I'm From Barclona

I'm Actually From Sweden

I suppose the big labels were hunting down Arcade Fire and Polyphonic Spree copycats a few years back.  Some A&R guy got lucky and found a bunch of Swedes who happened to be a marriage of both bands.  This is what they came up with.

There are a couple alright tunes, a lot of amateur production, and nowhere near the energy of real Arcade Fire or P-Spree albums.  Just a bunch of talented, if unoriginal, musicians trying really hard to sound as cool as their heros for the first few songs, and slowly devolving into washy, listless nordic pop that is a shadow of the region’s many more talented acts.

Perhaps guilty of having too many cooks in the kitchen, I’m From Barcelona‘s liner notes list 28 1/2 musicians.  The best track doesn’t kick in till #8 – coincidentally it’s Houdini.  28 people with one good song placed near the end of their album just doesn’t seem like a recipe for success.

This is disappointing.  I like Sweden.  And I like Swedish bands.  And I like the packaging.  But the record feels derivative and forced.

Wooden Arms

Wooden Arms

Setting a certain mood can be a tricky thing. Sights, Sounds, smells, lighting, and environment, all have a role in setting a certain tone for someone. For Polaris Prize winner Patrick Watson setting a mood for an album seems to come naturally. Wooden Arms, the band’s sophomore release on Secret City Records features beautiful strings (Fireweed), evocative male/female vocal harmonies (Wooden Arms, Big bird in a Small cage) and spoons, glasses & other found objects as percussion instruments (Tracy’s Water).  There’s even a mega phone in Tom Waits-esque Traveling Salesman.  All are essential components in the mood mastery of Patrick Watson.

I could easily describe the album as beautifully textured, dreamy, haunting or spacey (Patrick has even described his music as Spacey folk). In fact the first time I listened to it I found myself lost in the music — before I knew it I was already on the fifth track. And if that is the mood this album is trying to set, then bravo! Many of the tracks flow seamlessly and fluidly between each other.  I challenge you to expand your horizons – this is a great album worth getting lost in.

Snow Blindness Is Crystal Antz

Snow Blindness Is Crystal Antz

I’m glad someone in Canada is drinking the pickled crazy juice.  Is there an artist in this country more irreverent, more playful or less caring of what you think than Chad Van Gaalen?  Its refreshing to get some music made for its own sake, which considers the art and artist first, and one’s indie image second.  His muse is indeed peculiar.  Even two-headed … nay, three-headed — and wearing pink suspenders.  For this single-minded artistic independence, this blog will continue to champion him.

Black Mold is Chad’s electronic alter-ego.  A collection of experimental glitches, melodies, science experiments and found sounds.  No lyrics.  Just a man and his gadgets in a basement somewhere in the 403.

19 tracks in all – flying firmly in the face of the current 10-track max on any given release since … well, since apparently nobody listens to albums anymore.  Except us?  We like albums.  And so, thank you to Chad for Toxic Lake.  And for No Dream Nation.  For somehow channeling Anti-Pop Consortium and Chris Clark (Warp’s unsung heroes).

Snow Blindness Is Crystal Antz flows well and you’ll be hard-pressed to discern your favorites until a couple attentive listens through.  There are a lot of great moments but the strength of this album ultimately lies in its ability to create and sustain a mood throughout the entire setlist.

Well, look at what we found! Belgian producer Faskil has done an exquisite remix of the great Gemma Hayes song which serves as our blog’s namesake.  You can download it for free from his site.

[Racket]

November 16, 2009

FYI. New new new!!!

So new you don’t even know you’re reading this yet.

[This fist ain’t gonna pound itself.]

Review: AIR // Love 2

November 14, 2009

Engrained

Deadly grooves.  Granular synths.  A hint of prog.  Air returns.

Opening with Do The Joy, we can’t help but wonder if this is going to be the dirtiest Air record yet.  But as if on cue, Love states the case for these 12 cuts – a little adult-contempory, a little epic, refusing to admit that yeah, sometimes its a little cheesy – but that defiance is what makes the French their bad-ass selves.  And its what allows Air to be Air.  Lets see you make Floyd-esque synths sound bad-ass.

Intricately woven jangly guitars surround infectious bass.  Classic repetitive lyrics allow the synth-work to shine.  And Bob Moog is somewhere, surrounded by rainbows, clapping his hands and jumping gleefully while listening to the bridge in Be A Bee.

Love 2 is not without its lulls – this is Air after all.  It can’t be all good.  Tropical Disease is ready for 70’s sitcom re-runs.  And You Can Tell To Everybody may just lounge you to sleep.  But these duds are few and interjected by coy raucousness via Eat My Beat and Night Hunter.

This isn’t Moon Safari or Talkie Walkie.  Its much slicker.  But the synth work and classic vibe make it worth repeated listens – even if its only with a martini in hand.

If you speak French, there’s a great interview and tour through their studio here.

Fuck ya!  Cinematic and melodic indie hip-hop!

There’s a lightness, a youthfulness, a vigour, a hopefulness to The Lytics self-titled debut EP.  Playful synths bounce around great flow, absolutely infectious melodies wrap around your brain, and all the while I’m wondering… they’re from here?

Big City Soundgirl is getting all the “single” attention, but its Checkin’ On My Pumas that showcases the skills of A-Nice, Munga, Ashy and B-Flat.  Last Bit carries these grooves to the end.

There are Jackson 5 and Paul Simon-esque musical ideas throughout.  These boys aren’t just a bunch of beat-thumping ass smackers.  Worldly experience, humility (stay humble!), and great melodic sensibilities wrap around lyrics both fun and intelligent.

Buy it!

Trinidad + Winnipeg = Great Hip Hop

In the past 10 years, Winnipeg-made art and music about Winnipeg has become increasingly prevalent.  From the notable records of The Weakerthans to Guy Maddin’s films, the mainstream has been treated to some of our finest exports.  But the consciousness of this city pervades many more artists who fly a bit further under the radar – though hopefully not for long.

Nestor Wynrush has made one of the most poignant Winnipeg albums ever.  A fitting first local review for our new blog!

Trinnipeg !78 features hints of Trinidad, roots in Toronto and a final landing place (takeoff place?) in South Winnipeg.  It is an album about the roles and situations immigrants find themselves in Canada – particularly when pressed against mainstream culture, and the ignorance which can sometimes come with that.   Our country does a really great job of marketing itself as a great haven for the world’s troubled – but there remains an us/them barrier – a quiet racism that pervades our cities.  Nestor tackles these issues firsthand.

There is a lot of intelligent discourse in these lyrics.  Too much to totally dissect in this space, so we strongly encourage you to go and buy this album right now.

Coprock – top-shelf discourse about personal engagement with Winnipeg’s “finest”.  (And by finest, we mean racist, short-sighted, violence-prone motherfuckers.)

So High – “I have to confess.  I’ve read diaries before.”  One of the many off-hand, irreverent and comically personal lyrics.  Also check out the outro to Winnipeg South Blues.

Ole Mine Town – A K’Naan-worthy torch song, a manifesto, and the thematic core of Trinnipeg.

Musically, the beats feel a bit amateur.  The album’s sonics say “Winnipeg” – and though we understand the literalism of that, the mid-fi production doesn’t really support the content of the music or lyrics.  Nestor has some great hooks, brit-pop-esque melodies, and gritty topics – fusing these into a cohesive production is the next step.  And I look forward to it anxiously.