RoundLetters Recommendations: David Lynch, High Places and AA Wallace

It’s been a while! Once again, I’m here for you, apologizing. But I was pretty busy making the second issue of Static Zine and all. What’s everyone been listening to this fall so far? Are you starting to work on your Top 2011 lists yet? I am.

But WAIT. Those lists better not be finalized just yet. I’ve got some recommendations that I hope will put the wind back in your hair and the bounce back in your step. The sun may be taking its sweet ol time to wake us up these days, but these recommendations have sure made an impact on me so far.

David Lynch – Crazy Clown Time

david lynch

While I’ve been slowly wading my way through Twin Peaks (and LOVING it), its creator and main director David Lynch has been working up his first solo album. I was hooked as soon as I heard “Pinky’s Dream,” which features Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on vocals. It’s absolutely mesmerizing, and the album continues to loop you into this twisted world that’s sometimes underwater, sometimes actually what you’d picture to be an vast, empty white space where Lynch is just sitting there getting all mind-bendy. It helps that it definitely feels like youre in the sad, sleepy Washington town of Twin Peaks at times, but overall this is a very intriguing, artistic and exciting release for this year.

Stream “Crazy Clown Time” on NPR.

Stream Lynch’s mixtape for The Stool Pigeon with James Blake, The Kills & more.

High Places – Original Colors

high places original colors

No other album will make you feel like you’re in a drugged-up, tripped-out art gallery; hazy bedroom as light trickles in; Bollywood; a dance club; soundtrack and generally curious landscapes. That sounds like a smorgasbord of locations, but tie it all up together in wire and you’ve got one of the coolest records to come out this year. I’ve spent weeks using this as my soundtrack for the walk to work (or anywhere for that matter) in order to get there faster. The California-by-way-of-NYC art pop duo are dreamy for the best of times and turn lyrics about dirty water into something captivating. This album is a lot more dancy (even though there are also some nicely done slower tracks), addictive and just better off for them. I’m excited to see them at the Garrison on November 14.

Download “Altos Lugares” on NPR.

AA Wallace – “Bowie”

aa wallace

Here’s my latest favourite dance track. Straight outta Halifax, the dance party reaches this-a-way all in the name of one pretty cool dude. AA Wallace seems to have made quite a name for himself over on the east coast in bands, making remixes and his own material, but it seems this could be the track that breaks him out even farther, as he makes all the noise he can make. I think from now on, every time “Moves Like Jagger,” that cursed earworm, comes anywhere near me, I’ll try to get this on in time to fight it off.

Download “Bowie”:

And there are remixes too!

Album Review: Dog Day – Deformer

Dog Day deformer

The record’s skipping in my head, ohh

Dog Day is back. Halifax howlers Seth Smith and Nancy Urich have finally released their anticipated album that first fully sees them as a duo after last year’s split from Chrystal Thili and Robbie Sheddon. Deformer is that look we’ve all been waiting for closer into the duo’s dynamic. It’s refined but messy, sour but oh so sweet and droney but full of melody.

Dog Day’s sound hasn’t changed much, it’s just become a bit simpler, what with only four hands. You can barely tell though, as this married couple makes a lot of noise and sometimes adds some effects.

They both still have their trademark singing drones, which is interesting for the fact of how well they pull it off. I’m willing to bet if I heard many other acts sing like this, I wouldn’t be so pleased to the ears. But I can’t get enough of their vocals that flow so well together as Seth goes low and Nancy gets high, like in the point-blank “Nothing to Do.” (But when Seth works the notes up high on a ladder, it’s one of the finest points, like in the stellar ‘Part Girl” and “Scratches.”) Seth still rips at his noisy guitar, but now Nancy’s plodding away on the drums and even singing more lead parts (“Blueish Grey” is like that summer thunderstorm you’ve been waiting out). They’re shoegaze but starting to let more obvious fun slip into the cracks, whether it’s recording their dog Woofy while he yips during dreams or through the lyrics that are smart, tender, happy, honest, conscious of anything and everything.

When you showed up on the scene, I fell into a daydream. You’re not so bad

Deformer is a really enjoyable listen for multiple moods and headspaces. Seth and Nancy live in a forest, raise chickens and are actually two of the sweetest rockers you’ll meet. They’ve created something that both encapsulates their environment but is also accessible to those not living in the bubble.

I’ve been waiting for this album since 2009′s Concentration kicked things up a notch, but especially since I saw the duo play at Sneaky’s last summer, when it was clear they were pleased as their plump chickens to be in a space they wanted. Deformer is the confidence to their former shakiness, and Dog Day are all the better for it.

Someone took the life out of my heart, I won’t let it put me down, I used to have a negative approach, I’m turning it upside down, think positive, positive, positive, yeah yeah yeah

mp3 download: Dog Day – Part Girl

Stream Deformer on the band’s Bandcamp page.

Download new songs by Sam Roberts and Liz Powell, Elliott Brood and Racoon Bandit

It’s a pretty blah week, Canada. I don’t have to reiterate all the reasons though, so instead I’ll just give you three glorious new songs to perk up your spirits.

sam roberts band

Off the soon-to-be-released Sam Roberts Band album Collider, here’s “Longitude,” a duet with Land of Talk’s Liz Powell. This is a much better track than the other two I’ve heard off Collider so far, which is both a good and bad sign. Liz’s voice is much lighter than her own work here, and there are nice, dreamy moments when her and Sam’s voices come together. The song also just seems to go back to older Sam Roberts Band sounds rather than whatever they’re trying to do with this new album (and what they did on the previous one). But anyways, what a great mash-up of Canadianness this song is.

mp3 download: “Longitude” — Sam Roberts Band ft. Liz Powell

elliott brood

Elliott Brood have announced that they will be releasing an album later this year, and I am pretty freaking excited. If it’s anything like this first single “Northern Air,” we’ve got nothing to worry about. It’s been since 2008 that we’ve had something new from these guys, it’s about damn time! “Northern Air” is a beautiful five minutes, lead by Casey Laforet rather than Mark Sasso, who sang on most of Mountain Meadows. Honestly, I like Casey’s voice better, so that might be why I respond to this song more strongly. He’s just got this rolling calmness to him, and paired with the banjo, harmonica and the one-twos of the piano and bass, it’s goodness.

mp3 download: “Northern Air” — Elliott Brood

racoon bandit

I’ve recently been introduced to Charlottetown band Racoon Bandit (seriously though, why the typo in the name, band?). I’m only a couple listens in to Into the Hills so far, but I really dig it. It’s got a lot of heart, and this is evident through “Silver Bullet,” a song at a run’s pace that might call upon your memory of Arcade Fire or Plants and Animals. “Silver Bullet” just has this escapist passion to it, like it’s trying to get out, they want to get out, you want to get out, anything, and it sweeps you into wherever it’s going.

mp3 download: “Silver Bullet” — Racoon Bandit (password is Bandit)

Download Youth and Teen Daze remixes of Bravestation’s “White Wolves”

bravestation white wolves

Bravestation‘s on a roll! They announced their “White Wolves” video and UK tour last week (check it) and now we have bumpin’ remixes of the track.

I particularly love the Youth one, which has expanded “White Wolves” into something really danceable. It cut up Devin Wilson’s vocals into ghostly grooves and added more beats, electro swirls and toy-piano like highlights. It’s already been on repeat for me today.

Download here.

And download the Teen Daze remix here, which is a slower and dreamier interpretation.

Three sides to the “White Wolves” tale, not bad, not bad at all.

Take a Look: Jeans Boots

jeans boots

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Saskatonians Slow Down, Molasses. Today I want to introduce to you one of the members and her solo work, Jeanette Stewart, aka Jeans Boots.

Jeanette put out her debut album txt msgs on March 11, and it’s easily become one of my favourites of the year so far. Recorded live in her friend’s home in February in less than 48 hours, these six songs showcase her cool, confident writing style with her blend of soft, dreamy moments and those times she kinda, probably just wants to go kick some ass.

Here’s a bit of a play-by-play of txt msgs:

“Woonsocket” starts us in quickly only to slow us down again, repeatedly, as she sings about a relationship’s messy ending. The guitars really enforce that, especially after she exhales “was it anything at all?”

The next track, “Dark Forces,” has become my favourite of the album. It’s got a great, catchy chorus where she delicately sings “dark forces are at war with my heart and I’m trying so hard.” But after a few repetitions, it doesn’t sound like she’s trying hard at all, it sounds like she’s losing steam or just not caring as much anymore, and there’s something really endearing in that. We all get that way, and here it is, right in front of us. But I also love the song for the rolling guitar and percussion pairing, the “sooo hard” backup vocals and the buzzing guitar solos. When I saw her live (she played after the Slow, Down Molasses set at the Horseshoe), this song was the one that reeled me in, and her hair was all over the place (which just completed the cool stage atmosphere with Tyson and Ryan of SD,M). It changed my perception of her from what I had thought was something sweet and simple into something twisted, bad ass and groovy.

But “Money,” “Postcard” and “Moonbase” are also very high contenders on the album. The first showcases her sweetness masking kicking up dirt and her volume up a notch ( “so I’m going to run run run run run, get away, I’m going to run run run run run, make you pay”). The second is more heartwarming and fast-paced (“take this postcard, mail it off to someone so far, cause your dreams have come true your dreams have come true”). The third hits a high when she sings as if to your face, shaking her head while rolling her eyes, “you t-t-t-tease, what are you running from?” (and thus, she almost becomes the tease), then the song closes as her and the band let loose a bit more. “Old Growth” then ends the album on some softer more inspirational notes as she yelps “if music saves immortal souls, we’re on fire!”



Jeans Boots has created music that is commanding and peaceful all at the same time through her voice and penchant for repetition. She carries this confidence that we all want to have, and isn’t afraid to show her vulnerabilities behind that, either. All six of these songs are beautiful, with interesting lyrics and fun fuzzy guitars. Between rocking out, cooing or getting groovy, there’s tons to immerse yourself in. Sometimes her vocals are a bit hard to hear or the guitars might reach maximum fuzziness, but that comes with the live off the floor territory. I’m glad it was recorded this way, it gives the music a nice texture, although now I’m curious to know what future studio recorded material will sound like.

Jeans Boots doesn’t have any shows coming up as far as I know (she did just come off a long cross-Canada tour…) but you can stream/buy (“Money” and “Moonbase” are free) txt msgs on her BandCamp and that’ll satisfy you for a while.

Download My Morning Jacket’s new single, “Circuital”

my morning jacket circuital

Well it’s been a nice morning already! My Morning Jacket have been sending live recorded tracks in e-letters for the last few weeks as a countdown to their new album Circuital, and today we finally get to hear the title song. Our first peek at the album. It’s seven minutes long and at a moderate tempo, with Jim James bringing back his signature high croon. Oh I’ve missed this voice. Even though now I can’t resist thinking about the American Dad episode when I hear the music (great). “Circuital” is more Americana and much lighter in sound than their most recent works. At times I feel it’s a bit safe, but it’s a pleasant song that I’ll be listening to once in a while nonetheless. I think I’ll always like the MMJ with a sharper edge (even with the peanut butter pudding surprise…), but they have a lot of layers that I like to explore. Circuital will be out May 31. The song will be a Record Store Day exclusive too. The band will make a triumphant return to Toronto’s Kool Haus on July 11 and you better believe I will be there rocking out with my dad (hi dad!).

Download the song, read Jim James’ awesome explanation, hear those live tracks & more on NPR.

What do you think?

Listen to J.J. Ipsen and the Paper Crowns’s new single, “Da Da Da”

jj ipsen and paper crowns

Today, Toronto is rainy. It is gross, grey and saddening as our sky has been the bluest of blue for the last week or so. Typical weather, but it’s always a bit of a let down.

But then you hear a song like “Da Da Da.” It’s simple folk-pop and it’s just what you need for a few minutes of brightness. It has whistling, a happy piano and the entire band chiming in on the chorus of ‘da da da.’

JJ Ipsen and the Paper Crowns of Guelph will release their debut album Entertainment Ordinaire on April 26 via Label Fantastic!.

mp3 download/stream: J.J. Ipsen and the Paper Crowns -  “Da Da Da”

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!