Blog Archives

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

 

Advertisements

JUNO Awards 2012

And Your Nominees Are

 

Artist of the Year

City & Colour

Deadmau5

Drake

Feist

Michael Bublé

 

Group of the Year

Arkells

Down With Webster

Hedley

Nickelback

Sam Roberts Band

 

New Artist of the Year

Alyssa Reid

Dan Mangan

Diamond Rings

JRDN

Lindi Ortega

 

New Group of the Year

Braids

Hey Rosetta!

Mother Mother

Rural Alberta Advantage

The Sheepdogs

 

Album of the Year

Avril Lavigne- Goodbye Lullabye

Drake- Take Care

Justin Bieber- Under the Mistletoe

Michael Buble- Christmas

Nickelback- Here and Now

 

Alternative Album of the Year

Braids- Native Speaker

Dan Mangan- Oh Fortune

Destroyer- Kaputt

Fucked Up- David Comes to Life

Timber Timbre- Creep On Creepin’ On

 

Rock Album of the Year

Arkells- Michigan Left

Matthew Good- Lights of Endangered Species

Sam Roberts Band- Collider

Sloan- The Double Cross

The Sheepdogs- Learn & Burn

 

Pop Album of the Year

Avril Lavigne- Goodbye Lullabye

Hedley- Storms

Down With Webster- Time to Win Vol 11.

Lights- Siberia

Mariana’s Trench- Ever After

 

International Album of the Year

Adele- 21

Coldplay- Mylo Xyloto

Lady Gaga- Born This Way

LMFAO- Sorry For Party Rocking

Rihanna- Loud

 

JUNO Fan Choice Award

Arcade Fire

Avril Lavigne

City & Colour

Deadmau5

Drake

Ginette Reno

Hedley

Justin Bieber

Michael Bublé

Nickelback

 

These are just your basics. Head on over to the JUNO Awards site to see the full list of nominees.
 

Show Review: Lights @ The Kool Haus

Lights

Illuminating the Kool Haus

Nov 26 2009

 
There are two questions on my mind when I enter the Kool Haus on this balmy Thursday evening in Toronto: how is a girl and her electro-indie-pop from Timmins, Ontario supposed to fill a fairly large venue like the Kool Haus?  Secondly, how well is her keyboard and synth-driven material going to translate on stage?  I mean, she’s known for recording her music with a keyboard in her bedroom, will she be able to engage a crowd?
 
First of all, I’m blown away by how full the place is.  I half expected a small crowd by the stage and a lot of open space.  I’m totally wrong.  And when the house lights dim, people go nuts!  Apparently while I wasn’t paying attention, Lights became the new Avril (with talent, without the attitude).  The crowd is largely comprised of young teenage girls, many of them sporting Lights’ signature elastic hairband straight across their foreheads, keeping their side-swept bangs in place.
 
Lights bounces onstage with a wave and dives right into the title track off her debut LP, The Listening, which was released in September.  Immediately, my doubts about her performance vanish.  She radiates energy and love of her art.  Somehow, she even manages to sing while grinning. “This is a song I wrote about my favourite video game” she chirps before launching into ‘Lions!’  Her second single, ‘February Air’, follows.  Everyone sings along to this one and Lights passes the mic, letting the crowd perform the chorus.  Both ‘February Air’ and her newest release, ‘Ice’ earn the most fan response.  Although these songs are on The Listening, they were both originally released on her debut EP Lights in 2008, which explains their substantial recognition.
 
There’s no doubt that this girl has serious talent.  Yes, she uses some effects on her vocals, but they probably hinder more than help, muffling her voice at times.  It’s clear that she is no Britney Spears.  She can also play not one, but three instruments –  keyboard, keytar (seriously) and guitar.  She’s supported by two guys, one on synth and one on drums.  Lights rotates between the instruments in three different stage positions, sometimes leaving everything behind to saunter across the stage and connect with fans in the front rows.
 
At two different points in the night, we’re treated to a motion comic called Audio Quest: A Captain Lights Adventure.  An attractive girl who likes video games and comics?!  Unheard of!  While somewhat juvenile and definitely ’80s-inspired, these videos are an innovative bridge the gaps between songs.  We only get to see a little piece of the story, which has Captain Lights fighting evil with music.  I assume the saga will continue at other shows, which is great marketing, as super fans will be incensed to follow her on tour.  For the rest, the videos will be released on MTV.com and Youtube.  So far, four of ten issues have been posted.
 
Calling Toronto her hometown, even though she only moved here four years ago, Lights is genuinely grateful for the love she feels in the room.  Her disarming humbleness makes you want to be her best friend.  “This is quickly becoming my favourite show ever!”, she gushes after a teenaged male fan jumps onstage and hugs her before being escorted off by security.
 
After a solid 13 song set, Lights is summoned onstage by the fans chanting her name (possibly the easiest artist name to chant).  She kicks off her encore with a great cover of Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight’.  As one of the older members of the audience, I assume I’ll be one of the few to recognize it.  Surprisingly though, many people know the chorus, at least.  She finishes the whole night off with a solo acoustic rendition of ‘February Air’.  Although it would be nice to see another song get played, this version is different enough to satisfy and ends the night on an intimate note.
 

(Original publication: Bring Back the Boom Box Magazine- December 8, 2009)