Wednesday, June 30, 2010

By Divine Right (w/ Aidan Knight & David Vertesi) @ Media Club -- 06/29/10

I have mentioned this for a few other shows I believe, but there have been a lot of shows this year which feature multiple excellent artists on the same bill. This was yet another example of that trend.

David Vertesi was up first, who you may know from Hey Ocean! He hit the stage alone, and proceeded to woo the crowd with his smooth baritone voice and songs that were a little folky, yet not without an edge to them. And if the attentive silence was any indication, the crowd was sufficiently wooed. He played songs off his upcoming album, Cartography, which I can't wait to get my hands on, though part way through the set he mentioned a new Hey Ocean! album in the works, and had band mates Ashleigh and Dave jump on stage and join him for the next song, which was pretty cool.
Last time I saw him, opening for Hannah Georgas, I had mentioned that I would be interested in hearing the songs with a full band, and for his last song of the set, a couple of the members of By Divine Right joined him, for a fuller sound, but not one that departed too drastically from the rest of the songs.

Next up was Aidan Knight. You might think an album like Versicolour might be hard to pull of live, as it is pretty lush at times, and especially in a smaller place like the Media Club. But he was joined by some great musicians, and with instruments like a stand up bass and rotary flugelhorn, the live set sounded as good, if not better, than the album. He started with "The Sun", which started calm before built up into an epic finale, and then treated us to a new song before a few more off the album. Another highlight was "Knitting Something Nice", with its building intensity and, of course, "Jasper", which ended the set with an incredible energy and just about everyone in the room was at least clapping, if not singing, along.
A couple times he mentioned needing to practice his stage presence, but his awkward nervousness translated more into charm than it did, well, nervous awkwardness, as he owned it and joked about it, rather than let it get to him. That, and when he was playing you could see just how at home he was on stage. I look forward to the next time I have a chance to see him live, and hope it's a show of his own, and not just another opening set.

Finally, to round out the night was By Divine Right. To be quite honest, I am woefully unfamiliar with the band, and was there more to see Vertesi and Knight. However, based on what little I had heard of the band, and their reputation alone, I was definitely interested to see them, and they did not disappoint. With just the three of them, they rocked out and I think it would be fair to say they had the crowd completely enrapt. The highlight for me, though, was near the end of the set, they started one song with the three of them on guitars and proceeded to blow my mind with a song that was comparable (if a little less "grandiose") to Explosions in the Sky or Sigur Rós. The way it just rose and rose in intensity, and the crazy effects used at the end to slowly bring it to an end, was incredible. They ended shortly after that, but came back for the required encore, which saw David Vertesi start a dance party at the front of the stage. Then after some convincing from the crowd, and despite a broken guitar, they played one more, possibly their most well know (to me at least), "Five Bucks". That ended with them "trashing" the stage -- mostly just pushing the drum kit over... right on top of the drummer.

Again, another fantastic night in music, and another testament to the current Vancouver music scene. It is really cool to look through the crowd and see members of other bands, there to support their friends and there because they actually like the music. And just more proof that someone needs to make some sort of "Vancouver Musician Bingo" cards to play at the shows.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jane Vain @ Media Club -- 06/28/10

I guess Monday is just not the day for live music. As the first band of last night started, at 9:30, there were only about a dozen people in the Media Club, and while more did trickle in the rest of the night, there still wasn't a huge turnout.

Vancougar was the first band up. I had seen this all-female quartet a couple times before, at Mint Records X-Mas Parties, and while I had enjoyed their set, I was never really got into the band. This time, though, I seemed to enjoy them more than the other times. With their kind of garage-rock sound, they were highly energetic on stage and even though their songs may have been a bit... same-y, they still rocked pretty hard, and were good natured about the small turn out (at one point the lead singer thanked each person individually for showing up). I hadn't really heard anything from Vancougar in the last while, but if they have an upcoming album, I might just have to check it out.

Up next was a band I knew nothing about, [The] Valleys (they kept saying "The" but the album & website omits it, so...) They had me intrigued from the first song, with a kind of experimental sound that reminded me, at times, of bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Do Make Say Think, except a little more lo-fi. At first I thought they were going to be instrumental, but mid-way through the second song, they added the vocals, which I initially thought would detract, but was clearly wrong. They had an interesting set up, in that the three members were rotating instruments - and vocals -- throughout the set, with the focus on guitars and keys; the only drumming was either on a single floor tom or looped beats off the keyboard. And at one point they even used a xylophone stick to pluck the strings. It's a difficult sound to pin down, but once they said they were from Montreal, it started to make sense. In any case, the whole set had me engaged from the start, and I made sure to grab their album on my way out. (Which they "warned" me was not the Jane Vain album as I picked it up). They also mentioned it was their first show in Vancouver, and I hope that they're back soon.

Finally was Jane Vain. Despite being a big fan of their '06 album, Love Is Where The Smoke Is, this was my first chance to see them live, and I have to admit, I am quite conflicted about the show. I was slightly disappointed that they were only playing songs from the new album. Which, don't get me wrong, is a good album, and the show itself was quite good, but it would have been nice to hear those older tunes. I guess because, with the exception of Jamie Fooks, the rest of the band is different, and the new album is a bit of a change than the last. But I digress, those complaints aside, they played a really tight set, and seemed genuinely grateful to everyone for showing up -- at that point the room had filled out a bit more, but there was probably still only 30 or 40 people, tops.
Fooks traded between the keyboard and guitar, and the whole band had a great energy throughout the set. The one thing that struck me, though, was how funny they were. Between Fooks and the other guitarist, they bantered between songs, talking about finding the true meaning of Tim Horton's bathrooms while on tour (masturbating to Vibe magazine) or making up meanings for the songs ("this song is not about abortions" and riffing on that for a bit, before launching into "The Solution"). I was somewhat surprised just because some of their songs can be a little dark, but I guess looking back at what was said, the sense of humour was a little dark as well.

In the end, while The Media Club is usually a pretty intimate venue, it ended up being more so last night, and even though I wish I had seen some of the older Jane Vain songs live, it was still a pretty good show. I wouldn't hesitate to see Jane Vain again live, and I discovered a great new band. What more can you ask for than that?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mt. Chimaera by Brasstronaut

Every once in a while something comes along that completely and totally takes you by surprise. For me, this was Mt. Chimaera, the full length debut from Brasstronaut. I am not quite sure why, but for some reason I was expecting them to sound completely different than they do -- which is funny in retrospect, as their name is a perfect indication of their sound. The Vancouver band is fronted by Edo Van Breemen on keyboards & vocals and he is joined by a roster of great musicians playing a wide range of instruments: Bryan Davies (trumpet/flugelhorn/glockenspiel), John Walsh (bass/guitar), Brennan Saul (percussion), Tariq Hussain (lap steel/electric guitar), & Sam Davidson (clarinet/EWI); the EWI being a great and underused instrument which looks like a Space Clarinet. Their website points out that while all play in a number of other projects, they are quick to profess that this is their one and only golden egg. And with the recent inclusion of the album on the Polaris Prize long list, it looks like "golden egg" may be an apt metaphor.

The album starts out with "Slow Knots", which gives you a good idea of how the next 40 minutes are going to go. Cinematic, atmospheric, haunting and intense are all words that could describe the band, and they manage to exemplify all of those adjectives in this break-up song (Do you really think that I betrayed you / honey don't you know that I'm too dumb for that / you kept a list of all those bad nights / and we both know it got too long). "Hands Behind" shows off the bands jazz influence and weaves trumpet with acoustic and slide guitars together seamlessly. That leads in to "Lo Hi Hopes" which is more of a rocking, upbeat track, yet still finds time for woodwind solos, and almost grinds to a halt for the breakdown, before exploding again at the end. The energy isn't let up with the piano driven "Six toes", a song that is all over the map, but never in a sloppy way.
"Hearts Trompet" is my favourite track off the album, and quite possibly one of my favourite songs of the year thus far. It starts out with a laid back bass line and slowly adds things like horns and strings until it hits the midway point, and then just launches into a breathtaking symphonic climax, before stopping almost dead in its tracks, trickling it's way into "Ravan", which takes the opposite approach, as it slowly fades to a gentle ending. "Same Same" is given an ethereal quality with the echoing vocals and dramatic horns and well placed flourishes of guitar. The album draws to a close with the epic eight minute "Insects", the darkest track on the album, which also drips with emotion. This single song does more than I have heard some bands do in an entire album, flowing perfectly through what could almost be called separate movements within the song, encapsulating the band almost perfectly.

With the amount of stuff going on, it would be easy for a band like Brasstronaut to collapse under its own weight into a complete mess, but it a s testament to the musical abilities to all involved that it comes together as perfectly as it does. The more I listen to this album, the more it grows on me, and the less doubt I have that it will make it on to my "best of" list this year.

Download Lo Hi Hopes

Download Hearts Trompet

Download Same Same

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Monday, June 21, 2010


My goal is to review every album I bought (or otherwise listened to) this year. But there are just so darn many albums, and sometimes I just don't feel like writing a full reviews. So to combat this, I have decided that I shall give a few really quick reviews all at once... in haiku form. Here we go!

Shane Turner Overdrive by Shane Turner Overdrive (solo album from member of bands like: Love and Mathematics, Woodpigeon, The Choir Practice and Fanshaw)
Catchy indie pop
Songs flow together nicely
Great debut album.

Download One Outfit by Shane Turner Overdrive

La La Land by Plants & Animals
First, disappointed
But this one is a "grower"
And now I loves it

Download American Idol by Plants & Animals

Paul's Tomb: A Triumph by Frog Eyes
Mercer's trademark wail
Frantic, volatile music
Their best album yet?

Download Odetta's War by Frog Eyes

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Polaris Prize 2010 long list

The Polaris Music Prize announced their "long list" today! This list of 40 albums nominated be media-types will be culled down to a short list of ten albums on July 6th, then a winner announced at a gala on Sept 20th, where they will get a $20,000 prize. The award is annually given to the "best full-length Canadian album based on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales, or record label" and any album (more than 30 minutes/8 tracks long) out from June 1st 2009 to May 31 2010 is eligible.

Past winners include Final Fantasy, He Poos Clouds (2006) Patrick Watson, Close to Paradise (2007) Caribou, Andorra (2008) Fucked Up, The Chemistry of Common Life (2009)

And so here is the 2010 Polaris Prize long list
Albums that I want to win, or at least make the short list, are boldified. Ones I especially want to win, are boldified and italicized.

Apollo Ghosts - Mount Benson
Bahamas - Pink Strat
The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
Blue Rodeo - The Things We Left Behind
Brasstronaut - Mt. Chimaera
Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record

Basia Bulat - Heart Of My Own
By Divine Right - Mutant Message
Caribou - Swim
Jason Collett - Rat A Tat Tat
Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles (II)
Amelia Curran – Hunter, Hunter
Fred Fortin - Plastrer La Lune
Frog Eyes - Paul's Tomb: A Triumph

Hannah Georgas - This Is Good
Ghostkeeper - Ghostkeeper
Holy Fuck - Latin
Karkwa - Les Chemins De Verre
LeE HARVeY OsMOND - A Quiet Evil
Greg MacPherson - Mr. Invitation
Dan Mangan - Nice, Nice, Very Nice

Misteur Valaire - Golden Bombay
The New Pornographers - Together
Owen Pallet – Heartland

Plants And Animals - La La Land
Radio Radio - Belmundo Regal
Justin Rutledge - The Early Widows
The Sadies - Darker Circles
Shad – TSOL

Elizabeth Shepherd - Heavy Falls The Night
The Slew - 100%
Meaghan Smith - The Cricket's Orchestra
South Rakkas Crew - The Stimulus Package
Tegan And Sara - Sainthood
The Wooden Sky - If I Don't Come Home You'll Know I'm Gone

Hawksley Workman - Meat
You Say Party! We Say Die! - XXXX
Young Galaxy- Invisible Republic
Yukon Blonde - Yukon Blonde
Zeus - Say Us

And now some albums that I feel should be on the list, but were overlooked:
Versicolour by Aidan Knight
Other Truths by Do Make Say Think
Vancouver by Matthew Good (disappointed, but not surprised)
Islands Disappear by Said The Whale (surprised AND disappointed!)
Dragonslayer by Sunset Rundown
Tic Toc Tic by The Zolas

Sunday, June 13, 2010

We Are The City @ Biltmore -- 06/12/10

The Peak kicked off the new "season" of their Performance Project with a show at the Biltmore last night, with three bands from last year, as well as staff and a lot of musicians, from both years, milling around. I got to say, there are a lot of great bands in it this year, with no less than seven that I want to see win. (Which are, in no particular order: Aidan Knight, Christina Maria, Vince Vaccaro, Debra-Jean, Adaline, Ben Sigston and Said The Whale)
Before I get to the show, I want to rant for a minute. I hate it when people talk through a person/bands set, and it seemed especially bad last night. I understand the event was part concert, part social, meet & greet, but it was still ridiculous. You'd think other musicians especially would be a little more quiet, as I'm sure they wouldn't want it to happen to them.
Mind you, there have been times when the Biltmore has been terrible for that. A few times there have even been performers pissed off because of it (Kyp Malone, when doing his solo Rain Machine show there, chastised the crowd for talking the whole way through his opening act).

Anyway, I digress. As I said, first up was singer-songwriter Adrian Glynn, who came out alone, just his guitar and a kick drum. He was a little soft spoken for some of the songs, which made the chatter that much more noticeable. There were a few songs, though, where he cut loose a little more, and those were the ones I liked more. At one point, he jumped hopped off the stage to sing and play in with the crowd, enlisting everyone to sing alone. Part way through the set, We Are the City joined him for the song "In A Minute", and then again for the last song, which I didn't catch the name of, but really liked. The end of that song he just went all out, with more energy than the rest of his set. I liked his live set a lot more than the recorded songs I've heard, and I would like to see him live again... hopefully with less rabble.

Next up was The Left, and they started with the lead singer with his new toy, a Korg Kaossilator Pro, which immediately became my second favourite instrument. He showed it off, first with a drum beat and some looping, and then showed off the coolest part of it: the touch pad on the front... it's hard to describe, so here is a random demonstration. He even let a few people in the front play with the touch pad a little.
I admit, I never really got into the band; they aren't bad by any means, and their set was catchy enough, but they were about the same as last time I saw them. They had a good, high energy and were really upbeat for the whole set, to go along with their music. I definitely wouldn't be against seeing them live again, but they probably won't be what draws me to a show.
Unless they use the Kaossilator more often.
(And I finally realized who they reminded me of. The Dudes, if The Dudes were from the 80's.)

And finally was We Are The City, and band that, even though I've seen them over half a dozen times now, never fails to impress me with their live show. They were in fine form last night, and Andy seemed especially intense on the drums (not to imply that David or Cayne weren't the best as well). They played a fair amount of new songs, too, started off the set with one before segueing into "There Are Very Very Big Lights In The Sky", and some more new tunes. The first was one they've played live a few times, which I call "Morning Song" (may not be the actual name) and after that was one of which I believe was called "The Birds" (or something that sounded like that), which was ridiculously good; I can't wait to have a recorded version of it.
This was, I think, the first show I've seen where they didn't end with "Astronomers", but rather "April" this time, which segued into the same new song they started with, bookending the set very nicely.

Earlier this year, at the end of the first Peak Performance Project, I said "if they can even get half the talent next year, it'll still be one hell of an event." Well, it seems like they did, and it will be, and I can't wait to see how it goes.

setlist (with made up/assumed names for the new songs in the square brackets)
New Song [Prologue], There Are Very Very Big Lights In The Sky, New Song [Morning Song], New Song [The Birds], Time Wasted, Peso Loving Squid, New Song [Take It From Me], Astronomers, There Are Very Tiny Beasts In The Ground, April, New Song [Epilogue]

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Oddly Specific Driving Mix . Volume One.

A while ago I had the idea to make some driving mixes. But not just your average driving mixes; oddly specific ones.

For my first mix, I have chosen: Driving at dusk on a really nice & warm day with the windows rolled down. Initially, for this I was thinking: music that has an intensity to it, but is not over the top. Slightly subdued, but still powerful. Focusing on the sounds, perhaps instrumentals, but not necessarily.

I think for the most part I hit the mark; there are maybe some that do go over the top, but perhaps that those work well within the mix. But anyway, enough of my ramblings, here is the playlist, which runs about one hour:
  1. "What We Wanted" by Black Diamond Bay
  2. "Welcome, Ghosts" by Explosions in the Sky
  3. "Suburbia" by Matthew Good Band
  4. "Bring It On" by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
  5. "Come and See" by Young Galaxy
  6. "Hearts Trompet" by Brasstronaut
  7. "Starálfur" by Sigur Rós
  8. "Heart of Hearts" by !!!
  9. "The Universe!" by Do Make Say Think
  10. "Meet Me In The Basement" by Broken Social Scene
  11. "La Façade" by Karkwa
  12. "No Cities Left" by The Dears
I have also included a zip file (see below) of all the songs compiled together for your convenience.
I didn't just throw them together, though... I put them in that order specifically, working on creating a flow and progression to it. So all I ask is that if/when you listen, you do so in that order. At least once, then you can listen in whatever order you want, all willy nilly.

Download it here.

Enjoy, and if you have any suggestions for future instalments of Oddly Specific Driving Mixes, let me know!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Les Chemins De Verre by Karkwa

I admit, it can be somewhat strange to listen to music in a language you don't understand. As someone that pays attention to both music and lyrics, being cut off from half that experience can make it harder to really get into a band. Harder, but not always impossible (one of my favourite bands, for instance, sings both in a language I don't understand, and one that no one understands).

The band in question here is Montréal's Karkwa -- who amazed me away the minute I first saw them live, in a show where they blew out a speaker at the Biltmore -- and Les Chemins De Verre is their fourth album. From what I can piece together through my own (very limited and rusty) French and Google Translate (there are not a lot of English articles on the album, which is a great shame) it was recorded partially in Paris, with very little preproduction; a lot of it was based on spontaneity, improvisation and impulse. It was about capturing a moment, not recreating it, and the album somehow manages to be more complex, yet more accessible than their previous, Le Volume De Vent.

"Le pyromane" starts, appropriately enough, with a crackling fire before the band kicks in, gradually building to a roaring blaze, and introduces their rich and lush wall of sound which continues right into "L'acouphène". The gorgeous "Moi-léger" slows things down, at first driven solely by a piano, but one by one the full band joins in finally basting in full force, only to drop back out at the end. "Marie, tu pleurs" is a more upbeat and catchy track that is impossible not to join in on the handclaps, and it leads well into "Le bon sens", whose seemingly cheery beginning seems to hint at something darker, that kicks in midway through the song. The first single from the album, "Les chemins de verre" brings the high energy back as it races through, only pausing briefly to catch its breath before screeching to a halt.
"Dors dans mon sang" is breathtakingly beautiful, featuring a heartbreaking piano that melds first with Louis-Jean Cormier's haunting voice, then a chorus of ooh's as it swells and intertwines with well placed feedback, before suddenly dropping, ending again with Cormier over light piano.
This is juxtaposed by the frantic "La piqûre" which sees the layers voices and cacophony of noise adding to the frenzy, and segueing into "Les enfants de Beyrouth", keeping up the same level of intensity with its plinking piano keys. The moody "Au-dessus de la tête de Lili-June" is mostly spoken word, and the layered, repeating lines -- along with the sparse music, and even the tone of voice -- makes it sound creepy as hell. But "28 jours" comes in light and calm, melodic and almost reassuring and it, too, builds to a grand ending, though never shedding its optimism. "Le vrai bonheur" ends as the album began, with a cracking fire in the background, and a song that seems, thematically, the opposite of the opening track, and gives you a feeling that lives up to the title.

It is kind of amazing how something like this can instill so much emotion. No, I do not understand what he is singing, and yes, I am just hearing his voice as another instrument; but despite that, I am filled with a variety of emotions throughout the album. Maybe even more so that songs that I understand, as with these there is more room for interpretation. That is why I am afraid to find out the translations of the songs. Sure, part of me does wants to go through each song and find out what they mean, but I fear that this would ruin them for me. That it would be drastically different from what it is in my mind. And to say nothing of the poetry of the songs. No doubt the translations would never match up perfectly and would most likely come across clunky and awkward.
I may not ever fully understand the meaning behind the songs, but what I do know is that the five members of Karkwa are all brilliant, and that Les Chemins De Verre will no doubt end up being one of my favourite albums of the year.

Download L'acouphène

Download Moi-léger

Download Dors dans mon sang

Clicky to exchange monies for music

Thursday, June 3, 2010


My goal is to review every album I bought (or otherwise listened to) this year. But there are just so darn many albums, and sometimes I just don't feel like writing a full reviews. So to combat this, I have decided that I shall give a few really quick reviews all at once... in haiku form. Here we go!

Red Songs EP by Hey Rosetta!
A trio of songs
More mellow than expected
Yet still very lush

Download Who Is At My Window Weeping? (The Silver Dagger) by Hey Rosetta!

Caterpillar Sarabande by Vyvienne Long (first full length solo from cellist for Damien Rice)
Classically trained
Incredibly talented
Inventive and rich

Download Tactless Questions by Vyvienne Long

All In Good Time by Barenaked Ladies (first album after Steven Page left)
Quite interesting
Just not the same without Page
Still a good album

Download Four Seconds by Barenaked Ladies