Tuesday, February 25, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Twenty Six: Matthews

Each week on the 3am Mixtapes podcast, I will share with you the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general like best international bands. Or some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Bands That Sounds Nothing Like Their Names Imply.

This week, it's the Top Six Matthews! Even though Matthew is a common name, there seems to be an unnatural amount of Matts in music. Want examples? Here are six (well, actually, nine!)

These are the Matts I know I know:

"Young & Lazy" (acoustic) by The Matinée
"Ode to the Prairies" by Treelines
"Hold on to the Metal" by Royal Canoe
"On the Hood" by Matt Mays & El Torpedo
"Dust On My Collar" by Matthew Barber
"Via Dolorosa" by Matthew Good

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

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Rah Rah @ Biltmore -- 02/20/14

Even though I've seen Regina's Rah Rah three times in the last year and a half, it's always been opening for someone else. Well, now with a Juno nomination under their belts for Alternative Album of the Year, the Regina band returns to Vancouver for their first headlining show in quite a while.

I arrived at the venue just to catch the last couple songs from Brandon Wolfe Scott. The Yukon Blonde guitarist was playing his own solo material, joined by Johnny 99 (aka John Sponarski) on pedal steel. His songs were much more laid back than Yukon Blonde's rock, with more of a country twang. It was still pretty noisy at the venue for the few songs I saw, so I wouldn't mind catching him again at a more attentive place, where I can really dig into the songs.

Next up was singer-songwriter, and fellow Reginan, Andy Shauf. The only other time I saw him live, Shauf was alone on stage, and at the time I remember thinking I would like to see him with a backing band. Well, fortunately this time he was joined by a full band that included strings, woodwinds, and keys, giving a lush and rich sound to his melancholic songs. The main I noticed most about the set was how well it was put together. Starting soft and sad, the set built in intensity as they went, only to drop back down; strung together, the songs had a certain ebb and flow that made for an engaging show.
While his set was good., I felt like I would have liked it a lot more if I were more familiar with his music. Which means I have to spin The Bearer of Bad News a couple times before his next trip to Vancouver.

And finally, the six members of Rah Rah filled the stage. They kicked off with an older song, "The Betrayal pt. 1", and with a relentless high energy, they barely slowed down for an hour. There are few other bands who are as fun to watch, as each member has a great stage presence and an enthusiasm that infects the crowd. Their collection of undeniably catchy songs doesn't hurt either, and the set spanned their three album, but focused mostly on the newest, The Poet's Dead.
Highlights included the raucous "Art and a Wife"; a great showcase of Erin Passmore's vocals in "I'm A Killer"; and "20s", which includes the ever-relatable line "I spent my twenties on rock & roll, I'll spend my thirties feeling old"
I don't think a single member of the band stayed on one instrument all night, as they traded and swapped places -- sometimes even in the middle of the song, seamlessly swapping out the drummer, or trading guitar and bass. And at one point, they were joined by sometimes-member Leif Thorseth for one song, my favourite of theirs, "Duet for Emmylou and the Grievous Angel" which literally gave me chills as Erin and Marshall's voices traded off verses for the heart wrenching song. 
They ended the main set with a fun cover of Robyn's "Dancing On My Own" before coming back out for a couple more, the modern love story "Little Poems" and finally bookending the set with another form their first album Going Steady, "Cuba/Peru".

Between the band's intense energy, the large inflatable letters -- R, A, and H -- which they threw into the crowd partway through the set, and the confetti cannon, Rah Rah once again showed that when it comes to live shows, they are less a band and more a force of nature.

The Betrayal pt 1, Saint, The Poet's Dead, Run, I'm A Killer, The Innocent One, 20s, Art and a Wife, First Kiss, Dead Men, Duet for Emmylou and the Grievous Angel, Prairie Girl, Dancing On My Own [Robyn cover].
(encore) Little Poems, Cuba/Peru.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Toque Sessions: Said The Whale Remixed @ CBC Vancouver -- 02/20/14

For a fifth year, the CBC Toque Sessions return to CBC Vancouver. The sessions are a series of free shows featuring some great local talent, running through the end of February, and are recorded for later broadcast of CBC Radio 2, and streaming on CBC Music.

A lot of times the powers that be at the Toque Sessions try to bring something different to the shows, and this was perhaps the most unique one I have seen so far.

Said the Whale bass player Nathan Shaw -- who also makes electronic beats under the name Elkali -- remixed nine of the songs from their most recent album hawaiii, turning their indie-pop jams into electronic soundscapes, and the band performed them live.
Flanked by two screens alternately showing CBC stock footage of Vancouver and soundwaves of the live music, the band took the stage with no guitars, no drums; just keyboards and synth, with Nathan in the middle of it all, orchestrating the whole thing from his laptop and sampler.
Admittedly, I am not always a fan of electronic music, but after seeing the Whales several times live over the years, I was definitely intrigued by this one-time event.

With a variety of electro-sounds, from house and trance, to club bangers, to dubsteppy bass drops, tracks flowed into one another for a seamless half-hour set. "On The Ropes" had a dreamy quality, and could have been the music for an underwater Mario level; "Resolutions" sounded closest to its hawaiiian counterpart to start, but soon morphed into twitchy vocal samples; "Oh K, Okay" was filled with a stuttering drum beat; and probably the most different of the songs, "I Love You" ended the set, starting a little ethereal before ending with more of a dubstep beat.

A lot of musicians say stripping down their songs down to an acoustic version is a good exercise, but I think the same thing could be said for remixing and performing them in this fashion. It was a completely different take on the songs, and even talking to a couple band members after the show, they said they had an absolute blast figuring it out.
So while I'm not sure this is something I would want to see Said the Whale do more than once, it was a really cool show and an interesting experiment.

More Than This, On The Ropes, Resolutions, Safe To Say, Mother, Oh K Okay, I Could Smoke, The Weight of the Season, I Love You. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Twenty Five: Ninth Tracks

Each week on the 3am Mixtapes podcast, I will share with you the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general like best female vocalists. Or some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Bands With Unusual Instruments.

This week, we shall take a look at the Top Six Track Nines! "Why," I hear you ask (even though we are using text based communication right now)? Well, the simple answer is "why not?"

This week on the playlist:

"Poor Ol Broken Hearted Me" by The Trews
"Lesage" by The Liptonians
"Agoraphobe" by Ryan Dahle
"I Remember" by Damien Rice
"I Still Remember" by Bloc Party
"Spitfire" by Wil

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

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Twenty Four: Makeotus

Each week on the 3am Mixtapes podcast, I will share with you the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general like best breakup songs. Or some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs With Opposite Titles.

This week, what with the proximity of that one day in February, I am stealing borrowing from Grant Lawrence and the CBC Radio 3 podcast with the Top Six Makeout Songs! It's cool, he said it was okay.

Let's get busy with:

"Keep Me High" by Adaline
"Good Sex" by Kevin Drew
"I Got You Babe" by Bahamas
"Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It" by Stars
"Getcha Good" by Jenn Grant
"Lover's Day" by TV On The Radio

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

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

String Fling II w/ Four on the Floor String Quartet @ Rio Theatre -- 02/06/14

A little over a year ago, the Four on the Floor String Quartet -- who have provided strings for virtually every band in Vancouver -- had the chance shine on their own with the first String Fling at the Rio Theatre. It was a great show melding local indie rock with gorgeous, classical strings. Now they are back for a second year, for the second annual String Fling.

The members of the quartet for the night were Michelle Faehrmann on cello, Elliott Vaughan on viola, and violinists Stephanie Chatman and Emily Bach -- with Hannah Epperson on violin and Megan Bradfield on stand up bass also rotating in for a few songs.

They opened with a strings instrumental, and live visuals projected on the screen from an old school overhead projector that ran throughout the show, done by Mind of a Snail Puppet Co. Each artist got three songs, with the Quartet playing segues between each, and the first artist up was Brandon Scott from Yukon Blonde. His own songs were more laid back with a folky singer/songwriter vibe, compared to Yukon Blonde's high energy rock, with the strings punctuating the introspective feeling.

After an amazing and frantically dissonant viola piece by Elliott Vaughn called Nine Fingers, Tonye Aganaba took the stage. There were some technical problems with her guitar for the first song, but the focus of her set was definitely her powerful and soulful voice, which shone through her own songs, as well as a cover of Rihanna's "Diamond".

Another piece from the Quartet called "I Spell Your Name With Other Letters" (or, "Other Letters" for short, or "O.L." for shorter) segued into Jay Malinowski. Admittedly, I have never really liked Bedouin Soundclash, or his solo material, which he was featuring. His new project, called Jay Malinowski & The Deadcoast, also includes Elliott Vaughan, and he brought out the piano for one of the songs from the new album. Aside from his own songs, he also included a cover of Krief's "Forever Goodnight", before wrapping up the first half of the evening.

There was a brief intermission, before the show started back up with Michelle on cello, backed by Ali Sidat of Mother Mother on drums, for a really cool number -- starting off with kind of a dark, almost post-rock sound before spinning into a more dancey piece; it was one of my favourite pieces of the night.

Continuing the second half was one of the two leads of Rococode, Laura Smith. Rococode's songs have always had a bit of an eerie or haunting quality to them, and the addition of the strings drove that feeling home. She played a couple new songs, one with Ali and Ryan joining her, before finishing off with a haunting version of "Empire", which may have been my favourite interpretation of the night.

The Quartet went a little more contemporary and covered some Daft Punk before the next act, Ryan Guldemond. He said he wanted to juxtapose the beautiful strings with blasphemous songs, one of which spun into a spoken word monologue about a failed breakup with an ex. The songs were as catchy and sharp as you would expect from the Mother Mother frontman, but a lot less grounded; more surreal, but definitely interesting.

And finally, the night wrapped up with Fur Trade. The Quartet did a version of one of their songs instrumentally before Steve Bays and Parker Bosley were out for the band's very first live show. The two were members of Hot Hot Heat together, and while I was never much of a fan of that band, I have liked Fur Trade's singles, and their live performance was definitely impressive. Their pair of songs, "Kids These Days" and "Same Temptation", got the theatre crowd up to the stage and dancing, for a perfect ending to the main set.

But of course, the members of Four on the Floor were back out for an encore, for one last song, joined by Tonye and Laura on vocals to perform an awesome cover of R. Kelly's ridiculous song "Genius".

The night ran fairly smooth, with near seamless transitioning from one band to the next. I've always enjoyed strings in music, and the best moments from both this year -- and last -- were with acts that you might not consider adding strings to. There seemed to be a lot more synergy between the bands and the quartet this year, and I can only hope the tradition continues, as it is bound to become one of the most anticipated annual events.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Twenty Three: Covers (that are not Hurt)

Each week on the 3am Mixtapes podcast, I will share with you the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general like best breakup songs. Or some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs With Opposite Titles.

This week is all about someone else's songs, it is the Top Six Cover Songs That Are Not Hurt By Johnny Cash! I always love me some cover songs, and here are just a few of the ones that have stuck with me over the years.

Hear these bands do versions of:

"Hoppipolla" by We Are Scientists, covering Sigur Rós
"Le Pyromane" by The Zolas, covering Karkwa
Take On Me" by A.C. Newman, covering A-Ha
"Ignition (Remix)" by Zeus, covering R. Kelly
"What You Waiting For" by Franz Ferdinand, covering Gwen Stefani
"Common People" by William Shatner, covering Pulp

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

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Shred Kelly @ Electric Owl -- 01/31/14

As I've said more than a couple times before, one of my favourite newly-discovered bands from the last few years is Fernie's Shred Kelly. They kicked off a short BC tour the other night in Revelstoke, before hitting the Electric Owl in Vancouver.

Opening the early show was Vancouver's this is The Shoes. Usually a two piece, the duo was joined by a drummer and bass player to fill out the band. They opened with a softer song before launching into a set full of dirty and fiery blues songs, with singer Sabrina Robson's strong voice perfectly fitting for their sound.
I always have a soft spot for blues rock -- which they did very well -- but while Sabrina & guitarist Jereme Collette were definitely talented, I felt like they needed to put their own stamp on the sound, like I wasn't listening to anything new. They're only a couple years old as a band, though, so I am interested to see what's next for the band.

Not long after, Shred Kelly took the stage, immediately launching into a more-or-less instrumental song, followed by the explosive "Cabin Fever". Since they first time I saw them, the self-described "stoke-folk" band always been strong and energetic, and they were in top form that night. Especially the shared lead vocals between banjo/guitarist Tim Newton and Sage McBride on keyboard.
Part way through the set they tested out a couple new songs; the first was a comparatively dark song with Sage's powerful voice filling the room, and was possibly my favourite of the set. The other had Tim on vocals, with his ukulele, for a majestic, soaring song. It sounded like it could have easily been in a commercial for Tourism Fernie (which I mean in the best possibly way).
Other highlights were the back-to-back "Tornado Alley" and "The Bear", the former building up to a cacophonous and frantic ending, fitting its name, and the latter featuring some of the fastest hands on the banjo.
They wrapped up the main set with "New Black", but of course they were back for one more, joined by Eric Larocque for the ultimate song to blow off steam, "I Hate Work". Not only did they get people stomping, clapping, and yelling along, but when they "brought it down", everyone on the dance floor took a knee. Most of the time when I've seen bands try that, there are still a few "I'm too cool for this" people still standing, but not this time.
I think that was a major factor to why this was Shred Kelly's best Vancouver show to date; the crowd was fantastic, and each member of the band fed off that energy, leaving everything on stage.

[Intro], Cabin Fever, White River, Rowed Away, Time is Passing, [New Sage Song], [New Tim Song], Fossils & Tin, Tornado Alley, The Bear, New Black.
(encore) I Hate Work.