Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Check Your Head

I probably shouldn't be taking time to blog this week, considering that I've been working 10-12 hours a day, still trying to get out for runs, and somewhere in all of this, trying my hardest to eat. Still... writing keeps me sane and keeps you funky. I'm making my mad dash for the weekend, when I get to run off to Calgary to spend time with the fam, but sadly, not play in any boxes. ;-P

I needed a bit of head bobbing, grind me up the inside, dirty rock tonight, and smack me upside the bottom, the UK would actually provide for once. Band of Skulls, based out of Southampton are a garage rock 3 piece with all kinds of good fun.  They've only been at it for just under 2 years, but you'd be amazed what being on the Twilight soundtrack will do for your career.

Let's ignore their wussy vampire relations for a moment and just enjoy the tunes.  They've got a sound not insanely different from The White Stripes, but still have managed to create their own unique noise.  Once again, I think the most imporant thing you can do today is tell me to shut the hell up and check out the video below.

-Never have I seen such horrible things go so wonderfully right

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Everyone's a loser

I assure you, one of these days I'll have a death metal band to write about.  Recently, I've simply been stumbling across a lot of great indie and softer rock.  Take a look at roughly a year ago and all I was writing about was stoner rock.

I guess... just don't expect much from me, but enjoy what you get.  Feel free to take that advice well beyond my blog.

With a sound quite similar to Bend Sinister (who I was yaking about back in January) The Melgrove Band has proved that Ontario can also churn out some pretty fantastic pop rock.  If you listen through some of their tracks, you'll notice the unmistakable draw on the Beatles.  I suppose one could argue that the Beatles have been an indirect, or even direct influence for almost every modern band, however, I prefer to reserve that kind of statement for bands who really make the tie musically.

A product of the 'saug, this four piece has been playing together for almost 13 years.  During that time, they've released 3 full albums but have had trouble breaking through into a larger market.  Perhaps, like so many canucks, they are doomed to be trapped forever within the Canadian indie scene.

I suppose there are worse places for musicians to be. You know... like Japan.

-Cry those tears of fire and ice out of your diamond eyes that ain't worth a thing

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Robot Heart

I'm struggling to keep my eyes open, and my head she swims like a duck-billed platypus mating in the dark. Yesterday, I put in a bit of a marathon day at work and found myself passing out face down after arriving home from work at 2am. It was a good day.

In a non-sequitur fashion, I now wish to talk about gruff voices, robots, 80s gang movies and love. How are these things connected, you probably wish to ask? I probably wish to answer simply, Dan Mangan.  A product of the wonderful city of Vancouver, Mangan has released two full length albums and another two EPs.  While he started playing music at an exceptionally young age, it wasn't until the age of 20 that he released his first EP, 2003's All At Once.  

Mangan's gritty voice and folky songwriting blends together like a smore.  I'm going to say that the marshmallows are his catchy guitar hooks, the chocolate is the gooey harmonies and the graham crackers are the lyrics based around silly things like robot love and rockie mountain landscapes.

Now I want to go camping.

-"Growing up may be a double edged sword, but I have child-proofed one side."
CJS - 22/03/10

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I should, but never do

For anyone who came into any form of contact with me, be it physical, phone, email, or even that twitch you get behind your right eye when you know something's wrong... I apologize. It was Paddy's, and I had reason to celebrate (good news everyone!) What I really should have learned is to take the band name of today's post to heart regarding my thoughts on whisky last night.

Yet another Toronto gem, and yet another of my forays into the indie world, Boys Who Say No are a banjo-driven hurricane of fun, confusion and fake dog vomit.  Their music makes you scratch your head whilst uncontrollably dancing around the room as though your legs were possessed by the spirit of James Brown's lesser known cousin, Edgar.

They're quickly making a pretty litte name for themselves around the Toronto scene and even starting to garnish a bit of media attention from the likes of Rolling Stone and the National Post.  This makes me all the more green with envy due to the fact that they've been around for just under 3 years and to date have only released an EP.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sick Day

Well, it would appear as though the clusterfuck of working 6 days a week, diving headfirst into CMW, whisky-soaked reunions with friends and generally, trying to live the life of 2 men at once has finally caught up to me.  Today, for the second time in my life, I, Shane Paul Saunderson, took a sick day.  I was sneezing on Sunday, chalked it up to allergies by Monday, and when I woke this morning with my head ready to explode... I finally admitted to myself that I was not, in fact, superman.

Besides, we all know that I am the batman.

I spent the day watching movies in bed, catching up on emails with friends, and maybe snuck in a bit of contract work as well (what?  I'm an addict).  To go along with this chill day, I needed a chill soundtrack.  The timing could not have been more perfect as I had just started listening to Jose Gonzalez.

A folk singer/songwriter of Argentinian descent who was born and raised in Sweden (still with me?), Gonzalez plays a simplistic solo classical guitar style hiding beneath soft vocal melodies.  He's released two full albums, Veneer, and In Our Nature, a handful of EPs and only recently has started to breakthrough with some mainstream popularity on a few movies and TV shows.

Generally speaking, his music is the type to be filed under the feeling of 'soulful.'  While very simple in arrangement and progression, the music captures the most basic and important element of good art; it engages the audience.  Coming across as some sort of modern day James Taylor, Gonzalez was the perfect accompaniment to my steady recovery today.

-I promise everything will be alright if you promise to believe me

Sunday, March 14, 2010

CMW: Day 3

Day 3 was so good that I needed to give it a while to set in. Thus, I'm currently writing my review from Friday night, hungover to boot on Sunday morning when I'm really much more in the mood to be eating eggs and spooning my pillow. Do you see what I do for you people? This is the level of my commitment and professionalism!

Hahahah... yeah, that made me laugh too.

The night opened with Vancouver's Bend Sinister.  It's a shame that these guys got the starting nod, because they put on a high energy set which had the handful of people in front of the stage bouncing to some fantastic tunes.  I've only been following this band for a few months, but so far they've impressed and after finally seeing their live show, I can definitively say they have the complete package.

Second to invade was the act I would have paid cover for alone; Calgary's The Dudes.  I had been waiting to see these guys live for 2 years, and it was unquestionably worth the wait and then some.  They were as tight on stage as their album and still surprisingly frank and heartfelt even after probably touring on those songs hundreds of times.  Rock on dudes... rock on.

After the Dudes, I honestly could have left, but the collective Ia(i)ns were there and wanted to stick around and hey... I'm never one to ruin a party.  Jets Overhead were pretty cool, but very ambient and unoffensive.  I could dig what they were doing, but as is my issue with so many bands, was hearing nothing that reached out and grabbed me.  Hot Hot Heat closed the night, and I just don't like that band.  Also, the singer's head looks like a watermelon on a toothpick.

In between the two was the unsurprisingly surprising Melissa Auf der Mar.  After being apart of some massive bands in her life, I knew the girl would come with a boatload of rock cred, stage presence and moxy, what I didn't expect was the caliber of her songwriting.  She had a great way of blending innocent, often creepy vocals with strong, earth-shattering guitars.  Add to this that she has the greatest hair in the world for headbanging, and all in all... you've got yourself one entertaining set.

Now if you'll excuse me... I'm going to go re-evaluate my life choices and try to pick up the pieces of my poor, broken existence.

-Good try CMW... but this year, I had the upper hand

Friday, March 12, 2010

CMW: Day 2

Day 1 of CMW was a fantastic evening with The Noble Rogues.  We had rehearsal.... deal with it.

Day 2 was a fantastic evening of catching up with Newfies and griping about the opposite sex.  We were at my home away from home this week, the Horseshoe Tavern.  Opening the night were 3 bands I don't care to either mention or ever think of again for that matter.  Seriously... there is a loaded gun in the bathroom, it's not too late to take the honourable way out.  Just be sure to aim away from the mirror... seven years bad luck, you know.

Yes that just happened... deal with it.

At 11pm, one of my favorite bands in the world, Hollerado, converged on the stage like a group of drunken children.  After winning a quarter of a million dollars, touring China and South America, and nationally releasing their debut full length, Record in a Bag... one could say that the boys were doing pretty well for them selves.

However, my usual fanboyism must be interrupted with a bold statement; this was the worst gig I've ever seen the Manotick quartet play.  I'll immediately start back pedaling about that statement by saying that even their worst gig is still one of the most enjoyable live experiences most bands will ever dream of.  I'm not sure if their current schedule and success has just left the guys exhausted, or if all that fame is going to their head, but the technical problems, slightly off vocals, and general cohesion of this band on a rainy Thursday in Toronto... was lacking.

Still, for all my complaining, I was reminded what makes this band so good at the end of their set when drummer Jake Boyd plainly said the words, "all that industry bullshit doesn't matter" to a crowd full of industry types.  Hollerado has worked their asses off to get where they are and could never be accused of taking the easy way out.  They wanted to release their album in ziplock bags, so instead of caving to label pressure, they started their own label.  They wanted to travel to strange, remote destinations like China and SA, so instead of signing with Sony and playing NY and LA over and over again... they said fuck it and used their own winnings to fund the tour.

I listened to their last song and finally, regardless of any other issues, let myself get lost in Hollerado land.  It's a beautiful, fun, care-free place which I envy those four guys for being able to live in it 24/7.  To me... this was a true sign of a great band, to be able to take a shitty night and still grab every member of the audience into your world by the end of the set.

Maybe I was just tired and cranky, or not in the mood to enjoy live music last night, but when Besnard Lakes followed, try as I may, I simply couldn't get into it.  I'm a huge fan of Dark Horse, and have already enjoyed the early release tracks from their new album, Roaring Night.  That said, their live show was just too much of an out there jam for me to be drawn into.  Being an experimental band is one thing, but holding the same note for 2 minutes goes beyond artistic and just becomes boring.

Man... I was a real bitch last night.  I'm off to see some of the most energetic bands in the world tonight, so I promise I'll stop being grumpy.

-Losing that sensation of being senseless all the time

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

CMW: Day 0

If any of you have actually been reading long enough, and haven't completely destroyed your long term memory due to severe alcohol abuse, you may remember the last time I was in Toronto during the month of March. I, Shane Paul Saunderson the first, had my ass positively kicked by CMW 2008. Now, a full two years later, I have returned, bigger, stronger, and with a more efficient liver.

Last night was Day 0.  CMW officially starts today, however, when Ian Blurton is playing a free show at the Horseshoe... one does not ask questions (yeah, Ia(i)n's!).  I arrived halfway through the set of Sixteen Layers, an Irish hard rock band.  They were tight, but nothing to write home about, and certainly nothing to travel across an ocean to see.

After the Irishmen, Vancouver's Yukon Blonde hit the stage.  These guys were much more to my liking, resembling something almost like a modern Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  The songwriting was superb, the 3 part vocal harmonies were tight, and my only complaint would be that their songs didn't really go anywhere.  It was good music, but I never had a feeling of anticipation.

That is, until they cleared the stage.  I had seen Ian Blurton play with Huron before at the Dakota, in some mixed up, illegitimate offspring project known as Happy Endings, however a 'shoe show is a different beast all together.  I'd owned the album for a couple of months, so I found myself singing along to Blurton's nearly indescribable, mumbling voice, and then 'it' happened.  This band features 3 guitarists, and they know how to use it.  Often, one guitar will carry the main line, one will solo, and one will wailfully produce ambient, droning feedback, which hits perfect harmonics of the key.  It's a very original sound which tries to bring together hard rock with some sort of orchestral mash.

Then, as though you had never lived a day in your life, the guitars will start to sync, slowly converging upon the same glorious riff, and suddenly, without warning, your jaw is pulled to the ground, your loins tickled and three of the most powerful guitarists in Toronto are diving down your ear canal.  None of these songs are singles.  None of these songs are hits.  However, all of these songs have moments of clarity where everything comes together and the very world its self seems like it has compressed to a single, infinitesimal point of pure rock.

The highlight of the show was once again, their cover of Grand Funk Railroad's song, Sin's a Good Man's Brother.  Minds were blown, love was shown, happiness has grown.

-I had my mind blown by Happy Endings and all I got was this fucking awesome t-shirt

Sunday, March 7, 2010

First, find the door

Friday night is code for spectacular.

It's been a long time since I've had a night that has been that much, random, ridiculous fun, and I'm glad it all came together... pretty much from nothing. At the end of the week, I received some good news regarding a certain school thing and as such, felt it appropriate to celebrate. I won't get into the intimate details of how the evening slowly spiraled into one of the most epic, unpredictable and hilarious nights of my Toronto life, involving high five practice, drinking red wine from the bottle during fire alarms, volleyball reunions, free shots, free shirts, and making everything awesome. You'll just have to take my word for it.

The evening started with a last minute decision to hit the steam whistle brewery (never a bad idea, really) for a concert (yes... in the brewery... genius, no?). While there, I ran into old friends, including one on stage, playing with a fantastic band called Make Your Exit.  Their music is rich with harmonies, frank and honest.  The live show was both musically inspiring and generally, a lot of fun.  It shows that these guys have been friends for years. and it goes to show that friendship can go a long way when writing some tunes.

-Brother please help me find my way home. Spent too many nights, too many tears drinking alone.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

There's good news...

And then there's reason-to-run-streaking-down-Queen's-Quay-wearing-nothing-but-your-favorite-red-underwear good news.  This is the latter, in case you didn't get the hint.

When your favorite band announces a new album... one does not simply sit there and smile... one rejoices.

-Rejoice evil doers... salvation is nowhere to be found

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chop Chop

The added benefit of my new job is that my coworkers are cool.  More importantly, they like good music.  Granted, there are now only 3 of us... but I'm still impressed.  The office is now somewhat of a statistical anomaly, since 2/3rds of the company is now Manitoban.  In addition to gushing over how awesome bands like Propaghandi, Weakerthans and Inward Eye are, the toban connection also throws a lot of good music back and forth.

A recommendation which came due to my Black Keys obsession was a local Toronto band called Timber Timber.  More soulful and folky than bluesful and rocky, TT was started as a project of Taylor Kirk and began to grow both in instrumentation, and in creepy awesomeness.  Kirk's songs don't so much flow towards your ear drums as they do slink through the air and creep up on your brain to softly lull you into a misguided state of comfort and trust.

It's kinda spooky... but really cool.

-I got me a confession, I've seen good lovin but never seen love