Thursday, July 14, 2011

Local Feature: Atomis, Illuminated Minerva, Jung People, TRUCK!!!!

Illustration by Nathan Navetto

Whu...huh...wait, it's WHAT year, you say?

So I went to sleep back around August 2010 and suddenly woke up hooked up to a bunch of monitoring machines and it's July 2011 and I have no idea where the middle time went. O_o

In between the inevitable nausea that deep chemical hibernation seems to cause (I'll be ok...gimme a minute), I have been brought out of stasis for a particular reason. Or so this random dossier that's been slid under the door of the observation cell tells me. Allow me to read it out to you: *clears throat*

"Calgary has an absolutely kicking ambient post-rock/metal scene happening right now. We're not quite sure why all these amazing bands are happening at the same time; it might be something in the tap water, but we're not complaining. Spread the word, or face erasure. Also, don't eat the jelly beans."

*eyes the enormous jar of jelly beans that are inexplicably sitting in the corner of the room, unnoticed until now with suspicion*
(...and scene.)

The above delusion is actually a long and elaborate metaphor for where the inside of my head was like when I first heard Atomis and TRUCK!!!! destroy the Marquee Room. Part of me had decided that maybe I'm just not cut out to actually maintain a written blog since I seem to be so bad at doing it with any measure of consistency. Or lack of fangirling. Most of me had reconciled with the idea that I should just let this place die gracefully (read: in abject abandonment) and have done with it.

And as soon as I heard those two bands, I knew it was impossible. I felt like I had to write about them; like I had no choice BUT to write about them; like I'd be the worst person to exist, ever (minus the guy that invented syphilis and Stephen Harper combined) if I didn't drag this thing back from the un-dead and write about them. Because when you get down to it, it's not about indie posturing or the free stuff or the money or power or the crushing of your enemies or the lamentations of their women (because, frankly, you get none of those things by running a music blog for free). It's about having somewhere to shout from rooftops when you actually FIND amazing music that makes you lose your shite and thrash around like an epileptic cat when you see them live.

Formed from the wreckage of Calgary groups Somastate and Pure City, Atomis (pronounced ATOM-iss) sound like the love-child of Tool, Cult of Luna, and Explosions in the Sky by way of Sigur Ros. Which by thunder I wouldn't want to picture in physical terms, but sounds like angels having sex with your eardrums. Add in the amazing visuals/lights produced by insanely talented drummer Nathan Navetto and you've got one of the most mind-meltingly great bands this city has ever had to offer.

These guys are currently trying to get a grant from the Alberta gov in order to record things properly; I want it to happen so much I pray to the Elder Gods every night.

Illuminated Minerva
I could ramble on and on about what this band sounds like, crafting careful and clever analogies, and never get close to the simple brilliance of this description by the band themselves: "Listening to Illuminated Minerva is like riding a Metal spaceship through Outer Space." By turns punishingly intense and unbelievably gorgeous and melodic, they claim inspiration from classic prog sources like Dream Theater, Mastodon, Gojira, and Deftones, yet where another band might have taken all the worst elements possible in that combination (too-long songs, elitist elitism, prog vocals in general), they seem to have come to that logical conclusion that I reached years ago about most prog bands, being that the overwrought vocals were actually getting in the way. This makes them +10 awesome. They're currently in the studio laying down some tracks, so soon I won't be the crazy lady talking about a band that may-or-may-not exist as far as you guys are concerned.

It's also a well-known fact that their time signatures are more insane than Animal Collective's, so you can try clapping along but good f**king luck to you.

Jung People
The only duo in this feature, Giordano Bassi and Bryan Buss have been playing together in some form or another since time immemorial, but are relatively new as a post-rock/indie/progressive outfit. Don't let that fool you into thinking that there's anything remotely amateur about their sound or capabilities as musicians. Inspired by everything from Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Do Make Say Think, and Patrick Watson to Wild Nothing, Blonde Redhead, and The Mars Volta, this could sound like a bunch of kids fighting over the iPod but instead comes off as cohesive, lovely, and interesting, thank god. It's clear that these guys are willing to take their music anywhere and everywhere their fancy leads, all while crafting gorgeous, acoustic sonic gems.
Jung People on FBM

An unbelievably technical and impressive three-piece outfit, TRUCK!! is difficult to find via google or the internet in general given the easy ambiguity that accompanies being named after one of the most common things on Earth (alas, the extra exclamations marks don't really register as search terms). However, anyone that takes the trouble to find them is in for an ear-full of awesome. Even better, they've got an amazing sense of humour (all too lacking in today's "srsbusiness you guys" music environment). In their own words, they sound like: "Chaos and Atmosphere fighting over Elton John's sandwich."

Lastly, any band that gives away their incredible first EP for free online when I would gladly pay for it is instant love.

Illustration for "Maelstrom" by Mariella Villalobos


Friday, July 30, 2010

Feature: Ramona Falls

So, with the adage in mind that brevity is the soul of wit, I'll keep this short and to the point:

Ramona Falls's album "Intuit" is easily one of the greatest albums I've heard in a long, long time.

"But how's that possible?" you might ask. "I thought music like that was a myth these unicorns, and 12 grain bread that doesn't taste like squirrels?"

I was beginning to think so too, but apparently I was being preemptively cynical. The closest analogy I can think of for what listening to this album has been like is probably like the first time you heard an amazing indie pop song (it could've been the Pixies, or Franz Ferdinand's "Dark of the Matinee", or it could've not) and were astounded that such amazing music could exist without you knowing about it (before you got all jaded and contracted that nasty case of elitism). Or maybe the first time you heard "Perfect From Now On" by Built to Spill on vinyl and got the shivers, so excited that you just wanted to tell everyone on Earth about it. Y'know, until you remembered that you had no indie friends. Or even that time you saw Sunset Rubdown and Frog Eyes live and realized that probably nothing in your life would ever top seeing Spencer play the opening riff of "Swimming" like a madman possessed by the ghost of another madman.

It's kinda something like that, but even more so because it's probably been ages since you felt so excited and genuinely moved and passionate about an album. An album with not just an all-around great showing and a few songs that make you nerd out, but where almost every song makes you want to actually update that music blog you've been ignoring off-and-on for ages.

Ramona Falls is one third of Menomena (Brent Knopf), as well as a stellar showing of Portland's musical talent, all rolled into possibly the greatest thing on Barsuk other than Menomena itself. And even then, it's a close contest.

I hate to hype, but every once in a while, it's worth it. And who knows, I could come to regret it later, but just for now, I'm going to believe in unicorns and the existence of healthy bread that doesn't taste like a hermit's beard and go with my gut on this one.


Ramona Falls
video of "I Say Fever" (also the only song I've played that has had everyone CONSISTENTLY ask me what it is within minutes of hearing it)
on Myspace Music
on the Web

P.S: the new Menomena is out now as well; worth checking out
on Myspace Music
on the Web

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Sled Island Day 3: Mainstage + Les Savy Fav

If you were to happen and look around at the lobby in which you are sitting here at WHYH, you might notice four other people in the room with you. One is a kid on a cellphone who can't stop telling his friend all about his personal life over the music playing, two are doing the cuddly couple thing and paying no mind to anything other than their grossly inappropriate PDA, and the third is a crazy homeless guy wearing a box hat who just happened to find his way in when he smelled the mini donuts.

If you've been to more than one outdoor/festival concert, you might find these figures familiar; after all, they're ALWAYS THERE. No matter how hard you try, how many cool people attend a show, these four will find a way in.

Did I mention the incredible police presence at the entrance and exit? No? Look again. Yes, it's not unusual that you didn't notice beforehand; they managed to quietly come in when you were distracted by the box hat hobo just to stand around, looking intimidating. They're sure you have drugs (you probably don't but they'll never believe you telling them that someone could go to an outdoor festival just to enjoy the music).

Yes, outdoor festivals have their drawbacks. But, to be honest, the minute Fucked Up started playing, all these manifold distractions were forgotten in a wave of blistering guitar and vocal awesome. Within five seconds, I'd forgotten everything except rocking out as hard as possible; within one song I'd added the performance to my list of "so awesome live that you can't exactly believe it just happened" bands; within three songs, lead singer Pink Eyes was climbing up on the framework of the stage; four songs in, and I forgot that I was wearing open-toed sandals and ran into the ensuing mosh-hug when he climbed out into the audience (that one I kind-of wish I HADN'T forgotten, but I guess there has to be disadvantages to completely losing your shite somewhere). The band played through most of their set with Pink Eyes moshing and singing with everyone in the audience, pouring free Dr. Pepper all over himself, slowly getting progressively more naked (until finishing the performance completely naked onstage whilst covering the inappropriate bits with the pair of shorts he was attempting to re-don), aind in general making it a performance not soon to be forgotten.

Oh, yeah, the music was pretty awesome too, I guess.

But in all seriousness, Sled Island Day 3 was a day of uniformly hard-rocking bands exceeding expectations musically and performance-wise; from Ted Leo & The Pharmacists' aggressive punk-edged performance, to The Thermals breaking the sky with their awesome and causing a sudden rain shower, to Built to Spill kicking it in the sun and ending said rain (also, playing multiple tracks from my all-time favourite "Perfect From Now On", as well as finishing up the set with the immortal "Carry The Zero"), Olympic Plaza Main Stage was uniformly and incredibly unbelievable.

Afterwards, I headed out to the Distillery to catch Turbo Fruits and Les Savy Fav; once again, the club sound guy was an unbelievable tool who seemed convinced that by playing crappy metal at full volume he might convert the oh-so-ignorant show-goers of the error of their ways. After this, I highly hope to never meet these people in person, lets I be tempted to do something terrible, but it says something that the minute Turbo Fruits, and then Les Savy Fav took the stage, my ears seemed to magically recover, my tiredness fled, and I was once again completely overcome by just how incredibly and unexpectedly godly a band can be live, even when you generally like their recorded material.

Now if tonight is HALF as incredible as the last three days have been, I can safely say that this year's Sled Island has been the best festival, and quite possibly the best musical, experience of my life.


Friday, July 02, 2010

Sled Island Day 2: Mini Mansions, Women, The Posies

Day 2 of Sled Island saw us at The Republik, a local venue with a complicated history reading as a local, lamer version of the very movement its name implies, that has nevertheless re-emerged as one of the most likely to host touring indie bands. Larger than most other local pubs/bars/clubs, it's the natural choice for shows likely to attract big audiences (such as The Melvins on July 3rd, and Wolf Parade on July 22nd). The layout is relatively well-suited for accommodating a large audience while allowing more than half of them to actually see what's happening on stage (a feat not many venues can boast of). Now, if only their sound guys would rise to the occasion and not mix every instrument into a high-volume soup, I could wish for nothing more.

The combination of Deerhoof closing out the bill, and local hometown heroes Women playing earlier in the evening made for a large turnout, even for the first band to hit the stage, which is a personal relief. After Deerhoof's set the night before, the opening set came in second for biggest surprise of the festival so far.

Mini Mansions are a trio from Los Angeles, California, and one of the incredible number of high-level bands to hail from that state at this year's fest (such as the incredible Sleepy Sun, who we featured here on WHYH earlier this year). I had taken a cursory listen of their myspace and deemed them decent enough to be worth watching, at least.

Their recorded material barely prepared me to see them live; on record, they could pass for a dreamy "Lucy in the Sky With Diamons"-era Beatles, with a slight turn in the vein of recent successes such as Fleet Foxes. Live, they are a force to be reckoned with; energetic, aggressive, melodic and dissonant by turns in the methodical manner that only the best bands seem to understand: noise takes composition the same way melodies do. They played their hearts out, even when doing an incredible cover of Blondie's "Heart of Glass". Bless them for having the cheapest merch at the show, too.

Nest came Women; one of the best bands Calgary has to offer, their playing was tight and energetic, melodies coming in and out of the ensuing wall of noise as well as ever. The only complaint I had (which was not their fault at all) comes back to the sound mixing I mentioned earlier: the vocals were even more difficult to hear than they should have been due to the sound guy mixing everything loud enough to distort beyond what was required. Sure, Women are known for their lo-fi/noise rock aesthetic, and for playing a loud and rocking show, but in this one instance it actually affected the songs, which was a bit disappointing.

This trend continued with The Posies as well; a legendary Seattle band reunited, with a long and well-respected history. We ended up having to leave our great spots near the stage and go to the back of the club just to be able to enjoy their music, because it seems that after Women's set, the sound guy had adjusted everything by turning it all UP; I'm amazed that the vocalists Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer managed to make their singing heard over the mix; to be honest, the blistering volume made it difficult for us to enjoy what would have otherwise been a wonderful set. Mind you, I could just be getting old and senile, but I'll admit, I'm all for loud music, just as long as you can still hear and enjoy everything that's going on.


Mini Mansions
On Myspace Music

On Myspace Music

The Posies
On Myspace Music

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Sled Island Day 1: Lorrie Matheson, Wild Choir, Deerhoof

It's that time of year again; the week or so at the end of June that every semi-cultured person in Calgary prays for all year, and the memory of which they then hold onto with both hands during the ensuing horrors of Stampede.

This is the fourth annual Sled Island Music, Film, and Art Festival in Calgary, and possibly its most mature incarnation yet, will well-rounded and incredible lineups in all three areas of interest. The festival has always been great from its very first year, but it seems to finally be settling into its most fully developed and finalized form this year.

And if the kick-off show is any indication, we're in for an absolutely incredible four days.

As anyone who's read WHYH's Sled Island coverage before would know, our favourite venue of the fest is probably Central United Church. Sure, the usual Christian accommodations leave much to be desired in the form of physical (or spinal) comfort; at least there were cushions this year.

No, Central United shines because it has that natural advantage that a sandstone/wood church will have over many a modern club/pub/venue: considered (and excellent) acoustics. Also, the strange combination of independent/avant-garde/rock music and an atmosphere designed to give a feeling of "sacredness" result in a feeling that whatever you witness there will be special.

Last night is no exception; in fact, it currently vies for one of the top spots on my list of all-time greatest shows I've ever had the good fortune of witnessing.

Lorrie Matheson opened the evening, starting strong and not letting up. For those unfamiliar with him, he's a local singing/songwriting institution, with a great lyrics, and excellent rock/bluesy/psych-at-times sound...he describes himself as Western Swing, Shoegazer, and New Wave all rolled into one. As this plethora of genre comparisons might indicate, trying to pin down an exact description of his music is perhaps a futile quest.

Nest came Wild Choir (formerly known as Georgiana Starlington), a Brooklyn group with an interesting 50's-vibe garage rock/surf rhythm vibe and an excellent drummer; I found myself looking at him most of the time, truthfully, which was probably an excellent set-up for what was to come.

See, we were all having a decent time, and then Deerhoof appeared and blasted all previous comparisons, bands, experiences, and expectations out of the water and into the oblivion of outer space.

There are very few bands of which I can say their live show has fully taken all my expectation and thoroughly surpassed every single one with cute Japanese vocals, jaw-dropping start-stop-on-a-dime instrumental proficiency, and possibly the most demonically possessed drummer I have ever seen play (and you may remember, I have some experience with possessed drummers). Recorded material does them no justice, can never describe just how absolutely unbelievable Deerhoof is live. They were bigger than the room, bigger than the audience, bigger than the festival itself.

After about three songs, Greg Saunier stood up from the drum kit he had been pounding into oblivion and proceeded to tell us that we were an incredible audience, in an endearingly awkward and hilarious/rambling manner, ending with "I just realized the number of people I was addressing, and suddenly got stage fright; you'll notice that when I get stage fright, I tend to express myself in a condensed way." Satomi Matsuzaki, not to be outdone, proceeded to be as adorable and endearing as an incredibly small, charming, and energetic female bassist/singer executing the occasional Para-Para routine can possibly be.

And just when we all believed the band couldn't possibly amaze us any more, they all switched instruments and proceeded to further amaze us with their versatility and talent.

Other bands are lucky to have one member with the effortless charisma that every single member of Deerhoof seems to have in spades. Not many bands could get away with playing not only one, but TWO cover songs in their set, let alone classic songs like "Pinhead" by The Ramones and "Going Up the Country" by Canned Heat, let alone with such aplomb. Or pulling out the grand piano in the church for the encore...

In the end, we just went to eat something and grab a drink at the Unicorn, because we felt it just wouldn't be fair to whichever band we saw next to hold them to that kind of comparison.

All in all, an excellent night; I can only hope that more surprises like this are to come.


Lorrie Matheson
On Myspace Music
On The Web

Wild Choir
On Myspace Music

On Myspace Music
On Kill Rock Stars

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Feature: Sleepy Sun

The usual apologies aside, I figured I'd just jump right into this one by explaining a little bit how things happen behind the scenes here at WHYH. It goes a little something like this:

I get a torrential flood of e-mail in my inbox. Some of it is music-related. Most are mass newsletter-type deals from various indie record labels, half of which I never signed up for (and, oddly, a lot of them are from the UK). And, I'll be honest, these press release-type e-mails probably only get read about 50% of the time.


Because I do this on my free time, and as such I don't think it should feel like work to check out a band rec. And because personally, newsletters feel like someone typed up a generic thing and hit the "send" button, then clocked out, went home, and didn't think about it until Monday. Like any other job.

Thus, the fastest way for a band to get my attention is a personal recommendation/suggestion. One specifically addressed to me. Even something as simple as "possible feature?" will get me interested, because I know the person writing the e-mail has actually taken the time to promote said band in a way that demonstrates that they actually give a crap.

Wouldn't you rather listen to a band that someone lovingly cares about enough to write personalized e-mails to even the smallest music blogs?

I thought so.

Such is the case with Sleepy Sun. Oddly, they don't seem like the type of band that would need such personal devotion on the part of their reps to sell them; a Californian band (already a head-start) with an album coming out on ATP June 1st (yes, that ATP), and their tour schedule reads like a map of locations off the North American continent I would go to if I didn't owe the government way too much money for deigning to educate myself. They've got a massive early Sonic Youth-type guitar sound that alone should be enough to convert even the most jaded listeners. I would even venture to state that Sleepy Sun is my favourite new (to me) band of 2010, music that I legitimately like without justification by comparison.

Yes, this seems like the premier example of a band where your average rep would just think a batch promo to half the music blogs on the internet would be enough.

Even so, there it was: a personal request that I check out their upcoming gig at this year's Sled Island and hopefully dig them enough to maybe mention them in the wrap-up. How could I NOT go out of my way to take a listen, even when the added download link didn't work?

I'm glad I did; songs like "White Dove" and "Red/Black" are right up my alley; grungy edged things with enough knowledge of composition to keep their dissonance/raunchy guitar from falling into chaos, and enough hidden melodic hooks to keep the balance interesting. If their upcoming album, Fever, is anything like this, I'll definitely be picking it up.

For those in the Calgary area (or, you know, anywhere in Alberta, you really have no excuse), these guys are playing Sled Island July 1st @ The Telus World of Science...a venue which I personally wish would host bands more often.

Sleepy Sun

On the Web:

On Myspace Music:


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Christmas Spirit 2009: Indiecater Records Compilation

So, I won't even bother making excuses over how long it's taken to update this thing, since you all know the drill already. Suffice it to say, this blog is a much-enjoyed yet definitely hobbyist endeavour.

Thus, it was something of a surprise to me just how many record label mailing lists and press release e-mail things make their way into my mailbox all the time. I don't take it to mean we're special or anything, but I will admit that I'm filled with guilt on a regular basis, seeing all these lovingly detailed updates when I can't apparently stay on top of my own projects enough to at least listen to most of the music mentioned.

Especially since when I actually manage to get some listening in, it's actually so GOOD.

Which brings us to the subject of this update: a Christmas compilation.

...words that strike fear into the heart of any retail slave. They evoke thoughts of endless repetitions of the Destiny's Child Christmas Album, and Michael Buble singing "Let it Snow" just to capitalize on the fact that he's pretty much doing what Bing Crosby did well sixty or so years ago and not much else. Let's not even talk about Boney M.

However, this compilation comes from Indiecater Records, home of small but sweet outfits such as Adam and Darcie, Candy Claws, and Sunbear...I couldn't help but be somewhat intrigued about what a Christmas comp done by non-commercial bands that don't spend their time bloating Pitchfork's news pages might sound like.

All I need to say is this: this is probably my favourite winter compilation yet.

Sure, some of the songs are about Christmas. Most, however, seem to be about winter and ice and snow, about personal relationships, and about the humanistic elements of the holiday (as in Standard Fare's Tinsel Politics, where lead singer Emma Kupa asks "Tell me, whose parents' are we going to this Christmas? And how many arguments do I have to sit through?"). Even the covers of traditional songs (Allo Darlin's rendition of Baby, It's Cold Outside, Sweet Jane's Silent Night) are refreshingly honest and sweet versions that bring something new, all the while not seeking to overpower the original material like most revisionist carols do.

It's probably the first Christmas comp I've ever heard where the subject is handled in such a sensitive manner. We're expected to be intelligent enough to get it without needing the word "Christmas" and holiday cliche images beaten into our eardrums.

Do yourself a favour and pick this up to play at any parties you plan on hosting this year, indie or no. Now if only I could get it worked into the regular playlist at work for the holidays...*dares to dream*


Standard Fare - "Tinsel Politics" MP3
An Indiecater Christmas 2009

Thursday, October 01, 2009

[Live] Final Fantasy + Timber Timbre @ Knox United Church

So, if one were to peruse all the way down to the LAST live review this blog did, one might get the impression that churches are the new 'it' venue.

And while that review was done over a year ago and by someone not writing for this blog anymore, this impression would still be correct.

Churches are in. Hip. Cool, even. Not so much when there's churchgoers IN them, maybe, but who can blame the indie scene for wanting to pillage those considered acoustics and (probably) lower rental fees in an almost *gasp* ungodly and impure fashion?

I for one have been rather spoiled by these types of shows (bar shows are a sad shadow, unless Sunset Rubdown happens to be playing); with the exception of two other shows written about on this blog, actually, probably some of the best shows of my existence have been held in churches.

Final Fantasy ranks on that list. Twice.

Back in June, the venerable Owen Pallett graced our humble Central United church (along with Slim Twig and some band named after Tigers which I forget) and proceeded to melt the faces off the sold-out indie gawkers within. A rather astonishing feat, since face-melting is usually reserved for bands with hair long enough to get caught in the rafters when headbanging, one member of whom usually plays the guitar (for the uninitiated, Final Fantasy aka Owen Pallett has neither). The question this time around sat at: was it a one-time magic thing, or would it happen again?

I suppose it's rather unfair of me to pose a question I already know the answer to (I've seen Mr. Pallett, or "Owen" as my sister might call him TO HIS FACE -brave girl-, a previous four times. And he's been amazing precisely the same number of times).

Admittedly, this musical event DID have the benifit of lighting that could do more than just "on" or "off", going as fancy as "fade from one state to the other". Thus, when the lights dimmed, the entire church went silent.

...I mean it. DEAD SILENT. No coughing, or shuffling, or adjusting...DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE GRAVITY OF WHAT I'M SAYING HERE, PEOPLE? This is about as likely my dad forgiving me for the time I dragged him to a Frog Eyes show. Which is pretty fricking unlikely. Think about the last show you went to, even a quiet acoustic one, where everyone LITERALLY SHUT UP COMPLETELY. Even that annoying girl who usually feels the need to call her friends and talk to them through the entire thing, ruin the mood, and squee about how hawt Dallas Green is (I'm looking at you, annoying cell-phone girl *death glare*).

This is even more amazing when you consider that the people ascending the stage were actually the opening band, Timber Timbre. Not the headliner. At all. I think my head just post-exploded.

At the time, however, (before my head exploded thinking about it) I saw fit to observe that this band is wonderful. A true, delightful surprise. Generally, Final Fantasy would be a difficult act to open for and actually have people remember what your band was called afterwards, but this trio from Toronto managed it with aplomb and flawless execution. Especially suited to those lovely acoustics, their recorded material pales by comparison, where the tiny echoes and details are lost. Theirs is music that inevitably made me think of mysterious bayous if an uncroaky Tom Waits decided to suddenly become a Voodoo preist. But still all its own.

A far cry from Pallett's classical-influenced vaguely victorian-styled poetic reflections on life and Canadiana (sometimes), but still somehow fitting.

Asfor the main can I describe the feeling of having the most impossible of high hopes and having them fulfilled completely? Despite Owen Pallett being horribly ill, there was nary a bum note, a rythmic mistake, a misplaced stroke of the bow anywhere. Even people who have professed to not be terribly fond of his recirded material *cough*myinsaneboyfriend*cough* have admitted that seeing him live and watching him literally re-create his songs from the bottom up, solo, from scratch (and, occasionally altered and modified just to make it MORE difficult and interesting) is an amazing experience. That he then proceeds to sing like an angel while playing furious and flawless violin lines and timing his layers just right is beyond my ability to fathom.

Furthermore, hearing "The Butcher" (my favourite thing he's ever done, ever) in such a venue is something that cannot be put into words. I consider it one of the greatest crimes in our present music scene that Final Fantasy doesn't garner as much recognition as the band for whom he composes flawless string arrangements (The Arcade Fire). The man even played an encore despite his state (though I suppose the sound of a church full of people pounding their feet and applauding could be somewhat terrifying to deny).

Seeing as I'm back at school full-time once again for my last and final year before I'm actually supposed to go out and "be a professional" (they still don't have lessons for that, really >.>), it would take the most sublime of sublime shows to bring me to feel as if keeping it to myself is a selfish thing to do. Even more so to do more than feel vaguely guilty about not writing about it and actually write about it.

This was just that show.


Timber Timbre:
On Myspace Music

Final Fantasy
On the Web
On Myspace Music

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Feature: The Drones

So, I now know why writers keep little notebooks stashed about their persons; it keeps you from forgetting things like where you put the prune juice and whether or not you've left your glasses ontop of your head again.

In this vein, I totally had something interesting and meaningful to say about the state of music/a point to make on the debate going on over at about whether or not the Calgary music scene is stagnating, but it seems to have vacated my brain like the concepts of simple human interaction, decency, and taste have vacated the mainstream music vending business. >.>

So, instead of ranting on about how the scene isn't stagnant, rather we've all gotten lazy and old and self-conscious about jumping around at shows, or about how The Noseholes could have been GREAT had they not broken up (unrelated, but it would've ended up in there anyway), I will instead suck it up like the BAMF I wish I was and tell you about The Drones.

First of all, The Drones are, indirectly, the reason why I joined this blog and consequently ended up keeping it limpingly, ever so slightly alive when Sheez and Phil jumped ship. And yes, I even suppose I knew about them back then, but it's all a little hazy in the manner of timing since it all happened when I was a doe-eyed, impressionable, and insatiably enthusiastic music hunter trying to track down literally every band mentioned by Kurt Cobain, ever.

No, he didn't mention the Drones, but we'll get to how the two are related.

Through this music-hunting process, I quickly began to realize that exposure wasn't always proportional to quality when it came to music, even in the indie community. Some bands would get huge just based on a good pitchfork review, and others would have their precious hopes dashed by a mediocre one. Some had good reviews and seemed to get the shaft anyway, while others had crap reviews and STILL had legions of fans (I'm looking at YOU, The Killers). This bothered me.

Thus, when I was offered a spot writing on the blog, I took it as a chance to help spread love of those bands whom I thought didn't get the kind of love they deserved (You'll remember that my first ever post was pushing The Wipers, who are still criminally overlooked even by punks who should know better). Of course, once it was only me writing and updating I couldn't just focus on that area, but I always thought about it anyway.

(See? I told you it'd all come together)

The Drones are just such a band. Despite generally favourable coverage by Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, you still have to go very far out of your way indeed to actually find a person in the real world who's heard of them. (As far as Australia, I believe, but don't quote me on that)

Maybe it's a case of a name affecting your chances, maybe just bad luck, but really, this band is wonderful. And no, they don't do sludge rock or rock out on the bagpipes, thanks for asking. Lyrically, their music is at times beer-soaked and at other times introspective, image-laiden and charmingly sung in a clearly Australian accent...on that note, it's frankly WONDERFUL to hear a band sing unabashedly the way they speak without trying to sound accessibly American. Jangly guitars create raucus Pixie-esque rockers to melodic, acoustic-friendly ballads (of the non-annoying variety). And best of all, the style changes between songs so that you never feel like you're listening to the same song on repeat for twenty minutes.

Lastly, it has staying power...the first time I heard 'Sharkfin Blues' from their "Wait Long By The River ..." album, I loved it. It's now been five years, and hearing it again, it's still just as lovable and brilliant as it was back in high school.

Odds are, if you go out and look for their albums in a record store, you probably won't have much luck finding a full selection. Luckily, the band also distributes the albums through their site directly, which I'd generally recommend people do anyway.

So, to sum up: this band is a) wonderful, b)underrated, and c)deserving of every penny and enthusiastic comment that may or may not convince them to include Canada in their journeys *hint hint* Check 'em out!


The Drones can be found:

On the web:
On Myspace:

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

[EP Review] Unsparing Sea - "In The Crystal Canyon"

*looks around* What? I'm actually updating in a decent amount of time. And no, the world isn't going to end.

To the point!

If you think far, far back into the annuls of your memory, you may remember a band by the name of Unsparing Sea. Then again, in blog time, it's only two posts back that I reviewed their album A Cloud in the Cathedral, but I assume most people reading this will be too ADD, disinterested, or senile to actually RE-READ anything on here.

Well, your eyes don't deceive you, I am in fact covering their newly (well, a month or so old now) EP. And with good reason, too. While those of you with memories long as a wizard's beard may remember that I definitely liked A Cloud in the Cathedral, the four songs on In the Crystal Canyon prove without a doubt that this is a band ill content to sit around and make the same album over and over again.

Cathedral was aptly named; the melodies were soft and soaring, conjuring images of floating through spaces designed to project words and song up to the heavens. And while there were moments of earthly groundedness, you never quite lose that sensation. Crystal Canyon, on the other hand, begins on a vastly different note; "Wolves At the Wedding" opens the EP in a darker direction, a rumbling baseline and low-pitched cello keep things unnerved and brooding. Those higher, etherial voices are still here, but softer and more atmospheric, giving one the feeling of unease.

"Diamond Caverns" follows hot on the heels of the first track, and while it doesn't conjure images of teeth coming out of the woods to get you, it's still a far cry from the stargazing sound of songs like "God Will protect the Naive" from the previous album. The minor-major shift throughout the song makes it a transitional point between the first and second half of the EP.

"Dear Playwright" is a return to softer territory, but if Cloud was the dream, it's obvious that we've woken up here. Overall the song is crisper and more articulated than it might have been one release ago.

"All I Want" closes the album on the same note; slower than the first half, on a major tone, but even though an organ sounds in between the other melodies it can hardly be mistaken for a call back to drifting through exhalted spaces.

All in all, Crystal Canyon is the sound of a band more experienced as both songwriters and musicians, confident with their sound and willing to begin pushing it in other directions.

"Wolves at the Wedding": mp3