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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

 

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Show Review: Volbeat @ Sound Academy

Feel the Pain Tomorrow

Volbeat at Sound Academy

20130407VolbeatSound Academy

April 7th 2013

 
How does a non-mainstream band from Denmark sell out a major Toronto venue? Moreover, how does one actually manage to have a good time at the Sound Academy? It seems, my friends, that Volbeat has the secret formula.
 
Maybe it’s their solid four-album catalogue (five as of April 9th), their heart-felt lyrics that lurk beneath a tough exterior, or their inability to stay within the confines of any genre. Regardless, 2500 people have “ignored God’s day” (as lead singer Michael Poulsen puts it), and trekked to the city’s most loathed venue to check them out.
 
Impeccably on time for a rock show, the house lights dim not long after Toronto’s own Danko Jones leaves the stage. Following a short Motörhead interlude, a smartly dressed Poulsen emerges, with bassist Anders Kjølholm, drummer Jon Larsen, and the newly added guitarist Rob Caggiano (previously of Anthrax). Like every other night on the tour, they launch into ‘Hallelujah Goat’ from 2008’s Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood.
 
The problem with a band like Volbeat is that they have so many good songs, and styles, that any concert set list is bound to disappoint a portion of attendees. Tonight’s set in particular, seems to favour 2010’s Beyond Hell/Above Heaven. Luckily, they recognize the age and genre-variant crowd; honouring the country fans, the goth and punk rockers, the rockabilly faction, and the metalheads, even throwing in snippets of Johnny Cash, Slayer, and Judas Priest. Everyone responds accordingly; moshing, throwing the horns, fighting (at length, since even security can’t make their way through a packed Sound Academy) and swing dancing.
 
The show, which has run on the same set list for months, is a finely tuned machine. Never lagging, the guys pound out as many songs as possible in 90 minutes, stopping only to lay on the typical (but sincere) gratitude. Like a dance, Poulsen continuously floats across the stage, trading places with each band member; never once missing a cue. Since new material tends to be momentum killer, tracks from the upcoming Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies are kept to a minimum. The three that are premiered; ‘Lola Montez’, ‘Dead But Rising’ and ‘The Hangman’s Body Count’ are spread out and overall well received.
 
Despite a bit of intermittent feedback, the band manages to get a pretty good sound out of the venue (which isn’t known for great audio, go figure). Though this was perhaps accomplished via brute force- pounding double bass pedals, shredding guitars and throbbing bass. None of which, however, managed to drown out Poulsen’s vocals, with its nuances of Johnny Cash, James Hetfield and the Swedish Chef.
 
The regular set closes with a sing-along of the fan favourite ‘Still Counting’, before a four-song encore. Their rendition of Young the Giant’s ‘My Body’ is received by a few confused faces, even though Volbeat has never shied away from atypical covers (Dusty Springfield’s ‘I Only Wanna Be With You’ being perhaps the best.) The night ends, like a good one should, in a ‘Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza’.
 
 

Set List

  1. Hallelujah Goat
  2. A New Day
  3. Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood
  4. Heaven Nor Hell
  5. Sad Man’s Tongue
  6. Lola Montez
  7. The Human Instrument
  8. 16 Dollars
  9. A Warrior’s Call
  10. Mary Ann’s Place
  11. Angelfuck (Misfits cover)
  12. Another Day, Another Way
  13. Dead But Rising
  14. The Hangman’s Body Count
  15. Still Counting

Encore

  1. The Mirror and the Ripper
  2. Fallen
  3. My Body (Young the Giant cover)
  4. Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza