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.

Interview: Graham Wright of Tokyo Police Club on Getting the Vote Out

The following story was originally published on Spinner.ca. (And as a special election day post.)

tokyo police club

With the Canadian election for Prime Minister coming to its final vote today, musicians have been abuzz with getting the word out to their fans. Though they’ve been on tour during the election campaign, Toronto-based Tokyo Police Club have still found the time to urge Canada’s eligible voters to do their part.

“It’s been hard to keep up with the news and everything,” keyboardist Graham Wright tells Spinner from a Calgary, AB, tour stop. “Just go vote. I hope people do; nobody ever does, it’s so easy not to.”

Wright, who is about to release his first solo album, ‘Shirts vs. Skins,’ says he wishes the band could have planned something more proactive for the election on their tour with recent Juno-winners Said the Whale, such as setting up voter registration at their shows.

CONTINUE READING OVER ON SPINNER.CA.

Check out new music from Rain Over St. Ambrose, Reversing Falls and Sports

Pack your week with some gritty guitars and satisfied gloomy skies with songs from Rain Over St. Ambrose, Reversing Falls and Sports. Then tell me that you feel at least a little more oomph in your steps.

Rain Over St Ambrose CoverRain Over St. Ambrose

“DG Gold Paint” is off their debut self-titled April-released EP. Packing crunchy Canadiana into three songs, this Yarmouth five-piece may have risen from the ashes of the unfortunate passing of singer Cory’s father (the band name is a testament to that), but they could work their way into a future with clearer skies. The single utilizes some classic rock patterns with the guitar, keyboard and drums and paired with Cory’s vocals, they remind me of The Hold Steady. Download the EP here.

mp3 download: Rain Over St. Ambrose – “DG Gold Paint”

reversing falls little goodbye doom beachReversing Falls

Here’s an edgy ear worm for you, straight from Montreal. Guitars power through to a trembling tempo and Tyler Crawford’s vocals go back and forth, solidifying the hooks. Part of a teaser EP with the darker song “Doom Beach,” it shows a promising future for the LP that is to come. The EP was produced by Mark Lawson (Arcade Fire, Timber Timbre, The Unicorns). Download the EP and previous material at their BandCamp.

mp3 download: Reversing Falls – “Little Goodbye”

sports bandSports

This Toronto band has been working their way up to this full-length release with a much steadier pace as of late. The album, which you can download for free (or name your price), is full of energy, whether it be dark or light. My favourite track as of now is “Light,” which has this great bass hook line and thick, ghostly vocal structures. It’s one of the darker songs, and it feels good. The band will officially release the album on June 7 at the Horseshoe Tavern.

mp3 download: Sports – “Light”

Watch Austra’s new video for “Lose It”

austra

I’ve been listening to the new Austra album Feel it Break a lot lately (out May 17 via Domino/Paper Bag). I find it very hard to turn off somewhere before it actually ends. I’ve even sat and waited through it because it’s so good I don’t want to let it go. The band’s Toronto CD release is May 19 at Lee’s Palace, and tickets should still be on sale. Gotta say, Feel it Break seems to only be on the cusp of breaking out still, and it will, so keep a lookout. Here’s hoping that it makes its way onto the upcoming Polaris Prize long list.

Before your eyes scan down to the wacky new video for their second single, “Lose It,” here’s an article I have with lead singer Katie Stelmanis on queer identity in indie music and her love of Beth Ditto on Spinner. I was really glad I could write this, and there’s more on the band coming soon from me, I believe.

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 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?

Watch Bravestation’s new music video for “White Wolves”

bravestation white wolves

Here’s another Toronto band that I am very proud of. I’ve watched these guys blossom in the last year, from sitting down with them to do a RoundLetters exclusive Q&A, reviewing their 2010 EP for Exclaim, seeing them play numerous times and getting to know them and their style. I see them going up from here. They’re currently locked away most of the time working on their upcoming album and preparing for their UK tour in a few weeks. Like I’ve said before, they don’t know it yet, but I’ll be in a suitcase! Shh.

As far as I remember, the video for “White Wolves” off the EP was filmed in the fall, but we’re finally getting to see it now. It’s a really pretty piece, following a woman who looks like she’s been through a few tumbles as she runs through the woods to and from something. It gives a new urgency to the song, letting the shakiness take on a new thrilling meaning.

Watch the video below:

Download the entire 2010 EP here.

Concert Review: Foster the People at Lee’s Palace, April 3

foster the people

It’s not often that a band can sell out a city’s medium-sized venue with only three recorded songs. In this case, Los Angeles’ Foster the People have three really catchy songs and the buzz was strong. The single “Pumped Up Kicks” has been in fairly heavy rotation lately in these parts, which has resulted in periods of days when I can’t get it out of my head. It’s the catchiest song I’ve ever heard about gang violence! So based on that song and hearing the other two — “Houdini” might actually be my new favourite and “Helena Beat” proved to be a worthy encore banger — I was excited. The band had even announced their next Toronto show (June 18 – Mod Club) before they played this one.

I enjoyed the show last night, but I know they’ll do even greater when they come back to the Mod Club. Their audience will know the songs better by then, even more arms will be waving in the air, and the sound will be bigger. They’ll even fit better on that bigger stage.

Last night, lead singer and baby face Mark Foster led the five-piece band with his slightly high-pitched voice and funny dance moves (some quirky shoulder shaking with arms just hanging by his sides). Each member had multiple live duties; everyone but the drummer had different synths to tinker with as well as their guitars, other drums and bass, getting them into this fuzzy pop dream land. The emphasis in Foster the People songs comes from the piano though, which brought me and my concert goer and blogger companion Ricky from The Panic Manual to observe live that the band could be the fresh new Maroon 5 or one of those other OC type bands. Not a bad thing, as these songs are clear concise pop rock pushes and you can’t deny getting your attention caught by the charm. All the other songs they played from their upcoming album — with the set just under an hour — followed that suit. I noticed a lot of songs simply hook onto a lot of  “oos” or “las,” and they all will get your feet tapping.

Like mentioned above, since they do have a lot of buzz on those three songs, the audience didn’t really seem to know what to do with themselves for the rest of it, so the usual energy that should bounce between wasn’t there the whole time. It will be there next time, I see these guys getting pretty big. You might not even have to look out for them, their hooks might just find their way to you first. The show last night was fun and I’m glad I saw them now.

Their album, Torches, will be out May 24.

Listen to the EP here.