Thursday, December 29, 2011

Shanies: Album of the Year

What a year for rock n roll! I know you were all waiting impatiently for 2011's top ten, but I got trapped in Montreal by a gorgeous woman and didn't get to finish my homework.  Can you really blame me? Without further adieu, I give you:

10. Cunter - Some Really Nice Guy Threatened to Sue Us

What I like about this album is what it doesn't try to be: it doesn't try to be complicated, insightful or groundbreaking. This album is simply old friends getting together to play gritty, in-your-face hardcore. In addition, this album wins the award for most grotesque cover art.

9. Dan Mangan - Oh Fortune
What can I say? I just love this Vancouverite's smooth baritone voice.  While I would agree with anyone who claims that Nice Nice, Very Nice is a better album, I appreciate that with Oh Fortune, Mangan doesn't play things safe.  He experiments a lot on this album and even plays around with some heavier feeling songs.  Unquestionably worth a few good listens.

8. Mastodon - The Hunter
You knew this was making the list.  The masters of modern metal (try saying THAT three times fast) had to crack this list with a very unique album in The Hunter. Almost as a rebellion to their previous prog epics, The Hunter shows its self as a more stripped down, simplistic album (for this band at least) in which the usual barrage of epic riffs are condensed down to short, catchy, even funky songs.

7. The Barr Brothers - The Barr Brothers

A late entry to the year (ok, late September isn't that late, I just had a busy fall) and a late entry to my life, this album floored me with incredibly unique folk songs and eclectic instrumentation. 'Deacon's Son' has a solo section featuring some wicked guitar, harp, and what sounds like steel drums. Also, I swear that in the end of 'Give the Devil Back his Heart', someone is saying "I love the Black Keys"

6. Wide Mouth Mason - No Bad Days
 When one of your favorite bands releases an album for the first time in 5 years, and just so happens to have also picked up one of your musical heroes to play bass... yeah. No Bad Days is another one of those brilliant albums where the trio approached the project with simplicity in mind and allowed each of their individual fortes to shine through in a beautiful blend of soul, funk, rock and blues.

5. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
Dave decided he wanted to make an album renisicent of the old Self-Titled and Colour and the Shape era.  'Nuff said.
Oh, and riff-genius Pat Smear came back after 10 years.
Oh, and Dave worked with Butch Vig for the first time since nevermind.
Oh, and the whole thing was done analog in Dave's garage.
Oh, and Bob Mould and Krist Novoselic guested on the album.
Getting the idea?

4. The Black Keys - El Camino
Here I need to less justify the presence of this album on the list and more explain why it only hit #4. I LOVE the keys, and have for 8 years, however, the issue with El Camino is that it isn't Brothers. Songs like "Little Black Submarines" and "Gold on the Ceiling" remind me of why I adore this band - continuous evolution of their style - yet it still feels like the songs were rushed. Maybe it feels that way because I'm still not done exploring brothers.

3. MuteMath - Odd Soul

Ahh MuteMath. Just about every year this band puts out an album, they end up in my top ten, usually somewhere very high. They're one of the most original bands of the past 10 years and their percussive-heavy sound always seems to strike a chord with me. That said, Odd Soul feels a bit different from their previous albums. While possibly containing more singles and catchier songs, this album doesn't blend together into a single piece of work quite like their previous. Still, you can flip to just about any track on this CD and have your mind completely blown.

2. The Parlor Mob - Dogs

Are you surprised to see this here? Me too. The Parlor Mob has been a new obsession of mine ever since discovering them earlier this year. While I was a couple years late to allow their debut, And You Were a Crow, to crack the list (and likely end up 1 or 2), their softmore effort, Dogs, is still a tour-de-force which I have been obsessively listening to. Combine one part White Stripes, and one part Led Zeppelin and you'll hear very quickly why this was almost my album of the year.

1. Hey Rosetta! - Seeds

This is a rare occasion. My album of the year in 2011 is not a heavier rock album. Let this speak volumes about just how good Hey Rosetta's latest effort, Seeds, is. Start to finish, this album delivers so many different sounds, emotions and themes. Tim Baker is a musical genius, and after following this band for over 5 years (thanks Andrea), Baker has finally found his comfort zone (not to say that earlier albums were slouches!). This album brings together HR's usual wide instrumentation with cute lyrics, catchy hooks, and the feeling of music that should be sung by a small chorus of friends (and in some cases, it is!)

-Hope you enjoyed the 2011 Shanies! I'm looking forward to providing you with all sorts of new audiophoria in 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Shanies: The Rest

Always one of my favorite days of the year, 'The Rest' describes the awards that didn't really fit into their own day and, if I'm being completely honest, is yet another day for me to shoot my mouth off and rant about the year that was.  I usually don't plan all of these awards, so as I sit here in the new Winnipeg airport awaiting my flight back to Toronto, let's see what kind of creative juices start flowing.

Lifetime Achievement Award (R.I.P.) - C'Mon
It was a sad day when I heard of C'Mon's plans to wind down. After being a huge fan of Blurtonia and Bionic, I followed Sir Ian's new project with great excitement from the get-go. While it was amazing getting to see these guys play one of their last shows with a handful of people at Chemical Sound... it was a big price to have to pay. I got a fever... but the cure is no more.

'How Are You Still Alive and Making Music?' - Weird Al
 30 years and 13 freaking albums, 6 platinum and 3 Grammys?  How is this man still going strong?  Even more amazing, is that he isn't just old...he's popular (12 Million albums sold).

'I Play in a Band, so Fucking Listen Already' - The Noble Rogues
If you're not used to me shamelessly promoting my own band... deal with it.  Better yet... go fucking listen already:

'I Told You So' - The Sheepdogs
I hate to say I told you so, but.... oh wait... what's that?  Ah... apparently I LOVE to say I told you so.  Remember when I heard these guys play live almost 4 years ago and even was kind enough to share said information with you? YOU'RE WELCOME JERK!

'Enigmatic, or Maybe just an Asshole' - Tyler the Creator
Tyler and the whole OFWGKA game may have challenged the old adage, 'there's no such thing as bad press.'  While it is undeniable that Tyler was talked about a lot this year... a lot of people really hate him.  If it weren't for Goblin being such a damned good album and 'Yonkers' being one of the best hip hop songs/videos I've seen/heard in years... I'd probably hate him too.

'Congrats, you stayed in a room together long enough to make an album' - Jane's Addiction
And truth be told... for the first time in ages, I actually really got into JA. The album was solid, catchy and still fairly unique in construction, particularly this song:

'Creepiest Introduction' - Bran Van 3000
I won't kick the dead horse here... but I found out about the new album while peeing.

'Please, just stop making music' - Superheavy 
I know, you're Mick Jagger. We get it. Now please, stop.  You're hurting music.

-One more left kiddies!  Album of the year coming up tomorrow... or when I get around to it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Shanies: Artist of the Year

Let's just cut to the chase: undeniably, this was the year of the Foo. I love pumpin up the little guy as much as anyone else, but I'll challenge anyone to show me a band who accomplished more random, wonderful things in 2011 as the double F. Let's review:
  • They recorded an album with Butch Vig (the first time for since Dave since Nevermind) in Grohl's garage on completely analog equipment. Krist Novoselic and Bob Mould made guest appearances on the album. Wasting Light debuted at number one on Billboard.
  • Medium Rare a compiliation of Foo rarities was released in limited edition vinyl on Record Store Day
  • Back and Forth, a documentary about the Foo's creation and existence was released at SXSW in March and eventually hit DVD.
  • The Foo's organized a garage tour in support of Wasting Light, during which they traveled around North America and played tiny live shows in fan's shops and garages.
  • They shot a hilariously disturbing video titled 'Hot Buns' to announce their upcoming massive US tour
  • When the collective of the worst people in the world (aka the Westboro Baptist Church) protested outside their Kansas City show due to the homosexual nature of the Hot Buns video, the Foos wheeled up on a flatbed trailer to perform the most hilarious fuck you to the Church (see below)
  • They released music videos for Rope, Walk, and my personal favorite, White Limo, the last featuring Lemmy as a crazed limo driver.
  • They played Lollapalooza, Goat Island, MK National Bowl and have confirmed for both Leeds and Reading in 2012
  • This year alone they have shared the stage with Roger Taylor, John Paul Jones, Seasick Steve, Bob Mould and Alice Cooper
  • And finally, they officially expanded to a five-piece with the return of once-Foo and long time riff machine, Pat Smear
And that's just touching on the major highlights.

-We have just one award left, the coveted album of the year. BUT FIRST... you must suffer my ridiculous awards of 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Shanies: Song of the Year

I had a very tough time with this category... so much so that I'm contemplating writing in a tie right now.

Yeah, screw it... it's my blog and I'm accountable to no one except the pink elephant on my shoulder... we're having a tie. The reason we're having a tie is because this year, I listened to two songs repeatedly which were amazing for very different reasons. One because it was a simple, feel good classic that resonated with my soul and another because of its complex, strange and still catchy arrangement.

Wide Mouth Mason made a resurgence this year with none other than one of my idols, Mr. Gordie Johnson, on bass. The opening track to their new album, No Bad Days, is a soulful, bluesy tune that we've come to know as WMM standard. Why I love this song, and in fact this whole album (foreshadowing!) is because of its simplicity. The band recognizes their strengths and plays to them. Verreault supposedly only used one guitar to record the whole album and the entire process avoided layering and splicing when possible. What results is a perfect blend of unique styles.  'More of It' kicks off with some bluesy slide guitar accented by Javed's groovy, jazz-inspired drumming. Gordie eventually kicks in with his reggae-loving bass styles and finally the whole song is capped off with Verreault's massive, soulful voice.  4 layers which alone stand so uniquely yet together blend into one hell of a song.

But being greedy like I am (read: indecisive), I also had another pick for song of the year.

Pomplamoose doesn't really release albums... they just finish songs every now and then and present them to you in one of the most unique formats possible. Their 'video songs' are strange compilations of video clips from the recording process which show every bit of instrumentation that goes into their mix.  As such, when you get to see just how much they put into these seemingly cacophonic mixes (which still end up sounding catchy and smooth), it boggles the mind. In June, they released the video song, 'River Shiver' much to my delight which features, among other things: a horn section, inverted crash cymbals, a rewinding tape recorder, an old electric organ and enough layers of vocals to create a small choir.

-And on that note, I run away, and you wait for tomorrow's Artist of the Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Shanies: Video of the Year

We'll be taking a break for turkey, eggnog and family tomorrow, however, things will pick right back up again on I'll-kill-you-if-you-take-my-big-screen day (a.k.a. boxing day). As promised, today is going to be devoted to outstanding work in the visual arts.

TV On The Radio has always been one of those bands I approach cautiously. Their albums tend to be massive jumps forward in musical styles and I personally don't think this band knows the proper definition of the word 'safe'. As such, some of their music has been hit and miss with me. That said, when they hit... wow do they hit. After already being blown away by the release of Dear Science, I approached their latest, Nine Types of Light, with apprehension. However, once I caught their first single 'Second Song', I quickly let down my guard and embraced their latest masterpiece.

Still, we're not here to talk just about music. Almost more enjoyable than the song, the video for 'Second Song' combines stunning visuals with a cute, somewhat mysterious story, all of which blends seamlessly with the song. The video depicts a cute, tiny white figuring shaman who is creating a world around him under an aggressively evolving sky. He starts by creating a familiar world and exploring it before the entire land begins to tear its self apart and ultimately, ascend to something so much greater. Words don't do this video justice though... in fact, in order to properly describe this video, I would need:

4:22 video @ 30 frames per sec = ((4x60 + 22) x 30) = 7860 frames
1 picture = 1000 words
7860 x 1000 = 7,860,000 words

And while I love you, I'm not about to write a dissertation on this video.  Enjoy!

-Following Christmas, you've got the Song of the year coming your way

Friday, December 23, 2011

Shanies: Concert of the Year

2011 was yet another big year for concerts. I aggressively attended both CMW & NXNE in Toronto. I hopped the border to see the Black Keys destroy the stage just outside of Buffalo. A little birdie surprised me with tickets to see The Sheepdogs and Kings of Leon (who I hadn't really listened to before this... not bad) in the Bell Centre. I saw C'Mon play one of their last shows ever with only 20 people inside of Chemical Sound for a final live recording. I watched countless acts open and close for The Noble Rogues (though I never got to see them live... any good?).

However, it is difficult to compete with a hero. Perchance the fact that I only see him live every few years gives him an unfair advantage. Maybe because it was at one of my favorite venues in Toronto that this concert had an extra pull.  It also likely helped that I found this year's Rookie of the Year, Little Foot Long Foot, opening for him.  Yes, 2011's concert of the year goes to none other than Mr. Jordan Cook.

Even infrequent readers of this blog likely know of my unhealthy obsession with the Saskatchewan axeman. On June 18, 2011, I had beyond a night to remember. After watching a handful of fantastic openers to the night, Jordan took to the stage to captivate the painfully small audience (their loss) with his virtuosic guitar playing. But what really makes a JC show incredible isn`t just his playing. Jordan goes WAY beyond simply being a shredder and knows how to lose himself in the music, push himself outside of his comfort zone and bring a new feel, sound and experience to each of his shows (believe me, I`ve watched enough live videos).

Check below for a quick clip from that fateful night, followed by one of my personal live favorites.

-The day after today? That's not tomorrow! That's Video of the Year day!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Shanies: Biggest Disappointment

I suppose for this award, I should almost be more disappointed in myself than the band. Realistically, this band was done years ago, I just carried their torch for far too long since I was a huge fan of them in the 90s.
Yeah, Incubus... they are still making music. Now, let me set the record straight: I was a HUGE fan of S.C.I.E.N.C.E. and Make Yourself would probably make my top 20 all-time list. Morning View was probably the beginning of the end. It was still a tremendous album, but also an obvious departure from their roots and towards a much more mellowed, pop-driven sound. From there, each album still had some nuggets for me (Crow with Priceless & Zee Deveel, Light Grenades with the title track and Rogues), but it was only a matter of time before the inevitable: If Not Now, When? is a big steaming pile of dog crap.

Maybe it was the hiatus they took, or the studio forcing them to release a greatest hits album (almost a sure-fire way to say a band is done), but this album confirmed what we all knew was coming: Incubus is no more. For me, that's disappointing.

Below is their first (and likely only) single from the new album, followed by the only redeeming song, Defiance: an almost 60's-inspired protest song which is a horrible Incubus song, but a decent song at least.

-Tomorrow you ask? The ever-random award for concert of the year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shanies: Rookie of the Year

I was beginning to get worried about this category. I felt as though its true intent was being lost. With past winners such as The Damned Things and Them Crooked Vultures, this was starting to feel almost like a Best Side Project Award.  However, I am proud to announce that this year, an independent band, and even better, a local Toronto band has claimed my top prize for rookie of the year.  To get through the fine print up front, the band does not necessarily need to be brand new, however, their first full length release needs to have occurred in the past year.

If you read my NXNE reviews, you could likely take a guess that this year's award would be given to none other than Toronto's Little Foot Long Foot. Their live sound blew me away, unexpectedly, while waiting to see Jordan Cook at the Hideout. From there, I picked up their debut album Oh, Hell and immediately became a fan. I've now seen this band play a few times and am continually impressed by what I hear. I look forward to continually watching them grow and *AHEM* hopefully sharing the stage with them in 2012.

-Up tomorrow... Biggest Disappointment!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Shanies: Introduction

Would you believe that I've now been writing this blog for almost four years, written over 300 entries, and managed to offend... well, a lot of people?  Me neither!!  Still, as I am a man who loves tradition, what would 2011 be without this year's annual Shanies?

I'll tell you what... probably the same as any other year, but you know what? I love pontificating and forcing people to listen to what I like, so I'll be doing it again. By my count (which isn't all that reliable given that I'm 8 drinks in), this is the 4th annual Shanie gala, which will run from tomorrow until I either get bored, tired, or run out of good awards. In addition, I'll be trying something new this year which is going to be a countdown of the top 10 for my album of the year.

So what is the purpose of this post? Really not much.  I just felt like writing, have a lot of scotch in me, and have access to wifi back on the farm. Still, you might feel a touch cheated, so at bare minimum, I'll give you something to tide you over until tomorrow when the real fun begins.

-I have nothing but everything for you

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Balls Out Review

Leo Graziani, thou hath delivered. The man put me onto one of the most energetic acts I've stumbled across in 2011. And not a moment too soon... with 2011 dying down and the Shanies approaching, this year had almost come to a close.

The Jim Jones Revue is a modern revival of the early rock n roll acts like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. Toss in a healthy dose of punk rock and you get some of the most off the wall, in your face, blues soaked tunes to ever come off the island. Since their formation in 2007, they've pumped out two LPs: a self titled and the latest, Burning Your House Down. Not the most original sound in the world, but one that doesn't get played well enough or often enough, I highly recommend you hit that wonderful little play button below and enjoy the insanity.

-I got a lot of things on my mind but never one that comes shining through

Friday, December 9, 2011

Creatures of the Night

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned. It's been far too long since my last confession. In my defense, I was gallivanting around SE Asia, too busy diving, beaching, whiskying and generally... living, to update the digital world. Still, hopefully I've come back refreshed, recharged and full of tunes to light your day. What's even better; we're a mere couple of weeks away from the holidays which means it's almost time for the annual Shanies.
 Grace Potter and the Nocturnals: call this one the definition of hard working Americana. Lead by, unsurprisingly, Grace Potter... this rotating band of exceptionally talented musicians hale from Vermont. Starting in 2004, Grace took the slow road to success by building up a slow following doing music her way. Slowly creeping their way out of the home state with releases in 2004 and 2005, GP&TN's started to gain notoriety around the entire NE, most importantly in Boston. However, it wouldn't be until 2007 that the break would finally come... and then the floodgates opened. Touring with the likes of Gov't Mule, The Black Crowes and Dave Matthews Band became common. Being featured on various TV shows and through a plethora of commercials became a standard. Suddenly being asked to play Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and Red Rocks in Colorado... was almost an overnight shift. In short, while not completely dominating on the mainstream... they'd hit their break.

A much needed refreshment to the American music scene, their sound is a throwback to the simpler days of the 60s and 70s, with a modern take on classic rock revival. Potter's epic and sultry vocals scream like a siren over well written, blues inspired, hard rocking tunes which remind one of what music should be. I'll admit that this voice gets me more than a little aroused... you?

-One day, you're going to wake up and not be awake.