Monday, December 30, 2013

Shanies: Album of the Year

Looking back upon releases, 2013 at first glance felt a bit unassuming, however, was actually an incredible year of quality albums. To prove my point, note that the list below does not include epic 2013 releases from the likes of Clutch, Red Fang, NIN, BMRC, Gov't Mule, or either one of JT's 20/20 experience. That said, hard decisions must be made but as we all know and understand, the list below is undeniably perfect.

10. The Bronx – The Bronx (IV)

I’ll level with you – this was far from my favourite Bronx album and was even a stretch to make my top 10 when you consider just the album alone. However, given that the band has been so focused on mariachi music as of late and this is their first rock album since 2008, it was just good to have them back. The album didn’t really push any boundaries, but it was a solid, loud, hard-driving, Bronx album. With over half the songs clocking in at under 3m, you could tell that the band didn’t want to fuck around, but instead make their point and then drop the mic. This was enough to crack the edges of my top 10.

9. The Motorleague - Acknowledge, Acknowledge 

The Cape Breton quartet’s sophomore effort was yet another collection of anthemic rock sing-alongs. I positively loved this album and between you and I, it likely would have been a lot higher on my list were it not for the fact that I couldn’t help but compare it to their 2009 debut LP, Black Noise. If you want an infectiously catchy, rock n roll album to sing along with on long drives across the Trans-Canada look no further. Start with more accessible tracks like North America or Every Man Needs a Cape Breton, however, be sure to check out my personal favourite, We Are All Going Directly to Hell.

8. Jim Guthrie - Takes Time

Guthrie is one of those Canadian indie icons who’s been creating innovative music since before most kids you see at his shows were born. However, he had a long lull in his career in the later noughties, where he apparently really started getting into video games. Doing soundtracks for a couple games and a documentary about video games seems to have affected his writing style and it shines through on Takes Time. The whole album is a masterfully arranged work that blends together all sorts of interesting little boops and bleeps into something that coalesces into a really beautiful, comforting and happy album. Takes Time is a testament to what one man can do if he locks himself in a room for a very long time with great passion.

7. Baptists – Bushcraft

From the opening track, Betterment, you just know that this wrecking ball from Vancouver isn’t going to fuck around. Start to finish, this album is pure, loud, insanity. Bushcraft drops a stake into the ground and proudly proclaims Baptists as Canada’s long awaited response to Converge. I often listen to Betterment to get myself hyped up and end up having to listen to the whole album since it just draws me in and takes a hold. This is what metal/hardcore should sound like.

6. HBS - In Deep Owl

When Soundgarden reunited in 2010, I was excited to hear that one of my favourite 90s bands would be making music again. However, when King Animal was released, reality kicked in and reminded me that things could never be the same again. Yet when Bassist Ben Shepard decided to release a solo album under the moniker HBS, I was completely floored. It was incredible to hear one very important writing influence from Soundgarden’s early albums ripped out of context and given the space to fill the room with dark, baritone, engaged music. This album has become my gloomy, rainy day listen for when I don’t want to be happy or sad… I just want to be. The perfect soundtrack to nothingness.

5. Mutoid Man - Helium Head

You’re probably seeing a recurring theme here: MUTOID MAN IS FUCKING AWESOME. I’ve gushed enough about this band by giving them awards for both song and rookie of the year, but I’ll just say this – keep supporting these guys so that they want to make more music and don’t deprive the world of their audio insanity. I love Cave In. I love Converge. But I think I love the combination even more.

4. Sound City Players - Sound City Real to Reel

While being the obvious choice for my video of the year, Dave Grohl’s Sound City also produced one of my favourite albums this year. The premise was simple: Grohl would write the foundations for 11 tracks and use his connections to fill the recording studio with a rotating crew of all-star musicians. There is obvious quality and novelty in hearing tracks with Paul McCartney,  Stevie Nix and Rick Springfield, but what ultimately sold me on this album were surprisingly incredible songs done with people like Alain Johannes, Lee Ving, Rami Jaffee and Corey Taylor – which ended up being one of my favourite tracks on the album.

3. BCASA - Fuck You Shredder

They wrote a punk rock concept album about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and in addition to being hilarious, it fucking rocks. Bow down and worship this band – the adult in you should be blown away by their riffs and songwriting, andthe kid in you should be giddy at thoughts of sitting too close to the TV on Saturday morning. Long live the Bill Cosby Anarchist Society of America.

2. Monster Truck - Furiosity

Even though their entire approach to being an AC/DC inspired cock-rock band has been a bit tongue-in-cheek, I love this band and really wanted to love their first full-length release. That said, I don’t think I wanted to love it this much. The first time I listened to this album, I think I put the whole thing or repeat 4 or 5 times. I was confronted with the awkward reality of my upbringing – I was a hick-town raised rock n roll farm boy and no matter how I try to escape it, I will always love riff-heavy, vocally harmonic, four on the floor rock and roll. Furiosity delivers on this and then some, with each track being able to stand on it’s own as a single and then songs like My Love is True that bring me to my feet to scream along with the repetitive, glorious ending.

1. Queens of the Stone Age - …Like Clockwork

I feel like after Josh Homme was forced to eject Nick Olivieri from the band after doing way too many drugs and being somewhat psychotic, QOTSA had to walk through the dessert in search of itself for a while. Fitting. After essentially saving rock n roll with 2002’s Songs for the Deaf, a lot of pressure was riding on their shoulders. Don’t get me wrong; Lullabies and Era Vulgaris were both incredible albums, yet I felt as though they never resolved. It was as though Homme prepared a brilliant speech to make, but never thought about what his closing, inspirational words would be, possibly because he didn’t know where to go with a band that had exceeded the expectations of nearly everyone, including himself.

Clockwork was this band becoming who they needed to be instead of clinging to the past. The first time I listened to the album, I barely recognized the sounds I heard, yet I couldn’t stop listening. Dirty, sexy and uncomfortable, this album feels like what would happen if you let a lounge singer drop acid, strip naked and sing through a fuzz pedal in front of a convention of shocked, elderly evangelicals. It feels so wrong and yet feels so right. It rocks without rocking, it makes love without loving, it hates without anger and it touches you in all the right places. This is not the QOTSA you know and love, it’s something completely different and it is glorious.

-High five now let's all go get some pancakes

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Shanies: Song of the Year

Normally, I'd take more time to do this proper, however, some amazing friends just stumbled onto my doorstep in Toronto, completely by surprise, so screw it... we're going to do away with the pomp and ceremony of this one.

The mighty Mutoid Man is going to be walking home with 2 Shanies this year. While the entire album and hype around the group was enough to earn them the nod for Rookie of the Year, ultimately, what sealed all the deals for me was the song, Gnarcissist. Hearing Brodsky evolve over years of Cave In as a songwriter has made this particular song hold a close place in my heart in terms of it's form, structure and flow, however, if I'm being totally honest, it's Koller's drum part that fucking slays me. I mean... seriously. Listen to this song. Then listen to it again. Then listen to it one more time, but focus just on the drums.


To spread the love, when I listen to this entire song, I hear a cacophonic convergence (pun kinda intended) of so much noise that comes together in such a wonderful, tight and aggressive way. The entire song feels like it's ripping you off the edge of your seat and screaming in your face, but at the same time... it's fucking catchy. The screaming, powerful vocals, the insane guitars, the drums... my god the drums... this whole song is a two and a half minute bullet train through the centre of your mind.

Just shut up and play the track.

-One time for the ladies in the back of my head

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Shanies: Artist of the Year

The awards thus far have highlighted a good number of independent bands, all of whom greatly deserve the recognition, however, as we begin to look at the individual or artist who contributed the most to the music scene this year, it's hard to deny one of the heavy weights the title. I try my best to root on the little guy, but every now and then, we just need to be realistic and talk about someone who's done more in 2013 than most musicians ever do in their lives.

My annual awards would not be complete without giving praise to god, a.k.a. Dave Grohl. Two years ago, Dave's mainstay, Foo Fighters, won this award after having an exceptional year of releasing their 7th studio album and a companion documentary about the band. This year, Dave's done it all solo and went on a one-man-wrecking-ball-crusade to save rock n roll. His first crack at film direction with Sound City ended up being my 'video' of the year and the documentary I now watch whenever I need to feel better about life. However, Dave didn't stop there. Let's reflect:

So what did you accomplish this year? That's what I thought.

-Read passage from these sacrilegious verses, the words you just love to hear

Friday, December 27, 2013

Shanies: EP of the Year

We do live in the ADHD generation, and therefore, I feel it is important to not just recognize the full-length album of the year, but also the EP of the year. Whether the artist didn't have the money, time, energy or focus... or they found themselves face down in a mountain full of coke too often, we should still take the time to recognize their efforts, no matter how brief. Often though, the subtext of this award is something to the effect of, "HURRY UP AND FINISH A FULL FUCKING ALBUM BECAUSE I AM OBSESSED WITH EVERY BIT OF NOISE YOU PRODUCE AND MUCH LIKE A HEROIN ADDICT, PAPA NEEDS ANOTHER HIT!"

I was introduced to Vancouver's We Hunt Buffalo this summer at Toronto's Cherry Cola. Their live show blew me away and I immediately picked up and listened to their first album. However, soon after the show, I caught wind of an EP to be released in the early fall. Blood from a Stone came out and simply highlighted the progression of this fuzzy, riff-heavy, epic trio. The title track from the EP is unquestionably my favourite track, however all 4 songs show the evolution of a band who, already starting with an incredible songwriting base, is only going to keep improving with every release. Take a listen below and join me the screaming chorus demanding their next album and another visit to Toronto.

An honourable mention must be made to Hawkeyes for their doomtacular EP, Poison Slows You Down.

-Bow down to my thick cerebral cortex, a little bit of logic's all you need

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Shanies: In Memory

Usually, boxing day is the day I take to hold my leftover awards - a series of jokes aimed at the epic fails in the music industry from the past year. This year, the terrible likes of Jay-Z are getting off easy, as there is something far more important today to highlight.

I'll never forget my first Trigger Effect show. It was watching them open for Bionic on an old Signed By Force records gig put on at Petit Campus. I'd never heard of the band before, but from the opening note, they affixed my jaw firmly to the floor. After being to a lot of shows in my life, I can safely say that they were one of the most insane, intense and energetic live acts I've ever seen. They seemed to suffer NA syndrome, of gaining a good sized following in Europe, however, having only moderate success back home in Canada.

However, just a month ago, shocking news hit when frontman Nick Babeu met an accidental death that caught the Canadian scene completely off guard. At such a young age, it was a tragedy to hear, both to the band and their families, however, also to the music industry. Few bands have the DIY integrity and punk-ethic that made me love Trigger Effect so much and they will sorely be missed.

To the entire band, and all of their families, my sincerest condolences. When Nick died, the world got a little less fun and a whole lot quieter.

-Tell my brothers, keep on singing

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Shanies: Concert of the Year

Always a tricky award as so many factors can go into making the perfect night, the concert of the year is typically awarded to the show from the past 12 months that absolutely blew my mind. Some years, I have highlighted the epic glory of an entire night and others I have locked in on one specific set that left me grinning ear to ear.

While the entire night was a blast when I stepped into Adelaide Hall for the first time back in November, this year, it's one band alone who's making off with the prize. Few things are better in my world that stumbling upon an amazing new band and to do so in a live setting is the cherry on top. Thus, when I was introduced to the opening line from Alert the Medic, I knew I had stumbled across something special.
In the unfamiliar (but fucking awesome) surroundings of Adelaide Hall, I watched as the quartet of Nova Scotians ripped through high-energy song after song. Polished, harmonic, playful and emotive, one could see the markings of a band who had spent some time in front of the monitors. A reluctant crowd who, like me, probably didn't know much of this band began as arm-crossed skeptics, however was won over by AtM's infectiously catchy, upbeat and fun tracks. By the end of their set, the whole place couldn't help but bounce and sway at least a bit to some of the more well-written live tunes I've ever heard.

Add these boys to my list of must-sees.

-Calm your head to the wind of tomorrow

Monday, December 23, 2013

Shanies: Video of the Year

Since I'm always a fan of cheating, this year's award for video of the year is going to be a bit of an odd one. Usually, this award is given to the artist or group that had the best, coolest, funniest, weirdest, whateverist video of the year and this year, there was a "music video" of sorts that unquestionably stood out above the rest... even if it was over 100 minutes long.

I am, of course, referring to Dave Grohl's analogue epic, Sound City. I watched this amazing documentary on opening night at TIFF with some of my closest friends. While the film starts as a documentary about one of the most prolific studios in recording history, it begins to evolve into a piece that tells a much greater story; one of the true nature and value of music. The film reminds us of the importance of keeping our musical selves pure, not just in an analogue vs digital sense, but in keeping music real - full of soul, love, mistakes and pain. That at the end of the day, music should be the sound that's made when you throw a handful of people in a room together and hit record. Whenever I need to feel better about myself, music or hell, life in general, I toss this movie on and just let it remind me of what is important.

And if you're one of those people who's going to bitch at me for not picking a real music video, bite your tongue... this clip from the film of Homme, Grohl and Reznor jamming would have won anyway.

-I could see the look on your face, when the words were uttered

Sunday, December 22, 2013

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 2013. The traditional caveats apply to this, the 6th instalment of the Shanies:

  • It's my party and I'll cry if I want to
  • These awards are based completely on my own, unquestionably awesome taste in music
  • Guitars always win
  • I'm totally cool with contradicting myself
  • I play favourites
  • All hail the mighty riff
  • No takesies-backsies

This was no competition for the rookie category with a clear front running building hype through the summer and blowing minds with a few single releases before unleashing one of the most monstrous albums not just of the year but of the decade. I am of course talking about the unholy Converge/Cave In love-child, Mutoid Man. Beyond the fact that their name references one of the ending bosses from Smash TV, this project, long overdue, brought together Stephen Brodsky and Ben Koller to finally make the record they'd been flirting around for years.
What started as potentially a one-off with no plans to gig or follow the group, has since grown in massive demand and with the release of Helium Head, and the hype that surrounds it, one can only hope that they choose to tour and make more music, lest the fate of the free world collapse into chaos. Rookies shouldn't sound this good because as individuals, these two are seasoned-veterans and good friends with an exceptional musical connection. That said, for my pick of 2013's new band of the year... all hail the mighty Mutoid Man.

-The medium is the message, so kill the messenger

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Young Upstart

I saw Danko Jones - who was his usual larger-than-life self - on Saturday night at Adelaide Hall. He put on an incredible, high energy, hilarious set, however, the opener may have stole the show in my eyes.

This was my introduction to Halifax's Alert the Medic and I've since been quite obsessively listening to their 2009 album, We, the Weapon. Big recommends for this band... one of my favourite finds of 2013.

-Yes I'm a sheep in wolves clothes, flocking with the pack