Archive for November, 2008

Joel Alme

November 23rd, 2008 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

This week’s artist of the week is a Swede, so naturally he makes beautifully melodic pop music like everyone from Sweden’s been doing since ABBA…Except for those crazy druggies in Dungen…Anyways, this week’s band of the week is…




Yes, Joel fucking Alme, who I know almost nothing about except that he’s a Swede, he writes kickass songs and I’m going to get my hands on his album A Master of Ceremonies as soon as possible.

I heard about him while reading the Pitchfork column Puritan Blister, in which the writer named this album his favorite of ’08. The last album that came out of nowhere getting called ‘best of the year’ was David Vandervelde’s The Moonstation House Band and that album kicked fucking ass so I had to check out this one. And from what I’ve heard so far, there is indeed a lot of ass kickassness to be found here indeed.

“The Queen’s Corner” is the single and what a single! In it, Alme seems to be singing out to the whole world, “have ever you ever met a girl like that/ have you ever loved a girl like that/ who makes your life shine so bright and clear/ but wish you’d never held her dear, never held her dear”. It’s songs like these where you realize why people keep singing about this “love” shit (also, check out the lyrics to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” again for more on that). Even though the lyrics of the song are heart-wrenching, the absolute glory of the song, with it’s grandiose strings and gorgeous piano, seems to suggest that it’s times like these, when someone enters your life and makes everything seem to clear, that life is the most beautiful. Even if you happen to lose that person, what counts is that it happened in the first place, rather than not at all.

The only other songs of his I’ve heard are the ones on his Myspace, and while they don’t match “The Queen’s Corner”, the incredible style of that song can be found in “Always On My Mind” and “So Used To Be Saved”, while “I Never Said I Was Brave” and “A Young Summer’s Youth” are quieter, more intimate affairs. Each one is as grand as a Scott Walker song, with the sentimentality of Jonathan Richmond and with as saccharine pop hooks as any of his domestic contemporaries. While I can’t attest to his mastery of ceremonies, his mastery of writing tightly structured, emotionally explosive and beautifully orchestrated pop songs is in abundant display.  

That’s The Spirit: Staying Places

November 23rd, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

That’s The Spirit

Staying Places

(Antique Room; 2008)




Ottawa-based songwriter Ben Wilson has created a nifty little album with Staying Places, his full-length debut.

Wilson combines the homey, though thoroughly composed, folk-pop of Paul Simon and Ron Sexsmith with post-rock instrumentation and the results are wonderful. Throughout the albums he veers between the two poles, making Staying Places at times seem like K.C. Accidental’s Anthems for the Could’ve been Pills (l“The Blue Of Distance” seems to have been ripped directly off there, shimmery guitars, gentle trumpet and all), at others like Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends (which, by the way, is WAY better than the more popular Bridge Under Troubled Waters).

Highlights include opener “Orienteering” which works off clever little twists of melody (again, Paul Simon echoes); the beautiful “Now Yr The One” and the drifting “Lost In The Middle 8”. The album’s biggest problem is that the languid nature of many of the tracks will leave some listeners looking for something more substantial and immediate. Even so, the album is confident in what it seeks to be and will achieve its goal of finding a staying place in the hearts of its fans. an class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family:'times new roman';">  

TV On The Radio

November 16th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

This week’s band of the week started off as a little project between two dudes in Brooklyn. Now they’re hailed as one of the best bands in indie-rock today, counting among their biggest fans none other than David Bowie. Their albums have been listed on (as well as topped) various best-of-the-year lists and their latest is likely to do the same. This week’s band of the week is…


I’ve always like TV On The Radio but I never truly got into them until now. Admittedly, I still haven’t listened to their entire first album, but Return To Cookie Mountain (their second album) hooked me in with catchy ditties like “A Method” and “Whirlpool”, which coated haunting melodies in David Sitek’s always incredible and inventive production. 

Though Sitek is hardly the principle reason for all of TVOTR’s musical achievements, his masterful, layered production is an undeniably essential contributor to them. That isn’t to underscore the importance of Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone’s incredible, (often multi-tracked,) versatile vocals

The group’s third album, Dear Science, continues to build upon the achievements of the past, though it is noticeable cleaner, more accessible and extroverted than previous albums. While it lacks Return To Cookie Mountain’s subtlety, the group make up for it in delivering their most consistent and exciting album yet that shows the group continuing to broaden its horizons and push envelopes. Songs like “Dancing Choose” represent them at their most accessible, while the beautiful “Family Tree” and “Stork and Owl” represent still more depth to the band’s songwriting prowess. 
The lyrics continue to be for the most part wonderfully elusive and poetic and their delivery by the band’s vocalists is always moving. 

TV On The Radio are three albums into their career and they’ve already accomplished far more than the vast majority of bands in existence today, let alone in the past. Like Dylan though, this is a group that never looks back, but continues to explore new avenues of sound and song despite how successful previous discoveries may have been. If you’ve yet to listen to this band, please rectify that quickly; you don’t want to be one of the unlucky ones who haven’t yet been turned on by TV on the Radio.

TV On The Radio: Family Tree

November 9th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

This song is absolutely gorgeous. It’s off the new album, Dear Science, and it’s definitely my favorite TVOTR song ever. The lyrics detail some kind of forbidden love due to religion, racism, family or something. It’s an incredible example of how a song can tell a story, be poetic, detailed and just friggin amazing all at the same time. Check it out here.

Anda my love 
Wake up to your window 
The day calls in billows 
It’s echoing moonlight onto the blue nightmare of your heart
In cosy red rainbow 
It’s shaking off halos
And the memory of our sacred so and so

Oh take my hand sweet
Complete your release unbury your feet
And married we’ll be
Alone in receiving ours is a feeling not that they would see
They don’t know that we could be
Down where your cradle escaped the sea
And your raven haired Mama cought told you so’s

Were hanging in the shadow of your family tree
Your haunted heart and me
Brought down by an old idea whose time has come
And in the shadow of the gallows of your family tree
There’s a hundred hearts or three
Pumping blood to the roots of evil to keep them young

Ah me all mine
Is it safe to say that we’ve waited patiently
Call me on time
And recall the tune that has place us gracefully
All into line
There’s the garden grave and a place they’ve saved for you
I’ll fall by your side
Though your silver haired Mama throws told you so’s

Were laying in the shadow of your family tree
Your haunted heart and me
Brought down by an old idea whose time has come
And in the shadow of the gallows of your family tree
There’s a hundred hearts or three
Pumping blood to the roots of evil to keep it young

And now we’ll gather in the shadow of your family tree
In haunted harmony
Brought down by an old idea whose time has come
And in the shadow of the valley of your family tree
There’s a hundred hearts or three
Pumping blood to the roots of evil to keep us young 

Passion Pit

November 8th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

This week’s band is special. There is no shortage of artists who have made phenomenal breakup albums. There’s Dylan (Blood On The Tracks), Beck (Sea Change), Joni Mitchell (Blue), Richard and Linda Thompson (Shoot Out The Lights), Fleetwood Mac (Rumours, that was two breakups in one!) and hey, I’ve even had a go at it. Breakup albums are so great because they are a testament to something beautiful that had a beginning, middle and, tragically, an end. Rarely however, does one hear a mid-healthy-relationship album. One man decided to have a go at it and he is this week’s artist of the week:


That man would be Michael Angelakos, the main man of Passion Pit, who initially created his debut EP Chunk Of Change on his laptop as a Valentine’s Day present for his girlfriend. After hearing the single, “Sleepyhead”, I had to get a hold of this thing. Now I’ve heard it and damn. Luckiest. Girlfriend. Ever. I’m sure at some point in my life I’ll try to do the same thing but I’ve got a hell of a task ahead of me to try and beat this guy – because Chunk Of Change is incredible.

Each song starts with an incredible, multi-layered beat and then Angelakos layers those with various glitchy electronics, blissful synths and other lovely little touches. Most impressive is Angelakos’ brilliant falsetto that launches into the higher registers like someone turned the pitch knob on his voice. Actually…maybe that’s what he did…if you can do that. One way or the other, it sounds fantastic.

What pushes the whole project is it’s boundless emotion. You can hear the love exploding off these tracks in the music, in Angelakos’ voice and in his downright beautiful lyrics. If someone’s ever written you a love poem this is like 100X better than that an
d amazingly not cringe-inducing. You’d think that lines like
“Have you seen me crying/tears like diamonds,” would make you think the guy who wrote them was a total pussy but no; it’s not like that when you hear them.

There are six tracks on Chunk Of Change (don’t worry, a full-length is due soon) and each one bristles with the same consistent explosive emotion. None of it feels flaccid or sentimental. Each note and word rings 100% true and loudly so. Find this EP one way or another: it’s no chunk of change, it’s a fucking gem.

P.S. If interested and having trouble finding it, contact me. 

Ruby Coast – Projectable Collections EP

November 3rd, 2008 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Ruby Coast

Projectable Collections EP

[Independent; 2008]



Sometimes I get to meet the bands I review, and it’s always fun when I do. The boys of Ruby Coast were no exception. I met most of the band at Coconut Grove last week during the Halifax Pop Explosion, which they were here to play. I met Nathan first, kind of randomly. I was talking to Rich Aucoin, whom I’d met a long time ago during the Over The Top Festival in Toronto, which I’d played with The Fancy Claps in 2007, and when Rich had to go, Nathan was hanging by the bar. I saw him over at Spiral Beach’s show just before so we started talking and he told me he was part of Ruby Coast. I then got to meet most of the rest of the band and we chilled a bit, talked about the EP, Aurora and how many girls we’d slept with (you’d think the rock stars would have slept with more girls than the rock critic – not always so, apparently).

I’d heard the EP and liked it before meeting them but it’s taken me until now to strap down and review the damn thing. So yes, I do like the EP, as the score at the top already reveals. However, as the lack of a 10.0/10.0 score reveals, I have some problems with it. Namely, the band sounds way too much like Tokyo Police Club – something that is not helped by the fact that TPC member Dave Monks produced the EP. Lead singer Justice McLellan’s vocals sound almost exactly like Monks’ do, their lyrics could easily be written by the same person, and both bands’ pop sensibilities are pretty much identical. Honestly, in a more cynical world, Ruby Coast could simply be Monks’ attempt to clone his own band and profit off of it.

Luckily, Tokyo Police Club is a pretty good band that’s met with an enormous amount of success over the past couple years. But does the world really need Tokyo Police Club Jr.?  No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t even need Tokyo Police Club Sr.. The band knows how to write hooks like it knows how to breathe but their music isn’t pushing any boundaries lyrically or stylistically nor achieving anything truly that impressive. Elephant Shell was the same song rewritten like 12 times – but luckily it was a good song.

Ruby Coast’s Projectable Collectors EP is more varied than that album but not by all that much. The band tries some interesting things, like integrating shifting song-structures in songs like opener “More Than Television”, which starts as a two-chord charger but then gets a turn-around via cheerful melody. They also make use of a great bouncy-rhythm in “Laugh At Alice”.

Really every song is musically fantastic; catchy as fuck and stuffed to the brim with lovely little hooks. Their playing is amazingly tight and energetic, resulting in impressively performed songs from start to finish. Then of course there’s the pitch-perfect production by Dave Monks, which not only gets the job done but adds all kinds of fun little touches, like whirling noises that fill up the sides of the sonic landscape.

The lyrics however are often meaningless or contain some cute little cultural observation (“I remember watching television/at my first glance/what’s in what’s out, what our lives are about/you better dance the way we dance”). None of the songs seem to actually be about anything, and this is something TPC is guilty of also. Not only are they about nothing but they leave no meaningful impression upon the listener lyrically, emotionally or intellectually.

Though Pavement, The Pixies and The New Pornographers write most of their lyrics with meaningless wordplay, their songs often seem to be about something, even if they’re not. The song “Here” off Slanted and Enchanted might have been written with Steven Malkmus just tossing off whatever came to mind but how many better opening lines are there than, “I was dressed for success/but success it never came”? How many other alt-rock bands have written verses as affecting as “and I’m the only one who laughs/at your jokes when they are so bad/and your jokes are always bad”? That song might actually be about nothing but I have no doubt in my mind that that song has meaning, even if it wasn’t intended to. There’s a reason Malkmus and Pavement are as revered as they are. Ruby Coast has a long way to go to achieving such meaningless meaning with its lyrics and music.

I can’t actually give the EP a bad review as it’s too damn enjoyable. Each song is awesome and different enough to make listening to it a consistently exciting experience. However, if Bob Dylan is a Soy Protein Burger shot-up with essential nutrients and LSD, then Ruby Coast is a candy dipstick: sweet as fuck but disposable and unfortunately quite forgettable.  


November 2nd, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Oh man, this week’s band of the week is soooo badass, I fucking love them. They’re a New York duo that writes songs about River Phoenix or how the principle is dumb and other awesome stuff. The thing is, they do it like insanely well and with a brilliant (and unquestionably New York/Brooklyn) sensibility. This week’s band of the week is…


Matt Reilly and Ian Vanek formed the band in 2001, when they were both going to The Pratt Institute, a well-known New York art school. Together, the pair make awesome, charging art-punk-rock with propulsive drumbeats, cheap synths and crunchy bass playing. They write songs that are short, catchy, scratchy and clearly the work of people way too cool to live anywhere else but NYC.

Their albums have this beautiful made-in-the-basement feel which they achieve by starting most songs with random campy sound clips and having jarring transitions between songs and sound clips which are in-between or within the song itself. Like the cover of their 2007 album, Skuffed My Huffy (great title), everything they do feels very much like an awesome collage created out of the coolest bits of underground pop culture.

If you’re a fan of early Sonic Youth or Sebadoh or you just like stuff that’s noisy and cool, Japanther will just like…make you happy…cuz they rock…rarr!