Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pick of the Week #21: Howie Beck - How to Fall Down in Public



I've never really listened to Howie Beck before. I mean, I have listened to him before, I've seen him open for Hayden at least once, maybe twice, but I've never heard a Howie Beck album. I guess I always just assumed it was kind of generic singer-songwriter fare, but after seeing him on the cover of the National Posts' Arts section I made a mental note to check it out, then, of course, I promptly forgot about him. But, I got an email from a PR company which included his name, I emailed them, they got me the CD and here we are...

How to Fall Down in Public, Beck's 4th album, I think has hit me just at the right time. The weather in the past week has turned and become really nice (except today), and HtFDiP has been a terrific album for walking up to the library (although, I suspect that leaves a little to be desired in terms of description). The album is a little reminiscent of M. Ward's post-War inasfaras the production kind of takes you to a 'golden age of radio' sort of place.

That said, the album is sonically deeper than post-War, where pW relied exclusively (as I remember it) on the acoustic guitar to drive its songs; HtFDiP mixes the keys, horns, and guitar up and generally has a more complete sound. This kind of variety is evident on songs like the instrumental 'Fin', the synth in 'La La La', the clip-clop on the smooth, cool 'If I Ever Come Home' really differentiate this album from the thousands and thousands of singer-songwriter albums that come out every year. And while the CD boasts a great deal of depth and variety, its fun, and I suspect it'll feature prominently in my summer drive rotation.

The executive summary: How to Fall Down in Public is certainly one of the better singer-songwriter albums released during this (2008-2009) Polaris calendar. It has a kind of nostalgic, golden age sound that reminds me of driving up to a beach with my parents in the 80s.

[mp3] Howie Beck - Watch Out for the Fuzz
[mp3] Howie Beck - Flashover

"Don't Be Afraid"


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
Pick of the Week #17: Olenka and the Autumn Lovers
Pick of the Week #18: The Liptonians
Pick of the Week #19: Sunparlour Players
Pick of the Week #20: Black Hat Brigade

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On a Quest for Glory, On a Quest for Glory



I've definitely mentioned Shad a number of times, sang the praises of the Polaris Jury for including the Old Prince on the 10 album short list, and complained when Andorra won over it. Not that I necessarily thought that it was the most deserving album, at the time... I suspect you see where I'm going with this...

I'm not sure that I'd quite go as far as arguing that it was the album with the most "artistic merit", although I typically equate artistic merit with weirdness or least conventional, but tOP was definitely creative (e.g. his Fresh Prince parody (725,000 views!) where, of course, he stops the beat halfway through the track). But I think anyone who's going to really try and sell you on Shad, and that he deserved the 2008 Polaris, is going to point to how clever his rhymes are (see the header above), while really saying something about his place in the world.

And to me, its not so much what he says, but how he says it. He's bright, but he understands that he doesn't have all the answers; and he's clever, but seems secure enough that he doesn't need you to laugh or reassure him. Its heartfelt, and just so friggin' catchy.

In short, its climbing my all time list and probably one of my 3-4 favourite rap albums... ever... and if you haven't heard it, stop what you're doing and go pick it up.

[mp3] Shad - Intro/Quest for Glory
[mp3]
Shad - Compromise

Shad Freestyle

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mr. G's Song of the Week - "Ten Women"

















There is no shortage of Bob Dylan comparisons when one speaks of renowned indie singer/songwriter, Conor Oberst. Whether performing alone, with his band Bright Eyes, or with his current outfit, The Mystic Valley Band, the unique poignancy and poetic quality of his lyrics has often reminded listeners and critics alike of the one and only "Zimmy". Quite honestly, though, the likeness between these two guitar-wielding wordsmiths has always been lost on me... until now.

While listening to "Ten Women" for the first time I was immediately struck with a strong waft of Dylanism. Beyond the acoustic guitar and simple song structure, there are points where, without prior knowledge, one might swear up and down that Dylan was in fact singing. Such moments will become obvious to anyone with some auditory recall of Dylan's unique vocal style. From a lyrical standpoint, the song alludes to a lost love that was never meant to be, but one that "ten women" cannot replace. In Dylanesque fashion, the meaning of the song is never directly addressed but is instead danced around poetically.

But to devote this entire post to a Dylan comparison would not do justice to the singular talent of Conor Oberst. Although "Outer South" (the album to which "Ten Women" belongs) is not his best, due largely to the fact that he graciously shares song-writing duties with his bandmates, this song and a handful of others showcase the impressive talent of one of today's most talented young musicians. "Ten Women" is a gem amongst a collection of many that Oberst has written throughout his sparkling career thus far, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

[mp3] Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band - Ten Women

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Suggestion to the Decemberists re: the Hazards of Love


I've never really been into the Decemberists. I've heard bits and pieces of all of their albums, and have liked a bunch of songs ("California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade", "Red Right Ankle", "I Was Meant for the Stage", "The Sporting Life", and so forth), but there was something about their albums that was always off.

But, I was definitely intrigued by the idea of The Hazards of Love, Bobby B. recommended it, and here I am. And I'm kind of in the same sort of spot. I like a few of the songs, I feel like the concept is very cool and has a tonne of potential (like, Best of the Year potential), but I feel like there's something that I'm missing (or, that the record is missing). I think its probably a story issue... it doesn't jump out at me, nor do any of the characters, and its not the kind of album that you can really jump in and out of.

Luckily (for the band) I've got a solution. They should turn the album into a short film/play/performance piece (possibly with muppets a-la Jason Segal in Forgetting Sarah Marshall). I dunno, that solves all the problems that I have with this album...

[mp3] The Decemberists - The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pick of the Week #20: Black Hat Brigade


Alright, I'm going to try and make it through this post without any Austin Powers 'faja' jokes...

There are probably about four of you who will remember when I mentioned the first Black Hat Brigade EP and said flat out that it was better than anything Wolf Parade has ever done (note: this claim will only make any sense if you know that the Black Hat Brigade get compared to Wolf Parade). Well, this EP/album is equally good, maybe better.

Certainly Fathers covers a little more ground that the BHB EP, in part, because its longer; but also because the band has branched out from using (incredibly catchy) guitar riffs to carry their songs. The band has kept the (incredibly catchy) guitar riffs, but has built in the use of keys, a few more vocal harmonies, and an unidentified instrument which I'll call the suzaphone (for entertainment purposes). In addition to branching out instrumentationally (yes, instrumentationally, when you have your own blog - which I realize you probably do - you can invent your own words), they also demonstrate that they've got a softer side toward the later half of the album with "Lost Boys", "Vera" and "Vera (reprise)".

And, those who are fans of the BHB should make note of a couple of things:
[mp3] Black Hat Brigade - Zombie City Shake
[mp3] Black Hat Brigade - Lost Boys


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
Pick of the Week #17: Olenka and the Autumn Lovers
Pick of the Week #18: The Liptonians
Pick of the Week #19: Sunparlour Players

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hayden's new Album, The Office, Party Down, Rafa v. Fed, Simmons v. Gladwell II,


  • How 'bout the Office? What a nice finale. I'm not sure whether its the mockumentary format, but 5 seasons in and its still going strong (not sure how long they are going to be able to keep this together). Ordinarily I'd be a little worried about the PB&J pregnancy thing, but they handled the couple getting together so well....
  • I've started watching Party Down, and I gotta say, its growing on me. I do like Rob Thomas (mostly, that he created Veronica Mars), and the fact that he's bascially re-hired the cast of V-Mars (minus Kristen Bell). There've been some great cameos by Rob Coddry (Daily Show), Juno's dad, Breckin Meyer (Road Trip), and a bunch of other "that guys". Oh, did I mention that the show is being directed by Fred Savage (Kevin from the Wonder Years)?
  • There was some great tennis on this weekend - Masters Series Madrid. Normally I don't watch anything outside the Grand Slams, but the Nadal v. Djokovic semi was probably the best match I've seen since the epic Nadal/Fed Wimbledon final. And it was great to see Federer get a win under his belt this year (especially over Nadal on clay), even though the courts were/are supposedly much faster. Does the win boad well for Federer going into the French? Sure, but its going to take a hell of an effort to take 3 sets off Nadal on a slower court...
  • And I was all excited about the Lakers/Rockets & Celtics/Magic game 7s... gawd... that was disappointing...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Help i(heart)music

Via the NxEW twitter feed, i(heart)music is in a little bit of legal trouble...

The nuts of it is that Matthew has been helping put on shows in Ottawa for a while now, and SOCAN is coming after him for about $2,000 bucks. Why? Well, apparently every time you promote a show with a SOCAN artist they are entitled to $35 or 3% of the door. I guess no one explained this to Matthew (one would think the venues might be aware of this sort of thing), and so now he's kind of up the creek as they say...

If you (heart) music you can make a donation at the i(heart)music site. Let's all cross our fingers and hope that Matthew can afford to keep doing what he does...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Damages


Given how much TV I watch I'm surprised how little I talk about it here, especially since there has been a lot of shows that continue to be excellent: the Office, Friday Night Lights, 30 Rock; plus, the ones I've really gotten into this year: Chuck, Summer Heights High, Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Breaking Bad and... Damages.

I definitely don't watch that much serious TV, in part, I think, because there aren't many shows that do it well. But also, because its tough to sustain the necessary interest and intensity over a regular 40 min x 22 episode season. That's why I gave up on 24 earlier this year, they really had me hooked, but I just got tired of the twists and turns (it kind of felt like I had been on the spinning tea cups for 8 hours worth of TV... twist after twist after twist).

With Damages, like many of the great cable shows that have come out in the last few years (namely, The Wire, Dexter, and Breaking Bad), have managed to avoid the filler, and have produced shows that are tight and read like a novel. In my books (pun intended), that's a good thing. Sure, maybe part of my affinity for Damages is my love for Ted Danson (from his appearances on Curb) or that they've brought in a bunch of characters from the Wire for season 2. But, its also that its a well crafted show that has really mastered the flash forward, we'll show you the end, but you know that we haven't given you the whole story. There are 24-esque number of twists and turns each season, but they're far more manageable in the 13 ep. season.

The synopsis: The show is part 24, part John Grisham novel, part Veronica Mars (in the way it does that flashback/forward) and its probably my favourite show on TV right now (unless you count the Office).



Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pick of the Week #19: Sunparlour Players - Wave North



The Sunparlour Players are probably my favourite band. And their my favourite for a variety of reasons: they're small enough that they don't play huge venues, they're from Toronto so I can see them frequently enough, and they put on a hell of a live show. I've seen them, in their various incarnations, I'd guess at least a half dozen times (many of which pre-dated this blog), and so my expectations for their album were extraordinarily high. So high, in fact, that I may have made an off-hand prediction that this would be my album of the year.

After spending the last week with the album, I'm awfully impressed. Not just because the album is a sonic step up, the album sounds much 'fuller', the instrumentation is a little more varied (note: it might not actually be, but it feels like it); as the guys from Herohill said, its a step forward. But I think the biggest leap for the SPP is their ability to put the listener in Tomato country (Leamington, On), and to tell stories about the area/the town/whatever (before they were, as HH points out either a bundle of energy or quiet and folky). Songs like "Battle of '77" and "Point Pelee is the Place to Be!" have a kind of Sufjan-esque quality to them, in their ability to create a kind of narrative around people and places, but they do it their own SPP kind of way.

Of course, the most exciting thing about Wave North (available on Tues., May 19.2009) is that having this library to draw on (although fans - not unlike myself - will recognize a number of these songs they've been playing live for the last few years) is that it'll add another dimension to their live show. The shows have always been mind blowingly energetic, but I think adding in the more narrative character in a few of their songs will make the raging foot stomping and gentle picking on the steel guitar stand out that much more... although I hope they'll still leave room for their "Thunderstruck" and "In the Air Tonight" covers...

CD release show Friday, June 26 @ the Horseshoe in Toronto and you can check their myspace for other Ontario tour dates in May/June along with the summer festival sched. through July and August.

[mp3] Sunparlour Players - Battle of '77
[mp3] Sunparlour Players - North (live CBC Radio 2/3?)

"Thunderstruck"


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
Pick of the Week #17: Olenka and the Autumn Lovers
Pick of the Week #18: The Liptonians

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mr. G's Song of the Week "Faerie Dance"


I tried to avoid choosing "Faerie Dance" by Montreal-based Plants and Animals for this installment of Song of the Week. I really did. I told myself that I should try to pick a song off an album that is more recent than the 2008 Polaris Prize-nominated "Parc Avenue," which came out over a year ago. Come on, Mr. G, there must be something more recent that warrants a shout-out in this blog column. You want your readers (I know you're out there) to think you're hip and with it. But try as I might, I simply could not escape the unadulterated epicness encapsulated in this grandiose track.

I found myself listening to it constantly. Found myself humming, as I walked down the street, the various melodies that make up the three distinct parts of the song: the sweet and soft beginning... the heavy, dark, and rhythmic meat of the song sandwich... and finally, the tasty "lalala" sing-along that sits in your brain for days and escapes from your lips with such regularity that your friends and loved ones have no choice but to ask you to kindly shut up.

Lastly, I found myself rocking out to "Faerie Dance" live at The Mod Club this past Thursday night as Plants and Animals performed to a packed house. As my head bobbed back and forth and my shoulders shimmied in distinct Mr. G fashion, it became clear to me that this song is as relevant and beautiful as ever. It's one of those musical masterpieces that you'll listen to 10, maybe 20 years down the road and find yourself dancing to with the same energy and enthusiasm that you did in your former youthful state. I'm thrilled to hear what this three-piece band has in store for us on their upcoming full-length release, but until that time comes, "Faerie Dance" should tide us all over just fine.

[mp3] Plants and Animals - Faerie Dance (live @ the Mod Club)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Parkas: A Life of Crime DVD Documentary


I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had picked up A Life of Crime, the documentary by Jon Eagan and James Loftus on the Parkas, their 2004 cross-country tour, and the subsequent "re-organization" of the band. It was a little strange watching the moving since, as I mentioned previously, I know Mike Brown from school; and, after seeing him in that context for the last 8 months, it was neat seeing him in his other life.

The movie itself was a really interesting look at life in a smaller Canadian band: being trapped in a van driving across the country, having venues screw you around, playing to often indifferent crowds "do you guys know any Jack Johnson?", and the tension that comes with eking out a living playing music. Anyone who listens to CBC radio 3 really ought to track down a copy of the movie, because this'll give you an idea of what your favourite musicians are going through...

Oh, and you should also note that the DVD comes with The Scars to Prove It EP, which is excellent.

And, furthermore, you should also be aware that the Parkas are putting together another record before they (permanently?) go "on a break" since they are becoming teachers, doctors, and other things....

The Trailer:

Monday, May 11, 2009

Exchanging emails with... Dog is Blue



So, round 4 with Dog is Blue, or, Paul Watson, if you prefer. Paul has recently released an album called ...Makes Ghost Noises, which is a really neat folk album. It's an album that I haven't reviewed fully, and may not for a little while, but its like Matt Damon in Rounders, 'hanging around'. And while its not an album that is going to blow you away (I'm not sure "ghost-folk" albums are capable of doing that), but its an album that is kind of like comfort food. It makes you feel good.

Paul and I chat about why he decided to record an album, the process, but also what its been like trying to promote it, since, its a debut album and he's "just one man"...

If you're interested in checking out the first few email exchanges see: Black Hat Brigade, Ketch Harbour Wolves, and The Rest.


* * *

Paul.

So, I guess the first and most obvious question is why/how did you decide to make an album? I mean, you are a 'music enthusiast', so am I, but its not like the R.O.B. (if I can refer to myself in the third person) is going to put out an album - let alone get on a stage - anytime soon. I guess I'm curious where the tipping point was... everyone, or a lot of people at least, want to do that whole thing, and you actually did. Was there something in particular that pushed you toward the 'I'm going to actually do this' side?

And, to follow up, what does it take to develop a sound, write the music/lyrics, come up with other instrumentation?

Rob


* * *
Hey Rob,

First off, Black Hat Brigade, The Rest, Ketch Harbour Wolves, and now...uh...me. Scraping the bottom of the barrel a little early on this segment aren't you? I joke, but I'm really just jealous that I never thought of this email exchange idea first (and the rest of the bands are so friggin' awesome).

As for the decision to make an album, would you believe that I've been a wannabe musician far longer than a half-assed blogger? In fact, Wolves, Hawks and Kites was initially a band name (I even sent an acoustic demo EP to friends and family under that guise a few years ago). Unfortunately I chose it around the same time that bands like Wolf Parade, We Are Wolves, Wolf Mother and a million others were already exemplifying the lupine zeitgeist, so it was promptly ditched (but I had already bought the .com. Speaking of which, how's the London-centric moniker treating you now that you live in good ol' Hogtown?).

In that regard, I guess you could say the tipping point for me was less of a suddenly inspired "ahh, what the heck, let's give this a shot..." and more of a "holy crap, I'm 26 and still haven't done that thing I've wanted to do since I first picked up a guitar upside down in high school." I'm glad I waited though, as no one ever needs to be subjected to the songs I wrote back then...ever.

Regarding developing a sound, I think that comes pretty naturally (I've never really understood the conscious and premeditated picking and choosing of influences...). For the most part I was always too busy trying not to pee my pants in stage fright to really give much thought to what music was actually coming out. You should get on stage at an open mic one night--it really is one of the most exhilarating, scary and absurd things in the world. Seriously, we'll grab a beer and I'll get you up there...

Paul

* * *

Paul.

The interesting part about this (the email exchange thing) is talking to different types of people in different kinds of situations. Its been great so far just getting a chance to see where different people are coming from and how that influences their music, their live show, etc.

That's interesting re the name: Wolves, Hawks and Kites... I actually always wondered why your blog was called that. For me, despite being in Toronto, I actually don't mind the London moniker - because its indicative of where I came from both geographically and where I come from writing about any of this stuff. It explains, I think how I've become much more interested in Toronto/Canadian stuff in the last while, and why I come at music much more as a fan rather than a 'critic' (because I'm just generally excited that there is stuff going on that aren't huge, expensive concerts with pyrotechnics and laser lights shows). Of course, all this makes me wonder where Dog is Blue comes from? A penchant for animals perhaps?

Its funny that you mention being 26 and not having accomplished anything... since... well... anyways... I think that's a NetGen thing. But, I would say that now having an album out AND working at Zunior is pretty cool, no? I mean, if someone wanted to pay me to work dealing with musics all day, I think I'd be pretty happy (if a little over my head)...

Rob


* * *
Hey Rob,

Names are a funny thing, because they're so tempting to change. Everyday I think of a "better" band name (they're so much fun to come up with), but I've gone through so many since my delusions of grandeur began that it was time to stick with something for keeps. Dog Is Blue basically got the nod because it was string of words that I stumbled across (to be concise) that fit nicely together with ambiguous meaning. Hell, if it weren't for famous people Patrick Watson and the founder of Greenpeace I'd probably have just used my real name.
Names and image can be so damn fickle too. You're either too cool for this or not cool enough for that--this song is too poppy or this one isn't catchy enough. Blah, blah, blah.

Initially I had even thought of keeping away from any mention of the blog or Zunior in conjunction with Dog Is Blue, for fear of how those allegiances would skew people's perceptions of the music. In the end I've let it fall into place as it may...it's either that I don't really care or that I'm too lazy to make the effort at orchestrating an image (both...).


Speaking of Zunior, it definitely is a cool gig, as I get to work from home and help a lot of new bands (not to mention listen to a lot of awesome music all day). Actually one of the things that working for Zunior and releasing my own album has helped me understand is that making the music is often the easy part. It seems far harder to get people to actually take notice (not to mention book gigs).

Paul

* * *
Paul.

Names/naming, I think, has to be one of the coolest things about being in band, but ultimately its got to be a good fit for your personality/sound/etc. It's all well and good to have a super cool, fun, interesting name, but if it doesn't fit then... and in that respect I think Dog is Blue is a perfect fit for you. Your voice has this kind of melancholy undertone, when it gets a little growly or you strain to hit some higher notes, that says to me this: "Dog is Blue".

BTW - I'm listening to the album right now, and after a bunch of spins I think 'Seacaptain' is my favourite song. I love the line about the modified Cavalier. Do you have a favourite of your own? Any that you think are going to be a staple, or, any that you know you definitely are not going to play?

Your comment on success is interesting... you haven't read Malcolm Gladwell's new book Outliers have you? In it he argues that to be successful you need to reach a certain plateau - i.e. you need to be "good enough" - and then after that its all about external factors: luck, timing, connections, etc. Especially with music, in 2009, I think you're probably right that getting noticed and getting people to pay attention is the toughest thing. I suspect, having a pretty successful music blog - and being involved with Zunior - has taught you that, there is a TONNE of stuff out. In fact, it'd be interesting to get some type of stats on the number of records release since the advent of the internet... I wonder if being involved with Zunior has given you any insight as to what to do/not do?

Just as an aside, out of pure curiousity, what with Zunior takes you to shows? Is it just doing the Zunior TV thing? If you ever need an assistant - and then gets me into cool shows - sign me up...

Good luck tonight, I hope it goes well. I'll try and make it out to the next one - as it turns out I'm not even going to get to Patrick Watson (funeral) boo-urns....

Rob

* * *
Hey Rob,

Sorry to hear about the funeral and missing Patrick Watson. Our show was a lot of fun (hopefully there will be another soon).
It's funny that you mention "Seacaptain," as I'm getting a lot of great comments on that song (Wax Mannequin says it reminds him of Bob Wiseman). Personally, I like it because there's a low-level whirling loop under the whole thing that was made using a crazy delay pedal I had just finished building--listen close and you'll hear it!

I'm not sure If I've got a favourite at the moment. Songs like "Alligator" and "Raise Your Dead" are fun to play live (I play the latter with the reprise as one show-ending tune), but I get to flex my noise muscle on some of the more low-key tracks like "Borrowing Days" and "Wish", as they feature backwards distorted loops in the live show. In general I try to add things whenever possible to keep it fun (I tried adding a beat to "Grandma" last night, but it didn't really work because there were no monitors and I couldn't hear the loop...next time). We're currently performing live as a two-peice, with Laura Heaney (she did backup vocals on the album) playing synth and glockenspiel, and we try to play the whole album whenever possible (a couple covers are rotated in too).


Zunior and WHK have definitely taught me a few things about what not to do. Mainly the following:
the internet will not do the work for you. It can help get your music out there (Dog Is Blue is currently on Zunior, iTunes, eMusic, etc.), but it only works as a supplement to good ol' fashion schlepping around and playing shows. That's fine for me, as I love playing live...the trick is getting people to come out and, moreover, getting clubs to book us!

Speaking of shows, in a lot of cases I film shows for Zunior, but moreoften than not I'm just going for the fun of it (I'll be at Rancho Relaxo checking out Mathias Kom and Construction and Destruction tonight, in fact). Actually, it's not as glamourous as it seems either, as I usually pay cover just like everyone else (and buy a t-shirt, ha).


Paul


* * *
Paul.

Thanks, glad to hear that the show was fun. Also, I didn't realize that you were playing as a two piece... I always find that with singer-songwriter music that its nice to have someone else on stage since it adds another dimension (which is usually positive) on stage. Have you been running through your album front to back in your live show? I'm curious how you put together your setlist vs. the tracklist for an album. What covers have you been playing? I'm a big, big fan of a good cover - especially ones that you wouldn't expect...

I think the 'the internet won't do it for you' line is perfect. I mean, I think about how many emails that I get everyday with people sending me stuff, I can't imagine how much stuff bigger blogs must get.

Speaking of blogs, you mentioned before that you'd kind of like to get back doing WHKs, but aren't sure whether/how/etc. to do it... forgive me if I'm being obnoxious/retarded/annoying, but why can't you just do the musician with a blog? Use it to promote your own shows and write about other music you like? I think it'd be interesting to have you review your own show...

Rob

* * *
Hey Rob,

Yeah, having Laura back me up on stage is great, as things like synth and her backup vocals ended up being pretty integral to a lot of the recordings. I'd love to get one more person helping out with bass or some light percussion too at some point.

As for a live setlist, we try to run through the album front to back when we have the time, as I feel like its tracklisting doubles well as an effective setlist. For instance, I like starting with "Borrowing Days" when playing live simply because it involves some distorted backwards guitar loops, which I hope will dispell any sighs of "ah, crap, another guy with an acoustic guitar (actually, I'm really looking forward to playing electric more often in the future)." However, seeing as we play both parts of "Raise Your Dead" together at the end of the live show, that leaves a nice slot for a cover around the sixth song in.

Personally, I love covering songs by friends or other local musicians I've met, so lately that space has been filled by a Henry Svec tune from his new album, The CFL Sessions (the concept for which you really must check out, as it's too awesome to really do justice here), called "Song Written Upon Getting Cut by the Argos." If there is one song I wish I'd written, this is it. It just sums up my relationship with Toronto so well that I can't believe it came from someone else's mind. I also love playing "Record Body Count," by the Rheostatics. Not only is it one of my all-time favourite songs, but it also ties in well with the album, as Dave Clark (the original drummer for the Rheos and all around awesome dude) mastered it.

There are just so many great songs by so many local musicians that I'm always trying to learn new ones. I guess since I've slowed the blog down to a crawl this is my new way of pimpin' some of the great music coming out these days. In fact, I'm currently working on a free covers EP of songs by the likes of Jenny Omnichord, The Rest and Wax Mannequin among others.

Of course, I'm still enamored with old classics as well. In fact, at open stages I'm likely to pull out Costello's "Watching the Detectives" or Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" (an old recorded cover of which you can download here). "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)" by The Temptations and The Zombies "This Will Be Our Year" are two other favourites.

...wow, you really opened a can of worms asking me about covers. I guess that's the music-hounding blogger in me coming out to play!

Speaking of which, I guess you're probably right in that I could keep writing WHK and just be forthright about that fact that I am an aspiring musician writing about other people's music. Hell, it's not like I ever pan anything anyway (I'm more of the mind that if I don't like it I just won't cover it). To be honest though, since recording this album and trying to play live as much as possible--not to mention working with music all day and going to shows--I'm finding my days to be a bit insolated with music at every turn, so sometimes it's just nice to turn the ears off for a while and do something completely unrelated (these days it's painting...).

Yikes, I hope this isn't too long of a reply...

Paul


* * *
Paul.

I'm looking back at the emails, and I'm feeling like these could go for a while, so, I thought it might be best that we head into the "lightning round"!

Best live act to see in Toronto right now?

Best song of the year so far?

Song that most describes your mood right now?

If you didn't work for Zunior, you would be?

Best movie you've seen recently?

Favourite sports franchise?

If you could only listen to one artist for the rest of your life who would it be?

If you could meet someone (dead or alive) who would it be?

Thing that your most scared of?

If you could play any venue in Toronto what would it be?

and lastly, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? (note: I was half thinking of just sending you the Inside the Actors Studio questions... probably best that I didn't, right?)

Best,
Rob

* * *
Ahh! Lightning Round!

Best live act to see in Toronto right now?

There are so many good bands. Using those playing "in Toronto right now" as a guideline then I'd say you should go see Wax Mannequin at Sneaky Dee's tonight.

Best song of the year so far?

"
Song Written Upon Getting Cut by the Argos" by The CFL Sessions (Henry Svec).

Song that most describes your mood right now?

"Mind Crumb" by Shotgun Jimmie.

If you didn't work for Zunior, you would be?

On the lamb in South American. Probably a failed novelist.

Best movie you've seen recently?

Would you believe I've watched Spaceballs several times in the last week?

Favourite sports franchise?

I've never been much of a sports-nut, but my dad and I do frequent Oshawa Generals games, so that's probably the closest I've got.

If you could only listen to one artist for the rest of your life who would it be?

The Kinks.

If you could meet someone (dead or alive) who would it be?

A teacher asked me this question in grade 4. At that point it was Jim Henson because I thought he was so creative. These days I'd have to say Laura's dad (that old approval of the father idea...). Supposedly I'm just like him.

Thing that you're most scared of?

Stagnating. Getting moldy with content. Stopping.

If you could play any venue in Toronto what would it be?

I'd probably play pretty much any venue that would have me at this point, but it'd be nice to sneak into Massey Hall one night and play for all the ghosts.

and lastly, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? (note: I was half thinking of just sending you the Inside the Actors Studio questions... probably best that I didn't, right?)

I'd walk up, wide-eyed and apprehensive. God would be hanging out near the gates and he'd look at me briefly with a sheepish smile then pretend to check his cellphone. The gates would open and as I entered he'd sneak in behind me, muttering something about having forgotten his keys.

I guess that's it. Thanks for asking me to do this. I had really started looking forward to these emails each day (now what the hell am I going to do with my time?).

Paul

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Plants and Animals w/ David MacLeod @ the Mod Club. May 7.2009.

("No pictures... ")

It was unclear whether the first act was called Dave and the Clouds, Davis LaCloud, or something else entirely... turns out it was (and presumably still is) David MacLeod. And he (and the band) were pretty solid I thought. Kind of a hybrid b/w Paul Simon and the more rock 'n' roll sensibilities of say... Plants and Animals.  Note to self: remember that name.  

But before P&A went on there was a "special guest": Joe. Half burlesque act, half magician, half man... all entertainment (see photos below).  Note to self: book Joe for my next back yard get together.

Plants and Animals definitely melted a few faces in the, so-packed-that-everyone-kept-stepping-on-my-toes Mod Club. The set consisted of a pretty decent mix of older stuff from the With/Avec EP, stuff off Parc Avenue which, predictably, received the best responses, and new stuff from their up coming album.

It was hard to tell whether it was my claustrophobia, the sound being off, the band being a little rusty, or the fact that I've never been an uber fan of P&A (but have come around on them, and certainly appreciate what they do), but I definitely wasn't blown away. They weren't bad, it was worth going, but certainly not a 'must see' the next time they come to town. This, I think, is pretty different than the general consensus on the band, so, it'll be interesting to track down any other reviews to see if I'm way off base here. I suppose if there's any really good news its that I got some audio from the show, so if you're interested you can hear for yourself...

[mp3] David MacLeod - Unknown (live @ the Mod Club)
[mp3] Plants and Animals - Unknown - new - (live @ the Mod Club)
[mp3]
Plants and Animals - Mercy (live @ the Mod Club)
[mp3] Plants and Animals - Faerie Dance (live @ the Mod Club)
[mp3] Plants and Animals - Feedback in the Field (live @ the Mod Club)

Other notes:
  • 250 cool points for the Mod Club! Despite being a bigger (this is all relative I suppose) venue, great atmosphere and increadible lighting... we'll work on the sound for next time...
  • I, hilariously (well, not 'haha' funny) ran into Bob 'ItsnotthebandIhateitstheirfans' Battams on his was to see Arietta, while I was on my way home from the show. Kudos to Bob for making it out to a late one, hope you managed to stay awake... 
  • Also, I'm glad I went out tonight rather than staying home to watch the Cavs v. Hawks... I'm convinced that by virtue of having LBJ on the bench the Cavs could trot their 8 - 12 guys and beat the Hawks...

David MacLeod






Joe





Plants and Animals



Pick of the Week #18: The Liptonians



The best thing about this (or that, depending on where you're reading this... not that these other sites aren't good) here blog is that people send me music (for free!), which incidentally is also the worst thing about this (not that) blog. As I discussed with Jonathan of Ketch Harbour Wolves, this internet thing has allowed just about everyone and their grandmother to make their music available, and as you may have guessed not all of them are good (but a good number of them get sent to me!). But, thankfully, one in every, I don't know, hundred is like the Liptonians: pretty awesome.

Why do I like the Liptonians? Well, because they sound like Ben Folds. Not shitty I'm-a-dad-and-I-write-about-my-kids Ben Folds, but awesome I-write-fun-songs-about-interesting-people Ben Folds. So, Ben Folds circa Ben Folds Five, Rockin' the Suburbs, Ben Folds Live (although after bagging on Ben Folds, his latest a capella project looks pretty kick ass).

Their energy is apparent from the beginning of the album with "Charlie's Back!", which I was expecting to be eeriely similar to "Stephen's Last Night in Town", but is actually more a pleasant story about someone coming back - rather than a friend outstaying their welcome. This kind of difference b/w CB! and SLNiT kind of exemplifies the core difference between Ben Folds and the Liptonians. Where Ben Folds tends to be a little edgier, more sarcasitic, and more bent out of shape about the world; the Liptonians tend to be more laid back, more at ease, and just more generally well adjusted.

And, although you're probably all sick of me closing just about every pick of the week by saying that the album I've just reviewed is probably going to be a top-10er at the end of the year, here's what The Liptonians have got going for them:
  • A killer single in "Charlie's Back"
  • An album with no weak spots and no songs that I skip over
  • I find more to like each time I listen to it
  • It was a complete surprise
  • And, the chance that I'll probably catch them live once, maybe twice in the next week (they're playing Rancho Relaxo, Thursday May 7; and the Black Shire Pub in London Saturday the 9th), which usually helps.
  • A bunch of dates coming up across Canada.
  • A tour blog, which, should be viewed if you (according to Matt in the band) are: "bored and want to watch harry guys setting up tents"... SOLD!
[mp3] The Liptonians - Charlie's Back!
[mp3] The Liptonians - Twenty Dollars

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

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The 'Nard Dogg would be so proud... Ben Folds A Capellas

Initially I planned on waiting for a dry spell to post these videos, but they are just to good to sit on...

They're all video solicited by the once great, now firmly in the Dave Matthews Zone where it wouldn't be a surprise if he put out an album of songs he has sung in the shower, Ben Folds, who is releasing Ben Folds Presents University A Capella. Andy Bernard would be so proud...


"Kate" by Belmont University's Jazzmin


"Stephen's Last Night in Town" by NYU Law's Substantial Performance


"Army" by the University of Washington Stereotypes (who coincidentally do an awesome version of Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl")


"Still Fighting It" by Washington University (St. Louis) Mosiac Whispers



"Annie Waits" by Webster Groves High School"A-Men"


"Landed" by the Yale Spizzwinks


"Song for the Dumped" by Swathmore College's Sixteen Feet


and this is just TOO good to avoid...
JT's "My Love" by UNC's Clef Hangers

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Best Songs of '09 ... the First Trimester: I to Zed


See part one here.

[mp3] Oberkampf Woodpigeon (Calgary, USA) Houndsooth Europa
  • Real As Can Be Brother Ali (Minneapolis, MN) The Truth is Here EP
  • Riding in Cars ... Gentlemen Husbands (Greater Cobourg, On) Something Along the Lines of a Lesson in Unprofessionalism
  • Sea Captain Dog is Blue (Toronto, On) ... Makes Ghost Noises
[mp3] Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana Cover) Winter Gloves (Montreal, Qc)
  • Steamroller Bruce Peninsula (Toronto, On) A Mountain is a Mouth
  • Still Crazy After All These Years Deer Tick (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Take Us Back Alela Diane (Portland, Ore) To Be Still
[mp3] The Tallest Man/I Like It ft. Grand Puba TOR/Sufjan Stevens Illinoize
  • Who We Are Snailhouse (Montreal, QC) Hibiscus & Rosehips Compilation
  • Wooden Arms Patrick Watson (Montreal, QC) Wooden Arms
[mp3] You Ought to Know (Alannis Morisette Cover) Amos the Transparent (Ottawa, On)Yeah, so that .zip file didn't really come together... next time...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Best Songs of '09 ... the First Trimester: A to H



At the end of last year I cleared my computer of all my "2008" music and decided to start my computer with a blank slate for 2009. So, what I've compiled here is more of a "Best Songs That Have Landed On My Computer '09" rather than, a "Best Songs (so far) of '09", but, by 'n' large, these are songs are 2009 releases (since I'm cool like that).

I think the most interesting part of transcribing this list (collecting the myspace urls and the iTunes deets) was how much great CanCon, in particular TronCon. For a couple of years I felt like any great Canadian music that I came across was inevitably from Montreal, but I feel like, at this point, Toronto has to the mecca of Canadian music right now. Maybe I'm in love with the city's music scene, or maybe, as Liz has suggested before, its just lust... anyhow... you might also be interested to note that the only cities that have multiple bands that show up on my list are: Toronto, Montreal, and ... Glasgow... huh, go figure...

Lastly, you might be interested to learn that once the second half of this list (I to Zed) is posted tomorrow I'm going to try to create some type of playlist or zip file that I can email out (for those interested in hearing the whole deal).


*Note: to download click on the song title - the band name will take you to the artists myspace page. And for those who are interested I'm trying to figure out how to make some type of zip file or playlist that I can email out*

So, without further ado, my favourite songs (titled A through H), I through Zed tomorrow....
[mp3] Big Black Bird Blitzen Trapper (Portland, OR) Live at the Horseshoe
  • Blood Bank Bon Iver (Wisconsin) Blood Bank EP
  • Brooklyn Go Hard Jay-Z ft. Santogold/Faith Evans Notorious OST
  • Charlies Back! The Liptonians (Winnipeg, MNTBA) The Liptonians
  • Cocaine Justis (Toronto, On) Justis
  • Coughing Blood The Rest (Hamilton, On) Everyone All At Once
  • Darling, the Wolves The Parkas (Toronton, On) The Scars to Prove It
[mp3] Demon Host Timber Timbre (Toronto, On) Timber Timbre[mp3] Hurt Feelings Flight on the Conchords (Wellington, NZ) Live at Massey Hall

[mp3] Help I'm Alive Metric (Toronto, On) Fantasies