Leif Vollebekk – The Media Club, Vancouver. October 6th, 2013

Leif Vollebekk has quickly become on of my favourite new musicians. This process occurred immediately upon exposure with great ease.

Vollbekk, is a young man who currently resides in Montreal. He recently released his second album “North Americana” after his 2010 debut “Inland” . North Americana is a heart wrenching, soul stirring and mind modifying storm. It is a marvellous piece of work that does mysterious things to me.

I was eager to sit down with Vollebekk and pick his brain about the process of creating an opus.

He explained the album taking more time than anticipated due to the refusal for mediocrity and a sound he didn’t feel comfortable with. He recorded with his perfectly suited band, traveled throughout the seasons and worked with the incredible Howard Bilerma (Godspeed, Arcade Fire) and Tom Gloady (Sigor Ros, Ryan Adams) and collaborated with Sarah Neufeld (Arcade Fire). Each song was recorded live to tape and no compromises were made.

The musicianship, audacity and emotive responsibility is evident in every moment of North Americana.

It is naked, rare and un-apologetic. Vollebekk shared that it is an autobiographical piece of work with room for interpretation. Vollbebekk is also shockingly approachable, hilarious and warm.

The concert itself was at the cozy Media Club. Michael Feuerstack (Snailhouse) opened and shattered everyone’s hearts; properly seasoning us for the emotional and interplanetary evening.

Vollbekk’s show was an experience unlike any other. His band- Hans Bernhard (bass), Phillippe Melanson(drums), Joe Grass (pedal steel) and Adam kinner (tenor sax) are excellent musicians who work together like one person with several limbs.
There was a absolute sense of presence in everything, the songs performed have never sounded that way before and never will again. This is evident of Vollebekk allowing to play without borders and invite his music as a burrow directly into him self. There was no sense of stress, fatigue or deceit. . The music just happened and it happened stunningly.

The Boom Booms live in Victoria

This previous Saturday I was lucky enough to sit down with the fellas from the boom booms followed by their concert at Sugar Nightclub in Victoria.

Prior to the interview and concert I was excited as The Boom Booms are an up and coming band who seem to be perpetually expanding in song choices and career moves. Their success grew further recently as they were awarded the high up in the Peak’s “Top 20 BC Bands of 2011”.

The boys have remained humble and focused during the process of further recognition. They explained to me that they are doing what they have always done, but now they have greater recognition from the public and thirsty record producers. This of course feels nice to the band but is not the foundation of why they approached the music industry.

Every member of the six piece rock/Latin/reggae band emanates something musical, in their gate and the way they speak and the way they communicate with one another. They all complement one another in conversation and on stage. This is evident of a band that chooses members that are suitable and compatible. They have travelled extensively together and four of them live in the same house in East Vancouver, while the 2 members live within shouting distance. When asked how they manage this they explained cohesively; they have become used to one another and being together just feels comfortable.

The boys are taking off to Brazil this week to expand feed their musical curiosity, expand with their music and shed light on the current issues that attack one of the most influential countries in the world.

The Boom Booms live is an interactive experience, they make it their responsibility to get limbs loose on the dance floor which is exactly what happened in the packed in the Raptors venue. They each interact with the crowd and make sure the audience is connected, this connection is what makes their performances electric and lithe.

Their set lists are commonly designed before each show based off of who they are playing with and how they are feeling, allowing authenticity to each performance. The fellas include choreographed dance sways, sing alongs and even Nelly covers. The underlying foundation of the Boom Booms is fun, I anticipate this quality to stick with further musical evolvement during their time in Brazil.

The Darcys – The House Built Around Your Voice review

Toronto based sexy shoe gaze four piece release their sweltering and gracefully textured second album The House Built around your voice. This follows their debut titled Endless Water which was released in 2007. Both albums are stylized, fresh, yet completely independent from one another. These are each qualities to be applauded with a young band that carry the weight of ancient men.

The title track on The House Built around Your Voice is the only other example of music that resembles the legendary Antony. However the Darcy’s, (made up of four young gentlemen) are original; this is clear immediately. The all encompassing voice that captures overwhelming beauty and pain has only been achieved once before on this decade until these fellas rolled around. The haunting lyrics become alive through the evocative vocals that attack, release and resonate beyond belief.

The instrumentals are rich yet weightless and ascend listeners somewhere wonderfully frightening. Like a room filled with glow in the dark stars without any recollection of getting there. Each song takes listeners one step further into their inviting elevator to hell. “ The Mountains Make Way” sounds as if the song itself has been syringed with beautiful doom and “I Will Be Light” took be somewhere I have no plans to come back from.

It is revitalizing to hear a new band that is no afraid to expose the wonder of experimentation and the splendor in the dark.

Lights – Siberia review

Lights-a.k.a- Valerie Anne Poxleitner, releases her second album Siberia. I feel like I have heard this album several times in the form of some other brainwashed puppet. The only redeemable qualities are this: Lights is on her own personal label and she makes the electronic backing of her horrific voice-that is it.
Lights has collected Juno awards and is relatively “critically acclaimed” however besides her two redeemable qualities there is nothing special or significant about her music.

Unfortunately Lights isn’t contributing anything to the world of dirty bubblegum pop. Her choice of sound engineerd electronic samplings resembles the sounds of dental work and V.L.T machines, it is quite literally painful to listen to and maybe that is the intention.
Her voice is over-edited and doesn’t sound it any way real but by no means immaculate, it has a harsh ring to it and the words she is pseudo-singing are silly and superficial. This is particularly clear in the bubblegum self indulgent radio hit “Toes” and the quasi neo-philosophical “Fourth Dimension”. However no song is predominantly better or worse than the other as it all sounds the same and blends to some grimy club floor nonsense.

Electronic-pop is an overpopulated genre already and it baffles me they have room for this one. Perhaps it is a combination of Canadian conduct and the lack of her listeners exposure to stronger music that contribute to why one would feel at all compelled to listen to Lights.

After this listening experience I feel like a good shower and some Miles Davis will bring me back to sanity.

Brett Anderson-Black Rainbows.

Groaning and moaning Brett Anderson releases black rainbows. This is Former vocalist of Suede and the Tears fourth solo album. I wish I could say I am impressed due to my appreciation for Suede and Anderson’s ability to sing androgynously and pain fueled. However this style is much better suited for the groundbreaking Antony or PJ Harvey.

Black Rainbows is more or less perpetually uninteresting. Anderson’s voice range has reached the point of unlistenable and doesn’t invite listeners in with anything particularly interesting. Despite the at times respectable and heartfelt lyrics the album drowns in its own sour melancholy. This is particularly so in opening tune “Unsung” which would be better off unsung and “Actors” which is as pleasurable as a root canal. Other than that there are no high lights or singular lowlights as the album is a drawn out drive into sucker which was not as potent in Anderson’s previous work.

Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman – World Wide Rebel Songs review

To put it simply Tom Morello is awesome. Here’s why: Mr. Morello, the Grammy award winning guitar player, songwriter and singer has been with Rage (yes I abbreviate in deep hopes to connect with my inner youth), Audioslave (no abbreviation necessary) and the Street Sweeper Special (no urge to abbreviate). His solo work is otherwise known as the Nightwatchmen with specific reference made on World Wide Rebel Songs.

Morello’s activist roots are omni-present throughout the album. Each song is more brave than the last while remaining completely non pretentious and charmingly hammy. The opening tune – Black Spartacus Attack Machine (again no urge to abbreviate, this may be the best title of all time) is an open entrance into a song that leads down the fist bumping, beer spilling head nodding opus of a record. The track is inclusive and angry with purpose and creates a theme for Morello’s radical rampage. This is followed by the haunting “Dogs of Tijuana” which brings me back to exactly how I felt in the midst dusty mayhem of the urban wasteland. The guitar playing is phenomenal and remains this way throughout the activated soundtrack of conscious anger. Although almost each song involves some sense of excessiveness, it works, and usually doesn’t in other cases. I believe Morello gets away with the shiny guitar solos, back up choirs and repetitive lyric throw downs because each are well done. The guitar is played extremely well, the choirs are epic in congruence to his message and his lyrics and intelligent.

Morello touches on diverse subjects which intertangle quite nicely involving whiskey, heartache, the wayward planet in which we live and the power of being bold. All of which involve an overlying sense of hope and unapologetic joy. This is the root of true democracy and the proper segway to anarchy. The backs up singers really drive it home. I feel the volume of the album is crucial and shall be listened to standing up. After that walk forth and be brave.

Opeth – Heritage review

Oh opeth, the cross way point between astringent epic- fantasy metal and guttural moaning “alt-rock.” Unfortunately with the first couple of tunes into this album I feel more of the latter.

With redundant and uninspired lyrics such as, “God is dead”, which lead singer Mikael Akerfeldt (yes, they’re Swedish) sings with great distain with over-stylized guitar licks in the backburner, I find myself disappointed. Until, the remainder of the second song reveals itself to listeners, reminding us that Opeth is special in that they experiment, take their time and provide some sensational and authentic instrumentals.

This game goes back and forth for a while In Heritage, moments of musical heaven (or hell, whichever is more appealing in this context) are provided such as the harmonious and partly unplugged “I Feel the Dark” and a prime example of why we like metal in “Napenthe”.

However, I am consistently rudely awoken at some point in every song by Akerfeldt’s choice of singing. I recognize this is a style in which the pipes are obviously present but the tone is disregarded. I don’t appreciate this style with any singer but I find it particularly difficult with Opeth because they are so strongly otherwise talented. Additionally this throaty tone wasn’t as prevalent in previous albums and I am worried they feel it is a good idea by trends, fat cat producers and radio friendly hits.

You find at some point In Heritage, between the wailing guitar solos and sexy percussion, loses you to a point where vocals are secondary. The instrumentals seem to improve immensely as the album evolves; incredibly prevalent in “Famine” and “Folklore”. I am blown away by the audacity of talent in these tracks and can hear the improvement of an already previously superb band.

For music alone Heritage is quite impressive and with that Akerfeldt voice does grow on you, even though he decides to synthesize it nearing the end.

Blizten Trapper – American Goldwing review

Blizten Trapper release their sixth album American Goldwing. The Portland based six piece have never struck me beyond anything but pretty good, however their previous album “Furr” gathered some deserved success and put them on the main charts and headliners for impressive musical festivals.

One thing that makes them noticeable is both their ability and inability to always sound the same. This is a strong aspect as a band as it exposes a sense of dignified style and recognizable qualities. This is hindering for a band as it supports fear and lack of experimentation. However, this quality is no stranger to music and certainly will not get in the way of their success or else nobody would have ever signed the Black Keys.

All of that said, American Goldwing is well…pretty good. It is very listenable, catchy and uplifting at times. There songs are by no means obnoxious or lacking in instrumental talent and or vocal attack. But it is no surprise that not one tune sounds better or worse than the next. This is stated with the exception of the mid-album track “Astronaut,” which is just a touch stronger than the others due to the more advantageous lyrics and instrumental exploration. Additionally “Taking It Easy For Too Long” is an interesting take on a break up with a sense of familiarity and comfort.

For the most part each tune blends into a comfortable mush of pretty good music which I would never crave. Perhaps this is the future of rock and roll, perhaps my ears are not tuned to their true possible aptitude but I am more inclined to believe the further option. Although I think the fellas should take their own advice and recognize they have been taking it easy for too long. The musical talent is there but the guts aren’t and we need those to further the future of music.

Maybe one day when I am feeling particularly “pretty good” I’ll listen to American Goldwing again.

Rifflandia 2011

Rifflandia is an eccentric festival that turned four this year which takes place throughout my hometown of Victoria, BC. This year’s lineup included De La soul, Broken Social Scene, Mother Mother, The Cave Singers, Besnard Lakes, The Pack AD, Sage Francis, Lyrics Born and a whole other overabundance of gorgeous and diverse talent.

The festival is special for the local focus and the sense of community created when the event occurs and the audacity of how many venues are involved that open their doors to the intimate abyss at night. The new festival grounds, which create an alternate universe right there in the neighbourhood were the headliners, beer tents, cinema and art studios hang out. These are just a few examples of what makes this urban festival authentic.
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Case Studies – The World Is Just a Shape To Fill the Night review

Seattle based dark as midnight oil apocalyptic folk singer releases his first solo work. With pockets of remorse, doom and honesty the album offers a bit of everything. Jesse Lortze welcomes listeners to his waltzing baritone voice. He is no stranger to the dark side of the forest as he used to sing with recently de-banded duo “The Dutchess and the Duke”.

It is at times hard to believe the Night is the work mostly one man as it is rich and thick. His lyrics are usually haunting and shocking but backed up with good ol folk guitar picking the contrast between the two is refreshing. The world of folk music is ever evolving and the gloomy side of it offers nostalgia and complexities of human emotion in an accessible manor without running the risk of sounding whiney.

Some would get lost in the instrumentals and choose not to drown in the lyrics which are half the fun. Although Lorke’s style is not totally original he does what he does well and the album reaches points of genius. This is particularly clear in the brutally honest “Lies” and the piercing “Daggar”. Although each song is strong, they tend to blend into an abyss of sad and sweet melancholy. Additionally a notable amount of moments present aspects of bleakness in the latter half of the album. By the end of the album you may want to gulp down some Prozac or run into the brightness of the sun as this one will bring you down which after all is where we need to be sometimes.