Reviews

The Sweetness: What’s it like to be a sprinkler, I wonder?

The Sweetness

Independent

This first release from a Toronto/Austin mashup group raises the bar for harmonic percussive folk. Sure there’s such a genre. Toronto solo artists Chloe Charles and Sam McLellan and Austin’s Aly Tadros and Douglas Jay Boyd came together in downtown Memphis, Tennessee during this year’s Folk Alliance International.The chemistry was instant and the mutation into a band seemingly inevitable.

Each accomplished individually, singer-songwriter Chloe Charles and composer/session musician/double bassist Sam McLellan, singer-songwriter Aly

Tadros and singer-songwriter/percussionist Douglas Jay Boyd  join forces as The Sweetness and launch their debut album “What’s it like to be a sprinkler, I wonder?”

The result is infused with the freshnes of a band together but a few weeks before the album was cut.. Rich four-part harmonies and heavy cajon-driven backbeats echo, lush harmonies soar atop eerie rhythm patterns.

Elsewhere, mind-entrancing, double-tracked she-vocals slink around spooky settings for gaunt and edgy folk-blues. Don’t let the band name fool you, this is one crew way into getting beyond the merely quirky into darker and unsettling territory.

And with Chloe Charles’ range and Aly Tadros’ haunting tones they’ve got the vocal flexibility to carry the heaviest of moods.

James Lizzard

Austra: Feel It break

Austra

Domino/Paper Bag

This bracing antidote to flirty summer fun never really had its day in the sun on original release. Hoping to redress that, we'll get the big ups out of the way. Feel It Break is intelligent, quirky, broody synth pop, Goth guitar rock with a dance club sensibility and the soaring vocals of opera-trained underground diva Katie Stelmanis. With its forceful production and stronger emphasis on rhythm Feel It Break may piss off Austra fans that cling to the ethereal sounds of debut album Katie Stelmanis. There's some of that here but there's so much that's unexpected also.

When first single "Beat And The Pulse" dropped last year, it was thought to be an experimental one-of; instead, it was the sign of things to come and with Feel It Break, those things have arrived full force.

Dark electronic and searing, histrionic vocals are reminiscent of Fever Ray and early Kate Bush but this Katie brings her own high-drama operatic nuances to the proceedings.

Stelmanis' childhood experience with the Canadian Opera Company is evident as she delivers lines that are alternately delicate and booming.

Hard at work behind the voice, Austra the band are keeners for high-gloss, stacatto coldwave vibes closer to Nine Inch Nails than anythng contemporary. It's retro, it's futuro, it's epic and you can dance to its ofttimes dark subject mater.

Graham Wright: Shirts Vs Skins

Shirts vs Skins

FU:M Records

Wow, is modern fame ever fleeting. Usually in the opposite direction. After years of slogging, Tokyo Police Club are finally breaking out of the indie ghetto and blam! solo album from the keyboard player.

Which is fine as Graham Wright’s keyboard stylings is a significant contributor to the TPC sound and maybe dude has things to say outside of the format of Tokyo Police Club.

He does and he doesn’t. He’s big on reportage from the teen-sheen relationship angst wars but TPC has covered that turf in the past, so that’s not it. So it’s the music then. Nah, this is high octane power pop of the sort TPC have brought to a refinement, just a shade more ligtweight.Not necessarily a bad thing in this genre and Wright does on occasion dip into more rootsy approaches.

It’s in the lyricism where the wheels fall off  While TPC have dabbled in heartbreak teen rock, the arrangments usually bring something a little different and Dave Monk’s lyrics are worlds apart from Wright’s buzz word dropping and face value observations.
Shirts vs. Skins is a collection of Nineties classic power-pop , with period sense of irony to the fore. The good news is this means hooks and skittery synth passages galore and the catchiness of such as ‘Leftovers’ and “Something Stupid” make this a decent summertime waster and girl-chaser soundtrack. Except for “Canadian Thanksgiving” which veers perilously close to misogony a time or two.

James Lizzard

CD Review: Invitation – Bernie Senensky

Bernie Senensky

By Bill McDonald

“Invitation” is the latest addition to the Bernie Senensky discography. And, a great addition it is.
In this trio recording, with Gene Perla on bass and Ben Riley on drums, Senensky delivers his trademark compelling melodic lines with the seemingly effortless creativity. In their rhythmic and soloing contributions, Perla and Riley dovetail perfectly.

“Invitation” (P.M. Records, www.pmrecords.com) is a mix of standards and original compositions. Senensky brings his insightful melodic interpretations to chestnuts such as “Old Folks”, “Come Rain or Come Shine”, and “Young and Foolish”. The trio also shines on two personal favourites – the title track, “Invitation” and the haunting “My One and Only Love”.

In sharing the umbrella with these classics, Senensky’s personal compositions intertwine perfectly. From the opening energy of “Come to Me”, and “Blues for E.J” (his tribute to the late jazz legend, Elvin Jones) to the closing bebop “Bud Lines”, Senensky’s compositional talents shine brightly. One other original contribution from bassist Perla, “Bill’s Waltz” also highlights this CD.

FINE CANADIAN FORCES: Hebrew Lessons

Fine Canadian Forces

Independent

Here’s a collection that’s just a lot of loopy , goofy fun. Fine Canadian Forces is multi-instrumentalist Jordan Fine of much indie cred and a fondness for using the loop pedal in constructing his Modern Jazz, Noise Rock, Neo-Pop sound collages.


Fine sticthes together intricate sonic adventures backboned by repitition, both of the melodic and vocal nature. The lyrics tend to be looped variants on either funny or cryptic one-liners likely meant to illustrate where the piece is ‘coming’ from.


While all this may sound ultra-hipster and like, too cool, Fine is too clever for that, and manages to keep the furthest out excursions of interest to even the most casual listener. Dude really uleashes his compositional chops however, when he turns his hand to rearranging pop standards.


This type of thing usually falls prey to the desire to re-invent the wheel, ending up re-imagining the original until all traces are virtually wiped clean. Fine pulls it off via clever song choices and an approach which challenges the original while keeping a firm hold on its choicest bits.


While  Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” and The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”.walk proudest in their new clothes, they’re stand back and take notice pieces.


Much better in its sly way is the Gospel-tinged reworking of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love’ which is simultaneously elevating and hilarious, courtesy of a stone-cold deadpan vocal.

Andy Kim Rocks Canada Day in the Beach

Andy Kim

Story by Natasha Slinko
Photo Credits by Natasha Slinko


Once again Andy Kim graced the stage at Woodbine Park in the Beach for the Red, White & Vinyl Festival, sponsored by Vinyl 95.3 and Kim absolutely wowed the crowds as he rocked the house for the Canada Day Celebration on July 1st. Everybody came out, over 200,000 strong, with umbrellas, chairs, coolers, sunscreen and kids in tow, to come and listen to their rock idols with a line-up of Dan Hill, Alannah Myles, Brass Transit, LightHouse and of course, the amazing Andy Kim.


I was able to catch Andy Kim's segment and what a show he put on. A true entertainer of the finest calibre, Kim knows how to connect with his audience on every level. At one point he invited anyone who could climb the barricade fencing to come and dance on stage - and they climbed over to the utter dismay of the security guards. Wee girls waving Canadian flags in honour of our special day, big burly men dancing to the beat, and women just dancing up a storm to "Sugar, Sugar." To the delight of his fans, Kim named his dancers His "Archies." Everyone was absolutely thrilled and beaming as they had their moment with Kim.

We Are Devo: Rocks NXNE

Devo 9

By Bill Delingat

Who can forget the “flower pot men” first sighted in the 80’s, well actually they were a group of students from Akron ,OHIO and they weren’t flower pots on the heads but “Devo Energy Domes” which, still today along with their new age sneakers, are still a big part of their merchandise.

Devo originally formed in 1973 and by 1980 had a hit with the single "Whip It’, and has maintained a cult following throughout its existence. Their style, a Sci - Fi, industrial art rock gave us the robotic musical look at their future.  The name "Devo" comes from their concept of de-evolution - the idea that instead of continuing to evolve, mankind has actually begun to regress, as evidenced by the dysfunction and herd mentality of American society.

Devo caught the attention of David Bowie, who loved the group and secured a record contract for them with Warner Brothers. Brian Eno, of Roxy Music Fame, produced their hit album “Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!”.  That spawned remixes of hits like Mongoloid and the Stones “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” and then the ional exposure with an appearance on Saturday Night Live, only a week  after the Rolling Stones, with Devo  performing "Satisfaction" and "Jocko Homo."

With a new CD released in 2010 “Something for everybody”, Devo is back out on the road and made a stop in Toronto at Dundas Square on June 18th for NXNE.

BIG SUGAR: Revolution Per Minute

Big Sugar

Bread And Water

So Gordie Johnson relocates to Texas and the reggae groove on Big Sugar gets deeper? Maybe Gordie was missing the band’s early years in the T.Dot when they first started mixing up electric blues with reggae grooves.

This first Big Sugar album in 8 years sure sounds like it.

Last year Gordie Johnson took time out from his country-metal project Grady to play a clutch of show with a hastily reunited Big Sugar. The experience was sweet enough to entice the crew back into the studio for a ‘reunion’ album, a concept that doesn’t often end with the best results.
Revolution Per Minute is not one of those. Instead, it’s everything you’ve ever liked about Big Sugar and more.

The Davey Parker Radio Sound: In A Land of Wolves and Thieves

Wolves

Unsigned

Parkdale’s newest countrified garage darlings have been busy making a name over the last year on the strength of their live show. Time for that debut album then and as such things go, this one isn’t bad.
For genre fans, this crew falls somewhere between Rockit 88, Catl and the Johnny Max Band. They come armed with dual guitarists/lead vocalists. Graeme Jones and Jason Fitzpatrick and a fondness for psyche rock and garage psychedelia 

While their playing styles are sufficiently different to make both necessary, the similarity between the voices of Jones and Fitzpatrick means some songs are never gonna be all they can be. Case in point, ‘Southern’ eases along on a grabby melody and an easygoing time signature but would have benefited from a more engaged vocal.

Same with the lyrics; you’d think a band which takes it’s name from a Dylan lyric (Check  ‘Trust Yourself’). would work a little harder on the narrative.
The times when the garage band aesthetic and a decent narrative come together are numerous enough to forgive the stumbles. Overall, the set does a decent job of conjuring up the boozy dance party that is a Davey Parker Radio Sound live show. Personal fave track ‘I Tasted Your Love’, is every bit as yummy sticky as it sounds.


James Lizzard

HANDSOME FURS: Sound Kapital

HANDSOME FURS

Sub Pop

The world-travelling duo of  Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry who make up Handsome Furs are undeniably handsome and quite possibly furry. Both these qualities manage to find their way into this worldbeat techno pop sound and help save the act from their worst 80s selves.
Debut album. Face Control hit hard on both sides of the ocean, its tales of cold and desperate love struggling with synth passages that just wouldn't play it straight, sounded fresh and confident.
 
Overnight success only served to push them further off the beaten path. If the debut was Eastern-European inspired, Sound Kapital does very well by Southeast Asian and Chinese inflections, Which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the sounds of those places which impact the Furs; what’s here can be read as the sound of the Furs interpreting the visuals and ambient noises of those cultures.

Worked over by Boeckner and Perry, the ever-flowing neon nightscapes, energy and street noises of Manila, Bangkok and Beijing are the jumping off points for Sound Kapital.
The tinny synth jangle is just right for suggesting the ringing of thousands of bicycle bells. In most cases, the songs are all about the electronica with Boeckner’s guitar used mainly to highlight and accentuate but rarely lead.

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