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