Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Artist to Watch: River Tiber

I was having coffee with a friend recently who alerted me to a new act he's working with: 24 year-old Toronto singer/songwriter and Berklee music grad Tommy Paxton-Beesley, otherwise known as River Tiber. Described to me as a mix of James Blake and Jeff Buckley - two popular comparisons thrown around too often in indie music critique - I had a bit of a "believe it when I hear it" moment, as a diehard Buckley fan. But, I then flipped on his single "Atlantis" and was frozen in awe of the young musician's raw talent, and this bang-on comparison.

In the last year, River Tiber has been described as “Toronto’s one-man answer to Rhye,” by SPIN and an “undeniably serious talent,” by the Toronto Star. Upon first listen, none of this surprises me. The slow-churning, whimsical instrumentation and his subdued, Buckley-reminiscent harmonies are chilling. Despite what I would imagine is one formidable croon, Paxton-Beesley often keeps his vocals close to himself throughout his haunting songs - symbolizing the prophetic musical ability he likely hasn't even revealed to us yet. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fall Pick-Me-Up: The Rebel Light's "Strangers"

I love fall - even the muddy, wet days like these ones. I'll admit though - when it's hard to get that chill out of your bones after stepping inside, some California-bred tracks like this sunny one from Los Angeles rockers The Rebel Light certainly hit the spot.

Like a modern-day Beach Boys, Beatles, Mamas and Papas love child, The Rebel Light's newest single "Strangers" is one of their most polished yet; a happy dose of poolside warmth from the first ba ba ba harmony and funky bass slap. Mention of sundresses, dreams and light are only a few of the beachy references within this radio-ready jukebox ditty, and I can guarantee you'll feel instantly transported out of Canadian October after you listen.


Friday, October 17, 2014

TGIF! New Stars Album: No One Is Lost

Ahhhh, Canadian music. Bless it's heart.

Like probably every other mid-to-late twenty-something person, I have a very particular soft spot for Montreal indie-rockers Stars. Part of that enviable Arts & Crafts, early millennium burgeoning Canadian music scene family, these guys and girls were the soundtrack to our first loves, angsty dorm room hangs and most other milestones in between. Stars really were a coming-of-age musical experience for those of us staggering our way out of the late 90s soft-rock, bubblegum haze.

And, to this day (this week, if you count the Tuesday release of their newest album, No One Is Lost), they're still putting majestic, meaningful music into the universe - each album having its own multi-faceted personality that still feels so distinctly Stars. (A band can only have their own distinct, italicized sound if they've been around long enough, and are influential enough, to actually master that.) The release ranges from upbeat synth to reflective, hushed and almost childlike, as heard on the tinkering and charming group effort, "Turn It Up." This particular chorus-filled single pumps this palpable sense of wonderment into you, serving as a reminder to come back down to pretty, leaf-piled earth after partaking in the rest of the disco tracks.

Enjoy! And have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Artist to Watch: Shakey Graves

With the cool fall air rolling in, my neck perma-wrapped in layers of scarf, I'm looking for exactly the type of music that my body and soul can readily curl up to. I'm revisiting old Americana classics, open road anthems and, most notably, new albums like And The War Came by rising "country" star, Shakey Graves (AKA Alejandro Rose-Garcia), who is finally getting the acclaim he deserves with last week's release.

I peg the Texas native's tunes as country with both assuredness and hesitation, because although the twangy, harmonious Americana might (at first listen) fit the genre bill, similar to artists like The Head and the Heart and Dan Auerbach, this dynamic release packs much more punch (and stomp) than a bumpkin ditty or two. Sure, it's rollicking and tale-telling, but similar to early Kings of Leon, it's Southern rock, it's blues, it's deep soul, and it all begins and ends with Rose-Garcia's beautiful growl.

If you read what I write, you'll notice that I usually have no concept of, or could care less about, whether an album flows thematically. And, I can imagine that this eclectic new release doesn't, which is precisely what I love about it. I mean, isn't the essence of "country" and Americana about veering from the chosen path, rambling, giving way to everything wild and free? In which case, Shakey Graves' sophomore album is one big bundle of Americana consistency - in that, between the distorted guitar, dainty plucking and duels with Esme Patterson's perfect croon - it's all over the damn map.

Listen to this album if you know what's good for you - I can assure you that, in all of its scattered, soulful glory, it's everything you need and more right now. Below are a few goodies, and my favourite track, "Only Son":

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New Hey Rosetta! Album: Second Sight

"Second Sight [is] not necessarily the traditional supernatural definition of remote viewing or seeing into the future, but more generally nurturing an alternative way of seeing your life," said Hey Rosetta! frontman Tim Baker in a statement regarding the band's new release. "A way of seeing with your intuition, with your body, with your faith (in whatever) as opposed to seeing only with your eyes, your rationality, your everyday brain."

Well, my first, second and third sight are all detecting plenty of magic on the East Coast folk rock collective's forthcoming fourth album, which follows the success of their 2011 acclaimed release, Seeds, and is now streaming over at Exclaim!. Mixing slow-burning ballads with typically upbeat folk and those multi-instrumental, anthemic moments the ensemble is known for, the talented Canadians are sounding polished, beautifully reflective and ready to continue packing adoring venues after this album drops next week. 

I find that album after album, Hey Rosetta! manage to steal my heart with both lyrical and melodic tastes of what I need to hear at that point in time. And, with Second Sight, the band's "alternative view" feels, unsurprisingly, like something that everyone needs to see. 

Enjoy! Below is one of my favourite songs off the new release, and the album opener:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Best New Artist: BØRNS

Damn! What a week for music. Everything brand new is sounding all sorts of nice.

Especially Michigan-bred BØRNS, who blew on to the scene oh-so-suddenly with one of the greatest debut tracks I've heard in some time. You've got to love a mysterious, self-proclaimed "treehouse-dwelling LA transplant" who breezily drops an expansive, genre-sampling first single like "10,000 Emerald Pools." Lyrically dabbling in classic bend-over-backwards love song territory, the song stirs elements of folk, ska, pop and rock with those (at first, female-sounding) falsetto harmonies. Like something from Broken Bells or Portugal. The Man, this toe-tapping ballad is instantly timeless.

Like, come on - how is this his first song? BØRNS is on tour this fall, and something tells me this is a newcomer you're going to want to see while you can still get tickets.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Best New Track: Communions' "So Long Sun"

Wowzas. That's just about all I can say after hearing Communions' debut single, "So Long Sun."

And, I'm somewhat pleased to see most of the critics and blogosphere are saying the same thing about Copenhagen's newest offspring, because when I first heard the seasonally appropriate single, I had the sneaking suspicion it might have been released about 20 years too late. The youthful vocals and huge, echoing riffs that were the foundation of the early 90s' sunny warehouse rock (think Stone Roses, The Verve, Jesus and Mary Chain) are all here in beautiful form - building triumphantly into this more blissful, more druggy, awesome haze as the song ticks on. "Please be mine/ Please shine all the time" are some of the endearing lyrics that slide over the pretty reverb, without taking away from the fact that the song is, after all, a farewell.

Also, another fun fact: although they sound nothing like them, Communions share a practice space with fellow Scandanavian rockers Iceage and Lower (perhaps the beginning of a new rock hub?).

Have a listen to their newly released EP, Cobblestones.  I think this one's going to be a bit of a classic.