Thursday, March 28, 2013

Long Weekend Beats: Flume & Purity Ring

Whether you're beating highway traffic home or staying in the big city to enjoy a long weekend to yourself, the short week is worth celebrating with some progressive new electronica that's bound to get you moving. I'm excited to hit the road and have a relaxing weekend with family, but also wouldn't be opposed to a few dance parties in my hometown with old friends; I can be easily peer pressured to do anything when it's a 20-minute walk or $8 cab ride to get anywhere, where I'm from.

When I'm not relying on hip hop to stir up my weekends, I'm always game for whatever seems to be the latest and greatest on the uppity electro-dance menu. These days, 21 year-old producer prodigy (and major cutie) Harley Streten, better known as Flume, and Canadian electro duo Purity Ring have been happily providing trendy, candy-coated beats to my weekend strolls, pints and hosting friends.

Have a listen to the razzle dazzle effects in these beat-packed songs and try not to get excited for the long weekend. Have a lovely little break!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Favourite Song: "Song for Zula"

For months now, this Phosphorescent beauty has been a daily play in my rotation. It's appeal is immediately self-explanatory - but I wish I knew what or who it was about. I bet there's a great story behind Zula, and why a song written for her needed dreamy synth and his perfectly croaky vocals to get the message across.

It's nice to see an alt-country artist go out on a soulful, raw limb with an experimental ballad like this. Happy Hump Day - keep your eyes peeled for this new album in March.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Perfect Match: M83 & Susanne Sundfør's "Oblivion"

As an artist I've followed loyally for years (and one whose most recent album I named the best of 2011), it's hard for M83's Anthony Gonzalez to do wrong in my books. His soaring, synth-heavy anthems are melodically rich and always breathtaking - ranging from low-fi lullabies to gigantic indie electro-rock cult classics. 

It only makes sense that Gonzalez would add his talent to the big screen for the second time by agreeing to arrange the score for Oblivion, the upcoming Tom Cruise sci-fi flick. He leaked the film's "Starwaves" earlier this month, but hit it out of the park last night in releasing the soundtrack's title anthem "Oblivion" - a profound musical lovechild starring his instrumentals and Norwegian Susanne Sundfør's powerful pipes. Pulling every orchestral and cinematic trick out of his electro wizardry handbook, "Oblivion" is a heavy-hitting fusion of echoing percussion, sparkling keyboards and an explosive symphony; enough dramatic melody to run chills down your spine even without Sundfør's piercing croon (one that made the best of 2012 list). Add the rising leading lady's vocal acrobatics into the mix and we've got ourselves a soundtrack classic. Easily a vocal rival for songstress Florence Welsh, Sundfør's range feels limitless as her crisp holler manages to trample the huge arrangement. Naturally, the song cranks down the epic sounds to end with a touching piano outro, tugging on any heartstrings it hasn't yet and nailing the theatrical vibe necessary for any post-apocalyptic story line.

Whatever kind of under-the-radar cool Sundfør was still was able to claim, something tells me this kind of powerhouse collaboration will happily be the end of it. Listen to the 6-minute anthem here:

Monday, March 25, 2013

Kurt Vile and his daughter debut "Never Run Away"

In continuing to unveil a slow trickle of singles off his upcoming fifth studio album (Matador Records, April 9), Kurt Vile has leaked another new single "Never Run Away," which might be one of the most charming Vile tunes to date. Sounding happily grungy, Vile's psychedelic drawl slithers around the low-fi guitar and swirling keyboard on the sunshine-rock ode. And, to add another layer of sweetness, Vile decided to introduces the track while perched in a room full of records with his adorable daughter prancing around modeling different masks and hats. I love that Vile doesn't pretend to be an inaccessible, hard-knock-life indie rocker and went for the Daddy persona projection in promoting this rad rock track.

Check this out and swoon.

Friday, March 22, 2013

TGIF: The Art of Peer Pressure

This vibe is all I need today. And, the song title is surprisingly accurate based on the night I had last night (impromptu Funkmaster Flex concert? Why not). The first time I heard good kid, m.A.A.d city - and the absolutely sinister beat on this track - my faith in popular rap was restored again. When the song transitions at 1:10, my deep, deep love for Kendrick grows deeper every time; the low-down Suspekt sample and Kendrick's alter ego admissions are nearly too fly for words. This album was without a doubt one of the best albums of the past few years, and if for some reason you've been in a cave and haven't bought it, leave what you're doing now and go do so immediately.

Kendrick has my whole hip-hop heart. And as I'm typing this, I've serendipitously seen that he's released a Toronto concert date (VIP. Tickets. Purchased). Have a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode are only a few days away from releasing their 13th album on March 26th, reviving the influential electronic sound that made the trio one of the most popular synth-rock bands of all time.

Judging from Delta Machine's first single "Heaven," Dave Gahan's effortless set of bellowing pipes paired with drawn-out chords can still paint a gloomy pop picture, similar to some of the band's most coveted mainstream hits from their heyday. The amazing thing about Depeche Mode is that their brooding, melodic hits from the 80s oozed the same maturity and honesty that this three-decades-later release does. They were paramount pop figures from the second they first gave it a shot.

Today, I thought it would be highly appropriate to throw back to what I consider to be three of the band's most timeless songs.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

First Day of Spring Songs

City Springtime - illustrated by Barbara Cooney (via my vintage book collection (in blog form))
barbara cooney illustration
It's the first day of Spring! Thank goodness; I've never been so irreversibly over a season in my life. I want biking, outdoor runs, parks, pretzels, leather jackets, inadequate ballet flats and a box of winter clothes stuffed into the depths of my closet never to be seen again. I know I've said it before - but I've also had this blog for two and a half years, so I've said everything once before at some point - but I never was one to fuss over the warm seasons until moving to Toronto. Now, I have very evocative memories of last spring and how the city came alive once the temperature rose, everyone left their houses every evening and I had dozens of new experiences thanks to the new found warmth. I'm ready for everything to light up again.

Since today's just that much more pleasant because of the special date, here are seven springtime songs to fit your mood.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Vampire Weekend Drop Amazing New Singles

Last week, we were granted a funky new glimpse into Vampire Weekend lead Ezra Koenig's next chapter, when he paired with dance superstar trio Major Lazer to release an addictive reggae groove called "Jessica." I assumed (and hoped) that Ezra's step back into the spotlight on a collaborative note would mean more new things from his Vampire Weekend camp as well - and sure enough, the quirky American indie rockers dropped two new singles yesterday that fed the craving.

The double A-side single from their upcoming third album Modern Vampires of the City was the finale to a cheeky Twitter tease by the band mates last week, and both of the songs turned out to be perfection in completely different ways. I've never liked Vampire Weekend more than I have in the past 24 hours.

On "Step," a chugging beat and music box synth melody are only one half of the very good equation; Ezra Koenig's sweet songbird croon is crisp and processed in all the right places to stand out as impossibly ear-catching, even through the haze of the instruments. "Step," also a sampled nod to hip hop crew Souls of Mischief in parts, is a less chaotic departure from some of the band's earlier poppy repertoire - sounding like a zoned-out dream sequence you want to fall back asleep into.

"Diane Young," on the other hand, is right out of the hectic indie pop handbook that skyrocketed the outfit in the first place - although noticeably experimenting with flecks of popular electronic flavour (imagine that) and doing it well. Like an upbeat 80s anthem fit to round out a movie, the song is lunatic and feel-good from the first five seconds; flying in and out of buzzing grunge guitars, clap beats and Koenig's repetitive Baby, baby baby's in all their audio-effected glory.

So, there you have it! Vampire Weekend have given you two equally wicked options to help sell you on the new sound. Personally, they had me at both.

Friday, March 15, 2013

TGIF: Majical Cloudz

This feels like the longest winter ever to plague Ontario. This song, however, is the warmest boost to an otherwise dreary week - deeply rooted in lines about friendship, youth and all of the pleasantly banal things that come with pairing the two. Majical Cloudz, the mid-tempo, synth-savvy Montreal duo behind this standout single, managed to evoke the same heartwarming sensation that LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends" did on "What That Was." Hollering alongside a gorgeous organ synth that's set for a neon city night, Devon Welsh's sentimental chorus tugs my heart strings every time he chants, "Hey, I think that you're the best friend that I've ever had... I didn't think about it until now." It seems like a simple concoction - the unfussy, melodic-meets-meaningful splendour of this song - yet somehow, you don't hear it that often.

For best friends everywhere, this is the dreamiest anthem for your weekend. TGIF!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Throwback Thursday: De La Soul

With the upcoming weekend's festivities and Friday just a two-step away, today I'm in serious need of a groovier throwback to help wheel me towards the weekend. So, naturally, I'm on my second caffeine dose of the day and De La Soul are blaring from my headphones. Life is good.

As far back as I can remember, De La have been (hands down) one of my favourite hip-hop trios - bringing soulful old school-meets-alternative beats and crafty rhymes into the game since '87. Whenever I need a dose of the good stuff - the stuff that told stories other than those of chainz and booties - I throw on what are, in my opinion, some of the greatest hip-hop albums ever made: Buhloone Mindstate or Art Official Intelligence : Mosaic Thump. Here are a few beauties for you.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New Favourite Song: "So Good at Being in Trouble"

Named one of Fuse's must-see acts at SXSW, New Zealand indie cats Unknown Mortal Orchestra have made an early 2013 splash with their second album II and breakout, strut-inducing single "So Good at Being In Trouble." This song is on constant rotation with me lately; I cannot get enough of the old-school funk sounds woven into that addictive and relaxed indie groove. I'm a sucker for soul.

Ruban Nielson's dreamy croon is both adorable and sizzling when paired with the downtown beat, making me wonder what his smooth-talking abilities must be like with their new found female groupies. The song could easily just be a typical ode to bad girls, but the chorus and title line nicely punctuate with the charming " good at being in love." If II's low-fi, psychedelic flavour translates onto the big stage and into future albums - I'm an immediate convert.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Best New Music: Rhye

If I can think of one new album you must hear if you haven't already, it's Woman from Rhye. I have no new music suggestion that tops the suggestion of Woman. 

Early after the leak of "Open," no one could understand where the breathy, soft house tunes had come from - adding intrigue to the already blossoming critical obsession.With their intimate approach to electronic music and uncanny Sade-esque vocals, it's my belief that Rhye's melodic acid jazz and romantic lounge grooves have what it takes to cross over from the typically underground genre into the popular music sphere. On "Open" and "The Fall," the first singles off their March 5 debut album, the calm melodic groove swirls beneath those throaty vocals and a light snap beat - re-creating the feelings co-founder and Torontonian Mike Milosh said he felt "after a beautiful night with my now-wife." "The Fall" chorus line consists of an "Oh, make love to me" croon and gentle piano loop - historically steadfast ingredients for a likable jazzy ballad.

Despite their charming minimalism, everything about Rhye's contemporary R&B feels evasively seductive;  any listener in any city with any background of musical preference can surely appreciate the subtle soul of this  album.

Get on it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Major Lazer and Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig: "Jessica"

Listen to a New Major Lazer Song,

Well, I obviously love this.

New group members, new album, huge tour, big collaborations - you name it - Major Lazer have returned with as much noteworthy ammunition as possible to re-captivate the masses their second time around. Perhaps the wisest decision the threesome have made as part of their Free The Universe reincarnation and return to the electronic dance music spotlight? Teaming up with Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig and naming the track "Jessica." What a magnificent song title. Don't you love the way Ezra mutters it over, and over, and over again? I know I do.

All biases aside, Koenig's carefree indie croon coasting over Major Lazer's slow, reggae-infused dance beat is a pleasant kind of strange from start to finish - featuring experimental percussion, a buzzy melody and cool dancehall pulse. His distorted howl wonkily threads in and out of the sexy sedated groove, causing us to fall in love immediately with the spacey sounds, perfectly unexpected collaboration. . .and the song title. 


Friday, March 8, 2013

TGIF: 5am in Toronto Drops

Dearest Drizzy,

You bring cardboard boxes full of dollar bills (50,000 of them) to strip clubs and "make it rain." This is a little embarrassing.

You make goofy videos that don't necessarily reflect what "starting from the bottom" is.

You notoriously can be pretty smug about your success. On some songs, your lyrics can fall into the mindless category.

You've partnered with 2 Chainz...

But you made one of the best mainstream hip-hop albums of 2011, Take Care. And no doubt, Nothing Was The Same will be as good or better.

You're fresh, you bring a certain je ne sais quoi to the popular rap airwaves.

Your production team's capabilities are oh-so-fly.

You're from Toronto. And you proudly talk about it. Bonus points.

And you somehow manage to keep us on the edge of our seat while we wait for you to drop more and more... and more.

Thanks for another song about the Big Smoke.

You fascinate me. For some reason, I still really do love you.

Happy Friday!

PS..."Sinatra lifestyle, I'm just being Frank with ya"...? Yes, please.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Iron & Wine

Dear old Sam Beam is on his way back with a fifth Iron & Wine album in April, so a Throwback Thursday dedicated to the indie poet's mid-millennium prominence is in order.

The first time I played The Creek Drank the Cradle, my eyes and ears had forever been opened to a new, lullaby-like kind of indie folk genre that in turn would be one I'd always support. The quiet balladeer's hushed odes were unlike anything I'd really explored before; of course, variations of the sounds already existed, but something about Beam's storytelling caused me to follow his musical journey from there on out, even when he shifted direction with his last two albums. Whatever he's done since his debut, he's never failed to match melody and words in a way that makes me listen close. With such a soft-spoken murmur like his, you kind of have to.

Here's one of his 2002 hymns that will never, ever tire in my rotation. Whether played from a pair of speakers or read off a page, "Faded from the Winter" totally captures the essence of our tail-end-of-winter blues. I cherish just about every lyric of this song.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Fitz and the Tantrums: "Out of My League"

Well, isn't this going to be just tons of mid-week fun.

I became a big fan of the group Fitz and the Tantrums following their 2010 debut, Pickin' Up The Pieces. Three years later, the exuberant and soulful indie-pop crew, led by Michael Fitzpatrick, have returned with the first single off their sophomore release, "Out of My League." Led by some Peter, Bjorn and John-sounding vocals and a crop of buoyant back-up "oooo"-ing, this bop is one wildly upbeat melange of eras, genres and fun that will undoubtedly rock the indie airwaves, with the potential of transitioning into the mainstream as well. While still sampling some of the delightful soul that originally brought the indie collective to the limelight, this song more so exudes an 80s-reminiscent anthemic flair that would steal the show of any new soundtrack.

Although the band have a following and past, something tells me this flashy new album will grow their place on the so-called musical map.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New Favourite: Lower Dens

I stumbled across word of Lower Dens when, this year, Yo La Tengo announced the Baltimore indie-rock group would be opening on their Fade tour. Sadly, I couldn't catch the Toronto show, but I could spare a few minutes to look into the band who've drawn some noteworthy comparisons and scored big touring spots alongside several bands I love dearly.

Five songs into the two-disc history of Lower Dens, I was hooked.

Similar to my (many moons ago) initial experience of not realizing that Victoria Legrand was actually the raspy front(wo)man of Beach House, when I first heard Lower Dens' "Tea Lights," I found myself having the same sneaking suspicion that the throaty vocalist was a woman. Sure enough, it turned out to be Devendra Banhart collaborator and label-mate Jana Hunter, a folk singer and guitarist known for her own two full-length albums and other contributions, who in 2009 returned to the scene with Lower Dens as her latest studio endeavour.

Lower Dens is pleasantly cut from the same pretty, atmospheric cloth as many other indie rock groups I'm partial to. With the same soaring, low-fi layers that make fellow Baltimore natives Beach House magical, and a whispery alto comparable to PJ Harvey or Legrand, Lower Dens achieve a dimly lit intimacy similar to what's heard on the xx's dreamiest jams. Their music flows in really unpredictable, but beautiful, waves; while some songs are groggier with Hunter's bellow blending throughout, others feature bouncy bass lines and romantic chords right out of The Walkmen's ballad book. Needless to say, after dropping this (probably annoying) amount of highly respectably comparisons in under 100 words, it should, hopefully, be clear that Lower Dens haven't even scraped the surface of what they're capable of.

Here are two standouts from their 2010 debut Twin Hand Movement, and two from 2012's Nootropics:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Caveman: Live at Lee's

One of the best perks of the job is being able to meet and enjoy the company of a band who you genuinely respect. I had the chance to sit down with Brooklyn rockers Caveman in Toronto this past weekend, following their fantastic live set at Lee's Palace. They were animated on stage and in person - and there isn't a single doubt how much they love the open road and believe in their craft. I certainly do too.

Here's what they gave us as an encore. Stay tuned for more from that sit-down with the band.