Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Band to Watch: Swim Deep

Swim Deep

I've been following these young Birmingham indie-rock lads so far this year, and I have to say, I'm curious  to see what kind of traction Swim Deep's debut Where The Heaven Are We will get once the full-length is released this summer. Their syrupy garage hooks and Ezra Koenig-reminiscent vocals remind me of the first time I heard Supergrass or tour buddies The Mystery Jets. Catchy bits of psychedelic and retro rock knot into the already sunny outfit, establishing each new carefree single as something that could likely charm the pants off their demographic and older.

On Swim Deep's first single, "King City," a buzzy synth and drum thumping anthem which could easily be mistaken for something The Cure would have pursued 20 years ago, the foursome began to prove that feel-good magnetism would endlessly be up their sleeves. They further delivered on that guarantee with my personal favourite, "Honey" - where ringleader Austin Williams' milky voice slinks around the ricocheting 90s guitar licks, melting hearts and cooing, "Don't just dream in your sleep, that's just lazy" in his dreamy accent-caked howl.

Looking forward to keeping an eye on their likable and breezy additions to the pop-rock landscape. Check them out.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Wet Monday: 3 Fresh Tracks

Rainy Days are my favorite.

These beat-driven, sweet few songs have made walking through puddles feel not so bad after all today. Sometimes, a little dreamy pop is just what the doctor ordered; not only is it the perfect background music, but it makes the dreary outdoors look prettier than they would otherwise.

Here are three new songs to brighten up a rainy Monday!

1. Next Year (Rac remix) - Two Door Cinema Club

2. Happy With You - Blackbird Blackbird

3. Take a Fall for Me - James Blake featuring RZA

Friday, April 26, 2013

TGIF: Two new songs from The National

Out on May 21, The National's sixth album Trouble Will Find Me is shaping up to be one of the best albums of 2013. The steady trickle of emotional new tracks from the famed indie-rock outfit has been golden; each song another ardent confessional led by Matt Berninger's deep growl and flurries of thundering instruments.

"I Need My Girl" is one of the most gorgeous things I've heard in months, while "Sea of Love" is fiery and honest.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Throwback Thursday: "Born to Die" (Woodkid Remix)

From only a year ago or so, this rad Woodkid twist on what is totally another downtown romantic jam is sublime background music to any night in the city. Marching band drums, swirling synths and Lana's lazy howl revamp the dreamy original into something a little more triumphant.

"Walking through the city streets/ Is it by mistake or design?/ I feel so alone on a Friday night/ Can you make it feel like home, if I tell you you're mine." (A sweet little lyric that causes spine tingles every time)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Downtown Romantic: Theophilus London's "Flying Overseas"

city nights

I found it really interesting for fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff to name her lovely series of Spotify playlists "Downtown Romantic." In fact, her use of the term extends beyond playlists and music; Minkoff has heavily marketed her chic accessories, approach to styling and design and overall aesthetic as fit for the "downtown romantic."

The first time I read this pairing of words, which some might find a little ambiguous - I totally understood the term. I really doubt Minkoff means "sappy woman who lives in a city, pining for love." I think - from what I've read, her designs and her playlists - she means the independent person who drinks up the wild city and its every bit of wonder. As someone who literally thrives off every motion and dynamic of the big, messy city - I knew what kinds of songs would be in a "downtown romantic" playlist before I even turned it on. Now, when I'm listening to my own concoctions of songs while wading through crowds during the rush hour commute home, I can't help but fondly come across my own idea of tunes that would absolutely fit the "downtown romantic" bill.

This Theophilus London song, featuring one of the pioneers of hipster-hop, Devonte Hynes, and his muse Solange Knowles - is perfect for the passionate urban dweller. It's glimmering, retro beat (very typical of Hynes and his albums under the Blood Orange moniker), dreamy vocals and melody leave me starry-eyed and alive. Downtown romantic might be my favourite kind of song.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Band of the Week: Houses


This weekend was a weird one. Standing high up in my sun-streaked apartment, and on certain sides of the street, it finally felt like spring in Toronto. Mind you, the slide of my balcony door and trying to sit on a patio said otherwise - but, either way, this gorgeous new album from chillwave group Houses really, really made it feel like the tides were turning when it played on repeat.

A blend of soothing synth-pop and down-tempo piano ambience, Houses' decelerated second album A Quiet Darkness reminds me of the first time I heard Aqualung, a few years into the millennium. Plainly perfect male vocals aching over pretty low-fi balladry make this some of the most stunning background noise I've heard in awhile, kind of like David Gray-style songwriting without the obvious pop messaging, and just as much feeling. Some of the songs feature tinkering melodies that could be described as more uplifting, but for the most part - Dexter Tortoriello's jaded vocals aren't trying to mask the music as anything but honestly, and beautifully, melancholy.

Buy the whole thing and let it play through.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Throwback Thursday: My Very Favourite Beatles Song

There are a few handfuls of special songs that, no matter how often you play them, it feels impossible to grow tired of the sounds or words. Whatever the variation, this song is absolutely one of those.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a huge Beatles aficionado. I like them, I understand every bit of their appeal and I truly believe they deserve their notorious place in music history. Because of the path they paved, the music I love exists. That being said, unlike a number of other bands from that generation and influential era in rock music - I don't have stacks of Beatles records lying around and I can't rhyme off the extent of their discography. I know the biggies, I love the biggies, I love the solo efforts and when I discover a previously undiscovered (by me) gem of theirs - I'm so, so thrilled.

This psychedelic classic, however, I know very well. Written and led by John Lennon, "Across The Universe" is without a doubt one of the most profound songs ever written. Whether the obvious meditative influences (fragments of Sanskrit phrases, sitar and tambura pangs) or the cosmic, poetic lyrics, "Across The Universe" is the epitome of timeless beauty.

Aside from the famous "nothing's going to change my world" chorus line, the song holds another lyric so powerful it can stop me in my tracks ("Limitless, undying love which shines before me like a million suns, it calls me on and on, across the universe"), and, almost every time I play the song, I rewind and listen to again.

Happy Thursday! Here are three versions of the song (Rufus' gets me every time).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Girls Love Beyonce: Drake

Yes, they do, Drizzy. Yes, they do.

This brand new track "Girls Love Beyonce" is a perfect example of Drake nailing a slow jam, the way he did, song after song, on Take Care. Seductive beat, honest commentary about love, sex and loneliness and a sing-rap that makes the ladies swoon is one half of the trick; sampling Destiny's Child is the other.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Kate Boy: "Northern Lights"

Kate Boy

After an absolutely non-stop weekend of concerts, working, erranding and more - there was no way I was going to be able to stay awake on the subway this morning if it wasn't for this song.

With its bouncing ball beat, wonky effects and Santigold-style holler, electro-pop outfit Kate Boy have instantly nailed a sound that gets re-purposed and mimicked every second day, without ever getting old. The "Northern Lights" chorus is wildly addictive like all of its genre's predecessors, especially the spacey keyboard and Kate Akhurst's shrill "Everything we touch turns to gold" statement, a string of words that - similar to The Knife's popular cult classics - will continue to find life in hip dance bars and festival grounds all summer long.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald and Bobby Long Live in Toronto

Nothing thrills me more than a great live show, but even less thrills me more than an unexpected great live show. Last night, Big Hassle was nice enough to send me on over to see Bobby Long here in Toronto - and while the Brit rocker was undoubtedly a great live act, his opener blew me away. With milky Ray Lamontagne-style vocals and only himself on the acoustic, Calgary native Michael Bernard Fitzgerald delivered one of the more comedic (really, he was hilarious) and effortless acoustic sets I've seen in months. With a studio-perfect, raspy croon and pocketful of touching ballads, Fitzgerald was on point from the first note all the way through to one of the prettiest "Dancing in the Dark" covers I've ever heard. I was instantly sold and converted to the funny fellow's following after purchasing his EPs and having a quick hallway chat.

Here was his first, and probably the sweetest, number played.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Best New Music: The National's "Demons"

The National Trouble Will Find

Looking over 16 years of material, two things about The National (one of my very favourite bands) become immediately obvious. They only get better with every song released. And they've certainly never been afraid of pointing out their gloomy quirks.

Similar to the lyrical gems within "Slow Show" ("You know I dreamed about you for 29 years before I saw you" and "I leaned on the wall and the wall leaned away"), "Bloodbuzz Ohio" ("I never thought about love when I thought about home") and so many more from their lush discography - "Demons" has the exact same, if not more, doses of brutal honesty that make the band so endearing.

On the new single, Matt Berninger's famous baritone slithers around the gorgeous, chugging instrumentation; each lyric another new confession that serves as deliciously startling and worth a closer listen. The early verses radiate the ripeness that comes with six albums and oodles of life experience, while the soaring middle eight confirms the band is anything but comfortable - they've still got an undeniable antsiness that oozes out of lyrics like, "Do not think I’m going places anymore, wanna see the sun come up above New York...When I walk into a room, I do not light it up. F*ck." With The National, it's like every song is a group effort journal entry, and every written word sounds like one step closer to getting the hang of things.

Without a doubt, the rest of May 21's Trouble Will Find Me (which, in itself, is an album title representative of the aforementioned intrigue), will continue to tug mind and heart strings we haven't used actively enough since 2010's High Violet. I can't wait for all of the sounds within this album and the challenge that comes with listening to it.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Best New Music: On an On's "Give In"


It's times like these I'm so happy I have this blog. When I hear something really quite special; something worthy of more than a nudge in passing to a friend, it warms my heart to be able to sing its praises from the digital rooftop. Having recently stumbled upon the anthemic moments within On an On's debut album Give In, I've been left aching to tell everyone I know immediately, if not sooner - because the three remaining members of Scattered Trees have nailed an obscure (and perhaps groundbreaking) textural angle that reminds me of the first time I heard Broken Social Scene or Arcade Fire.

Whether the atmospheric dream rock on "Ghosts" or the explosive, youthful oddities within "The Hunter," the wild first release from this trio is one of the most incredible I've heard in the past year. Everything from glittery synth to energetic retro bits decorate the unpredictable ride on Give In - all of it led by Nate Eisland's smoky harmonies and the band's experimental fun with noises. It's real music, and all sorts of it.

With a stop in Toronto on April 12th, you'd be silly not to hop on board. Give in.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Rolling Stones: 50 and Counting

Thanks to my friends over at AEG Live, I've been notified that The Rolling Stones will kick off their “50 and Counting” tour in Los Angeles this month, followed by performances in Oakland, San Jose, Las Vegas, Anaheim, Toronto, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia. News of Rolling Stones tours will forever pull on special heart strings of mine, seeing as my very first piece of published music journalism was a review of their concert I wrote for the Kingston Whig Standard at 15 years old. They also happen to be one of the bands that have played an undeniable role in shaping my music preferences to date; the way they've generously dabbled in genres for decades - sampling soul, blues, folk and most things in between -  changed the way I appreciated sounds from a young age.

“50 and Counting” will celebrate the classic hits of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood's first five decades of iconic music and electric live shows - and will also feature early Rolling Stones member Mick Taylor as a special guest star throughout the tour. They plan to hit Toronto on May 25th, and I can honestly say that if you haven't yet seen these age-defying rockers on stage, you need to rush the box office the morning of April 8th. You won't regret it.

What's your favourite Stones song? Here are my hands-down top 10, in meticulous order.

1. Gimme Shelter

2. Wild Horses

She's A Rainbow

No Sympathy for the Devil

5. Can't You Hear Me Knocking?  

6. Get Off My Cloud

7. Beast of Burden

8. Miss You

9. Under My Thumb

10. Start Me Up

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Weight" by Mikal Cronin

As if we need one more thing to remind us it's not summer yet, San Francisco garage popper Mikal Cronin just released "Weight" - the jangliest sun-streaked anthem fit for a top-down drive down the California coast.

Similar to how a lovechild between The Shins and Beach Boys might sound, layers of Cronin's sweet and lazy vocals are wonderfully nestled into the golden power-pop arrangement - making it one of his most dynamic indie toe-tappers to date. Despite the uppity piano and fuzz guitar, Cronin's ambivalent message doesn't get lost in the happy retro flow, though; he insists he's still a kid not ready for more "weight." Even if he's wary of navigating the messy old grown up world, this bright and breezy track sounds like he's willing to give it a shot.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A$AP Rocky remixes Jessie Ware

One of my favourite songs of 2012 (and quite high on my "best of" list), Jessie Ware's kick drum piano ballad "Wildest Moments" has been screaming for a remix. The new found indie darling has put out a handful of her own soulful singles, and similar to 2011's breakout female Lana Del Rey - Ware has acquired the helping hand of hot emcee A$AP Rocky to plainly rhyme over the sweet-sounding beat.

I'll admit, the revamped version is not nearly as jazzed as I hoped it would be, but maybe the pretty ode could only handle a tiny dose of hip-hop flavour in order to maintain its precious make-up. What do you think?

Look for the remix on her expanded reissue of Devotion on April 16.