Blimp Rock w/ Tyson’s Casio Fiasco @ Dakota Tavern

by Michael Thomas

I wish it started at seven/And we could be in bed by eleven

-Blimp Rock, “Let’s All Stay In Tonight”

Blimp Rock were definitely living their pipe dream Saturday night at the Dakota Tavern. The 7-9 p.m. release show for Sophomore Slump was great on so many levels, from the early let-out time to the quality of both acts.

Tyson

Tyson

Opening the night was Tyson’s Casio Fiasco, one of the many, many musical projects of Guelph’s Tyson Brinacombe. For this musical iteration, Brinacombe performed solo with some backing tracks, and showed off some great range on both vocals and guitar. His songs could start off with gentle vocals before he suddenly increases the volume to a shout. His guitar shifted in tone, sometimes fuzzy and sometimes clear. His set drew from a variety of sources, from his Casio Fiasco record to his EP recorded with the reunited Tyson and the Trepids. The highlight was definitely “Max the Cat,” a theme song for Brinacombe’s cat, complete with awesome guitar and lyrics about him drinking from the tap.

Blimp Rock

Blimp Rock

This being a Blimp Rock show, the band’s set began after a PowerPoint presentation from Blimp Rock Enterprise’s CEO. Then the band launched into “Will It Ever/Sophomore Slump,” the first part with lovely strings and the second part a lot more rocking.

Sophomore Slump material of course dominated the set, with plenty of hilarity along the way. In introducing “My Mind is a Shark,” singer Peter Demakos mentioned it was on CBC’s As it Happens, an episode of which was about Katy Perry’s “Left Shark.” So naturally Demakos yelled “Katy Perry Left Shark!” during the song. During a rendition of “Lake Ontario Lifeguards,” Demako’s guitar wasn’t quite working, so he laid the blame on those shifty lifeguards.

The uber-catchy “Vampires” had Demakos showing off some dance moves while “Conflict Resolution” let Claire Whitehead take the vocal forefront, and the initial set ended with Emma Tollefson singing lead on the propulsive and funny “If My Friends Ran the Government.”

The band quickly reconvened for a two-song encore, starting with the beautiful “Sensitive Boys” and concluding with a song about dreams, “Blimp Rock Live 2.” It’s encouraging to see Blimp Rock having a full audience who “gets” them, and it should only be a matter of time before Blimp Rock Live is off the ground.

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Audible Hoots: Crystal Castles, Fern, Folly & The Hunter & more

Fern – “Combat”


On Rachel Fowlie-Neufeld’s (Fern) 2014 EP Strange Fingerprintsshe crafts melancholic folk songs that are made for your sadness. Her latest release “Combat” is along the same lines but much richer version. Highlighted by a dreamy pedal steel, Fern continues her promising folk stylings.

– Laura Stanley

Folly & The Hunter – “Awake”

“Awake” is not for the impatient. It’s a slower burner, thick with guitars and keys, that only breaks loose at certain drum sections. Even the verbose opening line “we become a cult of inertia” demands your full attention. As the song builds so too does its energy and hopeful spirit – a perfect anthem for late night summer drives.

– LS

Crystal Castles – “Frail” 

If you defray, you end up prey. Glow through the veil. Is this what you call frail?

And with these words, Crystal Castles is back.

Though there was the notion that the experimental electro outfit would discontinue following singer Alice Glass’ abrupt departure last October, Crystal Castles’ Ethan Kath clearly had other ideas. While Glass walked away from the spotlight, Kath managed to fool us all by continuing to toil away on new material in complete secrecy. And last week he posted a brand new Crystal Castles track on Soundcloud via Facebook – the band’s first release since 2012’s III album. While the emergence of the track, “Frail”, was in itself a surprise, many were also taken aback by Kath’s accompanying statement on Facebook – a statement in which he claimed Glass didn’t appear on many of the band’s best known songs (“Crimewave,” “Untrust Us,” among others).

Kath has since deleted the shot taken at his former singer, instead saying that he wants to “let the music do the talking”. And talk “Frail” does. Loud and clear. The song is typical Crystal Castles through and through – and the fact that Glass’ absence is barely noticeable speaks volumes. (The vocals on “Frail” come courtesy of Edith. Although the identity of “Edith” has yet to be revealed, I can confirm that the new singer for Crystal Castles is, in fact, not a baby – as some have idiotically opined).

“Frail” is dystopian, heavy metal with synths –  a song that is equally adept to aid in going to war to as well as having sex to. It does little to dispel my summation that Crystal Castles are to electronic music what Wagner was to classical music – undertones of beauty within disciplined aggression. Though Crystal Castles has been silent for three years, this new song has made the long wait somewhat palatable.

– Christian Patrick

Tough Age – “Snakes & Ladders” 

Right off the bat, there’s so much to love about Tough Age’s “Snakes & Ladders” that you have to play it five or six times in a row just to absorb it all. The energetic burst of rockin’ fuzz that begins the song, never falters. Paired with a melodious falsetto from Jarrett K (Apollo Ghosts), “Snakes & Ladders” is a combo of punk and psych-pop that leaves you wanting to both rock out and laze around in the sun. Either way we owls are very excited about their forthcoming record I Get The Feeling Central due out June 23rd via Mint Records.

– LS

Run Deer Run – “Alexa’s Song” 


For a band that describes themselves as “indie-rock,” there’s a surprising amount of soul that fills “Alexa’s Song.” In the preview of the Calgary duo’s debut album The War, a layered and moody sounding arrangement elevates Laura Halvorsen’s vocals to impressive heights.

– LS

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Review – “The Decline of Stupid Fucking Western Civilization” – Jordaan Mason

reviewed by Laura Stanleya1677572132_2 

The Decline of Stupid Fucking Western Civilization is an emotional self-exploration for Jordaan Mason. Produced thanks to a successful Indiegogo campaign, The Decline is a “call-to arms for a better, queerer world” set to experimental folk and rock, erring on punk, sounds. It’s a challenging listen but a rewarding one.

A reason why it’s such a demanding listen is that the songs range from 5 minutes to thirteen and move between numerous different styles, tempos, and moods. Mason has not made these songs easy to digest. “Eulogy” for example begins in a, surprisingly, poppy way before ushering in a much more brooding instrumental section filled with fuzz and guitar solos. Instead Mason tells vivid personal stories with no cause to leave anything out.

In the title track, Mason sighs and groans exhausted from the numerous mental health and health issues Mason plagued with. The scattered guitar notes that later dissolve into chaos mirror their distress. “Liturgy Part Two” similarly begins with a minimal guitar work that allows the stark and graphic recounting of abusive relationships to fully be heard.

From an instrumental perspective, “Pharmacy” and “Stop Walking Start Swimming” are the most accessible tracks from The Decline. In “Pharmacy,” Mason’s words dance with the, respective, bass and guitar riffs while “Stop Walking Start Swimming” is a fast-paced and moveable track that rests on hope for a future of equality. The lyrical intricacies within The Decline help make the album as powerful as it is. In the last line of the last verse in “Stop Walking Start Swimming,” Mason sings, “I don’t want a private life” (more powerfully written in brackets as seen on Bandcamp). It’s a fleeting line but listen closely, it makes the song.

The Decline‘s longest track “Evidence” is another strong one. An epic song that seeks forgiveness and survival, the first half is upbeat and almost hopeful. Towards its end, Mason and band shift back to a melancholic sound as they battle the darkness that comes with trying to remember your actions.

In the final moments of The Decline, Mason, as found in “I’ve Been Tasting Roads My Whole Life Repeats, sings, “I want to spit this road out and build a whole new house.” With their powerful record, Mason sets a solid foundation to do just that.

Top Tracks: “Stop Walking Start Swimming”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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Review – “Empire of Time” – Find the Others

empire of timereviewed by Michael Thomas

So far this year, Empire of Time is about the closest you’ll get to a musical soul-cleanse. Soft vocals and delicate, beautiful arrangements are the name of the game here, as if Jordan Klassen mellowed out just a little more.

In a few places, the album threatens to become a little too sweet, like in “Light in a Bottle,” but the band’s constantly morphing arrangements keep the songs fresh and unpredictable. There are many great things at work here, from the subtle percussion to the spare but effective keys.

“This Vampire Has Seen Better Nights” is a great use of both the percussion and keys. Before the vocals kick in, the song sounds like it could be something out of Enya’s songbook, but percussion helps it stay firmly in the modern day. Here, Andy Sheppard’s vocals are at their strongest, making this song a remarkably playful entry.

Other times, Sheppard manages to keep his voice to barely a whisper, creating an intimate, vulnerable atmosphere. The title track is the biggest example of how soft he can go; while referencing historical figures like Alexander the Great and Richard Lionheart (backed by just a few strums of acoustic guitar) he goes as quiet as possible, making the eventual transition to something louder all that more appealing.

And the band can go louder, when it needs to. “We Stared at the World” is another song that starts sweetly, all warm guitar, strings, vocal harmonies and synths before the song suddenly explodes, and it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly amps up the energy so much, but it’s undoubtedly thrilling. “Meant For This” has a great structure too, with many peaks and valleys.

The album is at its softest on songs like “A Fine Line,” with just vocals and the odd plucked guitar here and there. The aforementioned “Light in a Bottle” is quite spare as well, but adds some classical piano towards the end.

And of course, the closing song “Lost Boys Choir” has not a single voice in it, and it’s a fitting end—Empire of Time fades into the sunset.

Top Tracks: “We Stared at the World”; “The Things You Want”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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Review – “Snake Legs EP” – Snake Legs

snake legsreviewed by Christian Patrick

Drink beer. Fight. Have sex. Do drugs. Repeat.

You see, the trick to being happy in life is simple: Have a good time all the time – a philosophy Edmonton’s Snake Legs live and die for on its debut self-titled EP.

I must confess that my expectations for this four-piece were pretty low. After all, whenever a punk band habitually refers to the amount of booze they drink and partying they do, I tend to recall all those terrible high school punk bands I had to endure as a teen. But the Snake Legs EP proved to be a pleasant surprise. Through the facade of cheap beer and stench of weed, Snake Legs is a band whose songs are actually well-crafted and, more importantly, well-executed.

Snake Legs will have you believe it to be an average beer-swilling, Albertan bar band, but the opposite actually holds true. Under the initial guise of simplicity, the songs are much more than a cliche. Forgoing the expected “us-against-them” punk mantra, the EP explores such topics as carpe diem, homelessness, quitting a dead-end job, and even the virtues of yoga.

The EP is saturated with killer guitar riffs, augmented by a tight rhythm section that channels self-professed influences such as Against Me! and PUP. Musicianship aside, the EP is also laden with introspective and clever lyrics (Just make sure you know that it could take some time, before you can bend and mend like a riff does to a rhyme – “Namaste Mothafucka”). Overall, the Snake Legs EP is an eye-opening experience into a music scene mostly ignored by the rest of Canada. Though, the rest of Canada won’t make that same mistake again.

So just lay back then—with a brew in one hand and a joint in the other—and turn your iPod up to 11 because the Snake Legs EP is this summer’s soundtrack to getting wasted.

Top Tracks: “Tiger Eyes”, “I Quit”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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Review – “Patrick John” EP – Patrick John

reviewed by Chris MateiPatrick John EP - Patrick John

Any artist’s debut EP needs to make a statement: in the space of just two or three songs, it must define what makes them tick, showing as many sides of their artistic personality as can hopefully captivate new listeners. Kelowna, BC native Patrick John, who recorded this eponymous work at Vancouver’s Monarch Studios with various instrumental contributions provided by Matt Kelly, establishes himself here as a thoughtful lyricist and songwriter. His is a freeform narrative style that seems to have grown naturally out of his surroundings.

Opener “When The Morning Comes” is the poppier of the two songs here: it’s built on John’s clear, soft vocals and rich swirls of lap steel laid over a driving three-chord piano pulse, perhaps best described as being of the Chris Martin mold. The lyrics are a wistful meditation on the tension between staying close to something familiar and starting out on one’s own path – a theme that resonates with John’s trajectory as an emerging artist.

“On My Dying Day” is pitched with on more laid-back, lilting folk trajectory, trading piano for a simple yet effective arrangement of bright, warm acoustic guitar and shimmery Rhodes. The song leaves off on a sort of ellipsis, as John’s lyrics trace into the uncertainties that lay in both the future and the past.

The pair of songs exhibited here aren’t necessarily the catchiest or most hook-driven, but they resonate in the way carefully crafted short stories might. Patrick John highlights its creator’s strengths and shows us a place from which this ambitious singer-songwriter might go on to evolve, refine and create new ideas.

Top Tracks: “When the Morning Comes”, “On My Dying Day”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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Premiere: Dana Sipos – “My Beloved”

roll up the night skyIt figures that she who hails from the arctic can produce such warmth. Dana Sipos once called Yellowknife her home, though she hasn’t stayed in one spot too long lately.

Sipos will probably be moving around even more with the release of Roll Up the Night Sky, out April 30, a (you guessed it) extremely warm collection of songs. Incorporating a wide range of instruments to her folk style, it’s already a hit with us here at the blog.

And that’s why we’re happy to premiere another song from the album — “Me Beloved.”

Says Sipos about the song:

“I have had the joy of singing friends and family down the aisle from Yellowknife to Toronto to New York to Mexico, and I always write songs for these lovers. My Beloved is one such song, it’s really for all the beloveds out there.  It is inspired by the Song of Songs from the Old Testament, one of the greatest love stories of yesteryear.”

And the music is just as lovely as the lyrics, with a strong mandolin backing and Sipos’ wonderful vocal range. Whether or not you’ve got a beloved right now, there’s a lot to love here. Check out the song below.

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Review – “Rooms” – Heat

Reviewed by Jack Derricourt

HEAT_Credit_Ariane Forest Babin

Pop is about giving the people what they want. Now, that can sound condescending, to assume that some people and a room can read a culture at face value and deliver a product of some interest to a wide range of listeners — but it’s also an enviable skill, a real gift. Not everyone can make an album that’s easy to switch on and hard to turn off. Montreal’s Heat — much cooler than Hot Hot Heat, as they espouse on their website — appear to be capturing that fire of popular creation, and running with the torch all over their new EP.

Eight tracks seems like the novella of extended play albums to me. It sits right in the middle of EP and LP, but those titles have always bothered me anyways. What doesn’t bug me is how much variety there is to be found on Rooms. The production is standard indie sounding, with a bit of a big rock band drum sound thrown in to shake things up. But through this fairly conventional setup, Heat deliver a wide range of song atmospheres to listeners.

There are too many songs about being young in the charts; it’s only natural: we want to hear about youth and innocence as we age. “25” is an ode to the uneasy place between the realm of youth and the harder existence just over the edge. There are U2 guitars and Leonard Cohen lyrics to keep the listener on their toes amidst the mish mash, plus some delicate backing vocals.

“Rooms” is a medium-paced meditation on party dynamics and self-defeat. Tasty guitar hooks like you could spread on toast keep things interesting, as the song moves from one cavern of representation to another.

Then there are the real pop punches on the album. “All I Wanna Do” smacks with Ramones apathy, at least lyrically. “Ritual” keeps things upbeat into the bottom half of the EP; there’s a lot of the Strokes in the song, the lead vocal’s distorted sound cropping up with great effect.

Heat turn it up on their new EP. Popular or not, guitar music still has a lot to offer to those with open ears. Rooms shows us the way that guitar bands might once again gain control of the airwaves, broad bands, and bandstands.

Rating: Strong Hoot (good)

Top Track: “25”

See Heat in Toronto at the Silver Dollar on May 28.

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Dilly Dally, Teenanger, Most People @ Steam Whistle

by Michael Thomas

The latest edition of Steam Whistle got people dancing, then moshing, then bobbing their heads in a frenzy, in that order.

Most People

Most People

What hasn’t been said about Most People on this blog? Probably nothing, but even after seeing them at least half a dozen times they’re still so much fun to watch, both when playing music and when bantering. Mixing a set of tunes from their self-titled debut, their Stay Here Forever in the Night EP and another EP out this month, it didn’t take long for them to get some people dancing. Despite the serious tone of the lyrics, Brandon Gibson-Degroote and Paul McEachern let their goofy sides show, like when McEachern tried and failed to twirl and catch a drumstick. We can’t wait to see what their new EP sounds like.

Teenanger

Teenanger

Teenanger were all about a gradual buildup, Their set of short songs started out kind of relaxed (as far as their brand of rock goes), and three songs came in quick succession before the band took a small break to acknowledge the crowd. From then on, the energy amped up several notches and a passionate core of around 10 people began moshing, Teenanger slowly started to draw on some louder punk energy to really sell themselves, and a highlight near the end came when the lead singer began chanting “Michael Jackson” numerous times as part of a song, all while pointing at the crowd that had gathered right in front of the stage.

Dilly Dally took a similar approach to Teenanger, starting a little softer and gradually amplifying, nearly song-by-song. The band is a Toronto darling and for good reason—Katie Monks has a unique and raspy voice that sells every genre the band forays into. Starting off sounding like 90s grunge, the band quickly proved it could shred on guitar and even dive into punk when necessary. Though high octane rock isn’t what Dilly Dally does, they’re a great example of the diversity of the city’s scene. Dilly Dally and Dirty Frigs may soon be spearheading a Toronto grunge revival.

Steam Whistle Unsigned showcases don’t happen often, but when they do they seem to always manage to bring in Toronto’s finest. Friday night was no exception.

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Review – “Kathryn Calder” – Kathryn Calder

reviewed by Anna Alger

A collection of sometimes haunting, oftentimes just plain gorgeous songs comprise Kathryn Calder’s self-titled album, indicative of her maturation and progression as a songwriter. The New Pornographers member uses her solo work as a contemplative outlet, evident in the calm that flows through these tracks.

The album begins with “Slow Burning,” Calder’s clear vocals leading the listener into the song, the lyrics immediately outlining a mission statement of sorts. Harmonies provide the track with a gentle quality. “Beach” is understated, minimal percussion and clarinet accenting Calder’s voice. The song almost feels like a hymn. The tempo picks up in “Take A Little Time,” featuring strong synth and chunky guitar. Great instrumental strength backs up Calder, as she sings, “I’ll forgive you.”

“Blue Skies” is atmospheric, light strings carrying the piece through its chorus. The guitar during the verses is mournful and slow, matched by Calder’s lyrics. A fingerpicked bridge provides further introspection, as Calder sings, “Quietly just dragging my heart, quietly just dragging my heart around.” A previously unheard level of darkness is in “When You See My Blood,” which builds to an electrified refrain towards its end. A steady rhythm introduces “My Armour,” synths floating atop the looping bassline. Almost mathematical guitar lines play underneath Calder’s high, soft melody. Coming back to the gradual pace of the beginning of the album, “Song In Cm” is stripped back, with only quiet guitar and few other instrumental flourishes taking attention away from Calder’s vocal.

Kathryn Calder creates an ethereal sound on her self-titled album, not without its moments of true power. Her lyrics are revealing and honest, and combine with her music in a natural, evocative way. This album is a skillful reflection that can be received broadly so as to feel relatable for a variety of listeners.

Kathryn Calder is available now via File Under: Music.

Top Track: “My Armour”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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