Review – “Bored Bored Bored” – The Namedroppers

reviewed by Eleni Armenakis a1071151870_2

The Namedroppers are, they admit, not so good with this genre thing. Lead Anthony Damiao started out trying to find a place in the folk scene before finding new footing with what was to become the rest of the band—Michael Di Felice, Sam Dlugokecki and Stephen Gomboc. The added members meant Damiao’s ambitions to add more to the music, like pulling from classic rock and punk influences, could finally come to fruition.

They threw all those elements into a blender for their fall debut, spewing out nine songs that run the gamut from Tom Waits and Sex Pistols imitation to your more staple folk. The uniting thread is spun out from the same idea as Luddite, their single from nearly a year ago. Lead Damiao, who strains and rips away at the vocals throughout, is equally vocal when talking about how Bored Bored Bored is a protest album—just not in the traditional sense. Instead of riffing on politics he’s taking issue with the apathy he sees in his own generation.

“Even the maladjusted have an overwhelming capacity to look at this gigantic world full of stuff to do, full of different ways of disturbing the applecart, and say ‘I’m BORED!’ Minus the crucial words ‘and I’m gonna do something about it,’” he explains.

In that case, The Namedroppers couldn’t have released their album at a better time—the final sparkplug jolt before the soporific effects of winter creep in and plunge us into another eight months of inertia. From the opening thirty-second “Intro,” it’s obvious the band is out to catch your attention. The whirring, experimental opener slips into an aggressive and punchy rhythm, and the onslaught carries onto the very end.

“Luddite” makes a reappearance, but it’s Damiao’s hissing growl on “Get Straight” that really seems to capture his frustration. Meanwhile “St James Infirmary” ends up as the catchiest song from the first half, playing with fret board flutters as it plows on ahead. But it’s on “Rotor,” pushing past seven minutes in duration, that their debut lives up to the challenge The Namedroppers are not so subtly issuing.

The lengthy song also marks a shift for the back half as it segues part of the way through into a slower, edgy classic rock. While it ends up spiraling frantically towards the close, the shifts in pacing fits neatly into the somber march to the close. Final tracks “Astroboy” and “Smaller” show off the band’s early folk roots, blending the traditional sounds with punk in a modernized lament.

In many ways The Namedroppers—as though living up to their name—feel like they’re still holding on to the rebellious and activist generations of our past. But while there’s no denying they’re looking back on a rich history of protest songs, they’re also very clearly steering them in a new direction. It’s that twist that keeps Bored Bored Bored from being a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Top Tracks: “St James Infirmary”; “Astroboy”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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Review – “Wear Me Out EP” – Down the Lees

reviewed by Jack Derricourt

Down the Lees

Trip Electro Indie Rock does not sound like something I would enjoy. I get electronic music. Kraftwerk and LCD Soundsystem make my toes tap. But trip electro? I thought that music was reserved for my least favourite French bars and car ads.

Down the Lees makes me seriously question this cockamamy assumption. The Vancouver-based multi-instrumentalist has produced two full length releases prior to a tightly packed three song EP, Wear Me Out. There’s a certain flow to the work on Wear that illustrates a limited canvass. Guest performers have very rigid, real spaces in which to articulate masterful performances, whether they be beat box, synthesizer, or vocals.

The title track opens ominously like a John Carpenter soundtrack. Stacked vocals, melodic guitar work, and scraping beats create a towering pop tune that captivates. The lyrics keep things simple, allowing most of the focus to be taken on by the instrumentation, which is delightfully paced and mixed.

The synth string arrangement on “Temper Mapping” is glorious. As a fat bass line by Jessie Robertson rips through the core of the track, beautiful layers of acoustic guitar and aethereal vocal work leap out, creating a wide range within the sonic context of the piece. The space mapped out with all the different musical textures in this short, four minute space is enjoyable and original.

Heaviest and last in the trio of tunes is “Brave.” When I listened to this song for the first time, I envisioned an action movie starring some young lead actor, defying the odds while wearing their thumbs through the sleeves of their sweater. So, I guess a movie about mormon vampires? But fret not, the song is actually quite good. Echoing vocals stretch out. A tinny piano line drives the track. And hard and heavy guitars dominate the chorus-weighted structure. “Brave” is an exercise in dynamic.

Down the Lees does a lot with just three songs. The Wear Me Out EP drops November 25th. Consider adding it to your fall listening list. Wear it out on endless shuffle mode.

Top Tracks: “Wear Me Out” , “Temper Mapping”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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Delta Will, Hush Pup, The Corner @ Silver Dollar

by Michael Thomas

Every once in a while a lineup comes along where one can look at it and go “Now that’s a show.” Such was the case last night with the heavenly combination of Delta Will, Most People and Hush Pup.

the corner nov 7

The Corner

Opening the night was The Corner, a relatively new band (at least new enough that they don’t have a record out yet). The four-piece sported keys front and centre with guitars in the wings, allowing for just a tad more focus on the electronics. The moody music incorporated some soaring hooks in the choruses, injecting some passion into a subdued performance. Bonus points to the drummer, who looked like he was putting every ounce of strength he had every time he hit a drum.

If their recent EP was any indication, Hush Pup promised to deliver some angelic vocals and one of the only sounds that can truly be called “dream pop.” The band more than delivered: from the danceable “Swimming” to the slow jam of “In the Dark,” the three-piece cruised through their set. It was unfortunate that Ida Maidstone’s uniquely wonderful vocals sometimes got a bit lost beneath the guitars and synths, making it difficult to hear some of her vocals. But when she could be heard loud and clear was when the band truly reached swoon levels.

Delta Will

Delta Will

Delta Will took the stage next, and it turned out to be their last set for a while—they’re “disappearing” to go work on a new record. Indeed, it was this new record—or at least new material—that dominated the set. Those that have been following Delta Will since he touched down on Earth and brought the blue to Transcendental Visits will see how his music has changed as Delta Will has swelled into a four-piece band and embraced electronic textures.

Delta Will’s new material still retains some bluesy notes here and there, but it has evolved into something new. There’s definitely more electronic influence, giving many new songs a real groove, and the band also isn’t afraid to get really heavy, like they did to start things off. Even Delta Will “oldies” can get a bit of a makeover—the all-around excellent “Good Will” now begins with an electronic backing before bursting out its full-tilt guitar assault. It’ll be a real treat to get all this recorded.

Most People closed out the night, and while this blogger wasn’t confident in his ability to stay conscious long enough to stick around, they no doubt brought the party to a wonderful end, as they are wont to do.

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Review – “Sing To Me EP” – Twin Voices

reviewed by Anna Alger

Twin Voices whistle and harmonize their way into listeners’ hearts with the introspective bedroom pop featured in their Sing To Me EP. The Torontonians have recently released their third EP on London, UK based label Brothers, Absurd.

Opening with slow, minimalistic guitar and drums, the EP’s title track sets a somber tone. Whistling, harmonized vocals, and contemplative lyrics paint an expository sonic landscape.

“Open Arms” is a decidedly more electronic track, beginning with blips and bloops that mix with acoustic guitar and stark drumming. As the song carries on, momentum builds – eventually bursting as lead member Laura Beach exclaims “So fuck it all, and get high!” Ending abruptly, “Bag of Bones” wastes no time in getting started. Echoing the sounds of early 2000′s Stars throughout the song’s introduction, the drums come in to add weight and further direction. Folk harmonies are evident in the vocals, juxtaposing the digitized sounds.

Next is the Obzrvr remix of “Open Arms,” a steady track with electronic and percussive flourishes. Focus is put on the vocals in this remix, which soar even more clearly than in the original recorded version due to the barren nature of the instrumentation. As the climactic moment of the song comes to an end, dance rhythms and synths take over.

Although it is a brief look into the world of Twin Voices, the Sing To Me EP features strong songwriting which is particularly evident in the band’s ability to meld dance, indie folk, and electronic elements.

Sing To Me EP is available as a free download on Bandcamp.

Top Tracks: “Open Arms,” “Bag of Bones”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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Review – “My Father Was A Sailor” – North Atlantic Explorers

reviewed by Laura StanleyMy Father Was A Sailor - Front Cover (Lower-Res)

One thing is for certain: North Atlantic Explorers know how to commit to a concept album. Inspired by frontman Glenn D’Cruze’s late father’s life at sea with the British Merchant Navy, My Father Was A Sailor is outfitted with aquatic references galore and even the salty voice of a Scottish seaman, even though it turns out to be Belle & Sebastian member Stuart David, crops up now and again. In contrast to the usually rough temperate of the sea, the record has a mix of folk, instrumental, and ambient sounds which overall provides a calming adventure for the rockiest of seas (I’m not sorry).

Although D’Cruze is the captain of the Vancouver band (these just write themselves), My Father Was A Sailor has a fleet (last one…maybe) of musicians including Jonathan Anderson, a horn section featuring JP Carter of Destroyer and Dan Mangan + Blacksmith, and a rotating group of backing voices. This collective effort wholly captures the emotions involved in the project and allows the story of D’Cruze’s father to feel like a communal one to be passed on like a legendary tale.

Starting with the voice of Stuart David and the sounds of the sea, the biographical “The Sailor & The Stenographer” is a quiet opening chapter to this adventure. With a minimalistic arrangement, the backing water noise as well as other stray sound effects are the base of the track. In the forefront lies the simple and soft croon of D’Cruze (initially reminding me of the Evening Hymns’ Jonas Bonnetta) and eventually a, what will be a very familiar, horn section and finally a choir is added.

It is not until the third song, “Don’t Want No One Else (If I Can’t Have You),” when the album picks up. Borrowing a line and melody from Belle & Sebastian’s “The Boy With The Arab Strap,” this song will be appealing to Sufjan Stevens fans (particularly his pre-The Age of Adz time) as it is a very melodious and collaborative folk song. Likewise, “Lost At Sea,” though more downtempo, is another strong tune that combines the voices and instruments of many with great success. 

Slightly expanding from the more generic folk sounds, songs like “Into The Blue Sea” and “White Moon Bay” utilize electronic elements for a change that works well with the overall soundscape of the record. 

Nestled throughout My Father Was A Sailor are three all instrumental tracks that are treasures not to be overlooked. Highlighted by gentle sounds of a glockenspiel, “Glasgow Circa 1952” carries a lightness that is a great relief following the darker “The Sailor & The Stenographer.” Similarly, “Subtropics” is clear which, again, feels reassuring when wading through the darker parts of the album. Last, “Hebrides, Bailey, Fair Isle” is where North Atlantic Explorers gets the most adventurous. Fully narrated by David, who is telling a weather report, the backing instrumentals sound like a free jam. Everything is looser, less ominous, more upbeat, and well, fun. There must be something joyful in the coming wind.

North Atlantic Explorers’ “My Father Was A Sailor” is an ambitious project with a praiseworthy result that should make everyone involved in the project proud.

Top Tracks: “Don’t Want No One Else (If I Can’t Have You),” “Hebrides, Bailey, Fair Isle”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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Review – “Suffering Psyche” – The Angry Moon

Suffering Psychereviewed by Michael Thomas

Fall releases (at least the ones reviewed on this blog) are often gloomy and introspective, much like the process of beautiful green leaves turning colours and then dying. But other times, a band will come along to inject some much-needed energy. Enter The Angry Moon.

With a touch of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and a whole lot of catchy instrumentals, Suffering Psyche is an EP to dance to while the season gets colder. The duo of Stella Panacci on vocals and Jordon Zadorozny on instruments and vocals is the kind of slick combination that makes electro-pop acts shine.

Expect no subtlety at the beginning and you’ll be off to a great start. Big synthesizers and the crash of drums begin the EP with “Late Summer Song,” a well-chosen first single for the band. With a groove reminiscent of Coronado,  Panacci goes heavy on her vocals, almost becoming a shriek but not quite there amid the thumping bass, slick guitar and swirling synths.

It gets even louder on the next song, “The Fear.” Starting this time without synths but instead some heavy, fuzzy guitars and Panacci singing “I’m beginning to warm up,” the melody is ominous, but eventually a synth-backed, New Wave-y melody takes its place. Here Panacci does her best Karen O and the result is another strong track.

Comparatively, “Live Like We Never Die” takes things a little easier but it’s no less compelling. Some light percussive thumping and piano, not synths, opens up this one. Once Panacci moves past the first verse, the chorus brings in some great background vocals for some call and response.

More synthy fare comes in the form of close “Walking Backwards,” along with some sweet bass accompaniment. This is The Angry Moon at its most electronic, and it shows that if the band wants to go more glitchy, it wouldn’t be a bad thing.

While “This Is My Dream” is also pretty synth-y, it stands out as the one “slow jam” of the collection. Everything is just a little slower, giving the song a bit of a soulful feel, and Panacci’s delivery changes just a little to draw out some of the words. Giving the instruments room to breathe allows Zadorozny ‘s arrangements to shine even more.

The Angry Moon certainly fits the “dynamic duo” bill and it’s more than likely that this band will get dance floors moving.

Top Track: “Live Like We Never Die”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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Review – “Terror Blessed” – Shopkeeper

by Eleni Armenakis shopkeeper

It can’t be a coincidence that the title of Shopkeeper’s debut album happens to be an oxymoron. How else would you explain the idea of being Terror Blessed if it weren’t meant to be a introductory commentary on the fascinatingly gloomy release and the way it plunges from high to low, from emotive rock to gently melancholic folk.

The recently formed trio only banded together last year as an outlet for some so-called “minimalist folk songs” Scott Haynes (Bill Killionaire, Dutch Toko) had written the summer before. Haynes gathered two more experienced musicians for his project, Alanna Gurr (Alanna Gurr & The Greatest State) and Steph Yates (Esther Grey), and the result is a debut that expertly hits every note without ever sinking into an overly polished product.

Haynes’ vocals veer from assertive to plaintive, shifting within the same song and making it impossible to dismiss Terror Blessed as passive listening. Even as he sounds more subdued on “Beach Fire,” his distinctive warble stitches itself into the chorus. And while it’s often what immediately leaps out from the song it also fills the notes with passion—adding a strange and compelling energy to the somber lyrics.

The two versions of “Naivete” on the album do a great job of showing off exactly how Haynes ramps up his vocals to fit the surprisingly powerful music the three have composed. The solo version strips away all of that, letting the emotions and lyrics command attention as Haynes eases up, creating two versions of a song that couldn’t be more different except for the shared rhythm of the chorus.

If anything, with the exception of “Naivete Solo”, Shopkeeper’s minimalist folk is far from that, blending in traces of country on “Reference Material” and pushing the rock on “Freezer Fire.” But it’s “Belly Fire” with its intoxicating mix of both that opens the album strong and keeps me coming back. Even at his most suppressed or apathetic, Haynes’ voice never loses its insistent call and as Gurr and Yates only bolster Shopkeeper’s commanding presence, suggesting that whatever terror lies behind the title actually turned out to be a blessing for creating this intensity.

Top Track: “Belly Fire”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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Review – “Split Release with Shearing Pinx” – Hag Face

Reviewed by Jack Derricourt

hag face, shearing pinx

Hag Face play the kind of gritty punk music that parents should be teaching their 21st century children to compose right out of the womb. Riff-oriented, scream-ridden, recorded like a cardboard shroud, the new split relelase with Shearing Pinx is serious business.

“Psycho Bitch” is a midnight ride through psychosis and unnerving anger. The speaker rages on about a nameless object of distaste, and her sarcasm is so dry it should be served with a gallon of water on the side. The surf solo from grind hell is a lot of fun.

The whirlwind that is “Baby DoOomers” comes on slow and then churns viciously. There’s a great bit of Velvet Underground avant going on in this song and a killer faux-Brit vocal. The track shows off the tape’s production with smouldering style: screams, compressed drums, two different guitar sounds, and the bass join together in the choruses to create a unit of fuzz, reaching out and slapping the listener between the ears.

The middle of the release features two rhythmically charged tracks, “Burn Out” and the fifty seven second “The Count.” Hardcore fans will get a warm and gooey feeling from these power sing-alongs.

With all the heart and energy of a killer closer, “The Big Thaw” combines all the elements of rawness witnessed beforehand on the tape, with just a touch more studio magic: the chorus of “Dead inside, dead inside,” rings out from left to right with satisfying, repetitive intensity, while a ghastly shriek rips through the churning rhythmic strings and stoner rock drum work. The touch of piano suppiled by Guy Guy to end the track (and the record) is completely out of place and entirely right.

The new release from Hag Face is powerful, critical, and loud. Should you be seeking a tape that has a lot to say and the right way to say it, look no further.

Also, “Cassette available at shows” is the most wonderful tag I’ve ever seen on a bandcamp page advertising the album’s availability for purchase.

Top Tracks: “Psycho Bitch” ; “The Big Thaw”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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Review – “Future States EP” – Future States

reviewed by Anna Alger

Montreal indie rock band Future States have released their self-titled EP, which was recorded at St. Matthew’s Church in Timmins, Ontario. The five piece have toured the album around southern Ontario since forming about a year ago, bringing their unique blend of chamber pop and indie rock to the public.

Beginning with “Bad Signs,” the band’s sound recalls that of fellow Quebecers Sam Roberts Band. Sweet harmonizing and finger picked guitar fills out the verses, whereas the drums take precedence in the chorus. A chilled out, contemplative sound is prominent in this song.

By the second track, “Animals,” the band picks up the tempo. Tenderly sung vocals are accented by piano and a strong drum beat. Even this far into the EP, it is clear that this band loves adding little flourishes and bits of colour to their music, and in doing so they keep their songs interesting. An off kilter piano solo that almost sounds a little ragtime-y is representative of that colour in this “Animals.”

“Sleepwalker” rolls along as a brisk indie rock number. A little lo-fi, but with chiming guitar lines coming through clearly, the song is warm and intriguing. Darker sounds come out at the bridge, featuring organ and a bubbling, anticipatory guitar line. Next is “Takman,”an introspective, laid back track. Ending with “Sequin Sun,” which features Tamara Sandor’s vocals and drums reminiscent of fellow Montrealers Arcade Fire, the band wraps up this window into their perspective: one full of play and creativity that melds to form a unique, full sound.

Future States’ self titled debut EP is a fun exploration of their pleasing, melody driven sound. Combining found sound, horns, the instruments of classic rock ‘n’ roll, and soft understated vocals, this new band is worth keeping an eye on.

Future States EP is available as a name-your-price download on Bandcamp.

Top Tracks: “Animals” “Sleepwalker”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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Review – “Second Sight” – Hey Rosetta!

reviewed by Laura Stanley hey12

Hey Rosetta!’s lead singer and songwriter Tim Baker has a knack for summarizing everything that’s going on around you. Personal struggles, ongoing news stories, or whatever is causing the highs and lows of life, Baker crafts all of these feelings into complex songs. They are anthemic and universal. Paired with the diverse soundscapes created by the other talented band members, the music of Hey Rosetta! has a power that not many bands posses. In this their fourth album, it seems very appropriate that another batch of songs that goes beyond normal sensory contact be called Second Sight.

Second Sight is not a bold change for the band but rather a continuation of what the band does best. The band swings from lush string sections (Kinley Dowling, Romesh Thavanathan), upbeat pop-infused rock numbers (Adam Hogan, Phil Maloney, Josh Ward) and sombre piano driven songs that leave you breathless.

With ease, “Soft Offering (For the Oft Suffering)” welcomes you to Second Sight thanks to its melodious sounds and a familiarly complex writing style. In a continuation of the familiar, “Gold Teeth” is a great continuation of Seeds’ standout song “Welcome.” In “the song of your birth,” “Gold Teeth” matches a realistic take of the world with an unembellished vocal and instrumental delivery that creates a vivid illustration of the world.

Perhaps my tendencies this year to match my melancholic twenty-something woes to the music I am listening to is the reason why I think “Dream” and “What Arrows” are the two standouts from Second Sight. As the album’s longest song, “What Arrows’” is not flashy with memorable, per se, pop riffs but instead rest quietly on your chest. A song about connecting as a result of “it” (whatever it may be), “it curves in through the weather, it’s coming from above and it brought us together.” It’s a powerful thing. 

In a slow build, for a song that’s under four minutes, “Dream” fills out to an instrumentally and vocally complex offering that’s pushed even further as a result of an always catchy “ooh” inclusion. Those bright spots aside, Baker’s lyrics will touch those who struggle to remain confident but still hope for the best. The following verse needs to stand on its own to show this:

who says we can’t. who says we can’t, who says we shouldn’t
who says we couldn’t, make it just like we love it
why can’t we, just like a dream?

The experimentation from Hey Rosetta! in Second Sight comes only briefly but is noteworthy.  Songs like “Kintsukuroi” and “Neon Beyond” err on a more “mainstream” sound for the band and include some instrumentation variation not quite heard before. “Kintsukuroi” sunny guitar riff throughout is fresh and “Neon Beyond”’s moveable and percussion heavy verses is getting the song compared to a Vampire Weekend creation. 

In the latter half of the record, “Cathedral Bells” shows an acoustic and more minimal side of the band, not unlike “Bandages”, while “Alcatraz” is another slow burner but this time a symphony-like accompaniment carries Baker’s vocals to a far off place.  

Although it lacks the vitality of Seeds, Second Sight keeps the powerful force that is Hey Rosetta! going. 

Top Tracks: “Dream,” “What Arrows”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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