Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Shanies: Album of the Year

Well, after a long day of travel, I'm back in my current 'home' of Toronto, and as promised, I will be presenting the final award of 2009; the coveted album of the year. Before I do, let me comment on this year as a whole. 2009 was a huge year in the world of music, both on a personal level, and on a global level. We lost some musical geniuses (even if they did have a thing for little boys) and welcomed back some old faces (though I'm starting to feel the word 'supergroup' is getting overused). Personally, I was able to start up a new project with a close friend and come a long way with it in only a year. 2010 has some big shoes to fill, but I think, looking forward, everything's going to be alright.

Let me first tell you who didn't win the 2009 Shanie for album of the year. Them Crooked Vultures self-titled debut was an obvious good guess for anyone who knows me at all. The group featured 3 of my favorite musicians in the world collaborating to create the most rock and roll collection of songs I've ever heard, however, it didn't come together as an album. The debut felt more like a collection of singles (possibly because all songs are equally as awesome and they never stopped being mind blowing) and less like a fluid, comprehensive, flowing album. Say what you will, but I am a puritan at heart who still values a group which is able to group a collection of songs together to tell a story greater than any one track.

Ok, but seriously, that album fucking rocks.

Mutemath came close with their softmore effort, Armistice, however while the album started off strong, the 2nd half of the album began to feel like ambient filler. The opening 6 tracks of this CD are so incredibly well orchestrated and tied together that it is almost painful to listen to the remaining 6 tracks, again, not because they are bad songs, but because they lack the flow and consistency of what an album should strive for. Once again, this CD was one of my most highly rotated discs this year, possibly more so than the winner, but it wasn't the album which I wanted to listen to songs, NOT the album which I was torn between wanting to hear the end, and wanting to stop and smell every rose.

For 2009, that bouquet of roses belonged to The Dudes and their 2nd full length, Blood Guts Bruises Cuts. This may come as a shock to many people, but it was a ballady, alcoholic, lovey-duvy-filled, back to basics rock album which stole my heart this past year. I don't know if BGBC somehow got in sync with my emotions and just struck the right chord, or if it really was that good, but I found myself completely enthralled with this disc, from start to finish, every time I threw it on. If you haven't given this Calgary quartet a chance yet, I implore you, NAY DEMAND, that you go try out a few tracks. This is an album which The Beatles could have made, had they been born in the prairies in the 70s and spent their years just playing rock and roll and trying to bed down women. (Ok, I suppose the whole sleeping with women is pretty much the main reason that every guy plays with a band).

So to summarize, 2009 was an incredible year on so many levels, and my one parting shot to you is this simply; get a bit more dude in your life.

-Off to Boston for some decade-ending-insanity. Catch you when we're done with the noughties (I still fucking hate that term).

Monday, December 28, 2009

Shanies: Video of the Year

This was probably the single most difficult category I had to decide upon this year, and unfortunately because there were no absolutely brilliant videos. The music was great, but 2009 lacked the visual genius of 2008 which we saw in videos such as Shad's Old Prince, Mutemath's Typical or Spinerette's Ghetto Love.

An honourable mention goes to The Dead Weather for their disturbingly violent video for Treat Me Like Your Mother. The video features Jack White and Alison Mosshart striding angirily towards each other and riddling the other with bullets, only to turn away at the end of the video and stumble off. I'm sure someone much smarter than I has a lot to say about the video, but I just thought it was an interesting concept.

Secondly, I need to point out Every Time I Die and their video for Wanderlust. The video is cool, but not ground breaking. I appreciated it because I think it does a very good job of visually interpreting the sound of this band. It features a dimly lit building with band members shredding under swinging lights and frontman Keith Buckley in a tattered suit stumbling between doors of unspeakable cartoon horror. Also, New Junk Aesthetic was fucking awesome.

However, in the absence of one of my favorite bands of the day putting out a mind blowing video, I must step back to one of my favorite groups from childhood, who released the most entertaining 5 minutes of video footage I've seen on the internet since the fat star wars kid.

-Final Award tomorrow for Album of the year!!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Shanies: Rookie of the Year

We're down to just 3 awards left, and the tension is building. By that, I of course mean that I've eaten so much that the skin covering my belly is starting to stretch. It's a little concerning.

I'm probably going to get yelled at for my choice for rookie of the year, however it does fit all the criteria. Unquestionably, Them Crooked Vultures were the most outstanding newcomer for 2009. Granted Dave Grohl is one of the most influential rock figures of the 90's, Josh Homme has recorded with more people than your average session musician and John Paul Jones is... well, John Paul Jones, however one must consider their competition this year. The Dead Weather were a fantastic new group as well, but it's not like Jack White is a stranger. Chickenfoot had some pretty fun songs too, but those guys have been rock stars since before I was swimming in my father's nutsack.

As a fun exercise, I thought it would be interesting to list off the resume of the Vultures... you know, mostly just to piss you, the reader, off for my misuse of the rookie category.

Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, Butthole Surfers, Donovan, Probot, Kyuss, Tenacious D, Eagles of Death Metal, Mastodon, UNKLE, Peter Gabriel, REM, Scream, Masters of Reality, Killing Joke, Mondo Generator, Screaming Trees, KISS, Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Jeff Beck, Brian Eno, Late!, Mike Watt, Nine Inch Nails, Garbage, L7, Neil Young, The Prodigy, The Dessert Sessions, A Perfect Circle, Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, DFA1979, Melissa Auf der Mar and Spinerette.

Christ that took a while.

In short, thank you, Them Crooked Vultures, for using your massive stardom and swaths of experience to save rock and roll. That's right... save it. I said it.

-I'm scared of not being afraid

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Shanies: Song of the Year

Yesterday was the expected insanity of family, food, wine and presents. As one could guess, I likely put on around an extra 2kg yesterday alone, and with the amount of leftovers currently sitting in my sister's fridge, I don't see that kind of pace slowing down anytime soon.

But enough about me... more about Mutemath. Once again, with the juggernaut of a year known as 2009, this was a difficult category. The Vultures had some rockers which stuck in my head, Black Crowes new album was FULL of amazing tracks, and Jack White even pumped out a few awesome tracks... through a few different bands. My decision was made by what song got stuck in my head most often throughout the past year, and the decision became quite clear.

Mutemath's entire Armistice album was incredible, however the 3rd track, Clipping, was an achievement of music which I found myself singing on countless walks throughout my new city of Toronto. The incredible layers of guitar, synth, piano and upright bass break through to some spine-chilling vocal harmonies in the chorus and then, just when you think the song can't get more amazing, the breakdown blows your mind. Mutemath has always had a humbling ability to write thick, complex and beautiful songs, and Clipping is, in my opinion, their current masterpiece.

If you disagree... let me know what you think.

-Don't let the bastards drag you down

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from Evil Shanaigans & The Noble Rogues

It's everyone's favorite time again... no, not Christmas... time for SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION!!

My little band that could, The Noble Rogues, are releasing our first recording, a 3 track demo titled Far From the Madding Crowd FREE for you on Christmas day. We spent a lot of time on these songs and I hope you enjoy them. To download the album, simply click on the image below to be taken to our website, where you can find the link the the album.

Keep rockin in 2010!!!


Shanies: Most Original Project

I'm all ready to lay me down to sleep, however I must first hold strong to my musical pontificating duties. It's going to be a quick one, since I'm full of cheer and need to get to sleep before Santa creeps down the chimney and beats me around the room with a giant candy cane. That guy's got a mean temper when you disappoint him.

Those poor, poor reindeer.

A lot of cool shit happened in music this year. Many people might believe after my raving that Blakroc would be a shoe-in for this award, however 2009 had even more to offer.

Kid Koala pulled together what I feel was the most risky, ambitious and original musical concept from the past year. The premise was so simple, it's amazing no one had ever pulled it off before... at least not successfully. Still, The Slew was not only a cool idea, but a fantastic implementation.

Kid Koala spun his vinyl as always, but someone swapped his collection with 70's stoner and psych rock. Linking up with DJ Dynomite D, the project grew and became an incredible beast on its own. The idea was raised to present the entire project live, and the help of Chris Ross and Myles Heskett (old rhythm section from Wolfmother), genius was born.

-Cherry crust-lust and slap my boo here

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Shanies: Hardest Working Band

Some people might call this award a lame excuse to promote a band which I believe should 'make it' (whatever the hell that means in this day and age) ahead of just about any other band in the world. My response to them would be, "and your point is?"

That said, there is no denying that Hollerado has earned this award above and beyond all other bands this past year. Whether you look at their residency tour in February (28 shows, 28 days, 7 cities, rotating cycle), traveling to China not once but twice in the year, or their current half-world tour, there is no denying that these four guys are completely committed to this band.

Still unsigned, a great deal of the band's expenses have been covered by the boys themselves, and coordination for recording, merch and gigs have basically been planned by the band, friends, and promoters who they cuddled up to. Fortunately, I wasn't the only one to see this band's worth and the boys won Ottawa radio station Live 885's Big Money Shot, worth a whopping $250,000.

I challenge any other band in the world to try to steal this award from the boys for 2010.

-I'm off to party "Tipsy Eve" with Arse and a bunch of east coasters... save me

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Shanies: Most Improved Player

You know what's great? Egg nog and rum. Seriously, I would like to shake the hand of the genius that thought of that winning combination. Hell... for that matter, who ever thought of egg nog? What the hell is egg nog? I mean, yes, there is egg in it... but what the fuck is the nog?

A new award to the Shanies this year, the most improved player was created to accommodate a band who I couldn't justify giving album of the year, (though many publications did) however, has shown one of the most marked changes between their last album and their most recent effort. The best part is that they're from my home sweet home of Manitoba.

*Drum roll* (although I guess this isn't that suspenseful since there's only like 5 good bands from the Tobe).

The award goes to Propaghandi, for their incredible work on the album Supporting Caste. Now don't get me wrong, Potemkin City Limits was a good punk album, as was Empires, as was Less Talk, as was How to Clean Everything. Propaghandi has always been a solid, angry, politically outspoken punk band, and this was precisely why Supporting Caste blew me away.

brb... nog break

As I was saying, Supporting Caste contains everything I'd come to expect from a Propaghandi album (thought provoking lyrics, anti-establishmental songs, a shot at HNIC, and a way of making me feel guilty about nearly everything I do). However, this album, from a strictly musical standpoint, was a HUGE leap forward in the band's development. Yes, I suppose this would still be called a punk album, however with the intricate songwriting, progressive riffs and completely unforeseeable transitions and changes, the album feels more like a prog rock or metal album.

In short, whether you've liked them in the past, or whether or not you like punk rock... consider giving Supporting Caste a chance... these prairie punks have earned it.

-Dream the shimmering dark dream that burns you from the inside out

Monday, December 21, 2009

Shanies: Best Riff

I feel like I'm Homer in the scene from a Simpson's Halloween episode way back when, being force fed doughnuts. I've eaten too much... again... dear god why do I do this to myself?

RIGHT... I'm supposed to write about music. In my wonderfully lethargic state, I want to present to you 2009's riff of the year. I need to say this was another tough call, which brings up a more important point which I should mention: 2009 was an incredible year for music. A lot of really good releases came out, and a number of bands...

You know what, I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open and the wine & fondue are currently fighting for space in my body. Chickenfoot won this year's Shanie for their completely meaningless song, Soap On a Rope. In fact, I should give the award to Satriani alone, with an honourable mention to Chad Smith for being awesome, but I guess you can`t really do that. Still... Sammy Haggar needs to learn something about music, or at least how to write lyrics that make SOME kind of sense. I mean, for the love of God, "I`m in a room, I got funk, hot damn, free punk."

Like I said... this award was for the riff... not the song, and DEFINITELY not the lyrics.

-Seriously... can we make Sammy Haggar sterile?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Shanies: Concert of the Year

It's that time again... time for me to drink excessively with my family and then plop down in front of a laptop for 20 minutes to rant, rave and roar about why everything I listen to is awesome and why you're wrong and your shit's all retarded. Yes ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 3rd annual installment of the Shanies.

Our opening award is presented to the best evening I've had at a show in the past year. Surprisingly, this is one of the most difficult awards I give out each year because there are so many factors at play (alcohol consumed, attractive women present, number of muppets trying to murder me, whether or not the amps went to 11, and of course, how many of the band members asses I was able to grope). 2009 was a difficult year because I didn't get to that many good shows in the UK. While I had a lot of fun over the pond, one of my biggest complaints was how dull and repetitive the music scene was.

However, I have been quite active in the Toronto scene over the past few months, and it shows in our runners up. As one can likely guess due to my usual fan-boy-ism, Hollerado put on a mind blowing show. Drinking Labatt 50 with good friends in the shoe while screaming at the top of your lungs is always a good time, but it helps when you get yelled at by Menno for not selling him your Traynor amp (it was 2 fucking years ago Menno, let it go).

Only a week later, I had to (ok, Andrea had to) scour the city to find tickets to see Hey Rossetta!, also at the shoe. The struggle was worthwhile, and this indie-rock orchestra put on a show which was as good as when I first saw them 3 years earlier. Capping the night off with Epitaph was more than I could ask for, and my missing voice the next day was a testament to how amazing the night was.

HOWEVER, for all the great fun I've had since moving to Toronto, my Shanie for Concert of the Year goes to Pride Tiger, playing at the Carling Academy in Oxford. I conned Willsy into going to the show, only a few weeks after having my cast removed, post-surgery (you know... the one where they inserted metal freaking pins into my ankle). Iain and I arrived at the show on a Tuesday night to find AT MOST 10 other people. We were early enough to catch the opening 2 acts, so we had hoped that maybe no one had showed up yet.

In fact, the exact opposite was true, and after the opening acts finished, half the crowd left. By the time our Canadian brothers in arms hit the stage, there were around 6 people in the audience who weren't being paid to be there (and I'm pretty sure the other 4 were just too drunk to leave). Why Pride Tiger earned my award this year was because even though no one was at the show, and only 2 dudes had any idea what was going on, they still played like there was no tomorrow. The guys lit up the stage and gave it their all for a crowd which was almost as small as their band. I got loaded and sang along to all of their songs, prompting Matt (drums & vox) to dive off the stage at one point, mid-set, and hug both Iain and I for apparently saving their night.

Matt was a really sweaty dude... and I smelled a lot after that, but it didn't change how blown away I was to see the Vancouver natives shove rock and roll down the throats of a crowd of semi-willing participants. Props to you Pride Tiger for being willing to say:

"This is rock and roll... it is your daddy... enjoy it, or it will enjoy you."

-P.P.S: Good kiss

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Presents for Me

Nearly 2 years ago, I attended CMW with the old TibConcerts crew. That festival was during an interesting (read: unemployed) time in my life and became the foundations of more than a few hilarious stories which you can read about here. On a night at the Legendary 'shoe, I saw a band play just after the good ol' boys in Hollerado. That band's name was Arkells. It's funny to think that less than 2 years later, this band has ballooned into a huge success with a recent release, Jackson Square, on Dine Alone Records.

At the time, not knowing much about Arkells, I didn't have too much to say. I knew a solid rock band when I heard one, however nothing lept out at me. They had a strong, blues/classic rock feel, and were the kind of band which I could probably listen to with my father. To be honest, two years later, not a lot has changed, however I appreciate this band much more. While buying a CD for a Christmas gift this week, I may or may not have decided to also treat myself to a new album. The gift was part of the 2/$25 deal, so really, I would have been stupid not to get myself the Arkells release.

When I brought it home, the CD sounded a great deal like what I recall from CMW years back, however I found myself digging the tunes like never before. Songs ranged from something sounding like The Trews, to something which could have been equally written by Neil Young. Start to finish, this album was a joy to listen to and I'm glad that, on a complete whim and vague memory of a fantastic night, I decided to pick it up.

I don't know what changed, but whatever it was... it was a good thing.

Lastly, I head out west to catch up with family for the holidays this Sunday. In keeping with tradition, this will mark the beginning of Evil Shananigans's annual Shanies; my completely biased, totally unprofessional, often bribed, unquestionably compromised awards for 2009. The Shanies will appear daily from Dec. 20-29 and feature awards for noteworthy bands, songs, albums and moments from the past year.

-Don't asked who's changed when you can't remember what's the same

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Your head asplode

I spent the weekend in the studio, laying down a few tracks for a little holiday gift. It's incredible what that experience will do to rekindle your interest in music, and more specifically, rock and roll. Having the opportunity to build on my creations, try things I've never been able to, and hear myself in a way I'd never experienced has got me even more excited about rock music, and fittingly, I've stumbled across a new line of amazing bands, which fit oh-so-nicely into my comfort zone.

Rocketface is a Toronto based trio who, I won't lie, sounds a great deal like acts such as Jet and Sloan. They obviously bring their own sound and influence to the forefront, but even still, there is nothing wrong with having a 'type' or 'genre'. I just spent the whole weekend trying to sound like Tricky Woo and Pride Tiger, so I'm definitely not one to judge.

They've been playing together since high school and it shows in their tightness. Beyond just catchy hooks and driving beats, I found myself really digging on lead singer Joseph Janisse's voice. I was even more so impressed when I found out that he's the drummer. While I have a hard enough time doubling up on the guitar, I can't even begin to imagine how drummers do it.

For now, I'm going to just keep assuming that those few drummers who sing & play at the same time are bastard-child, half-devils which Beelzebub has scattered about the earth as sleepers to one day wake and do his unholy bidding.

You heard it here first.

-Bad things are on the way with all the fun you've had today

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Singers are divas anyway

As a vocalist first, I find myself naturally drawn to the human voice. 9 times out of 10, if I'm going to dislike a band, it's because I don't respect what their singer is doing. There are always exceptions to this where the musicianship is so great on other instruments that I'm willing to forgive a bit of bad technique on the vocal folds, however I have a limit.

The question always rises in my mind; what the hell do I do when there are no vocals? I suppose I should be slightly offended by bands like Do Make Say Think or Godspeed you Black Emperor!, however that kind of logic would also find me opposing the likes of Coltane, Ludvig van Beethoven, and nearly any piece of electronic music ever made. Come to think of it, with the number of times I am let down by weak, out of tune, dissonant vocals, I should really stop putting so much emphasis on the voice. The reality is, while I love the human voice, I also love melodies, harmonies, and music in general.

As such, it is with a renewed sense of logic that I present to you Pelican. Hailing from Chicago, this quartet is about as standard as you will find in the rock world; lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, drums... it's just that no one ever bothered to sing. The result comes out as something quite similar to Baroness, just without the vocals (which sometimes aren't there anyway).

It's all quite well written, almost orchestrated, hard rock music which I think would be fantastic for you to throw on in the background of a party, study session, or even while hopping on the good foot and doing the bad thing. However, therein lies my issue with Pelican; they are too easy to neglect. While all very talented musicians, and adept songwriters, these four gents don't make me want to get up and move... they don't inspire me. Again, I can appreciate it as something to fill the silence, but that's not what music is supposed to be about. Music should refuse to be ignored; it should grab you by the ear drums, drag you kicking and screaming into it's twisted little world and pin you down, forcing you to name 10 chocolate bars while tapping on your head, whether you like it or not.

Me... I find I often enjoy myself. Perhaps this is because I have an innate ability to remember the names of sweet treats.

-Count on my indiscretions if you think you can count them all

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

40 Heads are better than 4

Montreal has been a hotbed for experimental music, pretty much since the dawn of musical time (read: 1940s). The European vibe which the city carries seems to attract a variety of creatives and beyond that, encourage them to go one step further. It's situations like this which give birth to bands like Red Mass.

Formed by Choyce Vucino of CPC Gangbangs, Red Mass, from it's inception, was intended to be a collective of music. The current roster puts the band between 30 and 40 members, and in just over a year, the band has produced more recordings than most bands do in their entire career. The idea was to bring together a group of diverse musicians, who didn't necessarily know each other, to push each other forward and experiment outside of one's comfort zone.

The results are at time painful, however with the thousand monkies theory in place, they do often stumble across some fantastic sounds. Part garage rock, part rockabilly, part ambient noise, part gypsy music, Red Mass refuses to be pinned down and will never answer the question, "What's coming next?"

-This morning reeks of regret but these eyes ain't seen nothing yet

Friday, December 4, 2009

I'm still watching

It's Friday and I'm going to Hey Rosetta! tonight, so to be perfectly honest, I don't really feel like writing right now. I'm lazy, I want chocolate, and it's 1:30pm and I still haven't showered. Take that, world.

It's been around 6 months since I left the UK, but don't worry, I'm still watching. I've been keeping my eyes and ears open and stumbled across some of the good 'ol, dirty 70's psych-rock.

Meet Josiah, Josiah, meet everyone.

I'll let you two get acquainted while I go hunting for chocolate showers. Wait... that didn't come out right.

-Your battles were always beautiful, but no one ever won

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Strange People, Awesome Results

I don't know whether I should file today's post under 'review', 'recommendation', or 'insane ramblings', but at minimum, I can guaruntee good, clean, wholesome fun for the whole family (except for people who swear in front of Fred Penner). I have to give complete credit for finding this gem to Monsignor Jeremy Turowetz (of Shaking Judy and My Bedroom fame).

Ok, I can only give the Coles Notes, because to do this justice, you really have to read it yourself. Some dude chases his dog into a parallel reality where The Beatles never broke up (Mark David Chapman must have opted to shoot Yoko instead), steals a tape (because CDs and digital media never caught on) of The Beatles unheard stuff and brings it back to our reality. He admits it's crazy and refuses to reveal his identity but has created an entire webpage about the experience.

You with me so far?

Now, he's been kind enough to convert the tape to mp3 format and made it available for the world to download, which I highly recommend you do. I won't get into the number of ways this is so ridiculously insane it's not even funny (ok, it still kinda is), however I will comment on the audio its self. While I am 99.99999% positive this man is so full of shit that his green eyes turned brown, one can not deny in incredible production value of this album, or the ability to mimic the Liverpool foursome so incredibly well.

Once you get past the crazy-hobo-waggling-his-penis-at-traffic feeling, the album is actually really, really good (really). It honestly feels exactly like what it claims to be; a natural progression of where The Beatles would have gone. This isn't simply a rip off of greatest hits and a re-imagining of old albums, the producer has actually thought through how future musical styles would affect The Beatles, and how that would tailor their sound. Granted, it seems to draw quite heavily on vibes from Wings, however I suppose that would make sense if McCartney never had to create Wings.

Sadly, there's no convenient little video for you to watch today, however I implore you to go read the story, and listen to the album. Once you've had a listen, I encourage you to leave comments on where you feel this man lies on the thin line separating insanity and genius.

-My kinda crazy's just to straight for kinds like you