CONTEST: Out of the Box Festival

out of the box

Just when we’re starting to go into music festival withdrawal, here comes a great one to give us a nice long weekend.

Next weekend is the Out of the Box Festival (July 29-31) featuring some of my favourite local/Ontario bands such as The Ruby Spirit, Heartbeat Hotel, Foxes in Fiction, Olenka and the Autumn Lovers, Lake Forest and Topanga. Each night has two shows – one at the Great Hall and one at the Underground Cinema. There are also day shows as well as art installations.

July 29th @ Great Hall. Doors at 9 pm
ORIGAMI OF THE GIANTS as presented by Jessica Stuart-
A room celebrating the Art of Origami by presenting Origami in Life Sized Form!!

Olenka and The Autumn Lovers
Parks & Rec
Polynesian Bride
The Rest
MJ Cyr

July 29th @ The Toronto Underground Cinema. Doors at 9 pm.
3 DIMENSIONS OF ROCK AND ROLL PART 1 – a Co-Presentation with Green Shades Productions

How many people have been to a 3D Rock Concert?? Well you will here. Featuring 3D art and imagery projected on the giant cinema screen behind the bands. And yes, you will get glasses.

The Hoa Hoas
Rival Boys
Planet Creature
Davey Parker Radio Sound
The Cheap Speakers

July 30th @ the Toronto Underground Cinema. Doors at 9 pm.
3 DIMENSIONS OF ROCK AND ROLL PART 2 – A continuation of Friday nights theme, with more 3D imagery to awe and inspire.

Heartbeat Hotel
Foxes in Fiction
Human Bodies
Trap Tiger

July 31st @ The Great Hall. Doors at 9 pm.
PLANET EARTH- An Art Installation celebrating our home. Earth.

Entire Cities
Sky Of Sound
The Jessica Stuart Few
The Cautioneers
Lake Forest (Will Whitwam fr. Wilderness of Manitoba)

July 31st @ Toronto Underground Cinema. Doors at 9 pm.
A Co-Presentation with Green Shades productions
SPACE PROM as presented by David Kleiser –
“Congratulations. You have all graduated from the Intergalactic School of Debauchery. Before you head out into the universe, you might want to say one last goodbye to the best years of your life. And do so in your best space attire.”

Ruby Spirit
The Bulletproof Tiger
Blood Rexdale and the Walls Are Blonde



I’ve got three pairs of weekend passes to give away, one for you and one for your friend. And lucky enough there are tons of other blogs running the contest too, so you’ve got plenty of chances. (Chromewaves, Panic Manual, Mechanical Forest Sound, Sticky, etc.)

What you gotta do: Email roundletters @ gmail . com

Subject line: “Get me out of this box”

Enter by: Sunday, July 24th, 11:59 p.m.

You’ll be entered in a random draw, and I will contact the winners. You must be able to meet with me to get the passes or set something up before the 29th.

Good luck!


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.

Take a Look: Slow Down, Molasses

slow down molasses

Photo by: Chris Graham //

I’ve yet to go to the Canadian prairies. I hear they’re vast, with wide skies, long roads and friendly people. I have some great friends from those parts, who feed me lovely stories. While most say land like that can be boring, I’ve always wondered about going there. Last week I met some other Saskatonians, those touring for Slow Down, Molasses. They have a band name that most could pair with the thought of prairies, but their music is a guide to the interesting routes only they know.

This collective released their second album, Walk into the Sea, on March 15. It has nine lush songs, each full of instruments that flutter in and out or swell up like a gorgeous sunrise. Sometimes with everything together it can sound a bit messy, but there’s beauty in that. The highlighting of horns and strings whether together or separate always shines light on songs heralded by fuzzy guitars.

“Bodies,” the longest song clocking in at almost seven minutes, boasts soft siren-like female back-up vocals and soothing guitars and then half-way through, switches to lullaby-like strings that build up into something more worthy of a story book’s climax. “Late Night Radio” is the group’s indie rock hit, but I find the stream of “Feathers,” “Wake Me Up at the Coast” and “Light” together are the album’s true winners. “Feathers” is a bit more country with nice vocal pairing of one of the group’s singers, Tyson McShane, with Julie Doiron. “Wake Me Up at the Coast” gains great momentum, like you’re running happily in a movie montage, plus you can really feel the fun that went into making this, especially when the guitar changes half-way and kicks things up a notch. “Light” is a gorgeous, female vocal-led (who I believe to be miss Jeans Boots) trek. It makes me think of weaving through a forest at night with a flickering lantern, and it all comes to a point when she sings “the hardest part of being a light is knowing you’ll go dim. So hurry to make a mark for all the places you’ve been.” It’s also worthy to note some of the cool production work that they’ve employed on vocals, especially in this song.

Honestly though, there is so much to absorb with this album. It’s taken me many listens to feel like I even skimmed the surface of what I was hearing. There are a lot of members in the group; though six tour, there are easily a handful more on the album and who play the hometown shows. Even Olenka and the Autumn Lovers have contributions here, and James Bunton of Ohbijou mixed it. Each member’s part builds off someone else’s, and it just keeps revolving. It’s nice to listen to on a sunny walk, but you’ll gain more out of the experience if you can sit down with it.

Seeing them live is something else, where you get the full blast of instrumentation and frienliness. See it for yourself tonight at the Garrison, where they’ll play with Kite Hill and Forest City Lovers. $10, doors at 9.

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”

Album Review: The Ruby Spirit – Born Under a Veil

The following was originally published on

the ruby spirit born under a veil review

The Ruby Spirit
Born Under a Veil
By Jessica Lewis

Toronto, ON’s the Ruby Spirit are bursting at the seams with colour and theatricality, ingredients that will hopefully get them far someday. You can feel the itch to break out, but for now, they’re tied to home. First known as Sadie May Crash, they’ve honed these six rock songs over the last few years ― there’s enough space to pay attention to each element, but they’ll keep you coming back for more and singing along. Paige Boy’s vocals are strong and sharp, guitarist Alex Pulec’s shredding carries the songs, while Juliana Eye’s synths bring the bouncy trance and Michael McDonnell and Jason Cipparrone man the sturdy backbone of bass and drums. Each track demonstrates how to be charismatic without the gimmicks via paired melodies, interesting storytelling and commanding personality, and now we’re the ones itching for more. Let’s hope that if they do leave Canada, they won’t forget us. (Independent)

Album Review: Eliza Doolittle – Eliza Doolittle

The following was originally published on

eliza doolittle review

Eliza Doolittle
Eliza Doolittle
By Jessica Lewis

Over a few listens, everything’s peachy keen, but that’s it. Made for sunshine and rainbows, UK-based Eliza Doolittle brings innocence, simple joy and gossip to the table. She’s got a good voice and a great deal of optimism (check “Rollerblades”), but if you want to be a pop starlet these days you’ve got to have some sort of an edge. “I’m not naughty, I tell the truth. Scared of what I don’t know, I just want to go home,” she sings on “Go Home,” but even Katy Perry’s bubblegum appearance is laced with irony, and more confidence. Doolittle’s got the catchiness down, but it feels like her diary’s been blown open and the doodles of stars and hearts have come pouring out. We need to hear the dirt and strife. It’s not ideal that this is what a pop star needs to resort to these days, but you do what you have to do. (EMI)

Album Review: The Sounds – Something to Die For

The following was originally published on

The Sounds
Something to Die For
By Jessica Lewis

Sweden’s the Sounds have had a few hits under their studded belts, most memorably 2006’s “Living in America.” They’re back with their fourth album, but it’s full of over-produced songs that sound the same, all aiming to be the next pop rock anthem. The styles on this record feel like they were made for their earlier phase though. For instance, “Dance with the Devil” employs a robotic chorus line, while “The No No Song” oozes pop punk that would have worked during their days on Warped Tour stages. The synths are too much at most times, becoming overwhelming. The lyrics are crafted around death and turmoil, but can be awkward, such as in “Better off Dead,” when Maja Ivarsson sings, “I’m lying naked on my bed; I’m better off dead.” There are a few tolerable hits, but you’ll have to wade through the electric headache to get to them. (Side One Dummy)