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The Weeknd – Thursday mixtape review

T.O Buzz: The Weeknd drops second mixtape “Thursday”

While Kanye West and Jay-Z are watching the throne this summer, Toronto’s 21 year old rising phenomenon Abel Tesfaye, just might steal the crown. Relatively unknown before 2010, and known as The Weeknd (swapping hugs and kisses for other er, delights) he has planned this year to release a trilogy of self-released mixtapes through his website  (The first House of Balloons dropped earlier this Spring, and you can hear the track “High for This” on season 8 of Entourage). The Weeknd’s second mixtape Thursday was released last Thursday online at midnight with nine tracks and ever since, we can’t stop talking about this guy.

I first heard The Weeknd when he rocked Mod Club (which, sorely I could not attend and just drooled over youtube videos), and then toured with Drake’s OVOFest – combined crews OVOXO – the end of July.

Lets take a close look at Thursday. Listen to a few tracks, and clearly, you’ll feel a wetmouth-lets-get-faded-in-the-candlelight vibe through raw lyrics and experimental sounds (indie, electro and dubstep). Super sexy but not as strong as House of Balloons, Abel makes it clear of his issues (Yeah I know I got my issues/why you think I fuckin’ flow? on “Rolling Stone”). He thrives off of sexual madness involving girls and serotonin. “The Zone”  is a standout track, the only to feature Drake (all these broken hearts on that pole doo bee doo) where Abel clearly outshines him. Two more favourites are  “Gone”, and “The Birds Part 1” (listen for the drums and get hypnotized with his ‘don’t make me make you fall in love’). “Life of the Party” is a weaker track, where the production seems a bit off. “The Birds Part 2” contains powerful crying sounds, and the track “Thursday” gives new meaning to the term ‘Thirsty Thursdays’. Its heavy on the instrumentals and Abel soars singing  in high ranges.

Download here to get your own copy of Thursday.

Echoes of Silence is up next sometime later this year. Expect the following for The Weeknd to continue to grow for music lovers everywhere. I can’t wait to see him in the future, and hear more how under Drake’s mentorship, he’ll grow.


Joss Stone – LP1 review

Soul Child Joss Stone’s independent LP1

After battling it out to leave the EMI record label to finally create her own, edgy Stone’d Record– Joss Stone has made a comeback with her 5th album “LP1” exerting the raw creativity, freedom and grit needed  to become her own woman in the world of English soul singers. For an album that was put together in just 6 days and co-produced with Eurythmics’ David Stewart – its an inspiration for young aspiring artists and a soother to put the Amy Winehouse blues at rest.

Impressive vocals and a strong personality – that’s what this album is about. Before you can think of getting into an Amy Winehouse vs. Joss Stone debate, take a listen to her album and watch some of her live performances on youtube. The opener Karma has us hooked with a funky retro bassline while Stone gets deep, “If I was just a little bit stronger baby”. Drive all Night is my favourite track on the album, while the concept is not the most original (Re: Celine Dion – I Drove All Night) – its soulful rhythmic vibe would be perfect for any romantic date and the uncertainty that goes with it,  “I started to worry, do I smell nice?” Cry Myself to Sleep is a track for when you want to shout out “I’m letting you go!”

Stone’s talent and fire are undeniable, the pop/rock/alternative edge, her ability to sound country-blues one minute and sultry-retro the next is her forte. Stone is evolving like a fine wine, and if this is just the beginning for her newfound independence, we can expect to hear much more from her in the near future. Just what will she pull with Mick Jagger and Damien Marley in the rock supergroup “SuperHeavy” in September? I can’t wait.

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The Ladybug Transistor – Clutching Stems album review

The Ladybug Transistor’s find healing in “Clutching Stems”

The Ladybug Transistor have been around for a long time – almost indie veterans, figuring things out and being a work in progress over the years. They’ve been releasing smooth indie-pop music since the mid 90s and if you’re able to come out with a 7th album while still remaining relatively unknown to the masses, then its got to be real indie  – always reliable for solid sound.

Clutching Stems is the newest release under Merge Records, 4 years since Ladybug Transistor’s Can’t Wait Another Day album. When drummer/close friend San Fadyl passed away suddenly in 2007, frontman Gary Olson and his mates Kyle Forester and Julia Rydholm were left at a distressing loss, and embarked on writing a tribute album.  Clutching Stems is a much needed healing for the group, with 10 polished tracks that blend together soft harmonies and top-tapping choruses expressing longing, regret, heartbreak, and the awakenings one is faced with during unpredictable moments.   The sound is lush and dark, retro in effect, searching for beauty in the face of loss.

“Oh Christina” is a standout track dealing with the theme of love in pop/rock music and “Life Less True” is the perfect lifting ending. The Ladybug Transistor does what indie music is supposed to do -take something personal and make it universal. Olson’s baritone voice will tear your heart apart and put it back together again, and  long times fans will be pleased.

This is a good album, not their best, but proves the band’s longevity with hopefully more to come from them in the future. This is your typical neon-bright indie record on the outside, with lots of dark layers underneath.


Frank Fairfield – Out on the Open West album review

I have an iTunes playlist titled “Cognitive Dissonance”, and it is filled with all kind of earthy folk music that could very well be the soundtrack to any American vagabond’s life. Musicians like Owen Pallett and Fleet Foxes, who see the world as it is, pick at percussion instruments with the feelings of old mountain men from the 1900’s – and find their way into the laps of audiences all around the globe.

Add a young west coast street musician named Frank Fairfield with his old-fashioned GQ looks,  a reedy voice and clawhammer banjo skills into the neo-folk music category – to put out exactly what good folk music does. He just performed in the wee Doune The Rabbit Hole Festival in the UK this past weekend, and can make just about anyone smile.

There’s not much to explain about Fairfield’s second album “Out on the Open West”  other than how real and jaw dropping of a sound it is – it features several guests and he wrote most of the tunes himself. Each song captures the sound and feelings of a nostalgic inspiration – old tunes that Fairfield grew up with and loves. Raw talent and foot-stomping delight. But That’s Alright croons a sweetness and a sadness, Out on the Open West shows off various instrumental talents, and Texas Farewell couldn’t be a grander goodbye to the south. Tom Marion and Willie Watson are excellent accompaniments with strings in full force.

This album is another excellent achievement for Fairfield, a necessary listen for fans of folk music. This could very well fit the soundtrack to anyone’s life out on the open road, or going from one transition to another. Frank is born out of time and his voice is amazing – don’t miss him perform if he ever stops in your area.

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Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math album review

Manchester Orchestra releases their best, “Simple Math”

A childhood friend of mine introduced Atlanta-based indie rock band Manchester Orchestra to me way back when I was listening to bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Pavement and into all kinds of sad rock music.  Their latest release Simple Math is a concept album, a coming of age tale questioning life – focusing on sex, marriage, love, and religion. It expresses the band’s maturity and fits the indie-rock genre perfectly as they move towards a more mainstream feel that hopefully will give them the recognition that they deserve.

Vocalist and lyricist Andy Hull stimulates our thoughts, provoking emotions – and finally, here is something that is synth-free!

Each track is raw to the bone and heavily arranged with guitars, drums and strings. The rock n’ roll attitude is still there, just now a lot more visceral. Each song is filled with personal notes using play on words, the songwriting wonderfully crafted. The opening track “Deer” is a soothing number listeners will fall in love with, like a touching open letter:  I sit home and drink alone/And hope that bottle speaks /Like you, like us, like me. The second track “Mighty” will shake live audiences with it’s loud beats and epic lines, It’s not like I was lost for a purpose/I lost purpose and purposefully froze. In contrast to being mighty is the feeling of being isolated and exhausted – something we hear on another standout track, “Pensacola”. After being frustrated with being on the road for so long, “Yeah, we’re tired, so lets just get drunk and try to forget all the good stuff we’re missing back home” – not something many artists are so honest about. “Virgin” has an incredibly haunting children’s choir sound and the final confession “Leaky Brakes” takes us on an exploration of something almost broken. It is the perfect ending to an album that is utterly beautiful.

Overall this album has great potential to be considered a “classic”, as Manchester Orchestra know how to develop their own sound, layer by layer, while paying tributes to great artists. Tracks are unique and possess different meanings from the next. Listen to it over and over again and you will see that Hull has created something special, honest and so painfully relatable. This is the Born This Way album for alternative music listeners.  For all the people going through a Quarter Life Crisis, this one’s for you.


Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts album review

Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore releases “Demolished Thoughts”

52 year old Thurston Moore, former frontman of Sonic Youth and a driving force  behind alternative rock music throughout the 80s and 90s – has released his 4th solo album, Demolished Thoughts. With Beck as the producer on Moore’s first ever acoustic rock album, nothing less than extraordinary should be expected, proving to fans that artists who make lots of noise and freakouts can be sensitive chamber folk as well.

Beck’s mellow tone and incredible mixing skills are absolutely essential on this album. (Beck fans will instantly recognize elements from his 2002 release Sea Change). The 9 tracks on Demolished Thoughts are heavily laced with gorgeous strings (violin, bass, and harp – alongside Moore’s guitar and vocals), paying the most attention to the instrumentals over lyrics. Songwriting is not a strength and neither is the energy level really – its a relaxing album filled with themes on relationships and remorse.

“Benediction” and” Circulation”  are standout tracks, where Moore’s guitar rips into a perfectly orchestrated lullaby. After listening to the entire album, you feel as though you’d just heard one giant ever changing track. What lacks in riot makes up for in enlightenment. Its a refreshingly mature sound, and listening to “Space” send listeners on a little hippie-trippy journey.

Overall this is a fantastic and relaxing summer listen with many hidden depths to be explored.

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Man Man – Life Fantastic album review

Thank you Mike Mogis. The extraordinary indie producer of Bright Eyes has drenched every track of Philadelphia native Man Man’s 4th album, Life Fantastic with chaos and beauty. The product is an album that when played start to finish, sounds like a rock opera tragedy. Lead singer Honus Honus accompanied by Pow Pow, Chang Wang, Turkey Moth, and Jefferson deliver the raucous instruments and rock energy heard before, but this album will be their most twisted to date, in a morbidly good way.

“Knuckle Down” kicks off the album in familiar head-bobbing territory with loud grunts and howls and the dark tone sets in with lyrics like, “Our panic will burst like birds full of aspirin”. “Piranhas Club” is an upbeat surfer’s tune, very fun and full of goofy humour (“teaaar his limbs off!”), but nothing insane just yet. What follows is the energy blast Man Man has given their fans in the past, just with more depressing lyrics. “Dark Arts” is an emotional blast about coping with depression. Honus sounds like  Kurt Cobain in “Steak Knives” under slow guitar picking and echo-y sound. “Haute Tropique” is a cannibal’s waltz, with Man Man’s instruments in full swing (xylophone, noise makers, horns, clavinet, sax to name a few) and is my favourite track on the album. There are tons of background vocals and great lines (“We were born who we were meant to be”).  “Spooky Jookie” is perhaps the most frightening, in reference to a life slipping away to drugs (“She broke her teeth on an unsheathed piece of hard-tasting candy”).

The 40-second sound bit “Eel Bros” is a transitional element to the end that could suit the video game Super Mario Bros. The last 3 tracks summarize and represent our most vulnerable states of being. Honus rips our guts out in “Bangkok Necktie” and “Life Fantastic” has a huge guitar solo and an earthshaking climax. After the crash, “Oh! La Brea”, wraps up our tragedy beautifully, shifting away from the chaos. Beautiful strings play over lyrics on human suffering, and you can hear the human psyche scream “TAR PITS!” throughout the song as an analogy.

Honus proves himself to be one of rock’s best lyricists, but dig too deep in the album or compare too strongly with their past work, and you might be disappointed. This is a very mature Man Man. Fun, catchy, phantasmagorical work that lets its fans explore only as much as they want to.

The album is scheduled for release on May 10th.


Thao & Mirah – Thao & Mirah album review

America’s lovely Thao and Mirah: Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn and Thao Nyugen, both solo artists for a long time, met and decided to go on tour together last year. The outcome for two very distinct abilities as singer/songwriters is unpredictably black or white: either they’ll clash or not. And fortunately, Thao and Mirah have brought us something unexpected and refreshing on the indie-folk front. I remember watching a contemporary piece on “So You Think You Can Dance” several seasons ago, and fell in love with a song called “The Garden” by Mirah. Organic and soft, with high falsettos and an incredible vocal range, Mirah has released 5 earthy albums in the last decade. Thao on the other hand, is the wild one – high energy rocking on her acoustic guitar on stage when she performs with The Get Down Stay Down. A bit rough around the edges, Thao balances Mirah on their self-titled album.  

This is a very creative album, lots of influence from their co producer from The Tune Yards who have lo-fi experimental sounds. The opening track Eleven is very audience involving in a typical underground stage setting, there’s clapping, crowd movement– and under synth and drumsticks, Thao and Mirah can be heard singing their separate lines (styles immediately comparable) and then coming together in a very layered harmony.  Folks is a track that breathes country-waltz, and there are tracks in which one singer clearly leads the other. Mirah’s range takes over in Spaced Out Orbit with her melancholy tone, and in Little Cup behind background beatbox acapella, whereas Thao’s raw playing, singing and writing comes out with husky lines like “Put your hands down your pants”, in Teeth, and Squareneck with her rusty guitar slides. How Dare You is a track where the two artists play back and forth.
Hallelujah is a huge collaborative accomplishment – my favourite track on the album. The last time I heard “Hallelujah” sung so beautifully was Rufus Wainwright’s piece. Reverant vocals, wine glasses and shakers add to gorgeous lyrics, like a prayer to a higher power from hard working souls.

If there’s anything to critisize its sometimes the R&B vibe you get that doesn’t go well with the overall album, but I guess thats the point – this is a different kind of indie-folk album. Don’t expect an album like brother-sister duo Angus and Julia Stone where we have consistency and similarities throughout. This is a serious accomplishment for these ladies, inconsistencies on the album add to the overall diversity and I can’t wait to hear more from them.


Timber Timbre – Creep On Creepin On album review

Timbre “Creep On Creepin’ On” with new LP

Thirsty? Zombies, vampires and spirits come gather – it’s nightfall and we’ve got a job for you…

After Canadian Timber Timbre’s Taylor Kirk, Mika Posen, and Simon Trottier received high praise for their self-titled album (including “best album of the year” and a nomination for the 2009 Canadian Polaris Music Prize), fans have been anticipating for two years what the blues-folk trio would come up with next. Creep On Creepin’ On is now available on Arts & Crafts Records, to deliver yet another dose of surrealism for their audience.

What could be considered Canada’s best kept secret of 2011, it’s almost impossible to compare Timber Timbre to other projects. There’s a striking comparison one can make though, from Kirk’s soft tenor vocals to those of Matt Berninger from The National – deep, lonesome, and hauntingly beautiful. The hollowness takes listeners on a spiritual journey with 10 dark, swoon-worthy tracks.

The opener “Bad Ritual” evokes that “6th sense” feeling that something is lurking nearby with a steady kick drum and piano plunk which raises the hair on our arms. We hold our breaths in suspense. Don’t be fooled by the romantic intro of harmonic strings in “Obelisk”; these instrumentals are indeed about to get blood thirsty. A Hitchcock high-pitched tone erupts with a unique layering of violins, twangy guitar, sharp plunks and screeches – it’s unpleasant and some may want to run for cover, crying, “I buried my head in? my hands, I buried my heart there in the sand,” which Kirk croons in the track “Creep on Creepin’ On.” Someone needs to get these boys some vitamin D pills, by the end of this album we’ll all be thirsting for sunshine.

At this point in the album Timber Timbre takes us into their heart: it takes us to the very geographical essence of their folk project over the years. The landscape is hot, rugged and isolated – and we have cabin fever. These artists put a lot of love into their music, and “Lonesome Hunter,” “Black Water” and “Swamp Magic” romanticize with nature. (Slow dancing with an alligator in the dark, anyone? Just me?) “Woman” has parallels to David Lynch’s 1977 surrealist film Eraserhead, and “Do I Have Power” is a jazzy upbeat Halloween number, with guest saxophone and instrumental mimics of creature howls in the night.

I’m not saying I ever want to get murdered in the woods, but if I did I’d want Timber Timbre to definitely be there. This is a solid album that deserves a good listen this year.

Metronomy’s English Riviera: A Definitive Progress for Indiepop

Picture yourself taking a cheap weekend vacation down to golden beaches and beautiful women, somewhat cutting edge and imagined before. While crushing on dance beats and synthesizers, you bump into English indiepop quartet Metronomy, who have released their 3rd and most mature album to date; English Riviera.  Joseph Mount is the frontman on the band’s project, a serenade to the coastal towns in which the group hails from. Evolving from quirky beats and instruments from their past albums, Metronomy has mellowed out to a more important focus now: songwriting.

The opening intro of seagulls and waves lapping at the shore sets the summer tone and leads us expecting something beautiful. The tone carries right into the first recorded track “We Broke Free”, and we are strapped in for the groovy ride through town. Don’t expect too much, but not too littler either – there are some nice loops and lots of guitar crescendos behind Joe’s mournful words of a lost love – but have faith, because next is the laid-back number “Everything Goes my Way” where this love is found (‘I’m in love again’) and balanced by soothing female vocals to rock you to sleep in a hammock. “The Look” wakes you up with 1980s keyboard riffs and catchy mid-tempo lyrics, “She Wants” is an interesting number for the insomniacs – as Joe sings about someone sleeping through a thrilling mix of synth and bass lines.  At this point the atmosphere begins to change, sort of as a beautiful argument in “Trouble” , and the lush serenade gets muddy focusing more on instrumentals and less on songwriting. “The Bay” is a hit track which could push the band towards mainstream, reminding listeners where they are; we’re not in  London, Paris,  Berlin,  Hong Kong, or Tokyo – no, we’re still happily dancing in the middle of English Riviera.

The last two tracks aren’t overly dramatic, and very jazz-electro  instrumental. There’s no big finale, just a natural fade away – like ice cubes melting in your spiked lemonade. This wraps up the summer trip we took as we head back home – sound filling the car stereos so we can reflect on the good times we had.

This isn’t a standing ovation, but definetely a huge accomplishment for Metronomy, moving in with their growth at a perfect time, when influential group LCD Soundsystem just moved out.  English Rivieria is sexy, groovy, and 100% crush worthy.