Monday, April 30, 2012

Little Birdy


Despite Rolling Stone saying that Jasmine van den Bogaerde, the 15 year-old indie crooner/pianist from England known as Birdy, had successfully made one of the most boring albums they had seen out of a teenager in ages - I don't think the kid is half bad at all.

Sure, her amateur debut is one that's populated by haunting covers of Bon Iver, The National, Phoenix and more - but they're kind of beautiful in their vocal and piano-molded re-creation. She didn't pen the contemporary indie classics, but her unique pipes and melodic twists result in a newly romantic stamp of hers. Especially breathtaking is her one original song "Without A Word" - a ballad decorated with flowing, rainy day piano, ethereal and howling vibrato (resembling a James Blake, if he were a 15 year-old girl, if that makes sense) in a desperate lovestruck plea.

Still budding in every single way, I don't think many teenage musicians would be able to communicate this kind of heartbreak and tug on listener's heartstrings the way Birdy has with this one. I felt little tiny chills the first time I heard it, so, I wouldn't exactly call her boring in the least. Impressive and worth a shot, on the other hand? I certainly think so.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bluesfest: Electro-fied

Bluesfest, what up?

I have just received the coveted 2012 Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest Media Kit and am over the moon; which many of you could expect if you followed my coverage last year, when I was definition Cisco Bluesfest fanatic. Writing for Ottawa Life Magazine, I reviewed almost every single night of the coveted capital festival - filing 11 reviews of the 13 night festival. And nearly dying of malnourishment and exhaustion. On top of going to work for a productive and busy eight hours of the day, squeezing in a work-out and managing to slide in those things called "meals" - somehow, my adrenaline and innate love of music allowed me to muster up the creative juices to file eleven 700+ word stories before 8am each morning, for almost two weeks.

How I did that? Is beyond me. I think I was running on some youthful fuel that at the ripe age of 23, I might have run out of. Kidding, I'm sure I've still got a little stored away - yet, something tells me I won't have the entire stamina - or vacation time - to make it back for the full two weeks this year. But don't get me wrong - I will most definitely be back for a chunk of it. Because between Beirut, Arkells, AWOLNATION, David Gray, Snoop-a-Loop, Skrillex, Lauryn Hill, Norah Jones, The Wooden Sky, Sam Roberts, Grace Potter, Blitzen Trapper, Metric, The Sheepdogs and The Weeknd - I've got some serious concert-going to do. It's amazing to see how the line-up shapes each year; this year festival Director Mark Monahahan said the undeniable surge of electro and house onto the airwaves would obviously lead to a techno-filled festival - something that is, so far, heavily represented from within the laptops and turntables of Tiesto, Paul Oakenfold, Skrillex and MSTRKRFT. It should be an interesting scene, and one that will inevitably breed plenty of words, critiques and praises when all is said and done. So, who are you going to see?

2012 Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest Line-Up so far...10cc; A Tribe Called Red; A$AP Rocky; A-Trak; Adam K; Akron/Family; Alan Doyle; Alice Cooper; Amalgamation; Amanda Bon; AndrĂ© M. Bluteau; Ariyan; Arkells; Arty; Ashley Crnic; Autumn's Canon; AWOLNATION; The Balconies; Become the Sun; Beirut; Bettye Lavette; Big Wreck; Billy Bragg; Birthday Girls; Blitzen Trapper; Blue Rodeo; Brea Lawrenson; Bright Light Social Hour; Building 429; The Bush Pilots; BzRK; Carolyn Wonderland; Cassie Taylor; Chains of Love; Chali 2na; Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires; Chromeo; City and Colour; The City Harmonic; The Claytones; Cody Allen Band; Cole; Conor Oberst; Current Swell; Damon Fowler; David Gray; David Maxwell; Deep Dark Woods; Deltron 3030; Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi; Detroit Cobras; Dirty Heads; Dirty Projectors; DJ Illo; Down With Webster; Downchild Blues Band; Downhere; Drastik; Drop the Lime; Dry River Caravan; The Ethics; Felix Cartal; Fet.Nat; FEVERS; Fire and Neon; Fishbone; The Flats; Flight Distance; Freelance Whales; Good Old War; Grace Potter; Grandtheft; Grimes; Handsome Furs; Hellbros; Hey Rosetta!; The Hold Steady; I Mother Earth; Iron Maiden; James Vincent McMorrow; Jeff Rogers; Jesse Greene Band; John Mellencamp; John Mills; Johnny Sansone; Jordan Cook; Josef Pollock; July Talk; Just For Laughs featuring The Nasty Show (Ari Shaffir and Paula Bel), The Canadian Show (Mark Forward and Darrin Rose), and The Relationship Show (Godfrey and Ryan Hamilton); K'Naan; Kalle Mattson; Karen Lovely; Keek; Kelly Richey; Keturah Johnson; Kid SL; Lake Street Dive; Lazybones; LMFAO; Loon Choir; The Love Machine; Lucas Haneman; Lukas Nelson; Lynn Drury; Marcia Ball; Mark Kazanoff; Mastodon; Matt Dorgan Project; The Melvins; Metric; Mister Parker; MonkeyJunk; Monophonics; Monster Truck; Mother's Children; Ms. Lauryn Hill; MSTRKRFT; Mustard Pimp; My Darkest Days; Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas; NEWWORLDSON; Nickelback; Norah Jones; Oliver Mtukudzi; Orgone; Our Lady Peace; The Pack A.D.; Paul Oakenfold; The PepTides; Philly Moves; Plants and Animals; Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Alter Boys; Rich Aucoin; Riot Police; Rory Gardiner; The Royal Southern Brotherhood; Rudeboy; Sam Roberts Band; Seal; The Sheepdogs; Shemekia Copeland; Shred Kelly; Sierra Leone's Refugee Allstars; Skrillex; Snoop Dogg; The Souljazz Orchestra; Sound of Lions; Sparrows; Spencer Scharf; The Strain; Sugar Ray and the Bluetones; Tangerine Dream; Terry Gillespie; Thievery Corporation; Tiesto; TJ Wheeler and Hat Rack Gallagher; Tommy Lee and DJ Aero; Toronzo Cannon; The Trews; TYGA; Tyler Kealy; Victor Nesrallah; Walk Off the Earth; The Weeknd; The White Wires; Winchester Warm; Wolfgang Gartner; The Wooden Sky; Young Empires; Young the Giant; Youth Lagoon; Zeus; Zoo Legacy; !!! (pronounced “chk, chk, chk”) and many more.

My best friend and I, taking a spin to Mr. John Fogerty.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far

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I'm having a tough time this week - realizing it's a) the beginning of the week and b) the week is already buried under a humid haze that every so often turns into breezy rain or wet snow. Completely unnecessary, considering nearly a month ago we were in shorts and t-shirts, sipping spicy caesars on patios in the hot noon sun. To begin the week with the end-of-weekend blues is already painful enough - but slap on the fact that you have to dash from shelter to shelter holding your hood in place, and things become just that much more depressing.

So, as I stared out the window blankly, I decided to chin up, sit back down and plug in a sort of new (it's apparently been a staple in her live set list during her hiatus from recording new material) ditty that absolutely has a bit of a gloomy - but quirky and nice - feel to it.

If anyone remembers Fiona Apple, the firecracker oddity who waltzed onto the scene nearly a decade ago with her eerie hit "Criminal" and a moving cover of "Across The Universe" - you may or may not be intrigued to hear she's back and ready to lay down some new groundwork. Considering she was fairly quirky when she emerged in the late 90s, this new track "Every Single Night" certainly follows suit with it's pots-and-pans rhythm, ghostly music box keys and rambling storytelling. But the chorus - which punctuates Apple's artistic babbling with herself - is probably my favourite part of the song, introducing a neat chant that ropes in before retreating back to a dark sort of ballroom sway. "I just want to be everything", the recurring plea that shakes from Apple's mature pipes alongside the dinging piano, is a sound and sentiment that's exactly as I remember her. In the end, I'll admit that when I first heard this I was a bit puzzled and not convinced, but as the grey clouds wandered through the sky and this repeated from within my headphones, I actually started to believe Fiona is on to something this time around. Like a page taken from the Yellow Submarine book, with little jot notes from Tori Amos and Regina Spektor - we've certainly got some new, and pleasantly weird, Fiona.

I think I'll listen again. What do you think?

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One thing that Fiona could work on, however, is coming up with longer album names. I wish her new release, "Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw, And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do" was weirder, with more words. Oh well. Look for it in stores in June.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Real Deal.

Alabama Shakes

Those of you who know me well, know that one of my all-time biggest and wildest dreams is to take a long roadtrip through the deep American south and onwards, so that I can really witness the early to mid-twentieth century birthplace of the blues. The real stuff. The real people. The real sounds. In a car for weeks, in the bars, clubs and museums - right in the history of it all.

This is a band that would play a huge role in that trip, whenever it finally does happen. I'll say this right now and with every bit of honesty - if you haven't heard them yet, you are currently in the midst of missing out on something revolutionary.

Alabama Shakes, one of the greatest things to happen to American blues-rock in decades, is going to take over the world just about any minute now. Formed in Athens, Alabama, this group of four is already (and inconspicuously) bringing back a kind of Americana soul-rock that the late, great Janis Joplin and Otis Redding heaved onto the scene years ago - adding chugging guitars riffs, lead Brittany Howard's nearly unprecedented vocals and aching blues melodies to their classic rock framework. Everything about this group boasts an unusual type of modesty; their anti-rock star personas, age-old friendships and effortlessly genius instrumental ability amount to a scorching soulfulness that's more appealing, and more unbelievable, with each listen.

Hearing revivalist songs like this - forlorn, raw and caked in passion - make you question exactly what it is that's in the water down there. Something, whether nurtured into these bluesy pals from a young age or divinely doused onto them during a hot Southern summer heatwave, has brought forward American blues-rock geniuses out of the balmy Southern states for countless eras past - and I'm not sure exactly how they so naturally preach musical emotion like this. And although the music world is an ever-changing, multi-faceted place, it doesn't happen every day that a Howard or Joplin decide to emerge from the woodwork and croon their magic for us - even though I know voices like theirs most likely decorate all sorts of Southern local haunts, without ever gracing an airwave.

So, I'll leave you with this track of Alabama Shakes' and say that the first time I heard this, I had never wanted to take my road trip more. If it means getting to the bottom of this sound - the swaying gospel turned searing blues explosion that seems as second nature as waking up for these folks - I think I would be musically complete.

For more of Alabama Shakes, listen to their full album Boys & Girls.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Have a lovely weekend.

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Go for a long walk this weekend, if the weather permits. And play this!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Full Circle

After decades of assembling his own rustic discography, the wise Willie Nelson has now had quite the year for covering classics. First he took a beautiful whack at the timeless Coldplay ballad "The Scientist" and now he's taken on one of my all-time favourite tunes - only enhancing its melodic beauty with his legendary uncomplicated approach to folk-rock. Leaving the essence of the Eddie Vedder classic nearly the same - the picking chords, sliding guitar and profound lyrics untouched - but massaging his old country twang, plain vocals and a new guitar hook into the track, Pearl Jam's "Just Breathe" has only become more so one of the more breathtaking songs in my music library.

Also, it's funny that I wrote about the purity of this PJ ballad almost one year ago to the date - and now have discovered this fresh spin only five days ago. Listen to both - because like I said last year, they really will change your life!

Willie's Take

The Original

Pretty little lyric:

"I’m a lucky man to count on both hands the ones I love/ Some folks just have one, others they got none/ Stay with me, let’s just breathe/ Practiced are my sins, never gonna let me win/Under everything, just another human being/ I don’t wanna hurt, there’s so much in this world to make me bleed/ Stay with me, you’re all I see."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Back in Action

Oh, hello. Can we skip the part where I explain my completely ridiculous hiatus from writing (Juno weekend, sickness, traveling again), and just jump right back into the good stuff? Great! Glad we agree.

In light of M.Ward's newest album, A Wasteland Companion, I've been perusing the internet and listening to his older tracks to refresh my memory as to why I love the male half of She and Him so much. This cover is a reason why. One of my favourite Pete Townshend classics stripped down into a lazy Luau-ready ditty fit for any of the toasty spring evenings we have coming up. Gentle sliding twang, hushed vocals and that classic,  beautiful title lyric; essentially all you need in these final days of winter to warm you right up.

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I want to go to Hawaii.