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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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Album Review: Dearly Beloved – Hawk vs. Pigeon

Dearly Beloved

Hawk vs. Pigeon


 
It may have taken four albums, but Dearly Beloved’s Rob Higgins has learned to share. While still the mastermind behind the band and their latest release, Hawk vs Pigeon, Higgins has relinquished his position as the vocal and bass centerpiece in favour of exploring a wider variety of sounds. Continuing in the same vein as their last single, ‘Make It Bleed’, this album hands a large portion of the lead to vocalist Niva Chow. She sings, howls and pseudo-raps;  shadowing and complementing Higgins, grappling for power and winning on songs like ‘Day Trader’ and ‘Living Proof’.
 
On the whole, there’s a sense of relaxation and space to this record. While predecessors You Are the Jaguar, Repo Repo Repo and They Will Take Up Serpents (Make it Bleed in the US) have unabashed in-your-face qualities, Hawk vs Pigeon takes a deep breath and a step back. The intensity remains, but finds itself in the spaces between, the subtler details. Not to say that this album is soft, far from it. It just disarms you with a pretty smile while slowly tightening its hands around your throat. Perhaps to assure longtime fans that the old Dearly Beloved sound has not been abandoned, Higgins screams his little bearded face off all the way through ‘To Better Days‘. And he can’t resist showing off his signature swaggering bass lines in ‘She’ and ‘Lizard Fight’ either. After all, they’ve always been the band’s defining factor.
 
A lot of the change in artist demeanor can be contributed to Joshua Tree, California. There, at Rancho de la Luna, the studio of Eagles of Death Metal’s Dave Catching,  Hawk vs Pigeon was born. The desert seeps its way into almost every track; the sandstormy ‘Doves Above a Door’, the slow, lazy intensity of ‘World Series of Fedoras’ and ‘Trash’. Most notably, the guitar in ‘Miles Around’; glimmering like merciful droplets of water landing on parched earth. Perhaps the peace of the desert inspired the introspective lyrics as well; they read like a diary or therapy session, dealing with both external and internal conflict. ‘Aimed Right At Me’ plays the victim, lamenting “I can’t believe what I’ve seen” while ‘Living Proof’ sounds off, a pointed “fuck you, we made it”. ‘She’ struggles with temptation, reasoning “If you give it away, she’s just gonna break your heart”. To Better Days’ is exactly what it sounds like- an ode to hope and emotional liberation.
 
Dave Catching isn’t the only “big” name tied to this album. Care Failure of Die Mannequin provide vocals on ‘To Better Days’ while Patrick Pentland of Sloan shreds on guitar. Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning provides guitar in ‘Miles Around’ while ‘World Series of Fedoras’ shows off the distorgan work of The Trews’ Jeff Heisholt. Rather than being a label’s idea to move units, these are just collaborations among friends; subtle artistic flairs that don’t make or break any song.
 
Hawk vs Pigeon is further proof that Dearly Beloved is incapable and unwilling to colour inside the lines. Every song takes on a different personality, relishing in eccentricity. The somewhat psychedelic instrumental ‘Doves Above the Door’ draws the album to a close. Starting slow and gentle before turning fervent and churning, it summarizes the desert experience, the writing and recording process; the band’s rebirth.
 

Album Preview: Dearly Beloved – Hawk vs. Pigeon

Better Days Are Coming…

 
What are you going to be doing on May 22nd? Visiting your local record store to pick up Dearly Beloved’s Hawk vs. Pigeon, that’s what. Or I suppose you can purchase it online through one of those newfangled digital media sites like iTunes or Bandcamp…
 
If you were paying attention, you caught the desert-infused ‘World Series of Fedoras’ and ‘Trash’ last fall on the Canadian cop drama, Rookie Blue. Now two more previews have been sent our way. The high-adrenaline ‘To Better Days’ punctuated by Rob Higgins’ frenzied screams, is a perfect driving-too-fast-with-the-windows-down soundtrack (just try to keep those hands on the steering wheel and off the air guitar). Where the former is in your face from the get-go,  ‘Miles Around‘ teases, working up to a head-spinning climax. Both tracks are currently streaming on Soundcloud.
 
The most immediately noticeable aspect of Hawk vs. Pigeon so far is the crapload of guest appearances.  Not because Dearly Beloved rides coat tails; Rob, Niva and Gavin are veterans of the Canadian music scene and make friends everywhere they go. Past tourmates Care Failure of Die Mannequin and Sloan’s Patrick Pentland can be heard on ‘To Better Days’ while Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning appears in ‘Miles Around’. (As if life weren’t hectic enough, Rob has also joined Canning’s Cookie Duster. Their album, When Flying Was Easy drops one week prior to Hawk vs Pigeon, on May 15th).
 
 
Catch Dearly Beloved and Die Mannequin when they hit the road together this May in promotion of their new albums:

11-May-12 Thunder Bay ON Crocks
13-May-12 Winnipeg MB Pyramid
15-May-12 Calgary AB Dickens Pub
16-May-12 Edmonton AB Pawn Shop
18-May-12 Vancouver BC Cobalt
19-May-12 Nanaimo BC Queen’s Hotel
20-May-12 Victoria BC Club 919
23-May-12 Lethbridge AB The Rhythm House
24-May-12 Regina SK The Exchange
25-May-12 Brandon MB North Hill Inn
30-May-12 Ottawa ON Zaphod Beeblebrox

 

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.