Archive for August, 2009

Owl Farm Sing About Lobster

August 31st, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

“We sing about lobsters.”

“Is that something you relate to?” I asked.

“No, I don’t like songs about things.” Said Owl Farm founder Chris Lyon in a phone interview. “I prefer just abstract lyrics, nonsense. Like, I’m just really wary when people try and sell you stuff in their songs, like an attitude or something.”

I suppose it’s just a coincidence that the Kingston based Owl Farm’s eponymous debut album features songs like, “45 Seconds To Lobster”, “Lobster Stomp”, and their second album, Don’t Stop, begins with a tune called “Like Water For Lobster”. Or is it?

Nah, Owl Farm just seems to have a fun, goofy vibe inherent in their otherwise seriously well written songs, leading one fan to describe them as “a mix between Frank Zappa and Tenacious D,” according to Lyon.

Lyon began Owl Farm in Fall 2007, when a friend of his working at The Tragically Hip studio in Kingston let him come in and use the studio when no one else was using it.

“I’d go in there and lay down tracks and I’d write a bunch of songs. As the recordings started taking shape, I just talked to some friends of mine I’d played with over the years and they got on board.”

The first Owl Farm record featured Lyon playing most of the instruments. Once the full band was assembled, they began gigging and working on the second album, Don’t Stop, this time featuring everyone on their respective instruments. Since it’s release, Owl Farm have been touring around Kingston’s neighboring cities promoting Don’t Stop.

“It’s two hours to Toronto, it’s two hours to Ottawa and two hours to Montreal, so you can kind of play all three cities, and four including Kingston.”

On Wednesday the group will play their second official Toronto show, this time at Rancho Relaxo alongside Truman Peyote and Two Year Touqe. Perfect timing too, since the band just landed at number one on CIUT’s top 30. Pretty impressive, eh? Almost as impressive as…lobster…yeah…

Boston Spaceships

August 30th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

This week’s band of the week is new but is basically just another project from an indie rock icon who’s been prolifically releasing work for the last twenty or so years. They’ve released two full-length albums (that kick ass) in something like a year and a half and they’ve got another one due in a couples months. This week’s band of the week is…


The indie rock icon in question is of course Guided By Voices genius savant Robert Pollard. For the last couple years he’s been relentlessly releasing solo-albums that have met with little enthusiasm from the rock community. The last two Boston Spaceships albums find Pollard not simply back in form, but (I’m gonna say it and I mean it) in better form than ever. True, GBV’s Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes and Mag Earwig are hallmarks of lo-fi 90s indie rock, but I swear the last two Boston Spaceships albums Brown Submarine and These Planets Are Blasted are better than anything I’ve heard from GBV.

Regardless of what pseudonym he’s writing under, Pollard is classic Pollard. His weird/awesome delivery, his wacked out wordplay lyrics and kooky hook-filled compositions remain unchanged, but with Boston Spaceships the songs are longer (2:00 minutes average) and more song-like than the fragmented 50-second GBV snippets. The fidelity is a little higher, but it never approaches “polished”, and the band behind him seriously knows how to rock (though with GBV, Pollard was often backed by some pretty strong musicians).


What’s always been great about Pollard’s work is that it basks in the glory, freedom and weirdness of rock and roll and never gets mired in obtuse experimentalism or passing trends. While the rest of indie-rock might be jerkin’ around with glockenspiels, computerized drum-machine beats, vocoders and sampling (and true, many artists jerking around with the aforementioned have produced some seriously cool music), Pollard’s just kept pumping out smashing riffs, infectious choruses and all-around damn good songs. While no one can ignore the change that comes with the passage of time, with enough talent and chutzpa, some can withstand it and still be awesome. Pollard and his Boston Spaceships so totally qualify.

Dinosaur Bones/Still Life Still at The Horseshoe, August 28th

August 29th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Last night’s Still Life Still album release show at The Horseshoe really did feel like a momentous occasion of sorts. The Horseshoe was packed, Kevin Drew was there along with most of the cooler people in Toronto and magic was in the air. Not to mention, I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many beautiful indie chicks in one room as I did last night. It was seriously like…damn. Even the show’s host People Of Canada joked at one point, “I was asked to host the Still Life Still show and I said, “Those are the guys that, like, all the beautiful girls come see, right? Yeah, I’ll think about it.”” So someone yells, “play the song you wrote for your girlfriend.” And he did (very cute song, btw).

I am soooo sorry I missed Boxes and Bags, if anyone doesn’t know that they’re awesome at this point then just know that they are awesome and you should totally go to their next show cuz it’ll be awesome.
I made it in time to see Dinosaur Bones and they played a solid set. Not as good as their incredible NXNE performance but still very solid. After the set I was talking to lead singer Ben Fox for a bit and all these girls kept coming over to talk to him so I had to head off and bug other people between sets (like Simone from Audio Blood Media – btw, did you know she just can’t resist guys with beards? I mean, take a look at her ex…)
Still Life Still’s crowd was huge and impenetrable. The band played a pretty sick set. “T-Shirts” and “Pastel” in particular had the crowd going nuts, jumping around, dancing onstage, doing a little moshing at the front, it was intense. They played some strange, slow song for the encore that ended with everyone singing along with a line that was something like, “you should’ve fucked me.” They really did look like rockstars up onstage, it felt like they’d “made it” to some extent. It was a beautiful thing to see them get to where they deserved to be after 10 years together.
After the show a bunch of us made it over to Ben’s place around Dundas West where everyone chilled, talked, danced, broke bottles, wore cool hats, and played Snakes and Ladders.

The Balconies/The Magic at The Horseshoe, August 26th

August 27th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

I left the house at about 6:50 hoping to get a haircut at Yonge and Lawrence cuz my Jew-fro is starting to fro out at the sides. I got down there to find the place closed, as I should have expected it to probably be at 7:30 pm on a Wednesday. I was also planning to go postering for my show on Sept. 2nd but that got moved to today also because someone told me to go to a copying place that was also closed and so I should just go tomorrow (which is now today). So yeah, nothing got done. So now on to my night: my choices were Sneaky Dees for What’s Poppin’ or Horseshoe for The Balconies, who’s myspace I had checked out and been impressed by. Guess which won?

The Balconies, unfortunately, did not quite live up to my expectations. The band plays a high-energy, dancey kind of indie-rock that kind of reminded me of Bloc Party except toned town a couple notches, no crazy digital beats, and with a chick singer (someone is calling this comparison ridiculous). As everyone knows, having an even somewhat-attractive female lead singer is probably the smartest thing any band can do. It’s just like bam! Instant publicity. But finding a legitimately good female singer is only a couple notches under finding like The Holy Grail or The Ark of The Covenant. And American Idol has only made things so much worse by making the standard for “good singing” abominable. The problem with The Balconies and the vast, vast majority of other female-led rock bands is that their singers sound too calculated, their singing doesn’t sound “real” or characteristic enough, but too traditional and with the edges roughed out. And what happens when you take that factor out of the equation, when one of the two dudes in the band sing? They sound great. When one of the dudes takes over vocal dudes The Balconies sound like a kick ass indie rock band. And the fact that the dudes in the band have kind of weirdish, unconventional voices makes it even better because they sound characteristic.
Someone’s gonna give me shit for that.
The Magic were incredible. They’re a seven-piece and they looked like they either couldn’t quite agree on what to wear or they all just wore whatever they felt like but they had to wear something interesting. One guy was in a suit, the girl was in like cool indie-rock attire, one dude was wearing…I have no idea. Take a look.
Below this he was wearing some kind of gold, glitter band around his waist, skinny jeans (were they jeans, actually?) and little heeled boots.
Anyways, the music was really, really good. They had complex, RnB-style dance rhythms and a multifaceted aesthetic with elements of indie-rock, tropicalia, soul and funk. The lead singer was hopping around singing, squealing in falsetto and generally acting very Prince-like. This is a really cool, interesting band and as weird as they may be in look and sound, their music was very accesible and – I hate to state it like this – “catchy”. Guh…


August 23rd, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

This band of the week are a bunch of boys from this great city of ours, Toronto. Made up of several talented persons who have been working around the scene for quite a couple years, this band is finally ready to raise themselves up to meet the national (and hopefully, soon, international) consciousness as a musical force to be reckoned with. With grand melodies and an even grander name, the band of the week is…

Primarily Mike O’Brian and Carlin Nicholson, Zeus’s most impressive resume listing would be that they were (are?) Jason Collett’s backup band, which likely had something to do with them being signed by Collett’s surrogate-family label, the always-incredible Arts and Crafts.
The magic behind Zeus’s music is that they have managed to nimbly keep their sound from falling into easy categorization, straddling the line between indie-pop and a retro-rock. Sure, the first thing you think when listening to Zeus is, “oh, Beatles”, but no, they’re actually much more than that. They’ve got charm, they’ve got a style of their own, they’re not afraid to dabble with interesting sounds and semi-psychedelic textures, and their sound never feels too soft or cushiony, but instead, has a roughness to it lacking from the best power-pop bands (New Pornographers, pretty much).
This year Zeus released a solid five song EP called Sounds Like Zeus to significant critical acclaim. Their commercial interests can’t be hurting too much either considering I waited two hours to get into a Zeus show at the Dakota Tavern a couple weeks ago…and yeah, simply never got in due to the place being at capacity. Supposedly A&C; labelhead Jeffrey Remedios didn’t even get in either, actually. Someone told me that….
Recently, their song “Fever Of The Times” (which is now my favorite song by the band) appeared on the latest Arts and Crafts sampler CD, listed as being from their forthcoming full-length due in late 2009. I can’t wait to hear it.
You can hear and purchase the Sounds Like Zeus EP here.
(Photo by Pete Nema)

The Room

August 22nd, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

I wonder if in certain situations, it’s more profitable to make a movie so horrible that it’s actually hilarious than it is to make one that’s actually good. The story behind The Room is that this dude named Tommy Wiseau somehow found six million dollars to make this movie which he directed, wrote, produced and starred in. It was released in 2003 and has since developed a cult following for being hilariously awful and nonsensical. At screenings, audience members will often yell out lines at the movie, sometimes pointing out absurdities (“…the candles” -what candles?! -“…the music” -what music?!) or such, kind of like Rocky Horror. It premiered last month at The Royal and was brought back for an August show after the first screening was a big success.

The movie is basically the story of this girl, Lisa (Juliette Danielle), who’s engaged to Johnny (Wiseau) but has fallen out of love with him. She sets her sights on Wiseau’s best friend Mark (Greg Sestero), who just happens to be, like, the most handsome man on Earth (I’m not gay, but this guy was literally like perfect). The movie is populated with various characters who seemingly serve absolutely no purpose, like Danny (Philip Haldiman), the weird kid Johnny serves as a father figure to, and Lisa’s friend Michelle’s boyfriend Mike (Mike Holmes). Other secondary characters appear and disappear, sometimes with no introduction whatsoever, leading audience members to regularly yell out “WHO ARE YOU!?!?!?” at the screen. Various plot points are also introduced only to be completely forgotten later.
All the acting in the movie is shitty, but Wiseau’s is something special. He says his lines with either no feeling whatsoever or feeling that’s just plain wrong or misplaced. His accent (Romanian?) makes everything he says even funnier, and it doesn’t help that the dialogue is ridiculous to begin with. The plateau of bad acting he achieves is bewilderingly, like he’s gifted at being a horrible, horrible actor.
As the film progresses, it seems to get progressively worse, with way too many between-scene interludes featuring pans across the Golden Gate Bridge and things making less and less sense.
What’s special about The Room is that Wiseau honestly seems to believe – like Ed Wood supposedly did – that he was making a great, ambitious movie, with the posters stating that the film contained “the passion of Tennesee Williams”…misspelling the playwright’s name. In interviews, when asked how he feels about the film developing a cult following for being hilariously bad, Wiseau says that he’s simply happy that people are watching the film and hopefully connecting with it.
For whatever reason you decide on, please see The Room. It’s seriously funny and for those of us who have been to five thousand too many Rocky Horror shows, it’s a fresh way to enjoy that kind of audience-film interactive experience again. The Room will be screening again in Toronto on Sept. 25 (I’m guessing at The Royal, on College). Be there, mu-ther-fuck-heir.

Bowzer Attacks at Bread and Circus, August 22nd

August 22nd, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Another fine show last night at the bread and circus, where Wrecking Entertainment’s been throwing it’s chiptune showcases – the Bowzer Attacks – of late.
Unfortunately, my crew and I were only able to stay for the first act, but what we did manage to see was great. Deadbeat Blast had a crazy set up with an NES, some kind of keyboard, and all kinds of shit that I had no idea what it was. The music was like chiptunes on speed, as furious rapid beats slammed to kick-ass 8-bit melodies and rhythms. A mad remix of the Super Mario theme was a pretty sick highlight of the set. At 11:00 we had to leave though to go see The Room, see review above.


Still Life Still: Girls Come Too FIRST ONLINE REVIEW (that I’m aware of!)

August 20th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Still Life Still

Girl Come Too

(Arts and Crafts; 2009)


Two years ago I was in a band called The Fancy Claps, and one night we were playing a benefit show at The Cat’s Eye, a small U of T venue near Museum station. The band on the bill after us was called Still Life Still. I knew absolutely nothing about them. After we’d finished our set, my bandmates left and my friends and I were about to, but for some reason, I thought I’d stick around and see just one song by this band to see if they were any good. And that was all it took.

Not only did I stay and dance throughout the entire set, but after they finished, I went up, met the band, and told them I thought they were amazing and that I wanted to join. Unfortunately, lead singer/guitarist Brendan Saarinen-Pernar didn’t let me, as he was happy with the lineup as it was and I figured that was alright, considering I had my own music to work on anyways. So I hung on as a fan, following them as they went from playing coffee shops out in who knows where to the Drake Hotel to NXNE showcases alongside The Stills and Most Serene Republic. And now I’m sitting here in my room in Thornhill listening to their debut album, Girls Come Too, released by Arts and Crafts, the label they were seemingly destined to be on.

So, while there was no danger of Grubtunes giving Girls Come Too a bad review unless producers Kevin Drew and Martin Davis Kinack totally wrangled the band’s sound, this is still a review and not just my heaping praise upon the band. Thankfully though, Drew and Davis Kinack did an amazing production job and SLS sound better than ever. Not that SLS don’t sound great live, but Drew and Kinack take the band’s sound and throw it through an indie-rock kaleidoscope, colouring the album with gorgeous, dreamy textures evocative of My Bloody Valentine and (expectedly) Broken Social Scene, mixed to subtle, scrappy perfection by the always-incredible Noah Mintz.

Fans of SLS already know and love most of the songs on the album: the spacey, ambient “Planets”, the sex-istentialist “Danse Cave”, the frantic romantic “Knives In Cartoons”, the bouncy pop about messy love of “T-Shirts” and the post-millennial brand of longing for human connection in the desperate “Pastel”. The lesser-to-unknown tracks keep in line for the most part with SLS’s 90s guitar-heavy, synth-padded, warm, bedroom comfort sound, though “Kid” stands out from the pack with Johnny Marr-style guitars and Saarinen-Pernar’s most narrative-like lyrics as opposed to his usual impressionistic poetry splotches about sex and life in the city. “Wild Bees” is also notable for its fragile vocals and some of the album’s most striking lyrics, like, “You could pull the curtains/ Right around your face/ If we’re all just wild wild wild wild bees/ Trying to make a home and taste that honey.”


The only flaw – if it even is a flaw, particularly in the digital age – of Girls Come Too, is that it feels more like a well-assembled compilation than a start-to-finish album. The mix of pop-driven and more-ambient songs gives Girls Come Too variety, but perhaps because the album is made up of numerous cherry picked songs written over the span of several years, it never feels entirely unified. Even so, when the songs cherry picked are as strong as these, it’s hard to lodge much of a complaint.

Still Life Still are still a young band, despite the fact that they’ve been together for a solid decade, and this, their first album, is likely only setting the stage for a long and fruitful career, the way the debuts of all the lasting great indie bands have. Girls Come Too marks not only the grand arrival of one of the best band’s Toronto has produced yet (no easy statement in 2009), but the official arrival of the next generation of Toronto’s music scene that supported and have been supported by SLS for years now. If it’s this good at the start, I can only imagine what heights it’ll reach in the future.

Still Life Still will be playing an album release show at The Horseshoe on Friday, August 28th. Those who pre-order the album now will be put on the guestlist.

Click here to buy Girls Come Too from the Arts and Crafts online store.

Awesome Album Covers!

August 19th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Yeah, I don’t think that’s a good idea…

Dead Snow Review

August 18th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

-“What do we want!?”

I thought the answer was “zombie movies!” because that’s what we were all there to see. In fact, brains, or anything having to do with intelligence, shouldn’t be at the top of anyone’s itinerary if they’re sitting in Bloor cinema waiting to see a splatterfest zombie movie from Norway.
So, if you haven’t heard about it yet, Dead Snow is a Norwegian zombie film that’s getting a lot of great press and growing a nice fanbase as it tours the festival circuit. And it deserves it. Sure, it’s uber derivative, but it’s still awesome. Let’s break it down in a plot-by-numbers.
1. Bunch of 20-somethings go up to a secluded cabin in the woods: check
2. There’s a bit of gratuitous sex: oh check (this actually comes after plot point 3 in the movie)
3. Creepy old man/woman/book/tape recorder/ghost tells them that they’re in danger because of some ancient evil or other: check (old man)
4. They don’t listen but quickly find themselves being attacked by evil demons/zombies/ghosts/monsters: check (zombies…nazi zombies)
5. So of course they find themselves being knocked off one by one in various gruesome and gross ways. There’s tons of blood getting splashed everywhere.
6. Someone gets bitten and has to decide what he’s going to do now that he knows he’s going to become a zombie.
7. Eventually it gets down to one guy who finally manages to get away from/defeat the zombies/monsters/demons.
8…or does he?
So what sets Dead Snow apart? Not much really. Zombie nazis are pretty freakin’ awesome though and the movie is well made, the acting’s not too bad and there are a number of great, memorable moments (-“I’m going to turn into one them!” -“Wasn’t your grandfather like half-Jewish? They would never recruit you”). It’s really funny and self-aware, with noticeable homages to Evil Dead and other horror classics. It’ll be out on DVD soon so if you’re sick minded and love bloody, shlocky horror, you know what to do, fool.