Archive for February, 2012

Now Is A Great Time To Reunite

February 28, 2012

One can dream...

We laugh.  We scratch our heads.  We reminisce.  We compare new to old.  We wonder ‘Why now?’  We think ‘They must need the money!’

A million thoughts go through the music-lovers brainmeats when a band reunites.  Maybe it’s because the band wasn’t that popular to begin with, maybe it’s because they were SO popular it was shocking when they broke up, maybe because they broke up so violently it’s shocking there were pieces to put back together!

But it’s a fact of life.  Bands break up.  Bands reunite.  Months…years…decades later.  Or, if not reunite…re-emerge.  Different band members, usually the same front man (or woman!)

Some are very exciting.  At least for me.  Toad the Wet Sprocket is one of my high school bands…I have all their albums, know all their songs.  Sunny Day Real Estate got back together, but I missed it because I’m dumb and wasn’t watching to see…well, if they would get back together!  At The Drive-In are back together.  I don’t want to miss that when it comes through town.

YES!

The Get Up Kids…I saw their last show in Toronto…and now they’re back together.  I saw Toads last show in Toronto as well…I was semi-disappointed at their reunion.  That show was EMOTIONAL!!!  How could they ruin it by playing music again!?!  SHEESH!

The Cranberries.  They’re on the cover of one of our free daily papers today.  ‘Back with the lads’ the headline reads.  I’m listening to their new album right now.

Bush got back together last year…well, Gavin’s back out leading the band.  Full-disclosure…they actually came to my company to do their radio.  It seems to have paid off.  Maybe you’ve heard a little song called ‘The Sound Of Winter’?  If not…you aren’t listening to rock radio…because it went to #1 on the charts!

Recently, I was lucky enough to sit in on a listening event for a new album…from The Cult…yes, that The Cult.

I'm sorry...what are you selling again?

Now is a GREAT time to reunite.  People seem to want some familiarity.  The 90s (and 80s) kids want their music back.  And radio, the media…people are paying attention.

If you were in a popular band in the 90s, hell even if it was just regional or maybe just in your local town…get back together!  Now!  I see it as a once-in-a-generation opportunity, because many people are disheartened by music today.

They shouldn’t be…there’s GREAT music out there.  It just can’t get any attention because no one knows where to look, who to trust, what to believe.  Every band has ‘hype,’ every band is ‘the next big thing.’  There’s no central source for music.  MTV and Much don’t play music anymore.  YouTube can’t tell you much except what tween girls like.

I am falling in love with dozens of bands in all genres these days and none will get play on their respective genre radio stations.  I shouldn’t say none…let’s say the chances are slim.  A blogger might love them, doesn’t mean the next will.

But…if you’re a name from the big label days…who used to have posters up all over town, videos on Much or MTV, songs on the radio, t-shirts sold in mall kiosks…you have a fighting chance!

I’ve never seen City and Colour on a free daily newspaper despite hitting #2 on the charts, having a best selling album, going platinum…but the Cranberries.  Their album came out today, the first in 11 years.  And they’re on the front page.

The point I’m getting at…despite our best judgement, I think 80s and 90s kids miss the days of the big labels, the price gouging, the cassette and the cd.  Everyone knew every artist with an album on new release day because there was SO…MUCH…PROMOTION!

That, or we need a trustworthy source for music to emerge again.  Where GOOD music gets the spotlight, and we don’t have to spend all our time scouring the internet hoping to stumble on something great.  There are good sources out there…but I don’t trust them.

NOT THAT I TRUSTED MUCH MUSIC!  Or any kind of enterprise that tried its best to avoid biting the fingers of the major labels as they fed them table scraps in exchange for airplay.  Things are so fractured there’s no one place to look.  To sift through the thousands and thousands of new albums that come out each week and give them a fighting chance.

Maybe it’s better that way, though.  It allows for discovery, ownership, and word of mouth distribution.  It means that the trustworthy source are your friends, your group of friends who bring you what they find in exchange for you doing the same.

And it also allows the bands from our childhoods to surprise us every so often by appearing on the front page of a paper, announcing their return.

Maybe it’s time to get Brillohead back together again…hmmm…

Silent Movies

February 27, 2012

So, the first silent movie since the first silent movie to win Best Picture at the Oscars has just won Best Picture.  Read the sentence again if it’s confusing.  In 1928, the film Wings won.  In 2012, the film The Artist won.  In between, it’s all been talkies.  Which is neat since The Artist (which I have not had the chance to see yet, I should note) is about a silent film star struggling with the advent of talking pictures.

I’ve heard good things, so I’m going on the high praise and golden reviews (and I DO intend on seeing the film in theatres) so I’m kind of excited that silent films are getting a bit of the limelight.  Some of my favourite movies are silent, and my favourite actor of all time had his heyday in silent films: Buster Keaton.

Musically, silent films were not devoid of sound.  A live performer or band played along with the visuals.  Think about that for a moment.  Imagine if every theatre today had a piano or a stage, and someone watched and played along to help set the mood, enhance emotion, tell a story.  When people talk about ‘lost artforms,’ that’s the first one that comes to my mind.

There are some talented men and women who still do this today.  The name that comes to mind most vividly for me is Nash the Slash, who’s soundtrack to Dali’s ‘Un Chien Andalou’ is beautiful with visuals or without.  He still plays live for silent films today here in Toronto.

Charlie Chaplin often wrote his own musical scores.  The closest person I can think of who has a similar talent today is John Carpenter.  Don’t laugh: the man wrote, directed, wrote the score, and often produced and acted (though generally uncredited).  And I’m a lover of all film, so comparing Chaplin to Carpenter isn’t a stretch to me.  They both made/make great movies and both wore/wear many hats.

The song ‘Smile,’ which is a part of the great songbook that most people have in their heads even if they have no idea where they first heard it, was written by Chaplin.

Even back in the 20s sound and music were everpresent.  Walk through a mall today and try to find stores that don’t have music playing…if you do, I bet they’re REALLY boring stores.  The number of times I’ve sat in a bar and wondered “What’s wrong here?” before I noticed that there was no music playing over the speakers…

Watching a film without sound is jarring.  So despite being called silent, there was always music.  And music played a pivotal role.  We need feedback, we need a multi-sensory experience to be truly drawn in, to ‘suspend our disbelief.’  Someone may be crying on screen, but it’s never truly sad until the soft song starts playing.

Do me a favour.  This year, watch three silent movies.  I’ll even get you started: watch The General by Buster Keaton.  Watch The Kid by Charlie Chaplin.  And join me at some point in the next month and watch The Artist.  If you’ve never put your attention to this artform before do it now.  Remind yourself that, over 80 years ago, film and film music were alive and well and just as good as they are today.

Thursday Quickie: Pinterest, The Strumbellas and The Hunger Games

February 23, 2012

Everytime I start a blog I end up writing a novel, and half the time I delete it and never post because I can’t find the time to edit!  Soooo…I will try something new today…a quickie!  HERE WE GO!

PINTEREST

Got a chance to try out the website everyone (who spends all their time online and pays attention to these things) is talking about.  Pinterest is essentially an online bulletin board.  Through a little bookmark you keep on your web browser, when you see an image of something you like, you ‘Pin It’ to one of your boards to share with everyone.  Most of my first introduction was through Lynzie Kent’s Twitter feed, where she pinned everything from wedding style to fashion to crafts.  Of course…I figured that’s what it was about.

Thanks to Lynzie, I’m now on Pinterest, and have chosen to look for some specific things to start.  I have a board for things that inspire me musically, whether they be posters or pictures of my favourite artists or images that grab me.  I, obviously, have one for cute animals and furry things.  And I have one for clothes and styles that catch my eye and I’d like to try myself.

Must admit…it’s pretty fun.  The question is, will it have staying power for me?  Path didn’t…Tout was neat for a week…will it keep my attention or become another site that has my login information?

THE STRUMBELLAS

First off, the biggest disclosure I’ve ever had to make.  In 2009, I worked with the Strumbellas.  I was in school, we had to find a band to manage, and me and a group were immediately drawn into these guys.  We helped them do odds and ends for about four months (…more than odds and ends, probably) and in early 2010 we parted ways.  Now…two years later…they have come to the company I work for, and now I’m working with them again!  So…double disclosure!

It’s been a big week for The Strumbellas.  Their CD release party was a success…I know, I was there.  Sold out house, packed crowd, and for a ‘new band‘ people seemed to know the songs pretty damned well.  They’ve had great reviews in NOW magazine among other publications, were included in an ‘essential track list’ last week in the Globe and Mail, and are getting attention at college radio.  For a seven piece alt-country act from Toronto (by way of Lindsay, ON) that’s not so bad!

You can test the music out on their website, follow them on Twitter and Facebook where each day a different member handles the social media duties (7 members, 7 days!) and watch out for their first music video for the first track from their new album ‘Sheriff.’

THE HUNGER GAMES

…this one I’ll keep short…I’ve become a horrible fanboy in record time.  The movie comes out in a month.  I’ve read all three books, watched the trailers repeatedly, keep an eye out for Hunger Games news, and can’t wait to buy myself a mockingjay pin to wear on my coat.

…dear lord…what have I become!

Follow me on Twitter @Potoroo if you want a daily dose!

Vinyl I Would (blank) For

February 16, 2012

If any of these albums are in this piece of art, so help me... “Sound Swell” (2007) near Jean Climb @ ‘Second Lives’ at the Museum of Arts and Design

I’m not a collector of vinyl.  I’m a music lover.  And I don’t necessarily think that vinyl has a better sound than CDs.  It’s just the experience with vinyl is wholly different: the huge cover art, the steps that must be taken to play, the fact that it’s easier to put the needle down and let it play rather than skip from song to song to song.

Also…some albums are just vinyl albums, both sonically and literally.  They were meant to be heard on vinyl.  Or…they are only available on vinyl.

There are some albums I would (blank) to own.  I say blank because my first thought was ‘kill’ but…I’m not a very violent person, and I’d rather this blog not be used in a criminal case in the future.  So, you can fill in your own ‘horrible thing I’d do’ verb.  ‘Eat bitter melon.’  ‘Listen to an economist discuss his most recent theory.’  ‘Sleep with a lady.’ (…not that there’s anything wrong with ladies…I just prefer dudes…)

VYTO B – TRICENTENNIAL 2076

Vyto is number one on my list because it’s rare, obscure, and least likely to happen.  There is one teasing webpage that comes up each time I search for this album on vinyl, a sale that happened awhile back, where a collector bought a copy for over $300 that also came with a note (written by Vyto, I believe to a radio station, and signed by Vyto as well).  I’ve seen one other online…$200…but the first song on each side skips.

This album caught my attention because of its simple complexity: one man, accompanied by guitar or piano, singing songs that take us through a future laid out by the first track.  Each song expands on a line from the title track.  The melodies are quirky and memorable.  The sound is unlike anything I’ve ever heard.

This is as much a fanboy wish as anything else: I became an instant fan of this album.  Now I need it.  It’s something I want on my shelf before it’s too late, and all copies have drifted into obscurity.

ANY SPARKLEHORSE ALBUM

I want them.  Nay…NEED them.  Especially ‘Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot’ and ‘Good Morning, Spider.’

Sparklehorse is my biggest influence…my Beatles, my Radiohead, my life experience, my independence.  From the moment I ‘actually’ discovered who I was (a road trip to Maryland to visit a friend I’d met on the internet) to the moment I genuinely set forth on a career in music (finishing school work one day, and finding out Mark Linkous, the sole member of Sparklehorse, had died), Sparklehorse has been there and still is.

I need that big artwork, the ritual of dropping the needle, the restriction of the experience that sits me down and stops what I’m doing and makes me listen…really listen…to the album as a whole.

BARNES AND BARNES – FISH HEADS 45

When I was a kid I think I broke my brother’s copy of this.  Or maybe I think I did because it was this musical memory of mine: a funny, quirky song that my brother would sing to me.  I remember him coming up to me with the 45, in two pieces, and singing ‘No-More-Fish-Heads.’

I wanna buy it and give it to him.

DR. JOHN – GRIS GRIS

This album hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday.  I used to listen to it when I was REALLY young thanks to my friend Jason Fraser.  Yes…as a child I used to listen to an obscure New Orleans voodoo jazz album.

This one is sonically something that NEEDS vinyl.  It’s how I heard it first, and then a cassette copy of the vinyl.  I’ve heard a clean version on Rdio and although it still has it’s gris gris power it lacks something that only a needle on vinyl can deliver.

I’ve been pretty lucky.  I’ve managed to get some copies of vinyl that I desperately needed.  Finding a copy of Renaldo and the Loaf was a victory.  I have Tiffany’s albums on vinyl…DON’T JUDGE!  For new music, I own Neon Indian’s album on a double vinyl though currently have no turntable to play it.

This is TOTALLY an album for the next time you invite your boss over for a dinner party...trust me...

Owning Peter Hammill’s ‘A Black Box’ ensured that I could hear the entirety of ‘Flight’ the way it should be heard.

They are just ‘things,’ but fleeting things that can be there one moment, and gone the next.  Although the internet has made it easier to rescue and distribute obscure albums that doesn’t mean  everything will survive.  You can only be sure you have your music if you have it in your possession…

…what if you replace your entire collection on Spotify and then Spotify goes out of business?

…or if your computer dies and you lose the entire collection.

Sure, a house fire would do the trick on a vinyl collection, but my computer has broken down more often then my house has caught fire.

And there’s something lost in the process when you throw a thousand songs in an MP3 player and skip through.  I’ve noticed some drastic changes: I don’t know the names of songs as well as I used to, I don’t remember lyrics of entire albums like I used to, and worse of all…I spend more time staring at text trying to figure out what I want to listen to than I ever have.

That’s why I’d (blank) for some of these albums on vinyl.  Some music is meant to be different, stand apart, and have a ritual.  But to hold the ritual you first need the music.

Are there any albums you would (blank) for?  What are they?  Have you ever been so close but so far??  Tell me!!

Find me on Twitter @Potoroo where I hang out most!  Chat me up, I’m happy to hear from you.  And if you have music you want me to hear, please send it my way!!

Two Albums I Intend On Buying, Even Though I Got Them For Free…

February 15, 2012

First off, I will be bluntly honest: I download CDs.  Put the shackles on.  Take me away.  Coincidentally, through the Napster years I continued to buy CDs, and did so well into the oughts (00’s).  Somewhere around 2007, I made a bit of a switch.

But Roo!  You work in the music industry!

IKNOWRITE??!  But I’m poor!  I won’t go into the details, but let’s just say for the last five years I’ve leaned on a lot of people to keep me going, and one of the first things that had to be cut was CDs.  As a music lover, I couldn’t go ‘without’ music, and I realize the hypocrisy in this, and hope the mere fact that I’m saying it publicly and without any intention of boasting gets the point across that I would MUCH rather be buying CDs.

…actually…I’d rather be buying CDs at live performances after picking up a t-shirt and tour poster.  Or sending $100 to a Kickstarter campaign.  I’d rather be putting money right in the artist’s pockets.

It’s a complicated issue: having no money, having a love of culture, that culture costing money but easily accessible via the internet for free.

As money comes in, it goes back out though.  This past year I’ve managed to see some of my favourite artists live and I intend to triple the live performances I see this year.  When I do, I always buy merch.  But…enough of my defense myself.

I don’t only get my CDs from evil pirates.  I sometimes get them through work.  On occasion, these people end up working with me.  In others, they don’t, but I wish they had.  SOOOOO…after all this rambling, here’s what I’m really documenting: CDs (or vinyl) I would like to buy, despite the fact that I was given the CD for free, and despite the fact that I never even had a chance to work with the artist.

In other words, in full disclosure, these people gave me a CD and then worked with someone else.  But I still love them.  And in the first two cases, they were among my favourite albums of 2011.

THE CIVIL WARS – BARTON HOLLOW

They’ve gotten a bit of a buzz recently, winning Grammy’s and teaming up with Taylor Swift for another franchise near and dear to my heart, The Hunger Games. (click the link, it’s a VERY pretty song)  I think I started listening to this CD around the same time we had a teaser of City and Colour’s ‘Little Hell’ (an artist my company did work with in 2011).  The Civil Wars gave me my first bout of professional guilt…because I enjoyed ‘Barton Hollow’ more than ‘Little Hell,’ and when I should’ve been listening to C&C I was listening to TCW.

It’s a style I’m not normally into: the guy and girl duet pairing.  But…it’s amazing.  It crosses genre from folk to blues to pop and does so seamlessly.  ‘Barton Hollow,’ unlike most albums I heard last year, is TRULY beautiful.  Years ago, I stumbled across a band called Imaginary Heaven from Vankleek Hill, Ontario.  The Civil Wars give me the same feeling I had with them: a humble, sweet, beautiful collection of songs.

I want it on vinyl.  I’m not a hipster.  I just see it as the kind of album I want to drop a needle and let it run, something I have a hard time doing with most new music.  Which is a WHOLE other subject for another day.

The Civil Wars, Barton Hollow, I ‘will’ buy you.

HOORAY FOR EARTH – TRUE LOVES

I’ve brought these guys up a few times.  They approached my company last year, and I was SOOOO excited to work with them on one listen-through.  Then…I just never heard about them again.  Apparently something happened with Google, or they had some kind of buzz growing, or SOMETHING.  They came through town and I missed them.

However, more than any other album I listened to last year, Hooray For Earth has found it’s way into my ears over and over again.  I have it on my iPod, my iPhone, I’ve sync’d it to my Rdio account, and I even have a CD burned to play in the car.

Hooray For Earth is a sonic adventure.  A headphone band.  The closest comparison I can make is Neon Indian, but I wouldn’t say they are that similar.  Both artists use a raw synth sound, almost like they broke apart a Casio and soldered shit all over it to force it to do their bidding.  But Hooray for Earth has this…80s science fiction soundtrack feel, like it takes place on a dark planet one moment and in a planetary dive bar the next.

Despite all of this, the songs are songs.  I could pick up a guitar and play them and they’d still sound pretty damned cool.  Artists sometimes rely on technical tricks to enhance their song, giving us an amazing production and great listening experience.  But stripped down, beneath the layers, there’s nothing there.  Hooray For Earth write GOOD songs, and then dressed them up further.

There is a touch of New Wave that flows throughout the album, but I can also hear Beatles…and the song ‘True Loves’ is one of the best and most captivating songs I’ve heard the last decade.

Hooray For Earth – True Loves, I WILL buy you.

Are there any albums you’ve managed to get for free that you’d be happy to drop hard earned cash to own?  Which ones?? 🙂

Find me on Twitter (far more frequently than here) @Potoroo.  Don’t hesitate to message me up there if you like!

New Music: Donna Fullman, Leonard Cohen, Hospitality

February 2, 2012

Thanks to Rdio (I swear they don’t pay me!) I can now do new music reviews despite my state of brokedness!  A lot of CDs come across my desk at work, but a lot of them I feel bad about reviewing since in some cases I’m kinda close to the product (I give full disclosure if I’m reviewing an artist I’m working with).

I’ve listened to other tracks this week – Lana Del Rey’s album, the new Jack White, even the new Cult song – but I’ll stick to stuff I haven’t seen as many reviews of out there. Oh, and as a quick note, all the titles below are clickable!!!  TECHNOLOGY.  Here are some thoughts!

Donna Fullman:

Under The Pink favourite Donna Fullman has released a track from her upcoming album on Soundcloud and she let me know…because she’s cool like that!

I wrote a review for her previous album happiness + victory last year.  This new song, By The Fire, is a pretty intro of what’s to come.  I loved Donna’s sweet earthiness, which I described as “…not folk…or celtic…or gothic…or rock.”  By The Fire is a bite-sized treat, tasty and leaving me wanting more.  I can only expect that Donna has stepped up from happiness + victory with more experience and such an amazing album under her belt.  When the new album Inner World is released, I’ll let you know!

Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas

Is it wrong for me to say that track 2 (Amen) made me think of Tom Waits when it first started?   No, of course it isn’t wrong to say, because they’re both among the best living songwriters.  I’m not saying the track isn’t ‘Coheny’ either.  The opening track ‘Going Home’ and track 3 ‘Show Me The Place’ smack of Cohen’s simple, memorable songwriting balanced with deep and complex lyrics.

The one thing I can say for this album (click the name above for a stream)…I listened to every word.  I can’t say that for every album I listen to.  Sometimes I get caught up in the rhythms and melodies and production and the lyrics become another instrument.  Not with Leonard Cohen.  I think it’s impossible to hear one of his songs and not listen to the lyrics…and I mean REALLY listen to the lyrics.

Old Ideas ‘is’ an Old Idea…simple, scaled down songs, with a focus on the words and the melody with just enough backing instruments to support the song itself. This is a quiet album.  A touch of celtic melody here, a touch of 60s folk there, even blues (Darkness, Banjo).  Every song has a comforting softness to it…relaxing!  (Lullaby is obviously a Lullaby!) Cohen is occasionally accompanied by female choruses (Come Healing), soft gospel singers (Going Home)…you know, stuff you expect from Leonard.

That’s actually the best way to put it…with Old Ideas you get what you expect, which is exactly what I’d want from Leonard Cohen.  Good songwriting, good music.

Hospitality – Hospitality

I recently had a ‘Belle and Sebastian‘ revival.  Hospitality gives me that fuzzy feeling I felt the first time I heard B&S.  From the first guitar stroke I knew I was in for a treat when I stumbled into this album.

What catches my attention with a new artist is when they surprise me.  ‘Eighth Avenue’ surprised me.  ‘Friends of Friends’ did too…and on…and on…through the rest of the album.  I mean, it’s not crazy complex, but it’s nothing like anything I’ve been listening to recently…it’s throwback but still very modern indie.  It sounds like a bunch of people having fun with music, honestly.

The production is tight, the instrumentation is rich and uncluttered, the songwriting is sweet…can an album be 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s?  This one seems to be, which is about the best way I could describe Hospitality.  And I think that’s what surprised me…right when I had it figured out suddenly we took a corner.

I suggest you give it a listen-through if you like indie-rock that merges (heh…they’re on Merge Records!) the best of the decades into hooky and fun tracks.

And there you have it…I did a review!  That wasn’t so hard, was it, Roo??

In any case, please let me know what you think!  Feedback is sexy!  Follow me on Twitter @Potoroo to hear from me every day!

…oh…and since I know you’re all wondering after that intro…here’s the new Cult song:

UPDATE: Quick note…20 minutes after I posted this, my boss walked in and told us we were working the new Cult album…so…like…when I posted they were an 80s band with a new song out…but I guess now they’re someone I’m working with so…this is the weirdest disclosure I’ve ever had to do 😉