Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee:: Carmel Mikol

You might know Cape Breton's Carmel Mikol from her recent addition to the CBC playlist. You might have heard about her when she won the Great American Songwriting contest. Hell, you might even know her from the countless shows she played during the EMCAs and the positive reviews she garnered. We at the hill hope you know her from her classic interview of the one only John Oates at the 30A Songwriters Festival, but the point is, in the very near future mot East Coast music lovers will know the name Carmel Mikol.

The stars seem to be aligning for the release of her new record, In My Bones, and the determined young women from the Cape isn't letting the opportunity float by. She's been touring the country/continent, road testing the songs and you can really see how that helped the songs. In My Bones is a rootsy, folk effort full of well thought out, professional arrangements. Even on first pass you get a sense that Mikol put her heart & soul into the record, wanting more than just writing another singer/songwriter acoustic LP and at the end of the day, that decision is what will help Mikol the most.

In My Bones is tailor made for the adult contemporary, folk/pop demographic that CBC and its countless listeners love. Writing songs that can be enjoyed by a few is one thing, but Mikol seems determined to have her words and melodies hit the ears of a much bigger audience. Sure, In My Bones might have a few stumbles and a few unnecessary cliches, but it shows that Carmel is on the right path and music isn't going to be just a passing fancy in her life.

So, Halifax - If you are looking to hear some nice, breezy songs you should head down to the Company House for Mikol's Halifax CD release show tonight. She'll be playing with her partner in crime Kim Wempe. Not a bad way to end the weekend if you ask me.

MP3:: Carmel Mikol - Blaming Myself

Labels: Carmel Mikol, ,

Posted at 8:18 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Reviews:: Falklands Bastille Day

A few months ago I made a casual mention of how my list of records to discuss on herohill was interrupted by a little known outfit from Edmonton by the name of Falklands. The young band had sent over a copy of their 7" and the A side - Stephanie - was an inspired, energetic Chisel-era Ted Leo-ish jam. The back side - Jeez Louise - was a catchy slice of Hi-Fives surf pop-punk that never took itself seriously and made you nod along happily. Basically, in 7-minutes, the band made you take notice and get excited.

Flash forward to this week and once again a quick email from guitar man Mark Budd basically triggered the same chain of events. Record from Dave Myles, Plants & Animals, Caribou and Mark Sultan all got pushed back into the pile and their new EP - Bastille Day - has occupied much of my daily listening.

I suppose it shouldn't be a huge surprise for a young band to change their sound as they start to grow as a band, but the peppy mod and pop punk ditties are nowhere to be found on Bastille Day. Instead, the band offers up some rough, guitar heavy bar rock more inspired from UK acts that dominated the 70's rock scene. Heal My Hand booms out of the blocks and right away you sense a bit of a swagger coming from the speakers. Obviously playing shows and writing songs has given the Edmontonians the confidence to crank it up and start finding their own sound, but even more important is the new collection of influences that they sample from.

Dancing in the Moonlight is an aggressive tip of the cap to Van Morrison that the band handles surprisingly well by adding drum fills and heavier guitar solos to balance the melody and softer vocals and they even close the EP with a rough and ready cover of Tom Petty's Refugee that feels like it was recorded after a sweat filled session and a case of beers. But the thing is, the energy and fun they deliver on all five songs show that Falklands are more than happy playing some straight up punk tinged rock n' roll. In an age where the recipe of guitars, drums, and bass is often dismissed as juvenile or simplistic, I'm on board with any band that has the balls and riffs to make you dance and drink without any gimmicks, studio magic or trying to tap into the buzziest of sounds.

MP3:: Falklands - Heal My Hand

MP3:: Falklands - Refugee (Tom Petty cover)

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Posted at 7:25 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Video Hits:: The Wheat Pool, Dog Day, Vangel, Ruth Minnikin & Amelia Curran

Thursday is here, so it's time once again to fire up our favorite semi-regular fourth-day feature: Video Hits. Last time out I talked about doing an all-female version of our clip show, but unfortunately I don't have enough content to make that happen. But I didn't want to wait, so I've hooked up an eclectic selection that closes with two strong women from out this way.

Like any and all rap groups from their hometown of Edmonton, The Wheat Pool gets a hearty thumbs-up from the hill. Hauntario is full of good songs, but I think Lefty takes the cake in my humble, so I was happy to put up the video. Local stalwarts Dog Day are quietly one of the best bands Halifax has produced in quite some time, so any new content from them is always welcome - and this self-made clip for Stray from Concentration is no exception. Vangel is a Toronto producer with an interesting take on electronic music that mixes big drum tracks with live instruments of various types. I posted on his last release Biblio a year ago, and receiving his video for MoneyMoney made me dig it out again for another listen.

To finish strong, we've got videos from two of Halifax's finest musicians. Ruth Minnikin is a hill fave, as Ack's review for her latest effort Depend On This clearly shows, and so, even though the living straw men in her new video for that album's self-titled track kind of freak me out, we're still happy to put up the vid. Last but not least, we have a live vid of Amelia Curran performing The Mistress from her last album Hunter Hunter. Seriously, if you want to know who in Halifax can really write a song, you might want to start with Amelia. Enjoy!

The Wheat Pool - Lefty

MP3:: The Wheat Pool - This Is It

Dog Day - Stray

MP3:: Dog Day - Rome

Vangel - MoneyMoney

MP3:: Vangel - Cold Rain

Ruth Minnikin and her bandwagon - Depend On This

MP3:: Ruth Minnikin - Four Churches II

Amelia Curran - The Mistress (Live)

MP3:: Amelia Curran - The Mistress

Labels: Amelia Curran, Dog Day, , , Vangel, ,

Posted at 2:13 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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Matt Dillon's Soul Patch:: Wintersleep & Holy Fuck

Wintersleep - New Inheritors

My goal for any Wintersleep coverage we offer up over the next year or so is simple; never mention "that song". If I'm already bored to tears by the constant comparison, so I'm sure the band is completely over reading about how any new song stacks up. Thankfully, New Inheritors is the type of song that makes you forget about everything else.

Paul's trademark vocals and acoustic welcome you as they blend with the warm synths in a very understated way, but it's the other components of this song that shows why Wintersleep is a great band, not just a band with a great song. The horns, harmonies and amazing bass line are as confident as they are infectious and before long you are trying to sing along to a song you don't even know. The four and a half minutes ends too quickly and with how effortlessly this song burns into your brain I think we can finally put all of the other ghosts to bed and look forward to the best Wintersleep LP to date.

MP3:: Wintersleep - New Inheritors

Holy Fuck - Latin America

On the other end if the spectrum is the Toronto based noise quartet, Holy Fuck. Much like the output of Dan Snaith, I rarely find myself reaching for Holy Fuck records to fill up my daily listens, but when I'm in the mood there psychedelic electronics are the perfect answer. The funny thing is I've seen Brian and Graham more times simply playing shows - either solo or with Julie Fader - than almost any other band in the last couple of year, so it feels even longer than 3 years since I've heard anything new from the Holy Fuck.

One listen to the new single - Latin America - leaked via chatroulette, and you can tell the young men have been working on translating the power and flow of the live shows onto record. Latin America builds slowly, gaining speed and power before quickly retreating and building again. I've never really thought of HF as a studio band - they seemed to come to life when the adrenaline was pumping - but if the rest of Latin is as strong as the opening single, I might have to change my thinking.

MP3:: Holy Fuck - Latin America

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Posted at 7:08 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Contest:: Thrush Hermit Box Set!

Oh you thought that because we went and saw the Hermit turn back the clock at the Paragon here in Halifax last Friday that we were through with Thrush Hermit posts? Think again. I realized that we were halfway through the week and we had yet to mention on the hill how excellent the show was. The building was appropriately packed (the mix of drunken kids and old dudes, with some happily drunk and some disapprovingly sober like ourselves, made for an interesting crowd), and from the time that the bands classic neon "Rock & Roll" sign flicked on, it was go time. I'm speaking for myself here of course, but I think the Ack would agree that they sounded pretty amazing considering how much time has gone by since TH went kaput, and how relatively little rehearsal time they had prior to these shows.

They also played a pretty long set, that featured enough Hermit classics to please all but the most diehard TH complete-ist. it was also great to see that the band seemed to have as much fun as the crowd - which makes sense, the guys are all old friends, who keep in touch on pretty regular basis, as far as I know, so I'm sure it was great to be back up there with each other.

So then, if you're hitting any of these remaining Ontario shows, get ready to have your socks rocked off nostalgically:

March 24, 2010 Peterborough, ON @ Historic Red Dog
March 25, 2010 Ottawa, ON @ New Capital Music Hall
March 26, 2010 Toronto, ON @ Lee's Palace
March 27, 2010 Toronto, ON @ Lee's Palace
March 28, 2010 Toronto, ON @ Lee's Palace (all ages)

But I'm sure you've had enough of my blathering on, what of the box set contest? The excellent folks at Maple Music are offering our lucky readers the chance to win a copy of the impressive Thrush Hermit box set. And I do mean impressive - go check the full deets on Maple's website (they are taking pre-orders now, as it's available on March 29th), but 6 CD's and 2 DVD's? That's pretty awesome.

To win the box set: simply send us an email (herohill AT gmail dot com), or leave a comment on this post with your name, email address, and your favorite Thrush Hermit song. We'll pick a winner at the end of next week, and Maple will ship them their box of Hermit goodness. Eazy peezy. Now some music to celebrate: Two Hermit classics (The Day We Hit The Coast was bon-kares on Friday night), and a song from young TO upstarts Dinosaur Bones, who are opening one of the TO shows.

MP3:: Thrush Hermit - French Inhale

MP3:: Thrush Hermit - The Day We Hit the Coast

MP3:: Dinosaur Bones - Royalty

VIDEO:: Thrush Hermit - The Day We Hit the Coast

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Posted at 12:59 PM by naedoo :: 12 comments

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Quick Hitters:: Peter Katz First Of The Last To Know

If you listen to Peter Katz talk, you get the feeling that not only does he love his "job", he feels a sense of responsibility to become better each time he plays and give everything he can to music. I know that might sound hokey to most of the indie-tastic music lovers out there who wear bitterness and apathy like a badge of honour, but it's surprisingly refreshing and somewhat noble.

Katz isn't ready to settle for songs that simply exist; no, much like some of the heroes he's added to the mix on First of the Last to Know, the young song writer wants to inspire, challenge and ultimately reward anyone that listens. Instead of more songs about lost love, Katz takes influence by the sadness and love in the world around us. Whether it's his thoughts on the last few hours of Matthew's Shepard's life or Oliver Schroer fighting leukemia and playing one last show, Katz gives everything he can as he tells stories people want to hear.

I know when it comes to singer/songwriters, it's not just what you say but how you say it and fans of poppy folk will happily settle into his melodies and voice. The songs he writes (with help from Rob Szabo) are lush and slow, revealing themselves slowly and confidently. Strings, piano, horns and harmonies are warm and comforting and provide the backdrop for Katz's words. Every note is well thought out, and that patience and persistence results in a solid listening experience.

Even when he adds those big name guests to the equation, you get the sense it's because he wants to sing with the people he admires, not sell records and he's able to stand side by side with National (and International) talent, relish the experience and still hold his own. He and Melissa McClelland mesh nicely on the beautiful Let Me Go. He's able to still stand front and center when he sings with his hero Glen Hansard on the title track, and as he proves on the delightful Til You Come Home he even holds his own when matched with the beautiful voices of The Good Lovelies.

I'll be honest. I'm not one to sit down and listen to these type of arrangements very often and was tempted to let this disc rest in the ole promo pile, but if a Canadian music blog doesn't give the hard working musicians some love, who will? Katz is out there working hard, earning his fans with a constant touring schedule and the desire to get better. I prefer spare mixes and a more rootsy feel, but I have to give credit where credit is due. In the hands of most, these songs would come off as dishonest, but you never get that feeling from Katz. He's not quite there yet, but you can see how with his work ethic and passion, he will eventually get to the level of the big names you hear on the radio.

MP3:: Peter Katz (ft. The Good Lovelies) - Til You Come Home

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Posted at 7:32 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Quick Hitters:: J Dilla Doc & New Record

I meant to post something about Dilla on the anniversary of his death last month, but unfortunately, I didn't get to it. However, a couple Dilla-related items caught my eye recently, and I thought I'd post them up for those who haven't seen them. After all, Dilla is one of those artists that everyone with half a blog writes about - even crabby, Canada-only zealots like ourselves can make time for the legacy of James Yancey.

That said, tons of people talk about Dilla, yet many know almost nothing about him. My fondness for Dilla goes back to The Love Movement, which I own a deluxe CD copy of from back in the day - I bought it soon after it came out, despite many longtime Tribe fans pooh-poohing it a bit for its Ummah-laced, soul-sounding production. I also had my mind blown by Fantastic, Vol. 2 which I bought at the long-defunct Tower Records that used to be near my apartment at Yonge & Sheppard when we lived in T.O.

Fear not if you don't have any of your own personal history with Dilla that is exciting as all that, because the good people of Stussy have put together a short, 3-part documentary that gives a quick, but rather interesting, overview of Dilla's career (albeit with a decided West-coast focus, but hey, they made the film, they can do what they want). You can see all 3 pats below, but first, check out the latest Dilla release from Stone's Throw, an instrumental album called Donut Shop that is packaged in a pretty unique way:

Serato and Stones Throw have teamed with the J Dilla Estate for the official J Dilla Serato release, Donut Shop. This is 2 discs with six J Dilla tracks, 2 sides with Serato Control Tone (for use with Serato Scratch Live DJ software), and 2 donut slipmats in a package designed by Studio No.1.

Look at that thing, it just looks amazing - donut slipmats? Yes please. I'd almost figure out what the hell Serato Scratch Live DJ software is for that package. Yet another reason why the folks at Stones Throw are one of the best labels in this current musical climate: they are coming up with products that people would actually like to purchase. Anyway, a little taste from the Donut Shop, a Dilla-flip of the Can-con classic Safety Dance from Men Without Hats. I don't care what anyone says about this song, if you mix Men Without Hats & Dilla, I am %100 sold on whatever the outcome is. Enjoy.

MP3:: J Dilla - Safety Dance

VIDEO:: J Dilla Documentary Prt 1 (of 3)

VIDEO:: J Dilla Documentary Prt 2 (of 3)

VIDEO:: J Dilla Documentary Prt 3 (of 3)

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Posted at 12:21 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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Contest:: Old Man Luedecke My Hands Are On Fire and Other Love Songs

The art of story telling is one that is slowly getting stripped from the conventional song writer. There are countless artists willing to get on stage and start talking about an exaggerated love that started hot and burned out even quicker or pen obvious political agendas cased in minor chords to sound important, but exposing an honest connection to their soul is as fleeting as setting sun.

For Chris "Old Man" Luedecke, years of traveling the road alone have only reinforced the connection he makes with those that chose to listen. Instead of pontificating from his pulpit, he plays show after show filled with bar room conversations, tangential anecdotes and clawhammer melodies delivered with the support of only his stomping left foot and a few sing-along choruses. These performances have defined Luedecke as a performer, earned him praise from his peers and his fans (including the 2009 Juno for Best Roots album) and renewed our faith in song writers. This time around though, Chris isn't alone. Backed by a stellar collection of musicians and guided by Steve Dawson's skilled production, My Hands Are On Fire And Other Love Songs shows Luedecke branching out of his comfort zone and experimenting with bolder textures and interactions.

In some cases, the band's help is subtle (the guitar work that is added to the bridge on Rear Guard and the nice fiddle on Foreign Tongue simply fill out the song and give it another layer to grab the listener's ear) but on tracks like Mountain Plain and Woe Betide The Doer Of The Dead, Tim O’Brien's fiddle mandolin and Dawson's guitar dance alongside Luedecke's trusted banjo with remarkable success. Hell, he even pays tribute to Willie P. Bennett with a nice cover of Caney Fork River (taken from the Canadian legend's last record, where interestingly enough, Bennett too experimented with full band arrangements).

But as much as things change, the more they stay the same. Luedecke songs still feel like he's sharing a pint with each and every listener saddled up on adjacent bar stools. Even when the arrangements are fleshed out and the sound is full, he's able to discuss intimate heartbreak (the immensely sad tale of infertility, The Palace is Golden) and venture into current political landscape without agenda, coldness or adding an unmanageable weight to the affair. Luedecke eschews the draw of the vain rock star or even the proletariat, working class hero as he follows his own path and sings his own songs. He comes off like a friendly stranger, a friend willing that values each discussion you have, or I suppose, the uncle or grandfather that is always ready with smile and a yarn to spin.

Chris is no stranger to the road, and he's heading up from Chester to play a special show at the Rebecca Cohn on April 30th. We have two tickets for one lucky winner, and all you have to do is email us your contact info or leave a comment down below. Good luck!

MP3:: Old Man Luedecke - Rear Guard

Labels: Banjo, , , , Old Man Luedecke,

Posted at 7:10 AM by ack :: 5 comments

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Best-of '10:: Apollo Ghosts Mount Benson

For most music outlets, the last few days have been spent in the sweltering heat (or shockingly cold nights) braving lines and indigestion as a result of meal after meal of succulent BBQ in an effort to get into the buzz-iest of buzz shows. For the rest of us the grind goes on; as does the search for the next big thing. We are left without the memories, but also without post-SXSW hangovers and longing for ribs drenched in delicious sauce. Remarkably, with all the bands that migrated South, one of the best bands in Canada didn't make the trip so those searching for the next act to explode in Canada may have come up empty.

If I had to find a positive of not attending SXSW it would be that the last week has given me more time to fall in love with the new record from Vancouver's Apollo Ghost. The delightful three-piece has the potential to make bloggers swoon like a Zooey Deschanel collaboration. After achieving remarkable success (they sold out their original LP - Hastings Sunrise - and had it repressed by the terrific Catbirds Records) with nary a snippet of official press, Apollo Ghost has followed up with an equally impressive EP, a 7" and is now poised to convert the masses with the eclectic and energetic, Mount Benson.

From the opening moments of Wakesiah, the band grabs a hold on you with a kung fu grip. With a few strums of the guitar and a twinkling of keys, Adrian Teacher delivers a mysterious introduction of a man willing to scoure the globe in a clawfoot tub until he finds the love he lost. Remarkably, as odd as that concept seems, his writing style is one that makes the premise intriguing enough to keep you leaning closer to the speakers but never drifts into pretentious, art-y ideals that derails so many projects.

In fact, it's the joyous happy hooks - not the message - and styles the band reveals over the thirteen songs, none of which break the 3-minute barrier, that are the first thing you notice. Jangly guitar, infectious bass lines, transitions, hand percussion and spastics bursts (often in the same song like Coka-Cola, the charging Attaquez! Attaquez! Attaquez! and Witchcraft Lake) get you moving but tender moments of piano and admission are equally important to the flow of Mount Benson.

But as rewarding as the melodies and sing-along vocals are, it's not until you really settle into the narrative of Mount Benson that you are hit with the growing power of the record. Teacher, Amanda and Joy deliver fragmented bursts of love, nostalgia and pain, but never glorify the moment or let it linger beyond the fuzz of the chords that accompany it and as a result, never bog down the enjoyment of the listener with a force fed concept. No, Teacher penned tracks that hit with poignant observation and specific emotions and memories and then the band quickly moves on letting the past remain in the past.

What starts out as a search, ends with a goodbye. On the classic pop closer, Snow on Mount Benson, our protagonist finally reaches to the summit and bids adieu to all the love and pain he's held on to for years. The closure we are given is the perfect conclusion to the emotion and nostalgia that Apollo Ghost bombard us with over a near perfect 25-minute adventure. As the band shows, love, pain and hurt are just like November rain in Vancouver, local shows, drinking, growing up; just thing you go through. If you ask me, even if Mount Benson finds Teacher's character willing to finally throw all of those moments away, the record is something you will hold as close as those precious memories.

MP3:: Apollo Ghost - Samurai Chatter

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Posted at 8:25 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Quick Hitters:: Milks & Rectangles Troubleshooters

Last year, PEI's Milks & Rectangles exploded out of nowhere and out of your speakers with a surprisingly ambitious debut EP. Civic Virtues may sound like a title to a Weakerthans track, but quite quickly the EP showed the band's influence came from across the pond, not simply across the Confederation Bridge. More importantly, the songs reached for the rafters and the young lads from Charlottetown seemed determined to make entire stadiums rock, not just small, smoke-filled clubs.

Whether it's the experience of playing more gigs, the simple reality of growing up quickly on the road or the frustration of reading countless reviewers lean on the easy sounds-like comparison, Troubleshooters finds M&R leaving the delusions of grandeur and most of the Franz Ferdinand inspired boomers behind. They still have tons of energy and a tackle box full of hooks, but seem more comfortable playing rock with varied tempos and a darker edge that is tailor made for the size venue they currently reside in.

The transition works well for the young band, and gives them a ceiling much higher than one created by perfecting the sound they exposed on Civic Virtues. Opening with the frantic drums, howling lead vocals and swirling harmonies, Wink And A Gun (The Jury's Hung) is the perfect intro to the band's new sound. Granted, they follow with Unring the Bell, a track that could easily fit on their last EP, but you have to hand it to the PEI outfit; they make that journey to the other side of the pond seem natural and effortless.

These 15 minutes - including a Barnkats cover - should be enough for you to put Milks & Rectangles on your radar and expose a sonic palette ready for a full length release. Not convinced? Well, head over to the band's web site and download the EP for free. You won't be disappointed.

MP3:: Milks & Rectangles - Wink And A Gun (The Jury's Hung)


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Posted at 9:50 AM by ack :: 1 comments

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