Friday, January 31, 2014

Three Electro-Pop Songs to Go Out With This Weekend

Bon Weekend - Bloglovin

This might have been the longest week of all the weeks ever. And, sometimes after a long week, all I'm looking forward to is a good weekend-long stint in bed. Not this time around, though - I've got a jammed-pack weekend that promises to be an absolute blast. To keep my motor running, I need some groovy little pushes - which is why my end-of-week playlist has been a mainly upbeat, synth-infused one.

Cheers to the weekend - these talented four electro crews are the ticket to lighting your fire. 

Phantogram absolutely killed it again on their newest album.

This sexy Class Actress jam has been joining me on late weekend nights for years.

 GEMS are enchanting. I love "Medusa" - but this slower, more melodic piece is a beauty.

NEW FUTURE ISLANDS! I just love this group - and this new single is as perfect as I'd imagine.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Phosphorescent's Muchacho - Live this Weekend

I can agree with Phosphorescent’s Matthew Houck that he's probably never made music as good as the songs found on his 2013 album, Muchacho. Houck is realistic about how Muchacho turned out - repeatedly telling critics and writers that, after releasing five albums as Phosphorescent, he simply got better at songwriting. Naturally, right? Don’t get me wrong; just because the brilliant Americana anthems he wrote for Muchacho, while holed away in small-town Mexico, were some of the best of 2013 - doesn't mean we can't appreciate the early albums he released as the newly coined Phosphorescent. His 2010 album Here's to Taking it Easy was the first I heard of the croaky alt-country artist, and I loved it for what it was. Most of the ingredients that make today's Phosphorescent so magical were there then, obviously: his easygoing drawl, pianos that duel guitars on both jangly and melancholy saloon songs. Take this old song, for example. While it has a lovable country drift and bouncy piano finish - it's only a sample of what we were served on Muchacho; an album so shock full of meaning and soul that every single anthem bursts with a hearty revelation of some sort.

What we got with Muchacho were songs like “The Quotidian Beasts.” While it might not have been one of the most played or written about singles off the album, I think it’s songs like this that embody exactly how momentous the album was. Explosive, stage-rattling jams – actually quite spiritual in their make-up – are the real guts of Muchacho. And, if they’re only going to get better from here on out, we can expect to have a hefty discography of timeless Americana classics from this guy.

For me, “The Quotidian Beasts” was an immediate classic upon first listen – a notion secured by seeing the song performed live for the first time this past summer. In a cut-off black tank and tight black pants, probably boiling under the mid-afternoon August sun, the guitars wailed and pianos built underneath Houck’s howl and I felt more alive with every single word and beat. I get to see it performed live again this weekend – and, until then, I’ll be re-living that moment in my head on repeat.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Current Obsession: The Aikiu's "Fools"

The Aiku

I love myself nothing more than some 80s reminiscent new wave to liven up a dreary winter week. Enter Parisian cool kids The Aikiu - a Pulp-meets-The Cure foursome whose infectious dance-rock track "Fools" has occupied my headphones for the past few days. Featuring a soulful female sample that chimes in and out of their bouncy basslines and glitter-caked harmonies, "Fools" is easily delectable enough to reign on the mainstream charts, despite flying relatively under the radar for the past year. Off their 2013 EP Win, this throwback-sounding hit is one of those youthful, wild, head-bobbing anthems that ignites the sidelines of the dance floor with the first beat. It could be a late bloomer, but this colourful find deserves all the spotlight it can get.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Best Track: Wet's "You're the Best"

Apparently this song isn't actually all that new, however, it's completely new to me - and I can't get enough. Brooklyn trio Wet put together this downtempo electro-pop ballad last fall - nailing that delectable pop simplicity that's achieved through an undeniably likeable melody and smooth vocals. I'm not sure what to expect from Wet moving forward, but, in my books - these kind of heartfelt city ditties are always welcome.

The Wet EP was out on Neon Gold Records in October. PS - check out their great Twitter handle...

Friday, January 24, 2014

TGIF: Washed Out remixes Moby

What a lovely Friday treat - waking up to find one of your favourite artists has remixed one of your favourite songs off a great release. Washed Out, as I've mentioned many times before, is one of the most refreshing producers of the past few years - spearheading a chillwave movement that, in my mind, has revolutionized the sound and appeal of dream-pop. His psychedelic, slow-paced twists are the perfect (and unexpected) decorative touches to Moby and Damien Jurado's Innocents ballad.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Throwback Thursday: St. Lucia

I've been following Jean-Philip Grobler - the talented South African-born, Brooklyn-raised musician known as St. Lucia - for a few years now, and am excited he's finally garnering the attention he deserves with his first headlining tour. Why it's taken so long for the masses to wake up to his infectious electro-pop is beyond me. His retro beats and shimmery synth straddle the line between Friendly Fires and Hall & Oates, and tonight in Toronto, I plan on wholeheartedly dancing my heart out to his live set.

Enjoy! Here's a favourite of mine from his 2012 EP. (You should pick up his fabulous full-length When The Night as soon as possible.)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Artist to Watch: Agnes Obel

Lately, through friends and colleagues, I've found it almost impossible to ignore the rising star of Danish folk singer Agnes Obel. Following her 2010 debut, Obel released Aventine last September after over a year of dreaming up the mature release. The melodies, just as delicate as those found on Philharmonics, are captivating in their simplicity; orchestrated by simple, classical-infused instrumentation that allows her haunting vocal ability to reign.

Listen to (what I think is) the most beautiful song song off Aventine:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New Paul McCartney: "Queenie Eye"

McCartney still knows what's up. I'm not sure how I haven't heard this bouncy piano track or watched this star-studded video until now - but it sure is a happy way to start the week. McCartney's voice is as pure as ever, while the buoyant quickness of the track makes it feel light and childlike. Kind of like some of the best Beatles anthems, I suppose.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Kings of Leon Wrote Song for 'August: Osage County' Soundtrack

Kings of Leon stripped Mechanical Bull's "Last Mile Home" down to heartwarming acoustic basics for the movie August: Osage County - and, it's interesting that the same week I watch Osage in theatres, I also happen to be heading home.

I was so pleased to hear the famously soundtrack-shy band actually penned this beautiful road-rock bonus track specifically for this Oscar-worthy film, with every intention of reworking it into a gorgeous acoustic piece for the soundtrack. The star-studded film adaptation, about returning home to the Deep South in light of a family crisis, understandably made sense for the Tennessee rock brothers who also experienced a less-than-conventional upbringing. In acoustic format, Followill's achy delivery of "Last Mile Home" reaches a new level of moving when paired with the melodic plucking. When you see this film, you'll understand its perfection the moment you hear it play.

Here's a video piece about the band deciding to participate in the Osage soundtrack, and a rough version of the song. You can find the quality acoustic version over at Rolling Stone. Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Washed Out's "New Theory"

Washed Out's Ernest Greene
Still dreaming of summer, you?

Warning: a song like this will not help. Washed Out's sunny chillwave songs are admittedly musical representations of the settings and feelings he's most partial to - namely beaches, curling surfs and exotic gardens where he can escape into his mind. As always, this tune off Life of Leisure sounds exactly like those things.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Best New Music: Kevin Drew's "Good Sex"

Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew Announces New Album Darlings, Shares

As the biggest Toronto music enthusiast, Arts & Crafts follower and Broken Social Scene fan, Kevin Drew news is a kind I always look forward to. Following a stellar few years for his old bandmates - Feist's 2012 reign, Brendan Canning's solo release and Jason Collett's continued success - the BSS frontman and Arts & Crafts co-founder is due to release his own solo album, Darlings, on March 18. Featuring a few handfuls of noteworthy collaborations and songs that Drew describes as being about "the rise and fall of love and sex, in my own life and in today's society," Darlings is bound to be a home run if the rest of the tracks are as likable as the honest piano-rock single "Good Sex."

With the new album, Drew also said, "I approached it focused purely on the songwriting, leaving all the tricks and explosions behind. I hope you like it... and if you don't, give to someone who will."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

New Tokyo Police Club: "Hot Tonight"

As if I need one more thing to encourage my longing for summer (the amount of sunshiney daydreaming I've been doing is unhealthy), Tokyo Police Club just released the first uppity pop-rock single from their forthcoming album Forcefield - and it will be perfect or blaring on those far-away dog days.

The Canadian indie-rock outfit have nailed the young person's summer experience through sugary guitar, mention of perching on hot curbs, drinking in the park and dirty sneakers. All of these ingredients combined have me positive we'll see this single resurface the first time Toronto's temperature climbs into the teens.

Enjoy the cold! Oh, and here's a fun fact: About seven years ago, Tokyo Police Club were the first band I ever interviewed.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dent May's "Born Too Late"

I can usually place where I first heard an artist or song, and remember exactly how I felt at that moment, but I can safely say I have no idea where I heard this song, or this guy. All I know is that for weeks now, Dent May has been adding that necessary hop to my everyday steps. In what sounds like a shimmering funk plea crooned by a contemporary Beach Boy, "Born too Late" tells the quirky story of how May's young age is getting in the way of his heart-wrenching crush. Even though these disco undertones can easily warm up your winter blues, I think this breezy beat would sound awfully good on a downtown summer night.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Soundtrack: Jose Gonzalez's "Step Out"

Have you seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? Me either. But I plan on it, now that I've spent the last week absolutely consumed by the outstanding soundtrack.

Curated by indie singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez, the soundtrack is one of those amazingly eclectic collections - a mixed bowl of feel-good songs and covers - that's dabbling in the same league as Garden State, Wicker Park and Lost in Translation's soundtracks.

Alongside spins by Bahamas, Junip (Gonzalez's side project), Of Monsters and Men and Rogue Wave, it's Jose Gonzalez's powerful solo track, "Step Out" - which was penned by the great Ryan Adams - that steals the compilation off the bat. The expansive anthem, which balances Gonzalez's graceful voice, the boom of the orchestra and a children's choir, is both lyrically and melodically moving - mimicking what I can only imagine is the tone of the whole dreamer's drama.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Bahamas' "Already Yours"

For awhile, I thought that Bahamas was sort of the Canadian equivalent to Jack Johnson - but over the years, through the albums and live shows, I've come to discover Afie Jurvanen's act is so, so much more.

Sure, the plucks of his acoustic guitar and handsome voice sound excellent when played beachside, the way Johnson's surfer ditties do, but Jurvanen's lush landscape of love and loss guitar ballads have always possessed this special, accessible kind of depth that you don't find with his singer-songwriter peers. Up until now, the ex-Feist guitarist and now famed Canadian folk musician's honest odes have been delightful bundles of impossibly laid back melodies and sweet stories, but his growing fame and upcoming projects signify new and beautiful things on his horizon. Either way, while the world outside is a skating rink, warm souvenirs like this one make every day a little cozier.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Best New Music: Frankie Rose

Frankie Rose

For someone who lives for rock music - especially of the electric, female-led variety - Frankie Rose's newest single "You for Me" is quite easily one of the best things to hit the genre this winter. Starting with hard thumping guitar and drums, the song shoves you awake before Rose's tiny coo chimes in to pacify the thrash of the song. This sort of dreamy rock single lands somewhere in between the melodic Dum Dum Girls (who Rose played drums with prior) and My Bloody Valentine's echoey shoegaze - but it's Rose's dainty, piercing, pipes that solidify this new spin as her own brand of arena-ready noise-rock. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

TGIF: Drake's "Trophies"

It's Friday, and you know what? YOLO. I only whip out the famed acronym when I'm approaching a cashier with a bag of Smart Food, ordering an unnecessary bevvy close to last call, going for a subzero wintertime run, or posting a new Drake track that I can totally get on board with.

In his favourite hour of the morning last week ("owl hours"), Drake dropped "Trophies," the track that seemed to disappear following its use in his Nothing Was The Same album trailer. "Trophies" is back in full, with a boatload of triumphant horns, whacking beats and Drizzy declaring that "this shit is not a love song." While the song is mainly your typical hip-hop chest pumping (it is called "Trophies," after all), Drake's right - the non-love song mentions his parents' split, and proves feistier (and catchier) than some of the excessive slow jam crooning on Nothing Was The Same.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

"In The New Year" with The Walkmen

Happy New Year! Even though I'm still sour about their less-than-empathetic farewell, I can't help but feel so totally partial to my old faithful favourite group of alt-rockers and their trusted tunes. And, although they've now embarked on their "extreme hiatus" (pfffft), this ditty of 2008's You & Me is perfect for sprucing up the early days of every new year.

I can't think of any better thing to wake you from your holidaze than Hamilton Leithauser's impressive howl and those dueling organs and guitars. Heaven.