Friday, August 30, 2013

TGIF: Julia Holter's "Loud City Song"

I finally got around to listening to Los Angeles musician Julia Holter’s August 20 release – and let me tell you... this is art. Art that's not for the faint of heart art.

On Loud City Song, Holter’s whimsical new storyline sounds almost exactly the opposite of what the album suggests – blending her always-expanding repertoire of avant-pop flavour and enchanting vocals to create another complex, vivid world that hovers above the noise of everything normal. Conceived after reading the 1944 novella Gigi about a young Parisian woman (more of a fun fact as opposed to prerequisite reading prior to listening), Holter’s baroque-pop concept is more challenging, more chilling and further beyond any mainstream capacity that, this time around, her genius has never been more obvious.

With songs ranging from chaotic and theatrical to hushed and entrancing, the release ditches some of the experimental electro effects from her earlier albums and sticks with full-bodied instrumentation and unpredictable themes – literally every shape and size – to keep you on your toes throughout this song-after-song journey. On “This is A True Heart,” she meekly channels a 60s pop singer, genially seducing through horns, Girl from Ipanema-jazziness and her gentle coo. On her cover of Barbara Lewis’ “The Stranger,” Holter greets a long lost love with her entrancing vocal range and a gorgeous synth drone. While on “Maxim I” and “Maxim II,” she’s in her own off-broadway musical, alternating from French chants, imitations of Parisian background chatter and aggressive orchestral bursts – likely losing anyone who came looking for an simple, straightforward listen. Throughout, however, Holter is consistently unabashed and inspired – artistically destined for years of critical reception because of her fearlessness to blend genres, perplex and imagine what might really never be understood or popular. Because, after all, isn't that how all the greats have done it?



Thursday, August 29, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Long Weekend Playlist

Chances are this Labour Day weekend is your last kick of the can before September rolls around and the beloved summer long weekend season comes to a close. If you're like me, you're not missing this opportunity to hit the open road for a few golden days and warm nights away from the city. Here's a mix of feel-good psych-rock and roots that has more than enough soul to get you on the road:

1. "The Sun" - Portugal. The Man: This Alaskan group's Danger Mouse-produced sixth release has only further reminded me of my love for their yesteryear psychedelic sound and everything about my biggest celeb crush - Mr. John Gourley.

2. "Runner Ups" - Kurt Vile: This week, I've been on the biggest Kurt Vile kick. The former War on Drugs band member and critically-acclaimed indie rocker is a staple on my road trip playlists - something about his effortless drone and low-fi chords just passes the hours. This song is magic.

3. "I'm Getting Ready" - Michael Kiwanuka: This song about journeying, off Kiwanuka's well-received 2012 debut, is one of the most uplifting and soulful folk gems out there.

4. "Wild Country" -Wake Owl: A friend jogged my memory about this song only yesterday, causing me to dive back into Wake Owl's charming pop-rock EP. "Wild Country," understandably the band's most popular song, is a gorgeous earthy tune for your ride alongside the cornfields.

5. "Souverian" - Andrew Bird: Save this one for when the sun goes down.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New Volcano Choir: "Comrades"

Volcano Choir

Justin Vernon sure is a busy boy.

The Bon Iver mastermind and Kathleen Edwards companion has spent the last five years keenly lending his extraordinary indie-rock and production talents to launching a solo career, hip-hop pals, a girlfriend, touring and side-project Volcano Choir - who, with the forthcoming September 3 launch of their newest album Repave, will likely get his undivided attention before his next project tacks on.

And, rightfully so; the band's second single "Comrade" is a fit-for-stadium display of powerful balladry, including many of the same post-rock ingredients heard on his 2011 self-titled. Don't let the soft beginning fool you; "Comrade" quickly swells from twinkling piano and sliding strings into a crash of guitars and drum rolls - ending off with a bellowing "Woods"-reminiscent Vernon autotune.

If the rest of the album is as spine-tingling as this is, it's clear Vernon's gone and done it again. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

ON AN ON Covers Hot Chip

Although Chicago and Minneapolis-bred ON AN ON (the remaining members of Scattered Trees) are never ones to shy away from a good electro beat or synth backing - when I heard the indie rock outfit were covering Hot Chip's lasery "Boy from School," I wasn't sure if they would wholeheartedly maintain many of original's dance ingredients. Turns out, they kept almost every single one - and it sounds good.

On the majority of the band's sonic debut Give In, Ringleader Nate Eisland's skilled vocal is meticulously buried beneath buzzy guitars and synth swirls, whereas on this near-carbon copy Hot Chip cover, his handsome pipes are given just as much spotlight as the infectiously happy melody. While the keyboard zaps around his pure pitch, Alissa Ricci dips in and out of harmonies - offering her sweet coo on the song's gorgeous middle eight to help send it home. What do you think?


PS. I listened to the Hot Chip original nearly non-stop as a teenager, and this Grizzly Bear cover too.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Throwback Thursday: To Build A Home

Do you remember this song? Some people find "To Build A Home" sad-sounding - whereas I think exactly the opposite. I think it's one of the most moving songs of all time and can remember exactly where I was the first time I heard it.

Maybe I'm feeling a little nostalgic and getting a bit carried away, but I really think I can only put my finger on a few other piano ballads of comparable magic or substance. Patrick Watson's story and the famous orchestral build are every bit as enchanting as they were when this song first came to life. Have a lovely Thursday!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tears for Fears Cover Arcade Fire

Over three years after Arcade Fire released their genius Grammy Award-winning album The Suburbs, iconic 80s new wave duo Tears for Fears have covered one of the album's most anthemic tracks, "Ready to Start." Stripping the electric stomp from the original and inserting a string section, skittering audio effects and a few random interjections, Tears for Fears upheaved about three-quarters of the Arcade Fire scorcher - sounding every bit as glossy 80s as they did bellowing on their own throwback hits "Head Over Heels" and "Pale Shelter."

Like most good covers, you can't expect the same emotional response or flow that attracted you to the original; you can only appreciate the reworked mastery of the song and a new piece of intriguing new musical perspective. As their first single release since 2004, Tears for Fears' take is nothing less than a new perspective.

On their website, the band wrote that, "having appreciated artists like Kanye West, Katy Perry, Kimbra, Nas, Gary Jules/Michael Andrews, Adam Lambert & Dizzee Rascal covering & sampling our songs over the past years, we agreed that some reciprocal cross-generational love was in order.

"We decided to give Arcade Fire a twist of TFF. Enjoy." Right on.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New Band to Watch: Lucius

Beginning as friends and crooning partners at Berklee School of Music over seven years ago, before landing a heritage recording studio together in Brooklyn - harmonic duo Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig are now leading indie-pop brood Lucius and ready to drop their debut Wildewoman in October.

Full of earthy melodies and retro bedroom-pop beats, the Lucius ladies and their three male bandmates paint a luscious landscape on these early tracks - channeling a magical 60s girl-group sound that 2013 could use a little more of. A contemporary 60s girl group consisting of Emmylou Harris, Au Revoir Simone and Of Monsters and Men, if you will.

Check out the wildewomen here:


Monday, August 19, 2013

Patrick Watson's "Blackwind"

Now that the temperature has picked up and the breeze has slowed down, airy songs like this sound even better. Patrick Watson is one of the most fascinating musicians to me; his gorgeous blend of oddball instrumentation and flecks of cabaret, with that uniquely falsetto voice, would be more than enough to keep me listening after years of infatuation. But his strange and wonderful stories are the real poetry in his craft (as you'll hear below).

Montreal-bred Watson is such an artist in that he's hardly ever adhered to any of the popular music trends - instead venturing off the beaten path towards sounds that are usually more radical and unexpected, but breathtaking. He's a rare, shimmery find in a sea of same-sounding.

"Blackwind," for instance, isn't for everyone - but I think goes perfectly with a walk in the park.


Friday, August 16, 2013

TGIF: High Highs' "Open Seasons"

"Open Season" | Forkcast Archive | Pitchfork

What a cuckoo week. Evenings spent jammed with appointments and plans, oodles of to-dos and dogsitting have left me feeling like I hardly have a free second to breathe - which is why any downtime has been spent listening to a song like this.

Since I fell down on a good ol' Throwback Thursday yesterday (which surprisingly might be one of my favourite posts of the week, despite loving sharing new music) - I thought I'd spin a happy, free-spirited tune that I can guarantee is fit for whatever your last August days hold. This heavenly slice of 2010 indie pop only came on to my radar this summer, but no matter its age, I've found the Aussie duo High Highs hit just the spot when I'm in need of an unruffled and soothing summer song. The breezy harmonies and lush plucks were just made for seascapes and sundowns - so, hopefully this weekend you find one of those to play this with.

Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"Control": Kendrick Lamar Rules Big Sean's Track


The latest hip-hop collaboration from Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar and Jay Electronica is overwhelming. But, all because of a commanding appearance by the genre's golden kid, it overwhelms in the best way possible.

What was supposed to be on Big Sean's forthcoming album Hall of Fame (before sample clearance issues), "Control (HOF)" explodes with an old school street thump, busy background sample and three battling voices proclaiming supremacy verse after verse. Big Sean and Jay Electronica impress, there's no doubt about that, but Kendrick's growling mid-song blows are groundbreaking - destroying everything in his path as he rips through some of his most brash and genius declarations of greatness.

On his bloodthirsty verse - one that might be the best of this year - good kid Kendrick hastily dismisses the competition, barking: "...And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Wale, Pusha-T, Meek Mill, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Big Sean, Jay Electron', Tyler, Mac Miller/ I got love for you all but I'm tryna murder you n***as/ Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you n***as/ They dont wanna hear one more noun or verb from you n***as."

Ouch. It's safe to assume Kendrick will receive some concerned phone calls from pals this evening.

Even though Kanye's pinched the title of angriest rhymer this summer, Kendrick's clearly ready to give him a run for his money and re-secure his "hottest MC in the game" title with any good kid, m.A.A.d city follow-up. I'm feeling this side of Kendrick - so let's not kill his vibe.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Chill Monday: Jon Hopkins and Purity Ring's "Breathe This Air"

I've been a longtime fan of British producer Jon Hopkins' chillwave beats since I heard this song in the early 2000s - and was therefore excited to read about a revamped version of his dreamy electronic track "Breathe This Air," with this genre's current vocal obsession, Megan James of Purity Ring.

On the new remix, James' pixie-like vocals dart in and out of his flickering beat and synth pulses. Even though the beat quickens almost right away, the sporadic piano notes slow down the tempo - making this one of the most relaxing electro-ballads I've heard in months.

Enjoy the start to your week.


Friday, August 9, 2013

TGIF: The Ceremonies

Everyone loves a good family jam. I came across the cute brothers of The Ceremonies recently - in the form of this first single - and a few things came to mind. They're definitely a bit pop-rock for my usual liking. They kind of sound like .fun, who I respect. And this song is damn catchy.

Everything from Matthew, Mark and Michael Cook's anthemic harmonies right through to the uppity drumbeat makes this an infectious summer song that's hard to dislike, despite your taste. When a song soars like this, it just feels good.

I hope you've survived the short week back from your long weekend. And would you look at that! We're right back at the weekend again. Enjoy the sunshine and this.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New Kings of Leon: "Wait for Me"

I really, really missed Kings of Leon.

I've loved this band for as long as I can remember. When Come Around Sundown was released three years ago, I felt torn (and a little heartbroken) about the grungy Southern rockers I grew up with. The release felt commercially-packaged, rushed and only featured a few songs I would add to my enormous Kings of Leon rotation that featured the previous four albums' classics. Still riding the wave of their extraordinary early releases and mainstream recognition mid-to-late 2000s, it became pretty clear the band was firing out albums far too quickly and needed a breather, from everything.

Three years later, the Followill clan are husbands, fathers and sober. They took the three years to do all of those things - and in doing all of those things, they admittedly gained a little perspective. On "Wait for Me," the band's second leaked single which sways somewhere in between the pretty, mid-tempo rock balladry of "Use Somebody" and "The Face"- it might be one of the slower, more unashamedly romantic songs the band's penned. And to be quite honest, I love it.

Most of the good bits are still totally in tact. Caleb's voice still growls; maybe it doesn't bark over punky outlaw chords like it did on Youth and Young Manhood, but it still growls beautifully. The echoey electric guitar still ricochets throughout the song, true to Kings style, with no huge explosion; but it hangs perfectly at bay while he pleads a loving case over the tender melody.

On Mechanical Bull, I highly doubt the new and improved Followills will revert back to the rebellious and drunken thrashing from their days of newly-escaped-Pentecostal. But, I can see them evolving. Even if the evolution mixes the old with the new, good music and good bands do just that - therefore, I think I'll loyally give them the benefit of the doubt and welcome them back with open ears.

PS. A good chunk of KOL albums have been released in the fall, therefore, I love that I always associate their music/tours with fall weather. Do you?

Friday, August 2, 2013

TGIF: Kendrick Lamar Live in Toronto

TGIF! Tonight, we're off to see hip-hop's boy wonder who, this time last year, was still partially shaded in mystery as one of the game's hottest new emcees. This year, it's a slightly different story. With his ill beats and flawless rhymes about surviving in Compton as a clean, straight-A dreamer, Kendrick Lamar captured the hearts of both mainstream and hipster hip-hop aficionados and critics with his genius conteptual debut good kid, m.A.A.d city.

Everything about Kendrick is fascinating; from his complex, enunciated lyrics and soulful samples to his upbringing and straight-shooting self-awareness. At only 26, Lamar resembles so many of the ambitious hip-hop greats in their early stages of rap fame; not only did he easily secure the title of best rapper of 2013, but he's en route to legendary faster than any comparable players.

If you don't have Lamar's debut, you need to remove the rock you've been living under and make some life changes. Hip-hop connoisseur or not, this music is art.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Chris Cornell's "Sunshower"

New York City rainy street scene, 1955.
On a rainy Wednesday in the city, I knew I wanted something mellow to start my day - and, unlike his harder-edged Soundgarden singles, Chris Cornell's first solo album had just the ballad I was looking for. I've been in love with the 1999 bonus track "Sunshower" since I was a kid; I remember being mesmerized by Cornell's softened howl and melodic strums while plugged into my Walkman in the backseat of my parents' car. The romantic words resemble an old country classic in their simplicity, which I think is half the allure of the song. Sometimes, there are a few too many bells and whistles to decipher what's meant to be a love song - whereas I think these soothing lyrics have universal meaning. A little something for everyone.

Enjoy your rainy Wednesday.

PS Cooler days make me excited for fall weather - how about you?