Formalists

July 22nd, 2014 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

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My bros in Toronto’s oddball indie-folk-jazz crew Formalists have a new EP coming out this Saturday called 6 Possible Illusions Prior to Death. On the new release, they’ve tightened up the band, the production, everything, and the end product is pretty charming. They’re doing a release show at Cinecycle saturday that should also be pretty tight.

Re-Evaluated // Without Feathers

July 21st, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

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The Stills made a name for themselves in Canadian indie rock in 2003 with their excellent debut album Logic Will Break Your Heart. Riding the post-punk wave of the time that Interpol more or less kicked off, The Stills were also lucky enough to benefit from all the press that Montreal got around that time, as bands like Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade and Stars brought the French-Canadian metropolis to international musical attention again years after Godspeed You! Black Emperor put it on the map.

Thinking themselves clever and knowing that interest in post-punk was waning, the band switched horses for their second album, Without Feathers, dropping the dark 80s vibe and instead attempting to write something along the lines of a Canadian indie rock-pop album for the road weary. The critics were not impressed. Nobody was really. This was not The Stills we knew and loved and most didn’t really know what to make of the album.

For album three, Oceans Will Rise, the band tried to come back in a big way, signing to the beloved Arts & Crafts label and apparently hooking up with some very trendy industry stylists, but it was only to put out an album that, though not entirely devoid of charm, lacked the soul and cohesion of their previous albums (despite this, it won the meaningless Juno award for Alternative Album Of The Year). Then The Stills broke up. Without Feathers was where everything went wrong. And it’s a real shame, because it’s actually a pretty solid album.

Without Feathers is not as cool as Logic…, but it does have more heart.  With former drummer Dave Hemelin taking lead vocal duty, the album seems to have some kind of conceptual bent to it, with songs with titles like “In The Beginning”, “In The End”, and “Outro” (oddly enough, the last two appear in the middle of the album). I have no idea what the ‘story’ would be, but the album always feels like it’s going somewhere, like there’s some kind of progression that takes place from one song to the next (though most sound pretty similar), until it reaches the melancholic melodica of “The House We Live In”, which leads the album out with the beautiful “Dear Sarah/The house we live in/Is all I know.” And the band always sounds more alive, more real than on Logic, as if this was the sound they decided was really right for them now (before listeners (perhaps in pure knee-jerk fashion) decided it wasn’t) and everyone was really excited to have found it.

Another thing that makes the album special is how Hamelin’s vocal melodies always seem to be moving upwards, euphorically. His voice is maybe a little thinner than once-and-soon-to-be-again lead vocalist Tim Fletcher, but it’s more authentic, and his singing feels more alive.

I don’t think I got around to even listening to Without Feathers until a year or two after its release in 2006. But the first time I did, I immediately loved it and knew it was just a victim of expectations. They say time heals – I think it’s time this album’s reputation was healed as well. Admittedly it sounds a little square in 2014, as indie rock has fractured to a certain extent into the experimental post-Merrweather deep end and more ‘mindie’-minded acts, but if you still have a soft-spot for the sounds of mid-2000s Canadian indie, Without Feathers is an overlooked gem.

Shlock Fetish // Moontrap

July 19th, 2014 | Film | 0 Comments

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I’ve always love love loved crazy, weird, ridonculous movies: midnight movies, grindhouse, VHS trash, exploitation, WTF? movies, etc. Films that appeal to our most basic, boyish desires and have fun doing so. And yet I haven’t really written about them much…until now. This is the first entry in a new film feature on the blog, Shlock Fetish, which will be about cult and obscure films that fit the aforementioned descriptions. And are awesome. If they’re not, I won’t bother writing about them. The first film to receive the honour of this feature is 1989s Moontrap, a really fun, campy sci-fi film from perhaps the golden age of the VHS era.

Walter Koenig (Pavel Chekov in the original Star Trek) and Bruce Campbell (!!!) star as Colonel Jason Grant and Ray Tanner, age-conscious astronauts who come across a mysterious, 14,000-year-old dead human body and weird egg-like structure in space. They bring their findings back to NASA, where the egg ‘hatches’ and out of it comes a weird little robot thing that starts assimilating surrounding technological and biological material until it’s a giant robotic killing machine. Of course, NASA wants to know what the deal is with this thing so they send the astronauts to the moon to try and see if they can find anything they missed the first time they were there. Lo and behold, they find an abandoned base with a moon-lady named Mera (Leigh Lombardi) in some kind of cryo-sleep in it. They wake her up and head back to their lander only to find it’s not there anymore. Damn moon-robots! And shooting and robot attacks ensue…

Moontrap is actually a pretty good movie. As cheesy as its subject matter is, the film respects its characters and gives them time to develop. It’s fairly well-paced and the stop-motion animation moon-robots look awesome. Sure, the sex that Grant and Mera have on the moon is pretty preposterous (though I suppose after 14,000 years a person will get kinda horny) and them ending up together is ridiculous, but both are kind of like, ‘yeah, of course that’s gonna happen in a movie like this.’ Other than that though, Moontrap more or less takes itself seriously enough to stand as a competently-made film, but it does so without sacrificing the fun of being a movie about killer moon-robots.

Try Harder

July 18th, 2014 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

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Some great old-school indie rock from the cool kids in Kingston behind Try Harder. (via Weird Canada)

Ken Park // You Think About It Too Much

July 18th, 2014 | Torontopia | 0 Comments

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Ken Park is the rare Toronto artist that I haven’t actually heard of until now, when my entire Facebook feed is freaking out over his debut album, You Think About It Too Much, being released by the excellent Daps Records. Now I’m finally getting around to listening to it, and it’s prettttty cool. It’s like sun-baked electro-pop with a wonky, surreal, 80s-on-DMT sensibility similar to that of labelmates Phedre and mate-of-the-label Doldrums. Oddly, it’s a sensibility of sound that seems to exist only in Toronto and Montreal (Grimes and Blue Hawaii would also fit this bill). You wouldn’t think such nice Canadian cities would be the breeding grounds for something so weird, otherworldly and druggy, but as Weird Canada has made clear over the past couple years, us Canadians are a lot weirder and cooler than anyone really thought…

[update: they're having a release party for the album release tonight at the excellent Milk Glass Co.]

Environmentalism Mix

July 17th, 2014 | The Mix | 0 Comments

I’ve done a lot of travelling over the last couple months. I was on a business trip that took me to Edmonton, Vancouver, LA and New York, and then my two-month road trip that I just got back from, during which I went to a ton of cool places, most notably Asheville, Austin, San Fran and the bay area, Portland, and Olympia. In about two weeks I’ll be back on the road on my way to Sackville, New Brunswick, as discussed in the last post. From there I’ll be heading down the East coast to my soon-to-be-new home, New York City :)

I’ve always been environmentally-inclined, but lately I’ve been on an extra strong green-trip, probably because I’ve been seeing such beautiful natural sites and visiting so many ‘hippie’ type places with strong local green movements. So to tie in with this, here’s a little compilation of environmental-oriented songs – and if it encourages you to be more environmentally conscious or friendly, that would be good too :)

 

 

Mexican Slang

July 12th, 2014 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

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The Buzz Records crew are putting on a show tonight at some place I’ve never been in Toronto called Manifesto. It’s gonna be an EP release show for noisy garage punks Mexican Slang, and Weed (sooo good) and Lice Lice are playing too…should be cool.

Matt Kivel

July 11th, 2014 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

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LA-based, Woodsist-signed artist Matt Kivel‘s new album, Days Of Being Wild, was just reviewed by Pitchfork. They posted two tracks and both are absolutely wonderful and gorgeous. Can’t wait to hear the full thing.

TONSTARTSSBANDHT

July 10th, 2014 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments

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I’ve seen the all-caps name around for a while, TONSTARTSSBANDHT was one of those bands that ‘weirder’ Canadian music outlets like Offerings (RIP) and Weird Canada would write about. Now their bandcamp says they’re based in New York, but I guess they were from Montreal or one of them’s still there or something. Maybe they felt New York would be more open to their weird brand of reverby jamedelica, though Montreal’s known for being pretty open-minded to cool stuff, so I don’t know.

I feel like maybe I’d heard them at some point and wasn’t into it, but Brennon McCracken‘s post on Portals about their new album + the track he posted definitely got me to reconsider my stance on them: the shit off the new album Overseas sounds boss. It’s available as a PWYC dl so you don’t hesitate to go in for the full thing if you’re feeling it.

LEFT Horror Fest Review

July 7th, 2014 | Torontopia | 0 Comments

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If you missed the preview post, Horror Fest took place this year on July 5th and 6th at the Hot Docs Bloor Cinema. It was second annual Lost Episode Festival Toronto film festival. And I was lucky enough to be able to cover it, and it was pretty cool.

The festival consisted of four screenings, of which three, the films Anna, Patrick, and Naked Zombie Girl were shown on Saturday, with the last screening, the 50 Hour Film Competition, being shown on Sunday.

Kicking off the festival, Anna, is a film about an agent named John Washington (Mark Strong) working for agency called Mindscape (this was also the working title for the film) that uses people with psychic ability to see into the memories of others – in a way similar to how people entered others’ dreams in Inception – in order to find information that can then be used to solve crimes or be of use in criminal trials. Washington, low on cash and reeling from the recent death of his wife, hasn’t been working much lately, so he comes into his boss Sebastien’s (Brian Cox) office insistently looking for a gig. Sebastien gives him an assignment: the ‘gifted’ daughter of a family he’s been friend’s with for a long time is going through a rough time and is refusing to eat. Go in and find out what the problem is using the memory probing stuff, get her to eat. Washington reluctantly takes the job and begins memory sessions with the  intelligent, oddly seductive Anna (Taisa Farmiga), quickly discovering there’s a lot of stuff going on here that’s not right or as it seems.

Though the film works with an interesting premise and Strong and Farmiga are clearly exceptional actors, the script is shockingly bad, and the direction doesn’t manage to deal with it properly. There are a lot of “WTF???” moments not because of plot twists, but because some of things characters say are so stupid or redundant, or things that were set up as big plot points or ‘reveals’ are actually totally pointless. At one point Anna’s mother tells Washington something like, “we haven’t let her go back to school because she was cutting herself. Now we’ve taken out all of the sharp objects out of her room in order to protect her,” to which he responds, “from what?” as if this weren’t the most obvious thing in the world. But then we wouldn’t get the groan-worthy dramatic “from herself(!),” reply.

Luckily the next film, the Australian supernatural horror Patrick: Evil Awakens, was better.

You’re Next‘s incredible Ozzie lead Sharni Vinson stars as Kathy, a woman who has apparently left her husband and taken a job as a nurse at a remote psychiatric hospital for comatose patients. Though warned that Matron Cassidy (Rachel Griffiths) and her father, Roget (Charles Dance), the head doctor, are breaking new ground in their treatment of comatose patients and that she should be prepared to witness some unusual things, she quickly realizes some things going on in the hospital are considerably more unusual than she could ever have imagined. Namely one patient, the handsome young Patrick (Jackson Gallagher), who not only is not comatose, but telekinetic. At first Kathy tries to help Patrick, save him from Doctor Roget’s experiments that she thinks are killing him, but Kathy soon learns that she is the one who needs saving from the obsessive Patrick.

While a couple points of the movie didn’t make sense and some loose ends were left untended at the end, Patrick: Evil Awakens is for the most part a well-acted, written directed, sharp and clever supernatural thriller. If you missed the screening, you can catch it on iTunes and Youtube where it’s available for purchase or rental. And if you’re looking for something to watch late at night to make you yell at the screen, you could do a lot worse.

Unfortunately I missed Naked Zombie Girl due to its late screening time, but I caught the 50 Hour Film Competition yesterday afternoon and it was pretty enjoyable. The shtick of the whole thing was that they had a bunch of filmmaking teams, each had 50 hours to make a short horror film from scratch, the best entries would win awards and prizes.

As one would expect, some of these films were great, while others were basically just dumb excuses for people to press record on their cameras (or iphones). The best were, unsurprisingly, the ones that went for a comedic angle. The Stagette stands out in memory for its great twist ending in which the local serial killer – who’s been mistaken for a hired male stripper – ends up getting scared off by the bitchy girl at the party.

Though the festival was relatively sparse compared to something like Toronto After Dark, I enjoyed it a lot and appreciated being able to cover it. Hopefully next year’s is even bigger and better.