa
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Richard’s on Richards had a strange vibe last night. As I perused the crowd waiting for Matt Costa to take the stage, I felt like I was at a high school dance. Not because it was girls on one side, boys on another: more like everyone looked like they were in high school. This shouldn’t have been a big surprise since Matt’s career recently benefited from two things:

  • Writing catchy songs that are easy to sing-along too
  • Touring with Jack Johnson

The opening act was Rebecca something that sounded like Romijn. After realizing she was not Rebecca Romijn, I was quick to discover this Rebecca was a pretty standard female singer/songwriter. She’s sort of cute, with a huge acoustic guitar. Like a crackhead, she has a nice set of pipes, but I don’t think she knows how to use them to her advantage. She played a lot of blues-y sounding songs with break downs that allowed her to belt out some notes. That’s a very tough sell in a crowd that is waiting to hear someone else play one song. What happens is people say, “Nice voice, just nothing that stands out. You need another beer?” When you only get a half hour, it's a bad sign to hear loud talking after three songs. Her sound mixes a little bit of early Ani Difranco, Tegan and Sarah and some Bonnie Raitt. The thing that helped Ani and T & S catch on is personality. Amusing anecdotes and laughter helps break up a set and keeps the audience interested. Rebecca may have this, but she it didn’t last night.

After she finished up, the young crowd pushed forward, as did one of the tallest women I've ever seen. She was a legit 6'3" without heels and she was tore up from the floor up. Dancing like Elaine Benes to the music playing between bands? She had that covered. Luckily she stood directly in front of us and she and her friend sucked down drinks like they had been trapped in a desert for weeks. Her torso went back and forth like a metronome, attracting the laughter of all those around.

Finally Matt and his band took the stage. Guitar, bass and piano. Interesting set-up but the sound was bang on. As Matt churned out the first few notes to Acting Like a Fool, the attitude of the crowd showed up. At the first bridge, all you could hear was "We love you Matt Costa" and enough whistlers to attract every dog in the Vancouver core (which luckily is only those little dogs that Britney and Paris made famous, so they aren’t that intrusive). Here's my beef with this. Sure, you want to get into the show, show the artist you are picking up what he's putting down, but he’s a singer/songwriter that plays acoustic ballads. Yelling over top of him isn't really the way to go, nor is that whistle that makes your ears bleed.

Matt played a nice mix of songs from his self-titled EP, his debut full length (Songs We Sing) and his latest EP (Elasmosaurus E.P – which were basically outtakes from his studio album). I really enjoyed the stripped down sound of the evening. Adding bass and subtle to piano really let Matt’s voice be the focus of the songs. Highlights included Cold December, Yellow Taxi Cab, These Arms and a heartfelt cover of Neil Young’s Harvest.

Unfortunately, a lot of the crowd only showed up to hear two songs. On the Brushfire tour, he go the most notice when he and Jack sang a duet of Sunshine that people loved, and when people got to hear his beautiful song, Astair. I'm no expert, but when you are playing solo, and attempting to cover a song by one of the greatest Canadian singers in a small Canadian club, that last thing you want to hear when you are blowing a harmonica solo is, "Yeah Matt! We love you! Play Astair." The sad part is that Astair is a fantastic song, but after hearing 150 people yell for it all night, the mood was kind of ruined when he did play it.

Overall I was really impressed with Matt. He played a great set and handled the annoying crowd with some good humor (when he said, "I thought you had to be 19 to drink in Canada" in response to the young-en's who kept yelling, I almost fell of my stool). He is coming back to Vansterdam soon, so I recommend that you go, unless you are one of the aforementioned idiots from last night.


VARIOUS ARTISTS - MERRY MIXMAS

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Album: Merry Mixmas
Artist: Various
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Once December rolls around, anyone who's interested in Christmas starts looking forward to hearing some Christmas music. Labels know this, so every year they unleash a deluge of new Christmas albums trying to cash in on people's good moods and their yearning for yuletide tunes. This year (in Canada) alone, you can buy new Christmas albums from Diana Krall, The McGarrigle Sisters (featuring their Wainwright offspring), Regis, Mannheim Steamroller (just wanted to type Manheim Steamroller), The guy from the Stray cats, Engelbert Humperdinck (yep, just wanted to type Englebert Humperdinck), and many more. It's hard to view all these releases as much more than a cash grab by labels, as I'm certain Little Drummer Boy has already been sung in every conceivable way. But I'm not immune to this phenomenon myself, so I understand why they do it. Once Dec. 1st arrives, and there's some snowflakes in the air, I long for the sweet Germanic-Disco Christmas sounds of Boney M's Christmas album.

So with all that Christmas music out there, where can the selective music enthusiast turn for a hit of Christmas? Funny you should ask. Fresh for Xmas '05, Capitol has released Merry Mixmas: Christmas Classics Remixed. Basically Capitol dug into their vast back-catalogue for some lounge-cool Christmas classics by people like Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin, Eartha Kitt, and Johnny Mercer. They then turned these songs over to some fairly well-known DJ's and producers for the remix treatment. But they were instructed not to alter the essence of the track, as most of the "remixing" done here is pretty mild.

The Bing Crosby opener, Winter Wonderland (Bent Remix), is a good example of this. The "remix" of this song hardly changes it at all, perhaps just adding some synchopated bells and orchestra swirls all around the Binger's voice. If you asked an old school Bing Crosby fan, I'm sure they wouldn't know this was a remix. The Nat King Cole Trio follows with All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) (MJ Cole Remix) and although you can tell it's a remix with it's bouncy bassline and programmed fingersnaps, it's still just sounds pretty much like Nat King Cole.

The Latin Project's horn and piano treatment of Ella Fitzgerald's Sleigh Ride is excellent. Soul add libs in and around the chorus help the nice jazzy feel of this song. I also enjoy The Away Team Remix of Lou Rawls' Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. It starts out kind of spacey with Lou Rawls sounding like he's singing through a tin can phone, but then Big Lou comes in full force joined by some snappy horns, it's nicely done. The uptempo Malibu Remix of Billy May's instrumental Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer is one of the funner songs on the album.

There's not a ton to complain about with Merry Mixmas. The only thing I can say is that some of the songs are a little bland due to the remixers attempts not to change the songs too much. The ARP Remix of Deano's Baby, It's Cold Outside is an example of this. The Ursula 1000 Remix of Julie London's I'd like you for Christmas is also a little lacking. Sort of a generic uptempo beat that doesn't mess well with Miss London's monotone voice.

But overall if you're looking for some Christmas music, I'd say this is worth a try. The original songs are actually classic and for the most part they're enhanced by the remixing, so get your copy of Merry Mixmas today and play it at your next at your next hipster Christmas gathering.



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