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