Archive for April, 2009

Awesome Album Covers!

April 30th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Another example of Gene Simmons brilliant business sense: if there’s one thing everyone loves, it’s definitely psychotic clowns


April 26th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

This week’s band of the week are a bunch of Frenchies who basically ripped off The Strokes in magnificent fashion. They’ve released some phenomenal albums but have yet to attain serious status here in North America. But don’t worry, they’re working on it. This week’s band of the week is…




The band was originally formed as a backup band for an Air remix single but they decided to stick together and have a go on their own. In 2000 they released their first album, United. United and their second album, 2004’s Alphabetical, were interesting, very European electronica-inflected offerings, but it was on their third album, 2006’s It’s Never Been Like That, that the band came into their own in a big way.


It’s Never Been Like That found Phoenix unapologetically using The Strokes’ guitar-strong template and injecting it with an abundance of sunny sentiment and unbelievable heartbreaking hooks. The album’s 10 tracks are all perfect pieces of pop (though the instrumental “North” probably the least so) and listening to album straight through is pretty much guaranteed to put you in a very good mood. It’s Never Been Like That will probably be remembered as one of the best albums of this decade.



Phoenix’s next album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix will be released on May 25th. Unsurprisingly, the album continues what the band began on It’s Never Been Like That, again delivering maddeningly beautifully and brilliant guitar pop. There’s a bit more synthesizer this time around and some more digital enhancements, all of which are used well. It’s also exactly what Phoenix had to do in terms of moving their sound forward and into 2009; they made the right decision. The album’s singles “1901” and “Listzomania” are both amazing, explosively gorgeous songs that will undoubtedly rank as two of the best of 2009, while the album contains other ridiculously infectious pop confections like “Lasso” and “Girlfriend”.


Phoenix is a band I have a hard time imagining people not loving. They’ve got their own sound, they write insanely amazing songs, and they’re just plain cool, but never pretentious. The only reason anyone would dislike them would basically be because they would never be able to get the songs out of their head.

Click here to pre-purchase Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. 

Awesome Album Covers!

April 23rd, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

“And on passover! What a nudnik!”

The Curtain Rises On Megan Hamilton

April 23rd, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Some obscure playwright once wrote that all the world’s a stage. Or something like that. Megan Hamilton would know. The Toronto-based singer/songwriter used to produce plays and still currently earns the bulk of her living working for a theatre consulting firm. At some point a couple years ago though, she decided she wanted her role rewritten, and chose to pursue a career in music.


“I never thought that I would be doing this as a career choice,” she tells me over the phone. “At all.” 

About half a decade ago, Hamilton was organizing a monthly showcase called “My Word”, in which playwrights or basically anyone who did “anything that involved writing” could come out and perform their work for an audience. Hamilton also took part, performing her own material at showcases. One day, Hamilton’s music peeked the interest of one of the attendants.


“A play I was producing, my friend, Marc Vogelsang, was doing the music for [it]. He saw me perform and asked if he could record some of my stuff. He said he wanted to check out a new microphone. And that’s kind of where everything started,” says Hamilton.


The pair decided to make an album, and Hamilton soon found herself in rural Saskatchewan recording 2006’s Feudal Ladies Club, named after a club of women who did charity work in the old community hall in which the album was recorded. The How We Think About Light EP followed in 2007. Both were released on Hamilton’s own Familiar Music label.



Hamilton’s latest is See Your Breath In The Shipyard, which was just released on April 7th. Ably assisted again by producer Vogelsang, Hamilton and her band recorded the album in five days at a studio in London, Ontario. The resulting album’s sound is dense and haunting, with Hamilton’s esoteric lyrics creeping out through the music like a light through a thick fog.


“What I tried to do with this album and what I would really like to do next time is to find more creative ways at certain points to say what I’m trying to say. I’m really interested in trying to say things in different ways,” says Hamilton. “I feel like songs are like stories kind of condensed and the neat thing about that is that you get to fill in the blanks. Like if I was to pick a song off the new record like “Wherever You Are” which is kind of story-like, fairy-tale-like. If I was to take that song, I could write a novel about it, which would be basically like whatever the song is in its full fleshed out form. The reason why it’s neat as a song, I think, as a listener, is that I listen to it and I fill in the rest of it, which makes it more of a personal experience for me.”


With the record finished and available now, Hamilton is looking forward to touring again, hopefully through Western Canada this time.


“I anticipate that this will go as a slow build, like picking up folks along the way who like what we’re doing,” Hamilton says in regards to building her fan base. “This isn’t like super-poppy radio friendly stuff, I think you have to listen to my stuff a couple of times before…you have to take your time with it.”



Hamilton must be crazy to want to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous lack-of-fortune that accompany being a musician and label owner in 2009. But to be or not to be? (Sigh) It appears Megan Hamilton’s made her choice.

 “If I can make this work where I can make a living at it, I’m gonna be really happy. I think we do pretty good but I still have to have a job and stuff, but if I can get to the point where this is what I get to focus on, I’ll feel really great. Ultimately, I’m gonna do it anyways because I can do it myself.”

Megan Hamilton will be playing Toronto’s Trazac on April 30th as well as various other dates in the city throughout May (see her myspace for details). See Your Breath In The Shipyard is Available now from Familiar Music. You can purchase it here. Photo credit: Corey Goodyear

Joel Plaskett

April 19th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

As tonight is my final night in Halifax, I’ve decided to pick one of Halifax’s favorite local artists. When I first heard this guy, I hated his music. I was probably 15, 16, watching MTV Canada and this video came on of this wiry dude jerking around with a guitar in a high school. I didn’t like the song and I didn’t like the video, but apparently some people did, as it was supposedly like a “hit” or something. Anyways, living in Halifax for a year – where he’s like what Kevin Drew is to Toronto – forced me to give him a second look. Turns out he’s got some good stuff. This week’s artist of the week is…




Yes, Joel Plaskett of Thrush Hermit, The Joel Plaskett Emergence and just simply Joel Plaskett. I was converted after hearing a three-song E.P. (don’t know what it’s called) and what I heard was great. Here was a guy who wrote superbly constructed pop songs with solid hooks, a sort of modern Canadian folk vibe, and a tight backbeat. And his stuff’s not like most modern rock with meaningless lyrics wrapped around warped arrangements. His songs tell stories, are filled with serious emotions and he’s a phenomenal wordsmith, amazingly adept at delivering clever turns of phrase.



Some of his stuff’s not great, I’ll be the first to say it. In fact, the only stuff I’ve been able to get into has been his more recent solo stuff: no Emergency, though I’ve yet to listen to Thrust Hermit, so I can’t really say anything about that. His new album, Three, is phenomenal. Anytime anyone releases a triple album, they’re basically setting themselves up for a huge appraisal (George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass) or they’re gonna be called egotistical and crazy over-indulgent (Prince my man, I’m sorry). Plaskett pulled through on this latest one, delivering three discs of excellent material, produced and performed to absolute perfection.



And it really is three full discs of solid songs; no noise experiments, blues jams or goof offs. There’s a bunch of awesome pop-rockers like “Through, Through, Through” and “Gone, Gone, Gone” (noticing a pattern in the song titles?) and then there’s A LOT of sort of slower, ballady type songs with a strong folk-construction (pretty much the entire third disc) which position Plaskett as the Nova Scotia version of ballad-mode Bruce Springsteen.


I approached Joel Plaskett a skeptic and now I’m a total convert. Not only is Joel Plaskett great, he deserves the title as one of Canada’s greatest modern songwriters alongside A.C. Newman, Feist, Bill Priddle and Mike Feuerstacker (the last two also deserve the title but don’t exactly have it). Help him get that credit by checking out his stuff.

You can purchase Three here.