Friday, June 27, 2014

TGIF: PHOX's "1936"

Phox - Phox LP

This is just already the best Friday that I can remember in recent years, for so many reasons. I am the happiest clam.

One of the reasons might be this single off new folk-pop collective PHOX's debut album, titled "1936." Released this past Tuesday, the self-titled LP has all the charming ingredients to skyrocket this Wisconsin band into Of Monsters and Men and Mumford territory - namely, frontwoman Monica Martin's jazzy vocal flair and their adorable folk melodies.

This is one of those songs that gets repeated as soon as it's finished - sounding just as good during a morning walk as it does with a glass of red wine.

Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Vance Joy's "Play with Fire"

I guess this song is about three months away from being a kind of throwback Thursday tune - but not really - I've just been listening to a lot of this lately and had to talk about it.

If you read this blog, you know I post a pretty broad array of music - everything from hip-hop to alt-country and everything in between - but, sometimes, a girl just needs a little folk-rock. Vance Joy, the babely Australian singer-songwriter whose debut EP God Loves You When You're Dancing crashed on to the scene last year, boasting several singles that made their way on to Triple J's 2013 Hottest 100. Born James Keough, Joy's effortless James Mercer-meets-Jeff Buckley vocals and upbeat folk ballads were destined for mainstream success from the get-go.

Sounding fit for the hot beaches of his native country, "Play With Fire" is the dreamiest soundtrack to a warm Thursday. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Weeknd Debuts New Single "Often"

As you gear up for a little long weekend action (of the party and plans variety), why not toss a new Weeknd single into the mix? Aside from Kiss Land and a few remixes and collaborations, Toronto's Abel Tesfaye hasn't dropped very much in recent months. So, it was time for him to release one of his explicit slow sex jams - carried by his sugary R&B croon, a stuttering beat and believable claims of doing it "often." I can already think of a a few points in the track where a Drizzy verse would go nicely.

Oh, and you're allowed to download it for free. Thanks, Abe.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

New Synth-Pop: Zola Jesus' "Dangerous Days"

Zola Jesus Details New Album Taiga, Shares

Could Zola Jesus be swaying from her more obscure electronic roots? Last week, Zola Jesus' Nika Rosa Danilova announced that Taiga, her fourth studio album, would drop in October and that the first single would be the accessible earworm, titled "Dangerous Days." 

Unlike the artist's mixed bag of unique first records, the friendlier "Dangerous Days" might be sign one of indie's leading ladies is diving into more mainstream, club-banger territory. The melodic power-pop ballad is full of starry synth and layers of her harmonies - falling somewhere in between a Robyn dance floor anthem and swooner from M83 (one of her previous collaborators). Either way, this track is meant for festival season, so let's hope it gets to hit the open air soon.

I dig it. What do you think of Zola Jesus' new note?

Friday, June 20, 2014

TGIF: 8 Songs To Get You Pumped For NXNE Weekend

If you're in the city and plan to consume zero NXNE music this weekend, I'm not quite sure what to say. There are shows everywhere, of all varieties and sizes - Trinity Bellwoods, Yonge/Dundas Square, bars, restaurants, streetcars even. Don't be silly, get out and watch a band or two. If you're bracelet or badge-less, don't fret - there are tickets available at the door for shows. So, get there early, get a ticket, a sweet standing spot and beat the line to drinks.

Here are eight songs from artists playing this weekend in Toronto. See you around!

1. Huey Newton - St. Vincent: Well, Annie Clark is a goddess. And everyone should want to see the magic that happens at 2:38 go down live. Tonight, 9pm, YD Square

2. Brother - Mac DeMarco: Man, I can't get enough of this guy. Canadian, weird as hell and behind one of the sexiest songs of this year. Tonight, 11pm, Opera House

3. Summertime Sadness - Lana Del Rey (Ryan Hemsworth Remix): Ryan spins tonight at Adelaide Hall at 2am. I can't think of a better way to keep the party going past last call.

4. You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb - Spoon: Whether playing in Spoon or Divine Fits, Britt Daniel is one of my favourite voices in rock. Ever. Saturday, 9pm, YD Square

5. Last Dance - Rhye: Fun fact: this was easily my most played album of 2013. I know every soulful note, start to finish. Saturday, 10pm, Massey Hall

6. Nowhere With You - Joel Plaskett: Who doesn't love Joel? He's a Canadian institution and is guaranteed to put on a wild party, likely with a gaggle of surprise friends. Saturday, 11pm, Horseshoe Tavern

7. Balance - Future Islands: I'll admit, I love the new Future Islands album - but I'm hoping that doesn't deter the quirky band from playing their amazing old stuff. I am a diehard In Evening Air fan. Saturday, 12am, Tattoo Rock Parlour

8. I'm Tired - Philly Moves: Why not throw some local and emerging into the mix? I go way back with these cats and trust me - their energetic live set doesn't disappoint. Saturday, 1am, Studio Bar

Thursday, June 19, 2014

2014 Polaris Prize Long List Announced in Calgary

This year's Polaris Music Prize is, once again, going to be a tight race towards the short list and final prize. 40 esteemed artists and musicians, both established and emerging from across all genres, had their albums nominated for the prestigious $30,000 Canadian music prize this afternoon in Calgary - and here they are:

Arcade Fire – Reflektor

AroarA – In The Pines

Austra – Olympia

Philippe B – Ornithologie, la nuit


Basia Bulat – Tall Tall Shadow

Chromeo – White Women

Cousins – The Halls Of Wickwire

Cowboy Junkies / Various Artists – The Kennedy Suite

The Darcys – Warring

Dead Obies - Montréal $ud

Mac DeMarco – Salad Days

DIANA – Perpetual Surrender

Drake – Nothing Was The Same

Freedom Writers – NOW

Fresh Snow – I

Frog Eyes – Carey’s Cold Spring

Gorguts – Colored Sands

Tim Hecker – Virgins

Jimmy Hunt – Maladie d’amour

Jessy Lanza – Pull My Hair Back

Kalle Mattson – Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold

Moonface – Julia With Blue Jeans On

Mounties – Thrash Rock Legacy

Odonis Odonis – Hard Boiled Soft Boiled

Owen Pallett – In Conflict

Pink Mountaintops – Get Back


The Sadies – Internal Sounds

Shad – Flying Colours

Shooting Guns – Brotherhood Of The Ram

Solids – Blame Confusion

Rae Spoon – My Prairie Home

The Strumbellas – We Still Move On Dance Floors

Tanya Tagaq – Animism

Thus Owls – Turning Rocks

Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams

Chad VanGaalen – Shrink Dust

Bry Webb – Free Will


Who do you want to see make the short list? Imagine the gala performances this year...

Alt-J Debut Mesmerizing New Single "Hunger of the Pine"


After a long day, there are plenty of things that are wonderful to look forward to. But, last night, after hopping around the beginning of NXNE's music program - there was nothing I was happier to arrive home to than a soulful new Alt-J single. Needless to say, this jam closed out the night perfectly.

The Brit indie-rock darlings dropped "Hunger of the Pine" yesterday as the first single from their forthcoming LP This Is All Yours. Sampling "4x4" from Miley Cyrus - an artist they've admittedly wanted to collaborate with for some time - "Hunger of the Pine" is a shadowy, intensifying groove decorated by all the right things: pulsing synth, blips of sexy horn and, most notably, Joe Newman's time-stopping vocals.

Everything about the Mercury Prize winners' presence on the music scene so far has been surprising and momentous, and this track's unexpected sample and anthemic qualities are no different. Bravo, boys - excited to hear what's next.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Artist to Watch: Michael Rault

Michael Rault - 'Living Daylight' (album stream)

The joy of festivals, North by Northeast (NXNE) and Canadian Music Week is that, if you do the weeks right, you're bound to stumble upon plenty of new bands to satiate your musical appetite for weeks to come. I know it's easy to stick to what you know, but where is the fun in that. This past weekend, at a documentary after-party, I was treated to the sounds of several up-and-coming Canadian bands - with one in particular standing out to me as someone to watch.

With his new album Living Daylight set to drop June 24 via Pirates Blend Records, shaggy rocker Michael Rault and his crew put on an electric live performance. The Edmonton-raised, Toronto-based songwriter Michael Rault is undeniably influenced by 60s psychedelia - grooving and crooning carelessly while simultaneously ripping unexpected guitar solos. At the end of the typo-intended "Too All My Friends" (which I think I've listened to 50 times since the show), Rault smothered the amp with his guitar, before drop-kicking it and strutting off stage. Standard stuff. But, it made one hell of a finale.

You can catch Rault three times over the course of the next week at NXNE - check the website for details.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Golden Track Off Lana Del Rey's "Ultraviolence"

Lana Del Rey was something else when she waltzed on to the scene three years ago; vampy and challenging almost everything that came before her in the pop landscape. Her music became the sailor-mouthed, sultry escape for bad b*tches everywhere - authentically cooing her way into the mainstream with this seemingly unprecedented approach to indie-pop. She effectively portrays a sexualized and self-admittedly doomed creature - helpless to poisonous partners and the self-destructiveness of her generation - yet liberated and armed with that airy whisper. Needless to say, all of her sadness and drama has worked incredibly well for her.

It's no surprise that this act has definitely has gotten old in more ways than not. Non-chalante and hardly engaging on stage, and now edgy to the point of uncomfortable on some songs, Del Rey's latest release Ultraviolence is by no means bad - she's still undeniably talented, exuding a boatload of intrigue - but there are moments that you have to wonder why she musically decided on a particular route.

On the gorgeous "Cruel World," however - you can hear the influence of her new creative buddy and Ultraviolence's producer, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Although the story hasn't changed much for Del Rey - she's still talking bourbon, heroine, guns, little red dresses and, ultimately, being a slave to her lover - the nearly 7-minutes of lush, atmospheric guitars and thumping percussion is dazzling. She's still so damn vulnerable, but beautifully reflective and haunting every step of the way. Despite the tiredness of some of her retro-pop singles, as long as she keeps recording songs like this - Del Rey is very likely to have a long and fruitful run as the industry's most distinct leading lady.

Friday, June 13, 2014

TGIF: Stream Sam Smith's Amazing Debut

Sam Smith's new album, In the Lonely Hour, comes out June 17.

22 year-old Sam Smith's voice has been the talk of all towns for some time now - following his already-legendary SNL performance and cameos on popular songs like Disclosure's "Latch" - and now, we're finally able to hear 32 minutes straight of his knee-weakening croon over at NPR.

Vocally flawless, Smith dips in and out of challenging falsetto, calls out boldly and whispers his way around the melodic R&B and big beats of his debut. He's an absolute force to be reckoned with and one of the greats already - whether on the jazzy balladry of "Lay Me Down" and the gospel-driven "Stay With Me," or power-pop tracks like "Money On My Mind" and "Like I Can." One of my personal favourites, though - and a nice balance between soulfully sweet and rhythmic - is the three-minute "Life Support." Like every other emotive song on the album, this could easily be a chart topper for the young Brit.

Welcome to your prime, Sammy. We can't wait for the official release of In The Lonely Hour on Tuesday.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Throwback Thursday: The New Pornographers

The New Pornographers Announce New Album Brill Bruisers, Share Title Track, Tour

Quirky Canadian indie-rock collective The New Pornographers have officially announced their new album, Brill Bruisers, which will be released late August on Matador.

To celebrate this, and their amazing new interactive video, here's a throwback to one of my favourite NP songs off one of the best albums of 2005, Twin Cinema. Featuring the whole gang's pretty harmonies and a wild cluster of building instruments, "The Bleeding Heart Show" will forever remain one of my favourite songs of that decade.

(Fun fact: The New Pornographers were the first band I ever interviewed.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Artist to Watch: Emma Ruth Rundle

Emma Ruth Rundle

I've been losing myself in the lush sounds of singer-songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle's debut album since its release three weeks ago, and with each new listen, I'm amazed the powerful new voice isn't making more noise than she is.

After dabbling in and contributing to a number of acts, Some Heavy Ocean is a bold solo debut; mixing the dark of her grungy instrumentation with a songbird voice that shifts as quickly into declarative howls as it does quiet coos. Although completely unique, Rundle's light-meets-dark songs would have fit well into angsty mid-90s releases from Hope Sandoval, Jewel Kilcher, Holly McNarland or Alanis Morrissette.

On the standout track "Shadows of my Name," Rundle eases in with soft plucks, before rising into hard strums and mighty vocals. The song makes it quite clear Rundle has something to say, and songs like this make me think she deserves to be heard.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Summer Jam: Colony House's "Silhouettes"

Adding another family affair into the indie-rock mix, brothers Caleb and Will Chapman of Colony House (along with guitarist Scott Mills) have recently bounced onto the scene with "Silhouettes" - the upbeat single from their forthcoming debut album When I Was Younger. Between the sunny guitar riffs and Caleb's handsome vocals, this Nashville trio are a band I can easily get on board with for the remainder of the summer months.

Sounding like one big, happy mixture of Young The Giant, Hot Hot Heat and The 88, "Silhouettes" is a solid (and addictive) ditty fit for festival stages and rowdy nights on rooftops. Keep your eye out for Colony House's debut on July 22 - hopefully it's just as pleasant as this first single.

Monday, June 9, 2014

10 Field Trip 2014 Observations

Well, the second year of Field Trip Music & Arts Festival has wrapped, and the sunburn, yawns and perma-smile are indications that it was a home-run weekend. After two days of rain, shine and over ten live sets, it's time to get back to reality, but not before recounting the standout observations from Arts & Crafts' annual music gathering.

Here's what I noticed:

1. Although they only reunite once a year now, Broken Social Scene remain such golden ambassadors for the City of Toronto. And, not only in the music sense. Whether encouraging people to exercise their democratic right and make positive changes for the city, shouting their love for Ontario's capital repeatedly or simply being the reason thousands were gathered for this festival in the first place - the legendary gaggle of Canadian indie-rockers make it hard to not exude Toronto pride every time you watch them. Also, Kevin Drew and Amy Millan's voices are still two of my favourite sounds.

2. Lauren Mayberry from CHVRCHES isn't only incredibly talented, but is one of the earth's more charming human beings. Shyly refusing to sing Alanis Morrisette after admitting her love for the Canadian artist, drinking a big mug of tea and being the size of a Polly Pocket are all things that contribute to her undeniable infectiousness on stage.

3. Reuben & The Dark will hit much bigger stages, and soon. The Calgary folk-rockers played to an appreciative crowd of lawn-sitters on Saturday, and likely gained hundreds of new fans in doing so. Between his strong voice and their booming melodies, Reuben's crew is destined for big things.

4. Despite any inclement weather, no one should ever bring an umbrella into the middle of a tight crowd. If I had a nickel for every time I almost lost an eye, I could have bought another beer.

5. I really appreciate artists who smile and look alive during their set. I said this about Dave Hosking of Boy & Bear a few months back, and was reminded of my affinity for grinning musicians after watching Ernest Greene of Washed Out emit oodles of great vibes during their upbeat appearance. Whether drifting through a dreamy ballad or bouncing around with his acoustic guitar, Greene's chillwave elation rubbed off on the adoring crowd.

6. Half Moon Run are electric. Every time I see these guys live, I'm reminded of this - and I'm reminded why the Montreal indie-rockers were Mumford & Sons' pick for opening act when they played La Belle Province. Also, the lead singer is something else.

7. A Tribe Called Red consistently throw the best party in Canada. With ear-to-ear smiles and endless new beats up their sleeves, the three DJs and their fearless dancer drive audiences wild with their electronic and First Nations infused repertoire. Each time I see them, I fall more and more in love with what they've brought to the table.

8. Gord Downie always sounds terrific (even better when he wears a cowboy hat, if that's possible) - especially when he's brought on stage to sing "Texico Bitches" with Kevin Drew and the Broken Social Scene collective. I think he's the next member in the rotating line-up, based on how well he belted that ditty.

9. Interpol leave me starstruck. Listening to baritone-voiced Paul Banks and his brooding band set fire to their headlining set on Saturday night, I felt as giddy as I remembered feeling when I discovered Antics as a teenager. They are absolute veterans, and it comes across in every guitar lick.

10. I love this city. And I love things like this that bring everyone together, for the best reason that I can think of: being witness to live music. I can't imagine living in a place that wasn't so proudly and easily united for the purpose of consuming art.

(11. I already can't wait for next year.)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Currently Loving: Ben Khan

Who is Ben Khan?

"I want to keep the music out there and keep myself to myself," is what the artist/producer told Noisey magazine during his first formal interview back in January, which doubled as an attempt to unveil more about the new sensation who remains steeped in mystery. Not quite R&B, not quite electronic - the instrument-playing new pop master is just about all the blogosphere can talk about these days, after getting hooked on 1992, Khan's eclectic new EP released in early May. Equal parts seductive and raw, dance floor funk, Khan's soulful vocals melt like butter over the futuristic beats.

Regardless of his age, origin and background-less approach to releasing music - Ben Khan's rich, but tiny, collection of music is the only thing you need to know to realize you've stumbled upon something big.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Field Trip This Weekend!

The second year of Arts & Crafts' Field Trip Music & Arts Festival is upon us starting Saturday, and as well as the incredible line-up of artists from all over the world, Field Trippers will be treated to the sounds of these guys - the band behind the whole operation.

Broken Social Scene, a musical collective that began with six members and has grown to 19 before, were founded in 1999 by Torontonians Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning. Eventually graced with revolving contributions from other famed Canadian rockers like Feist, Emily Haines, Amy Millan and Jason Collett, BSS has become the face of Toronto music and the flagship group of the label Drew co-founded, Arts & Crafts.

Toronto wouldn't feel quite like Toronto without the music of Broken Social Scene or Arts & Crafts, which is why I think we're all thrilled to have a chance to annually celebrate some of the music that made our city what it is today.

Here's a popular throwback - one that most girls my age will remember as being the whimsical anthem to their high school years.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

New Bahamas Album and Single: "All The Time"

Nothing says summertime like a little Bahamas. Afie Jurvanen, the soft-voiced, guitar-wailing Canadian behind Bahamas, is set to drop his highly anticipated new album Bahamas is Afie on August 18 - and he's previewed a sexy little number to kick off the wait.

Released this past week, "All the Time" is a slow-burning beauty, paced by Jurvanen's dreamy falsetto harmonies and distorted guitar growls. Although both relatively sunny-sounding, I've always found it absurd when people try to compare Bahamas to Jack Johnson - and, this single is another piece of perfect proof he's on the opposite page of surf, beach and banana pancake advocates. "All the Time" is a reminder that Jurvanen is a highly skilled and soulful shredder, who isn't afraid to pack breezy heat into tracks like this.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hamilton Leithauser's Solo Debut: 'Black Hours'

It's here! Former Walkmen front man Hamilton Leithauser's debut solo album officially dropped today, ending the long wait to have the best part of The Walkmen back. Late last year, I was so disappointed to hear the band decided to consciously uncouple (theirs was called an “extreme hiatus”) - ending the seven-album streak of eclectic garage-meets-soulful-indie-rock that I'd grown up with. Quite simply, they were my favourite band. However, almost immediately after hearing the news, fans were reassured that Walter Martin, Peter Matthew Bauer and (best of all) Hamilton Leithauser would be releasing debut solo albums - softening the blow considerably. While Martin and Bauer's solo efforts were good news, it's clearly the lovable front man who we couldn't wait to hear croon again.

On Black Hours, Leithauser's pipes are just as bold and jazzy as you'd expect, bounding over those high notes he’s managed to hit throughout his 13 years in the spotlight. Whether the 1950s rock stomp of "Alexandra", slow-chugging psychedelia of "The Smallest Splinter" or playful summer anthems like "I Retired" and "11 O’Clock Friday Night," each Walkmen departure is a welcome addition to Leithauser’s diversified bag of tricks – sounding little to nothing like his albums with the band, but every little bit like himself. Listening to Black Hours – a collection filled with everything from doo-wop infusions (the one at the end of "11 O'Clock" is magical) to melancholy piano odes – it actually becomes hard to remember him making other kinds of music, only because this shoe fits so well.