Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Classic Cool-down

On this particularly scorching day, here are a few scorching tunes to accompany your cold beverage and ripped jeans. I can't say it will lessen the sweat on your brow, because if you're anything like me when these kind of tracks pop on, they should get you moving and therefore even more heated. Wwhen the weather gets this warm, one of the first things I turn to is an old album to toss on as I crack a cold beer in the hot breeze. Nothing says summer, roadtripping and freedom like the sounds of the classics:

1. This Time Tomorrow -The Kinks: The ultimate 1970s road-anthem about living the dream. Or is it? Although a beautiful song about a brand new day, it's also a song that perfectly depicts lead singer Ray Davies' exhausted detachment from a mischievous and chaotic life on the rock star yellow-brick road. Still, it makes for a sunny stroll down memory lane, and embeds a little mischief in the listener as well.



2. Sister Golden Hair - America: A pleasant ditty by one of my favourite Americana bands, this song is actually a message from a man to a woman, about still being in love with her and her golden locks. Simplistic in messaging, but heartwarming and unmatched in folk-rock strumming.

                                            

3. Got To Give It Up - Marvin Gaye: I dare you to not shimmy and shake to this classic. Marvin Gaye howls is high-pitched words at you, prompting you to get out of your chair while the bump-and-grind groove rolls out. It's a command you'll find tough to ignore.

                                             

4. Keep Me Hangin' On - Vanilla Fudge: This heavy funk-rock take on the original Supremes tune is just about one of the sexiest covers of all-time. I insist you wait for it to take off - the thick, heated vocals that come in after the massive organ and pounding percussion build-up are something you'll rewind to hear again and again.

                                             

5. Fly at Night - Chilliwack: Maybe a more ideal song for the wind-down portion of your patio evening, but nonetheless, a great one. Another typical story of "four men in a rock and roll band" - this one starts off as a simple strum and vocal combination, before quickly turning into a soaring rock n' roll plea that features some of the best background "Ahhh's" in Canadian music history.


                                                

Monday, May 30, 2011

Everything is Now

       
                                                  Bandages - Hey Rosetta

  

Get these bandages off/
You can stand, you can walk/
Leave these towels and gauze/
You get up, you get out/
Into the sun.

      

Friday, May 27, 2011

Old Friend

In light of British alternative-rock group Pulp's upcoming reunion tour, and their first show in 15 years played on Wednesday night in France - I thought it would be fitting to post my favourite song of theirs. Classic and charming English vocals narrate a typical story of a seemingly lethal relationship that's so right, but also so wrong. Lead singer Jarvis Cocker explains his addiction to a toxic lady-love in what starts out as a lazy and twinkling opener, before building into an equally as addictive searing guitar, heavy percussion and "bring-it-on-home" sort of finale. This tune has one of the most contagious build-ups and wind-downs of all-time and is a truly understandable story - with lyrics (that we can certainly all relate to) like:

"I've done this before, and I will do it again/ Come on and kill me baby, while you smile like a friend/ And I'll come running, just to do it again/ You are the last drink I never should drunk/ You are the body hidden in the trunk/ You are the habit I can't seem to kick/ You are my secrets on the front page every week."


                          

"Like A Friend" - Pulp (1998)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mood Music

This is exactly what I was in the mood for today. In light of Yeasayer playing their newest track, "The Devil and The Deed", on Conan the other night - I felt that re-visiting some classic and wonderful Yeasayer was necessary. I love the 80s-sounding Brit-pop vocals tangled in a synthesizer, laser-like jungle. I love that Yeasayer pioneered a sound like this, and to this day are still making cheerful, danceable music; not because it's trendy - but becasue they just know how to do it best.

          

One - Yeasayer

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bon Covers Bonnie

Future Hubby...
I have this home video of me as a pint-sized three year-old, (naturally) wearing the most ridiculous outfit in front of the camera. My tapered fluorescent sweat pants are riding up my tiny torso, my skin-tight cartoon shirt has been deprived of adjustment and has become a belly-top – but regardless of my outrageous attire, I’m in nirvana. Swaying and hopping around my Aunt’s kitchen to Bonnie Raitt’sI Can’t Make You Love Me”, I stand up and plop down repeatedly, perform wild ballet and lift myself up using my Mom’s knees to smooch her throughout my performance. What starts off as a silly dance routine by a curly-haired toddler turns into something quite precious that I’m happy to have captured on camera – us sharing a little moment to a great song, that was new at the time, and now is a classic.

So, imagine my reaction when I see that Bon Iver decided to cover this classic 1991 tune on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon two nights ago. As Fallon accurately states, the performance has a twist, and doesn’t become “I Can’t Make You Love Me” until about the 1:45 mark. Either way, it’s moving and beautiful to hear Justin Vernon accompanied by a piano, under a dim spotlight, in front of a quiet crowd. No matter what Vernon or his band decide to do, it always manages to come across as original and haunting. He's famous for covers like this – of songs you wouldn’t necessarily expect – as well as famous for always managing to pull it off while maintaining his rustic, falsetto charm. Marry me, Justin Vernon.

For more Bon Iver covers, check out his cover of Sarah Siskind’s “Lovin’s For Fools” and Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon”.

                
I Can't Make You Love Me - Bon Iver (cover)

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Little More Inspiration...

... A little more action.

I do a lot of writing in a lot of different places. A few weeks ago, I was writing from my (temporary) Toronto condo balcony on my Blackberry memo pad, with my headphones in, overlooking the flickering 1:00 am skyline. Sometimes I click away from my bustling office while I'm taking a lunch break. Other times I go 'old school' with handwritten notes in my Moleskin journal, while watching the downtown traffic zoom by from my back balcony. Then, there are the weekends where I pack my schedule full of friends and fun, only to sleep in (sort of) the next morning, and wake up to a quiet apartment that boasts the "world is your oyster" sort of feeling. My cozy little haven where the coffee is fresh, the breeze flows through, and the music choices are mine. All of the places just listed are what I like to think are inspiring places to be, but on this particular May long weekend, the rainy hours of the afternoons spent cooped up in my little home were exactly what the doctor ordered. Here is some of the scenery that inspires me, and here are some of the tunes that did the same this weekend. What inspired you?


Forever After Days - The National






Everyone Falls - Beth Thornley



             
Biblical Sense of the Word - Quiet Company







                                  Don't Carry It All - The Decemberists

Happy long weekend!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sweetspot




Ace. The debut album from the cheery husband-and-wife pair known as Tennis just has to be part of your summer soundtrack. The songs – effortless, breezy and lead by Alaina Moore’s soft teenage-sounding vocals – perfectly represent a lazy summer spent at the beach. With the sound of Moore’s feminine croons and doo-wop rhythms, you’ll taste the salt water taffy, see the sun bounce off the water and feel the hot breeze. The band, whose name comes from Moore accusing her husband and band member Patrick Riley for playing the "elitist rich man's sport,” exude a poppy brightness made famous by Camera Obscura and The Sundays. It’s a sound that with the approaching spiking temperatures seems nothing less than appropriate.

Their first release, entitled Cape Dory, features a number of lollipop-licking tunes that are decorated by Moore’s own distant and sugary harmonies. A perfect example is “Marathon”(below), the first single that features a tapping snap-beat, 50s-sounding organ loop and a twangy surfer guitar. “Waterbirds”, a slow-dancing jam that features a crashing chorus and “Pigeon”, which is fit for an evening sail, are slowed-down, swaying tunes for when the tide tucks in and the bubblegum girl-group energy feels a little less appealing.

Either way, with whatever path Tennis takes, Moore’s vocals are charming and honest – like the girl next door letting serenading you from her front porch. There’s really nothing like a little summer romance with a new set of songs.



Thursday, May 19, 2011

Weather Girl

She's got a fiery song for a rainy day.
It's no news to anyone that Adele is absolutely tearing up the charts right now with her bluesy pop hit record 21 and all of it's melancholy break-up-inspired glory. Adele battles through her failed relationship reflections and triumphs with glory in her most recent, chart-topping release - an album that led producer Ryan Tesser to say that this Brit star "is the greatest female singer alive, period."

Her powerful vocal chords, which have been dominating the Billboard charts at the No. 1 spot for over eight weeks now, are addictive - despite the fact that "Rolling in the Deep" is now another favourite of mine that has (once again) gone slightly overplayed. Either way, I love it and love her - and am so proud to hear that the tunes of this record, like "Someone Like You" and "One and Only" are part of the longest Billboard chart run since early 2009.

This song in particular is one most people can associate with, and it perfectly depicts the angry, the passion, the pain and the happy felt in a serious relationship. The lyrics and instruments are booming, the melody is captivating and vocally it makes you feel a little weak in the knees - all of the proper ingredients to include as an artist, when you're hashing out the remnants of that crazy thing called love.


Set Fire To The Rain - Adele

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Key Component

Here's one of my favourite tunes, and a little early-week ear euphoria. This song, and the gradual lead-in you see here, are pure perfection in my mind. The song is sexy, the lyrics are bluesy and relateable and the two guys behind it are young geniuses. Sometimes when you love a band so much, you really want to see musicians in front of the camera instead of some outlandishly bogus storyline that confuses you. If The Keys know how to pull off anything other than flawless contemporary blues-rock, it's music videos. Don't you miss the days of traditional but capitivating videos like this? It makes you feel like you're in the room with them and that twinkling keyboard bliss.

        

Too Afraid To Love You - The Black Keys

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rave On, Buddy

There are some new kids on the block, taking on old classics from the vault. The artists might not be necessarily considered new - but they're rock children in comparison to the legend their honouring. Buddy Holly, one of the most influential pioneers of rock n' roll from the 1950s, would be proud to know that some of today's most popular and innovative rock stars have taken it upon themselves to cover a whole whack of his feel-good, geeky rock classics.

Rave On, the wonderfully addictive Buddy Holly tribute album, features the likes of Cee-lo, My Morning Jacket, Florence and the Machine and Lou Reed - to name only a few. From what I've heard of the releases so far, you can't really go wrong - especially with what came out ofThe Black Keys (naturally), Paul McCartney, Julian Casablancas and Modest Mouse.

The Keys took a crack at "Dearest" (below), and in my mind - hit it out of the park. Quiet, popping guitar licks against a cool bass line and tumbling drum give the song it's prom dance appeal, while Dan Auerbach’s milky blues vocals kick it into modern gear. A cute snapping beat punctuates the sunny flow of the song, and part of you will be able to picture the Keys all suited up in pale blue ensembles, two-stepping behind their guitars at the Town Hall summer fling.

                      

The Strokes' lead singer Julian Casablancas croons the title track "Rave On", maintaining the composition of the 50s rock classic with a touch of surfer guitar and layered harmonies. His raspy, relaxed vocals add a Brit-pop, Ramones sort of feel to it - and as is the case for anything from Casablancas, I'm into it.
Paul McCartney lends a veteran superstar hand on "It’s So Easy", bringing his wise rock n' roll experience to the meeting table of young cover artists. Those perfect Beatles-esque harmonic back-up vocals make an appearance behind McCartney’s legendary, sexy squeal and... he's still got it.
And lastly, my favourite of the bunch, because it possesses (in my mind) the perfect components to a cover track, is "That'll Be The Day" from Modest Mouse. It's lovely in that it honours the original, while creating a completely new dynamic in its re-vamped state. Sweet and simplistic lyrics are conveyed in lead Isaac Brock's typically waltzy manner - but don't be fooled by the acoustic plucking loop the tune begins with - because before long, the growl of the electric and a beautiful string arrangement rush in to spice things up. The song is so much more than a cover - it's sweet and reminiscent of Holly's talented songwriting, but fascinatingly original in that it sounds like Modest Mouse, and Modest Mouse only.

                                   

Pick this hot commodity up on June 28, 2011 - I can only imagine how jolly the other covers will be!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Heart-Shaped Bruises

A song about those messy toothpaste kisses right before hitting the hay with your special someone? That's different, and lovely, if you ask me.

                             

                                                       Toothpaste Kisses - The Maccabees

Friday, May 13, 2011

When in Rome

Change is good. And when you're the acclaimed producer Danger Mouse, the mastermind behind Broken Bells and Gnarls Barkley, and Jack White, behind the recently disbanded legendary rockers The White Stripes - change is practically your middle name. These guys are individually capable of just about anything. So, throw in Italian producer Daniele Luppi and Norah Jones, and we're got ourselves a cool kind of new, and a weird little party of popular music genius.

Danger Mouse's nearly released album Rome is like a trippy, slow-motion stroll through an empty Western town. Listen to the collection of dark and spacey indie jams which star Jones and Black's sexy narrative, and you'll feel like I did - as if you're walking by saloon doors slamming in the wind, a tumbleweed skipping down the dusty road and abandoned wagon wheels. This creepy but endearing album is held up by atmospheric instrumental tracks as well as spooky vocal spotlights shared by Norah Jones and her jazzy rasp and Jack White's (clean, clear and impressive) sultry howls. To hear Jones' best, check out "Season's Trees" and "Black", where her sexy smooth voice cascades over strings, jazz guitar and the bump of the bass. To hear the wonderful whine of Black, make sure to listen to the eerie "Two Against One"  (below) and its Adams Family-esque picking guitar, and "The World", a flurry of whirling keyboard, country guitar and marching drum. A perfect end to close out the final duel and the oddly enjoyable, chilled out and gloomy Western known as Rome. Look for it in stores on May 17th.


Even the cover artwork looks like the songs sound.



Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Just About The Greatest Thing

Lots of things happen in music every day - new releases, new sounds, new pairings - but every now and again, a real, live and wonderful moment in time happens musically, putting wide smiles on faces everywhere. Anyone who managed to catch this performance, whether live (which undoubtedly would have blown anyone's mind) or the re-cap, understands what I mean by this.

This past weekend, artists gathered from around the world to play the famous New Orleans Jazz Festival, amongst sweaty music-loving bodies and dandelion fluffs floating through the sunny concert grounds. Next to countless fabulous acts, the soon-to-be 2011 festival connoisseur favourites Arcade Fire took the stage Friday, bringing along a little guest to add sparkle to their already glimmering act. Calling her one of their "favourite artists of all time," the excited young collective watched as Cyndi Lauper strolled on stage only to perform two classics with the band - her own "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and, (for me) the showstopping contemporary hit "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)". Lead singer Win Butler's wife and co-lead Regine Chassagne, who next to her own astounding sense of self always manages to draw a little bit on the past, was immediately in her element with Lauper at her side.

Plucking and sliding along a horizontal dulcimer with a shot glass, Lauper provided faint, echoing backing vocals to a smiley Chassagne who was hopping erratically (as always) and swaying to the 80s-sounding tune. And then, when the duet couldn't get any better in my mind, during the fitting Lauper-esque instrumental break down mid-song, the two gals shared a momentous retro dance-off at centre stage, drawing hysteria from the euphoric crowd. Man, what a moment - seeing the whole band grinning ear-to-ear, so aware of the magnitude of that happy moment in music. I feel like if things like this happened every day, the world would be a better place.

           

Sprawl II - Arcade Fire and Cyndi Lauper duet

Monday, May 9, 2011

Be My Guest: All In The Family

We all grow up listening to the same tunes with somebody - whether it's a parent, a friend, a sibling, a music teacher, etc. I grew up trading tunes with my big brother. I remember when we first moved cities in elementary school, he was a teen and I not even a tween, and we would sit in our stuffy living room on hot summer days without having made new friends and with not a clue of where to go in the new neighbourhood. What would we do? Amidst thumb wars and laughing fits, we would blare Bush (Bush X at the time) and call into the local high school radio station to request "Volcano Girls" by the '90s alt-rock girl group Veruca Salt. Real cool kids, I know. So, with that being said, as I work out of Toronto for a few days - who better to show you In The Round than my big brother, music twin and concert buddy, Sam. Take it away, brother bear.




A love story.

I just finished work at a pub and it’s shortly after 3:00 a.m., so bear with me. Knowing I was going to give this whole family-guest-spot thing a go, I've been searching for something to write about for the last few days. A great song? A concert? A band? I wasn't sure. Then, I went back three weeks ago, and it came to me.

 I just recently saw Pixies play in Toronto to an audience that were in love with a moment. With concer-goers ranging from 15 to 60 years old, all it took was for backing vocalist Kim Deal to call out the famous opening lines of “Ooooh oooh," to kick off "Where is My Mind", before the roar was deafening. For the next four minutes, the crowd was gone. This is why I love music. I remember giving a girlfriend a mix with this song as the first track and, I know, everyone else has had an equally personal memory. It's just one of those songs. The greatest part was that with a song like this, we were all there together feeling something of a memory when we heard the opening line. Music has the ablity to make us feel all sorts of conflicting things, but at the end of the day, it unites us. Could anyone ask for more? Just ask the Kings and their crowd.

- Sam

                                                     
                                                                   
                                                                     The original.





The KOL cover - and the classic crowd reaction.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

For Momma

I take being a daughter very seriously. Maybe it's because I happen to be a daughter to the most beautiful person, inside and out, on earth - but either way, I take it seriously. For me, being a daughter is much more than just obeying the so-called laws of being someone's kid; you know, by abiding by little mom rules (they're few and far between) whenever I go back home, or making sure to call her every now and again so that she doesn't worry, or keeping her up to date with life plans and logistics because I am supposed to. For me, it's all about the wonderful and unbreakable bond that I won't find in anyone else. It's the long car rides outside the city when I've gotten my heart broken, the little treat I always find waiting for me on my bed when I get home for the holidays, the soft and motherly sound of her voice when she answers her phone at work (trying to be all business, but it's still just Mom to me), and the undying effort to do everything in her power to make her kids happy and comfortable. It's about having a best friend, a mentor, and someone who seems to always have the answer. It's someone who puts up with my shit, because Lord knows I probably save it all for her (free ranting air time with the parents - you get it). It's about always feeling at home, even when I'm just on the phone. It, hopefully someday, will be about amounting to even a fraction of the lady that she is.

Happy Mother's Day, everybody. I know I'm not the only one that's been blessed with a best friend for life. Here are just a few of the songs that will always take me back to those car rides and kitchen-cleaning moments with my fun-loving, wise and witty hell of a Mom:














Saturday, May 7, 2011

Spring Has Sprung

My favourite springtime folk gem from one of my favourite Canadian ladies. Grab a cup of coffee and open a window while you listen to this one. Or, crank it loud and and do your spring cleaning like I just did. Before you doze off with this swaying in the background, don't forget to appreciate the heartwarming strums, folklore hum and uplifting meaning in her songwriting. Stop and smell the flowers, if you will.

                     

She's just waiting for the time/ To say it’s all right/ Another season has brought us another chance/ We’re together in this hot weather to dance/ Oleander, I think you’re better/ I think you made it through another winter.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Colouring Outside the Lines

Me likey. The brand new City and Colour track has hit the airwaves along with buzz about mastermind Dallas Green's June 7th upcoming release, Little Hell. I obviously can't tell you if the song, titled "Fragile Bird", represents the larger musical picture that will be painted with this album - but if it is, we are in for something a little different.

The Canadian songbird is most well known for his sweet and soft male vocals, which are usually paired with an indie acoustic strum that sounds next to nothing like his original alt-screamo project, Alexisonfire. This one I'd say straddles the provincial boundary in between Acousticville and Screamington, ON. It opens with a distant and squealing electric loop before transitioning into layers of thumping bass, grungy guitars and the pound of the drum. Of course, through all of those layers, Green's milky voice creates a naturally pretty taste, which is the icing on top.

Check it out if you have any interest in a side of Green you haven't heard before. I find it to be one of those songs that, the more I hear it, the more I love it.

         

Monday, May 2, 2011

Flower Girl

People either love her or hate her. Or, that's how I've noticed it usually goes. Her being Joni Mitchell, the famed 1970s Canadian songstress who captivated the world with her flower-child folk and dreamy choral croons. During an age of both classic electric-driven rock and spacey folk tunes - Mitchell still managed to bring something unique to the table with her. A collection of honest and experimental albums that felt and sounded like everything an artist should be - musically curious and riveting, a painter on the side and an assertively influential female voice behind the sound.

Judging from that description, I guess you can tell that I am on the "loving her" side of this spectrum. And, I really feel strongly about the greatness of this song. "The Last Time I Saw Richard", a classic Mitchell piece as heard on her timelessly famous album Blue (1971), is supposedly written about her tempestuous and short marriage to Chuck Mitchell, of whom she refers to as Richard throughout the song. Mitchell's coined flowing and harmonic piano is both dark and sweet, rising and falling - always drawing you a little closer to the story. Her hurried narrative is scattered, high-pitched and plummeting at the same time.  The recollection is sung in an acrobatic and falsetto manner - a perfectly chaotic voice while she vents and sorts through the encounter in her own head, through the song.

"Richard, you haven't really changed, I said/ It's just that now you're romanticizing some pain that's in your head/ You got tombs in your eyes, but the songs you punched are dreaming/ Listen, they sing of love so sweet, love so sweet/ When you gonna get yourself back on your feet?"