The Bullitts – They Die By Dawn And Other Short Stories album review

Meet your new favorite artist. Not only can Jeymes Samuel sing, write and produce his own material, and play guitar and piano, he has even created his own genre. Samuel, otherwise known by the stage name The Bullitts, says his music is under the genre “action-adventure,” because he’s musically fearless and “assassinates all rules” with his music. His debut album They Die By Dawn And Other Short Stories is Samuel’s debut album and the accompanying soundtrack to They Die By Dawn, a fifty-minute Western film he directed. (Did we mention he’s into film too?) The film They Die By Dawn stars actress Rosario Dawson, who is also featured on Samuel’s album, along with actress Lucy Liu and rapper Jay Electronica, who was compared by various YouTube commenters to Grammy Award-winning rapper Lupe Fiasco. Also featured on the album is singer/songwriter Tori Amos and several others.

Not all of Samuel’s songs have official videos yet, but the ones that do each tell a different story. For example, the video for his popular 2011 single “Close Your Eyes” (featuring voiceovers by Lucy Liu and a verse by Jay Electronica) is based off of the 1929 surrealist film Un Chien Andalou. For Samuel, film and music have always gone hand in hand. I read an online interview with him in which he stated that his song-producing process typically consists of recording a song and then creating an accompanying short film, or creating a short film beforehand and then writing a song to provide the soundtrack for it. Samuel was also executive music consultant for the 2013 film The Great Gatsby, providing him the opportunity to work with rapper Jay Z, whose track “$100 Bill” appeared in the film.

Throughout They Die By Dawn And Other Short Stories, Samuel’s smooth voice and mostly acoustic guitar riffs are a perfect match with the chill yet danceable beat that every track has. Each track also boasts deep, thought-provoking lyrics. Although “thought-provoking lyrics” doesn’t sound like it fits with “chill yet danceable,” The Bullitts make it work. Covering topics from murder to lost love, each track on the album is as good to chill and listen to by oneself as it would be as the soundtrack to a low key kickback with friends. Although if that’s the case, you may want to pull up YouTube and show everyone the videos that go along with each track in order to get the full effect of Samuel’s music. Whether you love interesting lyrics, catchy electronic hooks, or rap verses, or you’re just curious about what “action-adventure” music sounds like, They Die By Dawn And Other Short Stories is definitely worth checking out.

Toy Boats – Diamond Teeth EP review

Hugo Costin-Neilson, of Toy Boats, points to The Cure as a band whom he would love to get in bed with musically. In an interview following the release of EP Diamond Teeth last April, Costin-Neilson says “I’ve covered ‘Love Song’ in the past and every time I listen to them I find a new song that I want to cover.” When asked if he could fill in with any band on tour, he responds again, “The Cure. I’ve always wanted to cover their songs, so why not play the original?”

While the influence of The Cure is not lost in Diamond Teeth, the EP manages to position itself as a very stout piece of effort. Rent’s dream-pop guitar riffs and playfully melancholy vocals are laced with hope and an air of rainy afternoon longing. These nostalgic wanderings are entwined with a hazy veil of the gloom rock of the late 80’s/early 90’s mixed with chord progressions reminiscent of Carissa’s Weird and Catherine Wheel (remember them?). Yet, while summoning the past, Diamond Teeth shoots beyond into new territory. Encountering this EP is much like meeting someone you feel you were born with. Exciting, comforting, and a little unsettling. (Are you sure you haven’t heard this before?) This particular EP is a collaboration with Hugo, himself, and the past.

Diamond Teeth touches the senses much like a walk along a city river at night, or perhaps New Year’s morning. Perhaps you’re hungover, perhaps you don’t know where your car is parked (or even if you have a car): there’s solitude, and yet in that solitude exists a feeling of comfort and solidarity with the unsettling of the world. Like a fever dream you never want to wake from. It beckons you to kick off your shoes and waltz with yourself in the kitchen. The vocals embody a maturity and age far beyond the youth Hugo encapsulates in his physical attributes, embracing and exploiting the wistful landscape of time. Diamond Teeth hasn’t left my stereo since I bought it, and it won’t for a long while.

The Danks – GANK album review

Life is good in Toronto, where fledgling rockers The Danks have recently nested, filling the local airwaves with feel-good energy. GANK, the sophomore effort of the Charlottetown natives, hit the shelves earlier this month, marking the end of a four-year hiatus which left the future of the young but talented Maritime band in question. Since the release of their debut EP In Alright in 2006, The Danks have gone through a couple personnel changes, swapping members with fellow Prince Edward Islanders Two Hours Traffic and The Robots before settling on their current four-piece, whose core members—singer-songwriter Brohan Moore and guitarist Alec O’Hanley (formerly of Two Hours Traffic)—pillaged The Robots’ set for bassist Phil MacIsaac and drummer Chris Doiron, a development matter-of-factly recalled by O’Hanley in an interview for Exclaim!: “We just kind of took their rhythm section. Well, borrowed, I guess.”

With blasé-hip turns of phrase (“I don’t care about always/I just sit back and it goes on and on”, “sharing a smoke in the park/telling your folks you’re honing your art”) and tip-toe ebullience, The Danks are at their best entertaining partygoers, concerned more with having fun than critical scrutiny. They’re masters of the hook, delivering teenage anthems about small-town woes in a neat sunshine-pop package. With tracks that get straight to the point, GANK runs a gamut of 11 songs in just over 30 minutes, breaking the three minute mark only twice. At times they manage to cast off their velvety twee strappings to flirt with the deeper convictions, but they inevitably dissolve back into a soundscape of druggy, carefree vibes. I was excited when the latent electronic embellishments of the garishly backbeat “Sharpshooter” transform into the album’s prog-rocky centerpiece “Octagonal” and the slightly-warped, Flaming Lipsian psychedelia of “Genre Tourism,” but it’s followed up by strum-heavy Green Day retrograde, the fun but rather monophonic pairing of “Sycamore” and “Big Picture.”

GANK by the danks

The Danks are an easy band to get along with, in that its familiar pop formulas have you humming the tune before it even starts. You can practically sing Twist and Shout on top of “Experimental Fiction,” the hazy vocals of which blend into the background in shoegazing fashion—and by the way, Moore’s characteristic raspy voice seems endearingly appropriate for a band whose name connotes good weed (a technicality which, according to an interview on pastarunmusic, entirely escaped Moore, who “never thought of checking Urban Dictionary”). Between the wonderfully melodic “Who Is You?,” the adorable “Sharpshooter” and the bittersweet album-finisher “Dreads,” an anecdotal outlier on an otherwise amped-up album brimming with stammering guitar riffs and basic chord cycles, The Danks both affirm their status as schoolgirl crush generators and reveal their distinctive talent as up-and-coming songsmiths.

You Win, Every Time: An Interview with Bear Mountain

Four years ago I met Ian Bevis at a charity event. He was raising money and I was throwing out my best moves in a dance circle. When I shake hands with him again he seems to recognize me and I shudder to think it’s because of my trademark Round-the-World move that I’ve been perfecting since high school. Since that night Bear Mountain has gone from relatively obscure musical peanut to being deemed Canada’s indie prodigies. It’s surreal. Perhaps it’s because I met him outside the context of his music that I’m having a hard time believing the person in front of me is human. Together with the rest of the band we are sitting on leather couches in the foyer of their record label and I scarcely believe what I’m experiencing. I am overcome with the feeling that I am interviewing a future version of him, an apparition. Like the entire band is the physical manifestation of the letter your tenth grade teacher asked you to write to yourself five years down the line; like I’m getting a privileged glimpse into Bear Mountain’s certain future. I have an eerie feeling that when I’m done they will disappear as puffs of smoke into triangular windows, and I will wonder if it was all just a dream; for me and for them.

Bear Mountain does not have a collective idea of how they met. When I asked after the band’s history I received muddled responses and even some alarm as to when Ian and Greg truly met Kenji. What did come through loud and clear was what Kenji remembered of meeting Kyle. “I fell in love with his guitar,” he says, and everyone turns their heads in mock amusement. “Seriously. He had this really awesome double sided guitar.”
Kyle nods as he remembers. “I built this little attachment to my guitar,” he says. “It’s like a kaossilator, like a chord synth unit. I hacked into the electronics and rewired it to a Guitar Hero neck. Then I built this thing, and got a metal plate, and all this; rewired it. I made it into a mini guitar that I could attached to my real guitar so I could drop down and do all these weird sound effects with it. Like a double neck guitar.” He raises his hands up and gives me a few spectacular seconds of air guitar. The piece itself, which I will boldly name The Kylossilator, is not on tour with them at the moment, but we can expect a 2.0 version to come out soon.
The band is experiencing what you might perceive to be a sling shot ride into the limelight. If you were to place their rise to fame on a life graph it would look like a vertical line; as proven by transitioning from the underground Vancouver scene to playing Governor’s Ball inside of a year. Talking with them you hardly notice that notoriety has touched them at all. They still sound amazed that this is happening to them, and talk humbly about the changes in their trajectory. “It’s been less than a year,” says Ian. “Playing NXNE last year, no one knew who we were. It was a fluke we got to play at all.”

So what was the spark? Bear Mountain’s story is of a contemporary design, one seen more and more nowadays. No one can deny that the industry experienced massive shifts with the invention of GarageBand and its equivalents. Expectations of both the artist and the label have undergone complete overhauls culminating in a discernable power shift; relationships are changing and what each needs the other for is no longer universal.

“It used to be that people thought that [labels] were the gatekeepers to the industry. A lot of bands still try to go through that gate; traditional ways, traditional press, traditional labels…getting a manager. So many bands are struggling by playing that game,” says Greg. “I think we saw a different opportunity, a different road. We produced, recorded, and released. We did everything ourselves. We put it on the internet and let people decide if it was any good or not, as opposed to whatever industry was there. The music speaks for itself, it got itself to that platform, without any help from industry.” He thinks for a moment then says plainly, “whatever tools you need to make your music, use them.”

“We uploaded some tracks onto Soundcloud, and it was nuts,” says Ian. “Some of them got 40 000 hits the first day. The record got a lot of blog love too.” And then the inevitable happened. “An A & R guy at a major label heard Congo on an underground radio station and started a relationship with us, flew us down to LA, hooked us up with managers, booked shows for us.” And just like that, Bear Mountain went from taxiing down the runway to liftoff.

I asked them how much bootleg stuff was still out there. “There’s a version of Two Step out there on the internet, like an original version. Some of the original Garage Band stuff too,” says Ian. “I bet if you looked on our MySpace there’s still some tracks on there, or LastFM. There’s song called River of the Goods, a song called A Song For the Kids. I was just making this stuff and posting it the same day.”
I asked them if it was true for everyone, if their path was available to the entire Canadian music landscape, that if you have the will you can find a way. Was Garage Band opening up the industry to kids in the prairies and Peggy’s Cove? “It’s free software,” says Kyle. “It’s giving everyone the chance to create. If you have a laptop, you’re good to go.”

“The recording thing is a little more tricky,” says Kenji. “What people don’t acquire is the skill to capture sound and then properly process that sound; cause that’s a totally different technique. People [using Garage Band] get packages of already made nice sounds. The art of capturing sound takes a lot more time and resources.”
Greg agrees. “A full studio is completely different. You see this more though, people make do with what they have, get a buzz from it, then get some money together, then go make a record in the studio and when they start playing with the sound engineering they do it in a really creative way because they’ve had to do it creatively the hole time because they had no resources. Daft Punk started that way.”
What do you think of Daft Punk’s new album? “Amazing,” says Ian, “I don’t even think we’re going to know how amazing it will be for a couple more years; see what comes from it.”

“You know they’re not touring with it,” I say.

“I didn’t expect them to,” he replies.

“Here’s the thing,” says Kenji. “They’re going to remix it.”

We are in the midst of NXNE 2013, and the scope of the festival doesn’t escape me. All week I’ve been wondering about the differences between concrete festivals, namely those in cities, and field festivals, which are self explanatory. Bear Mountain is one of few bands that played both NXNE and SXSW, and Sasquatch, and Governor’s Ball. I asked them if they had a preference between one or the other.

“The Gorge is amazing,” says Ian, and when asked about it compared to concrete festivals, “Sasquatch; there’s nowhere else to go when you’re there. There’s no going into a bar down the street for one, or over to a friend’s house for a nap. You’re just locked in this beautiful space and you’re all together.”

“Governor’s ball was muddy,” says Kyle. “But when you’re locked on a field and nobody cares, that kicks ass.”

“When were in Austin we saw so many bands, though,” Ian says.

Greg, “Every band was there. It was mayhem.”

“It was crazy to walk down the street; a parking lot, show going on; a little café, show going on. Show. Show. Rooftop show.” Said Kenji. “Across the street, rooftop show. It was pretty wild, actually.”

Many are torn, myself included. Each space brings with it its own set of good and bad, reasons to sit back in amazement, and hurdles you’d rather give to the next guy. When you’re out in the city with a wristband there’s this sense that anything could happen. It’s the expanse. Lots of stuff happens in field festivals, but the number will always be limited to what can be contained within the fairgrounds. In the city, avenues are infinite. With so many choices there is no paradigm with which to make any. Your night will be determined by the unpredictability of a red light. You’ll stumble into a bar with decent line and ask the bartender what you’re in store for. “You’re in luck,” she’ll say, and Bear Mountain will be the band powering up on stage. That band you discovered because of a random event, the perfection of which begs no explanation. They are chance, the belief that all things have purpose, if not for a road map.

Ian sings just as we want him to, calling to us from an early nineties iridescent dreamscape. Greg’s drums are hands inviting you onto the dance floor; Kyle your feeling of adventure, and Kenji is the assurance that everything is going to work out the way it’s supposed to. This is the epitome of what youth feels like; visions through triangles hanging in the sky. Bear Mountain’s music pulls us places that we had forgotten could exist, places where deep relaxation and invigoration live in harmony. To places where every day is spent atop fresh cut grass, luscious yellow light moving in beams through the branches above; where every night culminates in a slow motion dance party with your best friends, heat from your skin vibrating against the cool summer breeze.

Lady Lamb The Beekeeper Interview

A small little girl from Brunswick, Maine by the name of Aly Spaltro had the dream and the desire to get her sound out to the world. In a surprisingly short period of time, she’s accomplished a rather incredible amount of hype, a number of EP’s, mixtapes, music videos, a newly released full-length studio album, and a now growing group of invested fans that hang off her every word. Not bad for a 23 year old in the world of indie rock (hers is more eerie at times and always more interesting than most, so it may not actually be that surprising to anyone, really). I thought, as I was new to her sound and her music that I’d start at the beginning. And that’s just what I did.

Back in Brunswick, Maine, your hometown, did you have musical chops as a child or was it more of a performance deal for young Lady Lamb?

Lady Lamb: I had musical leanings but never any desire to perform. It was basically just an obsession with music from an early age. Between the two of them, my parents listened to a very eclectic mix; my mother loved the 80’s or classical music pretty much exclusively and then my dad listened classic rock, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and all those guitar heroes.

And then…

… Oh! And then when I was five I lived in Arizona. My next door neighbour was my babysitter: she was 13 and kind of a weird kid and really into the Beatles, late Beatles, you know?

The more experimental Beatles…

Absolutely. White Album and all that. We hung out a lot and became good friends, which made me a very strange five year-old! So we would just sit around and listen to The White Album and Rubber Soul all the time and through that I started listening to “oldies radio” on my own. I started making mix-tapes cause I was really into The Supremes, Mamas and The Papas, Leslie Gore, Otis Redding… basically everything on oldies radio stations.

So it was just an obsession at that point?

For sure. I didn’t have any desire to really play it, I didn’t think of it that way. I was a shy kid to begin with so I never wanted to perform or be in talent shows or sing or take lessons or anything like that.

And your first recordings, kind of show that shyness. You recorded it all yourself, packaged them all yourself, brought them to your local record store; you did everything on your own. Was that more of an experiment or did it just get to a point where you needed to start sharing what you were creating?

It was both but it really started as a way for me to express myself in a way that was really focused and dedicated. I wrote a lot of poetry in high school and I wanted to do something, honestly, with my year, because I took a gap year between highschool and college, and I wanted to do something that was really involved before college. I taught myself how to play and started singing at that point and for the first few months I had no desire to share any of it. But then, after packaging it up and giving a bit away for free I really just sort of fell into [the industry] by accident. I started performing and really getting something out of that which I don’t think I expected.

Did you feel you really had any specific pushes to get more into the spotlight and stray from that shy girl you were as a kid?

I never felt any “pressure” from anyone I knew really. I worked at an independent DVD rental store for four years and they became my second family. My boss at that store was a huge film and music buff and after hearing my stuff he was the first to really encourage me to play a show. And then my dad told me to try but it was really up to me and it took me a long time to get up the courage to get on stage.

Typing your name into any search engine, a whole lot of videos come up and many from early on in your career. For someone self-admittedly shy, do you feel there’s something visually you need to present with your music as well as lyrically?

It has to do with a number of things. I know that “I” as a music fan want to see artist’s visuals. If I’m checking out a band for the first time I will most likely look up a music video. And it comes from that; it comes from being a fan and thinking that video is an integral part to the art. Also, as a kid I loved to draw, paint, collage, make movies, and all that so naturally the visual came ingrained, for me, in the music. It makes me feel really lucky that I’m doing something that I love that has room for other mediums as well.

In just about all of your videos, although serious at times depending on the subject of the lyrics, there seems to be an undercurrent of light heartedness. Is that and uncontrollable element of your personality just breaking through or is that something planned that you want in your music and your creative process?

Well, in the case of the videos, it’s probably just me coming through. I have this one video where it’s a one-take, pretty serious video called “Between Two Trees” where I’m just standing in front of a wall… I’m singing along (so that it doesn’t just look like I’m lip-synching), I’m singing in the room but then I mess up the lyrics. I got all flustered, laughed, but then kept singing. That happened, so why do the take again, you know? Just let it be, because I’m a little silly so just keep that in there.

Your album Mammoth Swoon, a 2010 release, received some well-deserved attention for being a pieced together album of demos and b-sides. Did that come together naturally for you?

That I put out myself and is just a mix of stuff. It wasn’t really meant to be released it was honestly meant as something I wanted to leave with Portland, Maine when I left for New York. But then when I moved I needed something to give to people so I kind of just kept making it and so any press it got wasn’t intentional. I mean I didn’t even have a publicist until this newest record.

Working so much on your own, do you find that knowing more about the business side of the industry; booking shows, handling publicity, etc. is something you’re pleased about or are you just happy to leave that up to others now?

I’m super pleased I learned that way! I don’t know if other artists really talk about this but for me, I’m first in line to hear about anything and everything that comes through about my music cause that’s the way I like it. I like answering e-mails and talking directly with promoters and publicists because that’s just part of my personality! I wouldn’t have it any other way, really.

Your newest and first studio album Ripely Pine (released May 2013) having dropped now, do you have expectations for the work?

I made sure to not have any expectations what-so-ever. I’ve learned in my life that it’s a pretty good rule to not have any expectations on anything you do, or people for that matter. You make these high expectations and then you’re disappointed. So I decided that if I went into the studio with that [expectation filled] attitude that I would end up making something that wasn’t entirely honest because I’d likely be too focused on what other people thought. Pleasing others, hoping to get good reviews, stuff like that I tried not to think about at all. In that way, I’ve made something that I’m ultra proud of and I worked for more than a year on this because, well, I had the luxury to work with my producer for that long, but also because I didn’t want to cap it until it was fully finished. I needed to work on it until I knew that I wouldn’t have a single regret about the way it was made and that’s what happened. This sounds so… I don’t know… but the feeling of finishing it and the fact that it took so long, so much hard work, sweat and tears and all that, and just the joy that it’s done and it’s real and it’s out and now the rest doesn’t matter, really. So to really answer your question, because I had no expectations I’m pleasantly, pleasantly surprised and I’m very happy that people seem to really like it and are responding to it.

Touring for this release seems pretty hectic by the looks of your schedule. You mentioned earlier that you’ve got a three week break coming up; do you feel that needs to be a “re-charge and relax” break or can you just not shut the creativity faucet off?

I haven’t written a song in a long time because I’ve just been in a different space: “Work this record. Tour. Go. Go. Go!” you know? So I’ve been feeling the urge to write again. I was on tour in Europe before this and the urge started there and when that happens generally the lyrics come first for me. I can’t just grab a guitar and go, I write a lot of poetry and then when I get home I put music to it. I’ve written a lot of lyrics in the last month that I’m really excited to use the three weeks coming up to get home and put music to. I’m also gonna eat a tonne of Brooklyn food. That’s number one [laughs].

On your website you have a section called “In The Books” where you can scroll through random pages of some of your notebooks. Is that just a fun outlet for you in posting that?

I can’t remember how that came about but I just thought that might be a really intimate thing that people might appreciate. As a music fan I know I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool to see a musicians notebook or scribbles on song or the original lyrics to a song by the Beatles or something like that?” That’s so amazing to look at! There’s a lot of personality in the way a person writes and what they’re saying when they’re just writing in a notebook and not thinking about two years down the road when it gets posted on the internet or whatever. What I really like about it is that there are the “beginnings” to a lot of songs in there randomly. The beginnings of ideas from years ago are in there that ended up in this record and that’s pretty neat.

In terms of future dates, you’ve got Hopscotch Festival in Raleigh, NC as your last posted date this year. Another break then or is that just as far into the future as the site has been updated?

That’s in early September, ya. I would like to have the month of September mostly off because I’m planning a tonne of stuff after that. It’s not up yet but I’ll be touring again in October, November, December at least!

Touring for this new album seems to be taking up all your time but is there something upcoming that you’re really excited about in terms of releasing a single, a new video, some more b-sides possibly?

I’m definitely getting to the point where I’m itching to make another video so I’m keeping my mind open in terms of thinking up concepts for another video. I’d also just love to go back into my studio where I made Ripely Pine and do a cover. Maybe a duet cover with a guy [quickly adds]… friend… in New York. I’ve been thinking a lot about doing a Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks cover. I think that’d be really fun to put out just for no reason other than just to do it. We could just nail it in a day then put it on the internet…

… Just let the creative muse fly, right?

Absolutely!

Pay attention, oh muses. This New Yorker may put you out of the business Lady Lamb The Beekeeper’s music continues to be creative, full of personality, charm, and, seemingly, there’s no end in sight.

Ripely Pine is available on iTunes and more than likely multiple physical copies can be found at that little record store in Portland, Maine along with a throng of happy fans!

Lenka Interview

Born and raised in the Australian “bush” (her words, “… it’s not the outback, it’s just known as the bush.”) Lenka Kripac, who goes simply by her first name in the music world, has recently seen her poppy, happy, and all around fun single Everything at Once the centre of quite a lot of attention thanks to it’s use by Microsoft 8’s newest commercial and tag-line for the product that states, ready for it, that Microsoft 8 is, “Everything at Once.” I know… original thinking in marketing has always been a staple at Microsoft, at least they’re fantastically gifted at choosing great music.

Lenka’s career in music started long ago and not specifically aimed at just one form of artistic impression: “I was running and dancing since the day I knew how and singing to the gumtrees…” she states over the phone just before heading on stage in L.A., “I began ballet when I was four but I remember always wanting the little solos or the sort of, spotlight parts, even that young.” As someone that clearly finds the arts all-encompassing, being creative seems to be a part of who she is as much as it is something she does for a living now. Curious about a first memory she might be able to recall in terms of really grabbing the spotlight, she laughed and then answered immediately, “There’s this picture of me wearing an elf-costume when I’m about five years old, I think, and, again, it’s just one of those plays where the teachers must have recognized the fact that I wasn’t afraid to step out on my own in front of an audience cause it’s just me in my elf costume!”

After her stint as one of Santa’s helpers, Lenka and her family left the “bush” and headed to Sydney where she studied acting at the Australian Theatre for Young People. She was quite inspired by one of the young instructors there and wasn’t afraid to let the world know, “… Cate (Blanchett) was a teacher, of sorts, for a bit when I was there. She was probably 20, or at least in her young 20s, when I was still a teen. She was wonderful though and is definitely one of the reasons I kept pursuing acting. She really was a terrific teacher.” From soaps to teen series, Lenka starred or guest starred in a number of Australian productions and feels that her music being tied to film and television isn’t so much of a mystery if you really think about it, “I’ve always been tied to that [film and television] world so I don’t think it’s a coincidence…” she states very matter-of-factly, “There’s something very visual about many of my lyrics that people seem to respond to and see a use for in their projects.” One such person was a young Kerris Dorsey, the American actress that is now best known for her role as Billy Beane’s (played by Brad Pitt) daughter. “It’s so fantastic that it was used in the film…” she laughingly states of her song The Show. “I really owe a lot to that young actress, Kerris. She was a fan of mine I guess and actually played that song in her audition. [The studio] decided they wanted her for the part and that song for the scene on the spot, or so I heard.” A touching scene between a father and his daughter in a guitar store, Lenka says that the lyrics weren’t meant for that sort of situation but that, “… the small part of the song that Kerris sings to her screen dad just worked so well. It was interesting to hear the song that way. I was really proud of that.”

Having music in advertising isn’t as easy of a decision as when your management calls and tells you that your song could possibly be in the next Brad Pitt money-maker. Stating that she usually does research on any companies asking for her work before hand, she’s also, at the same time, not concerned with the idea of selling out: “I want to make sure they’re not evil corporations or anything but really, most of my songs are used for really cute spots or happy ones and that’s the sort of music that I make. So of course!” She’s also not one to complain about her songs being used in other mediums such as television shows or YouTube compilations, “There are so many channels for musicians to get their work out to fans now and this is just one way that I feel very fortunate people are responding so positively towards.”

When asked about her music and its happy vibe she just laughs in a most delighted way. “I think people always need happy music!” Her newest album, however, is much softer… still happy, but the full length album Shadows has been described as a lullaby album for adults and she confirms that was her very intention, “I was pregnant during some and had just had my son for the rest so I intentionally made it as much of a lullaby album as possible. It’s very soft, very comforting I feel.” She pauses, I’m guessing to reflect on how to properly describe what she was feeling at the time of making the album, “My previous albums and music are absolutely wonderful but there’s plenty of full volume vocals, drum spikes, and a feeling of faster tempo pop music… which is great! But I love softer music you can put on to fall asleep to as well and this was my chance to make an album like that.” After a moment, she adds a final thought to that train, “I obviously want to please my fans but this was as much for me and my new family as for my fans.”

But as her success is tied to very happy and poppy music, I was curious if she was heading in a new direction? “I don’t ever want to make angry or moody, depressing music. I’m a very happy person and I enjoy listening to upbeat music so that’s what I strive to create!” I wonder if her happiness can now be directly correlated to having her husband and young child on tour with her and she’s quick to agree and yet set the record straight, “It’s difficult at times and so not always feasible. We choose ‘home bases’ where they can stay, like New York as I do an east coast tour or L.A. for a west coast one. It works for now because my boy is really into maps [laughs] so he loves travelling! I love having them around though and it’s so great to be able to see them in between shows!”

As for new projects, don’t you worry, you big fan of Lenka, you. She’s just about to release a new video for a song that her husband, visual artist James Gulliver Hancock, has wanted to do for a long time. “We turned my body into the landscape for the video so I had model makers, miniature specialists, and so many others around using little train sets and buildings on my body! It was a much larger endeavor that anything we’ve ever done before but it was absolutely worth it.” I can tell she’s smiling even over the phone, “It’s such an amazing video.”

Lenka played only a select few dates in a handful of major Canadian cities but I was there in Vancouver with a smile on my face as her “happy” music kept me in a great mood for the entirety of her set. And then the smile just wouldn’t go away as her catchy hooks kept rolling around in my head, and I hope they stay right where they are for as long as possible.

Lenka’s newest album, Shadows is available on iTunes now as are her previous two solo albums, the self-titled Lenka and her sophomore follow-up, aptly titled, Two.

The Broken Saints – When The Music Stops album review

Out there in the wonderful world of the interweb, there really isn’t a lot of information that you can find on The Broken Saints. Actually, the more I searched, the more I just wanted to give up and watch The Boondock Saints instead so I could see Willem Dafoe do a pirouette while shooting up south side Boston criminals. But I eventually came across an interview with them discussing the process of making their debut album When The Music Stops, and it included a couple of previews of some of their songs. Now my initial thought was that these guys reminded me of the Bacon Brothers; just two dudes who don’t have any real musical talent but are touring off of the fame of Kevin simply so they can get laid in different cities. But then I realized that neither of them was actually famous and that the uglier brother had just admitted the fact that he can’t write songs unless they are about himself. This is when I realized that these guys were actually worse than the Bacon Brothers.

From the opening track you realize how limited they are both musically and vocally. Neither of them happens to be blessed with a good voice and as a result you are stuck with horrible melodies and average at best harmonies. Each brother plays guitar in the band but unfortunately they play the same two chords in every song. All of this is okay if you are Bob Dylan and have excellent lyrics but not if you’re bringing Hanson quality Mmm Bop lyrics to the plate.

For instance in Nobody Else where he compares himself to a bird, one of them says “I don’t need nobody else, I don’t want nobody else, I don’t need nobody but you, the bird song came true”. Or there was my personal favorite in Scared Again, which I swear is about his childhood nightmares of the boogie man, in which he sings “Shadows dance across my bed, don’t go where the angels dare don’t tread”. Now don’t get me wrong, I realize that you can take any lyrics out of context and make them sound silly but I swear these are just bad poems from someone who watched St Elmo’s Fire one too many times. And honestly I can’t blame them; I can’t get enough of a young, hot, and horny Demi Moore myself. I just wish they had some vocal range to help mask the fact that you are listening to some of the cheesiest lyrics ever written.

Musically, Dreams Never Die and Open Your Eyes are the best of this 8 track effort because they finally infuse some piano into their songs. And thankfully they add a female voice in Eyes to help give a consistent melody but sadly it’s just not enough to save this album. It almost makes the 180 that you usually get in movies; you know, it’s so bad that it becomes comical and you end up liking it. But not quite. I checked their Myspace (yes Myspace) page and it says that they have been around since at least 2008. I just can’t imagine that it took them at least 5 years to come up with this album.

Sadly, when the music finally stops with these saints , you want to repent and claim that you will never listen to this album again. And yes I was channeling my inner David Caruso there; cue the cheesy  guitar music as I put on my shades.

The Damn Truth Interview

The Damn Truth’s debut album Dear in the Headlights has huge sound. So huge in fact, that as a listener you can actually feel the epicness of their vision and this in turn connects you to the legendary status classic rock n roll has always held in your heart; big drums, a guitar that rips through chords and drips gold, psychedelic bass that turns your vision kaleidoscopic, and a voice that literally opens your mind. You can actually see the spinning colours when you close your eyes. ..As a consequence you feel a tremendous amount of nostalgia; probably a little too much nostalgia for The Damn Truth’s liking. I asked them what they thought about being called a revival band.

“We mind,” says Tom Shemer simply, and he’s only half kidding.

The drummer, Dave Traina, agrees. “What are you going to do about it? People are going to label you no matter what. You are what you do. You could be the most innovative band and people will find a way to tell you that you sound like something they’ve already heard.”

For any band, being told you sound like Janis Joplin fronting Black Sabbath is never a bad thing. It’s not the comparisons that itch, their sound has been likened to the greats of classic rock; it’s about respecting an album that they poured their hearts and souls into, an album that demanded they delve into the darker parts of themselves. Dear in the Headlights is the sum of their individual experiences as humans. For them, defending themselves against the revival claims is more about honouring the process and what came from it, than denying that they sound one way or the other.

Their experience in the studio was enlightening, to say the least. I asked them if they cared to comment on the correlation between music and madness. “Oh, ya. The line is a thin one, man,” says Lee-La, the singer. “I think it’s not only music though, it’s artistry; to be able to put yourself in that place where, you know- you’re doing this- you’re naked in front of the world. I try not to think about it otherwise I’ll get lost in that part of it. For me, it’s my healing. Whenever I’ve been down, anxious, angry, in pain, I would sit and write. I feel like if I’m not writing, I’m screaming. I would break things.”

Do good artists need to touch madness? Downtown’s lyrics would suggest there’s some truth to the notion; I feel so grand, my friends, they all say I’m crazy. I’m not crazy. “I don’t think it’s direct; that to be a successful artist you have to have something off-putting about you,” says Tom. “But to be in a band, and maintain your relationships; to do this four way marriage, and family, and the rest of the stuff that comes with it. That’s where the madness would probably come from. If madness were to accompany being artistic, it would definitely come from everything being thrown together, but trying to focus on only one thing.”

You don’t seem insane to me, I say. David Masse smiles, “You put four people into a room with amplification, and anything can happen.” He continues. “We work in a collaborative way, so her madness affects everything, his madness is affecting everything. On a day to day basis I think everyone has to deal with madness. That’s the nature of the beast.”

In fact, their grassroots approach to recording is something undeniably classic about them. “We use a really old school tape,” says Lee-La. “There’s a lot of things we really like to capture. We just record the four of us in a studio. Then afterwards we re-record the harmonies and layer them on top. That’s the core of it. That’s how they used to do it in the 60’s and 70’s. It’s really important for us because that’s how we work best. I love looking into these guys’ eyes and feeding off of them.”

“It’s true,” agrees Tom. “We do draw a lot from the past in terms of the way we work as a band. We don’t go into the studio and do drums, and then bass, and then fix it all up. We just play in a room. We’re a live band.”

You can really hear this on the track, I Want You(He’s a Lightweight.) The recording session even captures the light static on their amps, and Lee-La as she inhales. If you listen closely, you can even hear them pulling energy out of one another, all the way to the climatic finish which I know culminated in a Technicolor-group-head-bang. I know this because I participated in their particular brand of gypsy-love-dance party when I danced my face off at The Horseshoe when they played there for NXNE. “We just like to play as if technology isn’t there to save our ass,” says David.

Fun fact about The Damn Truth, they were actually a backup band for someone else before they broke free and went out on their own. That was where they first fell for one another, where their onstage presence was first formed, and it is a powerful presence at that. “You never know what to expect when you go on stage,” says Lee-La. “ You never know what the people are going to give you, what the band is going to give you; what each and every one of us is going through that certain day. Every day is a surprise. We love it. I always find different things to tap into, and the more we play, the deeper it’s gonna get.”

I like that they’re looking into the future. Even though I looked into the past when I first heard them, I have high hopes that the rock movement coming out of Montreal will be the next big wave in the Canadian music tide pool. Tom nods, “There are a lot of really great bands coming out of Montreal all the time,” and about their sound specifically, Tom says, “The rock crowd there right now is thirsty for it.”
Lee-La nods. “The Besnard Lakes are definitely doing something interesting. I like them! They’ve got a psychedelic tip to them I like that a whole lot.”

Psychedelic folk is another label that has been applied to them. “If there were to be a rock revival coming out of Montreal, that would be a great thing,” says David. “Reading about the Beatles back in the day and The Stones and Hendrix, and knowing they hung out together. These epic musicians all at the same place at the same time, it’s a great thing. If we could be a part of something like that, that would be awesome.”

If that’s the case, they must be having a hell of the time on the bus, I say. “We don’t have a bus. I was projecting into the future,” says David, then points. “That’s the bus right there.”

Is that what you guys drove in? The one with the duct tape? That’s spectacular! …Well, that’s all. I don’t have any more questions.

“You can’t leave it at duct tape,” says David.

All too correct, sir.

The Damn Truth’s sound will raise questions in your mind, but isn’t that what the best bands do? Notions about the cyclical nature of art and of innovation may not escape you, but that to me is the icing on the cake. Rarely does a band with such strong ties to the golden age of rock present themselves as the exception to the rule. Rarely does sound come at you presented as a conundrum: How does this music take me back and push me into the future at the same time? The chords make me want to lie out in the sun picking petals off of wild flowers, makes me want to spin in an open field as the sun rises up in the East, makes me want to dust off that velvet top hat and descend into a cavernous pub so I can melt into the music calling out to me. I’ll settle for a leather fringe vest and the front porch of my two-storey walk-up; summer BBQ throwing smoke into the air, and me tipping my hat to every single person who walks by nodding in appreciation of Dear in the Headlights which is blaring through the screened window. I’ll yell “The Damn Truth!” at them, they will slow to a halt, and together we will share a moment of deep music appreciation, because the songs tell us the good times are just around the corner. No other message is more rock n roll. No other message is more The Damn Truth.

The Airborne Toxic Event – Such Hot Blood album review

At various times throughout their third studio album Such Hot Blood, The Airborne Toxic Event sound similar to other contemporary bands. At times, vocalist Mike Jollet groans like Matt Berninger of The National, shouts with unrequited passion like Win Butler of Arcade Fire, or mimics the anthemic cries of folk-pop groups like Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes or Mumford & Suns. But most of the time, their sound resembles the latter two groups, with their sweeping, elated crescendoes that could move you to go on a long road trip somewhere or to buy a new car. Airborne’s sound fits better, for the inevitable categorization that all music critics make, next to a Coldplay or a U2, who is, apparently, a major influence.

Folk music, which has become popular amongst young, American bands in recent years, has no noticeable influence on the band. Whereas a Mumford & Suns play off of the nostalgia of a richer, more prosperous U.S., Airborne subsists in the present moment. The fact that they don’t seem to be reviving any genre in particular, during an age that is filled with music revivals from dream pop to post-punk, may explain why their accesible, non-confrontational sound has brought them modest success, but not the same level of success as the aforementioned neo-folk groups.

For a band named after a line from a Don DeLillo novel, their music is, surprisingly, light and sentimental. A reoccurring theme in DeLillo’s fiction is the influence of mass culture on personal identity. Characters obsessed with finding authenticity in a heavily mediated, postmodern world often go to tremendous lengths to gain a sense of individuality. Struggle, while it may be unpleasant, is the only way to change yourself. The album, for this listener, too often eschewed visceral experience, remaining in a cozier realm of contemplation.

But Airborne’s most notable flaw is that their music stands out in no particular way. Their sound is contemporary, but is mostly a bland collage of other groups. There’s often a superiority and an ostensibly left position that emanates from a critique of a pop group as commercial, but there are not many other words that describe them better. “Karma Police,” a Radiohead track off of OK Computer, has a line that goes “He buzzes like a fridge/He’s like a de-tuned radio.” In an interview, Thom Yorke said that this line described how the alternative stations in America sounded to him; that the music buzzed like a fridge; nothing about it stood out or resonated within you. Such Hot Blood matches this description.

This Hisses Interview

Hard Luck Bar is located on one of the less glitzy streets of Toronto. It’s downtown, but it’s on Dundas St. W, in a undeveloped area of the city where random taped up storefronts abound and franchises are the only thing adding colour. Hard Luck Bar is everything the name suggests. A rose by any other name would still invoke feelings of latent anger and disenfranchisement. It is a haunt for punk music and the burgeoning post-punk scene. You can tell everyone has made a conscious choice to be there and that’s a powerful thing for a bar. I asked This Hisses what they thought of the venue; “As long as there’s a good PA and they can hear the vocals, then it’s good. We’re a loud band. We don’t like to play places where they tell us to turn it down.” Just hearing them say it makes me believe it. “We’re loud,” they say simply. “We need to play loud.” I nod emphatically.

Well sure, who wants to play to be merry when you can melt people’s faces off? “He’s the most beautiful dynamic drummer I have ever seen,” Julia says of JP Perron. “I saw him play in another band and when he came home from touring I plucked up the courage and I shyly asked him what he was up to. We didn’t know if was going to work but it did.” Julia and Patrick Short, lead guitar, had known each other for years. The two met when Patrick played with her brother. Afterwards she ‘cherry picked’ him for This Hisses.

I tell them that I’ve been listening to their album, that I was curious about the name Anhedonia. The title in the strictest sense describes a person who is unable to experience pleasure from normal things, but the song of the same name is specifically about a person whose warmth is unsung. I ask them if they feel that this can be said for punk music; it being inaccessible for most, but essentially having a message of courage and loyalty (louder and darker for some reason means seldom understood). “I think we’re drawn to hard music for different reasons,” says Julia. “It’s a little bit of a protective sphere. We let ourselves get honest, but there will always this wall of tough sound that protects us.”

Post-punk music, and I use the word traditionally lightly here, describes heavy guitar and drums akin to punk with an intrusive element of experimentation. For This Hisses, that translates to an insanely amazing guitar that sounds like it’s pouring out of the speaker, and drums that you literally have to shake out of your body; all that and Julia’s opera trained voice calling to you from somewhere out of the darkness. It’s intense and oddly languid at the same time, all in the best way possible. “This person is seeking pleasure and achieving disappointment. So it’s about the wonderment of ‘Wow, if you could be free of this path of pursuing pleasure, then maybe you could get on with things in life, and not risk that disappointment and that vulnerability’.”

Thank God someone is taking the time to take this message on, I think. We really should just be getting on with the doing of things. I asked JP if he always felt that way. “I started in Toronto playing music cause I wanted to be cool,” he says. “Then I realized I wasn’t cool, so I just focused on being a better songwriter.”
“You’ve got a Slater from Empire Records thing going on,” I respond.

He doesn’t flinch, just continues. “I got into punk rock because all my guitar heroes’ bands broke up and I was like, what now?” I can’t tell if he’s kidding or not, he says it stone cold. JP laughs.

They’re from Winnipeg , they say, which apparently isn’t so obscure after all, and they have no plans on moving to Toronto any time soon. “It would give us more access to the industry, but we’re still cultivating our artistic sensibilities. Winnipeg has a great art scene and it’s a great affordable city to live in. We want an audience that’s into a great product.” For them, the size of the market is not important, and they feel that taking on bigger markets is not something to be taken lightly. “We get the confidence and the support in Winnipeg to try to tackle the bigger markets. There’s nothing wrong with that. There is high quality music and high quality art in Winnipeg. It’s a bit of secret but it’s a good one.” I can’t imagine a better reason to be in Winnipeg than taking the time to respect the craft. Then Julia sips her tea, and says, “I don’t think people make a living in music anymore anyway.”

JP is nodding his head at Julia. He’s standing just to the side of her twirling his moustache and listening. He agrees with her. “We’ve all played in plenty of bands and done lots of different stuff. With this one, we trying to hone our sound to keep it distilled, compact and tight. As far as trying to get other people to hear it, I don’t know man.”

“Trim the fat,” says Patrick, and they both look at him. He catches Julia’s eye, “Just keep trimming the fat.” She smiles and shakes her at him. This is one of the things I really like about this band; you can tell that they’re really good friends who share a common goal of making beautiful music. I interrupt the moment and ask Patrick what the future holds for him. He answers me deadpan, ‘Try to be cool again.”

“I get such joy out of playing live shows that I won’t be able to stop,” says JP. “I’ll keep pushing myself to try things that I’m uncomfortable with, like making an electronic jump. I want to challenge myself to do different things.”

Julia is nodding in agreement to this too. This seemingly would open too many doors wouldn’t it? If people pursued every possible path in life we would get nowhere. Does this mean that they’ll be jumping mediums one day? “I find that everything I have to say I can say through music,” says Julia. “A lot of my powerful emotions… music is the way that I can most strongly present them. That’s how I deal. I want to write the songs and put the words to them.”

The Torontoist called their song ‘My Love He Shot a Sparrow’ The Best Song About Murder at NXNE, and for obvious reasons. The lyrical content of that song is so expansive yet precise at the same time that it literally focuses the mind into a calmness and oddly invigorates the soul that same time. This can be said about their entire album; incredible musicianship, heavy themes and notes, tremendous depth of character, and darkness that cloaks your world in a black glitterscape.

When I roll up to the Hard Luck Bar later that night, I step into its grimy splendor with immense anticipation. I walk over to the bar, do my best Clint Eastwood to the bartender, and order a bottle of 50. I take a seat in front of the sound booth and rest my legs across the bench. When Julia stands up the microphone, her sheer closeness to the mic, and the subtle breath that escapes her, starts the pull you feel when speakers power up. Everything that is nailed to the floor, which in Hard Luck Bar means everything, starts vibrating from the force of the sound coming from the speakers; the guitar pours from them, the hard sizzle of the drums jangles, Julia’s voice pushes from their great depths.

Brace yourself, I whisper.