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.

RoundLetters’ Best of 2011: EPs and Shorter Albums

beth ditto EP
Here’s Part One of my Best of 2011 coverage — the best EPs and shorter albums I’ve had the pleasure of listening to this year.

1. Beth Ditto – self titled

Whenever I needed a dose of girl power this year that wasn’t more aggressive (at those times, I’d play Le Tigre), Beth Ditto was my girl. I adore this EP because not only did it get Beth Ditto back into a spotlight where she should be and pair her to really good dance music with Simian Mobile Disco, but her lyrics are inspiring and empowering. This was an EP that had me dancing while doing the dishes, walking to work and at parties. I only hope we hear from Beth or her band, Gossip, sometime soon.

2. Jeans Boots – txt msgs

Another empowering female, Jeans Boots took my breath away this year with txt msgs. I still remember her hair flying all over the Horseshoe’s stage and her shiny, sparkly dress from when she came many months ago with her other band Slow Down, Molasses. This lady’s got guts, a powerful voice and her mysterious air keeps you interested. And, random extra points, she’s an arts journalist for the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

3. Army Girls – Close to the Bone

This really was a year that ladies took over in music for me. (See my top 10 albums to come as well.) Carmen Elle’s voice is mesmerizing and even though it feels like she’s punching you in the gut, it’s the sweetest damn punches you’ll ever feel. Paired with Andy Smith, these two came up with a dynamic that’s really worked for them, and Close to the Bone was a beautiful release. I’m excited for more from them in the future.


4. We Are the City – High School

I spent a good amount of time at the beginning of the year getting to know We Are the City and their transformations for an article for Exclaim. I feel like I really got to see a lot of growth from them since their first album came out last year, and it made me proud. I think High School was a huge accomplishment for them as people and as a band, and they’ve still got so much more ahead of them if they keep on that path. The songs on High School are quite catchy and my favourite, “Dark/Warm Air” even got the drummer Andy onto main vocals.

5. Parks and Rec – Seeds Grown Here

Seeds Grown Here reflects on life and death with music that makes you feel like flying; it’s a heartbreakingly beautiful release. There’s a lot of love that pours to and from this band in the Toronto scene, which is also great to see.

6. Each Other – Taking Trips

I just can’t get enough of the weird music that comes out of this band (formerly part of Long Long Long). They’ve got this distant way of angling everything that turns the floors upside down and lets you figure out what to do. Taking Trips came out of nowhere to me when I realized Long Long Long broke up (and yes, I realized months later) so this was a pleasant surprise. “Goosing Statues” is a wicked song.

7. Heartbeat Hotel – Intae Woe

Their most cohesive album yet, Intae Woe gives Heartbeat Hotel more lasting power. It’s dreamy and chill with the best of em, but the hooks and melodies are ones that will stick around like wisps in the air.

8. Nightbox – self titled

A short dance soundtrack for me earlier this year, Nightbox came out with full force to Canada and now they’ve had a show on Much Music, toured with Lights and played with Death From Above 1979. Pretty good year for these lads!

9. Armen at the Bazaar – Noor

Armen is equally as interesting to hear as he is to watch. As a one man band electronic set-up with big goals, he’s got a lot to do, and pulls it off nicely. Noor is quirky, pretty and intriguing, and like I’ve said before, his rendition of “Over the Rainbow” is awesome. I’ve seen him live a couple times this year and I do hope that in the future I can see him play full rooms, but perhaps more in a DJ capacity, as he elongates some of his songs into full dance numbers that should be enjoyed like that.

10. Long Long Long – Who the Fuck Said Family Ain’t Family No More

As mentioned above, Long Long Long were what birthed Each Other. But they’ve put out numerous solid releases under this name, and this is just one of them I’ve really liked. (Last year’s Shorts should have made my lists.) One of my favourite things about this then-East Coast band are the guitars, that sound like confusion but in an exciting way that makes you want to push through your mental capacities or just lie there for a while in the reverberating lines.

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.

Contest: Win two tickets to HotKid, the Cheap Speakers, Dilly Dally & Alex Pulec DJ set

One lucky person and one lucky friend of theirs will win guest list spots to next Friday’s (July 15) killer Two Way Monologues show at Sneaky Dee’s. The wicked lineup is Dilly Dally, the Cheap Speakers, HotKid and a DJ set by the Ruby Spirit’s Alex Pulec.

TO ENTER:
Email roundletters @ gmail . com with “I want to get sweaty at Sneaky’s”
I will compile all the entries and pick a winner from a random draw. I will only contact the winner.

ENTER BY:
12:01AM Thursday July 12

Dilly Dally is a Newmarket-based pile of spunk. Their sound feels like those summer memories years ago that are just a daze but you’re reaching out in front of you trying to get them back just for a taste. It’s woozy but in the kind of way that one eyebrow is raised, always at the ready.

The Cheap Speakers is a Toronto rock band that I forsee will turn the volume and the crowd up on Friday night. They’re polite rabble rousers and it makes for a refreshing attitude. They’ve recently come off of an Eastern Canadian tour and are apparently armed with new material.

HotKid was on tour with Sloan just last week. The guy/gal duo have updated their website with blog posts about it a bazillion times since, so I’ll say there’s not much doubt that their excitement will be gone by next Friday yet, and I’m looking forward to hearing them blow the roof off the venue with their gritty garage rock.

Alex Pulec has been getting into DJ’ing surf rock and rockabilly around town lately and he’s ready to take over the last spot of the night, letting everyone continue to sweat it out to dance moves across the jumpy Sneaky’s floor. He’s been beefing up his vinyl collection, so get ready to Rock Around the Clock (or at least until last call).

Good luck!

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.

https://i0.wp.com/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)

Introducing: Static Zine

static zine - cover
Things around these parts have been a bit mum from me lately. I’ve been incredibly busy putting together the first issue of Static Zine – a fun new Toronto arts and life zine. Yes that’s right, a zine. Every time I go somewhere to drop them off now and say that word, I get some pretty funny looks. But this has worked out really well so far with an amazing team of contributors, already running out at numerous locations after a few hours and we’ve already been interviewed!

Besides just launching the zine, we also put together a mixtape of 16 Toronto bands: Maylee Todd, Sister, Austra, Bravestation, Heartbeat Hotel, Dora Alexander, Sports, Matters, Action Makes, The Ruby Spirit, Allie Hughes, Nightbox, The Meligrove Band, Timber Timbre, Bruce Peninsula and The Wilderness of Manitoba.

Download the first Static mixtape.

static flyerWe’re throwing a launch party on the last day of NXNE. Here’s the Facebook event, and you can see the show poster above.  We’ll have performances by Jeans Boots, Kat Burns of Forest City Lovers, Lowell Sostomi of Great Bloomers, The Ruby Spirit, Bravestation and Sister. I am beyond excited!