Monday, December 31, 2012

Shanies: Album of the Year

2012 was never expected to be some incredible year for music, but taking the time to look back, it sure as hell ended up that way. Interestingly, this was a year that saw me escaping my norms more than usual and venturing into new musical styles and artists. That said, we can't all be winners, so keep reading below to see which 10 artists I felt produced the best material this year.  It wasn't an easy decision, however, I assure you that I am correct and the list below is infallible.

10. Band of Skulls - Sweet Sour
Just making the cut was the sophomore release from Band of Skulls. After their first album drew me in, the release of Sweet Sour was precisely what I needed to drive home this band as a force of rock n roll. While the title track and The Devil Takes Care of His Own got high rotation on my ears, the album plays well from start to finish.

9. Every Time I Die - Ex Lives
I mean, at this point, you should really just expect that whenever ETID puts out a new album, it is going to make my top 10. Ex Lives was no different and showed the band's ongoing evolution, housing both insanity-gripped driving songs such as Underwater Bimbos from Outer Space as well as dark, drawn out tracks like Revival Mode.

8. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - The Heist
In addition to having the most incredible video of the year, this entire album stands up exceptionally well. From songs about baseball to exceptionally heart-on-sleeve tracks about Mack's battles with substance abuse, this 18 track epic blends the two artists perfectly: Lewis painting incredible backdrops for Macklemore to spit his naked lyrics overtop.

7. Jack White - Blunderbuss
What should be surprising about Blunderbuss is the fact that it only lives at #7 on my list. White has now proven that he can survive under just about any musical configuration after conquering the solo hill. The antics and gimmics surrounding this album were innovative and awe-inspiring and while I fell in love with a number of tracks, this album left me a little unsatisfied & wanting more from Jack.

6. Michael Kiwanuka - Home Again
Already being heralded as a soul revival after only a couple of EPs, Kiwanuka had set big expectations for his debut LP and would not disappoint. Pouring his heart out with genuine, human words that told simple yet powerful stories, this entire album simultaneously transforms the listener back to the 70s, while pulling your forward to remind you that the future still has some hope too.

5. Quakers - Quakers
For a rock-head like me, it's rare that two hip hop albums would crack my list, however, if you take the time to listen to Quakers 41-track self-titled debut, you'll understand and appreciate that this album is much more than hip hop. Pulling together a team of over 30 DJs, MCs, producers and instrumentalists, this disc feels more like a dope-beat all-star game than an album.

4. DZ Deathrays - Bloodstreams
5 years ago, I may have hated this band, however, my tastes have evolved and this Brisbane two-piece has found an incredible way of meshing hard rock, dance, electronica, blues and hardcore. Truly a unique sound, Bloodstreams stands as an incredible step forward not just for DZ, but for music.

3. Rival Sons - Head Down
If you know anything about me, than you should have expected that at least one straight-up rock album would sneak into my list. For 2012, this was as good as it gets. After 3 full albums together, the Sons just keep getting tighter and more sure of themselves and their sound. Head Down seems to be a reminder to the band that as their popularity continues to grow, they must maintain their humility and never loose sight of the roots that make their blaring rock n roll sound so incredible.

2. Indian Handcrafts - Civil Disobedience for Losers
I'll never forget the first time I stumbled into an IH show at the Elmo. I was skeptical given how idiotic their name sounded, but quickly shut my mouth and listened the awesome noise emanating from two of the most intense musicians I'd ever seen live. If you like riffs, intensity and loud fucking music, buy this album already.

1. Kid Koala - 12 Bit Blues
Let it go down in the history books: for the first time, probably ever, my album of the year is not a rock album, but something pieced together by an absolute genius on the turntables. While the Kid's Slew project made me fall in love with him, it was ultimately the merger of the blues with electronic beats and samples that would create one of the most unique, enjoyable albums I've had the opportunity to lose myself to in years.

Each track on 12-Bit tells, or should I say re-tells, a story of the blues through a different lens. Still, the album flows from track to track so seamlessly that this is the perfect album to drop on and just experience. I'm not sure if this formula could be repeated with the same success, but for Kid Koala, he managed to find in this album one of the most innovative concepts for an album that I've seen - and better yet, it sounds incredible.

And that's it.  2012 has been a fun and amazing year of music and I only hope 2013 can live up! If you have any thoughts, comments or suggestions for the blog in the new year - take the time to tell me now. I'm feeling festive and jolly, so tell me quickly before I go back to being a totalitarian asshole in the New Year.

-I'm not raising hell, going to tame it, and give hell to someone else

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Shanies: Asshole of the Year

New this year, the asshole award goes to the individual or group who made their best efforts to piss me,  the remainder of the music community and hell, society at large, right the fuck off. After spending previous years reporting on musical news that really had little to nothing to do with music, I realized there was an important space open for this award.

And may I extend a heartfelt congratulations to Mr. Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips for being our first ever recipient. I'll preface this rant by saying that I've never been a Lips fan, so there isn't even going to be a redeeming 'but' at the end of this. Mr. Coyne, you started off with so much promise by enlisting an impressive list (Bon Iver, Tame Impala, Ke$ha, Chris Martin) for a collaboration album, however, things went downhill pretty drastically for me when you:
  • Sold limited editions of your album with artist's blood in it for $2500 a piece
  • Pissed off the Badu sisters by massively misrepresenting them in a video that you deemed 'art' (but we all know was just softcore porn)
  • Made a shitty radio drama that you had no business making. Seriously, the internet was pissed.
  • Fucked over thousands of people in Oklahoma City Airport by "accidentally" bringing a toy hand grenade into your carry on and shutting down the airport for hours
Yeah... so congrats. Even though I'm not a huge fan of your at, enough people seem to be for me to offer this simple suggestion: stick to making music. It seems to do well for you. Your diversions, however, fail miserably.

-Album of the year tomorrow! Predictions / suggestions welcome, however, as you know, I won't be listening.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Shanies: Song of the Year

This award is always my least favourite to decide upon because it is such a difficult thing to narrow in on. Whereas other awards like album of the year, artist of the year or even video of the year contain much larger bodies of work to compare against, the song award must be decided with a 3-6 minute audio clip that ideally, holds brilliant music together in a inspiring, progressive, experimental and still accessible way.

While past years have seen this award go to a rather eclectic bunch of epic songs, this year, what really caught my ear was a delicate, minimalist track by How to Destroy Angels. After being rather underwhelmed by their first EP, I was happy to see that Reznor, Ross, Mariqueen Maandig and Rob Sheridan had finally found their groove together, particularly on tracks like Ice Age. The song starts with a simple, awkward interaction between two plucked string instruments. This sets the stage for Maandig's beautiful, yet fragile voice to tell a tale of intrigue much like a muse of the old world. Elements of electronica creep in and out of the track to build intensity and emotion, however, never enough to distract from what is at the core, a frail, beautiful flower in the middle of a snowstorm. As pretentious as it sounds, it is the pieces of this song that were not recorded, but that the song allows your mind to drift towards, that make it beautiful. Some of my favourite music songs are those to which I hear a greater score in my mind than ever saw the inside of the studio.

Honourable mention goes to Gary Clark Jr. for his head-bobbing, smooth blues number, Bright Lights.

-Sing along to words that were never mine

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Shanies: Artist of the Year

This award is always a bit tricky in terms of being able to differentiate it from other awards and define exactly what makes a winner. If I look on past examples (Foo Fighters, The Black Keys), it would appear that this award is designed to recognize hard working bands that have poured their blood, sweat and tears into their music for the past 12 months.

As such, my unquestionable pick for this award is Indian Handcrafts. After riding the success of their epic, independantly released freshman album in the local scene, IH decided that 2012 was going to be their year to step to the plate. Recording their first label release, Civil Disobedience for Losers, under Sargent House and with members of Big Business and The Melvins, one could quickly tell that this was a band that had no intention of staying local/indie – Barrie simply wasn’t big enough for their sound. Getting opening slots with the likes of Red Fang and Billy Talent, it very quickly became apparent that hard work pays off and for IH 2012 could be just the beginning.

Honourable mention goes to riff kings Monster Truck – who also had a phenomenal year and who I’ll be keeping a very close eye on in 2013.

-Promise me you'll feel how I feel, or at least that you'll try

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Shanies: EP of the Year

A new award this year, I wanted to create the EP nod so that newer, indie bands who were still in their infancy but already doing incredible things could get a bit of acknowledgement. That, and there were a ridiculous number of EPs that I fell in love with this year, and I simply couldn’t let them go unrecognized.  Sharing is caring, afterall.

A rare thing happened this year – I actually started getting solicitations from labels and artists requesting reviews. Some of the reviews may have been a bit unappreciated, however, when a band like The Blue Stones fell in my inbox, I considered myself lucky. Somewhat skeptical of being pushed an album, I listened to the opening track from their 2012 EP, How's That Sound?, with a lot of reluctance. However, my walls were broken down within 30 seconds of the opening track and I was sold. This Windsor two-piece hits a great balance between writing songs that are graspable and comfortable, while still pushing the envelope just enough to make for interesting, dynamic and original tracks.

 I can’t wait to see this band live, however, in the meantime, I’m happy to keep listening to the recording of my EP of the year. Granted, at 7 tracks, I may be stretching the definition of EP, but blow it out your ass... this is my blog.

Honourable mention must go to sludge masters, The Great Sabatini, for their epic (and free!) release The Royal We.

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

Monday, December 24, 2012

Shanies: Concert of the Year

2012 was an absolute wrecking ball of a year in terms of live shows. I dropped a ridiculous amount of money on tickets and saw even more shows for free through playing a ton with the Rogues before we split. This was the year that solidified Toronto as one of the best music scenes I've ever experienced. We still need to work on surgically removing the pole from most audience member's asses, however, in terms of the line ups and the venues in this city, she can't be beat.

NXNE is always a fun time, partially for the ability to putz around downtown TO, peeking into random bars and stumbling across interesting new bands.  However, this past year, I went against tradition on a Saturday night and parked myself at the Bovine for what I can now definitively state was one of the best shows of my life, surpassing a 2007 Pop Montreal line-up that I thought would never be toppled. This show also helped push the Bovine past the Hideout as my favourite TO venue (the upgraded sound system & new layout this year made all the difference).

The line-up was unquestionably a huge element of the incredible night, piecing together some of my favourite local bands (Romeo Liquor Store, Organ Thieves, The Mercy Now, Little Foot Long Foot & Flash Lightnin'). Add in a dash of some of my favourite friends in the world, a healthy dose of beer and a Toronto crowd that was stacked with people wanting to let loose and have some fun... and we've got a party. The night would be the first time I saw Romeo (a band I'd been tracking for 3 or 4 years) live, the last time I would see LFLF play with Caitlin, my introduction to the Organ Thieves, and an always-fun opportunity to see Darren from Flash Lightnin peel paint off the walls as he strutted across the bar.

It was one of those perfect nights, and just like after the 2007 Pop Montreal BSL show, I don't know if I'll ever see anything like it again.

Honourable mention goes to Refused @ Sound Academy - after waiting a decade, it was worth every second of the wait.

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

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Shanies: Video of the Year

Now into day 2 of my 5th annual shoot-my-mouth-off-about-music-because-I-can-fest, today we'll be talking about my favourite music video of the year.  There were a lot of really cool clips this year, however, near the end of 2012, one obvious frontrunner began to shine through.

I am, of course, referring to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, with their positively genius, ab-hurtingly hilarious video for Thrift Shop. Part of the brilliance of this video is in how joyous and tongue-in-cheek the song itself is - Macklemore spitting about thrifting and the larger implications of a materialistic, status-driven culture. Part of the brilliance also lies in the incredible work of Jon Jon Augustavo for being able to convey Mack & Lewis' fun, carefree and high-energy style (just watch some of their live videos to get a hint of what I'm talking about. If you haven't seen the video below, you've likely been living under a rock.

Honourable mentions to Kid Koala for his clever, simplistic, coordination video on 8 bit blues.

-Perfect craftsmanship from the imperfections of his craft

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Shanies: Rookie of the Year

It's that time again... time for me to spread my unwanted and unnecessary opinion about the state of music in 2012 all over the internet. As usual, my annual awards, the Shanies, are based entirely on my own opinion, follow a loosely defined and often changing set of rules and should be taken with the tiniest of grains of salt. If you believe me (which I wouldn't) this is remarkably the 5th annual instalment of these awards. I say that not to impress you or make you think that this gives me some form of credence, but to help you realize that I'm not going anywhere, anytime soon, so get used to it.

The rookie of the year award is always a difficult one, since there is much ambiguity around the word 'rookie'. Last year, for example, the recipients were 3 old rockers who cumulatively, had probably won more awards than most of the rock community. However, they were doing a new project. This year, I chose to define the award by a group's first LP release.

And that is because it allows me to give the award to Brisbane's DZ Deathrays. While having 3 EPs dating back to 2009, this was their breakthrough year with the release of their incredible LP, Bloodstreams. This grungy, dance-beat rock-duo recorded a groundbreaking album, toured the world and just ended their year with a annual home-town tradition concert.

Honourable mention goes to Failure Epics (Jon Epworth), who really should have won for hitting all the criteria for rookie.

-Hangman's neckties and words that sting like black flies

Monday, December 17, 2012

Action Packed

This will be my last share before we hit the 5th annual (I know... I'm surprised I lasted 5 years at this too) Shanies: my awards for the best and brightest of music from the past year. I'll be starting on December 22 and be posting an award every day until New Years. Since I'm probably going to be writing a lot during that week, I figured I'd take it kind of easy for today's post.

READ: I couldn't find much on this band, but they're pretty freaking cool.

With a small dose of shame, I'll admit that I found this band while watching a TV show.  Paul recently turned me onto watching House of Lies and in addition to being packed-full of Don Cheadle awesomeness, the show has a great soundtrack with a lot of obscure bands. In particular, one episode ended with a track from Oakland's own Scene of Action.

While they've got a pretty scattered online presence, I was able to track down their songs on iTunes and was pleased at my reaping. Sounding at times like a more groovy Muse and other times like a 6-speed rock band with a digital edge, this band is definitely worth a listen for anyone who appreciates subtle modern takes on the rock genre.  Check the rhyme, yo:

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Austin's Son

While I'm always amazed by musicians that achieve success at a young age, I'm often quickly reminded by the fact that it wasn't any easier for them to get there - they just started earlier and worked harder. This mantra, I would call core to the career of Gary Clark Jr.
An Austin native, Clark wasn't born with a guitar in his hand, however, once he picked it up at the age of 12, I don't think he was ever willing to let go. Heralded by some as the future of the blues, his style combines elements of blues, jazz, country, R&B and hip hop. He's performed alongside some of the Gods of rock n roll and finally, after years of hard work, 3 LPs and 2 EPs, it is starting to feel like he may have made his break. He just released his latest full-length, Blak and Blu, on Warner Bros. and is starting to make splashes that I hope, and predict, will ripple out into tidal waves. He's smooth, he's stylish, his voice is like velvet and his fingers run like claws up and down a guitar neck.

He's the real deal. See for yourself:

-Deliver me in chains; stitch my heart to my sleeve but it just won't stay

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Harpoon Murder

A quickie from the road today.  I'm in Chicago and listening to a lot of blues, so it's only fitting that I share. Interestingly, my share has nothing to do with Chicago though.

All the way from the mean streets of Vancouver, may I introduce The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer. This duo's head-bobbing bluesy tone and interesting instrumentation (a harmonica and a guitar... hence the punny name) gives a cool combination of old-school blues feel with new school style. Minimalist and gritty, these talented gentlemen rock a wide range of the blues, throwing homage to the old crown and pushing the envelope on the new.

So, you know... check it out and stuff.

-Poetry written in words that don't rhyme was how you told me no

Monday, November 26, 2012

Road Music

Mr. Gainer... I must bow in respect and awe of your awesome musical knowledge. Just last week, the man introduced me to the band which is fast becoming a near-obsessive listening experience. I've listened to this album roughly 20 times in the past week and each time, I'm finding new elements that I fall in love with.

This is the point at which any expectations of this being a critical review should be thrown out the door and your should prepare yourself to simply listen to me gush for a while.

The Motorleague just fucking rocks. When Jesse told me that Sir Ian produced their album, I should have stopped talking, emptied my wallet and eagerly awaited my impending spiral into audio repetition. For me, this band crafts songs in a way that resonates perfectly. They combine MASSIVE riffs with driving punk beats, anthemic lyrics, sing-along hooks and a perfect balance of taking themselves seriously enough to be amazing musicians, but also not lose sight of the fact that music still has to be fun. I bought their 2010 release Black Noise and I'm still finding it hard to believe how many songs on this album I would be willing to call 'singles.' My mind has shifted between around 6 or 7 of the 10 tracks as my favourite, and while I would love to share my current #1 (Fossils) with you, I can't find a video on YouTube.  That said, see below for their video for yesterday's starchild, You Wear Me Down and below that for Saturday's jam, Hymn for the Newly Departed.

Do the band (and more importantly yourself) a favour and go buy their album. If you don't trust me (shame on you), you can preview the whole thing on their website (please listen to Fossils), but for only $8.88 on bandcamp, this will be the best use of money since you bought new underwear.

-Keep staring at your hips and the back of your brain

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


In my ongoing search to find the most epic hip-hop possible (and yes, to answer your next question, I live with a lot of quests on my mind) the last couple of months have been quite fruitful. While enjoying Macklemore in my spare time, I was pleased to find an even more epic (though not as smooth) supergroup that I would be able to make a terrible title-pun about.

Quakers are a 30+ member hip hop collective that released their 41 track, self-titled debut just this past spring. At the core of the group were 3 producers: Jeff Barrow (of Portishead fame), Katalyst and 7-Stu-7. They are joined by a massive list of MCs that were pulled in from seemingly all directions. The ~70m disc leaves the bulk of tracks clocking in at under 2m.

So, you might be thinking this album sounds like a jumbled, ADD nightmare with no cohesion or sense of direction?  I'll admit, it is all over the place, however, they have somehow managed to pull the disc together and make it flow from nearly the A-Z of hip hop. In addition, while the short songs often leave you wanting more, there is something to be said about not dragging a track out and cutting it before it becomes boring or jumps the lyrical shark.


-I'd spend forever with all of my friends

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dirty Rascal

I felt like writing early this morning, however, I could also tell that it was going to be poorly-written, illogical, dirty, mashes of aimless words. As such, I couldn't think of a better outlet than my trusty blog; no one expects quality here!

Much in-line with my mood, today I wanted to talk about sloppy, dirty, sneering, grind-you-up-the-side music. As such, it fit perfectly that I had just stumbled across Hanni El Khatib, a Palestinian/Filipino skateboarder/dirty blues musician. He describes his music as being for "being for anyone who has ever been shot or hit by a train."  Can't say I've done either, but right now, that about encapsulates my mood.

He was picked up by Stones Throw records and his first album, Will the Guns Come Out, was released last fall. He's now working towards his second full length that I just learned will be produced by Dan Auerbach - suddenly makes a lot of sense why I like this guy so much.

That's all I want to say... check out this awesome, grimy, dirty blues rock.
-I need a martyr to kill

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Building Devils

When I first heard about How to Destroy Angels, I dismissed the project as a way for Trent Reznor to keep his gorgeous wife, Mariqueen Maandig, happy and feeling engaged with something.  I didn't give her much credit and I really didn't see the project going anywhere.

For almost 2 years, they proved me right.  Their initial EP release was unique and kind of interesting in instrumentation, but pretty inaccessible and containing poorly written songs. However, as new bits have begun to surface from their upcoming An Omen EP, I'm changing my tune.

It sounds like time has given this project room to evolve into what it needs to become.  The team is starting to understand each other's strengths and roles and the resulting work is turning up good... really good.  Check the latest studio single they've just released:

-Medium, please astound me

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Worth Their Stones

Dear Windsor, thanks for one of my favourite new bands: The Blue Stones.

So granted, they're only new to me. This rock duo has been going for only around a year and a half (which in the grand scheme of things, ain't that long) and has still managed to solidify a strong, driving, melodic sound. They've got presence, their tracks are catchy and when they need to rip it open, these boys know how to rock.

I had a chance to preview their upcoming release How's That Sound? and I don't use these words lightly: this album has a chance to break into my tops for 2012. The tracks all flow wonderfully together, however, each has its own unique feel to make for an exceptionally well-rounded album. The opening track, Criminals, is a groovy, slow burn that opens right up in the chorus. This sets the tone for an album that is pleasantly all-over the rock map. However, for my money, the best tracks on the album are the Cage-the-Elephant-esque Rolling With the Punches and my personal favourite, Eats You Up - a driving number that echoes ancient memories of sitting around listening to my favourite 90's alt-rock bands. Their songs combine accessible simplicity with intelligent songwriting, melodic vocals with anthemic guitar riffs, laid back rhythms with driving beats and a two-piece sound that they self-describe almost perfectly as a strange marriage between bands like The Black Keys and Mutemath.

4 important recommendations, so listen up:
  • Go here, download their free single, Criminals
  • If you're in TO, head to the Bovine on Friday, Oct. 26 to catch them live
  • Stop emailing me pictures of you topless; I keep opening them at work
  • Patiently lick your lips in anticipation of their Nov. 3 digital release

-Everyone fears the calm, but you've never seen a storm like this

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mack no More

A couple of weeks ago, Jesse & Tasha were in town and crashing at my place.  Amidst the unhealthy-eating, excessive-drinking and wedding-going, Jesse and I did our usual wip-it-out-and-see-who's-music-is-better routine.  While we had a number of great tunes to share, mostly heavier, the winner for my money was when I was introduced to Seattle-based MC, Macklemore.

While initially, I was drawn to the infectious hilarity of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' latest single, Thrift Shop, what ultimately drew me in was the depth, thoughtfulness and variety of the combo's beats, lyrics and approach to music. I immediately drew a lot of correlations to Atmosphere, however, I would argue that Mack's music gets even more exploratory and out there.

Check below and become addicted to the first, fun single off they're latest release, however, do your self a favour and dig a bit deeper into what has been an impressive, albeit still young, career in hip hop.

-Looking at your mouth and into the back of your brain

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Black, Blue and In Your Face

Having just surpassed the 15 year mark as a band, the 6th album of Toronto hard rock lifers Danko Jones feels different from previous albums. This may not be a shocking statement for many bands, but for DJ who have been pumping out in-your-face, sassy hard rock songs for years, it is something to note when I listen to this album and almost feel like I'm listening to a different band (almost).

Rock and Roll is Black and Blue feels like this band has finally grown up. After years of singing beer swilling, panty-removing, boyfriend cheating, sexifying, over-the-top hard rock, the general vibe of this album comes across as being so much more genuine. Don't get me wrong, it still feels quintessentially Danko, however, it feels less tongue-in-cheek and more true to the band. The album comes off much less as an act (granted, I loved that act for over a decade) and feels like for the first time, Mr. Jones is trying to wear at least a small piece of his heart on that black-leather sleeve.

Now, of course the disc is still full of enough riffs to take down a charging rhinoceros in heat and particularly on tracks such as Conceited, Just a Beautiful Day and Terrified you can hear the blood & sweat coming through your speakers. However, the album takes on a different feel through tracks such as You Wear Me Down, Don't Do This and Legs, when the band's blues influences start to shine through and the spirits of AC/DC are invoked for anthemic, slow burns.

All-in, this album is not what you may expect when buying a Danko album, however, it is still a pleasant surprise for anyone who considers themselves a believer in rock n roll.

-Nothing like I expected but everything I had hoped

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Week of Concerts, Vol. 2

Should I have recovered days ago? Of course, but where's the fun in that? I still have a small sniffle and feel like my brain is trying to expand it's way out of my nostrils, however that didn't stop me from completing one of the greatest weeks of live music in recent memory.

I last left you on Wednesday night when I was sat at home, licking my wounds in anticipation of crazier things to come. Thursday contained a fair promise of free CASBY tickets, however, shit luck would stay shit and they never would pan out.  As such, I instead spent the evening drinking and playing video games with my brother from another mother at Get Well.

Friday, however, was to be a little more upbeat. Ben, Eddy and I converged upon Lee's Palace (again) to see Little Foot Long Foot (again) and White Cowbell Oklahoma (again). Diemonds were playing somewhere in there too, but... meh?

This was the first time I'd seen LFLF since the departure of Caitlin Dacey on vocals / keys who was focusing on her mainstay, Bella Clava. While the foot was their usual pleasure to see, their sound did suffer with the absence of Dacey. New addition Jeff Heisholt brought a strong, soulful presence to the keys, however, it will take some time for the new lineup to find their balance and sound. I will miss the dual-sirenesque blend of Smith's and Dacey's voices blaring out painful harmonies from songs like "Missing the Point." However, I'm excited to see where the new configuration will take this band and hope that their sound will continue to evolve in the right direction.

Then along came White Cowbell. Just fucking wow.  Word's can't quite describe the full experience of this band's live show, however, let me take a shot. Combine 3 parts guitar, 1 part bass, 1 part keys and 1 part drums with a man of questionable sanity brandishing 2 chainsaws, a grinder, a blowtorch and, of course, a cowbell. Throw in a couple of burlesque dancers, Jager ice sculptures, flying toilet paper and an injury lawsuit just waiting to happen and THAT's what I call a party. I'd tell you more, but you know what... just go see them live sometime. You'll thank me later.

I awoke the next morning with an empty wallet, a ringing in my ear and the hangover equivalent of a 10 galleon hat. After struggling my way through the day, I found myself once again in the clutches of a live venue - the Horseshoe Tavern.

I don't say this enough, so let me say it again: I fucking hate the Horseshoe. Amazing bands inevitably will play there, however, the layout is terrible, the sound is mediocre at best and the crowd is typically comprised of rock-poseur assholes looking to be spotted listening to independent music without giving two shits about what they're actually hearing.

Now that I've got that out of my system, I can sing the good praises of Daylight for Deadeyes. I hadn't seen the boys play since they opened up for my band's album release over a year ago.  Much to my delight, they played a very upbeat, heavier set that did well to warm the crowd and set the tone for even more amazing things to come.

Flash Lightnin' may be the band I have seen live the most during the summer of 2012 - and this is including my own band. However, no matter how many times I see this whirlwind of rock n roll live, I continue to be captivated by Darren Glover's mastery of his Les Paul and the incredible cohesion the entire band has achieved. Jay was seeing them for the first time and it took 3 people to help pick his jaw up off the floor. What was particularly impressive was continuing this level of rock dominance even while having to deal with the drunkest man in Canada - you had to be there.

Finally, I could begin winding my week down as one of my favourite bands of all time, Wide Mouth Mason, took the stage. Allow me to gush for a moment - I love my life and there are few people in this world that I would ever trade places with.  However, if only to attain such musical perfection on both the guitar and vocals, I would become Shaun Verrault in a heartbeat. The whitest, soulful bluesman you'll ever see tear a stage apart, Verrault makes it look easy.  Whether he's singing like a gospel choir across 3 octaves or peeling paint off the wall with his guitar, Verrault's live presence solidifies him as one of the greatest Canadian musicians to ever live. Oh, and in case you'd been living under a rock, it helps that WMM recruited Gordie Johnson on bass about a year ago.  No big deal.

After this, it was a mere hop, skip and a jump to Grossman's blues jam on Sunday night and a groggy Monday morning. Fortunately the week ahead only has 2 concerts. Let me know if I'll see you at Fink at the Garrison on Wednesday or Change of Heart at the shoe (fuck) on Friday.

-You were never the cornerstone of me

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Week of Concerts: Vol. 1

Am I an idiot? I've been called worse, but I'll let you be the judge on this occasional.  I returned from 2 weeks in the UK, sick as a dog after working myself to the bone for a client. I flew in Sunday at around 5pm and promptly spent the subsequent 3 days denying my dripping nose, nasty cough and stuffed up face while attending 3 straight nights of concerts. If that sounds like idiotic behaviour, then you can call me an idiot.

So yes... we're in agreement then... I'm an idiot.

In my defence, I'm in the midst of a live music bender. Tonight, I was almost at DZ Deathrays, however, I opted to take the night off instead so that I could recover and properly enjoy the rest of my week of concerts.

Sunday night was bumpin at Lee's to UK's own, The Heavy. I managed to drag Eddy, Kellye and Iain along for the ride. I'd been following this band for a few years, however, this was their first trip to Canada in around 5 years. Consummate prowlers of the stage, this band pulled no punches as they methodically got the asses of everybody in the joint shakin. No shortage of sound came from this 8 piece barrage of tunes and even with it well past everyone's bedtime for a Sunday night, The Heavy showed Lee's one hell of a good time.

Monday night I went solo.  While jetlag still weighed heavy on my eyes, body and soul, nothing was keeping me from seeing Bob Log at the Horseshoe. After stumbling upon Mr. Log following a Speaking Tongues set last year, I quickly fell in love with the one-man-shit-show and his swaggering, fingerpicking, bluesy ways. I tried to sit quietly in the back, however, was quickly drawn towards the stage by Log's drunkenly charming personality. Fighting through technical issues, he still managed to captivate the audience and get them excited and moving more energetically than most 4 piece bands.  This man is a one-man party and I challenge anyone in the world to show me a better entertainer.

At this point, I was still sick, exhausted, chose to work from home on Tuesday and feeling like I was one foot in the grave.  Who, you therefore must ask yourself, could possibly drag me out to continue this insanity of bodily mistreatment and musical torture? That would be none other than one of my favourite bands in the world, Mutemath. After being an unhealthily obsessed fan of MM since their inception, I was almost ashamed to admit that this was the first time seeing them live. I had studied their DVDs to such detail that I felt I could nearly predict the entirety of their live show, however, in true fashion, the band continued to blow my mind, musically, visually and creatively. Aside from eerily perfect renditions of some of my favourite songs, I couldn't decide which elements of their live show were my favourite: crowd surfing on a giant, lit up, inflatable mattress; the expected, but still mind-blowing drum circle; Darren King and the madness of a drummer that is Darren King; keyboard planting or Paul Meany's seemingly endless supply of energy. I had been anticipating this show for almost 5 years and not only did it live up to my expectations, it completely blew them out of the water.

I now take my one night of rest to continue the onslaught on Thursday. Catch you in the crowd.

-Oh it's true, I've been in love with everybody but you

Monday, September 17, 2012

Digital Oldschool

Kid Koala reinvented the turntable with his spun classic rock project, The Slew and now, the funky marsupial has done it again with one of my personal favourite genres, the blues.

I've been anticipating his latest release 12 bit Blues for some time now, and finally, this mind-expanding piece of work has been made available to stream and is out to buy.  While I still need to give it a few more listens, I'll take a premature gamble and call it the Kid's best work to date and something that will likely wear out more than a couple of needles with the play its going to get.

Canada should be proud, and everyone in Toronto should get their asses to the Hoxton on Nov. 30th.

-Take or leave the things we already took and left behind

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Failing Winnipeg

Still going strong 26 years later, Propagandhi is back with their latest Failed States. Once again, my Manitoban anti-everything punk rockers have done it.

-A plea to save the messenger

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Doggy Style

I loved the Sheepdogs. Then for a while I was kinda annoyed with them because it felt like they were blowing up too quickly and it was all going to their heads.

However, then I started hearing things from their new album, and I loved them again.

Why can't I quit you?

-Hide me from the dying and reveal me to the dead

Friday, August 24, 2012

Happy Friday

'Lil something to help you smooth it out until the end of the day.

-You forgot to say hello and I'd already said goodbye

Monday, August 13, 2012

Oh, Norway

You're just so strange sometimes. Still... I do love you.  Far too many amazing bands have been birthed from your britches and today, we'll discuss another little bundle of joy that you popped out years ago and I only started listening to months ago.

We'll talk about Turbonegro. This band is a bit of an enigma. To listen to their sound (especially the new stuff), you'd think you're swilling beers in the diviest bars in the world, hanging out with firemen and talking about manly, gruff things like coal mining and muscle cars.  However, to then see this band live, you can fall in love with a whole new side of them - their over the top, glam-rock, flamboyant cross dressing side. The band can truly be summed up as an awkward union of those two styles - like burly truck drivers infused with a healthy dose of all-male strip club and just a touch of Clockwork Orange.

But I digress, this isn't a fashion blog, it's a music blog (and not a very good one at that). Formed in 1989, Turbonegro has formed a sound and style all their own over their 2 decades together. Self proclaimed "deathpunk" their sound and presence draws a lot on bands like KISS, Ramones, Iggy Pop,  Bowie and Alice Cooper - if any of those groups could muster the kind of gruff, chain-smoking, vocal depth of front man Hank von Helvete (and now, new frontman, Tony Sylvester).

  -If you're gonna be confused, take it out on someone else

Monday, August 6, 2012

Lasers Coming Out Yer Eyes

It's a holiday Monday, but for some ungodly reason I'm still working.  As such, I felt it only appropriate to take some time and bugger off to write about music.  That said, it's a holiday Monday, so I'm probably going to do a pretty shit job.

I'll level with you, I know next to nothing about DZ Deathrays, however, I've been digging on them a lot lately.  They're from Brisbane, Australia and while their recordings have thick layers of drum, keys, guitars, bass and vocals, from all accounts, I think they're a 2 piece. Sounding a bit like a DFA1979 or Andrew WK, their sound comes off as something like a distorted, organ-heavy, electronic rock-dance party.  In other words, I have absolutely no idea how to categorize this band.

However, here is a category for you: file under "fucking awesome."

-I'm not raising hell... I'm taming it

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Clap, clap, clap

Seldom would I post about a band twice in such a short timespan (barring my near obsession with some people), however, when a band does fast, good work, I believe it should go noted. Particularly because the Boyd brothers are awesome, however, also because SEO is just making solid music (and no, we are not talking about search engine optimization today).

Back in May, Stella Ella Ola released a quick EP filled with short, catchy, fun pop songs. The songs were good, however, one could tell that they were early days - the recordings were pretty grainy and the songs were simple, in both a good way and bad. However, in a mere handful of months, it is interesting to see the rapid evolution of this group (and fitting, considering the cover of EP #2?). Already, the songs are becoming more thought out, more full and the group tighter, more confident and more focused.

What matters though is that you can head over to their bandcamp page and get both EPs for free... so there is really no reason you should still be reading this.  Seriously... wasting your time. And mine... I'm sitting here still writing this while I should be working. Yup, look at me go. Typing away on my big 'ol typing machine. Why I could type for hours you know. They say typing is bad for a man's fingers, however, good for a man's soul. I'm not sure if this was referring to an earlier time, a simpler time, when typing was done on mechanica typewriters, or if our souls really do benefit from computers and the advent of the internet. I suppose this is a greater philosophical conundrum than we have time (insight and overall intelligence) to deal with here.

You were warned.

-Show him the depths of his mind, take back the reaps of his find

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Indigenous Labour

For those of you who have been following Toronto's Indian Handcrafts for some time... rejoice. After blowing up the local scene with their EP, they've now set their sights on a broader audience.  Somehow, this two-piece of fuzzy awesome seems to have gotten louder (perhaps it is the influence of all the Melvins they've got packed in the control room).

In closing... ALL HAIL THE RIFF.

-Oh my arms are so tired from holding up this heart

Monday, July 30, 2012

Light My Fire

When I was living in England a few years back, I went through a huge stoner metal phase.  While this part of me has laid dormant for quite some time (just like those strange rabbicidal tendencies), I recently stumbled across a band that revived my dormant, inner sludge (time will tell as to whether the rabbits are safe).

Torche has been around since 2004 with a grimey, grungy, thick and juicy psych-rock sound. They balance their thick sound with nimble, riff-heavy songwriting that produces sing-along-able anthems and head-banging good times. In short, yes Jesse, this is a "Shane band."  Sounding like a more badass, modern-day version of Fugazi, Torche has just released their 3rd LP Harmonicraft, and it fucking rocks.

Also, their videos are really, really weird.

-So I'll kill the music and bury it at sea

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pop Quiz

How do you destroy a guitar without actually breaking it?

Jordan... take it away.

-I loved you more than I ever refused to

Monday, July 23, 2012

Refused & Off! @ Sound Academy

As I grogily dragged my sorry ass into work bright this AM - bones creaking, stomach grumbling, liver working overtime and muscles feeling like they'd been beaten by... well, by a mosh pit - I almost... ALMOST said in my head, "I'm too old for this shit." However, last night was so much fun that even if I would have been 63 and broken a hip, it still would have been worthwhile. Let's start at the beginning. After a wonderful preperatory meal of sausages and duck-fat fries, we strolled on down to cherry street to catch a band that had been nearly 20 years in trying to get to Toronto.

 Opening however, was OFF! - the project of Keith Morris (Circle Jerks, Black Flag), Dimitri Coats (Burning Bridges), Steven McDonald (Redd Kross) and Maria Rubalcaba (Rocket from the Crypt). This was one of the strangest punk shows I'd been to in a while. At the core, the music was true to the roots (especially considering the resume of members), loud, agressive and unrelenting. They were as tight as I think I'd seen nearly any punk band and when I closed my eyes, I could almost feel like I was a teenager sitting in my bedroom, feeling rebellious just for listening to this music. That was part of the weird part; it dawned on me that the bulk of that crowd were all 30 somethings who knew bands like Refused and Circle Jerks from high school and suddenly over a decade later, were reliving their jilted youths. The music was amazing, but there was something odd about the whole scene. Maybe it was just me.

However, after the most epic, 20 minute long anticipatory build up EVER (see below), Refused would take the stage and strip us of age, affiliation and sense of ourselves.  From the moment the first note dropped, their set was simply a series of musical assaults, interspersed with brief moments to catch our breath. The crowd surged and swelled with the drop of every breakdown and the pit seemed to grow with each song.  By the end of the set, you had to be back near the sound booth if you truly wanted to be safe from the insanity.

They played it all.  It was glorious. It was long awaited. It was tight. It was powerful. It was mind-blowing to stop and think that those songs were all written 15 years ago - truly the shape of punk to come.  30 or not, even I couldn't hold back from the pit once I heard the siren-esque intro to New Noise. I joined the sweaty masses and suddenly didn't have the near-feeling of being a teenager, but instead could have been my 16 year old self, losing my mind and moshing along to music that, as far as I was concerned at the time, defined my existence. Then, we heard the glorious violin/cello of Tannhauser/Derive and just like that, it was all over.

Let my bones ache for days and my ears ring forever.

-Boredom Won't Get me Tonight

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Birthplace of my Musical Life

Whether you realize it or not, this room has probably created a good chunk of the music that has defined your musical life:

-Did it stop when we told it to? Nah, it kept on goin

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Are we all?

If there was any question in your mind regarding how incredible Mutemath is, please allow me to remind you:

-Is there enough to hold us back for long enough?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Forerunning Music

A few weeks back, I promised you the introduction to more wonderful Toronto music. Just a few weeks ago, I saw this band play the Bovine... or excuse me, tear the Bovine a new anus (ewwww... that saying really doesn't work this one particular venue) with a good friend holding it down behind the kit.

That band was none other than one of Toronto's newest progressive hard rock bands, Harbinger. I'll come clean: the first time my friend asked me to check out his band, I had apprehensions. After seeing too many shitty chud metal bands in TO take themselves way too seriously and thrash their ass-length hair around a depressing stage, I'd developed a healthy skepticism towards live heavy music.  However, upon the first dropped note of Harbinger, I could tell they were something different.  They took the approach to heavy music the right way; keep it interesting, keep it dynamic, keep it powerful, keep it impossible to play on the drums (thank you Serkan) and try not to take yourself too seriously. Each member of this group brings unparalleled talent to the stage, however, they wisely see that their greatest strength should be in songwriting and allowing each other the room to shine where necessary.  In one moment, Harbinger can go from something ethereal to another moment of ripping a riff designed to absolutely destroy a crowd.

In short, I'm a fan.  They rightly compare themselves to Periphery and I would argue that they have a bit of Porcupine Tree in them too.  If you don't believe me, check below or go to their bandcamp to check their EP.

-Traveling two feet behind trying to get in a fight with your mind

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fit it all in

I know it's been a while, and for that, I apologize profusely. I've been caught in a turmoil of moving (the new place is awesome!) and drinking with amazing friends. While I didn't have any time to write, that doesn't mean I wasn't still hard at work finding new material for my intentionally-incorrectly spelled namesake website (so stop sending me emails already... I know how to spell shenanigans... it's a play on words people!).
But I digress, you didn't come here for a rant. You came here for some tunes.  This week all discovery nods (and subsequent profits... HA!) go to Willsy for sourcing out Kram. Years ago, I used to follow this awesome Auzzie alt-rock band called Spiderbait, of which Mark Maher (aka Kram) was a founding member, singer and drummer. Songs like 'Buster' and 'Fucking Awesome' still pop up on my player now and then when I'm randomizing through the 90s.  However, once Maher had some time during a Spiderbait hiatus, he worked on a solo project that is worthy of many commendations. The result was 2009's Mixtape, which was an incredibly ambitious album which Maher describes best himself: "I wanted it to be like a radio station where all the songs sound like different bands but its all played by one person. The premise of the whole album was to be constantly changing your approach musically."

So, check the tune below, but also be sure to delve into some of his other tracks since, as indicated above, they all have a very distinct feel to them.

-I could get lost with today in my eyes

Sunday, June 17, 2012

One for the Ages - Bovine Sex Club NXNE

When people ask me what my greatest show of all time is, I am fortunate to have a knee-jerk reaction response.  In 2007, I saw a Pop Montreal line-up at Bar St. Laurent 2 that set the bar for live music for years to come. It was the combination of incredible bands, a great space, lots of beer and an X factor on the night that just made it incredible. While I need to give it a few days to settle in, last night's NXNE showcase at the Bovine is currently in competitive form to take down my long front-runner.

The night opened with Romeo Liquor Store, a band I'd been following for 2 or 3 years since stumbling upon them online. They've been around for almost a decade and I had thought they weren't gigging any more. Having to carry the load of an early set and a smaller crowd, RLS still put up a high energy set of in-your-face, no bullshit rock. Throwing in a Misfits cover and playing songs from their old and new repertoire, the Bovine's cherry was thoroughly popped for the night and she was ready for an evening she wouldn't soon forget.

Organ Thieves took over at 10pm, and were a decent surprise. I'd heard their name floating around for a while and had probably even listened to some of their recorded stuff, but this was my first time seeing them live.  They had a solid gritty rock sound that made me think of the Gaslight Anthem. Songs were great and you could tell by their tightness that that this was a band who'd put in their dues playing live. That said, what impressed me the most was the chops of their lead guitarist, Dave.

Oh and how the fun continued once The Mercy Now took over. Every time I see this band live, their sound gets tighter, their songs get better and their stage presence gets even more over the top. Kidnapping two girls who can't have been legally allowed in that bar, the boys rocked their way around, and off the stage with go-go dancers in tow. Russ' voice sounded like he'd been eating sandpaper and still amazingly keeping on key, the dual flanking of David Viva and Adam Burnett ripped through the air all the while with Lee Rogers struggling to hold this force of a band together with his mighty crashes.  It was beautiful, it was loud, it was rock.

Now, what favourite show of mine would be complete without the blues rocking of Little Foot Long Foot? The trio was as together as I'd ever heard them and Joan managed to play through an entire set without breaking her guitar over the head of the moron who was gangster-dancing along on stage. As Iain put it, "if you're too dumb to realize you're being mocked...get off the stage." Still, dancers aside LFLF brought the rock and lifted the room with the powerful duo of Joan and Caitlin's sirenesque voices. Don't worry Isaac, you still kicked ass and destroyed many ear drums.

AND LET THE BOOGIE BEGIN! Ladies and gentlemen, Flash Lightnin. Please allow your jaws to ease onto the floor. No matter how many times I see this band live, 2 things always happen: my body looses control to the boogie beat emanating off the stage and I get the urge to give up playing guitar after watching what front-man Darren Glover can do with the thing. He doesn't so much solo as he does dance with his guitar musically through each song and physically around the bar. Friends were wanting to leave, but I insisted we stayed to the end, knowing full well that FL would close with an ever-changing version of Hobo that always leaves me wanting more.

At 2pm there was a secret band.... but I didn't care. I wasn't about to let some wild card ruin my night of rock, so we left, grabbed late night lunch next door at Shanghai Cowgirl and cabbed our drunk asses home. Yeah, that was damned good night.

-Pure and unconditional; feels so untraditional; help me get my feet back down