Tuesday, September 16, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Fifty Three: Upcoming Albums

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 like best of 2006. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Bands Named Someone and the Somethings.

This week is a pretty straightforward list. Now that we're out of the summer drought, a lot of great music will be coming out in the next little while, so I figured I'd take a listen at some things I am really excited or intrigued by. It's the Top Six Upcoming Albums!

Get excited for:

"My Favourite Faded Fantasy" by Damien Rice
"Make Make" by WIL
"Happy Idiot" by TV On The Radio
"Kintsukuroi" by Hey Rosetta!
"From the Night" by Stars
"PSI" by Lydia Ainsworth



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



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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Zeus @ Electric Owl -- 09/13/14

The very first time I saw Toronto's Zeus, they were opening for Jason Collett (as well as acting as his backing band) at Richard's on Richards, and played to about 10 people. It was an early show that no one knew was early, so they got shafted. Luckily I've seen them more than a couple times in the six years, and three albums later, they are playing to packed venues like the Electric Owl.


Toronto's The Elwins opened up the show, with their upbeat and bouncy indie-pop songs. The sound wasn't great for them at the beginning of the set, which I think really hurt -- their precision pop and harmonized vocals lose a lot with poor sound quality -- but it evened out a little as the set went on, and the crowd slowly migrated towards the stage, pulled in by the band's exuberance.

They teased the crowd with some new songs, as well as songs off And I Thank You, highlights including the ridiculous catchy "Stuck In The Middle" and a cover of Beyonce's "Countdown", which they put their own spin on and had the crowd counting down along with them. The wasn't the last crowd participation, though, as for "Forgetful Assistance" the mustachioed guitar/keyboardist Feurd Moore conducted the crowd to clap along, and even hopped off the stage among the people at the front, hugging a few, and handing off the tambourine before taking place.

It was a really fun set, and hopefully next time they're back, the sound will be better.


And then, making their return to their Canadian home soil, after a few days in the USA (or "ew-sa", as they said) was the mighty Zeus. With Rob Drake on drums, Carlin Nicholson, Mike O'Brien, and Neil Quin all cycled through guitars and bass and keys, taking lead vocals for different songs, as well as providing perfect harmonies. They were also joined by the newest member of Zeus, Jason Haberman (not Collett as some places have been reporting, and they were quick to point out) previously of Yukon Blonde, on various instruments.

Right away they launched into "Bonnieview" from the new album Classic Zeus, and as soon as they started, their talents burst through. Each member is an amazing musicians with a great presence, and they were blown away by the crowd's reaction to them, which just fuelled their passion even more.

From the hip shaking groove of "Love/Pain", to the explosive rocking and beautiful harmonies of "The Renegade", to the softer and heartbreaking "One Line Written In" and everything in between, the hour-plus set ran through all three of their albums pretty equally. The energetic crowd also joining in, clapping along and singing the ooo-aah-ooo's of  "Strong Mind" before the band brought the set to an end with "27 is the New 17", Rob Drake coming out from behind the drums for the first time and picking up a guitar, for Carlin to take his place, before chants of "ZEUS! ZEUS!" brought them back out for a couple more.

Any remaining faces left unmelted were taken care of with an absolutely incendiary and rocking "You Gotta Teller" -- definitely the best song of the set -- before the capped off the night with and a bit of a rarity, the title track to the Hot Under The Collar 7".

It's always amazing watching them play. Each member has the songwriting and musical chops -- as well as on-stage presence -- to be a fantastic frontman of their own band, and with their powers combined, they are a band unparalleled.

setlist
Bonnieview, Heavy On Me, I Know, Love/Pain, The Renegade, Anything You Want Dear, You Could Have A Lover, Are You Gonna Waste My Time?, First One In, One Line Written In, I Miss My Friends, Strong Mind, 27 Is The New 17.
(encore) You Gotta Teller, Hot Under the Collar. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kandle @ Biltmore -- 09/11/14

One of my favourite albums so far this year, as well as one of my favourite new discoveries, has been Kandle. So when it was time for the Victoria native, who not lives in Montreal, Kandle Osborne (yes, daughter of that musical Osborne) to hit Vancouver on her way to the Rifflandia festival, I wouldn't be missing it.


Opening the night was The Franklin Electric, the first time in Vancouver for the Montreal folk-pop band. Great harmonies and a trumpet to flesh out their sound, they put on a fun set, though I'm not sure it's anything I'd go out of my way to listen to, and it did drag on a little. They played for 45 minutes (which seems long for the first of three bands) and had a few too many of their slower songs in the latter half. They even had a big finale that grew to a grand climax, which would have been the perfect ending, but decided to play one more low energy song.


Louise Burns was up next, with her backing band dubbed The Victims, which included Jody Glenham and members of Ladyhawk. The stage was barely lit, the dark mood matching her dark pop as she opened with "Emeralds Shatter" from her latest album, The Midnight Mass. Burns had a great presence on stage -- it was clear she had been performing since a young age, as part of Lillix -- and her strong voice drove the set. Highlights including "Ruby", which manages to be both catchy and a little depressing, and the gorgeous "Heaven", which ended the set. I hadn't seen Louise play her own set in a few years, only shows with her other band Gold & Youth, so it was great to finally see her play again.


And finally, at just about midnight(!) it was time for Kandle. Her backing band, The Krooks took the stage first, playing the Bond theme as Kandle Osborne strutted out. The Krooks were pretty all-star, including ex-members of Broken Social Scene, The Dears, and even Tim Fletcher of The Stills (which made my night, as The Stills were one of my favourites), and Kandle herself oozed sultry charm and charisma on stage, occasionally chatting with the crowd, thankful that there was more than the three people they had played to in Kamloops the night before.

They opened the set with "So Bad", the first track from this year's In Flames, and the set focused mostly on that album, with a few off her self-titled, as well as a couple brand new songs. She introduced one new one called "Won't Do That Again" as her "Disney Villain song", and I didn't catch the name of another about sleeping with your boss, but both were fantastic with the latter built to a powerfully emotional ending, her incredible voice on the forefront. It's a powerful and beautiful voice that was juxtaposed with the dark, blues-rock, but the mix of the two works perfectly.

She wrapped up the set with my favourite of hers, the driving and badass "Demon", which ended set with a bang. She even invited a gentleman dressed as Satan -- waxed up hair into horns, whole head painted red, and everything -- onto stage to dance. She didn't bother with the whole "faux encore", which was great since that was the perfect ending (and it was pushing 1am on a Thursday).


setlist
So Bad, Oh Great, Not Listening, Baby, Small, Control Me, Winter, Know My Name, Won't Do That Again, Not Up To Me, [Boss], Demon.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Owen Pallett @ Imperial -- 09/09/14

A little over four years. That's how long it had been since the last time I saw Owen Pallett play live. Since then he's been a little busy; scoring films, getting nominated for awards, and working with a little band that you may have heard of called Arcade Fire. And, of course, working on his brand new album, In Conflict.

I got to the venue just after the first band, Foxes in Fiction, had started. Normally one of those 'single-guy-with-a-band-name' acts, Warren Hildebrand (guitar and vocals) was joined by Emily Reo on keyboards, sampler, omnichord, looping pedals, backup vocals as well as Owen Pallett himself for most of the set, on violin.
They had a very lofty and shoegaze-y sound, with something about their songs sounding almost comforting, like a musical hug.
I really enjoyed the set, and I am going to have to check out their upcoming album, Ontario Gothic, which comes out later this month.


Next up was Avi Buffalo. In contrast to Foxes in Fiction, they were a 'person's-name-but-actually-a-band" act, a four-piece from Long Beach, California. They were a little more indie-sounding, with a hint of twee-pop, definitely influenced by the early-mid 00s and bands like The Shins. Lead singer Avi Zahner-Isenberg's vocals often raising into a falsetto -- which sometimes didn't quite work out so well.
Early on in the set, they had to come to a screeching halt mid-song for Avi to fix his guitar, and the quick-thinking keyboardist started noodling, playing some music from Zelda to quash the potentially awkward silence. But that aside, the sound of the band was strong, but in the end, it didn't really feel like a cohesive set; Avi even apologised for the technical difficulties when they left the stage, so I think I may have just caught them on an off-night.


It wasn't long after that Owen Pallett took the stage alone with his violin. He launched right into "That's When The Audience Died", which is almost what happened watching him carve away with his bow, or watching his frantic fingers pluck away at the strings, all while masterfully looping everything with his amazing voice soaring over everything. Pallett added some keys and even percussion -- by thumping the violin with his thumb -- for a few songs, including one of my favourites off the He Poos Clouds album "Song Song Song", before he was joined by his rhythm section, Rob Gordon and Matt Smith on drums and bass, respectively. They made for a fuller sound, but the focus was still very much on Owen and his looping.

Pallett was also in good spirits, chatting with the crowd a little between songs, and even at one point asking if anyone had questions (which he may have instantly regretted when a guy in the front row started rambling, likely inebriated). He introduced songs with a hint of self-awareness, calling "The Passions" kind of a downer, or admitting that he had been screwing up "Scandal at the Parkade" lately, before flubbing a loop, which just added to the comfort of his set.

Other highlights included the soaring "Tryst With Mephistopheles", the gorgeous ode to his Arcade Fire bandmates, "This Is the Dream of Win & Regine", and the absolutely intense "The Riverbed" -- a song that has quickly become one my favourites of his -- which ended the main set.
But of course, he was back for a few more; another favourite, the frantic "Many Lives → 49 MP" before ending with a pair from his last album Heartland, " Lewis Takes Action" and "Lewis Takes Off His Shirt"

It was a very good audience, too. Lots of cheers and recognition applause from the sold out crowd, but respectfully silent while he was playing. That, combined the great sound in the Imperial, made for a show that won't soon be forgotten.
Now, hopefully it's not another four years til next time.

setlist
That's When The Audience Died, The Arctic Circle, Song for 5 & 6, The Passions, Song Song Song, Midnight Directives, Keep the Dog Quiet, Soldiers Rock, Tryst With Mephistopheles, The Secret Seven, The Great Elsewhere, Infernal Fantasy, This Is the Dream of Win & Regine, Scandal at the Parkade, The Riverbed.
(encore) Many Lives -> 49 MP, Lewis Takes Action, Lewis Takes Off His Shirt

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Fifty Two: Whistling

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 like best winter songs. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Musical Mysteries.

This week is the Top Six Whistling Songs! I don't know what it is about whistling that can take a decent-enough song and turn it into an earworm that will burrow into your head and leave little earworm eggs until your entire brain is overtaken by the song... but it is a thing that can happen. And does. So why not just sit back and let it happen!

Whistle along to:

"Danse Caribe" by Andrew Bird
"Feedback in the Field" by Plants & Animals
"Dick & Jane" by Sidney York
"Young Folk" by Peter Bjorn & John
"Drink To Me Babe, Then" by AC Newman
"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" by Monty Python


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



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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Reggie Watts @ Vogue Theatre -- 09/04/14

Every so often, my love of music and my love of comedy dovetail perfectly, and the co-host and "house band" on Comedy Bang! Bang!, Reggie Watts, is one of the best examples. He played a sold-out show at the Vogue (or "The Vag" as he pronounced it) this week, with his perfect blend of humour and song.

Taking the stage with an outrageous, Cosbian sweater, Watts starting off with some standup. Or his version of it. While it's tough to review comedy (since it is arguably even more subjective than music) Watts' style of humour is right up my alley. Dry and absurd, taking strange twists and turns in his narratives, or playing ridiculous characters & concepts completely straight, his comedy rambles along at a good clip. He covered everything from Canada's (fictional) history to (fictional) upcoming shows at the Vogue. I've seen Watts a few times now and I am still not sure if he has "material" or if everything is just off the top of his head (along with that glorious hair of his). He even pushed the envelope with a couple jokes that had half the crowd howling, half the crowd nervously stiff.

But where Watts really impresses is his musical talents. Too often I've seen comedians use music as a crutch, not really that good at either, but that is certainly not the case with Watts. He had a table with a loop station on one side of the stage, and a keyboard on the other.

They keys were used only briefly, and even then the first song it wasn't even on while he played dramatically. The second showcased perfectly Watts' improvisation, as half way through the song someone near the front ran off to the washroom, and Watts incorporated that, spinning the song into that direction.

But it was his beatboxing and looping that really had the crowd eating right out of his plastic fork hand. With sparse bass and synth from his sampler, and the occasional tweaking of knobs to change the pitch, distort, or pan the sound from one side of the theatre to the other, all of that was just to backup and enhance his looped beatboxing. Using it either as the main focus of the song, or as the backing to then sing (or rap) over them with stream-of-consciousness rhymes -- or even just incomprehensible syllables and noises. It had the crowd mesmerised and by the end of the night, the front of the stage filled with people dancing.

There's an old theory/joke that all comedians wish they were musicians, and all musicians wish they were comedians. I have no idea what Reggie Watts wishes he was, because he excels at both.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Summer Send-Off @ Sun Peaks Resort -- 08/30-31/14

I thought I was going to go the whole summer without any music-based road trips, but when Sun Peaks announced their Summer Send-Off weekend, headlined by Arkells and Eliott BROOD, and also including Hey Ocean!, I knew it couldn't be missed. Hopping in the car with Christine of Vancouver Is Awesome , we headed up to the resort just north of Kamloops for a weekend of music in the mountains.
(and also off-road segwaying)

The first night the music started with Coloured Sky who I unfortunate missed due to rain, but JUST as Arkells hit the stage, the rain stopped and the sun peeked through the clouds.
Starting off with the first song from their new album High Noon, "Fake Money", and as soon as the song was done, lead singer Max Kerman -- always looking out for the fans -- urged everyone to rush the stage and fill the sparse VIP area at the front of the stage.

I've seen Arkells live more than a half-dozen times and they never fail to impress. Aside from guitarist Nick Dika having some small technical issues (faulty outlet, fixed by switching power supplies) they band was firing on all cylinders. Especially Max, one of the most charismatic frontmen that Canada has to offer; always moving around the stage, interacting with the crowd, sometimes even at a one-to-one level, and rarely without a giant grin on his face.

The set spanned their three albums, but also included a few of their usual covers of the Motown variety (as a "request by some friends from Vancouver") A cover of "My Girl" in the main set, and then "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" in the encore; with Max down on his knees at the front of the stage getting the crowd to sing along with the impassioned apology, "I've done a lot of foolish things / That I really didn't mean"
Other highlights of the set included more singing (or yelling) along with "Oh, The Boss is Coming", the beautiful slow burning build of "Never Thought That This Would Happen", and Anthony Carone's badass piano solo during "Puling Punches"
After a little over an hour, they ended the evening with a song that is still my favourite of theirs, "John Lennon", which even included a little bit of Iggy Izalea's "Fancy" snuck into the chorus for good measure.



The second afternoon of music on the main stage started with Hey Ocean! as they hit the stage with "If I Were A Ship", from their most recent album IS. The Vancouver band always puts on a fun and energetic live show, and even their self-admitted relaxing dip in the hot tub right before the set didn't slow them down. Lead singer Ashleigh Ball is a, well, ball of energy, dancing around stage and singing sometimes directly to the young fans in the front row.

Both Davids took over lead vocals for a song each, guitarist Beckingham for "Islands", and the low baritone of Vertesi on bass for one of my favourites off the new album, "Jolene". They also played a couple of covers in the middle of their set, first Price's "I Wanna Be Your Lover" and the slightly more PG "Be My Baby" for the all ages, late afternoon crowd.
After a couple more songs, including a new one called "Sleepwalker", they brought the set to an energetic close with the pairing of "Big Blue Wave" and "Make A New Dance Up", the latter culminating with a dance party and a giant drum breakdown, every member surrounding Johnny Andrews on the drum kit, before Ashleigh ended with a slide whistle solo (yup).

Rumour has it this may have been their last show for a while, and if that's true, then they certainly out with a bang.


And to round out the music for the weekend was Elliott BROOD, who were in Newfoundland not 24 hours earlier for the Harbourage Music Festival. But after a long day of travel they made it up to the mountains and hit the stage, clad entirely in white.

All three members were very loose, telling stories and joking around with the crowd, and letting the set flow off-the-cuff. They opened with what I think was a new song from their upcoming album Work and Love, before an hour-plus set that spanned their entire ten years.

From the older singalongs like "Oh Alberta" to the intense instrumental "Chuckwagon" and even the slower & softer "Northern Air", everything was punctuated by their amazing energy and passion; Steve's incredibly tight drumming, Mark switching seamlessly between guitar and banjo and ukulele, Casey playing the bass pedals with his feet while simultaneously playing guitar. Their self-described "death country" sound proved that "banjo" doesn't have to be a dirty word.

The main set culminated with the explosive and infectious "Write It All Down For You", the crowd clapping and "Hey! Hey! Hey!"-ing along, before they took a request from the crowd for a song that they rarely play live, "Twill", which broke down into a psychedelic jam with Casey down on the stage coaxing his guitar that left the band -- and the audience -- spent.

But of course they couldn't end there, and were back out for one more: the perfect song to wrap up any show, "Miss You Now", with the remaining crowd gathered and some final singing along to the beautiful tune.

In all, it was a pretty great weekend of music in a gorgeous setting. I don't think I will ever tire of seeing Arkells play live, Elliott BROOD was as good as ever, and Hey Ocean! always put on a fun show. And even though the Labour Day Weekend weather wasn't as cooperative as it could have been the whole weekend, the rain was nice enough to hold off almost entirely in the late afternoon/early evenings while the music was going.
If next year's Summer Send-Off is comparable, I would definitely be interested in heading up again.

Arkells setlist
Fake Money, Come To Light, The Ballad of Hugo Chavez, Michigan Left, 11:11, Oh The Bos is Coming, Pulling Punches, Kiss Cam, Never Thought That This Would Happen, Dirty Blonde, On Paper, My Girl [The Temptations cover] Leather Jacket, Cynical Bastard, Whistleblower.
(encore) Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours [Stevie Wonder cover], John Lennon.

Hey Ocean! setlist
If I Were A Ship, I Am A Heart, New Love, Islands, Jolene, A Song About California, I Wanna Be Your Lover [Prince cover], Be My Baby [The Ronettes cover], Change, Sleepwalking, Liar, Maps, Steady, Big Blue Wave, Make A New Dance Up.

Elliott BROOD setlist
[new song?], Oh Alberta, Without Again, Second Son, Wolfgang, Northern Air, Johnny Rooke, Chuckwagon, The Bridge, If I Get Old, [new song], Lindsay, Old Dan Tucker [traditional], The Banjo Song, The Valley Town, Write It All Down For You, Twill.
(encore) Miss You Now