Review – “Happy Home (what I thought of while I was drowning” – The Ruby Plumes

reviewed by Jack Derricourtruby

I didn’t expect a Lethbridge band to remind me of the MC5. Then I started to think a little more. Is there anywhere in Canada that better fulfils the desolate, industrialized husk of Detroit, the particular pool of human pond scum that formed the 5? Lethbridge plays the part quite well: gigantic streets for the girth of monster pick up trucks; a mall threatening to become a church with the amount of seniors power-walking inside; abandoned infrastructure from better times. So, the Ruby Plumes have a lot in common with the men who brought you “Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa.

The Plumes have released a new, three song EP into the air of March’s ending. Happy Home (what I thought of while I was drowning) is a short, sweet assembly of punk parts that entralls the ear. Brazenly recorded at the illustrious Brandenhamilton’s Basement Studios, the EP suffers no foolish delay or reverb, using only authentically crisp, basement atmosphere to get the job done.

Opener “Doubt” is the heavy liquid of the album, providing not only an incredible bass part to start off the racket, but also a compelling lyric. The song channels all of the mantras of 60s proto-punk, with no tongue in cheek distractions: these fellas just want to knock you out with their rock and roll stylings. Nice.

The title track is the most tex mex — maybe “text mex” makes more sense these days — pertaining to the prairie life burgeoning on Lethbridge’s dusty roads. The rolling, swinging drum beat and guitar part guide listeners toward an ethereal chorus, filled with overtones and floating vocal layers.

“The Man I Once Knew,” threatens to take the effect-laden guitar to Tom Morello land; but thankfully, things turn Thin Lizzy quite quickly — so what if that’s the right direction? It sounds damn good. Jackson Tiefenbach’s guitar work all over the EP is fantastic, but here is where it shines. The closing line’s not bad either: “forget your coniptions about my existence.”

I can’t forget my coniptions of pleasant listening attached to this EP. The tight production of three little tracks is compelling and original. While I’m left wanting more, I feel the band has run the gamut with aplomb. They give us a good taste of what they have on tap, and it’s saucy. The MC5 would be proud.

Top Track: “Doubt”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Very Good)

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[APRIL FOOLS] Blimp goes missing off Lake Ontario coast; Blimp Rock suspiciously announces blimp ‘purchase’

blimpby Michael Thomas

The disappearance of a blimp resting on the shores of Lake Ontario in Rochester, NY has coincided with Toronto band/marketing vehicle Blimp Rock announcing their sudden acquisition of a blimp for their planned festival.

Rochester authorities told media on Tuesday night, a group of lifeguards returned to shore after an undisclosed event in the middle of Lake Ontario. To their surprise, a blimp usually seen on the shore had vanished.

Police questioned each lifeguard and searched their homes, but there was no indication that any of them were behind the theft. The only clue authorities have at this time is a discarded Rolodex, seemingly vintage.

On the Canadian side of Lake Ontario, however, Blimp Rock announced that they had purchased a blimp. Given their status as a southern Ontario rock band, it seemed unlikely that they suddenly came into the $700,000 required to purchase the dirigible.

Grayowl Point got in touch with Blimp Rock spokesperson Peter Demakos in the hopes of discovering where the band got the blimp from—especially if it was indeed the vanished vessel from Lake Ontario.

When asked how he and his band came across the blimp, Demakos delivered a long tale:

“After nearly two and a half years of data from the For Profit Private Sea-Doo Detectives of Toronto, we decided to take things into our own hands. Last Tuesday night, we headed out on the Blimp Rock Enterprises Sea-Doo with one mission: get to the middle, and get answers. What we discovered shocked our team more than when they first discovered the price of helium. At first, everything seemed as it should be: a party yacht, with the words “S.O.S L.O.L” detailed on the side. Disco music blaring, dominoes tables everywhere— even a horse-sized racetrack. But there was something very off. The closer we got, we started realizing that the disco was playing to no one and the dominoes tables were all unattended. The entirety of the S.O.S L.O.L was empty.

We climbed aboard via a water-slide and the cheeky sign that said “not for use without Lifeguard on duty” sent a chill down our spines. And as soon as we got on the deck, we realized there was so much more to this story. Several Polaroids we discovered showed our Sea-Doo detectives partying it up with the L.O.Ls on the very boat we stood (and the one they were supposedly covertly investigating). They were double agents! Then, on each of the Dominoes tables we discovered blue-prints, plans and measurements— for a blimp festival over Lake Ontario. Needless to say we felt deflated but after a quick marketing team huddle, we decided this might be more of an opportunity than a puncture. We feverishly ruffled around with the papers, trying to gather all the information we could, when we saw these words scribbled on the corner of an order for wood paneling:

LOCATION OF BLIMP
1200 Brooks Avenue
Rochester, NY

While we could have used that information to our advantage, it just so happened that it was also that same day we put our Vintage Office Supplies for sale on Bandcamp, and at that moment we received a notification congratulating us on $700 000 worth of sales in a day. We got off the ship, turned around, and like any innocent band purchasing a blimp, went to the blimp store and bought a blimp.”

Demakos refused to elaborate on the location of the “blimp store.”

Blimp Rock, a marketing vehicle for a future Blimp Rock Live festival, is attempting to raise the money with music (their second album, Sophomore Slump, is to come on April 7) and the sale of vintage office supplies. Given the location of the Rolodex at the scene of the crime, Demakos was quick to explain that it couldn’t have belonged to the band.

“When we boarded the SOS L.O.L we also saw hundreds of unopened cardboard boxes being kept close to the horse stables on board,” Demakos said. “As Blimp Rock is a strictly law-abiding band, who certainly does not break into or steal anything, you can imagine our surprise when one box flew open from what we can only assume was the weight of our steps. In this box, we discovered about 30 Rolodexes, we can only assume the L.O.Ls were planning on selling to raise money for their festival. But buyer beware: when we examined one, the curvature of the frame indicated that they had been manufactured post-2013. These Rolodexes are far from vintage, and on top of that they smelled like a horse stable.”

Alibi firmly established, we asked Demakos what he thinks could have happened to the missing blimp.

“I’m so glad you asked,” Demakos said. “Though we’re not prone to explosive accusations here at Blimp Rock Enterprises, we’d really like to urge the public not to hire For Profit Private Sea-Doo Detectives of Toronto. Along with not having a web presence, giving us very little information, and working for the very people we were trying to investigate, this company often:

– asked a lot of questions about blimps
– asked about the best route to Rochester via Lake Ontario
– asked if it was hypothetically okay if they were double agents looking to put on their own blimp festival

They also sent us this note, via FAX:

“Hey guys. Um, this is obvi pretty awkward, but where are u guys keeping the blimp

Suspicious, isn’t it?”

Finally, Demakos explained Blimp Rock’s next steps, with a new blimp firmly in their grasp:

“The Blimp Rock Live (name of our festival) experience really is about 3 main components: Fancy mix drinks, the Finest Cover Bands and Wood Paneling. At this juncture, instead worrying about quick-fixes such as purchasing the thousands of dollars worth of helium required, obtaining permits for an alcohol serving blimp festival with one fire exit and the sudden reality that no Lifeguard will supervise our Tuesday night swims, we prefer to focus on the positive. What does that mean exactly? The proper ratio of tonic to lime, booking Sheezer and picking a tasteful shade of mock-mahogany.”

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Behind the Hoots: March

Milk & Bone (Photo by LePigeon)

Milk & Bone (Photo by LePigeon)

“Let’s All Stay In Tonight” – Blimp Rock (Lyrics by Peter Demakos and Owen Nowlan) 

Toronto town on a Saturday night, you tell me there’s this cool show. I see there’s more than two bands on the bill so I don’t think, I don’t think I’m gonna go cause I wish it started at 7 and we could get to bed by 11. 

For those who know me, it’s obvious why the above lyric is my favourite from this month. Exactly as Peter Demakos sings, my ideal concert is an “early” show when the band starts at 7 and I’m home and in bed by 11. Adding more charm to the song is Demakos’ deadpan delivery of the line – bedtime is serious business. With its fun video that combines tea, dancing, and games (I love all of those things!), Blimp Rock have won my heart and they’ll win yours too.

Blimp Rock’s Sophomore Slump will be released April 7th.

Laura Stanley 

“Emeline” – Scott Royle (Lyrics by Scott Royle)

Emeline won’t wash her hands, they were cleaned in holy oil sands. But they can’t hear her whispered psalms, just feel her dirty, filthy palms.


Scott Royle’s Sweat Shop Crop Top is full of fuzzy, Sackville-y pop-rock to groove along to, but underneath those guitars you might be missing some very insightful lyrics. The above sample has so many layers it feels like a new one is discovered every time you read it. At the highest level, there’s two big ideas running through the two couplets: the idea of filth and that of religion. But then they splinter off. “Dirty, filthy palms” could mean physical dirt, or it could mean the titular Emeline is morally dirty.

The “holy oil sands” line is chock-full of meaning—besides the obvious juxtaposition of cleaning with oil sands, it’s also a politically-charged statement about Canada’s priorities, basically equating them with holy water. Dig into all of Scott Royle’s songs and you’ll see equally thoughtful lyrics that make you rethink things.

-Michael Thomas

“Pressure” – Milk & Bone (Lyrics by Laurence Lafond-Beaulne and Camille Poliquin)

Bitter with hunger, pulse locked with mine. Better and deeper, into your mind.


Milk & Bone’s stellar album Little Mourning touches on tales of forbidden love and there’s no better song that illustrates this ideas as the catchy single “Pressure”. While the chorus compares water pressure to the chilling goosebumps that is love, it’s this particular line that is my favourite: “Bitter with hunger / Pulse locked with mine / Better and deeper / Into your mind.” It continues to pull on the metaphors of water as the singer drowns deeper in love. The album itself is racked with these allusions right from the opener “Elephant” which isn’t talking about an animal, but the unspoken illicitness of the love between two people.

-Tiana Feng

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Review – “All Things To The Sea” – CTZNSHP

reviewed by Chris Matei

The members ofMontreal three-piece CTZNSHP  have been quoted by VICE Magazine’s music outlet Noisey as being inspired by a long history of indie rock titans, starting with “Joy Division and all that 80s stuff, going up through R.E.M., and then Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, The National, Arcade Fire.”

CTZNSHP - All Things To The Sea

Those are some big, big bootprints to walk in: fortunately, with the aid of prolific producer Jace Lasek (who’s worked with a stunning collection of modern Canadian talent, from Wolf Parade to the Besnard Lakes to The Dears, Suuns, Young Galaxy, Saltland and many more) they have crafted an LP full of sweeping, emotive, powerful songs that draw on classic New Wave rock and pop influences while adding a dramatic sense of scale that is all their own.

Right from its outset, All Things To The Sea shows off the band’s understanding of the blend between bright indie warmth, slick bravado and crunching power that turns “Everything Always” into a tremendously cathartic anthem even before its huge outro crashes into one last fuzzy blast. From here on out there’s ample sonic clarity and dynamic depth on display, a pervasive sense of widescreen scale and openness without compression or constriction.

There’s an encroaching lyrical darkness, a lingering sense of sic transit gloria, mingling with the propulsive energy and chiming guitar patterns on songs like “New Brave” and “Low Lives” – the kind of tension that drove the titans of “all that 80s stuff” to blast the brightest, boldest lights and synthesizers and guitar hooks they could at their onrushing demons, as “New Dark” does here. This is a record that explores the complex relationships between a fondly remembered past, a troubled present and a deeply uncertain future. As vocalist Jesse LeGalais asks: “We were gonna tear it up, is that still the plan? / ‘Cause things, they seem so different now.”

“Sunburns” blends slow-shifting guitars and echoes of Interpol’s detached melancholy with hugely dynamic post-rock flourishes. “You Needed To Know” takes a simple riff and grows it into a pulsing, frantic kaleidoscope of delay repeats and high-pitched squalls. The song cracks open to reveal a stark, gorgeous and raw ballad, LeGalais reflecting the fervour of a James Murphy or Win Butler at full emotional crescendo. By contrast, “Secret River” is the come-down, the beautiful sunset mingling with the onset of the cold night: “so long to the greatest of teenage dreams… so hot in this August sun, been so drunk for so, so long / built my nest and my best plans out of confetti again.”

It’s fitting that album closer “Kamikaze Brain” sounds like the band turning to boldly go into the unknown: accelerating, accepting, charging forward rather than shrinking back from the past. “Yeah I know the water’s rising, I can feel it in my bones / Sometimes I still get that feeling that I might have made a few mistakes.”

Skilfully merging heartfelt pop sincerity with electrifying post-punk revivalism, All Things To The Sea might have the makings of a new Canadian classic. Highly recommended.

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *swoop*

Top Tracks: “You Needed To Know,” “New Brave”

CTZNSHP // NEW BRAVE from CTZNSHP on Vimeo.

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Review – “Cosmic Troubles” – Faith Healer

by Laura Stanley and Michael Thomasfaithhealer-album-cover-2500px-rgb-1

Shortly after it arrived in our inbox, Michael and Laura both fell in love with Faith Healer’s record Cosmic Troubles. What soon followed was an exchange of various messages about their favourite lyrics, album moments, and general fan-girling/boying. To settle the question of who would get to review the record, they decided to both do it. Like Grayowl’s previous double reviews, this will be in an AV Club Crosstalk-esque format.

Laura: 

“You can have my acid, I don’t want it on my tongue.” With this, the first line of Cosmic Troubles, I was sold. Faith Healer’s (Jessica Jalbert) opening statement as heard in “Acid,” is incredibly powerful. Following a weird psychedelic sounding guitar intro, Jalbert’s sweet vocals unexpectedly delivers this punch to the gut. It’s so emotional and filled with this frustration that builds from that seemingly never-ending sadness. And “Acid”‘s poetic moments don’t end there. Later Jalbert sings, “If I need a feeling, I’ll just get it from myself.” It’s all incredibly moving and we’re barely two minutes into the record.

For me, it’s these lyrical moments that drive the record. They’re raw and vulnerable yet wrapped in a warm and comforting hazy embrace of guitar riffs, a touch of synth work and these vivid ancillary noises.

In under three minutes, “Again” does well to pack in the various sides of Faith Healer for an impressive little number. Highlighted by another great lyric – “It’s a pain to stretch yourself out after being through the wash but being wrung through often makes the fibres soft” – the majority of the song is bright and poppy, letting off a Camera Obscura vibe. It eventually gains weight in the form of additional vocals and cloudier guitar parts until finally ramming its new-found strength into the next song, “Canonized.”

Another standout “No Car” jumps from your speakers/earbuds/whatever you happen to be listening from. Building from a few bass notes, Jalbert immediately delivers this powerhouse of a line in – “We were being lovers when you got me round my neck. I can feel your fingers still, they’re bruised into my flesh.” It’s graphic, heartbreaking, and an incredibly important song to hear.

After our early listens of the record, you told me that you got an Alvvays vibe from some of Cosmic Troubles. I know that while you like Alvvays, you don’t quite understand the sudden mass popularity of the band. How does Faith Healer’s brand of psychedelic-pop differ from Alvvays or any other band currently echoing this popular sound?

Michael:

For me, the number one ingredient in excellent music is surprises. The reason I can’t wholly get on board the Alvvays train is that, while Molly Rankin’s lyrics are wonderful, there’s not much of a sense of excitement to the music because it’s by and large straightforward hazy pop.

But this isn’t about Alvvays, damnit! Yes, Cosmic Troubles did remind me a bit of that band here and there, but when I gave this record a super-close listen not too long ago, it became very clear that this album is far more layered than I even initially thought it was. “Canonized” is a nice example of the kind of surprises I like. Then name of the song will make listeners think of religion, and the way Jalbert sings these first few notes it’s like she’s reciting a hymn.

But that doesn’t last long—the fuzzy guitars eventually give way to a heavier chorus as the guitars and bass go into overdrive, and the song reaches the same kind of intensity of a heavier Chad VanGaalen number. And even beyond that, there’ still a layer of “aahs” that could have come straight out of a 60s Motown number.

Another number that continues to surprise me is “Was, Is and Is to Come.” Besides the echoing of guitars at the beginning of the song, it’s almost entirely dependent on synthesizers, and though the song is less than three minutes long, it continues to shapeshift, sounding at parts like it could turn into a Doomsquad-esque jam or something more along the lines of Holy Fuck. And there’s barely any lyrics, just a couple of lines Jalbert sings. The line “Love, love, love, that’s all there is” would be 100 percent cheesy anywhere, but the uneasy feeling created by the synthesizers make it work.

You’ve talked a bit already about the song’s subject matter—what do you think Jalbert’s main thematic message of this album is?

Laura:

As all album titles should (call me old-fashioned), I feel that the title Cosmic Troubles captures much of what the album’s theme is. Jalbert allows us to witness only a small amount of the great cosmic (vast) troubles that are at play here. With the line, “I don’t know why I get so hideously angry but believe me I could keep it to myself if it were not for your embrace,” the title track suggests that a point has been reached where some things need to be spoken aloud, acknowledged, and dealt with. While the amount of problems and pain seems to be limitless, perhaps the album acts as a source of expression and is therefore healing. Even looking at the cover, the open mouth looks like it’s screaming out with, hopefully, some relief.

Back to the music, you mentioned to me earlier that you “love the weird instrumental left turns it takes.” Where do you feel this is done most effectively?

Michael:

Apologies for not immediately getting back to the music, and I will answer your question in a minute, but your point about looking for release is an interesting one—I think Jalbert may be talking at length about the ultimate release. Doug Hoyer pointed this out last month talking about “Universe,” but death comes up a hell of a lot elsewhere. “Fools Rush In” makes a point of repeating the phrase “Living just tears us apart.” And one of my favourite tracks, “Until the World Lets Me Go,” is more poppy goodness with depressing lyrics: “I could walk all night and fall down in the snow/I could sleep until the world lets me go…”

Anyways, my previous bit talked about some of the best moments of pure surprise, but I also like the moments when a song decides it wants to abandon all semblance of being straightforward pop. “Was, Is and Is to Come” is the most extreme example of this and I love the inward journey it takes, but the guitar solos really make them shine. The aforementioned “Fools Rush In” is already great thanks to its killer bass line, but it sweetens the cake with an unexpected psych-rock-flavoured guitar solo. “Universe” carries that same sense of the song being a journey thanks to the adventurous guitar.

And then there’s “Angel Eyes,” which starts out on a really dark note with quickly strummed guitars, before lightening up a little instrumentally and Jalbert delivers vocals that could make this song a downtempo Alvvays song. But then Faith Healer decides that’s not enough, and the sudden switch into an increased tempo turns it into something really excited.

If it’s not clear by now, Cosmic Troubles is the type of album that should get you excited about where pop music can go and what it can be. It’s also another argument for why you should really, really, pay attention to Edmonton’s diverse and hypercreative musical community. Feel the release.

Michael’s Top Tracks: “Acid”; “No Car”; “Until the World Lets Me Go”

Michael’s Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*

Laura’s Top Tracks: “Acid”; “Again”; “No Car”

Laura’s Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *swoop*

Cosmic Troubles will be out tomorrow, March 31, on Mint Records.

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Review – “Secret Life” – Moon King

Moon King_Secret Life_AlbumCoverArtreviewed by Kirsty Chan

Secret Life doesn’t sound like an album recorded in the middle of the Canadian wilderness, but it is. Straight from a year of touring with their two EPs, Obsession 1 and Obsession 2, Toronto duo Moon King took to a cabin in Northern Ontario to record their debut LP. The result is an ethereal 9-track album that’s full of twinkling melodies and subtle creative embellishments.

Secret Life opens on “Roswell”, an upbeat, catchy song that blends genres with touches of rock, pop, and electronica. The next song, title track Secret Life sounds like something you’d dream up in the middle of a fever. Its breathy vocals and the layered, fervent music plays with listeners as it swoops and builds.

The album hits its emotional high half way through on “Hexe”. Fresh out of the dreamy “Come Back”, “Hexe” sweeps into the album on a wave of joy. The steadily bouncing beats and anthemic singing are infectious without being overwhelming.

“Apocalypse” is a clear highlight on Secret Life. It starts simply before stretching out effortlessly and expanding into reverberating guitars and a driving rhythm. The album closes quietly with “Medicine”, a song that just barely brushes singer-songwriter territory and then turns it on its head with distant vocals and muffled guitar.

Secret Life comes out on April 14 on Last Gang Records. You can stream “Roswell” and “Apocalypse” on their Bandcamp, or check out this live video of them.

Top Tracks: “Apocalypse”; “Medicine”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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Review – “Sweat Shop Crop Top” – Scott Royle

reviewed by Anna Alger

Sweat Shop Crop Top is an introduction to the sound of Scott Royle, an inventive and passionate  songwriter who hails from St. John’s, Newfoundland. Royle has spent nearly a decade playing on the east coast, yet only now has the right time come for his debut to go out into the world.

“nosebleed” kicks off the album, the noisy opening reminiscent of Pavement and Broken Social Scene. Cacophonous drums bash along with Royle as he calls, “So long, Montreal.” “emeline” is similarly high energy, featuring bright guitar and lyrics chockfull of vivid imagery. The song is effect heavy, which heightens its mood. Slowing down the pace of the album and shifting the focus to thick bass tones, “jazz guys” is a darker, grungier track. Meandering piano leads the introspective bridge.

The more relaxed tempo is continued with “new joa,” a simple guitar led number. Picking up in both intensity and excitement is “pyot,” strong guitar driving the song and complimenting Royle’s vocals. “chma” is vocally led with loud, explosive instrumentation provided primarily by the guitar and drums, a common structure used in Royle’s songs.

Sweat Shop Crop Top proves to be an earnest debut, but lacks some diversity in its sound. Nonetheless, these songs feature quirky lyrical stylings, honest vocals, and fun rock instrumentation, which combine to form pleasing tracks that surely fill out intimate performance spaces.

Sweat Shop Crop Top is available as a name-your-price download via Scott Royle’s Bandcamp page.

Top Tracks: “jazz guys,” “emeline”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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Review – “The Tempest of Old” – Gabrielle Papillon

reviewed by Laura Stanley a0541298482_2

There’s something incredibly striking about Gabrielle Papillon’s familiarity. Her music is a mix between Jenn Grant, a bit of Kathleen Edwards, and a dash of The Weepies. And yet, Papillon is not like them at all. With a commanding and textured voice, complex lyrics, and as heard on this her fifth release, a vivid soundscape, she controls her similar sounding craft in a way that is only unique to her.

Papillon’s The Tempest of Old is a confident rush of songs. Though a rich darkness and weariness settles over most of the record, some of the strongest moments of the record occur when Papillon bursts through this shadow, giving listeners moments of calm amongst the rockiest of album moments. 

“Got You Well” is a perfectly placed opener that allows you to see how powerful Papillon is. It’s smokey, brooding, and charged with an attitude that’s invigorating. The numerous layers of this song – a mournful violin, a grungy guitar part, a choir of additional vocals, and of course Papillon’s commanding vocals guiding you along the way –  demand your full attention. With a similar mix of sounds, later tracks “Brother, Throw Down” and “Ain’t No Bitter” mirror this gorgeous dramatic soundscape of the album opener.

With its nod to Robert Herrick’s poem “To The Virgins, To Make Much of Time,” “Preach Love” has a suitable urgency to it (carpe diem etc.) enhanced by a sweet sounding side of Papillon as she sings, “keep me from shattering/hold me above the shadowing.”

The Tempest of Old is at its simplest and its sweetest in “Kentucky in the Dark.” Between Papillon question, “why do we falter here? Why do we hesitate?,” a loyal banjo anchors the song, a violin brings warmth, and a melodious chorus brings it home. A real winner here.

The calmest moment comes right at the end when “Well Beneath” closes The Tempest of Old in an intimate way. Papillon’s slightly distorted vocals are joined at first by only a few instruments (a drum and xylophone) before growing into much more and ending the album with a hopeful sounding peak.

Gabrielle Papillon’s The Tempest of Old holds an obvious power and an easy to love sound. Hop aboard.

Top Tracks: “Got You Well”; “Kentucky in the Dark”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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Review – “The Park Avenue Sobriety Test” – Joel Plaskett

past_coverreviewed by Michael Thomas

What is the Park Avenue Sobriety Test? It’s actually two things—a metal guardrail that several drunk drivers have crashed into in Darmouth, Nova Scotia; it also is an acronym for “the past.” Both of these definitions are key to understanding the latest work from one of Canada’s most treasured artists, Joel Plaskett.

The former definition is a good example of why Plaskett is so beloved; he’s local. Given his success and varied fan base, he could easily move to big music centres like Toronto or Montreal, but he’s stayed put in Nova Scotia. The aforementioned guardrail got its name from Plaskett’s former neighbour in Dartmouth.

On this new album, Plaskett continues to put to music his love for his home. The opening bars of “On a Dime” feature that wonderful fiddle one immediately associates with the Maritimes, “Alright OK” features the line “Halifax, Nova Scotia is the land of the free, I don’t care what the anthem says.” And the title track, as the blog has noted previously, goes over seemingly mundane local events in a refreshingly sharp fashion.

The other definition of the Test, that it spells out “The Past,” can be seen as a reflection as Plaskett turns 40 this year. Age is a funny thing—though Plaskett is approaching middle age, he’s been a fixture of the Canadian music scene for two decades. So while he can miss the times when “we could take any turn on a dime,” he can rest easy knowing that when he reaches a truly old age, he’ll already be a legend.

There’s another edge to this album, as Plaskett focuses on the down-on-their-luck and the people who put them there. “Captains of Industry,” for all its softness and pedal steel instrumentation, has a pretty biting chorus: “The captains of industry are driving us home, selling us lies, tapping our phones/Shaking us down, and we don’t even know it.” The succinctly-titled, country-flavoured “Broke” focuses on the important distinction between “broke” and “broken” as he goes over the story of a few figures in less-than-amazing, but not hopeless, situations.

For some sly Plaskett-brand wordsmithery, look at a song like “Song For Jersey,” a short bluesy number where he seemingly rattles off anything that comes to mind: “Hope they change your gun laws, god I miss John Candy/ If I have a little girl I will name her Sandy” i just a brief sample. And “Alright OK” manages to throw in references to Joni Mitchell and Jameson’s Whiskey in a song about a girl never coming back again.

At the rate Plaskett is going, he should have another dozen or two records by the time he retires, and as The Park Avenue Sobriety Test proves, he’s as sharp as ever.

Top Tracks: “Alright OK”; “Captains of Industry”; “The Park Avenue Sobriety Test”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *swoop*

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Live Review: Limblifter “Pacific Milk” Release Show @ Biltmore Cabaret

by Chris Matei

Ryan Dahle has seen a hell of a lot of action in the West Coast music scene. Whether tearing up the airwaves of MuchMusic as a member of Age of Electric and Limblifter in the 1990s, recording his own solo work, or collaborating with a veritable hit list of Canadian talent from Pat Steward to Ian Browne to Steve Bays and Hawksley Workman (as the power trio Mounties.) He’s also  produced work at Vancouver’s esteemed Greenhouse studios for everyone from Hot Hot Heat to Prairie Cat to k-os. In short, the 44-year-old Dahle shows no signs of slowing down.

Limblifter’s fourth record Pacific Milk, recorded with the lineup of Dahle, Megan Bradfield, Eric Breitenbach and Gregory Macdonald, comes out in just a couple of weeks on April 7th (you can preorder it right now!) Vancouver’s Biltmore Cabaret was the venue for the record’s highly anticipated release show, with locals Invisible Ray and the Passenger.

Invisible Ray. Photo by – Christopher Matei

Invisible Ray brought raw, old-school rock slash and dash to the stage, rolling through a set of energetic tunes with more than a passing resemblance (both sonically and in their frontman’s gloriously bearded appearance) to Black Mountain/Pink Mountaintops’ Stephen McBean – albeit displaying more aggressive, punchy garage vibes rather than a penchant for sprawling, gritty acid trips. The fierce playing and wry wit of frontman Bernie and drummer Penny definitely jump-started the engines for what was to come.

A huge tonal shift followed, as the Passenger, aka. Jesse Creed, took the stage behind an imposing and impressive barricade of synthesizer and sequencer hardware. His lengthy, abstract electronic set was a transition into mellow, vibed-out sonic territories built on layers of drum grooves and shifting oscillator patterns. Some of the audience were clearly expecting something a bit more energetic in the vein of Invisible Ray’s sizzling wattage, but your reviewer was particularly happy to make his way through Passenger’s darkened LFO landscapes.

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Jesse Creed. Photo by Chris Matei

 

For a band whose output has been spread out fairly widely across the last couple of decades, Limblifter’s sound has gone through a process of careful honing rather than outright revision. Their set was largely composed of material from the upcoming Pacific Milk and the band’s 1996’s self-titled debut, whose recent remastered edition really does the material extra justice for the modern listener. Each song in the set seemed to receive the reaction you’d expect from a cult fan-favourite cut – even some of the ones that were being played live for practically the first time, like “Dopamine” and “Travel Light.” Dahle’s songwriting style has mellowed out a bit since the mid-90s, but the bite of songs like “Screwed It Up” and  “Tinfoil” has stayed remarkably sharp. A few songs from 2005’s I/O also made an appearance, as did “Chop Chop” from Dahle’s Irrational Anthems solo effort. The effect was at times one of warping back to a simpler alt-rock era built on edgy melodic jangle and bursts of crunching overdrive. That being said, this was no throwback gig or effort to coast on past successes. Look out for Pacific Milk and more from this bunch very soon.

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Ryan Dahle. Photo by Chris Matei

 

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