Cowboys on Dope – The Daily Dope album review

COD (no, not Call of Duty) are touted as a rock band, but really fall more into the country/rockabilly genre. They’ve been playing out of Germany since 1996, and The Daily Dope is the latest release.
The entire album has a steampunk Americana feeling to it: fans of groups like Andrew Bird and Gogol Bordello will not be disappointed. COD are able to paint a vivid picture using their instruments and stories. For example, “The Pope Is In Town” has a classic gypsy stamp, replete with the accordion and a men’s choir. “Club 27” is a surprisingly upbeat song about joining the group of musicians that took their own life (either intentionally or otherwise) at the age of 27. It takes a different approach with “Dirty Weapons” – listen to that guitar solo! “Ready To Fall” has so much distortion, it feels meaty and dark, like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. In fact, one could say that this is a chronological journey of the meaning of “Americana”. Strange that it’s coming from Germany. They’re beating the Yanks at their own game.

I truly enjoyed the album.. For the most part, it’s fair to say that The Daily Dope could be an ideal soundtrack to the great outdoors, whether driving down a long highway, or cooking wieners and beans around a campfire. The only issue is that their online presence is minimal, at best. It took me – literally – hours to locate a streaming site to hear their album, and any literature I did find, including their official site, was in German. Even their Wikipedia site is sparse and Google Translated. Obviously Cowboys On Duty have both talent and staying power, but without effective marketing, they may as well be playing to an empty room. Find what you can on YouTube and buy the album if you like it.

Teen Daze – The Inner Mansions album review

It’s always exciting to review an artist from British Columbia. Having lived in BC for a number of years, more of the sonic and lyrical touchstones are relevant. “New Life” opens with what sounds like a public service announcement, or a HAL9000 intercom. Feels sterile, like what we’ll be listening to on Mars. This could be a transition from “All of us, Together”, a futuristic soundtrack to our utopia released earlier this year. The remainder of the album is more introspective: man’s place in this world of electronic crutches. “Garden 1” describes what sounds like a dream, and “Garden 2” follows this on with a weightless ode; the vocals are so airy, they’re almost not there.

“Discipleship” has a distinctive beat and brings to mind a journey, like telephone poles passing you outside the train window, and is a high point of the album. “By Love” is just as tender as you would expect. There’s even a harp in there! And hold onto your hats, because “Union” featuring Frankie Rose is a departure from the previous half of “Mansions”, as if the album just took a shot of espresso. “Spirit” has Remix written all over it, so keep an eye out for various renditions over the winter. And at 6 minutes long, the song undergoes a couple of different personas; the song at the end is not the song at the beginning.

The Inner Mansions is a great album; a counter to “All Of Us, Together”, two sides of the same coin. More focused on nature, both human and environmental, and a spiritual if not fully religious undertones. This will be what the machines will be listening to once they’ve overthrown our rule and want to feel nostalgic.

Tamaryn – Tender New Signs album review

Tamaryn returns with the eagerly awaited sequel to 2010’s “The Waves”.

This was the hardest review to date for me. Normally, I can find something I like about the album. Maybe I’m getting old, but I find “shoegaze” is as boring as shit. I started writing this as I listened, with the hopes that some positive review would emerge. I wanted to like this album. I really did. It sounded so promising: Narco-folk dream pop. What’s not to like? I couldn’t even fathom what that might sound like.

Here’s the problem. The songs are multilayered, yet virtually indistinguishable from one another. They’re good; don’t get me wrong. I just found it tiresome to hear the same thing over and over for 40 minutes. It’s like trying to catch a fish with fettuccine alfredo: the ingredients are all there, but you’re missing a hook. The closest we get to something that doesn’t stretch time itself is “The Garden”, the 6th of 9 tracks, which boasts a nice and fuzzy guitar opener, the song containing a little more meat to it than the rest of the album.

I don’t usually endorse this, but the best way to listen to Tender New Signs might have to be while enjoying BC’s Finest. Light up and wind down.

Paul Banks – Banks album review

This is a musical first for me, listening to the entirety of Paul Banks’ new album “Banks” via Youtube playlist. It’s unorthodox but at least there aren’t any annoying video ads before each track. Interpol has had a fairly long history on The Scene, so it’s interesting to see Banks out and about doing his own thing.

Opener “The Base” is undeniably more indie than most of Banks’ work with Interpol, and it shines. Parts of it wouldn’t seem out of place in a Wes Anderson movie. “Arise, Awake” is the aural equivalent of dusk: you aren’t sure whether you should be waking up, or going to sleep. Meanwhile, “Young Again” is definitely dawn, a rebirth feel throughout. “Lisbon”, a well-placed instrumental, has the scope of a journey, with an unknown destination. “I’ll Sue You” is more of what we expect: a darker kind of rock, cloudy lyrics delivered in a hopeless voice, and “Paid For That” is emotional, almost heartbreaking. “Another Chance” is a superb example of sampling, using the spoken word itself as a musical instrument. Not singing though… It’s difficult to accurately explain; its something you just have to experience.

The momentum Paul Banks gathered with Interpol has kept him moving creatively, and the result is a finely crafted release. Out now, “Banks” is sure to please fans and newcomers alike to his signature style.

Anberlin – Vital album review

Christian rock has developed a bad rap over the years. You can’t help but hear the religious undertones of salvation, something that, as a self-affirmed atheist, can distract from the full experience of the music. (Let’s face it, any musical genre that can include Creed is bound to get some judgment.) Anberlin, thankfully, has not fallen into this trap with their latest offering, Vital, in part because the band keeps their faith separate from their music.

“Sleepless” is a strong opening track, but it feels as if the vocals and the tempo don’t quite add up to one another. “Other Side” dials back a little, which is a bit of a disappointment after the momentum gained by the previous track, “Little Tyrants”, that has an energy (not to mention a killer guitar solo) that wouldn’t be out of place on an early Guns ‘n’ Roses album. “Intentions” has a distinctly 80s feel about it, with another spectacular instrumental sandwiched between the synthesized verses. “Innocent” manages to unfortunately lose your interest, but it is more than made up for with “Desires”. “Type Three” is the only truly weak link, an anaemic track that doesn’t fit with the overall rocking album. Immediately afterward, they hit the nail on the head with “Orpheum”: a perfect blend of emotion and hard-hitting instruments, and Stephen Christian’s voice is, for once, the ideal accompaniment.

It’s clear that the band is technically gifted in all departments, yet I can’t help but feel that Christian’s voice is mismatched somehow. It almost seems too clean and polished for an otherwise powerhouse of a rock album.

Two Hours Traffic – Siren Songs EP review

Ah the humble EP. This time, it’s Prince Edward Island’s Two Hours Traffic and their Siren Song EP, an uplifting example of their self-proclaimed “pop ‘n’ roll”. They’ve upped the ante since 2009’s “Territory”, an album widely considered to be a smash, a serious home run for Canadian music.

Siren Songs is anything but: the rollicking 4 tracks are a true showcase of the 3-piece’s energy. “Amour Than Amis” is like a freight train, good for hauling yourself out of bed. Liam Corcoran explained that the band tried to explore the ideas of love from multiple angles. “Audrey” is self-affirming testament to this, with the narrator saying he has love to give. “Feel Alright,” with its dominating drum line, makes a short but super sweet point, and the final track, “I Did What I Could”, takes a sharp turn into folk, and describes a simple love story, the sacrifices a man makes to better himself for his girl. Compared to the preceding 3 tracks, it’s a pared down companion but is made all the more powerful because of it.

The true grit of an EP is whether the listener searches out the band’s previous work. Let’s just say this review took a lot longer than you might expect. Two Hours Traffic are currently on a fall tour; check them out if you can.

Cuff The Duke – Union album review

From their humble beginnings 10 years ago, Cuff The Duke has gained valuable insight into the world of indie rock. Their latest, “Union” was released October 2nd, and having reviewed their debut reissue “Life Stories for Minimum Wage” just 2 weeks ago, it’s apparent that they have developed as artists in the last decade. With more bombast, they sound more confident, thanks in part to their wisdom of the business.

‘Side By Side’ featuring Basia Bulat, is a sweet duet, a frolicking track about young love. ‘Where did We Go Wrong’ is good overall, but it really comes into its own in the second half of the track. It has all the makings of a festival favourite next summer. ‘Open Your Mind’ is a clear return to stoner rock. ‘Rise Above’ has some Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers undertones, with CTD’s stamp on it. And it all ends on a banger in ‘Night After Night.’

A strong album on the whole, Union will keep longtime fans entertained, and a surefire way to boost the Canadian tour they’re currently on. If you happen to see them in your town, it’s the best way to while away a wet autumn night.

Neil Halstead – Palindrome Hunches album review

Neil Halstead explores relationships past in his latest, Palindrome Hunches. The former Mojave 3/Slowdive lead has struck gold with this one, sounding like Jose Gonzalez if he had grown up in England

The album as a whole makes you feel like you need to call your old girlfriend, the one you haven’t seen since she moved away. The care in Halstead’s voice wraps around you like a big towel after being caught out in the rain. Palindrome Hunches is rich, warm and sweet, like a big mug of hot chocolate. Perfect autumn music, in other words.

Spin the bottle is innocent and light, while Love is a Beast sounds almost tribal with the beat. Bad Drugs and Minor Chords has a certain elegance about it. Palindrome hunches (the track), at only 2 minutes, doesn’t allow you to feel like you can fully enjoy it, but the idea here is more of a Post-it with “XOXO” on the fridge, rather than a love poem. The album gets a little more uplifting, hopeful, toward the end, with the one-two punch of Sandy/Hey Daydreamer, perhaps with the notion that the right one is on the way.

Palindrome Hunches runs a full gamut of emotion for the listener, and manages to be introspective without falling into the Shoegaze trap. Halstead recorded the entire set of tracks in a school room; one of the highlights, Full Moon Rising, was recorded in one take, a feat most impressive when you hear the complexity of it. Chances are you’ll end up listening to it more than once.

Cuff the Duke – Life Stories for Minimum Wage album review

The reissue of their debut album means 10 years have passed for the Oshawa, ON band, and with a new album coinciding (Union) this week, it’s a fitting time for fans both new and old to hear where it all started. Folk/Country groups face a tough time trying to hit the right notes with both genres, rather than neither. Upon hearing their debut Life Stories for Minimum Wage, you can tell that Cuff the Duke has been on the right track for a long time.

There are so many different types of song on LSfMW. “Hey Baby” sounds like some sort of diet Hotel Yorba by the White Stripes. Hobo Night Stalker is very sneaky, with a jarring beat while still keeping true to their sound. “Long Winter” sounds like the soundtrack to that scene where everyone looks wistfully out the window (in a good way). “Ballad Of A Lonely Construction Worker” has a funny name, but a great sound. Singer Wayne Petti captures so much emotion in his voice, a task difficult in a rock-tinged epic. “Anti-social” has so much going on; the cacophony mirrors the content. Closer “The Trouble and the Truth” feels like a spaghetti western, thanks to the whistling intro. It’s as if the hero is bleeding in the street and the credits are rolling, a fitting end to a sublime album.

They’re on tour now, playing Vancouver on October 18th. Oshawa should be proud of these boys.

Matt Mays – Coyote Work album review

Matt Mays returns with his signature folk rock style on Coyote. Both driven and heartfelt, Mays is evocative of the animal that shares the album title: on his own time, roaming, answering to nobody. In fact, his press release explains Matt “(has) been making new music at his pace and doing things the way he wants to do them”. If that doesn’t sound like the Coyote Spirit, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better example.

If you need a little nudge to take that road trip before the winter descends, you can’t do much better than this as a soundtrack. Indio kicks the whole thing off with lyrics like “Run, you are free”… and if that doesn’t get your feet moving south, “Ain’t that the Truth” will at least get them moving, be it dancing, going for a run what have you. It’s motivational, and has “Hit Single” written all over it. Meanwhile, “Loveless” is just down home enough to pull in the listener for another tender listen. Rochambo even has touches of dub reggae, and the total direction change in Madre Padre would even get a nod from James Brown himself. “Queen of Portland Street” is the perfect song for the perfect moment; maybe you’re at a barbecue, or in a bar with friends, and you look around and think to yourself “I wouldn’t change a single thing about right now”. Finally, this link reveals a live version of the album closer, the arrestingly beautiful Chase the Light. He has an accompanying Canadian tour (playing Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom Oct. 24th) if you like what you heard.

These are just a few examples that prove Mays’ talent is all encompassing, resulting in a well-rounded album in Coyote. His ability to pull at the heartstrings just enough to make you feel makes for a highly enjoyable listen.