Archive for July, 2008

Snailhouse: Lies On The Prize (Album Review)

July 30th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Snailhouse

Lies On The Prize

(Unfamiliar Records; 2008)

7.8/10

Snailhouse’s latest album, Lies on the Prize, is a cohesive album of homely, resonant folk songs written by a thoughtful and intriguing artist. The album shares some of it’s sensibilities (such as orchestral flourishes and modestly complex percussion) with other Canadian acts such as Broken Social Scene. At the same time it’s Canadian-folksy feel and powerful lyrics bare comparison to BSS-related artists such as Bill Priddle (of The Priddle Concern) and Jason Collette.

While the album is hardly a bare-bones affair (strings and steel-guitar are not uncommon compliments to the drums-bass-guitars set-up), it does have a sort of stripped down, wooden-shack feel. Even though the majority of the album is electric, it always feels acoustic. This is augmented further by Mark Feuerstack’s warm, familiar voice. As a singer, Feuerstack impresses with his effortlessly gentle – but never fragile – vocals.

While the album is filled with enough folksy hooks to satisfy any pop-lover, the lyrics push this album from merely enjoyable to an actual intellectual and emotional experience. Feuerstack’s reflections on life are often intriguing, sometimes paradoxical, as on “Superstitious” in which he sings, “I’m not superstitious but I’m not not-superstitious”. Other songs such as “Salvation Army” boast a bitter honesty in lines like “Go on then/Make me your friend/but don’t think that you won’t be lied to.”

In the end, Lies on the Prize is very much a mood-record; one for the rainy days spent alone in your room or your car. In it’s best moments (such as the rising and fallings crescendos on “Fire Alarm”), phrases and changes reach out and grab hold of you and then let go, leaving you feeling a little more human. Those moments are hard to find; 98% of records don’t have any, actually. For that reason alone Snailhouse’s latest is a keeper. Like in life, those few precious moments are all you need.

http://www.myspace.com/snailhouse

Suede

July 24th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

This week’s band of the week had me singing in my melodramatic Bowie voice all day at work today. Nothing customers are less freaked out by than some bearded dude singing in an operatic tenor before noticing them, stopping, and saying “hello, would you like to sign up for an HBC Credit Card?” in a snarky baritone. This week’s band of the week is…


SUEDE!!!

Also known as The London Suede, Suede rocked brit-pop back in the early 90′s, releasing classics like their self-titled debut and their ambitious, operatic follow up, Dog Man Star. While their first album showcases a strong writing team between singer Brett Anderson and guitarist Bernard Butler, it’s the ambitious Dog Man Star which has aged better and remains just as groundbreaking today as when it was released. The album showcases the bands best compositional and lyrical abilities and provides an incredible and epic context in which they can be displayed. It’s one of those albums (see my torontoindie.com review of The Priddle Concern S/T: http://www.torontoindie.com/?p=311) that you listen to when your feeling alot of feeling

Unfortunately, the albums biggest flaw is that some of the songs are SO good that the others, which are good too, just get in the way because you want to listen to those REALLY good ones more. Songs like The Wild Ones, The Power, This Hollywood Life, (my favorite) New Generation, Black and Blue and the epic Still Life just blow minds with their impeccable arrangements and mountain-moving, earth-shattering lyrics, not to mention Anderson’s incredible, boundless vocals. The album is also notable for it’s very “you and me vs. the world” viewpoint. In songs like “The Wild Ones” and “The 2 of Us”, Brett Anderson makes it very clear that there’s a divide between an “us” and a “them”. Indeed, all his lyrics are filled with themes of alienation, loneliness and regret and the music is catapulted by this. 

Yes, I’ll say it again, this is an album that is elevated to the level of art. It’s a fucking moving, powerful statement made primarily by a duo that isn’t afraid to dig deep inside themselves and bear their heart and blood and guts. If your not going to enjoy all of this (I’ll admit, it can be quite depressing) then you’ve at least got to respect it for being so majestic and well crafted as it is. Likely however, you will enjoy it. Because it’s fucking amazing. When the music soars, it takes you with it. Just like with the music of the Arcade Fire, it’s all very depressing, but in the sadness there is something uplifting and gorgeous that connects fundamentally with whatever the human spirit is. Don’t be afraid to make that connection; not when these artists are brave enough to try and make it. 

http://www.myspace.com/londonsuede

The Exploding Hearts

July 20th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments


This band of the week has been a name floating around in the ether for a while for me before I finally was able to get a copy of their one and only album that they recorded before like 80% of the band died in a tragic car-crash. The album kicks ass and shows that this band was already writing and rocking punk rock thats like a million times better than 99.9% percepts of todays punk bands. They’re so good that they couldn’t be considered punk anymore, cuz that just connotates crap like Greenday, so no, they’re not punk, they just rock. This week’s band of the week is…


THE EXPLODING HEARTS!!!

This band captures all the frenetic energy (FRENERGY!!!) of punk but writes with the sharpness of power poppers. Their one and only album, Guitar Romantic, maybe doesn’t have the real punk grit of The Clash, The Sex Pistols or even The Libertines but it doesn’t matter because the hooks don’t stop and each tune is consistently good, with variations in the song-styles, thereby creating an incredible full-album length experience. The band itself is super tight, the album’s well produced (a little more grit would actually have been appreciated, raw power any bitches?) and the lyrics, though mostly girl-trouble based, are well written. The Exploding Hearts may not be beating anymore, but their rock will live forever. 

http://www.myspace.com/xplodinghearts

Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers

July 6th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Some of rock’s greatest personalities were it’s losers. This week’s band released only one album during their short lifetime and that album opened up with the punk anthem “Born to Lose”. Now, of course, nobodys knows this song because these losers never had any big hits or anything but their impact has endured moreso than anyone could have guessed. Whether be it their music, or their image (which the sex pistols admittedly copied), this band lives on long after their glory days and hopefully a new generation of rockers are ready to be audibly-raped by this week’s band of the week…

JOHNNY THUNDERS AND THE HEARTBREAKERS!!!
Johnny Thunders began The Heartbreakers after The New York Dolls (the other super-legendary underappreciated band he was in) broke up. For a while Richard Hell (later of Richard Hell and the Voidoids) was the bassist but then he tried to take the lead from Thunders and failed, after which he left. The Heartbreakers were more of a punk band than the Dolls, who fit quite snuggly into the whole glam scene going on. The Heartbreakers were more than torn jeans, leather jackets type. The drank hard, drugged hard and fucked hard…when they weren’t too drunk and drugged out to, that is. They also played hard.

They made one album (1978′s “L.A.M.F”) but it still kicks ass today. The band swings hard to songs that genuinely kick ass. There’s the anthemic “Born to Lose” and Dee-Dee Ramone/Richard Hell penned “Chinese Rocks” as well as the sharply written “All By Myself” and “I Love You”. What’s beautiful is that it all feels so innocent and so awesomely unself-concious. They’re more interesting songwriters than The Ramones but more drunken and awesome than the Pistols or the Clash (though not necesarrily better). The Heartbreakers were everything punk was supposed to be and still could be (see Libertines/Babyshambles/Dirty Pretty Things).

Unfortunately, most of what gets called “punk” today misses the point entirely. The punks of today are The Hebrew Hammer to The Heartbreakers’ Shaft. Basically: a fucking joke. The Heartbreakers are the world’s best forgotten punk band and maybe it’s most essential. For anyone who has any interest in Punk music, L.A.M.F. is an essential album and document. Asides from that it’s also just fucking awesome.

http://www.myspace.com/johnnythunders1234

Black Kids

July 6th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

I know this is kinda early in the week to be writing this but I’ve got the time so I’ll just do the crime. This week’s band of the week is a band I’ve already blogged about before but(!) they weren’t the band of the week so I’m making them this week’s band of the week. When they emerged onto the scene several months ago they were just a bunch of kids from Florida who’d played a couple shows and released four songs online. Suddenly everyone is raving about them and pitchfork basically turned them into rock stars overnight by making their “online ep” “best new music”. In two days they release their debut album and hopefully further rock stardom will ensue for this talented band. That band is…

BLACK KIDS!!!

That’s right, the kids from Florida are finally releasing their big debut album titled Partie Traumatic. They’ve signed with Columbia in the states which is cool though I’d be really impressed if they were still independants trying to conquer the world on their own a la Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. I’ve really liked the Black Kids’ sound since I first heard it. It reminds me of this sort of neon late-night-prince-esque-disco feeling coupled with the childish indie innocence of bands like Los Campesinos. The guitars, vocals and keyboards shine through this sort of darkness in the music beautifully and the subject matter regarding hook ups, crushes, dancing and such fits perfectly into the musical setting.

On this album, the lo-fi sound of their EP is pumped up, expanded and given at times a sort of kaliedascopic treatment by the always reliable Bernard Buttler (of The London Suede). Is it an improvement? Mmmm, the vocals are WAY more audible now than before but those who know me know that I’ve got this little fetish for lo-fi sounding stuff so I kinda prefered the smaller sound of the earlier recordings to these new ones but overall the disc sounds great.

Their EP cuts make up most of the highlights of the new disc, though the last two new cuts, “Love Me Already” and “Look At Me (When I Rock Wichoo)” are pretty awesome as well. All in all the disc is very very solid and more than well-worth a listen. Over the course of it’s ten tracks, Black Kids consistently rock out like 16 year old romantics at a nightclub covered in glowsticks, high on that beautifully teenage feeling, lust for life and serious cuties.

http://www.myspace.com/blackkidsrock