Sunday, May 30, 2010

Free Mumford & Sons mini-show in Yaletown -- 05/30/10

To call that "epic" may be slightly underselling it. After the Mumford & Sons show at 560 tonight sold out in minutes, it left many people (including me) in the lurch. Luckily, there is a pretty awesome radio station called The Peak that put on a secret show earlier in the afternoon. Only revealing the time and location two hours before it started didn't stop hundreds, if not thousands to pack Hamilton St. in Yaletown for the free show. As they came out to thunderous applause, they were visibly taken aback by the turnout; maybe even a little embarrassed. Part way through lead singer Marcus Mumford admitted they never expected anything even close to this, and promised to be back soon.

Even though they played a short set, I don't think there was a person there who wasn't blown away. Starting with "The Cave", and while the whole band is pretty impressive, but the Mumford sticks out, as he not only sings & plays guitar, but mans a kick-drum as well. Now that's multi-tasking. After "Awake My Soul", they announced their next song would be the last, and launched into "Little Lion Man", but mere moments in, Mumford broke not one but TWO strings on his guitar. So after a swap, they decided to throw in an extra song, a new one called "Nothing Is Real" (I think). Then the ended, for real, with "Little Lion Man" and damn near every single person there was singing along, at least to the chorus. Their rich sound came across beautifully, and if they can pull this off for an impromptu show on a sidewalk, I can't imagine what they will sound like tonight.

Do I still wish I were going to the show tonight? Absolutely. But even with four songs, this was still pretty fantastic, and it's great that Vancouver has a station like The Peak that will put together this type of thing.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rat A Tat Tat by Jason Collett

If you are familiar with Jason Collett, then his latest album, Rat A Tat Tat, likely won't surprise you. That doesn't mean, however, that it isn't full of excellent music. Collett has always been rooted in the 70s, and this album simultaneously pays tribute to his influences and pushes the boundaries on his own sounds; even though you can tell what, and who, inspired him, it never sounds derivative or ripped off. The Broken Social Scenester is joined on his fifth solo album by some excellent musicians, including (but not limited to) all four members of Zeus, Afie Jurvanen (aka Bahamas) and Jason Tait (of The Weakerthans).

The album has an incredibly laid back feeling, like it was conceived and recorded on a lazy summer day, and that is immediately apparent. "Rave On Sad Songs" starts stripped down and acoustic-y, but gains momentum adding instruments and backing vocals for a lush ending. From there is launches into the more upbeat and hypnotic "Lake Superior", which grooves perfectly into the brilliant bass line of "Love Is a Dirty Word", an insanely catchy song that is impossibly not to at least sway along to. "Bitch City" seems completely effortless, as it slows down again while Collett drawls "You gotta walk light when you're stepping in shit".
The sexy "High Summer" is a great example of how Collett firmly roots his music in Canada, (seamlessly) working in a mention of Penetanguishene, ON and -- singing of a summer fling -- the lines: "so we pushed off in her canoe / and she showed me what a real Canadian can do, oh my".
"Cold Blue Halo" could easily be a forgettable track, but Collett weaves layer upon layer of autoharp, wurlitzer piano, banjo, moog synth and backing vocals that draws you in. From there, "Love Is a Chain" is another high energy and playful song which could easily be the albums next single and "Long May You Love" and "The Slowest Dance" are both a little more basic tracks; the former having a galloping beat that builds to the chorus where Collett's voice soars and the latter sounding like they were just flat out having fun. I wouldn't be surprised if that one was recorded live off the floor. The moody "Winnipeg Winds" is dark and as chilling as the title implies, again drawing strength from its layers and the album comes to a close with "Vanderpool Vanderpool" which may not be the best choice to wrap things up, but is certainly not a bad song. Again, feeling laid back, it sneaks in some Spanish guitar flourishes before the song slowly, and almost lazily, jams to the end.

Throughout the whole album, Collett oozes confidence and charm, and it all just seems so effortless. Possibly because where he seems strongest is his craftsmanship. While he is not without his musical talent, or captivating voice, what drives the album -- and what sets him apart from any other "indie-folk" artists, if that is what you want to classify him as -- is the composition of the songs. Be they dense & layered or stripped down & minimalistic, they always seem to be the perfect fit.

Download Bitch City

Download High Summer

Download Love Is A Chain

Clicky to exchange monies for music

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hannah Georgas @ Venue -- 05/22/10

photographs courtesy of the awesome Leigh Eldridge.

It was a homecoming for Vancouver's Hannah Georgas, as her CD release party hit Venue last night, and she brought along some amazing talent with her. The CBC Radio 3 sponsored show started early -- at about 730, for the 10 o'clock curfew -- and Tariq Hussain and Chris Kelly were there to host, introduce the act, and give out prized (like the highly coveted Radio 3 scarf).

First up was David Vertesi, who is probably better known for his work with Hey Ocean! He hit the stage alone and played a short set of songs from his upcoming solo album, grabbing everyones attention (especially the ladies) was his baritone voice. The songs themselves were a little folky, but with an edge to them. They were all good, but it was just him on stage, and I would be really interested to hear them with a backing band. Not that they didn't stand up on their own, but I think a fuller sounds would elevate them from good to great. You could tell he was maybe a little nervous, but not so much that it distracted from the set, and by the end he seemed much more comfortable. He mentioned having an album out a little later this year, so I will definitely be on the lookout for that.

Next up, after an amazing introduction from Chris Kelly, was Colleen Brown and she was a perfect fit to open for Hannah Georgas. Kelly introduced her by saying she was so much more than just a singer/songwriter, and that is a good way of describing her sound. It was catchy folk-pop, but her amazing voice was the star. She had the crowd captivated after one song with her powerful pipes (especially the guys), and kept it for the whole set. Most of the set was her on the keys and a guitarist, but for the last few she brought out a full band, and ended the set with what she called her "ball buster" song, which was an incredibly apt description for it. I really wish I had cash to spare to pick up her album, but I guess I will

And finally was Hannah Georgas. She started off with just her and Robbie Driscoll on ukelele and the light and romantic "Something For You" before the whole band came out to kick up the energy with "Bang Bang You're Dead". The set consisted of just about all her songs from both the new album, This Is Good, and last years EP, The Beat Stuff, and each and every one was just as good as the recording, if not better. Her excellent voice and range of songs, from insanely catchy pop to moody revenge to soft and beautiful, all translated perfectly live. Highlights were the acerbic Mama's Boy, a favourite of mine, the moody and dark "Thick Skin" (which I got a middling-quality video of) and "Deep End", that saw Colleen Brown join her, and the rest of the band, for the gang vocals. She had a great stage presence, too, maintaining a high energy and the occasional bantering with the crowd, she seemed absolutely calm and at home on stage, and genuinely happy to be there, especially for the hometown show. The set "ended" with All I Need, which started out calm and low, and gradually built and built in intensity until the band was just going all out.
They came back out a moment later for the obligatory encore with Dancefloor, a song about the lack of good places to dance in Vancouver, and it's high energy definitely turned Venue into a dance hall, if only for the one song. After that was a new(ish) song called "Ode To Mom" before she took a seat at the keyboard for the final song, "Shine".

I've said it before, but there have been a handful of shows this year where every band playing has been great, and this show would absolutely be one of those.

Something For You, Bang Bang You're Dead, Chit Chat, Lover's Breakout, Thick Skin, Here it Goes, The National, Let's talk, Mama's boy, Lovesick, The Beat Stuff, Deep End, This Is Good, All I Need.
(encore) Dancefloor, Ode To Mom, Shine.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

41st & Home CD Release Party w/ Aidan Knight, We Are The City & In Medias Res @ St James Hall -- 05/21/10

I have complained enough before about the heat and stuffiness that can arise at St James Hall, so I will dispense with that and just get onto the show itself.

Due to a myriad of reasons, partially my own failing, partially the universe conspiring against me, I got there a little late. I thought I had missed half of Aidan Knight's set, since there was supposed to be a 730 sharp start time, but I later found out I came in part way through the first song, so that was a relief! For his set there were nine people on stage; a couple of The O'Darlings, who are on his album Versicolour, as well as We Are The City. I was wondering how he would sound live, since his album can be pretty lush, and I was not disappointed. The last half of The Sun was fantastic, and the set just got better from there. Knitting Something Nice was another highlight, with the intensity building throughout the song, and Jasper was a great way to end the set. He had a pretty good stage presence as well, and even through his somewhat nervous banter, you could tell he was incredibly comfortable on stage. I can't wait until I have the chance to see him live again.
The Sun, [new song], North East South West, Altar Boys, Knitting Something Nice, Jasper.

Next up was We Are The City, and their set was way too short. It seemed just as they were getting started, they were done. Despite playing only a handful of songs, they were as energetic as ever. Even though this is the fifth time I've seen them in the last few months, they never fail to entertain and amaze. They played a few off of In A Quiet World, and the songs seem to be evolving slightly when played live. Nothing too drastic, just a few additions, which give the songs that much more of a kick. They also threw in a new one (which I am going to guess is called Morning Song) before ending, as they usually do, with Astronomers.
I'm glad they'll be playing the Biltmore in a few weeks, where hopefully they'll play a lot longer.
There Are Very Tiny Beasts In The Ground, There Are Very Very Big Lights in the Sky, April, Morning Song[?], Astronomers.

After them was 41st & Home, whose CD release party it was. They, too, packed the stage with members, and their rich sound interested me at first, though some of their songs seemed... not generic, but just lacked a kick. They were good, but nothing really caught my attention. Until their last two songs, which really grabbed me. Most of their songs seemed to start off slow or quiet, and build to a horn-filled ending, but those seemed had a grandiosity to them that I was was present in the rest of their set. If I wasn't incredibly broke, I would have no doubt picked up their CD, but I will be sure to keep an eye out for the next time they are playing.

Unfortunately, I had to bail at 11; I figured a show at St James would be done by then, due to the curfew, but In Medias Res was only just going on. I'm not really sure why they were going on last, since it was 41st & Home's CD release party, but oh well. From what I caught, they were not too bad, and while I may not go to a show with them headlining in the future, I wouldn't be adverse to seeing them live again.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Versicolour by Aidan Knight

After years of being beside the spotlight, backing up bands, Vancouver's Aidan Knight has stepped out on his own. While working with bands like The Zolas and Maurice, he started crafting songs and over a span of two years, recording whenever he could, playing a lot of the instruments himself and enlisting in the help of Toronto's The O'Darling for various duties (including backing vocals) Knight put together his debut solo album, Versicolour.

The album kicks off with "The Sun", which is an amazing opener. It starts off soft -- and somewhat dark -- then gradually builds to a grand ending of horns, strings and what I am pretty sure is a glockenspiel. It definitely setting the stage for the rest of the album. "Fighting Against Your Lungs" feels really light and almost effortless, though when it changes up for the "extro", I can't help but feeling that could have been expanded into a song of its own. A haunting piano starts "Eyelid Clicks", before building electronic feedback adds to the mood, and "Altar Boys" can only be described as beautifully melancholic. "North East South West" is another song that swells to a rich ending, while "Knitting Something Nice" starts off gentle and light, but gradually turns a little darker, both musically and lyrically. That is countered as the album comes to a close, with "Sorrows" being more or less an a capella intro to "Jasper", Knight's voice mixing with those of The O'Darling brilliantly. And much like how "The Sun" was the perfect opener, "Jasper" is the perfect closer. It is uplifting and beautiful, and you can't help but smile while listening to it.

I don't think it's a secret that I have a soft spot for strings and horns in my music, and when someone as talented as Aidan Knight can arrange them into something like this, well, I was won over half-way through "The Sun" on my first listen. And I have no doubt that song will remain one of my favourites of the year.
My only problem with the album is that it is much too short. With only 8 tracks and clocking it at just under half an hour, it feels like it's over before it had a chance to begin. I can't help but think that if it were an EP, it would have been perfect.
But aside from that, it is a stellar debut album and shows Knight has talent to spare. He can make songs minimal without being dull, or rich without being overwhelming, and add depth to the most simple sounding song. There is no doubt that after this, he deserves to step into the spotlight on his own.

Download The Sun

Download Knitting Something Nice

Download Jasper

Clicky to exchange monies for music

Monday, May 10, 2010

Owen Pallett @ The Vogue -- 05/09/10

I don't know how it happened, but this last week has been amazing, concert-wise. Ending the four-shows-in-five-days was Owen Pallett, a show I have been looking forward to since he had to cancel his show back in September.

Being another curfew show, the opening act came out a little after 8. Snowblink consisted of Daniela Gesundheit and Dan Misha Goldman, both on guitar but they had a few other instruments around. Like a rope with bells tied to it that they passed out to some people in the front row to help out. They had a kind of typical indie-folk-pop sound, one that was perfect to open for Owen Pallett, but it wasn't generic or cliché. They pulled it off really well, and Gesundheit had a really nice voice. There was also a nervous charm about them when talking to the crowd, at first at least; by the end they were joking with us, even throwing an impromptu raffle when they found out the show was assigned seating. Among their own songs was also slipped in a cover of "Human Nature" by Micheal Jackson, and by the end of the set, I was left wishing I had enough money to pick up their album. I just hope they're back again soon.
And yes, those are antlers on her guitar in that picture.

And then at around 9, Owen Pallett hit the stage. Sadly, there was no overhead projector, like some of his past shows, but he more that made up for it with his amazing music. Most of the set he was out there alone, with his violin (and sometimes keyboard) but for a few (mostly the newer ones) he was joined by Thomas Gill on guitar and drums. And even with one other, it is incredibly impressive what he can do alone, through the use of his looping. There were times where you would have sworn there was a whole orchestra of people on stage, but nope, it's just Owen.
He played mostly from the new album, Heartland, but of course there were of course some older ones, too. "This is the Dream of Win & Regine" was pretty incredible, as was "Many Lives -> 49 MP", but the new material was where he really shone. "Midnight Directives", featuring his rapid plucking and dense, building crescendo. And the set-ending "Lewis Takes Off His Shirt" was simple amazing, just going crazy by the end of it. He also, as he usually does, slipped in a cover song. This time was "Interview" by Simon Bookish.
The encore was just a couple more, including "This Lamb Sells Condos" before leaving the packed Vogue in awe.
I have seen him twice before, but those were both back in 2007, so I am incredibly glad I had the chance to see him again. He is one of the most interesting and talented live acts I've seen.

Again, I tried to take a few videos, via uStream during the night, so here is "This Lamb Sells Condos". It's a little dark, but it's still good.
I also have half of "Win & Regine".
They're not the best quality, but not too terrible either. The audio is okay, and that's all that matters, really.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dan Mangan @ The Vogue -- 05/08/10

It's hard to believe this is only my fourth time seeing Dan Mangan live. But each and every time I have seen him, I have managed to be even more impressed than the last. The first few times were all intimate shows; at the Cultch, in a CBC studio, and in Red Cat Records. But this time it was at the Vogue Theatre. A sold out Vogue, no less. And what's more, he had a full compliment of instruments with him as well. That's the great thing about the hometown shows, I guess, he's able to spring for the horns and strings that add that much more to his performance.

At about 8, a single man took the stage and sat with his guitar. It was Kenton Loewen, Dan Mangan's drummer, in the guise of his band, The Crackling. It's normally a full band, but tonight was just him for a short set. I remember back at Dan's show at The Cultch, Kenton won my over with his drumming and antics, and I was interested in checking out his band for a little while, so it was cool to have him open, even if he did only play a handful of songs for about 20 minutes. The songs were all really catchy, but it was his range that was really impressive. His voice went from a low rumbling, which reminded me of either Tom Waits or Nick Cave, to great heights, sometimes within the same song. I really wish I had cash enough to pick up their album there, but I guess I will just have to wait until the next time I catch a live show, and after that, I will no doubt try my best to do so.

Next up was Jesse Sykes. She, too, normally has a full band with her, The Sweet Hereafter, but last night it was just her and one other guitarist. She had a really nice voice, but her songs were all a bit too similar, and when they were as sweet and low key and mellow as they were, they seemed to run together a bit at the end. I didn't dislike her by any means, both she and her guitarist were really talented, but a little more variety in her songs would have been welcome.

And finally, Dan Mangan himself hit the stage, with his regular band -- the aforementioned Kenton Loewen on drums, John Walsh (of Brasstronaut) on the upright bass and Gord Grdina on guitar -- as well as a half dozen strings and horns -- most, if not all of which were at his CBC Radio 3 show. He kicked off energetically with "Sold", and as he wrapped up you could see him look into the sold out Vogue with a look of amazement on his face, like he couldn't believe he was actually there. But he was, and he positively owned the room. From songs like "Road Regrets" and "Fair Verona", which soared to absolutely epic heights, to "The Indie Queens Are Waiting" performed alone on stage, each song had the audience enrapt. Near the end of the set, he did "Basket" with just the strings & horns backing him, and the crowd was dead silent.
Other highlights was the always awesome "Journal of a Narcoleptic" and "Some People", where he jumped down off the stage into the front area... and was promptly swarmed by girls, urging everyone to gather up at the front of the stage. At one point, mid way through the set, he introduced to the stage his friend & author Ivan Coyote, and played "Pine for Cedars" around a story told by her, about her true love, which was not only a great story but a great performance. Like his work with Koyczan, it's really cool to see something like this, where his music and spoken word storytelling weave themselves around each other.
He also played two new songs, one of which I swear I've heard before, but have I'm not sure where. As per my new game in which I try and guess the name of new songs bands play live, I guess either "The Desolate North" or "Oh Fortune" for the first, and the second, played in the encore, "Death And Such". The main set ended with "Robots" which, of course, has each and every person singing and clapping along. I managed to get half of it recorded on, and while it's not a great quality recording, it wasn't terrible, either. The encore consisted "Above The Headlights", and old song he rarely plays anymore, and he finished the night with "So Much For Everyone", where he dubbed the crowd The Granville Street Choir for our flawless "oooo-ooooh's" backup vocals.

As I said, each time I've seen him I've been more and more impressed, and last night was no different. He managed to still make a sold out theatre feel as intimate as sitting around in someones living room with his effortless charm and storytelling.

Sold, You Silly Git, Road Regrets, The Indie Queens Are Waiting, Journal of a Narcoleptic, Tina's Glorious Comeback, Pine For Cedars (w/ Ivan Coyote), Fair Verona, [New Song], Basket, Some People, Robots.
(encore) Above The Headlights, [New Song], So Much For Everyone.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Brasstronaut w/ The Zolas @ St James Hall -- 05/06/10

What was it I said yesterday? That I've had the good fortune of seeing a fair number of shows this year where both/all acts have been great? Well, that continued last night at St James Hall.
Before I go on, though, a mini rant. I love St James Hall. I think it is an awesome place for a show... except for the fact that just about every time I've been there, it's turned really hot in the place. Maybe cos every one I've seen there has been sold out (or close to it) and it's not that big of a hall... but still, they really need to spring for some sort of cooling device.

Anyway! It was a nice early show (am I getting lame for liking the early-ending shows more and more?) so The Zolas hit the stage just before 8, and just wow, they tore the place down. They started off, of course, with "You're Too Cool" and went on to go through most of their album, Tic Toc Tic. As high energy and catchy as the record is, their live show is even more so. Songs like "No Talking" and "Marlaina Kamikaze" sound phenomenal live, and while all four of them on stage had a fantastic energy, Zach is a great & charismatic front man. For one song he hopped off stage and played most of it amongst the crowd up at the front, another he sat with Tom at the keyboard, and throughout the whole show he was just a ball of energy. They threw in a new song, "Guest", which is named for what Zach calls the worst rhyme ever (Guess/Guest, I think it was)... though is a great song despite it. The wrapped up with "Cab Driver", a song that somehow managed to top the rest of the set with its intensity, and a great way to end. And the crowd was just eating them up with every song. I am sure people were there for The Zolas as much as Brasstronaut, and those who weren't were no doubt won over.
Also, Hank Henry Alcock-White was with them on bass again, and I am now convinced that he has the absolute driest sense of humour.

You're Too Cool, Collapse, Guest, Body Ash, No Talking, Marionettes, These Days, Marlaina Kamikaze, Queen of Relax, Cab Driver.

After a quick turnaround, Brasstronaut came out, in one of the coolest ways a band can. As everyone was early anticipating them, all attention on the stage, faint horns started... but no one was on stage. Everyone soon realized where they were, though. Coming in through the back of the hall, forming a procession through the crowd up to the stage, with all the members of Brasstronaut as well as song extra help with the horns and such. They all crammed on the stage, almost a dozen of them, for the first song. They went into "Six Toes" next, as half the people left leaving only the main members up there to absolutely blow the crowds collective minds. They, too, are almost as (if not moreso) amazing than their album, which is incredibly rich and layered. One of my favourites on Mt. Chimera is "Hearts Trompet", and that was definitely one of the highlights of the show.
There was also a giant sheet acting as a projection screen behind them, which was really cool. Some songs there were video clips, some were just abstract designs, but it really added to the show. For "Insects", the last song of their main set, the screen alternated between venus fly traps and what looked like a 50's science film reel, and was superb emphasis to the dark and haunting mood of the song. For the encore, it really turned into a crazy multimedia experience, from the videos on screen, the lasers and lights all around the hall mimicking stars to the bubble wands being handed out and the monk manning a spotlight shining it all over the hall.
They also had the coolest thing, which I initially thought was a Space-Clarinet, but it turns out it is an EWI (or Electric Wind Instrument). It both looked and sounded awesome.
[and I almost forgot, in the middle of the show, they announced that one of the members, John Walsh (I believe) had just become a new father earlier that day, so much congratulations are in order]
In all, it was a pretty incredible spectacle, with excellent music to back it up, and even though I love seeing bands in smaller, more intimate venues, it is now one of my musical goals in life to see them play the Orpheum. That just seems like it would be the perfect setting for them.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Plants & Animals w/ Said The Whale @ Commodore -- 05/05/10

One thing that I have had really good luck with this year is shows with great overall bills. There has been at least half a dozen times where an amazing band will be playing with an equally amazing, if not better, opening act.

Right off the bat, though, I got to admit, it was kind of strange seeing Said The Whale as an opening act, but it was kinda cool to see them in the Commodore. Though I have no doubt they could pack the place on their own at this point.
They started off with "Emerald Lake, AB" and at first I was worried, cos they sounded kind of muddy. But credit to the sound guy who fixed it by the second song, "The City's A Mess". Through the set, they hit most, if not all, of my favourites, including "Love Is Art/Sleep Through The Fire". But judging by the reaction it got I'm not the only one with that opinion. Hannah Georgas came out for her part on "BC Orienteering", which was really cool. Oddly enough, I think I've only seen them once where she wasn't there for that song. She stuck around for "The Light Is You" before taking off.
They also played a new song, which I really liked, but didn't catch the name of (my new game is to guess the titles for new songs, and for this one I guess "Information Age") Near the end of their set, they dedicated "False Creek Change" to the whale that was chilling out in false creek earlier that day (which I still think was just elaborate viral marketing for their show). They finshed up with "Camilo (The Magaician)", which predictably saw everyone going nuts, and another one of my favourites, "Goodnight Moon", which I will never get tired of seeing live.
That could have been all, and it would have totally been worth it... and based on the crowds response, I think the whole place agreed... but no! There was more to come!

Emerald Lake AB, The City's A Mess, Love is Art/Sleep Through the Fire, BC Orienteering, The Light Is You, My Government Heart, Holly Ont -> Dear Elkhorn, New Song (Information Age?), Gift of a Black Heart, False Creek Change, Camilo (The Magician), Goodnight moon.

The amazing thing about Plants & Animals is that if you were to just hear them live, you would think there must be at least 5 or 6 people on stage. But nope, it's just the three of them. They manage to create an incredibly rich and lush sound that is quite simply staggering. Even though some tracks didn't sound exactly like they do on the album, that wasn't necessarily a bad things. Most of the time it was just something punched up, or a tweak here and there. It was never distracting, but added to the songs.
They kicked off the set with "New Kind Of Love", and played a pretty good mix of songs from the new La La Land and their previous Parc Avenue. Most of the first few songs were a bit mellower, and while they were all good -- "Jeans Jeans Jeans" being a standout -- I don't want to say the set "dragged", but it was maybe coming close. However, they completely changed that with the second half of the set. And since the first half of the set was already really good, when the second half stepped it up a notch and killed it, that's saying something. The ten minute jamming epic of "Faerie Dance". My favourite off the new album, "American Idol", with it's huge energy and backup saxophone (the only time there were more than the three of them on stage). The absolutely insane "Mercy", which is one of my favourite songs overall, not just P&A. Then "ending" the set with the newest single, "The Mama Papa", which was even more high energy than on the album. The encore was equally mind blowing, with the always-great-live "Feedback In The Field" and the extended version of "Guru", with a cover of "Sinnerman" slipped in.

I was vaguely disappointed with one thing though: the chanting chorus of Mercy would have been an amazing time for Said The Whale to come out and help on vocals... but while I was hoping for that, I wasn't expecting it, so I can't really be too sad it didn't happen. Other than that, it was a stupendous show, and I can't wait to see either bands live again.

setlist (there is one song I am not sure of; I think it was Tom Cruz played second, but I could be mistaken)
New Kind Of Love, Tom Cruz, Fake It, Celebration, Good Friend, Jeans Jeans Jeans, Game Shows, Undone Melody, Faerie Dance, Swinging Bells, American Idol, Mercy, The Mama Papa.
(encore) Feedback in the Field, Guru/Sinnerman.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Favourite Albums. Part One. Beautiful Midnight.

Taking a break from my usual "recent concert/album review/haiku" format, I think I am going to do something special. Earlier this evening, I saw the following on the twitters:
@melanieshim Power, Corruption & Lies by New Order=definitely one of my favourite records of all time...and my favourite track is:
Which lead me to ask, what are your favourite albums of all time?
I posted my list, but then some of the resulting tweets got me thinking of it more, and why I picked these specific albums. I was first going to do a spontaneous post involving all six albums I picked, but then I started writing what is below, and realized that I would ramble on way too long for one post... so I am going to make it a six part series. I will probably just do one daily a week biweekly, ah, who am I kidding, it'll end up being whenever I feel like it. Probably at random intervals through my regularly scheduled programming.
I am not, however, going to "review" them like I normally do, but probably just ramble on for a few minutes. So here is part one of a six part series cleverly titled: Some of Kirk's Favourite Albums.

Beautiful Midnight by Matthew Good.
This shouldn't be a surprise for anyone. Matthew Good is my favourite musician, and I hold this album to be one of the most perfect made. It was also the first MGB album I purchased. I had been a fan since I first heard them on Fox Seeds, but back then I never really bought albums -- and when I did, it was always albums that I knew I would like; I didn't take chances. But by the time "Hello, Time Bomb" came out, I figured I liked enough of his songs, and I was starting to be more adventurous in buying music, so I picked up the album. (Oddly enough, in a way, I consider this one of the first albums I bought, since it was the first one I bought with this carefree & reckless mentality).

But the sentimentality is only a portion of why I like it. There is also, of course, the music. Are there better Matthew Good [Band] songs? Absolutely. But Beautiful Midnight has one thing that I look for in albums. The thing that, to me, will make a good album great and a great album, well, Beautiful Midnight. And that is the flow. From the opener, "Giant" -- which is, over ten years later, still one of the best opening songs to any album -- to "Born To Kill" and "Running For Home" -- which is the perfect pair of songs to close an album -- it peaks and dips, ebbs and flows near perfectly. You can almost graph or chart the mood, intensity and emotion, and this is the album whose flow I try and mimic when I make "mixtapes". (I don't know if that is going to make sense to anyone that is not in my brain, but whatever). It goes from the epic start of "Giant", ramps it up with "Hello, Time Bomb", but it doesn't blow its load too fast, as it slows with "Strange Days" (which, incidentally, has one of my favourite music videos ever). And from there, it just flows to perfection.
(Not to say other MG[B] albums don't have this, but this is the quintessential example)

And the emotion. There are songs that upon first listen, just ooze with raw emotion and intensity, that you can't help but connect with. Then there are songs that, when you find out the true story behind them, will absolutely crush your heart and soul.
Listen to "Jenni's Song".
Then read The Night Opus -- either in his book or, conveniently, on his blog -- which is based on a true story.
Then listen to it again, and this time, really listen to it.

If the whole album can be plotted, then "Born To Kill" is definitely the climax. It starts out slow and calm, but then -- with orchestral accompaniment -- builds and builds to a frenzy, drains you emotionally, then just when you think you can't take anymore... it stops dead. Weird as it may sounds, I've always pictured this song as the soundtrack to going mad, just completely losing it.
And then finally, "Running For Home". If "Born To Kill" is the climax, "Running For Home" is the denouement. After the intensity of "Born To Kill", it ends with a soft piano and hauntingly beautiful vocals. As far as I can remember, I have been a sucker for piano in songs, and I think this song is a strong reason why. For a time, it even made me want to learn the piano (or at the very least, the keyboard).

And that's so say nothing about the songs in between. "Suburbia". "A Boy And His Machine Gun". "Failing The Rorschach Test". Again, there are individual songs I like better, but each and every song on this album serves a purpose.

I admit, my views on this album were not immediate. I liked it right away, of course, but it wasn't until I got a little more into music that I appreciated it even more. So much so that, to this day, it remains one of my favourite albums. Heck, probably my single favourite album.

Download Suburbia

Download Jenni's Song

Download Born to Kill

Download Running For Home

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