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.

Up and Coming Music – Some New Artists to Check Out

Brick + Mortar – This small town New Jersey band has a large, aggressive sound. Their newest release, which came out on July 30th, is titled Bangs and features hard hitting and very modern sounding rock songs, each with catchy and unique vocals to boot. The sound effects set them apart while strong songwriting throughout the album make them a band to watch out for. Choice tracks are “Bangs” and “Heatstroke.” The album is available on Spotify and for sale on Bandcamp.

Lorde – Sixteen year old artist from New Zealand, Lorde, brings us a fresh alternative sound. She soars on her lead track “Royals,” which is complete with layered harmonies and lyrics about a counter culture to themes materialim in relevant pop music such as gold teeth, diamonds and Cristal champagne. The beats are minimalist in nature but with high quality production the end result sounds huge. Lorde, known to friends and family as Ella Yelich-O’Connor, is still finishing high school and reportedly works on her music during winter and summer breaks.

Polymath – Instrumental art rock at its finest, the humble band from Brighton England is comprised of three talented musicians, led by Tim Walters, who are not afraid to push the envelope in order to create futuristic sounds, tempo changes and intricate musical pieces.  Best place to check them out in on their soundcloud page where there are two teasers: Tetragon and Vertex. The band is hard at work, recording new material in the studio, and will be supporting Bosnian Rainbows on their UK leg of the tour. Thier new single Vertex is available for free download here.

Bosnian Rainbows – This band from El Paso Texas was formed by Omar Rodriguez, formerly the leader of Mars Volta. He gathered his former Mars Volta drummer Deantoni Parks, and collaborators Terri Gender Bender, of the Bucherettes and Nicci Kasper to create their individual new sound. Art rock and experimentation meet straight forward songwriting with tempo changes and various moments of outlandishness. Highlights include album opener “Eli,” and singles “Turtle Neck,” “Morning Sickness” and “Torn Maps.”

The Lumineers at Edgefest 2013

Have you ever been to an outdoor festival that should have been rained out? Have you ever stood in a field with thousands of other sopping wet party-goers waiting for the last band of the day, thinking to yourself, ‘I’ve got this far. I can make it another hour’?
Last night Edgefest was nearly obliterated by the rain. Rivers of rain and cried tears pooled in the park’s crevices, wet teenagers who couldn’t feel anything anymore anyway huddled under tarp that they ripped down from the fencing, and I actually picked up empty garbage bags from the ground and wrapped them around my shoulders to try to shield myself from the monsoon. Covered in a massive sheet of plastic, I crouched down and tried not to think about how cold and tired I was, how much I was looking forward to a warm bath and as many fuzzy layers as I could get my hands on. Water came off of me in streams. It got to the point where I was weighing how much The Lumineers actually meant to me – what I was willing to put myself through in order to hear them live…

When the filler music died down, and the crowd began to rush the stage, I stood and wandered closer; shaking the plastic wrap and feeling the falling water soak my feet. Pink flood lights beamed out over us, illuminating the rain in the darkened sky. The band picked up their instruments and as soon as the first few notes were strummed I knew what they playing; CCR’s ‘Have You Ever Seen the Rain.’ I closed my eyes and let the music wash over me. At no other time in my life has that song meant so much. Isn’t that the exact reason why we chase live music? To feel that perfect moment of calm amidst the chaos? To feel like the universe has purpose? How else could such a moment be designed?

Never in my life have I experienced such a concert moment; a song so perfectly chosen, one so soothing and so nostalgic, one that delivered such a sense of interconnectedness with not only the band, but the sky, and the day, and every decision that led up to the first words being sung. The Lumineers played that song for us, as a thank you for weathering the storm, and I looked onto them with new appreciation. Not only are they musicians with some great songs, they are a band who understands the magic of music.

CocoRosie – Tales of a GrassWidow album review

Different. Is the word you are looking for. This kind of music, slightly reminiscent of certain Animal Collective phases and earlier Grizzly Bear, (although CocoRosie seems to be more grounded in consistent beats) asks that you participate in the act of sitting down and listening to music. There are lots of interesting subtleties that the common listener probably won’t be willing to digest. 

It is definitely something you have to go out of your way and give a chance, but they won’t disappoint you. The sisters choose interesting arrangements. They manage to make beat-boxing, wind-chimes, melodica and basic piano chords grooveable. It doesn’t even matter that one of them sounds like an infant. “After the Afterlife” is a truly amazing piece of art. And it is almost because of their dedication to “their thing they do” that I am surprised by the level of commercial success they have achieved. I admire these girls for sticking to whatever this little niche is and really going for it. 

One subtlety I really appreciate is that in Tales of a GrassWidow, it is clear the group consciously chose to use different types of recording equipment for artistic purpose. After the Afterlife uses a more lo-fi vocal recording process which creates a much more appropriate texture. It is this choice to say, “hey, I know this is probably going to be more difficult to do perfectly, and I know we could just go into a studio and play with certain filters, but it would only be 98% the same and I really want that last 2%.” That choice is what makes CocoRosie great in my mind. 

Duncan Lyall – Infinite Reflections

Duncan Lyall really shows his strength as a composer in his new album titled Infinite Reflections. Lyall is best known as a founder member of the Treacherous Orchestra and for his work with Kate Rusby and John Goldie.

Infinite Reflections has an old timey feel interpreted into an instrumental folk sound. This album sounds like it could be the soundtrack for the movie August Rush or Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s also very reminiscent of the scene in Titanic when Rose and Jack go out dancing. Very upbeat, yet peaceful to listen to. “Cold Light” is a great example, but the soothing sounds of this song make it very easy on the ears. The song is a mix of the viola, guitar, piano and a few other instruments. Although each instrument has a very different sound, Lyall did a great job of producing this song to make them all blend together beautifully.

Producing an instrumental album can be difficult when it comes to naming each song. I believe Lyall did a great job overall. Each song title gives you a feel for what you can expect from that song. However, I do not agree with the song title “Lucid Dream.” I feel that it is too upbeat to interpret a lucid dream. That may not be what story he was trying to tell, but with a song title like lucid dream, the instrumentals should reflect the title of the song. If I were to produce a lucid dream through instrumentals, it would be more along the lines of trippy alternative such as Pink Floyd.

The song “Beast” really captures the sound you can expect. It is one of my favorites off of the album. It has a fierce tone, but Duncan never ceases to keep that peaceful tone in there.

I think that’s what gives Duncan his talent. He can produce a variety of sounds, but always have that relaxation aspect of each individual song.

Infinite Reflections is an album with a wide variety of sounds and instruments. It is very energetic but peaceful. Not one single track is overdone. The sounds range from tranquility to energetic story telling. And that’s exactly what Lyall was trying to do, be a story teller.

Poor Young Things – The Heart. The Head. The End. album review

Something tells me Poor Young Things are meant to be seen live. As far as instrumentation goes, the five piece band sticks very closely to the rock and roll format that has done so well for the past fifty years. It is because their act is so bog standard, that it surprises me, and almost arises suspicion that Poor Young Things is being considered as one of those indie bands on the rise.

They do have knack for putting together catchy riffs, but while everything is done very solidly, there is a noticeable lack of risk and imagination. The songs will end up sounding the same if you aren’t paying close attention and if you pay too much attention. So what is the happy middle ground? I’m thinking the primary fan base is a second year college student with two PBR’s in their belly and a distracting sexual interest nearby. You know how you’re so receptive to all kinds of new things when there’s the slightest chance you might get lucky? Bands like these thrive on that. 

They do not strive for a musical masterpiece. They are not breaking any new ground. They are here to do their thing, while you go ahead and do your thing. The problem Poor Young Things will face in their future is attracting an audience that doesn’t drunkenly stumble into their show. The constant touring might work for a few years, but eventually they will have to remove the alcohol crutch and stand on their own musical legs. I have absolute faith that they an achieve this, they work together very well, but right now their focus seems to be getting their name out there, not necessarily putting together the next Dark Side of the Moon. 

In their own words:

“Oh man, we are so lucky,” confirms singer/guitarist Matt Fratpietro on behalf of his cohorts. “Touring across Canada is so hard. And there are lots of bands that do that for years and years and don’t get the breaks we’ve had.

“We came here and were signed within a year to a small, very supportive label, Bumstead Productions. I mean, obviously we sold our souls to the devil,” Fratpietro howls. “But still. What a deal we got!”

Ah yes.

Lucky.

Sold their souls to the devil. 

It’s all starting to make sense. 

I like jokes. And to write good jokes you have to use a kernel of truth. Those boys may be laughing about it now, but something tells me that there is a good amount of truth to the absurd amount of luck that must have come their way.

Her Parents – Happy Birthday album review

Over the years, I have tried to dip into different genres of music that would stimulate different forms of thought in terms of energy and lyrics. From time to time, I would come across some music that I completely could not understand. I would have to confess that Her Parents newest album Happy Birthday was an absolute swing and miss. The rebel music that began to mix with punk rock early in the 90’s has evolved since that time, and screamo has came through those cracks. It’s not that I don’t see where Her Parents are coming from as musicians. I just can’t get caught up in a song and feel the energy of what is being put out.

The song progressions are one positive for the album. A couple of the songs have decent riffs to them when they aren’t matched up with with screaming lyrics. Lithuanian Mercedes is a song that sheds light on the project. Other than the one song on the album that I could put up with, it was pulling teeth for me to play it as background music. The song titles give the style of the music away. “Why Don’t You Go Fuck Yourself” and “Cunt Dinosaur” push the rebel style. I don’t mean to knock the screamo style and any expression of music but this piece is meant for a specific group. It’s unconventional to say the least. If you liked the Tony Hawk Pro Skater sound track, I would give this one a listen. If you would like to hear the lyrics of what you are listening to, keep moving onto other musical ventures.

Young Wonder – Show Your Teeth review

The talented electro-pop duo, Young Wonder (Rachel Koeman and Ian Ring) from Ireland have music lovers literally showing their teeth, grinning, after listening to their new EP, “Show Your Teeth”. Listeners are delightfully blessed with ultra unique tracks that come nothing short of producing sound wave influenced endorphins. With similar sounds to Bjork, a refined mix of heavy bass and unforgettable vocals, “Show Your Teeth”, is an Ep that one won’t regret taking the time to soak in.

The EP opens with a dreamy intro that sets the tone of the entire six track album. Echoing vocals, warm textures and deep percussions simply create a spiritual connection between universe and music. The song leaves one completely curious of what is to come. After some necessary satisfaction to one’s inner music loving child, the well produced and impactful EP closes with the very upbeat song, “Bullet”. The exotic rhythmic track, plus the distinct downbeats guides one soul to do nothing but dance.

A mere preview of what Young Wonder has to offer. “Show Your Teeth”, leaves listeners in anticipation of what is to come next from this hit making duple. Do yourself a favor and purchase this work of art ASAP. Happy Listening, Music Enthusiasts!

The Abramson Singers – Late Riser

Damn it Canada. You’ve done it again. All the dorky American boys who made up girlfriends in Canada probably had someone like Leah Abramson in mind. If her musical color is any indicator of her personality, she would probably be described as “delightful.” Your overbearing, self-esteem smashing parents would have approved.

I’ll bet she’s the kind of person who got along with the french horn section in her youth. She must have, because parts of her music have a horn section. The music is framed in simple arrangements adorned with soothing textures that act as a platform for displaying Abramson’s vocal work. She has great control, range and sings with great economy. The efficiency of breath makes for a relaxing soprano that isn’t overbearingly eager to get to the highest note they possible can. At certain points in a song, she will just ever so briefly jump up an octave, presumably just to show the listener that she can, but she’s not gonna throw it out there like Aretha Franklin.

Abramson sounds comfortable and puts you at ease, like you’re in a Prius doing twenty-miles an hour in the suburban springtime whereas Katy Perry makes you feel like you’re the driver in a Prom limo and you’ve had a large Mountain Dew, and Taylor Swift makes you feel like you’re in a very used car.

If that simile doesn’t perfectly describe music for the rest of my life, I will drive Taylor Swift to the Mission and smoke crack out of her tailpipe. I will upgrade to metaphor. 

She has a Korean press manager. They do good work. 

Her website is nice.

The one thing that I would caution Canadians considering capturing a concert by The Abramson Singers is that the intricacy of the harmonies would be incredibly difficult (and expensive) to reproduce. You have to have a crew, or hire singers. They have like 800 followers on Facebook, and a single YouTube clip with 1300 views. I doubt they have the capital to maintain a small choir.

She isn’t coming to America for the foreseeable future, which is a bummer. Although my boss is from Canada, so this is probably more relevant for his main readership.

Hey Canada. 

Looking at The Abramson Singer’s tour schedule, 
I have deduced that I am not good at geography. 

But do yourself a favor Canada.

Check out The Abramson Singers. 

Give them some of that money you saved with your fancy healthcare

Buy the CD, see them live

So that we can have them in America

and ruin them with auto-tuned power jams.

For the record: I’m still going to say I have a Canadian girlfriend, but now I can make the excuse, “Oh well her band isn’t touring in America this summer, so I’m gonna go to Call of Duty Camp again.”

So if you’re a Canadian girl, and you’re tired of being made out to be incredibly flighty, teases by the American nerd and closeted community… Listen to the Abramson Singers… 

In all honesty though, I do genuinely enjoy this kind of indie gem, but tracking their progressing into the music industry can be frightening. There are so many ways you can make an Amanda Bynes. 

It’s like progressing through a video game. Call of Duty for example. There are the traps you have to sneak around, like selling out to commercials too liberally, the general pool of sociopathology that is Southern California, the over-touring sicknesses and the endless number of cyber-idiots with a blog who think they know how to review and evaluate music. 

Some of the brutalities that await are so unnerving that it causes one to pause when they encounter something like The Abramson Singers. I imagine it is quite like a miniature version of what a parent feels dropping their eldest child off at the first day of kindergarten. You want them to succeed and fly, but there is that lurking voice in the back of your head that knows there are a flock of boys out there who are going to throw sticks at your child, give them wedgies, pull their hair and harangue them for having fake Canadian girlfriends. 

LIGHTNING ROUND! 

Listening to Queen is like racing your friends on side-roads in your mothers’ cars.
Listening to Sinatra is like being chauffeured around in an old Buick. 
Listening to Pitbull is like being roofied in an Audi your date borrowed from his roommate.

Korean pop stars are like Korean cars. They all look the same.
They’re cheap to buy and run.
They depreciate immensely after the first year.
And given their resources, they do very good work. 

Listening to Maroon Five is like getting the deluxe version of the cheapest model or the cheapest version of the deluxe model. You are simultaneously (over and under)-estimating their real value, and are probably making an uninformed decision. 

Dr. Dog is like a small pick-up truck. They aren’t the fastest, they have no luxeries, gadgets or computer monitored breaking, they aren’t much to look at (I’m kidding, Toby and Scott, you’re adorable. Frank you look so nice unshaven.) but they’re reliable, they work hard, they get a job done and like most four-cylinder Japanese pick-ups, normal people don’t do sex stuff while listening to Dr. Dog. Unless of course, in Canada, the hot thing to do when you’re fourteen is lose your virginity in some guy’s 1979 Isuzu. 

Half of this isn’t even about the artist. 

Well, that’s been the Well-Spoken Uninformed Music Blog.

NXNE Day 3: The National, Yonge Street and Dundas Square – Toronto

No Toronto festival is complete without an appearance at Yonge and Dundas Square. NXNE is one of the few festivals who makes good use of the square, scheduling a number of performances each day. The square has water fountains whose pools exist under the square, fountains that burst water into the air at intervals, and usually a grouping of tables and chairs. Most of time, when bands play here people gather and are able to spread out, maybe even sit down. However, when bands like The National play the entire city shows up, including everyone who has never even heard the music; it becomes spectacle, and everyone there becomes a willing participant.

“It’s so nice to perform in an intimate space without distractions,” says Berninger. “How are you Toronto?!” Then follows the whooping of umpteen million people. The homeless guy standing beside me smiles wide, a three year old girl on her father’s shoulders fist pumps, and seven miniature dogs of various varieties yip from their owners’ elbows. Like I said, the entire city is there.

The problem with Yonge and Dundas Square, in my opinion, is that it’s a terrible place to see music. You don’t really see anything unless you show up seven hours early or have binoculars. You stand in a sea of heads and look up to nothing except the billboards, all of that aggressive advertising breathing in your face. And because there’s so much concrete and human, the acoustics sound like muddled echoes. For a band like The National, this venue destroys their sound. All of tricky changes, all the musical genius that makes them so incredibly unique is lost and all we’re left with is a lot of bass and a lot of moaning. But that’s really not the point. Music at YDS is about the venue. The bands strive to headline just for the sheer size of it and people congregate there because that’s what you do as a citizen with an hour to spare.

Put simply, YDS is an amazing place to see people, not music. Being there means more than just being able to soak in the chords and the lyrics, it means participating in a musical journey with a horde of strangers. Free concerts in the middle of any city are so much more than the fans it attracts. It is a musical gift to the city that is offered to everyone, and everyone should take advantage of such a thing.