Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Arkells Sing Motown




Everyone should be back from the long weekend now, myself included, and needing something to slap them out of their gloomy Tuesday daze. Enter one of my favourite bands, Arkells, and a special 7 inch vinyl called Arkells Sing Motown, which they released for this past weekend's Record Store Day.

Speaking as someone who's seen these covers performed live, let me tell you that this unsuspecting crew of Motown lovers are entirely up to the task of putting their own spin on a handful of soulful classics. The rock group clearly have an affinity for the genre - always sliding one or two old ditties into their upbeat repertoire and causing the crowd to go wild. Listen to the Hamilton boys concoct rock versions of both Stevie Wonder and Temptations hits here:






Thursday, April 17, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Boy & Bear, The Most Underrated Band



I took one of those stupid Buzzfeed quizzes yesterday. It was sent to me because it was supposed to determine, with 100 questions, how much of a music nerd or snob you are. I really don't consider myself one, because I don't rub music in people's faces (outside of this blog...) or provoke debate in public over asinine musical things. Sure, I love talking about music - but only in a lighthearted, anecdotal sort of way. As lame as that sounds. I really don't identify with a lot of people as interested in music as I am.

That being said, a few parts of that quiz I did check off - and all of them, in some way, apply to a band like the one above, and the songs from their under-celebrated (in North America) 2011 release, titled Moonfire. The quiz asked if I'd ever:

Forced someone to listen to something because you wanted to educate them.

✓ Acquired a copy of every single thing a band has ever released (everything).

✓ Remembered parts of your own life based mainly on what you were listening to at the time.

✓ Said “there’s nothing good on the radio.”

✓ Loaded your phone with new songs before a party or road trip, just in case?

A band like Boy & Bear garner a big ol' "hell yes" with all of these things. They're one of the most underrated bands I can think of. Sure, plenty of bands undeservedly fly under the radar - but, the thing is, Boy & Bear are actually not under the radar at all - down under in their homeland, at least. The Australian quintet, who've been around for about five years now, have scooped up every esteemed musical accolade available in their native Oz - yet, somehow, only played their first Canadian shows last month. When I saw them in Toronto, I was floored during every second of their robust live show. I mean really, really moved. There was certainly a gathering of other eager Canadian fans, seeing as their show was bumped from a smaller bar to mid-sized concert theatre, yet watching them only reminded me of how many people are oblivious to the effortless sounds penned by this folk-rock group.

Dave Hosking has probably my favourite singing voice out there today (huge statement). Their instrument-packed ballads make time slow down a little. But, I've never heard them on the radio and often have to send people a roster of their songs to acquaint them with the band I constantly rave about. I own everything they've ever released, and still find myself scouring the internet for more. I associate them with every bit of my adult life, in some way or another, and last (but not least) - I'll be taking them with me this weekend on a roadtrip with friends. So, maybe I didn't qualify as a music nerd, but when it comes to this group of handsome and talented Aussies - I will shamelessly nerd out any day. They deserve that much.

Here are two old songs from their gorgeous debut album; coming-of-age classics that will most definitely stock my iPhone this weekend:




Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Last Night in Toronto: The War on Drugs




In my line of work, I'm not really allowed to fan girl (openly) at the sight of musicians or bands. But, last night, as we shivered in line under the dark of Bloor Street following an hour-long blackout, and The War on Drugs front man Adam Granduciel lit up on the curb next to me - I found it surprisingly hard not to get a little weird.

The front man and already-legendary guitarist has been one of my most admired musicians for about five years now, and seeing him there, so accessible and unsuspecting as he sucked back a pre-show smoke - his presence felt oddly surreal. Maybe even more surreal considering my refreshed love for War On Drugs following what, I think is, the best album of their career - and maybe even the year.

Lost in the Dream was even more spectacular than I could have imagined, rattling and electric from atop a live stage. Despite the 1.5 hour delayed start and his own perfectionist set-up routine, Granduciel was flawless. His fingers were fire and his chords alight. His voice was like milk and somehow managed to peel over top of his acrobatic shredding. Every melody felt timeless and the stuff of history-making.

I feel this often, but especially last night, I was unable to understand the tiny pockets of frozen concert goers who weren't as much as twitching to the infectious, real rock. My body vibrated, head unhinged from my neck, riff-after-riff, sax solo after sax solo. Every time he softly squealed a pretty highway rock anthem, I was alive - wondering if the grand, stadium-ready new songs felt suffocated by the four theatre walls of Lee's. For probably the first time since I last saw Springsteen, I felt like rock 'n roll was alive and impossibly well.

Go see on The War on Drugs if you know what's good for your heart, brain and every muscle. Here's a performance that drove me wild.





Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Black Keys single: "Turn Blue"



In continuing to build anticipation around their forthcoming album Turn Blue, The Black Keys dropped the second single of the same title yesterday morning - re-affirming that the new release might actually double as a contemporary take on a 1970s crime drama soundtrack. The midtempo blues track packs echoey drums and psychedelic guitar into a slow-strutting four minutes, along with other slick effects that paint a moodier, sleepless-night-kind-of picture when held against the sexier first single.

One thing's for sure: neither the upbeat or downbeat cool of either single, with their funky background bass lines, have really made it clear what the direction of Turn Blue is looking like at this point. While both tracks have separate intrigue, I'm still anxiously waiting for something that knocks me off my feet, the way the duo have managed to in past albums. Who knows though? That moment could still be buried deep in Turn Blue's song listing, which is one of the many reasons I'll be snatching it up on May 13.


Friday, April 11, 2014

TGIF: New Music from Ray Lamontagne



I couldn't think of a better way to start a warm, productive Friday. It's a lovely day to be alive, and I'd like to think this song playing is one of the reasons.

American singer-songwriter Ray Lamontagne's fifth album Supernova is shaping up to be something pretty special. Produced with the golden touch of The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, each new single is more evidence that Lamontagne is taking a 70s-inspired route with this new release. On the first self-titled single, he toys with colourful, Van Morrison-sounding chords that set an upbeat tone. But, with "Airwaves" (which I can't get enough of), Lamontagne strips down to smooth bossa nova plucks and airy whispers - all of which are groovy enough to seduce someone four decades ago, or now.

Listen to Lamontagne breathe his way through this gorgeous ditty, and look out for the new album on May 6.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Two Old Gems from The National



I remember my first summer after high school, sitting in my Mom's living room reading some (now discontinued) music magazine that had come with a compilation mix. I tore the plastic disc out of the fold and scanned the song list, seeing existing favourites on there - My Morning Jacket, Sufjan Stevens, Franz Ferdinand - before coming across a band called The National. Never heard of 'em.

I trotted up to my room, popped in the CD and sat cross-legged while Matt Berninger's baritone growl purred through my speakers. I remember thinking his register was so unique, that it was almost goofy; the voice had to be coming from some large, theatrical figure. As the melody flowed on, it became evident that a vocal like this one was the only possible option to accompany the sounds I was hearing: grandiose, romantic arrangements that dipped into quiet, haunting territory before flaring back up, like explosions of fireworks in the sky popping over and over again. The voice, although already iconic in my ears, became only a part of this genius equation that hadn't been written in my books previously. Within a few minutes of "Lit Up," The National were one of the greatest things I'd ever heard.

It's nice to remember little musical moments like that one. I always liken them to the first time our parents heard Robert Plant yowl or Bruce Springsteen preach from a 45. I am 100% confident I'm able to compare The National to the aforementioned legends, because their brilliant 15-year career is really only getting started.

Tomorrow, I see the Brooklyn rockers for the fourth time, and I can guarantee I'll be just as giddy as the starry-eyed 17 year-old who felt like she struck gold.



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Coldplay Drops "Magic" Video




If we're going off number of unabashed repeats and the inability to tire of it, I would easily say that Coldplay's "Magic" is one of my favourite songs of the year so far. Really. The downtempo vibe, starry melody and Chris Martin's sexy whisper have definitely made it one of the more intriguing Coldplay songs released in some time.

And, while it's a little goofy in concept, I love that they dropped a music video to accompany the song yesterday. I miss the days of real music videos - you know, the ones with storylines that made it impossible to turn away from the weekly countdown and that couldn't be found on YouTube. From about 1980 to the first decade of the millennium, music videos and television were such an essential pairing, and I find it a little sad that kids growing up today have missed the opportunity to understand how significant it was, because so many music channels play such shitty shows 'round the clock. Oh well. In fear of out-aging myself, here's the video, if you'd like to see.

PS. Chris Martin has never looked better? Clearly he's been having some of whatever Pharrell's serving up.