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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Reviews:: Ira Lee - My Favorite Songs By Me

Ira Lee's new album, My Favorite Songs By Me, puts me in a bit of a quandary. I mean, I liked Ira's last album, and I really like this one, but I don't exactly know what to say to you fine folks to induce you to have a listen. And that's kind of the point isn't it? Well it's the point here, to spread the word about music we like - I realize other blog-type sites appear to have some other agenda, but your best friends here at the hill.

So then, what to say about Ira Lee? Would something like "Hey, do you like rap-house songs about a neighbor that used to masturbate in public and bang on the door looking for a fix before eventually dying of an overdose? Yes? Well then Ira Lee's Donna Jones Remix is for you!" lure you in? Perhaps not. Ira's narratives are painted from a wide-ranging palate, albeit he usually favours the section of the palate whose colours are various shades of gut-kicking sadness. When you add to this his off-kilter delivery and his clever & cantankerous personality, you get a very challenging brand of hip hop. And most people don't want challenging hip hop. Despite how many people make claims to the opposite, most folks just want the hip hop Arrowroot - easily digestible.

But here's the rub: despite all of the above, Ira's songs are really listenable. And that is impressive. He's a great storyteller, mixing people, places, and events (both personally earth-shattering and mundane) into eclectic songs that draw me in every time. Consider that his new album alone has songs about stealing a little girl's bike, the stankness of other people's bathrooms (which may or may not be Ira doing a Moka Only impression), various horrible and/or insane people he knew (Mike Brown, the aforementioned Donna Jones, Henry, The Pigman), various people he cares about (his grandmother Ruthie, his mom, and his man Matt), Montreal, and under-age lust. If you can take that list of subject matter into an engaging 16-song album, you've certainly got some talent.

I have no idea which bits are fact and which are fiction, but the detail in his writing makes everything so vivid and believable. But if I had to pick one song to try and sell this album to a first time listener, it might be Montreal, which is chock full of detail about Ira's newest city of residence, and while it seems much more positive than the similar Alberta's Trying To Kill Me from his last album, you're still kind of left wondering how he actually feels about the place. That said, it's hard to deny the appeal of the macabre glee of the sing-songy Your Little Sister's Bike, the naughty Juno-esque charm of All The Places We Did It, or the desperate sincerity of Ira's grandma-ode Ruthie.

Re-counting the the good songs on the album reminds me that I shouldn't give short shrift to the production on the album, which was done by Ira and folks like Scott Da Ros, Mattr, Funken, Ryan Stinson, Factor, petit BIG, and Critical Mass. I remember the production on Ira's last album being rather subdued for the most part, but this time it takes more of a co-starring role with Ira's narratives and beats like Factor's dusty throwback for Henry seem to inspire Ira to kick his flow into a higher gear/

Even though it's good to see that my rambling is just as strong in 2010 as it's always been, I'm gonna just assume I've peaked enough of your curiosity enough that you're ready to go check out My Favorite Songs By Me for yourself. If you're ready for a hip hop album that will make you smile, laugh, cringe, frown and perform various other one-word facial displays, then you'll likely be glad you did.

MP3:: Ira Lee - Your Little Sister's Bike

MP3:: Ira Lee - Donna Jones (Remix)
MYSPACE:: www.myspace.com/iralee

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Posted at 1:51 PM by naedoo :: 3 comments

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Quick Hitters:: Marie-Pierre Arthur

Surprisingly, the most well received showcase at M for Montreal was the afternoon Francophone series on the last day. As an English speaker, I was surprised by how into the artists some of the delegates were (yes, it took me a while that for some of them, trying to decipher English lyrics is just as hard as French) but the talent the festival pulled together really helped keep the interest up.

First - before I go much further - apologies to Malajube. In the past, I dismissed them as enjoyable but little more. When they took the stage Saturday night in front of 2000 people what I once viewed as quaint and charming French rock blossomed into songs of epic stature that filled the room. I wish they could have played for an hour, not a slim thirty minutes, but they certainly won over a critic that had locked them in a box that certainly didn't fit.

But the act that really blew me away, maybe my favorite set of the whole weekend, was the lovely and talented Marie-Pierre Arthur. With little fanfare, she strapped on a McCartney looking bass, stood front and center, and she and her talented band proceeded to charm/rock/impress a room full of strangers, most of whom couldn't understand what she was saying. The emotion she presented however, was never lost in translation. Heads nodded along to uptempo jams like Elle but when the spacey folk elements of the band stood up to be noticed, an appreciative hush fell over the crowd.

Her band was obviously filled with talented musicians, but none of the players overstepped their role. Solos were natural and tasteful, fills and harmonies fit like a perfect embrace and they moved around Marie-Pierre's voice like Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment (beautifully, never missing a step). I have no idea where Marie-Pierre fits into the mix - I do know she had the room in the palm of her hand - but I hope the she gets the chance to showcase her talent to a larger audience soon. The record touches on so many styles (even the bluesy Tout Ca Pour Ca works for the band) that I find it hard to believe you won't be smitten by at least one track.

MP3:: Marie-Pierre Arthur - Elle
MYSPACE:: http://www.myspace.com/mariepierrearthur
WEB:: http://www.mariepierrearthur.com/

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Posted at 7:53 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

M for Montreal:: Recap Day 2

Thursday was a chock-o-block full kind of day at M for Montreal. Starting with an afternoon schmooze session filled with managers/agents/promoters and more business cards than the free lunch bowl at any TGIFridays and shows going until the early morning, delegates were on the go.

That being said, Friday was just as busy. A few panels started the day - which I sadly had to miss to keep my day job rolling - but the afternoon church show/book launch was a perfect start for my Friday.

Mark Berube & The Few - Mark's the type of performer that can grab you as a solo artist, or shock you when he pulls countless friends onto the stage to thicken up the melodies of his touching indie-folk jams. Apparently, since moving to Montreal, he's settled into a nice three-piece (the addition of Kristina Koropecki on cello has really helped the tracks come to life), but at the end of the day, it's Mark's vocals that gives the audience chills.

Marks' traveled the world, and his observations and reflections really add a sincere, humane feel to the catchy melodies. The set time - an all too brief 15 minutes - didn't really let the band stretch their legs, but with some nice builds (Looking For Another), acoustic accordion that brought the crowd to a hush (Yebo Mama), and a driving closing track (Yesterday's Halo) Berube certainly made the most of his 15 minutes.

Elisapie Issac - We huddled into another room in the church for another quick set from former Taimu singer, Elisapie Isaac. Her new solo stuff, is more classic jazzy folk pop and with the support of two able men on keys/percussion/bass and guitar, she is given a solid foundation for her sultry vocals. Mixing english, french and her native tongue, the four song set might not have been my cup of tea, but it showed talent and I can see why people enjoyed her performance.

Valerie Jodoin Keaton - The highlight of the afternoon set was actually the fact that it was the release of Valerie Jodoin Keaton's photobook, Backstage. The former member of the Dears used her proximity to other musicians to photograph people moments before or after a show. While it might seem trivial, getting to see how a musician powers through the nerves or comes down from the adrenaline rush is quite amazing, especially when handled by a photographer with a keen eye and an understanding of what's going on. This book is beautiful - I've leafed through my copy a few times already - and being there while Valerie enjoyed the end result of years of hard work was amazing.

The night sessions were a bit more conventional. Starting with Two Hours Traffic, the evening session was full of hooks, synth pop, electronics and some of the most engaging indie rock Ive seen in a long time.

Friday Night - Two Hours Traffic, Silly Kissers, DD/MM/YY, Parlovr, Silver Starling, Le Matos and special guest BEAST.

Two Hours Traffic - We've been on the THT band wagon for as long as I can remember, so it's always a treat to see the PEI lads take the stage. Despite the differing opinions of Territory, without question the songs sounded crisp on stage. They tossed in a few classics (Nighthawks), but it was the new songs that took center stage. I actually like the track live more than on record - more bite, sounded much bigger and alive - but I'd be hard pressed to find fault with the band. In fact, I don't even want to try.

Silly Kissers - The synth poppers from MTL were up next, and despite their tender age and relative wet behind the ears appearance, the band did well considering the audience that stood before them. They tore through the songs on their EP, offering little banter except the guitar man's constant big-upping the local crowd, but the set was fun. I'm not sure they are quite ready for the spotlight, but they are on the right path for today's sound.

Probably the highlight - at least from an energy point - was having Cadence Weapon step on stage for a cameo. He cranked up the dance moves on You're The One and instead of kicking out the hyper sniper electro raps, he crooned along side Jane Perry is a playful love filled duet.

DD/MM/YY - more angles than a geometry test. Honestly, these guys cranked up the noise and got the crowd moving. The songs were driving, fragmented, proggy and the double drums, multiple keyboards, guitar blasts and bass really got everyone excited. This was the first point in the night where people were responding to a band. It was more than just delegates there to politely listen, it was people there who really dug the band and wanted to have a good f*cking time.

Parlovr - Honestly, this might be the set of the weekend for me. I loved Parvlor's self-titled (review), but they are a whole different, floppy haired beast live. Behind the strength of some heavy drums, the unique combo of surf rock, out-of-tune guitar, noise, pop hooks and energy brought the delegates and local fans to life for the first time all weekend. The human mic stand and constant smiles were just icing on the rock cake. If I had to pick a crayon fromt he Crayola box about how I feel about the upcoming 2010 release, it would be "waiting on baited breath".

PS - I know this pic sucks, but the blur and energy trapped inside is more representative of the set they played than another sterile black and white bad boy.

Silver Starling - I was excited for this set as well, only recently discovering their record (review). It was really beautiful, dark stuff heavy on strings and emotion. Truthfully, it's the type of songs that would have been unbelievable in the afternoon venue, taking advantage of the acoustics and intimacy to really let the songs sounds as big as they do on record. I thought the set started strong, but kind of got lost in the mix as people lost interest and wanted to dance.

Le Matos - Not much to say about these cats. They got the crowd moving, throwing in their own stuff and other people's jams. They were dressed to the nines and cranked the energy to the max. People danced, sweat was flying and really, what else do you want at 12 PM on your Friday night? For me, it was the perfect night cap, ending my long day of music on a high.

Wait! You left? I know some fans of trip-hoppers BEAST might be in awe, but to be fair, I'm not a fan of the band, so sticking around for the special guest set after party was far less appealing than the after party that involved me getting some sleep and trying to shake 8 hours of booze from my system.

MP3:: Two Hours Traffic - Territory

MP3:: Mark Berube - Yesterday's Halo

MP3:: Silly Kissers - You're the One ft. Cadence Weapon (Live @ M for Montreal)

MP3:: Delphic - This Momentary (Le Matos remix)

WEB:: http://www.mformontreal.com

Labels: , DD/MM/YY, , , Mark Berube, parlovr, Silly Kissers,

Posted at 12:15 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Recap:: M for Montreal Day 1

I spent most of last week in Montreal trying to balance my day job with the heavy lifting we do for herohill, abusing my liver and neglecting my fatherly responsibilities. Before I get into the music, I have to say that M for Montreal is the type of festival/conference we could really use here in Nova Scotia. Sure, we might not have the sheer mass of bands that you find in MTL, but the premise was fantastic.

Eighty journalists, radio programmers, booking agents, and festival promoters traveled from all over the world to be inundated with Montreal culture and music. Four days of shows, panels, schmoozing and booze are always great, but when you consider the attendees included the likes of ABC-TV, CMJ, CBC3, CBCTV, SXSW, European Festival promoters, Polaris Prize and of course, herohill, well you can see how a great set from a band might just be enough to launch a bigger tour and larger fan base.

Thursday night for me started with an non-festival show - the delegates had a special show from Dead Wives and Red Mass, but I snuck down to see The Rural Alberta Advantage and The Great Bloomers at Club Lampi. 2009 has been the year of the RAA - in fact, they had a full page write up in the Globe on Friday (where herohill was mentioned as one of the catalysts to their success), and the jam packed room and screaming fans helped cement the fact that they might be the most popular band in Canada right now for indie kids. They sound so much tighter than they did even a year ago @ our HPX show, and Nils stripped down take on Eye of the Tiger had the crowd freaking out. The openers - The Great Bloomers - did well too, convincing a lot of new faces that the Ontario band's roots pop was something to pay attention to.

But really, it was about M for Montreal. over the next few days, I'll post about all the showcases and hopefully you will enjoy some of the bands we saw and find a few new acts to check out. That was the point of the festival, and from all the banter, the diverse lineups were perfect as almost everyone had a different favorite. Throw in the fact the dual stage, short set approach the organizers used, and almost no one could complain even if a band didn't meet their tastes.

Thursday Showcase: Final Flash, The Luyas, Miracle Fortress, The Rural Alberta Advantage, You Say Party! We Say Die!, Think About Life.

Final Flash - This was an interesting choice for an opener. The boys were into their songs, pushing forward with arena rock anthems and lush, dreamy soundscapes that seemed a little too safe from a band a little too green. They were enjoyable, just not ready for the stages they hope their songs end up on and admittedly, the songs blended into the same malaise.

The Luyas - Wow. When I first looked at the lineup, this was one of the sets that had me giddy with anticipation. I loved The Luyas last record, but the word around the venue was that they were "even weirder" now. That was an understatement. Jessie came out rocking something that sort of resembled what you'd get from PlayStation if you bought sitar hero - found out it was actually a Moodswinger - but the collage of quirky art pop the band delivered was 100% in my wheelhouse. The mix of keys, drums, African/Middle Eastern tones courtesy of the Moodswinger and of course strings and horns all set a perfect stage for Jessie's vocals. I had high expectations for this set, and they were more than met.

Miracle Fortress - After spending most of the day telling people that this was Graham's less electro, more Beach Boys-y project, Mr. Van Pelt came out and performed a set of all new songs. The only guitar was played with a lightbulb, and with all the sirens/disco lights and effect, he was more blinding me with science than with the shimmer of summery pop. The tracks were programmed beats with a few samples tossed in and an more animated GVP dancing around playing with lights and busting out his falsetto vocals. It's a huge shift in sound, as he's scrapped the band and opted to put the spotlight(s) back on him. I'll hold off until I here the recorded versions, but obviously GVP isn't ready to sit still and the potential for a great headphone record is already there.

The Rural Alberta Advantage - I'm not sure any band has had a better '09. From playing small clubs and having day jobs, to opening for Grizzly Bear at a Church Show in SXSW and getting signed to Saddle Creek is a Carl Lewis style long jump but the trio seems to be taking it in stride. They still put every ounce of their hearts into every set and even the truncated, industry-type populated 25-minutes seemed like they were playing as if their lives depended on it. I just wish the venue and audience was more suited to the style they play.

You Say Party! We Say Die - After just seeing the band power through an energy filled set in Halifax, sadly I'm come to realize YSP!WSD just isn't my thing. The band was hyped up - and considering how dead the room was - they got the bodies starting to move, but I just don't get it. I should like the Blondie inspired stuff more, I just don't. Sorry YSP!WSD!

Think About Life - The final act of the night was more GVP. This tecno-inspired dance outfit really got people shaking their ass. Throw in a Cadence Weapon cameo on Sweet Sixteen and you can imagine how hyped people got. Easily the set of the night, and the foreign press may have found something better than a bottle of maple syrup to take home in their suitcase.

MP3:: New Song - Miracle Fortress (live @ M for Montreal)

MP3:: The Ballad of The RAA - Rural Alberta Advantage (live @ M for Montreal)

MP3:: Cat in a Bag - The Luyas

WEB:: http://mpourmontreal.com/

Labels: , Miracle Fortress, , , The Luyas, Think About Life

Posted at 7:46 AM by ack :: 1 comments

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Friday, November 20, 2009

M for Montreal:: Silly Kissers

There are some crazy things happening here in MTL thanks to the good people at M for Montreal. I'll be doing a better dissection of the conference, bands and antics later - honestly, Miracle Fortress fans are in for an (electro) shock and The RAA own every stage they play now - but there are a couple bands that are new to me that I'm super excited to check out.

One band is Silly Kissers. These youngens are all about the shimmering, sunshine-y electro pop that makes you want to dance - the swagger they offer up on Easy Fantasy is hard to shake and the 80's vibe of Thinking of You is strangely addictive - but the EP showcases the band's darker lyrical preference. I Never Said comes across as the counter point to a Casiotone For the Painfully Alone where vocalist Jane Penny refutes Owen's melancholic heartbreak and longing. They are a young band, and a few more laps of the track will help, but the potential is obvious.

They play tonight @ 9:05 PM and rumor has it that Cadence Weapon and his awesome high-top fade will be hitting the stage with them for a collabo.

MP3:: Silly Kissers - Halloween Summer
MYSPACE:: http://www.myspace.com/sillykissersmusic

Labels: , , , , Silly Kissers

Posted at 9:29 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Go to the Prom with Mark Berube and Erin Lang

One of the acts I'm most looking forward to seeing next week at M for Montreal is the nomadic Mark Berube - he's playing the M for Martini showcase on Thursday. He may call Montreal home, but he's traveled the world singing songs, and stock piling anecdotes and observations.

The result is a unique sound built on his spoken word background, accordion and piano prowess and finely tuned travelers eye that are blended together into driving, indie-folk anthems and theatrical live sets filled with surprises and smiles. Whether it's opening with a heartfelt a cappella version of the South African National anthem or closing it by bringing a thirty-piece volunteer brass band on stage with him in a club that holds roughly the same amount of people, Mark's love of music translates into a show that leaves you satisfied and often inspired.

If it wasn't for the other shows at M for Montreal, I'd also be getting gussied up and heading to the Prom with he and Erin Lang. Honestly, how can it NOT be fun? Here are the official deets for anyone hoping to get their Back to the Future on, pick up the phone. IT'S YOUR COUSIN... MARVIN. MARVIN BERRY!
Event: Welcome Winter Prom! with Mark Berube and Erin Lang & The Foundlings
What: "Cats eye glasses and cupcakes, corsages and 50's slow dancing.. "
Start Time: Saturday, November 21 at 9:15pm
End Time: Sunday, November 22 at 12:15am
Where: The Green Room

MP3:: Mark Berube - Flowers on the Stone
MYSPACE:: http://www.myspace.com/markberubemusic
WEB:: http://www.markberube.com/

Labels: Erin Lang, , Mark Berube,

Posted at 8:53 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

M for Montreal:: Le Matos

Next week I’ll be heading up to Montreal to rub elbows with the big names in journalism and help promote the ever growing and successful Montreal scene. As one of the delegates for M For Montreal, basically we roll into the city and get treated to shows and sit down time courtesy of some of the best bands in Montreal (and some extra special guest from other provinces).

Now, if you scan the list of people coming to this event, you might wonder how we are standing on equal ground with Exclaim!, ABC, SXSW, NME and CMJ New Music Report, and to be honest, we aren’t sure. Maybe it’s our dedication to the bands they included (we’ve reviewed roughly 75% of them), the Canadian scene in general, or luck of the draw. Either way, it should be a good time.

Even though we've covered most of the acts already, there are a few bands that we haven’t talked about yet, so the chance to see these bands play quick hitting sets is probably the best type of introduction we could ask for. One that is destined to get the journalistic types moving is Le Matos. The electro duo is headlining a night with some terrific herohill approved acts including Two Hours Traffic (review), Parlovr (review), and Silver Starling (review) - not to mention a special appearance by Cadence Weapon on the 1's and 2's - and their unique ability to create music that makes you want to dance but still hits with the weight of soundscapes tailor made for cinematic decadence is something I look forward to experiencing first hand.

Here's a sneak peak of a jam I hope they play. It's a killer remix of Coeur de Pirate's Comme des Enfants. Enjoy!

MP3:: Comme des Enfants - Coeur de Pirate (Le Matos remix)

MP3:: Comme des Enfants - Coeur de Pirate

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Posted at 9:15 AM by ack :: 2 comments

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