Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee:: Soft Copy

It's hard not to get nostalgic as Thrush Hermit preps to descend on Halifax in a mere six days. Not just for the band, but for the time and most importantly, the feelings we all took from those angular guitar anthems that seemed so plentiful only 5 years ago. Thankfully, as more and more acts hold onto the "quiet is the new loud", there are still a few acts like Toronto's Soft Copy that plug in and give fans heavy tracks with a sweet, pop center.

This three piece eschews superfluous layers for straight forward bass, drums and guitar anthems. They crunch, chug and shimmer, but the powerful trio writes hooks and choruses that keep you singing along. Vicious Modernism is the type of record that could have shaped your musical personality back when people bought records hoping to find something to hold onto, not just download and discard with little thought.

Even outside of the record, which is worth grabbing as soon as you can find a copy, First Date is one of the catchiest songs I've heard all year. Starting with soft drums, the shimmering guitar notes dance nicely before the band explodes into a driving hook. Timing out after an all too brief 2:26, this songs shows that Soft Copy isn't going to let guitar rock die... and for that we should all be thankful.

MP3:: Soft Copy - First Date

MP3:: Soft Copy - Extracurricular

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee:: The Pack A.D.

The Pack A.D.
has spent more hours in a van than motivational speaker, Matt Foley. Maya and Becky watch the odometer turn for hours, just so they can deliver tour-de-force performances for their ever growing fan base. The girls are fueled by coffee and an obsession with cranking the amps up to 11 and just giving it.

Basically, I have no idea how this gritty Vancouver two-piece found time to write and record, but they are getting ready to release an anti technology LP - We Kill Computers - on Mint Records and if the lead single is any indication, they may have moved slightly away from the swampy blues and decided to smack us all in the mouth with some straight up, heavy garage riffage. Not your standard Sunday morning selection, but with the huge US vs. Canada hockey game controlling 90% of Canadians thoughts, it will certainly get you ready to rumble.

MP3:: The Pack A.D. - Crazy

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee:: Scott Withers & The Whisper Banshees

As a blogger that receives hundreds of promo emails, when you hear a band describe as "Jonathan Richman meets Neutral Milk Hotel" you can't help but give a half hearted "meh" and start to dismiss the statement... unless the description comes from a band like The Sorrys, a local act long past the point of caring about being cool or impressing you (or me).

That quote was how I was introduced to Scott Withers and The Whisper Banshees, and while intriguing it's not how I will remember them. Instead of quirky melodies and whimsical lyrics, Scott and his band present a more honest, straight forward East Coast folk sound, unashamed by their roots and happy to proudly display their influences to the world.

Guitar, mandolin, strings and hand percussion all set the tempo for pub style stompers and drunken dances. The sextet sounds more finely tuned on these early demos them most folk acts sound after all the mastering and computer magic. A quick listen to the harmonies on riffraff or the way the melodies surges forward and retracts on Ne're-do-well shows the band's talent. Folk has evolved in the last few years, and in a lot of situations the song writers forget that folk music was written by the people, for the people. Scott Withers & The Whisper Banshees defy the current trends. They don't want to sing at you, they want to sing with you.

Chances are if you show up to see them play some songs March 2nd @ The Seahorse you will share some smiles and some drinks with a band that reminds us all that music doesn't have to be morose tales of broken hearts, murder ballads or snippets of a diary no one wants to read. Not a bad deal if you ask me.

MP3:: Scott Withers & The Whisper Banshees - Ne'redowells

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee:: Michael Tarbox

Normally, I use this Sunday morning post for a local artist, but I've been enjoying a record sent my way by Chris from The Deep Blues Festival, and although he's not Canadian, his killer festival brings down some of our best swampy blues acts (and according the guys from The Schomberg Fair, he's a host with a generous spirit beyond compare) and any support we can give the artist his loves or the festival itself is well deserved.

The record he sent over was the solo effort from Michael Tarbox of The Tarbox Ramblers. My Primitive Joy is a nice slice of singer / songwriter Americana, but the title track has resonated loudly this week. I wanted to write something about the passing of my favorite author - J.D. Salinger - but everything seemed as hollow and unfitting as the casual mention in the status bar of a facebook profile or limited emotion allotted by the 140 characters twitter allows. Instead I found the simple message of this song, dressed to go out with long bended pedal steel and deeply plucked stand up bass, saying everything I need to get off my chest.

Salinger wasn't the best writer, but the best songs usually aren't crafted by the best musicians, and his ability to write a story that summed up the alienation we all feel shouldn't be diluted by the cliche of those clinging to his greatest novel like a badge of honour. When Tarbox paints a picture of rural beauty for the first minute of this song, void of frills and superfluous descriptors or turned phrases, I can't help but smile (knowing that the reclusive author is probably happy to unsaddle the baggage his fame brought with it and escape deeper from the public eye and finally feel at peace), thinking about how much joy each one of Salinger's books brought me and how, if only for a moment, this song does the same.

MP3:: Michael Tarbox - My Primitive Joy

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee:: We Are the City

For the last few months, a select number of BC bands have been vying for the grand prize ($150,000 duckets) and the of Peak Performer. Friday night the announcement gave the nod to We Are the City, narrowly beating terrific bands like Bend Sinister and The Left.

Similar contests have been run across Canada - Hollerado recently pocketed 250K - but this one really seemed to help bands build a long term model for success. Obviously winning 150K is fantastic for any young band, but the whole Peak Performance idea shows bands how hard work and creative marketing can help them get heard, get noticed, get signed and get on the road. Blogs, tweets, videos, free demos for anyone wanting to listen; this contest has really highlighted how the digital age is changing the music model and showing that even though people might not be buying as many CDs, we still love and support music.

So congrats to We Are the City, and hopefully this piano rocking anthem will jump start your day.

MP3:: We Are the City - There are Tiny Beasts in the Ground

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee:: Digits

Today's coffee is a bit late, thanks in large part to beers and football, and a child that doesn't realize both equate to Dad wanting to sleep in. Thanks in large to Amanda Ash posting the new Tiesto track ft. Tegan & Sara, I realized it was time to talk about Toronto bedroom, electro malcontent, Digits.

Technically, Digits is the work of one man, Alt Altman, and that's extremely fitting. Instead of composing boombastic electronic symphonies that let you escape, hidden by thousands of other sweat soaked peers, Altman's music is written when you are by yourself, looking just to get lost in the sounds as they dart from ear to ear in your headphones.

His new LP - Hold it Close - is perfect for anyone that thought Erlend Oye's work with Whitest Boy Alive was just a bit too cherry and accessible. It's heartbreaking in it's chill, almost as if no matter how many times love presents itself, Altman is predisposed to let it pass him by. The songs are rich in the bleak depression that dominated 80's music, but not dominated by theatre or implied tragedy. You can grab some tracks at his bandcamp site, but I'd highly suggest grabbing the whole record for a mere 10 bucks.

MP3:: Digits - Sarah

MP3:: Digits - You're Going to Age

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Morning Coffee:: The Sojouners Reborn

Back in the day, I started the Sunday Morning Coffee sessions largely because of the Vancouver based Gospel outfit, The Sojouners. Their first record was the knock you on your ass type of gospel record that just made you feel better.

Since that day, I've seen The Sojouners charm a room full of people at the Mississippi Sheiks fundraiser, heard them guest on a few records and really grow into something bigger than just a fantastic gospel outfit. Martcus Mosely, Will Sanders and Ron Small can trade vocals like kids trade baseball cards - wait, do people still do that? - but they sounds they dabble with range from R&B to soul to blues to, of course, gospel.

The single from their new record - Nobody Came Turn Me Around - is warmed by some organ, but all of the new tracks I've heard really smoke. They have blossomed into more than talented vocalists, no, these three gentleman have become a full fledged band that can make you sway, make you dance, but most importantly, make you feel alive.

MP3:: The Sojourners - Nobody Came Turn Me Around

Labels: , Gospel, , , The Sojourners,

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Morning Coffee:: Crash the Car

I know we call ourselves the Canadian blog, but truth be told we've neglected a substantial amount of land that lies to the North. Sure, we mentioned Kim Barlow's collaboration with Mr. Kom, but we' haven't covered any artist from the territories.

Well, this morning that changes.

Kyle Cashen
is the front man and songwriter for a rotating cast of characters known as Crash the Car. I suppose, naturally, that location really plays a part in shaping these epic, sad, beautiful songs, but I really had no idea what to expect when I loaded up They Built Houses Here. I don't think you can understand what it's like to live there until you do (especially when everyone I've ever known that's gone up North comes back glowing and tells stories with a pride and loyalty unlike any I've heard from other regions), and I think the same can be said about a community's music.

I'm not sure what I thought music crafted in the cold, dark hours of the Yukon would sound like - maybe like a more Canadian take on the lush chill that Sigur Ros crafts so well or some quirky bedroom pop driven by hours trapped inside - but the textures and influences revealed on We Don't Always Have Light give us all a little glimpse at life in the Yukon.

Despite the meticulous layering of instruments, Crash the Car shows that an appreciation of a simpler life is needed to survive and thrive in a city that removes convenience from the equation. Weather hits you in the face like a stinging jab, and the band portrays that chill perfectly, but the more engaging aspect is the solace of friends and the brief hope of first light gives a huddled warmth to the affair. They show a patience that is probably a pre-requisite for the region, as the melodies and gentle crescendos move at a slower pace, but show excitement and spontaneity that helps us all understand that music, like life, is often worth the weight.

This record isn't a light listen for the faint of heart, but Crash the Car has compiled a collection of stirring, beautiful songs that make me think that this band is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to finding hidden treasures in a new scene. Highly recommended.

MP3:: Crash the Car - We Don't Always Have Light

Labels: , Crash the Car, , yukon

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Morning Coffee:: The Wind Up Radio Sessions

It's not often you can find a band that successfully integrates multiple songwriters on a record, let alone a teaser EP. Once you start moving in different directions, it's hard to keep the listener engaged. For UK/Canadian based The Wind Up Radio Sessions however, distance and diversity seems to be what pushes them creatively. The trio shares song writing duties and even though all three enjoy the airy side of folk, these songs show the subtle differences and influences of each member and a hint of what their live show offers.

Me and My Doe (penned by Dan Kiely) is a piano & acoustic love song that floats by with a casual nonchalance, as if the Incredible Moses Leroy opted for a jazzy organic theme instead of guitars and electronics. It's also the most immediate track on the EP. The blissful feeling of summers love permeate this effort . His brother Marc settles into a more traditional radio friendly groove on Me and My Friend, letting the acoustic strums and background effects do most of the work.

Lazy Bee
drifts into the minor tones to add a bit of depth and darkness to the effort, but unfortunately is is also the least effective number on the EP. And in case you weren't feeling disjointed by the subtle differences, the trio drops a full on anomaly with the uptempo Nairobi. Apparently the band included this song to give you an idea of how it feels to be at one of their shows, and while the spike in energy is nice, I think the band is much more enjoyable when they allow the listener to relax and slink into their relaxed cool.

Overall, the band shows that a laid back vibe isn't reserved for acoustic surfers. They are happy to talk about love over casual strums. I'll be interested to hear the full record because, quite honestly, often too many chefs spoil the broth. Will three different styles of songs, plus the occasional spike from a "live" show work over 10-12 songs? Who knows, but these four songs make me want to find out.

MP3:: The Wind Up Radio Sessions - Let Me Go


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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Labor Days:: The Coast on Daytrotter

Wow. After last night's arrival, I'm inspired. Time for some soaring epics and that's what Toronto's The Coast is all about. Unfortunately, their last record - The Expatriate - never blew up like we thought it would but that's okay because the fine fellows at Daytrotter loved the Upper Canadian rockers enough to record a session.

All the track are from the latest long player, so head over and grab the songs and then pick up the record. Not only are they terrific, they are $free.99. It's easy like Sunday morning on this err, Sunday morning.

MP3:: The Coast - Play Me the Apostle (Daytrotter)


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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday Morning Coffee:: The Haints Old Time String Band

Morning. Afternoon. What's the difference? To be honest, today was the first summer day in forever so I'll be damned if I was spending it inside on the computer. Instead, we celebrated a herohill birthday - B-train = 3 - enjoyed the sun, and sampled some local brews with a friend from out of town.

En route to all these places I cranked up Victoria's The Haints Old Time String Band as loud as it could go and remembered why summers by the water are so fantastic. The sun rippling off the water baking you until you feel like you might melt, only to be refreshed by a perfect breeze off the ocean. Everything trivial floats away, and all that's left is smiles.

The Victoria trio offers up a collection of traditional Appalachian inspired tracks laced in harmonies, fiddle, banjo, uke, and good old fashioned picking. Pharis, Jason and Erynn obviously respect the style and purity of the mountain folk and string bands from years long since past, and their music makes you think of simpler times. Not only are you transported to fiddle sessions that could have taken place decades ago, more importantly you are bombarded by memories of warm days nestled on porches drinking beer or lake swimming with your friends and family.

Instead of reading about the hippest of the hip and scouring the net for more terrible mash-ups, throw the Haints and call up some of your oldest friends and remember that life doesn't always have to be so hard.

MP3:: The Haints Old Time String Band - Milwaukee Blues

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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

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday Morning Coffee:: Stephen Prickett Peace in the Valley

Sometimes it's the simple things. The warming feeling of a phone call from a friend trapped timezones away. Stumbling into a terrific diner at a random highway exit. The breeze off of the water that fills your nose with the aroma of the sea. The types of things that seem so plain in text, but so warm when experienced.

Haligonian song writer Stephen Prickett enjoys the simple things. He chooses not to add complexity, opting for a purity that seems so far removed from most artists these days. His guitar, a harmonica and the heart he proudly pins to his sleeve; these are the pillars of his music, not phrases turned so many times that they mask the true meaning.

I feel like I should say more, but as if often the case with the good things in life, descriptions often feel hollow and fall short. Stephen has the charisma to draw you in, and this collection of solo tracks shows he has stories worth telling. He may not be blazing a new trail, but sometimes the old, beaten down path is the one that triggers the most powerful memories.

MP3:: Stephen Prickett - Peace in the Valley

MP3:: Stephen Prickett - Don't Go Worrying


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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Morning Coffee:: Extra Happy Ghosts!!!

It's Sunday and I'm about to head out for a long run. Pretty standard fair around these parts, but when I was making my play list for the 10K jaunt I was completely baffled by one of the songs in the ole "to review" folder. Truth be told, I only clicked on it because it had MASH-UP in the title and I was shocked because me and mash-ups stay away from each other like Chris Brown and Rhianna.

Luckily, Extra Happy Ghosts!!! - aka Matthew Swan of Hot Little Rocket - is not your standard lo-fi artist. While other tracks on the How The Beach Boys Sound To Those With No FeelingsEP rely on the classic echoes, drone and fuzz you expect from artists recording on inexpensive gear in apartments studios, Mash-Up: Neither Being Nor Nothingness shows what he can do when he finds a catchy melody and runs with it.

Really, the song is one of those creations where the output is so much more than the sum of the parts. The sounds grab you instantly, but when the organ and supremely catchy do-do-do's he adds on the chorus kick in, I challenge you to try to turn off the track without hitting repeat.

MP3:: Extra Happy Ghost - Mash-Up Neither Being Nor Nothingness

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Morning Coffee:: The John Punch Band

When this Ottawa three-piece kicks off their debut EP with the country rock, road trip ready Tipping Boats, you can’t help but be won over. The tight pocket of sound is bigger than you’d expect and Cory’s vocals really channel a passion from the band’s name sake. You foot starts stomping and your head starts nodding along before you even get through the first listen.

Obviously, when you explode out of the starting blocks with such thunder, it's hard to keep that intensity. The rest of the EP isn’t quite as passionate as the opening track as they follow up with more standard acoustic folk, heavy on lyrics and picked/strummed melodies – but that’s not a slight. Well placed harmonies (Our Lovers) and pleasing sounds float around the room, and you really feel like Cory puts every ounce of who he is into the songs.

The debut EP - Fences Have Been Planted, Thorns Have Been Built - is just getting pressed now, and it's the type of record that will undoubtedly lead to better things. If they can continue to create the energy of Tippin' Boats and the dynamite closing track, Stars and Stripes this Ottawa band will be one you see on stages at folk festivals soon enough.

MP3:: The John Punch Band - Tippin' Boats

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Morning Coffee:: The Peptides

web site || myspace

It's been a while since I posted on a Sunday, but I spent most of yesterday painting and running, so I had some extra time listening to music that was passed along. One record that kept resurfacing was Stereo Stereo from The Peptides.

One look at the Gatineau based band's album cover and web site hammers home a distinct vibe: retro cool. Naturally, you might expect to be transported to a vintage listening room and bombarded with psychedelic sounds and choreographed dance routines. But when you really sit down and listen, you see that The Peptides sounds are much more complex.

Sure, the still drift into dreamy sound scapes and the female vocals, piano and horns that dominate Devine Design stay in the swanky comforts you'd expect, but for me things really start to get interesting when they slow it down. So Slow creeps along, daring you to turn away as Claude and Pam use only some simple strums, harmonies and some chimes to grab your ear. The emotions drips from the track, but so does a confidence that builds throughout the song. They completely erase any of that kitsch you keep expecting to surface and supplant it with honest emotion (just listen to their slowed down, dark, take on Lennon's Jealous Guy).

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