Download Bravestation’s new song “Signs of the Civilized”

Bravestation signs of the civilized

Bravestation’s back! After stowing away for half a year, the Toronto band who I feel like describing today as mystical wave rock have put forth their first new offering, “Signs of the Civilized,” from their upcoming album.

“Signs of the Civilized” is airy and promising. It flutters and flaps its wings like a baby bird getting ready for its first take-off while under the tree it sits in, there are fish in a stream swimming down their yearly route as the ground seems to thaw. Bravestation’s rejuvenated, bringing the spring closer to us than global warming already has (and for that I’m thankful, to be honest).

Take a listen to the calm confidence. You can download the track in exchange for your email address.

Album Review: WAZU – EP

wazu

Consider this a premature review for an EP that won’t be released until January 10th. But seeing as WAZU is so kind to put up the three tracks up online for streaming, the good words need to be spread earlier than later.

I saw WAZU two weeks ago in Brooklyn. It was the first show I’ve ever been to outside a city I’ve lived in, and the first I’ve seen in New York City. I was in town with The Ruby Spirit, and this Aussie couple played the set just before the Toronto art pop-rockers. The Ruby Spirit curated the show, and have been fans of WAZU for a while, but this was the first I’d heard of them. Their curious stage persona was instantly appealing to me as Matt (WA) punkily plugged away on his guitar and Riz (ZU) played her synth with one hand and the other hand on her hip, donned in all black — an Adidas t-shirt, pants and jacket to the floor. With them in front of a movie projection, it was striking to their dark, electro pop.

WAZU have this sneaky charm about them, they seem to find optimism in the seediest places. These songs kind of taunt you and please you in a way you might not expect at first. What we hear from them is edgy and mysterious, and especially because we only have three songs right now, it definitely leaves you wanting more. (Their album is set for a May release.)

From the haunted house full of anxiety and zombies in “Murder 1″ with numerous pressure points (perhaps my favourite being the tornado synths at 1:15) and alternated hushed and rise-from-the-underbelly vocals to the upbeat whirligig with a killer hooked chorus that’s  “Happy Endings” to “Walk All Night,” which is ghostly and lovely, WAZU shows a lot of promise and I know I’ll be paying attention throughout 2012 and you should too.

Stream the tantalizing earworm EP below:

RoundLetters’ Guide to Fall 2011 Releases

metals

A couple months ago, I wrote about the music I’ve loved through 2011 so far. Now it’s time for what I’m looking forward to for the rest of the year, and it’s surprisingly a much longer list than I thought it would be. And with the artists that have found themselves on this list, I can rest knowing that 2011 should hopefully end up with some great albums to boast.

Soley – We Sink – Sept 2

This beautiful Icelandic singer releases her first full-length, We Sink, after last year’s lovely daydream EP, Theatre Island. (It was a RoundLetters favourite of 2010.) You may know her as a member of Seabear, the cute beyond words pop band, but she’s really starting to come into her own solo, all soft and imaginative. Hear “I’ll Drown.”

CANT – Dreams Come True – Sept 13

Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor goes solo via his own Terrible Records and Warp. Take a listen to “Answer,” which is a gloomy, underwater groove kingdom.

St. Vincent – Strange Mercy – Sept 13

Annie Clark will release her long awaited for third album, and if the rest of it is like the new single “Cruel,” it’s bound to be a beautiful expedition into tenderness, texture and many layers. Watch the video for “Cruel,” in which the gorgeous songstress gets kidnapped and buried alive.

Wild Flag – Wild Flag - Sept 13

This lady super group of members from Sleater-Kinney, Helium and Minders release their exciting debut on Merge, and it’s bound to put a spark under grrrl power for the rest of 2011. Check out the track “Romance,” with a quirky keys riff and head boppin’ beat. In fact, why don’t you just go stream the entire album right now?

Jens Lekman – An Argument with Myself – Sept 20

Like a true artist, Lekman may be arguing with himself, but he’s emerged four years after his last full release with an even sunnier and snarkier exterior. It’s time to hit the beach in every last moment you can; cha cha to the same titled song.

Elliott Brood – Days into Years – Sept 27

Finally, this ever-Canadian trio is back with a new album, one that, from the two songs I’ve heard, sounds more light-hearted but aged. Casey Laforet seems to have taken more control of the singing, which is a different kind of texture than what Mark Sasso boasts. Check out the latest of the two country-folk tracks, “If I Get Old.”

Ohbijou – Metal Meets – Sept 27

These Toronto darlings are back too, since 2009′s Beacons. Metal Meets is their third album, and no doubt it will have the essence to bring us locals smoothly into the fall via their soft tones and Casey Mecija’s lovely vocals. You can hear the new single, “Niagara,” on their website.

Feist – Metals -  Oct 4

Metals marks Feist’s foray back into the music world since the music world got to know her by “1 2 3 4.” That’s a pretty high standard to live up to, but the name and talent hasn’t been shattered once, so she’ll bring this next album up strongly. You can hear teasers for the album on her website, listentofeist.com.

Loney, Dear – Hall Music - Oct 4

This sweet Swede Emil Svanängen will release Hall Music, the first since 2009′s Dear John. His beautiful, quiet orchestral tunes can be heard if you download the single “My Heart.”

Casiokids – Aabenbaringen over aaskammen – Oct 11

These Norway popsters on Polyvinyl have a new party to bring to us this fall, but let’s get excited now. This release, translated to “The Revelation Over the Mountain,” is bound to be heaps of fun. On stage, they’re known for puppets, light shows and general crazy fun, and on record it’s a light bounce to get you through the day. This album features pals of theirs Of Montreal, too. You can listen to the first sleepy hopper single, “Det haster!”

Marketa Irglova – Anar – Oct 11

This half of The Swell Season is going solo, and it’s interesting for the facts that she’s the quiet, timid one of the Once-couple and seemed to like the shadows. Her talent is undeniable though, and that was best seen in concert. She’s gotten more and more into writing her own material, and now we have Anar to look to as a new view of the shy musician. Hear her break out of the shell on the soulful “Go Back.”

High Places – Original Colors – Oct 11

Rob Barber and Mary Pearson took their band from Brooklyn to LA, giving it a sunnier, shinier texture. Original Colors is their third full-length, after last year’s sleeper hit High Places vs. Mankind. The first artsy electro offering from the album is “Year Off.”

Kathryn Calder – Bright and Vivid – Oct 25

This precious BC-based songstress of The New Pornographers and now defunct Immaculate Machine is back with her sophomore solo album, and it’s much more of a foray into electronics than her previous work. It’s layered, adventurous and light, as evidenced by the first single, “Who Are You?”

Update:

Also looking forward to Dan Mangan’s Oh Fortune, as well as local releases from Army Girls, Heartbeat Hotel and the Darcys. TBC.

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.

Album Review: Hooded Fang – Tosta Mista

hooded fang tosta mista

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Tosta Mista is the album of my summer 2011. And not only is it summery in a breezy, surf rock, fun, light-hearted party kind of way, or even the I feel like I’m on vacation with the Brady Bunch way, but it also dons the air of the ’50s, a time of nostalgia, polka dotted dresses, bowties, pumps and lots and lots of dancing. Sounds good, right? Right.

So Tosta Mista is clearly a grand old time, we will boogie oogie oogie like the best of ‘em when it marathons itself through every rotation. But one of the most notable qualities of the album is the change in this Toronto band’s sound. (Perhaps this has something to do with the main songwriters also having a surf rock sideproject, Tonka Puma.) Since last year’s cleverly titled Album, they’ve sped up, grown up and got down to business. Album was long-listed for this year’s Polaris Prize, but frankly, as much as I loved that album too, I wish it was this one that got the nomination. Listening to Tosta Mista blows Album right out of my mind. It’s sharper, wittier, faster, more refined and more aware of itself. The lyrics are snarky and memorable, filling songs with stories of love and hate and phrases like “legs like stems” and “gypsy gnome.” They’re thoughtful and point blank, something you can appreciate out of a song and write down as a note for later.

Tosta Mista is only 22 minutes long. And that includes three tracks of the same running trance interlude 30 seconds-long or less. So the album as a whole starts to feel like it’s racing itself to the clock towards the end until it’s broken up by one of the interludes or even the swoon and croon melody of  “Den of Love.” The start of the album is the strongest, with “Clap,” “ESP,” “Brahma” and “Tosta Mista” all proving themselves as groovy gems. “ESP” is the best out of those, with “Tosta Mista” a close second.

Overall, Tosta Mista is a great album, showing significant growth and achievement for this band who just a year ago were still trying to rev themselves up in the local scene. I think we can say now they’re abandoning the “cute” moniker they were given with Album (I am guilty of saying such as well, but I was honest and still back that) and I assume that was a big goal of theirs. I also can honestly say I hope this boosts their live performance, as it hasn’t been their strongest suit when I’ve seen them in the past, but I think a cleaner sound could mean a cleaner set, easier to play through. I’m intrigued to see them again. I just hope that when I do see them play Tosta Mista they’re donned in ’50s garb.

Hooded Fang play as part of SummerWorks festival with Steven McKay on August 5. Let’s all dress up and get ready to tap that jukebox.

Tosta Mista came out this week, but you can hear the party for yourself, the band is streaming the album on their Bandcamp page.

Album Review: Little Dragon – Ritual Union

little dragon ritual union

It’s strange, sometimes my favourite music is the kind of music I can’t entirely wrap my head around. I don’t get it, nor do I feel like trying to. I just want to let it play at me, around me, on me, in me. The music might even be more important than the lyrics, sometimes. It’s the way it makes me feel. It’s like if someone was to crack open my head and see the inside thoughts and feelings as albums, what would they be?

Little Dragon’s minimal electro-soul album Ritual Union has joined this realm of music for me. I’ve been listening to it non-stop for weeks, and each time I get something new out of it. I’m starting to figure it out, but at first I just wanted it to grace my ears. I wanted to keep getting that feeling of exhilaration that an album hasn’t really given me this year yet because it’s just so good. Now when I listen, it makes me dance or tap my fingers on my purse or leg as I walk. It makes me think. It keeps me coming back. It does what it should.

So what is it about Ritual Union that I respond to?

The synths and percussion pairing

One cannot be without the other on Ritual Union. There are so many exciting layers. They’ll hit you in the face or you won’t even notice until a few listens in. They fit so effortlessly together, even though they could be moving at different beats and frequencies. But they’re not trying to be puzzle pieces and fit crevice to crevice. This is a stacked, 3D puzzle with a mind of its own, and your mind will be all “this works!” It’s hypnotizing.

Examples: “Ritual Union,” “Shuffle a Dream,” “Nightlight,” “Precious”

Yukimi Nagano’s voice

Woaaaah, soul! First off, you wouldn’t be able to tell girl’s from Sweden but doesn’t that make it so much sweeter knowing it? She shows control but passion, from starting us off a little on the vulnerable side in “Ritual Union” (and again in “Please Turn” as she wails ‘please! pull the string now! turn the winds all round and round!’) to coming into this vortex of confidence and attitude in “Brush the Heat” and “Precious” to reigning over mystery in “Nightlight.” She’s an incredible vocalist, with soul, R&B and pop tones. And it’s not just the instruments that are layered, she gets that treatment too.

The lyrics

Ritual Unions have got me in trouble again / I was wonderin’ how the white dress and the mistress and the spirit are holding my hand

There’s something missing in your smile / there’s something missing in your soul / are you suffering the blues? / Tell me why, tell me when, tell me why, when

I’m giving in to the rhythm on my feet / brush the heat

I fly like a heroine

Just some phrases I have caught and loved. From catching pieces of what Yukimi is singing, I’m intrigued to find out what they are. What I have heard (not just what’s here as an example) is enlightening and simply poetic.

Overall

Ritual Union is an album to me that just completely works. It knows itself and what it’s going for, and I just need to sit here and enjoy it. Every spark that the Little Dragons bring to their flame feels like it was well thought out in the process of their time together, but there are definitely fun moments that feel like someone could have pressed a key or a button and realized that it worked. Ritual Union is a stroke of luck in that sense and that it’s coming to us.

Little Dragon was introduced to me through their Glastonbury set by a coworker. Then I heard “Nightlight” and was put under a spell. Then Ritual Union kicked me right in the chest and I’m still dizzy. It’s working its way up to be quite likely my #1 of 2011 so far, beating out two albums that I thought were pretty locked in.

PS – Read this explanation of every song by the band themselves, over on DIY.

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)