Wednesday, December 23, 2009

FREE EP from Novels

(Photo Credit: Marshall Angus)
And who is Novels, you ask? This new supergroup in Canadian music consists of Graham Wright of Tokyo Police Club, Luke Lalonde of Born Ruffians, Will Currie of Will Currie & The Country French, Dean Marino of Ex~po and Jason Sadlowski of Jay Sad.

From their website:
In January of 2009, five of us locked ourselves away in Chemical Sound Studios in Toronto with the goal of writing, arranging, and recording an EP from scratch in one marathon session.  When we stumbled out the door in the wee hours of the next morning, we found ourselves with what we're now calling NOVELS.
NOVELS won't be sold in CD stores, on the internet, or anywhere else.  Instead, we'll give them away, or put them places.  Maybe you'll find a copy sitting on a park bench.  Maybe a masked man will hand you one as he passes you on the street.  Maybe none of these things will happen.  But we'll make sure that everyone gets a chance to listen if they want to.
We also had some friends come along to take pictures and video, which can be found on this website as well as in various other places on the internet.
Thanks for listening, and enjoy!

So go on! Download this EP and see if you'd like to be a part of the army of fans sharing this EP to friends and stranger alike.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Great Lake Swimmers - Song Sung Blue EP

Listen to Great Lake Swimmers' new EP Song Sung Blue, scored for the documentary of the same name by Greg Kohs. It's streaming in full from the soundcloud below.

The soundtrack, of course, is gorgeous, as one comes to expect from Tony Dekker's compositions.

You can purchase the EP on Zunior here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

FREE DOWNLOAD : Hannah Georgas - Christmas Touch

This holiday season, Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Hannah Georgas would like to wish you a merry Christmas by serenading you with her quirky, upbeat pop stylings. This free song by the recent winner of CBC Radio 3's Bucky Award for Best New Artist will only be available for the next week, or for the first 100 people, so grab it while you can!

[editor's note: never mind, we've changed the download location. it's available forever and ever and in infinite quantities!]

Hannah Georgas - Christmas Touch

Visit Hannah Georgas' MySpace if you like what you hear.
She currently has an EP out called The Beat Stuff that you can get online at iTunes. If you can hold out until the new year (and really, why would you?), she has a new album coming out called This Is Good.

(Photo from her recent show opening for Said The Whale's album release in Vancouver. More here.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

NEW VIDEO : Joel Plaskett - You Let Me Down

Off of his latest, Three (Disc 1), comes the latest video for Joel Plaskett's second single off his 2009 Polaris-nominated record.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Top Albums & Live Shows for 2009

As 2009 is coming to a close, let's wrap up a formidable year in (Canadian independent) music by listing my personal highlights. Feel free to disagree and point me in the direction of your personal favourites!

Top Albums of 2009
Ha, it's not until I researched a bit deeper that I realized a good chunk of my current favourite albums are actually from late 2008! Nevertheless, 2009 saw some strong releases in both full-length and EP categories. Some are Polaris-nominated and some, well, should be.

Honourable Mentions (EPs):  
Zeus - Sounds Like Zeus
J.Period & K'naan - The Messengers EP

7. Metric - Fantasies
6. Patrick Watson - Wooden Arms
5. Rose Cousins - The Send Off
4. The Swell Season - Strict Joy*
**1. You Say Party! We Say Die! - XXXX
**1. Joel Plaskett - Three
**1. Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels
*note: The Swell Season are not Canadian.
** These 3 albums are virtually tied and are in alphabetical order.

Top Shows of 2009
This past year saw the beginning of my infatuation, now full-blown love with attending live shows. It began in January with the Sam Roberts Band and The Stills at the Orpheum, and ended with Patrick Watson and Aidan Knight**. I've both gone to huge stadium shows (U2, Coldplay) and witnessed small, inattentive crowds in bars (Matthew Barber). 2009 also saw the Junos descend upon Vancouver, and early 2010 will see the Olympics with its associated Cultural Olympiad. I was also able to attend festivals, new (Rifflandia) and old (Vancouver Folk Fest). Who stood out? Keep reading!

Honourable Mention: Hey Rosetta! at Rifflandia -- the set was just way too short.

10. Mother Mother at UBC Pit Pub
Being in the crowd for this fanatic-making show was "like watching Rock Band live," according to the reviewer for the Ubyssey (UBC campus paper). No casual fan left without feeling fanatic and extremely impassioned about this talented Vancouver band.

9. Champion at Rifflandia
His feverish conducting of his team of guitarists and bassists stirred the large crowd into the most rhythmic, hypnotized mosh pit that I've ever witnessed.

8. Hannah Georgas opening for Said The Whale at St. James Hall
This winner of the 2009 CBC Radio 3 Bucky Award for Best New Artist showcased her whimsical lyrics, her playful voice and her chops on guitar with a full backing band consisting of members from Said The Whale.

7. Rose Cousins opening for Royal Wood at the Media Club
I'm not just biased from playing shaker egg for her; it was a phenomenal show. Hilarious and tight knit, musically and personally engaging. Voice like an angel. Upstaged her headliner Royal Wood.

6. Great Lake Swimmers (backed by members of The Breakmen and Rock Plaza Central) at Vancouver Folk Music Festival
Imagine lying in the hot July sun by Vancouver's waterfront, dragonflies flitting above while listening to the angelic melodies of GLS compositions. Tony Dekker's voice surely haunts the halls of heaven.

5. Dan Mangan CD Release for Nice, Nice, Very Nice at the Cultch
There's a drawback to this excellent show; since hearing his material live, I've had a hard time listening to Dan's album. It's hard to capture the raw energy of the band and of Dan's voice that made him so feverishly popular with audiences across Canada and abroad.

4. Joel Plaskett Emergency at the Surrey Fusion Festival
This seemingly impromptu concert, held in one of the most surprising of locales (a relatively far away suburb of Vancouver), was free of charge in a large field in the middle of the city. That didn't stop JPE from putting on an impassioned show filled with favourites from their long career, including from their latest album Three. Peter Elkas singing the back up parts in lieu of Ana Egge and Rose Cousins was the cherry on top.

3. The Swell Season at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts
The romance of The Swell Season continues to seduce audiences. To borrow Glen Hansard's phrase, this concert has only made the love for their music "more buoyant." No matter if Hansard or Marketa Irglova was on stage solo, with one another or backed by The Frames, they filled the large theatre with earnest love songs soaked in passion and the grittiness of Hansard's voice.

2. Patrick Watson at the Vogue Theatre
What an inventive, musically satisfying night. Patrick Watson and his band had all ears from the second they took the stage as well as when they left the stage to play through the audience (yes, with the megaphone pack that he sported at the Polaris gala). The delicate, intricate compositions of his latest Wooden Arms came to roaring life in his live show. The audience forgot to breathe and saliva was everywhere from dropped jaws.

1. Joel Plaskett w/ Family and Friends at the Vogue Theatre
A 3-set, 3 hour show from the most personable, lyrically gifted singer-songwriter that Canada has to offer, backed by his father Bill Plaskett, who's an admirable songwriter in his own right, as well as Ana Egge and Rose Cousins, established singer-songwriters with their own critically acclaimed careers. Each artist supported one another and was given their own chance to shine and impress with their personal material, giving the audience a true taste of what the music community should be like.

(Joel Plaskett Emergency, shot at Surrey Fusion Fest)

** or possibly will end with the NYE party at the Media Club known as One Night Stand, featuring Hannah Georgas, Laura Smith, and members of Said The Whale, The Painted Birds, Elias, Bend Sinister, & The Gentle Infidels. For more details ... here!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thrush Hermit Reunion Tour in 2010

Now that I've stopped hyperventilating out of sheer excitement, here are the details.

Thrush Hermit was formed in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1992 by Joel Plaskett (vocals, guitar), Rob Benvie (vocals, guitar), Ian McGettigan (vocals, bass), and Michael Catano (drums). They split in 1999, with the members working on various projects since then, including Joel Plaskett's solo career, the Joel Plaskett Emergency, Camouflage Nights (consisting of Benvie and McGettigan) and working as producers for various other bands. Plaskett also has his own record label, New Scotland Records.

Current dates:
Fri 03/19/10

Halifax, NS
Paragon Theatre

Sat 03/20/10

Halifax, NS
Paragon Theatre

Wed 03/24/10

Peterborough, ON
The Historic Red Dog

Thu 03/25/10

Ottawa, ON
New Capital Music Hall

Fri 03/26/10

Toronto, ON
Lee's Palace

Sat 03/27/10

Toronto, ON
Lee's Palace

Update: West Coast dates will be released soon!
"From The Back of The Film" from Thrush Hermit's Clayton Park

Monday, December 7, 2009

Great Lake Swimmers' The Legion Sessions

You see by the lines on my hands
I’ve been carrying a heavy load
You follow them across my palms
Where they run like roads

Trace the palm on the cover of Great Lake Swimmers' latest album Lost Channels. You'll appreciate the symbolism, listen to some lovely renditions of their Polaris-nominated tunes, and if you find all 9 hidden videos, get a free download of a previously unreleased song. (I'm currently stuck on 7...)

Click here to try your luck and listen to some gorgeous music!

If you like what you hear, Great Lake Swimmers will be in Vancouver on January 29, 2010 at the Vogue Theatre. They are also playing for free at the Whistler Village Stage as part of the Olympic festivities on February 13, 2010. Perfect Valentines idea if I ever saw one.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Photo Set : Hannah Georgas and Said The Whale at St. James Hall

Oops, totally forgot to post this up earlier. Look at that wicked shot huh? There's more where that came from.

The above set of photos is from Said The Whale's CD release for their latest Islands Disappear. Hannah Georgas opened and played a phenomenal, high energy set with a full backing band. Although I like her solo shows, the energy and fun factor goes up about 10 notches when she's backed by a band. Very much looking forward to her upcoming full-length.

I seem to be cursed with regards to Said The Whale. Every time I intend to see them, something comes up, whether it's a friend's car breaking down, another friend's car getting towed, or having to run to another show... regardless, I was able to catch 2 (yes, count 'em) songs by this infectious, tight-knit Vancouver band before running off. Lucky for me, one of those songs was a personal favourite, This City's A Mess, and it sounded fantastic. The crowd for the all-ages show was visibly excited to hear their hometown heroes, and as my friend who attended the 19+ set later commented, must've danced up a sweaty, frenzy storm.

So no, unfortunately I can't give a full account of STW's set. However, I'm more than anxious now to catch them live after being very, very impressed after 2 songs. Will definitely clear my schedule the next time they play their hometown.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

NxEW Canadian Album Hall of Fame Finalist : Arcade Fire's Funeral

[Note: Originally posted at NxEW, my lovely blog home, which is being nominated for 6 (!!) 2009 Canadian Blog Awards!]

Arcade Fire - Funeral (2004)
Merge Records
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Really, who didn't see this coming? From the bright piano tinkling of the opening seconds of "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)," to the triumphant swell and fade of strings in the final seconds of "In the Backseat," Funeral maintains its artistic tension and delights with orchestral beauty. Win Butler and Régine Chassagne's voices, at times urgent and discomforting, complement the ambitious instrumentalists in theatricality. Not a singles album by any stretch of the imagination-- although it did produce five (Neighborhood #1, #2, #3, Rebellion (Lies) and Haiti), Funeral grabs a hold of you for the duration of its 48 minutes and paints a musical landscape that lingers long after its last notes. And boy, does it grow on you over time.

There's little doubt as to why Funeral remains one of the most highly regarded, most critically acclaimed and best-selling indie (over half a million sold) records in not just Canada, but the world. It garnered near-perfect rankings and scores with international music critics, landing on more "best of" lists than could be counted with all your fingers and toes. It was nominated for the Grammy for Best Alternative Rock Album and Arcade Fire won Songwriters Of The Year at the Junos for three of Funeral's singles. Despite its name, the album injected a shudder of life in the Canadian independent music scene. This album also helped launch the formidable careers of successful Canadian independent artists Final Fantasy and Bell Orchestre. So although the album was inspired by deaths, many regard Funeral as a milestone in the coming of age of Canadian independent music.

Big name fans of Arcade Fire include David Bowie, U2, US President Barack Obama and director Spike Jonze, who reportedly said that he listened to Funeral while writing the screenplay for his adaptation of the popular children's book Where the Wild Things Are

Current Arcade Fire line-up: Win Butler, Régine Chassagne, Richard Reed Parry, William Butler, Tim Kingsbury, Sarah Neufeld, Jeremy Gara.

Track listing:
1. "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" – 4:48
2. "Neighborhood #2 (Laïka)" – 3:31
3. "Une année sans lumière" – 3:40
4. "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" – 5:12
5. "Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)" – 4:49
6. "Crown of Love" – 4:42
7. "Wake Up" – 5:35
8. "Haïti" – 4:07
9. "Rebellion (Lies)" – 5:10
10. "In the Backseat" – 6:20

Arcade Fire website, Twitter, Myspace.
More of Arcade Fire on NxEW.

Another note: Arcade Fire has stated that they have a new album in the works and due for release sometime in 2010. More info here!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Live Videos : The Swell Season in Vancouver

Firstly, a short comment on the show itself. I had avoided writing a review for this concert because of how deeply emotional my relationship is to the music of The Swell Season. I think there comes a point in every music commentator's concert-going life that you realize that by observing music for its merits, it detracts from the striking impact that the music should have on you. And sometimes that emotional distance is necessary. But anyway, the set was beautiful. Hansard and Irglova were pitch-perfect; The Frames were solid and clearly demonstrating the chemistry of a band that's performed together for 20 years. The venue had great acoustics and a great view, no matter where you sat. The show in short was spectacular, and stands to be my favourite live show, as Once is my favourite movie.

Below are a few clips of The Swell Season, composed of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, performing at The Centre In Vancouver For Performing Arts on November 25, 2009.

The sound turned out well, although the videos are pretty blurry. I was up in the balcony and zooming quite a bit.


Low Rising

In These Arms

If You Want Me

Falling Slowly (Encore) - the beeping and cutting out at the end due to memory card running out of space...

Rose Cousins live, featuring yours truly

My good friend Alex was able to record a clip of Rose Cousins performing "Sadie In The Kitchen" off of her latest The Send Off, on November 25 at the Media Club in Vancouver. Which, by the way, featured yours truly on the shaker egg. The song's a lovely one, Rose's humour is demonstrated, and I didn't do too badly either!


Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Swell Season Featuring Jason Segel

He's not likely to repeat the same antics in the Vancouver show this Wednesday night at the Centre for Performing Arts, but fans of the actor from How I Met Your Mother and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, or fans of outrageous booty calls, should find this clip downright inspiring.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Concert Review : Rose Cousins & Royal Wood at the Media Club

Rose Cousins and headliner Royal Wood put on a fantastic show on November 17, 2009 at the Media Club in Vancouver-- one full of switching roles, great laughs and even greater appreciation of your loved ones.

Halifax-based Rose Cousins, touring her new album The Send Off, began her opening set by the strumming of her guitar and the clear, warm tone of her voice. Well, not completely accurate. She opened her set by commenting on the amount of people surrounded the stage and how it made her feel "popular." And indeed there was a unusually large crowd for an opening set, which consisted of a dedicated base of "Rosebuds," which included Vancouver artists such as Jill Barber, Nat Jay and T Nile. She also thanked Grant Lawrence of CBC Radio 3, who was in the audience, for interviewing her earlier on during the day and heaped praise on the CBCs across Canada.

It wasn't long into her set that the rest of the people in the room were equally captivated by her honest lyrics, perfect (can I say that?) voice and gut-busting banter, which ranged from touchingly personal to hilariously inappropriate. She also accompanied herself for the entire set on keyboards, guitar and mandolin, save the beautiful "All the Time It Takes to Wait" which was accompanied by the "talented and handsome" Royal Wood.

Rose had the attention of the entire crowd in the usually chatty Media Club. Mid-set, she put the audience on the spot by asking for things in a den-- with the crowd yelling things like "chesterfield!" and "Jenga!" and her constructing a vivid image of that idyllic childhood den with her descriptive imagination. She then transitioned into her song "The Dancers" which imagined an elderly ballroom aficionado couple waltzing around this constructed den.

This was not the only time she called out for audience participation, of course. In another great switching of roles, she called out for an audience member "who's good at keeping rhythm" before playing the last song in her set, "Sadie in the Kitchen." I volunteered hesitantly, and soon found myself sharing the stage with Rose accompanying her on the shaker egg. She gladly regaled myself, an audience member, with the spotlight (and microphone!) while she led the rest of the audience in a sing-along, complete with "random vocal projections." The adorable refrain "before bed, before bed, B for bed, B for bed..." was written with her friends' young daughter in mind, and meant to be an "adult children's song" that she composed for said friends' wedding. Her willingness to share the stage and completely engage the crowd in participation recalls the show by her good friend, Joel Plaskett, whom she supported in a Vancouver show in May.

So yes, I'm going to include that in my resume and CV from now on.

Royal Wood took to the stage with guitarist Dean Drouillard inconspicuously, launching into their first of many songs. Playing many songs from his latest The Lost and Found EP as well as his 2005 A Good Enough Day, Royal filled the Media Club with his romantic, melancholy ballads without his usual backing band. And was the show romantic! Couples lined the perimeter of the stage, as well as filling the rest of the venue, while Royal told of the songs inspired by his brother's wedding, his parents' love, his own love and that of his friend's grandparents. In one of the more poignant moments, he told the audience to never settle for less than the reverberating, lifelong love that they deserve, and for which he sings. These touching anecdotes were nicely interspersed in the song-heavy, banter-light set, which included hits "Juliet" and "Don't Fall Apart."

Royal invited Rose back on stage for 2 songs near the end of his set, and wrapped up with an extended, passionate "Acting Crazy (It's a Breakdown)." Before returning on stage for the encore, he seemed confounded by the presence of washrooms where backstage is supposed to be. The Media Club's backstage is actually at the back of the room, and he commented that he wasn't sure whether to enter the men or the women's washroom in order to get there. Matching Rose's incredible sense of humour, he poked fun at the men in the room by encouraging a final sing-along by saying "this is to show your sexual confidence," which of course, got a burst of laughter and the desired louder audience participation.

All in all, the show was a heartwarming experience, and concert goers exited the Media Club with muted smiles, holding their loved ones into the windy, rainy Vancouver night.

For more photos of the show, visit my Flickr set.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

You Say Party! We Say Die! - XXXX ing catchy

" heart needs a lap dance...your heart needs a heart needs a lap dance..."

Abbotsford-based You Say Party! We Say Die! has released quite the sparkling gem with their latest, XXXX. There was an immense amount of hype prior to and following their release, which includes being the X3 Artist of the Month for October, as well as the glowing reception of music bloggers such as Amanda Ash, and being featured prominently in CBC Radio 3's recordings of the just-passed Halifax Pop Explosion. Oh, and the fact that they've topped Canadian campus charts for 4 weeks in a row since XXXX's release.

And let me tell you, the hype is well-deserved. XXXX is an album you can at once chill and frantically dance to. The sound is expansive and it's easy to imagine tracks such as "Lonely's Lunch" driving audiences to a frenzy in stadium settings. "Make XXXX" has a wicked bass intro. "Glory" packs a satisfying oomph ("sex! (gasp) drugs! (pause) ... GLORY..."), and the opening track "There is XXXX (Within My Heart)" is one you can't help but sing along to, even upon the first listen. The current single, "Laura Palmer's Prom," dare I say, takes the best parts of '80s synth sound and makes it even better. The album, simply put, is excellent.

By now, you may be wondering what the heck XXXX stands for. Simply put, it stands for LOVE. But it goes further than that. XXXX is lead singer Becky Ninkovic's conceptualization of a hope and love that keeps her afloat. The unnameable force that inspires continually. And after repeated listens through the entire disc, XXXX might as well stand for the kind of magic within music that captures first-time listeners and sucks you in, because that's exactly what happened with me with this album.

(Last note, I absolutely love the above photo, and completely understand why Ninkovic was on the final ballot for the Sexiest Musician category for CBC Radio 3's Bucky Awards.)

You Say Party! We Say Die! - There is XXXX (Within My Heart)

Buy XXXX on Zunior.
Find You Say Party! We Say Die! on Myspace, Twitter, Facebook.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Joel Plaskett - Ireland, US show dates, Radio 2 SongQuest, Music Nova Scotia Awards

From email newsletter:

Joel in Ireland and the United States
November is the month for international Joel Plaskett Fans!  Joel will be hitting Massachusetts, New York and Ireland this month!  These are select shows and we recommend marking these dates down and getting out early.  They are not to be missed!!!! 

  • Thu, Nov. 12th The Middle East Cambridge, Massachusetts 

  • Fri, Nov. 13th Union Hall Performance, Bell House/Union Hall Brooklyn, New York 

  • Thu, Nov. 26th Whelan's Showcase Show-Joel Plaskett , Whelan's (Upstairs Venue) - Dublin

  • Fri, Nov. 27th The Set Theatre - Kilkenny -Joel Plaskett , The Set Theatre - Kilkenny Ireland

  • Sat, Nov. 28th The Opera House, Cork, Ireland-Joel Plaskett , The Opera House - Cork, Ireland

  • Sun, Nov. 29th The Roundy - Cork , Ireland-Joel Plaskett , The Roundy, Cork, Ireland

  • Congrats to Joel on the Great Canadian SongQuest!
    We are delighted to announce that Joel Plaskett has been chosen as the Nova Scotia winner for CBC Radio 2s Great Canadian SongQuest. Joel will be writing about the beautiful Cabot Trail and on November 23rd you can tune in to CBC Radio 2 for the final result!  Congrats Joel!

    Joel Plaskett wins Music Nova Scotia Awards!
    Congratulations to Joel Plaskett who took home four Music Nova Scotia Awards over the weekend at the Molson Canadian Nova Scotia Music Week.  Joel’s hit album “Three” won Pop/Rock Artist/Group Recording, Album of the Year, Male Artist Recording and SOCAN Songwriter of the Year. Congrats Joel!

    Joel Plaskett Emergency online:

    Saturday, November 7, 2009

    Royal Wood & Rose Cousins Western Canadian Tour

    Toronto-based singer-songwriter Royal Wood is currently on a cross-Canada tour and will touch down on the west coast mid-November. He is being supported by Rose Cousins, who's currently promoting her new record named The Send Off.

    Royal Wood has been compared to the likes of Ron Sexsmith, the Beatles to Rufus Wainwright, and is hailed for his prowess as a multi-instrumentalist, vocal styling and catchy lyrics. In his previous albums, Wood had enlisted the help of fellow artists such as Hawksley Workman, In-Flight Safety and Valery Gore.

    Rose Cousins, recently known for her vocals in Joel Plaskett's Polaris short-listed Three, is a well-established Atlantic Canadian singer-songwriter in her own right. With 5 albums under her belt, her warm and clear voice can also be found on albums of other Canadian artists like Jenn Grant, Old Man Leudecke, Matt Mays and Jill Barber.

    If you're not completely convinced to go to the shows by these artists' accolades alone, take a listen to their respective albums streaming on their websites. Royal Wood here, and Rose Cousins here (player at bottom). You can also check out their Myspace:
    Royal Wood
    Rose Cousins

    Here are the upcoming dates featuring both artists (links lead to Facebook events w/ ticket information):

    Nov 17th, Media Club, Vancouver, BC
    Nov 18th, Communitea Café, Canmore, AB
    Nov 19th, Marquee, Calgary, AB
    Nov 20th, Haven, Edmonton, AB
    Nov 21st, Haven, Edmonton, AB
    Nov 23rd, Lydia’s Loft, Saskatoon, SK
    Nov 24th, The Exchange, Regina, SK
    Nov 25th, The Park Theatre, Winnipeg, MB

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    The Swell Season-- or, hey! a non-Canadian band that's awesome.

    The Swell Season, a.k.a. Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard (of Once fame) is coming to Vancouver on November 25 and playing at The Centre for Performing Arts. I haven't gotten my ticket yet because I'm a poor student, and because the music produced by this duo has an eerie and haunting emotional pull on me that's frankly a little frightening. However, after watching this set of acoustic performances via Spiegel Online, I think I might have to give in and fall hopelessly back in love with this pair.
    [Update- one hour later: I am going. Yay]

    See The Swell Season perform:
    Low Rising
    In These Arms
    Feeling The Pull
    Fantasy Man

    Irglova (vocals, piano) and Hansard (vocals, guitar), for those of you who haven't seen the excellent, Academy Award-winning film Once, play the kind of acoustic folk ballads that will tug strongly at your heart strings with raw emotional honesty and beautiful melodies. Hansard's gruff of a voice more than occasionally crescendos to a divine falsetto, which is complemented by Irglova's breathy, endearing Czech lilt.

    The Swell Season are currently touring to promote the release of their second album, named Strict Joy, which is almost oxymoronic. (I like it.) The album is available everywhere, and is streaming via their website.

    Check them out on Myspace.
    Follow The Swell Season, and Glen Hansard on Twitter!

    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    New Music Video : Great Lake Swimmers - Palmistry

    Off their Polaris short-listed, hauntingly beautiful album Lost Channels comes the video for the second single "Palmistry." It's nautical themed!

    I love how Great Lake Swimmers (suggestive by their name) is inspired by nature. In fact, the great outdoors seems to have been a reoccurring theme in their videos. The previous single, "Pulling On A Line," is filmed in a forest and has children dressed in Where The Wild Things Are-esque costumes dancing and playing. Below is the video for "Your Rocky Spine," which is a lovely tune juxtaposing the depths and curves of nature and those of the human body.

    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Cultural Olympiad in Vancouver - Stars, K'Naan, Veda Hille, and more

    No matter what your opinion is regarding the Olympics itself, its effect on its host cities and the inhabitants, its tendency to plunge cities into decades-long debt, or its direct and indirect victims in terms of budget re-allocations... all those heated opinions aside, the Cultural Olympiad of 2010 is bringing some of the best acts in Canada into Vancouver and the international spotlight.

    Below are a few of the many ticketed and non-ticketed (i.e. free) events going on in Vancouver and Whistler BC in January to March, 2010.

    Stars with Hey Rosetta!
    K'naan with Tinariwen
    Feist (misspelled Fiest on the website. C'mon; really?)
    City and Colour
    Chromeo w/ Team Canada DJs
    Corb Lund
    Joel Plaskett (w/ Steve Earle)
    Blue Rodeo
    Veda Hille Trio

    For a full list of music and other artistic events, visit the Cultural Olympiad website here.

    Lucky Torontonians

    From Facebook:
    Two singer-songwriters in an intimate presentation of their stuff.

    Ana Egge is a wonderful Canadian-born artist living in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently touring her latest album, '
    The Road To My Love'.

    Peter Elkas will be performing material from his upcoming album (currently being recorded) in addition to classic Elkas fare.

    They will be playing the Rivoli in Toronto on November 14th. 
    For more event info, check it out here!

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Metric Acoustic EP : "Plug In Plug Out"

    From NxEW:
    Metric is releasing a digital EP next Tuesday (Oct. 27) which will feature acoustic versions of songs from Fantasies. The album will be available exclusively through for the first 30 days, after that it will also be on iTunes and directly from the band at
    Currently, I'm loving the harmonies that Jimmy provides. And Twilight Galaxy is somehow more cautiously hopeful than the original.

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    New Video : Hey Ocean - Fish

    Once again, what an attractive band, and what a definition of west coast!

    Sunday, October 18, 2009

    Canadian Interviews ... with Joel Plaskett

    Here's a really in-depth interview with Joel on everything from playing with Bruce Cockburn, to environmentalism, to his choice of reading, to playing a busker in One Week, Canadiana, his love for Paul McCartney, favourite places in Canada (BC is not mentioned, sad face), to the self-indulgence vs. universality of Three, to the poor state of radio. (Yeah, it's a long interview.)

    He had a few comments (all rosy) regarding Arcade Fire, pertaining to how indie thrives without commercial radio help by filling in a huge demand gap.

    Here’s the thing: the shittier [radio gets], the bigger the gaps they leave for everybody else to fill. As much as it is upsetting to not be part of it or whatever, it’s sort of like the Arcade Fire is suddenly on the radio because how can you fucking ignore them? And I mean that in a good way! How can you ignore that [David] Bowie is at their shows and they’ve blown up internationally? So it’s like, yeah, wake up radio! Here’s something that’s actually happening.

    Good songs are good songs. The differences between Neil Young and Arcade Fire, or Arcade Fire and something really pop are not actually – the difference between Arcade Fire and OutKast, they should be on the same radio station. They’re both adventurous and good, right?
     I don't think I could adore him any more. But that's more of a dare than a statement.

    Concert Review : Ruby Jean and the Thoughtful Bees & Dragonette

    (First of all: wow. Electro-dance music live. So much better than the recorded stuff. The show last night was a great continuation after seeing Champion and His G-Strings at Rifflandia.)

    Now I admit up front I knew neither Dragonette nor Ruby Jean and the Thoughtful Bees well going in to the concert and had little to no expectations. Rebekah Higgs of Ruby Jean is mentioned quite frequently on NxEW, so I assumed good things. A friend had invited me to the concert last minute and he's quite familiar with Dragonette's music, showing an interesting contrast where I knew the opening act while he knew the headliner. This review focuses mostly on Ruby Jean and the Thoughtful Bees.

    The show was held on October 17, 2009, and the venue, laconically named Venue (don't you love ironic un-creativity), was originally the Plaza night club. It was quite classy, in fact, which was a nice deviation from many of the Vancouver clubs. There was a high stage, much like the Commodore Ballroom, and similarly has a well laid out floor plan. High ceilings and a balcony enabled a back wall LED light display, as well as a hanging ceiling light displays. Both of those were put to good use during the two sets.

    A few notes about Dragonette-- the lead singer Martina Sorbara oozes confidence. She knows how to grab attention and hold it. The crowd, which consisted of everything from screaming club girls to Gucci-sporting men to gamer-looking huge guys, ate up whatever she served during the hour set. It was amazing to be up so close to the front and see the amount of arms reaching and longing to touch her grey body suit or shake her slender hand. Sorbara was visibly pleased and thanked the full house crowd for their full attention and adoration.

    Now onto Halifax's Ruby Jean and the Thoughtful Bees. As an opening act, they complemented Dragonette very well, as both bands have strong frontwomen, backed by solid trios of supporting men. They both played electro-dance rock which moved you involuntarily.

    Ruby Jean launched into You Don't Miss Me, the one song I was familiar with from CBC Radio 3, as the first song in their set. They then proceeded to blitz and grind through the remainder of songs from their eponymous album.

    Although their time slot was quite early (7:30 on a weekend?), which Rebekah apologized for, the area in front of the stage soon filled up with bobbing heads and swinging hips. And with good reason. Rebekah Higgs is a hell of a show-woman, clutching two microphones, swinging her mess of blond hair around, kicking the air, craning her back down where previously thought humanly impossible, punching her suitcase of buttons and pedals... in short, it was amazing. She oozed confidence (and sex appeal!) in a fully sequined blue mini-dress, matched by guitarist Jason Vautour in a leather vest (no shirt) and leather short-shorts.

    It was a pleasure watching the band rock out on stage, visibly having fun, with chemistry and what may be sexual tension building up to the (very high) roof. Rebekah thanked the audience frequently for their high energy, and reached out into the crowd quite a few times for audience participation.

    I immediately bought their album and shirt after the set, which came to a very reasonable $20, and got to chat briefly with Rebekah, who's really sweet despite (?) her onstage persona.

    On stage, Higgs mentioned that this is only the second time that they've played in Vancouver. Well, that has to be remedied. and fast.

    For more pictures from last night, visit my Flickr!

    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    Tunes of the Day: Videos Galore!

    Said The Whale - Camilo (The Magician)
    I can safely say that this is the most adorable music video I've ever seen. The closest contender for the "aww" award (the aww-ard?) is probably Cigarette by Jeremy Fisher.

    Zeus - How Does It Feel from the Sounds Like Zeus EP
    Just found out (since I don't watch TV) that this song is featured in a Nissan Sentra ad. They've got a new album coming out early next Spring, and I can't wait to hear more of their groovy rock.

    Although some of their tracks do make me pause and check my iPod, Zeus definitely has a distinct sound from Jason Collett, which is to say that they've made quite an impression apart from being Collett's backing band, while still retaining the sounds that work.

    They also happen to have had quite the cute quips to Alex and I when we were live-tweeting their set at Rifflandia.

    If you like what you hear below, here's a link to a free download of their cover of Genesis' That's All. It's a good one.

    Side note: Another Canadian indie artist that's been featured in a commercial lately is Hannah Georgas for Walmart. The song, named You've Got A Place Called Home, is free for download off the Walmart store. She's also got a new album coming out soon named This Is Good.

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    Tune of the Day: WOW

    The Pack A.D. - Black Out
    The growl in that voice, the leather jackets, Grant Lawrence and the Radio 3 office, turning it way up, throwing shit around... that, kids, is how you rock out.

    I'm just LOVING Vancouver artists right now. Never mind Canada, I could live off of BC music for a loooong time. ... But I'd miss Joel Plaskett.

    Tuesday, October 6, 2009

    BC Arts & Culture Cuts Visualized

    I have a strong love-hate relationship with political discussions, but some matters are too important for me to sit quietly on the sidelines. One of those issues is the recent BC budget with dramatic cuts to Arts and Culture, which will affect the operating budgets of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, to name just one example.

    My personal love and opinion aside (which admittedly, is impossible), the arts in BC has a positive return on investment. Those employed in the arts sector also receive lower wages when measured against comparable positions in other sectors. Thus, Arts and Culture has more bang for the buck. This has been shown in even provincial governmental studies.

    Why the current government would disregard its own research is beyond me, but their counter-intuitive, short-sighted monetary decisions will leave long-lasting damages on the BC arts scene, as well as on the budgets to come. Some of the results include cancellation of programs, lay-offs (as our economy is just beginning to recover from a recession), and the relocation and brain drain of artistic talent elsewhere as living in BC becomes unsustainable for their craft. The effects will spill over into our tourism and hospitality sector, once the boost from the Olympics subsides.

    Now onto why I created this post: I wanted to share the excellent visualizations that Jeremy Thorp has created, which demonstrate the drastic cuts made to Arts and Culture. What really struck me was how steep the cuts are comparative to other sectors, knowing its benefit to the BC economy. He has also written a thoughtful piece to go along with his statistical gems; I highly recommend you take a read through it.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    When the 114 expenditures are arranged to display gain (in blue) or loss (in red), the picture becomes even more clear (here, bars represent percentage loss or gain). With a loss of more than 80%, Arts & Culture suffers the second worst cuts – with the worst being another Arts & Culture-related line item!

    Compared to other business areas with similar budgets, this decline is particularly drastic. For example, Asia Pacific Trade & Investment falls only 26% (from 16.179M to 11.593M) and Small Business, Research & Competitiveness falls only 21% (from 21.966M to 17.263M). ...

    Once again, Thorp has more accessible and understandable graphs on his entry "BC Budget Visualizations – DIY Transparency & Local Government." Take a look, and realize just how disproportionately high the cuts are to Arts and Culture, a business sector that is thriving, profitable and contributes greatly to the general welfare of BC citizens.

    If you feel as strongly about these cuts as I do (heck, even if you don't), please do read up more on the provincial budget and other pieces related to the Arts and Culture cuts. I didn't cite all my sources, but there are many. And make sure you're heard:

    Gordon Campbell
    (250) 387-1715

    Kevin Kreuger
    (250) 953-4246

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    Tune of the Day: Class Notes and Dreaming

    Tonight's Tune of the Day for October 4/5th is Dan Mangan's impeccable Journal Of A Narcoleptic, off of his debut album Postcards and Dreaming.

    It truly has surprised me how this song has crept up on me. It's been the sleeper hit (pun intended) of the past couple of months, trumping even the incredibly lovable and sing-along-able Robots as my favourite tune of Dan's. In fact, I would go ahead with the large claim that this song is flawless. It's perfect. I've never ever had that thought about any other song before this. The quiet shudder in Hille's voice near the end, the entwining of the gruffness of Mangan's and Hille's clear tones, the suspenseful strings, the staggered emphasis on the word deep... the build up... wow. I'm so hooked.

    The only thing that would make Mangan's (already Polaris-hyped) sophomore album Nice, Nice, Very Nice even nicer is if this song was tucked within it.

    and sometimes I'm sleeping
    and I'm still on my feet
    and lord, its deceiving
    how we're all in so deep

    I'm sorry,
    I'm sorry
    but it ain't easy...
    but it ain't easy

    Sunday, October 4, 2009

    Oh My! Mister Prime Minister!

    ... what a lovely voice you have!
    But try smiling more... better presence... why so serious?

    Time to bust out that Beatles Rock Band.

    Saturday, October 3, 2009

    Spirituality/Faith, Indie Cred & Musical Influence

    Last night, myself, a couple of fellow CBC Radio 3 listeners and host Grant Lawrence were chatting about various aspects of broadcasting life. The topic then came upon the segment Grant did Thursday, featuring songs from You Say Party! We Say Die!'s latest album XXXX, as well as interviews with various members of the band. Grant mentioned how YSPWSD were on a long hiatus, and during that time, lead singer Becky Ninkovic had found God (cringe nose here, uncomfortable chuckles all around table). He went on to say that during the interview, Becky was saying things like, "God is love," "God is divine," and various things that made both her band mate and Grant extremely uncomfortable and awkward and oh-no-make-her-stop.

    In Canada, the kind of spirituality that's hip and appropriate for public chit-chat involve yoga and taking long walks thinking about your life. Or the derisive smirk and nod when someone from the American political far-right says something extremely stupid and stamps it with God™. CBC, especially Radio 3, has an unspoken (or maybe spoken) mandate as a public-private institution to be neutral to matters of religion and faith, and since there are no neutral stances in matters of spirituality, adopts a secular viewpoint. We touched up on all these points during our conversation, and while I pointed out that the (generally left-wing) indie arts community and Christian faith, in this case, are not mutually exclusive, we agreed that it is uncommon to hear an open endorsement of God in Canadian independent music.

    Grant opined that YSPWSD stand to possibly lose a good chunk of their "indie cred," and there are several possible reasons for this. He reasoned that their demographic does not want to hear about God. That may be partially true, but we must consider that the percentage of our youth/young adults who are agnostic are quite high. I think that by identifying with an organized religion (as in, not the yoga-practicing, self-actualizing kind of "I am my own god" God), there are some easy heuristics/labels that people attach to an artist:
    1. conservative (i.e. not edgy, not original, no new ideas, not inclusive-- big Canadian no-no)
    2. brainwashed (i.e. not free-thinking, tricked/stupid, not speaking from own p.o.v., "will try to convert them")
    3. ... just not cool. Rock stars are supposed to be happily, wildly and excessively pagan until they're old and worry about what happens after they die.
    And thus, their music will be bland. and inoffensive. and about how Jesus wants to hug everyone. and generally not worth listening to anymore.

    However, as I listen to some of my favourite artists, I hear their perception of the beauty of God, I tremble from the questions of anger and tears and longing, and I feel the inspiration of something greater than their own volition. Frankly, I couldn't listen to music if I didn't sense these things. In fact, one of the reasons I started listening to independent music was because of the lack of genuine doubt, joy and professions of faith that mainstream music on the whole (including contemporary Christian rock) offers. Joel Plaskett's Non-Believer, Two Hour Traffic's Sing A Little Hymn, anything by K'naan... to just scratch the surface, can challenge my own faith and at once enliven it more than many sermons I've sat through.

    This is not a call for artists to identify themselves (WHICH GOD ARE YOU SINGING FOR?!) but rather a open query: why are we so uncomfortable discussing about the Divine as a common source of inspiration that's so central to so many artists' lives? Can we still be moved by a song whose source of inspiration make us awkward/conflicted/angry/apathetic? Will we label an artist as not worth listening to any further because of whom they profess to love?

    (...there goes my indie cred, right?)

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    An Interview: My Take On Twitter & Music

    From September 28. 2009, with Rebekah H.

    Q. As an avid music fan, critic and commentator, what do you think of bands using Twitter in building and staying in touch with their fan-base?

    A. As Twitter's format allows updates via short bursts of information, bands and artists are able to build relationships with their fan base beyond your typical album release promotion, tour dates announcements, and major media mentions. Although, of course, those are common as well. But you're also likely to read from Twitter-prolific bands about their favourite restaurant in a particular city or a band they're currently into, for example.
    You also get to see the relationships between bands; the camaraderie between various Vancouver-based bands and their mutual admiration and promotion is something really encouraging to see.
    And of course, you have the opportunity to communicate with your favourite artists in a way that email and other social media simply don't allow.

    Q. As one of those followers, has it been effective? How?

    A. I definitely feel more connected and knowledgeable about the artists I follow, and feel more of a stake in helping them get the word out about something important by retweeting to my network of followers. So that in itself shows the effectiveness of Twitter as an informational/promotional medium. Via Twitter, I've also found out secret/last minute show dates, have the ability to be put on the guest list to shows, and whether or not to actually be on time for a concert. Once again, important information that just isn't quite ... "significant" enough to make it to an email broadcast or Facebook group message.
    Also, as I review and take photographs of artists, Twitter provides an easy way to let them know that I've mentioned them. In turn, they often spread information about my coverage of them to the rest of their network, increasing traffic to my websites. It's mutually beneficial.

    Q. How did you get onto Twitter? What were your original reasons for joining? Networking or following?

    A. I was introduced to Twitter by a friend, and also after hearing about its usefulness at SxSW (South by South West). My original reason for joining was to get instantaneous information from artists and media publications such as CBC Radio 3. I actually have relatively few friends in real life on Twitter, partially because many don't have it, and partially because I have other media (Facebook, phone, face-to-face) to connect with them.

    Q. What got you starting following bands on the network? Did you know of the band first or did you discover them via Twitter?

    A. I originally started by searching band/artist names to see if any of them had Twitter. I wasn't really interested in many of the artists on the recommended follow list... And by following people, it's a snowball effect once you realize who they're following via their Twitter conversations (less creepy and stalkerish than you'd think), or things such as Follow Friday when you recommend who's worth following. I've definitely checked out bands because of positive hype from Twitter.

    Q. As a music blogger/critic? How do you use Twitter?

    A. Whenever I write a new entry or upload a set of photos, I would note that on Twitter and link to the page. A large chunk of my traffic is directed from Twitter. I also tweet via text messages from my phone when I'm at a concert, and after I chat with an artist. (It's almost like you're there!)
    I also often retweet tour/album information from artists, articles and reviews I find interesting, as well as general announcements. For example, just today, a band that played a show in Vancouver announced that they were looking for gear that was stolen and I would pass on information like that as well.

    Q. What do you think the future for Twitter will be?

    A. I think Twitter has and will continue to democratize music journalism, much like the advent of personal blogs. There's an almost infinite amount of information sources. It allows individuals to decide whether or not content is worth following, as opposed to being dictated by your local paper's arts and culture section. Twitter is word of mouth, sped up and made more efficient.

    Q. Why Twitter as opposed to other social networks like Facebook, MySpace, etc?

    A. It's not a case where Twitter is superior than Facebook, Myspace, etc., and upon adopting it you can ditch the others. It depends upon what you use social networking for. Twitter is simpler (all text-based), less restrictive (information is limited to friends on Facebook), and thus a lot more public, allowing for more people to be exposed to your content. You don't even need to sign up to Twitter to read someone's tweets. Thus, if you're on Twitter, you're either a provider of information or an observer of those providers. It's not a place for discussions, mutual groupings, music displaying, etc. that Facebook and Myspace specialize in.
    Following someone on Twitter is also a lot less "committing" than befriending someone on Facebook, which implies relationship, whereas following on Twitter implies you're interested in their information. That is the fundamental difference between Twitter and Facebook; Twitter is, for me, a public promotional forum, whereas Facebook is meant to be more in-depth and self-disclosing due to its more private structure. You could be the biggest social butterfly, but you still generally wouldn't befriend a complete stranger.
    Also, Twitter tends to be a "means" kind of vehicle for information. Myspace is more of an "ends" vehicle. Twitter alerts you to information that you should check out, whereas Myspace, blogs, websites, or even Facebook events/groups contain the information that Twitter links to. Once again, different functions.

    Q. Any further insights/comments?

    A. A friend asked me yesterday, "how do I be successful on Twitter?" And I told him to find something he's passionate about, and tweet the heck out of it. You probably wouldn't do that on Facebook either... it'd be a lot more annoying.
    Also, with the protests in Iran over the highly contested elections, it's easy to see how Twitter is an effective way to communicating to a large audience via snowballing word-of-mouth/tweet under extreme time pressure. Twitter's simplicity (text-based) made it nearly impossible to block or shut down by the authorities, and its seamless connection to cell phones and smart phones allows it to be updated anywhere. Many Iranian tweets involved which sections of cities to avoid, whether the militia were using tear gas, etc. In this way, I can see Twitter being a very effective early warning system in times of emergencies.