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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reviews:: Share Coco et Co.

A few years ago, Nebraskan song writer Josh Rouse picked up and moved to Spain and his song writing was impacted immensely by the journey. The country western spin he put on his acoustic driven melodies gave way to a more breezy European pop and Rouse's style was reborn. For Andrew Sisk - a.k.a. Share - the move may have only been one province to the left instead of across the Atlantic, but the rewards were just as fruitful.

As Sisk finds a new life in Montreal, it's quite obvious the language, architecture and lifestyle of the city have already changed his point-of-view. Instead of the lush, full band tracks he penned with help from the Forward Family for Slumping in your Murals, Sisk strips everything back to nylon stringed guitars, simple programming and the support of a few new friends. Sisk handles the dramatic shift nicely on this three-song EP. Opening with a more standard, country-indie rock effort - A Pause - the fantastic steel work Mike Feuerstack (Snailhouse) delivers is as comforting as an old sweater for fans of Sisk's previous releases, but without question it's the last two tracks that really showcase the new sound.

Brisé is an almost weightless melody that floats over top of some simple programming, but really lets Sisk and Miranda Durka's traded vocals steal the spotlight. You might be tempted to think that Andrew moved to Montreal and stumbled on someone's collection of French pop, but to me it feels more like he's finding his stride in a new city, without forgetting his roots. The bossa nova influence and bi-lingual vocals feel natural, not forced and everything comes together on the shaker heavy closing number, Et Cetera. Vibraphone dances behind the vocals, simple picked and strummed notes keep you moving forward but it's how well Durka and Sisk work together that makes the song something more than the sum of it's minimal parts.

Coco et Co.; it's only 3-songs and doesn't even reach 9-minutes, but Sisk has sent notice that he is sampling from a new inspirational reservoir and I for one can't wait to see where his journey takes him. Even better? Forward Music is giving you this snappy EP for the low, low cost of free. So head over and hear for yourself.

MP3:: Share - Et Cetera

MP3:: Share - A Pause

MYSPACE:: http://www.myspace.com/andrewsisk
D/L:: http://www.forwardmusicgroup.com/albums/cocoetco.zip

Labels: , , , , ,

Posted at 8:10 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Quick Hitters:: Eli & Papillon

When I went up to M for Montreal this year, I was shocked by how much Francophone talent the festival delivered. Obviously, the talent exists, but on a casual listen it's so easy to dismiss the French speaking acts in our country by assuming that the language barrier makes it impossible to make a connection with the songs.

Instead, bands like Eli & Papillon work hard to force that connection on you. Elise's voice moves with an emotion and charm that helps you understand what she is saying, even if you only pick up a few words. Like a traveler in a foreign country, the romanticism you feel from catching the odd sentence as you walk by conversation after conversion puts you inside even the most personal admissions and helps you become invested in the broken hearts these two young artists bring to the plate.

But truthfully, even if you missed every word, this bedroom pop duo would still tug at your heart strings. It's hard not to hear the piano and Elise's charismatic vocals on L'aurevoir and not feel your heart beating along with the song. The song blossoms into a theatrical, almost magical effort but still manages to keep at least one toe on the ground.

For such a young act, the diversity they provide is impressive. Layers of strings, piano, guitar, bass and vocals mesh nicely - case in point the playful, uptempo Train de Vie (the laugh at the end just kills me or the swirling Un peu d'espoir - but they know when to strip everything back to the core elements as well. The piano and guitar pop gem, Une fois de trop is as straight forward as any track you will hear from the duo, but impact is surprisingly powerful.

I don't want to steep this review in hyperbole. The rough recordings of a bedroom pop act shows the band still has plenty of room to grow, but it's rare I get demos in the mail these days and instantly see the potential of a pop act trying to carve their own sound. Elise and Marc are certainly not interested in sounding like every other pop act out there right now, and that is the type of courage and creativity that can turn a bedroom pop band into something special. I for one, and excited to see where this ends up.

MP3:: Eli & Papillon - L'aurevoir

MP3:: Eli & Papillon - Train de Vie
MYSPACE:: http://www.myspace.com/elietpapillon

Labels: Eli and Papillon, Francophone, , , Pop, Quebec,

Posted at 7:42 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Plants & Animals:: Tom Cruz

The thing I've always loved about Plants & Animals is how they constantly push the limits of both fanatical and critical assumption. The band not only acknowledges, but willingly accepts the challenge of forcing people look past their varied mix of influences and think about their records as single entities that can only be digested after multiple listens. On Parc Avenue they not only got people to disregard their jam-heavy tendencies and quirky folk explorations, they had people regaling the sonic collages they built. Basically, the Montreal trio earned carte blanche to deliver another flavorful bouillabaisse of jazz, rock, and folk.

Instead, Warren, Matthew and Nicholas explode out of the gate with one of the heaviest, most muscular riffs they've ever recorded to tape. Tom Cruz still showcases the band's love of beauty in fleeting moments (the breakdown and harmonies that put the brakes on nicely at 2:51), but the core of the almost five minute adventure are the chugging bass lines, the stabs of guitar, drums and invigorating vocals. As far as excitement levels and expectations, Tom Cruz certainly puts critics and fans on notice. It's pretty obvious that La La Land - out April 20th on Secret City Records - isn't going to just be a subtle evolution of the same sounds we all loved two years ago.

MP3:: Plants & Animals - Tom Cruz
WEB:: http://www.plantsandanimals.ca/

Labels: , , , Plants and Animals

Posted at 8:30 AM by ack :: 1 comments

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Friday, December 11, 2009


Without a doubt, simply on title and one song alone, the new Montag covers EP would have gotten some love on herohill. I mean, we've already covered the talented Montreal resident on herohill and certainly want to hear his new record due out in 2010, but that's not what got our motor running so to speak.

Montag - aka Antoine Bedard - decided to cover songs he loved at some point in life and release the "EP" as a tape (it was recorded to tape and then made digital but will also be available as a tape) and as awesome as that idea is, it's only the tip of a Titanic wrecking sized iceberg folks. Calling the EP DES CASSETTES & UN WALKMAN JAUNE (a couple of tapes and a yellow walkmen) and including a cover of PM Dawn's Sit Adrift on Memory Bliss basically means he touched on two of my favorite classic Golden Age hip hop moments.

First - any 90's rap lover remembers the awesome Nice and Smooth video with the yellow boom box floating in the pool (and probably had or pined for a yellow Sony Sports Walkmen, I mean, they were waterproof) - and of course, who can forget PM Dawn. No, not for the music but for the legendary story of KRS-1 bumrushing the stage and pushing that tubby hippie off the stage. I know neither image is what Antoine is channeling on this time capsule of his musical journey, but we here on the hill still talk about both stories at least once a month, so it seemed important.

So anyway, the EP.

This ode to music and music collection from back in the day is a great stop until the next full length because it really opens you up to see who Andre is. The "EP" is a six song collection of tracks that in original form, wouldn't really fit together on even the most outlandish mix tape. The thing is, Antoine's respect of the songs mixes with his creativity to actually pull it off. I'm not sure many listeners can connect the dots between The Breeders, PM Dawn, Low, Supertramp and Bronski Beat, but his crisp, crystalline electronics and subdued vocals really helps his take on the songs work nicely as a cohesive piece.

He really pay homage to the songs but still makes them his own. Instead of trying to replicate Prince Be's rap, the song is transformed by Antoine's spoken work delivery, but grounded by the familiar sounds of Spandau Ballet on the chorus and the longing heartbreak of the surprisingly touching verses. The slowcore build of Low's classic Sunflower is replaced with a slow moving electro beat and a more Beach House feel, but the core of the song is there for any fan of the band. You can't help but smile as he loses the simple chunky riff and sonic explosion that The Breeders use to drive No Aloha and turns the song into a frigid morning walk along the beach, they type of walk where the chill and greys consume you, before doing a 180 and spiking the tempo and energy.

Honestly, the EP is fun. I'm not sure Antoine wanted to accomplish other than give his listeners song new songs at Christmas, but even trapped amongst the cold textures and heartache, he's shown us another piece of who he is... and done it in a way that brings a smile to music lovers that remember the old days but aren't stuck in them.

MP3:: Montag - Set Adrift Memory of You (PM Dawn)

MP3:: Montag - No Aloha (The Breeders)
MYSPACE:: http://www.myspace.com/montagmontag
BUY:: http://www.montag.ca/

Labels: , , Montag, ,

Posted at 7:31 AM by ack :: 1 comments

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Reviews:: My People Sleeping Feye

Last year, I was blown away by a little EP from Montreal’s My People Sleeping. The songs seared with an intensity and torment I never expected. The standout track, Seahorse, painted a vivid picture using beautiful, slow, moving three-part harmonies and terrific strings, but there was an underlying man vs. machine frigidness that made parts of the song chilling. The tension and beauty of the release was something that hit me hard and stuck with me for weeks, so when the new record ended up in my inbox this weekend, I pulled a Cappadonna and “put all other LPs back on the shelf.”

Feye - released in Montreal on Dec 11th - is an epic collection of songs suited for grandiose cinematic sweeps. MPS still deliver the same intensity, but the effort seems to be more controlled as the quartet allows the listener to settle into long, beautiful instrumental sections and often relies on understated vocals (just listen to Cortes or the last few minutes of the strong opener Pope). Oddly enough, feye means destined to die, but the heartbeat of this record is strong and defiant. Each of the seven songs is moody and pain filled at times, but surprisingly determined. You succumb to the nostalgic beats and chords as you looking back to happier times but somehow still find a surprising comfort in your modern melancholy.

At times the band sounds a bit like Beach House, which is always a good thing, but the recordings are far from a simple “sounds like” ode to a popular sound. They change pace more successfully, keeping the listeners ever so slightly off-balance. The shuffling percussion of Bloodhounds finds the band stretching their legs and the frantic energy of Yes No No mirrors the chaos of an ocean storm and shows the band is willing to push the boundaries of what most would find comfortable. Ruby Kato’s falsetto moves alongside the organ on the powerful Take Anything, but the band finds inspiration as they slowly build to an optimistic crescendo.

But at the end of the day, it's the icy tones the the Montreal band uses that captivates you. For the most part, the compositions are often made from crystalline winter textures, the type you search for as you huddle in cold rooms hoping to see an all too brief appearance of sun during the coldest months. You can almost see your breath when you listen to Sounding Pitch and sometimes it's that snap of cold that makes you feel alive and sends a warmth coursing through your veins.

MP3:: My People Sleeping - Cortes
MYSPACE:: http://www.myspace.com/mypeoplesleeping

Labels: , , My People Sleeping,

Posted at 12:46 PM by ack :: 0 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/

Labels: , , , ,

Posted at 7:53 AM 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, , Rural Alberta Advantage, 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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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Quick Hitters:: CFCF

Pleasant surprises are rare in this day & age, but I have to say, one of the nice things about having one of these nifty music blogs, is that you tend to get pleasantly surprised on a fairly regular basis. This is exactly what happened when I listened to CFCF's Continent for the first time a little while ago. I knew nothing about him, other than that he was a Montreal DJ, and I'd seen his name out there as a remixer, but I was caught a little bit off-guard by how much I liked his full-length debut.

CFCF is otherwise known as Michael Silver, and he's made a name for himself over the last couple years with remixes for the likes of Crystal Castles, Sally Shapiro, HEALTH and The Presets. But Continent is strictly a CFCF project, recorded by Silver in his home studio over the period of time between fall 2008 and this past summer. This somewhat lengthy period obviously allowed him time to tweak and layer sound after lovely sound into his songs - one of the things I like most about the album is that new sounds are constantly being dropped into the mix, but everything still sounds seamless and joyfully melodic.

You Hear Colours is a great example of just that, because it opens with a dark, almost ATCQ-like drum track, but layers of keys, horns, and even guitar are added over the tracks five plus minutes, but it all fits together really well.

The other thing that stands out about Continent for me is the 80's electro sound that runs through it, it just has those really warm, analog synth & drum sounds that I've been drawn to over the last year or so from folks like Eliot Lipp or Dam Funk. The first single from the album, Monolith, is an excellent poster boy for that 80's sound, as its stellar piano & synth lines make it sound like it could have subbed in for Animotion as the intro for Fashion Television (and I mean that as a compliment, as FT and Obsession are a classic bit of 80's Canadiana). But CFCF is far from a one-80's-trick pony, as Big Love sounds like something RJD2 could have done earlier this decade, the lush Letters Home has a lovely dialed-down house sound, and the stuttering Come Closer feels like it was birthed from some UK scene or another.

And as if all this wasn't enough, Silver has recorded an OMC cover for Paper Bag Record's awesome new (free!) covers compilation. I'd been meaning to post on CFCF for a while, but covering what is likely the Ack's favorite New Zealand one hit wonder moves you to the front of the queue. So, to get you up to speed with CFCF's work to date, I've posted a few songs below, but I strongly suggest you check out Continent, as I think it is the kind of album that most people wouldn't normally seek out, but is just a really great album that deserves to be heard.

Update: CFCF and Paper Bag made another track available for d/l today, Big Love, which is a Fleetwood Mac cover. Who knew? Anyway, I've added that song below.

MP3:: CFCF - Big Love

MP3:: CFCF - Monolith

MP3:: CFCF - How Bizarre (OMC cover)

MP3:: Sally Shapiro - Love In July (CFCF Remix)
MYSPACE:: www.myspace.com/cfcf

Labels: CFCF, , ,

Posted at 8:43 AM by naedoo :: 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

Labels: , , , ,

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

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Quick Hitters:: Zoey Van Goey

This morning I was running on vapors. It’s hard enough to plug away on a keyboard when the music you want to gush about is creative and inspiring, but when the release pile hits the typical year end slump, sifting through the discs is almost like a punishment.

Thankfully, I remembered I still hadn't mentioned Glasgow outfit Zoey Van Goey or their debut full length, The Cage Was Unlocked All Along. The twee-popping trio is a collection of ex-pats (of Canadian, Irish and English descent) that like so many other bands, started by chance at college and the rest as they say, is theirstory.

It almost sounds too typical on the surface – three nerdy kids meeting randomly while looking for the film library on campus – but when you digest the sounds and realize the talent the band exudes, you know you have found something special. I mean, how often would Stuart Murdoch or Paul Savage get involved with a debut record (both worked on the production) or how often do you find a trio of musicians with no real “band” experience playing with some of the most exciting bands in Europe (Frightened Rabbit, God Help the Girl)?

But as much as the trio will be lumped with the people that turned knobs on the record or the musicians they associate with, their take on summery pop for the thick horn rimmed, literary types has a bite. Sure, the beautiful melodies float along warming the hearts of all that hear, but The Cage Was Unlocked All Along is full of random noises and instruments that add that extra depth a lot of twee outfits neglect. Xylophones, ramshackle percussion and banjo add depth to the tracks, but so do the quirky, dark subjects Moore sings about.

Whether it’s a poppy ditty about people afraid to go outside in case some bad happens that they can’t afford or holing up in the basement instead of facing robots that should have taken over the world when the ball dropped on the year 2000, the band consistently offers more than lovesick tales and melancholic reflections. Bottom line, there's a reason the band is already on every critics lips across the pond and the members are being asked to fill the gaps when bands hit the road... they are talented and write songs you can't shake from your head.

MP3:: Zoey Van Goey - We Don't Have That Kind of Bread
MYSPACE:: http://www.myspace.com/zoeyvangoey

Labels: , , , Zoey Van Goey

Posted at 10:25 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Quick Hitters:: Murder Ford Monument & Silver Starling

The weekend was more exhausting than I thought – road trip with the little man, dinners, yard sales, yard work, Steelers late night victory – so I was kind of left high and dry this AM when it came to posting. What’s that mean to you, oh loyal reader? Well, another stellar clip show like Quick Hitting road-up where I point you to some Canadian bands that I meant to write about, but just didn’t have time. Oddly enough they are both from Montreal but unsurprisingly, they are worth checking out.

Murder Ford Monument

When lead singer Jesse LeGallais’ baritone explodes over the fuzzy guitar and horns on The Hills Were On Fire, you can’t help but think of The National. His voice is similar to Mat’s and the band tries hard to match the energy of the NY outfit over the eight songs that make up their self-titled EP, so it's really hard to shake the sonic similarities.

I hate to lump them into a generic sounds-like comparison (one I’m sure they will tire of very, very quickly), because the band is trying some interesting things – the female vocals that perk up the bleak Gunfighters, the barren, simplicity of Rebel Smile that leads nicely into the strong, synth dominated closer Black Moon Lake (the song that I really think the band shows who THEY are) – and are headed in the right direction and when you dive in you notice that instead of the taught percussion and surging melodies you expect from The National, MFM opts for cloudier, bleaker sounds that never try for the staggering heights or intimate confessionals you might expect.

Throw in the fact they have Valleys opening up for them at the EP release show and you can’t help but think this isn’t the last time you will hear about Murder Ford Monument on herohill. For any Montreal readers, here are the deets: C.D RELEASE Oct 29th, Casa del Popolo with special guests VALLEYS!

MP3:: Murder Ford Monument - Black Moon Lake
MYSPACE:: http://www.myspace.com/murderfordmonument

Silver Starling

Montreal’s Marcus Paquin is fortunate enough to keep some very good company. The song writer started hashing out songs and realized the final output needed something... more. First was a free jazz drummer named Liam O’Neil, and then they started leaning on his wife Marika Shaw to play some viola and keys (she did that for another Montreal band too). Then it was Montreal music mainstay, Peter X (We Are Star 69) on bass and Gab Lambert to help thicken up the sound.

Knowing Paquin's production credits, it's not shocking how well the album is put together. Even so, it's hard to believe the meticulously constructed arrangements started out as singer/song writer sketches to help Paquin deal with the emotions of losing his best friend to cancer. Every texture in every song moves as one and the band uses big sounds - swirling guitars and strings, group vocals and big drums - to add heartfelt pain to the affair, but never add an unbearable weight to the songs and even though the tracks tend to draw off the same emotions and move at the same pace.

I think the subtle optimism Marcus adds to the songs – especially on the album standout, the uptempo and joy filled Ghosts - is why this dark album never drags you down into the sadness. Silver Starling certainly deals you heavy emotion, but the Montreal band knows when to deliver the news with a much needed light touch.

MP3:: Sliver Starling - Ghosts
MYSPACE:: http://www.myspace.com/silverstarlingmusic

Labels: , , , Murder Ford Monument, , Silver Starling

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reviews:: Valleys Sometimes Water Kills People

Lately I’ve found myself bored by the intimate, reserved stylings of today’s folk scene and have been gravitating towards bigger bold hooks and ear shattering noise. I’m not sure what it is – the heat, the sluggishness of a lot of those records – but they have started to blend and pace has become more important to my music than to a marathon runner. So the fact the new long player from Montreal’s Valleys (formerly They Were Valleys) showed up almost scared me.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew the record would be stellar (hell, after hearing one song, we signed them up to play our HPX showcase); I just wasn’t sure if the fragile, crystalline textures and hushed vocals would transfer as perfectly from cold winter nights to warm, sun filled afternoons. I was won over by the fragile Beach House vocals of The Heavy Dreamer, and loved the energy and tension they added to the track with crashing drums and feedback, but assumed their sound would be best served for nights huddled inside for warmth.

But when you digest a full record of material you realize the emotions they channel aren't just powerful, they are diverse. The duo – Marc and Matilda – fuse noise, picked guitars and textures into a slow moving, metamorphosing sonic experience, but Sometimes Water Kills People exists in a world where aesthetic is more important than hooks and the songs packs more punch and offers more depth than you might expect from a psych-folk duo. Even when drift into more traditional folk sounds (Santiago) they fill the space with gentle hums and noises that force you to keep listening.

Sonically, it’s easy to compare them to post-rock outfits. The layers they craft and how their instruments speak to the listener - the epic 6minute CR68C is a perfect example, as they resist the temptation to pick up pace and as a result the 6+ minutes of moody guitar and textures is like a walk alone in the woods at night; on the surface, it might appear that nothing really happens, but your heart races and your emotions start to consume you – but it’s the vocal interplay between the duo that really sets them apart. Even as the opening track (Killer Legs) swirls loosely for the last 90 seconds of the song, it was the vocals they traded back and forth over the spirited guitar line that set the tone.

But the big surprise for me was the warmth that exudes from several tracks on the record. Silent Woods breaks through the chill like an intense beam of light and the album closer, The Breakers helps finish the listen on an optimistic, comforting high. It's these precious moments that help make this perfect winter record accessible and worth picking up right now. You may not have heard much about Valleys, but chances are that will change once people start hearing this fantastic record.

MP3:: Valleys - Silent Woods

MYSPACE:: http://www.myspace.com/valleysvalleysvalleys
LABEL:: Semprini

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Morning Coffee:: Oxen Talk

It all starts from a single snapshot in time. A grainy, sepia-toned photo slowly decomposing and breaking down or maybe a memory that you can’t get out of the recesses of your subconscious; regardless, it’s something triggered by a passing glance or unexpected word. In the case of O Mores!, the new EP from Montreal’s Oxen Talk, it’s a repeated intro on every track that gives the effort the feel of 8 different people looking at the same piece of art and slowly revealing their deeply personal story attached to it.

It’s almost impossible to think a straightforward grim tale like Dustbowl (complete with a slide whistle used to match the locomotive drumming nicely) comes from the same people that wrote the jazzy, horn influenced Seaside Sarcophagus or clanky Choblet, but the few simple guitar notes that start each track open and close each tale nicely. The band fuses moments of folk, chaos, gospel and even elements of a tropical troubadour, and the result is a theatrical collection of songs that is as grandiose as the costumes and jewelry that catches your eye on stage.

Not only does the old-timey, ramshackle style you hear on O Mores! take you back years, the theatrical music is full of the freedom of youth, where your ideas didn't have to fall inline with the most over sampled ideas and unexpected creativity was embraced not judged. This EP won't be for everyone, but the more you listen, the more the stories sink in and affect you.

MP3:: Oxen Talk - Choblet
MYSPACE:: http://www.myspace.com/oxentalk

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Reviews:: Flotilla One Hundred Words For Water

Lately it seems that being a hot "indie" band from Montreal is as much of a curse as it is a blessing. Obviously the scene has chops – 17 of the 40 Polaris long-listers call the area home – but the shine of being the next big thing from Montreal is now tossed out with the slightest hint of distaste. It’s kind of like being the next thing from Brooklyn. People acknowledge both as creative petri dishes and you can't discredit the impact both have on shaping new music, but unlike a few years ago, that praise is handed out reluctantly or with reservation.

So it will be interesting to see the response Flotilla receives for their second record, One Hundred Words for Water. The boy/girl, boy/girl band displays a creativity and a unique sonic palette that opts for subtlety over shock and surprisingly optimistic point of view instead of the melancholic gloom that seems to be the muse for indie bands of any substance.

The thing is, no matter how talented a band is, pitching a sound that includes folk, jazz, funk, atmospherics, minimal electronics and harp isn’t really an easy sell or one that can be described quickly. But as you listen to Flotilla, it's obvious their sound is very engaging. One Hundred Words for Water begs for countless listens, as the band switches moods, tone and feel but never losing that crucial cohesive feel. Whether it’s the syncopated rhythms of Old Mill or the grit of the minor toned opener, Song for Yannick, Veronica’s vocals bend and shift to mirror the textures the band creates. Even when the listen is refreshed by the spiked tempo of Clouds and the funky bridge of Charlie, I’m Through, she holds her own, acting as a front woman but never overpowering the music.

But it's the complexity of the arrangements that really show the band’s talent. Prelude and Epilogue blends harmonies, horns, twinkling keys and shimmering guitar that crescendo nicely before retreating. The moody Ghost in a Landscape gives off a slight Portishead vibe, but it's the down tempo transitions and whimisical harp that really grab me. Song for Yannick manages to control the schizophrenic transitions before they veer too far off course and even the relatively straight forward guitar, drums and Liz Powell-ish vocals that push A Thousand Jacobs feel fuller and more adventurous thanks to the harp that dances alongside the melody.

One Hundred Words For Water is not your standard indie rock record and in today's cookie cutter world, that's terrific. Flotilla shows that creative songs are still being written in the land of poutine and the status the region holds is still well deserved. Even better? Flotilla are heading to Halifax, and playing the @ The Paragon on July 22nd. I would wager it's going to be a great night of music, so you should all head out.

MP3:: Flotilla - Charlie, I'm Through (PS. This is the Jam)

MP3:: Flotilla - Prélude and Epilogue

MYSPACE:: http://www.myspace.com/flotillamontreal
BUY:: Zunior

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Reviews:: Think About Life Family

When are you too old to start hitting the clubs? Twenty-five? Thirty? Thirty-five? Forty? (NOTE: these answers also apply to how old is too old to have a ponytail, fellas) If you are like me, your "standing in line at 1:30 AM, waiting to pay too much for drinks and feel like shit the next day" nights are over, but the new record from Think About Life will make you reconsider your answer. Not to get all High Fidelity on you, but Family is the perfect collection of synths, guitar, beats, vocals, samples and maturity to qualify as the poster child for "Dance Music for Old People."

Obviously, tracks like Having My Baby, Nueva Nueva and Johannah will find there way into almost any indie club this year and have peg-pants youngsters sweating through their neon, but more surprisingly, Think About Life is going to be the star of countless BBQs and commutes as well. Each and every song can be listened to in the passion and sweat of a club, but will never feel out of place if you listen at work, in the car or just for the sake of listening.

Between Martin Cesar’s mature vocal delivery and Graham Van Pelt’s masterful control of the organic elements they infuse into the tracks, they are able to run all over Matt Shane’s beats without overcrowding the effort. Even when GVP starts creating his blissful symphony on the funk-filled Set You on Fire, the heartbeat of the song still pulses clearly. It’s not surprising that the production has vastly improved on this effort - time and familiarity will do that, but the trio makes sure to never buff out the rough edges or shammy the songs to a glossy finish.

All you really need to know is that Family is fun, but the record is packed with enough substance to make it impossible for critics/hipsters to dismiss it. The hidden treasures – like the playful nod to the Temptations on The Veldt, the chipmunk vocals and clever samples or the sun-kiss juxtaposition that follows Cesar’s intro rap on Set You On Fire – give it a depth and playfulness you don’t get from other people working with the same sounds. Honestly, there isn't one song - nay - one note I'd change on this record. You can try to tell me I'm wrong, but Family is cranked so loud I probably won't hear you anyway.

MP3:: Think About Life - Johanna
MYSPACE:: http://www.myspace.com/thinkaboutlife
BUY:: From Alien8

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