Archive for September, 2009

Awesome Album Covers!

September 30th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Hunting is so passe: in 2009, hipsters prefer to kill deer with photoshop

Rain Machine

September 28th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

This week’s artist of the week is an unsurprisingly awesome solo spin-off project from a member of one of the decade’s best bands. He’s got a gorgeous, sensual voice that bends to no conventionality, and his writing is affecting, weird, downright kick ass. This week’s artist of the week is…

The solo project of guitarist/vocalist Kyp Malone, Rain Machine sounds pretty much like you’d expect it to: a fraction of TV on the Radio removed from the whole. This, of course, has its positive and negative aspects. To start with the negative, you’re not getting Dave Sitek’s unbelievable dense, textured production, Tunde Adebimpe’s incredible counter-vocals or the whole big band effect of TVOR, but you are getting a far more intimate performance and some tracks that show more of a side of Malone rarely revealed in TVOR’s music.
The eponymous album is comprised both of tracks that sound like they could easily stand alongside TVOR’s best work as well as more demo-sounding songs. “Give Blood” is a ferocious opening track (“Intro” doesn’t count) with all the apocalyptic rush of horns, multi-layered beats and fuzzy guitars you’d expect in a TVOR song – but still it feels smaller, more focused on an individual voice rather than the genius toss-up that is TVOR. As the album progresses, the various elements we’ve all come to know and love from TVOR albums present themselves but the individual voice becomes more pronounced, which, as I said, is both good and bad for the aforementioned reasons.
The second half of the album, however, starts to stir things up a little as the tracks become more experimental and more demo-like. “Desperate Bitch” immediately stands out for its sparse arrangement and its lengthy (though interesting) descent into ambiance and then Bitches Brew-esque dissonance. “Love Won’t Save You” one-ups its predecessor by showcasing simply Malone alone with his electric guitar for nearly eight minutes. The rest of the tracks aren’t quite as sparse, but find Malone depending a lot less on electronics and instead using more acoustic instruments which is at least intriguing, if some might not consider it quite as exciting and enjoyable as his full-band quasi-electronic sound.
Regardless of what Malone’s doing or how he’s doing it though, the soulfulness of his performance makes everything worthwhile. Interestingly, as I was driving down to my place with my dad just now, he wanted to hear the Jay-Z ft. Rihanna+Kanye song “Run This Town” and he was commenting on how he liked Rhianna’s voice. He asked me what I thought and I replied that I really did not, because I didn’t buy it.
“She sounds like she’s supposed to sound. Like somebody told her, “sound like this” and she was just like “okay”.” If you replaced her with any other popular female RnB singer it would hardly make the slightest difference.
Malone may not be radically differing in style from the lineage of RnB singers proceeding him, but with him I buy it, I believe he means it, and that when he’s singing, he’s singing the truth. His project may be called Rain Machine, but in an age where even the human voice seems to be considered an inadequate instrument, Malone’s music stands out and head and shoulders among the crop of other musicians, because he isn’t afraid to flaunt just how human he is.

Click here to buy Rain Machine from Amazon.

In Defense of Pitchfork

September 26th, 2009 | Features | 2 Comments

Whenever anyone so much as mentions, the response you usually hear is, “Oh, fucking Pitchfork.” Yeah? What’s wrong with Pitchfork? It’s either, “Oh, they just trash everyone” or “They’re just way too pretentious” or something along those lines. You know what? Shut the fuck up. I seriously hear this shit everyday at the record store, in my backyard, in interviews, at concerts, everywhere.

Firstly, Pitchfork does not trash everyone. Do they occasional trash bands? Yes, and not even really, but some bands deserve trashing, and people need to grow a pair and deal with it. So they gave some album no one cares about a 4.0/10.0; O to the M to the G. I can only think of two instances where I was dismayed at a review: when they gave My Morning Jacket’s Evil Urges a shit review, and when they reviewed the Black Kids album with a video of a monkey pissing in its mouth. Admittedly, the later was a douche move.

But do you know how many bands Pitchfork has helped and supported? How many bands Pitchfork has literally “made”? You can pinpoint the moment Arcade Fire became a contender to when Pitchfork gave Funeral a 9.7/10. Even Broken Social Scene admit in Stuart Berman’s excellent book This Scene Is Broken that the glowing 9.2 they gave You Forgot It In People was a big help in breaking them in the US. When Feist’s The Reminder came out, a lot of the reviews of it were middling. Rolling Stone gave it three stars, AMG gave it like three and a half. Pitchfork gave it an 8.8, and then by year’s end it was on every “Best Of” list and Feist had become an international superstar.

Deerhunter, Animal Collective, Wolf Parade, Dirty Projectors, Fleet Foxes, Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Bon Iver and numerous other bands and artists have been given huge ups by Pitchfork, and many of these bands are deservedly the biggest indie bands in the world now. The only band listed above that I didn’t hear about through Pitchfork, actually, was Wolf Parade.

When I first started reading Pitchfork, I actually was kind of pissed also that pretty much every album got like a 6.7 or something, and rarely would you see an album get over 8.0. But after a while, I kept reading, and realized that often the albums that would get over 8.0 were seriously, really good. And that’s how I came to trust Pitchfork. Because they weren’t out to suck the cock of every band that crossed their path, because they would say, “you suck” and “you rock”.

And people like to complain about the writing also, and that’s just beyond my understanding. I’ve heard people say that they try and use all kinds of big words and just blabber and what not but they really don’t. The writing is phenomenally strong, often funny, insightful, sometimes personalized. Marc Hogan’s review of Deerhunter’s Cryptograms, where he compares the album to Dennis Cooper’s novel Closer, in particular is one my favorite reviews ever. True, he does a lot of band-to-band comparisons and you’re not supposed to, but you can feel his passion for every aspect of the album and the way he cuts in factual bits about the band works beautifully in conveying to the reader of true sense of who this band is, which, particularly in the case of Deerhunter, explains more about the gravity of the music than anything else one could write could.

Hogan – and, really, most of the writers on the site – have more passion, musical knowledge and sophisticated prose than I’ve found on any other music site. I’ve read Christgau, Meltzer, Bangs and plenty of the writing of other respected rocks critics, and I’d argue that the writing of those at Pitchfork is the logical evolution of where they were going with their work.

Even with all the P-fork hate that goes down, its undeniable that Pitchfork’s power and influence is enormous, so there must be enough people out there who like them. For those who have never read Pitchfork, don’t be dissuaded by hipster hate. Why are the people who always accuse everything/one of being pretentious themselves the most pretentious people around? “I don’t want to be labeled” is like the fucking moto of every hipster, their automated response to you when you call them a hipster. And I love hipsters! I think they’re so cute and colorful and artistic, don’t you just want to take ‘em home? That’s why I go to Dance Cave :P

For those who have read and hate Pitchfork, please chill out and give it another chance. This time, actually read the reviews and note how many albums they actually write bad reviews of…It’s really not that many. Think of all the great bands they’ve helped and just generally try and chill out. May I point out to you that you’re reading this blog and therefore are kind of lame yourself? Yeah, that’s right. Fuckin’ hipster.

Antlers In-Store at Criminal Records, Sept. 24th

September 25th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

My buddy Mandelbaum gave me a call yesterday and told me he was going down to check out Antlers at Criminal and that I should come. So I came. And it was pretty solid.

Firstly, I was surprised that there was just three of them and there was no bassist. Secondly, they sounded really good. Singer Peter Silberman is great at what he does, and his voice sounded beautiful, smooth, soaring…dove-like, even…The use of the synth was maybe the most essential part of the band’s sound aside from Silberman’s vocals, as it filled up the room with a gorgeous white ambiance, lending the songs a heavenly lilt. The drummer kind of just provided these simple repetitive marching-band-esque beats, but they were all the songs required, so it was all good.
As great as they sounded, after a couple songs it started to sound a little boring, as all their songs sound pretty much the same and they’re all very sensitive and ambient. But they were very pretty.

Awesome Album Covers!

September 23rd, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Finally somebody makes the album I’ve been waiting for about hot chicks without pupils, mummies, evil skull-faced villains, tap dancing, spaceships and Mr. T.

The Strokes

September 21st, 2009 | Features | 0 Comments

This week’s band of the week was one of the greatest bands of the 00’s. They were the other big band of the garage rock revival, they inspired legions of imitators and polarized listeners into camps of devoted lovers and spiteful haters. Some said they just ripped off the Velvet Underground and tried too hard to look cool; others thought that they brought the swagger and sex back to rock that had been sorely missing for years. Regardless of opinions, the fact is this band marked a crucial turning point in this decade’s musical evolution and their essentiality cannot be ignored. The band of the week is…


The story of The Strokes’ assembly isn’t really that interesting. Basically, Julian Casablancas was a bad-ass rich kid: the son of John Casablancas, owner of Elite Model Management and a Danish model, he got kicked out of a bunch of private schools but along the way met the persons who would later form The Strokes with him. The group gigged around New York for a while without attracting much attention before recording a demo with producer Gordon Raphael. The demo eventually did attract a certain amount of attention and eventually their music got to Britain, where the NME basically shit themselves over The Strokes, beginning the band’s rise to superstardom.

They released their debut album Is This It? in 2001 to incredible critical acclaim; Rolling Stone put the band on the cover and declared them the saviors of rock, a title The White Stripes would co-garner.

I remember the first time I heard The Strokes. I was at my aunt’s house in the Hamptons watching SNL one night and there was this band on. And they played two songs – “Last Night” and “Someday” I believe – and I was hooked. I thought this band was awesome and as soon as I got home I found them online and downloaded them. When I began writing songs, The Strokes were one of my biggest influences, and their melodic sense and use of minor sevenths permanently affected my leanings.


When I began to research the band a little, I saw that their influences included The Velvet Underground, The Stooges and Television. At the time I knew none of these bands and promptly researched them, found out who they were, and got a hold of their music. Now those three bands are three of my all time favorite bands.

When I was maybe twelve in grade 7 or 8, I went to see The Strokes play The Hershey Center in Mississauga, which may have been my first rock concert. I went with my uncle Bernie and I remember it being 1) awesome, 2) the air was so thick with smoke of all kinds that you could probably have cut it with a knife. People were getting drunk and passing out and had to be dragged out, it was pretty funny. And there I was, this 12 year old with all these hardcore badass hipsters rocking out to The Strokes with my uncle beside me. It was great.

Room On Fire was a great album when it came out in 2003, and it still is. Sure, it’s pretty much exactly like Is This It?, but I think that that’s basically what everyone wanted it to be like. Also, it didn’t have those amateurish moment that Is This It? had, like the title track, “NYC Cops” and “Take It Or Leave” it, and still had instant classics in “Reptilia” and “12:51″. I think it may hold up as my favorite Strokes album.


In 2006, The Strokes released First Impressions Of Earth, which in every way marked a big change for the band. The title was weirder, they were using a different producer, a new studio, and word on the street was they didn’t want to just remake the first album the way Room On Fire did. And it was a big disappointment for pretty much those reasons. Everyone admitted that it had its moments (“You Only Live Once”, “Razorblade”) but that it simply had too many lazy choruses, overly complex-underly melodic songs, and “On The Other Side” was possibly the worst Strokes track ever.


I saw them play the Ricoh Coliseum that year with my drummer at the time, Luca. In fact, that was the show where I met Nicole Rajesky, who would later manage my old band, The Fancy Claps. I remember that that show probably illustrated what had changed in three years: The Strokes had gone from beloved band on the rise playing a shitty little venue in Mississauga to world class superstars playing Coliseums and headlining festivals – and along the way they had lost some of their charm.

When Albert Hammond Jr.’s solo album Yours To Keep came out, it was better regarded than his band’s last album. This was followed by Little Joy (drummer Fabrizio Morretti’s new project), Nikolai Fraiture’s shitty ass solo album, and Hammond’s second solo album, Como Te Llama? Now it looks like Casablancas has got a solo coming out in October. From the first single, it appears that Casablancas’ writing is back in great shape, mixing drum machines with awesome neon synth-pop sounds and his signature baritone. Though some found this sound surprising coming from the leader of The Strokes, anyone who’s listened to their demos knows that Casablancas actually writes songs with keys and synths, not to mention that Impressions had “Ask Me Anything”, which was actually played entirely on a synth.

Now it appears The Strokes are back at work, writing new songs and hoping to deliver a new album in the next year or so. It’s hard to say how this will go over: everything’s changed in the last couple years, and though The Strokes’ influence still remains as strong a presence in the scene (see: Phoenix), I’m not sure how they’ll be able to jump back in and seem relevant. Will they try and throw in a bunch of synthesizers and hope for the best like Franz Ferdinand? Will they go back to basics and just try and write some great songs? It’s hard to say…but I’m very excited.

Click here to buy Room On Fire on Amazon.

Modernboys Modergirls: I Might As Well Break It

September 18th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Modernboys Moderngirls

I Might As Well Break It

(Independent; 2009)


Ironically, the Toronto-based Modernboys Moderngirls takes its cues from the soul-influenced punk pub rock of late 70’s/ early 80’s Britain. With the rest of indie rock obsessed with the 80s, lo-fi, harmony-strong folk, or fiddling with samplers, MBMG’s out of time and place-ness works both for and against them, at once causing them to stand out while at the same time raising the question: is there any reason for them to exist? Better question though: is there any reason for 100,000 indie pop bands to exist? Probably not. MBMG’s existence, however, can actually be justified simply by the fact that they’ve chosen to reexamine a genre of rock seemingly forgotten – and found its heart still beating.

I Might As Well Break It’s ten tracks don’t follow a strict narrative as far as I can tell, but they do seem to depict some kind of Rebel Without A Cause-esque romantic state of being, filled with raging hormones, jealous girls, fast living and nagging society pressures. Opener “Miss My Baby Girl” sounds surprisingly paranoid and noir-ish as frontman Akira Alemany describes how, “We couldn’t stop/Or slow it down/I only want a place/To lie with you,” making it sound as though the couple are fugitives on the run; guilty…of love. The on-the-run theme continues in the next track, “Stay Under”. The paranoia has been replaced with a driving angst this time, as against a rushing rhythm Alemany sings in desperation, “I’ve got to stay under/I’ve got to stay under/And only find her/gimme a light to find her/shine a light on her.”


The album continues then to run the gamut of adolescent emotion, from jubilant sexual joy (the dance number ready “My Baby Says Boy, Don’t You Ever Go”) to desolation (“A Hammond Organ Singing”) to rebellion (the goofy, mocking “I Don’t Need To Understand”) to disillusionment (the heartbreaking “In Another Year”), adeptly capturing the beauty and sadness inherent in each. The album ends with “Spiral and Smoke”, a slow-burning, shifting, confessional composition that jumps from sparse, whisper-sung passages to a grandiose, triumphant climax with Alemany proclaiming proudly, “I fall with a new speed,” before wrangling guitars come in and close out the song (and album) in a cacophony of noise and percussion.

At a time when everyone is forecasting the apocalypse of the format, it’s still great to see such effort put into the construction of an album; each song on IMAWB contrasts so well with the ones pre and proceeding it that they feel like scenes in a movie, one not making sense without the rest. Regardless of time, trends and stylistic leanings, great songs are still great songs, a well constructed album is still a well constructed album, and a band with the chops to hit all the right points is still a valuable commodity. Ignore the title: this isn’t an album to break – this is a minor treasure.

Click here to buy I Might As Well Break It off the official MBMG website.

Awesome Album Covers!

September 16th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

…also, anyone notice the chick tripping out on K in the bottom left hand corner? None of the people dancing seem to…

Eric Chenaux/Cousins at The Cameron House, Sept. 15

September 16th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

So, when I originally left the house, I was headed down to the Horseshoe for nu music night, only to see the biggest line I’ve ever seen outside The Horseshoe. It was bigger than the line for Zeus I had to wait in a couple weeks ago outside The Dakote: this thing was huge. Turns out it was Moneen’s CD release show. So…who the fuck is Moneen? Guess I’d better look into that…

Before Cousins played, Eric Chenaux played an acoustic set…and he was really good. Most of the time when someone gets onstage with an acoustic guitar they just whine and stuff and its really bad, but Chenaux had a mournful, rustic folky thing going on and it was really, like, un-bad. The songs seemed to almost have no beginning or end but just drifted from one to the next, though without ever lapsing into monotony.

The Halifax based Cousins were another pleasant surprise. Their sound was charmingly ramshackle, with messy indie-rock guitars drawing wonderful melodies over thumpsty (basically just means indie-rock-sounding, actually) drumming. Lead singer Aaron Mangle sang in an airy falsetto that threw a wispy tinge over the bands’ proceedings. But yeah, good stuff here too.

Arctic Monkeys

September 14th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

This band of the week is actually one of the best bands of the last decade…but I don’t know if anyone really knows it. They’re a very popular band, and they arrived with a shitload of hype, but unlike most bands, these smart-ass brits actually deserved most of it. To add to it, their second album kicked their first album’s ass – big time. And their first album wasn’t really a slouch either. The band of the week is…

As the story goes, these young punks starting writing really good songs and built up a huge online following before releasing a debut album to ridiculous international hype. But against all odds, the band went over well with critics and fans alike and there wasn’t really any backlash against them: a lot of people seemed to agree that, all things considered, the Arctic Monkeys were a pretty solid band. Were they revolutionary? Not really. But “I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor” had a solid chorus and the lyrics were very adept, impressively so for such a young band.
Their second album, Favorite Worst Nightmare, came about warily, and “Brainstorm” wasn’t really as much a barnburner as “…Dance Floor…”, but after a couple listens, the album sunk in, and then “Florescent Adolescent” came along and became an inarguable classic (yes, yes it is). Between its instantly unforgettable hook, its phenomenal compositional build-up and its incredible lyrical depiction of someone getting older and leaving behind the excitement and dreams of their youth, it stands as a career defining moment for the band and their greatest single yet, one that will be difficult to top. Two years later, it still sounds exhilarating and hilarious (“You used to get it in your fishnets/Now you only get it in your nightdress“), despite the fact that its subject matter is actually quite melancholy.

Favorite Worst Nightmare had a stock of great songs that saw the band pushing themselves on all fronts. “Teddy Picker”‘s verses were nothing unusual for the monkeys, but it’s chorus-vibrato guitar effects-inflected chorus was one of the band’s most viciously melodic accomplishments. “Balaclava” saw the band amp up its ability to rock like real badasses. “The Only Ones Who Know” would have, if not for “Florescent Adolescent”, been the absolute masterpiece of the album with its slow, heartbreaking crooner charm that foreshadowed frontman Alex Turner’s work with the Scott Walker-indebted The Last Shadow Puppets. The moody organ-drone of “505” allowed him then to deliver one of his most romantic performances.
Fast forward to ’09, and the Arctic Monkeys are probably one of the indie rock biggest bands in the world. Their latest album, however, the Josh Homme-produced Humbug, has yet to win me over. And I don’t know if it will. This time around, the focus is more on the riffs and the bombast and less on the melodies. In fact, if you’re looking for the charming, swooning hooks that dominated Favorite Worse Nightmare, you’d better look somewhere else. But what Humbug does illustrate is just how far Alex Turner has come not only as a lyricist, but as a frontman, and perhaps how underrated he’s been over the last couple years. In the album’s leadoff single “Crying Lightning”, the smooth, seductive tone in which Turner intones his story reflects his skills as an actor and a musical presence. Other performers might come off as dumb or cloying, but Turner has a particular talent at inhabiting his characters and narrators and imbibing their stories with a distinct mood and personality.
If Humbug is a misstep for the band, at least its a misstep that we can forgive them for. They tried out a new sound with a well known producer and its not that the album is downright bad, but its simply lacking in melody and hooks, though it tries to make up for it in sheer character. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t suffice. But we’ll call it a misstep in the right direction, as the band didn’t at any rate sell out or compromise. Hopefully the next one will be better, lord knows they’ve got it in them.
Click here to buy Favorite Worst Nightmare off Amazon.