Tuesday, April 21, 2015

3am Mixtapes: Episode Seventy Five: Beards

Each week on the 3am Mixtapes podcast, I will share with you the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general as best debut albums. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs About Weather Storms.

Now, while most themes around these parts have to do with song content, or sound, or names of the band/song, this week, I'm taking it physical. It is about appearances this week, with the Top Six Beards!

Let these songs grow on you:

"All The Bearded Ladies" by The Beards
"Lazerray" by TV On The Radio
"Call of the Wild" by The Matinée
"Errant Sophia" by Hello Blue Roses
"Churches Under the Stairs" by Brendan Canning
 "I Had A Beard (And It Grew Across Ontario)" by Darren Foulds

Any questions or comments or waffles or criticisms or suggestions for future themes are welcome!

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Kathryn Calder @ Media Club -- 04/18/15

About eight or nine years ago, I went to go see The New Pornographers play a show here in Vancouver, and discovered Immaculate Machine opening for them. They quickly become a favourite, and that was due in part to co-lead singer and keyboardist Kathryn Calder (who, later in that show, joined The New Pornos on stage to fill in for the absent Neko Case). Since then, Immaculate Machine broke up, Calder officially joined of The New Pornos, and as of earlier in the week, she has three solo albums to her name.
So just days after the release her latest, self-titled album, Kathryn Calder returned to Vancouver to celebrate with a show at the Media Club.

I missed the first opener, Ford Pier, getting to the Media Club just as he was wrapping up. But I certainly didn't want to miss Louise Burns and Her Victims, as she called her backing band. The dimly lit stage was fitting with her darker, noir-pop sound, with songs off her two albums so far, Mellow Drama and The Midnight Mass, as well as teasing her upcoming with a couple new songs -- including one that I didn't catch the name of but had almost a moody-Fleetwood Mac feel to it.
Louise joked about her stage banter (or lack thereof), rather letting the music and her captivating stage presence speak for her.
My two favourites of the set came at the end, and were on pretty opposite ends of the spectrum; first the most rocking song of the set, "Emeralds Shatter", followed by the gorgeously haunting "Heaven", Louise's powerful voice filling the room.

Thanks to the 10:30 curfew, it wasn't long before Kathryn Calder was out, kicking off with the absolutely beautiful "Slip Away" off her first album Are You My Mother?, starting soft and building to a big, indie-pop ending. She went chronological from there with "Turn A Light On" from Bright & Vivid, before the first single from the new one, an incredibly bubbly and catchy anthem "Take A Little Time".
Switching between keyboard and guitar throughout the set, Calder was visibly (and vocally) happy that the latest album was finally released, and that energy definitely came through on the songs, from the upbeat and jaunty "If You Only Knew" to the more down tempo and somewhat bittersweet "Song in Cm", featuring special guest Sam Davidson on the clarinet (who you may know from Brasstronaut).
Kathryn played right up until curfew -- not even bothering with the silly encore tradition -- finishing off the night first with perhaps my favourite off the new album, "When You See My Blood", another song that starts off slow and erupts into a chaotic ending, and the ending the night off on the heartbreaking "So Easily".

Be it with a band or performing solo, I've seen Kathryn multiple times at various points, and it is always enjoyable seeing her perform live. And I am really enjoying the new album, as well. Add Louise Burns to the mix, and it was a great night of tunes.

Slip Away; Turn A Light On; Take A Little Time; Blue Skies; New Frame of Mind; Beach; My Armour; One, Two, Three; Song In Cm; City of Sounds; If You Only Knew; Arm in Arm; When You See My Blood; So Easily.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Neko Case @ Vogue Theatre -- 04/15/15

About a year and a half after the last time she was here, Neko Case kicking off a spring tour in Vancouver, returning to the Vogue Theatre.

Due to a bit of a slow moving line outside the Vogue, I got in the theatre a few songs into the opener, Alialujah Choir. I immediately -- and correctly -- guessed that the sharp-dressed, six piece band was from Portland; their rich, folk-rock sounds, bolstered by a whole compliment of instruments ranging from keys to stand up bass to slide guitar. They even utilized a theremin for a small section on of the the standout songs, "Hell of a Trick". Frontman (more or less) Adam Shearer chatted between songs, quick with stories about a song, their hometown, or crossing the border (and mentioned they even had their own coffee at the merch table).
After a couple songs they ended their set off microphone, each member standing in a row at the very front of the stage for a completely unamplified song, even though they were battling with the chatter filtering in from the lobby. They put on a really enjoyable set, and I wouldn't be surprised if they won over more than a few new fans that night.

After a little bit of My Morning Jacket between sets (the person responsible for the between-set-music just put on their album Evil Urges and I was more than okay with that) Neko Case came out and immediately sent chills throughout the sold-out theatre with her unparalleled voice. She opened with the almost entirely a capella "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu", joined on backup vocals by Kelly Hogan, the first show back with Case since touring with The Decemberists, apparently.

From there, the whole band burst forth on the intense "Bracing for Sunday" as the show went on to spotlight Case's entire career, going all the way back to her debut album Blacklisted, and showcasing her range from the slowed down alt-country jams of songs like "The Pharaohs" to the more rocking and fiery "Man", and everywhere in between. Other highlights included the aptly-named, frantically swirling "This Tornado Loves You", the heartbreaking "Margaret vs. Pauline", and one of my favourite Neko tunes, "Hold On, Hold On".

Aside from the vast amount of musical talent on stage, the other great part of seeing Neko Case live is her banter; amusing one-offs between songs, like why one tambourine is better than the other, but especially the back and forth between her and Hogan, who definitely share the same (sometimes sick) sense of humour.

After over an hour of music, Neko & the band wrapped up the night with a few older songs in the encore, "Outro With Bees" and "I Wish I Was the Moon", before sending everyone off perfectly with "Ragtime", the final song off the latest album The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You.

Be it on her own, or with The New Pornographers, it is always a pleasure seeing Neko Case play live, and this show was no different.

Nearly Midnight, Honolulu; Bracing for Sunday; Where Did I Leave That Fire; This Tornado Loves You; That Teenage Feeling; If You Knew; Local Girl; Nothing To Remember; Margaret vs. Pauline; City Swans; The Pharaohs; The Tigers Have Spoken; Hex; Deep Red Bells; Red Tide; Wild Creatures; Calling Cards; Hold On, Hold On; Night Still Comes; Man.
(encore) Outro With Bees; I Wish I Was the Moon; Ragtime.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

3am Mixtapes: Episode Seventy Four: "Just a Podcast"

Each week on the 3am Mixtapes podcast, I will share with you the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general as best Toronto bands. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Mondegreens.

This week I spent more time watching Daredevil on Netflix than I did podcast planning, so for the first time ever there is no theme! It's just a few songs that I am really digging at the moment, the Top Six Songs of the Right Now!

Check out:

"Let's All Stay In Tonight" by Blimp Rock
"A Monday in May" by The Wild Romantics
"Pretend" by Gina Loes
"Apocalypse" by Moon King
"Position Open" by Limblifter
"Miniskirt" by Braids

Any questions or comments or waffles or criticisms or suggestions for future themes are welcome!

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Whitehorse @ Commodore -- 04/09/15

You know the story by now: Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland were both making music on their own, occasionally touring together, both even backing up Sarah McLachlan, when at some point the married couple wondered why they were doing it separately, instead of together. They formed Whitehorse in 2011, and the rest was history.
Now on the heels of their third album, Leave No Bridge Unburned, they returned to Vancouver's legendary Commodore Ballroom.

Unfortunately I missed the supporting act, Noah Gundersen, arriving at the venue mere moments before Whitehorse took the stage.

The setup was that of a full band; drum kit, keys, a large bass drum, old phone receivers fixed up as microphones, all in front of a stylized light-up "W". But it was only Luke and Melissa on stage, as they masterfully looped their songs on their own. They would often start with Luke on the drums and Melissa on keys, building layer upon layer of the song before strapping on the guitars (they both switched off between guitar & bass) to let loose with weapons like Melissa's powerful voice and Luke's phenomenal guitar chops.

Not every song was looped, though, a few of the slower songs were just the two on guitar, their great voices intertwining into great harmonies. And it was obvious the chemistry the two of them had; a frequent question I see interviewers ask the band is, "Is it hard for a married couple to tour & be together so often", but just one look at them on stage answers that question. The way they looked at each other, even the way they shared the microphone perched at the very front of the stage, told you all you needed to know.

Songs ranged from the gnarled guitars of "Baby What's Wrong" to the sultry "Tame as the Wild Ones" to the heartbreaking "Broken", a pre-Whitehorse song from Luke's oeuvre. A couple highlights of the set included "Devil's Got a Gun", with its instantly recognisable riff as the song built to a huge finale with an outstanding drum breakdown, and an older song from Melissa's solo career, "Passenger 24", which started with McClelland at the front of the stage, her voice driving the dark song before Doucet burst in with the drums, and then tore it up on his Gretsch White Falcon. He even slipped in a little bit of the James Bond theme into the mix -- perhaps a nod to the common (and correct) opinion that the band would be perfect to record a song for a Bond movie.

The main set came to a close with their current single, a driving, anthemic song "Downtown" before coming back out for a couple more; "Jane" from their album with one of my favourite titles The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss and finally wrapping up with a Tom Waits cover, "Gun Street Girls", giving one last showcase of their looping.

The first time I saw Whitehorse, a little over two years ago at the Commodore, I had no idea what I was in store for. And this show blew that one away. I have said many times before on this very blog that I love watching looping artists, especially ones this good, and combined with their raw talent and clear passion they have towards each other and the music, it makes for a show that will be tough to top.

You Get Older, Baby What's Wrong, No Glamour in the Hammer, Boss Man, Broken, Emerald Isle, Tame as the Wild Ones, The One I Hurt, Sweet Disaster, Achilles' Desire, Fake Your Death (And I'll Fake Mine), Devil's Got a Gun, Passenger 24, Downtown. 
(encore) Jane, Gun Street Girl [Tom Waits cover].

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

3am Mixtapes: Episode Seventy Three: Searchlight (with Chersea)

Each week on the 3am Mixtapes podcast, I will share with you the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general as best Australian bands. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Bands with a Fiddle. 

This week I have a special guest cohost, Chersea, who is a part of this year's CBC Searchlight competition, and so we chatted about our Top Six CBC Searchlight Songs!

***Even thought Chersea is in Searchlight, and I & this blog have a history with CBC & Searchlight, this particular podcast is not affiliated with the CBC in any way and the opinions expressed therein are solely the property of 3am Revelations Inc. (unless you want them to, CBC, then call me)***

Shine the spotlight on:

Never Wanna Go Back by The Weakness (vote for them here)
Lose Control by Catlow (vote for them here)
It Goes Around (Psilocybin) by Conroy Ross (vote for him here)
Salty Dog by The Vaudevillian (vote for them here)
Slow Virgil by Hash Jesus (vote for them here)
The Wolf by Chersea (vote for her here)

Any questions or comments or waffles or criticisms or suggestions for future themes are welcome!

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Bear Mountain @ Celebrities -- 04/04/15

I am going to be honest here: I am not an electronic music guy. Of course, there are a few bands in the genre I like, but overall? Not really my thing. So I never thought I would be partaking in the 2015 Seasons Festival, an electronic music fest with headliners like Diplo and Eric Prydz.
But then I spotted a Bear Mountain show as part of the fest, and with their blend of electro, pop, and indie, they would definitely get me to Celebrities (perhaps the only venue in Vancouver I still had yet to see a show at).

Another plus was the opening act, Chersea. She explored a bit more of the "electronic" side of her electro-alt-pop sound for the festival. She still had the same bubbly energy and soaring vocals, they were just a little more 'robotic' than usual, with synthesizers and drum beats and at least one bass drop in the set.
Most of the set was newer songs, as she looped a myriad of instruments from keys to drum pad to synth and even a trumpet, and even the one familiar tune, "Requiem" off her Grey Matter EP, was punched up for the growing crowd to dance.
She ended her short opening set with another new song and a bit of participation, getting the audience in on the looping action, holding the microphone out to the growing crowd to record and loop their clapping along, which was pretty cool.

Next up was Sabota, featuring one half of Humans Robbie Slade and Max Ulis. The duo's set was a lot more what you would expect from an electronic festival, with both guys standing behind a table of equipment and Robbie providing live vocals. It was more definitely more of a house music sound, and thus not really my speed... but they had a full dance floor moving for the set, so even though it was not to my tastes, they were clearly doing a good job.

And not long after -- the show was tightly scheduled so Celebrities could kick everyone out at 11 -- Bear Mountain took the stage. One of the thing that always impresses me of their shows is the visuals, as Kenji Rodriguez does these live on stage (as well as playing the keytar). So you get a really cool and dynamic show, different every time. Images projected on large triangles behind them, with a giant LED 'BMTN' looming over the stage, and even the house lights part of the show. At one point the stage went dark for sparse white lights to twinkle overhead, giving it a stellar feel.

They kicked off the set with the familiar "Congo" getting the sold out club jumping, and bursts of confetti came early and often, as lead singer Ian Bevis frequently asked if the crowd was ready right before songs burst forth into giant hooks. The first half of the set mostly featured older songs, like the ridiculously and insanely catchy "Faded" before they teased some new material. Bevis announced their new album was finally, after two years, done. Mastered and everything. Which sounded even more punchy and dancey.

And I'm not sure if it was by design, to mimic the feel of a DJ for the electronic festival, but there were hardly any breaks between the songs; they transitioned from one to the next flawlessly. After nearly an hour, the band brought the main set to an end with an explosive song (I think it was "Swim") before coming back out for one more, "Two Step", a the bouncy and uplifting genre-bending song to cap off the night.

Since seeing them for the first time a few years ago, rocketing along Canada on a train as part of Tracks on Tracks, Bear Mountain has continually impressed me with their live shows. This night was no different, and I can't wait to hear the new album.