Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wayback Playback

I recently stumbled back upon a late adolescent guilty pleasure of mine recently thanks to a random radio station's line-up - and I have to say, I forgot how fun and melodic the Canadian group Mobile was. For a midsummer night, songs like "See Right Through Me", "Dusting Down The Stars" and "Montreal Calling" might at first sound a little emo in concept, yes, but the powerful vocals, starry-eyed lyrics and big instruments still stand out to me when put alongside some of the other mainstream Canadian radio playlist items (cough, Theory of a Deadman) that stations choose to play. I'm glad the local stations still like Mobile, because so do I - and it makes my getting-ready-routine pretty enjoyable. Remember these tunes?

Dusting Down The Stars - Mobile

                                     See Right Through Me - Mobile

Montreal Calling - Mobile

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Message in a Bottle

I really, really like Noah and the Whale. While still being melodic, interesting and not a pile of cheese - they're a wise and optimistic breath of fresh air. They're simple and straight-up with their overwhelming positivity, and nothing about them sounds ashamed of this kind of openly uplifting messaging. Despite communicating to a demographic of maybe cynical youngsters, this modern-day R.E.M. or Tom Petty-sounding group of indie-pop Englishmen are happy in their ways. Their newest release, Last Night On Earth, is jam-packed with words that are eager to prompt the masses into believing that life goes on - a message that the growing-up generation might benefit in hearing. Here's a taste of their work:

                        Waiting For My Chance To Come - Noah and the Whale

Give a Little Love - Noah and the Whale

Monday, June 27, 2011

Life of Leisure: Washed Out

Washed Out's Ernest Greene - newest
addition to my future husband collection

 Have you ever seen those people who look like their dogs? The stout woman with the pug or the lanky man with the whippet? Similar to these kinds of pooch and people pals are bands whose name resembles their sound. Washed Out, or Ernest Greene, a (literally) hot and fresh synthpop artist actually sounds like he reads; as if something mellow is washing over you, as if milky pastels of a water-colour painting are dripping down the page, or as if the message of what your listening to might come across as a little hazy and blurry, but still feels good.

Greene, a handsome young thing born in ’83, became known after some experimental bedroom producing that lead to MySpace utilization, a gig at the Pitchfork Music Festival, a spot on the acclaimed Seattle label Sub Pop and a whole bevy of press buzz. A typical story but a not-so-typical sound. This dark-haired, blue-eyed Georgia boy has the lethargic and atmospheric kind of dream-pop that pushes California surfers over curling blue waves and rocks their beachside babes to sleep while they watch. It’s breezy, subdued and trendy; glossy enough for the soundtrack to downtown cocktails but smooth enough for the coast. Throw on the Life of Leisure EP while you do just about anything and let the shiny tunes “Feel it All Around”(below), “New Theory” and “You'll See It" lift you up out of your funk and into the blue skies.

Although these 80s-sparkle ambient tunes are a wonderful introduction to Greene’s ability, the debut LP With or Without promises to be where the magic will happen after its July 17th release date. “Amor Fati”(below), an uplifting retro anthem that showcases his soaring vocals and melodic instrumentals, is contagiously catchy and promises to be a smash hit on the indie airwaves. Sounding as if it's taking a page out of Moby’s (1999) Play-book, Washed Out cloud-hops on “Eyes Be Closed” to the throb of the harmonic synthesizer, rising behind his choral vocals.

For whatever occasion - you'll find happiness in the newest addition to the chillwave trend, his adorably easy-on-the-eyes face, and his lookalike tunes.

"Feel It All Around" - Washed Out

"Amor Fati" - Washed Out

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Freshman

J.Cole, one of the Jay-Z's most recent protégé's and the first act signed to his Roc Nation label, has set plans to release his album Cole World: The Sideline Story in late September, leaving Hova fans everywhere with bated breath, impatient ears and an idle credit card. The honours graduate from St. John's University, who has already guest-starred on a number of popular tracks including those with Drake and Hova himself, is expected to blow open the young hip-hop scene with his fresh take, producing mindset, and cool beats.

On "Cheer Up", J.Cole rhymes what might be one of the catchier (and truest) lines of 2011's new hip-hop tracks, telling a lil' mama, "You're looking for a man like you need somebody, get your ass off Twitter - you could be somebody." Chock-full of hard knock life lessons, triumphant strings and a pretty piano loop - J.Cole mimicks lines from Tupac while managing to establish himself as a kid who's got a lot to say, a memorable holler, and no real intention of remaining in his own sideline story. Good ear, Jay.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pillow Talk

Peter Silberman's intimate howls tell an intimate story. Off The Antlers' follow-up album Burst Apart, "I Don't Want Love" is a peak inside the bedroom of door of friends-with-benefits gone wrong. An honest plea after the last rendez-vous these two protagonists will ever have, Silberman's milky high croons admit, "I should have built better walls/ Or slept in my clothes." This performance by the Brooklyn-based indie trio, at a coffee shop across the pond during The Great Escape Festival, is a perfectly calm presentation of a fairly blunt but understandable thought-process; one that most twenty-somethings have experienced when thinking back on a past lover.

"I Don't Want Love" -The Antlers

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Chain

I believe that the best part of music, aside from how it makes you feel, is the evolutionary aspect. Watching artists, genres and messages evolve over time is without a doubt one of the best ways to track history, trends, and social culture. Examining music under a microscope, you can always find its origin and you can certainly always find a connection to some sort of musical heritage. Here is a great example of watching a song blossom into the opposite of what it began as - covering generations, three genres, and three totally different attitudes.

Say - Method Man feat. Lauryn Hill (2006): Remember this? This song walked me to school, drove me to practices and snuck into the house past curfew with me. It had that catchy hip-hop beat, the back-to-basics sampling of a female crooner and the calm and cool rhymes of a former Wu Tang member.


So Much Things To Say - Lauryn Hill (2002): Method Man took his sample from Hill, who in her beautiful but controversial MTV Unplugged performance played "So Much Things To Say" - a cover of a song penned by her deceased father-in-law, Bob Marley. Hill, who at the time of the performance had driven herself into exile based on what she felt was pretentious and overbearing control of her life by her management team, treated this performance as her comeback and chance to introduce new material. The material for the live album 2.0 strongly divided critics, due to its equal parts fascinating and bizarre nature; a collection of songs that seemed extremely biblical, a total diversion from Hill's previous work with The Fugees and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and the first signs of her intention to retract from the spotlight.



So Much Things To Say - Bob Marley (1977): The original seed that bore this whole chain, however, was planted by Marley himself. Marley penned "So Much Things To Say" for the album Exodus which was released in 1977. The album, which has ranked on Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Albums list, featured other legendary roots-reggae tunes like "Jammin'" and "One Love".

As Fleetwood Mac said (although in regards to their band incest...): "You can never break the chain."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Revivalists

Summer is here, ladies and gents. What a better way to celebrate the hot breeze that should have been here a month ago, than with some foot stomping, groove-rock beats that bring us back to the likes of long-haired rock n' roll fools, Fogerty and feel-good jams.

Not since I first heard The Black Keys' Brothers have I felt that a vocal performance is right on par with soulful rock heroes like CCR and the Allman Brothers - until I stumbled upon a group of heavy-hitting, melodic Saskatoon rockers called The Sheepdogs. Nearly flawless harmonies in both their guitar tricks and vocal performances, The Sheepdogs are a foursome of old soul shredders, dedicated to breathing life back into the name of rock and roll.

What's been said to be a live show that will literally rock your pants off, these guys go back to the important basics: choir-esque vocal togetherness, searing guitar riffs that melt the stage around them, and a thumping drum and cowbell combination. I imagine you wouldn't be allowed on stage with these Bonnaroo fan-favourites unless you had the vocal strength and harmonic quality that each of these soul brothers push out from underneath their shaggy beards. The classically scorching tune, "I Don't Know", ticks back and forth between impossibly pure howls and old-school rock riffs that piledrive onto the steamy bed of percussion. "Southern Dreaming" is a playful ditty for your drive down to the cabin, and "Learn and Burn" has the jazzy strut of an electric guitar loop underneath lead Ewan Currie's acrobatic voice. And then there's "Who" - a dirty Southern romp that's bursting with thick harmonies and hot off the pavement electric licks:


The Sheepdogs are finalists in the "Choose The Cover" contest put on by Rolling Stone right now, so make sure you cast your vote for the rockin' Canucks in order to help them get on the August cover of RS and win a recording contract with Atlantic Records!

Monday, June 13, 2011

One Week

The new Bon Iver has been streamed, and now all I want is to have a hard copy in my hands. This musical cross-country tour with the men of Bon Iver is a heartwarming paddle upstream from the dark and wintery cabin sounds of 2008's genius debut album, For Emma. Shining keyboard notes and twinkling acoustic riffs swim peacefully beneath lead singer Justin Vernon's angelic lead; a man who's obviously grown leaps and bounds since the inaugural LP. This modern-day Leonard Cohen has proved himself again, in the most sincere and modest of ways, that his wisdom is beyond us.

The album gets better with each listen. Gorgeous instrumental concepts that support his profound story-telling prove this to be more of a multi-faceted and rich historical account of Vernon's young life. His voice is liberated and soulful, and his words represent a willingness to dig a little deeper than the surface wounds of some traumatic and unhappy years that we heard about on For Emma and Blood Bank (EP). This time, he takes us specifically to a number of American locations, poetically pokes at their personal significance, and wows us with bigger instruments than we would have thought he was willing to feature.

One of the first stops on the long haul is "Minnesota, WI", a calming blend of sounds that stirs flashes of synth and slow-rock horns in between Vernon's deeper croons and hurried strings. A song for when the sun goes down, it picks up and falls back into heavy picking and his spotlighted squealing of the words, "Never gonna break, never gonna break." One of my immediate favourites and possibly the shining moment on this album is "Towers" - a rural-sounding, casually-strummed classic at first listen. Melodic and vocally fresh, the quiet beginning swings into a more upbeat Guthries-sounding country loop, where the layered horns and twangy guitars are scattered like leaves during a walk in Vernon's woods. "Holoscene", a haunting track, has introspective significance written all over it. Xylophone and bashful vocals support the Milwaukee lyrical references that Vernon detailed to Pitchfork: "Guess what adults do on Halloween in Milwaukee? They get blind drunk and try to forget about their childhoods." You'll hear that.

"Michicant", a favourite in this book of poems, adds to the collection of liberated journal entries. Chants and clicking beats back Vernon as he sways side to side with words like "Love can hardly leave the room, with your heart." He sticks his head in the clouds on "Hinnom, TX", echoing U2's atmospheric-sounding sentiment with a dreamy opening loop. The first single that was released won the hearts of return-listeners everywhere, as Vernon continued to sift through memories on "Calgary", an impressive instrumental and harmonic performance. As soon as I heard this, I knew we were in for an album filled with brighter and more intimate glimpses into Vernon's previous bouts of cabin fever and current creative re-birth.

Similar to the reactions that spawned from hearing "Woods" on Blood Bank, an acapella autotune experiement, "Beth/Rest" is the unexpected but fascinating oddity of this LP. After I laughed naively at Jimmy Fallon and Vernon during their recent interview when Fallon discussed the appearances of "more [Bruce] Hornsby" on this album - I finally get it. The uplifting synthesizer keyboard, elevator saxophone and echoey guitar licks are straight out of a Top Gun credit reel - which is essentially what I consider to be perfection in the form of a last track, when paired with Vernon's swelling vocals. Vernon considers this track a huge win, as he should, after scoring the likes of two acclaimed sax players and a pedal steel guitarist to accompany him throughout the album. I don't immediately hear any "Skinny Love" or "Flume" sort of classics, but that doesn't mean its not a stunning album. The flow of each recollective track strikes deep, tugging on heartstrings and doing something even more memorable ... forcing us to listen to each word and find our own Bon Iver-sort of wisdom within us. The best part about him, which feels so real each time I hear his creamy high notes, is that none of it is redundant or predictable - he's got so much more coming that we can't even prepare for.
"Irony is based on insecurity; people like to not like things because they don't understand them." - Justin Vernon

You can stream the first listen of Bon Iver, Bon Iver here - and watch for the hard copy to hit stores next Tuesday, June 21st.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Take Out The Night

A great video for a Saturday night. Happy night-riding!

Put The Days Away -Sun Airway

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Give Me The Funk

Loosen up your hips ladies and gents, dance-rock group Friendly Fires are back with a little flair and a lot of funk. Their electric dance beats have been pumped full of funky adrenaline, and plucked of most of the slight emo-ambiance that the Brits had experimented with on their first self-titled album.

The Fires have returned with an urban dance-punk compilation - one that is destined to be the buzzing cocktail party soundtrack of the summer. Edgy and layered in the thick English falsetto croons of lead boy-wonder Ed MacFarlane - the scattered beats of the newest release Pala will blast you right onto the crowded last-call streets of London and before you know it, you'll feel like you're grooving with the rest of the trendy night owls.

Of the generally cheery mix, "Hawaiian Air" is just one of the fireworks set off in the already bright bunch. Featuring a cute, tapping percussion that juggles the sunny notes and big vocals, it's a jet-setting dream for anyone looking to escape from within the comfort of their own living room dance party. The tracks are a confident and beat-heavy step away from the more atmospheric indie hits on their debut - especially the two-stepping gem "Show Me Lights" (below), which is one big and scrumptious juxtaposition of harmonic, attitude-filled vocals and slamming drum solos. "Chimes", the shiny, marching-drum orchestrated tune starts out subdued, as if it were resonating from an underground club, before soaring alongside the airy chorus in which MacFarlane chants, "I can't stop chasing your love." The sparkling electronic effects of the album seem to narrate the story of a sensual kind of longing between a boy and girl, who are in an equally serious relationship with the city. Accompanying the flashy beats are neon street signs, traffic montages, and pairs who can't get their paws off each other. Like those two, it will be tough to resist this hot fire.

Show Me Lights - Friendly Fires

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Americana Mama

Marcus Americana Papa. (sigh).

It wouldn't take long for anyone who keeps up with this blog to realize that, without a doubt, I am a Canadian Americana baby. I love this type of folky, rural and collaborative music that is exploding out of sweaty, packed stages everywhere nowadays - with bands like Mumford and Sons and The Head and the Heart taking notes from the forefathers of the quirky genre like Steve Earle, Bob Dylan, and Whiskeytown. Aside from the above mentioned favourites of mine, you've without a doubt heard me rave about (a man at the top of my list of 'husbands') Ryan Adams, Wilco, Band of Horses, and Fleet Foxes - who are also pioneers of the budding Billboard craze.

This music genre received an unbelievably notable nod from Spin Magazine recently, which featured the men of Mumford on the cover and detailed exactly what it is about this banjo-thumping, Southwest-touring, vest-wearing trend that's driving fans wild after years of gradually edging onto the scene. When I say gradual I mean the slide into this type of music being a mainstream obsession - because I wouldn't dare insinuate that this musical tradition hasn't been around for decades, or even centuries. Americana was birthed from the most basic of musical evolutions; it was parented by a number of incestuous moments when popular genres interchangeably paired together. With Americana, it took a bite out of the first musical organism of blues, the communal feel of blues-rock, the cultural relevance of rock n' roll, the storytelling folk genre, the heartfelt country-folk, the versatile folk-rock, and the new wave of indie-folk. It's something that's always been; it originated from a little of all of these things and grew into a grassroots, front-porch party of jamming, heart-filled instruments and harmonies that represented only the best kind of music - that of which you couldn't deny came from somewhere special.

"They may borrow from ancient strains of folk music, but their sepia-toned approximation of those sounds is almost incidental: It's all about the heart." - Amanda Petrusich, Spin Magazine

Everything about the wave of Americana and it's step above the overdone "indie" attitude of acting like you don't care, is undeniably infectious. The best part about it? Band members living and breathing that old homegrown jam, singing their earth-rumbling harmonies like there's no tomorrow, touring tirelessly, and proving exactly the opposite of some of the unfortunate too-cool-for-school celebrity musicians of today. What they end up proving, other than how uncool they may be, is how much they actually do care - and how they're going to show us.

Here are some of the Americana newcomers you should be looking out for in the near future:

"Barton Hollow" - The Civil Wars (the best heartfelt Americana duo out there)

"Glory Days" - The Avett Brothers
(I wonder why I like this cover)

"Rise to Me" - The Decemberists (new album...fabulous)

The Chambers and the Valves - Dry The River (big hit at SXSW)

The train is a-rollin' by, you best jump on.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ukelele Romance

One of the better looking men on the planet.
It's slightly past the time of year when we vacation and escape to where the tide rolls in and the white beaches stretch for miles. If you'd like to participate in more of a home front sort of getaway, however, then Eddie Vedder's newest album - a collection of ukelele songs shockingly entitled Ukelele Songs - is a wonderful diversion in itself. The famed Pearl Jam frontman forks away from the heavy-alternative path paved by 20 years of grungy rock excellence, and lets his sweet croons stroll alone with only the picking and strumming of a tiny ukelele.

Simplistic and reflective, the singer's famous deep rasp drifts softly with his sweetheart strings, creating a plainly pleasant album full of songs that have almost reached their 10th birthday. Those expecting Vedder to squeal alongside the rip of the guitar might want to skip this listen, because it really is a charmingly quiet collection of songs - almost as if his already-subdued hits from the Into The Wild soundtrack took a muscle relaxant. Some highlights include the melancholy waltz of "Sleeping by Myself"; "Without You" which is an honest fairy-tale sort of realization; and "Longing to Belong" - a whimsical combination of ukelele and enchanting strings, which also has a magically fitting music video (below).

Perhaps my favourite of the Luau love songs is Vedder's duet with my main woman, Cat Power, on a cover of "Tonight You Belong To Me." This modern promenading ballad is sweet as pie; showcasing perfectly Vedder's sweetly vulnerable vocal performance while it coyly plays peek-a-boo with Cat Power's precious jazz harmonies. Spark a fire on the beach and slow dance to this new classic - it really is about as heavenly as it gets.


Tonight You Belong To Me - Eddie Vedder and Cat Power


Longing to Belong - Eddie Vedder

Monday, June 6, 2011

Happily Rediscovered

...Old Modest Mouse.

I thought I'd take a minute to reflect on a glorious band of hooligans who's eccentric indie-rock concepts are without a doubt a result of their naturally out-to-lunch approach to everything. But that's why we love them. Their sounds are all over the map, and you sort of feel like you're walking through a musical theme park when taking in a given album; there are those sweet, swirling teacup-ride ditties, those whacky musical attractions and those heavy-hitting thrillers. They are a delicious box of assorted songs - you really can never know what you're going to get when it comes to frontman and quirky lyricist Isaac Brock. Quirky, yes. But, also wildly genius and wise in his life-lesson sort of wording that you'll stumble upon while wading through the rubble of their explosive noise-pop tunes.

In April, Big Boi of Outkast claimed via Twitter in that he was working in the studios with the American group on their 2011 LP. Fingers crossed they come out swinging, weirder and cooler than ever. Here are some treats from the Modest Mouse vault:

                                                          Trailer Trash - Modest Mouse (1997)

                                                            3rd Planet - Modest Mouse (2000)

                                                          Black Cadillacs - Modest Mouse (2004)

Little Motel - Modest Mouse (2007)

Friday, June 3, 2011

New Single: Coldplay Got Their Groove Back

The newest Coldplay single, "Every Teardrop is a Waterfall", released only yesterday - is the most wonderful little nugget of musical gold. The single, which is part of an entire album produced by Brian Eno, is a massive diversion from their alternative-pop ballads and typical mainstream Brit-pop melodies. The song begins with flashing dance floor keyboard before being joined by cheerful acoustic strums and a wildly neon electric riff - making for an infectious combination of breathtaking and upbeat. It's easily something you could find yourself thrashing to with your friends, jumping like pogo sticks in the lights of the club scene. It's also something you could listen to on your own, gathering meaning from lines like, "I'd rather be a comma than a full-stop."

What starts out as a rave-ready tune turns into a carefree, seize-the-day sort of anthem. It will undoubtedly appeal to all ages - and in my mind, Chris Martin's found his groove. Similarly, summer 2011 found one as well.

Expect the group's forthcoming fifth album, which is 18 months in the making, in fall of 2011.