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Blockhead – Interludes After Midnight album review

Lately, I’ve found myself enjoying a ton of instrumental tracks. Not just hyped up electro-trance-dub-house beats, but old gems from Ratatat, Battles’ recent remix album and now – hip-hop producer Blockhead’s new album Interludes After Midnight. If you’re in need of some chill music for a long night’s road trip, a relaxing evening with your friends, or maybe something to help you focus on studying – this may do the trick.

Opening track “Never Forget Your Token” drops in with a synthy melody and  a sampled vocal track, but then drops into great percussion beats. It’s energetic, but not to the point where you want to unleash your crappy dance moves for the world to see. While a lot of these songs have this kind of feeling, “Snapping Point” and “Panic in Funkytown” sound like something you might hear off of Ratatat’s LP4 with their whiny guitar chords. Other tunes such as “Hungover Like Whoa” take a much more subtle approach as the title might suggest. Easy on the ears, and quiet on the drums – it’s truly refreshing.

Some more highlights? Well, “Tools of the Industry” is produced to the nines, and decked out in keys, samples, changing melodies, and overall blissfulness. Blockhead saves the best for last with “The Robin Byrd Era,” as a mellow song builds into a swell beat that truly encompasses the entire album. With production skills like this, I’m surprised I haven’t heard of Blockhead sooner.

With its spectacular concoction of odd sampling, percussion, and overall mellow sound, Blockhead has really got great beats on hand for anyone willing to take a listen. It’s not conventional, and you may be disappointed when no one is dropping a verse over these tracks, but there’s a great charm to this album that I did not expect. Sometimes, a good surprise is just what we need.

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Battles – Dross Glop album review

I remember back in the day when Limewire still existed, I downloaded anything with the label “remix” beside it. I thought remixes were the coolest things, and since I was so inept about music at the time, I loved every last one. Now that I’m not a mere toddler, I’m a little more picky. Released over a period of several months, the Dross Glop remix album by Battles featuring retuned tracks from Gloss Drop, is finally complete. Four separate vinyl releases have added up to an ambitious project, one messy (but awesome) looking cover, and a new slew of music for Battles fans.

Gui Boratto’s remix of “Wall Street” is a great way to open up the album, with its catchy percussion and electronic tracks, along with the refuelled guitar sounds – I can’t help but dig this tune. “Futura (The Alchemist Remix)” is crunchier sounding, adding more to an already noisy track. Yet, it somehow manages to work. Kode9’s “Africastle” mix speeds the track up, pumps it, and gives it this real trance feel, while still holding its original feel.

Some tracks seemed to have changed a hell of a lot, including “Ice Cream (BDG #Gang Gang Dance Remix).” Someone took this track way too far – beyond recognition, and to me, that’s just no good. Any other misses? Well, The Field’s “Sweetie and Shag” remix sounds one-dimensional. Seriously. Half the song continues on this annoying loop that started to give me headaches. “White Electric (Shabazz Palaces Remix)” is a little too all over the place for my appetite as well: vocoded vocals, changing melodies, and even some rap vocals overlayed at one point.

One more highlight: Hudson Mohawke’s remix of “Rolls Bayce” may be better than the original. It sounds cleaner, more concentrated, but still has that sporadic tone of the original mix.

I think remix albums just tend to have some hits, and some misses. Dross Glop falls victim to that, and it’s not a negative. For all I know, you’re a purist and would rather stick to the originals, but I was surprised to find myself enjoying remixes more than their counterparts. It’s as strange as the album art – but I’ll take it.

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reviews

School of Seven Bells – Ghostory album review

From the world indie dream pop comes School of Seven Bells’ Ghostory, the NYC band’s third full-length. Wait – dream pop? I guess there’s been a reemergence of this genre in the past few years, since bands like M83 can be labeled with this genre tag. So, what about School of Seven Bells? How does Ghostory stack up? I reluctantly admit that it’s not as bad as I first thought.

This is the band’s first album as a duo, as Alejandra Dehaza’s sister, Claudia, departed the band after Disconnect from Desire. From the start, it’s an impressive showing of what the band is capable of despite losing a member. “The Night” is a great way to start, with its guitars being put through a number of effects – echoed, delayed, and rather relaxed. Dehaza’s vocals remain the same throughout, dreamy and whisper-like, creating a ghosty ambience. However, that ghosty atmosphere can be a negative. For example, “Reappear” is an almost lifeless track, full of drawn out synth notes. I wouldn’t listen to it while driving on a deserted highway – your mind might wander and your vehicle might veer off the side of the road.

“White Wind” gets back on the right track, having a certain overall urgency for School of Seven Bells’ sound. It’s a personal favorite, along with “Lafaye,” dreamy, but seemingly different from the rest of its fellow tunes. “Scavenger” tends to favor non-vocoded vocals, which I’m totally in favor of – Dehaza’s voice doesn’t always need to be overproduced, and I wish more of the album was like is.

For what it’s worth, Ghostory holds its own in the dream pop department. While it seems like a lot of tracks don’t differentiate themselves from one another, I’ll let it slide. Also, it’s probably an album that is best experienced in the dark. I’d say feel free to lock yourself in a closet with your iPod, tune in, and dream on, dreamers of dream pop.

Say Anything: A Night in Photos

Saturday night at Théâtre Corona, here in Montreal, was definitely a night to remember for a crowd of a few hundred. Two years removed from their last visit to the city, Say Anything took to the stage for a solid 18 song set, in promotion of their new album Anarchy, My Dear. Now, with only a few hundred in attendance in a mid-sized theatre, this show might equate to a total flop, right? Wrong. Complete opposite result.


Opening with the thunderous oldie, “Spidersong,” transitioning to their first single off the new album, “Burn a Miracle,” and then jamming out with “Shiksa (Girlfriend),” it was apparent that Max Bemis (lead vocalist) and company had lots in store for the audience. And how responsive was this small crowd? Let’s put it this way: the band played songs that you can’t even buy legally anymore, yet the crowd was singing along to every last word. “A Walk Through Hell,” and “Slumming it With Johnny” were met with huge cheers, perhaps even bigger than the singles they played. Kudos to you Montreal Say Anything fans – you belong in the top tier of fanbases.

“This is a fucking awesome show,” is something you’ll hear at most, if not every show a band plays. Yet somehow, when Bemis uttered these words – it struck a chord with me. The sentiment was honest and true, and the show felt like a huge swaying mosh pit at many points. Opening bands members’ came out in the middle of “Belt” to hop around on stage and sing, the audience got incredibly rowdy for “Every Man Has a Molly,” and the closing encore of “Admit It!!!” and “Admit It Again” was huge. There’s no other way to put it – the band sounded great, and the show was downright fun.

Bemis has carried this band on his back for twelve years now, and while they might have reached their peak some years ago, the band still has immense staying power, even if they’re in a province of Canada that barely speaks their language.

“Will you come see us next time?” Max asked, before leaving the stage, with the crowd erupting frenziedly. I think that would be a yes, Max.

FULL SETLIST: Setlist.fm

FULL SET OF PHOTOS: jakemullan’s flickr

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reviews

Tanlines – Mixed Emotions album review

I was skipping around the satellite radio channels the other day, trying to find something that suited my mood. I stumbled across Tanlines for a few seconds, decided I wanted to blast some EDM like a musically inept teenage raver, and went on with my life. But was I ever glad to arrive home, check my email, and be assigned to review this album. With summer fast approaching, Tanlines’ Mixed Emotions is an experimental indie pop album that will be on repeat.

The NYC band’s debut opens up with “Brothers,” which reminds me of some new wave Tears For Fears’ jams. Soothing, yet poignant, and yet exciting – and yes, I’m totally aware that makes no sense. The majority of the album has that kind of retro feel to it, and it’s nice to hear something similar to a genre that has been deemed passé. Heck, their album cover even looks like Tears For Fears’ Songs from the Big Chair’s. But I digress…

In contrast, the album has some incredibly upbeat tunes, with “All of Me” being a personal favorite, and the followup “Green Grass.” Throw in a good bit of production value, a nice drumline, and then add Eric Emm’s vocal talents – you’ve got yourself a stellar setup. Chilling keys and vocoded vocals make songs like “Not The Same” sound incredible. You’ll also get some odd moments in this album: what sounds like bongos on “Real Life,” and some eastern world sounds on “Cactus.” Honestly though, it’s a welcome addition to this debut.

I’m surprised that I don’t have anything bad to say about these guys or their album. That’s it. There’s no mixed emotions when it comes to this record (I’m sorry – I had to). Go see them on tour and buy their stuff if you want: http://www.tanlinesinternet.com/

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reviews

Nada Surf – The Dulcitone Files EP review

Minus a few exceptions, I tend to be a pessimist when it comes to acoustic renditions. Unfortunately, Nada Surf’s new acoustic EP doesn’t fall into my exceptions list. Although, I can definitely appreciate these stripped down melodies from their 2012 album, The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy. The Dulcitone Files obviously takes a subtler approach to these five songs, but don’t really sound any better than the original versions.

For example, take a Foo Fighters song like “Everlong,” which has a hard crunching chorus and nice gooey verses in between. Mellow it down to just Dave Grohl’s voice and the song’s main guitar chords, and you’ve got a love song that’ll make any softie weak at the knees. In contrast, let’s take Nada Surf, who have already created somewhat mellow alt rock tracks. If you take even more intensity out of them – what are you left with?

Albeit, “Clear Eye Clouded Mind” has made the switch rather well, slowing down one of their faster songs, but not too much. It still has its original feel and is worth a listen. “Waiting for Something” doesn’t sound all that bad either, but otherwise – the other three songs fall flat. For example, the original version of  “When I Was Young,” is an acoustic song as it is. Why redo another version and stick it on this EP?

Nada Surf’s tunes are by no means bad, but acoustic tracks can be an acquired taste for some. It goes without saying that you might as well stay away from this EP if you’re not much of an acoustic person, or not a huge Nada Surf fan. For now, I’ll stick with the originals.

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Said The Whale – Little Mountain album review

After recently going on a binge of electro-dubstep-trance music concoction, it’s nice to slow things down with pleasant Canadian indie rock straight out of Vancouver, BC. Following a steady stream of EP releases, Said the Whale is back with a full album entitled Little Mountain, and it would be a welcome attraction to many indie rock lovers.

Lying somewhere between folky and pop, Little Mountain has tracks like “Loveless,” a catchy chorus, great vocal work, and accompanying instrument work that will have you singing along during your upcoming summer road trips. I’ve gotta admit, the opener “We Are 1980,” will get quite a few plays from me. I’m surprised to find such upbeat tunes within a genre that has an excess of mellowed out ones.

Though that doesn’t mean this band has excluded mellowed songs from this LP, as you might find the band slowing things down for the piano ballad “Seasons” and minimally mixed tracks like “Lover/Friend.” The next moment, things will speed up with “Heavy Ceiling,” with doubled vocals, some really synthy melodies, and a couple awesome guitar riffs. Barring a few throwaway songs that are no longer than ninety seconds, I can’t find any songs that are all that bad.

One interesting song to note, “2010,” has some undertones about the Olympic Games that took place what seems like a fortnight ago. Tyler Bancroft originally wrote the song with a certain pride for his city – but now if you listen closer, it almost sounds as if the band is a little ashamed of what took place a year later with the Stanley Cup riots. Mind you, a lot of their songs are about Vancouver, but the band seems to be distancing themselves from their roots. It should be interesting to see where it takes the band in the future.

There’s nothing all that extraordinary about Said the Whale’s latest, but there’s certainly not many faults. It’s what I’d call a very safe album, sticking to an indie formula that still works. If it ain’t broke, then why fix it, right?

The Devil Wears Prada: A Night in Photos


The last time I saw The Devil Wears Prada (TDWP), I was a scrawny 16 year-old in the middle of a mosh at Warped Tour. A whole album cycle ago, the Christian metalcore band from Dayton, Ohio was at what I thought would be the apex of their career. Luckily for them, the success of the band’s latest album “Dead Throne,” has kept their fanbase growing, and the band evolving.
The Devil Wears Prada - Jeremy DePoyster
So fast forward to last Thursday night at Metropolis in Montreal, and I’m dead center snapping photographs of TDWP – and man, was I ever blown away. The title song “Dead Throne” was ferocious and loud, and had all the kids in the crowd nuts from the get-go. They moved into a few more songs from the new album such as “Untidaled,” “Born to Lose,” and “Kansas” – an instrumental track with screamer Mike Hranica on the guitar. This may have been the highlight of night, because it may not have the huge breakdowns and screams, it shows off just how musically tight these guys are. But don’t get me wrong – the performances of all songs that night were top notch.
The Devil Wears Prada
The stage was rather elaborate for a metal show too, with ramps sprawling the stage and a “Dead Throne” symbol lighting the backdrop. It was pretty refreshing to see something different on stage rather than a usual set-up. Kudos to the production managers and the band members for that.
The Devil Wears Prada - Mike Hranica
Here’s where the show hits a snag though: Mike Hranica on screams. It seems as though the constant touring has really gotten to his voice, and he can’t handle the higher-pitched screams he’s really known for from older albums. New songs were made for his new low growling screaming style – but those old songs just weren’t. “Sassafras,” “HTML Rulez D00d,” and even the set-closing “Dogs Can Grow Beards All Over” sounded flat and weak with the new style. I’ve seen the same thing happen to Bring Me the Horizon, and I doubt this is Hranica’s fault – certain screaming methods just take a toll on your voice. I don’t think they’ve stopped touring since Warped Tour, and I hope that we’ll get a different performance from Mike next time he comes to town.
The Devil Wears Prada - Mike Hranica
With the Dead Throne tour, these dudes really have stepped up their game, and the new material sounds fantastic live. I know metalcore may not be everyone’s thing – especially with the Christian undertones – but if you ever went through that metal phase as a kid, take a trip back to your local venue to see one of the best metalcore bands out there. Perhaps it’ll spark some long lost memories of your moshing days.

Setlist: TDWP in Montreal
Full set of photos: jakemullan’s flickr

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Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams review

You don’t typically see many all-female bands roaming any scene nowadays, so when I came across Dum Dum Girls, I was a tad skeptical. Not because I think women can’t produce quality music, as that’s incredibly far from the truth. In the past, all girl bands have been a little gimmicky, and you typically see them in tween-centered movies on the Disney Channel. But no, I think Dum Dum Girls’ “Only in Dreams” definitely has something to offer that you might just fancy.

“Always Looking” offers a pretty good sampler of what you’ll find on this record. Moderate pacing, crisp and fun vocals, and somewhat simplistic guitar work. There’s definitely a slight punk vibe to this indie pop band, which is comprised of members who go by nicknames like Dee Dee, Bambi, Sandy and Jules. The vocalist of the group has a hell of a voice behind her: rock, a bit of popstar, and a nice vocal range in general. If you want a good example of her talents, “Heartbeat” shows off what she can do pretty well. “Wasted Away” is another fun and faster-paced tune that deserves a listen. It’s just pure fun. I can’t describe it much better than that.

Another choice track is “Coming Down,” and while it may be the longest and slowest song on the album, it’s the most different one. It stands out for sure, with parts that are entirely carried by the vocalist. It’s an overall mellow, not too dramatic, and pleasant tune to listen to. The lyrics behind the tracks are mostly about love, whether unrequited or fulfilled, and that’s perfectly fine by me.

While much of the album’s instrumental work is simplistic and doesn’t differentiate between songs, there’s not much need for it to be. Sure, I’d like some variation here and there, like the aforementioned track, but it’s not like the record goes on for two hours of identical tracks. The record is supposed to sound like a faster paced and fun indie pop-rock album, and Dum Dum Girls pull it off rather well.

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Skrillex: A Night in Photos

Montreal has been a go to city for a lot of the biggest electronic music acts lately. In the span of two weeks, we had Wolfgang Gartner, Steve Aoki, Steve Angello, Thomas Gold, Deadmau5 and most recently – Skrillex. I used to know Skrillex better as Sonny Moore of From First to Last. After being the vocalist for the post-harcore band for a number of years and releasing a solo album after his departure, he decided to venture into the world of electronic music, with the dubstep genre heavily accorded to his releases.
Skrillex
The resale ticket prices for this show were being hiked to as much as quadruple their value, and Metropolis was packed by the time the opening act was halfway through their set. And when Skrillex hit the stage? Forget it. I’ve probably said this before, but the energy in the building was insane. From the front to the back, people were headbanging, dancing, two-stepping, and even moshing.
Skrillex
The producer’s stage setup is truly massive, and pictures don’t do it justice. It’s a spectacle of projections displayed across a polygon castle of sorts, along with Skrillex being hooked up to a motion sensing suit. Those movements are digitized into a caricature (sometimes a robot/Transformer and sometimes an alien lifeform) projected behind him. I was sober and was enthralled – so I don’t even know what the people in altered states around me were experiencing.
Skrillex
In addition, take the visuals on stage, and then add the music that was pounding from the front. Skrillex is a very drop-centric dubstep machine, but I found that it wasn’t all about the bass drops. He would shut off the music at points, and have people singing along to his take on Benny Benassi’s “Cinema.” And he wouldn’t come back from that silence with the bass.
Skrillex
Transitioning from song to song, one more electrifying than the next, Moore has an impressive knack for knowing what his audience likes. While I was hanging around the venue, an older man was talking to me about the show. A little something of what he said stuck with me that night: “This isn’t really dance music – I mean, it is, and I guess it’s a new generation and this is what it may be transitioning into. But it’s got this hardcore, almost rock, influence behind it. And I’ve been to a lot of shows, back in the day when raves were held in warehouses. What happened tonight in there… that was something special.” The tour is basically sold out across the board, but if you can find yourself a ticket – go.

Many thanks to Chris at Biz3 publicity for hooking me up, and Neon+Highfood for hosting a marvelous show.
No Setlist – it’s all over the place and not worth listing. Whatever song you like by Skrillex, he played it at some point.
Full Set of Pictures: jakemullan’s flickr