Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Shanies: Album of the Year

Intense competition filled the ranks of this year's album of the year award, particularly near the top.  While it can be difficult to make the hard decisions, they had to be made, and ultimately, victors will emerge.  Bear in mind, this top 10 is only my opinion.  I'm sure you have one too, but it is wrong, so treat this list as though it were gospel and worship it.

10) Neil Young - Le Noise
What can I say... this Neil guy apparently knows how to right songs.  Just listen to the crunchy, thick chords on the opening track Walk With Me, to get an idea that while Young's songs are much the same old same old, he is still finding a way to reinvent elements of his music.

9) C'Mon - Beyond the Pale Horse
Instant party, just add rock.  While I have been a fan of C'Mon from the moment I heard Blurton was leaving Bionic to link up with Katie from Nashville Pussy (in more ways than one) I still recall my original concern with C'Mon songs being too simple.  Blurton has now build these tracks into hard rock opuses (opi?) with more riffs than a tectonic fault.

8) Jordan Cook - Seven Deadly Sins
I waited long enough, so it had better have been a damned good album.  To be honest, had this been an EP, this album could have been a lot higher on the charts.  Half of this disc is filled with some of the most epic riffs, solos, and songs I've ever heard, but unfortunately, the other half got stuck with filler... at least, filler when considering what I've come to expect from Cook.

7) Sufjan Stevens - Age of Adz
This is going to sound a little strange and perhaps not all that complimentary, but the best way to describe this album is as the digital suicide note left behind by a depressed robot.  Unquestionably beautiful and exceptionally complex, Sufjan once again redefines himself and produces an album which is both unsettlingly strange and still accessible.

6) Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social network
Like I mentioned in my ‘Most Original Project’ post, this album was just a really cool experiment that went very right.  Just listening to it took me back to old days of high school sitting around my computer playing around with code, all the while creating a beautiful musical portrait.

5) The Damned Things - Ironiclast
I'm still not sure where to place this album.  Is it a rock album?  Is it hardcore?  Is it punk?  It is power pop?  Is it metal?  The answer to all the previous questions is... yes.  Somehow, this disc incorporates so many different styles from 3 very different bands and blends them together in a way which makes them click; and they click really fucking loudly.

4) Pigeon Hole - Age like Astronauts
While I championed Shad's Rose Garden as my song of the year, Pigeon Hole was another hip hop album which was on heavy rotation for me in 2010.  One of the sub-projects of Sweatshop Union, I apparently found the portion of the group which appeals most to me.  An album which trips all over its self, this slow moving, head bobbing disc is filled with fat beats galore and some of the more clever lyrics you'll ever hear.

3) The Black Keys - Brothers
Dear Dan & Patrick... I'm sorry, not this year.  While the Keys have claimed top prize in the past, might be my favourite band of the past 10 years, and did produce one of their best efforts to date in Brothers, it simply wasn't enough this year.  Maybe I'm still addicted to the fuzzy, stripped down garage sound from the days of thickfreakness.  Still, Brothers was an incredible piece of work and on any other year, could have easily been a couple of spots higher.

2) The Dead Weather - Sea of Cowards
I'm waiting, seriously waiting, for Jack White to do something bad in this world.  After claiming last year's top album with the Raconteurs, he was then able to turn around with a different project altogether and innovate in a completely different direction.  Dean Fertita's guitars soar on this and push Alison Mosshart's creepy, big voice into your face.  This album doesn't ask you politely to listen... it tells you to.  And me... I paid attention and did just what it said... a lot.

1) Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart
You could chalk this one up to my style.  You could call me a bleeding heart Canuck.  The fact is, Wilderness Heart was a true album.  Start to finish, this disc was beautifully assembled with songs that flowed from one to the next, each telling a tale which built up to a greater part of the whole story.  Epic head bangers like Rollercoaster are juxtaposed by the gorgeous fragile melodies of songs like Sadie.  All in all, Steve McBean has outdone himself, even after everyone said it couldn't be done again after In the Future.

It's been fun!  Hope you enjoyed this year's Shanies.  Now everyone go do something stupid for NYE and then make a resolution to prevent yourself from ever doing it again.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shanies: The Rest

The following awards were given out earlier in the evening:

The "5 More Minutes, Mom" Award:
Jordan Cook - Seven Deadly Sins (more like 5 more years...)

The "Please Stop Making Music Now" Award:
Robert Plant - Band of Joy (Seriously...Zeppelin was great and all, but you're done.  I don't care how many critics you pay off to love your album)

The "Face Peel-o-matic" Award:

Trigger Effect - Versitis Maximus (And the live show to boot)

Best Guitar Tone:
C'Mon - Beyond the Pale Horse (Ian Blurton, so hot right now... even while dressed as a homeless dude)

The "Please Stop Opening Your Mouth" Award:
Kanye West - Yes he did have a new album this year... I still don't care

The "Still got it" Award:
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - Mojo (I'd hit it)

The "Brett Favre" Award:
Eels - Tomorrow Morning (I believe this is E's 3rd "last album ever")

"Too Much Time on Our Hands" Award:

Sweatshop Union... 3 releases in the month of June alone.
Pigeon Hole - Age Like Astronauts
Dirty Circus - Alive and Well
Trillionaires - By Hook or by Crook

Stay tuned for the big one!  Album of the year is up next!

-Just a four letter word, always said, never heard unless its yelled

Monday, December 27, 2010

Shanies: Most original project

Continuing my holiday tour of the west, I'm in Lethbridge today. I don't have a huge amount of time as we're about to sit down for dinner, but fortunately this shouldn't take long.

While Trent Reznor has been a bit of a self-righteous prick the past few years, he does still manage to make some great music. Team him up with an industrial genius like Atticus Ross, and you can get some pretty cool results. As such, my Shanie for the most original project went to the duo of Ross and Reznor in their completion of the Social Network Soundtrack.

While I haven't even seen the movie yet, I already feel like I know so much of the story and feel of the movie simply from listening to this soundtrack over and over again.  Very seldom is a musician able to perfectly create a descriptive atmosphere through music, but the soundtrack doesn't just provide a nice background, it defines a beautiful cross between digital confusion and angelic nerd-dom

There were a lot of cool things done in the musical world this year,this just happened to speak to me.

-I could use another mile in your shoes

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Shanies: Song of the Year

Always a difficult decision, since there is just so much music to choose from, the song of the year award must take into account a lot of different factors.  For me, the song of the year should combine elements of well written tunes, creative lyrics, catchy hooks and something which sets the song apart.

Good hip hop is like good wine.  Anyone can take a sip and enjoy themselves, but I think it takes time for one to truly be able to appreciate some of the nuances of the genre.  While I am by no means calling myself a connoisseur, I think I have been slugging back on the hip hop sauce for long enough to tell the good stuff from the baby duck.  That it mind, it took all of my musical pallette this year to appreciate the depth, and full bodied tannin flavour (ok, I'm done with the wine analogy now) of Shad's Rose Garden.

Beyond the obvious catchy beat which evokes an old school Motown feel, Rose Garden layers on thick an intricate punch beat which if you listen closely, seems like to much percussion, but when you sit back and listen to the whole song, blends perfectly.  Approaching the end of the song, loops of layered vocals play over top of each other forming a nice little wind down to a great song.

But of course, the strength of this song, as with any Shad song is in the lyrics.  Beyond the central theme of trying to bring people down to earth, Shad manages to incorporate some of the strangest, yet most impressive lines into his raps: "Glen Beck better duck like foie gras."

Just listen to the lady in the dress...

-Strength in numbers made you feel divided in a crowd

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Shananigans!

Merry Christmas to all!  No Shanie award today, however to console you, my band has provided you with 3 free tracks to download and listen to on Xmas.  Click the link above and enjoy!

And to all a good night.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Shanies: Video of the Year

Much to do in preparation for Santa's arrival tomorrow, so I'll keep this brief. It simply wouldn't be the Shanies if somewhere in all this madness, Hollerado didn't make an appearance.  Considering nearly 4 years of fan-boy-ism, I'm almost contractually obligated to fit them into my annual review at least somewhere.

This year, while the boys did their usual workhorse load of touring and also put on some fantastic live shows, the thing which best captured my heart was their second video for the song Americanarama.  While I loved the original video in all of its Dave Foley-creeping-around-a-bunch-of-scantily-clad-individuals-ism, the new video was a fantastic, original, and fun idea.  More and more bands are taking on incredibly ambitious music video projects in an attempt to be the next viral internet video and while Hollerado may not be as big as Star Wars Kid or Dramatic Chipmunk, they're video has well over 700,000 views.


-Tell me what I want to hear but not what I need to know

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Shanies: Concert of the Year

2010 was an incredible year for live music in my life.  Given that I had just moved to Toronto - a city which gets more live acts than anywhere else in Canada and has an incredible indie scene - and was really not working that hard, I spent a lot of time in various venues.  I saw Ian Blurton destroy The Dakota with Huron and lay down layers of riffs which had me lost in a daze.  I was licked by the frontman from Trigger Effect while screaming along lyrics at the Bovine.  I saw tiny dots which resembled Them Crooked Vultures at the ACC.  I witnessed act after act own the stage at Hideout during NXNE.  I really did see it all this year (except for White Cowbell Oklahoma... stupid scheduling issues).

Yet, my award for concert of the year came from a Dark Horse.  One fine evening, I ventured on down to the Horseshoe tavern to watch one of my favorite TO bands: The Speaking Tongues.  Don't get me wrong, these guys are amazing and put on a standing-O worthy set.  However, the were the opening act for a show which was the most unique, entertaining, and awe-inspiring thing I've ever seen one man do on stage.  Bob Log III is an absolute mystery to most.  Dawning a velvet jump suit and a spaceship helmet with a phone receiver attached to it, Mr. Log takes to the stage to entertain the crowd by doing the following:
  • Playing some wicked stompin blues licks on his electro-acoustic guitar
  • Keeping a kick drum shaking your soul with his right foot
  • Providing a wonderful musical garnish on the high hats with his left foot
  • Screaming out the most ridiculous lyrics into the phone receiver firmly attached to his helmet in songs such as his famous "Boob Scotch"

I wish I could make this shit up.

Let's just say I've seen a lot of live music in my life.  While Bob Log may not have been the best concert I've ever seen, he is by far the most impressive individual I have ever seen on stage.  I would continue to describe what I saw, but this is a hell of a lot easier:

-You don't have to love me anymore, but you've got to love this lullaby

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Shanies: Artist of the Year

No, I am not shooting my proverbial blog-load to early (man, the word blog does nothing to help that sentence) by announcing the Shanie for Artist of the year.  Let me explain: still to come are award for song of the year, album of the year, etc.  However, Artist of the year is an award I wanted to give to a group who I saw make a remarkable leap into the mainstream this year and help define what music was for the past 12 months... not necessarily by having the best song, album or video... but simply be being EVERYWHERE.

And this year, that group is The Black Keys.  Besides being one of my favorite bands in the world for the past decade, the keys have had an astounding year.  After finishing up 2009 with their Blakroc project, the twosome just decided that they would continue to define cool.  They are popping up on just about everyone's top 10 list for the end of the year, Brothers has been heralded as a masterpiece, it seems like every second commercial on TV this days is a keys song, and their music is being played, and loved by everyone... seemingly regardless of what scene they're into.  All in all... these guys have found a formula that is heroin to the masses and I for one say, "don't hold out on me man... just one more hit... you know I'm good for the cash... COME ON I NEED THIS!"

All the same, there is no denying that The Black Keys have been on every radar known to man for the past year and as such, they easily walk away with the Shanie for Artist of the year.  Keep it bluesy, boys.

-Keep my head above the water, but never let me climb too high

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shanies: Biggest Dissapointment

For any of you longer term readers, you may remember me making the argument that the Gorillaz 2001 self-titled release was one of the top albums of the noughties (2000-2009).  I still would defend the argument that this album was one of the most influential pieces of work to come out of the decade.  However, one of the things I hate the most in this world is betrayal.  As such, you can imagine that after the release of Plastic Beach, Damon Albarn and the rest of his long armed cartoons, have fallen out of my favour and the Gorillaz, have dropped more than a few rungs on the ladder of musical awesomeness.

So, why was Plastic Beach so bad?  Part of it was definitely that the incredible pieces of work that preceded would have made anything seem abysmal by comparison.  Still, that same argument could have been made about Demon Days, yet it was fantastic.  Part of it could have been that the group became too caught up in the gimmickry of it all and departed from the importance of the music (just look at the video below... 3D rendered animation and Bruce Willis... necessary?).

However, I would argue that Albarn was simply trying too hard.  He's dug a musical hole in his mind so deep that he couldn't possibly escape himself.  Listening to the album again from start to finish, this record contains no singles, and barely any moments of catchy hooks.  In short... they made a pop record without making it popular.  The record is exceptionally diverse and contains a huge variety of sounds, instruments, guest appearances and concepts.  Yet, somewhere in all of this noise, the primates appear to have forgotten to actually write songs.

Fortunately, after this disappointment, Albarn et al. are considering retirement.

-I hear it again, I heart it again... you're always screaming in my sleep

Monday, December 20, 2010

Shanies: Rookie of the Year

Some may argue that after spending the past four months in blogernation (blog-hibernation? Anyone? Too much of a stretch?) that I have no right to dole out awards at my whim and fancy regarding the state of the music industry. I would argue that those people should learn their place and sit down in the corner before I seat them there.

Yes, it's that time of year again. No, not Christmas... no one cares about that. It's time for the 3rd annual installment of the Shanies.  Yes, these much coveted awards are given to the greatest in musical achievement for the past year and are based on a rigorous process of me sifting through my computer, listening to music from 2010 and deciding what I like; bollocks to what everyone else thinks.

The first Shanie to go this year is for the Rookie of the Year.  Apparently a re-occurring theme, this year's Shanie will be given to another supergroup: The Damned Things.  Formed from members of Every Time I die, Anthrax and Fallout Boy, this group sounds precisely what you would envision a fusion between those three bands to sound like... and it's fucking awesome.  Mixing southern blues riffs with metal drumming, catchy hooks, Keith Buckley's monster voice and harmonic backing vocals, TDT are one of the strangest combinations of styles I've heard in a while.

It also helps that these guys are bloody hilarious.  Let's just hope this doesn't end up being an ill-fated supergroup one-off.

-I'm not in the business of keeping you around

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I apoligize for very little

In the midst of one of those 'crazier than a bag full of rabid cats' type weeks, I find that I need a bit of a release from the monotony.  I've been listening to a lot of old school tunes this week to get myself in a familiar groove, and sure enough, Sage Francis hit the randomizer.

Half MC, half beat poet... all genius.  You want your motivation for the day?  Here you go, rocky.

PS: While I've been negligent this semester with the insanity of school, I assure you, the 2010 installment of the Shanies will happen. I wouldn't miss my opportunity to pontificate about music over the holidays.

-I'll be slipping you my silver tongue, while I feed you my lover's talk

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Is he living?

He is... but this is all you get...for now.

-Please, won't you tell me what to say... or I'm never going to speak again

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Near... Far...

Given that Grover has always been my favorite muppet... I think we can safely say that this is the greatest video to ever grace the internet.

Thanks to Guin for allowing me to creep her facebook profile and find this. :-D

-Crack me open try to love what you find inside

Monday, October 4, 2010

Holla at yo Manitick boys!!

It's been ages since I've been up to any shananigans (you were warned), so I'll break my silence only momentarily because one of my long time loves, Hollerado, has just released a brilliant new video.

Americanarama was actually originally released as a single with a  hilarious video involving Dave Folley (of Kids in the Hall Fame).  While that video was fun, funny and catchy... it doesn't hold a candle to this genius piece of work:

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to do some work and then scream until I pass out from lack of oxygen.

-I'm a decadent man with a halfway crooked walk

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Locked in and ignored

To my loyal readers (ha!) I must apologize.  Since starting my degree last week, my time has developed quite a premium and I find myself neglecting the simpler, joyous things in life, such as roommate rugby, staircase tobogganing, and of course... writing about music.  I'll warn you right now that for the next 8 months or so, expect shanangians to be infrequent, and likely not as verbose as you're used to.

As a side benefit, you don't have to listen to me shoot my mouth off as much.

Vancouver's Sweatshop Union has long been one of my favorite hip hop groups, so you can imagine my excitement when this summer past, the union put out not one, not two, but three different releases from subordinate crews.  Trillionaires and Dirty Circus made great albums, however, the best of the three (or at least my favorite) came from Pigeon Hole.  Combining minimalistic, almost trip-hop beats, with the usual intelligent lyrics I've come to expect from Sweatshop, Age Like Astronauts has been seeing a lot of rotation on my computer (it still makes sense... the hard drive spins).

Check it:

-I don't need no devil to show me how to do you wrong

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reginald Joseph Leach

What I love the most about John Samson, frontman for The Weakerthans is not his catchy anti-establishment songwriting, his soothing voice, or his charming good looks; it is his blatant, unapologetic love for my home.  Samson has long been a champion of the Keystone province and amid massive pressure to move to more popular, commercially viable cities, he has resisted the urge and stayed in his hometown of Winnipeg, MB.

With songs like One Great City! many people assume The Weakerthans really hate where they are from.  However, as any good toban knows... living in Manitoba comes with a certain love-hate relationship.  The Guess Who did suck at times... but they're the best we've got.  The Jets were lousy, but we love them anyway.  Winnipeg is a dirty, crime laden city, but it's our dirty city.  Samson knows that Manitoba can be a tough place to call home, but that is part of what makes us Manitoban.  Suffering through -40 winters and +40 summers, swatting off mosquitos in swarms that look like dust clouds and living off an economy that relies on a slowly failing farm industry makes us unique, makes us strong, and brings us together.

So, I once again tip my hat to Mr. Samson, who has yet again brought forth another piece of Manitoban history by writing a song, nay a Petition, to get Reggie Leach into the Hockey Hall of Fame.  Leach was a Manitoban born First Nations man who is one of the few players (and the only non-goaltender) to win the Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) while playing for the losing Stanley Cup finalist.

-Trouble don't seem to know my name no more

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Dark BC Interior

Odds are, if you haven't had your head wrapped round your body and inserted firmly up your anus, you've heard of Black Mountain.  Their psychedelic, classic rock revival lead by Jesus-look-alike Steve McBean took the music industry by storm a couple years ago with their 2008 release, In the Future.

While being a going concern since 2004, its taken years and a lot of hard work to push this riff heavy beast to the forefront of the music industry.  Now, after proving they have what it takes in 2008, BM is poised to release Wilderness Heart, their latest dig into the rock n roll world.  While I've only heard a couple tracks so far, Black Mountain seems to have brought out even more of what made me love them; that grindy, groovy, 70s rock feel.

In short... expect no sufferings of sophomore syndrome here... especially since this is their 4th or 5th album.

-Stonewall all the love you've left in your path

Thursday, August 26, 2010

You want me to *what* the decks?

Say what you will about my musical taste and my sources for finding new music, but at the end of the day... it works. Finding myself knee-deep in a business degree, I have started to learn, and actually admit to myself, the value of marketing as a tool for providing people with information. In my case, today at least, marketing showed me a fantastic new band.

I believe it was a Ford commercial which, upon hearing it for the first time, sent me into a state of elation. SchwaB is a fuzzed out, hoppy, electro-analogue acid trip based in my old stomping grounds of London (ok... I was in Oxford... but close enough). The best word I can use to describe these guys is simply 'weird', which to me is one of the greatest compliments I could give a band. Their music is infectious, strange, danceable, and incredibly original. It combines elements of 60-70s psych-rock with modern garage rock, all the while keeping a groovy feel which makes one want to.... SchwaB?

In addition to being picked up by Ford to sell one of their latest attempts at corporate survival, their song 'DJs In a Row' was featured on the It's all gone Pete Tong soundtrack.  I highly encourage you to check out both tracks below, strip naked, smother yourself in raspberry jelly and join the air force.  If you're not feeling the air force, just concentrate until you become a lemon.

-Easy come and easy go ain't how I'm living anymore

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Strike Twice

Well, in my foolishness, I decided that today would be a good day to host a BBQ. Don't get me wrong; it's a great day. It's around 30 degrees and contrary to that lying bastard of a weatherman, it's not raining and actually quite sunny. Still... the day is not without regret.

My regret is that tonight, I will be missing Flash Lightin's CD release party at the Horseshoe.  In addition to featuring one of my favorite local bands, Huron, the night will likely be filled with a bluesy swill of loud guitars, southern stompin beats and enough sexy rock and roll to take your pants clean off.  This TO power trio eats other rock bands for breakfast and I for one, would be a little intimidated by them on stage.  I'd say a little more, but I think their website sums it up nicely:

"This music isn't looking to your new haircut for its cues; it just wants your hips and hearts to do what comes naturally – preferably with a shot of good bourbon to ease things along."

If you're anywhere in the vicinity of the shoe tonight, I don't even need to tell you to go, because odds are, that thumpin beat will drag you right on in.

-Pick yourself up off the floor, that light can't hurt you anymore

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Give it a Spin

Never would I have thought it would be so difficult to fill a roster when booking a venue. As I prep for The Noble Rogues' August 21 farewell gig at Rivoli for our bassist, Ian, I have tried, with great difficulty to offer a number of local bands a no-strings-attached stage to play and possibly even a bit of beer money.  The one positive that's come out of all this is that, in scouring the TO music scene for descent bands to check with, I'm coming up with a lot of solid sounds coming out of Hog town.

Today, I got in touch with a band called Revolvers.  They're a fantastic throwback to when rock and roll was more raw, and in my opinion, more real.  They've drawn a little attention from local rags, Now & Eye, but have managed to fly under my radar for quite some time.  I wish I could tell you more, but for now, all I can say is that I like what I hear.

You wanna know a bit about these boys? Brother, you ain't alone.

-We're all lost and found so try to pick me up when I'm trying to settle down

Monday, July 26, 2010

Logs & Tongues

What a weekend of music. After catching Wide Mouth Mason at the Harbourfront, Saturday was supposed to be filled with pre-production for The Noble Rogues next album. Due to some technical difficulties, we just ended up drinking and playing a lot of poker instead. However, we did make good use of our night.

Ever since NXNE, we'd been itching to see The Speaking Tongues live again, and, in the past, the Horseshoe hasn't done me wrong.  The boys hit the stage at 11pm and started to tear it up as they know so well how to do.  Throw in a bit of the 'ol harmonica, some spicy guitar, and those gruff, in your face vocals, and you've got yourself a gig that I could get a little cozy with.  The only negative which I have to point out is that a lot of the intimacy was lost from their last gig.  I think this was primarily because the 'shoe is so much larger than Hideout, and just a trickier room to get comfortable in as a band.

It got me to thinking; maybe the shoe isn't such a great a venue.  A lot of bands who I normally love live, have been swallowed up by the size, coldness and usually uninvolved crowds present.  I think to pull off the shoe well... and I mean damned well, you just have to be so bloody sure of yourself that nothing will give you even a moments pause to hesitate and think twice.
 Enter Mr. Bob Log the third.  Now I've seen a few one man bands before, and I'll openly say, they've all stunk up the joint.  As I pointed out in a previous post, the issue with a one band band is that if you are having an off night, you have no one to fall back on.  The solution?  Be awesome 100% of the time.  This seems to work for Mr. Log.

Now, I suppose it helps if you're wearing a rocket ship helmet with a microphone shaped like a phone receiver attached to it while you grind around stage in your 1 piece velvet jumper.  I'm sorry, if that sentance alone doesn't make your realize the level of awesome we're dealing with here, then you're reading the wrong blog.  Known for crowd surfing in an inflatable dingy, playing a song called 'Shit on My Leg' while having two women sit on either of his knees (he uses both legs to operate a kick drum pedal and a high hat pedal) and constantly pleading with the audience for more 'liquid applause', Bob Log is the definition of the word showmanship.  Active for almost 20 years, Log currently hits over 150 shows a year while touring in more than 30 countries.  I'd say more... but seriously.... just watch the damned videos.

-Why do you say this life just isn't fair?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Open Wide

Last night officially made my top 5 live performances of all time. I'd been waiting to see Wide Mouth Mason play live for around 15 years, and as a friend pointed out, they're an obvious influence on my style.  They played a free show at the Harbourfront center and while the crowd didn't go insane (it's hard with those stupid benches) my jaw was firmly rooted on the concrete surface below for an hour and a half.  What I expected was to hear a live rendition of some of the songs which defined my youth.... but I got so much more.

This set did two fantastic things; first it broke the barrier of my 5 best concerts of all time and second (which may have caused the first) it easily took the spot as the most tight live set I've ever seen.  These guys have been doing it for 17 years, and there may be something to be said for that whole 'practice' thing.  I knew Shaun Verreault was a monster on the guitar when I heard him play with Jordan Cook in Guitarmageddon.  What blew my mind was the ease with which we switched back and forth between so many different styles; rock, blues, jazz, peel-paint-off-the-walls (that's a new style).
I lie a little when I say that 'these guys have been doing doing it for 17 years' as they did have a new member last night.  Bassist Earl Pereira has chosen to part ways with the band, however, filling in for him was yet another of my idols; Mr. Gordie Johnson.  I knew Grady had worked with the trio before (on their third album, Stew) and I knew they had toured together before... but I never could have anticipated the joyful union I saw before me.  While Johnson is another God of the six-string, he seemed just as comfortable working his way around the bass.  He and Verreault had fantastic chemistry together and Johnson was able to fill Pereira's shoes with ease.

Somewhere in all of this, drummer Safwan Javed was of course keeping this trio tighter than a dill pickle jar, but who really cares about drummers, right? :-p

They worked through 90 minutes of material, blending old with new, WWM with Big Sugar with Kenny Wayne Sheppard with blues classics.  I found myself shaking my head in awe the entire time and was completely lost in the music.  According to my roommates, there was a girl who was hitting on me between songs, but I was barely giving her the time of day since I was so enthralled by the tunes.  Yet the moment which blew my mind the most was to hear that Mason was heading back into the studio soon, and Gordie wasn't just a pretty face on stage; he'd be joining them.

Yes... that was the sound of my brain going *pop*.

-Call your name, but you're never there

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hail Cobra!

I'm still catching up on fantastic music from the insanity that was NXNE.  Possibly the most unique show I saw was Hollerado playing on the rooftop of someone's downtown apartment, with nachos being passed around and off-license Steamwhistle flowing like water on a ridiculously hot day.  I got a ridiculous sunburn, and also got passed a free CD by Aaron from the band Sandman Viper Command.

I knew nothing about this band heading into this concert but was pleasantly surprised by their fantastic, tight, high energy live set.  When I managed a bit of time alone with their CD, the pleasantries continued.  A quartet of friends from Burlington, SVP is willing, and more than happy to have some fun with their music, and aim to spread that fun to everyone around them.  Thoughtful, witty lyrics, catchy guitar riffs and head bopping drums hold these fantastically written songs together.  At first glance, it may be easy to dismiss this band as another pop-driven indie band trying to capitalize on the latest trend, but if one gives a close listen, you can hear the depth, quality and labour put into each of these complex, but still fun, songs.

-Give to me the burdens you bear.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Don't go breakin my heart

I love it when stars of old learn to shine bright once again.  There's something uplifting about knowing that even years past your prime, you've still got it.  I was sitting around having a pint with Willsy before band practice on Sunday and over the radio, I heard a song which was unmistakably Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, but that sounded very different from anything I'd heard from them before.  Thanks to the glories of modern technology (I love you, Shazam) I quickly learned that this was in fact new material, and Mr. Petty, was back.

After 8 years without a studio album, you can imagine my surprise to hear different, new material.  And while still with a very familiar feel, different it was.  There was more edge, more soul, more grind than I'd been used to from this troupe.  It almost felt as though Petty had hit his 'fuck it' stage of life, and the boys were writing music entirely for themselves, and not for anyone else.  Inadvertently, they've done a good job of writing for me.

Mojo was released in June and the Heartbreakers are currently on tour in support of the album.  Even though they're all knockin on the door of Rolling Stones kinda age... just like the stones... the boys seem to still know what they're doing.

-Where's that smile that you usually wear?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

100% - The Slew Live

I remember being elated when I first heard about Kid Koala's new project titled The Slew. The concept was brilliant; take a couple of turntable geniuses fueled by a love of classic rock and soul and match them up with one of the tightest, loudest rhythm sections on the planet. I liked this idea so much, I even gave it an award.

Yet I still recall thinking, the very first time I listened to The Slew's debut release, 100%, 'this isn't as awesome as I want it to be in my head.'  Something was lacking, and I long speculated that something to be the live atmosphere.  The project was conceived to be a live show, and as I learned tonight, that is the way it is to be experienced.  Combining Koala's shy, awkward charm, with the blissful rock presence of former Wolfmother rhythm keepers Chris & Myles and the crafty cuts of Dynomite D, this match made in the strangest corners of life somehow comes together to form one of the most energetic, unique and exciting live experiences I've ever witnessed.

The addition of bass & drums gives the sound an organic feel which removes much of the predictability of so much electronic music and the four, after touring twice together, have learned how to play off each other so well.  A genius, albeit gimmicky highlight of the night was the joint bass-crossfader solo performed by Ross and Koala.  Still, this set reached much beyond the realm of gimmicks and will stay with me as one of the coolest things I've seen done on stage in a long time.

-PS: If you're in the city Saturday night, swing by Rancho Relaxo to help us tear the venue a new asshole

Monday, July 5, 2010

Itching sensation in your brain

I've been getting lazy on this whole updating business.  It's not that I have nothing to talk about, in fact quite the opposite; I've been listening to too much music to write about it.  Still, I'm slowly working my way back into the groove of class, rock, chasing my roommates around the house with dart guns and lurking in the back alleys of the evening.  It's been good times... you should swing by and say 'hi' now and then.

You might even find me listening to Trigger Effect.  I got lucky around 3 years ago and happened to catch these guys open for Bionic in a triple-release-party-of-ensuing-madness put on by Signed by Force records in Montreal.  Trying to describe this hurricane on stage is doomed for inevitable failure, but imagine throwing 6 of those fighting fish together into a blender full of acid, and then throwing the blender into a bag of rabid cats who shit blenders.  I've been to 2 of TE's gigs and in that short relationship have had the following happen:

-Licked by the lead singer
-Used as a stepping stone by the bassist to get to the bar
-Spit on by numerous audience and band members
-Punched in the head... possibly by myself
-Strangled with a patch cord... not sure what the other end was attached to
-Hugged a 1000w PA system with no ear plugs

After touring the shit out of Europe, and even picking up some new languages for their 2nd full length release Versitis Maximus, Trigger Effect returned to Canada to play NXNE, among other shows.  It was there that, after listening to recorded material from their first album Dare to Ride the Heliocraft, I remembered what the real power of this band was; live, in your face insanity.

-Scratch my soul to match the scars on my back

Monday, June 28, 2010


I still don't exactly know how I'm going to review this, because I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out what it is.  I suppose it was inevitable that someone would eventually combine auto tuned RnB with hardcore... I just guess there was nothing which could have possibly prepared me for Brokencyde.

Every fibre of my being wants to hate this American "crunkcore" band from New Mexico... but the more I read about them, while I may hate their music, I can't help but respect them... at least a little.  First, regardless of how you feel about the sound, you have to admit, they're doing something original.  I suppose you could argue that all they did was stick T-pain in a room with Jacob Bannon, to which I would have to respond, "why did no one do it before?"

And beyond that, contrary to what you may think, they apparently aren't overprivileged suburban rich kids.  I guess if Fucked Up's Damian Abraham likes them, I can't damn them to the last circles of hell.

Still... I assure you, I really, really want to.

-Won't these loving hands show me how to drag a good man down?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

NXNE: Day 4

I appear to have not written a wrap up of last night, last night.  This may have had something to do with the fact that I just found myself fully clothed, lights on, blinds open at 11am ON my bed (at least I don't have to make the bed).  Needless to say, last night, we ended NXNE with a bang.

We started the night at the Stooges, because it simply had to happen.  There was a throng of people so large that I couldn't even see the stage and the audio was like listening to your neighbor's stereo through a wall.  We left about half way through the set to go pursue something a little more intimate, but at least I can now say I've seen Iggy Pop live.

Ok, I've heard Iggy Pop live.

We poked our heads into Hannah Georges at the shoe, Future in Plastics at Hideout, and Drive Faster at Velvet Underground.  My mother always said that if you can't say anything nice then don't say anything at all, but I never really listened to my parents.  There is a reason why we didn't even stay for one song of either of those bands.

Where we did end up settling wasn't much better, unfortunately.  The Hyena Dog Robbery was playing Bovine, and had members old enough that they probably could have told me about how difficult rock was in the great depression.  Don't get me wrong; I'm all for respecting your elders, but rock and roll has also taught me not to trust anyone over the age of 30 (in short, I'm fucked in 2 years).  We likely would have continued to move if it weren't for the fact that we'd been pretty much everywhere within a span of 15 minutes.

Once Stark Naked & the Fleshtones came on at Bovine, enough was, as they say, simply enough.  After a few shots to numb the pain we found ourselves walking out of a venue yet again.  We returned to the Hideout to catch half of Drive Like Maria.  Thank HOLLAND our night was finally saved.  Their rotating four piece was a much needed smack upside the head after a night of disappointment.

At last, we returned to the Bovine to see the act I really cared to see last night, Trigger Effect.  I first had my mind blown by these guys around 3 years ago at a Bionic CD release party at Cafe Campus in MTL.  The only thing that's changed is that they are even tighter, but the insanity still reigns supreme.  I have never been so intimate with a band's front man and I usually don't get that covered in other people's sweat unless I'm having sex.  There is a slight possibility that I didn't hear them live; we might have just had sex.

And then my night ended.

Or so I thought.  I was just informed that we continued back to Hideout to see another two bands.  I don't remember either band however, so I feel it wouldn't be very fair to review them.

And then my NXNE ended.

Now, time to jam and then start studying for my final tomorrow.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

NXNE: Day 3

I'm fading hard, and soon will have little remaining but a husk of a man.  Still, I'm so close to rock and roll nirvana that I can feel it shaking in my bones.  This festival pushes all the right limits, and knows just how to talk to me to make me feel some kind of special.

That and it's sure a lot more fun than studying for my final on Monday.

We started the night up at Rancho Relaxo.  I managed to catch a handful of songs by Ottawa's The Polymorphines.  They had a frantic, energetic sound, but it was early, and I was still waiting for that 2nd wind to blow into my sails and set me in motion.  Alas, I was set in motion, but it was out the door and towards the Hideout.

Shikasta was one of my favorite Toronto bands around 5 years ago.  I recall the emptiness in my heart when they decided to wind down.  The perfect offset of that feeling was experienced upon finding out that former Shikasta frontman, Russel Fernandes, had a new band named The Mercy Now.  Their live set was everything I could have hoped for; groovy, sexy, loud and proud.  Perhaps the best moment was when the power on the entire block went down and everybody, band and audience alike, just decided that we didn't need no stinkin power to keep rockin.  I assure you, there is nothing wrong with the video below.  The power blew mid-song and the entire block was pitch black.

Eventually, they got the juice going again and Mercy managed to finish grinding up against our souls. We then sat through a set which made me feel awkward and sympathetic. Some poor Aussie named Kirk Special flew half way around the world to have one of the most frustrating nights of his life. The preamble was pretty cool; he was a one man band who used his feet on a kick drum, played some mean blues guitar and screamed over top the whole thing like a swaggering drunk. Unfortunately, the amp he was using had other plans, and while the faulty amp wasn't a game ender for the sound, it was for his stage presence. For a guy who's energy and creativity on stage usually makes the show, being in a bad mood was a perfect way to reveal that in fact, the songs were quite repetitive and being in a one man band, if you're having a bad night, you've got no one else to fall back on.

Never fear, The Speaking Tongues saved the day.  Picking the dirty blues off the floor, an army of tongues followers cheered the powerful blues duo along as they mastered their way around the stage.  I'd been waiting a good long while to see this band live and as I learned, apparently so had everyone else.

To close off my night, I felt it was important to see a band which The Noble Rogues will be playing with in a few short weeks; You Handsome Devil.  Once again, I knew a lot of their tracks inside and out, but never had seen this shit show of a musical force live.  "Listen up or go to hell, either way, you're listening to You Handsome Devil."  - Damn  straight.  This satanic trio of rock n roll awesome is as much a pleasure to the eyes as they are to the ears.  Flying around the stage like possessed madmen, YH666 found a way to get the pole out of Toronto's ass.  I have never seen a crowd in Toronto that has enjoyed themselves as much as this set.
 Well played you little demons, well played.

-I don't need the devil to show me how to do you wrong.

Friday, June 18, 2010

NXNE: Day 2

I'll say it... wow.

So, if ever I thought that these festivals were getting dull and repetitive, thank you, day 2, for proving me wrong.  The Willsinator and I wandered around Q west for a while and eventually made our way up Spadina.  We entered a small unmarked door at around 2pm and joined a random, somewhat secret rooftop society of rock and roll, nachos, cheap beer, and ridiculous fun.

I spent the afternoon getting a ridiculous sunburn, drinking far too much Steamwhistle, having my mind blown by Sandman Viper Command, eating more nachos, striking the vogue with Andrea, and then listening to Hollerado, a personal favorite, rock out on top of a small rooftop apartment.

After the Holler boys, we had a pint at Black Bull before I headed home and passed the fuck out for a good hour.  Something about the combination of massive amounts of cheap beer, tons of sun, and jumping around all afternoon had apparently made me sleepy.

I awoke in a daze, and was ushered into a cab, to find myself shaken to life in The Hideout.  Some horrible, but tight (at least they had that going, right?) band played while I watched Boston lose and cursed the name Kobe.  Once I had resolved to the end of a sporting eve, my focus turned back on rock and an incredible band from Holland called De Staat.  These guys were some strange, prog-y rocktacular combination of QOTSA and meth amphetamines.  I suppose it also helped that I'm pretty sure two people in the audience were on meth:

I was fading hard and fast, but I managed enough energy for one more set.  Fortunately, I did stick around to see the Birthday Boys put on a hell of a way to end my night.  Entirely what I did not expect, these guys impressed me with their huge talent across all players, infectious songwriting, and hard as nails rock and roll attitude.

Sadly, our insane dancers had tuckered themselves out... so all I had to enjoy at this point was rock.

It was enough to make me go home and eat myself to sleep.  Seriously though... I'm still hungry.  Man I'd kill for some pad thai right now.

-Where's the smile that you usually wear?  Give to me the problems you bear.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

NXNE: Day 1

It's that time again.  The time where I test the limits of my liver, ear drums, and soul.

Before we even get started tonight, I need to come clean.  I licked a man's eyeball tonight.  Right... I feel better already.

So, after an accounting presentation (yes... I am not damning the man, I am the man) the Rogues met at the studio to continue our plot against the earth.  After a good little session, we wandered over to the Bovine Sex Club.

We arrived in time to see !Attention!.  I was determined not to drink tonight.  That didn't go so well. Attention had a pretty solid instrumentation, but were lacking in the vocal department.  I can't pinpoint exactly what it was about the guy's voice, but something didn't sit right with me.  I guess they just sounded a lot like everything we all listened to a the end of high school, which isn't necessarily a bad thing... it just was?

Drinks were drank.

Apres ca, Dig it Up hit the stage.  I'd followed these gents before thanks to Exclaim, and they did not disappoint.  I'd say more, but SOMEONE bought me Jager shots.  (Fuck you, someone).

Around the time *INSERT BAND NAME HERE* was on stage, I may or may not have bought more alcohol for more people.  Either these guys were extremely awesome, or I was extremely awesome (read: bagged).  Had to be one or the other.  Something Bronx-esque in there.

In case you hadn't noticed, this year, I decided to review NXNE the night of.  My plan is that every night this week, I will come home from the bar, and review the show I just witnessed.  If you think this alconzo style of reviewing is going to be painful to read, let me put it to you this way; tonight was one of the tame nights.

See you tomorrow!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mauled by an amplifier

The weekend in Montreal was the kind one writes tales about.  Our concert was great and in addition to packing a tiny little venue with far too many people, I made a good friend in the sound man who was playing some fantastic tunes between sets.

One of the groups he dropped before we went on was a hard rock -ish band from Matane, QC called Attack of the Microphone.  I laughed, more than a little.... ok, a lot, when I saw that none other than Jonathan Cummins produced their latest album.  Suddenly it all started making a lot of sense.

These guys cover a huge gambit of genres from something punky and driving, almost Bronx-esque, to moments that almost resemble less-prog versions of I Mother Earth.  Their live shows looks like a monkey-fun in a blender and I have NOTHING ELSE TO SAY.

Off to see Dirty Analogue @ the Shoe.

-Try to tell me anything but the truth

Monday, June 7, 2010


I've been waiting for this album for almost 3 years.

Canada Post had better not piss around.  Take a listen to some clips on Jordan's website or myspace.

-You can't help changing, I can't help staying the same, but one of these days things'll change.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Things be damned

Traditionally, for me to be a big fan of hardcore, it's got to be something that really reaches out and grabs me.  Very few HC bands have done this, however the definition of my kinda heavy shit is ETID.  By extention, you can feel free to assume that anything which the Buckley brothers touch is going to be gold in my books.

As such, it should come as no surprise that I've got wood for Keith Buckley's new project, The Damned Things.  Formed as yet another supergroup between Buckley and members of Anthrax and Fall Out Boy, TDT aims to blend their "love of classic rock anthems and powerful melodies with a heavy metal intensity."  A blend of three very different bands, The Damned Things will have a hurdle to overcome in forming a cohesive sound. However, what I've heard so far seems to show that they're up to the challenge.

Buckley's strange lyrics and unmistakable voice still bring an enormous familiarity to this project.  However, the blend of Anthrax's metal-tacular ridiculousness with the Fallout pop-punk vocal harmony layers are a strange mix which somehow... actually kinda works.  They've only released 2 tracks on their website and I for one am damned curious to hear more.

Get it... damned?

-It's not so strange to be a stranger

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Shiny Death

In my never ending search for dirtier rock n roll, my wanderings took me through the east end of Toronto and a walk through the 80s. Somewhere between a haze of jager, long hair and ridiculous, you'll find the Diemonds.

Drawing on equal parts Motley Crue, G'nR, and Scorpions, Diemonds create enough dirty, fuzzed out insanity to last at least 4 or 5 bands.  For a band I'd barely heard of before this week, they boast an impressive resume.  Their 2008 release, In the Rough, received massive critical acclaim, including being named as one of Classic Rock Magazine's best albums of 2009 (ok, they were a touch slow).  They've played CMW, NXNE, Halifax Pop Explosion, and even been one of the few North American rock bands to tour India.  Rumors are churning that they're set to release their second full length this summer.

The sound of this band speaks for its self.  While drawing heavily on 80s glam and hair bands, Diemonds are still unquestionably innovators.  They pull no punches about what they're doing, and I for one can't wait to see this hurricane live on stage.

Note: You can find them at this year's NXNE, playing Parts & Labour on June 18.

-Here's a little piece of my mind, it gets better with time

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A May too good to hide

I would love to show you some fantastic new music today, however, there is far too much news which you need to be made aware of.

First, I gotta give a shout out to one of the greatest metalheads to ever grab a mic.  Ronnie James Dio, who replaced Ozzy as the frontman for Sabbath, passed away on Sunday of Stomach cancer.  Could this have been due to years of substance abuse?  Possibly.  Would it have all still been worth it?  Probably.

Second, the Mango Kid, Mr. Danko Jones has released the video "Full of Regret", the first single off his upcoming album, Below the Belt.  I think now that Lemmy and Elijah Wood are appearing in his videos, we don't need to consider Danko an indie artist anymore.

Also tossing out a new video today is Trent Reznor's new project, How to Destroy Angels. Surprise, surprise; it's really bloody weird!

On the new release front, one of my favorite bands, The Black Keys, officially unveil their new album, Brothers, today.  Sea of Cowards, the new installment from The Dead Weather was released last Tuesday.  The Deftones also unleashed Diamond Eyes to the world just last week.  Though you'll have to be a bit more patient (next Tuesday), Stone Temple Pilots will be giving you the gift of their first studio album in 9 years.

Bad Religion fans, rejoice. The group has recently recorded, and just released a free live album in honour of their 30th year together.  All you need to do is visit their website and provide an email address for them to spam.  Who would have thought that a handful of white guys could find 30 years of material on social responsibility to sing about?

Yet amongst all of this, perhaps the most exciting news (for me at least) is that one of my favorite bands of all time, Big Sugar, is reuniting.  While Gordie has been good and busy with his project down south, Grady, he has apparently missed the company of Mr. Cool and the crew of reggae'd out blues cats.  They're touring this summer, so check their page to see if they come near you.

And that's all I have for you today.  Expect some more good news on Thursday and, as always, enjoy hump day.

-I must admit to past discretions and future temptations for pages to be turned