Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Shanies: Album of the Year

Yup... it's that time again... time for the big one, or should I say... the big 10. 2014 was a huge year for music, especially heavy music. There were so many incredible releases from acts like Band of Skulls, Jack White, The Barr Brothers, D'Angelo, and Rival Sons didn't even make the cut... but sometimes, hard calls have to be made, and I'll be damned if I'm going to second guess myself.

10. Michael Cera - True That
I hated myself a little bit for enjoying this album as much as I did, but you know what... I was eventually able to divorce Michael Cera the actor (save his part in The End...brilliant) from the musician. This creepy album feels at times like it's dredging up the Ghosts of the Beatles, not just because it kinda sounds late-Beatlesque, but also because it's really gloomy and weird. But I like it.

9. Baptists - Bloodmines
And now for something completely different. What blows my mind the most about this album isn't how drivingly heavy it is, nor is it even Nick Yacyshyn's monsterific drumming, but the fact that Bushcraft was only realeased a year before in 2013. This is how you do loud music... thanks again BC!

8. Death From Above 1979 - The Physical World
10 years between albums? Did waiting suck? Yes. Was it worth the wait? No. This album could have easily been released in 2007, but that doesn't stop it from still being one of the best releases of 2014. What do we get after waiting 10 years? Likely a lot less anger and a lot more groove, but that really works for this gritty two-piece's sound.

7. Black Jesuses - Black Jesuses
Who? A random side-project of one of my favourite bands, The Parlor Mob, Black Jesuses' release was met with a bit of a whimper, but it still contained an album full of incredible hard rock tunes, especially for a two-piece (though I feel like that excuse doesn't hold weight anymore after the incredible history of rock duos we've seen now). Either way, go listen to 7 to 3 right now.

6. Obliterations - Poison Everything
Just when you thought Baptists were going to have the hardest album of the year, you could not have been more wrong. As a huge Black Mountain fan, I remember being very excited with the early news of Stephen McBean's new loud-as-shit side project. To add to that excitement, after producing a couple of mind-blowing EPs, the crew went into Grohl's Studio 606 to lay down Poison Everything. Throw 'em on Southern Lord and you've got a recipe for sexy.

5. Napalmpom - The Unconditional Love of Napalmpom
In addition to winning the award for greatest band name ever, Napalmpom was a band I stumbled upon a couple of months ago thanks to Public Animal. This Calgary 5-piece is a great reminder of what rock n roll is... not just in sound, but in spirit, effort, and fun! You can hear their massively contrasting influences in their debut LP, yet somehow, these Westerners manage to pull it together into a record that rocks, inspires, moves, cries a little, hugs you, bitch slaps you in the mouth, dumps a beer on your best friend, punches your girlfriend in the left tit and drops the mic and leaves this dimension. But in a really fun, cool way.

4. Destrage - Are you Kidding Me? No.

3. Alert the Medic - The Phantom Moves
From the moment I heard the opening drone of this album, I was hooked. While I would nearly wear out the first two tracks on the record, the entire album would become a place of comfort and solace that I would return to whenever I wanted to feel good about myself. These easterners know how to write exceptional, harmonically layered rock that can in one moment bring a crowd to their feet, and in another, bring a tear to your eye.

2. Public Animal - Habitat Animal
The live shows, while amazing, are simply not frequent enough to keep my inner animal satiated. Fortunately, this disc unleashes the beast with great volume. Who would have ever thought that a supergroup formed of some of my favourite bands of all time could come together to produce another of my favourite bands of all time who would make one of my favourite albums of all time? Funny that, huh?

1. Royal Blood - Royal Blood
Granted this British duo are sweeping up awards and acclaim across the globe at an unprecidented rate. Their meteoric rise to fame is ridiculous given the recent state of the music industry, however, when you listen to their self-titled debut, you understand why: this album is near perfection. Nearly each of the 10 tracks could have stood alone as a single and may still - 5 of them already have, with each breaking the UK top 50 and 2 hitting the #1 spot. Yes, look at me raving about this album just like everyone else... aren't I so unoriginal? Shouldn't I be focusing more of obscure music?

Deal with it. Sometimes there's a reason shit gets insanely popular, and if you can't hear it, I don't understand how you hear the world... you and I just got different ears, son.

Thanks for reading! It was fun as always to spout my musical tripe all over the internet... see you in 2015!

-Bow down to my thick cerebral cortex, don't let logic get in the way

Monday, December 29, 2014

Shanies: Song of the Year

My Song of the Year award is typically a pretty easy one, so long as I decide to be honest. Basically, I just have to go to the various media players I use (iTunes on my Mac, MediaMonkey on the PC, and Google Music on the phone) and count the number of times I listened to a song. This year, was a bit ridiculous, so my choice was quite obvious.

I still recall the first time I heard this song, in the back of my friend Jaime's car, being played by my friend Serkan. We were on our way to a wedding, but this song got me so ridiculously pumped up that I didn't even know what to do with myself. I had been a huge Alert the Medic fan since hearing them live the year before, but was unaware of their new album, and thank God Serkan introduced me.

Now, I suppose I'm cheating a little, since it's technically 2 tracks: the opening (waiting in the wings) is a 2 minute build up that eventually explodes into the incredible rock anthem that is Cut, Copy, Paste. In the past, I have typically deconstructed my song of the year to identify exactly what elements build up such an incredible track, however, I can't even begin to do that for this song, since it's the beautiful cohesion of lyrics, pounding drums, growing guitars, and the fullness created through it all that I truly fall in love with.

However, the worst part (both for us and this band) is that Alert the Medic is still small enough that it's next to impossible to find any of their stuff on YouTube. I've put a crappy live video below, but I encourage you to go to Spotify, Rdio, Google Music, or whatever you're listening to these days and put on the opening 2 tracks to their album Phantom Moves.

And at least we can find a good version of my runner up... The Great Sabatini's creepy little intro, Akela.

-Stop bottling up the bottles for the sake of your emotions

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Shanies: Artist of the Year

This year, as are most now that I think about it, was a no-brainer. The number of times I saw this band live, the anticipatory salivation that would hit my mouth each time news broke about a new recording they were slated to release, the excitement I would have before every show, the rock that would be rolled every time I listened to I Ain't Gonna Live, or Vault Doors. It all heralded one thing: Blurton was back... as though he ever left.

And he came back with his latest foray into sonic madness, Public Animal. Granted, the Animal got started in 2013, however, 2014 was the year that they hit their stride, with the release of their full-length, Habitat Animal, and the opportunity to open for countless great bands as a go-to in their local Toronto. You could ask me to try to explain or define why I gave the nod for artist of the year to Public Animal, but at the end of the day, the only good answer I could give is the way I feel when I hear Blurton's sweet tone fading into the powerful drone of Dacey's keys, alongside the smooth lines of Larock's bass, and all the while driven forth by a monster known as Ryan Gassi on drums.

The way I feel when I hear that music is what matters... and nothing else.

-Everything can be alright when everything can never be wrong

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Shanies: EP of the Year

Alright, I'm the first who's happy to admit when my gut is wrong... especially when it results in one of my favourite bands returning to full form. I had my concerns about this band when they suffered a huge blow by losing half of the amazing female vocal equation that made up their sound. I had even bigger concerns when their drummer, part of the founding duo and the hard stomping drive behind the group, left to start a family.

I had my concerns, but this fall, they were put to rest.

When Little Foot Long Foot released their EP, Woman, my mouth was silenced and my jaw was dropped. Part of the difficulty with LFLF losing both Caitlin Dacey and Isaac Klein was that so much of the sound and pressure now rested on the shoulders of frontwoman Joan Smith. The band did struggle for a little as they settled into their new sound, however, in my opinion, their true transformation was when when Smith was able to step up and own the role... and own it she did.

Woman comes across as an album that stands in opposition. Sonically and lyrically, it seems to represent a backlash to a world, and even a music scene, that has traditionally been a boys game. Though far from being meek, apologetic, or conciliatory, Smith's songs cut through your speakers like this is the way that music has always been and has always supposed to be. It can't have hurt to have The Trews Colin MacDonald producing, but at the end of the day, it was the power trio of LFLF that pushed forward these 5 incredible tracks - each could be a single of it's own on a different day of the week.

In short, one of my favourite Toronto bands is back, in a way that makes me question whether they even left. Maybe it wasn't them... it was me.

-So I've stopped playing games someone else told me to play

Friday, December 26, 2014

Shanies: The Leftovers

Today is always a fun day since I tend to devote it to random awards that I completely pull out of my ass (as opposed to all of the others that undergo very rigorous scientific testing). Basically, this is the collection of awards that I simply have a strong opinion on, but likely don't really make sense outside of my own head.

You Fail Me: The Black Keys - Turn Blue
I really like this band... REALLY like this band, but I have no idea what the hell they were thinking when they went in this direction. I know bands have to evolve and grow both for themselves and their audience to keep things fresh, but Turn Blue was like the audio version of the movie Drive... so maybe I just didn't get it.

The Hell Did That Come From? The Tea Party - The Ocean at the End
Remember these guys? See, I even liked them enough in the 90s that I'd been keeping a passive eye on the fact that they'd disappeared to Australia, likely to have a lot of sex on nice beaches under the influence of heavy drugs. Then they dropped this album - which is actually half decent by the way - with almost no fanfare, promotion, or buzz. Someone needs to let Jeff Martin know it's not the 90s anymore and that he can't just release things and expect throngs of people (read: Canadians and Aussies) to flock.

Buckets Full of Win: Shooting Guns - Wolfcop Original Soundtrack
I'm sorry... could you repeat that into my good ear? Not only did someone make a movie called Wolfcop (it's exactly what you think it is), but my favourite prairie stoner band wrote an entire soundtrack for it? Yes, you heard correctly.

Got What You Deserved: Robin Thicke - Paula
Uncle bad touch took yet another juvenile step by naming his album after his recently-x'ed wife. The result? Less than 500 copies sold in the first week of release in each of the UK, Canada, and Australia.

The ADHD Award for...oh, look at that: Foo Fighters - Sonic Highways
I know... I thought I could never say anything bad about the Foo, but let's call a spade a spade: the album isn't that good. It's not bad, it's just not that great. However, I don't blame Dave or any of the Foos, because the TV series was amazing and they undertook a massively difficult challenge, writing 8 different songs inspired by and recorded in 8 different cities. You could say it's gimmicky, but you could also say that they're at least trying something new... though it might just be because Dave is getting bored again.

That's Just Not Right: Michael Jackson - Xscape
Seriously, just let the dude die.

STOP TEASING ME YOU ASS: Reignwolf - ???
Yup, after Jordan Cook released his solo album, and eventually teamed up with a few buddies to form Reignwolf, he apparently decided that he liked touring more than recording. Even though there are rumours floating around the interwebs that Cook and crew have recorded a debut album for Reignwolf at Dave Grohl's studio 606, we are apparently doomed to simply have to fill our audio-spank-bank with grimey, short clips of their live performance.

Not Quite Dead: D'Angelo - Black Messiah
This album actually nipped at the toes of my top 10 for 1 main reason. After a 14 year hiatus from recording, one would have thought D'Angelo to have gotten stale, rest on his laurels and produce an album very similar to his best-selling Voodoo. However, Messiah is a progressive effort, with a lot of cool experiments going on, but unfortunately, not enough that really clicked for me.