Album Reviews

Steven Page: Page One

Steven Page

Anthem

  

After the grade school finger pointing and gnashing of teeth on the first Barenaked Ladies album without Mr. Page’s involvement, everybody’ was checking to see how said gentleman would deal with that.

 

On his first full-length without the BNLs, Page takes the high road right past that sordid mess. No breast-beating, name-calling or crocodilian tears, thank you very much.  In striking out away from the adult contempo stuff his former band paid the mortgages with, Page takes us on a tour of the kind of musics he likes. 


You got yer tight’n’jangly indie pop (‘Marry Me’), yer snarky lyrics wedded to bristly electronica (‘Queen Of America’), yer melodic and insightful balladry (‘Indecision’) If you’re still curious about the fallout around Page’s 2008 coke bust, there’s a track called ‘Clifton Springs’ that’s a fairly direct allusion and cocaine does show up in ‘The Chorus Girl’ but in a very different scenario. The most Ladies-esque song here is ‘All The Young Misogynists”, both in the vocals and its poke in the eye with a foam finger stance.

 

All in all, a busy little menu of coming attractions, which makes the predominant sound here that of a man marking time.


Joel Lightman – “Water on a Butterfly” (5-song EP on Boardroom Records)

Water on a Butterfly

CD Launch & Live Concert – Friday October 22 -  Buddies in Bad Time Theatre, Toronto 

by Kathy Hahn

For the fans that crowded the room, Joel Lightman needed no introduction.  They sang along to his songs as if they were welcoming the return of long-lost friends. This sense of familiarity spread quickly to us newcomers. Whether a fan or a new friend to the fold, the music touched the soul of everyone there, bringing people to tears and laughter.

 

Lightman drove through a set of material punctuated with five new tracks from a newly recorded EP entitled “Water on a Butterfly”. The debut video single “Shine On” illustrates the inevitable lightness of being that is Joel Lightman.  The songs are original, well-crafted, imaginative, melodious, sophisticated and luminous in arrangement, replete with infectious hooks and memorable melody lines that ricochet around in your head long after the last note has faded.

 

HOODED FANG: Album

HOODED FANG

Unsigned

Two years in the making, a cast of seven, twelve songs about hanging out, relationships and being young and having misery fun in the 21st century. It’s Album, the first full-length album from T.Dot fun popsters Hooded Fang.

Without entirely ditching the loosey goosey exuberance of their debut EP, the Fang are now stepping up the song crafting with a greater confidence. This translates into a lesser inclination to throw everything at hand into each track. Consequently, the merits of the song writing are a little easier to appreciate. Even focus on.

Not a great ol' humungous switch in direction from the debut EP, just a studied coolness, and a surer hand with ‘less is more’ arrangements, a touch that’s becoming a rarity in T.Dot indie ‘orchestras”. Stylistically, it’s a nice mix of upbeat pop, indie rock and orchestral folk, kinda in the Ohbijou tradition. Not a far stretch, as the Fangs are known to consort with the Ohbijou crew and there’s one track one the album, Highway Steam, which first appeared on the second Friends In Bellwoods compilation.

But it ain’t necessarily fun times in the Hooded Fang world; vocalist Daniel Lee sees to that with a style hooking up the melodic misery of Morrissey to the art school disaffection of David Byrne, with a dash of Kevin Drew. This whiff of Eighties art rock gives the proceedings a kind of inherited cool, especially as this is not an over-milked sub-genre at this point.

THE MELIGROVE BAND: Shimmering Lights

THE MELIGROVE BAND

Fourth time out and this T.Dot foursome mix up the indie pop with just enough quirk Their usual attention to catchy rhythms and delayed hooks are sprinkled with lotsa small suprises and unexpected ear ticklers.

They come at you right from the get-do with first song, “Ghosts At My Back.”, opening up with a jazzy trumpet line. As well, the title lets us in on the whistling past the graveyard mood that loiters around most of the tracks. The trio of “Really Want It”, “Make Believe It” and “White Like Lies.” exemplify this element in the album, helped along hugely by organ lines suggesting things at the funhouse are about to go sideways.

And if the ligtbulb still hasn’t gone off, “Bones Attack!” has lyrics like: “If I loved you to death will your bones attack me?” that get to the black-hearted humor of the matter. Other tracks, like “Half Light” and “ This Work” are more straight forward in intent, although ‘Work’ has lyrics that can go ironic in the wrong ears.

And everywhere you look, hook after hook , tasty riff piled on tasty riff until “Racing To Shimmering Lights” screches to the finish line bursting at the seams with poprock goodness. It won’t come clear until this album’s been out awhile that what The Meligrove Band has done here is a damm fine job of balancing the wheels and tuning up the indie pop machine This is only their fourth album in 10 years and like it’s predecessors, is an indicator that The Meligrove Band understands that good albums, like good sex, takes time.

James Lizzard

Chromeo: Business Casual

Chromeo

Last Gang

So now that electro funksters Chromeo’s signed to major US label Atlantic, let the dissing begin. It’s going to be hard for fans to find much fault with this first major album release, as Business Casual is dressed in much the same threads which have packed out Montreal’s underground clubs since da dudes started playing the circuit.

Chromeo’s Dave-1(David Macklovitch) and P-Thugg(Patrick Gemayel) broke out three years ago with Fancy Footwork, album that did a fine job of setting the tone for the band’s ‘brand’. Since then, the duo’s blown up globally, more so in Europe, leaving a large American market to get friendly with Chromeo’s sound.

Since that’s the job of Business Casual, it makes all kinds of strategic sense that this is a classic straight up Chromeo album, beats just so and a canny hand with the disco guitar references.

And you can’t blame them since taken as a calling card, the album does just fine in the role. It sounds like the big money production it was, fat grooves and bouncy backbeats well to the fore, tracks jammed with sonic information. The thing’s full of show stopping moments, among them the Queen-like grandeur of “Don’t Walk Away” and those in search of a new club anthem need look no further than “Hot Mess’. Then, having rocked the joint, the pair turn to a trio of tunes, “Night by Night", "Don't Turn the Lights On" and “You Make It Rough” which evoke a mood of space opera sex among the stars.

The Coast: Queen Cities

The Coast Queen Cities

Aporia

On this sophomore album, The Coast don’t coast at all, in fact, such is the intensity and desire to jam as much info as possible onto the tracks they occasionally cross over into bluster.
Carrying the flag for big guitar rock, this quartet is Ben Spurr (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Ian Fosbery (guitar, keyboards, vocals), brothers Luke (bass, vocals) and Jordan Melchiorre (drums) and their 2008 debut Expatriate made waves on the indie rock scene.

They’re out of Toronto, on the Lake Ontario coast. where they holed up in their rehearsal space writing and working on new material for much of ’09. . In November they returned to the scene of the debut album, the Lincoln County Social Club, and laid down 14 new tracks. In colaboration with long-time pal and and producer Chris Stringer (We're Marching On, Ohbijou, Rush) they cooked it down to the 9 tunes that make up Queen Cities.

This is thinking man’s guitar rock the way Rush used to be thinkiing man’s prog rock.Loaded with shimmering guitars, clever chord changes and the odd keyboard tossed in for extra texture, these songs have links to the work of such proven floor fillers as The Stills and The Trews.

There are plenty of hooks, grabby melody bits and shout-out choruses to be found amongst the fuzzy guitars and heavy drum mix. Standout songs like "Fire Out" and the solidly impressive ”Mother Tongue" will carry this band far.

Day 2 Déjà Vu: Lady Liberty

Day2 Déjà Vu

Unsigned

There’s a Nirvana-ish sense of mission around this trio, the sense they’re feeling their way through Soundgarden on the way to Nirvana? The signifying starts with the album art for debut disc Lady Liberty. As designed by Jonathan Ball, it depicts the Statue of Liberty grasping an oil rig for a torch with lotsa dollars plastered to her oil-sodden body. It harkens back to the days of vinyl and finely detailed album art. In the same vein, all song lyrics are included, much nerdy production detail and just to let y’all know this is heavy stuff, the Parental Advisory sticker

The good news is that once the disc starts spinning, within a couple of tracks it’s evident there’s enough quality content to forgive or maybe justify the fronting.

Day2 Déjà Vu are Jeff Fulford (lead vcls, gtrs), Sean MacLean (lead vcls, bass) and Justin Fulford (drums, percussion, backing vcls) and a big part of their punch comes from having dual lead singers. This ensues that both the sweet and the rough get the appropriate delivery and indicates a band with a reach beyond the indie rock clichés they occasional play into. Which is pretty much par for the course on a young band’s debut album and helps highlight just how hot the good stuff is.

Tia McGraff-Canada’s Americana Roots Sweetheart Releases New Album Diversity

Tia McGraff

By Bill Delingat

Tia McGraff - Canada’s “soul stirring,” A/C Americana roots sweetheart - is making her way back into the spotlight with her latest album, Diversity,released on August 24 through her very own Bandana Records. Produced by Tommy Parham (Come Early Morning-Ashley Judd, Rocks You Can't Move-Lee Greenwood), Diversity is McGraff’s fifth studio album, and the follow-up to 2007’s critically acclaimed Day In My Shoes, nominated for Best Alt Country Recording of the Year at the 2008 Hamilton Music Awards. McGraff explains the new release’s title as a representation of her abilities; “My musical style has always been a potpourri of lyrical and musical influences, and the songs on this album represent my range.”

Writing and recording since the age of 19, Tia McGraff’s uplifting, heart-warming songs have been garnering her strong fan acclaim from her beginnings in the industry. As one devoted fan once passionately declared, "Tia’s music makes your heart rest!" The Port Dover, ON native released two albums on Bandana Records, and four music videos, which were showcased on Country Music Television (CMT), before deciding to make the move to Nashville, TN.

Soon after her arrival in Nashville, McGraff met songwriter/producer Tommy Parham, who became her partner in life and on stage. The duo quickly became a musical force to be reckoned with, as McGraff and Parham became a pairing which reached out to the world with their love for each other and for their music. With time, they’ve not only found touring success, but also commercial success.

ARCADE FIRE: The Suburbs

Arcade Fire photo by Gabriel Jones

ARCADE FIRE
The Suburbs

(Merge)

This third sonic document from the biggest indie band on the planet brings to mind the line about Moll Flanders ‘ always known to pour a man a full measure, and a wee drop more’. Never one to skimp on the theatrics nor shrink from flirting with the overblown, major dude Win Butler isn’t about to change now but does demonstrate a newfound suss in knowing when to hold ‘em. As a result, the AF’s demonstrate, most notably on “”City With No Children” and the sparse perfection of ‘Wasted Hours”. a level of restraint you tend to forget in this seven-headed band.
Big picture, this is Arcade Fire deconstructing the suburbs, turning over fragments and slivers of that lifestyle and the effects of its urban and internal geographies. It’s all meat for the grinder, the light and the dark, the sharp and the sweet, the alienated and the in-charge, dragged out of bed, cold water splashed in its face and yielding up some monster moments.

And it comes with a twist of wry. Unlike its predecessors, this album doesn’t wrap it all up in a grand conclusion. At the end of Butler’s shakedown of all things suburban, the points made and questions raised rattle around like a drawer full of dead I Pods. Suburban banality, corrosive ennui and what might have been never sounded more epic. Especially on the supremely full bodied “Sprawl 11(Mountains beyond Mountains) which gets elevated behind some Gospel tinged keyboards, courtesy of Will Butler’s love affair with vintage analog synths.

Rockit88: Sweet Sugar Cane

Rockit 88

Unsigned

This is a great album to have on in the background when folks come over. The sound is at once so unique and familiar that the guessing games as to whose album it is and the provenance of the songs is bound to break out. Maybe it’s just my living room, but not a one of my pals who came by called it the music of a local band right off.
Welcome to Sweet Sugar Cane, only the second album from T.Dot blues/roots rock band Rockit88 and it’s linked to the same pedigree as the music of The Band and early Van Morrison. Fronted by dual singing songwriters Neil Chapman and Bill King, Sweet Sugar Cane is the game changer for the band and the In Door to a whole new identity as an original act.
As such, the stakes are high but on most tracks, the band raises the bar then easily soars over it.
The album opens with 35 seconds of Southern fried Gershwin-ish piano riff, which nicely sets up ‘Summertime Is Here’, a mid-temp invitation to party down summer style, sprinkled with slide guitar licks like stardust and the propulsive drumming of Jim Casson. From there it’s on to all manner of original material inflected with country blues (‘I Never Knew The Blues’), swamp rock touched by barrelhouse piano (‘Brother, Sister’). Among ballads so American Gothic stately you can almost see the moss hanging off them is the brilliant r'n'b infused ‘Angels Crying’ and the show-stopping title track, dusted with the kind of organ lines which link it to genre gems like ‘Long Black Veil’.

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