Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Wow, I haven't done one of these in a while. Anyway, 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!

The Waiting by Royal Wood
A voice like velvet
Captivating piano
Eloquently smooth

Download A Discovery (We're Lovely)

High Violet by The National
Gorgeous arrangements
Vocals that cut to your soul
It will grow on you

Download England

This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem
Not unexpected
Electro-punk dance party
This is LCD

Download Pow Pow

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Funderwear Benefit w/ Meatdraw, Kathryn Calder, David Vertesi & Rococode @ Biltmore -- 12/17/10

Last night the Biltmore hosted the 5th annual Funderwear Benefit, to help raise money, and also socks & underwear, for the Salvation Army Harbour Light Vancouver. It was also a stellar lineup of local talent (if "local" includes the island), with a couple of the acts being responsible for two of my favourite albums this year.

Starting the night off was a new band with some familiar musicians, Rococode. The new project from Laura Smith and Andrew Braun also included Ryan Guldemond (Mother Mother), Shaun Huberts and Johnny Andrews (both of Tegan & Sara) helping out. It was their first show in Vancouver, and I was quite impressed with what I heard. They had a really upbeat, indie-pop sound, that vaguely reminded me of Mother Mother, especially with Smith's strong voice. She and Braun shared vocal duties, as well as keys for a set of really catchy songs. They teased an album coming out early next year, and I am looking forward to checking it out, and seeing them play again.

Next was David Vertesi. When I first saw him live, I wrote "I would be really interested to hear them with a backing band", and each time I saw him since, it was more or less an acoustic set. Well, this time I got my wish. He was joined again by David Joseph on bass, but also had Cayne & Andy from We Are The City helping on keys & drums. As much as I liked his acoustic sets, I think I liked the full band a bit better; The core of the songs were still the same, none were radically different, but they were just much richer (as you would expect) and allowed Vertesi -- and the rest -- to rock out on a couple occasions. "Soft Skin" and "Broadcasting" especially benefited from the full band sound. He brought the set to an end with "Hearts Don't Break, People Do", which I think has become one of my favourite songs of the year. While I am sure that this incarnation of a band may not be seen again - with Andy & Cayne busy with their own upcoming EP -- I hope to be able to see Vertesi with a full band next time he plays.

Kathryn Calder, who I was very much looking forward to seeing, was up third. Last time I saw her performing her own material was at last years Mint Records X-Mas party, well before the album came out.
After being used to seeing her behind a keyboard for a few years now, it was a bit odd to see her playing a guitar, but she was back and forth between that and the keys throughout the set, and with her backing band -- which included a couple members of MeatDraw --she definitely captured the energy of the album. There was one new song, but the rest were from the album -- most of which were insanely upbeat and catchy, but she also brought the tempo down a couple times with some of her slower ones. "A Day Long Past It's Prime" and "So Easily" were on either end of the spectrum, and both were highlights of the set. I know she has been busy with her New Pornographers duties the last while, but hopefully she'll be touring on her own soon enough, and back here with another show of her ow.

And finally was MeatDraw, who I had also not seen live in some time. I had kind of forgotten how fun the band is to watch live, even with the occasionally dark lyrics hidden by the bombastically upbeat songs. The enthusiasm for being on stage definitely bled through, not just in their joking around between songs, but in their playing, too. Their almost folky pop sound was rounded out by a small, two person horn section -- and even a saw for a couple of songs. Despite it being well past midnight by the time they went on, they definitely had enough energy to spare, and had the remaining crowd into it. The only downside was that the set seemed to be a bit short, but they mentioned a few new songs thrown into the set, so I am hoping that means a new album soon, as well as a tour to go along with it. Like Calder, I don't want to have to wait another year before seeing them play again.

I should also mention that the night was presented by File Under: Music, who put out Cardiography and Are You My Mother?, Vertesi and Calder's albums -- the aforementioned favourites of the year. They also released a few albums for a guy you may have heard of... Dan Mangan?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Music BC 20th Anniversary w/ Bend Sinister, Brasstronaut & Treelines

Music BC sure knows how to throw a hell of a party. They are, of course, one of the forces behind the Peak Performance Project, and a great organization supporting local music. They celebrated their 20th anniversary last night with a show at the Biltmore featuring three great BC bands.

Kicking off the night was Treelines, the latest in a long line of bands to move down to Vancouver from Kelowna. All four members exuded energy on stage, and put on a very dynamic performance. They were joined a couple times by Andrew (not Adam) Lee -- formerly of 41st & Home and currently of Ruffled Feathers -- on trumpet for a couple songs, including their Bucky nominated "Summer Song". At one point they broke out their recently released rendition of "Little Drummer Boy", which was a very Sam Roberts-esque twist on the classic. A few new songs were thrown in, as well, "Cartographer" and one temporarily dubbed "Cowbell" (I'll let you guess why). Neither of which were really that much of a departure, musically, but still piqued my interest for more new material. Even when they brought the energy down, like with "Canadian Airlines", they were still engaging, and an incredibly fun band to watch live.

Brasstronaut was the second band of the night, and the last two times I had seen them I either had to leave early or there were conflicting bands, so it was great to finally be able to see a full, proper set again. Mount Chimaera is one of my favourite albums of the year, and I am always amazed that the band is able to pull off the rich, lush sound in a live performance. Started off with "Insects", a kind of darker and ominous song, they played a good amount of the album, as well as from the Old World Lies EP. "Slow Knots" and "Six Toes" were pretty incredible live, and I can't let a Brasstronaut performance go without mentioning me favourite [looking] instrument, the Space Clarinet. The set ended with one of my favourite songs of the year, the Echo Songwriting Prize winning "Hearts Trompet". As the song grew and grew to an epic finale, each member left the stage, one by one leaving only the drummer, going nuts, and Edo at the end. It was an insanely good set and just reminded me why I like Brasstronaut so.

Finally, rounding out the night was another band to originate from Kelowna, Bend Sinister. Even though I have been a fan of the band for a few years now, I have only seen them live a handful of times; I always seem to have bad luck when it comes to seeing them. Case in point: last time I only caught the last two of their songs, because I was coming from, interestingly enough, seeing Treelines play an acoustic set. But I digress.
As energetic Treelines was earlier in the night, they had nothing on Bend Sinister. Dan Moxon has always been intense live, and this night was no different, with him actually knocking over his keyboard and mic stand at one point. He also, at various points, played the keys with drumsticks and picked it up to play it, keytar style. And that's not even mentioning the rest of the band, who more than kept up. They played a good mix of their older and newer stuff, hitting things from all their albums. Another of my favourite songs of the year, from their Spring Romance EP, "Things Will Get Better" was definitely a highlight, as well as "CT" and the always great "Time Breaks Down".

The show was one of, if not the best all-around-lineup I have seen this year, as each of the three I would (and have) see a show with them headlining with no hesitation.
I talk a lot about the "Vancouver music scene" and such, and I have a feeling it would be a mere shadow of what it is without Music BC.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Zach Gray @ Rickshaw & David Vertesi @ Cafe Deux Soleil -- 12/10/10

Another busy night in Vancouver, with three people that I wanted to see playing shows. I chose using a very complex series of algorithms (read: which cost less), and decided upon seeing Zach Gray at the Rickshaw, followed by David Vertesi at Cafe Deuz Soleil. (The third was Aidan Knight at the Jon & Roy Holiday Extravaganza)

First stop was the Little Mountain Gallery Fun-Raiser at the Richshaw for Zachary Gray, of The Zolas, doing a solo set. After the first band, World Peace, he said he needed a better name to be able to yell, and jokingly dubbed himself “Lesbian Kissing” for the show. He did a set of mostly Zolas songs, but an older Lotus Child and a cover of (Talking Heads), and like last time, the songs were really cool to see done solo, but did seem kind of missing the “rest” of the song. Maybe I'm just too used to the full band. Zach also went off on a few stories between the songs, which is always cool to see. Well, only if you have a good storyteller on stage, which Zach was, luckily.

And as an aside, I am still no fan of the sound at the Rickshaw. Zach didn't sound too bad, cos it was just him, but the more people you get on stage, the more terrible the sound is. I absolutely hated it my first show there, and I don't think I am going to catch too many more shows there in the future.
After that it was off to Cafe Deuz Soleil for the Megaphone Magazine fundraiser. Vertesi was headlining, but first was the aptly named Julia & Her Piano and also Andrew Lee, of 41st & Home. Very nice & pleasant sound and a good voice, despite mentioning she was a bit under the weather and Lee's trumpet and backup vocals helped round out the sound. It was a bit chatty in the room, as is wont for shows in places like this, so I wouldn't mind seeing her again in a more ideal setting.

Next up was Ladner and they, too, fit their name, as they were kind of flat and boring. All of their songs ran together and sounded pretty similar, like the same, long song.

And finally, David Vertesi. He was again joined by Dave Joseph helping out on bass, and a wicked keytar. The aformentioned chatter continued through his set as well, but despite that, Vertesi managed to capture the crowds attention with his songs, which he admitted were all about love, for better or worse. And the more I see him play – and listen to his album, for that matter – the more I think the former, as his raw lyrics bring give his [damn catchy] songs relevance amongst all the other songs about love. I think he mentioned, after the set, that the next time he plays (this Friday at the Biltmore) will be with a full band, and that has me very intrigued, as each time I've seen him so far he has been more or less solo.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Musical Roots: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Regular readers (all eleven of you) may know I am currently schooling at BCIT, in the Radio Broadcast program. In our second, and final, year we take over the station Evolution1079*. At the station we are given rotating jobs every week, and last week I was tasked with Musical Roots; a 45 minute 'Ongoing History Of New Music' type program, where we take a close look at a particular topic. Because these ran at 11pm on a week when our streaming was down, and because I put a lot of work into these (wrote, voiced, produced... did everything myself) I would like to share it with you, fine reader, as a podcast.

I did four episodes, which have all been posted here is the last month(ish). This is the final one I did, a look at the history of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, surprising no one -- I don't think I've been shy about my unabashed love of Nick Cave. The feature is in three 15 minute segments, and that is how I present them to you. In streaming or downloadable options.

I hope you enjoy it, and I would very much welcome any sort of feedback you may have (positive or negative), either commented here or through the emails at: 3amRevelations [at] gmail [dot] com. 
I am hoping to produce this feature again sometime in the new year, so if I do, there will be another series of podcasts. Or if there is positive feedback, maybe I'll just do one for funsies.

Download Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Part One

Download Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Part Two

Download Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Part Three

*If you enjoy this blog and do not know of this station, I suggest you give it a listen. We play a lot of awesome music, and I don't just say this because I am the current music director.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rolla Olak w/ Steph Macpherson, Behind Sapphire & Bob Kemmis @ Waves -- 12/04/10

It seems like these acoustic shows are a weekly occurrence for Waves Coffee House on Howe St -- a couple weeks ago I saw Treelines do an acoustic set there -- and if they keep getting acts like these, I will keep going back.

I got there just after Bob Kemmis started. I had seen him a couple years back, liked him... and never really heard anything from him since. So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw he was playing the night. It was only a couple songs in that I was reminded why I liked him the first time around. He's a damn good storyteller, both in song and in his joking between songs. And it helped that the songs were pretty damn catchy, too and everything he did seemed completely effortless.
Near the end of his set he broke out the looping pedal and looped both his guitar and then vocals, creating a veritable band and a great song. Hopefully it won't be another couple years til I see him again.

Next up was Behind Sapphire. I was interested to see how they would turn out acoustic, as they had a pretty big stage setup at their Peak Performace showcase, and I wasn't sure how they would translate. They seemed a bit unsure at first, mostly because they were seated & the whole atmosphere of the crowd was more relaxed, and they were used to more ruckus. But the three of them managed to translate their energetic sound down without losing any of their quirkiness or enthusiasm. Though even as they stopped being antsy -- for want of a better term -- as the set went on, that didn't stop them from wandering through the coffee house to the back of the crowd for part of a song. It's always cool to see a band with a "big" sound be able to strip it down, and Behind Sapphire managed to pull it off.

Steph Macpherson was up third, and each time I've seen her live, there have been less people on stage with her. This time she was up alone -- except for a couple of Behind Sapphire to lead the crowd in a stomp/clap for a song, and Rolla Olak helping out on guitar on the last one. Her songs translate perfectly into an intimate setting like a coffee house of quiet, attentive people, and she was as engaging as the crowd was receptive. Though now I've seen her twice in a coffee house or cafe and only once in a concert venue with a full band, so it would be nice to see that again, to compare.
There was also a bit of a surprise after she finished. She sang Happy Birthday a public domain song wishing a joyous anniversary of birth, for a lucky guy whose birthday was that day. Also, there was cake.

And lastly was Rolla Olak, who came out with none other than Colin Cowan on [stand up] bass. I wasn't too familiar with him, but as the random, possibly intoxicated man is the crowd proclaimed, that he was pretty rad. His songs were dark without being bleak, and a little but haunting; with some pretty darn good songwriting, too. I am curious to know if he normally plays with a band, or if the acoustic set is his normal one, but either way, I would be interested in catching him again.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mint Records Ridiculously Early X-Mas Party @ The Biltmore -- 12/03/10

Last night was my third year running attending the Mint Records Ridiculously Early X-Mas party. I was one of the first 75 people in, meaning I got a free prize! My draw ended up being a prize pack that consisted of... a girls M shirt and underpants. So I was able to trade it for another one, a box of giant pocky! And since they are always sponsored by pocky, for some reason, there was free packages of pocky sticks all around the room.

Like every year, they crammed a good number of bands into several hours, each playing short(ish) sets, so for the sake of not writing an essay (and my sanity), I'll try to only do a few lines for each set.

Laura Barrett: The only act on the bill not on Mint Records, she started off alone with a kalimba instrumental, "to get us used to it" and played a few songs with only the kalimba before a couple more came out to back her up on & off. She had a great stage presence, and though I had only heard a few of her songs before, I quite liked her set -- even if a few of the songs got a little repetitive, with just a kalimba. I would really like to see her again, and wonder what she would sound like with a full backing band.

Geoff Berner: Was just himself and an accordion. He was a little offputting at first, but once you realised what he was doing, his songs did grow on you; it helped that a lot of them were funny, or had stories woven around them. While a couple were a bit... less good than others, there were a couple that were pretty hilarious Ambiguous Lyrics and Half German Girlfriens sticking out. His last song, too, which was a duet with Carolyn Mark.

Kellarissa: Had seen at last years party, and while I only vaguely remember her set, I do not remember disliking it this much. I am normally a fan of looping, but that didn't help when the vocals were occasionally atonal yelling and the synth was kind of piercing.

fanshaw: Was one of the acts I was really looking forward to, and transitioned the show from acts which were a bit more low key to the more high energy ones. The first song was just Olivia Fetherstonhaughalone, but her full band (which included Shane Turner) came out right after. She mentioned it was their last show in a while, I think to write new material, so they were just up there to have fun. The set was quite good, and aside from her own songs, they ended with a pair of covers; "Love Hurts" and Cohen's "Passing Through"

Carolyn Mark: The other act I was really looking forward to came out and really kicked the energy into high gear. I've only seen her at the last couple Mint parties, and I really liked her. She has a bit of a country twang, but excellent voice to back it up, and the rest of her band were pretty great as well. I really hope I don't have to wait until next years party before seeing her live again.

Hot Panda: I've seen them at a few Mint related events, and while I have liked their sets in the past, I was never really able to get into them too much. However, maybe it was the new material, but I enjoyed their set a heck of a lot better this time around. The band is so enthusiastic on stage and just creates an infectious atmosphere. They also covered Mr Grinch, which, come on, is awesome.

The Evaporators: While I am not really sure their music is something I would listen to on a regular basis, they are fun as hell to watch, thanks to Nardwuar. He was running around the stage, into the audience, crowd surfing multiple times -- even with his keyboard. He also had most of the people in front singing along, admitting they were "Addicted to Cheese". For the last song, Kyprios made a surprise appearance for "I Don't Need My Friends", and the two of them ran through the crowd, making sure everyone in the room got crouched down, to jump right back up, before being carried off by the fans.

While I think I have liked past years lineups better, once things got going a bit, it was a fantastic show. There are still maybe a little too many bands playing; even though the seven bands all played shorter sets, the show did drag on a couple times, and went until just about 2am. But that said, I am still very much looking forward to next years event.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Black Mountain @ Commodore -- 11/30/10

Black Mountain came home as the interestingly named "Dropout Boogie Tour" descended upon Vancouver for its first of two shows last night.

The Black Angels opened the night, who had a very much psychedelic rock sound and were a good choice for touring with Black Mountain. Though while they were a good band, musically, there wasn't very much by way of a live show. All their songs kind of blended together, and by the end of it, I found myself spacing out a little. Maybe it was just that I was over tired, but I was in a bit of a trance-like state by the end of their hour long set. They also didn't have very much by way of banter or stage presence, so that didn't help. It seemed like they were there, they played, they left. They were by no means bad, were quite talented musicians, just not very... exciting to watch live.

After that, I feared that maybe I was too tired for the late start -- it was past 11 when Black Mountain took the stage -- but after the taped chanting intro as the band took the stage, the opening burst of "Wilderness Hearts" let me know I would be enrapt the entire show. From there they just exploded with "Let Spirits Ride", and didn't look back. Every song was as grandiose as the last, as the perfect blend of Stephen McBean and Amber Webber's voices and McBean's insane guitar work filled both the explosive highs and intense lows of their songs with energy. The set balanced almost perfectly; "Tyrants" was a drawn out epic, "Sadie" brought the set down for a brief calm moment, before the one-two punch of "Druganaut" and "Stormy High" brought things to a chaotic crescendo.
There wasn't much by way of banter; the notoriously shy McBean didn't say much, just a couple thank you's, leaving most of the chatter to Weber and drummer Joshua Wells. But where they connected was the music, and their stage presence.
After the main set ended with "Don't Run Our Hearts Around" they came back out for the encore to play a pair; the fantastic "The Hair Song" and "No Hits", which saw The Black Angels join them on stage. There were, though, two disappointing omissions: no "Evil Ways" or "Bright Lights". Granted, the latter is a 16 minute epic, but it was still a little disappointing to not see.
Despite that, the band proved they have not lost their edge, rather sharpened and honed it to become one of the best Vancouver has to offer.

Wilderness Hearts, Let Spirits Ride, Wucan, Tyrants, Buried By The Blues, Sadie, Angels, Druganaut, Stormy High, Old Fangs, Roller Coaster, Don't Run Our Hearts Around.
[encore] The Hair Song, No Hits.