Dent May – Do Things album review

I should probably start that this is setting up to be my favourite album of the year so far. Everything, from the sun kissed cover, to the opening chords of the first track, Rent Money, tells you that Dent May’s Do Things is meant to be played in the summer. Whether you’re hanging ten, grilling in the yard, or just looking for music to watch girls by, Dent May has hit the nail on the head with a fusion of indie and electro. If the Beach Boys were just starting out today, “Surfin’ USA” might sound a lot like this. In fact, “Tell Her” almost exactly lifts the riff from the classic “California Girls” – but don’t hold that against him. The effect is complimentary, rather than plagiaristic.

May’s intention to emulate a chillwave record is evident in his Mississippi background, an area of the world known better for their gators than their surfing. He even goes funky with the track “Don’t Wait Too Long”, a song that dares you to strut down the hot sidewalk. The smoky laze of “Find it” may inspire you to burn one down.

This album is a joy to listen to, and it certainly motivates you to throw the sunscreen on and go play outside. Put this on your playlist, and even if you start having a bummer of a day, just push play and mellow out, brah. Start not doing things, and listen to “Do Things”.

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Dexys – One Day I’m Going To Soar album review

Dexys Running at Midnight, Soaring Some Day

I have friends that weren’t even born when Dexys’ last album was released. I myself was the tender age of 3, bopping along to Raffi and Fred Penner ( I was a cool kid). But most of us still know that familiar opening to Come On Eileen, its nonsensical bridge, the ridiculously twee music video, and the midnight sing-alongs that almost always accompany it.

Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ phoenicial rise a generation later is evident in the new album, One Day I’m Going To Soar. Kevin Rowland’s voice has all the richness of their pop past (I’m Always Going to Love You), all the syrupy smoothness of a lounge singer (Me), the tenderness and passion of Otis Redding (Now). The band covers a lot of ground track for track; it’s clear they have experimented with a few different styles and they’ve harvested the finest fruits of their labour for display. 11 tracks take you on a journey, while still retaining the English working class roots that the 80s kid will recognize. There are one or two tracks that don’t really gel with the rest of the album; they plod along (example: I’m Thinking of You) However, the sunny pop gem Free can more than make up for it. I hope the toddlers now are listening to even one of these songs 25 years from now.

It’s been a long time coming, but Dexys have taken the path of wines and whisky and improved with age. Let’s hope the cellar isn’t empty.


Mount Eerie – Clear Moon album review

Mount Eerie’s Clear Moon – There’s hope for ME yet…

God damn it.

My instincts tell me no. There is no way I’m going to like a group with a name as pretentious as Mount Eerie. Coupled with the name of their latest album, Clear Moon, it sounds so hipsterific that my imagination gets the better of me and I picture myself bored, wishing I could go back to my Ray Charles’ Atlantic catalog. It’s gonna be crap.

Crap, it is not.

Like a soufflé, it is simultaneously rich and airy. The work allows your mind to wander while on a very long leash. Many of the track titles offer an idea to your imagination. In particular, Yawning Sky seems vast and unending, possibility stretching before you. Maybe it will turn out bad, maybe good, but it’s out there.

Over Dark Water is disturbing; unsettling would be a better term. The crashing cymbals lends a stormy scene in the mind’s eye. The use of negative aural space, especially in the vocals, is pitch perfect, paradoxically. The final track, entitled merely (Synthesizer), explores the depth to which single chords can be played on the now-ubiquitous keyboards. It’s such a simple idea, you’ll be kicking yourself for not doing it yourself. There’s a certain chord change (listen to it; you’ll know which one I mean) where the following chord has almost a balmlike quality, its tonality soothing the ears after its predecessor. You don’t know that you wanted the antidote until the moment you received it.

Part of a duo, the companion/opposite to Clear Moon is released September 4th. Entitled Ocean Roar, if it’s anything as good as its sister – and there is no doubt that an album this beautiful is female – I can’t wait to hear it.

Stick that in your Instagram.

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The Used – Vulnerable album review

Anyone that “found” music in the 2000s will surely recognize The Used’s style, or at the least, their genre. Sometimes associated with teenage angst and loneliness, the band proved themselves popular with the underdogs of high school. Their 5th full length album, “Vulnerable”, is the first released by the band under their own label Anger Music Group.

Artistically, The Used aren’t covering any new ground but fans will not be disappointed. The drumming is something to admire for sure, keeping the pace at a blistering level. Listen to the opening of “Put Me Out” and just think about how that guitar sounds – as a player myself, I was impressed. Singer Bert McCracken begins to sound a little whiny; thankfully, however, the band is dominating enough and at just the right times to forgive. Best track is the anthemic Now That You’re Dead. I almost wanted to jump around my living room.

I told my friend that I was listening to The Used’s new album, and her first question was “Are they still super-emo?” And yes, the answer is most definitely. But it’s ok. They’re one of those guilty pleasures, like fried food after a night out, or that girl who’s a little bigger boned but knows exactly what you like in bed (you little freak). You just kind of hope that nobody sees you indulging. So draw the curtains, turn up the volume, and revel in that feeling of being a misunderstood teenager again.


Yellow Ostrich – Strange Land album review

I’ll confess, it has taken me a while to finally sit down and listen to Strange Land all at once: some truly optimal skiing conditions as well as the St. Patrick’s day work/party schedule has kept me away from the laptop for over a week. But now, I feel like a fool for waiting so long to get educated. I could have been ripping mad powder with some of these tracks blasting. But hindsight is 20/20; best push on with what I’m here to do.

In a totally new direction from his debut album The Mistress, New York’s Yellow Ostrich (born Alex Schaaf) has expanded the musical palette to an extreme. Where the previous offering was minimal and eclectic, mixing looped vocals with different effects, it seems many of the tracks on Strange Land take you on a journey with a vast landscape. Each is like a 3-4 minute vacation, and Schaaf is your guide. Take the opener, Elephant King: Hyper produced vocals, slight buzz, and the buildup to the meat of the song is tantalising. Then the latest single, Marathon Runner, and it’s a belter, hooking your attention from the outset, with the quirky vocal intro that cascades into a cacophony of cymbals and a great chorus. I Got No Time For You is a drugged out antithesis of the previous tracks, leading up to a sensory overload with essence of Pink Floyd and a self-affirming mantra. I Want Yr Love has a beautiful vocal melody, with almost a Moroccan feel.

I could go on.

The point is this: Yellow Ostrich has created a highly listenable album, made up of solid standing songs that equal a sum greater than its individual parts. If this is the development capable in just one year and 2 albums, then one can only anticipate their future endeavours to be met with eager ears and open wallets. If they can continue this trajectory, they could well be up there with the greats in a relatively short amount of time.


Plants and Animals – The End Of That album review

Canadian music always seems to be the “also ran” in the industry. Rush. The Tragically Hip. Even many of our non-musical glitterati are often mistaken for Americans (for example, most of the cast of the original Saturday Night Live). Our neighbours (yes, with a ‘u’) to the south are able to spew out thousands of albums a year, with only a fraction being any good. As a result, the Great White North’s finest talent is often tossed into the same ocean of talent (or lack thereof). Which, frankly, is a damn shame. Montreal based Plants and Animals are onto something. Nic Basque and Warren Spicer’s voices are tuning into Lou Reed’s spirit: trembling and humble. He makes no assertions to be an incredible vocalist, but that’s just fine.

“The End of That” seems to build to a beautiful finale, like the best fireworks show you’ve ever seen. It starts off slow, with “Before”, indie rock at its finest. The overall feel is reminiscent of Stephen Fretwell, and definitely a track to put on to impress that special someone. The album takes a boot in the ass at “Song of Love”, much more upbeat. “Lightshow” sounds like the soundtrack to an afternoon backyard drinking session, never letting down. It sounds like smiling feels, and for that, gets Best track for me. “Why & Why” is frenetic, and from the initial get-go of the track, “2010” gets a nod, as it has the same energy as one of my favourite albums from last year, We Are Augustine’s “Rise, Ye Sunken Ships”. “2010” becomes a celebration, with its bombastic verse and that guitar going bananas in the background.

We as a country should be proud of our homegrown heroes. When the end result is Plants And Animals, it’d be a travesty not to. They’re on tour currently, and playing a few shows in Canada along the way (check them out at the Rickshaw in Vancouver March 21st). Go have some fun.

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Die Antwoord: Fresh Take from Cape Town | Die Antwoord Ten$ion album review

Having left Interscope to release Ten$ion under their own label, Zef Recordz, the Cape Town based Zie Antwoord allowed themselves the artistic freedom. The result is a beacon on the horizon for up and coming artists in both the hip hop and world music scene. In the same way that UK’s grime scene celebrated Brixton living matched with intense beats you can’t help but move your head to, Die Antwoord is bringing the new movement known as Zef to the world stage. Glamourising poor but flashy living such as souping up old beater cars, this musical style is certainly not for the faint of heart. For example: Ten$ion is peppered with “Motherfucker”s. Partly inspired by hip hop, but also drum and bass and certainly dubstep, it is perfectly accompanied by the South African accent that Ninja is only too proud to flaunt. Juxtaposed to Ninja’s grating rhymes is the unnerving voice of Yo-Landi Vi$$er, sounding like a gangster baby doll (trust me, that’s a good thing).

And some of these songs… well, they hold up. Highlights include the down and dirty “U Make A Ninja Wanna Fuck”, the duet with harmony “So What”, chronicling the struggle in The Game and juggling a pregnant Visser, and “Baby’s On Fire”… Tell me that last one isn’t destined to be a club anthem. While you’re at it, check out the Interlude, Zefside Zol, and tell me that beat doesn’t remind you of the Whispering Song.

Seriously though, WTF is up with the damn skits? I thought they went out in the 90s. They’re never anything other than awkward at best; Die Antwoord’s are downright creepy. But then, that’s kind of everything about Die Antwoord. From hypersexual lyrics to the aggression in which they are delivered by Ninja (aka Watkin Tudor Jones), and even their famous video for Enter the Ninja; everything is almost artfully designed to make you uncomfortable. Like a haunted house, you’re in it for the full experience, and you can’t help but enjoy the shocks.

Jack’s Mannequin – People and Things

Jack’s Mannequin – People and Things

I’m biased.

I’m biased because I have very strong memories associated with Andrew McMahon’s first band, Something Corporate. I won’t get into it, but for an 18 year old it was the closest thing to “identifying with the music” I had at the time. McMahon took that energy and created Jack’s Mannequin in 2004.

A fusion of piano and rock, JM released “People and Things”, their 3rd full length album, in September, and for a fan, it doesn’t disappoint. Their first single, “My Racing Thoughts”, encapsulates the runaround love story that only teenagers can have. It’s a testament to being young, a reminder of late summer nights in the city.”People, Running” is a highlight, quick paced and considers the fragility of life. What does it all mean? Don’t worry about it; enjoy it while it lasts. Hey Hey Hey (We’re All Gonna Die) is an emotional (not to be confused with that awful genre of “emo”) track, and recalls back to that misunderstood side of being a kid. “Platform Fire” hits all the right notes, from the mellow intro to the break towards the end. It’s an enjoyable rest from the high intensity of the rest of the album.

Like I said, I have a certain affiliation with this album; it’d be interesting to hear a new listener’s perspective. For me though, this is a gem – the ghost of an unsung hero of my adolescence shines through in “People and Things”, and, with any luck it’ll open up a whole new fanbase. Don’t worry though, guys, I’m not going anywhere.


Jonathan Coulton – Artificial Heart review

Huey Lewis famously once said, “it’s hip to be square”. Culture, as is often the case, has gone full circle – being a geek is now cool as hell. Whether you like them or not, hipsters exhibit many of the hallmarks of nerds: thick glasses, bizarre fashion, and virtually unheard of bands that have legions of the scarf wearing weirdos. Similarly, computer programming, video game development, and blogging (hi!) are not only viable career choices, but enviable ones.

Jonathan Coulton has been championing the way of the geek since his 2003 album “Smoking Monkey”. Spurned on by They Might Be Giants (whom he toured with), his use of a full band on this outing really shines through, resulting in a slick, polished final work, entitled Artificial Heart. It’s quirky, fun, and upbeat; something that doesn’t take itself too seriously, while at the same time sounding professional and clean.

Coulton’s ability to paint a picture with his words is magnified by the piano in “Today With Your Wife”. It’s much like certain Ben Folds Five tracks, and the similarities are clear from the outset. His focus on the somewhat awkwardness of the situation is a feeling felt by the nerd culture most times – what do I say, do I say anything? This same superpower he possesses is also displayed in “Good Morning Tucson”, describing the morning waking up in a hotel (these phony living rooms and fake plants are killing me, this bad coffee’s filling me with equal parts joy and rage”), and the chorus breaks like a sunrise.

Many of the tracks share a vitality with the Barenaked Ladies, in both content and style. The best example has got to be “Je Suis Rick Springfield”: the song is entirely in French, and the lyrics, when translated, are as nonsensical as “A dog that wears a tie, like a man/I mean, the dog is like a man. Not the tie”, replete with harmonies and a tempo that the Canadian band would identify well with.

I had so much fun listening to this album. It’s just great. Neato, as the geek might say. It just puts you in a great mood, possibly because you revel in the sound and content regardless of what anyone else might think. The feeling of freedom, letting your freak flag fly, is a feeling unparalleled. So get into your fringe hobbies, whether it’s LARPing or knitting, because I just found your soundtrack.


Evangelista – In Animal Tongue review

Music nowadays has branched into hundreds of avenues. The broader brushes of “rock and roll”, urban”, and “country”, for example, are no longer specific enough – Hank Williams and Taylor Swift are very different artists but there’s no denying that they are quintessentially “country” in their own way. As a result, the term “personal taste” has never been more relevant than now. What some may laud as a tremendous personal triumph, others lambast for fooling the crowds into believing there is genuine talent, rather like the child in the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Evangelista falls very squarely into this category. Evocative of Bjork, Carla Bozulich has been on the scene for almost 30 years, and experiments with ambience and silence as well as sound, creating an otherworldly soundscape.

Usually I write about the little nuances that have caught my attention over the course of listening to it, however it appears not to be the case this time around. This is only my opinion, but “In Animal Tongue” is arthouse poetry over unrecognizable notes. “Black Jesus” definitely sounds like the throat singing of the Arctic. “Tunnel to the Stars” has bullshit lyrics over horror movie violins, and it can’t be helped to imagine terrible poetry in a coffee-house about 15 years ago. I certainly enjoyed the aboriginal side of “Die Alone”, and Carla Bozulich really excels in her composition, but it is unable to rescue the album as a whole in my eyes.

The good thing about this album was that I was easily able to listen to it while doing other things. And by “other things”, I mean I was watching TV at the same time. It’s unobtrusive, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. I’ll confess; this music is not at all my style, and I found it difficult to stay with a song till the end of the track. It’s not engaging, it doesn’t hold the attention of the listener, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. That is not intended as a compliment.