Blog Archives

Best of 2016

2016:

A Musical Journey

 

Now that the year of death is officially over, it’s time to look back on the good things that happened in 2016. Since I tend to swim upstream, I’ve put together a list of 10 albums that made up the soundtrack to my year – not necessarily the ones that were released within those 12 months (though many were). And because my opinion matters, you should definitely check out all of these and thank me later.

 

tuns1. TunsTuns

Upon hearing the first few notes, this album delivered a swift drop-kick to my heart. I shouldn’t be surprised how hard I fell for it either, considering my love for 90s alternative, east coast sounds, and songs about heartbreak. A typical Canadian  supergroup (by which I mean downplayed), Tuns is comprised of Sloan’s Chris Murphy, the Inbreds’ Mike O’Neill and Matt Murphy from The Super Friendz. Soaked in nostalgia, don’t be alarmed if this album tears open a few old wounds. Keep the bandaids and tissues handy.

Check out: Throw It All Away, Mind Over Matter

 

honeyrunners-ii2. HoneyrunnersEP II

Did I mention that I really seem to like local bands? These guys are bound to blow up any minute with their energetic and soulful indie rock, so it’s best that you get on this soon in order to claim those elusive “I knew them when” bragging rights. After all, very few albums have harmonies so rich, and hooks so catchy that you can sing along to each and every one after only one listen. Check out EP I while you’re at it, because it’s kind of weird to start on a sequel (and it’s just as good).

Check out: Under Control, Bones

 

phantogram-three3. PhantogramThree

Perhaps one of the few “radio” albums that has made my lists (but one of the many number-titled ones), I was unabashedly hooked as soon as You Don’t Get Me High Anymore started playing on heavy rotation. A dark synth pop romp, this album contains enough instrumentation to keep them out of the MDMA-and-beat-drops category. While there are some sentimental moments, most of the tracks boast an unabashed sexuality that will likely prompt a lot of hair whips and sultry half-naked dancing around your apartment (uh, so I’ve been told). We all got a little bit of ho in us, after all.

                                                 Check out: Cruel World, You’re Mine

 

tommy-hawkins4. Tommy HawkinsAmy

This album came out of nowhere, even to those who (thought they) keep up with the goings-on of Hawksley Workman. Having paired up with Thomas D’Arcy, a fellow Canadian producer/songwriter (and not a Jane Austen character, incidentally) they’ve birthed a passionate six-song EP. Rich with fervent vocals and screaming guitars, it’s hard to tell where Tom ends and Hawk begins. One can only hope that this will be more than just a one-off side project.

Check out: Love Will Destroy Who It Wants, The Best of Me

 

tiger-army-v5. Tiger ArmyV

A longtime Tiger Army fan, I was very excited to get a hold of new material after nine long years of silence. At first, I was less than enthused with the dreamy pace of the album and seeming lack of their bass-slapping psychobilly roots, but it grew on me. Haunting and melodic, it draws more from their past alt-country explorations (think ‘In the Orchard‘), with a dash of mariachi. And while it may be an overall slower album than previous efforts, the intensity remains.

Check out: Knife’s Edge , In the Morning Light, Prisoner of the Night

 

dilly-dally-sore6. Dilly Dally Sore

There are flash-in-the-pan buzz bands, and then there are the few that live up to the hype. Dilly Dally is among the latter. Having heard their name from the mouths of every indie music snob for months, ye olde “why haven’t I been listening to them forever?” lamentation set in this April when I finally checked out a few tracks. Simultaneously pulling off girlish and grungy, lead singer Katie is such a perfect combination of Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain that she should probably just change her name to Frances Bean. Commence swooning.

Check out: Desire, Ballin Chain, Purple Rage

 

whitehorse-bridge7. WhitehorseLeave No Bridge Unburned

This band seems to follow me wherever I go lately. The sickeningly cute couple Melissa McLelland and Luke Doucet are prolific artists in their own rights, and twice as awesome as Whitehorse. Best described as country for city-dwellers, they’re a mix of exceptional guitar work, inventive instrumental loops, and a vocal harmony that could only be spawned by an intensely deep relationship.

Check out: Sweet Disaster, Tame as the Wild Ones

 

dearly-beloved-admission8. Dearly BelovedAdmission

At this point, you’ve probably caught on that this band makes my list almost every year. But it’s not my fault that they’re a non-stop music machine (the next album is apparently already written). Keeping up with their patented unisex call and answer vocals, riding a rollercoaster of bass notes, Admission explores new regions. One of them being Dave Grohl’s Studio 606 (seriously, that’s where it was recorded), which provides a richness of sound that is audible throughout.

Check out: I Tried to Leave, When You Had the Choice, These Data

 

alice-cooper-welcome-nightmare9. Alice CooperWelcome to My Nightmare

Obviously this album didn’t come out in 2016, but it’s one that spent a good portion of the year in my ears. Arguably one of his best (and he has a lot), it’s not as creepy as you might expect from a guy who lives in face paint and regularly executes himself onstage. While there are are some necrophiliac themes, and a guest appearance by Vincent Price, the overall sound is rooted enough in classic rock for your “normal” friends to appreciate it as well.

Check out: Black Widow, Only Women Bleed, Welcome To My Nightmare

 

misfits-walk-among-us10. MisfitsWalk Among Us

You probably know that this album didn’t come out recently, either. But when a band that influenced many of the things you love—and hasn’t really existed since before you were born—reunites, their stuff ends up on constant repeat for many, many months. A clever hybrid of punk, horror themes, 50s rock and roll, and a whole lot of whoahs, this one’s a must-own for anyone that refuses to ‘fit in’.

Check out: 20 Eyes, Astro Zombies, All Hell Breaks Loose

 

Advertisements

Best of 2015

Top Album Discoveries

of 2015

 

We’ve come to that time of year when everyone and their Dad puts together a list of their favourite albums, songs, and shows. Since I dive into the archives just as much as I follow the trends, I’ve taken a different approach to my Top Ten. My favourite discoveries from the year not only includes albums from several different decades, but also a few EPs and greatest hits compilations. Hey, it’s my blog, I make the rules.
 

Ghost Meliora Cover1. GhostMeliora

Despite what I just said, this album actually did come out in 2015, and is undoubtedly one of the best. The third album from this Swedish metal band enshrouded in mystery (the general public still doesn’t know who they actually are) measures up to both of their previous efforts. The “new” Papa Emeritus shows off an increasingly impressive vocal range, and songwriting that somehow still evades the satanic-band pigeonhole.

Check Out: From the Pinnacle to the Pit, Cirice
 

John Carpenter Lost Themes Cover2. John CarpenterLost Themes

Another release from 2015, this album is a must-listen for any fans of horror (yeah, it’s that John Carpenter). While he has scored films in the past, this is his first stand-alone album. Synth-heavy, he has not let go of his penchant for that good ol’ *bizoooouu* sound, and that is absolutely a good thing. To put it simply, this is a soundtrack just waiting for an accompanying 80s slasher.

Check Out: Vortex, Domain
 

Alvvays Album Cover3. AlvvaysAlvvays

This album grew on me steadily, while the band ended up at every event I worked on in 2015 (seriously). Short listed for the Polaris Music Prize this year, it was my choice for the top honours (but ended up going to Buffy Sainte Marie). Comprised of dreamy shoegaze, and slow, haunting melodies these songs don’t initially seem like earworm material—that is until you find yourself singing “marry me, oh Archie” for days on end.

Check Out: Archie, Marry Me, Next of Kin
 

Standstills From the Devils Porch Cover4. The StandstillsFrom the Devil’s Porch

This is a band I’ve been following since I serendipidously walked into their NXNE set at Cherry Cola’s a few years ago. Having thoroughly enjoyed their 2012 album Pushing Electric, I purchased this EP on a whim as 2015 came to a close, and have been eagerly aquainting myself with it. Doling out grungy, pulsating, power rock, this two-piece knows who they are and what they do best. Expect to see them around more and more in the near future.

Check Out: Orleans
 

Lights Little Machines Cover5. LightsLittle Machines

Released in late 2014 to a surprising amount of critical acclaim, it took me way too long to pick up this album, considering that I’ve been a (somewhat closeted) Lights fan for years. Now a wife and mother, the songwriting has matured to the expected degree, all while retaining her signature pairing of sugar-sweet vocals with with themes of depression, love, and loneliness.

Check Out: Muscle Memory, Running With the Boys
 

Independents Do It Again Cover6. The IndependentsDo It Again

Since their appearance at Rue Morgue’s Festival of Fear in 2014, the Independents have become both friends, and a favourite band of mine. Having picked up the newer end of their catalogue at the Con, I had to wait until they returned to Toronto in February of this year in order to get the rest since they’re a little too, uh, independent, to be found in local record shops. Just like their seminal albums Back from the Grave, and Eternal Bond, Do It Again is a criminally underrated, short and snappy horror-punk/ska album. Highly recommended if you’re a fan of the Ramones, Elvis, or the Misfits.

Check Out: Black Dream, Free
 

Nim Vind Stillness Illness Cover7. Nim VindStillness Illness

File this one under “how have I not heard about them until now?” I fell face-first into this Canadian band’s entire horror-infused catalogue this past year, with a particular penchant for 2009’s The Stillness Illness. Difficult to describe, their sound is somewhere between the darkness of the Misfits, the vintage hard-rockabilly sound of Volbeat and the romance of H.I.M.

Check Out: Suicide Pact, Killing Saturday Night
 

Ramones Pleasant Dreams Cover8. RamonesRoad to Ruin & Pleasant Dreams

Confession time: I was big into 1970s punk in my high school years. As in many genres, music snobs tend to pit certain bands against each other, and I chose the Sex Pistols over their contemporaries in the Ramones, and the Clash. And though I had a Ramones anthology and knew all their popular tunes, I kinda wrote them off as a three-chord, hockey-arena-anthem punk band. That is, until this year when a few of my friends—appalled at my oversight—showed me the error of my ways. The result is a continuously growing love affair with their extended catalogue, in particular the hopeless romanticisim and 50s pop sounds on Road to Ruin and Pleasant Dreams.

Check Out: Needles and Pins, Don’t Go
 

Jay Smith Album Cover9. Jay SmithJay Smith

As a Matt Mays fan, I already knew about the unfortunate passing of his guitarist Jay Smith while on tour in 2013. But it wasn’t until a recent trip to Halifax that I actually heard—and was struck by— his solo work. A poignant, and catchy album with lots of swoon-worthy steel guitar, it boasts a certain Maritime-ness, and kinship to Mays’ sound. Pop this one in on your next long-distance drive.

Check Out: Hurts Like Hell, Partner in Crime
 

Platinum Blonde Seven Year Itch Cover10. Platinum BlondeSeven Year Itch (1982-1989)

Guitly pleasure alert! I went from not being able to name any Platinum Blonde songs, to realizing that I knew all their hits, thanks to a little trip down the Youtube rabbit hole. Turns out that a lot of the stuff I’d heard growing up (and in my office where we unabashedly rock out to retro radio tunes) was not actually by Duran Duran, or the Cure, or any other popular international acts. Though some of that confusion can be attributed to Robert Smith providing vocals on the Crystal Castles’ remix of Not in Love. Do some listening, I guarantee you’ll be surprised too.

Check Out: It Doesn’t Really Matter, Crying Over You
 

Dearly Beloved 7 Inch CoverBonus: Dearly BelovedWho Wants to Know/Resolution 7″

At a mere two songs, I didn’t think it was quite fair to let this release occupy an entire spot on my top ten list. But though it is a small offering, it’s not easily ignored. A sort of place holder for fans while the band bounces between endless tours and writing cycles, the 7 inch contains Who Wants to Know, and Resolution. Toying with a new venture into classic rock, both songs are drenched in the desert vibe that has come with their last couple of albums, and hints at future sounds.

Check Out: Who Wants to Know

 

Album Review: Dearly Beloved’s Enduro

Enduro

It’ll Burrow, It’ll Shake You Down

Dearly Beloved_Enduro

 

Most of us are guilty of yearning for the rockstar life at one point or another. But what does it mean to make music your life? We tend to ignore what being saddled with artistic drive is actually like, to use creative output as a salve for inner turmoil. Toronto’s Dearly Beloved know this existence well; forever putting pens to paper and mouths to mics, trying to reach some indeterminate place of peace. Having found inspiration in the desert during the production of 2012’s Hawk vs Pigeon, the band returned to Dave Catching’s Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree, California to see if lightning would strike twice. It did—resulting in the release their fifth album, Enduro.
 

At first blush, the title hints at the notion of enduring, something with which frontman Rob Higgins is familiar. Having formed the band as a way to deal with the death of his father, and his own medical tribulations, Higgins’ music reflects a “one foot in front of the other” approach to life crises and daily melancholies. A dreamer, he harbours a passion for escape—a desire to flee to places unknown with little else than a motorcycle. (Enduro also happens to be brand of motorbike). Needless to say, his band is one that lives for life on tour.
 

True to both interpretations of its name, Enduro is emotional and adrenaline-fueled. A brain-scrambling, teeth-chattering, bone-shaking off-road trip, it leaves the heart thumping and lungs begging for air. The album takes off like a shot, accelerating wildly through the opener ‘Enduro’, turning into a veritable freight train on ‘Olympics of No Regard‘, and mimicking the whine of a motorbike engine on ‘Seven Plagues’. Finally—eight tracks in—we’re given a chance to slow down and catch our breath on ‘All Sins Are Forgiven’. Appropriately, each song was road-tested, played loud while speeding over sandy plains. If it didn’t feel right in that environment, it didn’t make the cut.
 

What’s most striking about this album is its unapologetic sense of being made by a band that knows who they are and what they do well. Age, and a few trips around the proverbial block have left them without the wannabe rockstar air that plagues so many newer bands. Higgins and co-vocalist Niva Chow helm the project, which features a revolving door of drummers and guitarists. This isn’t so much indicative of the ol’ “creative differences” plea, than it is of Dearly Beloved being a collaborative of talented friends—some of which happen to be Canadian music heavyweights. Brendan Canning returns on this album to contribute his guitar talent on ‘Between Finger and Thumb’, while the “godfather of desert rock” Chris Goss tears it up on ‘Enduro‘, and punk rocker Eamon McGrath peppers his vocal, guitar, and writing skills throughout.
 

While many of the lyrics seem slightly pissed off, they are in equal parts evidence of healing. The repeated “do whatever it takes” (‘The Guile of Pricks’) and “you’re getting better every day, and you’re not out of your mind” (‘Enduro’) shine light at the end of the dark tunnel. A cunning wordsmith, Higgins has the genius capability of being simultaneously specific and vague. Songs that sound like they’re about a girl have an equal probability of being inspired by European history. He also somehow manages to sneak in highbrow words like ‘egregious’ without sounding like a total douche.
 

Rife with signature bass note roller coasters, guttural screams, and dreamy psychedelic guitars, Enduro expertly links Dearly Beloved’s past work with their current sound. Building on her growing vocal presence from album to album, Chow not only provides the ultra-femme melodies, but shouts and growls along with the boys, too, even finding herself in a fantasic vocal tug of war with both McGrath and Higgins on ‘Seven Plagues’.
 

After a mere 30 minutes, the road trip comes to a screeching halt. Breathless, invigorated, we’re left wanting more. Not due to dissatisfaction, but from being given a taste of life, freedom, and things to come.

 

CMW 2013

Bands to See

Because I Said So

CMW 2013 Logo
 
Wed Mar 20th

10:00pm: The Stogies @ El Mocambo (downstairs)

11:00pm: Jim Cuddy @ Horseshoe

11:00pm: Hunter Valentine @ Great Hall

12:00am: The Stanfields @ El Mocambo (downstairs)

1:00am:  Partycat @ Hard Luck Bar
 
 
Thurs Mar 21st

8:00pm: Robyn Dell’Unto @ Annex Wreck Room

9:00pm: Ben Somer @ Paintbox Bistro

9:00pm: Sidney York @ Annex Wreck Room

9:00pm: Cai.ro @ Dakota Tavern

9:20pm: The Strumbellas @ Horseshoe

10:00pm: The Balconies @ Lee’s Palace

10:40pm: Danielle Duval @ Paintbox Bistro

11:30pm: Papermaps @ Shanghai Cowgirl

12:00am: Tupper Ware Remix Party @ Annex Live

12:00am: Wildlife @ Great Hall

1:00am: Krystle Dos Santos @ Clinton’s Tavern

2:00am: The Brains @ Sneaky Dee’s
 
 
Fri Mar 22nd

8:00pm: Mandippal @ Free Times Cafe

9:00pm: Kink Ador @ Cherry Cola’s

9:00pm: Your Favorite Enemies @ Neutral

11:30pm: Imaginary Cities @ Lee’s Palace

12:10am: Limblifter @ Horseshoe

12:30am: The Besnard Lakes @ Lee’s Palace

1:00am: Static in the Stars @ Cherry Cola’s

1:30am: Gloryhound @ Horseshoe

2:00am: Dearly Beloved @ Bovine

3:00am: You vs. Me @ Hideout
 
 
Sat Mar 23rd

9:00pm: Cai.ro @ The Hoxton

9:00pm: Morgan Cameron Ross @ Supermarket

10:30pm: Austra @ Danforth Music Hall

11:00pm: Organ Thieves @ Bovine

11:00pm: Fade Chromatic @ Czehoski

11:00pm: Papermaps @ Rancho Relaxo

11:10pm: Cookie Duster @ Horseshoe

12:30am: Cousins @ Parts & Labour

1:00am: The Schomberg Fair @ Dakota Tavern

1:00am: Diemonds @ Hideout

1:00am: The Archives @ Sneaky Dee’s
 
 
Don’t know that venue? Check the listings here.
 

Top Albums of 2012

Top Albums

0f 2012

 
 
Like most music geeks, I take great pleasure in agonizing over which albums made my year worth living. And while a lot of my discoveries in 2012 were albums released in 2011 (thanks to the JUNOs and Polaris), I did manage to put together a list of the best music made in what could have been our last year on earth.
 
 

fun. Some Nights1. fun. Some Nights

Without a doubt, the soundtrack to my year- from excitement to heartbreak. Every song has a distinct, grandiose arrangement; full of heart. Not to mention lyrics just aching to be tattooed; describing so perfectly how you’re feeling, how you felt at a particular moment.

Check out: Why Am I The One, One Foot, Some Nights
 
 

DB Hawk vs Pigeon2. Dearly Beloved Hawk vs. Pigeon

Shocking, I know,  my dear friends have ended up on a “best of” list. But I assure you, this inclusion is based solely on my continued awe that I’m acquainted with such ridiculously creative and talented humans. Written and recorded in the High Desert, this, their fourth album, focuses on the intensity found in the spaces between sounds.

Check out: To Better Days, Trash, Living Proof
 
 

Cookie Duster- When Flying Was Easy3. Cookie Duster When Flying Was Easy

Daydreamy, space pop from Brendan Canning’s once defunct late-1990s group. Now post Broken Social Scene, Canning’s reunited and re-furbished the band with some seasoned Canadian friends. Sometimes dark and rock-infused, sometimes sweet and sugary; the album delivers substance while satisfying your bubblegum cravings.

Check out: Two Feet Stand Up, Standing Alongside Gone, Cut Me Focus
 
 

Blaqk Audio Bright Black Heaven4. Blaqk Audio Bright Black Heaven

Perhaps being given permission by the success of 2007’s CexCells, AFI’s Davey Havok and Jade Puget’s second side project release, Bright Black Heaven, is ultra brooding, angsty, and flamboyant. Caught somewhere between industrial, goth, and electronic, the lyrics play out like the melodrama you’d expect to see on a teenage Robert Smith’s Facebook page.

Check out:  Ill-Lit Ships, With Your Arms Around You, Bliss
 
 

hunting-season-front-cover5. Hands & Teeth Hunting Season

If I were to do such things, this album would be on my list to fill a certain hipster, super-indie, “recorded it in my basement” quota. Fact is; it’s a solid album with a breadth of sounds, thanks in part to the bands’ multiple vocal leads.

Check out: Missing, It’s Coming Back
 
 


YAMANTAKA-SONIC-TITAN-YT-ST-ytst_BandCamp_Cover-260x2606. Yamantaka//Sonic Titan YT//ST

This epic experimental piece from the two piece Toronto-Montreal performance art group was short-listed for the Polaris Music Prize. Combining traditional Asian and aboriginal music with opera, synthesizers and rock, this album is more than songs, it’s a soundscape.

Check out: Queens, Hoshi Neko
 
 

Jack White Blunderbuss7. Jack White Blunderbuss

Is Jack White capable of doing anything poorly? That remains to be seen; his first solo album exuding a sense of artistic freedom and just not giving a fuck. Whether you like him or not, you can’t deny that he’ll always be the coolest guy in the room.

Check out: Sixteen Saltines, Take Me With You When You Go
 
 

Ariane Moffatt MA8. Ariane Moffatt MA

Probably not an album that most people were talking about this year (at least in English Canada), but definitely worth a listen. Moffatt infuses 80s synth pop with an Emily Haines sultriness, giving convincing (and almost equally weighted) performances in both French and English.

Check out: Mon Corps, In Your Body, Rules of Legal Love
 
 

Amanda Palmer Theatre is Evil9. Amanda Palmer Theatre is Evil

This Kickstarter-funded album which caused a stir earlier this year has proven its worth (amongst the expected controversy). Staying true to her characteristic brutal honesty, raw vocals, and cabaret style (with the help of the Grand Theft Orchestra), this one will please the fans who’ve been around since the Dresden Dolls days.

Check out: Do It With a Rockstar, Grown Man Cry
 
 

Muse The 2nd Law10. Muse 2nd Law

Muse is known for dabbling with different sounds on each new release, so it’s no surprise that their sixth album comes with a foray into dubstep. While that might sound like an abomination, it’s done sparingly and it works. A few songs even throw back to the Absolution era, so all is not lost. Trust me. Seriously.

Check out: Panic Station, Madness, Follow Me