Monday, June 16, 2008

Herohill Ladies Detective Agency:: Episode One

Bitter:Sweet - The Bomb
Male/Female electronic duo from WEST HOLLYWOOD (as their myspace indicates):: This song is the theme for NBC's Lipstick Jungle :: This album is more "organic" then their "intoxicating" debut

Sarah St. Catherine - Soul-tied
Singer-Songwriter from Calgary (Maybe? Long-winded website makes it hard to tell) :: Owns her own independent label :: Seems to be a fan of the site, but mixed up who was who on the hill by recently asking how Shane was adjusting to Halifax life

Erin Lang - Youre Coming Home
Electro/Ambient Singer-Songwriter from Canada (Toronto maybe?) Now based in London:: Father was bass player in April Wine :: Invited Ack and I out to her show at NXNE in Toronto, although as you know, we do not live in Toronto

Posted at 2:21 PM by naedoo :: 1 comments

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Reviews:: Deezuz - Soulden Era

All right, I think it's high time we get back on the Alberta rap train here at the hill. Not counting Cadence and his Weapon, it's been a while since we had some Alberta hip hop content, but like so many albums before it, Soulden Era the new album from Calgary MC Deezuz showed up randomly in my mailbox a few weeks ago. I remembered Deezuz'a semi-unfortunate name from his guest appearances on Lyric1's album, Get In On The Ground Floor, which I thought was decent enough, but didn't leave me super-jazzed to get my Deezuz on. However, a quick perusal of the track list showed guest spots from Kool G. Rap, Sean Price, Joe Scudda, and Buckshot. Certainly enough to peek my interest.

Now, with interest peeked, how does the Soulden Era fair after a few listens? Not too bad actually. I can't front on the production, especially on the first half of the album, with classic, static-y drum breaks and plenty of soul samples that give the tracks an un-deniable headnod factor. And Deezuz himself is a solid MC, with a flow that shows he has studied the game thoroughly. But over the full 15 tracks, I found I couldn't exactly buy into the album. To me, it felt like every song was a variation on one theme, the whole "I'm on the grind, struggling to get by, I'm sacrificing everything for this, it's life or death, I almost didn't make it, I'm weeded 24-7, and although maybe I shouldn't be, I just can't help it" vibe. I don't know Deezuz, perhaps this is real to him, but it feels a tad forced to me, and after listening to the whole album I still felt I had no idea who this guy was and what he was all about.

That being said, I'm not saying there aren't quality songs on the album. The horns, plucked guitars, and twinkling keys on Break It Down provide a catchy, uptempo backdrop for Deezuz and the immortal Kool G. Rap to go for theirs. I have to say, no matter who you are, or how you made it happen, getting a guest verse from G. Rap on your album is impressive. The autobiographical Livin' Free is a funky ode to the "403", with Deezuz showing Calgary some love. The 80's R&B; vibe of Cover My Tracks is a good contrast for Deezuz and the rugged rhyme styles of underground fave Sean P. Deezuz romances hip hop on the solid World Without U, proclaiming his love for the artform and coming across more authentic than many of the other songs. Wistful guitar licks provide the backdrop for Deezuz, Fatty Down, and Moka Only to lament the elusiveness of love on Never Fall In Love Again.

So in the end we have an album with a number of solid tracks, and an MC with skills and some definite potential. As far as I know, Deezuz is a rather young fellow, so he's got plenty of time to find a bit more of a voice. I'm well aware that paying homage to the "real" hip hop aesthetic is something everyone does, but hip hop should also be about originality, and at some point you have to find what it is you have to say. However, Soulden Era is a solid debut none the less and proves the hip hop heads in Alberta are still putting in work.

Posted at 9:52 AM by naedoo :: 1 comments

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Reviews:: Emmy the Great

So, pushing on with my Female Vocalist week I'll move on to Emmy the Great. If I wanted to force a metaphor into this little post, I would say that Emmy the Great was the musical BBQ sauce of SXSW. Yes, she was on everyone's lips. It's pretty shocking that a woman with a few singles and an obscure, hard-to-track down EP was one of the toasts of the town (and already has her own MTV session), but the excitement and attention is well deserved.

Her story is as unique and interesting as her songs. Originally from Hong Kong, Emmy (Emma-Lee Moss) has already been kicked out of her band and became a staple of the anti-folk movement - sharing the stage and collaborating with notables like Kimya Dawson and Lightspeed Champion respectively.

The funny thing is most times when I hear anti-folk, I shy away, but I can't seem to get enough of Emmy. With just an acoustic and a penchant for interesting, intricate vocals there is something about this artist that just grabs people. Throw in her friends on strings or mandolin and it's almost a certainty that her record will be loved by bloggers, critics and fans the minute it leaks. If you look hard enough, you can find most of her songs, but I'll link a couple to make it easy for you:

Seriously, if you can watch her playing Hold On in the back of a cab and not feel your heart warm, I hope you enjoy ruining the Who's Christmas.


Posted at 10:21 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Friday, March 14, 2008

News:: SXSW Basketball & Insulin Party

By all accounts, SXSW is an amazing event. It is clearly the event of the year for many/most people in the American (perhaps North American) music biz. Zillions of bands head down, so there's literally 100's of amazing shows, free events hosted by labels, PR firms, companies of all sorts. There's BBQ and beer. Really, it seems like the perfect event, with little to no downside. Oh, well there is one negative I can think of: not going.

That is the boat the Ack and I find ourselves in: receiving tons of emails about awesome events at a festival we aren't attending. Oh well, as Ray would say, if we were to discuss this particular issue with him, "way she goes boys, way she goes". So if you've been wondering why no SXSW coverage here on the hill, that's why. Our sulkiness about not attending has prevented us from talking about it. Or laziness. One of the two.

Anyway, Canadian distributor Outside Music (along with CBC Radio 3 and Exclaim!) is putting on a big party tomorrow, which is called the Basketball & Insulin Party. The idea being Canadians invented both, so this is a celebration of Canadian Innovation. Or something. Anyway, I like the idea, the poster is solid, and there are a couple of very talented ladies representing the Halifax scene playing the event (Rebekah Higgs & Jill Barber) along with legendary can-alt-rockers The Sadies, so I thought I'd mention it. It's certainly late notice, so if you aren't already in Austin, your chances of making the show are a little slim. If you are there though, I'd check this one out.

Posted at 10:06 AM by naedoo :: 1 comments

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Quick hitters:: Claire Jenkins Avec Band

Claire Jenkins, from all accounts, is a performer that blossoms in front of an audience. Being that her shows are all played tucked in the back of Supermarket, I wouldn't know, but this picture kind of says it all. Homemade pirate hat, boxing gloves and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

But I want to talk about her music, not her charismatic, charming stage presence. Normally, records created with a nautical-enthused former theatre are a messy collection of ideas and over thought, too clever for their own good songs. For example, when I heard the record would feature a French version of a terrific Waits /Brennen song I shuttered.

Honestly, my preconceptions couldn't be farther from the truth for Claire. The songs are quirky, but instantly catchy and appealing, and I was shocked by how easy it was to embrace the songs from Crow's Nest/Nid de Pie. The project is cohesive, in large part to the way they recorded it (in sequence, no over dubs). The record breathes, as if it's alive - the interesting sounds they add in the distance really work - and the combination of strings, drums and piano and guitar fit together like puzzle pieces.

I don't want to go on too much, because this record deserves to be heard in full (and deserves a full review), but I'll point you to the free track Zunior is offering up. If you don't start smiling and swaying along to this plunky percussed folk track... well, you probably hate parties, sunshine and life in general.
[MP3]:: Harold Coco

Buy the full record here :: myspace

Posted at 2:00 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Reviews:: Jon Jackson Green Apples

I really wish I could take credit for discovering this artist. Instead, I must once again point to Songs Illinois. He posted on Jon Jackson last week and instantly I left a comment, right-clicked and saved as and fell in love with Jon Jackson. Remarkably, Jon saw that link and left a nice message to say thanks. And thanks to the wonder of the internet and blogs, I now have a copy of Green Apples and played the record 7 times yesterday alone.

There is so much to like about Jackson and his music. Here's a guy who recorded a CD knowing not many people would hear it and wasn't concerned that it cost almost as much as he makes. The goal was to get these songs down for him own peace of mind and oddly, considering he is racked with fears and doubts, that self confidence and drive is one of the things that shines through on the record.

Jackson is like most of us; caught up in insecurities and wondering why things don't work out as we want, but instead of focusing on the bad, his songs have glimpses of hope and honesty that are incredibly refreshing. A perfect example is the song about his grandfather, Papaw McClung. On a passing notice, you could hear traces of Ryan Adams (though he's more influenced by more roots, country artists). The defiant strum of the acoustic, the nice banjo and the three part harmonies all make you think about the prolific song writer's better work.

But as you dive deep into the song, it's not a drunken tale about another lost love, no, it's him looking at his mom's relationship with her dad and how sad it makes them both. His grandfather changed after the war, and it still haunts his mom, but over time he's started to see himself in his grandfather's image. It's an amazing song, and such a pure look into his heart. He's not placing blame, and understands his mom deserved better, but his Papaw did the best he could.

To be honest though, there isn't a bad song on this record. I've left it on repeat most of the last two days. From the opening confessions of the untitled opening track to the closing notes of Why?(14), Jackson seems unconcerned with how people view his thoughts. He's as willing to openly profess his unrequited love or obsession with a 14 year-old met in a chat room (recorded as a joke to make people laugh and sounds strangely like Leaving on a Jet Plane at times) as he is to expose us to his demons. How can you not be affected by a track he wrote for the waitress at the local waffle house (Excuse Me) that "didn't work out. But I went up there with my friend Matt and took my Mac and a microphone and he played the percussion in the waffle house on spoons, booster seats, ash-trays, and anything else we could find."

He's open about his depression. He embraces it in fact. Born to Be Blue is a twang filled admission about his sadness, but throughout it all he looks for the best in each situation. He hates sunny days, but sees the beauty of a grey sky. It's that dichotomy that makes these songs so great. As he says on Paradox, "I'm a walking contradiction and that's all right with me... until it's not."

It's amazing how he can make his songs stand out. Comin' Home is a chilling tale of a man who killed his wife and is trapped in prison, looking for an escape. While this might seem pretty common for the bar room rebel, it's the little things like the ache and strain in his voice when he reaches for the falsetto that make this seem so real. You feel like that emotion is still there and the memories are part of him.

In a perfect world instead of buying four new Ryan Adams records and being left disappointed, you would all just take the leap and listen. My words don't measure up to how much I love this record. I wish I didn't have to link up an MP3 for people to pay attention to this post, but I know the aggregators need their bait. I wish I could draw you in without giving away his music for free, but I can't. All I can say is if I've found one record that deserves your cash instead of your bandwidth, Green Apples is it.
MP3:: Papaw McClung

Video:: Atlantic City (live)


Posted at 10:43 AM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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Reviews:: Speaker Speaker Call It Off

Every so often you need some music that just sounds great and makes you smile. Granted, for the majority of the time I listen to dusty, alt-country and mellow indie rock, but back in the day I was pretty well locked and loaded with punk rock. Two of the staples from that era now gone are Jawbreaker and anything with J. Robbins's name attached to it. That's probably why the email I got from Speaker Speaker stood out. I mean, a record produced by J. Robbins is going to be solid and the fact they covered a 24 Hour Revenge Therapy Jawbreaker track (Do You Still Hate Me?) assured me I'd probably pick up what Seattle-based trio Speaker Speaker was putting down.

As it turns out, their surf-era harmonies and melodic punk rock is just the pick me up I've needed lately. Their latest effort - Call It Off - is 13 songs/31 minutes of guitars, snotty vocals and for me it's a mental release. I am not stuck straining as I try to pin point hidden textures and effects. I listen and forget about everything else that's going on. I find myself uncontrollably tapping my foot and nodding along as the familiar drum fills and cymbal crashes, guitar solos and rubber band bass lines dance around my head. Speaker Speaker has one speed, and that's full throttle, pedal to the floor.

If I had to pick some contemporary artists that fit the same mold, I'd point to the Thermals, but instead of political and religious messages, Speaker Speaker are more concerned with classic punk rock themes; girls, break ups and not fitting in. Hearing Colin sing, "you would be the kind of girl that would come to shows and even sing-along, should have known that when you said you hate the Beatles that I was wrong" on I Was Wrong is strangely reassuring. I'm up over 30 and music still plays a big role in my life. In the grand scheme of things I know someone's taste in music shouldn't matter, but deep inside for me, it does. If I didn't, wasting time on a music blog would be pointless.

Speaker Speaker isn't singing about kids and investments, which is great because I get enough of that in my real life. No, they are pumping out songs that make you want to sing-along as you push forward through the crowd. Songs that make you pump your fist and forget about your job, your age and your life for even just two-minutes. All in all, not a bad escape if you ask me.

We Won't March

myspace :: label

Posted at 10:35 AM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

News:: A shot of Fader/Southern Comfort with an M Ward/Ladyhawk chaser

What's that mean you might ask? Fader Magazine has teamed up with Southern Comfort to promote up and coming indie artists. This is good for two reasons. The first, they are offering up new or remixed music from M Ward and Vancouver's own Ladyhawk. The second, Southern Comfort needed an image upgrade from panty remover and promoting bile and dinner from my teenage stomach.

The contest is simple, but the reward is sweet. A 7-inch slab of vinyl with the A-side being a remix of M Ward and Jim James singing Magic Trick. The B-side is Ladyhawk singing Soap. All in all, that a sweet freebie, so read more about it here.

Posted at 5:27 PM by ack :: 2 comments

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