Album Review: Snowblink – Long Live

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snowblink long live

Long Live
By Jessica Lewis

Just two years ago, singer Daniela Gesundheit moved from California to Toronto, ON, roping in Dan Goldman. Snowblink’s been something of an open book for a number of indie musicians; this record alone includes contributions from members of Deerhoof, Dirty Projectors, Vetiver and more. Gesundheit’s voice is as pure as they come, floating above the surface of all of the instruments, which feel carefully pieced together. In 16 tracks (six of them being under two minutes), it’s as if an enchanted forest is growing and thriving right in front of you ― a modern soundtrack to Snow White. The majority of the album is quite delicate and quiet, so your ears need to work a bit harder. In order to grasp the beauty Snowblink have put into their debut album, headphones or complete surround silence are in order. (Out of this Spark)

Album Review: Peter Elkas – Repeat Offender

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peter elkas repeat offender

Peter Elkas
Repeat Offender
By Jessica Lewis

Released in the dead of winter, following Valentine’s day emotional crash, the former member of Local Rabbits and Joel Plaskett Emergency returned solo (but with backing band) for a solid third album on complicated relationships. It’s scorn or be scorned, yet Elkas creates a warm atmosphere full of soul and early rock influences. Recorded between his basement and Giant Studio, Repeat Offender delivers lively songs featuring relaxed guitar, piano fit for a bar and Elkas’s silky timber. Most of the numbers are memorable, such as the album’s middle ground of “Tiny Valentine” and “Misery.” It’s fit for cleaning your home, slow bike rides or some other activity that lets you reflect during a long day. The most noticeable flaw is Elkas’s plain lyrics. They’re not a crime, but they can feel basic, at times, with distracting lines like, “misery loves company” or “on a bicycle built for two.” (New Scotland)

Album Review: Imaginary Cities – Temporary Resident

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imaginary cities temporary resident

Imaginary Cities
Temporary Resident
By Jessica Lewis

When you have a unique voice like Marti Sarbit’s, it’s hard to see why you would want to surround it with basic computer handclaps, high synth notes, bird chirps and drumbeats. Her old soul’s voice is occasionally hindered by these qualities on her debut album with multi-instrumentalist Rusty Matyas. The Winnipeg, MB-based duo use Sarbit’s voice as an anchor, but everything around it feels like simple pop rock. They have a few catchy tunes, such as “Hummingbird,” “Don’t Cry” and “Ride This Out,” which will get your feet tapping, but towards the end of the album, the steam runs out. It feels like there’s something here, and the Pixies clearly felt it too, choosing the duo to open for them on their upcoming tour. Here’s hoping that in the future, Imaginary Cities get a bit realer. (Hidden Pony)

Sit down, listen to this: The Albertans

The Albertans

Last Tuesday, I gave you a dance party. Today, I give you something to sit down with and really listen. I’m being a bit selfish, as I can’t really dance because I recently broke my pinky toe and doing such an activity is sadly painful. So I’m making you sit with me. Got that? Good! Anyways, I’ve found the perfect song for sitting and daydreaming this week, so it works out.

The Albertans – “The Wake”

This is one of those songs I’ve been waiting for, and oh it fills me with warmth to just type that. It’s got a groovy bass, fluttering + fuzzy guitars, dreamy vocals, a keyboard pattern that suggests it might be up to no good and simple drumming highlighted by a tambourine. I still can’t completely wrap my head around this goodness. It flows splendidly and has so many layers to unwrap, lyrically and musically. It leaves me with intrigue after every time I’ve listened, I feel like I’m searching for some puzzle piece. They sing of suicide and pressure, so when it all comes together, it’s like you can hear the song’s character(s) opening their eyes.

The band was formed in Vancouver out of members from our prairies and the U.S., but they headed to New York. Now I guess they split their time between the two metropolises. The album that holds this gem of a song, New Age, was recorded in Brooklyn, at Chandelier Studios, and now we have a Canadian tie to the borough’s distinct energy haze.

Just listen for yourself, and join me in my excitement in looking forward to their album. They remind me of Breathe Owl Breathe and Dirty Projectors (a little). There’s also some New Pornographers and Mother Mother similarities in there in terms of the team vocals, but I feel more of a connection to the Albertans than I do with those two bands at this point.

Watch music videos set to old films for “The Wake” & “Megan” & “New Age” and then there’s one of them playing “Mila.”

New Age comes out in Canada on April 19.

Download: Teen Daze remixes Said the Whale’s “Holly, Ontario”

I never thought I’d hear gentle Vancouver rockers Said the Whale remixed, but fellow BC buzz man Teen Daze went and did it.

Released this morning, the remix of “Holly, Ontario” revolves on quite a tiny axis, so it’s miles different from its original ( slow, acoustic). I wonder why they went with this song of all songs.

Either way, it’s pretty. So give ‘er a download.

PS – Teen Daze just released a free EP of reworked parts of Geotic’s Mend.

EDIT: My pals Kirk and Bryan have pointed me towards the “Gentleman” remix/mashup of 2009, with clips of Holy Fuck, Shad, MGMT and more. I guess I’m a bit behind the times, folks.

Impromptu Tuesday Dance Party featuring First Rate People, Nightbox, Austra and Kidstreet

I think I can finally say I’m almost all healed after Canadian Music Week. So that means, inevitably, that I want to dance to shake the rest off and get back in high spirits. Here are a few tracks that I’ve been playing a lot lately, I think they’ll significantly up your day, week, hour, whatever. Play em in order and you’re in for some crazy fun.

First Rate People funny games

First Rate People – “Funny Games”

I’ve posted on this before and I’ll probably post on it again. It is just so groovy. With mid-tempo beats but slow and sexy vocals, it provides this mix that works up to a pressure point that you can’t wait to explore. I can turn on the bright lights and turn them back off just to prove that I’m still in your life is such a great chorus line. It has this sombre structure, and ends kind of with a hanging heart, but if you’re going to sing about sadness in these times, sometimes it’s just better to do it with some (white kids – who can do it great) danceable soul.

Nightbox bears

Nightbox – “Bears”

*Stream only, although you can download their even crazier single, “Pyramid,” here.

I could have ignored this song for longer in my haze, but when I saw these guys play it live on Friday, I was hooked. It’s been on repeat ever since. It’s young, fresh and the chorus’ synths are so addicting. This song makes me do really embarrassing dance moves in my room, but you know what, it’s too much fun. At least I have the memory of how these guys danced to it when playing it (mostly computer/synth wiz James Shelly going nuts), which is much better than what I can do gracefully.

austra lose it

Austra – “Lose It”

This is definitely a different kind of dance party than the previous two tracks, but it’s something I wanted to make a note of anyway. “Lose It” embroiders Katie Stelmanis’ opera background with a chorus of extremely high staccato notes, and just in those moments paired with glittery synths that feel so black and white, it’s a solo dance party that will leave you swaying with your head feeling like it’s in the clouds. It’s also of note to say that Austra made a huge splash at CMW and likely will at SXSW. Feel it Break is out in May, and I can’t wait to see it blow up, then people in Toronto talk about how they knew her before it blew up. And on that note, I had a great interview with Katie the other day… ;-)

Kidstreet x

Kidstreet – “X”

Alright, this is a seriously catchy song. It’s pretty simple in terms of it has a fast club pattern, breakdown with whistles, distorted vocals and singing about sexual attraction. In that way, it’s clearly an awesome dance party song. They even perform it with a lot of energy, enjoyment and wit (as I witnessed at CMW on Saturday). It’s the fact that it’s a band of three siblings singing about wanting someone so bad that usually distracts me, but I try and get past it. I don’t think I’d ever be in a band with my brother singing about something like that, but hey, that’s just my opinion. Thinking about it though, I can see this song going really far, it’s got all the ingredients. Could so see a video with a couple on a dance floor coming together in sweet moves (DANCE moves) to the ‘I want you so bad’ part. Get on it, Kidstreet!

Full list of Canadian Music Week coverage

Well folks, my Canadian Music Week is over. It’s been a ton of fun, but I am exhausted! Since Wednesday, I’ve:

  • trudged through a lot of disgusting weather
  • saw 15 bands play, although not as many as I’d hoped to catch
  • finally met people I’ve been meaning to meet for ages and saw plenty of good friends from all over
  • did some entertaining interviews on whims (like Isis Salam who kissed me on the cheek but made fun of me for not wanting to have some of her drink or Cayne McKenzie who had us squished in a bathroom stall, you guys rock)
  • was disgusted by a club district bar and the people in it
  • danced
  • wrote reviews at ridiculous hours in the morning
  • had great dinners with the other bloggers
  • got into a venue through the back door after a crazy glitterati band performed, so the backstage area looked like it was straight out of a movie
  • ended the festival at a house party until 6am
  • and much more.

Now, here’s my full list of coverage for Spinner:

Pre-CMW interview with the Wilderness of Manitoba, who shared a memory of an undercover city inspector visiting their house concert

Pre-CMW interview with Paper Lions, who talked about how much the East Coast has helped them, plus some really cool tour stories

Pre-CMW interview with Aidan Knight, who discussed his Friendly Friends, future projects and as he says, taking over the world

Wednesday: Gentleman Reg @ Gladstone

Thursday: Cadence Weapon @ Opera House
Thursday: Isis Salam @ Opera House
Thursday: Hollerado / Land of Talk @ Opera House

Friday: Sheepdogs @ Horseshoe
Friday: Nightbox @ Underground Garage
Friday: Humans @ Rivoli

Saturday: We Are the City @ Garrison
Saturday: Madrid / Kidstreet @ El Mocambo

How was your CMW? Who’d you see?

Watch Junip’s new video for “In Every Direction”


Credit: Fredrik Egerstrand

2010 is basically not over for me. My favourites keep coming back, and I haven’t been epically wowed by anything in these two months yet. (And in 2010, by this time, I already had been by 2 or 3 albums.) Junip (fronted by Jose Gonzalez) is one of the big ones for me, and their song “In Every Direction” is the biggest of their big. Today, they released a video for the song, created by drummer Elias Araya. It’s Araya’s time to shine. The snippet found on the video explains he “found inspiration for the video in his father’s art; painter and sculpture artist, Kent Karlsson. Elias presents images in a simple, almost icon way using different backgrounds and refracted through a diamond. A few of his father’s collection of porcelain dogs also made the video.”

Junip will be back in Toronto at Lee’s Palace April 20th.

Watch tUnE-yArDs play “Doorstep” in Paris

tune yards new album

While internet filmmakers all over the globe are partaking in similar styles of filming musicians on the streets, it’s always interesting to see the videos that have musicians in a whole other country than their own. The people on the streets react differently when it’s not their language, and you can sense some hesitation from the musician at times.

Merrill Garbus, aka tUnE-yArDs, has her second album w h o k i l l, coming out April 19. We’ve already heard “Bizness,” but now we get to see her play “Doorstep” in Paris.

HibOO d’Live : Tune-Yards “Doorstep” from on Vimeo.

Also, some hometown reppin’ for “Bizness,” here’s Merrill and her wicked band playing the song at local indie record shop Soundscapes when she was here last summer. I’m still kicking myself for missing this (although I did see her play that night and it was one of the coolest shows I’ve seen).

Rah Rah to release The Sailors EP on March 22

rah rah the sailors ep

One of my 2010 favourites, Rah Rah, will release an EP on March 22, titled The Sailors. It will be available only digitally and will include three songs: “Chimney,” “Sailors” and “Towers.”

The Regina-based band have been playing over in Europe with Wintersleep recently, and they’ll hit Canadian Music Week at the Horseshoe on March 12. They’ll then move on to SXSW.

Besides this EP, the band will also release a remix EP later this year, in partnership with Chris Graham.