Thursday, September 3, 2009

Quick Hitters:: Milks & Rectangles Civic Virtues

Enough with the PEI love fest! I know you might be wondering when our torrid affair with the smallest province might end, but dammit, this relationship has been going on for years. Plus, PEI makes us feel special and always calls us back.

All jokes aside, the PEI scene has been going strong for years and Milks & Rectangles take on across-the-pond boomers is quite enjoyable and polished for a debut effort. Civic Virtues is a concise six-song EP (no song breaks the 3:45 mark) and on first listen, you get hit with the Franz Ferdinand like stomp of tracks like Heart's the Target and Armchair General. Of course, those tracks are instantaneous, but the quartet is far from a one-trick pony. They often visit the other coast and give tracks a gentle California sun kiss to contrast the big city sprawl.

Thanks to some solid production/recording work from IFS keyboarder Dan Ledwell, the six songs really show a knack for hooks and intricate transitions. They play with tempo nicely - the slow grind of Slander Debunked is the perfect chance for the listener to catch a breath without derailing the flow of the EP (especially when the horns take over) - and honestly, if you told me this EP was from a group of seasoned vets playing over seas, I wouldn't blink an eye.

So many bands are ashamed to write tracks that make you dance and hint at dreams of something bigger and better than the opening slot in a shitty club and I think M & R show that even though that's where they are now, only time will tell where they end up. From my chair, it's not hard to picture tracks like Motel Fire Drill booming over loud speakers at a Festival with happy fans singing along.

MP3:: Milks & Rectangles - Heart's The Target

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

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Reviews:: Two Hours Traffic - Territory

Back when European settlers first arrived on what would become Canada's smallest province, the act of claiming one's territory was a back-breaking act of survival. Over the last few years, Two Hours Traffic has gone in the reverse direction to claim their territory: heading out into the vast musical wilderness of our big-ass country to stake their claim as the best young band in Canada.

As that bit of semi-strained metaphor-ary indicates, THT's new album is called Territory, and if it doesn't put them at the top of that hypothetical "best young band" list, they're certainly in the conversation. I mean there are plenty of great bands in Canada, but how many are comprised of members as young as the fellas in THT, and have consistently produced such finely crafted songs? This shouldn't be a complete surprise, as the band has been under the tutelage of Joel Plaskett, a master of song craft himself, for a while now. Although Joel was back to produce Territory, credit must be given to Liam Corcoran, Alec O'Hanley, Andrew MacDonald, and Derek Ellis for delivering when the pressure was on. A Polaris short-list nomination in 2008 meant expectations were way up, and THT has come through in the clutch.

After all my "best young band" talk, it seems kind of trite and obvious to say that THT's sound has matured, but I think it has. It says something that my favorite songs on the album are slower paced ones like Wicked Side, Just Listen, and Lost Boys rather than the more uptempo ones they are known for and that I would normally gravitate too. But never fear, there are still plenty of the uptempo, harmony-filled rockers that THT fans will be expecting, and a looser, rockier feel has been added to songs like Happiness Burns, and that's a good thing.

Peppy album opener Noisemaker is one of those rockers, akin to Little Jabs' Nighthawks, and it's a riff-heavy ode to those loud mouth scene crashers that bring everyone down. The afore-mentioned Wicked Side is simply a fantastic song - it's simple, yet really well written, and a bouncy bassline provides the backbone for an addictive track that brings in the handclaps at just the right time. This is easily one of my favorite songs from '09. The title track, on the other hand, is a perfect example of why THT are awesome: loud guitars, supremely singable hooks, and fantastic work from the rhythm section - I could listen to the drum fills alone from this song all day long.

Weightless One is another keeper in the classic THT mold, with lighter than air harmonies telling the story of a directionless love interest. Another of my favorite songs on the album is a bit of a departure: Just Listen has a drum track that sounds somewhat like an 80's drum machine, but its clearly & cleverly written and has a chorus that soars. I've played this one a lot.

Compared to what one might have heard from THT in the past, the latter portion of Territory is a change of pace, a little more subdued. The somewhat anti-booze anthem Drop Alcohol shows that the band can create a sing-along without loud, pacy riffs, and the rollicking campfire feel of Lost Boys makes it stand out somewhat for me. it might just be me, but the playful Sing A Little Hymn seems to have Plaskett fingerprints all over it, from the little Casio backbeat to the playful, metaphysical lyrics - it's the kind of thing Joel does better than most. This is a good attempt at it, but I'm not sure they nailed it.

As I mentioned in my preview for this album, I've been on the THT bandwagon for a while now, and Territory has nothing to make me want to get off. If anything, I'm on the bandwagon gathering supplies to build some kind of shelter, a shack or lean-to perhaps, so I can bunker down for the long haul with THT. If you've never been on their bandwagon, have a listen to this album and then hop here with me so we can simply nod smugly when the "best of" and Polaris-like praise starts rolling in for this one.

MP3:: Two Hours Traffic - Territory

VIDEO:: Two Hours Traffic - Happiness Burns

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Posted at 12:44 PM by naedoo :: 6 comments

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Monday, August 31, 2009

The Great Canadian Mixtape Project:: Prince Edward Island

I know. I know. This took forever! We were hit in the grill with real life and then were waiting on some songs that took a bit longer than we expected, but like Tag Team says - "Whoomp. Here it is." The Great Canadian Mixtape:: PEI style. Even though PEI is the smallest province, the scene is unreal and several bands are already getting National attention. Finding good bands was easy... whittling it down to the final was the hard part. Well, that and tying in an 80's hip hop reference to the whole affair.

Of course we are heavy on the Collegan Rock acts. Two Hours Traffic is one of the best bands out there right now, but The Danks have been know to crank up the party and Smothered in Hugs - at least according to Matt Charlton - might be the best band out there. But PEI is more than just cruching riffs. The Grass Mountain Hobos. Meaghan Blanchard. Catherline MacLellan. Pat Deighan. Tim Chaisson. Eric Broadbent. The Barnkats! The list is endless, so take the time to get to know some of these bands. You won't be sorry.

Thanks to Matt Charlton, Lloyd @ Sandbar and Killbeat Ken for getting us some exclusive and new tracks for the mix.

Great Canadian Mixtape:: PEI - The (Confederation Bridge is Over)

Download entire zip here.

Armchair General - Milks & Rectangles || MP3
Die Young - The Danks
Territory - Two Hours Traffic
Don’t Touch That Dial (demo) - Paper Lions || MP3
Should’ve Said No - Battery Point || MP3
Bloody Bone - Racoon Bandit
Tiny Paws - The Robots || MP3
Jackson Leftfield - Boxer the Horse
Say What You Want - Pat Deighan & The Orb Weavers
Broken Hearted Beat - Tim Chaisson & Morning Fold

Tired - Meaghan Blanchard || MP3
Take a Break - Catherine MacLellan
Don’t Know What You Got - Grass Mountain Hobos
Haunted Hearts - Haunted Hearts
Dear Departed - Nudie and the Turks
Cold Ottawa Wind - The North Lakes
Live and Die by the Cut - Eric Broadbent and DJ Ghost
Dance - The Barnkats
Ghost Believah - Smothered in Hugs
Charlottetown P.E.I. (Eddie) - Practical Academics || MP3

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Posted at 8:15 AM by ack :: 5 comments

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Quick Hitters:: Haunted Hearts

We are finally getting back in the Canadian Mixtape game, and up next is the island known as Prince Edward (so send in any recommendations please). We've been scouring the potato fields and scanning the beaches with our metal detectors looking for buried trinkets. Already, we’ve found a nice roots outfit that has about as many myspace friends as Ryan Adams has records, but is heavy on potential.

With a name like Haunted Hearts, you can’t help but expect certain sounds and subject matter from the young PEI band. Of course you get hit with some bleak ballads about lost love, heavy in echoing guitar notes and organ bouncing that bounces around the emptiness and loneliness of the tracks off the walls of the open spaces, but Thank You, Goodnight shows the boys are good friends that like to drink beer, crank up the guitars and have a good time too.

The record opens up with Thank You Good Night, a spirited duet with piano and organ, female harmonies and dreams about a better life. The riff is chunky and gets you moving, but the piano that dances around the melody grabs a hold of you and won’t let go, and that energy strays into the bar room, piano honky tonk, Haunted Hearts. Obviously, I wasn’t in the studio when the quintet recorded the song, but I’d be shocked if it wasn’t filled with smiles and laughs when they tackled this track.

It’s hard to knock the band for any missteps – and to be fair there are a couple (Something For You really slows the record to a crawl after 10 songs and some of the tracks start slowly until well placed harmonies or piano bring you back in (Disappear When you Need To) – because they seem like real people and the type of guys we’ve know for decades. The songs they write come from the heart, not the Hansel-inspired mentality (“roots is so hot right now”) plaguing bands these days. Bottom line, when they get it right – like they do on the powerful Don’t Cross Your Heart, it’s hard not to sing-along and when it comes to good ole boys playing good ole tunes, that’s the only thing that matters.

Like many of us, the PEI band is conflicted by past and future. Acid revisits the good ole days and that immortality we all felt and every Canadian kid has felt the pleasure of opening the government cheque for $48.75 each and every quarter (encapsulated nicely in the whimsical instrumental, GST Cheques Are Here), but they have the foresight to look to the future and the potential it has, whether it’s something as simple as “bags of money”, land and an easier life or something as complex as finding the pure love for which we all pine or growing into the man we want to become.

For me, I think the band works best when they give the songs the freedom to run, keeping the tempo and energy high. There Is No Understanding Between Tree and Man glistens, perfectly crafted for BBQs and drives on the dirt roads of country towns. The closer, I’ll See You builds off a simple acoustic line, but the piano infuses the track rollicks along happily and even as it pushes towards the 6-minute mark, never loses momentum and finishes the record on a high.

MP3:: Haunted Heart - I'll See You

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Posted at 12:10 PM by ack :: 1 comments

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