Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pick of the Week #17: Olenka and the Autumn Lovers



Both Bob (itsnotthebandihateitstheirfans) Battams and Sean (everythingispop) Wright have been talking up Olenka and the Autumn Lovers (London, On) for a good time now. In fairness, I think I might have written something about them before now were I still living in the burgeoning metropolis, but, I've moved on to bigger, swinefluier pastures. But, ironically (or not) it was a trip back to the forest city (London, On) that really made me take notice of OatAL.

They were playing a CHRW (Radio Western) fundraiser/my buddy Elliot mentioned them to me/I remembered all the times Bob and Sean talked about them/I listened to their myspace songs approximately 100 times, and thus (yes, thus - in case you are just stopping by I have a highly literate readership) I sought out the rest of the work of OatAL. Thanks to Allan (awmusic.ca) via Darin @ the parallel universe I got my hands on both the s/t album and the companion EP Papillonette.

Suffice to say that after a few spins (I've basically listened to these two albums exclusively over the last 3 days) that its pretty easy to see why OatAL were voted London's album of the year. Now, I suspect that many people would kind of scoff at that award - London isn't exactly known for its arts scene - but, actually, in the last 3/4/5 years London has given birth to a bunch of pretty awesome albums: Basia Bulat Oh, My Darling; Shad, The Old Prince and When This is Over, Great Lake Swimmers, Oniagara, Bodies and Minds, Great Lake Swimmers, and there are others... I imagine... I'll also point out that London has produced (academy award winner), Paul Haggis, Ryan Gosling (dreamboat), and so on...

The albums themselves draw on Olenka's Eastern European background (kind of like a female Beirut, but less depressing), but aren't defined exclusively by that sound. Its fitting since Olenka grew up in Vancouver, is now a Londonian, but - according to the press release - has travelled far and wide through her studies (PhD in English). And given that information, the narrative of the albums - particularly the s/t release - make a lot of sense, which, in the end, kind of feels like the story of Olenka's youth (real or imagined I'm not sure) in Poland.

The executive summary
: An album (s/t), which feels like the story of Olenka Krakus' youth in Poland, really should've been somewhere (probably top 15 on my year end list last year) and is making me think I should go back and re-evaluate my picks.

[mp3] Olenka and the Autumn Lovers - Flash in the Pan (Papillonette EP)
[mp3] Olenka and the Autumn Lovers - Iron Pump (Olenka and the Autumn Lovers)

Pick of the Week #1: Ketch Harbour Wolves
Pick of the Week #2: Rah Rah
Pick of the Week #3: Glasvegas/Animal Collective
Pick of the Week #4: Bruce Peninsula
Pick of the Week #5: The Antlers
Pick of the Week #6: The Darcys
Pick of the Week #7: Ohbijou
Pick of the Week #8:
Gentlemen Husbands
Pick of the Week #9: Chris Whitley
Pick of the Week #10: Alela Diane
Pick of the Week #11: K'naan
Pick of the Week #12: TOR/Sufjan Stevens
Pick of the Week #13: Timber Timbre
Pick of the Week #14: Justis
Pick of the Week #15: Hibiscus & Rosehips Compilation
Pick of the Week #16: Patrick Watson

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Exchanging emails with... Ketch Harbour Wolves



I think Ketch Harbour Wolves are one of the/the most underrated bands in Toronto, maybe in Canada.... hell, maybe in the entire world. I came across their album on Herohill's top Canadian EPs of 2008, and it took me approximately 15 seconds to figure out that the guys at Herohill had really hit the nail on the head with KHW. They (KHWs) ended the year in a three way tie for BM's album of the year with Kanye West and Chad Van Gaaelen, so, pretty select company for a pretty impressive album.

When I went to go see them in January, I was a little underwhelmed for a variety of reasons which I discussed then (and we discuss in the emails), but after seeing a great deal of improvement in their live show I'm projecting a solid second half of 2009 and a break out year for 2010 when, presumably, they'll have a new album out.

Also, and I realize I'm getting long-winded here, you should note that:

1/I'm kind of fine-tuning this 'Exchanging emails with' segment, and am hoping to keep this a little more brief/readable.
2/Thanks to Jonathan, I think I'm now going to finish every series of emails with a LIGHTNING ROUND where I'll ask a bunch of rapid fire, InsidetheActorsStudioesque questions...

* * *

Johnathan.

Thanks for agreeing to do this... and, like I said, I think what makes this interesting is if it turns more into a dialogue rather than just the standard - question, answer format. Also, if there's something you want to ignore/don't want to talk about feel free to just ignore any questions/comments.

First, that poster/photo(?) that you had up on your myspace for a while was spectacular. How/Where did that come from? It kind of looks like you're playing in some sort of stadium... you guys aren't secretly really big in Europe are you?

Second, what's been going with you guys since you put out Dead Calm Horizon?

Third, what inspired you/how'd you come to the decision to give the album away for free?

Hopefully that's a good start to get the ball rolling, and feel free if you want to ask/answer your own questions to do so... hope you've had/are having a good holiday weekend...

Rob


* * *
Hey Rob,

First off that was a pretty damned good dialog with Bryan from Black Hat Brigade so I realize I've got my work cut out for me!

On the poster - Sadly, we are not really big in Europe and despite the spectral haze surrounding the lights which is easily confused with the crimson smoke that wafted through Red Rocks in 1984 when U2 tore it a new one with their rendition of 'Sunday Bloody Sunday', ... it is in fact, Toronto's very own Mod Club with a wonderfully serendipitous alignment of lighting and camera angle.

On post-Dead Calm Horizon - Actually much of our energy since Dead Calm Horizon, or at least up until the beginning of this year was taken up with developing material for the next album. We had been taking inspiration from the prolific careers of the Bob Dylan's of the world and figured that our DIY system of recording should be the perfect compliment to a hyper-productive band. In retrospect I think we were focusing on the new stuff to a fault. I think our performance at The Elmo in early January really revealed that and so we took a bit of a step back to focus on learning how to properly 'deliver' the songs. (hmm.... this little email confession booth turning public idea is kind of terrifying, but also really great!)

The free album - The decision to give the album away for free was pretty easy actually. Our philosophy was about maximum availability to the point of total redundancy (hence the 'Catch 22' - esque situation of having it simultaneously available for free and for a price on our website... all we would have to do now is sell it back to ourselves for twice the price!). The thinking is that most of those who tend to pay for music will pay for it, most of those who don't tend to pay would either not get it or rip it from someone, but most importantly those who come across the band randomly, who might really enjoy coming back from the far places of the web with some obscure canuck band in hand would almost certainly not have paid and thus not have brought it back to places like - Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Australia, The Philippines etc.

It's not a perfect system as evidenced by the fact that we're still drowning in debt but what has been invaluable is the 'barrier free' way to connect with fine bloggers such as yourself who consistently mention (and most of the time link to) the free download page. If we drew a grand old pyramid scheme we would ideally have visions of Giza but you get the idea. Revenue, not so much..... generating interest.... hopefully! (here it would be prudent to throw in the link I think... www.ketchharbourwolves.ca).

I guess I'll leave it with a possible critique of our little method - by giving away the album for free, we're only engaging in nihilistic opportunism that doesn't help solve the problem of how artists will create a viable model for generating revenue. It's this kind of seemingly harmless behavior that is actually undermining the industry's ability to respond and so ultimately hurts all artists.

What's your opinion Rob?

Looking forward to hearing back from you.

-J

* * *

Jonathan.

... the photo, if I can make a suggestion, I think should be your next album cover....

Well, if the DIY thing for you means you are going to put more stuff out then that's awesome, because your music (and when I say music I mean Dead Calm Horizon since that's the only thing I know that you've done) is really great. I hope my comments on your set in Jan. didn't make you think twice about putting out more music?!?! I think my comments - when I said there were a couple of songs that weren't super clean (and what do I know, really) - was more as a comparison with the album (which, again, is spectacular). I mean, I imagine its tough for you guys, especially when you have a pile of friends at the show who are shouting at you, to think about playing a tight, professional kind of set. Honestly, IMHO I don't think it was a delivery thing, so much as a setting kind of thing.

On the giving your album away for free front, I think that was great. Again, it so good, that I'm pretty sure everyone who has heard it is basically going to pay whatever you ask for it. That said, have you guys been talking to anyone (labels, studios(?), music industry goombas) about a follow up? I'd imagine people would be climbing all overthemselves to get your next album given that everyone I know who's listened to it thinks its spectacular. Obviously, on your end it sucks - because you're not making any money from it - but I feel like the first free album thing is almost like putting out a resume, no? And now that you've killed it, that things will start swinging your way...

In conclusion, my thoughts are free album = excellent move. And since I liked it so much it made me buy a t-shirt (which were a wicked cool design - I bought the gold on black) at your show, and make me want to tell everyone I know to listen to it...

Curious to hear more what you think about my first para. on your show/new music especially...

Talk soon.

Rob

* * *

Hey Rob,


>>I hope my comments on your set in Jan. didn't make you think twice about putting out more music?!?!

Not at all, we really appreciated the honest feedback. We try to have a very open dialog with ourselves about what is or isn't working for the band. Your comment that you felt you "had wandered into a high school reunion at a school neither of us went to" was absolutely spot on and we've kept it on the table in our discussions. This also ties into your comment below (above?) about the double-edged sword of playing for friends. I had a recent epiphany (I use that word cause it sounds cool but more accurately I was recently clocked in the face with the 'obvious' bat): As with most bands at the early stages, our friends have been forming the major bulk of our crowd for a while. When the album came out it was for them a kind of compliment to the live show but their initial contact was in the higher-energy atmosphere of a bar (an energy that was further heightened by the fact that they are friends and they were mostly all drunk). With the album circulating quite steadily we're getting a significant amount of people coming out whose first way into the songs is through the recordings - which as you know incorporate a fairly significant dynamic and emotional range. This is a very different listener (of course I'm polarizing the two to make a point when in reality there is a lot of overlap), and one that I think we really need to invest a lot of energy in properly addressing.

As for the new material, despite my comments it's progressing quite well. We have 5 out of the projected 10 songs written and almost ready to record. There has been some interest from labels (and a few 'goombas'...great word!) but it's hard to gauge how serious that is (and if we want it) so rather than sitting around waiting we're just going to go ahead. A good friend of ours runs a great little studio in Halifax (Spaces Between) so we're going to fly him here in September, rent some gear, go into the woods and see what happens (how typical!). Having said all that we still have the ludicrous goal of getting 10,000 copies of Dead Calm Horizon into people's music collections between now and the next record (there are about 1000 out there right now). If the remaining 9000 are free downloads that's totally fine, we just want it out there!

Ok, Rob, I've got a question for you but by all means, ignore it if you want -

At one of the panel discussions at NXNE last year I heard someone say, "The best thing about cheap, ubiquitous recording software is that anyone can produce a recording. The worst thing about cheap, ubiquitous recording software is that anyone can produce a recording."

I wrestle with this a lot - just because I have the means, does that make me entitled to be an 'artist'? (btw, I'm not looking for validation or fishing for compliments... It's something I'll wrestle with as long as I'm making music I think).

One could imagine the above quoted statement being made in terms of the blogging/music criticism infrastructure. And so as a blogger I guess I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on that?

For the record, this isn't any kind of criticism of you! I really like your blog. You write with insight, accessibility and a slight flicker of dark humor that keeps things interesting, and besides this whole "exchanging emails" thing is a testament to your interest in really exploring the medium. I guess it's just a general issue I wonder about from the other side of the screen.


Again, we can just leave that topic if you want...


Hey maybe after your next response we could get into a lightning round?

* * *

Jonathan.

Good. So we're still friends then...

I think that quote ("The best thing about cheap, ubiquitous recording software is that anyone can produce a recording. The worst thing about cheap, ubiquitous recording software is that anyone can produce a recording.") is bang on. But, I'm not sure whether the volume of music that is being produced impacts whether you're an artist or not. In fact, I might argue with you that whether you're "an artist" or not is really inconsequential. I think different bands have different goals (create meaningful music, make people feel good, make money, get chicks (or dudes, I guess) much like people have different reasons for listening to music, and its the extent to which bands accomplish their goals and connect to their audience that makes them successful.

I think the same thing is true for me as a blogger. My goal, I think, is basically to try and write stuff that I think is going to be fun, interesting, make a few people laugh/smile/snicker, hear good music, and generally connect with people who think the same way. In that way, I think the internet is great. If for example, you were to judge my blog by readership, professional journalistic standards, etc. it would be a pretty catastrophic failure. But, I'm doing what I want to do, so its a success. What would I do if I was going to try and make a living doing this? Shit. I have no idea....

Love the lightning round idea... here goes: Your favourite song that you've done? Favourite song of this year? If you could only listen to one band for the rest of your life who would it be? Person you'd most like to meet? Best show you've ever played? Best show you've been to? Best venue to play at? Best book you've read in the last year? Best movie?

And, if you want a few more: If you had a dog (presuming you don't), what would you name it? What's your facebook status say right now? Coolest thing you've ever done? Favourite sports franchise (that's not the Leafs)? Famous person that you like the least/think is the doucheyiest? Favourite TV show?

I'm definitely going to use this lightning round thing going forward...

Rob

* * *

THE LIGHTNING ROUND!!!

Hey Rob...
Good answer, now on to the lightning round!


>Your favourite song that you've done?
It would be unprofessional of me to answer that with our cover of 'Hungry Like The Wolf' so I'll say "Leaves" with a string section at Humber College.


>Favourite song of this year?
"Big Red Machine" - Justin Vernon & Aaron Dessner from 'Dark Was The Night'


>If you could only listen to one band for the rest of your life who would it be?
Shit that's tough. Sufjan Stevens - not because he's by any means the favorite but if he continues to be ridiculously prolific and varied then I'll be able to buy sometime before going insane from listening to the same artist over and over again.


>Person you'd most like to meet?
Maynard James Keenan


>Best show you've ever played?
This coming Friday with 'The Rest'! (it's probably a stupid idea to say something like that)


>Best show you've been to?
Big show: Tool - Copps Coliseum, 2007
Not as big show: Wintersleep - PEI Shoreline Festival, 2004


>Best venue to play at?

I'm going to go with El Mocambo on that one.


>Best book you've read in the last year?
"What Is America?", Ronald Wright

>Best movie?
"The Lives Of Others" (it's a bit older but a recent watch for me)


>If you had a dog (presuming you don't), what would you name it?
Slum


>What's your facebook status say right now?
Nothing, I've never gotten around to using that feature.


>Coolest thing you've ever done?
Saw the northern lights shoot across the night sky while standing on a house boat in Yellowknife with a guitar in one hand and a caribou steak in the other.

>Favourite sports franchise (that's not the Leafs)?
AS Roma


>Famous person that you like the least/think is the doucheyiest?
Gary Busey, for reasons I don't even understand.

>Favourite TV show?
Kids In The Hall


Thanks again to Jonathan for taking the time to allow me to badger him. Another reminder that the entire album Dead Calm Horizon is available for FREE DOLLARS at ketchharbourwolves.ca.
Or, if you prefer:

[mp3] Ketch Harbour Wolves - Letters
[mp3] Ketch Harbour Wolves - So Long to the Ground

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What I did Yesterday/Upcoming Shows

As many of you know I have the attention span of a 6 year old and this blog is a fun outlet for me to try out new stuff. Some stuff lasts (see: my pick of the week), some doesn't (see: virtually everything else), and its hard to tell what's going to happen with this, but I had a lot of fun creating these posters this (Sunday) afternoon. If you're in a band and saying to yourself, "GAWD, I wish I could get the R.O.B. to make me a poster" just ask, I can't imagine I'm going to be that busy...

Without further ado, I give you Concert Posters by the R.O.B....

Note: Some details may or may not be accurate... I didn't realize you couldn't edit these after you made them into .jpegs.

Not going to be able to make this one since I already have Patrick Watson tickets, but, if you don't have anything else going on, go check out Dog is Blue @ the Tranzac next Saturday.
[mp3] Dog is Blue - Grandma


This may not be the actual cost, I just made that up and I have no idea who they're playing with, but Rah Rah's going steady (pick of the week #2) is an excellent, excellent, record. Also, in addition to playing at the Boat on the 11th, they're playing at El Mocambo on the 12th (I have dodgeball that night).
[mp3] Rah Rah - the Betrayal pt.1


I've said heaps of good things about the BHB before (email exchange, show review, etc, etc.) so there's no reason to go on any longer... oh yeah, and the new EP, Fathers, is pretty excellent. Expect it to show up as a pick of the week soon...
[mp3] Black Hat Brigade - Zombie City Shake


It would be a little disingenuous to announce that the Sunparlour Players have released the record of the year without ever hearing it, but I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't carving out a place for it at the top of this year's list. But, I think I've heard enough of them to know that their songs, album, and show release are going to be ... wait for it... wait for it... lengendary.
[mp3] Sunparlour Players - Wave North (live @ the Horseshoe Tavern)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Rest CD Release w/ Ketch Harbour Wolves @ the Tranzac, Apr. 24.2009.



Last night was just about the perfect ending to what was a pretty spectacular week off for me (Tues: Dodgeball, Wed: FoTC, Thurs: Jays game). Especially since, 1/the Tranzac turned out to be a pretty cool venue; 2/the show ran very on time; and 3/ I made it home to catch the last 3 mins of the Blazers v. Rockets in time to see the Blazers get within 3 only to have Steve Blake chuck up a brutal shot with 10 seconds still on the clock... I digress...

The only downside with the show running on time was that I ended up missing Amanda Zelina, who I think would've been really interesting based on her myspace page. But, in my defense, in the world of small venue (less than, say, 1,000 people) music 8:00 isn't really 8:00, its more like 10:30, so, you might say I was actually an hour and a half early...

Anyways, I was in time to see the band responsible for one of my favourite records last year: Ketch Harbour Wolves. When I saw the band back in Jan. I mentioned that their live sound didn't quite live up to the quality of their recording. As I said, it could've been for a number of reasons: just an off night, the venue, the playing in front of a bunch of hammered friends effect, or the fact that the recording is so good that it was going to be impossible to put together a show that good.

This time around, the band was a lot tighter, the (2/3/4/5?) part vocal harmonies were right on point, and generally the band looks more like a .... well, they just looked more professional, confident, etc. They played a bunch of new songs, which all sounded great, including and especially the song they closed with, 'Damascus' (I think), which should not be confused with the Sufjan Stevens song by the same name.

The Rest came on next (obviously), and certainly gave me a new appreciation for their music. Adam Bentley(who I traded emails with last week)'s voice was shockingly, shockingly, good. I can say with great confidence that they didn't use autotune on their new album Everyone All At Once. There were some absolutely epic moments on stage, and has led me to the conclusion that the band is... well, good things are going to keep happening.

Those who read through our emails (which, based on the length of said emails was probably no one) will know that the band is flying down to NYC this week to film a Blogotheque Take Away Show. And, it seems likely given how much time/energy Adam is putting into this (the music thing) the band is going to keep getting more and more attention...

A couple of side notes:
  • The Ketch Harbour Wolves Dead Calm Horizon is still available for free.
  • You can look out for my "Exchanging emails with..." segment up w/ KHW at the beginning of next week.
  • Pretty cool use of an (unnamed) Alfred Hitchcock black and white (maybe they're all black and white) movie playing behind the band... was very fitting for the band...
[mp3] The Rest - Walk on Water (auspicous beginnings)
[mp3]
Ketch Harbour Wolves - Letters


Ketch Harbour Wolves






The Rest


Friday, April 24, 2009

Pick of the Week #16: Patrick Watson



There were a few weeks at the beginning of the year where I really felt like I was struggling to find a quality album to recommend. Now, over the last 2/3 weeks I feel like I could be making 2 or 3 picks every week. In fact, this week I had 5 albums which I haven't picked that I suspect will end up on a lot of lists at the end of the year, but, Wooden Arms - I think - is the best of the bunch.

Remember Patrick Watson the guy who did the Chris Martin impression on 'Luscious Life'? Well, he's dead. No more piano driven, epic sounding songs, just those kind of spooky noises from Close to Paradise.... well, not entirely...

Wooden Arms relies on a kind of strange combination of strings, found sounds (I understand from a reliable source that he used a lot of 'stuff' from around his house), classical/acoustic guitar, and his voice to create the kind of cryptic, haunting, melodies in the way that only PW can. And while PW and Co. have abandoned those big Coldplay-esque songs, they've added in some really sweet male/female vocal harmonies ("Wooden Arms" and "Big Bird in a Small Cage"). If you find PW tough to get into, I suspect those songs are your best route in to the new album...

And this one is, I think, probably a little tougher to get into. I mean, it wasn't tougher for me to get into, but I think its generally less accessible. A lot of those whispering, haunting, howling noises that initially turned me off the Close to Paradise, are the backdrop for WA. What I'm saying is, I'm not going to be convincing Liz that anything off this album is a new Coldplay song. But, I think because its less accessible it ends up being more rewarding when you - airquotes - get it. This is easily one of my favourite records of the year - very narrowly behind Bruce Peninsula and Illinoize.

So, how excited am I to see Patrick Watson next weekend? All I have to say is "you think you're excited, feel these nipples!" (for those of you not familiar, or, who are unwilling to click on the link - its a Bob Costas (the sports broadcaster) line from BASEketball (a cinematic masterpiece, if you ask me)).

See mp3s here.

PS - Kudos to my buddy Mr.G - and now blog contributor - for being on the ball with the tickets...

Pick of the Week #1: Ketch Harbour Wolves
Pick of the Week #2: Rah Rah
Pick of the Week #3: Glasvegas/Animal Collective
Pick of the Week #4: Bruce Peninsula
Pick of the Week #5: The Antlers
Pick of the Week #6: The Darcys
Pick of the Week #7: Ohbijou
Pick of the Week #8:
Gentlemen Husbands
Pick of the Week #9: Chris Whitley
Pick of the Week #10: Alela Diane
Pick of the Week #11: K'naan
Pick of the Week #12: TOR/Sufjan Stevens
Pick of the Week #13: Timber Timbre
Pick of the Week #14: Justis
Pick of the Week #15: Hibiscus & Rosehips Compilation

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Flight of the Conchords @ Massey Hall, Apr. 22.2009



I think Flight of the Conchords are the kind of act that you want to keep to yourself, you don't want other people to know about them (unless you can recommend them to get cool points), laugh at them, and generally be 'in' on their jokes. It's not the type of humour that you want to share. Heading to the theatre (makes it sound classier, right?) I was a little unsure of what to expect from the crowd, and after having a group of what must've been 8 or so co-workers sit down beside Liz and I, I was fully expecting to give dirty looks for singing along all night... but, sadly, the crowd was great... nothing to complain about...

Eugene Mirman (Eugene the landlord) opened up with a pretty hilarious stand-up act, which culminated with a great bit on the ineptitude of Delta Airlines. The bit ended with Mirman handing out post cards that he hoped we would mail to Delta, suffice to say that the letter (which you can hear below) was not kind. After chatting with a couple of friends post-show, the reviews on Mirman were mixed, which it seemed to be based on expectations (these things usually are). I was expecting little to nothing from him, and the Delta bit alone was enough to win me over... win me over enough to buy his book... ummm... probably not...

Whatever your opinion on his stand-up, I think everyone can agree that it was terrific not having to wait around 30-40mins for the Conchords to come on...

And came one they did (that really doesn't sound right, does it?)! The bulk of their set was songs from S2 of the TV show, pretty well balanced with some stuff from S1 and songs that didn't make the cut for TV. The best part, for my money at least, was their banter - how they handled (by ratting them out to the security staff) the people who were using flash photography, their response to the 'Freebird' and 'Slayer' calls, and the waiting for the guy in the front row who went to the bathroom. If (somehow) you can still get tickets to see them on the rest of their tour... do.


[mp3] Eugene Mirman - Delta Airlines pt.1 (live @ Massey Hall)
[mp3] Eugene Mirman - Delta Airlines pt.2 (live @ Massey Hall)

[mp3] Flight of the Conchords - Hurt Feelings (live @ Massey Hall)
[mp3] Flight of the Conchords - Song for Epileptic Dogs (live @ Massey Hall)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

FoTC Tonight...


Hopefully some thoughts tomorrow... and my pick of the week on Friday...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mr. G's Song of the Week - "Hey, Snow White"


Hello and welcome to the inaugural "Mr. G's Song of the Week" post. Much thanks to the R.O.B. for welcoming me into his highly-touted blogosphere. I can only hope my contributions warrant an overall rating of Level 4+ (that's teacher-speak) and that you, dear reader, hold fast to the suggested listening material previewed here and live a healthier and more well-rounded life as a result.

You know a song is good when after one listen you begin frothing at the mouth and immediately set about to acquire that band's entire discography without so much as giving the song another listen. Such was the response elicited by The New Pornographers' "Hey, Snow White." Perhaps that places me behind the times a little, considering this band has been a powerhouse on the Canadian indie scene for some time now. Well so be it. The song and the band kick derriere whether you discovered them at their inception in 1997 or today.

Recorded for "Dark Was the Night," the newest of twenty compilation albums whose proceeds go towards the Red Hot Organization, a charity that raises funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS, the album is a who's who of indie rock superstars. But of all the fantastic contributions to the record, "Hey, Snow White," tucked away in the middle of the second disc of the two-disc set, stands out. An elegant rocker, complete with captivating melody and delicious harmonies, the song (in my humble interpretation) speaks to the crisis of today's economic situation and the importance of doing what you love to do when working for "The Man" doesn't quite work out. Because as the New Pornographers so eloquently state: "When the company goes public, you've got to learn to love what you want." Like much of their work, though, "Hey, Snow White" can be interpreted in a myriad of ways.

The song has great pace, moving from gentle, piano-driven sections to the rocking chorus and back again. There's even some glockenspiel thrown in for good measure. And where there is glockenspiel, one will find Mr. G's song of the week. Enjoy!

[mp3] The New Pornographers - Hey, Snow White

Monday, April 20, 2009

Exchanging emails with... The Rest



Round one of "Exchanging emails with..." the Black Hat Brigade turned out really well, or at the very least, well enough to warrant another kick at the can. This time I traded some emails with Adam Bentley from the Rest, who have a new album (out tomorrow) Everyone All At Once. Adam is also involved with Auteur Recordings, the (super) duo Allegories, and some secret government sub-committees for the city of Hamilton.

Also, they've got some shows coming up in SW Ontario: Toronto (this Friday w/ Ketch Harbour Wolves), London, Hamilton, Peterborough so be on the look out for those.

And lastly, these are real emails (I didn't make this up) so, sorry for all the typos, errors (factual and otherwise) in the following post. Look out for my email exchange with Ketch Harbour Wolves at some point late this week/early next week...

* * *
Adam.

I think this is going to be a regular warning to bands, but I'm really sorry if this is totally weird, so feel free to ignore any questions/comments that you feel you need to.

So, you guys got in touch with me I think last summer and sent me some tracks ("Apples & Allergies" and "Walk on Water") in an effort to promote the album, Everything All At Once, that is coming out/in stores now? soon? and then at Christmas (or thereabouts) you sent over the whole album. What's that process been like from last summer - having those songs - to finally get the album out to the general public? Frankly, and I don't know the first thing about releasing a record, that seems like a really long time.

Also, I'd be curious to hear what's been going with you guys feel like the general response has been with the record so far? Allan (of AWmusic) has been raving (to me at least) about how good your record is, and I've really been coming around on it... seems like you have a tonne of positive comments up on your myspace page...

Rob

* * *
Hey Rob!

Story about the delay, Easter weekend is a fairly crazy one for me. And this year especially, haven't been home more than a few hours since Thursday, well at least awake.

When we first sent you the two songs last summer they were the only ones mixed and mastered, which we put out on a single to be a little preview for Everyone All At Once in the end of July. We knew that the remainder of the album would take a few months to mix because of working constraints, basically only getting into the studio once a week, if that, and we were really dying to show off our new music, so we decided to push forward with a couple of songs that were the closest to completion. The album was completely mixed at the end of September, and then we waited another month to get the record into the mastering studio because they were backed up. We were already looking towards a early 09 release date, so we sat patiently. Then we went through a couple of different scenarios, and eventually decided to release the record with Auteur Recordings and Fontana North in Canada on April 21st. We're still working on other territories, but we're getting closer to having some news there. The story isn't exciting, but a reality that the ever changing industry sometime takes awhile to archive objectives. We felt that if we were going to work on the record for so long we needed to find a situations that will give the music the best chance to be heard. All of us are extremely proud of what we've recorded, wasn't something put together haphazardly, and we're trying to let the album have a long life. But yes, I'd say it's been a long process to get the record out, but actually a shorter one than the last time, and hopefully next time around it'll be even shorter! It's a brave new world we're swimming in, and sometimes it takes a little time to figure out what exactly you're seeing in the murky water.

The response (so far) has been overwhelming, I personally didn't expect so many people to latch onto a record that didn't have a release date! All of the articles have been so positive, and glowing that I find myself taken aback. Not that I didn't think we were making worthwhile and passionate music, but after 6 years of being in this band, I guess we had begun to get use to our anonymity. I'm most proud that people are digging deep into the whole record, as I believe Everyone All At Once was made with the intention of having someone listen to it from front to back. I personally love the album experience, and was hoping people would fall into our world. It's truly exciting that many are finding this a "no filler" record! We set out to make an album where every song would have it's own merits, stand on its own, but also make every other song stronger by association, and when different writers, bloggers, listener, etc. convey those sentiment it really means the most to me. I like the idea of making an album in a singles world.

Again Rob, sorry! I should be much quicker next time around, as there's no more Good Friday hikes and the like to participate in!

-Adam

* * *
Adam.

No worries. I basically spent all day Sunday eating, and then Monday recovering from eating, so I completely understand that people have stuff going on. Thankfully (for you, I think) your family/friends time was spent getting some exercise...

That strikes me as a really long period (I'm sorry if I'm being repetitive) to get an album out. Was there any thought about putting it out on your own? Forgive my ignorance, but what have the label(s)(?), distributors(?), people you've signed your lives away to done to help with the record? ... I've gotta tell ya, I've seen the movie Ray, and I'm under the impression that record labels are evil, so, if you needs some help getting out of your contract, I know a guy who knows a guy...

You guys have been together 6 years?!? That's incredible, what's that been like? I'm also curious about what you guys think about the praise you've been getting from the album. What's the best response you've got? And, I guess everyone likes positive re-enforcement, but is it a big deal if someone like me says how much I really love the album - I mean, its not exactly like I'm running Rolling Stone (yet) here...

I'm sorry if this is completely incoherent, but I've written this before having a coffee this morning... do you best with it, and if its really bad, then we can scrap this one and I'll re-send you something...

Rob

* * *
Hey Rob,

Yes, we did have a pretty busy holiday weekend. I even played a teenager in a game of one and one basketball, so while my belly isn't that sore, my whole body hates me still.

It is a really long period of time, you don't need to tell me, (laughs). Auteur Recordings is actually owned by myself and Jordan Mitchell, so we are putting out the record ourselves, in a way. It just took a few months (since around December) to commit to that decision. Record labels could be evil, or may be not. I know when I'm in record exec mode I start throwing gold chains around, and eat off of last unicorn's carcass. So, I guess to get out of our contract I'd have to be destroyed, which is virtually impossible.

The six years has gone by quickly, but it seems forever, if that makes any sense. Mainly, I can't imagine myself without this band, everything gels together these days.

I liked the review that your friend Allan gave us at AW. I thought it was a very apparent that he had delved deep into the record. Again, that's a big deal for me; knowing that someone has become completely immersed in the album.

In the end with press or no press we feel like we've made a great record, and we can't let anything positive or negative change our own opinion of what we do. I'm not particularly interested in making self-conscious music. I don't think a record in response to others reactions would make for an interesting record, at least from our standpoint. Now, seeing people writing about the record does re-enforce that we're not being delusional, and it does help facilitate the record to other people. At our last show we had people coming to see us directly from hearing about us on a blog. That was cool! I'm interested in people hearing the songs however, wherever, and whenever(but hopefully soon) they can, and with internet today there are so many avenues to explore.

Hope you got your coffee :)
-Adam

* * *

Adam.

Nice - re: the basketball. Beating up on kids in sports is always an ego booster (that's why I'm really excited about my future career in teaching!). I assume you just backed him (I assume, him) up under the basket and banked everything in from 3 ft... that said, nothing makes you feel better than a blocked shot after you've let them get by you...

Music, right. That's really cool that you guys own - and I assume started? - your own label. What was the impetus for, or how did that come about? Maybe I'm way off on this, but I feel like having a foot in music as a business is really the only way for it to be a viable career choice. With how splintered the music industry is, how many bands there are, and how few people actually buy records that you need something to supplement your band income.

Follow up question: what exactly do you do as a label? And (don't take this the wrong way) how is this different than releasing the album yourself (i.e. I could release on album that I produced in my parents basement and say I'm releasing it on my own label - The R.O.B. Recordings)? Again, hope you don't take that question the wrong way, I'm actually very curious... PS - I think you should sign Ketch Harbour Wolves, Black Hat Brigade and the Rural Alberta Advantage...

Last, I'd be kind of curious to have you pitch me/talk about Everything All At Once. What inspires the music? How do you think the music has, or will influence people? What should people listen for with the album? I'll just say I've started to pick up on a little bit of a Sigur Ros vibe - with (your?) voice and the kind of rising and falling action with the music...

Again, don't mean to be a dick with any of these questions - I'm actually curious - so, like I said at the beginning feel free to ignore any of them...

Chat soon,
Rob

* * *
Rob,

haha, well this one 'kid' is actually like 6 feet 2, and I'm not a tall guy, so he was trying to back me down most of the time. I came away with the victory, but I have a feeling that next time I play him I won't be so lucky.

Yes, we started the label originally as a way to promote Jordan and my other project Allegories, with the hope to release more music from the Hamilton area in the future. We're still hoping to release music that doesn't have any affiliation with our projects, but we need to focus on The Rest for a little while longer first. These days I think that you have to have someone in your band that's going to look after the business side of things or you can seriously put yourself at a disadvantage. People know the industry is changing, they just don't know exactly how to make that work most of the time, so you have to open your own doors. The label gives us a way to delve deeper into this world.

As a label we're the main source of promotion for the band, and we have different avenues that the record has been made available and that's been done through the label front. It's not that much different than releasing the record yourself really, except we hope to branch out with the label in the future, and we like having everything under one name. We're actually friends with the guys in Ketch (Anna has played with them in the past), so you never know...

Everyone All At Once is record infused with every bit of personality and emotion that all seven of us could cram into a whole record. I don't think our influences or what directly inspires us is a conscious decision. I was inspired by time, and I think that is a theme that runs quite prevalent throughout the record, but that is more of a starting point than anything else. I know saying "time" isn't much of description, but I think one thing people can get out of the record is assembling the whole album into their own narrative. I think it's too early to tell exactly what people are getting out of it, but I hope it moves them in some way. I hope they have a reaction to it, and not be something that's neutral. I'm not sure I can tell people to look for anything, I think that's up to the individual now. We made these songs, and have our own distinct ideas about what they mean, but you can't force that on anyone. They have to find their own connection with the music. Hopefully we can help get the songs to their ears, and then answer some distinct questions anyone has. What's usually the most exciting aspect of the band is getting a chance to mold ourselves into something that is distinctly us, and I believe that record has that feel. Not to say that we're not influenced by other artists because that would be a complete lie, but I do think those influences come organically, and not by mimicry. It would be quite boring being a glorified cover band.

Keep em coming!
-Adam

* * *
Adam.

Wow... I definitely wouldn't have agreed that... you are a brave, brave, man.

re - the label: Yeah, I think with how the industry is changing (and people scrambling to try and figure out how to make money) it could be really tough if you always had to watch you back. If you're hoping to put out music from other Hamiltonians, I'm curious what the "scene" is like there? Venues? Bands? I think a lot of people have the perception that Hamilton is a blue-collar city, so is the community pretty small? Are people receptive to music like yours, which, I don't see as being 'blue-collar'... maybe I'm completely wrong...

London - where I lived until last year - was great at supporting huge acts, but the scene for indie-pop-rock-folk was pretty sad, particularly when you consider that there are 30,000 university students in the city. Although, ironically, there has been some awesome albums that've come out of the city in the last couple of years: Basia Bulat's Oh My Darling, Shad's The Old Prince, and Olenka and the Autumn Lovers ... whatever their album is called... I've always felt like the best music comes out of some type of tension or conflict, and so maybe London being a boring city is a good thing!

A couple of quick ones that again, feel free to answer/acknowledge or not. Your favourite song of yours? Your favourite new song since the beginning of the year? Best show you've ever played? Worst? Strangest thing that's ever happened to the band?

So, maybe we'll try one or two more emails and I'll try and post this on Monday of next week? If there's anything you want to get to, talk about, mention... feel free to throw stuff in there...

Best,
Rob

* * *

Rob,

I don't find the hamilton music scene as too blue collar. Probably the biggest acts to come from the city are Caribou and the Junior Boys, and they don't have too much old Hamilton feel in them. I think there is a strong DIY mentality, for better or worse. I also think the Hamilton scene is in a bit of a crossroads, but a good crossroads. It's operated fairly similarly since we first started playing there over 5 years ago, but I see a change coming. There's a very fruitful art scene that takes place on James North and I think that music scene might try to become a little intertwinded in it. It'll be interesting to see. I'm on a commitee for a monthly music series called "New Harbours" and one of the big challenges ahead of us is to try and connect the art scene with the music scene. There are so many talented indivduals in Hamilton, but getting out from a smaller city to the larger ones can always pose problems. Either way, I'm excited for the hopeful growth.

Tough questions, and I don't know if I have many answers to them. My opinion is never very strong on what my favourite song of The Rest is. I tend to change every second. I think that's another question best left to people that are outside of the group to answer. I'm hoping our best show will be on April 24th at The Tranzac. Our worst...well we've had plenty of bad ones. When we first started we were one of the most inconsistent live bands, one show would be our best and the next we would completely bomb. That cycle lasted a good 2 and half years. Kept us on our toes though. I think I'll keep the email in the PG territory, so the strangest stories will have to be for cocktail parties and bonfire dinners.

One or two more sound great!
-Adam

* * *

Adam.

Funny, I actually went to Hamilton a few nights ago and I've never been to the DT area, but was really impressed with that one cobblestone road bar area, and thought Pepper Jack was a wicked cool space. Someone mentioned to me that its closing down, if so, that's pretty sad. Have you guys ever played there?

We've talked a lot about the process putting together the record, your record label, etc. how about what the future holds for the band? I noticed that in addition to the dates in SW Ontario you have a NY date that is TBA. Is there a tour in the works or anything that people should know about?

Dinner time...

Rob

* * *
Rob,

Yes we just played at the Pepper Jack a couple of weeks ago, and sadly yes it is closing. Hopefully though something else will come of it, but we'll have to see.

We're going down to NYC next week to tape something for one of La Blogotheque Take Away shows, so that should be fun. And in June we're going down again to do a show for NYCTAPER, and we'll probably also throw in a couple more in the city during that week. There's no full tour planned as of yet, but we're hoping to get over to the UK and tour all of North America before the year is over. Some work to be done first. Jordan and I will also will be working on our Allegories project (http://profile.myspace.com/allegories). Recording,writing and posting a song a month from July 1st until (can't get italics to stop!) January 1st. Should be quite a busy, and exciting year!

-Adam

NBA Playoff Predictions (again): with minimal commentary



I think this is going to be the most interesting NBA playoffs we've seen in years... the free-for-all in the West, the potential demise of Duncan and KG, LBJ vs. Kobe, Portland as the team of the future, etc., etc.

Also, I'd just like to point out that when I made my picks last year I was very, very, right when I picked the Celtics over the Lakers in 6 last year.


Eastern Conference

Rd 1
Cleveland over Detroit (4-0)
Boston over Chicago (4-2)
Orlando over Philadelphia (4-1)
Miami over ATL (4-3)

Rd 2
Cleveland over Miami (4-0)
Boston over Orlando (4-3) through home court advantage, sheer force of will from PP, and b/c I don't think I've ever seen Dwight Howard play well in a big game...

Conf. Finals
Cleveland over Boston (4-1)

Western Conference
Rd 1
LAL over Utah (4-1)
Den over New Orleans (4-3)
San Antonio over Dallas (4-3)
Portland over Houston (4-3)

Rd 2
LAL over Portland (4-2)
SAS over Denver (4-3) since, no matter how injured the Spurs are they aren't a team full of former meth addicts...

Rd 3
LAL over SAS (4-1)

Cleveland over LAL (4-2) thinking that Cleveland will win its two home games, win one in LA, and then close it out at home.

Editors note: Let me just clarify that I made this picks on Saturday morning... and while I'm not quite willing to give up on the Celtics or Spurs yet, I will say that I think Houston might be the most underrated team in the playoffs. That said, its looking pretty clear that we're headed toward a LBJ vs. Kobe final...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Parkas @ Pepper Jack Cafe (Hamilton) Apr. 16. 2009


Its kind of bizarre how little I remember about seeing the Parkas last night. Could be because I'm completely exhausted right now or b/c I'm a little drunk, its impossible to say, really. But, what I do remember is this:
  • Being convinced to make the drive to see my classmate Mike Brown (pictured far right) and listening to their new(est) record Put Your Head in the Lions Mouth on the way down.
  • Having no idea how long it would take to get to Hamilton.
  • And consequently asking my buddy Mr. G. if he thought we'd missed our exit yet for approx. half the drive.
  • Hearing our friend Mel tell us about the new Childcare facility she's going to open (since its likely that there are going to be 0 teaching jobs in Toronto) called Babyland DaycareFace. Wanna send your kids? Let me know, I'll hook you up.
  • Being really impressed with the Pepper Jack Cafe as a venue. Really cool space. Sad to hear (apparently) that its closing at the end of the month.
  • Being unimpressed with the bands (who shall remain nameless) who opened.
  • Being really, really, surprised with how tight the Parkas - who I had seen once before in London 6/7 years ago - were considering they don't play much together anymore.
  • Being excited to hear that they are going to record something this summer before Mike takes off to teach in Northern Alberta (yes, you do have to go that far to find work as a teacher).
  • Then, after being blown away, being really fired up to see the documentary that was made about the band A Life of Crime (trailer below).
As a side note, it looks like the band is, at the very least, taking a hiatus due to Mike's departure so they have been virtually giving away left over merch - CDs, DVDs, t-shirts (maybe) - so, you may be able to make them an offer they can't refuse and grab some Parkas swag.






A few more photos:



Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pick of the Week #15: Hibiscus & Rosehips Compilation for Charity


I'm really glad that I didn't delete this email, because the compilation album Hibiscus & Rosehips is a terrific collection of folk music for a terrific cause (people going through Lymphatic Cancer treatment).

The album features an whole slew of Toronto musicians some I was familiar with and am really big fans of (Ohbijou - pick of the week #7, Timber Timbre - pick of the week #13), others I've seen mentioned and have meant to check out, but haven't (Castlemusic, Snailhouse), and everyone else I couldn't pick out from a whole in the ground (this is not meant as a slight, I've just never heard of them before). But, despite my inability to recognize many of the artists, its been a great way to sample and find out what's going on in Toronto's folk scene. With any type of compilation there are going different styles (duh), not all of them are going to be your bag (I mean, I didn't like it when they put Marilyn Manson on Big Shiny Tunes #1), but its always really great when you find someone you like you never heard of.

So, I'll encourage you to pick this one up, particularly if you live in the TO area since I'm convinced you'll find something you like, and then there's a good chance you'll be able to see that person live. The album is for a great cause, everyone knows someone who has been afflicted with some variation of the disease (my mom got the ovarian kind) some have made it (my mom did, thankfully), but many don't, so... you know...

Also, if you like tea parties - and who doesn't, really - there will be a Hibiscus and Rosehips folk music tea party this Sunday, Apr. 19 @ the Resistor Gallery, 284 College St. (2nd floor) from 1pm - 6pm.

Kudos, to Erin Lang for putting all this together. For more info, visit the Hibiscus & Rosehips website.

[mp3] Timber Timbre - Demon Host
[mp3] Snailhouse - Who We Are

Pick of the Week #1: Ketch Harbour Wolves
Pick of the Week #2: Rah Rah
Pick of the Week #3: Glasvegas/Animal Collective
Pick of the Week #4: Bruce Peninsula
Pick of the Week #5: The Antlers
Pick of the Week #6: The Darcys
Pick of the Week #7: Ohbijou
Pick of the Week #8:
Gentlemen Husbands
Pick of the Week #9: Chris Whitley
Pick of the Week #10: Alela Diane
Pick of the Week #11: K'naan
Pick of the Week #12: TOR/Sufjan Stevens
Pick of the Week #13: Timber Timbre
Pick of the Week #14: Justis

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lost Channels by Great Lake Swimmers



I've been a big fan of Tony Dekker and Co. for a good long time. I think the first time I saw Dekker was opening for Hayden back in 2004, and despite the fact that I was late, it was pretty apparent how mesmerized everyone was my his sound (note: it was at the WinterGarden Theatre here and TO and mesmerized could very well be replaced with 'didn't want to seem rude').

The next time I saw Great Lake Swimmers - I'm pretty sure it was the same year - was in the upstairs of a really tiny bar on Talbot St. (in London) where the power went out 30mins into the set. Tony re-grouped, played the rest of the set (or at least that's how I remember it) acoustically, and it was really impressive. So, what I'm really trying to say is, I'm so far in the fan-zone with the GLS you may want to take the next paragraph with a grain of salt.

Lost Channels is definitely their best album so far. Maybe its because I like upbeat, happy Tony better than I like sad, sounds-like-he-might-off-himself Tony. Anyone who's listened to the s/t album or Bodies and Minds would probably have to admit those albums are pretty sad. There are some great songs on those albums, but, I'm not playing them for Grandma in the nursing home, if you know what I mean... And, its easy to see why Dekker and the GLS are happier: touring with Feist, their albums are widely reviewed, they're selling out shows everywhere (and by "everywhere" I mean "at least in Toronto" so I assume they're selling out everywhere) etc., etc.,

In short, terrific album. If you like any sort of singer-songwriter type tunes, I'm pretty convinced you'll like Lost Channels. And if you don't your mom will...

[mp3] Great Lake Swimmers - Pulling on a Line
[mp3] Great Lake Swimmers - Everything is Moving So Fast (ft. Kate Maki?)

Note: This definitely would've been my "pick of the week" this week were it not for the fact that: someone else is reviewing it for AWmusic, and I've got something equally worthy for tomorrow.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stuff I've been Digging.


I've been listening to a tonne of stuff lately, a lot of it good, but nothing has really, really, stood out like it has when I heard albums like Dead Calm Horizon, Illinois (and Illinoize), Gulag Orkestar, Hymns for the Happy, etc., etc.

I think part of this has been because I've been trying to listen to everything that comes in, and I'm getting a little overwhelmed; and, also, because I've been listening to a lot of stuff on my computer speakers, which are howdoyousay... shitty. Any commentary, like "hey - you should really listen to this again, or, this sounds a lot like..." would be helpful.

1. Handsome Furs Face Control
... sounds almost the same as the first one, which was good, but for me its just a little too much of the same.

2. Bonnie "Prince" Billy Beware
... I like this one a lot better than the last one, whateveritwascalled, but it hasn't stood out. Definitely need to give this one a couple of runs through.

3. Dog is Blue ... Makes Ghost Noises
... after two laps through I'm really enjoying how different/unique Paul's voice is. Expect a "review" and some type of email exchange - provided Paul is still agreeable - sometime in the next... month/3 weeks.

4. The Ghost is Dancing Battles On
... really, really, great boy-girl rock/pop.

5. Brother Ali The Truth is Here EP
... the beat from the first song "Real As Can Be" is awesome, but I can't remember anything past that. Bad sign? Probably... but it is the B-Sides from last year's album...

6. The Rest Everything All At Once
... Allan (awmusic.ca) is super high on this album, I'm warming up, and I'm expecting Adam - from the band - will give me his best sales pitch when we exchange emails this week...
[mp3] The Rest - Everything All At Once

7. Thunderheist Thunderheist
... not exactly profound ("youcanyoucandothistaptaptaptapthebooty"), but fun.
[mp3] Thunderheist - Sweet 16
I almost forgot, although you're all probably sick of me mentioning them:

8. The Black Hat Brigade Fathers EP
... which I've talked about ad nausea the past couple weeks...
[mp3] Black Hat Brigade - Zombie City Shake

... the odds of me getting to all of these? Saying that its unlikely might be the understatement of the year...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Summer Heights High



No need for a real long post here, because I just wanted "pay it forward" and recommend Summer Heights High. SHH documents a term at... Summer Heights High and follows Mr. G, the flamboyant drama teacher; Ja'mie King, who is like, totally, random; and Jonah, the year 8 badass... all played by Australian comedian Chris Lilley. Basically, SHH is a Christopher Guest (This is Spinal Tapp, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind) movie in Australian TV form...

Shout out to my buddy Mr. G (who is not as flamboyant, but may end up teaching drama) for the recommendation and is now '2 for 2' after also recommending It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.