November 9, 2011
Pearl Jam has been around for 20 years. Crazy. Most of its been alright, some has sucked. Its music, its whats happens.
To celebrate, the band lauched PJ 20. And there’s a pretty good live version of Crown Of Thorns to go with it.
Every big fan of influential Boston band The Pixies has a story of the first time they ever heard them and how it affected them. For me it was early winter, 1991. I was up late in my bedroom quietly listening is CBC’s late night alternative radio show Brave New Waves. It was a school night. With no introduction at the end of a set of songs by several other bands came what I thought at the time to be the catchiest intro in a song I had ever heard and these lyrics:
Got me a movie / I want you to know / slicing up eyeballs / I want you to know / girlie so groovy / I want you to know / don’t know about you / but I am un chien Andalusia / I am un chien Andalusia / I am un chien Andalusia / I am un chien Andalusia / wanna grow / up to be / be a Debaser.
Just like that I was a sold. They had me. I desperately listened to the radio, turning the volume up slightly to hear it better at the risk of waking up my family. Knowing that songs and band names were not not always announced or readily made available on Brave New Waves after they played. I didn’t move a muscle as I heard
“That was Pixies with Debaser from 1989’s Doolittle.”
That weekend I purchased my first Pixies cassette tape and the rest of course is history. A history they included the Pixies breaking up in 1993 and reuniting in 2004. That reunion & touring has lasted 7 years so far, more years than many people thought the band was capable of. With a current tour that has been celebrating the release of arguably their best album Doolittle. It was the first Pixies album I’d ever heard and it’s still my favorite. A tour where the band is playing the entire album in track order (or at the time of the original release: Side A and Side B in order). So even though I’m reviewing the concert from two different cities it’s essentially the same show with the same set list. With the only real differences being the venues, the crowd and the atmosphere.
Unlike previous Pixies tours where the stage sets were bare minimum the Doolittle tour features giant glowing lanterns and video that coincided with each song. The show itself started with an edited version of the 1929 surrealist film Un Chien Andalou by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. The film notoriously opens with a scene in which a woman’s eye is slit by a razor, which is referenced in the song lyric and inspired the song Debaser.
Even though both shows had essentially the same set list they each had a very different feel. The Ottawa show was at the Ottawa Civic Centre – a cavernous old Junior hockey arena whereas the Winnipeg show was at the Centennial Concert hall where the symphony and ballet perform. The Winnipeg show felt much more intimate with no barrier in front of the stage. The Ottawa show had surprisingly good sound for an old barn but felt more chaotic at times with rush floor seating. Both cities were treated to encores of songs from other Pixies albums with the only difference being a cover of Neil Young’s Winterlong at the Winnipeg show (which the band also performed in Winnipeg in 2004).
February 23, 2011
January 13, 2011
When I mention that all the ex-Dears should start a whole new band, Jon Cohen jokes that a support group is probably more appropriate. Kinda just confirms our sneaking suspicions that Murray Lightburn is a power-hungry monster devouring any who don’t play his game. Or, well, maybe we just never liked The Dears very much.
But the Jon Cohen Experimental is trying to make up for that. He’s got a peppy little album out and is touring the nation right now.
Winnipeg – The Cavern – Friday January 14.
(I know, the Cavern usually sucks, but this is a good reason to go. We should probably dedicate a whole post to our frustrations with The Cavern.)
Behold is cleverly arranged with gentle retro grooves and strong lyrics, showcasing that the “Experimental” is actually a highly creative band. This is a one-man project done right. Echoes of psychedelia swirl through folk-ish melodies and pop hooks. Highlights include the title track, Brain Pollution and Don’t Be The Cloud. The standout is probably Nightmare-Over with its horns, Calexico-inspired groove and energetic performances.
December 30, 2010
10. LOCAL NATIVES // Gorilla Manor
They were the highlight of my SXSW, and their album continues to be a beacon of jangly, blurry goodness.
9. MENOMENA // Mines
Thanks to Bucky from The Liptonians for introducing me. Crazy. Technical. Catchy as all fuck.
8. JOANNA NEWSOME // Have One On Me
She can do no wrong. Evolved and evocative songwriting with production that is finding the right ways to present her outlandish voice.
7. FRIGHTENED RABBIT // The Winter Of Mixed Drinks
With no new We Were Promised Jetpacks album yet, Frightened Rabbit satiated my need for big Scottish post-punk.
6. THE KNIFE // Tomorrow, In A Year
Instead of an album, an electronic opera. Proving that they are one of the most versatile and creative artists in the world right now.
5. THE NATIONAL // High Violet
Who am I kidding… this would probably be #2 if my record player hadn’t been on the fritz till recently — meaning I couldn’t spin it enough to really dig into what is unbelievably actually an improvement on Boxer. I was set for a let-down. Instead, my boys delivered.
4. LIARS // Sisterworld
Within 45 minutes of landing in Austin, I was getting stoned with Mat from Boats and watching Liars rock the Brooklyn Vegan stage at SXSW. Sisterworld then became the soundtrack for Marcus & my post-mixing relaxations in Montreal in July. I love it when weirdos make great music.
3. BEACH HOUSE // Teen Dream
Like an updated Cocteau Twins, Beach House satiate my love of delay washes with sparse arrangements and beautiful voices. I’m a latecomer to the record, but it has barely left my turntable since picking it up.
2. JONSI // Go
A lush chamber-folk revision of the Sigur Ros sound, with impeccable production and personal songwriting. A record to turn to in the quiet moments. So intimate.
1. ARCADE FIRE // The Suburbs
Its #1 on everyone’s list for a reason. This album, just like their show at the MTS Centre, feels like its more about the listener than about the artists. Poignant and simply profound, shedding light on the small moments in millions of lives left unturned. One of the few albums in recent memory that demands digging into lyrics, metaphors, track order … all the things that we used to do with records.
December 30, 2010
While 2009 was the year of the Lo Pub, in 2010 there was good representation of most venues in Winnipeg – with no one venue dominating my list, from the West End Cultural Centre to the Walker Theatre. (I will never ever call it the Burton Cummings Theatre).
#10. 2010 WINNIPEG FOLK FESTIVAL (July)
With the exception of spectacular performances by the Avett Brothers and the workshop with Arrested Development, Andrew Bird & Konono No.1 it was a pretty underwhelming line up. Especially with the 2009 line up (including Elvis Costello and Iron & Wine) considered by many to be one of the best festivals ever. 2010 kind of felt like they phoned in the lineup. For the amount of money being charged for tickets we expect to see a more well rounded mix of new and exciting acts as well as a few more big names. Not a best of from 2004, 2007, & 2009.
#9. HEAD IN THE SAND SHOWCASE // The Cavern (October)
You know you’re at a quality concert when all 3 bands performing (Royal Canoe, Les Jupes & The Liptonians) could be the headliner. Plus it was a packed house and the crowd was really into it. The Cavern is not my favorite venue, but this night made it enjoyable.
#8. HOLY FUCK // The Pyramid (September):
One of many shows during an incredible month of September. The band delivered, rambunctiously. A special treat. Holy Fuck indeed.
#7. THE SADIES w/ PACK AD // The Pyramid (September)
Two great live acts that give it their all on stage.
#6. GREG MacPHERSON ALBUM LAUNCH // WECC (April)
This album launch show for the Polaris-nominated Mr. Invitation was classic G-Mac. A killer set that included a perfect mix of old songs and new. It was one of Greg best shows in recent memory.
#5. DAN MANGAN w/ BURNING HELL // Park theatre (November)
Two words: Pleasantly surprised. I went into this show only knowing a handful of Dan songs and never hearing the Burning Hell but left thoroughly impressed with both acts and the quality of Dan as a singer songwriter. He had the attentive Park crowd eating out of his hand. [Editor’s note: Here’s our review of his album Nice, Nice, Very Nice.]
#4. RURAL ALBERTA ADVANTAGE // WECC (February)
It’s shows like this one that make winter in Winnipeg almost bearable. Awesome renditions of The Dethbridge at Lethbride & The Ballad of the RRA. High energy set, great crowd. Another kick-ass West End show!
#3. ARCADE FIRE w/ CALEXICO // MTS Centre (September)
This was an incredible show with the potential to make #1 on this list, only Arcade Fire had the unfortunate luck of playing just 2 days after the band that stole the proverbial show. So by the timeI saw them I was totally blissed out and my passion for this concert plateaued quicker than I would have liked. It wasn’t as good as their 2004 Winnipeg concert @ the Walker but it was still pretty amazing. Calexico were stellar as usual, though their set seemed short.
#2. THE ROOTS w/ MAGNUM K.I. // Pantages Playhouse (June)
Hands down the best hip hop show I have ever seen. The Roots blew away my expectations of what this show was going to be. Pure showmanship, high energy, appreciative of their fans. Plus any live act that can rock a sousaphone as much as the Roots deserves your respect. [Magnum K.I. site.]
#1. THE FLAMING LIPS // Walker Theatre (September)
Pure rock spectacle! This was one of the most entertaining concerts I have ever been to at the Walker (including Arcade Fire, Wilco, TV on the Radio AND the Pixies). I was totally blissed out! A perfect balance of sight, sound and spectacle.
October 1, 2010
Bubble gum and peanuts. Separately they are both tasty things that are fun to chew. But when you combine the two, the texture in your mouth is quite … well, quite troublesome. Dan Black (formally the frontman of British band The Servants) has replaced a live band with a laptop and a lot of hype. He is best known for covering Notorious B.I.G.’s Hypnotic by mashing it with the drum beats from Rihanna’s Umbrella calling it HYPNTZ until the B.I.G. estate refused permission to use the lyrics forcing Dan to write his own and call the song Symphonies.
Symphonies ended up being the first track on ((UN)). Exhibit A: Bubblegum.
Dan’s attempt at blending hip hop influences with indie rock and electronica lacks focus and seems to be trying to please every type of hipster he thinks is actually listening to his album more than once. Trying to imitate all the hip singers (Beck, Robbie Williams, Rufus Wainwright, Chris Martin, Thom Yorke) ultimately makes him sound no one in particular.
This is a slick and well-produced album which shows that Dan does indeed have talent – which might trick some people into thinking this album is better than it actually is. But regardless of catchy drum beats and funky bass on tracks like Alone & Yours, various samples & the subtle use of auto tune on Pump My Pumps, this album can’t be saved. Basic pop with polential but not very much soul. On Dan’s myspace page he lists his influences as only Sigur Ros & Jay-Z … Gum and nuts indeed.
October 1, 2010
Finding the soft balance between Weezer and Replacements influences, Salinas have crafted a catchy and smart pop album. They thrust 80’s indie jangle against some big, anthemic rock n roll. It is held together with songwriting skills belying their young age, allowing this album to rock pretty solidly from top to bottom.
Matt Austman’s lyrics are full of the young romantic’s trials – unrewarding sex, missing connections, and the quest for meaningful relationships. A tense politik also weaves its way throughout.
No Caulfield Absolutes is the only low mark – an intimate song which should be rewarded with intimate vocals to match. Instead, the post-hardcore yelps create a barrier to the emotional punch the song could otherwise have.
Younger hints at some of the Red House Painters’ more rocking moments before turning back towards the band’s safe anthemic stylings.
Smartly produced by Royal Canoe’s Matt Peters, this debut album showcases a band reaching towards lofty goals. They show much promise and with continued efforts such as this plus some good old fashioned hard work, will grow into the kind of band people will rally around, fists in the air.
October 9, 2009
Sometimes we get a little cynical. Sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to give in to a new act we’ve never heard of. Every now and then we get surprised.
A few weeks ago The Albertans rolled into town on their cross-Canada tour. Now based in Brooklyn and Vancouver, with a couple members who have Edmonton roots.And I must say, the opening act (The Wheat Pool) left me without much hope for the rest of the night. Cliche’d frat-rock. Boring, illiterate and best served with a Coors Lite. No thanks.
But from the first notes – The Albertans surprised. With confidence, strong arrangements, and most importantly strong vocals (reminiscent of Stars’ Torquil in tone and delivery) – the band created an inviting and intimate ambience.So, I bought the album.The record lacks the polish that the songs demand. Its mixed unevenly and fails to properly convey several songs – particularly later in the record as the momentum falters. But there is no denying its appeal, or the quality of the songwriting, or the great vocals and smart lyrics.
The female backing vocals are sweet – too sweet sometimes – but create a pleasant bed for lead singer Joel Bravo’s intimate baritone.The package design and band name don’t match the band’s indie-dance-vibe. And the Sam Marcos title doesn’t seem contextual… so we’re gonna just chalk it up to a young, inexperienced band. But its a band we’re going to keep an eye on, as this debut is stronger than anticipated.