Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dan Mangan @ The Cultch -- 08/29/09

I'm not gonna lie, Dan Mangan had quite the pedigree to live up to. I have only seen two shows previously at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre (which has been newly renovated and renamed "The Cultch".... seriously) and they were Wil, who is always phenomenal live, and a Matthew Good solo acoustic show, which is still one of my favourite shows of all time ever.
Saturday was night two of his sold out two-night stint at "The Cultch", for his CD release party. I had picked the the second night for a specific reason, that being the opening band. Heck, even they had a little to live up to, as the previous opening bands have been Leeroy Stagger and Melissa McClelland (respectively). But enough about other artists and past shows.

I had heard a couple MeatDraw songs on CBC Radio 3 in the past and was interested enough to want to see them live, so finding out they were opening the show was cool. Their set started with a single member on stage, with her ukulele, looking at first a little confused as she stood in silence for a minute or two. Then some faint stomping/clapping sounds were accompanied by bells and an accordion as the other five members entered from a door at the rear of the room and made their way up to launch into the music. Their sound was a kind of a... cheerful-indie-folk-pop-gospel sound, with the aforementioned ukulele and accordion, as well as a trumpet and even a saw(!) and, for one song, a length of chain in a tin can(!!) to fill out their sound. There was a palpable enthusiasm behind the band; you could really tell they were enjoying the hell out of playing, and that sense of joy transferred excellently into their live set. The only sad part, though, was it was the last gig for one of their members. But despite that, they put on one hell of a show, and any other night, they may have even stole the show, nearly getting a standing ovation from the crowd. I managed to pick up their new album there and can't wait until they are back for a show of their own.

MeatDraw, as I said, would have stolen the show... had it not been for Dan Mangan. I admit, going into the show I was only a partial fan of Dan Mangan. I had heard the songs on the radios, R3 and The Peak and streamed the album from his website, which I rather enjoyed. But the decision to go to the show was kind of spontaneous. Now, however, I am ever so glad I randomly decided to go. He hit the stage and started out with his four-piece band, but that fluctuated anywhere from 13 members, with a full compliment of strings and horns, to one, Dan Mangan alone, with his folksy brand of indie rock. He started off the night with Road Regrets, and a few other songs from the new album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice. Mid-way through, he started in on The Indie Queens Are Waiting, then abruptly stopped halfway through, saying he would only play 50% of the song as a sort of protest to the ridiculous slashing of the arts budget BC recently passed. A couple songs later, in the middle of Fair Verona, he introduced to the stage his friend, poet Shane Koyczan who recited a poem in the middle of the song, which was a really neat. He finished the main set with Robots (complete with a little mistake, jumping the gun part way through the song), which ended in a massive sing along and Mangan even going into the crowd to lead everyone.
The encore consisted of a song from his Roboteering EP, Tragic Turn of Events/Move Pen Move, which wove another Koyczan poem into Mangan's song, and was absolutely heartbreaking. He ended the night by getting everyone back on stage, even members of MeatDraw and some random musician friends from the crowd for a giant group version of an older song rejiggered, So Much For Everyone.
But even that wasn't enough for the sold out house, as the crowd urged him back out for one more, a newer (and pun-tastic) song, Daffodil.
His stage manner reminded me, in some ways, of Joel Plaskett. His effortless banter with the crowd, adding a couple jokes and things in mid-song, the raw emotion he puts into his songs, and the genuine appreciation and love of the crowd that made him seem like an incredibly nice guy. I will certainly not be surprised by the great things that are bound to come his way.

Did MeatDraw, Dan Mangan, and the show overall live up to the previous shows I mentioned? Yes, absolutely it did, and while I was only minor fans of either band before the night, they both won me over in a big way.

I was able to keep track of the setlist, which is as follows:
Road Regrets, Sold, You Silly Git, Pine For Cedars, Journal of a Narcoleptic, The Indie Queens Are Waiting (50%, budget slash), El Les Mots Croisés, Fair Verona (w/ Shane Koyczan poem), Some People, Basket, Robots.
(encore) Tragic Turn Of Events / Move Pen Move (w/ Shane Koyczan), So Much For Everyone (w/ everyone).
(encore2) Daffodil.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Fathers" by Black Hat Brigade

Wolf Parade. It seems that everyone that talks about the new Black Hat Brigade album is legally required to make one reference to that band, so that is the first and last time I will mention that name. The comparison is not completely out there, since there are indeed some similarities, especially in some of the vocal stylings... but BHB is more than a ripoff band. Much more.
"Fathers" is billed as an EP, and while it is only seven songs -- eight, if you could the separate-track reprise of the last song, Vera -- it clocks in at about 32 minutes; almost as long as some other full length releases I have picked up recently. And those 32 minutes are packed with some of the best and most unique music I have heard so far this year.

From the opening track, the anthemic Kitchen Party, you get a sense of the awesomeness to come, and then the first single, Zombie City Shakes, just blows the listener away. Catchy as hell, with a spooky theremin (or theremin-sounding device) dropped in, this song alone is what prompted me to pick up the album. "Fathers" is a short piece, almost an interlude before the epic Signal Fire, which has a Maritime-y, evil-sea-shanty vibe and goes from calm to chaotic at the drop of a (high) hat. Castlevania is my favourite off the album and, as you might guess from the name, features some brilliant 8-bit-esque sounds that seem ripped straight from a haunted castle level in Super Mario with vocals added on. It's a song that easily could have sounded ridiculous, in the hands of a lesser band, but they not only pull it off, they make it superb. From this point, with Lost Boys, the album slows down a bit with the last two songs, showcasing the bands softer side and giving them even more depth. Finally, the captivating duelling vocals on Vera build the song to a climax and leads into the albums final track, Vera (reprise), which is soft and piano based, and turns out to be a perfect epilogue for the whole album.

Behind the incredibly catchy -- and insanely dancible -- melodies and hooks, however, are dark (and sometimes even gruesome) lyrics. The songs are deep and layered, both musically and lyrically, and finds the perfect balance and shows you don't have to be simplistic to be catchy, or pretentious to be complex. There is more substance to this 32 minute EP than albums I have heard from albums twice as long.
Forget calling this my favourite EP of the year, there is a very good chance of it being one of my favourite albums overall.

download Signal Fire

Download Castlevania

Clicky to exchange monies for music

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I only love you for your car.

I was going to write a review today, but had bloggers block... so hopefully tomorrow.
In the meantime, allow me to share a video! Immaculate Machine has always had some nifty videos, but the latest one for Only Love You For Your Car takes the proverbial (nonfictional) cake. Bask in the awesomeness:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

random top six

Time for another Random Top 6 list! Here's the deal: every week whenever I feel like it, I will choose a random category and select the top 6 songs fitting that criteria. Today I have chosen cover songs. It was hard to slim it down to just six, as there are a ton of great cover songs out there, and I'm not saying these are the six best of all time ever... but here is the Top 6 Cover Songs of the Time Being. Even though not all of them are new. I just pretty much chose six nifty ones that people may not have heard. Everyone knows Johnny Cash's Hurt is the best cover ever anyway. And before we get into it, if anyone has suggestions to future top six lists, let me know. I'm all ears.
Oh, and also, some of these are live, so may not have the best quality. But all are completely listenable. I have also included links to youtubes of the originals.

Top six cover songs
in no particular order

download Your Ex-Lover Is Dead by Ben Gibbard (Stars cover)

download You Can Call Me Al by Sam Roberts (Paul Simon cover)

download Take On Me by A.C. Newman (A-Ha cover)

download Power of Love by Final Fantasy (Celine Dion cover)

download Dirrty-licious by Keane (Christina Aguilera + Destiny's Child cover[s])

download Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots by Vyvienne Long (The Flaming Lips cover)

Friday, August 14, 2009


What's that? You want some more streaming goodness? Well, okay!
The new album from Two Hours Traffic, entitled Territory, is due out Sept 8, but if you can't wait that long, the band has put every track streaming on their website!

Check it out here -- down a little on the right.

Territory is the follow up to the polaris prize nominated Little Jabs and is produced by the same person, who you may have heard of... Joel Plaskett!

I have yet to listen for myself... still debating on just waiting for the physical release, or breaking down and listening now, but if the first single is any indication, it's going to be a hell of an album.

Download Territory

Last Parade

It should be no surprise to anyone that knows me when I say Matthew Good is my favourite musician. This morning on his website, he has started streaming the first single from the upcoming album.
I instantly fell in love with it, but I admit I may have somewhat of a teeny bias, so check it out for yourself.
Listen to Last Parade, the new single from Matthew Good's upcoming album, Vancouver out October 6.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Battles On by The Ghost is Dancing

One of my favourite things in music is to be surprised. Be it an opening band, a song on the radio, or a spontaneously bought CD, few things can match that feeling of surprise or discovery. I mention this because not too long ago I was listening to CBC Radio 3 and a song came on by a band I hadn't heard of before, The Ghost Is Dancing. The song was their single, Battles On, and I was immediately taken by it; so much so that I decided, on the strength of that one song, to pick up their album of the same name. After a bit of a kerfuffle -- the Sonic Unyon website didn't have it for sale, despite being released... then the email I sent the support was undeliverable... so I e-mailed the band directly, and fine folks they are got it sorted out from their end and I was able to purchase one -- I got my grubby little paws on the album, and wow. Just wow. It would be easy to liken this six piece from Toronto to bands like Arcade Fire or Hey Rosetta!, perhaps... and while they may have a similar grandiose sound to them, that is not an apt comparison at all. The Ghost is Dancing has a unique sound of their own.

From the instant the album opens with Dream of a Failed Architect, you're drawn in by their lush and rich sound and insanely catchy hooks. It is a perfect opening song and tells you exactly what is to come in the next 48 minutes. The energy doesn't relent for Battles On, the aforementioned first single and song that initially won me over. Both songs start out powerful then do nothing but build to a climactic finish. In fact, that is a trait that many songs on the album share. Rogues & Heroes brings things down a notch, starting calm and peaceful before exploding with soaring guitars and anthemic horns, which leads perfectly into This Thunder & Stick Together, another pair of songs that start out modest then climb to great heights.
The next track, Louis Riel, one of my favourites from the album, sees singers Jamie Matechuk and Lesley Davies harmonizing perfectly with calm verses and launching into epic choruses, in a song that almost leaves you breathless. (Besides, who doesn't love songs referencing historic Canadian figures?) The piano driven Strange Times gives you a much needed rest, and is a song I can't help but call Sigur Rós-ian in its beauty. Battles Off is, as you might expect from the title, a nice companion to Battles On and Was A Universe provides the proverbial calm before the storm.
The storm being Flashing Pictures; with a musical ebb and flow, it exemplifies the bands sound in one epic eight & a half minute song. The song rises and falls, crammed full of so many ideas that by the end of it you may not even realize it was one song. Yet somehow it never collapses under its own weight, all transitions seem perfectly natural and never jarring. As the song comes to a majestic end, you might feel as if that is all, but somehow the band still has more to give. Old Children is musically opposite, with the light piano and almost haunting voice of Davies driving the first half, then slowly rising to a climax.
And then the albums closer... Without Friends. I can not say enough about this song. It begins slowly with just Matechuk and some light instruments, but at the cue "without friends I'd die" it absolutely explodes with everyone joining in, and for the rest of the song it's a chorus of group vocals, emphasizing the point. The song is incredibly powerful and uplifting, and full of more emotion in two and a half minutes than some bands manage to put into a whole album. It is quickly becoming one of my favourite songs, not just of the year, but of all time ever.

And in the end, those are perfect ways to describe the album, and the band, overall. The music is beautiful and uplifting with lyrics that are full of hope. The cliché about indie music is that it is full of a bunch of sad sack whiners, but nothing could be further from the truth here. There is joy here, an optimist. A sense that, despite hardships, if you battle on, if you "don't give up on the fight", and, of course, with your friends, everything will be all right.

Download Battles On

Download Louis Riel

Download Without Friends

Clicky to exchange monies for music

Friday, August 7, 2009

songs of the indeterminate time period.

Hey look! It's another instalment of my song(s) of the week month "whenever I feel like it" segment!
Here are a few songs; ones that are new, newish, or new-to-me for your listening pleasure. I'll also try to include at least some diversity in the selected songs.

Folk legend M. Ward. Uber-musician/producer Mike Mogis. My Morning Jacket's Jim James. And... Conner Oberst from Bright Eyes (three out of four ain't bad). When their powers combined, they form the Monsters of Folk. It's hard to judge by the first single, but my immediate reaction is that it's not quite the sum of it's parts (perhaps the Oberst Factor), but it has the potential to be awesome. We shall see come September 22nd.

Download Say Please by Monsters of Folk
artists website where you may listen to more and exchange monies for music

It's only been two years since the self titled debut from Young Galaxy, but for some reason it feels like much longer. It also feels like the band dropped of the face of the earth. Well, they've finally released the info for the album, Invisible Republic, due out on the 25th of August. It starts as a pretty standard YG track with spacey riffs, twitchy synth and haunting vocals, but then the last minute or so just goes nuts and is completely infectious. This song along launches the album to near the top of my most anticipated for the rest of the year.

Download Long Live The Fallen World by Young Galaxy
artists website where you may listen to more and exchange monies for music

Flemish Eye sums it up much better than I can:
A warped and mutated blend of the futuristic and the organic, Snow Blindness is Crystal Antz is the debut album from Black Mold – the electronic alter-ego of songwriter Chad VanGaalen.
The more I listen to this, the more it makes sense. VanGaalen has always had hints of electronica to his albums, and now he gets to let loose with his homemade instruments and show even more of his brilliance. It's hard to call it experimental,since you get the sense that he knows exactly what he's doing.

Download Tetra Pack Heads by Black Mold
artists website where you may listen to more and exchange monies for music

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Throw Me To The Rats

The Tom Fun Orchestra is an awesome band, and I have been waiting eagerly for a follow up to their '07 debut album, You Will Land With A Thud. So I was mildly disappointed when they released a new video from the old album. That is, until I watched it and saw just how awesome the video is. How awesome is it? Four words: live action puppet theatre!

Tom Fun Orchestra - Throw Me To The Rats

Sam Roberts Band @ Deer Lake Park -- 08/03/09

What better way to spend BC day than at the beautiful Deer Lake Park with some terrific music? I certainly can't think of anything better.

This was the third time seeing Hamilton Ontario's Arkells live, and they just keep getting better every time. Starting off with the albums lead track, Deadlines, their all-too-short set consisted mostly of songs from their debut album, Jackson Square. They did, however, throw in one song which I think was new, and probably called something like Strong Country Boy, if the chorus is to be believed. Songs like The Ballad of Hugo Chavez and No Champagne Socialist sounded awesome like, but one of the highlights of the set would have to be John Lennon, which is one of my favourite song of theirs. It was phenomenal, with a fantastic instrumental interlude, of sorts, mid-song, and the band going nuts. They closed the set with their first single, Oh, The Boss Is Coming which would have brought the roof down, had it not been an outdoor venue. Through their whole set they managed to keep up an incredibly high energy, with it only building in enthusiasm until the end.
I managed to keep track of the setlist, which was:
Deadlines, Pullin' Punches, The Ballad of Hugo Chavez, No Champagne Socialist, Strong Country Boy(?), John Lennon, Blueprints, Oh, the Boss is Coming!

Next up was Vancouver's own Mother Mother. I admit, while I like their singles (some more than others), I am don't know if I would consider myself a fan of the band. They're good, for sure, but they seem to be a little, I dunno... over hyped? That being said, I did enjoy their set. With infectious chords and near-perfectly harmonized melodies, a great stage presence and a knack for catchy indie-folk-pop, they put on a damn good show. Singles like Body of Years were pulled off flawlessly, but it was songs like Wrecking Ball and O My Heart, the ones that are a little more... harsh and raw, that I liked better. I don't think the set made me want to run out and get their new album, as it was pretty much what I expected it to be, but I am definitely interested in seeing how the band progresses and wouldn't mind seeing them again.

Then finally, straight out of Montreal, Sam Roberts Band. Compared to the show earlier this year, I think I liked the setlist for that one better, but overall this was a much better show. Possibly due to the setting, as Deer Lake park is a beautiful venue. He kicked off with Detroit '67, which got everyone into it, but it wasn't til a few songs in that everyone really got jumping with Sam leading everyone in a chorus sing-along of Where Have All The Good People Gone?, which had a really awesome extended intro and ending. Most of the set was focused on his more energetic material, with the majority being from the new album (which is to be expected) Though he did break out the odd mellower song, like Lions of the Kalahari & Uprising Down Under (a song that, I still maintain, will never be as good live as the album version, if only for the lack of Matt Mays) and -- aside from the obvious singles -- he did delve as far back as his first EP, The Inhuman Condition, for This is How I Live.
Brother Down was another massive sing-alone which had everyone yelling out the chorus before the set "ended" With A Bullet.
When they came back out, they kept up the same zeal as the rest of the set, playing the last two singles they hadn't played, Them Kids & Don't Walk Away Eileen. Those were followed by the last song of the night, the same one he closed the show earlier this year with. Mind Flood. The song, perhaps my favourite Sam Roberts song, runs about 8 minutes on the album, but was stretched into almost 16 minutes of insanity, swirling, psychedelic sounds, and, well, there is no better way to describe the song as a Mind Flood. It was quite the spectacular display and, again, heightened by the beauty of the venue.
I was also able to keep tabs on their setlist, and so:
Detroit '67, Love at the End of the World, The Resistance, Where Have All the Good People Gone, Lions of the Kalahari, Fixed to Ruin, This is How I Live, Hard Road, Up Sister, Bridge to Nowhere, Uprising Down Under, Brother Down, With a Bullet.
(encore) Them Kids, Don't Walk Away Eileen, Mind Flood.

I kind of wished they had swapped Arkells & Mother Mother, as I like the former better than the latter and would have liked them to have a longer set... but that minor complaint aside, it was a superb night of music. And what is it with Sam Roberts and his knack for choosing awesome tour mates. Of the three times I've seen him (not counting arts crappy fair), he has played with the following bands: Jets Overhead, The Stills and Broken Social Scene; The Stills again; and now Arkells & Mother Mother. I can't wait to see him again, if only to see who else he brings.