Friday, November 27, 2009

Quick Hitters:: Outdoor Miners release 7"

What's that expression about the best laid plans? When it comes to blogging, when you aspire to be anything more than an aggregator of content, it's damn near impossible to talk about every band that grabs your ear. Case in point, a few months ago I was sent a 7" from a label I like, and a band I had heard nothing but good things about and did nothing about it. Flash forward to yesterday and that email still sat in my inbox with a star beside it.

Pop Echo is a small run label out of Edmonton with a great ear when it comes to unsigned Canadian talent. Whether it's Junior Bloomsday, The Golden Hands Before God, or The Whitsundays, the Edmonton label just keep churning out talent. Sadly, most of the acts are under appreciated by music fans coast-to-coast.

The newest, under the radar outfit the label offers up is Outdoor Miners. This bunch of young scamps offer up three delightful, fuzzy rock tracks that seep into your brain. I know it's "only" a 7" - three songs, not even 10 minutes - but it's the type of release that makes an impact. The Edmonton trio may enjoy heavily reverbed vocals that are so popular, but eschews the dreary lo-fi surf inspired tunes that dominate today's music scene and opts for melody and energy . The lead single - Twelve Hundred Dollars - is a gritty anthem with a simple plea for all artists. No matter how broke you are, PAY YOUR F*CKING RENT. After that, it will probably be ok. The slacker anthem sounds are completely contrasted by the surprisingly responsible attitude the band takes.

The nice thing about this 7" is that the other two songs the band offers up are just as strong (maybe even stronger). Keep You Warm is another scorcher, heavy in feedback and sing-along vocals but really its the shimmering guitar tones of Turn You into Glue that shows the band's potential. The track hits you with a surprising warmth, taking advantage of some nice harmonies and a change of pace to really stand out. I'm not sure what's next for this band, but I'll tell you one thing. I'm excited to see what comes next.

MP3:: Outdoor Miners - Twelve Hundred Dollars

MP3:: Outdoor Miners - Turn You Into Glue


Labels: 7", , , , , Outdoor Miners, Pop Echo,

Posted at 7:17 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Reviews:: Trevor Tchir Sky Locked Land

There is a unique sadness that most Canadian’s eventually succumb to. Distance and industry drive a wedge between towns, friends, families, and lovers; one that feels even vaster than the 7500 kilometers that one must travel to reach the coast. Over fishing, clear cutting, and our society’s dependence on oil have made steady jobs and prospering towns a distant memory and forced people to follow the paycheck, no matter how hard that reality is for all involved.

For Alberta’s Trevor Tchir, the distance is documented in the subtle observations and stories that make up his new record, Sky Locked Land. Trevor’s songs have always touched on the state of the country, whether it be sustainability or just the people he’s met, but this time around he’s speaking softer, letting his eye and tongue tell everyone’s story. Instead of pushing a message of sadness, Tchir creates characters and relives moments that could apply to any of us, and with a fleshed out folk/rootsy backdrop, it’s hard not to give in to the swells of emotion.

The 11-song LP is laced with full band affairs. The songs emit the energy of a room full of friends playing music – the arrangements feature strings, horns, banjo, steel, harmonica, accordion and countless other instruments – but Trevor also knows when to pull back. The simple folk picking of Beneath the Mountain Ash gives an honesty to the tale that would have been lost by a heavy handed mix of sounds. The same can be said about the gut wrenching Stones in the Ground.

The amount of maturation Tchir offers up this time around is remarkable, so much so that the undoubted comparisons to other artists sort of seem hollow. Trevor does his best Eric Bachmann impression on the delightful (albeit sad) The Sweeter Air, and I’d be hard pressed not to mention the distinct Calexico feel of the record, but the songs reveal too much of Tchir’s life to be considered knock off.

Whether it’s a touching road trip (Are We There Yet?) or simply a political analysis masked by an every day event (Tearing Down the Garden), this collection of songs is carefully penned to let you into Trevor’s world - the little details and emotion that runs through songs like Stones in the Ground make you wonder is these seemingly fictional tales are actually a part of Tchir’s life that he offers up to anyone that takes the time to listen - but also show that we are all here together. Say what you will, but there's comfort in that, no matter how bleak things may seem.

MP3:: Trevor Tchir - The Sweeter Air

Labels: , , , , , Trevor Tchir

Posted at 8:22 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Quick Hitters:: The Secretaries ft. the Brassholes

When you take a quick glance at the old-timey photos that adorn the inside of the debut eponymous disc from Edmonton’s The Secretaries, you kind of expect that the nine songs that are included will be heavy on picking, banjo, folk and tunes crafted for the earth tones of Fall or perfectly tailored for sharply dressed patrons of 1940’s gin joints.

Instead, you get hit with crunching riffs and a swagger you normally associate with matching denim jackets/jeans and devil horns, but The Secretaries do this with a feminine touch. The kick drum stomp of Hey Girl is softened with a playful cowbell, killer horns courtesy of The Brassholes and spot on harmonies do the same on Woman, Woman. Even more surprising is the effortless transition to pop on tracks like Accident, where the vocals that accompany the crunch are almost folky (dare I say they deliver a Joni-esque chorus) and reveal a fragility that most “chick rockers” try so hard to cover up.

They still have a hard edge – Maya and Becky of the Pack AD would approve of the bluesy sludge Makin’ Me Pay and feedback heavy Sold Out of Love/Fuck Dirt City show these women can crank it up and rock with the best of them (you just start nodding faster an faster when they start ripping on Fuck Dirt City) - they just have more tricks up their sleeves (or under their dresses). Even the seven minute slow burner benefits from horn crescendos that give your ear something else other than the expected powerful vocals and heavy guitar noodles.

They also do a good job of lightening the listen after those 14-minutes of heaviness, letting the double vocals, horn blasts and catchy-as-hell riffage of Tattoo and the insanity of the grunts, growls and nonsensical chorus of MFNDNTN (Dead of the Night) crank the energy back up for a finishing kick that Usain Bolt could be proud of.

The Secretaries are local favorites, but over the years they've had had their ups and downs. They've lost members, lost steam and desire but never lost heart, and this record is overflowing with just that. Bottom line, The Secretaries have put out a record that is fun, feminine but still can rock your face off. Basically the only question left is ... why aren't you downloading this record right now?

MP3:: The Secretaries - Accident

Labels: , , , , The Secretaries

Posted at 11:56 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Quick Hitters:: Dress Up Like a Hooker, I'll Be Charlie Sheen

To be fair, naming your band Dress up Like a Hooker, I'll be Charlie Sheen, is the musical equivalent of that terrible speech from Tom Cruise in Jerry Macguire. You had me at hello (well, I guess you had me at the mention of the whoring around era of Chazz's life). Either way, Alberta lo-fi technician Jeremy Sroka has a couple of records full of home recordings and is trying to spice up your weekend by giving them away for free.

He describes his sound as, "if Jack Johnson and Bright Eyes made a baby and let Evan Dando raise it" but I actually have no idea what that means, so I’ll put my own two pennies into the mix. After a couple long listens to hi-five for lo-fi (LP), I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. In a typical cover of the book judgment, I kind of thought the songs would be lo rent, repetitive programmed beats and ridiculous lyrics. Instead, Jeremy uses barely audible guitar work, rough vocals, samples (including the awesome scene from High Fidelity where Cusack screams at his ex from the street), some harmonies and scattered textures to draw you close.

Despite the lo-fi recording techniques – and avoiding any of the inane posturing about the harmful rise of lo-fi electronic jams that got the interweb all in a tizzy – this record is surprisingly light and melodic. Tracks like Lovely Day are engaging and Sroka lets his fingers do the talking with some solid guitar work. The seaside shuffle of when one night stands go wrong worms its way into your cranium.

Admittedly, the 12 song LP is a bit much to digest, simply because even the strongest songs blend into each other after a couple of listens. But almost any track (Smile and because my headphones broke are probably my favs) would make a solid addition to a mixtape playlist. So do yourself a favor and head over to his myspace and get the goods.

MP3:: Dress Up Like a Hooker, I'll Be Charlie Sheen - Because My Headphone Broke

MP3:: Dress Up Like a Hooker, I'll Be Charlie Sheen - Smile


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Posted at 1:56 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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