Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Susanne Sundfor: White Foxes

Every now and again I hear an artist and feel like a total fool for having not heard them or for overlooking them entirely. Just simply missing a voice, especially one that feels unprecedented, feels wrong.

The first time I heard Susanne Sundfor was only two months ago - something that's fairly tragic considering her haunting music and time-stopping vocals are nothing less than rightfully notorious in her native Norway. I have to say that in the moment, I continue to feel a little chilly and stunned even after her song "White Foxes" closes out. Maybe it's her mind blowing range, the icy and explosive melody or thumping electronic bridge which causes the sensation of awe to drag on - but needless to say, Sundfor leaves a lasting impression. I'm not sure if I've heard a vocalist like this in a long, long time.

I have no doubt, regardless of your particular taste, that you'll feel the same after hearing this piercing art-pop voice. It's romantic and a little off putting, all at once. Look for the release of The Silicone Veil in early October, and if you know a single soul in the UK - make sure they go to see her tour alongside M83. Now that would be a sight.

Monday, September 24, 2012

In The Round: Two Years Later

My oh my, how the time flies. In The Round turned two yesterday, which is very odd because I remember writing my first post like it was a short second ago.

I woke up this morning to realize that a year ago I had set an Outlook calendar reminder to remind me not to miss my own blog's anniversary again (this happened last year) - and to post something short reflecting on the 24 months that have been spent thinking about new ways to share music and engage like-minded listeners on this site.

I have to say, because of the wonderful audience and support I've had, it's hardly ever a struggle to find something to talk about on here. This has nothing to do with my own bank of musical knowledge, but more the community of music lovers and open minded song-savvy readers who rarely discriminate and join me in mingling with both classic and unknown sounds.

I'm sure it was Bono, or someone else Bono-esque and worldly, who commented on music's powerful ability to bring people together. And, in the least sappy of ways, I'll simply say that I wholeheartedly understand that. When I first started this, I didn't know what I wanted out of it other than that - and today it still rings true.

Thanks to everyone who keeps coming back to do a little reading, a little sharing and a little listening. This is, without a doubt, one of my favourite places to come - and is absolutely one of the reasons that my love for songs, sounds and words grows daily! To sum up a few great years of talking about tunes, here are a handful of my very favourites of all time - as well as the song behind the blog - to start your week.

Thanks again for hanging around here!

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Sheepdogs: Echo Beach

Following the Rolling Stone cover contest in the summer of 2011, I came to realize that one of the competing bands, The Sheepdogs, were from our very own Saskatoon, Saskatchewan - and was obviously immediately intrigued. Expecting slight musical talent and maybe an interesting "angle," I gave a listen to the singles from the disheveled and burly rockers' debut Learn and Burn with hopes that I would want to support the Canuck portion of the talent contest. The addictive few songs and Rolling Stone Session live performances led me to realize, from lead singer Ewan Currie's first wobbly baritone to scraggly guitarist Leot Hansen's searing riffs, that this group of revivalist rockers weren't messing around - they were in it to win it.

Good thing they did. I was speaking to someone recently who happened to be abroad during The Sheepdogs musical inception - the contest, the win, the hoopla - and he mentioned that he kind of "missed the whole Sheepdogs thing" - which makes perfect sense. One minute, they were unknowns from the prairies, the next - they graced the coveted Rolling Stone Magazine cover and tore up the North American airwaves. Had I not been following their climb, I also would have noticed how the entire skyrocket happened in the blink of an eye.

The test of their future longevity is already in the works, and looking promising, seeing as the scruffy quartet didn't droop below the radar after their hasty mainstream introduction. Back with a new self-titled major label album that was produced by Pat Carney of the Black Keys and features another handful of soulful rock scorchers - it seems that as The Sheepdogs embark on their US tour, they're only gearing up. On the new release, they sound composed, cohesive and accustomed to the scene already. Their music videos are entertaining. Their live set is explosive. They look comfortable in their distressed, but most likely expensive, rock threads.

I know all of these things not only because I've continued to follow their musical journey closely, but also because I had the pleasure of meeting the four pals at last weekend's Echo Beach show in Toronto. Courtesy of Canadian Club whisky, I was invited to check out the show - which included opening acts The Sadies, Zeus and Yukon Blonde (amazing) - as well as greet the talented foursome prior to their taking the stage. Walking onto the docks alongside the Molson Amphitheatre harbour, The Dogs introduced themselves kindly, but warily, as if they were guest speakers in an elementary school class. This had nothing to do with their own sociability, but more with the fact that the two handfuls of people lucky to meet them were initially stiff as boards, sipping their CC Mixed and Ready tall cans and waving an awkwardly united "Hi" to the crew. If anything, their laid back demeanor and willingness to mingle with us put everyone's starstruck complexes at ease. I was more trying to think of a way to weasel in a quick conversation about the new album and how sizzling it is, without being that girl.

The semi-stifling introductions continued into taking photos with the band, and when it was my guest and I's turn to shake their hands and capture our Kodak moment - we decided that considering we were before a group of free-spirited ramblin' men, there was no better time to suggest spreading a little love. So, naturally, we suggested a group hug. Not only was the band jubilantly on board, they were ecstatic when the photographer dove beneath our circle of heads to snap shots of the six of us from the ground up. Maybe the "meet and greet" wasn't lengthy, but the Sheepdogs snuggle made up for it.

Back on the concert grounds, rock-infused patriotism blanketed the sandy beach venue while the four homegrown acts opened up. Yukon Blonde finished up with a wholehearted excitement that had been publicized on Twitter a few days prior (@YukonBlonde: "JUST A FEW MORE SLEEPS TILL ECHO BEACCCCCCHHHHHHHH!!!!!!")  - playing their harmonic indie rock hits "Brides Song", "Wind Blows" and the catchy new "Stairways" before hyping up the main act. Squeezing to the front was obviously the only option before our new pals opened their lengthy set with "How Late, How Long?", raising the first few rows into crowd surfs and fist pumps. As with too many shows that I attend, I'm always amazed how some large portions of the crowd - through jams like "Alright OK", "Who", "Southern Dreaming", "The Way It Is" and "Please Don't Lead Me On" - are able to stand nearly motionless. I mean, maybe I make less friends by bobbing and wiggling to the contemporary classic rock ditties, but at least my concert conduct is in check - and at least I probably made my new best friends proud.

The Dogs closed their set list with "I Don't Know" before leaning into the microphone, a little baffled, to say "Apparently we have to stop playing now?" - despite this being their cue for a heated encore. "But why don't we just play one more anyway..." they uttered rebelliously, sending the crowd leaping in their air while the opening chords of The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" chimed in and members of the opening acts strolled on stage to pair up at the standing microphones.

Maybe they're still technically rookies, but they've learned one crucial lesson in their year and a half of early rock glory - the show isn't over until they say it is.

Thanks for sending me, Canadian Club! I had an absolute blast.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Dave Matthews: Sweet

In a recent interview, Dave Matthews said that he was in the middle of writing this song in a hotel  room, when his son came to him and wanted to practice swimming in the pool. He went and watched, and came out with this incredible lullaby called "Sweet."

Can't you hear it? This song is precious. The lyrics not only literally represent that experience, but the tiny ukelele and hushed soulful vocals fit with the underlying message in an oddly synchronized kind of way. It's, very clearly, about something so much larger than swimming. "You know the feeling when you're in too deep/ And then you make it out, the taste so sweet." Perfection.

Away From The World might be Dave's best album in years. Have you heard it? It's an absolute must-buy and blast.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Autumn Sweater

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I did a little fall purchasing this weekend, preparing for exactly what it is today - cold, dreary and begging for oversized sweaters and rainboots. I also did a little wandering through one of Toronto's biggest and most beautiful parks before stopping into a few stores, one of which led me to rediscover a favourite chilly song of mine from Yo La Tengo's 1997 album I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. 1997 - can you believe it? Well over a decade ago, a progressive song like this was hailed as innovative and the peak of their jazzy rock compilation. Today, it still sounds lovely.

As one of my favourite 90s indie and experimental bands, they were some of the first of their kind to make music like this; music that triggers this wonderfully mellow kind of spaciness. It's five very cozy minutes that fit like a glove all these years later. Enjoy!

Friday, September 14, 2012

TGIF: Sky Ferreira

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Friday, where have you been all week.

This has been one of the most demading work weeks - with my going in early and coming home to work late and waking up in a state of grog. I'm definition pooped; one of the reasons I'm elated to be venturing into the big city nightlife with my best girl friends tonight and then over to Echo Beach tomorrow to watch and MEET The Sheepdogs. Canadian Club has so kindly selected me to attend the concert as their music blogger and I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to not just rock out to one of my favourite bands, but hang with them as well.

Isn't the electropop song below so beautifully retro? I feel like I'm listening to an early 90s one hit wonder lady ballad - perfect for a scene out of an awkward school dance or solo downtown stroll. It's glimmery, heartbroken and pretty fabulous - making it extremely confusing to realize the scantily-clad, pottymouth singer is born in NINETEEN NINETY TWO. All age judgment aside, the song is produced by Blood Orange, who I've come to, I'll also give her that much.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Avett Brothers: Laundry Room

This song is everything. For no reason, today I woke up looking forward to hearing it - which is always a telling sign. Everything about it - the words, the building momentum, the impossibly rapid banjo, the brothers' shouting - just completely melts my heart.  Listen to how the opening verses sway before the violin swings in, the harmonies ache together and the guitars swell to the point of explosion. It's wowing, and will forever be the song I suggest to anyone who's yet to fall in love with the Avett Bros. I wish I could have seen them in Toronto last night; they're one of my very favourite modern-day folk rarities.

I recently had a print made with a lyric from this new classic, and I just love it already. It says, "Last night I dreamt the whole night long, I woke with a head full of songs."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Sheepdogs and Yukon Blonde To Take Echo Beach

A handful of years back, I remember desperately needing to review a concert for one of my arts and culture reporting classes in Journalism school. I was in a bit of a pickle, and stumbled upon a listing for a west coast Canadian band called Yukon Blonde playing at a favourite downtown live music haunt. I made my way to the show, recorder and notepad in hand with a few yawns pinned to my face - until they started playing. I was no longer writing an assignment or doing what I considered to be a favour for an unknown band; I was witnessing one of the fabulous new Canadian bands during their sexy emergence onto the scene. I was immediately hooked.

From Zaphod's in Ottawa to Echo Beach at Toronto's Molson Ampitheatre, opening for everyone's favourite Canadian classic rock revivalists, The Sheepdogs - you could say the boys of Blonde have grown. It's an honour to catch these two relatively rookie Canadian crews this weekend, along with The Sadies, and can't gush enough about their respective yesteryear reminiscent albums and the golden mark they've already made on Canada's upward-moving music scene. A plus? They knock your socks off live. If I wore socks, I'd surely have evidence of lost socks after seeing both bands in the past.

These boys, their sunshiney blues-rock, back road-blaring releases and throwback appearances would make Canadian legends before them - like Neil Young and Burton Cummings - very proud to see where our rocking nation has ended up.

For a full review of The Sheepdogs' recently released #1 album - head on over to my other website for the break down. Otherwise, I'll see you at Echo Beach for a night of real rock 'n roll.

Here are a few of Yukon Blonde's new and old favourites:

(The whole song is perfection - but from 3:05 on is astounding)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Stars: Back with "The North"

Stars, the Montreal-bred indie staples, helped nurture my love for new music.

Growing up on everything from Mariah Carey and Motown to I Mother Earth and Led Zeppelin - bands like Stars, Sufjan Stevens and Dave Matthews played a helping hand in molding my early teenage taste and fashioning my love for today's contemporary subculture sound which began to emerge post-grunge and 90s radio-rock era. In 2001, Stars captured my heart shortly after their inception with Nightsongs, Amy Millan and her brief sweet solo career sold me even more during my early years in university - and five full-length albums later, my heart still patters at their every single.

The North, released last week, adds to this longstanding adoration with its shiny, instrument-bogged singalongs, boy-girl duets and 50s-meets-80s melodic design that encompass the essence of their indie appeal. After Five Ghosts, their last near-flop, the band has re-emerged their strongest since Set Yourself On Fire, the 2004 classic LP which sealed their potential as one of Canada's greatest treasures.

The thing about Stars is their sublime versatility; it's so reassuring. Whether you're under the strobe lights on a crowded dance floor, smushed into a concert ground or alone during your nightly commute - their multi-faceted sugary-yet-profound anthems will do the trick. Amy and Torq's storytelling continues to evolve into their second decade as front man and woman, while remaining unmistakably reliable amidst the noise.

Buy this album.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Band of Horses: They're Back


Following the 2010 release of Infinite Arms, the only Band of Horses release I was semi-disappointed with, I can safely say that the tides have turned back with their most recent material. After hearing the rock revivalist "Knock Knock" single over a month ago, my excitement was topped today upon hearing their latest "Slow Cruel Hands of Time" - a Neil Young-reminiscent country road anthem that picks away by the second with full-bodied folk harmonies and sliding George Harrison guitar solos.

This new album will be wonderful - I can just feel it. Band of Horses have been one of the great loves of my life for over six years now, and to know they're bringing back their twangy Americana gift one tune at a time is just the perfect way to kick off a new season. And, just in time for a few autumn drives down the road; something I always look forward to when put with these kind of rustic, mellow soundtracks capable of warming up crisp October days. September 18th, and Mirage Rock, can't come soon enough.

Friday, September 7, 2012

New Kanye, Jay-Z and Big Sean: "Clique"

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Ha-ppy Fri-day, indeed.

The newest release from Kanye West's G.O.O.D. music collection, featuring his boys Jay-Z and Big Sean,  is definition oh-so-fly. I'm really a little speechless at the addictiveness of this brand new percussion heavy, chant-filled, swirling ode to West's posse and their longstanding mutual hip-hop loyalty. Not that I would expect anything less from the "Paris" rhymesmiths who coined 'cray,' after all. For lack of a more eloquent description of this predetermined work-out anthem - I'll just say that this tune all the way, shuffling in my chair, pushing it on unassuming coworkers kind of off the hook. That's really are there is to say about that.

I'm going out with my "Clique" this weekend, hopefully to a venue that would know best to play this scorching hot track. Are you?

Warning: Explicit Lyrics

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Cat Power: Manhattan

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Since yesterday's release of her long-anticipated album Sun, I've been in complete Cat Power mode. After six years without any new Power material, the upbeat and diverse new album is a beautiful treat from the female artist I love most.

I want a little more time with the songs before giving you a thorough review, but to begin - here's a little slice of perfection to get started, especially for anyone (like myself) who lives for a good skyline. Power got her musical beginnings playing (and living in) in the bars of Manhattan, cowering behind tall microphones and doubting her every bit of ability - so this sensory and wistful piano-backed track is a refreshingly uplifting ode to the cutthroat place that molded the future indie goddess. So far, it's one of my very favourite tracks on the album; I don't think Chan's voice has ever sounded as sublime as it does on Sun.

"Don't look at the moon tonight/ You can never be Manhattan."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ho Hey, Always

I like to think I don't have a very addictive personality, unless we're talking about avocados or certain dreamy tunes. I consider it to be a good thing that I don't crave anything so severely to the point of concern - but when it comes to the latter (the songs, not the savoury fruit that I could, but won't, dedicate an entire blog post to), there comes a rare time when a song stumbles into my life only to find itself on near-constant repeat. And by repeat, I mean...repeat.

The way I know it's going to be one of those tunes is when after two weeks of clicking the iPod "back" button, throughout dozens of different scenarios and completely regardless of mood - I still find myself looking forward to a moment alone with my headphones to get the melody kicking again.

Well (checking watch), it's been over two months and I'm still back-buttoning the hell out of The Lumineers' "Ho Hey." All of  their rustic Midwest ditties are wonderful, yes - but one in particular - the one that's skyrocketed the Denver band to early indie success, has yet to tire in my ears. It's that song - that folky, heartwarming new classic that's perfect for any moment, memory and mood - that's turned into a total shameless addiction of mine. The contemporary Americana threesome recently cancelled their gig at Ottawa's Folkfest, making me happy I cancelled my trip to see the star-studded line-up of which they would have been a main attraction in. But sad for those who didn't cancel, I suppose.

Do you mind if I post about it again? Because I'm going to. And trust me, I've got a whole slew of other ideas in the hopper - but on this rainy back-from-the-long-weekend day, "Ho Hey" is the only thing the doctor ordered. When Wesley shouts, "So, show me family..." as the stomping percussion bangs in, The Lumineers momentarily trump avocados. Enjoy, love and obsess over this clip - and have a lovely week!