Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Shanies: Album of the Year

Yup... it's that time again... time for the big one, or should I say... the big 10. 2014 was a huge year for music, especially heavy music. There were so many incredible releases from acts like Band of Skulls, Jack White, The Barr Brothers, D'Angelo, and Rival Sons didn't even make the cut... but sometimes, hard calls have to be made, and I'll be damned if I'm going to second guess myself.

10. Michael Cera - True That
I hated myself a little bit for enjoying this album as much as I did, but you know what... I was eventually able to divorce Michael Cera the actor (save his part in The End...brilliant) from the musician. This creepy album feels at times like it's dredging up the Ghosts of the Beatles, not just because it kinda sounds late-Beatlesque, but also because it's really gloomy and weird. But I like it.

9. Baptists - Bloodmines
And now for something completely different. What blows my mind the most about this album isn't how drivingly heavy it is, nor is it even Nick Yacyshyn's monsterific drumming, but the fact that Bushcraft was only realeased a year before in 2013. This is how you do loud music... thanks again BC!

8. Death From Above 1979 - The Physical World
10 years between albums? Did waiting suck? Yes. Was it worth the wait? No. This album could have easily been released in 2007, but that doesn't stop it from still being one of the best releases of 2014. What do we get after waiting 10 years? Likely a lot less anger and a lot more groove, but that really works for this gritty two-piece's sound.

7. Black Jesuses - Black Jesuses
Who? A random side-project of one of my favourite bands, The Parlor Mob, Black Jesuses' release was met with a bit of a whimper, but it still contained an album full of incredible hard rock tunes, especially for a two-piece (though I feel like that excuse doesn't hold weight anymore after the incredible history of rock duos we've seen now). Either way, go listen to 7 to 3 right now.

6. Obliterations - Poison Everything
Just when you thought Baptists were going to have the hardest album of the year, you could not have been more wrong. As a huge Black Mountain fan, I remember being very excited with the early news of Stephen McBean's new loud-as-shit side project. To add to that excitement, after producing a couple of mind-blowing EPs, the crew went into Grohl's Studio 606 to lay down Poison Everything. Throw 'em on Southern Lord and you've got a recipe for sexy.

5. Napalmpom - The Unconditional Love of Napalmpom
In addition to winning the award for greatest band name ever, Napalmpom was a band I stumbled upon a couple of months ago thanks to Public Animal. This Calgary 5-piece is a great reminder of what rock n roll is... not just in sound, but in spirit, effort, and fun! You can hear their massively contrasting influences in their debut LP, yet somehow, these Westerners manage to pull it together into a record that rocks, inspires, moves, cries a little, hugs you, bitch slaps you in the mouth, dumps a beer on your best friend, punches your girlfriend in the left tit and drops the mic and leaves this dimension. But in a really fun, cool way.

4. Destrage - Are you Kidding Me? No.

3. Alert the Medic - The Phantom Moves
From the moment I heard the opening drone of this album, I was hooked. While I would nearly wear out the first two tracks on the record, the entire album would become a place of comfort and solace that I would return to whenever I wanted to feel good about myself. These easterners know how to write exceptional, harmonically layered rock that can in one moment bring a crowd to their feet, and in another, bring a tear to your eye.

2. Public Animal - Habitat Animal
The live shows, while amazing, are simply not frequent enough to keep my inner animal satiated. Fortunately, this disc unleashes the beast with great volume. Who would have ever thought that a supergroup formed of some of my favourite bands of all time could come together to produce another of my favourite bands of all time who would make one of my favourite albums of all time? Funny that, huh?

1. Royal Blood - Royal Blood
Granted this British duo are sweeping up awards and acclaim across the globe at an unprecidented rate. Their meteoric rise to fame is ridiculous given the recent state of the music industry, however, when you listen to their self-titled debut, you understand why: this album is near perfection. Nearly each of the 10 tracks could have stood alone as a single and may still - 5 of them already have, with each breaking the UK top 50 and 2 hitting the #1 spot. Yes, look at me raving about this album just like everyone else... aren't I so unoriginal? Shouldn't I be focusing more of obscure music?

Deal with it. Sometimes there's a reason shit gets insanely popular, and if you can't hear it, I don't understand how you hear the world... you and I just got different ears, son.

Thanks for reading! It was fun as always to spout my musical tripe all over the internet... see you in 2015!

-Bow down to my thick cerebral cortex, don't let logic get in the way

Monday, December 29, 2014

Shanies: Song of the Year

My Song of the Year award is typically a pretty easy one, so long as I decide to be honest. Basically, I just have to go to the various media players I use (iTunes on my Mac, MediaMonkey on the PC, and Google Music on the phone) and count the number of times I listened to a song. This year, was a bit ridiculous, so my choice was quite obvious.

I still recall the first time I heard this song, in the back of my friend Jaime's car, being played by my friend Serkan. We were on our way to a wedding, but this song got me so ridiculously pumped up that I didn't even know what to do with myself. I had been a huge Alert the Medic fan since hearing them live the year before, but was unaware of their new album, and thank God Serkan introduced me.

Now, I suppose I'm cheating a little, since it's technically 2 tracks: the opening (waiting in the wings) is a 2 minute build up that eventually explodes into the incredible rock anthem that is Cut, Copy, Paste. In the past, I have typically deconstructed my song of the year to identify exactly what elements build up such an incredible track, however, I can't even begin to do that for this song, since it's the beautiful cohesion of lyrics, pounding drums, growing guitars, and the fullness created through it all that I truly fall in love with.

However, the worst part (both for us and this band) is that Alert the Medic is still small enough that it's next to impossible to find any of their stuff on YouTube. I've put a crappy live video below, but I encourage you to go to Spotify, Rdio, Google Music, or whatever you're listening to these days and put on the opening 2 tracks to their album Phantom Moves.

And at least we can find a good version of my runner up... The Great Sabatini's creepy little intro, Akela.

-Stop bottling up the bottles for the sake of your emotions

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Shanies: Artist of the Year

This year, as are most now that I think about it, was a no-brainer. The number of times I saw this band live, the anticipatory salivation that would hit my mouth each time news broke about a new recording they were slated to release, the excitement I would have before every show, the rock that would be rolled every time I listened to I Ain't Gonna Live, or Vault Doors. It all heralded one thing: Blurton was back... as though he ever left.

And he came back with his latest foray into sonic madness, Public Animal. Granted, the Animal got started in 2013, however, 2014 was the year that they hit their stride, with the release of their full-length, Habitat Animal, and the opportunity to open for countless great bands as a go-to in their local Toronto. You could ask me to try to explain or define why I gave the nod for artist of the year to Public Animal, but at the end of the day, the only good answer I could give is the way I feel when I hear Blurton's sweet tone fading into the powerful drone of Dacey's keys, alongside the smooth lines of Larock's bass, and all the while driven forth by a monster known as Ryan Gassi on drums.

The way I feel when I hear that music is what matters... and nothing else.

-Everything can be alright when everything can never be wrong

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Shanies: EP of the Year

Alright, I'm the first who's happy to admit when my gut is wrong... especially when it results in one of my favourite bands returning to full form. I had my concerns about this band when they suffered a huge blow by losing half of the amazing female vocal equation that made up their sound. I had even bigger concerns when their drummer, part of the founding duo and the hard stomping drive behind the group, left to start a family.

I had my concerns, but this fall, they were put to rest.

When Little Foot Long Foot released their EP, Woman, my mouth was silenced and my jaw was dropped. Part of the difficulty with LFLF losing both Caitlin Dacey and Isaac Klein was that so much of the sound and pressure now rested on the shoulders of frontwoman Joan Smith. The band did struggle for a little as they settled into their new sound, however, in my opinion, their true transformation was when when Smith was able to step up and own the role... and own it she did.

Woman comes across as an album that stands in opposition. Sonically and lyrically, it seems to represent a backlash to a world, and even a music scene, that has traditionally been a boys game. Though far from being meek, apologetic, or conciliatory, Smith's songs cut through your speakers like this is the way that music has always been and has always supposed to be. It can't have hurt to have The Trews Colin MacDonald producing, but at the end of the day, it was the power trio of LFLF that pushed forward these 5 incredible tracks - each could be a single of it's own on a different day of the week.

In short, one of my favourite Toronto bands is back, in a way that makes me question whether they even left. Maybe it wasn't them... it was me.

-So I've stopped playing games someone else told me to play

Friday, December 26, 2014

Shanies: The Leftovers

Today is always a fun day since I tend to devote it to random awards that I completely pull out of my ass (as opposed to all of the others that undergo very rigorous scientific testing). Basically, this is the collection of awards that I simply have a strong opinion on, but likely don't really make sense outside of my own head.

You Fail Me: The Black Keys - Turn Blue
I really like this band... REALLY like this band, but I have no idea what the hell they were thinking when they went in this direction. I know bands have to evolve and grow both for themselves and their audience to keep things fresh, but Turn Blue was like the audio version of the movie Drive... so maybe I just didn't get it.

The Hell Did That Come From? The Tea Party - The Ocean at the End
Remember these guys? See, I even liked them enough in the 90s that I'd been keeping a passive eye on the fact that they'd disappeared to Australia, likely to have a lot of sex on nice beaches under the influence of heavy drugs. Then they dropped this album - which is actually half decent by the way - with almost no fanfare, promotion, or buzz. Someone needs to let Jeff Martin know it's not the 90s anymore and that he can't just release things and expect throngs of people (read: Canadians and Aussies) to flock.

Buckets Full of Win: Shooting Guns - Wolfcop Original Soundtrack
I'm sorry... could you repeat that into my good ear? Not only did someone make a movie called Wolfcop (it's exactly what you think it is), but my favourite prairie stoner band wrote an entire soundtrack for it? Yes, you heard correctly.

Got What You Deserved: Robin Thicke - Paula
Uncle bad touch took yet another juvenile step by naming his album after his recently-x'ed wife. The result? Less than 500 copies sold in the first week of release in each of the UK, Canada, and Australia.

The ADHD Award for...oh, look at that: Foo Fighters - Sonic Highways
I know... I thought I could never say anything bad about the Foo, but let's call a spade a spade: the album isn't that good. It's not bad, it's just not that great. However, I don't blame Dave or any of the Foos, because the TV series was amazing and they undertook a massively difficult challenge, writing 8 different songs inspired by and recorded in 8 different cities. You could say it's gimmicky, but you could also say that they're at least trying something new... though it might just be because Dave is getting bored again.

That's Just Not Right: Michael Jackson - Xscape
Seriously, just let the dude die.

STOP TEASING ME YOU ASS: Reignwolf - ???
Yup, after Jordan Cook released his solo album, and eventually teamed up with a few buddies to form Reignwolf, he apparently decided that he liked touring more than recording. Even though there are rumours floating around the interwebs that Cook and crew have recorded a debut album for Reignwolf at Dave Grohl's studio 606, we are apparently doomed to simply have to fill our audio-spank-bank with grimey, short clips of their live performance.

Not Quite Dead: D'Angelo - Black Messiah
This album actually nipped at the toes of my top 10 for 1 main reason. After a 14 year hiatus from recording, one would have thought D'Angelo to have gotten stale, rest on his laurels and produce an album very similar to his best-selling Voodoo. However, Messiah is a progressive effort, with a lot of cool experiments going on, but unfortunately, not enough that really clicked for me.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Shanies: Concert of the Year

Another day, another award... today going out to the greatest live performance of the year. Almost without question, we knew this award was going to go to someone who played the Bovine, it's just always a question of who rocked that dirty little hole the hardest.

While I saw a LOT of shows at the Bovine this year, there was one band that stood ahead of the pack (ok, with Public Animal nipping at their heels). That band would be Moncton's disciples of rock, The Motorleague. I'm actually ashamed to say that for a band I've been following for almost 4 years, this was my first chance to see them live.

It was a Monday, and while the place wasn't dead... it was still a Monday. That said, for the ~25 people the braved the school night to worship our sonic overlords, The Motorleague played a show as though they were playing a sold out crowd at the ACC. It was in that set that I realized what makes a truly amazing live band: those who play for themselves first, regardless of who or how many are watching. It was 4 friends singing to each other and having fun on stage... everyone else was just allowed to watch if they please. They ripped through a perfect and aggressive set of tracks from both their debut, Black Noise, as well as their 2013 release, Acknowledge, Acknowledge.

But perhaps most noteworthy was how genuine and down to earth these Atlantic rockers were. After meeting a couple of the boys from the 'ol TO punk band Careers in Science, I was introduced to and spent the better part of an hour in hilarious banter with Motorleague frontman Don Levandier. To him, this was just another night on the road to meet new faces, smile at them, and then melt them with some of the best rock n roll Canada has to offer.

In short, next time these boys are in town, don't miss it.

-Use these waking hours to suck the life out of this world and swallow it whole.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Shanies: Video of the Year

In the past, my video award has gone to very serious, thoughtful pieces, and it has also been given to works of near cinematic genius. This year, I'm giving it to a bunch of duded who dressed up as zombies and chased athletes, because.... duh.

Destrage was one of my joyful finds of the year. In addition to producing one of the most frantically incredible albums I've ever heard by combining countless different music styles into a cohesive, catchy undefinable metal album, I quickly found out when they released the album's first video that these guys are bloody well hilarious. My Green Neighbour was already my favourite song on the album, partly due to it's head bobbing beat, but mostly due to it's insanity-infused breakdown, however, when they released the video... this was locked in as permanent gold.

Set the stage: people line up for a spartan race or something equally ridiculous. 3 fully made-up zombies appear in the back of the line with atheltic clothing and GoPros strapped to their heads and begin chasing everyone. The premise alone would have been enough to make for a great video, but it helps that these Italian shredders are also hilarious dudes that obviously had a lot of fun making this video.

And I suppose an honourable mention kinda has to go to Dave Grohl for the whole Sonic Highways thing... the album was meh, but the series was pretty damned incredible.

-I can't be blamed for craving more than I am

Monday, December 22, 2014

Shanies: Rookie of the Year

Holy shit, this thing still exists? Well, just because I've been neglecting this blog (holy shit, people still blog?) for the better part of the year, doesn't mean for a second that I'm about to pass up my opportunity to shoot my mouth off once again this holiday season and bring you what by my best half-drunken estimates is the SEVENTH annual Shanies. You know the rules: I'm right, that's really the only rule.

This year's Rookie award was a bit of a no brainer. In previous years, this award had started to feel like a cheater's field for supergroups and bands building second projects (see previous winners Mutoid Man, Them Crooked Vultures, and The Damned Things), however, this year we had a band do it right. If I would have asked you in 2013 what you thought of Royal Blood, you likely wouldn't have had much to say since they were only just forming and playing shows at venues my shitty bands had played before.

However, to make such a neglectful statement these days would either involve massive head trauma, a distane for music, or a 2-year straight binge on Jack Daniels and methamphetamines. Simply put, Royal Blood is the real deal. This Brighton 2-piece's volcanic rise to fame unquestionably involved a touch of luck, however, that luck was backed by talent and the most monstrous sound you've heard out of a duo since the Black Keys or the White Stripes.

They released an EP back in March to rave reviews and seemingly overnight began supporting some of the biggest acts in the world and playing festivals all over before finally releasing their self-titled LP to a number 1 position on the UK charts. Yes... at only a year old, this band hit #1 in the UK, and broke the top 30 for every major market.

But you know me, I've never been about the stats when it comes to music; I've always been about the riffs. These boys deliver them in droves, so sit back and enjoy your 2014 Shanie for Rookie of the Year.

An honourable mention must go out to the epic Napalmpom from Calgary.

-So I'll sleep when I'm dead and I'll live when I'm awake

Monday, June 23, 2014

Surrender Hesitation

They say raise your flag, 
it's the white one waiting in the wings, the one you were never taught to wave.
They say hold your ground, 
but the ground it shakes beneath my feet like a cathedral coming down.

-Well my dreams don't dream as big as they used to.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Rugged Bleach

I love to give, so when I've been absent from this little slice of digital heaven for a while, I feel bad... not just for you, but for me; I don't get to enjoy the bobbing heads and satisfied grins of my friends. In short... this is a very selfish act.

It's funny how long spells of absence from my Shananigans are often brought to an end by stumbling on exceptional bands that simply have to be pushed out into the world. In this case, White Denim was no exception. An Austin-based four piece, this group of wickedly talented musicians has been honing their craft since 2006. Their cohesion and practice shines through and they manage to hit a rarity in popular music; musically and technically challenging and intricate song writing that still comes across as infectiously catchy and universally accessible. Chalk it up to frontman James Patralli's soothing, baritone voice or his embracing, blue-collar lyrics, or maybe the beautiful rhythmic flow between all players - whatever it is, it works.

Having just released their sixth LP in the fall, White Denim seems to be one of those bands who has hit a certain plateau in their careers. However, given the right alignment of the moon, one song making the right rounds or the right person at one of their gigs... these guys are ready to blow over the top. They've got all the ingredients, it's just a matter of mixing in the right order, at the right time.

-When you're bottled up and ready to go, won't you light my fuse and I'll blow

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April Shananigans: Playing Favourites

As a huge music snob, it's weird to talk about things like "favourite songs." That said, if someone held a gun to my head, in a moment of intensity, I wouldn't be surprised if this is what was blurted from my mouth. While it's an incredible song, I think what's most important to me is the reminder of beautiful, simple times that things song returns me to.

-Oh these angels with demonic eyes, bury my sickness with your little cries

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April Shananigans: Take Control

Some days when you lose control... you've just got to take it back.

-For all the harm I've caused, you know you'd suffer if I stopped

Sunday, April 27, 2014

April Shananigans: Speaking in Tones

I shamelessly listened to this song at least 15-20 times this weekend... entirely because I felt like shit and this fuelled my ego and soul to push on through. Dear music... keep doing what you do.

-Run wires from the corners of your mind back for real this time

Monday, April 21, 2014

April Shananigans: Tradition

I've been listening to this song, on this day for the past 18 years. I don't feel old... I feel complacent.

I could use another mile in your shoes

Sunday, April 20, 2014

April Shananigans: Quiet Brilliance

Today could be genius... or it could be insanity.

-It's the lesser of these two damned evils so pucker up and kiss the devil you know

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April Shanaigans: All Alone

Today's post is devoted to ridiculously talented people... like Jarle.

-I got a problem with this new generation, I can never see the truth in their eyes

Thursday, April 17, 2014

April Shananigans: Accomplishments

What have you done with your life lately?

-All I need is a new damnation

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April Shananigans: Climbing the Summit

Time to climb.

-All I need is a new damnation

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April Shananigans: Losing Meaning

Everything you're breathing for gonna let you down and leave you sore.

-Trying hard not to try so hard

Thursday, April 3, 2014

April Shananigans: Foreshadowing

Hello, sun.

-If information's a weapon, then we'll use it against you

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April Shananigans: Satisfied yet?

Today was trying... days like this I find I just grin and bear it and look back with a glare that asks, "do you have any more? Because I can take it."

-Been getting tired of living under this ol' bus

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Shananigans: Zombies

Spring has sprung again and it's the wonderous month of my birth... which means NEW SONGS EVERY DAY!*

*Every day that I actually remember to post something.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

To Utterly Destroy

Forgive me father Internet, for I have sinned. It seems these temptations, often known as "work" and "real life" lure me away from your entrapment periodically, and prevent me from posting my weekly communion inside of you for all to read and enjoy.

What's that? 5 rosemaries and a solid blog post and all is forgiven? Ahhh few things can match your compassion and understanding. This kindness AND an infinite supply of porn? Just wow.

So, aside from relistening to Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill a lot lately (I'm not even kidding a little... that album fucking holds up), one of my latest obsessions has been LA's Obliterations. Stephen McBean, Vancouver's prodigal axeman (think Black Mountain and Pink Mountaintops) teamed up with a trio of Californians to take their own stab at the Hardcore scene. Their first two EPs, a Self-Titled and The Hole, are each 4 tracks of an incredible modern take on old-school hardcore, a la Black Flag.

I'm not sure who found these guys first, Jesse or myself? However, one thing I know... is that both of us needed to change our underwear when the news was announced that they were signing to Southern Lord records and would be recording their first LP at Dave Grohl's Studio 606, through his newly acquired, epically awesome Neve Board (seriously... if you haven't seen Sound City yet... go lock yourself in a hole until you're done).

-You keep on calling me just a coward, I'm gonna say something a little bit weird