Saturday, October 17, 2009

Five Funky Stories:: Diemonds

This here music blogging thing can be quite the education, because even though most bloggers would be loathe to admit it, you learn at least a little something about music every day. Take sleaze for example. No, I don't mean what you'd find on the dancefloor at the New Palace at 1:45AM (HI-O!), but rather Sleaze Rock, which I have learned is the new slang for what was more widely known as "glam metal". Who knew? Well I'm sure many of you did, either way, one of Toronto's premier purveyors of Sleaze Rock is playing this year's HPX: Diemonds.

So folks, if you're hitting HPX and looking to party with a band that has ear-splitting guitars in abundance, and a badass female vocalist to boot, then you best be at the Toothy Moose next Saturday night to see Diemonds headline a bill that also features Bike Rodeo, Thrushes, The Pack A.D. and Carpenter. So yeah, that's going to be a loud evening. Priya Panda is that aforementioned badass female lead vocalist, and besides being able to belt out the jams, she has other skills that the youtube commentors for their Highway video articulated nicely ("good band? - good luck guys - sweet lookin' lady on vocals will help big time!"). Anyway, all male jerkish-ness aside, Priya was kind enough to answer our questions, so let's get to it:

Name: Priya Panda
Band: Diemonds

1. Name a Canadian band (past or present) that should be bigger outside this country.

April Wine!!!!! Hands down. They have a KILLER discography and they really wrote a song for everyone. And for a more current band, I'm gonna say Kill Cheerleader from Toronto. I REALLY hope they decide to play live again someday!

2. From your perspective, is the music business in better or worse shape when compared to 10 years ago?

Ii didn't affect me ten years ago, so it might just seem worse now...I don't really think about. I just wanna play!

3. What are your top 3 favorite songwriting topics?

The Apocalypse, Fresh Starts, and Unhappy Endings

4. Dream show...who plays with you/for you?

A badass free festival that went on for days with Aerosmith, Thin Lizzy, ZZ Top, Wings, KISS, Guns N' Roses, Plasmatics, and Crucial Taunt all with their classic lineups oh, and Diemonds and a million people everywhere. And no bag checks! They ruin all the best parties, if you know what I mean.

5. What excites you about most about making music?

Just that whole feeling of being mentally and physically in the gray area between dream and reality, I guess.

MP3:: Diemonds - Highway

VIDEO:: Diemonds - Highway

Labels: Diemonds, Five Funky Stories, , ,

Posted at 10:30 AM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Five Funky Stories:: Fox Jaws

It seems our random question machine might have met its match in eclectic Toronto-area up & comers Fox Jaws. These fine folks had not one, not two, but three of their band members match wits with our question machine, which is indeed a new record.

Fox Jaws is a five person indie rock outfit, originally from Barrie, Ontario (I think they've now relocated?), that pairs large soundscapes with catchy songwriting and the gritty voices of Carleigh Aikin and Daniel Allen. Their debut full-length, Goodbye Doris was very enjoyable, and although I've yet to hear it all, their recently released follow-up At Odds (Or, Exercises in Separation While United in the Fall) has been equally well-received. If you're hitting HPX, you can sample Fox Jaws sound for yourself when they headline the attractive-looking lineup playing the Nevado records showcase at Coconut Grove where they'll be joined by Hot Panda, Yukon Blonde, and The Paint Movement. But now, on to a plethora of questions and answers!

Name: Evan
Band: Fox Jaws

1. Name your all-time favorite Canadian album.

Left and Leaving (Weakerthans)

2. Would you trade places with Bono right now if you could?


3. What is your favorite venue to play (excluding those in your city of residence)

The Seahorse (Halifax)

4. What are your top 3 favorite songwriting topics?

Chimpanzees in suits on roller-skates smoking cigars; Alienation in the modern world; and, Back-bacon.

5. Name a band that you wish was still putting out records

The Rheostatics

Name: Daniel Brandon Allen
Band: Fox Jaws

1. Why do people still say 'We're doing an East Coast tour!' when they're only going as far as Quebec?

Probably because they failed Geography and have never looked at a map of Canada before.

2. What's the longest time period you've gone without showering on the road?

6 days

3. If you worked as the maitre d' at a fancy restaurant, and Phil Collins came in wearing only a t-shirt, would you let him sit down?

Depends as to whether he was meeting Peter Gabriel there to discuss a Genesis reunion. I still haven't forgiven him for the Disney stint.

4. Your preference: Playing a huge outdoor festival or small club in your hometown?

Small club in my hometown hands down.

5. Would you trade places with Bono right now if you could?

I'de let my wallet trade places with his but not myself.

Name: Carleigh Aikins
Band: Fox Jaws

1. If we commissioned you to write a song about herohill, what would the title be?

'We don't need another hero'...oh no! That one is taken!

2. What is the worst experience you've had on the road since you started touring?

When I lit the back of the truck on fire with a discarded cigarette, and all the gear went up in flames. Or when I had to endure the gastro flatulence of my bandmates through the entire east coast- windows closed.

3. Have you ever played a keytar?

In my dreams...only in dreams.

4. If you had to cover one Country song, what would it be?

Love Hurts- Graham Parsons styles.

5. What are your top 3 favorite songwriting topics?

The state of Affairs, the coming of a paradigm shift, and of course LOVE

MP3:: Fox Jaws - Karmonica

MP3:: Fox Jaws - Quarantine Girl

Labels: Five Funky Stories, , HPX,

Posted at 12:30 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Quick Hitters:: Bravestation

You know who gets the shaft as far as musical comparisons are concerned? Fall, that's who. I mean consider summer - and this one that's just past is a particularly good example - but there's no end of blog posts and other articles touting this song or that band as the best summer listening you can find. Spring and Winter, whilst not in summer's league, do all right themselves in this respect, but mentions of sounds perfect for fall are few & far between. Well let me remedy that with the help of Toronto's Bravestation and their dark, melodic rock.

I'm not exactly sure why I was compelled to check out Bravestation's songs after we were contacted by them, but I think there was something about the "fresh, catchy, dark" descriptor in the subject line of their email that seemed right for this time of year. And, thankfully I was right, because as it turns out, the tight grooves on Bravestation's self-titled, seven song debut EP are the perfect companion for the increasingly crisp fall winds that are starting to pick up here in Halifax. I say that now, but I on first listen I wasn't so sure that the band's sound, which hearkens back to what feels a lot of the time like 80's brit post-punk, was for me - but gotdamn these songs are catchy. A couple times through the EP, and I was hooked.

Tight guitars and propulsive drumming set the pace on EP opener Southern Company, which also switches tempos with aplomb and is likely the most post-punkish of this collection. Roaming Through The Capital, on the other hand, while still being plenty peppy, relies on more broad guitar work and Derek Wilson's solid vocal work to suck you in. The bouncy bassline, subtle handclaps and addictive swagger of the hook on Everglades make it another winner, while the fuzzed-out guitar goodness should appeal to the indie rocker in you no matter what your specific taste.

In all probability, I'm not doing these young fellas much justice in describing their sound, but they've got what many of us oldsters are claiming to desire - a great sounding rock record that only improves with each listen. So go ahead and listen for yourself.

MP3:: Bravestation - Roaming Through the Capital

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Posted at 3:27 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Quick Hitters:: Little Girls Concepts

I’m not sure what it is about Toronto’s Little Girls; the rub-you-raw abrasive guitar that dominates the mix, the hazy muddled vocals or even the catchy little samples they splice into the mix but the bottom line is that this TO two-piece solo affair is one I can’t get enough off. Even though I hesitate to call them lo-fi – the record is recorded well, just recorded to sound rough and distorted – Josh crafts the songs to avoid the summery washes we are all getting sick off, and crunches through track after track of noise filled bliss.

Not much has changed from what I said about the Tambourine EP released a few months ago – in fact those most of the songs are included on Concepts – but the record still sounds fresh. What really grabs me about Concepts is how a crystal clear bass line propels so many of the tracks. Even as the vocals are warbled and the layers of guitars are fuzzed beyond recognition, you can attach yourself to the bouncing bass and nod along happily.

That little bit of structure helps you roam with the chopped up riffs and instead of succumbing to a gentle, persistent wash, tracks like the infectious Venom energize you, leaving your heart pounding. There are so many pleasant moments – the 80’s nod that shimmers on the album’s closing track Growing or the comforting drone of Youth Tunes that opens the record jump out of the speakers – but really you can mine any of the tracks for hidden nuggets and that’s why Concepts works as a full length.

McIntrye wrote songs that flow together and honestly, you might not be able to tell where you are in the record until you are countless listens in, but when you really sit down with Concepts and turn up the headphones as loud as you can, you start to appreciate his subtleties. For lack of any better words, the pulse of Seeing is inspiring and strangely freeing, like one of those scenes in a flick where a character just gives into the music and dancing in a dark club, covered by strobe lights and sweat completely unashamed or unconcerned with anything else.

Little Girls will be jump starting a killer night of music here in Halifax for HPX on October 24th, sharing the stage with Zeus (shit yeah), YSPWSD and Japandroids. That my friends might be what you call a can’t night miss of music.

MP3:: Little Girls - Concepts

Bonus track

MP3:: Little Girls - Heinz (Artery cover)

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Posted at 8:50 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Reviews:: Dan Bryk Pop Psychology

It’s not often you find a truly unashamed pop artist. One that still believes in the golden age of piano pop and writes songs filled with melancholic observations and self-loathing sung eyes closed, heart on sleeve without resorting to cliched turns of phrases, clever word play or the dreaded jaded disdain for the world around him. Somehow, after thirteen years of ups & downs, that's exactly the feel I get from Toronto ex-pat, Dan Bryk.

His story is long and full of stumbles, but it hasn’t impacted Dan’s writing. His new record Pop Psychology has been in the making for a while now and is a treasure that few will unearth, but one that will be held tight by all that take the time to listen. I know that sounds like hyperbole, and maybe it is, but there is something precious about how Bryk sees the world that has raised him up only to drag him down. His thoughts are crisp and clear, attacking himself and the industry that he relies on, but never resort to the piss and vinegar of the besieges so many artists especially now that the music industry gets less and less stable.

Nowhere is this more clear than the honest admissions that flow through the beautiful My Alleged Career. Artists rarely admit they dream of fame and often look down on those that get the chance to live the dream, but Dan isn’t jealous. Sure he wishes it worked out different, but instead of thinking he’s better than those jumping past him or fixating on the issue, he simply wishes he got his turn too. It’s a bizarrely honest and refreshing point of view from a struggling artist, but one that makes you feel like you can trust the words Dan delivers when he sits behind the piano to play.

And playing piano is something Bryk does quite well. His lush pop songs are layered nicely and steel and horns that accentuate his charming vocals making the whole morose effort palatable. No one wants to hear someone bitch and moan for 45 minutes, but the pleasant notes and deprecating humor makes surprisingly enjoyable. His blues and grey take on all the colors of the spectrum as he dissects record exs, street teams but mixes it all with – and sorry to use this term – humorous, fat guy self loathing.

There are few poppers out there that can use a piano and some instruments to lure you in to personal stories - Ben Folds used to be one before he rocked too many suburbs - of failure, but Bryk succeed where countless fail. From a selfish point of view, I'm sort of happy his struggles continue, that his wife bitches he can't pay the rent and he continues to doubt his worth, because if everyone realized his talent, we'd be left with a big void.

MP3:: Dan Bryk - My Alleged Career

Labels: , Dan Bryk, , ,

Posted at 8:54 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Reviews:: The Warped 45's 10 Day Poem For Saskatchewan

Warped 45's, Stand By Me

What really constitutes a break out band these days? It certainly doesn’t revolve around record sales or record deals, and it’s not as clear cut as getting posted on a few blogs. With so many people simply cutting and pasting press releases or falling in line with the few big dogs that drive popularity, even the shittiest (most persistent) band can get love from a hundred blogs.

To be honest, despite the insane amount of people talking about music these days, popularity has little to do with who is talking about you and more to do with who shows up when you play. Becoming a successful band requires a more traditional, grass roots approach, especially when even your "biggest" fan has download your record the day after you get to hear the mastered version. Almost anyone can craft a hook and get their 15-minutes, but building a fan base and – not to get all Stillwater (especially after that doofus Bill Simmons beat it into the ground last week) on you – turning people on each time you hit the stage is a skill that precious few bands seem to possess and even less seem to care about.

That's why, of all the music that is cluttering up my desk right now, I am not sure how many will still be around in another year (let alone five), but if I had to pick one band that is going to make it (and by it, I mean have a career, a catalog and a fan base that stays with them as their sound shifts and matures), it would be Toronto’s The Warped 45’s. The band already has the hustle to start building fans organically – tons of shows and the passion to keep going when days stuck in the van watching the odometer turn start to take their toll – and more importantly, good f*cking songs that aren’t written hoping to latch on to the hottest sound.

These guys don't come off like like art schoolers toying with irony and sarcasm. No, you get the distinct impression they'd be playing music together on a Friday night, even if no one was listening. That’s probably why soon, tons of people will be all ears. It’s impossible to throw on their debut full length - 10 Day Poem For Saskatchewan - without letting your thoughts drift to the music that has controlled the radio waves for decades. The Toronto quintet offer up their take – and make no mistake, the young band is writing original tracks that may offer a subtle tip of the cap to the great, but refuse to sample liberally from their buffet – on laid back country roots and is writing songs that could have been played years ago, but will still be poignant years down the road. There are moments of beauty, like the strings and piano on the opening title track or Andrew Penner's nice steel to the closer, Why Have You Passed Me By Grim Reaper, but the textures and emotions all sound familiar.

No matter how the world shifts and music changes, there is always going to be a home for blue collar rock n roll, and pure country sounds. The Warped 45’s undoubtedly grew up listening to The Band, Neil, Petty and Merle, and understand the importance of connecting with the masses. They deliver working class inspiration (Progress), and craft melodies fitting for the best moments of simple days. The melancholic slow breeze of Two Month Old Apologies or the AM radio ready (and aptly titled) Radio Sky are tailor made for summer drives or back porch sing-alongs. They can tug on your heart strings with odes to the brokenhearted, like they do on the beautiful mandolin and string laced ballad Why Oh Why.

At the end of the day however, I think that it’s the road that is the key to the band’s future. Fine tuning their songs, energy and attitude night after night will help this band that is destined to be hand picked to open for some of the biggest names in the Canadian scene. Playing alongside people that have already made the jump will not only mature the band, it will inspire them. Admittedly, I’ve never seen them live, but I get the distinct impression that even with how successful their recorded output is already, their live show more than stacks up. Leader of The Lost Expedition and We Know One Thing (those hand claps will fill the venue) sound solid in the studio, but both have the potential to take on new life once the adrenaline and whiskey is flowing. The same can be said about the guitar noodles, harmonies and twinkled ivories of Really Don’t Mind.

The Warped 45's seem to have the elusive combination of sounds (think Wilco or Blue Rodeo) that hit home with people aged 14 to 50, sound great at festivals under the clear night sky or the beating sun, but still have the grit and energy to blow the roof of a tiny club. They've already grabbed the title of fan favorite from NXNE and I think comparable accolades will follow soon.

MP3:: The Warped 45's - Radio Sky


Labels: , , , The Warped 45's,

Posted at 8:20 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Reviews:: Grand Analog - Metropolis Is Burning

Not too long ago, mentioning "hip hop" and "live instruments" in the same sentence was kind of like using "baseball" and "steroids" together in the late 90's - it was a bit of a taboo. But these days hip hop has changed a bit, and just like steroids in baseball, (yes, I know you saw this coming) everyone is doing it. This move towards mainstream hip hop embracing live sounds, and even gravitating somewhat towards the indie rock scene, has been going on for a while, but things have already changed a great deal since Grand Analog came on the scene in 2006.

So it seems appropriate that GA, the hip hop band/collective helmed by Odario Williams, has evolved their sounds since their last release. I was a big fan of their '07 release, Calligraffitti, but right from the first paragraph of that review, I was classifying it as experimental. And with good reason, I mean the name suggests as much, and upon reflection, the songs, despite many being really rather catchy, maintained a rather eclectic, yet serious, tone (something like Touch Your Toes being an exception). This time out, it seems that Odario & Co. are content to just make music they enjoy, and not feel like they have to justify the inclusion of guitars and such in their sound.

At least that's my take on their new album, Metropolis Is Burning, and that shift seems apparent from the get-go, with chunky guitar riffs and sweet horn sounds taking the lead on "be yourself" anthem I Play My Kazoo. Not sure if it says more about me, or hip hop in general, that the kazoo solo outro doesn't seem as novel as it once would have. Whereas the reggae sounds on Calligraffitti seemed to have been mixed down into a number of other influences, they are out in front on the feel good city-escape endorsing Take It Slow (Spaces & Places), and the radio-ready song (well, if your radio station starts & ends with "C" and has a "B" in the middle) is better for it I would say.

The radio-friendly vibes continue on the bouncy I'm On Fire, which features guest vocals from Maiko Watson (ex-...ahem...Sugar Jones) and a scene-stealing guest verse from Winnipeg MC Len Bowen. I'm a big fan of this jam, really catchy stuff, good use of the female vocals on the hook. I'm afraid the same cannot be said of Stir Crazy, which also features vocals from Maiko, but feels like something is missing - not even the Nice & Smooth homage in Odario's opening verse can get it over the hump for me. However, the K-Solo homage found on the raucous Her Daddy (Don't Like Me) is certainly welcome, and had me hooked before the harmonica outro reeled me in for good.

Electric City features the always-solid Shad, and that alone pretty much guarantees my approval, but it also happens to be a pretty great song. The latter half of the album feels a little subdued, as it's dominated by more bottom-heavy, hip hop oriented tracks like Not Enough Mondays/Crunch and Videogames (which incidentally, isn't the best title if one were worried about being perceived as a nerdy/intellectual, not that Odario cares about that, purely an observation on my part). Everyday Always and Brothers Gotta Eat bring the reggae vibes back again, and the shifty Light So Bright unfortunately doesn't sample Corey Hart, but it does feature a cameo from Edmonton's new Poet Laureate.

So the verdict on Metropolis Is Burning? It's certainly a solid album, with a number of songs that stand out as singles (well, they would if Canada's hip hop industry wasn't so barren), and it strikes me as an album that would appeal to a wide-range of musical tastes. For me, I think the first GA album hit with a bit more impact, but really, what act can't you say that about? If you're new to Grand Analog, get this album and play it loud the rest of the summer. Or better still, check the dates below and catch Odario & Co on tour with Toronto electro outfit Lioness in Various Canadian cities over the next month.

MP3:: Grand Analog - Electric City f. Shad

Jul 23: The Montreal House - Peterborough, ON
Jul 24: The Ford Plant - Brantford, ON
Jul 25: Toronto Day Show @ Dundas Square - Toronto, ON
Jul 25: Club Absinthe - Hamilton, ON
Aug  2: Cutting Edge Music Festival - Kitchener, ON
Aug  6: Media Club - Vancouver, BC
Aug  7: Habitat - Kelowna, BC
Aug  9: Shambhala Music Fest - Salmo, BC
Aug 11: Henotic Resto Lounge - Lethbridge, AB
Aug 12: The Hi Fi - Calgary, AB
Aug 13: Pawn Shop - Edmonton, AB
Aug 14: Amigo’s - Saskatoon, SK
Aug 15: The Pyramid - Winnipeg, MB

VIDEO:: Grand Analog - Her Daddy (Don't Like Me)

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Posted at 12:00 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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