Prince Innocence – Lapse EP review

Good things come in small packages and the band Prince Innocence makes this quote legitimately true. The Toronto bred duo, Josh McIntyre and Talvi Faustmann, blessed the music world with the release of their EP Lapse in late April. The electronic based sounds accomplishes taking listeners to another realm. Lapse is getting lost in feel good, choppy, drum heavy, psychedelic visions. The summer/spring friendly, six song EP is a simple but brilliant release that deserves to be heard by anyone that holds the title of a “Music Lover”.

Both singles featured on the EP, “To My Right” and “Golden Hour” open up with dreamy instrumentals that simply captivate ones ears. The alluring music is only then complimented by the accompanied bright and beautiful vocals. Though ironically somber tones are included in the listens, Lapse still aids in giving those euphoric feelings one cannot simply explain. Well produced and completely intriguing, Lapse makes a name for itself by appearing on hit shows like MTV’s, AWKWARD and flooding the indie scene in multiple venues overseas. Move over because Prince Innocence is here and Lapse shows that they are solely here to stay.

NXNE Day 3: Bear Mountain at Toronto’s Wrongbar

What if I told you that I met Ian Bevis about three years ago at charity fundraiser that he and his friends were hosting as part of a cross-Canada-tandem-bike-adventure that can only really be appreciated once you picture a man of his height on a tandem bike? At the time I wasn’t writing about music, and Bear Mountain had not been fully realized yet. Fast forward to Wrongbar, night three of NXNE and I’m watching him front a band that has literally blown up in the last eight months.

Admittedly, I was in that bar because I was curious about the live performance. Who doesn’t want to see the band whose buzz grew exponentially after playing Sasquatch? I stayed for their set, which didn’t start until 1am, because I wanted to ‘bear’ witness in order fill out the article that I’m writing about them. I expected to feel the swell, feel my chest rise up and my heartbeat quicken. I expected the crowd to know who they were because of their immense internet following, and I expected the industry to be present as they were on a short list of bands to watch on that day’s press release. What I did NOT expect to see was a crowd a thousand people deep jump in unison for forty minutes straight screaming all their lyrics. I did not expect to be able to tell Greg after the set that that was the most energy I had seen drawn out of a crowd all week, especially after seeing Dan Deacon the night before.

Their stage set-up is simple, Ian and Kyle out front; their movements the proverbial butterfly wings that create hurricanes in the audience. Greg tucked away to the side, as easily as you can tuck a seven foot tall man and a drum kit. Finally, Kenji in back mixing the potent beats; creating; projecting; a sorcerer on the computer. Triangles of light and image are propped up behind them like windows into the technicolour dreamscape from which their sound was born.

Bear Mountain is one of those bands that you can close your eyes to and truly feel the waves of sound flow over you; one of those bands you go to see with your friends, and somewhere in the middle of the set you look over and see them and everyone around you jumping in slow motion. The bar blacked out; all you can see is the silhouettes of the boys on stage, green light and blinking triangles; all you can hear is your summer anthems, and all you feel is the dreams you have of chasing live music coming true.
Look out for MVRemix’s upcoming full length article on Bear Mountain.

NXNE Day 3: St. Lucia at Toronto’s Wrongbar

White jacket with the sleeves rolled up, Don Johnson, the islands in a powder green Cadillac, heavy metal concert tee on the bartender, Caribbean drum beat, neon wayfarers, red lipstick on the harlots, let the good times roll, little drink umbrellas, huge sound, massive dance party; never has the saxophone sounded so good.

After the third song, Jean-Philip Grobler, AKA St. Lucia yells, “You’re f*cking amazing Toronto! Seriously! I’m having such a good time!” Thank goodness he is, because he and the four others backing him up, have successfully worked the crowd into a massive frenzy, and it would be a shame if the love and energy was one sided.

It wasn’t until the forth track that the mystery guest finally made his way to the stage; the anticipation of which was making the crowd go crazy; we had all watched as he did the sound check. The saxophone, usually reserved for your creepy neighbour’s night moves, blasted over the crowd. Mike Ruby, Toronto based sax player, has been outsourced to add some class to a few of the tracks and in my humble opinion, he makes the set. I looked over to a friend, “Saxophone?” My friend can only fist pump. Never has Kenny G looked like such a trailblazer.

At midnight after a long day of chasing bands, I struggle with being able to discern the distinct elements that make this band special over all other bands, but for a moment I relax into the melodies and look over to my friends who are all dancing with their hands in the air and I feel like I’m actually in St. Lucia; out on an open patio surrounded by a low white washed stone wall, salty air and the black expanse of ocean stretching out into the distance. Then I snap to and realize that I’m standing in Wrongbar, in Parkdale, Toronto, screaming alongside my comrades, peeling our feet off the floor, and I realize that that’s pretty f*cking cool too.

The magic of St. Lucia is his ability to transport you to sunny places where you can connect to the reckless abandon with which you usually approach your vacations, and furthermore being able to make wherever you actually are at the time more interesting because of his music. It’s like being in two places at once, a double exposure image; each layer making the other even better. Parkdale with a boat drink/ St.Lucia in gritty bar. St. Lucia is an amazing soundtrack no matter where you are.

NXNE Day 4: Wintersleep at The Danforth Music Hall, Toronto

Notice to all music chasers in Toronto and/or bands who will be playing here one day: The Danforth Music Hall is the best venue in the city. With its wide floor sloping towards a seemingly hard carved stage; its red velvet balcony looking out onto the crowd and the massive pre-war chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The room is stadium huge, and the acoustics are unparalleled. Only a venue such as this could do Wintersleep justice.

This was the last show of the festival for me, and the first show that I decided I wanted to see when I saw the lineup. ‘Weighty Ghost’ was a part of me for years, a song that I was dependent on for mood elevation on bad days, a song that I feel connected me to the Canadian music scene, a song that I had been waiting to hear live for so long. Paul Murphy keeps a bevy of tuned guitars at the front of the stage to choose from and when he picked up the acoustic, I knew my fantasy was about to turn into a reality.

Wintersleep is a band that deserves to be known for more than one song. Their catalogue is chalk full of music that fills the body with chords made of colour and impulse, of music that invokes in us the jingle-jangle of excitement. But none of the other songs were as important to me as hearing the drum kit wind up, as important as hearing Murphy ask if I’ve seen his ghost.

Seeing as how this was a post of a personal nature anyhow, I am willing to admit the following: I have never covered an entire festival before. I saw countless bands, talked to countless people, musicians and industry included. I rode the TTC to so many different bars in so many different neighbours in Toronto that I actually told somebody I felt like I was travelling foreign lands even though I live here. By the fourth night I was beginning to feel separated from the music; I had seen so much that I began to feel untethered. It’s hard to see the forest for the trees when you’re inspecting each tree extremely close up. (Think about it.) What an incredible feeling to be standing on the floor at The Danforth Music Hall and hear Wintersleep play. For a moment, and if only for a moment, I felt like the person I was when I feel in love with music in the first place. I remembered cranking the volume when their music came on the radio and thinking to myself that one day I would be able to hear it live. Wintersleep brought that back to me. Listening to them, I wasn’t a music journalist; I was just a girl who wanted to see about a band. (Even if there was an expectation that I would write about it after….)

NXNE Day 3: July Talk at The Mod Club

Light floods out into the crowd in thick beams. I immediately notice the bed on stage. I had the pleasure of walking to the gig with a girl whose friend had set the stage up. She said to look out for it, that all the stage hands had been wondering what it was going to be used for….

The energy swells and the band makes their way into the flooding lights. This is my first time hearing July Talk, they are the only band that has been recommended to me more than twice; they have amazing word of mouth. The club is packed. In come the musicians. If you haven’t heard any of their music, now would be a good time to look some up. You will be as surprised as I was at the intensity of the male lead’s voice. Peter Dreimanis sounds like Tom Waits in a huge way. Then comes the trilling voice of Leah Fay who exudes the kitten ‘90’s punk lady that we all fell in love with while wearing flower dresses and Doc Martens. Juxtaposed to Dreimanis, the dynamic is intoxicating. She moves towards the bed…but doesn’t get on it yet…

Every member seems to have their own style of rocking out. The lead male moves like James Dean calmly impersonating Elvis, his knees gently sway. Leah lives to do backbends while holding onto the mix stand. She’s adorable. She has a joyous air about her; like a children’s TV show host. “Who feels like dancing?” She screams. When she finally makes her way to bed she lies languidly across and yells, “Let’s hear you SCREAM Toronto!!” The whole crowd goes nuts.

So, showmanship. Yes. The band has definitely figured the half-way theatrics that fill out what’s happening on stage. Besides our attention being drawn to the bed, and the metaphors that it incites, their sound is extremely well rounded. The electric elements are amazing, but the country infused anthems are the best in my opinion. It lets Peter’s Tom Waits voice shine and allows Leah’s to transform from 90’s punk to pigtailed dolly, and because of that her sinister cackle in the middle of the songs work so well.

As it all draws to a close, I am sad that it is over. July Talk exists in wonderful world where the darkness of thought and lyric exists on a stage where their female lead yells things like ‘Pillow fight!’ Their music is jaunty, electric, folky, dark, thoughtful, vintage, and brand spanking new at the same time. Picture a wooden house leaning into corn field, dark skies behind, in the brightly lit kitchen a blonde with a pixie cut jumps around on the black and white checkered tiles; four men sit on the porch with their instruments, singing against her and with her, making beautiful music that is only made truer by the landscape surrounding it. ‘Blow us kisses goodbye!” She screams, and after three massive canons on the balcony bomb the audience with feathers, it’s all over.

NXNE Day 2: Dan Deacon at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, June 13th

Layers and layers of sound. Never have you heard so much sound at the same time and wanted more.

Deacon’s show is extremely interactive, he plays from the floor, engaging the audience to hold props. Usually light reflecting gear of some sort. Is it a rubber chicken he’s fist pumping with? Who cares!? I’m drinking pint glasses of his Kool-Aid.

I chase music. I can boast more notches than on the average belt, but I have never seen a show like this. The closest I have ever come was the Flaming Lips finale. That’s what the Deacon show was; the most condensed tiny little Flaming Lips bubble with all the teletubbies and the glitter jammed into a 4×4 space with ten times as much sound and excitement.

It’s hard to figure what it is exactly what seven hundred of my new best friends and I are celebrating. It could be an explosion of nerdom that we find ourselves immersed in, each of us saluting each others’ freak flag, each of us feeling our dissipating ‘cool factor’, none of giving a sh*t cause Dan Deacon doesn’t care, so why should we? He ordered half of the room to dance like Game of Thrones didn’t suck this season, and even the industry representatives cloaked in suits in the back screamed their faces off. Who wants to be street cool when they could party with Dan Deacon and let it all hand out instead? (No one puts Dan Deacon in a corner.)

In fact, I can prove this. About midway through his set he orders ten people to make a tunnel with their hands. “This is going to be stressful and difficult but it will be so worth it. Chug your drinks, we’re taking this all the way outside!” (Small amounts of disbelief come from the audience like puffs of smoke that lasts only ten seconds.) Soon everyone is lining up to touch a stranger and get involved. I have not seen this much audience participation since Raffi came to my elementary school. “Just to reintegrate,” he says, “as soon as you come through the tunnel you become part of the tunnel!” The music swells and everyone just starts touching each other. “Don’t be a pervert.”

Zero to sixty does not do this group justice. When I walked into the bar the crowd was sedated; spent from the punk band that had played the slot before. Drawing energy is an art form in Deacons world, an art form that he is both master of, and I’m sure on some level unconscious. What you feel most when you watch him perform is the fluidity of his character, the reckless abandon with which he plays with music; and his giant beaming heart that makes you want to hug a perfect stranger and admit to them that you have Star Wars action figure collection and that the new Daft Punk changed your life.

Viva the strobe light. Viva Dungeons and Dragons. Viva all things music. Viva life.

And in the immortal words of Dan Deacon, “The tunnel must live on.”

He’s playing SECRET SHOW at the Drake Hotel June 14th, 11pm.

NXNE Day 1: The Damn Truth at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, June 13th

Up tempo, happy, raging, guttural, thick, moving, waves, thrash, guitar, who is that chick? Symbol, shudder, hum, Janis, symbol again, pause, bass, more bass, Black Sabbath, she sings, pen down, pay attention, drum kit, close your eyes, I’m freaking out (Ode to Jimi Hendrix.)

It was the simple repetitious base line that got to me first, reminiscent of the Technicolor age of folk; but that broke out into millennial guitar which said innovation, not revival…until the drums broke through the background and met the thunderous vocals at the front of the stage. Full. Mind. Explosion.

Never have I uttered the compliment “This chick sounds like Janis,” for two reasons. Firstly, I never wanted to liken anyone to Janis for fear of tainting the perfect image of her I have in my mind. Secondly, no one has ever deserved it. Lee-La, the singer, has earned such a credit. Her voice is unbelievable, and not just in its strength, but in that way she uses it to convey the meanings of the songs. Her melodies look structured on paper, I’m sure, but when she uses her voice she does so in a way that tells me she’s teaching, not just singing. I met with her the next day and saw in her eyes the appreciation of such a comment, but also the desire to be seen outside of who she reminds us of. She has earned this above all. Janis casts a long shadow, but The Damn Truth will cast their own, mark my words.

There is a connection to elemental nature of rock n roll when you watch them. You can see the importance of the instruments, the vocals, the love of music. I should be able to explain this better, it is my job after all, but there was just something beyond magical about the way the pieces came together; it was like walking through a building made of sound. I could see the beams, and floors, skylight; all the things that make a building stand except it wasn’t a building at all, it was music made of gold and I was just simply in it.

So…Rock revival coming out of Montreal? I would wager that this is going to be the next big wave in Canada’s musical tide pool. Do I want to call The Damn Truth a revival band? Yes and no. Yes, because I feel nostalgic when I listen to them and they have, truthfully, revived a part of me that believed that the golden age of rock was not behind us. But I won’t because they deserve better than that from me. I will say simply this: they breathed fresh life into me. They are the real f*cking deal; THAT’S The Damn Truth.

They’re playing The Sound of Music Festival in Burlington on June 15th. Go see them.

NXNE Day 1: This Hisses at Hard Luck Bar, June 12th

The Hard Luck Bar on Dundas St. W, Toronto is everything you would expect from a venue with a long history of disseminating punk and metal out into gentile streets of Toronto. Many a hard noted band has played here. Audiences have called out for the black musical vapor to pour onto them, contracted hepatitis and gotten pregnant here; this is the place to witness to magical underbelly of today’s burgeoning post-punk scene.

This Hisses is such a band. Though I’m sure they would prefer not to be labeled, as no band actually likes that; they are so called because of the incredibly hard notes that back up the languid and beautifully dark lyrical content of their catalogue. Patrick, their guitar maverick, is quite demure in real life, but as I knew from their album ‘Anhedonia,’ that I was going to witness massive shredding.

Julia doesn’t look like your typical disenfranchised punk singer. She is operatic, and dresses with an air of femme fatale. Red dress, smokey eyes, and a come-hither-so-I-can-scream-in-your-face expression; she is the epitome of vocal talent and stage persona.

It’s possible that JP is one of the most dynamic drummers I have ever seen. He creates a huge space as he uses his kit, standing sometimes for emphasis, moving all the way around the symbols so as to hit the skins like a Taiko drummer; all accented by his artisanal facial hair.

I am blown away by the assuredness they project while on stage. Their songs feel like small pockets of dispelled knowledge; truth that one needs to learn the hard way. I’m sitting with my back against the sound booth, my feet vibrate on the wooden bench when the bass hits. Everything in the bar that is nailed down oscillates. I am in a weird space where physically I feel massaged, and emotionally I feel messaged. For forty minutes they are the last band on earth, and we are the last listeners. Ahhh, punk.

Look out for MVRemix’s upcoming interview with This Hisses.

Summer Camp Music Festival 2013 Review

Every year upon leaving Summer Camp there is a strange sense of accomplishment for simply having survived the weekend at Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe, IL.  Last year it was a matter of avoiding dehydration and dust bowl conditions as temperatures neared triple digits.  This year the temperature swung 60 degrees downward, hitting 39 on Thursday night.  By the end of the weekend the chilly Thursday night was a distant memory, overshadowed by the heavy rain that fell Saturday followed by the near monsoon that caused cancellations Sunday night.

That sense of accomplishment is accompanied by an amazement about the amount of fun that can be had despite any downfalls throughout the holiday weekend.  The grounds went from a mud pit to barely manageable Saturday to Sunday, Trey Anastasio’s second set and moe.’s closing set, along with others, were cancelled Sunday night, and for the strangest twist Big Boi blew out his knee shortly into his time leaving the weekend devoid of its hip-hop highlight.  Even so, there is plenty to look back on fondly.  People came out of the gates hot and pre-partied hard on Thursday.  Future Rock and Quixotic welcomed the pre-partiers with incredible sets in the barn.  On Friday the Soulshine tent was home to yoga in the morning and to the Soul Rebels’ hip-hop set by night. Umphrey’s McGee’s Ryan Stasik hosted (and won) the most entertaining kickball game I have ever witnessed at sunrise on Saturday.  Groups started their days at campsites fighting hangovers and retelling the craziness of the night prior.   The campfire somehow never went out and featured a pretty good group jam on Radiohead’s “Creep” at one point. The forest trail was entertaining as always, complete with hooligans hopping on a “SCampoline”.  If I saw anyone without a smile on their face during The Avett Brothers on Sunday it was probably just because their face was covered in mud.  You can’t control the weather, but the attendees of Summer Camp certainly did not let Mother Nature win.

Five of the weekend’s best sets:

Spirit Family Reunion

 “I thought this was supposed to be a big festival,” snickered SFR guitarist/vocalist Nick Panken to the early arriving crowd shortly into band’s time at Thursday’s pre-party.  The folk group is truly a collaborative effort as they alternate lead vocals and spends most of the time huddled around a 360 degree microphone singing with one another.  Along with their instrumental breakdowns the group stomp and jig as hard as any act I’ve come across.  The band continued to complain that Summer Camp only gave them water and not beer.  Luckily, an especially friendly fan up front provided them with Busch Lights, which they promptly shotgunned.  It must have helped because they seemed to be in much better spirits as they stomped through “100 Greenback Dollar Bills” and “No Separation”.

Diplo

Saturday afternoon the rain had once again picked up but it didn’t seem to matter to the thousands of SCampers that gathered at the Moonshine stage to dance like wild animals to whatever Diplo threw at them.  There’s plenty of electronic music at SCamp but Diplo showed why he’s one of the best in the game with this mix.  Fresh off playing mostly Major Lazer shows for months his time was light on the ML material, with only the Free The Universe highlight “Jah No Partial” popping up.  No one even  seemed to care much when he had a rock star moment and called the festival Summerfest.   The set was heavy on hip-hop (“Dirt Off Your Shoulder”) with plenty of curveballs (Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness”) thrown in.  A week after having to defend his respect for Daft Punk on social media he busted out three tracks from the robots with “Aerodynamic”, “Get Lucky” and the euphoric moment when he transitioned from “Bass Head” to “Doin’ It Right”.  By the end he was dropping Kanye’s “Clique” shouting “ain’t nobody messing with my Summer Camp clique” and per the usual inviting several ladies on stage to express themselves.

SAVOY

Shortly before 8PM on Saturday Umphrey’s brought the rain with them, or so it seemed when at the moment their set started heavy rain once again returned.  It was seriously impressive that the show was able to go on as a series of tarps were brought out to guard keyboardist Joel Cummins’ moogs from the downpour.  After rocking to this spectacle for 20 minutes we were in need of some warming lasers and got our wish as we arrived just as SAVOY dropped their banger “I’m In Need”.  Despite dealing with their own technical difficulties and Gray Smith having to pull double duty as his usual co-DJ Ben Eberdt was absent for the night the duo version of the group brought the energy when the crowd needed it. The rain seemed to have led to a much too small crowd but those who had braved the elements went hard nonetheless as the group smashed through tracks from their three EPs released in the last year, including the two day old Three Against Nature.  The highlight came near the end with their bouncy remix of the classic “California Dreamin’”.  As cold rain continued to fall images of a sunny California gave at least a moment of imagined warmth.

Big Grizmatik

Halfway through Big Grizmatik’s special set in the Red Barn I realized I was experiencing something that is normally not hard to come by at SCamp.  A good sweat!  After feeling chilly for most of the weekend the Red Barn had been turned into a sweatbox thanks to every person in the building getting down to the grooves of Big Grizmatik’s first ever scheduled set.  After holding down the stages for their own sets Big Gigantic, Griz, and Gramatik joined forces for a funky live electronic show that did not disappoint.  They took turns expanding each other’s songs by adding their own personal touches to the originals.  The best examples of this came with Dom throwing in a sax riff on Gramatik’s “Fist Up” while Gramatik returned the favor with a typically funky guitar riff on top of Big G’s “Fantastic”.   The supergroup set grew even beyond expected proportions when Break Science’s Adam Deitch tagged in on drums for a track.  By the end the only thing curiously missing was a sax duel between Dom and Griz, the latter never even picked his up.  I guess there has to be something to look forward to the next time these guys collaborate to get people sweating.

Thievery Corporation

After a disappointing Sunday night with heavy rain and cancellations threatened to end the festival on a down note the welcomed news came that the final Red Barn show would be taking place.  Thievery Corporation had already delivered one of the weekend’s best sets the day prior.  Their eclectic mix of styles hit the spot once again in the warm confines of the Red Barn.  Although Eric Hilton, half of the base DJ duo, was absent from the shows it didn’t seem to matter much.  Rob Garza acted as a conductor and also joined in on guitar as his skilled band became the center of attention.  The group has the uncanny ability to bounce from one sound to another at a moment’s notice whether it be the hip-hop sound of “Culture of Fear” or the soothing sitar and vocals courtesy of Pam Bricker on the classic “Lebanese Blonde”.  The set was a reminder that whatever hassles were endured throughout the wet and wild weekend were worth it.

 

Streetlife Manifesto – The Hands That Thieve

Disclosure: This is my first introduction to the New Jersey ska-rock band. From what I’ve garnered from a brief internet search, there was a lot of buzz about this release. There was a dispute with the label. The band instructed their fans to… not buy the album… It was leaked, and the entire collection can be found on YouTube with next to no effort. When listening to the album, you can tell that the musicians singing in the album had no idea what sort of massive bureaucratic, corporate cluster-fuck awaited them. They seem so happy singing and rocking in the album. These are voices that had no idea that their income would essentially boil down to t-shirt sales. Ironically, the second song’s chorus yells, “Hey, I don’t wanna seem ungrateful. I don’t want to seem like I need anyone’s help.” I think God opened up the skies, looked down and said, “Really now? Have you met my friend Gob?” (For those of you who don’t read the Bible, Gob was a really great guy and because of it God let Satan ruin his life because apparently the Devil is a troll and God is every thirteen year old girl singing Taylor Swift songs on Youtube.)

As far as the music goes, it is a technical wonder. It took me a minute to get into the fast tempos and become accustomed to the lead singer’s voice, which I’m not overly fond of. That being said, the tempo changes are all really classy. The horn sections really shine. Between the raucous rampages, the band throws in some quite serene moments that bring to mind the basement recordings of aspiring musicians who are sure to enjoy the technical splendor of Streetlife Manifesto. I hear this, and it does not surprise me that they tour well, and are no strangers to headlining or selling out shows. It may not be my particular cup of tea, but I can appreciate the musicianship that went into this truly remarkable collaboration.

If you can get around the [what’s a very diplomatic way of saying different, but intermittently unpleasant?] vocals, there is nothing to dislike. The most irritating part is that in those forty second breaks when everything slows down, and the flavors of Neutral Milk Hotel and other indie favorites trickle through, it is revealed that they are completely capable of singing like normal human beings.

I am glad that there are musicians, real musicians, going toe to toe with their corporate representation. I hope they win. They probably will just find another label. These guys seem like the types who are more interested in creating good music as opposed to engaging in legal pedantry. Their little spat with Victory Records will hopefully generate enough buzz to sell the stickers they’re trying to sell. Much like the late night dispute between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, I’m not overly invested in who comes out on top, but yeah go team Coco, and go team Manifesto.

Your refusal to not scream in every song is detrimental to your album, and will shorten your touring life-span considerably.  And remember, support the artists by… not buying the album… which is really good so definitely listen to it… but pirate it…?