Sunday, January 31, 2010

Watch this: Woodhands, Maylee Todd, The Wooden Sky, Leif Vollebekk.

The morning after their secret, invite-only show at Smiling Buddha, Woodhands was the musical guest on Jian Ghomeshi's "Q" radio program. Maylee Todd went with them. Beautiful song.

Awesome, eh? Here's more Maylee, this time her own solo stuff, thanks to Mitch at Southern Souls. There's another video of Maylee performing at the zoo up there, too.

The Wooden Sky, from the Wood & Wires Video Series:

Remember Leif Vollebekk? I told you about him earlier this month. His album is out now on Nevado Records, home of Bahamas and other great Canadian acts.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Shout out / Review: Woodhands' Remorsecapade.

I've said it a few times already on this blog: Woodhands is my favourite live band. They are intense, unpretentious, in-your-face, and impossible not to dance to. And they've got a new record out.

To celebrate the release and help get the word out, the band hosted a secret, invite-only show Thursday night at the not-spacious Smiling Buddha bar. Slightly north and west of the usual hotspots, and often playing host to bands even I've never heard of, I admit to not having ventured there before. I got there early, and spent a quick hour and a quarter talking with an assortment of local press-types and friends of the band. At around 10:30pm, a smoke machine and two green lasers having created somewhat of a proper vibe, and with photographers assembled at the front, the band started to play. And then quickly stopped. Aw, Woodhands. The technical issues were almost instantly sorted out, and the show really got started. The band performed a few of the songs off Remorsecapade, brought Maylee Todd on to contribute her part to "Dissembler" and "Dancer" from 2008's Heart Attack, then seamlessly transitioned into "Coolchanize," the standout track from the new album. The performance wasn't quite the display of musical wizardry I've seen from this band, but that's hardly the point. Experiencing these songs---also "CP24," "Talk," and "I Should Have Gone With My Friends"---performed live makes me excited for everyone who'll get a chance to see this band on their upcoming tour. And, as a friend of mine told drummer Paul Banwatt after the set, it was just fun to see them play in a small venue just like the old days.

Back in late 2007 and into 2008, that same friend and I went to see Woodhands every time they played. We were both going through stuff---I was in search of a new social life, and he was trying to rescue a failing relationship. I eventually found my weekend salvation in the indie scene; him, in the electro-dance world. But as we drifted apart socially, we always met at Woodhands shows. The music was loud, fast, hard-hitting, with a clear beat and unstoppable energy. And still interesting. Dan Werb's pained screams and emotional turmoil, Paul's firy, surprising drumming, their choice to risk technical failure by putting all their synth lines together live . . . it all made Woodhands' music compellingly immediate. Here was something I'd rarely heard: intense electro-pop with brains and emotional baggage. When the band went on their first US tour in April 2008, my friend and I drove to his hometown of Pittsburgh to see them play. Woodhands was on first, unbilled on a four-band night, opening for Ra Ra Riot, who were still driving to the venue when our band went on. In front of a handful of local kids, my friend and I danced fearlessly, with abandon and conviction. It felt like the culmination of our respective transformations, establishing the success and rightness of the paths we'd taken over the past few months. Woodhands is an important part of my history and continues to have a place in my present.

Remorsecapade, out this past week, is the band's second full-length album. Like the first, it offers up eminently danceable tracks and much artistic interest. Electro isn't usually this smart and fully danceable. The best track, "Coolchazine," grabbed my attention right away. Some of the others took a few listens, but by now I'm quite taken with the record. (I'm listening to it on repeat as I write this, and keep find myself grooving in my chair. And I don't care if anyone's watching.)

The first track, "Pockets," sets the tone, and assures the listener that all the ingredients that made Heart Attack great are still present. Slow builds and quiet moments compete with pounding beats and aborted symbol crashes. The song's both groovy and meaningful. It's a love song, after all. "Talk," next up, is about a girl, too. It has dance hit written all over it, but the angst-ridden, yearning kind, not the bubble-gum version. "CP24" you've all heard (and seen). Here the angst gets aggressive and embittered. "Sluts"---which I just noticed begins with a technical glitch and Dan swearing "fuck this machine"---has a more dance club vibe. The girl problems continue, but there's a resolution. What begins aggressively ends with a much more healthy attitude. Awesome. And then comes "Coolchanize." As Dan himself might say, "Oh shit!" Screams! Grunts! This song takes me through the ringer. Dan---or the man he's singing about---has been done wrong. "Why are you fucking with my focus? Why do you have to be the closest thing to me?" and etc. The man can't get a break, though, deciding next that "I Should Have Gone With My Friends" instead of following his date around. This is another great dance track. After all this "Dissembler" comes as a welcome reprieve. Maylee Todd, whose smooth vocal performance on "Dancer" added so much to the first record, is back, performing a duet on this one with Dan. Much airier, this pop love song is really lovely. Everyone now feeling better about things, it's time to dance (and scream) again. "When the Party is Over," featuring fat synth beats, under-emphasized drumming, and great singing, is another solid Woodhands song. The final track ("I Want To Be Together," followed by the outro "How To Survive A Remorsecapade"), is radically different in sound. It's slower, contemplative, sad---"I want to be together" is the repeated refrain---but also a smart way to end a record that's full of anger and heartbreak and other emotional struggles. A "remorsecapade" indeed.

Woodhands are still at their best when Paul's beating the life out of his drum kit, and Dan's screaming his mind out. The heart-wrenching ups and downs make Remorsecapade an impressive contribution to the art of the album. Excellently crafted---with that touch of humour at the start of "Sluts"---the songs will certainly go over well with on the DJ circuit, get lots of play at home parties, but also have an intellectual appeal. But forget about all that. I'm still dancing in my chair.

Download: "Pockets" (Remorsecapade, 2010).
Download: "I Kissed A Girl (Katy Perry cover)" (unreleased, 2009).
Download: "Dancer" (Heart Attack, 2008).
Download: "I Wasn't Made For Fighting" (Heart Attack, 2008).

Remorsecapade is out now. Pick up a copy at your local record store, or order it through Paper Bag Records (or whatever other online retailer you like). The band is playing shows through Canada this winter. Their MySpace has all the details.

Frank has his review up, and so does Ricky.

Watch this: Zeus, Cuff the Duke (live), OOTS (live), Gentleman Reg.

Zeus' new album comes out next month. It promises to be great. From Spinner:

While Zeus have got a ways to go before becoming rock legends themselves, somebody better tell that to director Adam Makarenko. Integrating live action performance with stop-motion animation, Makarenko's video for 'Marching Through Your Head' follows the band up the mythical mountainside of Mt. Olympus as they search for the King of the Gods, ruler of the Mount, keeper of the sky -- Zeus, the god. But instead of finding a single deity, they discover that their band Zeus is the god of their namesake.

"We were really inspired by Adam's photos," O'Brien explains to Spinner. "The first time Carlin showed me one of his images, of a freaky digital wolf over a cityscape, we knew that we wanted to do something with him. We got the opportunity to make this video and hoped Adam could do it. We couldn't be happier with how it turned out!"

Of course they're happy with it -- Makarenko makes them look like gods. Zeus may not actually be immortal, quite yet, but give it time -- after all, this is only the first single.

Cuff the Duke! Here they are in Winnipeg earlier this month. They are touring with Blue Rodeo. "Follow Me" is off their latest disc, Way Down Home.

Cuff the Duke recently released a video for "All A Blur." Watch it at

NOW Magazine captured better footage from the Out of this Spark show last Friday. Songs by Evening Hymns, Forest City Lovers, the "Family Band" performing a D'Urbervilles' track ("Dragnet"):

Finally, some more Gentleman Reg, to get you exited for his Wednesday night residency in February at the Drake Hotel.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Indie Music 108 (28 Jan - 3 Feb 2010).

Welcome to my weekly roundup of inexpensive indie(ish) musical happenings in downtown Toronto, all for $10 or less. If I'm missing something you think I should list, or you have any comments, let me know. I star (*) shows that most interest me.

Like this list? Join my Facebook group or subscribe to this blog. Make sure to check the rest of my blog for show reviews and photos, giveaways, and downloads. You can get lots of other suggestions at Stillepost, Zoilus, the weeklies, and venue websites, etc.

I spent Thursday and Friday nights at the Garrison, which has become the place I go to most since it opened in the fall. It really is the new Sneaky Dee's for me, which is both unfortunate (because Sneaks is cool, damnit, and closer to home than Dundas/Oss) and really neat to see happening. But those two shows showcased more than just good bands. There were a zillion people talking and it was so distracting and, well, rude. Move to the back to have conversations! Turn down the music in the front room during Ghost Bees! Geez. This is something the venue will have to work on if they want to host good quieter shows. And no doubt they will. I'm looking forward to seeing how things shape up over the next few months for this still-new spot.

I missed so much else last week. Gah! Toronto: stop being awesome.

I started doing this list, but now I've run out of time! Check out what I've got, then go over to Stillepost for more. (Link below.)

THURSDAY (28 jan)

The Matadors, TerrorChargers, The Heatskores, more @ Kathedral, 6pm, free.

* View Points: Inside the Musician's Studio featuring The Happiness Project @ Harbourfront (Brigantine Room), 8-10pm, free. "Live Performance and Intimate Discussion with Charles Spearin," hosted by Stuart Berman from Eye Weekly, author of This Book Is Broken.

* Ronley Teper & the Lipliners @ Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge), 10pm, pwyc. Ronley's band features an ever-changing cast of great musicians. See who's playing this week.

B'MO Crazy and Owel Five & Corboe @ The New Poor Alex, 9:30pm, pwyc w/ canned food donation.

Punk Rock Party feat. The New Enemy, The Roman Line, Skullians, and Caution Inc. @ Sneaky Dee's, 9pm, $5.

* SynthFest Showcase 1 feat. En Francais, Stop Die Resuscitate, and Digits @ Rancho Relaxo, 9pm, $5.

* Kate Maki (CD release) @ Dakota Tavern, 9pm, $5

* Steamboat @ The Dakota Tavern, 11pm, $5.

The James Clark Institute, Foreign Films, and The Legendary Dirtbikers @ Mitzi's Sister, 9pm, $5.

Make Me Young (CD release) w/ Vowls, The Nightlife, Hugh Oliver and Rosie @ El Mocambo (First Floor), 9pm, $5.

* The Untold City presents ROBOTS //// US //// VOL 2 feat. Bocce, TMDP, These Electric Lives, DJ Smack Dabb, OPOPO RMX, DJ Matt Weed @ Wrongbar, 9pm, $7.

Groovetastic presents I Told You I Was Groovy feat. Easyboy (Eric Farber of Truman Peyote), Saskatoon Guitar Destroyer, The Screamagers, and Shepherd @ Tiger Bar, 9pm, $10 (or $11 for 2 tix).

Broken Sons, Central Nervous System, The Danger Bees @ The Rivoli, $10


The Volunteers and Bo Green & The New Jakes @ The Imperial Pub, 9:30pm, pwyc.

Makita Hack & the Logrollers @ Holy Oak, 10pm, pwyc.

DVAS, Kidstreet @ The Boat, $5

Clara Engel and Mekele recital concert @ Arraymusic (60 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 218), 7pm, $5.

We Take Lovers, Buckets Of, The Phonemes, and Mule Skinner @ El Mocambo (First Floor), 9pm, $5.

Bella Clava w/ Revolvers, The Change, and Woodward Company @ The Cameron House, 9pm, $6.

* TWM 55 feat. Great Dane, Sunfields, and Blanc & White @ Rancho Relaxo, 9pm, $6. "Sunfields are the new project from Jason Kent . . . of the Dears."

JEFF the brotherhood, City Sweethearts (album release), Modern Superstitions, and Mutters @ Sneaky Dee's, 9pm, $8.

Australia Day and Waitangi Day feat. The I Love You Toos, Hugh Oliver, Willow Rutherford, Uber Hussy, Hotcha, and more @ Tranzac (Main Hall), 7:30pm, pwyc (sugg $10).

Divine Inspiration feat. @ The Music Gallery, 8pm, $10 (or $6 if you dress up nice). More details here.

Hyacinth presents - Who's Backstage? feat. Modernboys Moderngirls, Corduroy, Slip Of The Tongue, more @ Tattoo Rock Parlour, 9pm, $10.


Watch this: Lioness, Rock Plaza Central, Off the International Radar vs Holy Fuck, Lullaby Arkestra.

I'm still giving away two tickets to the No Shame show on Saturday night. One of the (good) bands is Lioness. Here's their latest video:

Rock Plaza Central have decided to stop touring for a variety of reasons. On Saturday night they played their final(ish, maybe) show here in Toronto at the Garrison. I heard it was quite the event. Here's their new video for "Don't You Believe the Words of Handsome Men."

This one comes from Off the International Radar's 2009 EP, Hot Lips. The song is called "Holy Radar," and it's "a remix/reworking of OTIR's "E bowl Of Eris" by Holy Fuck." HF sped up the song and then layered their own music on top of it.

I missed Lullaby Arkestra at last Sunday's Wavelength. (My ears weren't in the mood for a pounding.) The duo have a new video for "Icy Hands."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Watch this: Julie Doiron w/ Gentleman Reg (live), Basia Bulat (live), Soft Copy, Oh No Forest Fires (live).

A recent show I regret missing---damn cold!---was when Julie Doiron dropped in at the tiny Cobourg bar in Cabbagetown a few Saturday's ago to play an near-impromptu free set. Reg Vermue (Gentleman Reg) was in the audience, and she asked him to join her for "Will You Still Love Me in December." Colin Medley was also there:

Joe captured the audio of this moment. (And read his review of the show, too.)

Basia Bulat's new album, Heart of My Own, is out today. She was in Paris a few days back. La Blogotheque filmed her performing "The Shore." When she and her band did this in Toronto earlier this month, it was stunning.

Soft Copy is releasing its new album on Saturday at the Garrison. Andrew McAllister from the band is also a visual artist (among other things)... so of course there's a video to accompany the release. Here's "Hot Cakes."

Oh No Forest Fires
performed their last set ever on Saturday night at the Horseshoe. Matthew from blogTO was there:

Q & A with Randal Ball of WreckingBall Entertainment.

Earlier this month I posted an interview with Ben Mueller-Heaslip who does the "What's All This Then?!" podcast. That turned out great, and it made me want to do more Q & A features with local scenesters (if you don't mind me using that language). The local music community is populated by bands---many, many bands---but the other characters who we see out and about, working and spectating, have good stories to tell, too. Here's the second installment of this interview series.

Randal Ball is a local music promoter and avid support of the local scene, from punk to folk to hip hop and everything in between. He recently started collecting canned food donations at his shows, and has begun a new series, Punk 4 Parkinsons. So, it seems like a good time to check in and see what's what. Randal books under the "WreckingBall Entertainment" banner. Join his Facebook group to find out more information on his upcoming shows. Contact him at wreckingballbookingsATgmailDOTcom.

Jen: How did you get into booking and promoting local bands in Toronto?

Randal: The whole reason I moved to Toronto four years ago was to pursue a career in the music industry. I distinctly remember arriving in the city, and finding it very overwhelming. There was definitely a huge adjustment period before I felt comfortable immersing myself as far into it as I have this past year.

Jen: Why "WreckingBall"?

Randal: The name came more from what I saw was happening with the industry at the time. We’ve all witnessed the impact that things like internet have had on the industry, and as bleak as some people have seen it, I very much see it as a natural progress. To put it into perspective, up until 1964 publishing companies mainly existed to hire songwriters to write music for people to perform. With the arrival of the Beatles, there was a huge shift, and publishing companies had to re-adapt to an industry that was mainly the performers writing the songs themselves. I see that as a good example as to what has been happening this past while. The old way of doing things has been slowly dying, and we are all forced to rebuild with new and exciting ideas of what we see the industry being.

It’s a time where bold new ideas are being introduced, and I think that is exciting. WreckingBall implies the start of something new, and not the end.

Jen: What's your mandate as a concert promoter?

Randal: I value the independent music community, and really want to contribute to that on a positive level. For that reason, I have many concerts featuring a wide array of different genres. There are a few promoters who have been inspirations to me. Keith Hamilton (Pitter Patter) and Dan Wolovick (Two Way Monologues) to name a couple.

On the bigger picture, I want WreckingBall Entertainment to be recognized as a company known to present shows that challenge the audience on what their concept of a concert can be. I have shown some signs of that in my Bowser Attacks series, where the audience members play old school 16-bit video games on a giant screen onstage, while the performers play chiptune music as a soundtrack. It sounds off the wall, but blurring the line between entertainer and audience is something I want to explore more of. And in the next couple of years, I will definitely be showing more of that.

Jen: You've recently started a new charity series, Punk 4 Parkinson's, and have also accepted donations at your shows for the food bank. Why did you decide to do these things?

Randal: Punk 4 Parkinson's is something that has been an idea in my head for years now. My father was diagnosed with Parkinson disease about six years ago. In that time I have watched him debilitate to a point where at 56 years old, he has to live in a nursing home. Punk music is, and will always be, a music that I love. It was there for me at a young age and I still play it till this day. It is my way of handling a situation that is seemingly out of my control, with a music that encourages me to lose control (joke!).

The food bank concept that now applies to all my shows is something I just really wanted to be done. I love the entertainment industry for everything it is, but if there’s one thing that needed to change with what I do, it would be the lack of social purpose. A social purpose is never a bad thing, and I honestly believe good things can be accomplished often with minimal effort. All I have done is offer people a discounted price at the door if they bring a canned food. It isn’t much, and it cost me nothing at the end of the day, and ultimately . . . if it can contribute something positive to someone else's life, then what good reason would there be to not do it? With that point in mind, I decided it should apply to all my shows, and not just the occasional.

Jen: What's coming up in 2010?

Randal: 2010 is going to be a year where I step up in terms of creativity in my shows. You will also be seeing a larger volume of events that are happening. I feel 2010 is going to be an exciting year for me, and I am excited for it.

I am very excited for my Queen Tribute show April 17th. A ton of great Toronto bands will be playing the Poor Alex, and doing their own take of Queen songs we all know and love. Organizing this show has often put me in a place where I feel like a kid again, just listening to queen over and over. Loving every minute of it.

Jen: Can you share with us some of your favourite moments from your shows?

Randal: When I bring a new band into a show, and its my first time experiencing them live, there is sometimes a feeling I get that almost takes me to that place you were when you heard a life changing album at 15. I personally will never forget the feeling I had when I first listened to the downward spiral, and any time I have a band play that brings to life that feeling inside of something new and daring, or even sometimes just sincere and raw, then that’s the total payback right there. I live for that.

Jen: What local Toronto acts that we may not have heard should we pay attention to?

Randal: The Vicious Guns is a band I really get behind. A good hip hop group that just gets a killer fun party going is Owel Five & Corboe . . . totally a blast every time. I really love Carnival Moon. The music she composes is so beautiful. The list goes on.

Jen: Awesome, thanks for taking the time to do this, Randal! Good luck with your upcoming shows.

WreckingBall Entertainment's got 5 shows coming up in the next while:

CrackerJack Wednesday feat. Fashion Tips, Blacklist Manifesto, Tofu Meat, and Free Man On the Land @ The New Poor Alex, 27 Jan, 8:30pm, $7 (or $5 w/ canned food donation).

B'MO Crazy and Owel Five & Corboe @ The New Poor Alex, 28 Jan, 9:30pm, pwyc w/ canned food donation.

CrackerJack Wednesday feat. Living With Jane, A Fourth World, The Danger Bees, and Mark Harris @ The New Poor Alex, 3 Feb, 8:30pm, $7 (or $5 w/ canned food donation).

Punk 4 Parkinsons Does Metal feat. APE, Nanochrist, The Isosceles Project (acoustic set) @ Hard Luck Bar, 4 Feb, 9pm, $7 w/ canned food donation.

CrackerJack Wednesday feat. The Peter James Project, First Rate People, Lincoln & the Marshin Academy, and Sebastian Rafael @ The New Poor Alex, 10 Feb, 8:30pm, $7 (or $5 w/ canned food donation).

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ticket Giveaway: EATT, Lioness, Rich Aucoin @ the Horseshoe, 30 Jan.

Saturday night at the Horseshoe local music promoters No Shame are presenting electro-soul outfit Everything All the Time, electro-rockers Lioness, and Rich Aucoin. The first two bands feature great vocalists in Alanna Stuart (EATT) and Vanessa Fischer (Lioness). Not only can these women sing, but they've got stage presence and, well, attractiveness on their side. You can't go wrong. Alanna's also one half of Bonjay. Vanessa used to be in No Dynamics, and her backing men were in controller.controller. Rich isn't a woman, but that's ok. He can't help it.

You're in, right?

Download: Everything All the Time, "Lazy Days" (s/t EP, 2009).
Watch: Lioness, "You're My Heart" (s/t EP, 2008).
Download: Rich Aucoin, "10,342 Cuts for the US (An Exploding)" (Personal Publication EP, 2007).

Thanks to No Shame I've got a pair of tickets to the show to give away to one of you. For your chance at them, email me with "I want to EATT" in the subject line and your full name in the body of the message. Get this to my by noon on Friday, 29 January, and I'll let you know if you're a winner soon after. If you don't win, you can still get tickets at the door the night of the show.

Fine Print: No Shame presents Everything All Time, Lioness, and Rich Aucoin @ the Horseshoe Tavern, Saturday, 30 January, 9pm, $8.

[Photo credit: EATT by Laurie Kang.]

Watch this: Isla Craig, The Wooden Sky (live), The Balconies (acoustic), Gentleman Reg (tour vid).

Now that I've started these "watch this" posts I'm discovering that there are A LOT of videos being put out there all the time. Well, good.

Isla Craig & the Continental Drift had a video done for them earlier this month.

Back in mid-August Toronto band the Wooden Sky performed a great set in the basement at Sonic Boom. Some good live footage of the event has made its way onto the internet. Here's the Wooden Sky performing "The Wooden Sky."

Mitch Fillion of Southern Souls must be unemployed. There's no other way I can think of to explain all the videos he'd managed to shoot and edit with bands, most of them based in Toronto. Here's his latest, with the Balconies. Apparently their album glows in the dark . . . lemme check . . . no. (I've been had.)

One of my favourite bands, Gentleman Reg, toured with A Camp way back in 2009. Here's a little "tour video" they made. It's cute. Oh, and go see G Reg every Wednesday night in February at the Drake Hotel. First one is 3 Feb (obvs), and they'll be performing with Hooded Fang and Kite Hill.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Review: OOTS 3rd Anniversary w/ The D'Urbervilles, Forest City Lovers, Evening Hymns, Jenny Omnichord.

Toronto label Out of this Spark celebrated its third anniversary at the Garrison in Toronto Friday night. The party was a showcase for all four of the label's current bands: The D'Urbervilles, Forest City Lovers, Evening Hymns, and Jenny Omnichord. Three of the groups have new albums coming out this year, so we were treated to many new songs.

Jenny Omnichord is the solo project of Jenny Mitchell, a Guelph musician who also plays with other bands, including the Burning Hell. Mitchell is a great songwriter and lyricist. Her songs are often quirky, sometimes serious, but always earnestly delivered. It's also pretty neat to watch her manipulate her omnichords, an electronic instrument based on the autoharp that allows the performer to mix together a wide array of sounds using only her fingers.Friday night Mitchell performed some new songs off the album she's current working on---it'll include songs about "babies and skeletons." She entertained us with songs about a bout of bad luck in NYC, "Blankets & Bones," her young son, Elvis impersonators in London, ON ("The Kings of London"), her "baby daddy," skeletons in love ("Skeletal Love Song"), and a final one about "polyamorous skeletons," which included the singalong verse "How would anyone know whose are whose bones?" All in all, it was a nice, short set that afforded Mitchell enough time to show off her talents.

Download: Jenny Omnichord, "The Kings of London" (Cities of Gifts and Ghosts, 2008).

The slow jams Friday night were provided by Evening Hymns, a band featuring songwriter Jonas Bonnetta backed up on this occasion by the marvelous Sylvie Smith and Tim Bruton from the Magic, Shaun Brodie, and a drummer. The set started with an atmospheric buildup, perfectly setting the tone for what was to follow. I prefer my music a little more fast-paced, but there's no denying the appeal of Evening Hymns: pretty, meaningful songs with compositional complexity and interesting soundscapes. The set included several songs from Spirit Guides: "Lanterns," "Dead Deer" (my favourite), "Cedars," and "Mountain Song," among others. The band put on the night's best performance. Sylvie Smith has to be the perfect backing vocalist for this band. Her beautiful, clear voice is the ideal accompaniment to Jonas' vocals. Brodie's trumpet and accordion added much to the set, too. Though the chatty crowd kept to the back, this is a band best heard in a quieter environment, or listened to through good headphones.

Download: Evening Hymns, "Cedars" (Spirit Guides, 2009).

Forest City Lovers is the most prominent band on Out of This Spark's current roster. With two full albums already under their belt, and a another one coming this year, they've created a niche for themselves in the crowded Toronto folk-pop scene. I tend to prefer listening to their recordings than seeing them live, and Friday didn't change my mind. I don't know what it is, but it's true. It may be that I was standing too close, or the mix was off---the bass was more prominent than I would have liked. Still, Kat Burns was in fine form, and playing with her full band, including violinist Mika Posen, bassist Kyle Donnelly, drummer Christian Ingelevics, and extra guitarist Tim Bruton. They performed songs off Haunting Moon Sinking (2008) and The Sun & the Wind (2006)---I recognized "Don't Go," "Song for Morrie," "Watching The Streetlights Grow," "Sullen Seas," "Pirates (Can't All Sail the Indian Ocean)"---plus a couple new tunes, including "If I Were a Tree" off their recently-released 7". I eagerly await adding their next album to my list of favourites.

Download: Forest City Lovers, "Two Hearts" (Haunting Moon Sinking, 2008).

In the headlining spot were the D'Urbervilles. This is a great band, exuding cool and bursting with talent. Their 2008 debut full-length, We Are the Hunters, is still high-up on my list of favourite albums. The band's been recording on and off since the summer, and the new songs I heard Friday night bode well for their next album. What I like about this band's sound should still be there: funky bass lines, strong guitar melodies, top-notch vocals, and precise, interesting drum beats. Front-man John O'Regan is the stand-out performer here, but he's backed up a stellar team in guitarist Tim Bruton (The Magic, Forest City Lovers), bassist Kyle Donnelly (Forest City Lovers), and drummer Greg Santilly. John and the others tried to get the crowd revved up, but the audience was resistant. Too bad. Even spirited performances of "Spin the Bottle" and "The Receiver" weren't met with the enthusiasm I'd have predicted. With the right energy in the room the D'Urbervilles can deliver an explosive performance. Here's hoping that album of theirs comes out soon and I get another, proper chance to party with them.

Download: The D'Urbervilles, "Spin the Bottle" (We Are the Hunters, 2008).

As a special treat, at the end of the show, members of the D'Urbs and FCL got together with Jenny Omnichord to perform three more songs, one from each of their respective repertoires. Not quite the "family band" experience that we got in the summer, but hearing one of Jenny's songs played with a full band made it plain once again that she's far from a novelty act.

Happy birthday, OOTS. Here's looking forward to those new releases.

[Photo credits: Frank Yang. Awesome shots, eh? More here.]

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Watch this: Culture Reject, Octoberman, Woodhands, Evening Hymns (live).

One of my favourite bands from the Wavelength shows I went to in 2009 was Culture Reject. The band---the creative outlet for Michael O’Connell---has a new video for "Inside the Cinema." It's cute.

Another White Whale band, Octoberman, just released a video, too:

Woodhands' official video for "CP24." Remorsecapade is out Tuesday on Paper Bag Records. Yes, that's Woodhands' label-mate Laura Barrett and Fuzzy Logic Recordings' Maria Bui in the video:

Woodhands is my favourite live band! Can't wait to see them perform again soon.

On Friday I went to the Out of this Spark showcase at the Garrison. Here's a clip of Evening Hymns performing "Cedars." The Garrison was full of chatterers that night... the audio on this video suffers because of that.

Download the original song: Evening Hymns, "Cedars" (Spirit Guides, 2009).

Indie Music 107 (21-27 Jan 2010).

Welcome to my weekly roundup of inexpensive indie(ish) musical happenings in downtown Toronto, all for $10 or less. If I'm missing something you think I should list, or you have any comments, let me know. I star (*) shows that most interest me.

Like this list? Join my Facebook group or subscribe to this blog. Make sure to check the rest of my blog for show reviews and photos, giveaways, and downloads. You can get lots of other suggestions at Stillepost, Zoilus, the weeklies, and venue websites, etc.

Last week I saw Henri Faberge & the Adorables on Thursday, Basia Bulat (!!) w/ the Luyas in a church on Saturday (review), and then a stellar Wavelength programmed by No Shame on Sunday. This week I'm headed to another fantastic No Shame on Thursday, will be back at the Garrison on Friday for the OOTS anniversary party, and haven't quite decided what's what for the rest of the week. Friday is also the local release of Leif Vollebekk's album, and sees Burn Planetarium and Sandman Viper Command tear up the Boat. You might make a point to see Oh No Forest Fires, playing their last show ever on Saturday, or Rock Plaza Central, also playing their last show ever (mostly). Ian Blurton and Huron welcome Brit Frank Turner to the Dakota on Wednesday. Should be a good one.

(21 jan)

Kevin Kruglow, Emilio Fuentes, Kevin Mac, and Phillip Brown @ Smiling Buddha Bar, 9pm, free.

* Dinosaur Jr (in-store) @ Sonic Boom, 6:30pm, canned food donation required for entry.

* Ronley Teper's Lipliners @ The Local, 9pm, pwyc.

Jennifer LFO and the Prince Brothers @ Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge), 10pm, pwyc.

StereoGoesStellar w/ Rikers and Dearly Beloved @ El Mocambo (First Floor), 9pm, $5.

* The Strumbellas (CD release) w/ the Sure Things @ The Dakota Tavern, 10pm, $5?

* No Shame presents The Wilderness of Manitoba, Ghost Bees, and Casey Mecija (Ohbijou) @ The Garrison, 9pm, $8.

Indie Credit 1 Year Anniversary & Haiti Benefit feat. The Dreamboats, the Skirt Chasers, and Yukon Cigar @ Rancho Relaxo, 9pm, $5.

What Is Indie presents Blues in D, Dora Alexander, Donalyn, and First Rate People @ Clinton's Tavern, 9pm, $5 (or pwyc). All proceeds to the Canadian Red Cross for Haitian relief. I'm hearing good things about Dora Alexander, feat. drummer Bobby Bulat.

Locomotive 8, Black Beat, and Dead Messenger @ The Boat, 9pm, $5.

Bernadette @11:40p, Live How You Live @10:50p, Shotgun Wedding Band @10:00p, and Rosewoods @9:10p. The Horseshoe Tavern, $5.

Cool Man Cool @ 12:00a, Mike Bultin Band @ 11:00p, Chasing Arcadia (CD release) @ 10:00p, and Chasing Sam @ 9:00p. Lee's Palace, $6.

Slutty Slutty Bang Bang (CD release) w/ wordPEOPLE, the Central Nervous System, and iNSiDEaMiND @ Sneaky Dee's, 9pm, $7 (or $15 and you get the CD, too).

Ladies of The Canyon and Josh Cockerill @ The Drake Hotel (Underground), 8pm, $10.

FRIDAY (22 jan)

Skullians, Vulgar Manor, Skunx, and RIP @ 460 (460 Spadina Ave), 9pm, free.

Kyp Harness @ Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge), 10pm, pwyc.

Alex Lukashevsky Trio @ Holy Oak, 9pm, pwyc.

* Catl w/ Bradleyboy @ The Dakota Tavern, 10pm (late doors), $5.

Cristina Taborda, Matt Henderson, and Freebie (feat. Portox & Danny Dingle) @ Smiling Buddha, 9pm, $5.

* Sandman Viper Command and Burn Planetarium @ The Boat, 9pm, $5. Two great young indie rock bands.

* Leif Vollebekk (CD release) w/ Luxury Pond @ The Cameron House, 9pm, $5. I recently featured Leif on my blog.

TWM presents the Easy Targets, Protozoans, and the Honest I’s @ Rancho Relaxo, 9pm, $5.

Pop with Brains 24. feat. the Lovely Killbots, the Ascot Royals, Broken Bricks, the Cheap Speakers, and the Vaudeville Whores @ The Rivoli, 9pm, $5.

The Speakeasies and Cursed Arrows @ Velvet Underground, 9pm, $5.

* The Wind Up Radio Sessions and Bryan Arcand @ The Drake Hotel (Underground), 8-11pm, $5.

Winnebagos of Death w/ Shotgun Skinner @ Free Times Cafe, 9pm, $5.

* Red Mass w/ Action Makes, Danger! Danger!, and Ostrich Tuning @ Silver Dollar, 9pm, $7 (adv tix avail).

* Out of This Spark 3rd Anniversary feat. The D'Urbervilles, Forest City Lovers, Evening Hymns, and Jenny Omnichord, w/ DJ Hurtsack @ The Garrison, 9pm, $8 (adv, or $10 door).

Career Suicide, Urban Blight, Useless Eaters @ Poor Alex Theatre (772-A Dundas St. W), 9pm, $10. All ages.

Morre @ 12:30p, Stagehands @ 11:30p, 5th Projekt @ 10:30p, and Cathartic @ 9:30p. Lee's Palace, $10. "Stagehands (Broadway-rock) will be performing their album, The Silent City, in its entirety. Download a free copy here."

Adolf Glitter, Betty Burke (acoustic), and Nolan Natasha, w/ DJ Triple-X @ Buddies In Bad Times Theatre, 10:30pm, $10.

SATURDAY (23 jan)

NLX w/ Winhara and DJ2616 @ El Mocambo (First Floor), 9pm, free. Donations for Haiti accepted.

At Odds With Even w/ Junction Box, Sergei & the Soviets @ Duffy's Tavern, 9pm, free.

The Book of Gnomes @ The Local, 9pm, pwyc.

Castlemusic @ Holy Oak, 9pm, pwyc.

Induced Labour, Women In Tragedy, Lan Party, and Nascent State @ Teranga, 9pm, $3.

Dig it Up, Prevenge, Streetcore, and Former Haunts (debut) @ Smiling Buddha Bar, 9pm, $5.

Modernboys Moderngirls @ The Mod Club, 10pm, $10 or email newsATmodernboysmoderngirlsDOTcom to get on the $5 list. The band goes on at 11pm.

Late Night Live feat. the State of Things, the Disrealis, and the Fantasy Defender @ The Silver Dollar Room, 10:30pm, $5.

The Dave & Chuck Show Party feat. Zeroscape, Cold Dead Hands, Cashmo, Northstar, Dave Sharpe, Baldini, Bacchus, Sarah Grange, Graham Borgfjord, Stu Gallagher, and Nagasaki @ The Poor Alex Theatre, 8pm, $4 w/ canned food donation, $5 w/out.

Actors & Architects, Symphony 9, and The Weeds @ The Central, 9pm, $5.

TWM presents Dead Sexy Sheila, The Outbred Inlaws, The Good Times, and afterparty w/ Owel Five & Corboe @ Rancho Relaxo, 9pm, $6

Last True Gentlemen, Those Damn Kookies, Octobres Ending, and F-Holes @ The Cameron House, 9pm, $6.

The Guest Bedroom, Terror Lake, The Meat, and Wild Bore @ Teranga, 9pm, $6.

Darlings of Chelsea @ 12:30p, Voodoo Bunny @ 11:30p, Teenage X @ 10:30p, and Mass Assembly @ 9:30p. Lee's Palace, $7.

* Oh No Forest Fires (final show), Arietta, Songs From a Room, and the Darcys @ The Horseshoe Tavern, 9pm, $7.

* Grand Analog w/ Miles Jones@ The Drake Hotel (Underground), 8pm-12am, $10.

* Rock Plaza Central (last show for a long time), Church & State, and the Pining @ The Garrison, 9pm, $10 (adv). "First 100 people with tickets at show will recieve a free RPC t-shirt."

SUNDAY (24 jan)

* Wavelength 497 feat. Lullabye Arkestra, Black Feelings, Tonstartssbandht, and Karaoke, w/ visuals at General Chaos, and hosted by Doc Pickles @ The Garrison, 9pm, pwyc ($5-$10 suggested).

* Gather Round feat. Hamilton Trading Co. and the Strumbellas @ The Boat, 9pm, pwyc.

Protocol @ The Central, 9pm, $5.

MONDAY (25 jan)

Shoeless Monday feat. tba @11:15p, Johnny Hollow @10:15p, and Pull Start Rockets @9:15p. The Horseshoe Tavern, free.

TUESDAY (26 jan)

* Elvis Monday [yes] feat. Donlands & Mortimer, The Miles, Whole Entire Universe, Yuka, and Katie Stelmanis @ The Drake Hotel (Underground), 9pm, free. Go early for free food.

* Dave Bookman's Nu Music Nite feat. The Nights Below @12:00p, The Treasures @11:00p, Frank Turner @10:00p, and The Cavaliers @9:00p. The Horseshoe Tavern, free.

Diamond Rings (DJ set, video premier for "Wait & See") @ The Beaver, 10pm, free.

* Empire Lights, Lisa Bozikovic, Antler, and the Abramson Singers @ Tranzac (Tiki Room), 8-11pm, pwyc.

WEDNESDAY (27 jan)

PWYC Weds feat. The John Holmes Book Club, 'It It, and William Del Ray @ Rancho Relaxo, 9pm, pwyc.

Wednesdays Go Pop! feat. Low Level Flight, Good & Broken, and Sean Pinchin @ Supermarket, 9pm, pwyc.

tba @11:40p, Metro 4 @10:50p, Andrew Austin & The Fuss @10:00p, and Silver Creek @9:10p. The Horseshoe Tavern, $4.

Wombat Wednesday presented by Thom Gill feat. Nilan’s Redwire and Allie Hughes @ Tranzac (Main Hall), 8-11pm, $5.

* GatesGatesGates, Trish Robb, and Proof of Ghosts @ Smiling Buddha Bar, 9pm, $5.

WreckingBall Entertainment presents CrackerJack Wednesday feat. Fashion Tips, Free Man On The Land, Blacklist Manifesto, and Tofu Meat @ The Poor Alex Theatre (772A Dundas St. W), $5 w/ canned food or $7 w/out.

* Ian Blurton, Huron, and Frank Turner @ The Dakota Tavern, 9pm, $7.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Watch this: Laura Barrett, Timber Timbre, Woodhands (live), catl (live).

Local indie darling Laura Barrett has a new video for her song, "The Wood Between Worlds." The song appears on her 2008 album, Victory Garden. Laura's going to touring with Magnetic Fields this winter.

Timber Timbre's self-title album was one of my favourites of 2009. Here's a brand-new video for "We'll Find Out." Oh, Scott Cudmore.

Woodhands are releasing their second album next Tuesday. It's called Remorsecapade. Here is the band at Guelph's Hillside Festival last summer. In-sa-ni-ty.

Here are local dirty blues rockers catl performing live at Sonic Boom last Saturday afternoon:

Great dress, Sarah Kirkpatrick! The band has a new album just out, and we featured in last week's NOW Magazine.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Watch this: Dinosaur Bones, Forest City Lovers, Basia Bulat (live), Whale Tooth.

This is a new feature for Narratives that will allow me to post new (and newly-discovered) videos. Like the rest of this blog, the videos will likely be very Toronto-centric.

Two ever-rising young Toronto bands released new videos for new songs last week. Here is Dinosaur Bones' "Ice Hotel" and Forest City Lovers' "If I Were A Tree." Both songs are off 7" projects.

I love this song! You can preorder DB's new 7", recorded with Jon Drew (The Arkells, Fucked Up, Tokyo Police Club) from Hi-Scores Recording Library. The 7", also featuring the hit, "Royalty," will be out in February, and you'll get the .mp3 files, too.

Another great song. FCL are one of my favourite bands, and it's nice to see them go for a happy mood on this one. Order the 7" from FCL's website. You can go with the physical vinyl (with digital download) or opt for the .mp3-only version.

Here's a live video of Basia Bulat and her band performing "Gold Rush" on Saturday night at Trinity-St. Paul's United Church. (I was there.) Her new album, Heart of My Own, will be released on 26 January on Secret City Records (Canada) and Rough Trade (everywhere else). It's lovely.

On Sunday I went to Wavelength and saw an amazing performance by Whale Tooth. I've seen and told you about this band before, but was reminded of their greatness. Extremely tight musically, fantastic vocals, Elise LeGrow's incredible stage presence . . . it all made for a super-fun set that got people dancing. They recently released a video for "Hibernation Song":

Monday, January 18, 2010

Review: Basia Bulat, The Luyas @ Trinity-St. Paul's Church.

Basia Bulat played Trinity-St. Paul's United Church on Saturday night to celebrate the launch of her new album, Heart of My Own, due out on 26 January. She gave a stunning performance, moving, heartwarming, and well-received by members of the capacity crowd. This was my fifth time seeing her, and it was awesome to see this talented performer bring the house down in such a beautiful environment.

I was excited for the show, but didn't realize so many others were too until I got to the church at the advertised door time, 7pm. The lineup was already more than a block long. I took my place in line, in front of a group of people speaking Polish. I figured they were members of the Bulat extended family, and a minute later drummer (and brother) Bobby Bulat came over to greet them. Confirmed. The crowd was a mixed bag: many younger concert-goers, including a few familiar faces from the local music scene, but also older couples. We all stood still for at least 30 minutes until the doors were finally opened and we slowly made our way in.

Inside, a large stage took over the front of the deceptively-small church. The pews on the ground floor were divided into four sections, about a dozen or so deep. Upstairs, hundreds more people sat in tiered pews in the U-shaped balcony that wrapped around the entire room. A few minutes after 8pm, the lights dimmed and the first band started to play.

They were the Luyas, a Montreal 5-piece headed by singer-guitarist Jessie Stein. They were presumably excited to get a chance to play for a relatively large, captive audience. Stein appeared in a short red dress, black blazer, black knee-high leather boots, and sporting short, curly hair, a kind of female pompadour. She looked great. Musically, her backing band---drums, violin, keyboard, and French horn---impressed. Some of her musicians also play in those other Montreal bands, Arcade Fire and Bell Orchestre. But Stein doesn't sing well. Her breathy, child-like vocals had me cringing. There were spots during a couple songs when instrumental jam-outs caught my ear. Mostly, though, the Luyas' brand of bizarre orchestral pop with sub-par vocals did little for me. I can't imagine an audience there to hear Basia Bulat's wonderous singing and folk-pop rhythms felt much love for them either. At one point Stein implied she'd like us all to rebel by standing on our pews. If she'd performed much longer than her allotted 35 minutes, she might well have had a rebellion on her hands. In a more appropriate context she and her band might have gone over better with me.

But all was soon forgiven. From the first note of Basia Bulat's opening song, the familiar-but-newly-recorded "Heart of My Own," I was back to being excited. In a flattering crinkly brown dress, mauve tights, and calf-high cowboy boots, Bulat exuded warmth and charm. She seems to be great friends with her band-mates, and especially the lovely women who flank her on either side of the stage: Holly Coish (vocals, ukulele) and Allison Stewart (vocals, viola). The band---a 6-piece also including Bobby, Erik Arneson (banjo, guitar), and Bret Higgins (bass)---performed songs off 2007's Oh, My Darling and Heart of My Own. "In the Night" was second, then Bulat performed a couple songs (including "Snakes & Ladders") from the grand piano off stage right. She returned to centre stage for "Once More, For the Dollhouse."

After a moving rendition of "Little Waltz" Bulat's band-members left the stage, and she performed "If Only You" and "Sugar and Spice" on acoustic guitar, then "Sparrow" on the ukulele. Allison, Bret, Erik, and Holly returned to sing backup on "The Shore," featuring the gorgeous and strange hammered harp. (Not to be confused with the autoharp, pictured above, which Bulat also played.) The church was silent, audience members enraptured. The final four songs--- "Pilgriming Vine"; the "fun song," "Go On"; "If It Rains"; and "Walk You Down" were more rousing. Cue standing ovation. The first two encore songs called for audience participation: "Before I Knew" and "I Was A Daughter." The concert ended with a solo vocal performance of a traditional negro spiritual, unmiked. It was sensational. Cue second standing ovation.

Throughout the set Bulat thanked us all for coming, and expressed genuine happiness at being home, playing in this great venue. "A dream come true," she explained. During the encore, out of mic range, she exclaimed "this is so fun!" to her band-mates. They seemed thrilled too. And so was I. This concert was a rare treat. Though, Bulat told us, it had been a particularly bad day for the band prior to the show, her good humour and spirited personality seemingly know no bounds. The strength of her voice, and her and her band's impressive musicianship was awesome. "Hope to see you next time," she said, as always. Yes, you will.

Download: "Gold Rush" (Heart of My Own, 2010).
Download: "Go On" (Heart of My Own, 2010).
Download: "In the Night" (Oh, My Darling, 2007).
Download: "Home" (live at Criminal Records, Toronto, Dec 2007).

Photo credits: Frank Yang. More here.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My favourite things, 2009.

This past year wasn't overly exciting or glamorous for me, but not bad all-in-all. Here are some of my favourite things from 2009:


I spent a lot of time at the Horseshoe, Sneaky Dee's, and Lee's Palace in 2009, but toward the end of the year it was Lee's and the Garrison that had me going back relatively often. Between Wavelength's move to the latter spot from Sneaks and a changing of the guard at their former home, there were fewer reasons for me to hit up what used to be my favourite spot. Come the fall, there were shows at Lee's nearly every week that interested me.

I'm sorry I didn't spend more time at Delaware House (RIP), a spot that hosted some lovely events, including sets by Kat Burns, Diamond Rings (acoustic), the Wilderness of Manitoba, the Weather Station, Snowblink, and more.


Speaking of WL, this event series deserves a category of its own. I missed a lot, including most of the special events, but still managed to go to 25 WL shows. Not a bad showing. An important part of my social life, I will miss it terribly. There's really nothing else like it.


There are 5 bands and solo artists that made a bigger impression on me than any others in 2009. They are, in alphabetical order, Bahamas, Diamond Rings (acoustic and then electric), Gentleman Reg, Green Go, and the Wilderness of Manitoba.

But, of course, Woodhands remains my favourite live band (to wit), and I listened to Great Lake Swimmers more than I do any other band.

The RAA wins the prize for the band I spent the most time reading about. Their success---enough to make them the "hottest" Canadian band in 2009---was, well, awesome. Although I had nothing to do with it, following their rise to indie fame and stardom, and seeing them play sold-out hometown shows in July and November, was exciting for me.

An honourable mention needs to go to Think About Life. This Montreal band's album, Family, is one of my favourites of the year, and their Toronto shows were crazysweatyfun. I missed their more recent performance here, but I have it on good authority that they blew the headliners out of the water. I believe it. I wish this band---as I do all of them---many successes and hope they reach many, many more people with their fantastic album and explosive live show.

Blog and Bloggers

My favourite online discovery of 2009 was Joe Strutt's blog, Mechanical Forest Sound. Almost entirely focussed on Toronto acts, and committed to attending a diverse set of events, Joe reviews all the shows he goes to, and captures some audio to share with us all. His reviews are better than almost anyone else's, always thoughtful, witty, well-researched, and honest. (I admire Bob Battams' excellent local blog for similar reasons.) Once I've read a review on one of their site's, I know I've got the full story, written from the heart.

Just about a year ago, the Singing Lamb had its launch party. Since then this collective music blog, run by the inspiring and tireless Melody Lau, has been an important breath of fresh air. The site offers up unique content, and covers bands hailing from here and everywhere, equally excited about both as appropriate.

Props to Justin Beach and, created in 2009 and already an important source for Canadian music news and reviews from across the country. I'd like to see more and better unique content on this site in 2010. Although I don't have cable, and therefore can't see it, AUX.TV really impressed me last year with their seeming dedication to Canadian music. At one point I realized that there had been AUX cameras at the last five shows I'd been to. Well done.

This here blog, Narratives, continues to thrive (as far as I'm concerned). I wasn't able to spend as much time at shows or blogging about shows as I would have liked to in 2009, especially during the winter and fall months when I was busy teaching. The Zygiella podcast, once a regular weekly happening, started to appear in fits and starts, and is now on hiatus. (We're busy, that's all.) Still, Tyler Wade and I put together 34 episodes this year, playing the music of about 200 bands and solo artists. This year I'd like to concentrate more on providing good written content on this site. I'd like to become a better writer, and a much better writer about music.

The Polaris Prize Gala

Yes, I know this is lame, but really the gala was so fun. So so fun. Free Steam Whistle and vodka helped, I suppose. But seeing ten bands perform a song or two each, hanging with the fancy people, being feet away from Patrick Watson, Chad Van Gaalen, etc., and being hit by something (vodka?) in that "food fight" was all very excellent. Even getting stuck in the you're-a-nobody afterparty at the Drake Hotel was entertaining. A night to remember, for sure.


Excellent. I took five days off, braved the rain (and sun), and went to see a whole bunch of bands. I brought a tape recorder with me, played journalist, and was able---with Tyler's help---to put together some special podcasts (ep. 1, ep. 2). There's more material to share. Fingers crossed we'll find the time to get it edited and posted.

More best of 2009:
My favourite shows and performances.
My favourite albums & EPs.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Shout out: Leif Vollebekk.

Montreal (by way of Ottawa) folkie Leif Vollebekk was recently signed to Nevado Records, which will re-release his debut album, Inland, on 19 January. And it's about time. The 10-track stunner was self-released a couple years back, but it's great that it will now get into a few more hands, on both CD and vinyl.

I first saw Leif at a No Shame show back in the winter of 2008, and he really made an impression. (This is what I thought then.) In addition to his prowess with a loop pedal---a sure way to win me over---what struck me was Leif's unique voice. He understands the importance of balancing strength and vulnerability in singing, harnessing both elements with rare skill for such a young performer. He's got a gorgeous vibrato, impressive range, and a keen attention to volume. His songs are stories beautifully sung and arranged for guitar, violin, piano, banjo, and the occasional harmonica and percussion appearance.

is worth listening to in its entirety, over and over again, perhaps most on cold, winter nights. Here are a couple tracks to get you started:

Download: "Northernmost Eva Maria"
Download: "Don't Go to Klaksvik"

Leif's performed a good number of times in Toronto over the past couple of years, but not usually in settings that are well-suited to him. Properly staged, a Leif show is moving, something to treasure. It's also entertaining: the man is hilarious, and quick to laugh with a wide grin and twinkle in his eye. Next Friday, 22 January, he'll be at the Cameron House. I suggest you get yourself there, have a class of wine, and prepare to be enthralled.

Here's where else you can catch him this winter:

Jan. 16 @ Cafe Deckuf, OTTAWA
Jan. 19 @ The Mansion, KINGSTON
Jan. 21 @ Phog Lounge, WINDSOR
Jan. 22 @ Cameron House, TORONTO
Jan. 28 @ In the Dead of the Winter Festival, HALIFAX
Jan. 29 @ Cafe Aberdeen, MONCTON
Jan. 30 @ Cafe Ampersand, CHARLOTTETOWN
Feb. 6 @ Blacksheep Inn, OTTAWA (*In the Dead of Winter Festival)
Feb. 12 @ L'Astral, MONTREAL (w. Basia Bulat)
Feb. 13 @ First Baptist Church, OTTAWA (w. Basia Bulat)
Feb. 27 @ Casa Del Popolo, MONTREAL
More tour dates to be announced soon.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Favourite albums, 2009.

I stayed pretty close to home (i.e. Toronto), music-wise, in 2009, but for good reason. Here are the 15 albums and EPs that I liked the most, in alphabetical order by artist:

Bahamas - Pink Strat
I love this album to pieces. It's so simple, so beautiful. And Afie Jurvanen is a great character on stage.
Download: "Lonely Loves"

Gentleman Reg - Jet Black
G Reg & band have a place in my heart. Reg has some great lyrics, and I'm not usually into lyrics too much. My favourite verse (from "We're In A Thunderstorm") is "I'll dress myself up and run around." How fun.
Download: "We're In A Thunderstorm"

Great Bloomers - Speak of Trouble
A solid debut full-length from a great young band. Great Bloomers' pop-folk, roots-rock songs are pretty much designed for me to like them. Plus, Lowell Sostomi's got a great voice.
Download: "Speak of Trouble"

Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels
After I got over my momentary, "Polaris, what?" cringe, I started to really get into this album. GLS are one of my favourite bands, and I go back and listen to all their records with regularity. This one's a little more upbeat, but still contains songs that kill me dead with their beauty.
Download: "Palmistry"

Green Go - Borders
I don't tend to listen to dance music unless I'm at a show, and so great albums like this don't get as much ear-time as other, more folk-pop albums. Put Everything All the Time's s/t EP in this category, too.
Download: "Fool Me Once"

Joel Plaskett - Three
I have tended to stay away from already well-known musicians, but I heard this and knew it was worth hearing again---and again. Though I've never seen Plaskett live (unless you count at the Polaris gala), I can't help but be drawn in by this charming, fun, serious triple album.
Download: "Through & Through & Through"

Julie Doiron - I Can Wonder What You Did with Your Day
The first track on this loveable album begins, "I'm living the life of dreams with good people all around me." Julie's joie-de-vivre is hard not to fall for.
Download: "When Brakes Get Wet"

Think About Life - Family
Pow! The most underrated album on this list. The die-hards may prefer the first album, but I like the better production quality and more obvious funness of this one. Dance!
Download: "Set You On Fire"

Timber Timbre - s/t
What I can I say that hasn't been said before? This album is fantastic: soulful, moody, and with at times simple (yet powerful) arrangements. The songs fit singer/songwriter Taylor Kirk's vocal style perfectly.
Download: "Demon Host"

Two Hours Traffic - Territory
Ok, so I don't like it as much as the brilliant Little Jabs (2007), but this album is nothing to sneeze at. A number of great tracks make this record worth listening to almost as much as that other one.
Download: "Territory"

Various artists - Friends in Bellwoods 2 compilation
This for-charity compilation double album is stronger than it has any right to be, especially the first disc. Stand-out exclusive tracks and a few choice picks released elsewhere make this record a must-have for any Canadian music fan.
Download: Sylvie Smith, "On Our Own"

The Weather Station - The Line
Tamara Lindeman sounds like no one I've ever heard before. More people should listen to and love this album.
Download: "East"

The Wilderness of Manitoba - Hymns of Love and Spirits EP
By now you know I like folk and I like good vocals. WOM's debut outing, combined with my memories of near-magical backyard shed shows, make this album one of my most listened to records of the fall.
Download: "Evening"

The Wooden Sky - If I Don't Come Home You'll Know I'm Gone
This band really took off this year, and for good reason. Front-man Gavin Gardiner's got one of the country's best young roots-rock voices, but this group is a lot more than that: a rock band with a big, beautiful heart.
Download: "Oh My God (It Still Means A Lot To Me)"

Zeus - Sounds Like Zeus EP
I was impressed but not completely sold when I first heard this band. But it didn't take long before I got it. This is classic rock with a new twist, and it's very catchy. I can't wait to hear the full-length, out next month.
Download: "I Know"