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1.31.2006

Cover art revealed for "Ringleaders"


Check it out. Here's the cover art for Morrissey's next album, "Ringleader of the Tormented," which is due in stores on April 4 (and hopefully leaked onto the internet before then).

I can't believe it, but the cover is actually great. Amazing even. After such disasters like "Southpaw Grammar" and frankly, "You Are The Quarry," it's a good omen that this cover is so awesome.

You can't see it from this image, but underneath the album's title is the title again, written in Italian, a homage no doubt, to recording the album in Rome with Tony Visconti.

If you want to download the high-res photos yourself, just head over to Girlie Action media marketing and see for yourself. The hat-tip goes to Morrissey-solo for digging this up.

In other Morrissey news, he's going to be appearing at SXSW this year, and will be performing and being interviewed by Rolling Stone's David Fricke. Head over to the SXSW news page for more info. Really wish I was going to this thing now.

Hopefully this means that Morrissey will be touring sometime this summer. Hopefully that means a stop here in Hogtown. Fingers crossed!

1.26.2006

The Brave and the Bold


"The Brave and the Bold," a collaboration between Chicago instrumental math-rockers Tortoise and the enigmatic Will Oldham, putting on his Bonnie "Prince" Billy moniker for this collaboration conceived on a dare.

After Oldham's successful collaboration with Matt Sweeney on "Superwolf," he turned up the gain and expanded what he is capable to do as an artist. Same goes for Tortoise, as "The Brave and the Bold" proves that they can do alot more than they've alluded to in the past.

I actually planned on passing on this Bonnie "Prince" Billy album. I've yet to fully get into all his Palace Music monikers and this one sounded too much like a fluke. But I was in Soundscapes last weekend when they played "Thunder Road" from the album.

"Thunder Road" is probably one of my favortie songs of all time, by one of my favorite songwriters, Bruce Springsteen. What should have been a failure of a cover instead sounded like an emotionally smart reinterpretation of this sad tale of desperation and love. They keyboards were haunting and the guitars thick and heavy. And at the point when Oldham sings the line "Roll down the windows and let the wind blow back your hair," I was completely won over.

The only way to listen to Bonnie "Prince" Billy is on wax, so I marched over to Rotate This and picked this one up and rushed back to the stereo.

When Milton Nascimento's "Cravo e Canela" first came on, I thought I had the record playing double-time. It wasn't. I couldn't believe that they were doing a upbeat spanish pop number! But it was a great way to kick off the album: you know from here on in not to expect anything.

If you prefer your music on the slightly experiemental side, or at least harsh, dark and unique, then this album is for you. Things get particularily dark and distorted on "It's expected I'm Gone" and "Love is Love" on the first half, and "That's Pep" on the flipside. Surprise standouts include Elton John's "Daniel" and the sappy sentimental "Poncho," which wouldn't be out of place on any other Oldham record.

A quick Wiki search reveals that the album's title "The Brave and the Bold" comes from an old DC comic book series which originally featured Vikings and Knights, but was reinvented as a "team-up" comic where Batman would fight crime with other people, like Justice League of America.

As a whole, this album is a great sit-down listening album, you can give it your undivided attention and it will give back in spades. It was also made to be picked apart... you'll want to include a song from "The Brave and the Bold" in every mixtape you make, just because people will have no idea what hit them.

MP3: Thunder Road by Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Tortise via gorilla vs. bear

MP3: Daniel (originally by Elton John) by Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Tortise

MP3: It's Expected I'm Gone by Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Tortise

Pitchfork reviewed The Brave and The Bold

New tour dates for "The National"

According to the National, who released one of last year's best albums, "Alligator" (check out my review here), is hitting the road, and I'm pleased to add, will be coming to Toronto and Montreal.

The dates listed on their MySpace page are the following:

Feb 2 2006 8:00P
Webster Hall New York, NY
Mar 15 2006 8:00P
Black Cat Washington, DC
Mar 21 2006 8:00P
TBA Montreal, QC
Mar 22 2006 8:00P
Horseshoe Tavern Toronto, ON
Mar 23 2006 8:00P
The Intersection Grand Rapids, MI
Mar 24 2006 8:00P
Double Door Chicago, IL
Mar 29 2006 8:00P
Troubadour Los Angeles, CA
Mar 30 2006 8:00P
The Independent San Francisco, CA
Mar 30 2006 8:00P
The Independent San Francisco, CA

I'm pretty excited. I missed the boat on this band and didn't check them out a few months ago. You can be sure I won't make the same mistake.

1.25.2006

The Gris Gris and their mystical nightmare


Who are the Gris Gris and why do they attract such a relatively large following in Hogtown? Honestly, I have no idea. It could be the long streak of be-pop or twangy rock that runs through our scene, or it could be the blind leading the blind being lead by Dan Burke.

Well it's been announced that the Gris Gris are going on tour behind "For the Season," and are going to return to Toronto on April 8, playing at the Comfort Zone (sometimes known as an after-hours rave club).

As for "For the Season," it's a marked improvement on the band's sound. They are more confident and have expanded their sound to fill thousands of imaginary haunted houses. Whereas their self-titled album was a mix of singer-songwriter based tunes with carefully calculated freak-outs, "For the Season" finds head Gris Gris wizard Greg Ashley weaving a spell of retro-psychedelia.

The band turned down the waves of reverb and echo down, but "For the Season" keeps the "crazy" at a perfectly satisfying level. It sounds like old Pink Floyd, a little like the Zombies, and obviously the Cramps. But even fans of the Mars Volta or Coheed and Cambria will be able to get behind their new album.

In terms of describing the sound, the Bird Man records did it the most justice. Check it out:

SIDE ONE

For the Season: The first side (or half, if you belong only in the digital age) is one Suite of many interconnected songs and streams. To be found here: “Cuerpos Haran Amor Extrano” with its slow, hypnotizing Cramps-esque tremellowed-out guitar riffs, and “Down With Jesus,” a bouncy number with hand claps and all, ending with full-on guitar jam-tastic mayhem. The suite finale “Year Zero” has been a show-stopping favorite for over a year now and on record leads the listener through an epic jam towards a goose-bump inducing conclusion: The first half’s triumphant end.

SIDE TWO

The second side, more traditional in that it is composed of 6 distinct tracks, houses a waltz (with drunken, god-fuzz guitar lead), “Medication #4"; the molasses dripping Acid of “Skin Mass Cat”; and the single, “Pick Up Your Raygun,” with an Ennio Moriconne flavored spaghetti entrance leading to a driving, throbbing rock and roll nugget. The title track, “For The Season,” an orchestrated, almost fragile (between the noise grooves), eastern psychedelic Zen arcade, provides an epic finale for the record.

MP3: Download Skin Mass Cat from "For The Season"

MP3: Listen to Cuerpos Haran Amor Extrano also from "For the Season"

MP3: Buddyhead has Down With Jesus from "For the Season"

Mp3: Here's Year Zero from "For the Season" as well.

MP3: Listen to Winter Weather from their self-titled album

VIDEO: Download Mary #38 straight from Bird Man

Gris Gris profile at Bird Man records

Check out the Pitchfork review of "For the Season"

SPIN magazine reviews "For the Season"

1.24.2006

If something has to give then it always will


Alright, let's carry on now, shall we? Despite keeping up with as much new music as possible, I'm always surprised by how much I missed. A great case for this is "The Editors," and their album "The Back Room." This was one record I've been meaning to check out for a while, and now I'm glad I did.

I know it seems like I'm on a big UK kick right now, but in all honesty, knowing nothing about the Editors, I figured they were another New York rock band. I was wrong. Singer Tom Stroud, guitarist Chris Urbanowicz, drummer Ed Lay and bass player Russell Leetch are all from England. And "The Back Room" is one of the best albums I've heard in a while.

"The Back Room" might not sound like anything unique, but it's the way that they work the dark half-dance/half-rock formula. The band sounds a bit like Interpol, especially in the singer department, but Tom Stroud has more of a new-wave 80's flavour to him with some modern-day urgency thrown in for good measure.

But if you take the Interpol comparison further, The Editors replace the Joy Division influence with more of a Cure styled influence. By far, the Editors have more of a reach for radio than Interpol and wouldn't be out of place alongside other UK superstars Coldplay and U2.

It's refreshing to hear a UK band that doesn't necessarily fall between Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party, so I endorse this album if you feel like tracking it down. It has a timeless kind of quality and has a pretty long shelf life. While the album has appeared on many best-of-2005 lists, be sure not to let it pass you by in 2006.

MP3: My favorite track, "Bullets" can be downloaded here.

MP3: Their most popular single, "Munich" is available here.

MP3: And another enjoyable track, "Fingers in the Factory," here.

(Links courtesy of Rock Insider, go check 'em out!)

Click here or here to download the band's perforance on KCRW.

Download another performance from Boston at Bradley's Almanac.

And because YouTube/GoogleVideo are my newest friends, here's the video for the single, "Munich," but it isn't the best track on the album by far.

1.23.2006

It's January 23rd... go vote!!!


Alright, so unless you've been living under a rock for the last two months, today is the day to go out and vote. I'm not going to recomend who to vote for, but it's really important that you vote for somebody. If you're completely lost and left it to the last minute, here's what you need to know.

1. Research the issues. If you need to find out where each party stands on certain issues, check out this page on CTV.ca which lists and compares all the issues. To find out more about the candidates in your riding, use their riding finder, which you determine your riding by entering your postal code.

2. After you've found enough information, find out where you need to go in your area to vote. You can go to the Elections Canada site and enter your postal code there, and it will tell you where the closest polling station is. Be sure to check what time the polls close, as it's different across Canada.

3. If you don't have a voter registration card, you can still vote. All you need to take with you is an identification card with your picture and signature on it and a piece of mail with your current address. And that's it. Go there, wait in line and sink your ballot, and you're finished.

After you've finished voting, you're going to feel really great about our country's political process. Remember, there are placing in the world where people have absolutely no say in their government, and this year, more than others, your vote will make a difference.

So if you're done voting, check out my "A Soundtrack for a Campaign" blog that I wrote for CTV.ca. If you've missed it, here are a list of links to each week I wrapped up and put to music.

Week One
Week Two
Week Three
Week Four, Holiday edition
All-Morrissey Week Five
Week Six
Week Seven
Week Eight

So remember, go out and vote! Even if you don't think the party/person you want to vote for will win, your vote will reflect what you believe are important values this country should have in it's leadership.

1.22.2006

Metric perform on Conan O'Brien


I don't have cable in the house, so I didn't get to check this one out when it aired, but now it's been uploaded to YouTube, so I've put it here for your enjoyment. However, some people found the performance completely underwhelming. Judge for yourself. I thought it was pretty cool that Emily didn't jump around trying to "put on a show" and the band actually sounded good, which rarely happens during TV performances.



Oh, and you can also download it here if you want. Thanks goes to the Metric forum for tipping me off to the download.

Broken Social Scene @ Kool Haus, January 21, 2006


DSCN0173
Originally uploaded by a soundtrack for everyone.
Well, all I can say was that this was one amazing show. One of the best I've been to in a while. I took a pile of pictures and you can check out the photoset of almost 100 pictures at my Flickr account. I can't believe Toronto has spawned such a world-class band and talent like this really inspires people to get out there and do their thing. Amazing.

1.21.2006

Stephin Merritt returning with "Showtunes"


Magnetic Fields mastermind and modern day Morrissey, Stephin Merritt has announced his latest release since the album "i" in 2004. The album, "Showtunes" is due in stores and available for download on March 14.

Between traditional albums, Merritt has been writing compositions for director Chen Shi-Zheng. "Showtunes" will draw from "Orphan of Zhao," "Peace Blossom Fan" and "My Life as a Fairy Tale," all sang by the original cast. However, the full score from each will be available for download from iTunes.

Chen and Stephin first started collaborating in in 2003 on "The Orphan of Zao." It was a traditional thirteen-century black comedy directed by Chen in two forms: one in Chinese, and one English version which featured Stephin's songs, and has been described as sounding "country and eastern." Their next collaboration was "Peach Blossom Fan," a famous Chinese seventeenth-century opera.

In 2005 they collaborated again on "My Life as a Fairytale," which is based on the life and stories of Hans Christian Andersen, and his life growing up as an outcast (sounds like a Stephin Merritt song, doesn't it?). For a little more info, read the press release here.

Stephin Merritt is also putting on his "The Gothic Archies" moniker and is working with novelist Daniel Handler, a.k.a Lemony Snicket, and producing a CD for "A Series of Unfortunate Events." You might want to think twice before picking it up, because something tells me it might be released under a bad omen. Consider this -- the CD will have 13 tracks, for Snicket's 13th volume of stories and get this, it will be released in November on Friday the 13th.

Merritt is also currently working on an adaptation of Neil Gaiman's "Coraline."

....

Mp3 - Click here to download The Magnetic Fields' "Born on a Train"

Mp3- The Shins cover The Magnetic Field's classic "Strange Powers"

Do you love 69 Love Songs? You should read this companion piece.

Stephinsources is the MP3 blog which actually contains no Merritt music.

Interesting in hearing some Stephin Merritt covers? It's Meaningless has a few for download.

1.20.2006

Get off the bandwagon and put down the handbook


"Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not" is the first official CD by UK sensation The Arctic Monkeys, named after a line from the film "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning." Yes, the name is silly, and they are a band that's been ridiculously hyped in the NME (3 foot poster!), but this four-piece is one of the first original, distinctive bands coming from the UK that's worth checking out since the likes of Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand.

The band have gained popularity seemingly overnight, with rabid fans posting mp3's of the band's music all over the internet to anyone who would listen. When it came time for the band to release a proper single, "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" went to #1.

Now the Arctic Monkeys are ready to take over North American audiences. They came through last fall, playing stellar gigs in Toronto and New York City and are coming back this weekend to do it all again, in much larger venues.

So what about the album then? In a nutshell, it's a polished up version of all the band's demos floating around the internet. For fans, most of these songs, plus more, have all been readily available. The quality of these demos are actually pretty good, and are worth checking out.

The good thing is that the band lives up to the hype with a well-produced, high-energy debut. The band can rock out a wide variety of interesting riffs while mixing them up with smart lyrics and ear-catching melody.

Almost every song on the album is extremely solid, and will probably result in an Arcade Fire like half the album turned into singles kind of deal. Still, I appreciated it when the band veered from it's brand of angular pop in songs like "Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But.." and "Riot Van."

If anything, I think that the storytelling and emotional depth in "Riot Van" shows what the Arctic Monkeys are capable of. It's a hushed tale of running from the police and spying some police brutality.

I was also a little disapointed that the Arctic Monkeys abandoned their blues influences. In the original demos they really added a level of originality which transended the current flavour of Brit-pop sound.

Is "Whatever You Say I Am, That's What I'm Not" a classic? I'd say not quite. It's an amazing album and anglophiles and indierockers alike should give it a listen and give a chance to these young rockers. I didn't want to at first either, but I'm glad I did.

Check out the Arctic Monkeys on MySpace

mp3 demo downloads @ mardy-bum.com


A Certain Romance
Bigger Boys and Stolen Sweethearts
Choo Choo
Cigarette Smoke
Dancing Shoes
Fake Tales of San Francisco
I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
Mardy Bum
Riot Van

1.19.2006

Another look at Jawbreaker's "Dear You"


They were the alternative rock band that never hit it off. Despite opening for Nirvana on the 'In Utero' tour and signing a very large deal with Geffen the band's career that started in 1988 ended at their final gig in April of 1996.

Composed of Blake Schwarzenbach on guitars/vocals, Chris Bauermeister on bass and Adam Pfahler on drums, the band had a sense of depth and rebellion that was unmatched among their peers. They released four albums: "Unfun" in 1989, "Bivouac" in 1992, "24-Hour Therapy" in 1993 and finally "Dear You" in 1995.

I first got into Jawbreaker as I worked my way through the "Jade Tree" phase in my life. The band that got me into Jade Tree was Pedro the Lion, who had just released "Winners Never Quit" at the time. The second Jade Tree band that really got a hold of me was Jets to Brazil and "Orange Rhyming Dictionary," "Four Cornered Night" and "Perfecting Loneliness." JTB was considered a cult supergroup of sorts, formed after Blake Schwarzenback broke up his previous band, the legendary Jawbreaker.

"Dear You" was the final epic statement by a band that favored introspectiveness and hopefulness while maintaining a punk rock exterior. While "emo" is considered a bad word these days, don't let these original founders scare you away. You'll find no uneasy crying here, just a load of sadness and guitar riffs.

This first music I was ever exposed to in Belleville, Ontario was the popular grunge music of the day, on both local radio (shout out to The Wolf 101.5 and CJLX 92.3) and Muchmusic. So it really wasn't until I moved to Kingston for school and had access to a broadband internet connection that I found alot of more creative and more fulfilling music. But despite all the great bands I dug up, I always had a soft spot for loud guitars and real, honest-to-God songs.

Jawbreaker played songs like they actually meant something and not like they only did it so they would seem cool or people could party to it. Their lyrics are worth figuring out and are worth placing into the fabric of your life. They are life lessons and can inspire personal change. And albums like that don't come along every day.

I wanted to list of each song here that is worth checking out, but once I started listing them off, I was just listing off the tracklist, so it's kind of pointless. Every song here is a classic.

If you haven't spent anytime with "Dear You," then this winter is the time to do it.

The latest news on Jawbreaker suggests that a documentary about the band is currently in the works.

The album was re-released in February of 2004 by Blackball Records. Be sure to check out Blake's commentary on each song from the album here.

For an extensive history of Jawbreaker, be sure to read this definitive guide by Alex Bender which is home to the best Jawbreaker site ever.

Idiot-savant Wesley Willis even honored the band with a song called "Jawbreaker" and told the story of the band playing a ficitional concert at San Diego's Casbah.

Geffen's old Jawbreaker website for "Dear You."

Live Jawbreaker mp3s:

Save your Generation

I Love you so much it's killing us both


Jet Black

Sluttering (May 4th)


Classic Jawbreaker mp3s:

Kiss the Bottle

Housesitter

1.18.2006

Welcome to the jungle


Alright, consider how amazing this is. Axl Rose has surfaced in an L.A. launch party for Korn's new album... and he's wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey.

He is still rocking those awful (fake?) cornrows and a horrible goattee, but besides that, the man is still looking good.

Rollingstone.com talked to Axl and found out a few things:

"People will hear music this year," says Axl Rose, puffing on a cigar in the early hours of Saturday morning at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Amazing. I wonder what it will sound like?
"I'm trying to do something different. Some of the arrangements are kind of like Queen. Some people are going to say, 'It doesn't sound like Axl Rose, it doesn't sound like Guns n' Roses.'" He then smiles and adds, "But you'll like at least a few songs on there."
Queen? That could be pretty cool actually. We all know how badly the Darkness want to be Queen, but they lack the gritty heart that Gn'R always possessed. Can you imagine how amazing a come-back album this could be?
"We're working on thirty-two songs, and twenty-six are nearly done," he says. Of those, thirteen are slated for the final album. Among Rose's favorites are "Better," "There Was a Time" and "The Blues."
Sweet.

Before you go, check out this video of Axl Rose telling somebody off from the stage last year.

1.17.2006

A Soundtrack for Jack Bauer


Have you ever wondered what Jack Bauer's life is like between terroist attacks? You know, like what kinds of clothes he likes to wear, what he eats, what he watches on TV? Or more importantly, what music he listens to?

Now, you have to imagine that Jack is a fairly intense invidual all the job, but he can't be that way all the time, right? So one criteria for his music has to be intensity.

He's also extremely tech-savy and smart, which means he also works with young people. This is a plausible criteria addition because he'll hear what the youngsters are into and add that to his playlist.

Not everybody listens to upbeat music all the time either, so he'll also need some quiet "existential crisis" music as well.

And Jack is badass cool. So the music must be at least as cool as Jack.

Ok so that's enough criteria. Leave your picks in the comments section!

Before I get to the list, just check out this picture from the prequel for season 5 of 24 that has Jack with long hair. Yes, that is a mullet.


Jack Bauer's favorite bands:

1. The Rolling Stones.

If there was one truth that was never truer it would be this: The Beatles play wimpy pop music and the Rolling Stones play the dirtiest, greasiest and most badass rock and roll, ever. And Jack Bauer wouldn't be into the early or late Stones, but the hardcore heroin using Stones. His favorite album? Exile on Mainstreet, followed closely by Let it Bleed, Beggar's Banquet and Goat's Head Soup. It's rock and roll, but there's some country in there, and a little bit of trippy psychedelica. You can imagine Jack sitting back on his porch with a bottle of beer and the Stones blaring out of a lousy AM radio, can't you?

2. Metallica.

Metallica is essentially the perfect metal band for Jack. They don't sing like the girls in Megadeath or Rush, and they don't scream like pathetic "core" kinds of bands. Metallica is just brutal and fast, and yet they have a sensitive emotional core. Kind of like Jack.

3. The Clash.

Only London Calling. Other than that, Jack will pass on the rest, just like he passed on the Sex Pistols and the Ramones. Jack doesn't have time for jokes.

4. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Jack Bauer is an all-American patriot, but he doesn't mess around with country music. He's a patriot like Bruce Springsteen is a patriot. Like Springsteen, Jack Bauer is a poet. Except Jack Bauer writes his poetry with a gun and an unwavering stare. For America and the President.

5. Led Zeppelin

At one point Jack Bauer was a heroin user, so he needs to have something that's far out, but also intense. Between Bonzo's thunderous drums and the extended 30 minute guitar solos, this might have been the perfect band for Jack's more adventurous side.


Jack Bauer's existential crisis music:

1. Sigur Ros - ()

Jack probably got a hold of this from his coworker Chloe, who probably has a pile of moody music back at her apartment. I think Jack likes this one the best because it's the darkest album by Sigur Ros, without too much extra instrumentation. Just guitars, drums and some keyboard effects. No flute solos, like the first one.

2. Coldplay - X & Y

Jack Bauer has a soft heart too, you know? And you know what can fill it, when he misses his dead ex-wife and psycho daughter? Fix You. Even the lion needs to cry, right?

1.16.2006

I wanted to be the greatest


I struggle with “The Greatest.” Do you want to know what a depressing singer-songwriter sounds like when they want to do depressed lethargic country-soul music? That’s probably the best way to describe what’s going on with this album.

Late-night radio DJs have another album worth of songs perfect for their Sunday-night playlist and television shows looking to score a nice romantic moment have a handful of great tracks perfect for their show.

Everything you ever want from Chan Marshal is present on “The Greatest.” Her heart-breaking voice will make men and women fall in love with her broken-angel persona. The lyrics are yearning, straining, wanting, hurting, waiting and defeating. For the sad and lonely, they now have their party album.

If you need sufficient back story before we go any further, this is it: Chan Marshall, depressed with the recording process, was suggested with going to Memphis and recording her album with Al Green's old guitarist Mabon "Teenie" Hodges and a host of other Memphis players.

And an interesting note: Chan Marshall performed “Hanging on the Telephone” for a Cingular Wireless commercial. The song doesn’t exist in a full-length release yet, but odds are this Nerves cover will see the light of day on a seven inch before the year is through. If you haven’t seen it, the video is available here.

“The Greatest” begins with a track of the same name, which coincidentally is one of the greatest songs on the album, complete with
Moon River sampling strings. It’s lush and heart felt, and everything you could ask for. It’s been made available to download for a while, so grab it here.

Here’s my advice: listen to the song “Hate” next. It’s a sparse dirge with blacked out windows and a smoky haze. Then listen to “Where Is My Love,” the most beautiful and classic sounding track Cat Power has ever done. It casts Chan as an old-time songstress who can master a wonderful ballad. After that, put on “Love and Communication.” On this song Chan Marshall drops a Neil Young and Crazy Horse kind of jam that would be perfect for your “Getting Down” playlist.

From that point on, you’ll be able to work yourself into the laid-back soul-jam that is the majority of “The Greatest.” “Willie” does it the best, as you can tell that Chan is actually having some fun and doing the soul music for real. And once that context is established, the pure country of “Islands” makes sense and sounds less like a joke.

Then go to “Living Proof” for another old-school soul jam that sounds less-jarring in the listening experience after you get warmed up to the new sound. Same goes for “Empty Shell” which sounds like a cast-off collaboration with the Dirty Three.

Next you’d want to line up “Could We” and “The Moon” back to back, with the cool fade out at the end, which would segway nicely into “After it All,” which makes the phony honk-tonk sound sincere.

Which would lead me to place “Lived in Bars” as the album’s closer. The sparse piano and horn section makes for a great “last song” intro. Then, when the song locks into an upbeat sway, it’s a perfect way to end the album.

Okay to recap, once you pick up your copy of “The Greatest” on January 24, copy it to your computer and create the following playlist:

The All-Time Greatest

1. The Greatest
2. Hate
3. Where Is My Love
4. Love and Communication
5. Willie
6.
Islands
7. Living Proof
8. Empty Shell
9. Could We
10. The Moon
11. After it All
12. Lived in Bars

Do you want to just download it now? Get it while it’s hot.

1.15.2006

We are Scientists / Diableros @ The Horseshoe


Right out of the gate, "We are Scientists" were ready for a rock and roll show. Not only were they the ultra-cool buzz-band that everyone was expecting "to get big" but they put on an amazing and energetic performance that converted anyone with any doubts that they have simply showed up to "the scene" far too late.

With buzz of their own, "The Diableros" took to the stage early, playing songs from their latest album "You Can't Break the Strings on Our Olympic Hearts (read my review here). After appearning on the cover of NOW magazine, there were a few interested listeners that showed up early. Unfortunately, when you're the opening band at the Horseshoe, you get the short shrift on sound quality, and this show was no exception. A band like The Diableros needs to be cranked up as loud as possible so they sound like an orchestra. But they weren't.

All that meant was that the Diableros just played harder, and while they were forced to the front of the stage, they blasted out every song with importance. At first they seemed nervous, and it took the band a few songs before warming up to the crowd. They finished strong with the one-two punch of "Push it to Monday" and then "Working Out Words" (if I remember correctly).

The Diableros are going to be returning to the Horseshoe for a headline set on February 18 for the official release of their new album on "Baudelaire."

A band called "Oxford Collapse" played after "The Diableros" before "We Are Scientists" came on. I didn't pay too much attention, so I can't really give them a fair shake. If you want to find out more about them, check out their website here.

Around midnight "We are Scientists" plugged in and pulled out "The Scene is Dead" and "Inaction" back to back. They played fast and loud, and really filled out the role as designated rockstars and nobody in the room could do no better than them that night. The drums were loud and hard, the bass lose and groovy, and the guitar wailing.

On "On Love and Squalor" (read my review here) the band sounds tight and carefully calculated, but the magic is revealed live. Instead of calculation, it sounds like the band is just a bouncing ball, flying from one part of a song into the next with reckless abandon, which is far more exillerating when it's happening right in front of you. They didn't let up and played many songs back to back without a break.

Bass player Chris Cain maybe had a bit more spring in his step as he announced to the crowd as he found out he was officially a Canadian. He recounted in a story to the audience how he was born in Montreal and never renounced his citizenship. The moral of his story, according to Cain, was that when his band mates go to "fight in Iran" he's going to party with us Canadians. With a story like that, you can't blame for the Toronto audience completely embracing this band. As for the truthiness of the story, I can't attest to that.

Next time "We are Scientists" come back to Hogtown, you can bet they'll be filling up larger venues, possibly even the Kool Haus. The disapointed fans at the door not expecting it to be sold out wouldn't mind another chance their amazing live show, but gauging how well their show went down, that live show is going to be in high-demand.

You can check out more photos from the show at my brand new flickr page.

The Queen Street Missle

So after checking out "We Are Scientists" at the Horseshoe, apparently somebody transformed this pole into some kind of missle. It's hard to tell in this pic, but it was all painted white and had carboard fins. Leave a comment if you happen to know what this is about.

1.10.2006

We have to live on science alone


After garnering a substansial buzz in the UK, Brooklyn's We are Scientists are out to officially conquer North America. Their new album, "With Love and Squalor" is set to release on Jan. 10, but for those with an internet connection and a peer-to-peer service, you can find it as soon as you are done reading here.

At first listen, it's obvious that this band has the potential to be big. They fit into the same mould as The Killers and Franz Ferdinand, complete with coy sexuality and street smarts. While the Killers may have always been pop stars and Franz Ferdinand dudes who wish they were 10 years younger, We are Scientists approach the music with a fair bit of perspective and an armful of fun.

The band pulls off some fairly dynamic songs for a three piece, which includes singer/guitarist Keith Murray, bassist (with the MUSTACHE) Chris Cain and drummer Michael Tapper. This album comes after 3 EPs where the band slowly perfected their rock solid sound.

Akiva Shaffer, mastermind behind The Lonely Island and The Narnia Rap, already directed two videos, one for "The Great Escape" and "Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt," that are ready-made for M.O.D. or T.R.L. rotation.

If anything, the only thing that might keep this band from getting big like the Killers is the fact that they are a fairly polished three-piece. This means that in this time of synthy new-wave and 28 member collective bands, their music in comparison sounds rougher and a little-less radio friendly.

Regardless, "With Love and Squalor" is worth checking out on the merits of this band which can rock the dancefloor, while also being able to show off a few different gears. "Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt," "This Scene Is Dead," "Inaction," "The Great Escape," "Lousy Reputation" and "Worth the Wait" all tread that new-wave-disco-rock trail that Hot Hot Heat beat down a few years ago. But songs like "Can't Lose," "Textbook" and "Lousy Reputation" show the band revealing some genuine emotion like countless UK inspired rock bands.

Download "Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt" here.
Download one of my favorite tracks, "Inaction" here.

1.09.2006

You can't break the Diableros



With an album titled “You Can’t Break The Strings On Our Olympic Hearts,” it’s no surprise that these songs are all massive experiments in pushing music to the limits. There’s no time being wasted here, and every second is filled with urgency, melody and understanding.

This album sounds like escape. It doesn’t feel like the futility of running on a treadmill; it’s all about sprouting wings and flying. The beauty of their songs, both in arrangement and melodically, is that they are almost universal; it boggles the mind to think that no one came up with it first.

It all begins on “Working Out Words,” a big jingle-jangle opening track, filled out by the welcoming sounds spectrum of a 12 string guitar, ringing gloriously over bunker-shaking drums.


The guitar intro to this song alone sounds just like waking up on a bright sunny day, the kind of song that would score a scene when the underdog wakes up next to a beautiful woman and discovers he has won the lottery.

“Push it to Monday” is an unrelenting ode to procrastination, as it begins with an epic build-up, releasing into a wall of drums, organs and guitars. On “Tropical Pets,” the bass is big and fuzzed out, the power-chords ride large like a biker.

“Sugar Laced Soul” begins innocently enough, but soon fills out into a pounding explanation about the nature of love. “No Weight” chugs along like an out-of-control freight train.

“Olympic
Island” is more or less the band’s epic title track, followed closely by “Through the Foam,” which almost sounds like a disengaged lament about growing up.

“Smash the Clock” lives up to it’s destructive title, and the album lets out it’s final gasp with the beautifully militant “Golden Gates.”

Currently the band is made up of frontman Pete Carmichael who played the twelve-string and sang, Tara Huk who played the Farfisa, Ian Jackson on the guitar, Phoebe Lee on drums, Gary Leggett playing “fuzz bass” and Matt Bubba on organ.

Other bands of reference include Echo and the Bunnymen, the Jesus and Mary Chain and at times, Iggy Pop and the Cure.

At times, the Diableros sound like a rocked up version of
Toronto band “The Airfelds” (check out my review of their EP here), which makes sense considering the bands have a few members in common.

If I had to pick a couple favorite tracks, I’d have to say “Working Out Works” and “Through the Foam” would be mine, but really, this whole album is amazing. You can pick it up at one of your local record stores in
Toronto, but anywhere else, you’ll have to wait for a couple months. In the mean time, head over to their website for some mp3s.

You can hear the sounds of this band busting out of the back wall of every dark bar they’ve ever played. They will know success from their over-caffeinated tirades mixed up with a good dose of valium. After all, Muchmusic has them on their radar.


In an interview with Wavelength a while ago,
Carmichael said that he admires people who are “troopers,” ““the ones who come in to work no matter how sick they are. It’s like desperate professionalism.”

That term is a great way to describe the ethic of many
Toronto bands, and no doubt that the Diableros don’t live up to their own desperate professionalism.

For the Records is all over the band’s live show

Now Magazine with the Diableros

Josh at Torontoist reviewed this one way back in November 2005

Chromewaves has also put up a couple Diableros mp3s

1.06.2006

Guero vs. Guerolito


With this week's release of "Guerolito," a complete album remix of the earlier album, "Guero" by Beck, I thought it might be fun to consider if the remix album is overall a better album than the original. When I first picked up "Guerolito," it doesn't necessarily sound like a "remix" album, and the tracks aren't all 10 minutes long, so it's a fair comparison. Also, I'm excluding any bonus tracks and "Clap Hands" because it's not a remix.



1. "E-Pro" vs. "Ghost Range (E-Pro)"

The original "E-Pro" is a boozy guitar rocker, an all-around classic Beck track. However, "Ghost Range (E-Pro)" is a strange hoe-down, drum-machine and 70's television show soundtrack. For creativity alone, I have to give the first round to Guerolito. Remixer Homelife did a great job on this one.

2. "Que Onda Guero" vs. "Que Onda Guero (remix)"

With a laid-back, oldschool type vibe, the original track stands well on it's own. A suitable 3rd of 4th single even. The remix adds a Salsa type flavour, and a pile of acoustic guitars. The remixers Islands however, lose points by being the first guys to "screw" a song for a little while, and not make it effective. While it's a good remix, this round goes to Guero.

3. "Girl" vs. "Girl (remix)"

The original is an upbeat blippy keyboard and acoustic guitar track, and features a cool slide guitar solo. The remix by Octet replaces the guitars with keyboards and pianos, and puts in some loud drums. Now, it begins to sound like a remix near the end of the remix with the IDM style beats and the chopped up and reversed vocal, but overall, the remix is better. Mark another for Guerolito.

4. "Missing" vs. "Heaven Hammer (Missing)"

Another song with a cool latino beat on the original album, Beck lays down a cool rap and fills the track with lush orchestral sounds. The remix by Air turns the track into a typical synthy low-key Air song with a delayed drum machine beat. This is a hard one to pick but I'm going to go with Guero on this one.

5. "Black Tambourine" vs. "Shake Shake Tambourine (Black Tambourine)"

Beck returns to a funky style beat with "Black Tambourine," which is fairly straight-ahead groovy number. However, Beasite Boy Adrock turned in an amazing mix that takes the track into the groove stratosphere. Obvious win here for Guerolito.

6. "Earthquake Weather" vs. "Terremoto Tempo (Earthquake Moto)"

Another slow burn groove track from Beck, with a nice beat and some cool keyboards, breaks down pretty well, and seems like it would be hard to improve. Mario C pushes the beat to the forefront in the remix, and makes Beck's voice louder on the chorus, which overall adds to the song's distressing urgency. Another obvious win for Guerolito.

7. "Hell Yes" vs. "Ghettochip Malfunction (Hell Yes)"

The original version of "Hell Yes" is almost classic. It's unique beat with a killer bassline and an awesome rap. Remixer 8 bit lives up to his name and turns the track into an all-out robot jam, easily a superior version. Win goes to Guerolito.

8. "Broken Drum" vs. "Broken Drum (remix)"

Through an opium-hazed dirge, Beck's vocal float along through "Broken Drum" with the help of a dusty slide guitar. When Boards of Canada take over, they give the track an expansive backbeat and fill it out with a landscape of sound. The outro alone gives Guerolito the win.

9. "Scarecrow" vs. "Scarecrow (remix)"

Beck brings Guero back up to speed when he pulls out this drive track complete with "ooh-ooh" backup vocals. It's a soulful romp with an amazing wah-wah harmonica at the end. El-P really twists everything around until it's recognizable, slowing it down, and even taking away the soulful quality of the song. While neither version is particularily exciting, the jam gives the original the upper hand; mark one for Guero.

10. "Go it Alone" vs. "Wish Coin (Go it Alone)"

On Guero, "Go it Alone" perfectly compliments "Scarecrow" before, following things up with another guitar-based groovy jam. The remix by Superthriller frames the entire song in a dubish kind of beat, and while it's cool on it's own, Beck does it better. Guero.

11. "Farewell Ride" vs. "Farewell Ride (remix)"

Another cool drum beat, more interesting guitar riffs, and a great big end of song jam. It's the kind of song that Beck shows off his talent, no for being quirky, but just pure musicianship. The remix for the track by Subtle tends to lag a bit, but wins major cool points when for a couple mintues it sounds like crunk. But the remix is a little too unfocused, so the win goes to Guero.

12. "Rental Car" vs. "Rental Car by John King"

The upbeat "Rental Car" is a fun light rock song, which takes a cool left turn near the end. But when the Dust Brothers take over the remix, they chill everything down and then inject it with life. Win goes to Guerolito, obviously.

13. "Emergency Exit" vs. "Emergency Exit"

This is the official final track on Guero, and Beck definately goes out with a bang. It's big and cocky, and there's not much you can do to not love this one. Remixers Th' Corn Gangg actually remix the song "Broken Drum." It's sped up and pretty cool, but in the nature of this contest, it can't beat the original. Point to Guero.

Final Tally:

Guero: 6
Guerolito: 7

I'm actually suprised about how close the final score is. At the beginning it looked like Beck was a goner for sure, but with a late-album rally, he showed off that he is the master of his domain. However, it does prove that Beck should invite some producers in to his sessions to add some extra flavour to his songs. If you're like me, as a result of this list, you'll make a "Perfect Guero" playist combining all the winners. Thanks for playing!

1.04.2006

First Impressions of "The Strokes"


When it comes to the The Strokes, there's already a pile of baggage waiting at the door before you even put on the album.

There's the whole problem of them being the saviors of rock and roll, part of the short lived "garage rock" trend. There's also the whole "trust fund kids" thing, and of course, the "New York City" thing. Alot of their original hardcore fans also bailed with their follow up "Room on Fire" album.

So to get it all out of the way upfront, here's my own sordid Strokes story. Their first album, "Is This It?," I enjoyed, but was never a big fan. It's catchy, but personally, I couldn't get past the fact they were trying to make really arty, existential rock music, yet were just a bunch of trust fund kids probably without any real problem in the world.

It wasn't until "Room on Fire" that I gave the band a good hard listen, and I was finally won over. I think part of what convinced me was a track review of "Reptilia" which put forward the thesis that the Strokes are always going to be an amazing band because they never have to worry about working, and can spend far more time practising and writing than the rest of us mere mortals. At that point I resigned my distain for the band, and ever since then have really enjoyed everything these guys have done.

Alright, onto "First Impressions of Earth."

The first single, and David-Cross-starring music clip, "Juicebox," actually represents the entire album fairly accurately.

The song's intro has a certain "Hash Pipe" sort of flavour, which has set off warning alarms, given that "Hash Pipe" signalled the beginning of the end for Weezer and co. It sounds alot like other things, but at the same time it's really unique.

During the "Why won't do you come over here" section shows singer Julian Casablancas doing something different vocally; a high, uncontrolled howl. Over the course of the album, Casablancas continually pushes himself to move beyond his comfort zone and develops a few new tricks.

The "proper" chorus section is reminiscent of the "classic" Strokes sound, with the bass and drums pounding away as the guitars drape lush chords overtop. It's the third piece of the puzzle which makes "First Impressions of Earth" work together.

The only downside to the album is that I so far haven't found very many songs that will probably stay with me for the year, which was one of the redeeming qualities of "Room on Fire." But this album is definately a grower, and maybe in a month I'll have a more accurate take on what the classic songs are. But for now, I'd point you towards songs like "You Only Live Once," "Juicebox," "Razorblade," "Ask Me Anything" and "Electricityscape."

Just don't forget, the Strokes really did save rock and roll for a while. They came along when radio was playing Staind and Limp Bizkit, and brought back good music. Sure, we were then flooded with too many bad "garage rock" bands, but the Strokes are still going strong, and still deserve a listen.

...

Chromewaves.net is currently offering a download of the Strokes covering a Clash classic

Stereogum has the info on where to grab the video of "Juicebox."

1.02.2006

Some of you may not like the name...


I'll admit it right off the bat: I get a little bit of guilty pleasure talking about the band I went to see on New Year's Eve this year. Let's just say it's a phrase that I don't use too often... unless you are a certain computer I use at work.

Anyways, led by singer-songwriter and all around creative individual Brian Borcherdt, Holy Fuck is a gift to anyone who hates house music enough to avoid the clubs. It all begins with the set up on stage; two tables face each other, both covered in well-loved guitar effect pedals, dusty black wires, and cheapo keyboards. The table on the left features a strange looking contraption, part film projector component, part lathe and part antique space age material. In the middle of the mess sit two badly damaged Poinsettas, a victim of a previous week's Ninja High School performance.

Behind the two tables looks like a regular set up from any other band night. A bass guitar leans up against a chair behind an amp. A set of drums sits quietly.

While the kids gathered at Sneaky Dee's waited for the band to start, interested guitar geeks spied the chaos waiting on the table, probably wondering why they haven't thought of doing the same thing at home.

When the band finally started, it was everything I expected. I wasn't exactly suprised, considering their self-titled album was recorded completely live and completely improvised. The sounds were wild, the music intense and thrilling to know that while some of it sounded familiar from the CD, at times it veered off in a completely different direction.

The band's dub influence also came to the forefront at one point when the band broke out a reggage jam for ten minutes or so. While the crowd was into it, I couldn't help but think the same assembled partiers would probably turn up their nose at the same jam being performed by the Bedouin Soundclash down at Nathan Phillips Square. Just something to think about there.

Of course, the countdown happened without a hitch, we all hugged and kissed, and the band broke into a rather upbeat, positive song that sounded alot like M83. They invited people to dance on stage, but only a handful took up the invite.

The Shit La Merde New Year's Eve party (who probably only chose Holy Fuck as an opener just for the complimentary names) was a blast. It was intimate and fun, and knocked me out completely for the whole next day. Here's hoping that I can celebrate 2006 the same way.

Did you blog about NYE 2005? Link it up in the comments section!

..

For the Records went to see Bedouin on NYE
Some of the cool kids at Stillepost went, and took some pics, here and here.
Smile Like you Mean It recounts his NYE adventure