Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Local Yocals:: My Favorite NS releases of '09

With CBC threatening to cancel the 5 PM airing of the Simpson, it only seems fitting that I run a Simpsons inspired "clip-show" style post trying to bring some shine to local artists. It's been an impressive year already and with Rich Aucoin, Jon McKiel and Ruth Minnikin all holding finished records in their respective vaults, we obviously aren't done yet.

Obviously, record like Joel Plaskett, Classified and Jenn Grant would be standing high on this list, but if you are from Halifax and reading a music blog, chances are you already have an opinion on both. So here are 10 others that you should check out. Don't agree? Think Kestrels or Klarka Weinwurm should have made the list (they were close)? What about Quake's mixtape or the upcoming Hemingways LP? Well, let us know what we've missed or why we are wrong.


10) Gypsophilia - Sa-ba-da-OW!
web || Review

Their songs are still playful, as they balance tension, drama and whimsy nicely, but for some reason Sa-ba-da-OW! seems to have a stronger heartbeat and a more enriched soul.

Over the course of 11 songs they revisit traditional and familiar sounds (Jewish Dance Party and Legs Bounce for example), but it's the experiments with more soulful grooves (like the out of nowhere reggae tinged treat, You Make Time or the funk filled Sa-ba-da-OW) percussion and a willingness to stretch the borders and boundaries of timeless influences that makes this record work.

9) Steven Bowers - Circadian Anthems
myspace || MP3 - Comfortably Sweet ft. Christina Martin || Review

Bowers is an incredibly talented song writer, creating emotions and characters detailed as chapters in a book - on the atmospheric, piano Sleeping Dogs, Bowers takes the listener back to a small town and painful memories he can't discard - but it’s the arrangements he chooses that really set the tone. On the stellar Sewing Machines, he and Dale Murray harmonize over Brian Murray’s banjo, but he’s just as comfortable on the more muscular riffs of Circadian Anthem and The Hardest Thing.

But it’s the two closing tracks that really grab me on this effort. Comfortably Sweet relies on little more than an acoustic, Dale’s beautiful pedal work (and a gentle hint of mandolin) and a perfect vocal pairing with Christina Martin. It’s really the only “singer/songwriter” track on the EP and Bowers lets his words and their voices say all that needs to be said and the emotion filled track flows nicely into the full band closer, Your Life as a Piano.

8) Prospector's Union - Syracuse
myspace || MP3 - Old Wonders || Review

Matt finally finished recording Syracuse and is ready to release it to the world. Although Charlton may listen to a collection of stripped down, no nonsense artists (Townes, Mark Kozalek) this “home” recording is remarkably lush and defined. With support from the likes of Christina Martin, Daniel Ledwell, John Mullane, Andrew Sisk, Jason MacIsaac, Kinley Dowling, and David Casey, Syracuse plays more like a studio odyssey than a local, independent release.

More importantly, even with all the expert production and contributors, Charlton puts himself front and centre. With only a few picked notes, echoing subtle drums and Christina Martin's harmonies, Flaming Death is dark, but engaging. Over time, Ledwell’s steel work and MacIssac’s atmospheric keys are added and echo in the emptiness of the song, taking some of the weight off the harrowing tale, but it's Charlton's voice that grabs your ear. Even with the talent that surrounds him and the layers that move in and out of the song, he never fades to the background.

7) Doug Mason - Fox Pirate
myspace || Review

I mean, being honest, Doug isn't going to win a Juno for his songwriting (then again, does anyone good win Junos? HI-O!!!), but his songs are fun, and pretension-free, and they've won me over. Well it also helps that they're also mighty catchy (I honestly still have no clue what Ranchus And Ryukins is about, goldfish maybe? But it was stuck in my head for a few days), and well made (there are plenty of welcome little touches to be found, like the backwards-sounding guitar on the outro to It's True This Time). As on his previous releases, Doug recruited some of his musically inclined friends (Cliff Gibb, Jarrett Murphy, and Dave Chisholm) to help him on the record, but all the recording and mixing was done by Doug in his home studio, also dubbed Poutine Village.


6) Cousins - Out On Town
myspace || MP3 - Jon Schehr 32 || Review

Aaron Mangle seems like a pretty unassuming dude, but with the support of his new band, his songs leave a mark. Out on Town is a debut record – 10 songs, a few stumbles, but moments of brilliance that make bloggers and critics giddy – and it’s already one of my favorite local releases of the year. The folk scene here is producing some high quality acts. So is the noise scene, but Cousins is the only band I’ve stumbled on that combines the two. Aggressive, truncated strums and distorted notes give the songs life, but the melancholic, brooding pace and Mangle’s falsetto give the songs a warming glow. He manages to sound unique and interesting, but completely accessible at the exact same time.

5) Something Good - Just Add Water
myspace || MP3 - Did That || Review

If anything, Shane is willing to give any local hip hop artist a fair shake, but rarely does he get blow away. One quick read of his take on Markit and Boy-Ill's newest long player shows that not only is hip hop not dead, The Hali scene can hold its own against the bigger cities across Canada.

Tell me something good. For most, that sentence brings to mind a sultry entreaty from Chaka and her friends Rufus, but if you're a hip hop fan of a certain vintage (like myself), it can also serve as a plea to many of today's hip hop artists, who all too often deliver something quite the opposite of good. But all is far from lost where hip hop is concerned, and we can be thankful that hip hop's next generation still contains folks like the four dedicated lads in the Halifax/Montreal collective, Something Good.

4) Caledonia - We Are America
myspace || MP3 - We Are America || Review

We can often be heard stripping the humor (and originality) from the memorable South Park bit as we chant along with the angry mob – “blame Dubya! ” I’m pretty sure Caledonia didn't specifically wanted to move towards politically charged tracks, but there is no doubt they wanted us to start looking inward. The record is a collection of personal songs, chock full of heavy subject matter coming from the experiences of each band member. As opposed to nationalistic pride or delusion, Caledonia focuses on the events that rip us all apart; death, growing older, uncertainty, leaving home and wanting nothing more than to return.

3) The Got To Get Got - Sahalee
myspace || MP3 - Rattle Off || Review

I had high expectations for the record and The Got To Get Got easily Fosbury flopped over the bar. They also managed to supplement the local talent with some of the best musicians we have in the Canadian scene (members of Ohbijou, Plants & Animals, Sebastien Granger & The Mountains and the lovely Angela Desveaux) without disrupting the sound the band creates. If fact, without liner notes I doubt even the most devout fan could highlight the exact moments when the "ringers" help out.


2) York Redoubt - York Redoubt
myspace || MP3 - I Said Slightly || Review

I know. I know. I just reviewed this yesterday, but the beautiful combination of noise, melody, shock, and chaos remind you why I love music. These guys have the spirit, energy AND talent of the great 90's scene, but don't sound dated or fabricated. This one is a must have folks and also shows that noyes records is delivering the goods.

1) The Lodge - Take That Devil
myspace || MP3 - Forget the Silence || Review

It’s no secret that 95% of the shit we post on is never going to be popular or embraced by the masses – but if playing fields were equal a post on Halifax’s newest super group, The Lodge, would get us as much traffic as a 7 year old Outkast song. The Lodge is a classic indie rock outfit comprised of some of the seasoned vets of the Hali scene: Mike O’Neil (The Inbreds), Charles Austin (Superfriendz), Cliff Gibb (Thrush Hermit) and Andrew Glencross (Neuseiland and The Euphonic).

I could try to come up with a fresh description of their sound, but when Shane talked about them last year, he hit the nail on the head:
“One chunk, riff filled rocker after another.”

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Posted at 7:15 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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