Review – “Revenge” – Port Juvee

reviewed by Anna Alger

Calgary’s Port Juvee have released their debut EP, Revenge, a rollicking show of their garage influenced rock. The group have a knack for creating real jams, evidently drawing influence from bands like The Strokes and fellow Calgarians, The Dudes. Produced by Justin Gerrish, who has worked with the likes of Vampire Weekend and Weezer, Port Juvee’s debut finds them staying true to their roots while displaying a sound influenced by the New York scene of the 2000s.

The EP begins with “Toe The Line,” a direct indie rock number that showcases a strong bassline and off-the-cuff lyrics. Staccato guitar accentuates the vocal melody, later taking over the song for a brief solo. “All That’s Fine” is dancier than the first track, and features a catchy beat paired with poppy guitars. The song’s bridge shows the band’s strength in creating rock songs that are from the heart. Third song and title track, “Revenge,” has vocal and guitar lines that mirror each other. Darker lyrics are paired with a melody in a major key, creating a nice contrast that keeps the listener engaged.

The latter half of the album starts out even more upbeat in terms of melody, with “Half The Time I’d Rather Be Waiting” communicating the band’s wistful ethos lyrically. The instrumentation in this song is really clear and solid – to the point, like good rock should be. Thumping bass opens “Just The Thing,” the guitar accenting the desperation evident in the lyrics. The rhythm section really drives this song, which is full of energy. “Rooks” slows things down in ballad form to conclude the EP. It’s refreshing to hear the band reduce their tempo a bit, yet still retain the spirit present in their previous songs.

Melding indie and garage rock, Port Juvee are making great music for lovers of the New York sound. Revenge shows a comfortable group of musicians who have written enjoyable songs that exhibit their individual and collective talents. Extensive touring has clearly benefited the band, given how cohesive they already sound on their debut. I am excited to hear what they do next!

Revenge is available now via Bandcamp.

Top Tracks: “All That’s Fine,” “Revenge,” “Toe The Line”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

Posted in Grayowl Reviews | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Review – “Preconscious EP” – Marble Pawns

a1463668107_2reviewed by Elysse Cloma

Indie dream pop psych rock band Marble Pawns of Victoria, B.C. reached out to us with their hypercool Preconscious EPPreconscious is the home recording project of Marble Pawns’ front man Graeme Clarke, the product of “slaving away hours” in his basement with a minimal recording set up.

Preconscious is Marble Pawns being baby Tame Impala in Graeme Clarke’s basement. They write melodic, synth-heavy psychedelic rock tracks with fluid structures, textures, and substance. Every song has a thoughtful, meditative synth soundscape from start-to-finish.

“Headspace” is a psychedelic walk through instrumental dreamland, with a fuzz bass groove, careful synth transitions, lackadaisical vocals, and a lax, musing guitar solo. Like Tame Impala songs, the songs on Preconscious are about relatable ideas that are elusive enough to remain personal to Clarke – often about discontent with the self and other people. Marble Pawns aren’t all Tame Impala though.

While successfully reproducing a psychedelic sound, Preconscious is a nascent homage to psychoanalysis. “What Now?” is a depressingly relatable track about the existential crisis one experiences after reading Freud’s theories, laced with introspection and the recognition of irrationality: “I hate who I am and I’m terrified of what I might become. I fake being happy and it’s draining me”. It’s the most captivating on the EP, sampling spoken word segments on psychoanalysis and incorporating them into the feel of the song.

Throughout the EP, Clarke references dreams, the unconscious, and the ego. Freud nerds of Grayowl, take note. Preconscious by Marble Pawns is full of psychoanalytic existential hoots.

Top Tracks: “Headspace”; “What Now?”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

Posted in Grayowl Reviews | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

One-on-One with Gabrielle Giguere (Her Harbour)

482914_456980921023036_1954685549_n

Photo by Jamie Kronick

by Laura Stanley 

Following its release last year, the debut record from Ottawa based band Her Harbour memorized the blog. Together the richly personal lyrics and minimalistic instrumental arrangements cloud the record, Winter’s Ghost, in an emotional darkness. But it is something about front woman Gabrielle Giguere’s powerful voice that commands your attention. Akin, with regards to contemporary Canadian musicians, to that of Cold Specks (Al Spx), the passion behind Giguere’s vocals causes the record to quake and makes it really hard to not be completely drawn in.

Ahead of Her Harbour’s performance for our show in Toronto, co-presented with Doc Pickles Presents, I spoke by phone with, as it turns out, a soft-spoken Giguere. Her disposition makes the power of her singing voice that much more compelling, a voice that she credits to the old jazz music that would fill the rooms of her childhood home. 

“My Dad loved old jazz and we always had something playing when we were home,” Giguere says. “I loved Nina Simone and Billie Holiday and when I was younger, I wanted to sing like Louis Armstrong so maybe having some odder male influences [helped to contribute to the vocal style].

When recording Winter’s Ghost, this childhood home became Giguere’s studio. Done partially out of an interest in exploring the recording process alone, Giguere says that the recording location was a conscious choice. “I had just been living in B.C. and then I came back and I was working on a few projects that were collective. I felt the need to pull away and lock myself up.”

She further explains, “a lot of what I had written when I was away and what I seemed to write, centred around themes of family and childhood. I thought that it might be a good place to draw upon.” 

Although Giguere’s recording location was deliberately chosen to coordinate with the lyrical themes, the music style that developed out of these recording sessions was not done on purpose. As its title, and the previous descriptions of the record, would suggest, a chill deeply envelops Winter’s Ghost. Hovering somewhere between baroque-pop and “haunt-folk,” the record is, yes, creepy sounding.

“After showing it to people, I then realized it might be a little bit spooky,” Giguere laughs. “It wasn’t something I was striving for but I think I have always had a penchant for things that are dark and I’ve always liked to find the beauty in it.”

Since recording Winter’s Ghost, from February 2011 to February 2012, Her Harbour has developed from a solo project of Giguere’s to more of a collaborative entity that includes bandmates Pierre-Luc Clément (guitar, percussion), Philippe Charbonneau (bass synth, keyboard), and Jamie Kronick (drums, percussion).

“When I was recording, I was basically by myself and I was thinking of the production and the arrangements alone and bringing in a few friends and guests to play some parts. When we released the record, I started playing with a band which was really nice. Things get shaped by the people involved and now we are working on the next record. Some of my bandmates and I have gone as far as writing a bit of music together. Maybe not so much the lyrics but the music for the next record. There’s more collaboration that takes place.”

The evolution of Her Harbour and recently being awarded two grants has allowed the band to focus on their next record. Giguere says that the band has “been hacking away at writing arrangements for the songs as I write them for quite a few months now. We have about nine songs that we’ve worked with together. I would like to work on a couple more and we’re looking at recording in early 2015 and hopefully have it out by next Fall.”

Giguere also credits her record label E-Tron and the music communities in Ottawa and neighbouring Hull as places that foster creativity. With regards to the Ottawa scene, Giguere says, “I feel like I’m witness these days to it really blossoming with a much stronger sense of community. People are more willing to invest their energy into it instead of moving away or concentrating elsewhere. You get what you put into it.”

Her Harbour will be performing at Grayowl Point’s show, in conjunction with Doc Pickles Presents, on Sunday and is opening for Moonface in Ottawa at the end of the month

Posted in Grayowl Interviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Review – “32X” – Dream Jefferson

32xreviewed by Michael Thomas

It’s been a long while since Dream Jefferson began hinting at their full-length album. Now, finally, the time has come, and 32X has finally dropped onto the world. During a live set a while back, front man Owel Five called the group’s music “Madness, wonder, love, hatred, space and your favourite TV shows,” and it’s an unwieldy but accurate description of what the group does.

Dream Jefferson’s brand of electro-hip-hop encompasses a wide spectrum of human emotions, from celebratory happiness to contemplative sadness. As such, it allows for the group to flex its muscles and deliver a diverse smorgasbord of material. From the infectious repetition in “CyberPunkRockRap” to the deeper sentiments of “Château de Versailles,” there’s something in it for everyone.

Vocalist Owel Five and producer Corboe’s biggest strength is rapid-fire delivery—songs sizzle just that much more with a steady barrage of words like “Goblin Shark Kids” and “Light Therapy.” As might be implied by the “TV” portion of the unwieldy description above, the band drops so many references it’s difficult to list here, but extra props go to them for the Game of Thrones references in both “CyberPunkRockRap” and “The Filth.”

The songs are also at their strongest when they incorporate their collaborators Ian Strasboug and Tovah Fine, making songs like “The Ballad of Valeska Suratt” that much more of a community effort. At some point on the album you will also hear Paul Saulnier of PS I Love You and even Kira May.

As if the rapidfire delivery wasn’t enough, the backing beats have really gotten stronger. The electronics seem to really draw from 8-bit music, from the plunking of “Oblivia” to “Fireworks Over the Roxy.” At times, to match up with the aggression in Owel Five’s delivery, the beats get a lot more intense, almost industrial, like in “Gainsbourg!”

If this review feels like it’s barely scratching the surface, it should. 32X is an album that demands several listens to fully unlock, pulsating with catchy electronics and a cavalcade of pop culture references.

Top Tracks: “Château de Versailles”; “The Filth”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

Posted in Grayowl Reviews | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Review – “Progress” – Ryan Carr

reviewed by Eleni Armenakis a2301733118_2

With two mandolins, five guitars and a stunning 26 harmonicas to his name, it seems like Toronto musician Ryan Carr is quite the collector. But for someone who obviously deals in quantity, the sometimes busker has opted for quality when it comes to his debut EP and Progress rolls in at a mere three songs.

Carr lists plenty of influences, including four years at jazz school, a two-year bluegrass binge, three years touring with a gypsy pop band and, somewhere in there, a three-year stint in London, England filled with playing, writing, recording and working with other musicians. It’s the kind of mixed-bag repertoire that keeps each track on Progress from blending in with the rest—and keeps Carr from blending in with the rest as well. There are jazz flourishes, storytelling verses and a new genre with every song change, as though Carr truly set out to create a sampler of his work up to this point.

“Tall, Tall Grass” is a bouncing, dance-worthy indie number that opens the EP, punching through the trilling notes being rung out as Carr playfully sings along. At the same time, he sets up and then undermines the story he’s telling—upending the typical expectations the first verse would have set up in any other song and giving just a taste of his satirical writing.

There’s more of that in “You Can’t Stop Progress” as Carr sings, “You can bitch, you can moan, you can whinge, you can whine, ain’t no one going to listen to all your crying,” while describing trying to settle into a modern life. It’s bluegrass social commentary at its finest—quirky, funny and fantastically literal. And while it doesn’t have the immediate appeal of the other two songs on the EP, it’s got enough personality to win you over to its downtrodden side after only a couple of plays.

“The Healer” smoothens some of the twang from “You Can’t Stop Progress,” moving away from the storytelling quality of the first two tracks with a folk/country twist. Carr’s vocals tap into something powerful as he lowers his voice in for the hymn-like song. The chorus’ call of “Oh healer, lay your hands on me” also happens to be a catchy one—a clever way to end the EP as the final lines repeat inside your head and spur you into going back to sample the brief, rich wares yet again.

Top Track: “You Can’t Stop Progress”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

Posted in Grayowl Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review – “Lost Reverie” – Surely I Come Quickly

Reviewed by Jack Derricourt

a1014560374_10

Did you know that any sense can be affected with ambience? I don’t know why, but for the longest time, I assumed that ambience was limited to sonic waves and vibrations. You can have ambient smells, sights, touch, and tastes. Pretty weird huh?

Surely I Come Quickly makes ambient music. I’m not going to make some grand claim that he appeals to all the ambient senses listed above — the man makes cassette music and there’s really only so much you can do with one of those things, you know? Though if anything came close to creating such an effect, it would have to be his newest release. Out on Toronto label Adhesive Sounds, Lost Reverie is a delightful play date held between vinyl and a loop pedal. Atmospheres swirl out like sweet ambrosia, taking place in developing spaces, twisted into shape by the sinews of disparate musics.

The tracks on the album are vast like the plains of Surely I Come Quickly’s home province of Saskatchewan. The eight minute long “Kurelek” leads the pack in length, administering blending horns and laser light show of oscillating tones as a coda. When loops repeat like they do on Lost Reverie, they slowly become something different — the context in which you are listening to them shifts as your search for meaning shifts as well. “Kurelek” begins as one story and ends as at least three others. It stands in stark contrast to the imaginary love song of “Genevieve” or the Indian hoe down of “Nahanni,” but each of those has tides of meaning as well. Like the cover for the cassette, these pieces of music are overlapping images, melding together to create an entirely new picture, in which the forms of each lose their original significance in the light of deeper interactions within the piece as a whole. These studies in music do not seek to captivate, but to charm with novelty, and it seems to me that they do it quite well.

Throughout the album, the soothing sound of vinyl cracks on as more records are fed into the digital mix and looped. If you’re like me and you spent a long period of your listening life engaged with old 78 rpm records that had been given new life in the age of cds, the sound will not be new or harsh. It sounds like dirt underfoot, or rain drops falling into the music, and it is the perfect spice to Surely I Come Quickly’s ambient work.

If you’re seeking writing music for the fall, walking music for the fall, fall music for the fall, I would highly recommend Lost Reverie.

Top Tracks: “Kurelek” , “Genevieve”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

Posted in Grayowl Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Review – “Absolutely Free” – Absolutely Free

reviewed by Anna Alger

Toronto’s new indie darlings Absolutely Free have released their self-titled debut record, featuring sounds akin to those of Tame Impala and Deerhunter (with decidedly more synths). The trio, composed of Matt King, Moshe Rozenberg, and Mike Claxton, are bringing familiar yet genuine sounds to light with this record, their unique twist on psychedelic, electronic, and pop music being clear as day.

The album opens with “Window Of Time,” a dirge which slowly builds and fills out with samples of bird chirping, laughter, and distorted guitar. Found sound is prominent in this song, juxtaposed by the choral backing vocals. “Beneath The Air” sets the album into more of a familiar rhythm, jaunting pop drawing the listener in. Joy seeps out of the track when it hits the chorus, really solidifying the band’s strength in putting euphoria to music.

An off kilter beat provides the basis of following track, “Striped Light,” its repetitive nature providing the basis for additional layers of percussion and a melodic keyboard line to join the initial sounds. One of the best moments of this song is when the horns come in, reminiscent of their place in the songs of label mates such as Broken Social Scene and Apostle of Hustle. “Burred Lens” finds the band delving into more of an electronic sound, a dark melody being joined by a simple beat as the song begins to bloom. The lyrics paint the scene of an urban night, synths coming in to fill out the atmosphere. This song is reminiscent of the work of LCD Soundsystem, beats becoming more and more prominent as it goes on. The music overwhelms the vocals in a deliberate and intriguing way, lyrics posing the question: “the connection…is it real?” The song fades out in blissed out synths, ending a truly spectacular wave of instrumentation.

“Earth II” is awash in electronics, the sound rolling in like ocean waves. A basic drum line starts up, giving away to endearingly feeble vocals that are perhaps a little too overpowered by synths. The beat breaks up and adds colour to the song, which carries on, beginning to feature small moments of dissonance. “My Dim Age” is triumphant, humming along in a positive way as it begins. Where the track gets interesting is as the verses come in with their wonky melody and soft, lulling vocals. “Vision’s” has its basis in solid drumming, fun guitar and synth lines, but most of all: infectious energy. The album closes with “Spiral Jetty,” a long and rollicking synth based number.

Absolutely Free are making music that is most definitely worth listening to, both for pure enjoyment and to recognize the versatility of sound this band exhibits. Drawing from an evidently broad range of influences, there is a reason why this group has been able to release their debut on one of the most esteemed independent record labels, Toronto’s own Arts & Crafts. Catch them at Lee’s Palace tonight with WISH and The Wooden Sky.

Absolutely Free is out now via Arts & Crafts.

Top Tracks: “Burred Lens,” “Striped Light”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good) + *swoop*

Posted in Grayowl Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Review – “Winsome Kind” – Winsome Kind

reviewed by Elysse Cloma
WinsomeKind_7991_web
Husband and wife duo Winsome Kind are as earnest as they come. Two years ago, Scott Perrie (formerly of Redgy Blackout) and Leora Joy (singer, actress) met while performing on a production of The Buddy Holly Story in Saskatchewan. One year later, the two set out across Canada, performing on-board VIA-RAIL from coast to coast. They got engaged, returned to Vancouver, and recorded their debut album just two weeks before their wedding. With possibly the most despicably adorable Canadiana love story ever told, Winsome Kind’s music reflects the buoyancy of being in love.

Released on October 7th, Winsome Kind’s self-titled debut is delightful. These days, it seems like everyone’s putting out “lo-fi garage basement punk,” and “debut” is often synonymous with “nascent” or “underdeveloped”. Winsome Kind is neither lo-fi nor nascent, and has a refined indie-folk-pop sound. Produced by Tom Dobrzanski (of the Zolas), the album is clean and polished, full of tracks that vitally capture Winsome Kind’s musical personality.

Winsome Kind write silvery pop-folk songs about new beginnings, optimism, and love. They pair definite vocal duets with acoustic guitar and a basic accompanying band, consisting of bass (Marcus Abramzik), drums (Samual Cartwright), the occasional speckle of mandolin, and melodica. “Intertwined” features a whimsically winding, Andrew Bird-esque, mandolin hook that I can’t get enough of. “This Much Is True,” encapsulates Winsome Kind’s best sensibilities superbly: their flawless vocal duets, gleeful attitude, and catchy sing-along chorus lines.

Winsome Kind is an album that’s not overreaching in any respect – lyrically, vocally, or instrumentally – which makes for a confident sound and an easy listen. “When I Wait” shows off Leora’s fancifully angelic voice and Scott’s guitar technique. It’s a perfect example of their simply peachy style, which is professional and thoroughly sincere.

The songs on the album are accessible. Though predictable at times, the lyrics are easy to understand and relate to. Each song sounds cheerful; when the subject matter is not about a happy feeling, there is always a silver lining. “Burning Out” is about facing uphill battles with a positive attitude; “Better Days” and “My Goodbye” are about personal growth and letting go of past relationships.

While Winsome Kind might be too merry for my tastes, they may be a better fit for folks who enjoy artists like Serena Ryder, The Head and The Heart, or The Civil Wars.

How does a band from the land of rain, steep hills, and active wear (Vancouver) remain so positively happy? It must be love. I reckon Winsome Kind are as disgustingly happy as their music sounds.

Top Tracks: “Intertwined”, “When I Wait”

Rating: Young Hoot (Decent)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Review – “What Am I Going To Do With Everything I Know” – The Weather Station

reviewed by Laura Stanley WeatherStationWhatAmICoverWeb

The meditative spirit of Tamara Lindeman (The Weather Station) and subsequently her keen attention to detail as found in her lyrics is entrancing. With so many strong folk voices in Canada right now, it’s too much to say that Lindeman is the only one keeping folk music alive in this country but it feels too little to say that she is, simply, a great addition to this circle of folksters. Lindeman is a force. With her hushed vocals and instrumentals she draws you away from your busy (technology) filled life to a more organic sense of being. One where, for better or worse, feelings and the richness found in human experiences are at the forefront. 

Lindeman’s new EP, What Am I Going To Do With Everything I Know, feels like a return of The Weather Station. During the three years since All Of It Was Mine, Lindeman has been busy teaming up with the likes of Bahamas (Afie Jurvanen), Doug Paisley, Field Report and, as found in her 2013 Duets project, Daniel Romano, Steve Lambke (Baby Eagle), Ian Kehoe (Marine Dreams). Although this EP, and the full-length record slated for release in 2015, are touched by Daniel Romano and Megafaun and Jurvanen and Robbie Lackritz respectively, the intimacy of Lindeman alone is unmatched.

The brief twenty-two minute EP gives listeners plenty to reflect on without an overwhelming sense of sadness. According to the press release, Side A “examines knowledge” while side B is “a narrative, a love story in three parts.” Never breaking from the quiet acoustic tones that Lindeman continues to be firmly in control of, each of the six songs are simple yet hold a strength that is telling of an intelligent songwriter.

In the EP’s opening, Lindeman situates listens in a location that seems to attract those living in limbo – a friend’s couch. Cozy but never quite home (“…they had piles of bills and letters and all these photographs of people I would never meet”), Lindeman sings of the unfamiliarity of her surroundings not truly bringing comfort despite the listening ear of a friend with the lyric, “I don’t understand anything that has happened to me. Like I’m telling a friend and I don’t even believe me.”

The confidential nature of “Don’t Understand” is just the beginning of Side A’s sense that our shared scrutinizations will stay between ourselves. Already covered by Paper Beat Scissors (Tim Crabtree) and Michael Feuerstack, as heard on the Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada 5 compilation before its official release, the quick paced “What Am I Going To Do (With Everything I Know)” is one of the brightest spots in The Weather Station’s collection.

The narrative of Side B (the three part love story) follows the contemplative Side A appropriately and with ease. The “Soft Spoken Man” is the muse of the story with “Time” (whose muted drum inclusion makes it full sounding in this minimalistic set) being an ever present force pushing things towards uncertainty and an “Almost Careless” proposition (“you laughed and coloured and nodded yes”) ending the story, and EP, in happiness.

What Am I Going To Do With Everything I Know maintains Tamara Lindeman’s abilities to express the emotions that unite us all. Paired with a timeless folk style, we will be listening to The Weather Station for years to come. 

Top Tracks: “Don’t Understand,” “What Am I Going To Do (With Everything I Know)”

Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) + *swoop*

Posted in Grayowl Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review – “dumb summer” – Prom

dumb summerreviewed by Michael Thomas

It’s always a delight when a band is exactly as advertised—though perhaps “delight” might not be the right word to describe Prom, a Toronto band whose description includes the phrase “bummer jams.” Prom make no attempt at being something they’re not, which is why this EP comes across as so genuine and, hey, affectingly sad.

We previously described this band as the embodiment of the sound of pessimism, and on dumb summer, Prom’s latest EP, that sadness has clearly not gone anywhere. If anything, it’s gotten even more pronounced. Prom would likely find a kindred spirit in Edmonton’s Jom Comyn, as both feature music with deep vocals and beautiful accompaniments, with Prom skewing a bit more in the indie-pop direction.

The sounds of dumb summer are almost a musical representation of how Toronto collectively felt during the unusually cool summer. There’s a sense of haze, of disorientation, of wanting to just go to sleep, wake up and pretend that’s it’s all a dream—only for the truth to hit you in the face again.

With James Rodgers added to what was previously just Daniel Wilson and Sufian Malik, the arrangements now feel bigger, most evident in the beautiful “lcbo.” with more upbeat synths and a sense of urgency to the guitars. Lyrics are harder to distinguish this time around, with the delivery resembling a mutter, but it’s all part of the atmosphere.

The opener and closer, “television” and “crybaby” respectively, encourage maximum sadness levels; the narrator of the former song seems to only want to sit and waste away in front of a TV screen, judging by the repeated line “I need more television…”

But don’t just listen to Prom to get sad, also admire the beautiful instrumental work here. The dreamy “park moods” has a great bass solo in between swirling guitars and synths, and “crybaby” will blow you away with guitar.

Long live sad pop.

Top Track: “lcbo”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

Posted in Grayowl Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment