Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mia Moth w/ Lucas Field & Annie Stela @ Biltmore -- 08/28/10

I should curse PastKirk for almost balking on the show. I was waffling on going to the show up until pretty much the last minute, but I am sure glad I ended up going. I really liked Low vs Diamond when I saw them open for Ben Lee, so I was interested to see what Lucas Field was like solo, and not only had I had my interest piqued from streaming the Mia Moth album from the interwebs, I had actually been invited to attend.

It was an early show, so when Annie Stela took the stage, the room was kind of sparse. It has to take guts to be able to come on stage, especially alone, and play to a room like that, but her confidence didn't falter and she almost immediately wowed those there with her voice, which silenced (almost) everyone. Said voice combined with her beautiful piano playing for a kind of indie-folk-pop sound and her too-short set seemed to be mostly love songs, but they were not without an edge to them. She ended with Lucas Field coming out to provide backup vocals on a Billy Idol cover, "Eyes Without A Face", from her William EP (where she covers artists named William/Will/Bill/Billy etc). I always love it when bands throw in cover songs, and it was a really cool version of the song, so it was a bonus to an already great set. She definitely gained a fan, as I would see her again without hesitation and grabbed her album, which had the coolest packaging that she handmade herself.

Then -- in what was quite possibly the shortest turnaround I have ever seen at a show -- they switched places, with Lucas Field (better known as lead singer of Low vs Diamond) taking a seat at the keyboard and starting his set. The first song had Annie help with backup vocals, then he went on solo for most of the set. He also played a short-ish set, which was quite different from his work with Low Vs Diamond. It was a pleasant surprise, however, as he too had a softer set of keyboard driven songs. And I don't really remember from when I saw them before, but he had a great sense of humour, which was especially evident in the final song. After calls for one more, he went on to play the greatest and most ridiculous (in a good way) sexual song ever, which can't even be described. I wish I could find a video of it, but think of the most sensual song you can imagine, double it, add some cheese, and you would be close.

Then after a break Vancouver's Mia Moth was up, who were actually quite a bit different than the openers. The band started with a high energy, and never looked back. I don't think I saw the lead singer standing still for more than 5 seconds at a time; she had a crazy energy to her, as she seductively stalked the stage. They were more of a straight up rocking band, with a bit of a dark and gothic (not "goth", gothic.) edge to them, and her voice fit the music really well. Though, every once in a while it would peak over that threshold into piercing, and while it didn't happen often, and wasn't really annoying, it was noticeable. And even though she, and the rest of the band, had a great stage presence, there wasn't much by way of talking; a quiet thank you between songs, and a call for another drink for the drummer was all we got. Those minor squabbles aside, Mia Moth really knows how to put on a hell of a show.

I would be curious to know how the bands ended up playing the show together. It was obvious that Annie Stela & Lucas Field were touring together, from the States, but both of their sounds were just so different than Mia Moth. Not that that detracted from the show in any way, mind you, it was just an interesting pairing of acts.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Review-kus.

My goal is to review every album I bought (or otherwise listened to) this year. But there are just so darn many albums, and sometimes I just don't feel like writing a full reviews. So to combat this, I have decided that I shall give a few really quick reviews all at once... in haiku form. Here we go!

Straight Line by Christina Maria

Great debut album
Vancouver's finest help out*
But a little short
*among the people helping out on the album: Ali Siadat, Hannah Georgas, Shaun Verreault, Megan Bradfield, and Ryan Guldemond & Ryan Dahle, both of which also did some producing/engineering/mixing.

Download Kind Friend

Latin by Holy Fuck
Everything done "live"
Cowboy Cat does it again
Superb follow up

Download Stilettos

Meat by Hawksley Workman
A great range of songs
As eclectic as ever
One great songwriter

Download We'll Make Time

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

CBC Radio 3 Listener Co-Host Initiative

Regular readers (all 5 of you) should know my love of CBC Radio 3. [Almost] every week, Craig Norris does the "Listener Co-Host Initiative" and a different fan/listener/R3-blogger gets to host the show with Mr. Norris. This week, I had the honour and pleasure of doing so. I got to pick some of the playlist, so look for some west coast favourites like Dan Mangan, Said The Whale, The New Pornos (and various members), Aidan Knight, Brasstronaut, The Zolas and We Are The City (who I gushed about a little too much, possibly) as well as great acts from all across the country; The Tom Fun Orchestra, The Dears, Karkwa, Matt Mays, Charles Spearin and many more! I also tried to include a few acts that I think are vastly underrated, like Black Diamond Bay, Wil, Black Hat Brigade and Valleys.
Hope you can tune in to check it out, 7-11am (pacific time) tomorrow (Thursday) morning! If you do, be sure to say hi on the blog!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Brasstronaut (w/ Analog Bell Service) @ The China Cloud -- 08/13/10

Two great Vancouver bands teamed up for a show that took place at The China Cloud, which I had never even heard of before. It was a strange, nondescript door right on Main, near-ish to Hastings. It is apparently used as a jam space for a few bands, and is a really neat little place. Except for the fact that it didn't have much, or any, ventilation or airflow, causing it to get really hot and sweaty and stinky very fast. Especially when you have a room full of people shoulder to shoulder, dancing.

Which is exactly what the case was for Analog Bell Service! They had an insanely hyper energy, and despite some early technical difficulties -- blamed on it being Friday the 13th (even though it was after midnight at that point) -- they put on a pretty great show. Aside from their own songs, they also slipped in "I Can See Clearly Now" and a bit of "Sunglasses at Night". They closed their set out with "I Guess", which has been stuck in my head all day, but just before that was another cover, this time Dan Mangan's Road Regrets, turning it into an up tempo, almost punk rock-ish sound, which was pretty crazy and worked surprisingly well for the song.

Finally around 1:30, Brasstronaut hit the stage to play. They were as fantastic as usual, but I only managed to hear half their set, if that. The mugginess of the room was beginning to get to me, combined with the fact that I had to be at work seven hours from when they started playing meant I had to duck out after about half an hour or so. But I did manage to hear "Hearts Trompet", which is my favourite of theirs; it was superb live, and well worth the sleep deprivation. I even managed to catch the next song, "Lo Hi Hopes", as I stood outside on the street, next to my car, hearing them as clear as if I were in the room. Even though it wasn't the usual lineup -- Colin Cowan of ABS was subbing on the stand-up bass -- they sounded as good as ever, and I really hope I'll get to see them again soon. The worst feeling in the world is leaving a [good] show early, and I really hated to do so for Brasstronaut, whose album is one of my favourites so far this year.

Friday, August 13, 2010

An Intimate Night Of Piano Tunes With Daniel Moxon & Edo Van Breemen @ Library Square -- 08/12/10

Bend Sinister's Dan Moxon and Brasstronaut's Edo Van Breemen teamed up last night for an intimate night of piano tunes at Library Square. It was pretty much just a piano set up in the corner of the bar, with an area in front and an "upper level" (think four or five steps) with a "balcony" for people to watch from. Oh, and the place was playing the old Wonder Woman show all night on their TVs, so that got a little distracting at times.

First up was Edo, not quite doing a solo set since he had fellow Brasstronaut Tariq with him on guitar and lap steel. He played a pretty varied set, some Brasstronaut, some older stuff from his other band and also some brand new. At first, I was wondering how the Brasstronaut songs would sound stripped down like that, since the band has such a rich sound; but for the most part they were really cool and worked well. "Slow Knots" was an especially interesting version of the song, both stripped down and slowed a little.

After a short break Dan hopped up to the piano, playing about half his/Bend Sinister songs and half covers. He started with "Careless", and hit songs spanning all over his oeuvre, including the "In A Minute" song written for the Peak Performance Project (Bend Sinister took third last year). He had a couple covers in his "main" set, a McCartney and a Hall & Oates that were a bit lesser known, but the last half of his set consisted of the more sing-a-long hits like "American Pie", "The Logical Song", "The Boys Are Back In Town", "We Are The Champions" and doing somewhat of an encore with "Life on Mars".

Despite the fact that the bar was a little noisy at times, it was a really cool environment for that type of thing. It seemed less of a "show" and more of "Hey friends, I am going to play you some tunes, cool?" I know Dan has done some solo piano shows before, but I hope this kind of thing becomes a regular occurrence.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Tom Fun Orchestra w/ Treelines & Redbird @ The Media Club -- 08/11/10

A year and a half ago, I saw The Tom Fun Orchestra live at Pub 340, a dive pub with mediocre sound, a terrible setup and two crap opening bands. It was a testament to how good the band is live that they still put on a fantastic show, one I have been itching to see live again. When they were added at the last minute to the bill of the Treelines show at the Media Club, I was more than intrigued, since Treelines was a band I had heard nothing but praise for, so I was interested in seeing them live. Throw in local acts Redbird and Garrett Kato, all for only $8, and how can you go wrong?

Sadly I missed Garrett Kato, arriving just in time for Redbird to hit the stage, the new musical project from Vancouver's Savannah Leigh. They had a bit of an alt-country sound to them, but not crossing that line into too twangy. Almost similar to Neko Case or Jenny Lewis' solo work, but not quite as strong a voice -- which isn't a slight to Savannah, as she does have a very nice voice, but those two are hard to match. For the last song, the band was joined by Debra Jean Creelman (formerly of Mother Mother, currently in the Peak Performance Project) for a cover of a Bob Dylan & The Band song (which one, I am blanking on), and I'm always happy to hear cover songs live. Her songs were quite catchy, and I would very much like to see the band again, especially on a show where the following bands didn't completely overshadow everything that came before them.

Next up, in prompt fashion, was Kelowna's Treelines. After all the good things I had heard I was on my toes a little, thinking they might not live up to the hype... but they more than proved to be worthy of the buzz. They had a fantastic energy and stage presence to them, absolutely rocking out for most of their songs. The lead singer (Matt, with his "giant eyebrow") especially, who had kind of an understated charisma to him, and was a great storyteller -- regaling us with the story of their drive down from Kelowna that day, which included a guy in a van, with a machete and a 4L jug of milk.
They started big with "Ghost Towns" and didn't look back, playing mostly from their new EP, but throwing in a few songs from their first disk, too.
The set came to a close with "Lions" and "Cowboys", both songs that close out their two albums. Again, I can not wait to see them live again, and that right there would have been a perfect night of music... but there was more!

Finally was The Tom Fun Orchestra. Seeing as they were kind of added to the bill at the last minute, were going on at 12, and being a weeknight, people were slowly trickling out, leaving the place about half full by the time they started. But they thanked everyone for staying out late and launched into a set that those there will not soon forget. Taking the stage eight members strong, no two members with the same instrument -- drums, accordion, banjo, acoustic & electric guitars, violin, trumpet & bass -- creating their amazing and incredibly unique sound, with the lead singer (who I have seen go by pseudonyms Johnny Turbo, Animal Houston and Bob Dilemma) and his Tom Waits-ian rasp, complimented perfectly by Carmen Townsend's smooth vocals.
They kicked off the set with a brand new song, from their forthcoming album (I think he said next year) and playing a good mix of new and older, from their first album, You Will Land With A Thud. As incredible the energy was for Treelines, TFO not only matched it, but beat it, almost making you forget any other band had played that night, no matter how good they were. "Highway Siren Song" and "Watchmaker" were two songs that got everyone rocking, and "Last of the Curious Thieves" brought the house down. Among the new songs was the one they recently released on the interwebs, "Miles Davis", which was absolutely stunning live. They didn't bother with the clich├ęd encore (yay!) and brought the set to a close with another new one, after a good hour and a half of playing. By the end, seeing as it was 1:30, there were maybe two dozen people remaining, but those left were in awe.
I managed to obtain a setlist, and while this seems about accurate for the most part, the ending was changed up a little.

This year, I have had the good fortune of seeing a whole bunch of shows where every single band playing is a band I would pay to see on their own. I can say, without a doubt, that this can be added to the ranks of those shows, and I can't wait to see any of the above three again.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Denim on Denim by Library Voices

"Pop as fuck!" That is how Regina eight piece Library Voices describes their music, and their debut full length Denim on Denim exemplifies that. Even though it is full of gang vocals, and more instruments than some acts have in their entire library of music, they never step on each others toes, creating an incredibly rich and vibrant sound. And even though there are more than a couple references to the apocalypse, the whole album is just fun and energetic.

"Drinking Games" kicks off the album, starting out very quiet and subdued, but adds instruments one by one until the whole thing erupts into something impossible not to sing along to. The energy is kept up with the insanely infectious "Insider Trading (On Outsider Art)" and "Haunt This House", both of which overflowing with hooks that will get anyone moving. "Party Like It's 2012" is one of the more obviously apocalyptic on the album, with them urging us to "Do the oblivion shuffle / Do the redemption twist / Do the salvation shimmy" and proclaiming "we'll party like it's 2012 / like they'll be no morning after [...] let's hear it for the rapture!" Another prominent theme on the album is literature, and "Write Me a Myth" is one of the better examples of that.
Mark Hamilton (of Woodpigeon) guests on vocals for the next two tracks, "Bookish", a twist on the age old tale of falling in love with the cute shy girl and another not-quite-love-song "Bodies of Fiction" which is "just another song about love" with a "nameless narrator" that "starts with 'I' and ends with 'we'". They bring the tone down for a moment, with "Model City", whose beauty shows that they can do more than just the energetic pop songs. "End Time" seems like another upbeat song about embracing the end of the world, but when they tell you "but you can live your life fearing death / ... or you can just get on with it" you believe them. But then "Family Night" turns around and warns that the perfect life may not be so perfect -- it's interesting when the song about family life is the darkest on an album full of apocalyptic songs. The anxiety is played up when the end adds layers upon layers of vocals which gets so close to overwhelms the listener, before grinding to a halt and almost stopping dead. The slow end leads into "Balloon Menagerie", another soft and somewhat nervous song, thematically, which features scratch and distortion. The album wraps up "Hello Cruel World", an interesting choice for a closing track. Again, the upbeat track belies the somewhat ominous lyrics, starting with a near-death experience (or perhaps not-so-near?) and coming to a close with the lyrics "Sometimes a man just needs to get away / or think he got away..." and then drawing to an end with the sound of footsteps walking away. It definitely gives a sense of finality to the album.

The other thing about the album that struck me was the packaging/artwork. It is not anything too fancy or elaborate, but it has some nice touches, like the lightning bolt cut out to show the denim-sleeve, or the mini-poster that comes with in. In fact, instead of me describing it, just take a look for yourself. And since the artwork was just this morning nominated for a West Coast Music Award (as well as the album itself, for Independent Album of the Year) I know I'm not the only one to notice it.

No doubt Denim on Denim will remain one of the most fun albums of the year. Catchy hooks. Energetic songs. Clever lyrics. Pop as fuck indeed.


Download Party Like It's 2012

Download Bookish

Download Family Night

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Woodhands @ Biltmore -- 08/06/10

While I wouldn't say I wasn't a fan of Woodhands, they were just one of those bands I enjoyed when I heard come on the radio but never really seemed to explore more. When I first heard about their show at the Biltmore last night, I was undecided if I wanted to go. However, after multiple people told me just how fanastimazing they are live, and urged me to go to the show, I figured I had to give it a shot.

Vancouver five-piece Sex With Strangers was the first band up, and they had a really good energy to them. A moody synth pop sound dominated their robot-obsessed set, though a few of the songs seemed a bit similar-ish. The lead singer had an odd charisma to him, in that some of his banter would have seemed stupid coming from anyone else, but he managed to make it entertaining. He is definitely a good front man for the band. They were a Perfectly Acceptable Opener, especially for Woodhands. Nothing spectacular, that made me want to run over and buy their stuff, but certainly nothing offensive to the ears, either.

But speaking of offensive to the ears, after a lengthy delay between sets, Hot Tub came out. They hit the stage with the three female singers standing atop boxes at the front of stage, towering over the crowd with war paint and crazy costumes & hats. They spent the first few minutes attempting to pump up the crowd -- and trying to get stuff thrown at them -- to mild success, before going into the music. Their website lists them as "punk/crunk/funk", and I guess that is as good a description as any of the sounds that they were making on stage. It was definitely an... interesting set, and one member kept on flashing the crowd, by way of her boob "accidentally" popping out of her leotard after dancing too erratically. But -- much like their whole set -- it just seemed weird and like they were trying too hard.

Finally it was time for Dan & Paul of Woodhands to take the stage, and they started with a crazy intensity right off the bat that never faltered. I was amazed that only two members can create such a rich sound, but Dan did have a full compliment of keyboards, mixers and other trickery to help him out. Including the always awesome keytar. The rest of the night was just a crazy dance party, which even included people getting on stage and dancing behind the duo at a couple of points. Most, if not all of their songs got extended versions (Dan called them remixes, Paul called them "playing our songs different"), with them jamming out to each one. They somehow managed to keep up the incredible energy throughout the set, with Dan even jumping into the crowd to surf for a bit (while singing a few verses of Biz Markie's "Just A Friend", no less). After "closing" with "Dancer", which had the entire crowd singing/yelling along, they came back out for a two song encore, just to make sure that every last person in the crowd was spent.

I would have to say, everyone who was singing their praises was more than right, and they definitely won me over with the show. Next time they are in town, I would absolutely not hesitate to see them again.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

In This Together by Wil

From the moment I first saw Wil hit the stage, years ago, I was drawn in. His live show was just so incredible and energetic that I was an instant fan. But while I enjoyed his first album, Both Hands, it seemed to be missing a little piece of what made him so special live. His next album, By December, was a huge step forward, both in his writing and music, and seemed to capture that live quality. So needless to say, I was more than a little excited for his third album, In This Together, hoping it would be as big a leap as Both Hands was from By December.

"Long Kiss Goodnight" opens the album heartbreakingly, lamenting on a ruined relationship with the music matching the emotions that swing between angry and melancholy. The album picks up from there, though, with "Why Ask Why?" slowly building to an explosive climax and the infectiously catchy & roots-driven "Baby Baby" both taking a more positive (or at least less bleak) look at relationships. "The River" -- a song he's been playing live for years now, so it's great to finally have recorded -- has an upbeat tune that belies the dark lyrics. "Cooder Mountain" is another track that just builds and builds; starting somewhat ominously and then piles on the intensity until the end leaves you breathless.
"If You Want Me Too" brings the mood down slightly, as it sounds like it should be a gloomy song, but is actually quite touching, lyrically. The worst least good song on the album is probably "Way Too Long", which isn't really all that bad, just a little... forgettable, not sticking with you like the rest. That is quickly remedied as "Uh Oh!" bursts forth with energy and enthusiasm, though "The Deal" brings the dark intensity back, with another building song, this time about sacrifice.
The moody and longing "Hold Me Tonight" seems has an optimism to it, when Wil begs "hold me tonight / and everything's going to be all right", a sentiment that leads perfectly into "Together", an aptly named song which gives closure both musically and lyrically, assuring you that "the days ahead get better". The combination of the two songs is an excellent way to bring the album to a close, and is a great counter to the opener.

The first thing I noticed about the album is that it does not have that one song on it that was head and shoulders above the rest, like both previous albums had ("Spitfire" and "Honey Pie"), but it is more evenly good. And while I may have been a little unenthusiastic towards the album, at first, the more I have played it, the more intricacies and nuances I find, to the point where I think it might be his best yet.


Download Baby Baby

Download Cooder Mountain

Download Together

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