RoundLetters’ picks for Best of 2011 so far

I’m going to be honest. 2011 has not been that great for music in my books thus far. I am still listening to a lot of 2010 favourites in my free time. I am constantly meh on most of these 2011 buzz bands my music writing colleagues, friends and the general public seem enamored with (which doesn’t play in my freelance music journalist favour). I’m simply waiting for music to knock me off my feet, bring tears to my eyes and make me exclaim about it to everyone I know. So far, there’s been a handful of that, and you know what, that’s good enough for such high standards, isn’t it?

Here are the albums that I’ve loved and really liked so far (not in too much of a particular order):

tune yards new album
tUnE-yArDs – Who Kill

I adore this woman. She is my hero in numerous ways, and this sophomore album was absolutely Killa.

austra
Austra – Feel it Break

Everything just fits together so beautifully in ways you can’t completely figure out, it’s captivating.

Pat Jordache – Future Songs

I’m much more in tune to Jordache’s catchy musical quirks than his vocals, but I dig that too, especially when I thought I’d get annoyed with it and I haven’t. It’s an interesting full package.

Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo

So much emotion and yet not enough; can fit to numerous settings such as laying in the sun or even grieving.

Jeans Boots – txt msgs

Attitude and sensitivity in just the way I like it.

Miracle Fortress – Was I the Wave?

Adventurous, dreamy, every time I listen I feel like I’m listening to it for the first time.

The Albertans – New Age

They caught my attention earlier on this year as Canada’s answer to that Brooklyn indie sound; quirky, curious and soft.

Hooded Fang – Tosta Mista

This album isn’t out yet, but I have heard it and I’m convinced it’s my album of the summer. So much fun.

What I’ve liked:

Braids, Peter Elkas, Snowblink, Little Scream, Sin Fang, Slow Down, Molasses, Jenn Grant, Graham Wright

What I’m looking forward to getting into now (ones I just haven’t given enough time yet):

Handsome Furs, PJ Harvey, Young Galaxy, Rubik

Later this year:

Dog Day, St. Vincent, Elliott Brood, Little Dragon, Evening Hymns, Wild Flag

Here are the EPs I’ve loved:

beth ditto EP
Beth Ditto – Beth Ditto

This is a self-loving session wrapped into four songs, you’ll be left tired from dancing and feeling good about yourself. Glad to see Beth’s solo foray.

Nightbox

Nightbox – Nightbox

Punchy local indie rock shooting for the stars; have a song “Bears” I still can’t quit.

We Are the City – High School

Passionate indie pop from BC from guys who went through a lot and came out of it so much stronger.

Album Review: Graham Wright – Shirts vs. Skins

The following was originally published on Exclaim.ca.


Graham Wright

Shirts vs. Skins
By Jessica Lewis

Shirts vs. Skins was created following a break-up after a tour with Wright’s band, Tokyo Police Club. Years later, we’re hearing how the light-hearted atmosphere found here emerged from that. Wright, usually a keyboardist, isn’t a natural singer, but establishes himself as a confident one, as well as a multi-instrumentalist and witty lyricist. As the first in a planned trilogy of albums written during that time, this solo foray uses characters dripping with snark and irony to tell accessible stories accompanied by fun, friendly music. It’s identifiable and honest, feeling like you’ve heard it before, meaning you’re instantly caught by Wright’s indie pop guitar-/handclapped-/harmonica-laden hooks. Recorded at Toronto’s Chemical Sound studio, using the talents of owners Dean Marino and Jay Sadlowski, as well as Will Currie, Luke Lalonde and Mika Posen, among others, Wright’s album shows how he learned to stand on his own, and at the ready. (File Under: Music)

Album Review: Freedom or Death – Ego

The following was originally published on Exclaim.ca.

http://exclaim.ca/images/freedom.jpg

Freedom or Death
Ego
By Jessica Lewis

Freedom or Death’s story is about making the music they want to make after learning about industry motives while the Toronto, ON duo worked at a major label. Steve Fernandez and Sway Clarke found their joined voice and are confident about it. What we hear is something dreamy, wistful and melancholy. On their second EP, they continue exploring soft electronics and soulful textures. “Inside” is watery, bursting with instrumentation and “This Crowded Room” quickly goes into ballad territory. “Elefant” takes it up again, based upon explosive drums and electronic beats, and is one of the album’s highlights. “Gesprach (Talk),” “Human” and “Virginia Woolf” orbit guitars and high vocal notes. The vocals throughout are in long, sweeping notes and sound quite sad. They’ve got atmosphere down, but that means you have to be in a similar mood while listening. A good effort, but they haven’t quite reached their ultimate goal of redemption just yet. (Independent)

Album Review: The Albertans – New Age

The following was originally published on Exclaim.ca.

The Albertans
The Albertans
New Age
By Jessica Lewis

The key behind the Albertans is the pairing of pleasant, sunny tunes to bold, dark lyrics. Though their stories are a bit vague, it’s clear that there are usually some passive-aggressive frustrations, such as in “Megan”: “why won’t you text me back, what does this mean for now?” and “People Don’t Go”: “I’m fine, yeah, hollow and dry.” It gets into that mindset of all smiles on the outside but gloomy thoughts behind the eyes, and let’s face it, that can be easily identifiable. Besides that though, this Vancouver, BC, by way of Brooklyn, NY and back to Vancouver again five-piece are simply quirky and you want to get to know them further. “The Wake” is a gorgeously airy track mentioning suicide, “May” and “Mellow” both aim to slow things down, and “Jackpot” and “Furniture” are bouncy and imaginative, about family. New Age is a brightly tinted view of the buzzing band. (Ernest Jennings)

Interview: Austra’s Katie Stelmanis shows off opera training with electro-goth sound

The following was originally published on Spinner.ca.

austra interview

From goth and witch house to New Wave and electronic pop, Austra‘s lead singer Katie Stelmanis isn’t sure what genre her Toronto-based band falls into.

“Honestly, I don’t even know what to call it,” Stelmanis tells Spinner. “It’s pop music. It’s electronic music. You can say whatever you want. It’s not like I hate it if people call it witch house, it’s just I feel witch house is a small genre that isn’t going to take over the world or anything — it’s not like grunge. I think it’s just a convenient place where my music fits in right now.

“It’s funny because I have been making music with the same aesthetic for a long time — the music that I was making three years ago, people still claimed it to be goth.”

Stelmanis was a trained choir and opera singer before she released her solo album ‘Join Us’ and subsequently formed Austra — who will release their debut album, ‘Feel It Break,’ this week via Paper Bag Records/Domino — so some of those vocal styles and moods have found their way into her work.

CONTINUE READING OVER AT SPINNER.CA.

Interview: Tokyo Police Club’s Graham Wright wrestles his past

The following was originally published on Spinner.ca.

graham wright tokyo police club shirts vs skins

For Tokyo Police Club keyboardist Graham Wright’s debut solo album, ‘Shirts vs. Skins,’ the match at hand seems to be between the musician’s past and present.

The forthcoming album is full of songs written two years ago, in a time when Wright went through an intense break-up and a lull at home after a long Tokyo Police Club tour. Getting this material out now means Wright has to revisit that unpleasant mindset.

“I was in a really specific place,” he tells Spinner. “Even the songs that don’t have anything to do with that, I can still find that in there. It’s kind of weird now because I don’t necessarily identify with the same things, it’s changed a bit. It’s going to be interesting performing the songs and trying to get back into that head space.

“It’s real and was something that happened, and that’s what I like about records, they document a real thing. That’s what’s important to me about these songs even though they aren’t necessarily current for me. It’s time travel, really.”

CONTINUE READING OVER AT SPINNER.CA.

Interview: Austra’s Katie Stelmanis on being a gay indie artist and Beth Ditto groupie

The following was originally published on Spinner.ca.

austra

We all have a musician we admire, usually because there’s a personal connection to them and their music. For Katie Stelmanis, a lesbian and the lead singer of Canadian electronic band Austra, it’s Gossip‘s Beth Ditto, also a gay artist, and her positive message concerning queer identity.

“I literally cried when I saw her,” Stelmanis tells Spinner. “She’s so strong.”

Though a 2009 gig in Toronto marked the first time she saw Ditto at the reins of Gossip, Stelmanis actually met the vivacious frontwoman five years earlier after a gig with her former band Galaxy.

“I was a total groupie,” says Stelmanis. “She was just so sweet. She was so nice and positive, thanked us and made us feel really good about it, which was so exciting to us 20 year olds — I love her!”

CONTINUE READING OVER AT SPINNER.CA.