RoundLetters’ picks for Best of 2011 so far

I’m going to be honest. 2011 has not been that great for music in my books thus far. I am still listening to a lot of 2010 favourites in my free time. I am constantly meh on most of these 2011 buzz bands my music writing colleagues, friends and the general public seem enamored with (which doesn’t play in my freelance music journalist favour). I’m simply waiting for music to knock me off my feet, bring tears to my eyes and make me exclaim about it to everyone I know. So far, there’s been a handful of that, and you know what, that’s good enough for such high standards, isn’t it?

Here are the albums that I’ve loved and really liked so far (not in too much of a particular order):

tune yards new album
tUnE-yArDs – Who Kill

I adore this woman. She is my hero in numerous ways, and this sophomore album was absolutely Killa.

austra
Austra – Feel it Break

Everything just fits together so beautifully in ways you can’t completely figure out, it’s captivating.

Pat Jordache – Future Songs

I’m much more in tune to Jordache’s catchy musical quirks than his vocals, but I dig that too, especially when I thought I’d get annoyed with it and I haven’t. It’s an interesting full package.

Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo

So much emotion and yet not enough; can fit to numerous settings such as laying in the sun or even grieving.

Jeans Boots – txt msgs

Attitude and sensitivity in just the way I like it.

Miracle Fortress – Was I the Wave?

Adventurous, dreamy, every time I listen I feel like I’m listening to it for the first time.

The Albertans – New Age

They caught my attention earlier on this year as Canada’s answer to that Brooklyn indie sound; quirky, curious and soft.

Hooded Fang – Tosta Mista

This album isn’t out yet, but I have heard it and I’m convinced it’s my album of the summer. So much fun.

What I’ve liked:

Braids, Peter Elkas, Snowblink, Little Scream, Sin Fang, Slow Down, Molasses, Jenn Grant, Graham Wright

What I’m looking forward to getting into now (ones I just haven’t given enough time yet):

Handsome Furs, PJ Harvey, Young Galaxy, Rubik

Later this year:

Dog Day, St. Vincent, Elliott Brood, Little Dragon, Evening Hymns, Wild Flag

Here are the EPs I’ve loved:

beth ditto EP
Beth Ditto – Beth Ditto

This is a self-loving session wrapped into four songs, you’ll be left tired from dancing and feeling good about yourself. Glad to see Beth’s solo foray.

Nightbox

Nightbox – Nightbox

Punchy local indie rock shooting for the stars; have a song “Bears” I still can’t quit.

We Are the City – High School

Passionate indie pop from BC from guys who went through a lot and came out of it so much stronger.

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Take a Look: Jeans Boots

jeans boots

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Saskatonians Slow Down, Molasses. Today I want to introduce to you one of the members and her solo work, Jeanette Stewart, aka Jeans Boots.

Jeanette put out her debut album txt msgs on March 11, and it’s easily become one of my favourites of the year so far. Recorded live in her friend’s home in February in less than 48 hours, these six songs showcase her cool, confident writing style with her blend of soft, dreamy moments and those times she kinda, probably just wants to go kick some ass.

Here’s a bit of a play-by-play of txt msgs:

“Woonsocket” starts us in quickly only to slow us down again, repeatedly, as she sings about a relationship’s messy ending. The guitars really enforce that, especially after she exhales “was it anything at all?”

The next track, “Dark Forces,” has become my favourite of the album. It’s got a great, catchy chorus where she delicately sings “dark forces are at war with my heart and I’m trying so hard.” But after a few repetitions, it doesn’t sound like she’s trying hard at all, it sounds like she’s losing steam or just not caring as much anymore, and there’s something really endearing in that. We all get that way, and here it is, right in front of us. But I also love the song for the rolling guitar and percussion pairing, the “sooo hard” backup vocals and the buzzing guitar solos. When I saw her live (she played after the Slow, Down Molasses set at the Horseshoe), this song was the one that reeled me in, and her hair was all over the place (which just completed the cool stage atmosphere with Tyson and Ryan of SD,M). It changed my perception of her from what I had thought was something sweet and simple into something twisted, bad ass and groovy.

But “Money,” “Postcard” and “Moonbase” are also very high contenders on the album. The first showcases her sweetness masking kicking up dirt and her volume up a notch ( “so I’m going to run run run run run, get away, I’m going to run run run run run, make you pay”). The second is more heartwarming and fast-paced (“take this postcard, mail it off to someone so far, cause your dreams have come true your dreams have come true”). The third hits a high when she sings as if to your face, shaking her head while rolling her eyes, “you t-t-t-tease, what are you running from?” (and thus, she almost becomes the tease), then the song closes as her and the band let loose a bit more. “Old Growth” then ends the album on some softer more inspirational notes as she yelps “if music saves immortal souls, we’re on fire!”



Jeans Boots has created music that is commanding and peaceful all at the same time through her voice and penchant for repetition. She carries this confidence that we all want to have, and isn’t afraid to show her vulnerabilities behind that, either. All six of these songs are beautiful, with interesting lyrics and fun fuzzy guitars. Between rocking out, cooing or getting groovy, there’s tons to immerse yourself in. Sometimes her vocals are a bit hard to hear or the guitars might reach maximum fuzziness, but that comes with the live off the floor territory. I’m glad it was recorded this way, it gives the music a nice texture, although now I’m curious to know what future studio recorded material will sound like.

Jeans Boots doesn’t have any shows coming up as far as I know (she did just come off a long cross-Canada tour…) but you can stream/buy (“Money” and “Moonbase” are free) txt msgs on her BandCamp and that’ll satisfy you for a while.

Take a Look: Slow Down, Molasses

slow down molasses

Photo by: Chris Graham // chrisgrahamphoto.com

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. EvenĀ 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.