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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tags: 2nd Law, Absolution, AFI, Amanda Palmer, Ariane Moffatt, Blaqk Audio, Bliss, Blunderbuss, Brendan Canning, Bright Black Heaven, CexCells, Cookie Duster, Cut Me Focus, Davey Havok, Dearly Beloved, Do It With a Rockstar, fun., Grand Theft Orchestra, Grown Man Cry, Hands & Teeth, Hawk vs Pigeon, Hoshi Neko, Hunting Season, Ill-Lit Ships, In Your Body, It’s Coming Back, Jack White, Jade Puget, JUNOs, Kickstarter, Living Proof, MA, Madness, Missing, Mon Corps, Muse, One Foot, Panic Station, Polaris Music Prize, Queens, Rules of Legal Love, Sixteen Saltines, Some Nights, Standing Alongside Gone, Take Me With You When You Go, Theatre is Evil, To Better Days, Top Albums of 2012, Trash, Two Feet Stand Up, When Flying Was Easy, Why Am I The One, With Your Arms Around You, YAMANTAKA//SONIC TITAN, YT//ST
When Flying Was Easy
If lying on your back in a field, examining the clouds on a summer day had a sound; it would be Cookie Duster’s newest release, When Flying Was Easy. At the risk of sounding like your yoga-loving aunt; “sunshiny” and “dreamy” are really the best descriptors of this album.
Formed in 1997 and quietly put on the backburner after a self-titled release in 2001, Cookie Duster has been resurrected by front man Brendan Canning (By Divine Right, Blurtonia) after the dissolution of Broken Social Scene. Reunited with co-founder Bernard Maiezza (Change of Heart) on keys, the lineup is now a veritable Can-Con orgy; a tangled web of former bandmates. Damon Richardson (Danko Jones, Dearly Beloved) takes drums and guitar, with production and guitar contributions from Sir Ian Blurton (Change of Heart, Blurtonia, C’Mon) and bass-slappin’ from Rob Higgins (Dearly Beloved, By Divine Right and, surprise, Change of Heart). The only one who doesn’t really fit this mess is vocalist Jeen O’Brien, an established singer-songwriter, and former lead lady of grunge group, Lilith.
Like a good pop album should, the content is not as sweet as the surface wants you to think. Songs like ‘Space Will Follow’, ‘Standing Alongside Gone’ and the first single, ‘Two Feet Stand Up’ are simply joyful; capitalizing on Jeen’s ultra-feminine, almost cutesy vocals. However, heartbreak and pain do find their way into some of the songs, like ‘Living on a Fine Line’ and ‘Something Evil Again’ which slow things down, taking them a little more seriously.
Alternating between upbeat rock beats, robotic electronica, trance, and atmospheric, pseudo-spoken word; this album doesn’t stay on the same note for long. It’s a sonic tug of war; there’s simplicity to the sound, without it being simple at all. And its sleepy sultriness would wash right over you, save for certain elements that beg for your attention. Digital bits and pieces are thrown over layers of conventional instruments. Everything is lush; nothing is ordinary. Xylophones, strings and synths entangle to evoke images of jungle thunderstorms (see ‘We Stepped on Glass’), sun-drenched meadows, outer space, and flying.
While the sound is nostalgic and reminiscent of youth, you won’t hear anyone emulating preteen pop stars. Both Brendan and Jeen ooze a cool, self-aware maturity, a sense of experience. Oddly enough, their voices often rest on the same wavelength, weaving in and out of each other seamlessly, indiscernible, adding to the dreaminess of the album. Whether it was planned or not, the songs are almost perfectly divided between the vocalists, each taking the lead on five, and sharing the other two. Preventing When Flying Was Easy from becoming just a “chick” album or “Another one of those BSS spin offs”.
Posted in Album Reviews
Tags: Album Review, Bernard Maiezza, Blurtonia, Brendan Canning, Broken Social Scene, By Divine Right, C'Mon, Change of Heart, Cookie Duster, Damon Richardson, Danko Jones, Dearly Beloved, Ian Blurton, Jeen O'Brien, Lilith, Living on a Fine Line, Rob Higgins, Something Evil Again, Space Will Follow, Standing Alongside Gone, Toronto, Two Feet Stand Up, We Stepped on Glass, When Flying Was Easy
Broken Social Scene may have disbanded, but that doesn’t mean Brendan Canning has resigned himself to a career in real estate. In fact, he’s resurrected his former band, Cookie Duster, and (surprise!) they’ve already pressed an album. When Flying Was Easy drops on June 12th (pushed back from May 15th unfortch.)
The first single, ‘Two Feet Stand Up’ shows hints of BSS’ rock arrangements, infused with glittery pop-techno, delivered with a ‘Walking on Sunshine’ type of joyfulness. Sweet, ultra-feminine vocals ride the musical chaos; a throwback to 90s girl-fronted bands like Joydrop and Veruca Salt. If this song is indicative of the rest of the album, we may in fact have the perfect summer soundtrack on our hands.
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