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?)