Review – “The Last Generation of Love” – The Holy Gasp

the last generation of lovereviewed by Michael Thomas

There is nothing holy about The Holy Gasp—they’re unholy in almost every sense of the word. And that’s why The Last Generation of Love is undoubtedly one of the best Canadian albums of the year.

The album sets this band apart from most other acts in the city. The Holy Gasp describe themselves as “Afro-Cuban psychedelic surf punk” and it’s a nice catchall for the band’s sound—lots of slick bass, full percussion, sax riffs and above all, Benjamin Hackman’s manic vocal style.

At its heart though, The Last Generation of Love is a protest album. Hackman et al don’t care much for the government (Hackman screams “Fuck you Rob Ford! Fuck you Stephen Harper!” in “Stomp Out the Man”) or for corporations (especially apparent “A Boy and His Pony”) or for mass media (the album’s title track) and this is the kind of protest we can all groove to.

It doesn’t take long to get immersed in this album—opener “The Man Ain’t Groovy” begins on a softer note but quickly turns into full-fledged chaos, and serves as a great primer for what’s to come. The rambling rant (set to a groovy beat) of the title track then gives way to what should be a Toronto national anthem, “Bedbugs.” The sheer intensity of the chorus is no doubt what residents feel when they get an infestation, and the verses keep up a slick bossa nova rhythm to for a great contrast.

“A Boy and His Pony” is a masterstroke of a song, stretching out past six minutes and seemingly uncharacteristic of the band—at least at first. It’s got a loping, organ-backed beat that makes it sound like a western, but the song slowly hints that not is all at it seems. The story begins with a man scheming to steal one pony, then all the ponies. Then it turns into a capitalist protest song before you’ve batted an eye.

“A Daily Affirmation” is no doubt the singalong song of the album, and it’s hard to resist singing “I can do anything good” along with the band. “All the Animals” will also wedge itself into your head thanks to the repetition, but it also manages to confound with lyrics like “All the animals must pay alms to the poor/And all the animals must drink dog piss and sell guitars.”

There’s not an ounce of fat to be seen here—just an astoundingly crazed and powerful collection of cohesive protest.

Top Tracks: “Bedbugs”; “A Boy and His Pony”

Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) +*swoop*

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Review – “Sunshine/ Winter” – Sunshine Goes Electric/ Kuba Pie & Ed Munstay

reviewed by Jack Derricourt

winter in the city

Do you like the snow? It’s a simple question really, one that brings you back to younger days of tobogganing and hot cocoa. Or Slayer records and wood pallet bonfires — whatever your fancy.

I am not a snow fan. My favourite winter sport is fireside reading, and I’m currently sitting in my chilly apartment, wishing that the white powder would leave me be, and bring back the birds. But I could change my mind if a certain local musical release were to come along and beautify the process of cold winter days for me . . .

“Winter In the City” is the snowstorm portion of Rare Drugs records’ newest release, Sunshine/Winter. It’s the kind of quiet, distilled sonic landscape sculpting that always ends up on movie soundtracks; but this time, the movie is your time spent making your way through the season. Kuba Pie tells it like it is over his slightly dissonant acoustic guitar on “Paper Tigers,” going on about watching “the open sky become my mind.” Layers build up like sedimentary precipitation, then melt away; the image of the fierce, ephemeral Tiger plays out perfectly. Ed Munstay provides a beautiful counterpart with “Girl In the Sun,” a song that depicts a snow-ravaged 401, and the insanity of watching the world through your mind’s eye, when the outside world becomes a bleached miasma. Munstay’s haunting piano line gains a harmonica accompaniment as the song progresses; but honestly, the vocal was so good on this song, I could have listened to it a cappella. Snow be damned if this music can happen in the wintertime.

Now for the painful portion. I guess Sunshine would be the A side, in the classical, “put the pop tune on the first side and the weirdo tracks on the b side” sense. Sunshine Goes Electric sounds like high-minded Beck in a slick LA nightclub. “Anything But Sweet” is a hot mood, with vocals pumping hard at the front and synth drums and melodies put down with some tambourine to make the air vibrate with “a dream about the sunshine.” The deep cut is “Sunshine and Lucy,” a track that has more to say about love than all of Plato’s Symposium. The guitar drones on, pulling melody and rhythm duties with aplomb, the drums and shaker make Venice Beach come alive like a Paul Thomas Anderson vignette. The final sound of two voices, lazily discussing amour, pizza, and Nixon-shaped constellations is one heck of a way to finish your side of a split. “Fuck this love, let’s get out of here.” Too true.

This is a great little cassette release. Buy it for someone you like, or someone you “like” like, and show them that winter is both not the worst, and that it will end soon enough. Now excuse me while I go do my best Edgar Allan Poe impression over my meat tea.

Top Tracks: “Paper Tigers” ; “Sunshine and Lucy”

Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) + *swoop*

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Review – “Half Pint Full Heart” – Mip Power Trio

reviewed by Kirsty ChanHPFH-Cover-1000-rpg

The Mip Power Trio has the soundtrack for your next road trip covered with their sophomore album, Half Pint Full Heart. The band hails from Smithers B.C., but their latest release covers the full spectrum of Canadiana from rollicking roots rock to new wave quirk. Their diverse influences make sense since producer and engineer Ian McGettin made his name working with artists like Joel Plaskett, Sloan, Matt Barber, and more.

Half Pint Full Heart comes out swinging with “Breakthrough”, a song that achieves dance-worthy status without succumbing to saccharine hooks as they chant that all they wanna do is is “breakthrough to you.” And that’s a goal that they spend the rest of the album achieving.

The album moves through to “Grown-Up Games”, a bouncing circus with acrobatic vocals and dynamic tempo. The variety of the album is most clearly showcased here as Mip Power Trio sing-songs their way through poignant lyrics exploring the bliss and frustration of youthful naiveté. “Limilou Blue” pulls the rug out on the listener once again with a (perhaps predictably) blues-y vibe. The song is boot-stomping rock built for a long drive down an empty road.

Half Pint Full Heart is a well-rounded album that offers listeners smart music that’s weird in all the right ways and with it, Mip Power Trio has established themselves as a force to be reckoned with.

Half Pint Full Heart is released on February 27, but you can check out some of their other releases on their website.

Top Track: “Grown-Up Games”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really good)

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Review – “It’s Decided” – Andy Kim

reviewed by Anna Alger

Pop veteran Andy Kim is back, having collaborated with indie hero Kevin Drew on his new record, It’s Decided. The album is heavily influenced by the sound of Broken Social Scene, which compliments Kim’s robust vocals. Strong reinterpretations of tracks from his back catalog brush up against brand new songs, creating a seamless collection of smooth and heartfelt pieces.

“Sister OK” starts off the album, an earnest invitation based around simple acoustic guitar strums before blooming into a full sound composed of layered instrumentation and soft backing vocals from Kevin Drew. The downtempo follower, “Why Can’t I,” features lyrics that paint a picture of lost direction.It’s Emotional” conveys a shared ethos between Drew and Kim: not to shy away from but turn and face their feelings. Anyone who knows Kevin Drew’s work is aware of his sometimes blunt honesty, and this song features Kim opening up in a similar fashion. Introspective synths and horns compliment the lyrics. “Shoot ‘Em Up Baby,” originally from Kim’s 1968 album, How’d We Ever Get This Way, proves to be a stately rework. 

The second half of It’s Decided starts out quietly, “Heaven Without A Gun,” growing slowly into a pulsating number which features the refrain, “Don’t be a stealer.” “Longest Time” stands out as one of the strongest songs on the album, Kim and Drew’s voices melding naturally to create a feeling of being inside the very core of music. “Forest Green” is delicate, orchestral, and full of beautiful imagery not without its darkness. The album comes to a close with “Who Came First,” which breaks down into a rolling, rhythmic conclusion complete with horns and shouts of euphoria from Drew.

It’s Decided revolves around the mighty songwriting partnership found in Andy Kim and Kevin Drew. This doesn’t present like the skeptical assumption one might make regarding an older artist revitalizing their sound. It’s Decided does not compromise and does not falter in its honesty and diversity of both sound and lyrics. There is a tangible truth to this album that strikes the listener as important and all too rare. At the centre of this record is beating heart, and what is more vital than that?

It’s Decided is available on February 24th via Arts & Crafts.

Top Tracks: “Longest Time,” “It’s Emotional”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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Review – “Splenda Thief EP” – The Lonely Parade

splenda thiefreviewed by Michael Thomas

After releasing an album that was a blog favourite last year, Peterborough’s dynamic trio The Lonely Parade are back with an equally excellent EP that further cements this band’s innate awesomeness.

The Lonely Parade, lyrically, are political, but don’t spew the kind of politics you’d hear at a picket line in front of the American embassy. Rather, the criticisms are subtle, right down to deciding to call the EP Splenda ThiefBut the band also throws in some emotional honesty, and combined with their slick instrumentals, the trio continues to be a force to be reckoned with.

The EP gradually gets softer as it goes on, starting with the crunchy opener “Stéphane Dion.” The largely instrumental song with badass bass and siren-like guitar is oddly the perfect song legacy for the brief Liberal Party leader, especially when the song’s few lyrics come through, including “I’m not worthy, I feel naked, I feel dirty.”

“Mono” is perhaps the most overtly political song though, seemingly a satire of human intelligence and our collective ability to stick our heads in the sand. Lines like “We want answers! We want single, comfortable answers” speak volumes in just a few words.

Things get a little softer but no less powerful with “Stomach,” with fuzzy minor guitar chords, brushed drums and subtle but solid bass providing the main melody. It gets off to a hell of a start with the lyrics “I am sad, but if you’re happy/I puked in your house, it felt good,” and features quite the memorable chorus, too: “This stomach can predict the future/Cause when I think of you, I feel ill.”

And finally, there’s “Numbers,” noticeably a longer song than the band usually plays and sung a lot more softly too. It’s comes across as a mournful song until the guitar picks up a little in spots, but still resigns itself with lyrics like “Everything’s not gonna work out.”

Once again, The Lonely Parade prove themselves remarkably mature and polished far beyond what their years would suggest. We need more bands like them in the world.

Top Track: “Mono”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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Review – “Post​-​sauce” – Carnior

reviewed by Laura Stanley a0282352157_10

Whenever submissions come in from bands that label themselves as a type jazz fusion, all-instrumental, and throw around the vague term “experimental,” I drift towards them. Their always surprising mixtures of sounds and genres somehow put my mind at ease. The Montreal band Carnior nicely fits in with my continual desire for clarity or, at best, a soundtrack for my neuroses. 

Carnior embrace both chaos and creativity. Their songs sprawl while swinging up and down with the emotions that they cohabitate with. Amongst the wanderings of Post-sauce (let it also be known that I have no idea what “post-sauce” is), Carnior have an energy that never ebbs. Though the various movements in each song cause the band to allocate this energy in different ways, Carnior never lack spirit.

At only four and a half minutes,“Soyouz” is the most accessible of the three through no less experimental. Highlighted by bright keyboard and synth work, the entire song stays fairly light while keeping a groovy feeling going.

This groovy feeling continues right into the next song, “Dark foncé (sul’ sofa),” but only sticks around for a few moments before becoming absorbed into one of its numerous sounding sides. Approaching the 5 minute mark, Carnior prepares you for an approaching blistering wall of sound but instead, a surprising keyboard and synth combo crops up again. The darkness from moments before is broken through for a captivating end to a complex number.   

Launching off with a drum solo from Yannick Decelles-Gagnon, Post-sauce’s final number, “Éthéré(e)” fully embraces the electronic side of the band that had previously only been hinted at. With a noteworthy heavy middle section filled with swirls and whirls of electronic creations, “Éthéré(e)” is Carnior considering what else their creative minds can conquer. 

Make it be loud, let yourself get loose, and try to figure out what Post-sauce means.

Top Track: “Dark foncé (sul’ sofa)”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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Review – “Cubist Spheres / Frags of Rock” – The Annoying

cubist spheres frags of rockreviewed by Michael Thomas

Like other bands featured on the blog previously, The Annoying take on a fully self-deprecating name but delivers something wholly unexpected. Given the arcane album name—by a band that bills itself “pretentious dorky rock”—it’s very easy to go into this with an open mind.

And an open mind you will need, because the album rarely spends more than a few minutes sounding like any one thing. Cubist Spheres/ Frags of Rock is, without a doubt, mind-expanding music. From the propulsive crunch of opener “Fletcher’s Field” to the softer tones of closer “Haze,” the journey from point A to point B is far from linear.

Though at its core a trio—William Gagnon, Arnaud Poulin and Eduard Paraschivescu—the band recruited a few more musicians and the result is too many instruments and styles to count. The biggest showcase of the band’s ever-changing style is “Heal?” and “Healed…” which are both around the nine-minute mark.

“Heal?” begins with spare guitar and drums, and it gradually picks up pace as it goes from eerie to full-on-blistering, ending with the whirring of reverbed guitar. “Healed…” on the other hand starts out gloomy, gradually getting louder, with interludes of static-y vocals reflecting on the world “special.”

The album’s centrepiece is also the strongest of the album—the six-minute “Since the Red Flag Waves.” It’s a de-escalation of loudness, and the band seemingly channels Kalle Mattson in Gagnon’s soft vocal delivery and warm instrumentals. The song seems to be about breaking free of your shackles, and the melody suggests that it’s a big moment of catharsis.

The album isn’t done by a longshot with those longer songs. “168-12″ feels like a natural coda to “Since the Red Flag Waves” and “That Door” unexpectedly veers into slacker-rock territory.

It’s become a music writer’s cliché to call an album a “journey” so I’ll rephrase: Cubist Spheres / Frags of Rock is the Fellowship of the Ring’s journey to Mordor. You never know what to expect.

Top Track: “Since the Red Flag Waves”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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Wavelength 15: Mozart’s Sister, Fresh Snow, Look Vibrant, New Fries, Tenderness, Bart

by Michael Thomas

Leave it to Wavelength to literally save the best for last. While nights one and two had their strengths, Sunday night turned out to be completely solid, from start to finish. The theme of this year’s festival has been past, present and future, with each night presenting one aspect of that theme. So it’s safe to say, after Sunday night, that the future looks very, very bright indeed.

Bart

Bart

Those who made it out early were lucky enough to see Bart, a band made of members of the Elwins, Hooded Fang and other projects. They easily could have been a headlining act at the calibre they were playing at. To put a finger on what makes their particular brand of prog-pop so enticing is difficult, but goddamn do they do it well. Their set was airtight, and more instrumental jams were rounded out with one or two vocalists for an added layer of pleasure. Bart easily made a horde of new fans.

Tenderness

Tenderness

Keeping things going was Tenderness, finally back in Toronto after living in Calgary for a few years. Chrissy Reichert was the only Wavelength act this festival to have her own visuals, which shifted throughout each song. With a cavalcade of electronics at her disposal, she plowed through around eight songs with no real pauses. She separates herself from the electronic pack by the way she seems to slice and dice sounds and samples, making for jarring—and compelling—music.

New Fries

New Fries

It seemed like all you needed to do was blink and you’d have missed the quick but punchy set from New Fries, who are becoming more and more people’s favourite band with every show they play, What they do isn’t really categorizable—screeching vocals, blazing fast numbers and a whole ton of weirdness. It was histrionic, it was staccato, it was too many things to name—and it left a hell of an impression.

Fresh Snow

Fresh Snow

All three Wavelength Incubator Bands ended up playing the festival this year, and Fresh Snow were the last of the three to make an appearance. The mysterious and menacing four-piece once again took the stage to ambient sounds and dry ice, slowly building up a tuneless hum into a flurry of loud, rocking instrumentals. Not for more than a few seconds did Fresh Snow let that momentum slip, continuing to bring the noise and slay the audience for 40 minutes. This set was apparently a bit of a preview of new material, so we can all expect to be fully blown away by them again soon.

Mozart's Sister

Mozart’s Sister

Finally, a little past midnight, headliner Mozart’s Sister bounced her way across the stage. It was in fact Caila Thompson-Hannant’s birthday, but the treat was more for the audience. Just playing with backing tracks allowed Thompson-Hannant to express herself as she moved around to each song, which fluttered with her soaring vocals and the simple but effective beats. She also endeared herself to the audience by saying things like “123 BPM. That’s the speed of the next song, in case you’re wondering.” Particularly poignant was “Mozart’s Sister” (the song), which elicited even more cheering from the excited crowd.

Look Vibrant

Look Vibrant

But the night didn’t end there! With a 4 a.m. last call at the Garrison, Wavelength added two more bands. I was too tired to stick around for Cellphone at 2 a.m., but I did manage to be charmed by Montreal’s Look Vibrant. The few that stuck around to see this four-piece were treated to easily the most energetic band of the night. Each song was infused with a manic rock energy and anywhere from one to three band members could be singing at one time. The pyrotechnics got people dancing, and the band showed that Montreal can also be a place for music of sheer enthusiasm and not just detached cool.

Wavelength is a triumph every year because it offers what no other festival an offer—a Canada-focused lineup of bands you won’t see at every summer festival, and an audience full of open-minded and supportive people. It’s a testament to the quality of music in this country that the Wavelength Festival is such a success each and every year.

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Review – “The Midnight Slide” – Rainboard

reviewed by Jack Derricourt

midnight slide

Salmo, BC sounds like a typical British Columbia town. The Wiki marks it as a former mining site, a land of depleted salmon, and “a quiet community with numerous outdoor activities including hiking, fishing, biking, golfing and skiing.” Of course, the ‘Pedia constructivists forgot to add in the playing of rock and roll music — but online archives often leave out the deep, space rock underbelly of any locale.

Rainboard exist in the psychological mine shafts of Salmo, bmx bike down the dammed riverbeds, hatch like baby eagles out of the garage and fly onto the tape deck; thanks to Arachnadiscs newly resurrected indie rock imprint No Love, Rainboard’s 2013 recordings, The Midnight Slide, have finally been rustled up in cassette form, capable of all sorts of action in the minds of listeners nation-wide.

What is the heart of this collection of songs? Well, a great deal of guitar, surely. Drums that drive and pump the blood. The songs were recorded in houses, and sound like the winter games of two astute listeners of all things space rock and shoegaze. The vocals trail off discreetly, the sound sense mattering more than the content in the mix and yawing drawl of the tunes.

How can a music be both hypnotic and incredibly active? The songs on The Midnight Slide psych you out as they gear up: “Mating Calls” does the loud-quiet-loud format with real originality, playing up the outer rim distances and the chugging chord progressions; while “Teenaged Angst of a Forty Year Old aka The Awkward Song” and “Lightning Skull” go light on the lyrics to provide more scenic crusts of crashing cymbals and pulsating overtones of guitar distortion. The music of the cassette is capable of doing a great deal of work in a short span of time. The level of compact delivery is quite impressive, but the complete package of the record, its original uniformity is the highlight for me: the sound of the cassette is of a piece, yet the songs stretch out in enough variety that it all stays fresh.

No Love did all Canadian ears a favour by putting Rainboard’s ghost town rock and roll heart onto a cassette. The songs hold secrets, brought down from the mountain and into the machine, and should be played at an appropriately loud volume whenever you get the chance.

Top Track: “Mating Calls”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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Wavelength 15: Lowell, The Acorn, Del Bel, Last Ex, Ginla

by Michael Thomas

Love was in the air for Wavelength 15’s second night—Valentine’s Day. And while that love seemed to exist in adoration for the five bands who graced the stage, the relationship between equipment and bands was a little more strained.

Ginla

Ginla

Opening the night in propulsive fashion was Montreal trio Ginla. After a bit of electronic ambiance, the music took on a whole new life as the drummer added some pounding beats. The band crafted loud, synthy soundscapes, and added a bit more emotion as the guitarist contributed vocals. Those vocals could have been higher in the mix (although, to be fair, most vocalists that night were too low), but Ginla still served as a mighty fine warmup for what was to come.

Last Ex

Last Ex

The almost-instrumental Ginla was a nice transition into the completely instrumental Last Ex, who play moody, atmospheric music. Most easily described as an instrumental Timber Timbre, the keys, guitar and drums made for a killer combination. The band got off to a bit of a rough start when they messed up a song, but once they righted themselves they put the audience into a trance, The effect lingered when the band left the stage, as the melody of the last song played on keys played by itself for at least a minute more.

Del Bel

Del Bel

It was the CD release show for the great Del Bel, and the sextet got off to a great start with the killer Del Bel opening track “In My Solitude.” But soon after, tragedy struck when Tyler Belluz’s synthesizer stopped working, and it took a very long time to get it back up and running. Del Bel were surprisingly able to grin and bear it, still managing to pull out a great collection of songs, from the action-packed “The Stallion” to the creepy “Old Magic.” And to top it all off, they covered an appropriately Valentines-themed song that truly put them in the audience’s heart.

The Acorn

The Acorn

Don’t call it a reunion, but The Acorn finally made a triumphant return with a set composed mostly of new material. Rolf Klausener makes for an excellent front man, starting the set wearing a parka and seemingly concerned about how sexy Toronto was (so concerned was he that he threw condoms to the crowd after the second song). As for the material itself, it buzzed with the same kind of strength and warm that has made The Acorn so compelling since Pink Ghosts. Everything just hums along so perfectly—hard to explain, but essential to watch.

Lowell

Lowell

Equipment would also fail headliner Lowell, but considering all that went on in her roughly 40-minute set, the power failure seemed like only a small piece of the puzzle. Elizabeth Boland is a charismatic and energetic performer, who literally began the set by running through the crowd in a light-strewn outfit before diving into the killer “Cloud 69.” Halfway through the next song, “Palm Trees,” a power failure hit the equipment, forcing Boland to improvise. She rapped through a megaphone and was prepared to sing one of her songs through it when the power was finally, mercifully restored.

From them on, things went smoothly, and Boland kept the party going by throwing glow sticks to the audience, followed by throwing fake dollar bills, of course to the catchy “I Love You Money.” After breaking out a new song or two, she ended things with “The Bells,” arguably a perfect pop song. As balloons started to appear in the audience, the second night of Wavelength truly was a party.

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