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.

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!

Interview: Austra’s Katie Stelmanis shows off opera training with electro-goth sound

The following was originally published on Spinner.ca.

austra interview

From goth and witch house to New Wave and electronic pop, Austra‘s lead singer Katie Stelmanis isn’t sure what genre her Toronto-based band falls into.

“Honestly, I don’t even know what to call it,” Stelmanis tells Spinner. “It’s pop music. It’s electronic music. You can say whatever you want. It’s not like I hate it if people call it witch house, it’s just I feel witch house is a small genre that isn’t going to take over the world or anything — it’s not like grunge. I think it’s just a convenient place where my music fits in right now.

“It’s funny because I have been making music with the same aesthetic for a long time — the music that I was making three years ago, people still claimed it to be goth.”

Stelmanis was a trained choir and opera singer before she released her solo album ‘Join Us’ and subsequently formed Austra — who will release their debut album, ‘Feel It Break,’ this week via Paper Bag Records/Domino — so some of those vocal styles and moods have found their way into her work.

CONTINUE READING OVER AT SPINNER.CA.

Interview: Tokyo Police Club’s Graham Wright wrestles his past

The following was originally published on Spinner.ca.

graham wright tokyo police club shirts vs skins

For Tokyo Police Club keyboardist Graham Wright’s debut solo album, ‘Shirts vs. Skins,’ the match at hand seems to be between the musician’s past and present.

The forthcoming album is full of songs written two years ago, in a time when Wright went through an intense break-up and a lull at home after a long Tokyo Police Club tour. Getting this material out now means Wright has to revisit that unpleasant mindset.

“I was in a really specific place,” he tells Spinner. “Even the songs that don’t have anything to do with that, I can still find that in there. It’s kind of weird now because I don’t necessarily identify with the same things, it’s changed a bit. It’s going to be interesting performing the songs and trying to get back into that head space.

“It’s real and was something that happened, and that’s what I like about records, they document a real thing. That’s what’s important to me about these songs even though they aren’t necessarily current for me. It’s time travel, really.”

CONTINUE READING OVER AT SPINNER.CA.

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.

Watch Nightbox’s new video for “Pyramid”

Nightbox

The lads of Nightbox premiered their official music video for “Pyramid” via this week’s episode of The Wedge on Much Music. Now we have it via YouTube. Just in time for the weekend, as this is that cute dancey party track you’ve been waiting for. Watch the five-piece revel in colour and imagination at an old, abandoned house and in a field (it looks cooler than how I’ve described, honestly).

Pyramid can be heard on the band’s debut EP and as a single, downloaded for free.

The band will open for the Radio Dept at the Horseshoe on Sunday.

Album Review: Little Scream – The Golden Record

The following was originally published on Exclaim.ca.

little scream golden record review

Little Scream
The Golden Record
This record received the mark of excellence.
By Jessica Lewis

Everything about Little Scream and The Golden Record bleeds grandeur. There’s so much weight set into every word, push and pedal that it’ll take a gestating amount of time to settle in. Laurel Sprengelmeyer (an honorary Canadian in her Montreal base) assumes the position of puppeteer and storyteller through her lyrics, the soft yet commanding, siren-like aura of her voice and adventurer via her curious arrangements. While this is clearly the project she’s been waiting to create her whole life, it also goes to credit Arcade Fire and Bell Orchestre’s Richard Reed Parry, as well as Mike Fuerstack, Beck Foon, Patty McGee, Sarah Neufeld and Aaron Dessner. The Golden Record is intense and intimidating due to its beauty, evidenced in the curves and edges of “Cannons,” the dreamy “Black Cloud,” electric tale “Guyegaros” and the merging textures of “The Boatman.” Don’t miss a beat ― even the last few seconds of some songs include differing details. (Outside)

Hot Docs reviews: Docs on Le Tigre, Jose Gonzalez, Conan O’Brien, the national parks and more

The annual Hot Docs festival, celebrating – you guessed it – documentaries, took place in Toronto over the last two weeks. I reviewed a handful of films for Dork Shelf on Le Tigre, Jose Gonzalez, a boys’ cheerleading team in England, how to find rhythm, Conan O’Brien and the National Parks Project.

Here they are, after the jump.

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