Friday, December 30, 2016

Shanies: Album of the Year

Here we go again... hit me back with your list from this crazy, fuggin' year.

10. A Tribe Called Quest - We Got it From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service
A sad year to lose Phife Dawg, but an incredible year to watch your idols from eons ago prove that they can still kick it.

9. PUP - The Dream is Over
Fuck yeah, Canadian punk is alive and kicking. Through trials and tribulations, PUP has survived against all odds and their sophomore album shows their struggle and growth.

8. White Denim - Stiff
Once again, the epic White Denim returns with another guitar tour-de-force. The incredible, frantic guitar work is only topped by the catchiness of these tracks.

7. Tax the Heat - Fed to the Lions
Fall slave to the riff and worship these new UK players as they march onto the scene. Watch for them to blow up in 2017.

6. Fantastic Negrito - The Last Days of Oakland
This album came out of nowhere for me but quickly became one of my most played of the year. It's depth, soul, and experimentation make it a full end-to-end listen at least a few times.

5. Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book
Third try was a charm for Chance - he showed growth leading up to this album but Coloring Book has become his opus, gaining both critical and popular success. He is redefining hip hop with heavy influences of gospel, soul, and R&B, but in a way that feels authentic.

4. Monster Truck - Sittin' Heavy
I don't know how the hell these guys keep producing album after album of wall-to-wall, riff-heavy hits, but Sittin' Heavy shows that they have no plans of slowing down. Once again, I'd have trouble identifying a weak track on this album and, while it definitely has that stereotypical Monster Truck sound, they continue to produce tunes that are fresh and engaging.

3. Public Animal - Palace Arms
What? Blurton and crew produced another album and Shane lost his shit? No one could possibly have seen that coming. The only reason this album didn't take spots 1 through 10 is that this is a band that is best experienced live - the albums are but a reminder of what you're missing.

2. The Temperance Movement - White Bear
This sat for nearly the entire year as my album of the year. It is without question one of the most solid, complete, and interesting rock albums I've heard in the past decade. TM proved that they well overcame the 'sophomore slump' by completely outdoing themselves and making an album that shows serious range across the whole of the sonic spectrum.

1. Childish Gambino - Awaken, My Love
However, my rock album of the year would not be my album of the year. In fact, I don't even know how to categorize this album. I'll level - I wasn't previously a fan of Gambino; liked a few tracks, but generally his style never really meshed with mine. Then Awaken dropped... and I lost my shit. I've listened to this album nearly every day since it was released and I keep finding things buried beneath this strange fusion of soul, R&B, hip hop, jazz, funk, and god knows what else he stuffed in here. This album didn't simply defy genres, it re-wrote them.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Shanies: Song of the Year

Everyone always raves and roars about their albums of the year (settle the fuck down, that's tomorrow), but personally, I'm always one to get lost in songs. There's something so elegantly beautiful about the handful of minutes that bring together such a beautiful array of noises into one cohesive, elegant masterpiece. 2016 had some incredible tracks like Childish Gambino's sultry R&B track, Redbone, Tax the Heat's driving riff-fest, Fed to the Lions, or White Denim's frantic-funky guitar masterpiece, Ha ha ha ha (yeah). But they were all my runners up.

This year my song of the year found a way to blend so many genres, so many instruments, so many sounds, and so many emotions into a simple, driving 2-beat that still completely owns your ears. I'm talking about Fantastic Negrito and his soulful ripper, Lost in a Crowd. Opening with some simple humming that give way (after a totally necessary piano slide) to a basic but aggressive stomping beat. This song is unquestionably led by the vocals and drums, however, during the verses, one can almost picture the pianist, guitarist, and bassist elbowing each other in the face to vie for more play time as their instruments battle back and forth. It's aggressive, it's subtle and kind, it's soulful, it's powerful, and it's weak - it's what an incredible song should be.

-Grab hold of the circle and ride it round and round to the end

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Shanies: Artist of the Year

2016 was a weird (kinda shitty) year. Aside from canonizing the laundry list of incredible musicians who died this year, for me, there was one individual who, in the face of all odds, lived for the year like no other. And, as a Canadian who grew up in the 90s, even if he'd sat back and done nothing all year but through simply existing, encouraged us all to listen to the words, "If I die of vanity, promise me if they bury me someplace I don't want to be, you'll dig me up unceremoniously," it may have still been enough.

I'm of course talking about Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip. We all know the story. After being diagnosed with a terminal form of brain cancer, Downie did more in a year than most of us hope to do in a lifetime. Releasing Man Machine Poem in June, the Hip then set off on a cross-Canada tour that would act as some sort of strange pilgrimage-meets-goodbye to the country that embraced them for so many years. But for Downie, the end of the Hip was only the beginning of his year.

He would release Secret Path in collaboration Kevin Drew (BSS) and illustrated by Jeff Lemire. This was a concept album about a young Anishanaabe boy who died in 1966 trying to escape a native school to his home. This project would both fund and raise awareness for the Truth & Reconciliation movement in Canada and do a great deal to raise the profile of this crucial cause.

However, what Downie did in all of these acts is remind us of the Canadian spirit. The never-say-die, look-out-for-the-little-guy, love your neighbour, challenge your country, and push yourself, spirit that lives within all of us. I still remember watching the final Kingston concert with a group of coworkers on a camping trip in the middle of Ontario, huddled around my tiny smart phone. It was a moment of shock and sadness, but also a celebration of life and meaning in the world.

Gord Downie is my artist of 2016 because he reminded us all to be artists of our own sort.

-Topple the days through the uncertain haze around the back of this maze and to you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Shanies: EP of the Year

I'll start by saying that there weren't a huge number of EPs that crossed my path this year, however, that doesn't diminish the quality or accomplishment that was Dan Mangan's Unmake.

Strangely, of the five tracks on this album, I became nearly obsessed with four of them except the album's "single," Race to the Bottom. The remainder of the EP was textbook Mangan, however, done through the lens of a man who had evolved so much after the harder and more experimental explorations of Club Meds. This EP was like a return to innocence and a softening of songs new and old, to remind himself as much as us of what he stands for.

Of my favourite of the album, his two redux songs from Club Med, Kitsch and Forgetery, cut through you and leave everyone involved - player and listener - a bit revealed. Tegan Quin's vocal matching alongside Mangan provide a particularly fragile and haunting background to a song seemingly about catching but mear glimpses of a better version of one's self... but never being able to keep hold.

-There will be a day when wrong will be right

Monday, December 26, 2016

Shanies: Concert of the Year

This thing almost never gets swept by a single set and this year is no different. Few things will bolster the ranks of seeing one of my favourite bands live as getting to see another of my favourite bands along side them and this year was a wall of rock n roll that graced the Phoenix in Toronto on Friday, March 11, 2016.

When Monster Truck and The Temperance Movement play a small tour together, Shane goes. However, life is even better if Shane goes with his best friends. Life is even better if the stars align and the evening turns into one of those beautiful nights where inhibitions flutter away and you dance like everyone's there but no one's watching. And hell, it never hurts if Phil from the Temperance Movement sneaks out into the audience and decides to party with you for a while. These are the makings of incredible nights.

The sound, the energy, the people, the lights, the drinks... all just right. That's why this night was, without a doubt, my concert of the year.

-Connected end to end and in between to hide the things that see unseen

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Shanies: Video of the Year

Ahhh the video of the year... like the best actor at the Model of the Year awards. Still... something to be said for a group that can pull it all together with a beautiful visage that so perfectly describes the sound they pour out into the world.

And few did it as well this year as PUP. Already with the song If this Tour Doesn't Kill You, I Will, they perfectly encapsulate so many of the joys and frustrations of being in a band. Essentially speaking to the difficulties of life as a musician and the hardship one faces on the road, paired against being locked in close quarters with 2 or 3 people whom, if you didn't love before, you will learn to either love or hate, this song kinda just nails it and the graphic video only pushes that forward. Perhaps it's just me, but the entire time watching a group of friends stab each other, light each other on fire, and genrally try to kill each other, there is a beauty in the bond and connection that one could come so close to another person so as to need to kill them to get away.

In short, I love you all... now die.

-Peel back the time that weighs on your mind

Friday, December 23, 2016

Shanies: Rookie of the Year

Well it's official. Given that my last post on this blog was my 2015 Album of the year... this little corner of the web is truly relegated to a once-a-year rant. That said, these few beautiful days we get free around the holidays afford me the time to shoot my mouth off on the internet about how much more I know about music that you do.

Let's start with the one that's always a bit awkward, since very few bands are ever born into notoriety within a year. And while these guys got their start in little 'ol Bristol back in 2012, it wouldn't be until 2016 that they'd release their debut full length, Lions. They're 60's fuzz meets modern swagger and the only thing eclipsed by their energy is their epic riffage. This is a "Shane band" through and through and I for one can't wait to see where these guys go with their sophomore effort.

So a rousing round of applause goes to my 2016 Rookie of the Year, Tax the Heat. Check the noise below.

-Ripped apart by playing cards yet smiling all the way.